[K] Volume 48: Fetching a Mask

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Sep 29, 2005
Wandering Rukongai
[Kidoushuu] Volume 48: Fetching a Mask

Rei Jiiro
Taiken Yuusuke

WC=10,182 Words

*Note: This takes place before Yuusuke reattains Shi and Ban Kai.

Rei looked at the note one more time, the **** thing had been passed to him in the hallways of the division. He'd been puzzled at first at the source of the paper, but he saw the scrawl on the paper he knew it could only have been from one person. Kayla Arujo.

In the eyes of the general forces of the Gotei, she was his subordinate within the second division. Which was still well and true. But to any who were aware of the fact, she was also his superior officer within the newly reformed Kidoushuu. He briefly pondered if that put them on entirely equal footing, but upon realizing she was Shizuka's best friend, knew she had a step or two over him.

He let the paper curl up in his hand once more before he churning the contents of the missive through his head again. Take Yuusuke out to obtain the mask of a strong Hollow, keep it preserved and in suitable condition. I wonder if that means that the Hollow can't be purified.

There were too many ways to fail the assignment, and only a few paths Rei could see to a successful mission. The other big question was whether or not Yuusuke would actually go on a mission with him. After what had happened during the fight with Anthracite, he was almost sure that the man would transfer into another division for the weakness of his captain.

But Kayla was confident that the man would be a worthwhile addition to the Kidoushuu. Trying to remember what he could of the man, Why would she want me to test out someone who has no drive when it comes to Kidou? He drummed his fingers on the desk once before letting that thought fall away. It wasn't his place to question an order. Besides, it would be amusing to see what the officer was capable of besides fighting.

Calling for a hellmoth to deliver the message, Rei dictated the message he wanted sent to the man. "We're going on a short trip to the material world Yuusuke, there's something of importance there that we need to pick up."

He wasn't sure how much he could tell the man at this point. Too much, and he would likely catch on that he was being tested. Too little, and he would think Rei had an ulterior motive. "We're looking for a nest of Hollows, its believed that they're guarding what we want very closely. Our job is to take it back using all necessary force."

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

The sound of fingers banging against the oaken desk, boredom driving the seated officer out of his mind, had become a common sound as of late. In the quietude after the battle, missions had become increasingly rare for the third seat. More and more, he found that the inside of his office was becoming the most common site he saw. Whether it was because of his recent failure or just a general lack of missions all over Seireitei, Yuusuke had yet to find out.

And, even though nobody new of it yet, Yuusuke wondered if it was, in part, because of his recently resealed Zanpakutou. The small golden ring often twinkled at him, daring him to call out its name, only to be disappointed. But perhaps...It's for the best. I'm still learning, after all, how to fight without Hiraishin. A mission now could be disastrous for me.

Still, though, Yuusuke would never be able to get ride of the part of him that loved the action of a mission. And for that reason, no matter how logic might dictate otherwise, he would always, on some level, desire a bit of action. Which would explain why Yuusuke, when the Jigoku Choujou fluttered into his room, leapt at it with such vigor that he literally flew over his desk, grabbed the moth, and rolled into the hallway, some thirty plus feet away.

In a fluid motion, Yuusuke was already back on his feet, raising the Jigoku Choujou to his ear, urging it to reveal its message. The telepathic moth relayed the message speedily, Yuusuke nodding and sending the little creature on its way.

A mission with Rei? Sounds like fun.

While the last time he'd actually fought with the captain of the second was against Anthracite, Yuusuke had all but gotten over that incident, an occasional reminder popping up. Purpose finding its way into his steps, he was at his superiors office in no time, several short, loud knocks alerting the Captain to his subordinate's presence.

The door opened immediately as Rei made his way out of the room, walking past Yuusuke, leaving him no choice but to catch up or be left behind. His pace wasn't hurried, but it was easy to see there was purpose and direction in his strides. He hadn't fought with Yuusuke since they partnered against Anthracite.

He'd given the man space to recuperate, since both of them were in need of it after the siege had ended. Besides, Rei had been a little distracted too. He kept finding himself thinking of Shizuka at the oddest times, especially when he wasn't around. It was distracting yes, but a good kind of distracting. Shaking his head before he followed those thoughts where they would no doubt lead, Rei turned back to Yuusuke.

He was tempted to say something, unsure how much subterfuge Yuusuke would actually be able to handle. Leaving Rei with little choice but to handle the man with kids gloves until he was sure of the man's capacity to read beneath what was said and done. Besides, the message he'd sent should have been more than enough to tell him what he needed to know.

They walked back out of the division headquarters, back the way Yuusuke had just came from, without Rei saying a word about where they were going. He spoke amiably with division members who'd said hi, even going so far as to answer a question or two before he continued on.

When it seemed like Yuusuke wouldn't go any further without asking Rei a question about their destination, Rei turned back to Yuusuke with a small smile on his face. "We're going to the 4th division Yuusuke. We're looking into a nest on the material realm, so we need the usage of their gateway in order to get there."

Yuusuke spun around on his heals as the captain strode past him, silently. The walk through the second division headquarters was longer than it should have been. He'd come to feel at home at the place: the familiar walls, the solemn faces of the Shinigami, the break room that finally had a fully stocked mini-Bar in it.

Still though, each step he took felt a little longer, each hallway seemed a bit tighter. And the already obvious pressure from the recent mission was even greater. Even when Rei smiled and greeted each of the passing Shinigami, the pressure was still there. Perhaps it was from the uncomfortable silence that seemed to hang between them. Despite the fact that Rei was talking, it wasn't to him.

Is he...mad at me? Is he disappointed that I couldn't do more against that beast? Like...

Yuusuke didn't finish the thought and instead, glanced at his finger, missing the smartass Zanpaku that would criticize him at the oddest moments. She'd probably tell him to stop whining right now. He'd already gotten over his own issues...but he couldn't blame them if everyone else was angry with his weakness.

