[K] Paradigm Shift

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Kishyotai

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In in ur base, killin ur doodz (lawl)
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Paradigm Shift: Part I
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Nifuji Jinte, 3rd Division
~Kishyotai


Yuusuke Taiken, 6th Division
~Sho-kun

"False ideals cannot be shattered by criticism. Right ideals must take up the battle against them." ~Franz Werfel

In the thrown of the sky, the sun ruled all, sending it's golden light on all that were willing to receive (and some that protested it with vigor). One such unwilling man was nearing the Sixth Division Taisho, once again, lost in his thoughts. Unlike most of the time, however, Yuusuke's thoughts had a darker edge to them.

"I...what am I doing?" he muttered as memories from the past week continued to assault him from all directions. Anger at himself was the most prevalent of emotions, but there were others too. Regret, sadness, and general disappointment also invaded his senses. He'd done something so terrible, so utterly horrible that he didn't deserve to live.

I really did it...I really killed him. But...the sad thing is, the horrible truth is, I don't feel sad about that. I'm not angry that I killed him...I'm angry that I lost control. I'm angry that I couldn't kill him in cold blood. What's wrong with me? I'm sick...sick in the brain.

Yes, regret over the fact that he couldn't kill Ginto without snapping had taken over. That black lightning...it wasn't what he wanted. He should've known to have gotten serious earlier instead of playing around and trying to beat him with small spells. And it was in that that his mistake had been made.

"This is the power of a 'Captain of the Gotei'? What bullshit, Yuusuke! You're still so weak, it's pathetic! I thought that with the confidence Aoi had in you, you'd at least have grown a little bit...but you're still the same useless kid. You can't even beat me! To hell with taking you back...I'll kill you right here! And then, as punishment for losing the game, I'll ****ing kill that pregnant ***** of a 'sister' of yours, that stupid little brat from the third, those two dumbasses from the second, and then that whore of a VC of yours! I'll ****ing bathe in all of your blood! Ahahaha!" the boy could no longer be considered sane as a sneer of insanity braced his mouth, the laugh of a crazed man being produced from that same part.

And then, Yuusuke snapped. Instead of the emptiness which had haunted him throughout the battle, he saw red. His body overflowed with dark emotions as he'd given up trying to hold it all back, trying to make rational moves. Somewhere, deep within, he just couldn't do it any more. The anger he'd been holding back ever since he'd graduated the academy had finally burst through the walls.

No, anger wasn't the right word. Yuusuke'd been angry before...but he'd never been furious. Fury was white...but his eyes were black. The normally golden orbs now crackled with black lightning interweaving with the hazel iris, giving a very dangerous feeling.

"FUCK OFF, GINTO!!!"

In a rage, he'd already casted his spell, lightning bearing down on the insane brat. Frozen in place from the spell divining bolt, Ginto doubled over in pain as six blocks of Kidou energy slammed into him. "You fucking little brat...Let's play a fun fucking game called piss Yuusuke off. Let's just see how far we can fucking push him before he explodes. Great fucking job Ginto. Guess what...I'm pissed!"

The maniacal grin slowly slid off of his face as Ginto felt electricity crackle around him, a giant storm gathering overhead. "Cry, heavy storm..."

"Aww...C'mon, Yuu-nii...I was just joking..." The clouds were thicker now and getting darker by the moment.

"...Rebel in the skies, and let your fury be known..."

Thunder cried out, booming through the area and echoing throughout the land as it's victim cried out, "Just back off, Yuusuke-niisan! C'mon...Don't...Don't do it!"

"...Shimmer your memory into the weary traveler and burn your ill omen into their mind's eye. Hadou #80, Banrai"

Lightning stuck...and then there was nothing...​

Shaking his head, Yuusuke tried to get rid of the haunting thoughts and the overly emotional state he was in, but found it near impossible to do so. Why was he still antagonizing over this? Ginto was dead; the method shouldn't matter. There was no use in broading over things that had long since gone by.

You're looking at it the wrong way...You're angry at yourself, Yuusuke, because you didn't feel anything towards his death. Somewhere, deep down, you consider yourself a monster because you wanted him to die. It's a clash with your natural instinct to protect your family...

His response to his Zanpakutou was cut off as he entered into the Taisho, Monta-kun jumping up and down excitedly. "LETTER MAX!!!! Taiken-taichou, Arujo-fukutaichou left this for you! It's important MAX!!!"

The captain of the sixth almost sighed hearing her name; another problem that was getting to him. He was, quite honestly, pissed at himself for that fiasco too. "Let's see it then..."


Taiken-Taichou,

You've been assigned to take the new recruit Jinte Nifuji on his initiation mission to the Kidoushuu. The task I've decided upon will be to travel out past district ten in areas of Rukongai that have been hit worst by the siege. I want you both to help aid in medical issues and rebuild as much as possible.

I feel the experience will benefit both members in many ways. Keep in mind that Nifuji is not to know that this is his mission to get into the Kidoushuu.

Kayla Arujo


"Alright then...Looks like I'm off again. I'll see you everyone later. Monta-kun, don't cause too much trouble while I'm off," he joked somberly.

"IT'S RAIMON TAROU!! NOT MONTA!!!"

"Ja ne, Monta..." ...time to go find Nifuji.


"You're still mad at yourself?"

How can I not be? It was stupid of me to go to Katsu and expect him to fight me without consequences. It's so...so stupid of me. I knew the consequences, but I didn't expect them. Sayuri was...hurt. Angry. I don't care. I made Sayuri smile, and then I made her cry. I almost killed Katsu, I almost killed another Shinigami for my stupid pride. Something so...

"Other man would say pride is worth more than one's life. Pride and honor."

Those people aren't the Sanbantai Fukutaichou, one who's the second-most responsible for the health of the entire Gotei. All this time I thought I could help Sayuri, that I could level off the work load but...all I did was make her cry.

"You're wallowing in a puddle too shallow for these thoughts, Nifuji."

Any puddle is enough for these thoughts.
Nifuji sighed, running his hand through his hair. He was on the roof of his old house, too ashamed to go to the Third Division Headquarters. He didn't want to see Sayuri, he didn't want to have to live up to what he had done. He didn't want to remember it all, he di-


"The sound of lances fills the Tiger Castle!" And not just two, but six in total. Two pierced his leg, and the rest for his body. Six in all? Three inches long, all of them hitting a stolid Nifuji, whose eyes betrayed the one though he could not deny as lightning once more blossomed at the now-paralyzed Katsu Iwakami. Precious Words, their Drive once more Surpassed with all of Nifuji's entire being, danced around him like the flower within his mind that bloomed gloriously. Germinating majestically into that killer, morose, blue lightning.

"Hadou #63, Raikouhou."

I'm so sorry, Katsu...

Nifuji found his palm gripping his own throat. The shame that was now gripping him, like his tiny hands attempted to grip his own neck, was so complete. His hands, though, couldn't grip his neck. Yet the shame gripped his every emotion and shoved it away, leaving only sadness and desecration. Leaving only tears and regrets. The one thing he had promised himself he would never have, never listen to, that was one of the things left. Simply one amongst the purely tainted beings he had roaming his heart now.

Simply one amongst the dead.

...what am I...what am I becoming...!? Nifuji demanded of himself, ...am...am I really becoming an animal? Another simply void warrior. Another one who can't stand up unless he had blood on his hands?! No! No...no I won't allow it...no I don't want to become just another crazed killer. I don't want...I don't want to be another insane person. I don't want to be lost to the world, I wanted to HEAL THE F*CKING WORLD! NOT F*CKING KILL IT!

Whimpering to himself, Nifuji shuddered.

...but I also didn't want to be lost in regrets...

Molasses.

...but...but that's all I've got right now...isn't it?

His reiatsu was molasses again.

...that's all you've let me keep...isn't it...

His reiatsu was molasses and he was dying again. He wasn't living. His eyes were dying, the silver metal tarnishing with the world. Ban Kai, Shi Kai, Kurohitsugi, Senken, Toukihaku, they meant nothing to him. Nothing in the world more tortuous than this. Nothing that a kidou spell could replicate, no mental anguish that could live up to this standard.

...that's all you've left me with...Sayuri...

"Quit wallowing."

I'm sorry.

"Not you're not."

But if I pretend, does that make it any better?

"Why are you like this?"

Because...I almost became a Captain. I almost lived up to Yuusuke and Yukiko's words. I almost used Kurohitsugi on Katsu. On MYSELF. I almost committed suicide, a second time. Yet, this time, Kanie wasn't there to help me. Kakusan and Atodzukeru didn't let me not do it. It was my own stupid weakness. To weak to kill others, to weak to kill myself. Is that what Yuusuke wanted? One who's took weak but pretends?! You tell me, Mabushii. TELL ME!

"Stop scream-"

I'm not screaming! I'm dying!

"STOP BEING A F*CKING IDIOT!"


Silence.

Silence is eternal.

Silence is blessing.

Silence is learning.

Silence is broken.

Shattered.

...I'm sorry...

"Now you really are."

You can tell so easily?

"It's woman's intuition."

But you're not a woman, in flesh and blood...

"If I pretend, does that make it any better?"

...yeah...
Nifuji nodded, swallowing hard, ...pretending...always makes it better. Because then those who are around you don't see. Then you don't have to talk, you don't have to explain, you don't need to be healed. You can put it off, so that no one suspects. So that your badge tarnishes from the inside out, not the outside in.

"When you first joined the 3rd Division, you asked Kanie who healed the healers..."

Now I know who does.
Nifuji sighed, No one. We're never healed. Simply mended.

"That's not a healthy way of looking at it."

A lot of things I don't aren't healthy, Mabushii.
Nifuji countered, The only healthy thing I did was trust Sayuri's power in become a Captain. And even that I've massacered by almost killing Katsu.

"Almost? You would have, if not for Sayuri."

Once more, she saves me from myself. Once more...what will I be doing next time, Mabushii, that she has to come running to save me?

"Why are you asking me?"

Because I'm too afraid to find out for myself.

"For good reason."

Yeah.
Nifuji nodded, ...that's the worst part. I should be afraid.

"You only live up to the standards you put down for yourself."

And even those I don't live up to.
Nifuji's thought put closure to the discussion, the young healer standing up. He brushed the dirt off his hakama and put his hand to his two deadly blades.

"She'd forgive you...if you asked..."

Silence.

Silence is eternal.

Silence is learning.

Silence is broken.

Shattered.

Not if I don't forgive myself.

Resurrected.

Always.


I said it once...that I was a monster. Never before did I realize what those words really meant. But then...being a monster, I can deal with...being useless is a whole different game.

You aren't useless...

"Hiraishin," he whispered softly, "I couldn't do it...despite how much I've grown, I couldn't do it. I just...I failed. Ginto died because I wasn't strong enough to beat him without killing him...and then Domon and Yuki...They were..."

The flowers of the garden of the third left a sweet scent in the air, deeply contrasting the scent that Yuusuke had become accustomed to smelling. The putrid scent of burnt flesh, the oddly metallic smell of freshly created ozone, and the funky scent that one started to produce when sweating. Those scents slowly were recalled...

"G...ginto..." Yuusuke barely choked out the name as his eyes regained their normal shade of yellow, dark power slowly receding back into the corners of his soul. Blood seeped from several wounds, inflicted by the masochistic power of Kurohanpatsu, and his vision was starting to swim. He was tired after using that last blasting spell, but he was still standing. That was much better than could be said for Ginto.

It was the clinking sound of metal meeting rock that had alerted Yuusuke to the location and condition of his brother. The once white blade skidded towards him, having reclaimed its original size and form, light dancing on it's surface once again. Picking up the weapon, his eyes followed the path back to it's origin, coming across something which caused memories to overflow within.

The body -- was it one anymore? -- lay on the forest floor, labored breathing breaking through the silence of the moment. His once tanned-flesh was blackened, and his left arm, had been damaged so much by the blast that it had, in fact, fallen off, landing several feet away from the rest of the body. The torso was split down the center, but no blood escaped; it too had been cauterized during the assault. Even Yuusuke could tell that his brother was not going to last much longer.

