Ning Rong Rong felt like her joints had turned to stone. As it turned out while the Old Bear had plenty of rooms, he didn't actually pay too much attention to furniture. Rather than having beds, there were large mounds of moulted furs and reptile skins. The stuff wasn't clean, was crawling with bugs. So, while it was better than the stone floor, it wasn't the kind of thing that helped one after a long day's march through a temperate forest.
Breakfast was made up of some of the rations that the group had brought with them in the cause of an emergency. It tasted like dry rice mixed with wallpaper paste, but it fulfilled its purpose so the young lady wasn't about to complain. Even if she would normally throw a fit about such conditions, she wouldn't now. Even if most of the other children, who were older than her by an average of six years, were whimpering and crying, she wouldn't. A good support doesn't complain in a bad situation, they support. She needed to help keep moral up, not drag it down. Her father wouldn't have complained one bit, so she wouldn't either.
Even if her father never claimed the title of the best support class Spirit Master in the world, he was. Everyone knew it. He had the best skills, the most powerful spirit abilities, the greatest intelligence, and maybe the most important thing of all for a support to have, he had the strongest teammates.
Rong Rong couldn't help but look at Ichi Guo and Xiao Ru (Rukia) and think that they would someday be seen as the best of the generation. Ichi Guo was already in the realm of the Spirit Elders and was capable of killing ten thousand year old spirit beast by himself, even though he was only eleven. Not to mention how his ability to take in spirit rings seemed to defy the normal limits.
His sister was rank eighteen, when she was barely nine years old, and had a hidden gem based power that made Rong Rong's spine tingle. Rong Rong had no idea how strong the little girl was, but from what she had learned from talking to ber, Xiao Ru had been trained by her brother to use several different self-made skills, that is to say, skills that didn't depend on a spirit ring.
The two siblings had more raw talent than anyone in Seven Treasures Clan, even more than she herself had, and they were simply flouting free, unconnected to any clan. If she wanted to be the best support and follow in her father's foot steps, she would need to be partnered up with people like them.
She would ask her father to bring them into the clan. Surely he would be willing to give the offer, especially after they had helped the clan so much during this mess. He probably would have offered them something of the sort even if they hadn't been as talented as they were.
If they accepted, then she would someday have the best young team her clan had ever seen. One that might someday even surprise her father alongside her two uncles. Even if Ichi Guo and Xiao Ru's social skills left something to be wanted, she could help iron that out. And even if that turned out to be an impossible task, dealing with it would be a small price to pay to have that kind of power.
Rong Rong had decided, if possible, she would make those two part of her future team. The only question was whether or not they would join her.
No, they had to join her. She would give them whatever she needed to in order to insure that they would join her clan and be a part of her future team.
The Old Bear saw them all out, telling them to 'never come back' and to 'go fuck yourselves'. After leaving the bad tempered Spirit DouLuo's lair, the party seemed to cheer up quick a bit. The older members of the clan started trying to take charge again, setting up scouting schedules and talking about tracking down the last few spirit halos the group needed.
They were quickly put back in their place by Ichi Guo, as the eleven year old boy explain to them how stupid their ideas were and how they should all just shut up and follow him and his sister as they led them out of the forest.
Completely humiliated, but seeing the lack of reason involved in scouting when the siblings could sense any nearby presence, and the dangers involved in fighting spirit beasts that could attract the attention of another dragon, the elders just sunk their heads and preceeded to follow the two children.
The pace they set wasn't horribly slow, but it wasn't as fast as some people would like. With a still injured Lin Qi requiring a stretcher, they couldn't move quickly. They were just glad that his life wasn't in any danger any more. Whatever Ichi Guo and the Old Bear had given to him, it did the trick with combating the poison.
Several times while they were walking, Ichi Guo would split away from the party for a few minutes before coming back again. During one of these times, Chen Yan moved forward to talk to Rukia. "Where does your brother keep running off to?" She asked the little girl.
"No where really. He's just using himself as bait to lure away spirit monsters that are blocking our path." Rukia explained, seeming completely unconcerned by it.
"Isn't that dangerous?" Chen Yan said, giving a small frown. Every spirit master was told to always go in groups when dealing with Spirit Beasts, to avoid being taken by surprise.