Gah...No point in worrying about it now. We'll just have to take care of it later.

Yuusuke nodded slightly as Rei explained to him their location, curious as to the reasoning behind going to Earth. Weren't high ranking officers of the Gotei supposed to limit their powers when they went to Earth? That could hinder them in their battle. And he was also curious as to what the Hollows could have...but he'd figure that out on his own.

"Sure thing, Rei...though...I wish we had our own ****ed gate. It'd save us the walk." Yuusuke let out a grin as he continued on his way to the next division over.

Rei began to laugh softly when he heard Yuusuke say that, turning back to look at the man. Still chuckling lightly as he spoke, continuing his pace as he looked over his shoulder. "From what I've gathered... Masaru-taichou was the one who took the gateway designated to the second division. I'd gone to voice my concerns over that... lets just say it didn't go well..."

Well. He'd gone to Masaru for a sparring match. 'It didn't go well' was hardly a way to describe what had happened. Rei'd yet to see a knockout happen so quickly in all his years of fighting. He really should have asked the man to seal his powers before the match had be...gun. crap...

Stopping dead in his tracks, Rei groaned loudly as the prospect of having to seal his powers really hit home. He understood the necessity of course, the balance of souls was a delicate one. But it still didn't help the idea of taking away a fifth of his power. It being his first time undergoing the process, he was a little sceptical having to do it at all.

He pondered giving them the bird instead of taking on the symbol. Pondered just charging through the gates all crazy like so he could avoid the process. It was possible it would work, but even if it did, he would have to come back sooner or later. He shook his head slowly, knowing there was no choice but to follow through with procedure.

Again looking back to Yuusuke, Rei spoke in as light a tone as he could without losing all decorum. "Are gonna trail back there all day, or are you ever gonna catch up and walk up here? Its pretty distracting having to talk over my shoulder..." Waiting for Yuusuke to begin walking by his side, Rei wondered about how much of his attitude was being affected by his failure during the anthracite fight.

How much of his coldness to the man was because he had been weak, unable to help him at all when he needed it most. I couldn't do anything to help him... can I really call myself a leader when I can barely keep myself alive, let alone those who follow me into battle... With his mind constantly running through these options, Rei continued on until they arrived at the fourth division's headquarters.

As they made their way through the headquarters, Rei kept his voice low as he spoke to the man, trying to keep the others from hearing what he had to say to the man. "Yuusuke... I'm sorry..."

"Hah! You couldn't leave me behind if you wanted to, Rei. I've been bored as hell just filling out paperwork all day." A rogue-like grin appeared on his face, as if daring Rei to scold him for his lack of respect towards the leader of the shinobi. He quickened his pace, catching up with the slightly shorter man in no time.

Is Rei okay? He's been awfully quite lately...I hope everything's okay.

Yuusuke wasn't the sort to worry usually, but Rei had been awfully quiet during that walk. And it hadn't been the sort of silence that was calm and comforting. It'd been the heavy sort. Where you know something is wrong. The sort that makes tension so thick that you can feel strings of it in the air.

Yuusuke realized, with a start, that he'd only ever been inside the second division and tenth division headquarters. Heck. He didn't even know what the fourth division Captain looked like. Hell...Did he even know anyone from the fourth division? He didn't think so. And as they approached the fourth division, Yuusuke could hear Rei whisper softly an apology. For what, the young Kidou user was unsure.

Rei hadn't done anything wrong, at least, not in his eyes. In fact, he was the one who should be apologizing. He moved his head slightly, keeping his eyes glued to the ground as a slight sense of shame washed over him. Taking a deep breath, Yuusuke delivered an apology that he had intended to make long ago.

"Ah...don't kid around like that, Rei...I'm the one who should be apologizing to you. I was...too weak to help you out...on that day. I dunno why you're even bringing me along on this mission. I'll prolly just hold you back here too."

He shook his head at the man's denials, about to continue with the 'take the blame' game that they had going on, when he thought about what Shizuka would say to the pair of them if they were seen acting that way. Wanting to drop the topic like a hot rock, Rei simply slapped the man on the back as they walked.

"Let's just say that we both ****ed up and move on then... otherwise we'll be here all day arguing over his fault it was like a pair of old hens and never get this thing finished..." They strode through the division, for all the world looking as if they knew what it was they were doing, every division HQ should technically have had the same layout, making it easier to get where you were going.

The logic was sound and foolproof... if only they were looking for something that had been located in the second division as well, and not the Senkaimon to get to earth. He stopped dead in his tracks before stopping an unranked member of the fourth to ask for directions.

After a rather quick exchange, turned out to look out the door before looking back at the Shinigami with a confused look. "Are you sure about that?" All Rei received for the question was a blank look that seemed to be thinking that this was all a test.

When he finally understood that Rei just didn't know where the gateway really was, he pointed back towards the door and spoke as politely as he could. "It's outside Jiiro-Taichou, just go out the door and go to the back of the building..."

Blink. Blink. Blink. SLAP! Dragging his hand across his face, Rei again groaned at the fact that the day was only beginning. If it was going to be like this all day, he wasn't sure how much more he could take of the circumstances that seemed to follow him. It was like everything that could go wrong from him, was going wrong for him.

Next thing he knew, he'd be challenged for his captaincy, trip on a loose rock, fall and break his ankle, then smack his head on a rock. Splash! Looking down at the melting puddle of slush, Rei growled at the puddle as if that would make it go away. When the offending puddle failed to see the danger it was in, Rei sighed loudly before turning to continue his journey behind the division HQ.

Looking at it from afar, is seemed just like any other set of arches he'd seen in the ancient Japanese style. Yet when you got closer to the **** thing, it was easy to see that... it looked like any other set of Japanese arches.

Placing his hand above his chest, Rei closed his eyes as he suppressed his powers to a fraction of their strength. Once he was sure he was at the level he needed it to be at, he quietly whispered into the air. "Limiter placement... activated."