His emotions...were conflicted, at best. The sight of his brother -- a person that he'd claimed as his own -- lying there, dying by his own hands, brought up a welling mixture of despair and self-hatred. And yet, Ginto had also been an enemy, someone who had tried to kill him, who would have killed if he'd gotten half the chance. There was also, therefore, a certain sense of satisfaction.

"Oh God...Ginto...Are you...Hey...Can you...You're gonna be alright, right, Ginto?" his voice wavered slightly as he clung desperately to the burned husk of a boy, already kneeling by his side. Shock had started to set in, and he couldn't control himself. Yuusuke was tired; tired of trying to contain himself, tired of trying to be the perfect Shinigami. His mind was grasping at thoughts and memories, at decades of joy and pleasure that had been spent with his brother.

"C'mon...Yuusuke....You know...better than that...I'm almost dead..." wheezed out Ginto, a small smile forming on his lips as his breathing became more and more sporadic.

"I...I'm so sorry...I didn't want to kill you. Not now...Not ever...I wanted to be strong enough to stop you without killing you. Oh God...I'm...I'm...sorry, Ginto," he sounded so pitiful in his mind, so fragile. Was this all it took to break him? He should've been so glad, so happy at this...so why were there tears streaming down his face.

"I don't mind, Yuu-nii...You see...it's payback...we took something of...of yours, tonight. It only makes...sense that...you take something of ours...one life for three others..." a self-satisfied smirk appeared on Ginto's face, and Yuusuke felt the world stop.

He wanted to say that they wouldn't do that. That it couldn't be possible. His heart screamed that Ginto was lying; he was the only who had died tonight, nobody else. It screamed at him that someone like Ginto, the kind and gentle boy who'd helped to bring him back from the brink of starvation, and his equally generous siblings couldn't possible kill another being. It told him that the only monster, the only horribly wretched soul, was his own. But his brain knew that was lie. It knew that he was capable...and not just capable, but willing.

"Not...You didn't...You couldn't...Stop joking, Ginto. Don't tease me like that...Domon, Yuki, and Jouji are fine...they aren't dead. Stop joking around," his laugh was fragile and momentary; even the slightest bit of pressure and it'd break.

"J..joking...don't kid yourself...you know...the truth. The release...of my Shi Kai...was a sign. There's nothing...nothing you can do about it...ahaha..."

Yuusuke could only stare as his brother as his laughter died down and the sounds of labored breathing, or any breathing at all, vanished. And then, tears flowed freely, as his breaking point was finally reached.​

He wanted to laugh at how pathetic he was; the aftermath of that had left him so emotionally confused, mentally disturbed that he couldn't function. "Just...just what am I supposed to feel?" he whispered as he entered the halls of the third division, ignoring the looks of surprise of the members of the third at the sudden appearance of 'that Yuusuke'. His right arm shot up to his face, wiping away the moisture from his face. "Can one of you tell Jinte-fukutaichou that Taiken Yuusuke is here to see him?"


"He's at the Third Division headquarters now, Nifuji. What are you going to do?"

What do you mean? Why would I move?

"You two promised each other to take care, so that you could protect Sayuri. Now that you failed to protect Sayuri with your own power, with your own logic...don't you think you should adapt? Re-adjust? Get some help? Yuusuke...who is the Rokubantai Taichou, should be able to help you."

Sometimes...I bet Yuusuke doesn't know how to help himself.

"And you do?"

It was a joke.

"No it wasn't."

How do you know?

"Womanly intuition."

But you-

"I don't care. And neither do you."
Nifuji sighed. As usual, the Zanpaku avatar was right. Nifuji could imagine Mabushii gnawing on her senzu fan, her kimono letting a hefty amount of her bosom show forth. Yet...this time, there was something new. Something akin to...a bond. Something that he hadn't had before. Trust? Perhaps.

"...is this...'true' Ban Kai, Masaru?" Nifuji whispered softly. Auburn. Amber. Auburn...amber? Was that the color of the reiatsu that had forever seeped into Nifuji? Masaru's intense power, his guiding words, the powerful blade, the impossible reiatsu. All of it...now implanted into Nifuji's mind. Whether he agreed or not, whether he nodded or not, they were there. Not aggressively attacking, but biding their time. Waiting, waiting, waiting for the moment to jump him, "...is this why...Kanie's ideals aren't right? Because...I'm not the right one to believe them?"

He shook his head. Stupid doubts. Stupid stupid doubts. Everything was stupid. Everything that was bothering him was stupid. Stupid only in the fact that it was unnecessary. Stupid baggage that didn't need to be there, that he didn't need. Things he didn't have to have, but were instead burdened with. Things that didn't need to be with him.

"Unlike how you need to be in the Third Division Headquarters now."

...but...what if I...try to kill Yuusuke?

"...are you kidding?! Kill Yuusuke? Why not try and kill Masaru! The man's far more battle-experienced than you ever will be! He's fought Anthracite, has gone through a fight with Kyin-taichou...what do you think a bratty Sanbantai Fukutaichou is to him? I'll tell you what, Nifuji. Nothing. He could sneeze and blow away your weak Raikouhou. He could swat your Senken away, demolish your Kurohitsugi. If there's anyone to be with, right now, it's Yuusuke."

...are you sure that...I'll never kill him?

"Are you sure?"

...maybe.

"That's good enough for us. Let's go. You have a friend to meet in the Division headquarters..."


"...Yeah..." Nifuji shook his head. Once more, his hand ran parted the frayed ends of his hair. Sighing, his infantile irises fell upon the landscape in front of him. Ruined by the Siege not months before, Seireitei was now rebuilt. All of its glory had been restored, and now the Gotei was rebounding. No more would they be weak, because people like Sayuri had come to power. No more would they be foolish, because they wouldn't simply let the world fall apart again.

Nifuji wouldn't let the world fall apart again. Not his own, not anyone else's.

"It's a promise, Yuusuke. You better keep it too."


~*~​

"Anou...he's not here right now." The man blinked, pushing hefty glasses up his nose, "...I'm not quite sure where he is, actually. He came in this morning, asked if the Captain was around...and then left. He delegated his tasks, except for a quick surgery, to someone else. He didn't specify why, but I'll be...bet...bet that..."

Just now, the man in glasses seemed to see the white haori draped around Yuusuke's shoulders. The glasses rebelled once more, sliding down the bridge of the man's nose. He swallowed hard, blinking, and then pushed the glasses up. Once more, however, they fought against him, only to be helped in their escapades by a torrent of sweat.

"...r...rokuban...Rokubantai...taichou..." the man stammered, "Taiken Yuusuke-san! Ah! Ah...I'...I'm not su...He...I'm-not-sure-where-he-is-and-I'm-sorry-for-saying-bad-things-about-him-in-front-of-you-please-don't-talktoSayuriTaichouaboutmybehavior!!!"


He couldn't help but chuckle slightly at the man's panicked expression; he'd done his fair share of badmouthing back in the day, too, not that he'd ever let Rei-taichou know. "It's alright...I'm not going to tell on you. The lack of Nifuji could be problematic, but...he should already know that I'm here. At least, he's felt my aura often enough to spot it. I'll just...take a seat...and wait for him..."

Leaning back in the standard plastic chair, his head tilted upwards as the crown rested on the white wall, leaving him to his thoughts and to the utter confusion that raged within. You're right, Yuusuke. You're utterly pathetic right now, you know that?

I know...I can't do anything right these days, it seems. I can't save my own brother from myself, I can't run a division properly, and worst of all...I couldn't stop them...

You just love beating yourself up, don't you, Yuusuke?

I don't love it...but I have to take responsibility for this. It's my fault. If I'd been stronger, smarter, faster...things would've been different...

Maybe that's true...but how is moping going to help you? Sure, be sad, but Yuusuke...as it is...moping around like this won't help you get stronger.

...so what? It's not like it matters any way. Even with all the training I did...it doesn't matter. I'm worthless, remember?

Worthless? That's right. As you are now, you're an utterly worthless piece of trash. I've seen academy students worth more than you.

Maybe you should put your hopes on them then. I'll never be enough to live up to everyone's expectations...

You...are incredibly dense, Taiken Yuusuke. I said 'as you are now'. Right now, you can't win against anything. A human could beat the living tar out of you, that's how pathetic you are. But Yuusuke...that's only because negative emotions like this weaken you. Once you get over it--

What'll happen then, huh? I'll just be as big of a failure as I am now. As I ever was. It'd be better off if they replaced me as a Captain. I'm too weak for that.

...You just love to wallow around in despair, doncha? I'm done here, Yuusuke. Don't bother talking to me until you figure it out. Maybe the brat approaching you can help.

Blinking several times, Yuusuke tore himself out of his distracted state and back into reality, where the receptionist was slowly shaking him. "Nnnng...Nifuji here yet?" yawned the reaper, still trying to regain his bearings after that period of sleepy conversation.

"Wait...nevermind...there he is...thanks for your help," drawled Yuusuke as he stood up a snail's pace, sluggishly moving forward to meet with the child Vice-Captain.


The travel to the Third Division headquarters wasn't too long. In fact, Nifuji had used a fair amount of his speed to get there within a timely manner. He knew that Yuusuke knew that he knew Yuusuke was in the Division Headquarters, no matter how confusing the sentence structure for the fact was. So, it was impolite to keep a senior officer waiting, much less a Captain of the Gotei.

His form had quickly sped through the winding alleys of Seireitei, not wishing to run on the rooftops. Thin sandals had been thrown against the ground, propelling him forward. Forward, forward, evermore forward into the winding abyss of Yuuuske's reitasu.

It was impressive...but there was something wrong.

Which Nifuji only confirmed when he had walked into the lobby of the Division Headquarters.

He's pretty shaken up. Nifuji noticed immediately. It was true; the man's reiatsu was wobbly. His eyes were tired, sleepy, lacking their usual 'spark.' Even the way he moved was sluggish, as if the man's haori was pulling him down. Like a weight, the white haori complimented his zombie-like behavior with an almost dead attitude, neither flittering nor skirting with the flow of the wind.

"Well." Nifuji bowed to the Captain, lowering his own reiatsu level with Kakusan as he did so. He stayed in the deep bow a moment longer than normal, and then came up. The serious look about Yuusuke was contagious, Nifuji's silver eyes mirroring the look back at the Captain, "You don't seem in the best of health, Yuusuke-taichou."

As he spoke, his eyes fell upon Yuusuke's body. Nothing seemed entirely...wrong with the body. More of the spirit. Once more, Yuusuke's spirit was shattered and broken. Each time they had met, something had been broken. The first time, it had been Yuusuke's body. Then, Nifuji's soul. Now...was it Yuusuke's own soul?

"...how are you going to protect Sayuri if you're wallowing in your darkness?" Nifuji asked casually, though his eyes flashed dangerously. He briskly walked past Yuusuke, deliberately brushing his shoulder against the much taller Captain's, "Well...although it's a rare pleasure to see you, your haori reminds me I need something. If you'll excuse me for a moment..."

Nifuji, slipping behind the desk, disappeared suddenly. Crouching down, he rummaged through the desk to find his badge. As he rose, tying the badge on, the secretary's mouth was agog.

"...you put your badge in the front desk?" the man asked, his glasses sliding ever closer to the end of his nose.

"No one's going to steal it, right?" Nifuji pushed the goggles up, "Besides, if they did, I'm sure Sayuri would be more than willing to make you all learn how to do bandages again; with the thief being the person with injuries."

The secretary swallowed hard at Nifuji's idle threat, after which he approached Yuusuke again. This time, his reiatsu was much less in volume, far more relaxed. He snickered in an adolescent smile unbefitting his childish frame, shaking his head.

"Kids."

Nifuji straightened his back, though maintained a generally relaxed feeling, and looked over Yuusuke again. Nodding, he ended with eye contact against the eyes, dead and sparkless. He snickered as he dropped the formalities, engaging conversation in a surprisingly informal tone.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of your visiting, Yuusuke?"