"Hmph, like of these things could actually catch Ichi-nii." Rukia scoffed. "Even if one of them was fast enough to keep up with him, he'd just kill it."
Chen Yan's mouth twitched into a smile seeing the girl's confidence in her brother. Then again, it wasn't confidence without reason. "Just how strong is Ichi Guo?" Chen Yan asked the girl.
"Hm... hard to say." Rukia said, looking up at the trees. "I've never seen anyone beat my brother in a fight. He's pretty fast and he knows a lot about fighting. Plus, with Zangetsu, he can cut through pretty much anything. There aren't that many things in this forest that could stand up to him in a fight. The Old Bear could, but that's just by throwing so much shit around with his spirit abilities that my brother can't get near him. If it was a fight without any spirit rings abilities, my brother would definitely have the advantage."
That was quite the boast, saying that the boy would be able to beat a Spirit DouLuo's in a match of raw power and skill, even if said Spirit DouLuo was a blind old man. Chen Yan was sure that it was just the boast of a nieve child who didn't know any better. Someone who was only rank 32 couldn't even stand in the presence of a Spirit DouLuo's full power, the spiritual pressure would be too much for them. There was no way that Ichi Guo could fight one... could he?
Something about Ichi Guo reminded her of her grandfather and some of the other elders of the Seven Kills Sword. Members who had surpassed rank seventy. She felt like her Seven Kills Sword spirit was trying to tell her something whenever he was nearby. It felt like a shiver of anticipation. If only she could make out its voice.
Unlike most tool type essence spirits, the Seven Kills Sword was known for having a will of its own. Elders of the clan who had reached the level in which they could produce the sword's avatar form possessed the ability to speak with their spirit in order to improve their training. The sword would tell them what they needed to do to get stronger. It was one of the advantages they held over other top tier tool type essence spirits.
"What is... Zangeto?" Chen Yan asked.
"Zangetsu. It's the name of my brother's tool type essence spirit, the one he always has on his back. He can sharpen it using his spiritual power until it can cut through spirit guards." Rukia explained, as if it was no big deal. She didn't even notice when Chen Yan stopped in her tracks.
Tool type essence spirit. That black metal sword the size of a full grown man that the boy casually cared around on his back was an essence spirit. An essence spirit with the power to cut through spirit guards. One of the skills that the Seven Kills Sword was famous for. It was the reason why all their clan members learned sword art skills on top of the normal Spirit Master training.
In a normal fight between Spirit Masters the one with the high rank will almost always win due to their spirit guard being too strong for the enemy to break through to damage them. However, the Seven Kills Sword could theoretically cut through and kill anyone regardless of rank, so long as they could get close enough. It was why most people feared the Seven Kills Sword. In a normal fight, the spirit guard protects the Spirit Master from death, leaving them only heavily injured, which made death improbably. However, in a fight against a Seven Kills Sword wielder using this skill, death isn't just possible, it is the most likely outcome.
Ichi Guo's sword was single edged, large, bulky, and not at all beautiful when compared to the Seven Kills Swords' polished crystal blades. But if you took a step back and looked at it from a purely functional stand point, it was a lot like the Seven Kills Sword. Both were long blades with no guard and the ability to gather up large quantities of spiritual power to be used to cut an enemy or shot as an energy wave. It was almost as if it was a mutated version of the Seven Kills Sword; a variant spirit. Even the way he was carrying it around while out of combat wasn't uncommon in the clan, being popularized by the pervious elder, Chen Yan's great grandfather.
No, that couldn't be right, she had seen his essence spirit, it was the Seven Hells Bone Demon... or at least, it was something a lot like it. Looking back, the coloring wasn't quite right. The Seven Hells Bone Demon's skeletal real guard was more black with only markings of red and white, while Ichi Guo's mask seemed to be the reverse of that, being white with red and black markings. Either way, it was definitely a beast type essence spirit, so the sword couldn't be an essence spirit.
Unless he had twin spirits.
It wasn't impossible, or even that unlikely. The Seven Hells Bone Demon Clan and the Seven Kills Sword Clan were both closely involved with one and other. Marriages between them weren't even uncommon. How unlikely was it that a loose descendent could have been born with both spirits present in a mutated form? Twin spirits was already a form of mutation that allowed for both spirits to be present at the same time, such things often caused the essence of one to leak into the other.