As he finished intoning the words, Rei forced a portion of his Reiatsu into place to act like a 'blocker' in order to keep his spiritual pressure where it was. As that happened, a small tattoo seemed to form on his skin, leaving a small circle of black filled with diagonal white lines that had the look of swords to them.

Turning back to Yuusuke, Rei inclined his head towards the doors of the gateway as they opened up, letting out a pair of jingoku choujou to flutter around the pair of Shinigami's head. "Are you ready to do this Yuusuke?"

Reaching into the confines of his robes, Rei produced a small sheet of paper that was written in a tiny scrawl. Knowing the contents of the missive by rote, Rei passed it over to Yuusuke.

Reiatsu: 2800
Combat: 3200
Agility: 2000
Ability: 1700

[Amorphous] Ricochet can morph and part of its body into almost anything it can imagine. Blades, arrows, hammers, shields, etcetera almost anything. However, Ricochet's favorite ability is shooting off a series of "bullets" formed form the gel that makes its body. This liquid material is very hard when solid and has the ability to bounce off almost anything. Ricochet will usually fire a series of these bullets and trap its prey.
[Liquid Defense] Because of Ricochet's form, the Hollow can take any physical attack. When strike by a solid instrument, its body will liquefy causing the blow to go through the Hollow without any damage to itself. People of lower spiritual energy will have their weapon completely stuck, similar people will need to force theirs out, and people of significantly greater strength will cut through. However, since its body can reform it doesn't matter.
Recommendations: Since its body can become completely amorphous then reconfigure, Ricochet is resistant to most physical attacks. Because of this, the only time one can get a direct attack on the Hollow is when it completely solidifies a vulnerable body part (like the mask...which it rarely does).
Because of its liquid like form, Ricochet finds itself more susceptible to fire and lightning attacks.

Hollow Activity Board
Onmitsu Kidou

Turning around, Rei made his way towards the gateway to disappear into the white doorway.

"I guess...you're right. We should just move on and get over it." He knew that he'd messed up, but...he had no clue why Rei thought he'd messed up. Well, bickering about it would be pointless, as the Captain had so aptly pointed out to him. The two of them, probably both infinitely convinced in their own failure (at least Yuusuke was) would spend the majority of the arguing over who was really at fault. Not that he minded arguing (He did it often enough with another member of the division), but that's not what they were here for.

The were here so that they could go and retrieve an important something.

Yuusuke continued to follow the Captain absentmindedly, his thoughts focused on the up-and-coming task. It was true that he was very excited to finally be back on the field...but doubts about his usefulness were starting to plague his mind. Even though a Shinigami should, in theory, be able to fight effortlessly without a Shi Kai, it wasn't very comfortable to be out there without his trump card.

And...to be honest...the fact that he had no sword wasn't very comforting either. Despite the fact that he'd spent a good deal of time and energy working on his Hakuda, and even more time on his Kidou skills, this would be his first time using either in actual combat. And no amount of practice can make up for the months of experience he had in using Hiraishin in combat.

So I guess the real question is...how much progress have I made? Am I skilled enough yet in these methods? Or do I still need more work before I'm at my old level?

Then again...did that really matter? If he was weaker, he'd need to train. If he was at his old level, he'd need to train. Even if he was stronger, he'd still need to train. As long as he continued to breath, there'd always be people stronger than he was. So...no matter how strong he was, he'd still train.

That still doesn't make me any less nervous.

What would his smartass Zanpakutou say in this situation? A small chuckle escaped his lips as he thought about it. She'd just end up insulting him and telling him not to worry about it. So he did that.

Just in time to hear Rei ask him a question.

"Yeah, Rei, let's do this. After you, captain, oh captain."

They stepped through the portal into the material realm, the change in the air feeling that much more extreme than the last time Rei'd been there. It was enough to send a chill through his spine how little reishi he could sense. It was like being in a dead zone of spiritual energy.

The only place in Soul Society that was anywhere close to this was the barrens, it still hadn't fully recovered from the cero bombardments from the menos. The earth was slowly regaining life after all these years, but it had nowhere near the life that it was once known for. At one point, it had saddened Rei to have lost that part of Seireitei. Now, he could smile when he saw the area. As the efforts to revitalize the area were finally showing signs of improvement.

The Hollow they were searching for had chosen an odd location for its nest, choosing a secluded area to call its home rather than the busy urban centres that attracted the attention of most Hollows. Which meant that the Hollow possessed enough intelligence to try and conceal its presence.

The only Hollows he'd seen with that much rationality were not the ones he wanted to be dealing with when he was under the influence of the seal. Still, he had a third seat with him, and he'd proven himself to be more than capable in a fight. Plus... he had Ban Kai, which should be more than enough to compensate for Rei's lack of strength at the moment.

Turning to Yuusuke, Rei decided to test out some of his skills. "Feel anything Yuusuke?"

"Mmm...It's been a while..." mumbled the third seat as he stepped into the living world, unsure of what to expect. The last time he'd been to Earth had been before he'd join the second...and even before that incident with Ginto. I'm back here again, huh? Has it changed any? Or am I even in the same place anymore?

This place...it was cold. Not to touch or to feel...but it was as though there was nothing for miles and miles. It was like a vacuum existed to his spiritual sense. Nothing...there's nothing here...

Even regular souls put of at least some amount of Reiatsu into the air. Granted, it was usually a small amount, but at the very least, it was there and detectable. Here though...it was as if a void existed. A void that swirled about, sucking away all life till there was nothing left. A void...a void called a Hollow...

Turning to address his Captain, the officer clenched his fist. If there was nothing else giving off energy...then that meant that the Hollow had simply eaten those souls. It's only been a while since the end of the Siege...but Hollows are already causing trouble again, huh?

"I sense...almost nothing Rei," he began, slowly speaking as he continued to think out his response, "Which should, in theory, be impossible since all beings give off Reishi. If there's almost none here, that means that it's being hidden some how. Not only that, but a place like this should be booming with life. Something had to have happened to that life..."

