“Villain versus Vizards?!”
Article by Jiroshizō Raikyū
Edited by Otsukai Mayakasu
Has our era of peace turned to an era of misfortune? The Onmitsukidō, long thought to be the secret protectors and watchful eyes of the Seireitei, instead hold its true defenders hostage. The Kōtotsu, the ancient caretakers of the Dangai, escape from their world to wreak havoc upon ours. Now it is the Kuchiki Clan that betrays our trust. The proud noble family whose wealth, power, and influence flows like life-blood through the Seireitei. Or at least, it once did. Now, only three things remain of the Kuchiki clan, a prisoner of the Central Forty Six, an unclaimed Inheritance, and a barren grass field where their proud manor once stood. Perhaps then, it would be more accurate to say that the only thing left of the Kuchiki are memories. Their proud flame snuffed out in the treacherous machinations of the The Kuchiki Killer
I have spent the last two months investigating deeper into the incident many of us witnessed. That fateful evening when the Commander confronted that trio of Hollows. Some of us have never felt fear on that level, and none of us are likely to forget it anytime soon. I was on the case before the events even unfolded, and my Captain was given charge of the situation after it ended. Together, we made one solemn vow: to get to the truth behind what happened. I thought I was lucky enough to have a first hand account, little did I know just how close we all came to a true disaster.
It all starts with Shirogane Kuchiki, the Pride of the Kuchiki
, former heir to the family fortune. Specifically, it starts with his test for Captaincy. After Shirogane helped to solve a murder case with the assistance of Second Division, he was approved to test for Captain of Sixth Division. There he fought, and was defeated by our very own Captain Kojima. This test resulted in his first great failure, and may have been the catalyst for Kuchiki's descent into madness. Upon returning to the seireitei, records indicate that Shirogane was stripped from his title of heir by the Kuchiki Council on account of his failure. At this same time, he learned of the death of his son, Yosuke Kuchiki.
Yosuke died after sustaining injuries training with now Lieutenant of 11th Division, Jinnosuke Ueki, known as Devil Jin. His injuries would have been treatable, if the Fourth Division wasn’t being locked down by Second Division usurpers at the time. Shirogane not only failed his test, and lost his status, on the same day, but also lost his son
. Still, he remained a Shinigmai, and Third Seat of Sixth Division, continuing to perform his duties. During the Coup Shirogane attempted to arrest Lieutenant Yasu Yugure only to face defeat at her hands, according to former Lieutenant Nibui Ueki. Even after this, he still rushed forth to assist in the defense against the Kōtotsu but his interference spawned ridicule from the Second Division Captain, Kyomu Mukuro. In a single day, the proud Kuchiki faced humiliation after humiliation, until finally he snapped.
At this point, the facts become a little bit stifled, as no official records remain. All the information gathered comes from word of mouth, whispers and rumors from those minor Kuchiki subjected to Shirogane's terror. It seems, following the Kototsu event, Shirogane was once again called before the Kuchiki Council. Allegedly, rather than face further humiliation, Shirogane killed the elder Kuchiki in cold blood, declaring himself the new Clan Lord. He took advantage of some unsaid pact between the Kuchiki and Commander Shobatsu, wherein the Commander agreed not to monitor anything happening within the Royal Family's domain. The Kuchiki Killer then locked down the Manor, confining all of his clan to their quarters for over two months. The Gotei Thirteen and Central Forty Six remained ignorant of this transfer of power, allowing Shirogane to scheme unhindered.
Using the authority granted to me by Captain Kojima, and by extension Commander Murasaki, I was granted access to the archives Shirogane used as Clan Lord. Following his trail of study, I came across the same information which I am sure inspired his wicked plan. Information on that mysterious object we all saw the Commander carry into battle. What we didn’t realize at the time, was that this artifact was far more dangerous than the Hollowfied Shinigami Commander Murasaki faced down. Going through the Kuchiki library, Shirogane uncovered a classified piece of history: information on the Aku Hachi Hakkō.
Turns out, this thing is a well kept secret. Well here at the Ninth Division, we don’t believe in secrets, we believe in scoops. My requests to interview the Kido Corps have been denied until Captain Oda recovers, and the First Division has remained as tight lipped as ever. However, the Kuchiki records provided me with all the information I need. This Evil Fermentation Pot, was created by the Kido Corps after the Shattered Dimensions event. Originally it held the ability to amplify a Shinigami’s power, however after a Hollow was sealed into it, the artifact became corrupted. Now, it continuously amplifies Hollowified Reishi. It holds the power of an infinite amount of Hollows, absorbing any reishi and Hollowifiying it, before multiplying its power. This seemingly harmless pot can both absorb and
release this energy, something not previously disclosed.
Upon coming across this information, Shirogane set about his treacherous plan. Using the influence of the Kuchiki Clan, he pressured the Central Forty Six into delivering the pot right to his doorstep, under the guise that the Kuchiki Elder’s wished to dispose of their private supply of training Hollows. Now this is where things get interesting. Following the paper trail, it seems Central Forty Six ordered the Commander to deliver the artifact directly, with the oversight of the Kido Corps. Instead, the Commander sent an envoy of his own personal messengers.
It's unclear why the Commander did not go himself, as there was no official statement or response from the First Division. The only message to go out from First Division that day was delivered to Captain Kagayaki, who had just woken up from his Bankai-induced coma. Captain Kagayaki was sent to test Tenzen Oda for captaincy right away, much to the chagrin of his caretaker Captain Nakamoto. Upon the completion of his test, Tenzen returned to Fourth Division, only to be confronted by the High Priestesses of the Kido Corps. According to eyewitness testimonies, the Kido Corps had received word that Tenzen passed before any of the Captains, and was promoted to Captain on the spot. Peculiar, don’t you think dear reader?
