Well, it wasn't exactly two weeks but I doubt you guys are complaining :p
I haven't done much writing since Christmas admittedly, Red Dead Redemption 2 & Battlefield 5 have completely stolen my free time, but worry not! I also got a new mechanical keyboard for Christmas that is just dying to be broken in, the loud clicky sounds are enchanting to me xD
Once I get my sleep schedule back on track – because Christmas thoroughly destroyed it – I will start writing again. I usually write in the morning then do other things in the afternoon, however, because I've been getting up anywhere between 11-2 pm, I haven't been writing at all.
Anyways, enough rambling. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own anything here. I have pulled things from many different sources and so I won't list them all but just know that I don't own any of this! The characters and worlds depicted all belong to their respective authors!
In Darkness, Reborn
- Chapter 2 -
~ Kuoh Town
[Boost! Boost! Boost! Boost!]
With a loud cry, Issei launched himself forwards once more, the armoured fist of his Boosted Gear connecting heavily with the creature's stomach. He made sure to keep his mind sharp and focus high so that his eyes did not stray to the hole in its chest where the heart should have been. He'd still been unable to fully come to terms with the new enemy they faced, everything about their existence just felt so wrong.
It was still hard to believe that they had been here his whole life yet he just couldn't see them, and although he was ashamed to admit it due to the threat they posed to innocent people he still kind of wished he couldn't.
With another loud shout of boost from his gauntlet he leapt backwards, watching in amazement as a large arc of lightning came crashing down onto their foe. It seemed to slow the large creature down briefly though as with their previous fights it didn't hold it back long. Any normal person or creature would be hindered if they were struck by lighting, but it was as if this thing didn't have and nerves running throughout its body of which the electric current could damage.
Charging forth again he sidestepped one of the creatures own slow but heavy hitting fists before jumping up and throwing another punch, this one aimed for its head. With a speed granted to him by his Evil Piece, Rias' first Knight dashed behind the large creature all while dragging his sword along the backs of its legs. And finally, to finish off their combo Xenovia who had been patiently waiting for this moment leapt into the air and struck down with a massive overhead swing on top of its head.
The Red Dragon could hear Kuoh's Prince click his tongue in a rare bout of annoyance as he passed, seeing that his blade had once again barely pierced this creature's skin was obviously frustrating. The worst part about these new enemies was their durability, they weren't particularly fast or intelligent in combat but their skin was increasingly hard to break and they could take a near endless beating.
Each of the Devils present could only stare bug-eyed as they watched the beast howl once more, how could it have survived that attack from Xenovia? There was certainly a cut on the length of its head and the top of the creatures mask had a small chip, but that was as far as the damage extended.
The Gremory Group had all but confirmed that they couldn't feel pain, and on the off chance that they did it didn't affect them, they just kept pushing through no matter what hit them, this one took that to a whole new level, however.
"Buchou, this thing is way tougher than the others, out attacks are barely doing anything!" Issei half whined as he fell back to his master's side, though he still kept an attentive gaze on Kiba, Xenovia and Akeno who were continuing their assault.
Rias for her part just scowled further as she watched the battle progress, these creatures- Hollows as they were officially named were on a whole nother level than the stray Devils they usually hunted. Monsters that feast on the souls of others to gain power, they were frightening to be sure and Rias always made sure her Peerage was extra careful when battling them.
It didn't help things that they were essentially down a member each time one of these fights presented themselves. Koneko, the sole rook of Rias' peerage had been unable to even remain in the presence of these things because of one of her inherited powers, Senjutsu. One of the techniques main uses was for detecting and reading the life forces of things – living or not – around the user, the only issue was that in order to use this technique the wielder had to take in the negative energies from the world as well.
The rook hadn't had any major issues in her supernatural life because of this so far, after seeing what it made her sister do the small Nekomata vowed to never use that power and so she never had to worry about taking in any of the malice of the world. It still affected her slightly as she had enhanced senses when it came to detecting the flows of energy but that was it, until now.
Dark, evil, corrupt, those were words the girl had used to describe the creatures after their first encounter with one. It had put her on edge just being its presence however she assured Rias that she would be fine and so she let her sole rook fight. Rias Quickly regretted that decision. As soon as her first punch had connected the pained screams of the Hollow's twisted soul had violated her mind and left her quivering in fear on the ground.
Rias' fist clenched in frustration as she remembered the state her rook had been left in, how she was so powerless to help.. but this was the curse that Koneko was afflicted with. If she leaves her Senjutsu untrained than she leaves her mind open to attacks such like what happened with the first Hollow, and adversely if she begins to train that power there is a chance that the worlds malice could taint her mind and cause her to go on a rampage much like her sister had.
Returning her attention outwards she commanded her peerage, "Kiba, Xenovia! Your sword's seem to be the only thing doing any real damage to this Hollow so you two need to finish it off," pausing she turned to her pawn who was still waiting patiently next to her, "Issei, I need you to use your transfer on both Kiba and Xenovia, okay?" he nodded, and finally she called up to her queen," Akeno, keep it distracted for a moment so Issei can Boost!"
"Ufufufu very well, this Hollow is a tough mister to crack but I want to hear it scream," she spoke with a shudder, her voice just above a whisper, the frightened and mildly disturbed looks from her fellow peerage members only served to make her squirm further. With another euphoric laugh, the Priestess dug into her wellspring of power and let loose.
Issei only snapped back to his senses when the first bolt of lightning struck down, the sadistic smile on his Onee-sama's face was oddly arousing to the pervert, 'gah! now isn't the time for this!' he chastised mentally, shaking his head he got his mind back on target, "Let's go, Ddraig!"
[Boost! Boost! Boost! Boost! Boost!]
Feeling his own energy skyrocket he placed a hand on each of the two Knight's backs and let Ddraig do the rest.
With a newfound power the two Knight's nodded at each other and replayed their strategy from before, but this time it would work.