Yuusuke paused, and took a few breathes to keep himself calm. "...And that something is called Hollow. But...That's not all I can gather. In order to completely mask your Reiatsu is quite a feat, even for Shinigami. In other words, this Hollow...it must be rather skilled and powerful to be able to do that. So, we definitely can't take this opponent lightly...in fact...I wonder...It might even be watching us already."

Dampening his spiritual pressure, Rei nodded at the accurate assessment he'd received from the third seat. Taking a deep breath, Rei did another survey of the area, trying to feel his way through the dead zone that they'd found themselves in, grasping at the futile hope that there was life in the surroundings.

Stopping himself from trying to extend his range even further, Rei sighed as he began to adjust the bracers he wore on his arm with a hint of frustration. There was no sense in standing around like lumps if the Hollow was indeed watching them, but there was no sense in letting him know that they knew that he knew that they knew.

Nodding his head in the direction of a forest, Rei called out to Yuusuke in the hopes that the man would catch on. If the Hollow could be drawn in by complacency, all the easier than tracking the *******. "Let's go Yuusuke. We're not likely to find anything standing around like a buncha idiots..."

Yuusuke slowly nodded in agreement with his Taichou. Simply standing around wasn't going to do them any good, especially if the Hollow was already watching them. Though...problematically, if this was an intelligent Hollow, stumbling around blindly wasn't going to give them any advantages. The Hollow knew this area and if it was intelligence, then it most likely knew the best places to attack from.

However, he knew that his Captain wasn't just leading him around blindly. There was some sort of method to Rei's madness. Something he needed to pick up on. Hmmmm....So then...This is the only way to do this...we have to draw the Hollow out without getting trapped ourselves. A difficult task to do that, though. How does one out hunt the hunter?

Perhaps...he means to draw him out by moving around. Most of these Hollows...they severely underestimate Shinigami. If that's the case...then the Hollow will rush us as soon as it thinks it has an advantage. I think. Then...if we know this...perhaps we can set up a counter-trap by drawing it out early. Not only that, but Rei's Reiatsu is severely inhibited at the moment. If he releases at the right time, we've got another advantage. I guess...this is the way to do it...

Musing this, Yuusuke nodded slowly at Rei, "Yeah. No point in just standing around. I guess we should get on the move."

A slight smile curved his lips as he began to make his way through the forest, leaving the clearing that they'd been in behind them. Knowing that their reiatsu was acting like a beacon for any Hollows or spirits in the area.

Feeling what he could in the area now, Rei was partially thankful for the seal that was limiting his strength. If what the OnKi had sent him was true, than it could be easily assumed that the Hollow wasn't entirely strong on its own, instead choosing targets of reasonable strength, yet avoiding those stronger than itself.

If he'd arrived into the realm with his full power, the Hollow would have no doubt kept its presence hidden if it could. Who knows, maybe it would use the chance that Rei's suppressed aura was actually his real strength and try to attack the pair of them.
He turned to Yuusuke at his side, sick and tired of the wallowing in self pity that they'd been doing since the end of the siege. "If the Hollow decides to attack, I want you to step outside its range and await an opening Yuusuke. I know I'm not full power, but I should be able to hinder it with my Kidou...."

Blinking twice, Rei came to the realization that he never actually told Yuusuke what it was they were here for. "We're here to dispatch these Hollows... without damaging the masks. The masks can be far more useful than most people would ever think possible."

We're here to collect Hollow masks...? I wonder...

Yuusuke'd never heard of research being conducted on Hollow masks before, but then again, there were quite a few things he'd never heard of before. Still...that bears the question of what they plan on researching...and who they are... The eighth division? Onmitsu Kidou? Some other organization?

Shaking his head, he focused in on the task at hand. "Right then...Keep away at a distance and try to bring the Hollow down using my Kidou skills. Got it Rei. I certainly hope that everything will go according to plan."

His palms were slightly wet from perspiration, nervousness setting in. While Rei was ultimately in charge of the mission, with his reduced power, Yuusuke was currently the stronger of the two, and would be for a while. If things got nasty...well, Yuusuke needed to keep the Hollow's attention long enough for Rei to get clearance.

His eyes kept dancing back and forth, looking for any sign of the Hollow. "He's an elu-- " Yuusuke cut himself off early, feeling a "tickle" in spiritual sense coming from....their right. Lowering his voice, Yuusuke whispered to Rei, "Oi...Feel that?"

Tracking the source of the spirit pressure to its source, Rei looked to Yuusuke from the corner of his eye. Keeping his hand by his side, Rei signaled out a short message using the extended cipher that all second division members knew when they hit the field.

Just barely. We split from here. Go west and double back.

Making a point to slowly scan the area surrounding them, Rei turned to Yuusuke with a raised eyebrow. "Not really Yuusuke... my senses aren't at their peak right now..." Pointing in the direction that they'd been walking in, Rei mused aloud. "Think it's a threat?"

Scratching his chin as Yuusuke quickly shook his head in a negative, Rei looked at the path they'd been walking as it split into two trails. He nodded his head to the trail on the left, murmuring for Yuusuke to hear. "We'll split up from here... it'll give us a better chance of finding and locating the Hollow."

An uncomfortable feeling began to settle down his back, reminding him that he'd been feeling it for quite some time now. Reaching a hand back to grab hold of his Zanpaku, Rei's hands smoothly undid the wrap that had been holding Kagami in place, allowing the Zanpaku and sheathe to fall into Rei's waiting hand.

As he looked at the Zanpaku in his hands, Rei's whispers were consumed by the trace amounts of wind that came through the trees. "It's time for a change..."

Tying the Zanpaku so that it was now attached to the left side of his uniform, stretched his back loudly, a few loud cracks greeting him for his effort. "...that **** sheathe has been poking me in the back for ages..." Patting the hilt of the sword, Rei chuckled nervously. "... no offence... but its been giving me a sore back for awhile now..."