Fresh from his battle with Captain Kagayaki, Captain Oda arrived just in time for the artifact to be delivered to Shirogane. To both Shirogane and Captain Oda’s surprise, they were met with the most unlucky guest, Arashi Suta, who just happened to drop by and got swept up in the whole mess, according to Sixth Division Third Seat Shusuke Kiyoshi. It was at this time, that my own journalistic approach proved fruitful. As I discovered that Lieutenant Yasu Yugure of the Second Division somehow caught wind of Shirogane's machinations. Acting on her duty as head of the Patrol Corps, she moved to end Shirogane’s uprising prematurely. However, it appeared that Shirogane, as the Clan Lord of the Kuchiki, outranked Yugure. After all, the delivery of the artifact was a Clan matter, not a Shinigami one. Using this leverage, Shirogane had the Lieutenant arrested, and escorted his new guests deep into the Kuchiki manor.
Here is where things become cloudy. As Captain Oda erected a barrier around the Kuchiki Manor, making any developments difficult to observe. Thanks to the cooperation of Second Division Shinigami, I was able to get some detail about the story within the barrier, but not enough. It seems that Lieutenant Yugure escaped her confinement, and was able to apprehend and extract Shirogane’s mother, the Matriarch of the Kuchiki clan, before the barrier went up. While the Kuchiki Lady was sent to the Second Division for holding, Yasu stayed behind to confront Shirogane.
It is fortunate then that, in this high tension political battle between Captains, Clan Lords, and Lieutenants, the common man had his champion in the form of bystander Arashi Suta. Waiting until he recovered, I was able to corroborate this story with Arashi’s first hand account. Now a Lieutenant under Captain Oda, Arashi was more than happy to share the exploits of his new found Captain. This, combined with the information gleaned from Second, may paint a full picture of what happened that evening.
Within the safety of his Manor, the Kuchiki Killer led his guests down to the training room where his clan kept their Hollows. There, he allowed Captain Oda to begin the unsealing of the Aku Hachi Hakkō. At that moment, Lieutenant Yugure arrived to stop the Captain, but it was too late. Shirogane played his hand. He revealed that the Shirogane that had accompanied them was but a clone brought on by his deceitful Shikai. The True Shirogane had been lying in wait until the seals were broken, before unleashing the pot himself.
Opening the Evil Fermentation Pot released a pillar of Hollowfied Reiatsu directly onto Shirogane. This reiatsu fumigated the entire Kuchiki Compound, killing off the Kido Corps Shinigami and the Commander’s Messengers, as well as absorbing all the Hollows released by Shirogane prior. The end result, transformed the Kuchiki Killer from man, to monster, his outer appearance now reflecting his inner villainy. The disgraced Pride of the Kuchiki had transformed into the first Vizard the Seireitei has seen in over Three Hundred Years!
Wielding a power not possessed since the likes of former Captain Shousan, the traitorous Shirogane turned on his guests. Captain Oda prioritized sealing the artifact, while Lieutenant Yugure confronted Shirogane. Ultimately, Shirogane’s clone fled with the Artifact, to where however, still remains a mystery to this day. Following this, Shirogane assaulted Captain Oda, attempting to crush the Captain’s skull. However, being the Chief of the Kido Corps, Captain Oda is not one to mess with. Using some unseen spell, the Captain was able to seal away Shirogane with a single action! Just as Lieutenant Yugure activated her Bankai.
From outside the barrier, I, and a few other confused and desperate observers, could witness Yugure’s Bankai filling the Barrier with tar and flowers, preventing anyone from seeing in. I was left to my imagination, scouring the scene for any detail. Little did I imagine what true horrors were happening within. As at this point, having defeated Shirogane, the three standing Shinigami discovered that the Kuchiki Killer was not alone in his Hollowfication. Each one of them, too, had been infected by the Artifact’s Miasma. Their souls becoming Hollowified, masks manifested across their face. They had each become Vizards.
Soon, their bodies transformed into abominations, losing control of their minds and actions, they became savages, aggressive, they became...well, Hollows.
I was there on that day, standing outside the barrier, confused, concerned. With the barrier obscured by Yasu’s Bankai, we could not see the monstrous forms of the Shinigami within. No one seemed to have answers, no one seemed to have real control over the situation. That is, until Captain Commander Shobatsu Murasaki arrived, carrying the pot no less! No one seems to know where he was, and there appears to be no record or eye witness account of what he did. However, the fact he held the artifact in his arm, meant he must have dealt with Shirogane’s clone and apprehended the artifact himself.
After briefly giving orders to those Captains that flocked to the scene, the Commander entered the Barrier himself. Clearing away Yasu’s Bankai, and destroying the Kuchiki manor, he literally leveled the playing field, and revealed to the entire Seireitei the fate of the Hollowfied Shinigami. The vizards, unable to control their actions, attacked the Commander, who appeared to use the Aku Hachi Hakkō to re-absorb the Hollowfied air and purify the inner contents of the barrier. Their attacks were quickly dealt with, and the Commander used the subjugating force of his Spiritual pressure to subdue them. This shattered the barrier, exposing us bystanders to the terror of our Commander’s power for but a moment. Only two were able to resist falling to the floor, the Shining Knight Captain Higen Kagayaki, and our very own Dragon of Kojima, Captain Kojima.
It was these two that the Commander addressed. Tossing the Evil Fermentation Pot to Captain Kagyaki, he instructed the Captain to meet Head Lieutenant Oki at the First Division Barracks. Afterwards, Commander Murasaki placed our Captain Kojima in charge of the scene. The Commander’s final words were as follows
Then just like that, he disappeared, carrying the broken bodies of the three new Vizards to the Twelth Division for treatment. No one knows what happened to them there. Hidden away deep within the confines of the Shinigami Research and Development Institute, they remained isolated from the outside world for two months. Now, the Vizards have been released, seemingly without stigma or punishment from the First Division.
Could the reports be true, that these Vizards are not villains, but victims, who sacrificed not only their bodies, but their very souls, to save the Seireitei? If it weren't for them perhaps the Kuchiki Killer would have released the Aku Hachi Hakkō upon us all, turning every soul into a vicious Hollow. Remember that next time you may think to judge them as monsters. Instead, be thankful to them for saving you from the same fate. After all, if we’ve learned anything this past half year, it’s that you never know what misfortune fate has in store.