As Kiba once again dashed behind the large creature and drew his blade across its legs the impact was immediate, the creature fell to it's knee's with the appendages no longer able to support it, and, with one final cry Xenovia leapt through the air and cleaved it, splitting it evenly from head to crotch, the beast already beginning to dissolve into particles before she could withdraw her sword.
"Well it can't be helped, can it?" Azazel said with a shrug from behind Rias' desk. "The Shinigami were created to combat the Hollow's but after recent events, they aren't able to mobilize with the strength needed to keep up with all of them."
"You said it was a war right?" Kiba questioned, his eyes filled with a sadness as he thought about the struggle they would no doubt be going through still. He was sat on one of the many couches in the ORC's club room, the rest of his comrades were next to him including Rias considering her normal seat was currently occupied. After that battle with the Hollow they wanted to ask Azazel some questions so it was fortunate that he was there waiting for them on their return, he must have known they would be curious about some things.
The man couldn't help but let out a bark of mirthless laughter at the question, "A war, huh..?" He let his bangs shade his eyes as he looked downwards towards the wood-topped desk, "I'd call it more of a one-sided slaughter than a war," he finished with a dull tone.
The Gremory Peerage looked on with wide eyes and heavy hearts at those words, they may never have met a Shinigami in their life but after fighting a couple Hollow's themselves they had gained a deep respect for the race of beings which was created solely for that purpose. And, more than that, they just felt for all of the lives which must have been lost. If only they knew.
"Eh, but they're still here right? Doesn't that mean they won? How could it be so lopsided?"
Azazel gave the Red Dragon a crooked smile, he couldn't say exactly what had happened at the end, classified details and all that so half-truths would have to suffice. "I don't know the exact details but it seems that both parties killed each other in the final confrontation, however, the damage had already been done, in less than a month the Soul Society lost two-thirds of their army, or roughly four-thousand Shinigami if you want to be precise."
A multitude of gasps rang out at his words. It was a world-shaking revaluation to these young Devils that had yet to face anything truly serious, to hear about a war in which thousands of lives were lost in a matter of weeks, it was an eye-opening experience. Xenovia placed a comforting hand onto their healer's lap as she wiped away a few stray tears, Azazel couldn't help but think that she really wasn't suited for this lifestyle.
"Their opponent must have been frighteningly powerful than to achieve all of that," Akeno spoke up this time, a contemplative look on her face.
Azazel actually burst out laughing at those words, "that's an understatement! That kid who led the Shinigami.. he was their last hope. If he fell in that fight then Amaterasu-sama, Susanoo-sama and Tsukuyomi-sama would have descended from Takama-ga-hara and begun doing battle with him," again the peerage looked at him with bugged eyes, though confusion spread when Azazel shook his head.
"No, that isn't right, if the kid failed than all of the factions in this world would have needed to act, that guy, that Yhwach, he had the power to alter the very future itself," he spoke with an awe-filled tone, "if left to his own devices than maybe not even the Gods could have stopped him."
The room fell into a still silence at that, Issei was shedding silent tears while thinking of all the strong bad guys he might have to face, having to think about facing off against Vali was enough for him.
Then, with a sort of wistful smile Azazel spoke up again, "I would've liked to meet that kid once, he was even more incredible than our own Issei here," he laughed, further smiling at the doubtful looks sent his way. It was understandable that they wouldn't believe it, Issei had pulled off quite a few miracles already in his time as a Devil.
"I'm serious," he assured them, "he didn't even know the supernatural existed for nearly the first fifteen years of his life, then he was tossed in head first without a life jacket."
".. how old was he when he fought Yhwach?"
"17," he answered with a mischievous smile.
"..eh? ..EH?! HE WAS THE SAME AGE AS US?!" While also shocked at the revelation the rest of the club couldn't help but laugh at the reaction of their pawn.
Sitting up straight in his chair he gave each of them a meaningful look, "use him as an example," the Fallen Angel Governor spoke seriously, "He is proof that you can get strong if you work for it, he went from supernaturally oblivious to a two time war veteran in two years, quite literally fighting with the fate of the world on his shoulders, if he could do it so can you."
[Yes!] they all replied with smiles, a new found confidence and desire to grow stronger building within.
With one final nod, Azazel stood and prepared a magic circle below his feet, though before he could leave Rias asked him one final question, "what was his name?"
".. Ichigo Kurosaki."
~ Unknown Location, Unknown Time
Alright so the decision wasn't as hard to make as he first thought it would be, he could be selfish sometimes as well and this was one of those times. He wanted to live, to see his friends and family once more, to explore, even if he had to do it as a powerless human once again he would cope. And, would it really be so bad? Knowing Urahara, the man could probably find some way to return his powers eventually.
A feeling of awe was something he was becoming quite familiar with as of late. It felt as if every time he seen something that he doubted could ever be topped, just that would happen, and now was no different.
The first thing he noticed was the sky, directly above him was a colossal tornado-like cylinder of blues, purples, pinks, and reds. It looked as if a whole galaxy was spinning above his head, and at the peak of that tornado was a brilliant sphere of white almost too pure for him to gaze at with his bare eyes. The rest of the sky was dimly lit blue filled with millions of sparkling little stars.
The land itself was rocky and mountainous though to a scale he had never seen before, the tallest peaks of his world would be nothing to some of the towing stone fangs which loomed over him. In the midst of all these rocky peaks, however, there was one which stood out even among all of them. Immense, monumental, titanic, none of these words could seem to do it justice because it was just that big, at easily twice the height of anything else around him it pierced the sky with no remorse.
Its peak which was shrouded from view by heavy clouds rose up inside of the swirling mass of mist and stars as if reaching for its glowing centre but forever out of reach. Woven between the various mountains of this land were chunks of floating stone, some the size of small homes and others as large as mansions, oddly enough, however, they seemed unaffected by the howling winds which threatened to tear the teen from his feet.
But, more than the ethereal sky or the vast, far-reaching mountainscape, what really struck him were the Dragons, their deep, guttural roars echoing throughout this rocky landscape and sending shivers of terror down his spine.