Knuckling his lower back with a small groan, Rei continued, speaking more to himself than anyone at this point. "... I gotta break the habit of tying my Zanpaku like that... or maybe find a new way of sealing it..." Continuing to ramble on, Rei's voice carried through the woods, drawing the eyes of a predatory creature and letting Yuusuke know exactly where he was.

He could feel the presence... hovering around somewhere to the back of him, well within the range of his spirit sense, but far enough away that pinpointing the source and attacking would be all but impossible. It wasn't a tangible feeling, just that he could feel a ravenous hunger focusing on him.

Looking over his shoulder, Rei knew it was a futile gesture to even try to spot whatever was trailing him, but he also knew that it would give the appearance that he was uneasy with the situation, possibly enticing the beast into attacking a 'scared and unsure' opponent.

The path went deadly silent, not even the wind dared to pass between the trees, leaving only the quiet sound of Rei's breathing slowly flowing passed through the air. In the time it had taken Rei to blink, a tendril had erupted from the earth, impaling him through his left shoulder and driving him backwards with the impact.

Crashing into a tree with enough force to send cracks splintering throughout the massive crater he'd left, Rei gasped as every bit of air that was in his lungs was forced out in one quick breath. He'd just barely evaded the death strike the Hollow had intended, sacrificing an injury to his shoulder to save himself from being pierced through the heart.

It had been the same ripple of spirit pressure that had alerted the Shinigami to the Hollows presence, having felt the ripple come from underground, giving Rei more than enough warning to avoid the spike that been aimed to kill him. Almost anyhow. He was still pinned to the tree by the tendril, with it showing no signs of removing itself.

As water began to seep out from the cracks that had formed in the ground, slowly coalescing into the form that could only be described as 'humanoid' in appearance. It was entirely featureless as it rose from the ground, raising its other arm to attack. From the light that reflected of the arm, Rei could see it forming into a blade, its edge shining brightly as its body seemed to tense for the attack.

Not even bothering with keeping the Kidou's name secret, Rei aimed his index and middle finger at the Hollow and called out the attack. "Hadou #33, Soukatsui!!" The blue wall of flame fired out from his fingertips, catching the Hollow in the midsection with the brunt of the attack, drowning the Hollow in smoke and debris as the Kidou erupted with a violent explosion.

His eyes caught the signal that Rei had sent to him and with a quick, curt nod, he let the Captain know that he'd understood what had just been said to him. Splitting seemed like a smart course of action considering that there was only one Hollow...and perhaps by splitting up, they could draw him out and force the Hollow to expose itself.

Yuusuke chuckled out, trying to keep with the illusion of carelessness. "Awww...Rei, I told you not to drink that much last night. You should've known better than that...how're you gonna manage to fight with that hangover?"

With a careless wave, and a, "Take care, Reeeei~" , Yuusuke started to slowly make his way west, occasionally whistling out a tune or humming something to himself. "Hehehe. I can't wait to get back home. Whooooo! There are some wicked par-tay's going on tonight~"

His innerself smirked at the faÁƒ §ade he was putting up, wondering if it was working. It didn't seem like it was, considering that the Hollow had yet to track him down. Even the flare of Reiatsu that he'd been getting earlier from the beast had died down, making it impossible to find.

This is weird...why did it hide it's presence all of a sudden...unless...****!

His eyes narrowed as he reached it out and sensed Rei's signal...which was fluxuating wildly as if he was in battle. Doubling his pace, Yuusuke came back in time to spot Rei fire off a Soukatsui at the Hollow, a humanoid looking creature. Is it...made out of water? Well then...

A smirk left his mouth as he extended his right hand. Apparently, the Hollow had forgotten about him. Or didn't realize he was there. Either way worked just fine for Yuusuke. He had an advantage over the thing, anyway. "Bakudou #56, Divining Bolt!"

Pausing only for a moment, he flash stepped over to Rei, and continued his onslaught, forming up Kidou energy again. "Hadou #24, Raigen!"

"You okay, Rei?" he muttered, keeping his eyes forward and on the Hollow.

As the trio of Kidou battered the Hollow's gelatinous frame again and again, the tendril that had been pinning Rei to the tree began to lose its shape and form as it melted into a soupy water. Without the obstruction to keep the pressure on, blood began to pour from the wound at an increased pace, leaving a patch of red spreading across the shoulder of Rei's haori.

Pushing himself to his feet and trying to ignore the pain that shot through his shoulder as he moved his arm to do so. Never thought that my reaction speed would be hurt so badly by the seal... Increasing his spirit pressure to its very limits, he managed to slow the bleeding of his wound.

Rising to his feet as he drew his Zanpaku, Rei began to mentally prepare a binding spell to unleash on the Hollow. Something strong enough to halt it in its tracks. "Don't worry about me, I'm..." When the smoke finally cleared to reveal what lay within it, Rei and Yuusuke were only greeted to the sight of empty space where the Hollow had been. "... fine..."

Looking at the ground and noticing that there was a darkened patch of mud surrounded by dried sand, Rei leapt into the air towards a nearby tree before yelling out to Yuusuke. "Jump Yuusuke..." Quickly scanning the area for the ripples that had warmed them before of an attack, Rei tried to figure out where the Hollow could possibly be hiding itself.

The Hollow's using the earth as a buffer to dampen Yuusuke's lightning strikes. Or its sticking to its plan of attack... or both? The Hollows ability to conceal its presence was beginning to irk Rei, especially considering its ability to meld its shape however it felt like. It brought him back to when he'd fought the Hollow 'Scriven' so long ago.

he's water... so that means its either fire or... A wicked smirk came over Rei's face as he began to prepare his next blast spell. "Cry, heavy storm. Rebel in the skies, and let your fury be known. Shimmer your memory into the weary..."

Yuusuke probably wouldn't appreciate him infringing upon the whole lightning motif... but he'd probably get over it... maybe... "traveler and burn your ill omen into their mind's eye. Hadou #80, Banrai!" It only took a second before a thick shaft of lightning tore into the earth, cracking and breaking the ground where it had impacted.