Interviews with the Gotei 13!
The Seireitei is abuzz with rumors and gossip about what they witnessed at the Kuchiki Manor two months ago. Rampant speculation surrounds the Seireitei about the Shinigami turned Hollows who faced down the Commander on that fateful day. Concern and questions only grow as to the fates of Captain Oda, and Lieutenants Arashi Suta and Yasu Yugure. To some aspiring journalists this type of word of mouth hearsay is a perfect vein for mining out some gossip column or crackpot conspiracy theory. However, here at the Ninth Division we report only on the truth, only on the facts. With their release from Twelfth Division’s care, I set out to interview each of the Shinigami survivors, in order to find out exactly what happened.
My first interview is the big fish himself, Captain Oda. Reports show that Tenzen Oda fought in a test against the freshly revived Captain Kagayaki, was promoted to Captain of Fifth Division and Chief of the Kido Corps, turned into a Vizard, and defeated by Captain Commander Murasaki all on the same day. Anyone that can live through all that and still survive to tell the tale, is someone I absolutely must meet. Sitting before me, I’m hard pressed to find any indication on the Captain’s face of the hardship he faced. This is half due to the kind and peaceful expression he constantly seems to carry, and half due to the intense aura of nervousness that permeates through him. I watch as he rapidly runs his fingers across his prayer-beads, whether in meditation or anxious fidgeting I cannot tell. I figure it’s likely both, and decide to break the ice.
"Thank you for having me today, Captain."
"Uhh... Yeah, no problem.."
For a moment I recall the reports of his fight with the Commander. his broken body being carried away. Now, in front of me, he sits perfectly straight in his chair, proudly wearing both his Whit Captain’s Haori and the Blue Haori of the Kido Corps Chief. As I take his picture I can’t help but note the majestic stature these layers give the man. He looks as though he should be sitting upon a thrown, not upon some wooden chair.
"How are you feeling?"
"Decent I su-suppose. You? Wait, am I supposed to ask that?"
As humble and kind as ever, he looks around nervously for someone to answer his question, despite myself being the only other person in the room. I chuckle for a moment at the man’s timid nature, it’s a relief to see that his power and position have not gotten to his person.
"That's good to hear, and I'm doing just great, Captain. Are you ready to begin?"
"Yeah, ready when you are."
He slides his prayer beads into the sleeve of his white haori, a polite gesture, giving me his full attention. In response, I take out my notebook, and give him mine.
"Captain Oda, can you tell us about what happened?"
I cut straight to the point, and immediately regret it. Captain Oda’s bashful behavior stops as soon as my question does. He sits in silence for a moment, contemplating, with a deadly serious expression on his face.
"Not sure how much I'm allowed to tell you. What do you know so far? I'll tell you what I can based on that."
His warm atmosphere turns cold, hardening himself, his defenses go on high alert, and rightfully so.
"Just share what you're comfortable with Sir."
Again, he remains silent. I can tell that he is mentally strategizing how to handle this interview. As his brow furrows, I get the sense that he’s weighing every possible outcome, every consequence, of every answer he might give. Finally, he reaches his carefully thought plan of attack, his eyes opening as his lips part.
"There was a traitor, I dealt with him. That's all."
"Ah, Shirogane Kuchiki correct? Word is that he butchered his clan, and is the one responsible for your condition. You're the one that took him down? How?"
A shocked expression comes across his face. Maintaining an air of professionalism, I stand my ground, and stare at him expectantly.
"Ah, you know more than I thought. Yes, it was Shirogane, I didn't know he butchered his clan and yes he is the cause of my condition. I did strike the killing blow against him as for how, that is my secret."
I can tell this is going to be an uphill battle, the Captain, responsible for the Fifth Division, the Kido Corps, and perhaps this entire event, does not wish to say something that might impede his authority. Or, perhaps he is simply scared of the judgment of the First Division, fearful that his words will somehow reach the Commander.
“Rumor has it that Shirogane achieved some unknown power before he died, what did he do to you and the others in that barrier?"
"Hmm, I wouldn't call it a power more like poison is what he achieved. That same poison afflicted me and the others that were inside the barrier."
"You're talking about Hollowfication. What is it like to be Hollowified?"
I drop the bomb, the big secret that the Captain has been dancing around. His eyes narrow, studying me, analyzing my intentions. I’ve been an investigative journalist too long to not know when someone’s weighing whether or not I should be trusted. I’m no Shirogane however, and the Captain chooses to proceed, much to my relief.
"You know quite a bit."
He sighs before continuing, looking off to his left while rubbing the back of his head.
"What is it like... Imagine all your inner demons fusing into one, everything you work hard to keep control over merging into this inverted version of yourself. Then trying fighting it off so that it wont take control of your body and go on a rampage. It is a poison that highlights your negative traits and amplifies them."
"If even you struggled to maintain control, I couldn't imagine how difficult it must be. Do you remember anything that happened outside of your inner world? Your fight with the Commander for example?"
"So you know everything... I don't remember anything, when I regained control of my body I was in the process of being crushed by the Commander's Reiatsu. I also doubt that you could call any hostile aggression against the Commander a fight."
I let out a laugh, the Captain’s humor is a welcome olive branch between this figurative game of cat and mouse we’re playing. One I accept happily, choosing to change the subject to less prying matters.
"Fair enough. Well let's take it back a little bit. You were recently promoted to Captain of the Fifth Division, and by extension the Kido Corps. Congratulations by the way. How does it feel to take on this responsibility?"
His expression relaxes now that the topic has changed, the tension in the room dissipates. The Captain’s nerves immediately catch up to him now that official business isn’t so pressing. I find myself being put at ease, there’s something about this side of the man that is just, well, calming.
”Th.. Thank you and it uh... It's hard to explain. It's like a heavy responsibility and burden, but, a welcoming one. I Uh.. Umm carry both with pride I suppose."
"You were promoted just moments before everything went down. I figure that means you haven't had much time to settle in. So then, do you have any plans for Fifth Division and the Corps?"
