[BSD-RP] The Valley of Screams






Staff member


Rude Awakening


Returning to consciousness, the Drunkard is suddenly blinded by the shining rays of the high-desert sun, which blur the waking man’s vision. Crust still in the corner of his sleep-drenched eye, he cannot help but squint, raising his hand to block the sunlight and shadow his face. With a groan and a stretch, he lifts his torso from the dusty ground, sitting upright like a resurrected corpse. When had he entered a desert region? Last he recalled he was in the heart of the Rukongai, the nearest desert climate wasn’t for another sixty districts due east. There was no way he slept-walk that far, surely. Just what the hell happened last night?

Smacking his lips together, he looks around desperately for something to drink, the inside of his mouth as dry as this new foreign climate. Spotting the dried gourd at his side, a smile creeps across his face, his arm reaching out to grab it. His hand clasps around the drink, his thumb popping the rope-lined cork from the mouth piece, as it carries the refreshment to his cracked lips.


A cool drink of fermented fig liquor, to wash away this scalding heat, and return the ragged man to his senses. Something feels different, and not just these new surroundings. No, Suiyo was accustomed to waking up in strange and confusing places, with no memory of the night before. This was something else. There was something familiar and yet different about him, and he couldn’t quite place his finger on it.

Thinking diligently, he wipes the purple liquor from his chin, his hand flinging the droplets harmlessly through the air-


He had hands, and arms, and also fingers, plus two elbows and wrists which equals two fully functional limbs! When had this happened? When had he been healed? Who had healed him? He had two right??

At this point, he looks to his other, still motionless arm, only for his eye to widen at what he sees. There, in the palm of his hand, is the blackened spiritual steel of a finely crafted Zanpakuto. Mr. Mukizu Himself, sitting unscratched in the palm of his hand!


Yet, Suiyo’s squinting eye squints even further, nearly closing, as he notices something taped to the handle of his blade. It seems whoever returned his Zanpakuto, along with his arms, had left a little note. While it was common for Suiyo to wake up alone after falling asleep with company, leaving a love letter behind was certainly a rare occurrence.

“Good morning and good luck!
"P.S. Watch out for Nao!"

The hand scribbled note made little sense to Suiyo, but he chose to accept it full-heartedly. Obviously this person had helped him not only heal his arms, but retrieved his confiscated blade as well. Suddenly his new surroundings made more sense. Whoever this Kori person was had transported him to safety, away from the watchful eyes of the Gotei Thirteen! How nice of them, to wish him luck on his endeavor, it must have been some night. The red blush on his face grows deeper, as his smug smirk arcs even more intensely, attempted to recall the night before.

“Kori. Kori, Kori, Kori. Hmmm…”

Ah! That’s right! The well endowed Shiba girl! She had sought Suiyo out with some guy, a swordsman. He was talking to a gorgeous amazon woman when she barged in, drunk enough to be fun. The two had shared a drink, reconnected, ate some food, went on a walk. She wanted something though. Information on Mukizu…except, she gave the blade back to him. How’d she even get it from the Nark Wizard? Did she have that kind of sway with the higher ups of the Gotei Thirteen? Wait, no…it wasn’t information on Mukizu that she wanted, it was information on…him.

Though Suiyo stares at the blade with a killer intent, using the entirety of his mental capacity to process his lost memories, his subconscious remains well aware of its function. One hand grips the blade, while the other grips the gourd, raising it once more to his lips, as Suiyo drinks from it without even noticing its sudden reappearance.

“You ever thought about being a Captain?”

Ah. That was it. The moment things took a turn. The Shiba girl had watched Suiyo on the television, betting on his odds and losing, yet she remained determine to convince this rukongai bum to become a shinigami. At the time Suiyo couldn’t help but laugh, though he saw it as an opportunity. Taking one to know one, Suiyo knew that Kori couldn’t resist a good challenge. He proposed the two play a game. If Suiyo won, Mukizu would be returned to him, and if Kori won, he would test for Captaincy.

“Heh. Better luck next time kid.”