As quickly as it was created, the bar of lightning disappeared into the air, leaving behind a small number of blue-green lights hanging in the air. Quivering once, the lights quickly began to unravel, sending another barrage of lightning strikes crashing into the ground that would destroy more of the ground.

"Oh for Pete's sake..." muttered the third seat as he noticed the lack of Hollow in the place where the onslaught had landed only a minute before. He's not just made of liquid then...he can transform as well...that's going to be a troublesome ability to deal with at best.

Following Rei's directions, Yuusuke jumped into the trees, keeping his eyes on the situation below and noticed what Rei was being wary of. The Hollow had decided to meld into the ground and was using that as a medium, making it difficult to strike out and hit the thing. It also probably increased it's resistance to a great number of electric attacks. That's...troublesome.

The incantation was one that Yuusuke didn't recognize. He was no expert in the field, obviously, but for Rei to actually have to resort to the incantation meant that it was some pretty serious. Wait...BanRAI? Don't tell me...

Yuusuke's suspicions were confirmed when a rather large bolt of lightning struck the area infront of them, decimating just about anything that might oppose them (Human, Hollow, Kitten, or otherwise). He started to develop an eyetick which was only made worse when multiple bolts rained down upon the area, leaving the area like one big smoldering piece of glass. He couldn't help but whistle at all the damage the attack had done. Most of the soil was scorched, any trees that had been standing were reduced to a pile of smoldering wood.

"****, Rei, I don't like you stealing my motif but wow...You sure did a number with that attack. Of course..." The third seat eyed the floor wearily, extending his spiritual sense to the fullest extent, "...despite that, it can't hide from me."

Yuusuke dropped quickly, his eyes quickly searching the field for a sign of the Hollow. A shimmering surface, a speck of water, anything. His proof came in the form of a tendril of water, shooting towards him at high speeds. Shyunpo'ing away, Yuusuke had already gathered the Kidou necessary, whispering out, "Hadou #24, Raigen."

Sweeping his finger along the tendril, the third seat soon found the base of the beast, hiding beneath a slight over hang, the tendril quickly retreating after being blasted. "We aren't done here yet, it seems, Taichou."

The energy in the air is bound to be running low from all the lightning blasts we've been using... and the Hollow... its not entirely water either...that blast should have been much stronger, maybe enough to finish it off... The air surrounding the two Shinigami was thick Reiatsu from the barrage of Kidou that had been fired.

At what seemed to be a safe distance away, the Hollow emerged from the ground once more to gather itself into a singular solid shape. What had once seemed to be entirely liquid in nature, the Hollow now found itself being 'dried out' by the ceaseless attacks from the Shinigami, leaving its body in the jellied state it now found itself in.

Where as before the Hollow had looked to be solely made up of water, its body now sported large blemishes and burns from where it had been hit with Kidou from the two Shinigami. The lightning having done its damage to the Hollow, possibly hindering its movements and attacks even further.

Just as Rei and Yuusuke had a look of victory on their face as they sized up the Hollow, they could feel the power of the Hollow gradually beginning to climb further and further up. It wasn't long before Rei found himself beneath the strength of the Hollow in front of them, Yuusuke almost finding himself matched by the impressive strength of the Hollow.

Just when it seemed as if it couldn't get any higher, the Hollow burst towards Rei and Yuusuke with newfound speed, making it difficult for both men to keep track of the Hollow as an arm swung wide and formed itself into a sharp blade. Cleaving through a large number of trees with no difficulty as it made its way to Rei and Yuusuke.

Bringing his sword to bear against the incoming attack, both Rei and Yuusuke failed to notice the crack form in the ground not three feet behind themselves.

Strong...Almost as strong as I am...but...I can still beat it. Yuusuke grinned slightly; this was still fine by him. Gave him a chance to use a Kidou he'd only recently learned. Heck, maybe he'd get to use more than one...but until then, he formed his Kidou into a familiar charge of electricity, "Hadou #44, Raiden!"

The attack was similar in nature to the familiar Raigen, a long range beam of electricity, but where the lower ranked attack required two finger to perform the attack, this one required an entire palm. He could feel the difference in overall strength as the beam burst forth, smacking into the Hollow, the force pushing the thing back. He had to admit that it was an impressive attack, if a little hard to maneuver.

However, the third seat soon noticed that it despite the damage it'd done, the Hollow still hadn't given up...in fact, there was less of the beast there than before...which meant that it was still moving somehow. Reaching out, he could feel the Hollow's Reiatsu creeping along, mixing in with the earth, slowly rising towards the surface...right behind them. "Shimatta! Rei!"

The attack was still too quick for him to avoid...so Yuusuke did the next best thing. Grabbing by his arm, he yanked Rei closer as he externalized his Kidou power. "Chiyudo #54, Temperance!" The clear bubble enclosed the two of them as the tendrils shot out towards them from behind.

The two forces met, and the Hollow was shocked as the defense gave off a sharp paralyzing pulse. "We need to be prepared to move as soon as the bubble fades," he warned, not unsure if Rei actually knew the properties of the barrier.

Hidden behind the Chiyudo barrier, Rei knew that they had little time before it wore off and left them open to another attack from the Hollow. If his guess was right, they only had five seconds before they had to start moving.

The problem with this Hollow is its **** amorphous nature... we can barely attack it, let alone hurt it if its constantly disappearing on us... wait... I got it... Lightning had only served to temporarily hurt the thing, as the gradually shrinking burns proved, leaving Rei with no other choice but to try a new mode of attack.

He knew that it was unlikely that a Bakudou would completely hold the monster unless it completely encased the beast. Which is why he quickly struck his palms to the ground and began the incantation for one of the highest level bakudou he knew.

3 seconds...

"Core of the earth and the fires of heaven. Like the moon and the sun in a never ending cycle of renewal..."