An awkward chuckle escapes him.
"Heh, Yeah that was a hectic day. I do have plans for them and umm, I'll try to be b-brief with them. I guess... uhh, expect both 5th and Kido Corps to become more m... mili... militarized... 5th wil focus on battle readiness and artillery wh..while Kido Corps will b-be focused on artifact re-recovery."
"Ah, a new direction then. That's very interesting. Well Captain, I don't want to take up too much of your time, so one last thing before we go. After your experience, what hopes do you have for the future of the Seireitei? Do you have any message for those Shinigami seeking to join Fifth Division?"
That serious expression returns to his face, and I know he means business.
"I have hopes for a unified Seireitei so that this infighting can come to an end. The Gotei 13 is at its absolute strongest when we stand as one. For those seeking to join Fifth Division... For those who are ready and willing to respond to any threat at a moments notice, to those who want to rain down destructive fury against the enemies of Soul Society, and for those seeking a true everlasting peace for Soul Society, come to the Fifth Division..."
Captain Oda lowers his head, shadows casting over his face. I’m taken aback by the solemn intensity of this pose, before I realize it is not a gesture of utmost seriousness, but of shame.
"Th...That was corny... I... I'm done talking for the day...."
The Captain rises from his chair, awkwardly shuffling towards the door. I pack up my notebook and camera in a flash and rise to my feet to catch him before he leaves.
"Thank you again Captain. I'm glad you're ok. The Seireitei owes you a debt."
I shout the last half, already halfway through the door, as Captain Oda shuffle-runs down the street, mumbling back before he disappears.
"N..no problem, it's what I'm supposed to do.."
I don’t have to look far for my next interview. Staying right at the Fifth Division barracks, I met Arashi Suta. He appears to have been promoted to Lieutenant of Fifth Division, by Captain Oda’s request, according to the wooden plaque proudly fastened to his arm. It seems a fitting choice, given what they’ve now been through together, as well as the fact that Arashi's general demeanor seems to match the peaceful presence of his Captain. He comes in a little late to our meeting, holding in his hand a cup of steaming hot tea, and looking through the steam at me with a closed eyed and devilish grin.
"Hello there Lieutenant Suta, thanks for meeting me."
He continues to look at me with his usual expression. Unchanging, his smile seemingly existing forever. Without hesitation, he finds his seat. In his hands sits his cup of tea. Though the surface may be hot, noticeably so by the amount of steam emitting from the liquid within, he holds it with both hands, bare in contact. There is no irritation or sense of pain upon his face. None at all.
"Thank you, glad to be here."
Removing my camera, Lieutenant Suta sets down his cup just long enough to strike a pose for me. His face doesn’t change, I get the impression his expression never does. Luckily, he’s already smiling. I think about how hard it must be to smile, after such traumatic events, but it's the will of a strong Shinigami to push on, I suppose.
"How are you feeling?"
"Better now, I believe. Some struggles here and there, but overall fine."
He answers as he takes a sip of his tea, short and sweet. It is then that a visible shift in his posture, but not his expression, reveals to me that he’s just remembering something. Ashamedly, he speaks on.
"How rude of me, I should have brought you a cup, but I did not want to be late."
I let out a chuckle, though I appreciate his hospitality, I'm here for another kind of tea, the spilt kind.
"That's alright, thank you. Shall we begin?"
With a nod, he responds physically.
"Yes, let's do it."
"Let's start with, what exactly happened?"
I watch him deliberate, as he processes his thoughts, clearly he isn't sure where to start…
"Where exactly do you want me to begin?"
"What lead you to the Sixth Division Barracks that day?"
"At first, a training partner. Along with that, to check on a comrade. Both me and Shirogane being Third seats of our squads. No Captain, we had to run the ship. To keep our squads from toppling and losing face. Such a responsibility is pressuring."
He takes another sip from his cup…
“So, you had no idea what was about to happen. Out of everyone involved, you are the only one that can be considered a bystander. Could you share with us what you saw after the barrier went up?"
A noticeable pause, as he once again ponders his thoughts, lowering his drink to his lap at this point. Trying to recall, I watch as his brain gets to work in recovering these memories. I prepare for another tight lipped interview, if this man takes after his Captain in any sense, then this is going to be another uphill battle to pry out what bits of info the Lieutenant's willing to share.
Eventually, to my utter surprise, he does.
"No, absolutely not, I was just as clueless as the next person, but I knew that the situation was dire and so sensitive that the feeling became palpable. Once the barrier went up, our weapons were confiscated. Lieutenant Yugure had been arrested, well before we arrived. She had been taken somewhere within the Compound. The Pot had been put into place. It was only me, Captain Oda and Shirogane, along with the kido corps that traveled with us. I remember a question, Shirogane asked us about our views on the Seireitei, how we felt, something along those lines... It was odd... Me and Captain Oda gave no response to it. We were ready to begin the ritual."
Hardly tight lipped at all, the Lieutenant gives much more than I had hoped to receive. Frantically, I start jotting down note after note, trying to keep up with the Lieutenants tell all.
"Ritual? Can you elaborate on that? You mentioned something about a Pot, could that be the artifact the Kido Corps was supposed to deliver? The one the Commander carried when he arrived?"
"Maybe ritual isn't the right term, rather, the unsealing. The pot is the artifact that the Kido Corps delivered. The same artifact that the Commander carried. Captain Oda, had the task of unsealing the pot, releasing its contents."
He takes another sip of his tea, before lowering the cup again.
"What were its contents?"
Before he can answer, he hesitates. I notice his eyes moving behind his closed eyelids, as though every image of the event flashes before his eyes. One by one... every second, minute, like a movie, like a dream, but far from one. It is his reality now. Nothing but the past, but it is still and always will be a memory that feels as though it happened yesterday. This is the pain I see in the Lieutenant before me, as he leans forward, deadly serious.
"Do you know what terror feels like? What that pot contained is explainable... It is power, both vile and extremely dangerous. I can't even comprehend what I felt that day, let alone give you a honest answer."