He was not ashamed to admit his fear, yes he had faced many powerful foes on his journey as a Shinigami, some so powerful that they overwhelmed him as if he were an ant at their feet, but none of his previous foes could compare to the mere sight of these once thought to be mythological creatures.
Thin and long, broad and wide, ruby, emerald, sapphire, black, white, silver, platinum, copper, gold, some glowing like smouldering embers and some shrouded in mist from their icy scales. Some covered in spikes from head to tail and some with just horn capped noses. Despite their differing appearances, however, they all had one thing in common, their size, even the smallest of the scaled creatures Ichigo could see dwarfed him in size.
With every takeoff a fresh gust of air would rip across the land and with every landing the ground would tremble, it was incredible to watch, to experience. He'd always heard Dragons be described as violent masses of energy, whose instincts drove them to battle strong foes and conquer everything in sight, but as he watched them spin and roll aimlessly throughout the air he felt envious of their freedom.
Giving his head a light shake he forced himself to look away, although his mind was busy taking in all that was around him that didn't mean he had forgotten why he was there or what he was supposed to be doing. Even if he still hadn't a clue on how- or where to start looking.
"Amaterasu-sama," the shopkeeper greeted in a more docile tone than usual, his hat resting at his side instead of on his head in an outward show of respect for the woman before him.
Said woman rose a curious brow before offering her own greeting, "Urahara-dono, thank you for your quick response to my summons." He had always been respectful of her ever since their first meeting, though previously he was much more chipper, his inner scientist almost uncontrollable with the new information he had learned. "I think this is the calmest I've ever seen you in these higher planes."
He gave her his best attempt at a wry smile, though what shone through over the mocking humour in the grin was the sheer exhaustion in his expression, "I am but a handsome, humble shopkeeper who likes finding new things to study, however, I can also act seriously when the time calls for it, and I would say what's about to come is more than cause enough for me to get serious."
She frowned, "So I was right in assuming you were aware, it seems calling you here was the right thing after all."
"Oh yes, Yhwach's gift is well known to me," he spoke with a mockery of a smile.
"Hm.. though I wonder how you, a regular Shinigami – genius or not – were able to discern what has been happening even before I, the Goddess of the Sun, head of the Shinto Trinity, and mother of all Japan could." Her tone was ever so slightly bitter as she spoke to him, she had a theory regarding his source of information though she was never able to confirm it, until now.
Urahara had never looked so old, so tired in his life. His skin pale, the circles around his dimly lit eyes looked so vivid that someone would think he had used makeup to achieve such an appearance. His expression was dark, grim, melancholic, but even still there were no signs of regret to be had.
"I knew about it because I helped him secure his victory nearly a hundred years ago. I knew when he would awaken but did not tell the Shinigami. I knew when he would reclaim his power but still choose to hold my tongue. I was there with him, face to face as his plans were formulated, I knew everything that would happen and when because I helped set it all in motion.
From my little candy shop I helped him remained undetected, I helped him invade Hueco Mundo, invade the Soul Society, the Royal Palace, it is on my hands as well as Yhwachs, that thousands of Shinigami souls lay, that Ishida-san's and Kurosaki-san's souls lay."
"So, what is it you want to know? The former Dragon King asked bluntly, a weariness in his eyes that those before him had never seen.
He had every right to be suspicious, Sirzechs Lucifer and Ajuka Beelzebub did not contact him often, and definitely not together as they were now. There wasn't any animosity or hate between the two groups, they just never needed to speak. The Satan's were always busy with running the Underworld and diplomacy, necessary tasks to ensure a bright future for their race, and Tannin tended to his Dragon Apples and the many Dragons which lived in peace under his jurisdiction and protection.
The most recent event he could recall actually speaking to either of them was when he was first reincarnated by Mephisto Pheles. A Dragon King becoming a Devil was something that had never happened before and probably never would again so it was understandable that many would be curious about him and his reasons for doing what he did.
He would admit he was very hesitant at first, he never really wanted to do it but it was a necessary step for the Draconic Race. Due to mass expansion and colonization in the Human World the trees which bore Dragon Apples went extinct, the only other place which bore such fruit was the Underworld, and he couldn't exactly invade Hell just to get them either.
So he became a Devil, and it wasn't anywhere near as bad as he thought it would be either. His master, Mephisto, cared nothing for Rating Games and thus never asked him to fight and rarely gave him orders in general, he just allowed Tannin to do as he wished as long as he wasn't causing trouble. He was essentially a free Dragon still, but unlike before he had a territory which acted as a safe haven for peace-loving Dragons and also allowed him to grow the fruit which some of their kind needed to survive.
Things couldn't have worked out more perfectly, but now.. seeing these two Super Devils before him with grim looks in their eyes he worried about what was to come, though to be honest he already had an idea.
"Though peace between the factions right now is fragile at best and no one is eager to share their research or information with any of their possible enemies, there are two exceptions to this, two subjects that no matter the state of the world the three factions will always co-operate on," Ajuka held up one finger, "first, is the Dimensional Gap," then a second finger rose, "and second, are the Dragons." Ajuka continued, his voice as unwavering as always, his expression impassive.
Sirzechs, on the other hand, smirked sourly as he watched the large Dragons eyes narrow ever so slightly, "judging by that look on your face you have felt it too, and you know what we would ask."
The Dragon's eyes fell a little more, "humour me," he simply said.
Sirzechs was more than willing to comply, "The Dimensional Gap has been fluctuating irrationally lately, not even the True Dragons presence has been able to keep those energies calm, more so, there have been reports of Dragons acting up all over the world, waking up from long since forgotten slumbers and dominating the skies, letting out primal roars from the depths of their souls as if calling out to something."
"Is this an order?" Tannin spoke again, his voice sounding much more tired all of the sudden.
The crimson Lucifer shook his head, "not at all, if you do not wish to answer then that is that. Mephisto feels the same way, 'unless there is an imminent threat I will not ask anything of him,' or so he says," he finished with a soft smile.
'Only more proof that I made the correct choice all of those years ago,' the Dragon mused to himself, but those thoughts would need to keep for later. "They are calling to our home," he spoke simply, gaze shifting upwards.