"Ah...Nifuji...Thanks for seeing me..." the familiar Reiatsu was soothing to the boy, helping to calm the erratic state of Yuusuke's inner power. Despite the odd mixture of emotions that swelled inside, a small smile formed on the face of the Captain of the sixth. Nifuji was often the one who needed cheering up; funny that their situations were reversed and now he was the one being overwhelmed by his emotions.

"I guess you're right, Nifuji-kun, I'm not feeling very well lately. At least, not mentally anyway." A sad shake of the head was followed by a quick gesture with his hand, indicating that he wished for Nifuji to follow him out of the room and into another, more isolated section of the Gotei. "I've been given orders to help with some of the relief being provided to Rukongai...and you're to come with me."

The Captain didn't show it, but the question that the child had asked sparked some thought in his itty-bitty brain. Taking quick, large steps, he nodded respectfully to the variety of Shinigami - some patients and some healers - that occupied the sterile-smelling corridors of the third division Taisho/Hospital.

He'd met with Nifuji many times before, and quite often, it involved Nifuji saving his life. Taiken Yuusuke was a bit of a masochist, or at least, he was certain that those sort of rumors had spread throughout the healing division. He'd certainly been critically injured enough. And, as much as he was loathe to admit it at times, without Nifuji, he wouldn't be able to do much right now.

Somehow, though, at the same time, he had managed to, in his own way, save Nifuji. Not in the healing sort of way or even in the "white knight on a brilliant stead" way. His way was more subtle, he felt. One thing he had learned in his time was simply that there were millions of ways one could protect another human being, but sometimes, the most effective way to do that was to give them the power to save themselves.

And it was in that way he had managed to "save" Nifuji. By giving him the "power" that he used - the power of lightning - he had given Nifuji the "chance" to save not only himself, but others as well. To save Sayuri and himself and all of the third and all of the people close to him...I gave him that Kidou...But...How can I save anyone like this?

In truth, perhaps he'd already admitted somewhere deep down that he needed Nifuji to save him right now. But his stubborn pride...

The smells changed as they left the white walls of the third, the luscious scents of a thousand flowers dancing through the air in its place. And it was at this point that Yuusuke paused for a moment and looked at Nifuji, speaking clearly, "Even if I was out of the darkness, I can't save anyone, much less those important to me."

He continued walking through the gardens and towards the northern gate of the bloodstone wall after that, trusting that Nifuji was still with him.


"Wrong."

A single shyunpo, though unexpected, was all it took to find himself at Yuusuke's side. He spoke his word, then, calculating the correct tone and volume level needed for the maximum 'impact' upon the Captain. The man was shaken, that much he knew, and as a healer every single sense in his body was surveying the man for damage.

"You not only saved me Yuusuke." Nifuji smiled, "But you helped me grow stronger. Raikouhou has really saved my life. You should see what I've done with it, Yuusuke. Heh...it's funny. I've saved Sayuri with it, I've saved myself. Heck, I've even driven away shadow figures of dewm with it. Pretty handy spell, you know."

"It's got it's dark side, I guess." Nifuji continued to walk alongside Yuusuke now, "I mean...I did almost kill Katsu with it but...you know, I really don't care. Well, I care...but...it's not something you can just throw away. You and Yukiko...you guys taught me that with Kurohitsugi. I mean...really. I think I've got killer instinct in me too, not matter how tiny."

"...you wouldn't believe it but...I also shot it at Masaru." Nifuji snickered softly, "Yeah...full-powered Raikouhou at Masaru. He snuffed it like a candle but still...it felt...good. 'cause it was for Sayuri."

Nifuji now stepped in front of Yuusuke, walking backwards, "...but you're so depressed. You shouldn't be, Yuusuke. You've probably done far more in your life than most people ever dream. You're a Captain, you're one of the Elite Thirteen who preside over a very powerful, very real, military force. How can you be ashamed of that?"

"We all slip, we all fall. C'mon, I know this the best of both of us." Nifuji snickered, "You may have your fair share of physical cuts, but I rule the emotional scar business between us. If I'm alive, right now, and standing straight, then you should be. That haori may be heavy, Yuusuke...but **** you look good in that thing!"


It was funny how a few comforting words from a good friend could shatter the burden of blame he'd placed on himself. It was funny how this young child, who looked barely old enough to pick up a sword, much less wield it effectively, could convince him of what his Zanpakutou had struggled to prove to him. And, looking back, it was also funny how easily he played right into the enemies hands.

That power I taught him...he uses it still. He uses it to save his own life, to save others lives...and it's because I was here that he learned it. The scenery around them was beginning to slowly become more and more desolate as they walked in silence, past the towering buildings of ivory, outside of the unfinished wall that stood proud and tall, and into the wide expanse of Rukongai. And, for some reason, the silence wasn't uncomfortable for once. It was just...nice.

It really is a special thing when you can walk with a person in silence and be comfortable instead of requiring tons and tons of chatter to fill the silence.

I guess so, Hiraishin. Nifuji may think of himself as being "just" a Fukutaichou or something, but he's an important member of the Gotei. He's a special kid, you know?

That's right, Yuusuke. Sometimes, even the smartest of people underestimate their own worth. Then again, you'd know all about that, wouldn't you?

Wha...oh...Well...I thought you weren't talking to me, eh?

Not while you were being a pissy little brat, no. But Nifuji seems to have managed to talk some sense into that retarded brain of yours. I'm curious to how he managed to do it.

Believe it or not, I'm not really a masochist, bent on blaming myself...I just...tend to take it on a bit too easily. Somehow, his words cleared my mind of all the unnecessary thoughts and feelings. I'm still...sad...but there are people depending on me. What good am I like this? The answer is clear. I'm no good. Even if I mess up now and again, that doesn't mean that I can just...stop upholding the expectations that others have for me.

Whatever response Hiraishin might've had was cutoff as Yuusuke slowed his pace slightly, and pulled next to Nifuji. "At least someone recognizes how ****ed sexy this white haori makes me look. You're right though; you take care of the emotional scar business and I'll be busy loosing limbs instead. That's what I do best, after all. Thanks for the advice, Nifuji. I really needed to hear that from someone...now...let's get this mission underway!"


...he's kinda bipolar...

"Only kinda?"

...okay. So really bipolar. Do you think I should get him some meds?

"...possibly."

Right.
Nifuji smiled at Yuusuke's new change in demeanor. Now this was 'that' Yuusuke, the one who had faith in himself and his blade. Nodding at Yuusuke's first words, Nifuji had no idea what 'sexy' or 'hot' meant, but noticed that adults liked it when they were either in high temperature or their pants were on fire.

He would never understand adults.

"So, you said we were on a relief mission." Nifuji's eyes darkened as his voice dropped slowly, "I don't really know much about Rukongai, though I'm sure that'll change in the coming weeks. But...I know Rukongai's in bad shape. How bad? Seireitei is finished rebuilding so...shouldn't Rukongai be not too far behind?"

Now they started to enter a place whose air seemed to void of humidity. It was arid and dry where they were, leaving Nifuji to wonder how those in this district found food or water. Not many people were out, but Nifuji immediately saw that though Rukongai appeared fine, it really wasn't. His childish eyes didn't notice many things, but a consistency were the details; unfinished paintings on houses, little patches on the roofs of almost every house, a trashbag full of used medical supplies.

...is this...the legacy of the Shinigami? Nifuji wondered aloud as he locked eyes with Yuusuke, ...is this...all we give to those we protect?


He must think that I'm crazy...

No ****, Yuusuke. I thought you were crazy since day one.

Ah, well, you're my Zanpaku; it's your job to think I'm crazy and ridicule me for all the dumbass mistakes I make. I don't want the other Captains and Vice-Captains to think the same.

Still doesn't change the fact that you, like everyone else in the Gotei 13, are missing more than a few screws in your head.

With a quick shake of his head, Yuusuke cut off the mental conversation with his Zanpakutou and was pondering the questions that Nifuji had set before him. In truth, the Captain would like to say that, yes, Rukongai would be right behind Seireitei in Reconstruction. How he'd love to say it! And how he wished that it would be the truth...that beyond the glistening ivory city in the gentle hills, rolling plaining, rock-covered deserts, there was still trust in the Shinigami of the Gotei 13.

The truth was not so pleasant; in the world where a great war had plagued the land, the warriors who were supposed to protect had failed in their duty. Many people had generally distrusted Shinigami, especially those who had, in a wicked turn of fate, ended up in the districts past sixty and seventy. They felt as though they'd been wronged by the world, by the ones who ruled the world; was it fair that chance dictated who could live in splendor and glory? Of course it wasn't...but things weren't always fair. That was the way the world work; it was imperfect, illogical, and completely unfair to a great deal of the people that lived there.

The very fact that you were either born into a rich family or that your soul, by some miracle, had potential far above that of the other souls attested to this. Only one in a million met these qualifications, and thus, only one in a million could ever really achieve greatness. Even the "wise man" of the Central 46 were almost exclusively from Noble Families. An average soul didn't even stand a chance. And Yuusuke realized this. He'd been surrounded by it for as long as he could remember. People bad mouthing the Shinigami, strangers cursing him and his family when they ate, and the horribly impoverished districts, where seeing people sleeping in the streets was more common than seeing a house.

But I never agreed with those resentments. The world is...cruel and unfair, sometimes, but the truth was that the only people who could protect them were, in fact, the Shinigami...That's why I joined up with the Gotei...but...

Despite all of his fancy ideals of protecting Rukongai and making it a better place, Yuusuke had quickly learned the harsh reality. The truth was that the Gotei 13 was still too weak to effectively protect Rukongai. And this truth had been proven during the Siege of Seireitei. They'd barely survived...and much of Rukongai had been badly damage, and in some cases, by friendly fire. And the truth was even harsher than that; if they'd actually tried to protect Rukongai, gone out in to the depths and fanned out in an attempt to stop the Hollow Army before it'd marched through the area, they'd have all died.

And then who'd be left to protect them?

This all culminated to one crucial point: right now, the Gotei had to concentrate on rebuilding its forces. Even if Rukongai hated them for it, the important thing was staying alive and becoming stronger. It's a curse, in a way, protecting these people. We want to do it; almost every Shinigami alive has a deep-sitting desire to keep souls safe, but right now, we can't do that job. And it really is a horrible thing.

"Nifuji..." he hesitated, the look from the silver eyes almost pleading him to deny it, "...We live in a world where the strong dictate the fate of the weak. And right now, we aren't strong enough to dictates anyone's fate: not Emptybones', not the Vizards', and not even these poor souls'. We need more strength, first...and, the sad truth is that in order to gain that strength, we can't help these people as much as any of us want...because if we do, really, all we're doing is weakening ourselves. We lost many good Shinigami in the Siege, you know this, and so much of our precious Seireitei was destroyed...even now, we're spreading ourselves thin. And if we do weaken ourselves, then what becomes of the future? If we're eradicated now, will there be a future left? Will it matter if we save them NOW only to watch the entirety of existence destroyed in a few years?"


Nifuji's mouth couldn't hold in his breath as they kept walking. They were shallow breaths, like his quickly shortening footsteps. Deeper and deeper into poverty they seemed to fall, the once-subtle signs now brazen trumpets to the sound of devastation and loss. He almost wished to change his clothes and blend in so that he wasn't assaulted, but Mabushii Kurohoshi's appearance at his side was more than likely a dead-set target on his back.

That was...until Nifuji noticed the men carrying weapons.

Brazen weapons were carried stylistically on a choice group of men, all of them wearing a white bandana on their head. Nifuji caught them giving him wary glances, but they didn't hold eye contact. Frowning, knowing little of any social caste system that existed in Rukongai that concerned a yakuza-esque group, Nifuji bit his lip and nodded to himself.

"I hope you have reiatsu control, Yuusuke." He whispered as they walked, "And if you don't, I'm sorry I have to do this."