"This power, it's rumored Shirogane harnessed it for himself, is this true?”
"Yes, he gained something akin to the power of a Hollow. It amplified him, so much so that it even toppled the likes of Captain Oda, myself and even Lieutenant Yugure who had somehow escaped her confinement..."
Another pause, followed by another sip. However, this time his eyes open, though only slightly. Enough to where his midnight blue gaze is visible to me from where I sit, I feel paralyzed, as though caught in the hypnotizing gaze of a cobra.
"Shirogane had single-handedly betrayed our trust and the Seireitei. Simply enough, he used us, well, mostly Captain Oda to gain this power."
"So, that's how you three underwent Hollowification. What is it like to be Hollowified?"
"Unfortunately, yes. Forever changed, we are, or at least there is no way to reverse it yet... But, it does feel good... The Hollowfication gives us power. It is definitely an edge over our enemies, I can say that much. Then again, it does come with cons. It’s not a power everyone should have or look forward to achieving. No, it is dark and unforgiving."
"I see, so you embrace this power? Aren't you worried that you will be perceived as a monster?"
"Embracing, I wouldn't say that. I tolerate it. I will not let it control my actions nor my way of life. As far as being worried? No, we are all monsters in our own story and in somebody else's story. The term does not faze me or influence me to become such."
"Well, at least one person agrees with you. I hear Captain Oda recently promoted you to Lieutenant of Fifth Division?”
His smile broadens just a bit. At this moment, his eyes close almost entirely, seemingly unable to see my person sitting in front of him.
"Yes, I am grateful to Captain Oda. I also understand his reasoning behind it. Its probably good that we both train together, along with Lieutenant Yugure to further understand this, Hollowfication."
He takes another sip.
"Some might say then that Fifth Division has become a Division for Hollows. This doesn't bother you?"
"Everyone has their feelings and opinions. It is not something I can control or tamper with. We will continue to operate all the same... We wear masks, not our division. The core values of Squad Five remain the same."
"Of course. You and Captain Oda seem like a good pair, your level headedness is a comfort. Do you have any plans for your Division, as their new Lieutenant?
"To gain their trust. I am still a new face among them. As you said, they might see me as a monster and even though it does not bother me, we can not function as a unit if they are always afraid of me or despise what I have become. It's easier for Captain Oda, being the head of the Squad. Hopefully, they will come around."
"Hopefully so. Finally, what hopes do you have for the future of the Seireitei? Do you have any message for those Shinigami seeking to join Fifth Division?"
"I hope that no matter our trials and tribulations, our strength will remain. Our unity will grow. That our enemies will think twice before they choose to assert themselves upon us. May our blades remain sharp and our minds sharper. As for our coming members, bring more than just your knowledge of kido. The universe does not revolve around just that."
Lieutenant Suta stands now, impatient like his Captain to leave. I worry I’ve upset him with my line of questioning, but it needed to be addressed. Still, I’m grateful to the Lieutenant for all he shared, and hope to express that to him.
"Thank you again, Lieutenant."
With a nod, he steps out...
My final interview is a familiar face. Lieutenant Yasu Yugure. I’ll admit, when I heard the Second division was caught up in all of this, my first thoughts went to the wellbeing of Lieutenant Yugure. Having interviewed her only last issue, I looked forward to hearing what new perspective she might bring to this edition. We meet in her usual clubhouse, a snack-smeared wrapper-worn hideout where we can talk freely without any eavesdropping spies. Or at least, where we can pretend to. When I enter, I’m greeted with a wide smile, and though her hair seems to have gotten longer since last time, she’s the same old Yasu.
"It's good to see you again, Lieutenant."
"Haihai. I hope you've been well since our last meeting."
"I have, thank you. How are you feeling?"
I filter through my gear bag, pulling out my camera and fidgeting with some lenses, while the Lieutenant happily munches away on her snack of presumably stolen chips.
"Things could be better, but I'm still goin' y'know? So that's good."
She discards the empty bag onto the floor, nonchalantly wiping her face. She then strikes a pose in front of the camera, as I take the photo.
"I'm sorry to hear that. it seems you've recovered well at least. Shall we begin?"
"Of course, ready when you are."
"So, can you tell us what happened?"
"Ah... Where do I start? Sometimes I just think I was at the right place at the wrong time. I got some stuff from my squad about money laundering between the Kuchiki and other shinigami and it turned into something a lot worse. Y'know how proud the Kuchiki are-- well, were. That Shirogane guy just got involved in something that he couldn't handle, and it ended up with plenty of injuries and plenty of casualties. I thought I could fix it, but you can see how that went."
I watch as she removes a secret bar of chocolate from her sleeve, unwrapping it as she speaks.
"Ah, so that's how you got involved. I hear you were arrested?"
"Pfft. I just made them think that. You know what they say: keep your friends close, but enemies closer.”
She tosses the wrapper over her shoulder.
“Got inside with a breeze, yeah."
"What did you see inside? The Fifth Division apparently delivered some kind of powerful artifact, but only Captain Oda made it out."
Her attention shifts away from the bar of chocolate, as she crosses her hands in her lap now, looking downward as though shielding herself from the memories of the event.
"...It... looked like just a normal barrel, but the feeling that came with it was suffocating. And when it opened... Sorry, uh, can we go to the next question?"
Knowing when to call it quits, I decide not to push the Lieutenant too far. She may seem cutesy and childish on the outside, but if she decides I'm an enemy, they’d never find my body.
"Sure, of course. I understand this might be a hard topic for you to discuss. Well, whatever happened, you were Hollowfied, correct? Could you tell us what that's like?"
"I don't encourage it. It's disheartening; it makes you think a lot about yourself, and your flaws. You're stuck fighting for control with this other you that just seems so much better in every way. Coming out of it, it's just accepting that your weaknesses can become strengths too."
"So, you're saying that becoming a Vizard has made you feel stronger?"
"It's made me understand myself a little more, so in a way, yes."
"Are you worried that you will be perceived as a monster, especially after your public confrontation with Commander Murasaki?"