1 second...

"... Come together to prepare this foe for his journey..."

The barrier faded away as Rei concentrated on the incantation, which would have left him wide open for an attack from the Hollow had it not been for Yuusuke standing at his side. Nearing the end of the spell, Rei began to pour his reiatsu into the palms of his hands, sending it down into the bowels of the earth.

"...Bakudou #82, Magma Sarcophagus."

Billowing from the depths of the earth, molten lava shot up from the ground onto the Hollows frame, a loud hissing noise being heard as the magma formed into stone, rapidly cooling to surround the Hollow completely.

Despite its struggling, the Hollow was soon consumed by the stone surrounding it. What was left in its wake could only be called a crude sculpture at best, its disfigured appearance reaching outwards.

He kept his palms to the ground, making sure that the energies he was feeding into the binding were still going strong. Motioning to Yuusuke with a nod, Rei gave an affirmative that the Kidou would hold strong. "Now to see if a mask is any good once a Hollow has been purified... or if we'll need to bring this sucker back with us..."

Yuusuke nodded as Rei conveyed his message to him, interested to see if they could manage to steal the mask. Gathering his Reiatsu at his feet, Yuusuke shyunpo'ed towards the mass of rock and Hollow, his hand already prepared to spring forward and grab the mask.

"If I were you, Hollow, I'd hope that this mask dissolves..." he growled threateningly. Despite the fact that they were once human, Yuusuke admitted to feeling a degree of animosity towards the creature, something that not even the revelation of Aoi could rectify. Old wounds still traveled deep.

His hand lanced out, it's speed and power unimpressive compared to the Hollows own capabilities, but that was fine. His hand gripped the now formed mask on the Hollows...Well, it wasn't exactly a face, but on what appeared to be it's head. Pulling hard, Yuusuke ripped the thing off, a scream of pain leaving its lips. After killing all these people? It deserves it...

A few fleeting moments passed, and the mask stayed in tact, the Hollow screamed out in pain still. "Rei," he began quietly, "I think we're good to just take the mask...but first, let me purify him."

Shyunpo'ing back, Yuusuke handed the mask to the man, letting him hold it as he drank an Elixir of Regeneration. He'd need it if he wanted to make sure the creature before him was fully destroyed. His eyes closed as he began to gather the necessary energy at his palm...and then, he surpassed that. The amount of Kidou that he gathered grew enormously, close to double that of what was normally used to cast this spell.

And boy, was it draining. He could feel most of his energy flitter away while using this technique, this "surpassing drive" . Electricity was generated quickly as he muttered out the Kidou's name, "Hadou #63, Raikouhou!"

A blast of blue lightning energy bared down upon the target, a final scream of horror escaping from the Hollow as the blast met up with what little of it was still exposed. In a puff of Spiritrons, it was purified, the cooled magma crumbling inwards. "That's that, Rei. Shall we be heading off now?"

Walking quickly to close the distance between them, Rei swung an arm wide and smacked Yuusuke on the back of the head. As Yuusuke angrily turned to face the man, Rei tried to discreetly rub the stinging from his hands.

**** that hurt... difference in reiatsu my ***, he's just got a rock hard head... Returning the glare he was receiving from Yuusuke, Rei tried to quietly explain why he'd hit the man. Which seemed to be akin to explaining why gravity worked. Rocks fell, and Yuusuke got hit; it seemed like the natural order of things. Like his hand just gravitated towards Yuusuke's broom-like hair.

"A Zanpaku should always be used when purifying a Hollow. What you did is akin to what a quincy does to a Hollow. You destroyed it. Simple as that." He kept himself from going off on too long a tangent, simple and concise was often best for dealing with someone of such a short attention as Yuusuke.

"Yeah...but I didn't have much of a choice," Yuusuke sighed; he wasn't looking forward to explaining why he couldn't purify the Hollow and had to zap it into oblivion. It was true that normally, he would've finished off the Hollow using Hiraishin...and really, he probably should've asked Rei to do the purification instead, but he'd been a bit over eager.

While it was a bit rude for Rei to smack him in the head, he deserved it on some level and therefore wasn't going to complain over a small bit of pain. The golden ring that sat on his right ring finger twinkled at him expectantly, daring him to give in and explain the situation to the shorter man. He didn't really want to, but Rei was giving him that look and he knew that he owed the man at least some answers; he'd probably come here under the impression that Yuusuke could use his Zanpakutou still (And perhaps use Ban Kai, should the situation call for it).

"Uhm...You see, ever since that business with the Siege...Hiraishin has cut off our contact. She's still pissed over that business with Anthracite...and as a result, she sealed herself into this small golden ring. Basically...She told me to find my own way of fighting...which is the reason behind my sudden interest in Kidou. It serves as a good way to attack."

Looking the man over, Rei wondered how he could have possibly missed the absence of the man's Zanpaku. It seemed almost surreal in hindsight that he would take the man on a mission without having noticed such a glaring difference.

"making an assumption about a subordinate is hardly a good idea there Rei... what would have happened if the Hollow had been much stronger? And don't even mention the limit-lifting thing because you know what I meant... by the time you got permission to lift the limit he might have been killed..."

Shaking his head as the implications set in, Rei began to slowly make his way towards the gateway to Soul Society. He'd done the best he could with the information he had. They'd done what they had to do. Was there really room for anything other than celebration at this point?

A smile crossed his face as he felt the mask in his hand, - Hopefully Kayla would actually find the **** thing to be useful, it would be a hassle to go and get another one - a thought floating through his mind. Why should I let the small things weigh me down? We survived... and we even got something to learn about...

Without looking over to Yuusuke, Rei allowed himself to feel how much the man had grown in the short time he'd been in the division. It was almost shocking to see how far he'd come. If I don't get rid of him soon he might try to take my spot...

Chuckling as he turned to Yuusuke, Rei looked to the man with a question. "... so are you any closer to finding your own way to fight Yuusuke? Or will you be stuck with the man ring for a long time yet?"

