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  1. Last week
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  3. Oh man it's been a while since I've been here

  4. Night looked between the doors and she wasnt to sure which one to go through. If for anything because it probably did not honestly matter which way she went. This place had a mind of its own. Or maybe it was all pure chaos, and utterly random. Until she had evidence one way or another she could only guess. She sighed and chose a door and went through. She did not get to far into the hallway though. She had to stop no more than four feet from the door as almost the entire hallway was filled with that reishie slurry. The slurry seemed to churn and move, even pulsing in spots. It all felt unnatural, her instincts made her want to recoil from the stuff. She took out another dropper and phial taking another sample. Now what to do about the hallway? She could try flash stepping over it, or she could just turn around and go through the other doorway in the last room. She figured the second option was less risky, and probably the smarter choice. No reason to take a risk this early into the adventure. So she turned around and re entered the room she had just left, or at least it should have been the room she was just in. Yet again though the room had changed. I see this is going to be a thing. So either way I am making progress at least, I hope. She said to herself as she examined the room. The center on the room in about a eight foot diameter had caved in and more of the slurry filled it. In the center of the slurry was a large rhino like hollow. The mask covering its face and had two horns growing from the snout, Its body was thick and large, maybe an adhjucha? It had the spiritual pressure equal to a new captain at least, though twisted. Its body was muscular large and grey, it seemed to be drinking the slurry, its body pulsing every now and then, its spiritual power feeling twisted. As the door shut behind her the hinges creaked and the Hollow turned spotting Night. It let out a deep bestial growl as it stepped out of the slurry. Its feet looked like clawed hands and it charged, a lack of intelligence behind its eyes. Night rolled out of the way and it stopped thanks to the claws on its feet, hands? It pivoted and charged again, this time though Night flash stepped leaving behind an afterimage. The hollow pierced the afterimage with its horns causing the afterimage to break apart and fade away. It kept running though and hit the wall that sent a powerful tremor through the room. It may have had the power of an adhjucha but it did not appear to have the intelligence of one. Maybe this was a result of the slurry? Either it had gained this level of power from it or the slurry made the thing more primitive. Devour the world Bokyaku. With the power the hollow had she was going to at least need her shikai released. The Hollow turned hearing her voice a mindless rage behind its eyes. Bokyaku split down the middle and fired a lance of darkness from the center of her blade. The hollow charged just as she fired cloaking itself in spiritual power. The lance pierced the hollows shoulder. The darkness dissolved the spiritual power around it as it crashed into the floor and slid a few feet. It stood back up though and a green energy filled its mouth as it charged a cero and fired. Night acted quickly as Bokyaku took the shape of a kite shield. Bakudo 39, Enkosen. From the core of her shield bloomed a dull yellow energy that took the shape of a spinning disk. Reinforced with her zan behind the kido Night tanked the cero and she released the bakudo. She took in a breathe and held her zanpakuto in front of herself as she fired Bokyaku at the hollow. A large dragon of darkness with stars spotting it flew out from her blade. It flew right at the hollow crashing into it and engulfing it with a dark explosion. Using Oblivion control she controlled the explosion keeping it controlled and condensed around the hollow letting her darkness consume it. The darkness clung to the hollow weakening it the longer the darkness from her attacks clung to it. The more she cold hit it with her darkness the weaker it would become. She was trying to avoid needing to use her mask or bankai for now as the Hollow rose back up to its full height. It seemed rather pissed and charged at her once more horns lowered to skewer her. Using fluid blade she changed her zanpakutos shape from a long sword to a long blade curved along her arm. She would wait till it was about to strike her and flash step a bit to the side while having kurai flare up around her blade. She slashed at the hollow letting its weight and speed carry it along her blades length her darkness seeping into the wound as the side she sliced gave out and it crashed into the wall with a mighty thud. Night then flash stepped bac over to the hollow switching Bokyaku into a great axe, the metal forming the blade as darkness filled in the rest. She reinforced her blade with her spiritual power and brought the blade down on the Hollows neck finishing the beast off. Instead of blood though the strange slurry spilled from the wound and the hollow started to dissolve into the floor. She took a picture with her phone as it did and then looked around the room. Besides the door she came through there were three other doors to choose from. So were to next?
  5. Almost 4 years since my last post, wow. Had to change my profile, because I didn't want the "Your Waifu" joke name as my lasting legacy here, lmao.

    1. Rash ラシュ

      Rash ラシュ

      Yo, it's been a minute! Good to see you, Haku. How are things with the YT channel. I've seen a few videos here and there as they popped up in my feed.

    2. Hakumei


      Hey! Good to see you too. Things have been going pretty good. I've been really trying to get back into things full-time lately. I've checked in here occasionally, but finally decided today to log in and ditch the old joke profile name and images, lol. Still haven't watched the Bleach TYBW anime, so maybe I'll do videos on that eventually.