"Commander Murasaki gave me the chance to live again, so moping about what others think is just troublesome. Even if I am a monster, what will anyone else do about it other than talk?"
"People certainly are talking, and not just about you. Are you aware that Captain Mukuro arrived with half of the Onmitsukidō in a show of force, demanding entry into the barrier from the Kido Corps?"
She spits the half-eaten bar of chocolate out with such force that it flies into the wall behind me. Wiping her mouth again, she smears chocolate on her sleeve as her jaw drops and eyes go comically wide.
Straightening myself out, I remove some of my notes, making sure to recall events as accurately as possible for her.
"He snapped at Captain Kojima, telling him to quote 'Shut the Hell up' after being questioned. If the Commander hadn't arrived, violence would've likely broken out. You know nothing about this?"
"I, uh, no. Th-this is all news to me. I didn't bother asking about it since I wanted to get past everything and move on. Out of sight, out of mind. It was enough for me that he came to pick me up from 12th once I woke up. I'm sure he was busy up until then."
Reaching this conclusion, she sits back in her chair, boredly looking around the room, as though prying for some left over snackage to scavenge amongst the heaps of wrappers.
I try to regain her attention with a cutting question.
"Within only a couple hours of you and your Captain's return to the Seireitei, Your Captain arrived to threaten another Division with an army of Onmitsukidō, and you became involved in a plot where you transformed into a Hollow and attacked the Commander. Tell me, genuinely, how can anyone trust the Second Division?"
"...The Commander trusts us; if he didn't, we'd have been eradicated since the Kokotsu incident. Isn't that enough for them?"
I’m successful, and wish I wasn’t. The Lieutenant doesn’t move, but her eyes slowly shift over to me, as though she could see the blood pumping through my veins, every artery to strike. I need to cut this one short, before I am.
"Commander Murasaki has spared you and your Captain twice now, perhaps to the blindly trusting, that is enough. So tell me, going forward, do you have any plans for the Second Division?"
"Plenty, but that's a secret for me to know, and for the readers to never find out!"
She lets out a maniacal laugh, almost too
intense, it drags on for a bit longer than is comfortable. I let out a nervous laugh in response.
"A bold choice of words. Lieutenant, after your experience, what hopes do you have for the future of the Seireitei? Do you have any message for those Shinigami seeking to join Second Division?"
"For the Seireitei to stand strong, always. As for those looking forward to the Second Division, be prepared, have heart, and bring snacks!"
She returns to her usual bubbly self, watching me with sparkling eyes as I pack up my gear.
"Thank you for seeing me, Lieutenant. I'm happy to see you're still yourself."
"Not a problem, Mister. It's time for another promo, by the way! Look forward to another video from your favorite Yakkaimono. Next week, I'll have special guests on the show. And please continue to support the SWA ladies and gentlemen. Yasu out!”
“Chapter 1: Tutorial”
Story by Maho Kojima
Darkness. The human psyche had an odd relationship with the dark. Most came to fear it. A metaphor, a representation of the unknown. They always told us that darkness had always been. It expanded into infinite depths, creeping into the expanse. Eyes closed or opened it remained. One could not guess how long this darkness festered. It allowed for nothing but stillness and rest. The stiffness that came with an idle existence crept around the corners in the dark. There were no true sensations other than that of loneliness and the heaviness of sleep. This was fear. Primordial and true. Man’s first instinct, or so many had come to believe. When humans sought shelter from darkness, they scrambled to the light.
Like a candle, a single ember awakens. Even the dimmest of lights severed and separated the dark. Flame represented safety. Warmth was its most welcoming characteristic. Heat was energy itself. One feels that same fire when they hug a loved one. When they go for a run. The human spirit itself flickered and wavered just like a candle’s ember in a storm. But what made fire dangerous, was its unpredictability. At any given moment, a wilting flame could become a forest of flames. Only an ounce of flame could bring forth great destruction. This dichotomy between security and destruction was balance itself. And for a time, this single, unremarkable ball of fire remained. Idle, trapped, strangled in the dark.
Then without warning, A flash discharged through the densest mass of shadow. It was blinding at first, illuminating the void as swirls of blue configured itself, surging electrically, These beams of light form into a singular square panel. There on its surface text appeared. The words seemed to resonate within the mind.
“Would you like to begin the tutorial?”
The mere thought of acceptance was all that was required. The panel, in response, reconfigured itself. The two-dimensional square would gain a third dimension stretching out and gaining depth, becoming a cube. It was relatively small, swaying left and right as if it had a life of its own. It floated freely, soaring through the darkness as if leading the way, leaving behind it a luminescent trail of light. After a short distance, the cube stops. An invasive burst of elegance pulsates from it. From its geometric frame, a series of straight lines fan out, laying themselves about from that single focal point. These lines overlapped, forming a series of wide squares, giving definition to the surroundings like a coordinate X/Y grid. As these dimensions are laid forth, at the location where it had all began, a single faceless being is formed. It resembled an old wire marionette. Piece by piece its limbs took a finite though definite form, first arms and legs, followed by its feet and torso. With a grand flash, it all rounded off at its head. There were not many details to define this being. No true facial structure. No eyes or mouth. though it's definitions clearly resembled that of a male, one could not say for sure. Its face lowered, adjacent to its own hands. Unbeknownst to itself, the words “New Player” sat just atop its head in large bold letters.
The overlapping lines had become more defined, slowing their expansion as they reached their peak distance. There were four walls in total, a ceiling and a floor. A light blue glow emanated from these barriers and within thirty seconds, a one hundred and forty-meter wide “space” had formed in full. The cube idled before seeping into the floor. This process seemed to drag on for minutes, as light rippled 'within' the barriers from the point of immersion. For a time, there was an uncomfortable stillness. The “New Player” simply observed, in what could only be described as non-vocal confusion. From the same location, a similar hand, un-detailed and puppet-like, slowly stretched from the floor. It too was composed of overlapping lines, though its movements were enigmatic. One arm after the other it breached the flooring and pulled its body up. Awkward twitches gave way to dangling arms. Then its head cocked to the side. It moved, then stiffened, much like an old clock hand. Opposed to the first blue figure, this new one was a deep shade of red.