Kakusan worked efficiently as Nifuji scattered his reiatsu to a point of impossible non-existence. He gulped as he dealt with the momentary lack of reiatsu, his step faltering slightly. He found his pace again, recovering quickly as the young healer fell into a sluggish state without the bulk of his reiatsu. He kept a small amount of Chiyudou energy, however, flowing through his body to keep it from taking too much hold on him.

"So...what you're telling me...is that we need to find a way for these people to trust us, without imposing ourselves?" Nifuji whispered softly, remembering what Kanie had said to him.

'I can't heal those who don't want to be healed.'

Nifuji nodded, his silver eyes falling upon the scene with a badly-muted interest of the world's happenings. This district was poor, abhorrently so, and so they all looked at Nifuji's and Yuusuke's immaculately contrasting clothes with a keen disinterest. If you didn't have dirt on your face, scrapes on your knees, cuts in your clothes, you're an outsider.

Nifuji suddenly felt extremely disliked.

His left hand subconsciously fell upon Mabushii Kurohoshi's handle, cupping the end of it with a nonchalant alertness. His fingers were tense, but looked lax, but Nifuji's eyes betrayed his paranoia. Flittering from threat to threat, his reiatsu senses softly probed each of the citizens for a harmful level of reiatsu, methodically ruling out anyone that could attack them and do damage.

"...so...what's the plan?" Nifuji asked softly, following the path of the white haori.


"...of course I can conceal my Reiatsu, Nifuji. I'm a Kidou Specialist, not some Reiatsu Tank." Using the same technique as the Vice-Captain, Yuusuke's energy was quickly concealed from the rest of the people in the outskirts. Even then, that didn't stop the glares from coming. Perhaps it was the distance between the two Shinigami and the murderous group of thugs, or maybe they simply didn't see the badge, but the glares were many times worse in his direction than in Nifuji's.

Even though each of the dirty, worn, and scarred men had barely enough Reiatsu for him to register, he could feel it flex and bristle for a moment whenever a look was shot his way. This Haori really is easily recognizable.

And those were just the typical thugs. Several of them had even harder glares for him; he could feel killing intent slipping out, no matter how badly some of them tried to restrain it. One or two of them slowly drew their weapons, a rather large battle axe and several really nasty looking knives, each one curving more and possessing a blade two or three times the thickness of a normal knife. None of these people know me, and yet, they hate me with such vehementness. It really is a pity...

It's odd...Why should a district this close to Seireitei have such a rough assortment of thieves, thugs, and pirates congregating in it?

They're probably something like refugees from some of the rui...Oh...That's why...the only places that were completely decimated were some of the outer districts and the ones destroyed by explosions.

You said it yourself, Yuusuke. They resent you, as a Shinigami, for not protecting them; but even more, they resent you as a Captain, because the Captains of the Gotei chose to keep the forces together, rather than spreading out.

"What do we do now, huh...Our best bet would be to find someone who's friendly to Shinigami, but I have no ide-"

"They made you a Captain, Yuusuke-kun? You've come up a ways since I met you."

The voice that boomed out from behind him was roughly familiar, holding a warm, and almost caring quality to it. It was one he had heard before, relatively recently...but it wasn't one that he'd heard often either. Who in the world do I know in Northern Rukongai? I spent all of my time in Soul Society in either Southern Rukongai or Seireitei...

With a quick about-face, Yuusuke spun around to find a plainly dressed woman, with silver-spotted black hair, in his vicinity. Her eyes, an odd blend of red and brown, sparkled with wisdom and caring, and despite the occasional wrinkle, one could almost believe her to be in the prime of her youth, with the way energy seemed to pour out of her.

I know her...she looks a little older physically, and a little more energetic, but it's her from then...

"That...went reasonably well but...****, that Hollow's venom was quicker acting than I thought it would be. I'm already having trouble moving..." muttered Yuusuke as he resealed Hiraishin. Thanks for the help, old friend.

"Not really...He just struck a good place. That Hollow's venom is pretty simple...you'd be paralyzed for maybe fifteen minutes...though if he'd hit you with those claws, that'd be a different story."

He twirled around to spot a woman, perhaps of 35 or so, short black hair crowning a worn face. Her eyes lacked the sparkle and warmth of youth, but instead held wisdom that came with age. "Who're you...and how do you know about that Hollow?"

A small laugh escaped her; "My, my, where are my manners at, Taiken Yuusuke? I'm Sorakara. A woman from the neighboring village. But enough talk...Let's get you healed up. Chiyudo #30, Chuuwa!"

Yuusuke could feel the healing energy flow through him, expelling the venom that had entered into his body. "Eh...Thanks a lot, Sorakara-san. Officially, I'm Yuusuke. Nice to meet you."

A pleasant looking smile crossed her face as she gave him a short bow. "You handled that Hollow rather well, you know. At least, not giving into your anger. Doing that would've doomed you."

The third seat chuckled, "Yeah, I had to learn that the hard way. Keeping calm is best, if possible. How longer were you there for, anyway?" He realized that she must've been there for quite sometime.

"Since the beginning. I saw the smoke and came to investigate and managed to avoid detection. I couldn't help but be interested in the battle you were fighting."

"Well then...Could you do me a favor-"

"Check up on the children, right?"

A small chuckle escaped his lips as he slowly walked away; he really was that predictable. "Yeah."

"And where are you going? That wound on your stomach still needs healing," she scolded.

"Back to Seireitei. We have healers there, you know. You worry about those children, I'll go get myself healed there. It won't be the first time I've dragged myself back to Seireitei, and sure as hell won't be the last," he muttered, just loud enough so Sorakara could hear him.

"You wouldn't stay even if I threatened to tie you down, would you?"

"Nope."

"...stubborn child. Well, stop by any time you need healing, Yuusuke-kun!"

He chuckled again, "Sure thing, Sorakara-san! I'll stop by sometime then. Those words'll be the death of you, though. I get injured a lot!"

"That's why healers exist. Have a safe trip back!"

He smiled, not saying a word. Mission complete (or so he hoped, anyway.)​


"Sorakara-san, right?"

"Good to see you can still recognize this old woman!" laughed the merry lady; old wasn't the correct term for her, and the one called the retarded puppy recognized this.

"Oh, c'mon...You aren't old...just...a little more well-seasoned than the rest of us."

Another laugh. "Oh hush, Yuusuke. C'mon now...Let's get you and your friend out of here. You two need a change of clothing...I honestly don't know what they're thinking in the Gotei these days...sending out two Shinigami in formal attire. My house is only a few blocks to the east."


Nifuji, too, caught the edges of killing intent seeping out from the villagers. His eyes followed them wearily, though they all followed Yuusuke. Nifuji bit this lip, almost stepping out and walking in front of, perhaps diagonally to, the Captain. It was a Vice Captain's duty to protect their Captain, but also anyone else that they could. This included Captains.

Plus, Sayuri would be pissed if Nifuji let Yuusuke die.

Nifuji's hand 'lazily' drifted to Hatorai's sword, the release phrase for Mabushii Kurohoshi quivering upon his lips. Yet he was, thankfully, not required to use it. All of the thugs seemed to back down. Even though both of them had basically erased their presence to the level of the townspeople, their uniforms were a far greater indicator of their stature than any reiatsu level.

So they had continued like this. Walking, walking, walking. Not really aimlessly, because Yuusuke knew where he was going. Yet, he got the feeling that where they were going wouldn't be pretty; they were in blatant black and white (something no shinigami ever saw clearly) and stood out like a pair of...well...shinigami in the middle of a devastated region of Rukongai.

That was, until the stranger had come.

Nifuji turned quickly, his hand on Hatorai's sword. He had already partially drawn it when Yuusuke had responded nonchalantly. Relaxing his body, letting his muscles go back into their dormant state, the adrenaline washed itself out of Nifuji's system as he looked over the stranger. He got a good chance to observe her movements while she and Yuusuke talked, his silver eyes falling upon her body.

She was taller than Nifuji by almost a full foot, maybe an inch or two less. She had a creased face, belying an age of experience and yet not reaching the stage of decay. Nifuji paused as he fell upon the creases in her face, wondering if they were from smiles or from frowns. His eyes paused upon the delicate hair, black with silver speckles in it. The silver shimmered in the high sun, something like his own, and Nifuji immediately smiled. He took her for an ally immediately, her reiatsu was...

...her reaitsu wasn't existent.

Nifuji's mind scrambled, wondering how the woman could live without reiatsu. Yet in his haste Atodzukeru immediately activated, tracing her reiatsu. He suddenly found it, his eyes and senses finding the reiatsu scattered in the wind. He gasped at the grasping power of Kakusan that the woman employed, immediately feeling the pulsing familiarity of shinigami power from her. His eyes narrowed at the person, but then they suddenly smiled with his lips.

"You're a healer." He whispered. It was true; he could feel it within the reiatsu. Chiyudou had been mixed with the reiatsu to create her natural aura; it was the trademark of a career healer. With so many uses of Chiyudou, the energy gradually grew into your reiatsu, a trace amount at most, creating a soft and impulsively disarming reiatsu, "...and a powerful one, to boot."

Nifuji's face melted into a pure smile as he bowed to the woman, "I'm Nifuji Jinte, the Sanbantai Fukutaichou. I'm the Vice Captain of the Gotei's healing division, under the guidance of Sayuri Chikako. It's a pleasure to meet you."


"Yes, that's right...She healed me during the field portion of my Taishyuu examination. The Hollow I was fighting at the time was a venomous one, and it managed to land a nice blow before it parished. Luckily she was around; getting back to Seireitei would've been difficult otherwise;" a light chuckle danced out as they continued walking the worn paths of the decayed town. He'd been a fool then; always trying to act tough. I'm still a fool, just less of one these days.

"More than difficult, Yuusuke-kun. That venom, while not particularly deadly was a paralytic. Given the fact that he managed a lucky hit in the neck, you would've dropped within half an hour at most. And while it wasn't deadly, it's effects were long lasting. In other words, if you hadn't met me, shortly after defeating that Hollow, you would've dropped on your way back, and fallen pray to some fodder Hollow, looking for a tasty meal...And you know, Yuusuke-kun, you never did tell me that was your Taishyuu...or come back for some more healing. Did you bother poor Nifuji-kun for it all the time?"

And it was then that Taiken Yuusuke realized exactly how much Sorakara was like him. He'd barely known her for a few moments total, and yet she presumed to talk to him like what seemed to be an odd combination of a doctor...and a mother. I must be emitting some sort of...weirdo beacon.

Or maybe you should just admit the truth?

...and that is?

That she's exactly like you are in that regard.

Another day; another victory for his Zanpaku. You know, I really hate it when you get all smug like that...

Not my fault that I'm the smarter of us.

Oh shut up! Cutting off the mental conversation with the avatar, Yuusuke began to look around and observe the place where they would be working for the next day.

The town was only a short walk from Seireitei, and despite how far it'd decayed, there were signs of its former glory and prominence. The buildings, despite being crumbled and stained any one of many colors, still stood taller than most, and the doors (or those that were left) had a bright sheen, reflecting light from their dark mahogany frames. The paths were not of dirt, but rather of cracked bricks. Everything was far too spread out to be a cheap section of Rukongai.

"Looks like you've finally noticed, Yuusuke-kun."

"Noticed?"

"The appearance of the town..."

"Oh, yeah. It's odd...Why is this place, which was once such a beautiful town overflowing with...well...with low-level thugs and punks like them?" he inquired, his curiousity finally getting the better of him.

"A great number of towns were obliterated by the Hollow Army during their march to Seireitei. They all needed a place to reside...and many of these people were from the higher numbered districts. It was only natural that we take some in...and in the end, that turned out being the worst thing we could do. Ah, but more on that later. We've arrived, Yuusuke-kun, Nifuji-kun," with a quick extension of her hand, she gestured to a small single story house.

The walls were painted a pale creams color, with a few windows, each one completely whole, lacking any cracks or missing pieces. The lawn, what little there was of one, was in good order, well-trimmed but with an occasional weed popping up. The door, unlike the others, was light brown.