"You're home?" Ajuka immediately reaffirmed, eyes shimmering with an obvious curiosity that he was not ashamed to reveal. That was something that not just he, but the world had been curious about for millennia. Where do the Dragons come from? How are they born?
Tannin snorted, "Of course, it is true that Dragons are masses of energy but we don't just 'pop' out of thin air." The sarcasm in his voice was evident.
"Why? Why are they calling your home? Where is this world of Dragons?" The current Beelzebub quickly fired out again.
"Where? In a dimension called the Pandemonium that sits in the Astral Planes."
Ajuka visibly slumped at hearing those two words, the 'Astral Planes,' a world that he knew little of, that had forever been out of reach to him, and now it held another great mystery that he wanted to explore, the home of the Dragons, but likely would never be able to step foot in.
"And why are they calling to your home?" Sirzechs pressed.
"Because he has awoken, a being whose existence calls out to all Dragons like a beacon wherever we are."
The current Lucifer was practically bouncing on his heels in anxiousness, "Who..?"
"I will not speak his name," Tannin grit out in a rare burst of anger and to the two Satan's surprise, fear. "Just know this," he continued darkly, "there are beings in this universe which make even the True Dragon seem insignificant." And with that the former Dragon King turned, his wings flapping once in preparation to take off.
"Wait!" Ajuka called out quickly, "Is this being a threat to us?" That was all they needed, another overpowered being for them to worry about.
"Physically? No." He spoke softly, his back still turned to the pair. A look of small relief filled their eyes at his words but it wasn't a feeling that lasted long. "However, you know as well as I do the mischief a God can cause from behind the scenes."
Any more words the two Devils had would fall on deaf ears because with his final peace spoken his wings pushed down and lifted him from the ground, the unease permeating from his energy still filling the air as he flew away.
"Beings which can make even the True Dragon seem insignificant, huh? Maybe Ophis isn't so scary after all."
Rolling his eyes, Ajuka merely sent a halfhearted glare towards his friend for the poor attempt at making light of the situation, "Come, it seems this will be a long night."
~ Unknown Location, Unknown Time
It was kind of embarrassing to admit he had been caught off guard, though the winged creature had done a great job of luring him into a false sense of security. The ochre-scaled Dragon had been quite inquisitive of the newcomer to its world, circling many times overhead as well as doing many low altitude flybys. It never came too close to him, never bared its razor-sharp teeth and never so much as growled, but that was what got the teen.
He had gotten so used to the Dragon curious presence that when it was making it's most recent pass he barely spared it a glance, just kept on climbing over the rough terrain towards his destination, it was only when he caught a dim glowing between the scales protecting the creature's belly from the corner of his eye did he realize his mistake.
Without hesitation he leapt from the plateau he was stood into the small crevice below, just narrowly escaping the wave of flame that turned the rocky surface black. The tumble was painful, really painful, he did his best to protect his head from the jagged pillars but that in turn left the rest of his body open to the assault, and he was shown no mercy.
By the time he had rolled to a stop, he was covered in many bumps, bruises, scrapes, and cuts, including one particularly nasty gash on his left abdomen as well as a minor burn on his right leg from the Dragon's initial attack. Any thoughts of just remaining right there in hopes that the beast would assume he was dead were quickly dashed when another burst of fire fell on him from above.
Unfortunately for Ichigo, this Dragon was quite the thorough hunter.
Jumping up and leaping into a forward roll he barely escaped the Dragon's second pass, this time, however, he wasn't going to wait for the third. So, ignoring the sharp bursts of pain ripping throughout his body he fell into a sprint and didn't stop.
'Well, I always wanted to try free running..' he mused to himself as he leapt over another waist high rock, despite the internal sarcasm he found very little humour in this situation.
He had tried to remain as silent and undetected as possible as he moved between various rocks and chunks of stone upon coming here, though it was easier said than done with how unwelcoming this terrain was for travellers. With his lack of reiatsu, a battle was not something he wished to participate in, especially not with a Dragon.
He couldn't help but imagine how useful a set of those wings would be right about now or at the very least his former ability to walk on the reishi particles in the air.
Try as he might to remain unseen however he hadn't been very successful, almost instantly after setting off he felt countless pairs of eyes on him. No, he wasn't just being paranoid, he was being watched by Dragon's, and a lot of them. Be it the ones circling overhead who he had actually met gazes with a couple of times or the ones perched up on rocky cliffs who's heads were quite obviously tracking his every movement, he was being watched and it was very unsettling.
But, to his relief, none of the winged creatures had made any movements towards him – aggressive or not – and to him, that was just perfect. You don't bug me and I won't bug you, it was a fair trade for all parties involved.
Or so he thought.
It would seem that not all of the inhabitants of this world were so welcoming to visitors, and as he leapt out of the way of another attack this point was only affirmed further.
Grunting in pain as he took another unfortunate tumble he quickly got back up and continued to try and escape, though his patience was seriously starting to wear thin. He had never been someone to run from an enemy – Kenpachi being the one exception, though could you blame him? - so it was understandable that he quickly grew tired of this cruel game of cat and mouse and tried to fight back. With no sword in hand however he would need to improvise, to his fortune there were many chunks of rock littering the ground.
Slamming on the breaks he slid to a stop nearly losing his balance in the process, grasping a piece of stone at his feet he turned on his heel, pulled back his arm, and threw.
He would admit that it was a bit disheartening to watch the chunk of stone bounce harmlessly off of the Dragons snout, though really what did he expect? The legendary beats scales were nearly the same size as the jagged chunk of rock he had hastily picked up off the valley floor and tried to dissuade it with.
That coupled with his limited human strength and he would honestly be surprised if the beast even felt it. But he wouldn't give up. If he could just hit it in one of its eyes than maybe he could..
'Well, shit..' those were the simple words that came to his mind as he realized a little too late that he was a lot closer the edge than first believed. He nearly blacked out from pain when his head cracked against a rock at the bottom of the ten-foot drop, it took only seconds for a warmth to start spreading through his orange hair as his vision went fuzzy.