But then, why didn't his sister have either spirit and instead possess chains? Maybe they weren't really related. It would explain how come they look so different and how their names didn't match. Actually, both of them had very strange names.
"Sister Yan, is something the matter?" Rong Rong asked, seeing how Chen Yan froze up.
"N...no. It's nothing." Chen Yan said before pushing herself forward to catch up to Rukia. Rong Rong raised an eyebrow and joined her. "Xiao Ru, could I ask you something?"
"I never understood, is it a rhetorical question when people ask that, or are they serous? How am I supposed to know if the question is alright before I have heard the question?" Rukia said, tilting her head. She didn't know if she liked them calling her Xiao Ru or not. On one hand it was the first nickname given to her by other girls and people near to her own age, but on the other hand it felt really childish pet name.
"I was just wondering who you and Ichi Guo's parents are?" Chen Yan asked. Rukia's face immediately soured. "I... I'm sorry. I didn't realize it was..."
"Our mother was a useless whore and 'my' father was a drunk coward." Rukia said. "My brother and I have been living on our own for the last four years."
"I didn't know it was a touchy subject." Chen Yan said, wincing at Rukia's reaction to her innocent question. Rong Rong also covered her mouth to stop herself from gasping at the things Rukia had said about her parents.
"It's not a touchy subject, I just hated my parents. It's not like it's secret." Rukia said, quickly denying that she felt any conflictions about her parents. "Why did you ask anyways?"
"I... just wanted to know if it was possible for Ichi Guo's parents to have been related to the Seven Treasure Clan's sect in some way." Chen Yan admitted, feeling like it hardly mattered anymore. "Your brother's spirits bare some resemblance to those of two of the sect's key families. So... I was just wondering if it was possible."
"I don't know." Rukia said with a shrug. "My brother and I are half siblings. No one knew who my brother's father was. Our mother was a whore, so it could have been any number of men who passed through the village. He never seemed to care about who did the deed."
The two higher class ladies shifted uncomfortably, not really sure what to say. Chen Yan regretted ever bringing the subject up. What would it have mattered if Ichi Guo had really been related to her in some way. They had their own lives, lives that had nothing to do with her clan and were none of her business.
Ichi Guo returned soon after, making things even more awkward. Chen Yan kept trying to sneak glances at him while he wasn't looking. Even if she felt guilty about digging up bad memories for Xiao Ru, she couldn't help but try to see the things that the boy might have inherited from a Seven Kills Sword father. The only thing stuck out was his sharp golden eyes. Eyes that were so much like her grandfather's, maybe even more like his than even Chen Yan's own. It wasn't just the color. There was some property that she couldn't name that was held in those eyes.
The forest was starting to become less dense and Ichi Guo's excursions away from the group were becoming fewer and shorter. However, the sun was already getting low and shadows growing long, making the Spirit Masters anxious about having to sleep outside through out the night, exposed to the creatures of the forest.
"Ichi-nii. We should probably look for somewhere to set up camp for the night." Rukia said, glancing over at her brother.
"Yeah. I was hoping we would be able to get out of here before night fall, but I guess it can't be helped." Ichi Guo said with a sigh, looking back over the group. "Alright everyone, we're going to be..."
Ichi Guo stopped mid sentence, pulled the giant sword off his back and spun around, shifting quickly into a stance. Rukia summoned up her chains and stared in the same direction as the boy while Yoruichi started to let out a low growl, the hairs on her back rising.
At first the members of the Seven Treasures Clan were all frightened, believing that a monster was moving quickly towards them. But then they all started to notices something, a small black fluid flouting in the air, quickly growing larger. It spun like a whirlpool, flattening out until it was as wide as a full grown man but as thick as a coin. Then, out of the black goo came the head of a man.
The man looked around at them and a large smile spread over his face. "Found them!"
His entire body erupted from the pool as he stood on it, suspended sideways in the air, as if gravity didn't mean anything to him.
Within the blink of an eye, the edge of Ichi Guo's blade was resting at the man's neck. "Who the hell are you?" Ichi Guo growled, planting his feet and preparing for a fight. His sixth sense was going out of control.
The man turned his head in Ichi Guo's direction, though his eyes remained closed. Rather than being concerned about the blade at his neck, he looked pleasantly surprise. His over all expression coupled with the way that the man was standing sideways in midair reminded Ichi Guo of Gin, and considering how unpredictable that man was, it wasn't a good sign. While Gin hadn't really been the villain they all thought he was, he was still a guy you didn't want to meet in a dark forest close to night.