Above the red Marionette's head, read “???”. This organism stood deathly still for about six or so seconds. It swayed left and right akin to a mechanically. The Red figure took a sharp step forward. A red pulse of light rippled across the floor and throughout the walls in response to its foot connecting with the floor. Its hand opened up; its arm cocks then flies forward. It was clear that these movements were unskilled and basic, yet there was ‘something’ dangerous about them. Everything within screamed to the new Player to move, so in response they weaved backward just out of range. The red figure continued forward, firing another series of ungraceful swings. In response, The Player repeats its previous movements and slips smoothly out harm's way. These movements, while much more deliberate, showed some inkling of experience. It was evident, as its without thinking, his left arm rounds like a bullet, snug in its chamber. Then fires off. With a ‘crack’ the red puppet takes a blow to the head. There is a loud “thwap” like the snapping of a whip which sends it skidding backward along the floor's surface. Its red body then stiffens on its feet, becoming still as if to register what had occurred. Calculating the data, this machine stands up straight, its computations now complete, its body realigned and configured.
Observing each twitch, The Players arms straightened, tightening around its head and torso. Right-hand hovering a short distance behind the left, his legs maintained a solid distance apart. This stance was instinctual. With each passing moment, the knowledge of brawling returned. Memories began to bubble from the depths of his nervous system. The Player remembered distinctly that fighting is and was, seldom enjoyable. Its only saving grace is the reality, that any challenge was worth confronting head-on. That it was less about the act and more about overcoming something. This familiarity was presumed to be comforting despite the uneasiness of the situation. It is then that the red man was upon him once again, those lanky arms out-stretch rigidly to their limits as the Red puppet rushed forward, this time tightening its open hands into a fist, mimicking what had just been done to it. It had adapted, immediately refining its movements, making it much swifter than before. It threw not just one jab, but several in combination. Prompting The player to weave and slip at a much more rigorous pace.
The two seemingly in sync, began to move and flow with each other’s movements. The longer they went, the more they began to mirror one another. A strike here, a dodge there. Their movements became more and more advanced and intricate as time went on. More and more superhuman. The room was an influx of red and green shades of light that bounced around inside the walls. As these blows were exchanged, more and more memories resurfaced in the player. He recalls the world he is from and that where he is from, fighting is a necessity. It is a force that can only be delayed but never truly avoided. He remembered those dingy streets and the pain that permeated when one’s head bounced against the pavement. Those unnecessary aches. The bruises, and scars. The shattered teeth. The blood. Oh, the blood. It always terrified him in his youth. His ability to avoid this pain increased as his realizations cemented. Hit without being hit. Each and every one of the red figures' movements had begun to pick up in intensity and he, coming more into himself, needed that much more effort to keep up.
His arms began to tremble as fear settled throughout his freshly formed body. That familiar ache and pain nestled into his being. As the battle raged a thick heaviness settled within them. This 'thing' was strong, plain and simple. In his frustration, his body whipped around, cleaving his leg through open air. He had missed, or more accurately, the Red figure had learned to dodge. In an act of imitation, it repeated the same, whipping its own body around and extending its leg, its heel piercing his side. The impact behind such a blow sent him rocketing toward the left wall with a thrash, ripples of blue exploding around the wall behind him.
His body slumped to the floor. He began to feel an enormous emptiness in his chest. There was sharp strain in his back, one that was unrelenting. He had no way to express his pain, other than to lay dormant on the floor, unable to move. He no longer wanted to be here. He still did not know where ‘here’ was. The puppet turned its head to him, limp along the floor. It crept a step or two in his direction, observing his motionlessness. The burning sensation in his arms and legs smothered his senses. He continued to tremble, unsure if it was due to fear or fatigue. He struggled to keep the red monster in view. His vision had become blurry. All he wanted to do was return to his slumber. It would have been easy to give in. To fall back asleep. To drift in the warmth of the infinite darkness. That was until an old memory flooded his mind. Loud and clear, the most familiar and recognizable voice rings within his mind.
STAY TUNED NEXT MONTH FOR CHAPTER TWO!
"How would I go about re-connecting with my child?"
Nothing brings people together like a little death. What I mean by that is: Go on a mission together. Being in danger together will strengthen that bond, more than words ever could!
"How does one prevent their... Darker side from taking over?"
It all depends on what brings you
peace. It's all about balance. Everyone copes differently, if you have to snuff a few lights to keep your sanity, well.. who's to stop you. Just remember be meticulous, or they'll find the skeletons in your closet!
"Though protocol is understandable, I believe too much of it could cause trouble.... so why can't the Soul Society change? The living world grows and evolves every day, yet we've remained the same for centuries. Why do we lie to the souls that arrive to the Soul Society and tell them they are going to a better place when really.. they aren't?
- Fox Knight
Another tough question from Fox Knight
. Soul Society is
changing, everything changes. The change might not be outright obvious, as some goals may take lifetimes to achieve through the arduous work of everyone that pitches in. If you don't see the change you want happening, then you have to be that change! For the second part of your question, I'm afraid this is all a matter of perspective. Some people have truly pitiful lives, in which they could only find solace through death, resulting in a slightly better life for them here in Soul Society.
"How does one stay in control?"
Depends on the situation. Blackmail is usually a really good method. Opens up a lot of doors with the right leverage. Although fear or outright violence tend to work just
as good. You can always try different methods and see which one works best for you. Determine what it is you want to remain control of, and see which option is going to be the one that works for you!
"When will you be returning to your duties?" - Captain Commander Shobatsu Murasaki
A great question, from a reader
that refused anonymity... Haha. Since I can't give you any related advice, here's something that's sure to come in handy one day!
“If you stare at something you dropped on the ground, eventually someone will pick it up for you.”
Thank you, monthly subscriber!