The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was a silver, human-shaped figure go flying through the air with a large, two-handed great sword poised above its head.
"I should kill you where you stand," she spoke with venom.
He was unwavering in his response, "You should. But, you won't." He knew with utmost certainty that she wouldn't, he was still useful after all.
The Goddess' eyes were filled with an anger and hurt which reached the depth of her soul, but it was just as the infuriating man had said, she wouldn't act. So instead she just asked, "Why?"
"You know why!" he snapped out, quickly taking a deep breath as he tried to regain what little patience he had left. "The Sin of the Gods needed to be corrected, because of your position you couldn't be the one to do it and I couldn't do it on my own." he continued in a hurried voice, no more than a whisper as the pain from his actions tore out his heart.
"Yhwach could do it though! The Almighty was the one thing in this world that could overwrite a curse laid out by an old God such as Izanami, I could not pass up this chance for it would never come again."
"He failed." Amaterasu cut in sharply.
"He did not." He snapped back, "..though his success will have many more casualties than originally intended."
Unlike before, those words he spoke did hold an undertone of sadness which Amaterasu supposed was something. The big question remaining now was, "What is happening? What has yet to come?"
"You've felt it already," he said knowingly, "the people of Japan are growing in strength. When Yhwach destroyed your barrier around Japan it was so that the residual energies from the Dimensional Gap could once again seep into the nation and its people. Yes, because of this all of your children became spiritually aware and that is why the Shinigami are no longer an unknown existence, this was an unwanted side effect I'll admit, but it was necessary." he finished with a dismissive shake of his head, his blond bangs moving to further cover his eyes.
"What happened to you Kisuke?" Amaterasu questioned with a soft voice, her anger towards the scientist temporarily forgotten in the wake of her overwhelming feeling of sadness. "What happened to the happy and excitable young man I used to watch from these very planes, the man whose face would light up with childish glee at every new discovery and creation?"
When his eyes met hers he felt young again for just a moment, and at that moment he could faintly remember the days before he gave in to darkness. A time when he still held a bright optimism for the world and its inhabitants. When he could still trust and believe in others. A time before he became so calculating, so mischievous and scheming, so world-weary.
"I did what every scientist dreams of," he spoke softly, the feeling of his true age returning fully as he dragged a sluggish hand down his face, "I discovered new things, stuck my nose in places it didn't belong, learned secrets that should have remained hidden.. most of all, however, I learned that not everything can have a happy ending, that sometimes it takes a tragedy to see great improvement
I mourn those lost because of my goals and ambitions, and these sins will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I do not regret what I did."
Amaterasu closed her eyes briefly and let out a deep sigh as she thought over his words, she understood them, understood why he did what he did. She believed that beyond all of the horrible things which needed to happen for his plan to succeed, all of the horrible things that still yet may happen that it was necessary, though much like he would never feel regret for doing what he did, she would never be able to forgive him either.
"So, you've basically turned all of my children into potential magician like beings, that in itself isn't so bad but it doesn't correct the original Sin, what else did he do?" She demanded, sympathies quickly forgotten as she returned to business.
"He tampered with their Soul Chains, weakened them, allowed the corruption to begin early," those words alone made the Goddess appear to want to erase him from existence again, the corruption and deterioration of the Soul Chain were what led to Hollowfication.
"To what end?"
"To force Hollowfication on the Japanese people, why else?"
Amaterasu looked as if she would pass out, she actually stretched out an arm to steady herself after that revelation, "Why?!"
Urahara shook his head, "you still do not see? It is the only way for a soul to permanently separate themselves from that accursed chain.." He said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, but seeing that Amaterasu wasn't fully following him he naturally and subconsciously shifted into his teacher mode. "A soul never truly loses its soul chain, it is an endless cycle of corruption, destruction, and rebirth."
"When a person passes away and their soul is separated from their mortal bodies the soul chain is severed and begins to erode, if they do not pass on to the afterlife they become a hollow which is a corrupted soul. When a soul moves on or is helped to move on by a Shinigami that corruption is removed and the threat of becoming hollow along with it, until they are reborn that is.
Once you are reborn the corruption forms anew and grows with you until you pass away again, it is an endless cycle. The Shinigami are no exception, in fact, it is worse for them because they can still undergo Hollowfication after passing because of the power they possess.
The only way for a Soul to eliminate their soul chain permanently is to undergo Hollowfication- the corruption and eroding of the soul chain while it is still connecting your mortal body and soul, while you are still alive. Until now this was impossible however because normal souls do not possess power, and Shinigami do not awaken their reiatsu until after death when it is already too late, but now.."
"Now Yhwach has given my children a way to fight that corruption.." The Goddess finished with a sour expression. She was happy deep down, how couldn't she be? She had dreamt of freeing her children from the accursed Soul Chain since she was originally born from her father, but this was not how she'd wanted to do it.
'But it's already far too late for what I want,' she thought with a sad resignation. "So, when will this forced Hollowfication begin? I assume it's too late to stop it."
He nodded solemnly, "Yhwach knew that the Hollowfication would fail completely if the Japanese people weren't strong enough to withstand it and so he put a delay on his power. After one hundred years have passed, at the beginning of the 100 days with no night an illness will strike the heart of Japan infecting every person young or old, they will fall unconscious and face extreme pain while resisting this unknown illness. Hollowfication. Those who succeed will re-awaken eternally free of their Soul Chains, those who do not will succumb to the corruption and be transformed."
"You do realize that those who failed will be born as powerful hollows right?! The reiryoku they now possess after being exposed to the energies from the Dimensional Gap means that they'll likely be born as Adjuchas class Hollows from the start!
The Shinigami in their weakened state can barely keep up with things as they are! Not to mention the interference's from other races they must deal with alongside their normal duties! And now you think it's wise to add hundreds, thousands, millions of potential Adjuchas class hollows to that mix? The Shinigami will fail."