"Well, c'mon Yuusuke-kun...Stop staring and let's go. We can talk more inside."


Nifuji smiled as Yuusuke and his friend conversed. As they talked, Nifuji used Atodzukeru to probe the woman's reiatsu level. It wasn't easy, the woman's degree of Kakusan efficiency was far beyond either of theirs. Yet she had strong Chiyudou energy, which allowed Nifuji to trace it easily. Eventually finding a general 'flooding' area where all of her reiatsu was contained, Atodzukeru clicked on with his sense for Chiyudou.

Nifuji's mouth hung agape at his estimates.

...such reiatsu! Nifuji blinked, ...easily almost twice my own level! Her Chiyudou level within her reiatsu is incredible as well! It's similar to, though far beyond, my own reiatsu. But I don't see a Zanpakutou on her anywhere. Also, if she has reiatsu like this, why isn't she a Captain? Her power could easily rival that of Sayuri's, even in just raw reiatsu...

When she mentioned his name, Nifuji jerked out of his inner thoughts. Blinking, smiled as she related his tale of the Taishyuu test. It seemed just like Yuusuke to not know about the poison's paralytic qualities, though it was very impressive that Sorakara could know from...well...however she knew.

Nifuji admired the changing landscape as Sorakara led them a short distance. Yuusuke's eyes fell upon what he himself had noticed, and he found his own eyes falling upon it once more. Silver discs admired the landscape (or lack thereof). The stares seemed to be intensifying, though now aimed at their companion Sorakara. Once more, his protective Vice Captain instincts almost took over, urging Nifuji to step in front of her and burst his reiatsu outwards.

He knew it would be in vain, however. The townspeople wouldn't feel the reiatsu, but only the choking sensation. Such a maneuver would not only kill people, but it would obviously be Nifuji who was gilty. They would know him as a shinigami and, really, never trust the shinigami.

Nifuji hated politics.

But what he hated more was what Sorakara elaborated on; how people had come in and taken advantage of hospitality. The punks and thugs that now decorated the streets so easily had been strays, now rooting their filthy hatred within a town. No doubt the villagers supported the vigilante protection group; no doubt that they would solve nothing by using the first strike method on these opponents.

"I don't like that..." he muttered to himself and Mabushii Kurohoshi, who was also observing. The scenery shifted into wider spaces as Sorakara reached a closer point to her destination. Nifuji noted the wide expanses of space, no matter how ruined, that were clearly and invisibly marked. Small shifts in the size grass was cut served as a permanent barrier far more effective than any Berlin Wall.

When Sorakara pronounced their arrival, Nifuji was also captivated with it. All of the other houses to seem runned down in the slightest fasion, either that or expensively maintained. No paint chips fell off the windows, no glass shards cascading down from shattered seals. The house was just that; a plain house.

But in this sector of devastation, 'normal' was now 'abnormal'.

Nifuji growled at this revelation, tightening his fist. Perhaps this paradigm shift was exactly what Masaru had wanted within the Gotei, for 'normal' to be 'less-than-desirable', but certainly not here. Not where life had been peaceful, not where war had finally been forgotten.

"...Masaru..." Nifuji remembered the brief time he had spent with the Gotei's own, personal divinity, "...would you...want me to fight?"

Nifuji smiled.

"I bet you would."

And with a nod, Nifuji followed the two.
 

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Paradigm Shift (Part II)
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Jinte Nifuji, 3rd Division
~Kishyotai


Taiken Yuusuke, 6th Division
~Sho-kun

"All things come with a price; sometimes, that price is simply laughter"​

"Masaru? You've met with Masaru, Nifuji? Lu~cky!" probed Yuusuke, slightly jealous at the idea that the Vice-Captain might've had a more personal meeting with the Commander of the Gotei than a quick "Hello" (which Masaru had never even really acknowledged, he reminded himself) at a Captain's Meeting.

The air as they entered into the hallway was definitively cooler and more humid than the arid desert-like environment outside. The floor of the entrance-way was made of bricks, each one an offshoot of some red-brown color. The walls were each an off-white, with a trim around the bottom that were a matching color, save for a thin strip at the top that was painted a pail gold. Extending down the majestic hallway was a tan carpet, which was very easy on the feet.

"Welcome to my humble abode. It's roof is yours for as long as you like."

The group continued to walk down the hallway, and it was with some interest that the captain of the sixth noted the assorted pieces of art hanging on the walls. Each one depicted a different scene; some told of great battles, others of a simple meeting of friends, and still others told of betrayal and pain.

I know how that feels... the dark thought pertained not only to Ginto, but to another as well, though it was with some haste that Yuusuke cleared his mind of such thoughts. Now was neither the time nor the place to be letting the darkness back into his mind.

Rather, the thing that interested him the most about the paintings were the people in them. In every painting, all of the central figures were Shinigami. As if reading his thoughts, Sorakara responded, "Ah...The paintings belong to my husband. You see, he's somewhat of a Shinigami freak, but never did quite manage to generate enough power to be admitted into the academy."

"Hah! Only a bit? You should know that I'm a full out Shinigami fan. Founder, and president, of the Northwestern Branch of the Rukongai Souls for the Betterment of Shinigami and Non-Shinigami Relations!"

The man, like the others in the town, had a pitiful Reiatsu; it barely showed up in his sensory range. However, unlike the young riffraff that had "greeted" them when they entered the town, this man's intentions were more than friendly; there was a mix of awe, respect, and profound joy. "But seeing a pair of Shinigami this far out...my, my, what sort of business do the two of you have?"

"They're here to help rebuild, aren't you?"

"That's right...We've gotten an assignment to come out here and help with the sick and injured. Though...we can't very well do that dressed as we are."

A chuckle left the giant of a man; even taller than Yuusuke by a few good inches, his once bright orange hair seemed to have faded away, leaving graying, balding head of hair, and a matching beard. His face had many wrinkles on it, although his dark brown eyes shone with joy and experience. A large, bulbous nose and a wide smile finished adorning the giant's face, giving him an odd look of a man who had seen some rough times, but had managed to retain a childlike joy and appreciation for certain things.

"Yes, yes, that would be obvious; many of the people here, even the normal ones, are very weary of your kind. C'mon then, I'll see what I can find for the two of you...I think I still have some of my old cloths that'd work for you...and as for your friend...Mr...Uh...Come to think of it, I have no clue who the two of you are." A hearty, almost embarrassed chuckle, roared through the room; Yuusuke was certain that the people several blocks away must've heard that.

"Oh...I'm Yuusuke...Taiken Yuusuke. And he's Nifuji. Jinte Nifuji."

"..A little short for a Fukutaichou, doncha think?"

A smile bloomed on Yuusuke's face at this comment; he could tell that they were going to get along quite nicely. "You know, I've always thought that myself...At least he's not another chibi-Taichou."

"You guys have a Chibi-Taichou?"

"Yup. Captain of the Fifth."

"Ahahahaha!" Another booming chuckle.

"I'm sorry...He never did introduce himself, did he? That's Keiji...though he doesn't look like it."

Sorakara had said the truth; the man looked more like a Battle-Axe Wielding Viking than a small Japanese man. "Come on, you two, his bedroom is right this way..."


Nifuji was left in awe at the scene that unfolded. Blinking twice to make sure he wasn't sleeping (then reminding himself that sleep was something only the weak needed), he shook his head. Not really in pity, but more of disbelief, at the man who had just boomed into the room. The bulbous nose and bulbous figure had been a similar match, though the wrinkles were subtle they were semi-pronounced.

The small Fukutaichou's eyes flashed as he inspected the folds in the skin. He couldn't tell if they were worry creases, facial dimples, or perhaps something deeper. If Sorakara-san's words had been true, then perhaps he had attained them while training? If he was such a fan, then it would have meant his dedication towards his strength was something along astronomical ...I wonder if he's...ever jealous of his wife.

"Of course. Then again, aren't you sometimes jealous of Sayuri?"

Are you kidding?
Nifuji rolled his eyes, That haori would simply drag on the ground if I wore it.

"That wasn't what I was talking about."

I don't find Katsu attractive.

"That wasn't...you're hopeless."


Nifuji smiled as the man remarked on his height. He bowed as the man said this, but stopped mid-bow. How had the man known that he was a Fukutaichou? His mind raced over a thousand possible scenarios before he realized he had been blatantly wearing his badge. His face flushed silently as the chibi Fukutaichou silently apologized to the two as he straightened from his bow.

"I've met with the Soutaichou twice, Yuusuke." Nifuji said as they followed Sorakara, "Once, after the Siege, Sayuri, Takuya and I healed him. He said he'd pay us back, and after I helped Sayuri with her Taishyuu we were immediately called to his office. From there, we both relea...we were given new techniques by him. Mine is a type of protection. I haven't had a chance to us it but...that's good, I guess."

He clenched his fist as he spoke, raising it slightly as Nifuji felt Hizashi's light within his body. It was only a trace amount, but the blessed fire was definitely part of him now. Nifuji winced at how he had drifted off at the mention of his Ban Kai. It wasn't a lie...but it surely didn't tell like he had told Yuusuke the whole truth.

He'd show Yuusuke, instead of telling him.

The time would come, he reasoned, for him to unveil his Ban Kai to the Gotei. For some reason or another, Nifuji would be forced (or persuaded) into releasing his full power to protect the Gotei'. He smiled; he would take the opportunity to help those he treasured as friends. Take it, seize it, and do everything he could with it.

...there'll be a time, when everything falls into place... Nifuji assured himself, Now...all I can do is just simply wait for it and be prepared with my entire being.

"Yuusuke." Nifuji said softly, "So...what's the plan? Are we going to disguise ourselves as relief workers and just go out doing good amongst the people? What about our Zanpaku? Aren't there still some Hollows roaming Rukongai?"


"Plan?"

Yuusuke pondered this; he hadn't really put much thought into that aspect of the missions yet. Kayla's note had definitely indicated that they were there for relief; he doubted that Hollow hunting was part of the agenda. Then again, the safety of the people was paramount too; he'd seen first hand what a few loose Hollows could do, or at least, he'd thought he had. Even if that was fake, it taught me a good lesson in just how vicious Hollows can be...

"Well, from what was indicated, I think our best course would be to help in the relief effort, but make sure to keep your Zanpaku handy as well; while most of the Hollows are still amassed in Hueco Mundo, you're right that there are still a few running amuck here."

Hiding the Zanpaku would be a problem though; a four-fifths meter Katana was not going to be something that your normal citizen carried around. Hmm...I can't think of anything. You have any ideas, Hiraishin?

Try to think back to when you first began to really learn Kidou, Yuusuke.

Back then...

His thoughts began to drift back, recalling the events that had led up to that; joining the Second, meeting Rei, Shizu, Yume, and Kayla; the Siege; Anthracite. And after that was when you got really angry at me, Hiraishin, and you sealed yourself into a...Oh. We should alter the shapes of our Zanpaku?

Bingo.

How?!

Will it to happen...Control the Reiatsu that surrounds the blade and reshape it as you see fit.

If you say so...

He snapped out of his self-induced tranced, and hesitantly spoke with Nifuji, "And to make sure that they don't spot them on us, we'll...compress them into a smaller shape. Like a knife or such."

Despite the doubt that echoed in his voice, his compressed Reiatsu slightly expanded again, giving him better control over it. And then...

A few seconds later, a simple sheathed knife, no more than ten centimeters long sat where Hiraishin once had. "See? Easy."


"I'm not so sure that your reiatsu control is passed on as easily to people like me." Nifuji sighed, frowning. The only reiatsu control technique that he knew was Kakusan, and that was to simply dissipate it into something that could never be found. This, on the other hand, was infinitely more complex.

...is it okay if I change your shape, Mabushii Kurohoshi? Nifuji asked his Soul Slayer, I feel like I'm stepping into some boundries that I shouldn't be. I'm going to need your acceptance if I'm going to change your shape, Mabushii...

"We aren't ha-"

Yes, or no.