The man had short well kept black hair held up with a bronze circlet and an extremely pale complexion. His black robes with bronze metal platings shrouded his entire body save for his hands which were covered in bronze claws made to look like a skeleton's fingers with strange rings. "Oh my, how many years has it been since someone has pointed a blade at my throat." The man said with a chuckle, lifting up one hand and grabbed the end of Zangetsu, slowly pushing it back.
Ichi Guo struggled to maintain his stance, but the man was simply too strong. He was being pushed back, the dirt behind his feet giving way as he tried to keep his footing, and this guy wasn't even trying.
The man's face kept the pleasant expression as he looked from Ichi Guo to where the sword's edge met his metal covered fingers. His smile seemed to widen even more as he saw the metal of his claw being cut by the blade, a small drop of blood coming from a thin cut across his palm. "Well aren't you a treat." He said, looking down at Ichi Guo, his eyes cracking open slightly to show dark red eyes.
"Uncle Guo!" Ning Rong Rong cried out, getting both the man and Ichi Guo's attention.
"Xiao Rong Rong!" The man cheered, moving fast enough to rip the air as he disengaged from Ichi Guo and flew across the clearing to the small girl before immediately pulling her up off the ground in a hug. "Oh! We were so worried when you didn't come back! You should have seen how your father and I threated over you Xiao Rong Rong!"
"Uncle! Let me down! Let me down right now or I'll get angry!" Rong Rong said as she struggled in vain to get out of the black haired man's grip even as her companions dropped to their knees before the man in a show of respect, or possibly fear. The empty threat from the tiny girl seemed comical in the wake of the insane power flowing from the man.
"Not a chance, I'm never letting go of you again!" The man cried, pressing his cheek to the girl's head. "I am going to stick to you like glue!"
"I know you were worried Uncle, but how do you expect our little princess to grow up if you never let her stand on her own?" Said another man who walked out from the dark portal.
This person didn't radiate as much power as the first man did, but he still caught Ichi Guo off guard all the same. It was mostly because of his appearance. The man looked almost exactly like Uryu, that is, if the Quincy had taken up pimping as a profession, and if the tight ass ever gave an honest smile.
His wore a white suit with a purple undershirt and tie that matched his thin body and added to the rich, high class look. His face was framed by the bangs from his short raven hair and a pair of glasses. With his smiling face, he looked like a man who was in control of everything. The kind of man that people would flock around because of his boundless charisma. However, the large white overcoat draped over his shoulders, with purple gem buttons and white fur trim, as well as the cane sporting a purple stone the size of young Ichi Guo's whole fist, made the man look like a pimp.
Ichi Guo was having a hard time deciding whether a pimp Uryu was disturbing or funny.
"Papa!" Rong Rong shouted as she was finally freed from the Black-Haired-Gin's death hug, only for her to run straight at Pimp-Uryu and throw her arms around him in a hug. Somewhere in the back of Ichi Guo's mind, he had to dismiss the thought of whether this was really Rong Rong's father, or her pimp daddy. Though there was zero family resemblance, he was defiantly her real father, that fact became clear almost immediately.
Rong Rong's built up stress was released and she started to cry into her father's chest. The man adopted a sad face as he gently pat his daughter's back. "What wrong Rong Rong? Are you alright?"
"...Rong Rong is alright papa... She wasn't scared at all... No, Rong Rong was brave, like papa." The little noble girl said between sniffles. She switched to talking in the third person, which was considered a very child like manner, one fitting of a ten year old girl who had nearly lost her life and been forced by circumstance to blindly rely on ill-tempered and unusual strangers like Ichi Guo and the Old Bear. She had hid it well up to this point, but with safety at hand along with her father, the act fell to pieces.
Ichi Guo started to lower his sword, seeing that there was no real threat from these people, strong as they were. But his sword hand's grip became even tighter as a third presence, just as powerful as the first emerged from the black vortex.
"Grandfather!" This time it was Chen Yan shouting, though she didn't run up to hug the man who now stood in front of the group. Not that he looked like the huggie type.