"Hmmm...Am I closer yet?"

He pondered the question carefully; was he really that much closer to finding his style of fighting? Or had his interest in Kidou merely been like all the other methods he'd tried? Fleeting, temporary, like a dream of a dream. Can I really say that I'm closer than I was two weeks ago? One month ago? Ten years ago?

Perhaps not...but maybe so. This way...it was different. It was fully comfortable for him to use. Electrical power surged through his being as he commanded the attacks of Raigen, Raiden, Raikouhou, and so many others. Hiraishin was his soul's reflection and thusly, he had a natural affinity for the element...but in using Hiraishin, it was not he who was generating the attack but the sword.

"I think so, Rei...As I train in the Kidou arts, I grow closer to my true nature. Both as a lightning user...and as something else. Perhaps it's me, but I take comfort in being able to use so many different abilities. And...using lightning based Kidou...it's so natural for me, now that I think about it. I'm not there yet...but I'm on my way."

He paused for a moment, and realized that he had his own question for Rei. Something that he was curious about. Everyone knew that the Captains were special Shinigami. Warriors of great strength and guile. Legends in there own time, there was nobody in Soul Society who were as prominent and important as the Captains of the Gotei 13...but why was that? What made a Captain so special? If strength was what was important, then others like the Onimitsu Kidou head or the Keigun head should have had just as much respect...but they didn't.

Staring directly at Rei, Yuusuke said, "Rei-taichou...Why are you so special? Wait...Lemme rephrase that...What makes the Captains of the Gotei so special? Why do they shine brighter than the rest of us? What makes a Captain a Captain?"

Rei looked over at the man with a confused expression. He'd thought that the answer to this very question was always among the easiest to find and know. Unsure of how to answer the question, Rei spoke in a slow tone.

"umm... Yuusuke... its all about the white haori... people see someone in white clothes, and they immediately take notice." Looking down at his bloodied and dirty haori, Rei turned to Yuusuke while nervously scratching the back of his head.

"... and bleach... you gotta make sure you have bleach. Otherwise it doesn't work..."

Yuusuke couldn't help but chuckle over Rei's odd sense of humor. Trust his Taichou to turn a serious question into a joke. "Thanks for your blunt answer, Rei, but I'm afraid that's not...quite what I was looking for."

He paused for a moment, reconsidering the question. Perhaps it'd been his odd way of asking the question that had elicited the odd (but humorous) response from Rei. So what am I asking then? What is it that I want to know...I want to know...about the real difference between a Captain and a Shinigami.

He sighed; how did he plain on vocalizing this in such a way that Rei wouldn't get totally lost? No clue, but the third seat would try anyway.

"Rei...It's hard to explain but...Ever since the days of the Shinigami Academy, Captains are made out to be almost mythological figures. Strength which surpasses all else. The columns that hold up Soul Society...but it's weird. We never hear of the Onimitsu Kidou or Keigun heads referred to with such awe and reverence. And Captains...in battle, they don't fall when they should. They're like monsters...so essentially...I'm asking what makes Captains these giants in our own time. Why are they different from normal Shinigami...and I don't mean strength."

Looking at Yuusuke with a blank expression, Rei tried to put his only answer into words. "... I'm not sure I follow what you mean there Yuusuke. While some of the older nobles would like you to believe differently, captains are just like everyone else. We bleed when cut, we can die just as easily as others do. We feel happiness and joy, pain and sadness just like everyone else."

"The reason why we're held in such reverence by those who follow us is because we're there in the front lines fighting whenever and wherever we're needed. Because those who follow us know that we'll do everything in our power to ensure their safety."

Holding his fist up in front of himself, Rei silently pondered if that was really one of the reasons he'd become a captain. "It's that same conviction and belief that lies within us all and gives us strength. Without either of these behind us, a Captain would be no stronger than an academy graduate."

Turning to Yuusuke with a grin, he continued. "I once heard an interesting reason behind the haori. Why we wear the white while everyone else wears the black. Its so we stand out to the enemy and draw their attention before anyone else."

He pondered the response of the older man, unsure if that was the answer he was looking for. It was true that Captains were, after all, Shinigami too. They all shared the same things by being human souls that had taken that road.

"It's true that you're the same as all other souls...but Rei...at the same time, you aren't the same. A death of a third seat like myself resounds out, and sends ripples into my friends and family...but the death of a captain ripples out across the whole of Soul Society. Captains play such a prominent role in our lives."

Yuusuke paused and sighed; he wasn't going anywhere with this. It was like going around in circles to try to find the answer. It was getting late, anyway, and his head was starting to develop a mild pounding.

"Sorry bout that...I'll think over this on my own time...in the mean time, let's get this mask back to...well, whoever needs it for their research purposes."

Taking his Zanpaku in one hand, Rei opened the gateway back to Soul Society. Both men content to just quietly walk back to the division headquarters, or so they'd thought. Taking a different turn then he'd been expecting.

Heading off the confused look he was getting from Yuusuke, Rei waved his hand in a non-chalant manner before trying to explain. "We're just gonna make a short stop at the Kidoushuu towers and drop this thing off with Kayla. She wanted to see if she could develop some new that worked against the inherent material in the masks."

Realizing that they were now back in Soul Society, and not likely to influence unsuspecting souls, Rei slapped a palm against the seal on his chest before saying the words. "Limit break..." He could feel the power begin to flood back through his body as the limiter faded away.

Now that he no longer had to worry about breaking a hand by hitting the man, Rei slapped Yuusuke on the shoulder hard. "Oh yah... congrats Yuusuke... you've got my support to enter the Kidoushuu. Don't make myself or Kayla look bad for endorsing you ok..." He gave a laugh at the man before taking off into a light run in the direction of the towers.

Yuusuke blinked balefully, "Since when have I been under consideration for this? Huh? Huuuuuuuuuh? REI, GET BACK HERE!"


Writing Week is 257

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