The Shinigami Women’s Association
is thankful for your donations and continuous support of the women in this line of work, as we protect and serve our home. A special edition calendar is in the making with all of your favorites and more. For further inquiries of the future calendar, all-girl's retreat to the World of the Living, and our holiday collection, find Lieutenant Yūgure or Head Lieutenant Oki and bring all the snacks you can carry. We hope to continue providing quality content and performances well done. We'll see you in the next edition of the SCC!
Walking the Empty Path.
By Tenzen Oda
The teachings I have implemented in my life over the centuries took time, diligence, and focus. What I learned could not be taught in one sitting or read from a single scripture, however, there are pieces of it that can be easily digested and passed along for those seeking to unclutter their mind and bring about a new level of focus. For this article, I shall present three
pieces of advice that are easy to understand and can slowly be implemented into your life. Let's begin with the first:
1. “Peace and harmony come from within. Do not seek it without.”
This was something I personally put a lot of focus into and to this day I continue to put it towards the forefront of the mind. It simply means to find peace and harmony within your own mind and soul, NOT
through external devices. Attempting to find peace and harmony through external, or in this sensitive material, means is pointless it gives you a brief joy and satisfaction that is finite. It is fine to enjoy such things but does not use them as your only viable source for peace, joy or harmony as they are merely a distraction as these three things exist within. I personally cannot tell anyone what brings them peace or joy that is an answer you must find for yourself and that is the very reason this piece of advice exists. Once you have found that answer then you will have followed through on this advice I have given.
2. “As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise, you will miss out on your life.”
Have you ever traveled to the other side of the Seireitei or anywhere in the Rukongai so lost in a daze and your own thoughts that you suddenly arrive at your destination with no clear memory of the trip? It is something happens in our daily lives and relates to more than just traveling, sitting down to eat a meal and it is gone before you know it forgetting to savor its taste. Placing yourself in a sort of mindless
ness state or autopilot will do this to you. In order to correct this one must practice mindfulness, "It's not about the destination but the journey" is what this advice boils down to. Live your life like it truly matters, take a moment to smell the air, take in the scenery on your travels, take a moment to enjoy the meal or drink you are having, be where you are at that moment. Such mindfulness can even be correlated to our daily duties as Shinigami as well. Do this and you find a sense of enjoyment you never knew you could feel, this is but a part of the key to discovering your own inner peace, harmony, and joy that was mentioned before.
3. “Don’t blindly believe what is said. Don’t believe in a thing because others convince you of its words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances. Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will lead to only delusion. Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real.”
This last piece of advice may sound confusing but in truth, it can be summed up quite simply: What I am teaching is not a matter of faith or authority. It is not something to just believe or disbelieve but rather is something to be tried, tested and discovered directly for each person. The way I discovered my peace may not be the way you discover yours, how you discover it is a process that you must try and test for yourself as it should be with all things in life. Take a sort of radical responsibility for yourselves and for your lives. Mindfulness is either known directly or not at all. It’s something each of us must experience first hand in order to know it. We in the Gotei 13 are soldiers, we are given orders, are expected to execute them without fail and this piece of advice can be taken the wrong way regarding that matter. This does not relate to our duties in any way but instead relates to ourselves as individuals who can be influenced by rumors and false information. This piece of advice can be controversial and confusing as I myself still struggle to follow through with all of it. However, I decided to present it as a way to open up a discussion among peers or perhaps open up a discussion with yourself as peace and harmony come from within it can be found through proper mindfulness so long as you forego blind believability, following, and deception. Through your own authority alone shall you find the answers you truly seek.
As complex as the three pieces of advice may seem at first careful studying can open up the simplicity that lies within them a simplicity that you must find for yourself. As stated before use this as a way to discuss with others or yourself and you may find the answers you seek sitting right in front of you all along. These are but building blocks for those seeking to clear up the haze or fog that blocks their path to peace and/or harmony use them however you wish.
P.S. Please do not send me letters or stop me in person to speak about this, you will be ignored.
For I have come up with a new concoction that will not only ensure a full head of healthy hair, but those strong and glossy follicles can be weaponized as well! Think of the endless possibilities, hair that will maintain optimal perfection and sheen with an added bonus of striking at whatever you apes deem a nuisance! Don't waste anymore of your invaluable time, come now!
I take no responsibility for whatever form you may unfortunately take upon utilizing my product, however I hold all rights to study and experiment your transformed body.
by the most secretive reporter in the entire soul society.
Alright! What's gooooood. This is yo boy, Unlucky Cat
! You might have several questions about this particular column. Well. As you may or may not know—I am big into the occult, horoscope and all, and absolutely excited to research more into the occults and share what I found. With enough comments that I should start a column in the SCC and I have a jo—er. Anyway. I figured I should since I enjoy sharing things about that particular topic! I am happy to hear that some of you had expressed similar interests in the occults and who wouldn't? After all, we are the proof
that Supernatural exists!
—How do I start
You might have a question about how you could sign up with us and receive a weekly gift from us for a subscription to Occult Cats! Well, don't worry. Just shoot a message to the said number; BSD-OccultCats and then you'll be prompted by a question that comes up after the call; such as your name, age, location, and even your number so that we can contact you when issues arise! Ah, don't worry about having your information being leaked! It'll be safe with us and protected by the greatest fighters of all!
You will get a free care package as a thank you for signing up with us!
The Care Package
1. A set of purifying rocks.
2. Several horoscope guides and notebooks, written by Unlucky Cat. (Will you find your true love in the afterlife? — What can I do to improve my luck? — What to do when you have an infestation of hollow in your fridge)
3. A special item that improves your luck.
And then afterward. You will be prompted by a text message, asking about what you'd like to receive in the next package, while you are subscribed to the Occult Cats, of course.
On the subscription, you will see more content from the account, OfficialOccultCats
. Just what will you see from that subscription? You will have access to the online database which contains information about folklores from the living world and more—As a bonus, you can read a weekly report, which would have been written personally by me for you all to read!
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Captain Kojima’s Poem of the Month!
Ring from the distance
The mirror is shattered
reveling thine inner self
though conquered in defeat
all are sent home
to face within
before you face Them