Suiyo remarks to himself, proudly dwelling in his victory. After all, the blade in his hand surely meant that he had won. Right? Suddenly, the very blade disappears from his grasp as though by magic. In truth, it is an expert sleight of hand, using the ring of the blade’s pommel, Suiyo’s ring finger spins the entire zanpakuto and releases it, causing it to fly up his sleeve and out of sight. With an imperceptible flick of his wrist in the next moment, a black-pipe suddenly manifests in place of his zanpakuto. Removing some herb stashed away in the sash of his belt, he loads the pipe, packing it with his thumb, before placing it to his lips. With a sudden spark and a sharp ringing, as though steel had collided with steel, the bowl of herbs is suddenly lit. Breathing in, smoke fills the Drunk’s lungs, while liqueur fills his throat, smoking with one hand and drinking with the other.


Enjoying the moment of peace, the cloud-dotted shining blue sky, the warmth of the sun, the silence of this valley, and solitude of the desert, Suiyo smiles contently. This certainly was one of his better mornings, things were really going his way today. Grateful for this peaceful awakening, his mind drifts once again to Kori, and his last known memory.

The two had played the same game Kori used to play as a child. Suiyo had attempted to win again in the first move by cheating, utilizing a secret technique that he had made up. Only, Kori had prepared her entire life for this moment, and quickly placed the Drunk in a chokehold maneuver. The only way to escape defeat, was to make up a second move, which seemed to be successful. Boasting of his victory, the Drunk had teased the woman rigorously, and yet his final memory, the final thing he had seen and heard was…

Looks like it’s a win win for me, Captain.”

After this, the Drunk Bastard had completely blacked out. Wait, how long ago was that? It would have taken some time to restore his arms. First, she didn’t have the necessary equipment on hand, she and his nurses would have had to bring him somewhere more medically-equipped. What’s more, he definitely isn’t in the Rukongai anymore, so just how far had they transported his unconscious body? In the past, Suiyo was known to sleep in for weeks, and was notoriously so unmoveable that he would be used as a landmark, or wake up to find a bridge or road constructed over him. Transporting him to this place would have been no easy feat. Then there was the matter of acquiring Mukizu from the Nark Wizard, who, though not all that bad, still didn’t seem all that relaxed either.

Win win. Good luck. The answer soon became obvious. Suiyo had entered a rigged match, Kori had won from the very start, before the game had even been played. Mukizu was indeed returned to the Swordsman, but only under a very specific condition. The condition that he tests for captaincy. Kori wanted him as her Captain, the Nark implored him to become a shinigami, and unknown to Suiyo, the Commander had taken an interest in him as well. It seemed that all of these shinigami had been of like mind, and using Mukizu as leverage, they succeeded in laying out the bait. They had done what no Seventh Division Shinigami could ever do, they had trapped the White Death.

Chuckling at the idea that he had just gotten played like a fiddle, Suiyo raises his gourd in a salute, acknowledging that he had been bested before drinking from it. Exhaling smoke, he sits there on the ground, staring up at the clouds which slowly pass him by, a new question entering his mind.

Just who the hell is Nao?



Nao Murakami

New member

Listen While You Read

Fate, indeed, always got her way.

Time and again the all-seeing mistress who reigned over outcomes – she who weaved the very crossroads to which paved the lives of the Souls under her rule – ensured Nao walked upon that destined path. In truth, the then Captain-hopeful had resigned the consequence of her examination in their near entirety, to Destiny. The actions taken and the subsequent blood spilled, all of it done knowing that sink or swim, life would go on.


There existed within her a drive to succeed, a fire endless and yearning to set the Rukongai ablaze…figuratively. The wish to see the world prosper, to look upon joyous smiles, to feel the very essence of life gravitate toward the good was intrinsic to her being, for deep down, she knew of the influence that the dark possessed. The ecosystem of the Soul Society predicated on the delicate balance between the Seireitei and the vast lands beyond its walls, for even a morsel of disruption would set initiatives back centuries, forcing the millions of Souls to suffer; it went without saying that the longer the issues festered, the more difficult their solutions became. The Mad Dog had seen to that personally.

Thankfully those who sat above the throngs recognized something during her examination – whatever that may have been – to accept Nao as their own, for the authority she sought in order to usher in her vision of the Seventh, now rested upon her shoulders; the white Haori, fitted to exact specifications much like her Shihakusho, danced to the tune of her gentle yet purposeful steps, Geta sandals clicking as she made her way to her new station. The former Captain’s Quarters were officially commandeered, effective immediately, the gears already set in motion. The Seventh, under her command, would rise up from its ashen grave, soaring up beyond the reach of the shameful obscurity it had once called home.