He was a giant of a man, standing nearly two and a half meters tall. His long white hair reached down past his waist and his golden eyes looked out without any sign of emotion from beneath their half closed lids. His dress was a white tunic with black and gold finishings and a white and gold cape. The man had a noble air about him.
No, more than just noble. Noble was not a strong enough word. Perfection. Otherworldliness. Something as distant and untouchable as the moon. An aura that Ichi Guo found very familiar.
"Byakuya." Ichi Guo mumbled, not that anyone heard him or would have understood.
Everything from the man's half lidded eyes and disinterested fascial expressions, down to the way he held himself and his massive power reminded Ichi Guo of Captain Kuchiki. Even the white cape he wore over his shoulders seemed similar to the Captain's coat.
"Grandfather, forgive me. I failed in my duties to protect Lady Rong Rong. I have disgraced the Seven Kills Sword Clan." Yan said, bowing her head to the white haired man.
The man looked down at the girl as if he was standing on top of a tall mountain, looking down at the vast landscape below rather than a child right in front of him. "It was not your duty to protect her, but if that is the way you feel, then you only have one option; you must become stronger." The man said in a leveled tone, neither harsh nor comforting.
"Yes, grandfather!" Chen Yan said with a sharp nod. Though she did glance over at Ichi Guo as she did so. "I will train even harder, until I am strong enough."
"Xiao Yan, there is no such thing as 'strong enough'. Someday you understand this." The man said with only a slight shake of the head.
A few more people of little to no interest to the siblings came out of the portal, seeming to be a medical team that had been on standby. They took the injured Spirit Master away for further care while everyone else tried to get a grip on the situation.
Rukia hardly paid attention to any of it. She just watched from the corner of her eye as Rong Rong cried into her father's chest. It made the black haired orphan girl uncomfortable. "Ichi-nii..." She said, pulling on her brother's shirt to get his attention.
"Hm? What's the matter?" Ichi Guo asked her, pulling his eyes away from the white haired man.
"We're done here. Lets go." She said, putting a hand on Yoruichi's back to signal to the spirit beast that they were going to be moving.
Ichi Guo gave his sister a curious look before shrugging his shoulders. "Sure, if that's what you want." He wasn't one to ask questions that people didn't want asked. If Rukia wanted to move, then he'd follow her.
"Wait! Don't go yet!" Rong Rong shouted, seeing the small bunch starting to turn away. Rukia and Ichi Guo looked back at the pink haired noble girl as she quickly tried to push her tears from her eyes and straighten herself. "I... I haven't properly thanked you."
She grabbed her father's hand and pulled him over towards the two siblings and monster cat. "Ichi Guo, Xiao Ru, I'd like you to met my father, Ning Fengzhi. Papa, these two are Ichi Guo and Rukia, they are the ones who saved us when we were attacked by a Ten Thousand Year Storm Wrath Black Dragon."
"Is that so?" Ning Fengzhi said, seeming a little taken aback by just what it was that had threatened his daughter's life. "It seems as though I am in your debt. If their is anything I can do thank you, just say the word and I will see it done."
"Forget it. You don't owe us anything." Ichi Guo said in a dismissive manner, one that few had ever taken with the head of the third most powerful Sect in recent history. "We aren't the kind of creeps that thinks about a reward when they are saving someone."
Ning Fengzhi blinked in surprise before smiling again. "Hearing you say that, it makes me want to do something for you even more."
Rong Rong saw the opening, and jumped at her chance. "Daddy, when not bring them into our clan." Rong Rong interjected. "The two of you don't have a Clan of your own, and the Seven Treasured Glass Tower is one of the strongest clans there is. I'm sure that with our support you could go really far."
"... I would not be opposed to this..." Ning Fengzhi said, looking from his daughter to the siblings. It was a good offer. One that nearly anyone in the entire nation would have killed to have. The resources that the Seven Treasures Glass Tower clan could offer a budding Spirit Master were nothing to scoff at. And if they did join the clan, it would strength the clan's future even more.
The younger of the two looked surprised at the prospect of joining a clan, not that he could blame her. The idea of joining such a powerful clan had probably never occurred to them. Her mouth fumbled open for a few moments before she looked to her older brother for guidance.
"Sorry. Can't do." Ichi Guo said, surprising the gathered Spirit Masters. His expression wasn't anything like his sisters. It was... detached, old even.