"They won't," he cut in again, voice steeled.
Amaterasu had to wonder where all this confidence came from, as smart as he was, as fail proof as he liked to think his plans were there was just no way to be so sure, you could never account for every possibility.
"They won't because they will not be fighting alone, all of the other pantheons of this world will be unknowingly helping the Shinigami control the Hollow population." Seeing the doubt in her eyes he continued, "With the sole exception of the Quincy who destroy the soul it is impossible for any race other than the Shinigami to purify- not kill but purify a Hollow, that being said, however, it doesn't mean that the other pantheons will just sit back as Hollows try and devour their people, they will fight and kill the Hollows, sending their souls back to Hueco Mundo to reform."
Amaterasu had to admit that it was a cunning plan, "so the Shinigami continue to purify as they always have, the Hollows they cannot reach in time are returned to Hueco Mundo by someone else and when they reform and return to the human world the Shinigami can take another chance at purifying them."
"It all sounds well and good so far but you've left out something from your explanation." It wasn't even about finding something which he had overlooked to guilt him with anymore, now she just wanted to make sure everything was accounted for.
Amaterasu hated the man before her, loathed him for what he had helped Yhwach do, but she also wasn't stupid, this mass Hollowfication would happen whether she liked it or not and so with that being the case she would at least make sure all the bases were covered so that this could hopefully go as smoothly as possible.
"What about the people who fail to overcome the Hollowfication? What about the Hollows who already exist? What about the Shinigami and the Souls already resting in the Soul Society?"
"Simple. When they pass on and their souls go through the cycle of reincarnation they will undergo the same Hollowfication in their next lives, as they will continue to do until they can eventually overcome it, as everyone will until the very last Soul Chain is gone from existence and with it the last Hollow."
~ Unknown Location, Unknown Time
He awoke to the immediate – and unpleasant – discovery that he was still very much injured, though he could feel bandages wrapped around his head, torso and right leg. With a pained grunt the teen made to sit upright but only made it halfway due to a sudden feeling of dizziness that washed over him, obviously, his head had hit the rock harder than first thought.
Settling for a half-seated position in which he rested on his elbows he gave his current area a brief once-over, it wasn't quite a cave but more along the lines of a slightly larger than normal rocky alcove. He had no clue how much time had passed as it looked exactly the same outside right now as it had before though it didn't really bother him, he'd gotten used to operating without a sense of time with the recent events.
Finally, giving in to his temptation he moved his eyes to the figure sat down on a low rock at the entrance to their small hideaway. Sitting in a full set of well-worn, steel plate armour was the figure he'd seen sailing across his vision before losing consciousness. It was obvious that this figure had seen many battles as the armour they wore was heavily scratched, scarred and pitted. The tattered remnants of what looked to be a blue cape were still draped around their shoulders and a tattered cloak of the same blue material was secured at the waist.
A long black ponytail extended outwards from the back of the figures helm and the greatsword which this warrior had hefted so easily overhead was resting up against their shoulder as they sat. Much like the armour it too showed signs of wear that came from many great battles though Ichigo could still see the deep beauty which it once held shinning through all the scars.
The oddest thing about the weapon itself, however, was the way it felt. Ichigo could sense that it was somehow connected to the warrior in a manner not unlike how the Zanpakuto is connected to a Shinigami, though it felt as if half the blade was missing despite its outwardly complete appearance. It was as if half of the blades soul had been removed.
Ichigo guessed that the warrior was looking back at him as well though he really couldn't tell due to the fact that it was a full-faced helm and did a great job of blacking out the eyes. "Thanks for saving me," he spoke simply with a slight bow of his head.
"It was nothing," came the warrior's reply, "I was just surprised to see a seemingly powerless human in the Pandemonium, fighting a Dragon no less."
The warrior's voice was surprisingly clear, nowhere near muffled to the extent the teen would have expected. The voice which he could now identify as male was fairly deep, nowhere near the level of Old man Zangetsu's voice but deep none the less, but it was flat, tired, hollow. The former Shinigami could hear the long seeped pain and sadness with every syllable he spoke.
It was obvious that there was much more story to the warrior than Ichigo first expected, though that could wait. "I don't know if I would call it fighting, more like hurling rocks in hopes of not getting roasted alive," he scoffed out, a mocking amusement underlying his words.
The figure gave a short shake of his head at those words, "however ineffective it may have been you still tried, you didn't just lay down and accept your fate and that is respectable, though I still wonder how it is you are here in the first place, I assume it isn't by choice?" he finished, a clear hint of bitterness having sunk into his voice.
'That clearly struck a cord, I guess he isn't here by choice than either, maybe he can't leave this place?' the teen considered silently before returning to the conversation. "Well, technically I did choose to come here, though I wasn't aware it was a world filled with Dragons when I made the decision, my options weren't exactly great either," he threw in at the end under his breath.
The warrior gave a simple nod of the head in acknowledgement, "So, who are you? How did you end up in a position to where your best option was coming here?"
Shifting on the floor the teen was now able to sit up fully and thus slid himself back so that he could rest up against the stone wall, regarding the warrior briefly he figured there was no point in keeping secrets. "My name is Ichigo Kurosaki," he paused briefly, "I suppose Ichigo Shiba would be correct too but that's aside from the point, I am- was, a Substitute Shinigami. I died in a war against the Quincy however instead of being reborn my soul was pulled from the cycle of reincarnation by an unknown being." Seeing the nameless warrior jump in shock Ichigo paused his explanation.
"Your soul was pulled from reincarnation?! I have never heard of these Shinigami or Quincy you speak of though this world is vast so there is much I am still unaware of, but still, I struggle to imagine who could perform such a feat.."
It was the first real emotion Ichigo had heard from the person so far though he doubted it would be a constant, by the time the warrior had finished speaking his tone had settled back into one of dullness.
"Honestly? I don't know either," he admitted with a frustrated sigh, "I was unconscious for a hundred years, just floating in the Astral Planes between the borders of life and death, when I awoke a voice called out to me and told me many things, lastly it told me that it could give me another chance at life and that was what ultimately brought me here, I'm trying to find that voice though I don't have a clue where to even begin."