Mere steps from the large, inscribed doors denoting the Seventh Division Captain’s Quarters, an intense yet brief chill struck at her nerves, running down from head to tailbone; the experience best described as a simultaneous revulsion of body and mind, as segmented memories of her recent battle against Captain Yūgure assaulted her very being. In truth, Nao had been the one to march at the tune of hubris, underestimating the Swamp Queen and in turn, falling victim to a most revolting revelation: that not only did the Captain of the Ninth possess immense power, but the very manifestation of it, was truly and gut-wrenchingly, appalling.


The involuntary gag nearly filled her mouth with bile, yet she found the resolve to keep her recent meal down.

How the ordeal ended, and what transpired exactly, were but a distant haze; what she did remember, was waking groggily to the sound of an unfamiliar voice, a gentle woman who Nao inevitably came to know as the Lieutenant of the Fourth Division, Junko Izumi. Throughout her foggy rehabilitation, she’d caught glimpses of a beautiful, almost woman-like Soul with long iron-blue hair and a young blonde Shinigami wearing what she wanted to believe to be a white Haori; in her mind, the very Fabled Fairy himself. Once Nao pushed past the sense-altering aftereffects of her arduous recovery, it came to her attention that her attempt to escape the bubbling coffin of Captain Yūgure’s Zanpakutō failed, and that which she believed to have occurred, hadn’t. All four limbs were taken from her, and most disappointing of all, she’d been disarmed. But alas the boiling anger fizzled as it always did.

Fate had chosen her path while life manifested the once-in-a-lifetime experience as transcribed, and a philosopher couldn’t ask for more. Those who sought truth, once presented with it, would be forever unwilling to return to ignorance; for the initiated, failures were – as painful as it may be – merely opportunities for growth; case closed, lessons learned.

With a sigh, Nao forced the thoughts out and opened the doors to her new space, walking into an unlit expanse littered and unkept. Cobwebs strewn across the wooden ceiling, no crevice left unclaimed. The red-haired Captain peered at the mess she’d inherited, taking a deep breath-

In the distance of the long and isolated hall that led to her office came to life the familiar essence of one of the Seventh’s mainstays, the deafened sound of his quadrupedal gait growing louder as he neared. A warm smile took over as the joy within her bubbled to the surface.


She whipped about with eye closed and kneeled, arms wide in embrace; the large pup met her gesture in kind, tail wagging frantically. After a few pats and scratches, Nao finally opened her eye…to find something within Sajin’s mouth, bitten with extreme care. An envelope…with the First Division’s seal? To receive such correspondence so soon after her promotion could only be on matters of absolute import – only when she opened the missive did her world spin.



Proctoring a Captain’s Examination so soon?! Goodness, she’d JUST gotten back to her Division! Whatever minor bewilderment she experienced immediately dissipated at the reading of his name.

Suiyo Kusotare

Glimpses of his performance during the Kenpachi Games burst to the forefront of her mind. The Seireitei was home to the greatest swordsman in the Soul Society, many of whom adorned the halls of the venerable pantheon of Captains, each taking an aspect of Zanjutsu and making it their own; Captain Mukuro, a sword lethal and precise; Captain Hageshi, devastating and unrelenting; Captain Oda, quick and purposeful; all of them seasoned, the pinnacle of Shinigami existence.

Yet there existed a Soul, a mere Rukongai citizen, capable of matching the best that the Gotei could muster strike for strike. An anomaly that most would deny could ever exist, but Nao knew better; centuries in the Rukongai afforded her a suspension of disbelief that time and again came to be proven true. The Urban Legends that spread throughout the endless Districts were, more often than not, real.

Nao folded the letter neatly, slowly, deliberately. The close-lipped smile on her face had long dissolved, replaced with a toothy grin; a fire resolved within her green eye, one of someone who understood the implications of their hypotheses if they were to ring true.

The wide doors to her Quarters closed shut with a roar, purposeful strides resounding as she made her way to that damned place once again, Sajin following in tow.

Listen While You Read

When the presence of the Senkaimon finally rang, and the brimming maw of white opened…nothing came forth; no one to be seen, no one to be heard, no one to be felt.