  6. Haven’t been able to log in since yesterday, username is Kiratiro.
  7. 042: Second Trial, WILD'S And Dysfunctional! ----- ____________________ [Hell Week Day 4] Start of the Second Trial ... KIYOKU stood with her arms crossed behind her back as she welcomed the team to their second trial. She couldn't help but smile behind her mask; the shock on all five of the young faces in front of her was simply priceless. The looked as if they'd seen a ghost from the past. Of course, the only downside to it was that, it hadn't been the mere sight of her that struck such dread and alarm in the hearts and minds of the fledgling WILD'S team. She could be scary too, if she wanted to be --they should have known that by now. Instead, it was the sight of geometrical obsidian-like contraption, positioned just to her right, that had them all out of sorts. The object upon which all their young eyes were wearily fixated had the shape and appearance of a black stone seat, almost like a small throne with two handle prongs, one at the end of each armrest. The "blackseat", as it was dubbed, wasn't just any old chair though. It was actually a torture device, inspired by the Chinese torture chair of old. This one too was once used for interrogations a very long time ago. However it hadn't seen use for that purpose or any use at all for that matter in some decades. That was until now --during this very same Hell Week. Now, it was being used for the sole purpose of teaching the Second Generation WILD'S team a crucial lesson. Perhaps understandably, the young ones didn't at all appear eager to learn it. Nevertheless, 'learn it' they would. Despite that, Kiyoku wasn't entirely opposed to feedback on her chosen method of teaching. She'd accept some constructive criticism. Heck, she might even hear out a few complaints. After all, she wasn't a complete monster. "Oi, Ms Sato. This is a fucking joke, right?", Ryūnosuke exclaimed. Unsurprisingly, he seemed to be the most shaken by the reemergence of the blackseat --after all he'd been the only one in the group to experience its horrors first-hand. So far, at least. That was bound to change. "We won the first trial already, why the fuck is that thing here!", the rookie raged. Kiyoku let out full-hearted chuckle and shrugged. The answer should have been obvious enough once the team thought about it. As she predicted, it took only seconds for the realization to be visible in their expressions. Ryūnosuke looked nauseated and pale all of a sudden, almost as if he was ready to collapse into a heap. Shame, he hadn't even touched the sat again yet. Kiyoku let the team stew in their dread a few seconds longer before dispensing of that small sliver of doubt, that inkling of hope, entirely. "Well, it's obvious isn't it, Tamura. The blackseat will also feature in the second trial." "That's bullshit!" Kanako protested next. She started to march forward, likely to voice her grievances at a closer proximity but it was Iwa that held her back and urged her to remain calm. "Sato-senpai's right... Let's stay focused." Ryūnosuke interjected with a sudden shift in demeanor. It seemed he'd come to terms with the whole affair already. "We aren't deciding anything yet, we should at least hear what the trial is.", Iwa explained before indicating to Kiyoku that she could continue. Kiyoku held her arm out to her left and a short podium rose upwards from the ground. Laid on top of the podium were four small colored flags. At the same time the lights in fours different sections of the dungeon changed hue as well, matching the colors of the flags and forming a perfect square field with the blackseat positioned at the center. "The second trial is a simple game of zone capture. There are four colored flags here; blue, orange, green, and pink. Each flag has a matching zone of the same color. A zone is captured only when the person with the corresponding flag is standing on it. The trial is complete once all four zones have been captured. Simple enough so far. However, the trial resets if I eliminate a flag-bearer before they successfully reach their zone. Of course, there is also the blackseat. The same rules of engagement from the first trial apply with one exception --I am permitted to attack one of you each round even while the blackseat is activated. Additionally, each time the blackseat is deactivated the colors of the zones will change orientation at random." Kiyoku ended there and then opened the floor for questions. Although, understandably, there weren't many besides Iwa's inquiries about specific technicalities like what qualified as "elimination". The answer was simply that any action that rendered a player unable to participate in the round would be considered elimination if they remained in that state by the time the blackseat was deactivated. Personally, Kiyoku found that rule to be a little too forgiving but she did want the team so have some chance of succeeding. Additionally, she was under no obligation to announce which of the players she would target each round and there was no alternative method of winning the trial besides capturing the four zones. Once all the questions were answered, Kiyoku gave the team some time and space for discussion. ... KANAKO was the first to comment after the team huddled around the podium. "Don't worry guys, first trial is over, no way we're ever gonna have to see the blackseat again.", she remarked sarcastically while mimicking Ryūnosuke's speak patterns