The alcove fell silent for a few moments, Ichigo had said what he needed to and the mysterious warrior was clearly processing what he had just heard, it wasn't the most normal of stories after all.
"I see," the armoured figure finally muttered out. "I admit that I cannot help you in your search, I am unsure who this voice you speak of could be or where you could find it," the warrior lamented, "however, I can point you in the direction of someone who might be able to help you," he said finally, causing the teen before him to perk up slightly.
Stretching his arm out he pointed to one specific mountain that was still clear to see despite their location, once he noticed that Ichigo's gaze had followed his direction he continued, "That mountain is the tallest in this world and its peak is aptly named the throat of the world. Near the top of the mountain, right under the layer of thick fog sits a stone monastery called High Hrothgar which houses four elder monks who call themselves the Greybeards. If anyone in this world can help you it would be them."
The teen's fist clenched with a new hope at those words, again he could only offer a simple 'thank you' in response. He could only hope that the emotion in those two words was strong
"Ophis has been acting a little bit.. off lately, don't you guys think?" Le Fay called out softly, though her words were heard clearly across the clearing which brought everyone to a standstill.
Bikou, who had been sparring against Vali let his golden staff return to its regular size and propped it against his shoulder. Shifting slightly on his feet he sent an amused glance towards the small magician who was sat on a rock not too far away. "You think so? I mean she's always so deadpan and emotionless, I didn't really notice anything," he mumbled out, his left hand coming up to rub his chin.
Vali remained silent at Bikou's side, simply letting his Balance Breaker dissipate so that he too could glance over at the girl, though unlike his ally he was more curious than anything. In his time here with the Chaos Brigade, he had yet to see anyone show even the slightest hint of concern towards the embodiment of infinity.
It was always "help me with this" or "lend me your power so I can do this, so I can defeat him," always followed by the words "don't worry, we will help you kill Great Red, this is just one of the many steps in reaching that goal," and so Ophis would obey. For someone called the Infinite Dragon God, the Ultimate Existence, Vali couldn't believe how naive she was.
No one here had any real intention of helping her, of taking on the Dragon of Dreams, that would be suicide no matter how much planning and preparation you did. He knew it, his team knew it, the Hero faction and Old Satan factions both knew it, everyone knew it except Ophis, she was just a tool to help them reach their goals.
The Vanishing Dragon would admit he felt pity, but it was not his place to interfere, he just wanted to fight strong people after all.
"You're such a useless monkey, nya~" Kuroka called out, her voice teasing. Sitting up from her prone position on one of the nearby branches she gave the back of her hand a lick, "You have Senjutsu, don't you? Just feel her energy nya~"
Le Fay beamed up at the mischievous black cat for defending her, she knew it was an odd thing to say but she felt like saying it none the less. Ophis may have been the Infinite Dragon God, an untouchable existence, but she still had feelings and emotions, at least that's what Le Fay believed. She felt like Ophis has been worrying about something recently, or maybe something was upsetting her, and she didn't think it had to do with the Dragon of Dreams.
"Now that you mention it, Albion has been a little on edge lately although he refuses to tell me the reason why," the Vanishing Dragon spoke up, his own gaze slightly troubled.
"Well, why don't you just ask her?" Arthur cut in, speaking as if it was the most obvious solution ever. The raised eyebrows sent his way coupled with the panicking Le Fay told him it wasn't as obvious as he himself must have thought, however.
"A-Ask her?! Are you crazy?! She's well.. Ophis! I can't just go ask her.." She exclaimed quickly, her voice a pitch or two higher than normal as her arms still waved frantically before her, then she stopped, "..can I?"
It was an interesting question for sure, and no one in the clearing seemed to know the right answer to it, not even Arthur who had originally suggested it.
Surprisingly enough it was Bikou who first spoke up, though his words held some truth in them. "Well I don't see why not, I mean I've never seen her show any outward signs of dislike in regards to talking to people, it's just that everyone around here is too intimidated by her to actually try and have a casual chat."
The group nodded.
After a few more seconds of consideration, the girl seemed to have found her resolve. "V-Very well! I shall go!"
Varying levels of grins and amused looks were sent her way as the seconds ticked by and she still made no move to stand up. Kuroka, who held the most devious grin of them all was the one to point out this fact, "You say that nya~ but your actions don't mimic your words."
Jumping slightly at those words the girl went red in the face, her embarrassment showing clearly, turning to face the Nekomata she stuck her tongue out, "I was just preparing myself! I will really go now!" And go she did. Standing from her rock she summoned a magic circle at her feet, hesitating only briefly before activating it and disappearing in a golden light.
Glancing off into the distance at the building which they used for their base Vali made one final comment, "Well this should be interesting."
The rest of his team agreed.
It was an old, abandoned mansion out in the woods that the Vali Team called home. They had come across it simply by accident but it worked perfectly for what they needed. A place they could rest while out of the elements and also hide away from the other factions when they weren't out exploring the wonders of this world.
Le Fay had no clue what it was doing there in the first place though, ignoring the fact that it was just a random house miles away from any civilization it didn't even look like it belonged in Japan. The architecture of the home was clearly Victorian and so was the furniture inside.
Reaching out for the handle to the front door of their base the small magician's face fell into an unimpressed frown, they had visitors it would seem.
Perhaps it was because they were the quietest out of all of the Khaos Brigades separate factions, or maybe it was because they were normally off exploring and rarely there but Ophis had decided that of all the places she could pick she wanted to live with them. Le Fay didn't have a problem with that itself, despite her vast power and status as a Dragon God the young magician didn't find her scary, just a little unapproachable.
No, the problem was all the pathetic Devils and beings from other mythologies who would come grovelling at her feet, disregarding their fake pride for a chance to receive one of her snakes. And right now she could feel the presences of the three most pathetic of them all, Katerea Leviathan, Creuserey Asmodeus and Shalba Beelzebub.