Five meters from the resting swordsman erupted four walls of red-orange and teal flames, each four meters tall and wide, calligraphed to life in a single letter of kanji. The fire-born letters, to which seemed to thicken, covered the cardinal directions: one to his front, two to each side, and the fourth to his back. From within the flames of each kanji burst forth reinforced, thick, and sharpened gales fashioned to resemble the host from which they were birthed. A blink of an eye, and they would be upon him.


A simple question posed.

Simultaneous to their creation was the manifestation of four large fire-born phoenixes, five meters behind each letter; they rose twenty meters tall, their wings covering from ground to sky, spanning out in a circle encasing the drunk, the light show accompanied by a spiritual pressure that spoke of a killer’s intent that yearned to cut. In an instant the flames – letters and phoenixes alike – fizzled away, returning to the heat of the Valley. What came to view were four Naos in full regalia, Haori and the pristine overcoat of her own design, each one standing ten meters from the examinee, Umōmaru unsheathed in their hands, toothy, elated grins plastered on their faces. From the ashes of the fire-born phoenixes, they were born anew, their forms replaced with a red-orange Reiatsu.

I want to cut you…


…Rise from the ashes, Umōmaru…


…show me!

Were these words spoken, taken along as whispers to the gales seeking to mince the examinee’s life? Maybe they were thoughts communicated through intent alone? Questions to which Suiyo Kusotare would need to answer, if he were so able and inclined.

Nao looked upon the actions long set in motion, and although she would typically afford an opponent a quick respite before the commencement of a duel, she knew that this man, this seeming careless drunk, was as dangerous as they came. With the Senkaimon yet open in the backdrop, the gates riddled with confusion as to how to proceed, not even seconds passed. Mirages of feathers came and went, lost to the endless expanse of Screams. With four fire-lit eyes locked in, her grin grew ever larger.

“Show me.”
Last edited:


Staff member



Finally a Break


Suiyo’s quiet meditation continues on in this pristine sunny day, the warm valley climate, the beautiful views. Suddenly, four walls of multicolored flaming kanji erupt a mere five meters from the swordsman's every direction. Mesmerized by their wonderful hues, the drunk smiles at what he perceives to be a living canvas, a painting of fire and spirit. He only becomes further entranced by the simultaneous arrival of four massive constructs, each taking on the image of a mythical phoenix. The content smile and childlike bewilderment in his eyes, only confirms that his attention and focus have been successfully captured by the dramatic display. This would undoubtedly create a sense of assuredness in Nao as she delivers her deadly cuts. Yet, while Suiyo’s conscious thought was delighted to simply observe the display, his subconscious was not ignorant to the killing intent carried in the air.

As the letters of flame and phoenix creations manifested, so too did gales of wind, reinforced by a swordfighter’s edge. While they approached the seemingly oblivious drunkard, he does not appear to move nor notice their arrival. However, just as Nao’s movement had been imperceptible but to create a current of wind, so too would Suiyo deliberately do the same. As the gales of wind come within a meter of Suiyo, suddenly a burst of wind erupts from the drunk himself. Like a blast of force, each gust of wind was met with another of equal strength, reinforced, thickened, sharpened. A curious thing, given that the drunkard does not seem to have a sword in his hand, but simply his pipe.

Four cardinal directions, four great winds, four phoenixes, four messages, five meters out, ten meters out, the Captain’s organization created a strong sense of symbolism, but also predictability. Further, the killing intent behind her strikes makes them reek to the senses of any true swordsman, broadcasting their arrival before even their creation. Had Nao arrived early enough, she may have observed Suiyo hiding a blade up his sleeve. Why then had she not been able to observe him taking it back out?

"Ahhh, beautiful."

What’s more, witnessing this rebuke, Nao would note that Suiyo’s own strikes lack any killing intent, organization, or predictability. He was fighting completely instinctually, with no thought or intent behind his moves. This becomes equally apparent given that despite his own imperceptible movement, Suiyo does not seem to react to the attack, but instead remains blissfully transfixed on the art surrounding him. Burning brightly, the image of the phoenix and the kanji can still be seen through the cloud of smoke that now pollutes Suiyo’s vicinity. Untouching of the air around him, each inhale burns the ember at the end of his pipe as brightly as Nao’s constructs, while each exhale emits a sparkling cloud of silver smoke.

Smoke and Fire in the Valley

The dramatic display reaches its thematically appropriate conclusion, as the phoenix’s and kanji fizzle away, revealing the form of four identical women.

“You must be NaoO-


I want to cut you…


…Rise from the ashes, Umōmaru…


…show me!