It took Ning Rong Rong a moment to understand that her offer had been rejected, but the moment it got through to her she went into a panic. "What!? Why not!?" She shouted. "With the backing of my clan you would have power, money, training, everything you need in order to rise to the top of Spirit Master world! Why would you possibly turn that down!?"
"Freedom." Ichi Guo said, as if the single word explained everything. His eyes drifted over to Ning Rong Rong's father. "Tell me, how many times have you had to fight for a cause you didn't believe in out of obligation to your Clan? How many times have you been forced to standby and watch as people suffered and you couldn't use your power to help them because of you had to think about your station first?"
Ning Fengzhi didn't look away, but his face saddened somewhat. "A few time." He admitted.
"A few is too many." Ichi Guo said his hand brushing against his blade. "I might not seem to have much to you, but I do have this; when I fight, it is because I chose to. I will never fight a battle I don't believe in and I will never abandon a fight that I believe should be fought. That is why I will never bend my knee to anyone. I am the master of my soul and no one else." Rukia was looking up at her brother with wide eyes and held breath, as if committing his words to heart. "Can you honestly tell me that anything your clan has to offer can compete with that?"
"Of course it does! There's... there's..!" Rong Rong started to splutter but was stopped when her father placed a hand on her shoulder. "Daddy?"
"Princess, some things just can't be gotten, no matter how much you might want them." Ning Fengzhi said with a slight shake of the head.
"But... but I really wanted them to come with us." Rong Rong said, looking at Ichi Guo with tears coming back to her eyes.
Seeing that he was causing the girl to cry, Ichi Guo immeately became less comfortable. "Hey, come on now. None of that." He said as the girl started to pout. He had never been good at dealing with girl's crying. Not in his previous life and not in this one. Finally, he gave a heavy sigh and started to awkwardly rub at the back of his neck. "Listen, we might not join your clan but... if you ever need help... you know. Give us a haller, and we'll see what we can do to help."
"R...right. After all, we are friends, right?" Rukia added, seeming just as awkward as her brother.
"Yeah, friends." Rong Rong said, pushing back her tears. She was still sad that they wouldn't join her clan, but still hoping that she could one day have her dream team.
Ning Fengzhi smiled at his daughter, but then turned back to Ichi Guo. "Are you sure there isn't anything we can do for you? If not as payment than as a symbol of friendship."
"You really aren't going to let his go are you?" Ichi Guo snorted but his eyes wondered over to the tall man with silver hair. "Fine then, if you insist, then there is one thing I want." Everyone stared in absolute shock as Ichi Guo drew his sword and pointed it straight at silver haired man. "I want to fight you."
Chen Yan's grandfather looked down at Ichi Guo, his face expressionless, as if he hadn't heard what he had said and didn't see the blade pointed towards him. But then a strong spiritual pressure started to leak out of the man, bright pink light that lit up the darkening world surrounded him and the weaker Spirit Masters staggered under his presence. Ichi Guo didn't flinch under the pressure, just stared straight back at the man.
"If that is your request, then I will grant it." The man said, ignoring the panic that was spreading around them. "I, Chen Xin, the Sword DouLuo, will face you."
Most of this has been done for a while, but then I hit writers block on how to word shit. After that I just kind of put the thing to the side and now it has been so long that I have entirely forgotten who my Beta was in the first place... oops.
I still feel like I am doing a crappy job of this, but I can't for the life of me get it to be any better.
I have decided to post my own challenges underneath some of my new chapters for the coming weeks to see if anyone will actually do them. I got a complete list of them on my profile page, but on one ever reads profiles.
I will say though that just because I say it is a challenge doesn't mean I might not write it in the future if I can get enough support and manage to motivate myself.
(Bleach X Boku no Hero Academia) : Teenage Mother Heroine?
Squad Twelve had been using the same black hole to dump all of their spiritual waste from their experiments for years. They didn't realize there was another world on the other side of it, nor did they realize that the spiritual energies would cause the mutation of 80% of that world's human population. However, learning from past experience they decided to learn a bit about this world's culture before trying anything drastic. That was the excuse they told Rukia, anyways. Really they just wanted the young Captain to take her maternity leave. Now after a few misunderstandings, she was not only spying on this new world but also going to a school for upstart heroes on top of taking care of baby Ichika.