and accent. Ryūnosuke shot her a piercing glare for a moment but remained speechless and then stared down at the flags on the podium. "Not helpful, Kanako. I'm sure Tamura-kun got the point. Honestly, in hindsight, we should have seen this coming." Iwa sighed and pinched his brow. "And, knowing my sister, we'd better assume that fucking chair is going to be in all the remaining trials moving forwards." "Fucking peaches!", Kanako cursed with a exasperated chuckle and threw up her arms. "Anyway, we'll cross that bridge when we reach it... What's our move right now?", Chizuru interjected. Kanako scoffed. "Obviously, we forfeit. Right?" She looked around at the glum and darkened expression that refused to meet her gaze. Unbelievable. "Right?!", she asked again, although deep down inside she knew the others had already made up their minds... again. "I'll take the blackseat again.", Ryūnosuke murmured. "It's only fair, considering--" Kanako reached out, grabbed grabbed the rookie's left ear and pulled it. "O-ouch! Stop it!" Ryūnosuke shouted. "Hey, we're not doing this bullshit again, you got it." She released him and watched him rub his reddened ear while mumbling something to himself. "Since it's clear you idiots aren't going to forfeit let's hear the genius plan for winning this one, then. Can't believe I'm playing along with this shit again. I must be an idiot too." "We're a company of idiots, truly. Nevertheless, Kanako, I'm glad you're hanging in there for us.", Iwa replied with a warm smile. "Whatever.", Kanako answered with a shrug. The smooth talk hadn't been that effective until she felt Juri hug her from the side and thank her as well. "Thanks, Kanako." Kanako blushed and tried to play it off cool. "Yeah, yeah, Juri. Don't thank me just yet." "So, what's the plan, Sato-senpai?", Ryūnosuke asked. "Before we do anything else, you're going to tell us what happens in the blackseat, Tamura-kun.", Iwa replied. His tone was surprisingly demanding. Kanako saw the fight and the pain in Ryūnosuke's eyes and his expression. He seemed to argue against the idea internally for the next ten or so seconds before ultimately relenting. He sighed lowly, then nodded and faced the team. "Alright." In the moments that followed Ryūnosuke's explanation of the blackseat's function, Kanako felt a complicated mess different emotions. It was mostly anger and frustration with Kiyoku and the insane trials as a whole, but there was also a lot of guilt and sadness towards Ryūnosuke. Even if he'd ultimately decided to endure it himself, and even if she wasn't the one who'd given him the toughest time (that charge fell solely on Chizuru), Kanako still had to contend with the reality that Ryūnosuke had been through essentially torture and he'd taken it all on the chin. And for his troubles they'd all badgered him for days. Even if it was partially his own fault for withholding the information, once that was done he tried to spare them the guilt of knowing. Now that she knew, she felt terrible and she wasn't the only one. Juri had spent the last few minutes trying to coddle Ryūnosuke, who insisted that he was fine -- and by all visible accounts appeared to be as well. Chizuru wasn't especially expressive but she did keep her distance and refrained from making any harsh remarks. Kanako liked to imagine Chizuru felt extra shitty considering she'd been basically bullying Ryūnosuke for the past couple of days. Iwa remained mostly analytical in his response and spent more time inspecting the blackseat while combing over his notes. On Ryūnosuke's part he remained adamant that their collective reactions to the revelation were why he'd preferred to keep it a secret in the first place. Knowing what she knew now, Kanako still didn't agree fully with his actions but at least she understood his perspective. ... IWA was the one to eventually redirected the conversation to the trial. Although they were now armed with the knowledge of what sitting in the blackseat meant, there was still the issue of how they intended to win the second trial. As expected, Ryūnosuke repeated his intention to take on the blackseat again without hesitation. However, unlike the last time, Iwa noted a distinct resistance to the idea among the others, chiefly in Kanako and Juri. Ryūnosuke reasoned that it was the best option, given that he'd already gone through with it before and that the fewer of them that had to go through that torture the better. Additionally, Ryūnosuke gave the team a reliable time frame to work with each round. By Iwa's calculations, having Ryūnosuke take the blackseat was the most logical approach, but he would be lying is he said he didn't hold his own reservations on the matter as well. Mainly, he agreed with Kanako and Juri that the rookie had suffered enough. They discussed the matter for a few minutes but with Ryūnosuke's persistence and the others looking to Iwa for the "correct" answer, the Kappa of WILD'S ultimately relented. Bowing his head, he asked Ryūnosuke to take the blackseat again. The latter nodded confidently with a smug grin and told the others to leave it to him. Next on the agenda was the matter of strategy, Iwa and the others each ran from the podium to the four corner zones to gauge the time it would take them to complete the trial unimpeded. Roughly thirty-five seconds on the higher end for Juri. Iwa was the quickest at twenty-seven seconds with the assistance of his Kappa no Sokumen ability. Followed by Chizuru