The Speed Clones pass Suiyo by, carrying with them more deadly gales of wind meant to eviscerate the man. Yet once again, despite his relaxed demeanor, Suiyo is hardly caught off-guard. Just as the speed clones stood still, yet delivered such quick assaults that they could not be seen but simply felt, so too did Suiyo. While his image was sitting on the ground smoking, the clones would be surprised to find that Suiyo was primed in the perfect position to counter their strikes from each angle. Sitting there, he moved in a flurry, at these high-level speeds the vision of him remains a blur, as he leans forward, backward, sideways, each time in a position to dodge each strike. Yet, each strike delivered seems to ring true! With each swing of Nao’s sword, each partial message that she delivers, she would feel contact upon her blade. This force was not Suiyo’s body, but rather his very own blade. The ebony metal of a meter long katana outstretched in his blurred hand, purposefully slowed to match the speed of the clone’s strikes.

The Captain’s strikes would not be blocked, or negated, simply deflected. Suiyo’s blade remained firm in perfect position for each strike, so that the angle of the blade would cause Nao’s own strikes to slide down its length rather than collide directly against it head-on. Suiyo ensured that the momentum behind each of Nao’s cuts was simply redirected, never diminished. This means that the speed clones movements were never interrupted, that their strikes could flow as they had meant to, without the true Nao ever being impeded. Yet it also meant that each of Nao's strikes had just been launched into seemingly random directions.

That is, until a series of explosions suddenly detonate around the battlefield. Mirages of feathers came and went. Activated by the release of the Captain’s shikai, these feathers were spawned from her blade as it swung through the smoke filled air. Though Suiyo remains too distracted by the beauty of his opponent to note the Shikai and its function, he is instinctually aware of the threat that comes with anything spawned from a Zanpakuto, and the name Umōmaru was not lost to him. As such, the movement of his blade to parry the speed clone’s gales, as well as the redirection of the gale-strikes themselves, were deliberately aimed at these strange feathers. Possessing their own traces of the Captain's spiritual power, the location of the feathers was easily sensed. Additionally, having to follow the trajectory of the blade in their creation made the feathers easy to predict before they even formed, not unlike Nao’s cuts themselves.

While Suiyo and his blade danced about in a sphere around him to counter the imperceptible strikes of the Captain assailant, the two had been working in tandem to sever each feather that spawned. The contact provided by slicing each of them in half would serve to trigger their detonation pre-maturely, something Suiyo was unaware of given that he was simply trying to remove them as a threat. Yet any fiery blast that they emit, which may come within the drunk swordsman’s vicinity, finds itself redirected in a similar manner. Sucked away by the vacuum-velocity of his own sword swings, not unlike how he had countered the Kido chief's own explosive kido. Instead, much like the Captain’s entrance, the fiery feathers serve only to add an element of drama to this situation. The white of Nao’s teeth, revealed by her devilish grin, reflects the same explosive energy of her eyes. There is heat in the air, excitement in the atmosphere, as the two grin at one another.

“Show me.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice.”

Immediately Suiyo begins unraveling the sash around his waist, his ebony blade stabbed into the ground next to him, so as to free both his hands. Stolen from the corpse of a shinigami, ruined by the Kenpachi Games and bumming it around the Rukongai, the Drunk’s uniform is standard to any shinigami. With no scabbard or tucked blade, the sash can only serve one other important purpose so far as the Captain could deduce: to hold together the folds of his Shihakusho. A purpose which is quickly being undone, as his drunken fingers clumsily yet diligently work to untie the knot holding it all together. It seems that in his inebriated state, the old man believed that Nao was coming onto him, and he intended to show her exactly what she wanted to see.


Nao Murakami

New member

Listen While You Read

It would be an understatement to proclaim that an unbearable excitement grew within Nao, for her actions taken in the tiny window of time since the examination’s commencement spoke volumes. Why was she so elated? Well, it wasn’t every day that one got to witness a storied legend come to life, let alone be given free reign to test the validity of the legacy as told.