"Go ahead."
Nifuji sighed, feeling his reiatsu start to vibrate. He started to dissipate it through Kakusan, getting a feel for scattering his reiatsu. Now, he inverted the feeling. He used gravity inwards instead of outwards, now using himself as an anchor for the reiatsu to gravitate towards.

The blade twisted upon itself slightly, blinking in and out of space. Nifuji smiled, remembering how this entire escapade had started with the arrival of Kanshoku Meseikimu when he was injured from a Hollow mission.

"Now, let's see what crazy thing I'll get." Nifuji smiled softly as the technique pulled the blade's shape into itself. A grin came into his lips as, after a final wink, his reiatsu sucked itself into the blade as its size was minimized. Nifuji blinked as his Zanpakutou became a small ring on his right ring finger.

He looked at it; a solitary silver band with a singular, deep, sapphire stone. He frowned at it; wasn't there some significance about where the ring was? Besides, why didn't he get a sword like Yuusuke?

"Apparently, my reiatsu control still needs more work." Nifuji blinked, "Ah well. Wait...this process is reversible isn't it?"


A wide grin passed over his face; this chance was golden.

You really shouldn't, Yuusuke.

I know.

Think of all the times he's healed you.

That's something different.

You know he'll probably believe you.

That's the point.

You're incorrigible, you know that?

Yup.

"Of course it isn't, Nifuji. It's stuck like that for the rest of your life," he replied with a strait-face. It only lasted a few seconds before...

"BOWAHAHAHA!" The giant of a man that had been accompanying them down the hall burst out in laughter at Yuusuke's attempt at pulling a small prank on his friend; for some reason, he found this to be hilarious. "Awww...You ruined it..."

"But...Hahahah..."

"Oh hush, the both of you. Nifuji-san, it's an easily reversible process; just ignore them. Come on, let's get you both into some more...normal...attire. You do have a mission to accomplish still."

"hmmph..." muttered Yuusuke, angry with both of the adults for ruining a moment of fun; Sorakara was right though. They weren't there to visit with the Chiyudo Master and her husband; the people of that sector were in need of help...help that they had been assigned to provide. "Alrighty then...Let's get incognito then!"

A sharp turn accompanied the words as they spun around into what had once been a bedroom. The room was decorated in a similar fashion to the others that occupied the house; however, there seemed to be an abnormally large amount of chests and dressers and things of that nature. In fact, despite the relatively large amount of available space, there was very little floor space left; just enough to maneuver through the room from piece of furniture to piece of furniture.

A quizzical look quickly appeared on Yuusuke's face; he was rather confused at how they could possess so many articles of clothing when it was simply the two of them there. As if reading his mind, Keiji explained after finally calming down; "Ya should be able to find somethin' suitable in here. In all these pieces of furniture resides about...oh, a very large portion of all the clothing we've ever had...and them some that we never even used. So-chan's a bit of pack rat..."

The last part was whispered hurriedly, as if trying to avoid some great calamity...and to everyone's peace of mind, nothing happened. "Yes, yes, there are all styles and sizes of clothing in here. We'll take our leave while you decide."


The singular largest sweatdrop ever in existence slipped down Nifuji's head as Yuusuke informed him he would be stuck with a Ring-paku-tou for the rest of his life. A small tear was shed as he cast a melancholy look at the ring (for some reason, the word 'engagement' came into mind). A small sniffle, and then the giant laugh.

The sweatdrop turned into a thumping vein as Nifuji's temper flared. He grumbled something concerning 'sword point', 'jugular vein', and Yuusuke's mother 'crying like a newborn'. He never got to finish the thought, or follow through with the threat, because the giant man came bumbling in.

Nifuji put his hand on the ring, patting it with a reassured confidence, and nodded as he was led out of the room. Something odd about the house struck Nifuji, as if the couple was prepared to leave the house at any moment. Frowning, Nifuji realized the precarious situation they must have been in; helping out shinigami probably wasn't the greatest idea.

The idea slipped out of his mind as Nifuji saw the expanse of clothes before them, a sea of fabric that spanned the entire floor. His eyes gleamed in delight, a childish act, as the couple left the room to Yuusuke and himself. Grinning, Nifuji snickered, "Oi, I bet you'd like to steal some lingere to take back to a women back in Seireitei, hmm? You devilish rogue, you. I bet you've got lines of ladies picked out."

Nifuji smiled as he moved through the clothes, "But seriously, what is your personal life like? I don't really know much about you, Yuusuke. I know that you're a Captain, that you're a walking talking tazer, but that's about it. What's your past like, who're your friends? Who's your Vice Captain? Who are your parents, where did you come from, were you born in Soul Society or die on Earth?"

The interrogation was friendly as Nifuji picked out some clothes, "But seriously, what do we know about each other? It's kind of odd I've seen you in the hospital but don't know that much; although, it's not like we require 'favorite color' and 'likes ice cream?' to be filled out in the hospital."

Nifuji paused, "Maybe we should; it'd make reading those forms a bit more interesting. Paperwork would suck a little bit less."

"...maybe."

Nifuji blinked, suddenly turning around, "...are there places for us to...change? No offence, Yuusuke, but...yeah..."


"Lines of ladies? Hahaha. That's a laugh. I barely have enough time to sleep most days...and I think I scare most of them off with Squiggles-san." The sad thing was that it was the truth; the Captain had fallen asleep several times during his lunch period instead of actually eating. Still, a grin appeared on his face as he elbowed Nifuji lightly, "You, however, I'm sure they line up by the dozens to meet the adorable Vice-Captain of the Third Division; the chibi tensai."

His grin faded into slow oblivion at the next rapid fire question, however. They were painful topics for Yuusuke, especially that of his past. His dreams lately had been plagued by visions he didn't remember. Sights of the past were there, but things were far different than he had though he experienced; instead of being bathed in warm light and a certain bliss, things seemed dark...and destructive.

Dreams were troublesome on their own typically, but the fact that there was a memory that helped to justify the difference between the reality he perceived and the possibility that his dreams presented was all the more difficult. Ginto's taunts, no matter how much he may have doubted most of them, had held a bit of truth. But the real question was how much was truth.

"Ah...My personal life? It's kinda...well, it's not as good as it could be at the moment. I'm still pretty busy as it is. But...My friends...Well, you'd be one of them. As would Rei, Shizuka, Yume, and Kayla. Dunno if you've met any of them yet. Kayla's my Vice-Captain, although you wouldn't know it some of the time; she's also the head of the Kidoushuu, meaning my boss a lot too," a small smirk worked its way out, destroying any melancholy expression on his face as he answered, "My favorite color though...is electric blue. Or yellow. Haven't really decided. As for Ice Cream, sometimes, plain is best. Vanilla can be good, but so can Rocky Road."

He wanted to ignore the unanswered question, but got a sneaking suspicion that Nifuji would press on harder if he did. "My past, huh?"

It was with a small sigh that he answered, "It's not really something I like to talk about...My memories of earth are pretty blurry...and I'm not even sure if they're right. All I remember is that I died at home after seeing something. Then, I was in Soul Society. Heck, I don't even remember the Shinigami who preformed Soul Burial on me...after that, things were rough for a while. And then, I was found. But things never seem to work out well and...It's just safe to say that all the people from my past aren't with me anymore."

Shaking his head, he slowly exited the room, turning his head back slightly as he commented cheerfully, "I'll keep out while you get changed, Niffy-kun. 'sides....there's some stuff I wanted to ask Sorakara about."


Nifuji blinked as Yuusuke's voice dropped into a depressed range. He instantly regretted having asked the question. He did, however, learn something. Favorite colors and ice cream. That was a start, right? When someone started to learn about someone else, it was best to start with the basics.

"I hardly think that the past is something to fear so much, Yuusuke, but..." Nifuji whispered softly to himself, "I think...that..."

Yuusuke, however, had already left. Nifuji was left alone, whispering to himself. Pitifully, once more, whispering to himself. Composing his small body, Nifuji quickly found the clothes he wanted. Quickly, and with a hitn of embarrassment, Nifuji switched out of his hakama.

However, his obi sash and his Vice Captain badge gave him a forlorn look. The sash reminded him of Yukihime, an odd reminder, but a thorough one. He frowned, unable to get the now raven heard woman out of his mind. Sayuri, as well, had raven hair. The Fukutaichou badge glimmered in the light as he refused to simply let it stay here.

I'll carry both of you...with me...
Nifuji looked himself over in the mirror. He wore a collar shirt, a blue one, with a white shirt under it. White shorts and some odd type of foot wear that covered the whole foot dominated his lower half. He strapped a knife on the side of his left calf. Nifuji stripped the Fukutaichou badge off of the white cloth and slipped it onto his obi sash, which he used like a belt.

The Fukutaichou badge was at his right hip, where his two ends met. The obi sash had an excess of two feet on each side, which dangled at his side. Had there been dramatic wind, it would have fluttered. Yet no dramatic wind came to comfort Nifuji as he nodded.

Both of those two women...

Nifuji nodded, check his outfit. All of the articles of clothing seemed loose, but they were all well secured. He checked his mobility and used one step of shyunpo to cut across the room; it wasn't hindered except the slightest amount. He tightened his 'belt' once more and suddenly stopped.

"Oh, what're these?" Nifuji blinked, looking at a pair of sunglasses dangling off his shirt. Putting them on, he smiled; they worked well. Nodding, Nifuji had no way of knowing that he had just put on gold-rimmed Aviator sunglasses that even Tom Cruise would die to wear. Stepping out of the room, he poked his head out, "Yuusuke?"


Stumbling through the hallway, Yuusuke quickly found his way back to the central area of the house where the unlikely pair sat on a cozy-looking love seat, both looking at him with a quizzical look in their eyes. "Uh, hey there, Keiji, Sorakara, there's a few things I wanted to ask the two of you."

Both exchanged a quick look, before Sorakara gave him a warm smile, saying, "That's funny, Yuusuke, we both had something we wanted to ask you."

"Oh...Errr...Why don't the two of you go first?" his hands were buried in the pockets of the Hakama, while his foot kept on kicking the ground slowly.

"Mmm...Yuusuke, you are a Captain right?"

He found that to be a very odd question; the fact that he was wearing the white Haori should've easily confirmed that. "Yeah...I've been wearing this Haori all day, y'know. No need to ask."

"Ah...and Nifuji-san is really a Fukutaichou then?"

"Of course; he's the Vice-Captain of the Third, our current healing division," he answered perplexedly; why were they asking questions they already knew the answer to?

Sensing his impatience, she smiled a bit wider, saying, "Don't worry, Yuusuke, there's a reason we're asking these questions...Now, we're both very curious as to how you got this assignment."

A moment of odd silence hung in the air between the trio as Yuusuke tried to figure out how to explain this without giving away the real reason for their visit; he wasn't comfortable mentioning this with Nifuji around. "Well..." he hesitated slightly, trying to make something up on the spot, "We received orders to do s-"

"Yuusuke."

"Yeah?"

"You're a Captain; the number of people who can order you to do anything at all is severely limited to Masaru-san and the Central 46. And in my personal experience, either of those bodies using a Captain and Vice-Captain as construction workers for Rukongai seems highly unlikely."

If he'd been smart, he would've said from the beginning that he'd simply decided to do this on his own and had forcefully drug Nifuji along with him; unfortunately, despite the fact that he had near-perfect hindsight, his foresight was severely lacking. And he was running out of options. His mind was drawing a blank on any possible excuse that he could use; therefore, he did the only other thing he could think of and told them the truth.

"Alright," his voice was low, barely perceivable to the pair, much less to anyone else that might be eavesdropping, "The truth is that both of us are highly skilled in Kidou...and for a while now, I've been a member of a group called the Kidoushuu. Nifuji's been selected to join this group...and this is the mission we were assigned to do for his induction; of course, he doesn't know anything about this."

"Ah...that makes sense. Now, you had a question for me, Yuusuke?"

He would've asked it too, but at that time, Nifuji's voice chose to interrupt them, and with an apologetic smile, he left the duo and went back, saying, "Ah, you're done then, Nifuji? Is it my turn then?"