Three blood-related decedents of the original Maou who believed themselves to be the true, rightful inheritors of the thrones of the underworld. And technically they were, she wouldn't deny that their blood claim was true but she was glad they hadn't actually become the Satan's. The three of them without Ophis' snakes could barely be counted as Ultimate Class Devils, much too weak for the position, and for all their physical and magical deficiencies their minds were just as bad if not worse.
She huffed, "Pitiful Devils driven by petty feelings of vengeance and goals much too grand for them to ever achieve. Rulers of the Underworld? Rulers of the Human world? Hah! don't make me laugh," she finished, the distaste in her voice overwhelming her usually warm tone.
"Aha, I couldn't agree more!" A deceptively cheery voice called out.
Le Fay froze, fear gripping her heart. Slowly she turned and put on the best smile she could, though it was obviously strained, "H-Hello Rizevim.." Her voice was shaky as she spoke though thankfully he didn't seem to care, he just continued smiling as he always did.
"Unfortunately I cannot stay and chat," he said simply, smirk sharpening as he watched relief flood into the girls blue eyes. "I have some quick business to attend to with Ophis, I'll see you around," and with those words said he took a long stride forwards and disappeared into the home.
She slouched where she stood, her fists releasing from the tight balls she didn't remember setting them in, the cool air brushing against her sweaty palms acting as a nice distraction from that encounter.
He was a Devil. A true Devil. One that fit all of the stereotypes humans had concocted over the centuries. Evil and wicked, vicious and brutal, cunning and deceiving, he was all the things that humans thought Devils were but actually weren't anymore. And he had the power to back it too. He was one of the three known Super Devils along with Sirzechs Lucifer and Ajuka Beelzebub, a mutated existence whose origins were still unknown, someone who surpassed the original Satan multiple times over.
He was truly frightening.
"O-Ophis?" She called out meekly while craning her head around the doorway so that she could peer into the master bedroom which the Dragon God had claimed for herself. It had taken while for them to finish but Le Fay had waited for all of the Devils to leave before she entered the home herself, she would admit that she almost lost her resolve as she sat and waited.
But, as the ultimate being whose appearance was that of a young girl glanced over in her direction with those empty black eyes she knew that she'd made the right choice, she was glad that she came.
When the small girl made no attempt at responding Le Fay took that as an okay to continue, "I-Is it okay if I talk to you for a moment?" She asked, stepping fulling to the bedroom.
Just when it seemed as if Ophis would once again remain silent a look of realization flashed suddenly over her face, raising her left arm out horizontally she turned her hand so that her palm was facing up, a small burst of dark, smoke like energy later and a miniature black snake was coiling around her open hand.
This time it was Le Fay's turn to remain silent as stared confusedly at the small reptile, then with eyes wide and arms waving frantically in front of her she realized what was going on. Ophis was so used to people just asking for things from her that at this point she assumed that's what everyone wanted.
"Wait Ophis, I didn't come here to ask you for anything!" She quickly spoke out, happy to see the snake vanish back into the energy from whence it came.
"I, do not understand." The Dragon God finally said, her arm lowering back down.
"I just wanted to ask if you were feeling okay.."
"Why?" Ophis asked bluntly, her head tilting slightly in a show of her confusion.
"Why?" she echoed, "Well, because I've noticed that you seem a little troubled lately.. I guess," she continued sheepishly, the never changing expression on the small Dragon made her feel a little embarrassed.
"I, do not understand.." Ophis said again, her voice a little softer this time. Turning slightly towards the window so she could once again look up at the night sky she spoke again, "I, am worried."
"eh?" She gasped quietly, Ophis worried? That wasn't what she expected to hear.. "What are you worried about?"
"A Dragon, primordial, evil, has awoken."
The girl could feel a bead of sweat start to form on the back of her neck, "There are more Dragons?" A nod was her response. Vali had sometimes talked about a world of Dragons but Le Fay never paid it much thought, she assumed the Dragons just came from the Dimensional Gap in rare occurrences.. there hadn't been any new Dragons in centuries. If Ophis was saying what she thought she was, however, then that would mean there could potentially tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of other Dragons who just hadn't appeared yet.
"Is this Dragon stronger than you or Great Red?"
"To him, we are nothing."
'Oh dear..' was it just her or did the room just start spinning suddenly? "Will he come here?"
"He, is sealed," Ophis said, shaking her head lightly in the negative this time, confusing the magician.
"Why are you worried then?"
"He, is mischievous."
She had a deadpan expression on her face as she meandered back towards her comrades. Whenever she heard the word mischievous she thought of Kuroka, who while yes was a bad cat, wasn't someone to be feared unless you were in a fight with her. So to hear Ophis refer to this Dragon as simply mischievous threw her through a bit of a loop. 'Then again, Ophis isn't really great with words.. and despite her choice of words she did admit to being worried about him.. ugh, should I be scared or not? I just can't tell.'
Groaning loudly she looked up at the starry sky, 'sometimes the supernatural can be so troublesome.'
Well, I don't have too much to say admittedly. As I said in the first chapter this story will be kind of crazy in regards to the many aspects I will be pulling from. I'm sure some of you will have recognized the figure who saved Ichigo, we'll see more of him next chapter as well as the aforementioned High Hrothgar and Greybeards.
As I said in the last chapter I'm not just randomly throwing things out there. all of the people and places I add from others sources will be explained in the story. Also, if you couldn't tell the sky in Pandemonium is supposed to be like the sky from Sovngarde.
I know people are going to want Ichigo to keep Zangetsu and that is a possibility, however, I have some other ideas in mind that could be interesting too so I can't promise anything. If any of you have read what's so far been translated of the Bleach LN 'Can't Fear Your Own World' than you will know that there are three swords sealed away in the Royal Realm, one of which I'm thinking about giving to Ichigo which could be really awesome.
Anyways, that's all for now.
If you have any thoughts on this chapter than feel free to leave a review! I'm always looking to improve my writing and so constructive criticism is appreciated. If you have any questions then feel free to message me, I always reply when I can.