The Captain’s Examination was a process steeped in millenia-old tradition, where aspiring candidates – much like herself but a fortnight ago – came to etch their names into the annals of history. A heritage reaching as far back to a time even before the founding of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads, where strength alone decided who ruled and who obeyed; like a diluted secret handed down from generation to generation, the iteration of old would be unrecognizable to that which existed in the present, though one aspect surely remained unchanged: there permeated a sense of gravitas, an edge to the ordeal as sharp as any blade, internalized by those who took the leap into the proverbial arena, their trepidations externalized in turn to the sensibilities of those attuned…and yet, before Nao lounged a Soul unburdened. Although most would deem such behavior unappealing, in truth, it was somewhat…endearing! It didn’t bother Nao one bit for in the end, what mattered to her was whether this old goofy-looking, gray-haired, wrinkly Soul went by a certain several monikers.

Centuries spent upturning the endless rocks of the Rukongai, searching, investigating, apprehending, building, supporting…and killing, in the far reaches of the Soul Society bestowed upon the Captain an eclectic and deep cache of experiences with those who called the dregs home; among them were coincidentally endless interactions with hooligans much like the disheveled man in her presence…yet Suiyo Kusotare stood out like a sore thumb, in more ways than one. The Kenpachi Games were a spectacle that, thanks to this single individual, would echo ripples of unrest throughout the Rukongai. An ancient and characteristically careless drunk rose from the slums to challenge the greatest warriors of the Seireitei, and in doing so, emboldened those whose desires were nothing more than to cut the legs that held up the Soul Society to then watch it crumble. In this single endeavor, Suiyo Kusotare had inadvertently added yet another nickname to his already long list…

…although such thoughts were mere conjectures based on the pieces gathered over hundreds of years. The Urban Legends of the White Death spread throughout the Districts, tales told from the mouths of young and old, the Saint described alongside his legacies in such consistent manner so as to seem nothing more than a hoax concocted by a white-haired Rukongai delinquent hoping to garner a reputation that would surely never precede him. To the newly-appointed Captain, however, the puzzle had all but been put together. A myriad of factors came together to paint such an obvious picture, from the swordsmanship displayed during his bout against Captain's Kyomu and Oda, to the myriad of stories, poems, epics, and plays written to deify a Soul and his feats in order to bring hope to a people long lost in despair. Even the deceased Captain Asakura’s near journalistic obsession with the legend, whose untimely demise coincided with the drunk's timely debut, spelled yet another fact that pushed Nao’s hypothesis toward an unequivocal truth, one that continued to fan the flames of excitement within her more and more!!

Her theory: that Suiyo Kusotare, bum and drunk extraordinaire, carried with him the titles as forever inscribed; the Sword Saint, the Drunken Demon, the White Death, the Immortal. A white-haired myth who existed both everywhere and nowhere, and ultimately, who had in a twist of irony found himself before the very being who made the creatures of Soul Society’s folklore permanently disappear. A philosopher at heart, Nao’s drive to understand the world by way of seeking absolute truth, alongside her powerful urge to cut down those who would get in her way, came together to create an exceedingly enjoyable guilty pleasure: to learn of and subsequently oust the truth behind the endless myths told throughout all of the Rukongai. Fortunately for the White Death, the circumstances surrounding their introduction would preclude her from crossing his name off her list. Fate, as she always did, worked in agonizingly incomprehensible ways.

A scrutinous attention had been payed to the battle between the Demon Drunk and the two Captains heralded as the deadliest of the Seireitei; his every movement, every swing of his sword, every attempt at forcing the world to bend at his blade, all of it seen, recorded, and analyzed by a master swordsman’s mind. Such that when the White Death’s nearly imperceptible flash of swordsman brilliance came to be, Nao observed with glee much like a Soul would at finally laying witness to a childhood hero brought to life. Even though uncommon, his Drunken Master style of Zanjutsu rang familiar; centuries in pursuit of mastery over the sword forced her both through the scholarly and the practical, to touch upon all known disciplines. Hallmarked by deceptive unpredictability, a Drunken blade would typically forego other facets intrinsically, for its foundation was based on instinct – a fact displayed by the Captain-hopeful and yet, his bladework seemed to be devoid of any imperfections. Truly a magnificent display, and without question, in the face of an unseasoned practitioner, one that would strike fear. But for Nao – a master of the craft herself – his movements, those steeped within the boundaries of Zanjutsu, would not fall beyond her comprehension. Likewise, it would come as no surprise that the man known as the Sword Saint would be capable of discerning the bladework of a fellow Zanjutsu master.


Nao boasted absolute mastery over several disciplines, two of them of critical importance within the context of this particular encounter.