Nifuij blinked, nodding. The heavy aviators slid down his nose, however, and the chibi-chan scrambled to keep the glasses from falling off. He knew they would be necessary; his silver eyes weren't something that happened in every day Rukongai. Heck, they weren't anything that happened in every day Seireitei either. They were an oddity, to be sure, that came with his twisted and malignant mystery concerning the past.

"Yeah." He said, this time with the sunglasses firmly secured behind his ears. He took them off for a moment, leaned them on the undershirt, and then twisted the ear pieces into semi-circles. It would be impossible, he reasoned, for them to fall off now. As he replaced them on his ears, he nodded, "I'm done, but I've got a quick question for you."

"We're relief workers on one of the relief programs, right?" Nifuji called down the hall as he approached the room, "Well, if we're in disguise as not shinigami, then wouldn't it be counter-productive for me to heal anyone? I'd have to use the chanting, since I know Kichouji, which would let everyone know that we're shinigami. The people around here are obviously not very friendly towards our faction.

"Anyway, give it some thought." Nifuji now entered the room, giving a curt nod to the hosts as he kept addressing Yuusuke, "And then, hopefully, we'll work something out. I...kind want to heal, though, so I do hope we work something out. It wouldn't be very good of us not to heal."


"Yeah...We definitely want to be able to heal...Hmmm..."

The situation was something Yuusuke pondered in the back of his mind; it was impossible for him to use Chiyudo so blatantly. Even assuming that there were a few assorted individuals who either were former-Shinigami, and thus had some skill in Kidou, or who were souls with large amounts of power that had been taught Kidou in some other way, these people would probably be suspicious of anyone that used Kidou and weren't well known.

Eishouhaki could work...but even then, they'd hear the spells name, and know that something was up. So, in this situation, the only way for him to heal...would be to be able to cast spells in complete silence. And the only way to do that...

The only current way to cast spells without saying something is that skill you're so fond of.

That's right...Absolute Bypass...But it's restricted to members of the Kidoushuu only...

Nifuji practically is already in the Kidoushuu, Yuusuke. Nobody would come after you if ya taught it to him, right? This mission is just a formality; we both know he'll pass with ease.

True...but then, he also said he knows that one technique, "Precious Words". That's practically the opposite of "Revocation of the Recited Poem", much less Absolute Bypass...Would he even want to learn it at the cost of giving up his "Precious Words."?

You'll never know if you don't ask, Yuusuke.

Yeah...Might as well...

"Ah...Nifuji...I might have a way...But, you'd have to consider giving up those precious words for it. Anyway, think on it, I'm gonna go get changed, and if you want, I'll teach you the technique in a moment. Just yell into the door or something."


...give up...Kichouji...? Nifuji repeated mentally, blinking, Mabushii...do you think that...giving up such a powerful technique would be good enough?

"It depends on your values."

You know very well what my values are; help me out here!

"...I think it would be worth it. Learning to cast kidou without using the incatation, as Yuusuke seems to suggest there is, would be a very valuable skill. You could learn to use Hadou wordlessly, firing off attacks while protecting. Whatever this skill is...I believe that you should learn it."


Nifuji nodded, frowning at Mabushii's advice. He liked Kichouji, the precious words he had learned at the Quincy estate. Those words had saved Tohi, kept him alive, and healed others. Yet, now he had to abandon them? Nifuji frowned.

His eyes drifted out the window as he contemplated the decision. What was he to do? The clouds drifted across the sky but never returned, formless and ambiguous. The sun rose and set every day, but also came back every day. Each solid in their own tasks...but which was him? Was he the drifting cloud, or the setting sun?

"Sometimes, old ideals need to be discarded so that you can adapt to your situation; one who failed to do this will inevitably die in battle. If you wish to live, keep living and keep changing. There may be a time when you may even need to leave yourself, but we'll take that when it comes."

Nodding, Nifuji sighed.

"Yeah, Yuusuke." He said, "I'll learn the technique. But...what's it called?"


Within the small room, Yuusuke had already rooted through all of the varying chests and dressers, and had quickly found something that appealed to him. Slipping off his Haori, it was as though a weight had been lifted from his back. That haori is heavy...it feels good to stop being 'Taiken Yuusuke, Rokubantai Taichou' and to just be good ol' 'Taiken Yuusuke, Anonymous Relief Worker' even if it's just for a while.

Not that he didn't enjoy being Captain, just that it was some what stressful and very trying, especially lately. Being able to just be another face in the crowd would be a nice break. You really do need to try and relax more often, Yuusuke. Training and paperwork all nice and good, but it's not healthy to be doing it constantly.

I know, I know. I'll start taking more breaks and doing less training after the division's finally stabilized a bit. How's that sound?

Alright...But if it doesn't happen soon, I'll find away to make you relax. And then it won't be pretty.

A large gulp, followed by a squeaky "Hai", were the only signs that the Captain had understood as he continued to quickly undress inside the room. Within a few more seconds, a pile of black and white clothing lay at his feet, as he grabbed the particular outfit that he'd chosen for this assignment.

Dark brown sandals adorned his feet, covering almost all of the toes and the top of his feat, while leaving the heel completely bare. His long legs were covered by a set of light blue jeans, complete with an occasional rip or tear on the hips and thighs. A dark red T-Shirt was what he wore on the upper-half of his body, and over that, he wore an unbuttoned yellow and white shirt.

Grinning at the other two items he'd managed to find in his browsing, Yuusuke slipped on a thick golden chain that came complete with a golden Dollar Sign as it's "gem". Finally, a pair of expensive looking sunglasses were swung over his vibrant golden-hazel eyes.

Exiting the room, he grinned at Nifuji, saying, "We call it 'Absolute Bypass'...and because you're a smart kid, you've probably realized what it does by now. This is a technique that lets a person cast spells in the same method as Eishouhaki, but completely silent. Extremely useful when ya think about it. So...Let's get started then..."


Yuusuke emerged from the room with a blatantly red shirt muted by a yellow and white shirt. Nifuji only blinked, glad he had these cumbersome sunglasses on as he looked at the glowing Captain. The ripped pants were something Nifuji didn't quite understand, but all adults were weird, so he didn't pursue it.

"It sounds useful." Nifuji blinked, "Absolute Bypass? It's a catchy name, I like it."

He grinned; the name of a technique was often a pretty good indicator of its coolness. It seemed shallow of him, but who exactly would use a technique named 'passive frog fart', or 'odd-handed elevation-inducing vomit projectile strike'. What about the technique 'Scope'?

...especially since the second one was just weird. The last one was kind of a dumb name too.

"So, you say 'let's get started', but I don't know where to start." Nifuji snickered, "I believe you'll have to start it off; I don't even know Eishouhaki."


"Oh, that's right...Alright then...I'm gonna assume that a talented Chibi like you knows a good amount about the inner-workings of the Kidou system." Slipping the sunglasses off of his face, his grin lessened slightly as he took on "Yuusuke-sensei" mode; ironically, during his days at the academy, it would've been at about this time that he would've drifted off into lala-land.

"So, typically...We say incantations normally to select the spell, power the spell, set the target, along with a large number of other miscellaneous tasks. Most Shinigami need the incantation to properly form a spell; it's impossible to do it without the use of the incantation. It's hard to give a good example of this but...if you've ever done any cooking, it's like how most people need the actual recipe in front of them to make a meal. It provides all the instructions on how to make the meal work; the chef simply has to follow what's written and provided the time and effort to make the spell work."

Yuusuke paused, wondering why in the world he was comparing food to Kidou...and unlikely combination that made him pause in the middle of the pause and wonder if there was a Kidou out there that would summon food to him. Like Pizza. He could really do with some pizza. But definitely not a sandwich; it'd be bad if the spell summoned a sandwich instead.

"Well, anyway, when you reach a certain level of skill with Kidou, it becomes possible to "compress" all those functions into a much shorter span of time, and to supply the energy in an almost an instant using advanced control. That's the principle behind the technique of Eishouhaki, anyway. Kinda like how a high-level cook can whip up a dish just knowing what dish he wants to prepare and taking a quick glance at the recipe. But the downside for this whole deal is that the power and efficiency get lowered; just how much lower depends on the Kidou you're using and how skilled ya are. Eventually, the drop in power and efficiency is almost completely negligible; that typically happens when your reserves and skill level are a good deal higher than the requirements for the spell."

God, he sounded like an academy teacher. Now, for the good part. "There's not actually a whole lot to worry about when using Eishouhaki; visualization isn't really needed to do it typically. All you gotta do is provide the correct amount of energy in a short period of time. Here," grabbing Hiraishin (Knife-Version) with his right hand, Yuusuke drew a thin line of blood on the top of his left one, "It should be pretty easy for ya to master. Try healing that wound with a basic spell."


Listening intently as Yuusuke explained the basics of Eishouhaki, Nifuji internalized every word that the Captain said. He frowned, compressing functions into a shorter time didn't seem very basic to him. He growled as Nifuji tried to interpret into actions what Yuusuke had said in words, So, does he mean, just say the incantation really fast in my head? Like, pride-and-ab-

"Of course not, you twat."

Well, what does he mean? He says that all you need to do is mold the spell and use the correct amount of energy all at once. What does he m-...did I just answer my own question, Mabushii?

"Would it hurt your pride if I said yes?"

I refuse to answer that question.
Nifuji nodded at Yuusuke, smiling, "So, I just form the energy and supply it in a short amount of time? Sounds good to me. Here we go...Chiyudou #18, Tereiki."

The chiyudou faltered for a moment, his flow stopped as he formed the spell. The spell collapsed upon itself, and the kidou energy floated into the air. Nifuji frowned, shaking his head, So it looks like you can't form and then supply, or supply and then form, in that order.

"You have to do it both at once."

But that would require extreme skill.

"...and?"

Oh shut up.
Nifuji shook his head, getting the energy ready, "alright, once more; Chiyudou #18, Tereiki."

This time, the healing spell went (more or less) smoothly. Nifuji smiled as Tereiki's effects worked, spiraling around Yuusuke's finger as it mended the skin. The ability was faltered slightly, and it was hard to un-learn the instinct-driven Kichouji, but Nifuji thought he had the hang of it.

"Alright." He said with a smile, "Next?"


Clapping slowly, Yuusuke admired the work that Nifuji had done; sure, it wasn't quite perfect, but he didn't expect it to be after a few tries. But it was a lot better than what most people did with such little practice and more than enough to show that the Vice-Captain would be capable of using the next level of bypass.

"Alrighty...So when using both an incantation and when bypassing it, Nifuji, you simply provided the energy and did some basic molding of the spell. Absolute Bypass takes that to the next level...here, you have complete control of your Kidouryoku; when you think about it, this provides ya with an extremely high level of freedom in forming spells. By simply selecting a spell and then molding it, it can easily be casted. This means the entire incantation can be bypassed, both spoken and non-spoken parts. In addition to that, as long as you know where your targets at, a spell can be launched at him/her, even if they're behind ya or what not."

"I guess the best way to take care o' this is to show you how it's done...Now...I just need a target," glancing around the hallway, he found what seemed to be a cheap rubber ball. Made of plastic, its red surface wasn't hard to spot among the creams and whites of the room. Resting on the ground behind him, the ball was a perfect target, setting a good ten feet from the pair without rolling around or such.

"There we are...See that ball? I'll incinerate it from here using incantation bypass."

His eyes slowly lolled close as his mind concentrated, attempting a newer spell of his, Haien. The Fire-Like Kidou energy surged through his system almost instantaneously, gathering around and within the rubber ball, and for a few seconds it was as though nothing had happened...until it burst into flames, and within a matter of seconds, had been completely incinerated from the inside out. Of course, he'd cheated a bit there; Haien was typically done at close range. Yuusuke'd used another useful ability of the Kidoushuu to accomplish that feat.

"That was Hadou #54, Haien...it naturally requires some time to take affect, but with most spells, it's possible to cast them almost instantaneously so long as you have a definitive idea of what it is you wanna cast...hesitate, though, and the spell will fail. I'd say the best way to do this is to not just force the energy through your veins, but actually force it into the proper shape of the spell, and then activate it."