In a battle between spiritual beings of near equal merit in swordsmanship, there stood nothing of greater import than Shunpo, Reiatsu, and in extension, Reikaku. With the tendency for bouts to bend the elements and even at times the fabric of reality itself, the physical senses often conceded to the spiritual. Unbeknownst to most, Reikaku relied primarily on instinct, and thus it fell susceptible to misdirection; for a being capable of utilizing their Reiatsu absolutely, the manipulation of others' senses came as easy as breathing. A principle taught in the Shino Academy, albeit at a rudimentary level, was to leave a spiritual trace behind that would speak falsehoods to the sensibilities of the fooled…but such manipulations alone would render unsuccessful, for the physical and the spiritual lived in tandem. Where one faltered, the other took over, such that a master capable of forcing their Reiatsu to listen, would find it worthless without incorporating other disciplines alongside. Nao possessed an uncanny dominion over Zanjutsu and Shunpo, their masterful interweaving with the manipulation of Reiatsu, birthed a devastating and complimentary arsenal, one that she had already employed against the White Death; in essence, the Demon Drunk as observed, held little expertise in the art of distanced high-speed movement, coupled with his complete reliance upon honed instinct, made it so that what he believed to perceive physically and spiritually, was at the very whim of his proctor.

The manner in which he responded, his unorthodox movements, his breathing, his demeanor, the spiritual energy pouring from his pores, it all spoke of someone relinquished to instinct, and ripe for exploitation. Perception lay on a delicate balance, and Nao concluded that true unpredictability came from an equal measure of design and instinct; the balance tipped too far in either direction would work to hinder rather than help, her examinee a prime example. A lesser combatant would find the Saint’s seemingly instantaneous rebuttals impossible to overcome…and yet, a purposeful employment of Reiatsu would call the Saint’s blade at her behest. The course in which their confrontation proceeded only worked to support her assessment: that when an opponent’s existence relied heavily upon the instinctual, an intentioned tug of the spiritual would make the seemingly unpredictable, ever so apparently predictable.

Even so, she remained ever alert…

Listen While You Read


The winds that erupted from the fire-born Kanji were formations shaped to resemble the host, the letter, from which they were born, and not the source, Nao, who had created them. A peculiar thing to attempt to impersonate an unknown threat so nonchalantly – mimicry is an artless form of flattery couldn’t have been a more appropriate description. The Kanji-shaped winds were stabilized with a simultaneous infusion of condensed Reishi and sharpened Reiatsu, bestowing the pressurized air with a fortified and tangible foundation that would eat through the sturdiest defenses like a hot knife through butter. Most crucial however, was the manner in which they were manifested. A thousand iterations of the same cut as physically cued by the thickening of a fire to which she held little command over, and a melding of masterful Zanjutsu and Shodō, would produce a deadly wind formation with an equal density of layers. Each sheet of the kanji came to life so thin, with such precise execution, that as evidenced from the White Death’s response, its intricacies would be imperceptible to the most inquisitive eye, lined up so closely together so as to be perceived to be a single measure of thickness; even if he had somehow ventured to form an inverse copy of her assault, one microscopic imperfection and it would give in without a whimper. Nao never expected the Whtie Devil, a Soul who spent a thousand lifetimes wandering the slums of the Soul Society, to understand the complexities of calligraphy, let alone be a master of such…and yet, something within her wondered…if maybe she would be proven wrong. Even when her kanji winds collided with his attempted counter, and they stood firm against the blanket force, the thought plagued her mind…

…the loose strength of the wind he produced met the first layer of hers, and then the second, and then the third, until they came across the fifth, and the eighth, and then they simply gave in. Like any of the natural elements when faced against greater impetus, the path of least resistance was always taken; to the extent that the small gaps apparent within the kanji, would function as a valve for pressure release, persuading the brunt force of his winds to flow past in between the slits until they deflated and returned to the command of nature. This meant that there remained somewhere in the range of nine-hundred and ninety-two layers of sharpened letter-shaped winds assaulting him from each cardinal direction, that swept through his existence without a semblance of resistance. Furthermore, each layer of these gales cut through him at intervals separated by fractions of a second, from four distinct directions, in the end mincing him into an unrecognizable red mist…and yet his physical existence lingered, for a time.

The only explanation that Nao could muster as to why Mr. Kusotare followed his failed rebuke with the ever so clear swinging of his ebony blade, was that he miscalculated to recognize the scheme she’d orchestrated, for no other gales were birthed beyond the intital four. The speed-clones he sought to defend against, never existed in the manner he presumed, for the only manifestation of Nao’s physical presence remained as the four pristine versions standing ten meters away, all smiling at him gleefully; ultimately, all that he believed to occur – the attacking clones, the meeting of blades, the sensations, the smells, the sights, the detonation of feathers – never did.

And even if Umōmaru’s feathers had assaulted him as he perceived, he would find their dismemberment by his blade a futile endeavor, one that he would attempt ad infinitum until the end of his days. Like her Zanpakutō, the feathers created from it were equally under her control, every last one of them an extension of her very being; she could experience the world through them, feel that which existed around them, able to manipulate them at a whim, all of them simultaneously or just one, as if they were her own limbs. Surely the White Death had already noticed their existence…but again, was he so sure that what he saw and felt was the real deal? On top of all, these feathers, Nao’s very lifeblood, could match the imperceptible speed of their master, making no noise, disturbing no elements. Such that the signatures to which the white-haired devil followed, were simply traces left behind in their constant and indiscernible wake – the fact of the matter was, that Mr. Kusotare had no idea where they were, and to what extent they littered the battlefield save for a blanket conceptualization of their leftover signatures.

Speaking of Zanpakutō, that black-steeled blade within his grasp went noticed, so too the intriguing sleight of hand, for a master of the spiritual senses could differentiate a Zanpakutō from a simple sword; the similarities between the pipe in his hand, the peculiar spiritually-laced silver smoke he exhaled with every whif, and the sword itself were placed under diligent consideration; although she knew little of his weapon, she of all knew the power they held within.

Not even seconds passed since her arrival to the Valley, their immediate surroundings finally cleared of the smoke born of her accord, the red-hot sun high in the blistering blue skies finally returned to view. The landscape had been left reeling from the devastation wrought by her previous encounter with Captain Yugure, the earth cratered deep, barren of boulders and pillars for miles on end, rocks displaced in the far distance. Yet, if one were truly perceptive and were to stare long enough, they would come to realize that something was off…a nearly imperceptible layer of reality that made it seem as if the world itself was spinning.

When his impressive dance of the blade finally came to an end, the foreseen ebony sword stabbed into the ground and obscene declaration made, she wondered what a sight it would be to glimpse such a weapon covered in glistening feathers, a fleeting thought that gave way to the only response he got out of the four Nao’s: a light chuckle and an-

“Oh dear…”

Again, she continued unbothered by his antics, finding them strangely comical…with what was about to transpire. The effects of the thousand winds that had already passed through him finally caught up with reality, and as he sought to present her with a most welcomed show, tiny red-orange lines drew simultaneously across his entire body from head to toe, replacing his wrinkled skin, red eye, white-hair, dirtied Shihakusho, straw sandals, bones, ligaments, organs, blood, all of it taken over inside and out by a foretelling hue.

If the White Death could somehow still sense the spiritual, he would come to detect four equal and razer-sharp intent-laden signatures of Nao at his immediate front, sides, and back, each one outlined in a double-layered glow, one of red and beneath it, of orange; a blade’s edge equally outlined swung down from the front, back to front from one flank, front to back from the other, and a final cut from the back in the inverse of its opposite direction, seeking to simultaneously sever him from head to groin, his midsection twice over, and from groin to scalp, respectively, followed by a sudden blinding flash of intense red-orange light that consumed the legend. The assault yet to be would connect just as the one that had already struck reduced Suiyo to specs of blood.


If he could still see the physical, he would lay witness to the four surrounding Naos unmoved, their grins lightened with a touch of curiosity, flashes of red-orange streaks arcing all about them, their immaculately controlled Reiatsu still erect in the shape of the large Phoenixes, wingspans still connecting form earth to sky to encircle their examinee…and in their gentle yet powerful grips, rested Umōmaru, the blade pulsating with red-orange spiritual energy.

Had she gone too far? With the orders to not kill during a Captain’s Examination everclear, the thought crossed her mind…until she recalled one of the Captain-hopefuls many titles: the Immortal. She wished to witness firsthand why he was known as such, and therefore, the phrase that she’d let loose some time ago finally whispered about him…if he could still hear.

…Hado #78: Zangerin…