Another crimson line was drawn down left hand as he signaled for Nifuji to go ahead and try absolute bypass on his own.


"Shape...and then activate." Nifuji repeated, his eyes glued upon the incinerated remains of the red ball. Blinking, his lipsed pursed; such powerful techniques...why didn't every Kidou user in the Gotei know them? The Gotei's strength could be tripled, quadroupled, if the 5th Division got a hold of Absolute Bypass. It wouldn't increase striking power but...this technique was obviously indispensable in combat.

Deciding to put away his doubts (as advised by Yuusuke, "Hesitate, though, and the spell will fail." ), Nifuji gulped and nodded, "I'll try to do the behind-the-back later, Yuusuke. Can I just focus on in front of me?"

Nodding to Yuusuke, Nifuji around for a suitable target. Finding nothing, Nifuji frowned. How was he going to practice his spell? He started to slowly spin in a circle to find a worthy target, his eyes resting on Yuusuke's sunglasses for a moment, before he decided instead on a better option;

Yuusuke's belt.

Snickering mentally, making sure not to have the man suspect anything, Nifuji focused Heki into his body. Molding it silently, taking extra time to ensure the spell wouldn't go out of control, Nifuji simply glanced at the spell. It was a small twitch of his hand, instead of a full-on point, that accompanied the release of Heki as the spell spiraled towards Yuusuke's belt.


He isn't...

He did...

The low-level Hadou spell was coming right for the captain, and he little time dodge. Originally, Yuusuke had wanted to try and side step the whole spell...but that didn't work because for once in his life, he lost his balance. Instead of spinning outwards, he spun downwards as the energy-spear flew over head. For a moment, he was certain that he'd gotten off scotch-free, no damage being done to his body. That was, until...

"NOOOOOOOOOO! MY SHIRT!!!"

The yellow-and-white shirt, which had so perfectly reflected Yuusuke's lack of caring about clothing, was now in tatters; the spiraling motion of both the spear and his body had taken care of that. A murderous look grew in his eyes as the shirt literally fell off of his body.

"Chibi....kun...." his voice was abnormally sweet, despite the obvious eye-tick he'd developed.

"I'm giving you to the count of three to hide before I blast you for that..."

His eyes closed slightly as electrical energy built up in his finger tips. "One...Two...Thr-"

"You know, Yuusuke, I think Nifuji did you a favor by ruining that shirt."

The tall figure of Sorakara had appeared at the end of the hallway, after hearing the murder threat by the even taller Shinigami.

"Oh...Really?"

"The shirt was a bit harsh on the eyes..."

"Oh...Was it? I didn't notice...Chibi-kun! You can come out now! I'm not going to hurt ya anymore!"


Thank god for womanly interests... Nifuji sighed, Leave it a woman to totally pacify a man by just pointing out that he looks better. Man, why are people with adult bodies always so careful about their appearance, and involved with the other sex? I mean, Sayuri and Katsu, an-

"The answer to that question is within the question."

Huh?

"It's a singular word."

...'pointing'?

"...you're stupid."

Shut up!
Nifuji grumbled as he poked his head out from a hallway. Shyunpo had carried him far and wide, he had luckily been training his shyunpo for such a time in which he would need to flee for his life. Waving, Nifuji immediately ducked behind the hallway just in case he was going to be shot at. When no Raikouhou or Ban Rai came, Nifuji walked up to Yuusuke.

"See Yuusuke, I knew what I was doing!" Nifuji lied, grinning at Sorakara, "I'm not very good with Absolute Bypass but...but the best way to do it is to get better, right?"

A nicely-aimed Heki ripped the remainder of the shirt, which was floating downwards in the air, into shreds. Nifuji grinned, getting the grip of the technique very easily. Nodding to Yuusuke, and then to Sorakara. He grinned and he skipped down the hallway.

I avoided death to-day~ Nifuji sang mentally to himself, Avoided death to-day~ 'cause I'm wa~y too smexy for death! I'm a frikkin' death god and death can't -- this was more of an internal shriek than a note -- ha~rm this smexy chibi-cha~n!

"...you're a horrendous singer, you know that?"

Yep.

"I hate you."


Nifuji snickered as he turned mid-air, landing with both of his feet right next to each other, adopting a very childish demeanor as he prepared himself for how he would need to act outside of the house -- "And to rub it into Yuusuke's face" Mabushii observed "That a kid almost pantsed him" -, he called out to Yuusuke with a wave, "Oi! Yuu~chan, can we go yet? I want Aisu-Kuriimu!"


"...wha?"

The chibi's joyful reappearance followed by his...rather odd manner had caught the broomhaired man off-guard, causing him to wonder if the poor lad had managed to mistake a bottle of wine for some fruit juice. It's possible, he mused, Though not likely. He'd be dancing at a bunch of tables in the 13th Division Taisho if that happened. At least those group of priests would be ****ed happy.

Think he's just trying to get on your nerves?

That or practice being a normal, non-emo twelve year old.

He's doing a good job of it then.

Of course...if he's going to play the annoying little brother...then I have no option but to play the big brother, right?

...You're just trying to get him back, aren't you?

You know it~

"Awwww...Calm down, Chibi-kun. You've already had more than enough sugar for today. Anymore and you won't be able to make your 8 O'Clock bedtime...and you do wanna get lots and lots of rest. Need to grow up big and tall like your Nii-sama." The grin was almost sadistic as he reached down and ruffled Nifuji's hair while putting him into a head lock.

Meanwhile, Sorakara was laughing. Hard. As was Keiji. They both seemed to find the situation horrendously funny. Of course, Yuusuke couldn't blame them; if he'd seen Rei and Nifuji act this way, he'd be laughing too. "Maybe when you grow a few inches, I'll let you stay up till 8:30 instead. That's a big if, though."


"Niichan, you forgot to tie your shoe!" Nifuji pointed down; the boy had used a subtle Heki to blow the entirety of the shoe off Yuusuke's body, while also flicking up with his index finger incase Yuusuke looked down. Using a quick move, the young chibi-chan clambored out of Yuusuke's grip and slipped away, giggling as he ran.

Or, started to ran.

The odd footwear impeded Nifuji with its shoelaces and, with a grunt, Nifuji kicked them off. Using barefoot shyunpo, he retreated into the clothing room and grabbed flip-flops, which were more like the footwear he was accustomed to, and grabbed two pairs of shoes. Shooting out of the room, and locking his sights on Yuusuke, Nifuji let out a glorious yell before chucking the shoes.

"FOR THE CREAMPUFF!"


"Hey...Wait a minute...These shoes don't have laces..." That was Yuusuke's first clue that he'd been tricked; the second one was the familiar rush of energy that typically accompanied the sensation of a Kidou being used. That, and the fact that the chibi which had once been in his glorious hold had, in fact, escaped from it.

"HEY! GET BACK HERE, CHIBI-KUN!!!"

With a roar Yuusuke managed to slip his shoe back on to his feet, and spun back around, only to see Nifuji dart into a bare-footed Shyunpo. Not one to be outdone, Yuusuke followed the fast little devil-if there was one thing Nifuji had in common with other twelve year olds, it was that they were all bundle of energy.

Grinning maliciously when the chibi threw the pair of shoes, Yuusuke held out his right hand and braced it with his left. Kidou energy flooded forward as the flip-flops were merely inches away from his outstretched hand, a blue ball of energy capturing the pair. Flipping upwards, Yuusuke took careful aim, and with a carefree yell, prepared to release, "AAAAAAAH! TAKE THIS!!!! NII-SAMA'S SPECIAL HADOU #3425235425, SOUKAT-SHOEY!"


Nifuji yelped, squealing as Soutatsuki was formed. Not wishing to destroy Sorakara's house with another Hadou spell, or electrocute the pair of innocent bystanders, Nifuji also knew he couldn't dodge. Frowning, Nifuji only had a moment to react before the ball was in front of his face.

"Temperance, you fool!"

But, I don't have time for a ch-

"ABSOLUTE BYPASS!"


"Yeah right!" Nifuji said, holding out his hands. The shield wrapped around him, the liquid-like barrier shooting up and intercepting the Soukatsui. The energy threatened to explode against the barrier, but Nifuji let the barrier fall back. The liquid made a depression where the Soukatsui was pressing against it. Allowing the barrier to fold in around itself, Nifuji prodded the spell with his own energy and detonated the Soukatsui within the barrier.

"That was a close one." Nifuji smiled, "...but I think I've got the hang of Absolute Bypass. I'll just have to make sure that my next strike to your belt hits."

With a snicker, Nifuji jumped up and sat on Yuusuke's shoulders, barely fitting in the house, "Now, shall we go out and do our assigned mission?"


"****...That was just a low powered one too...Not even like...a quarter power was in that, spoil-sport," he mumbled dejectedly; stupid Nifuji had ruined his fun. All it was supposed to do was turn Nifuji's hair a bright electric pink. The boy would have fit in perfectly with all the other ruffians and hooligans that seemed to have invaded this poor town.

With a resigned sigh, he agreed to what Nifuji was saying; it had been fun, but they did have a mission to accomplish, even though he still wanted to get one up on the chibi. "Yeah...It's time to get going...Just a second though."

Darting back into the room where they'd dropped their Shinigami Attire, Yuusuke found a small, black backpack that look worn beyond belief; it was a miracle the thing was still in one piece. Still, it would suffice for what they needed it for. Scooping up the various pieces of the uniforms, Yuusuke carefully folded them up and gently placed them into the pack. When it was completed, he emerged from the room with the thing barely hanging on to his back.

"Well then, let's be off."

Don't forget to thank Keiji and Sorakara for their hospitality.

I'm not some rude 7-year old, Hiraishin. I was just about to do that.

A warm grin appeared on his face as he signaled for Nifuji to follow his approach. "Hey, Keiji-san, Sorakara-san, thanks for having us here and helping us like this...it can't really be safe for the two of you, ne?"

"Hahahaha! Don't worry about it! If any of those louts tries something, I'll just blast 'em all away!"

Blast 'em all away? Looks like you're stronger than the two of you made it seem...

"What he means to say is that it was no problem for either of us, Yuusuke. Just glad to be of some service."

"Well, regardless, thanks a lot, both of you. We'll be on our way now." Yuusuke moved towards the thick door, his hand slowly turning the handle when he was interrupted.

"If the two of you are looking for a place to go, there's a make-shift hospital a few blocks to the east. They're always in need of some help...Nifuji could help with the healing and Yuusuke...Well, they're always looking for some nurses. I think you'd look pretty dashing in a nurse's uniform."

Nodding, a sweatdrop made it's way down his face as the duo left the grand house and begun the meat and bones of their mission.


I think it's pretty amazing he's come this far, don't you, Mabushii Kurohoshi?

"I'm surprised you're supporting this endeavor, given how you explain his situation at present."​

There's no reason to be ashamed for a few trials in life, everyone knows that he's been through his fair share of them.

"Don't forget; so has everyone else in the Gotei. There is nothing in whatever you say to make Nifuji superior to anyone else within this organization. Don't ever forget that. If you get Nifuji killed because of vain, foolish pride, I will personally cut your fragments and scatter them to the farthest reaches of Nifuji's depression, so you can wallow in it for eternity."​

Hostile much?

"Protective is the word I used."​

Have faith, he's a strong boy.

"It's not the boy I'm worried about; it's the beast."​

Do you really think that the beast is something to worry about? All of them have to endure it, Mabushii Kurohoshi. This is nothing different than what those couple have already gone through; Nifuji is simply going to be forced to adjust.

"You said none of them have ever gone this far, they've all been hampered."​

...well that's true. None the less, I feel tha-

"I feel that if your inexperience leads to the re-awakening and hostile takeover of this thing, I will enact upon what threat I envisioned earlier."​

You don't have to say that twice, I'm his mother, Mabushii.

"You stopped being his mother the moment you did this to him."​
 

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