and Kanako who clocked in at thirty and thirty-two seconds respectively. Understandably, those time records would only be relevant to three of them in any single round. Effectively, they reflected the least amount of time any of them would need to avoid being eliminated by Kiyoku. And, if they already didn't have enough to consider, there was also the fact that Ryūnosuke could reliably keep the blackseat active for only twenty seconds at a time. In every predictable scenario, it would take at least two blackseat activations for them to complete the trial. Which meant the zone colors would shift once, potentially doubling the time they needed in order to succeed. After discussing his findings with the others, Iwa proposed that they should initially focus their energies on reaching the zones as quickly as the could while trying to avoid Kiyoku at all costs. If that failed they would work out a different approach. There was a profound confidence about the team as the reached for their flags, It was further spurred on by Ryūnosuke's fiery words of encouragement in the background. Iwa, Chizuru, Kanako, and Juri huddled close around the podium, took their flags and concealed them. The idea was to volunteer as little free information as they could to Kiyoku with the hope of stalling her --even if only for a second-- with choices. Chizuru took the green flag, Iwa the orange, Juri the blue, and Kanako took the pink. Ryūnosuke signaled that he was ready to begin before he activated the blackseat. The four others dispersed instantly in the directions of their assigned zones. From Iwa's point of view, the trial was off to a good start, he'd correctly assumed that he was not Kiyoku's target this round. Naturally, his instinct was to wonder who his sister had gone after. For better or for worse, a heartbreaking shriek put all wonder to rest just a moment later. Iwa, Kanako, and Chizuru all pivoted at the same instant. Ryūnosuke had already deactivated the seat as well. The four of them stared with wide eyes at the unconscious Juri slumped on the ground at Kiyoku's feet. "Again." their boss and mentor ordered sternly as she marched back to her starting position. ... JURI regained consciousness a few seconds later. The others had surrounded her, they were watching her with concerned expressions and Kanako's face was red hot with fury. Juri noticed the pink flag poking out from Kanako's pocket and she checked her own pocket for the blue one --it was still there. So, the trial wasn't completed. Juri shuffled to her knees and groaned as an piercing discomfort ached deep in the left side of her neck. She tried to recall what had caused it. She remembered the trial beginning. The dungeon lights turned light-blue. Surprisingly, Ryūnosuke hadn't screamed after activating the blackseat. Juri had rushed for the blue zone but Miss Kiyoku appeared in front of her suddenly and downed her with a single strike. Then Juri blacked out. Juri's gaze fell to the ground, too ashamed to face the teammates she'd let down as she realized that she'd been targeted and eliminated so quickly into the first round. "Sorry, everyone.", Juri murmured weakly. "Don't apologize, Juri.", Kanako replied softly and took Juri's hands. "It's not your fault. Kiyoku played dirty." "Don't mind, Kenzaki-senpai. We got this.", Ryūnosuke said reassuringly. He helped her to her feet and the team collectively comforted Juri with soft-spoken reassurances. She was thankful for the encouragement and support, still it felt impossible to fully shake off the disappointment and embarrassment she felt in herself. "Let's try again. Everyone stay sharp.", Iwa stated as the team marched back towards the podium. Juri observed hard and glaring eyes all fixed on Kiyoku but besides that, she noticed a shift in the way the others were standing. Obviously, their positions had changed to reflect the new arrangement of the colored zones. However, Juri also noted that Kanako, Iwa, and Chizuru had formed a sort of defensive wall between her and Kiyoku. Their nonverbal coordination indicated that they must have discussed and agreed on this new arrangement while she was still unconscious. Alas, it looked like they'd defaulted back to the typical tactic of protecting Juri. The realization hurt almost as much as Kiyoku's strike had and Juri pressed her lips shut as she fought against the urge to cry. It had all shattered. Any sense of independence or autonomy she'd fostered in the team from her success in the first trial had been snuffed out in just one hit. Juri clenched her fist silently and focused on the the blue zone. If she could carry her own weight in this trial, maybe that would set things back on track. ... CHIZURU gave a light nod to Iwa, signaling that she was ready for the second round to begin. Iwa's prediction was that Kiyoku would go after Juri again, given that she was the easiest target. With that knowledge, they'd already had to alter their approach to the trial to running defense for Juri. Iwa would try to trap Kiyoku within his pocket dimension as quickly as possible and hopefully long enough for them to complete the trial. In order to facilitate that, it fell on Chizuru and Kanako to keep Kiyoku distracted and away from Juri. It was far from ideal, but the team agreed it was still the better option. The alternative was to swap Ryūnosuke in and have Juri take the blackseat, which no one wanted. Simply posing the idea earlier had caused Kanako and Ryūnosuke to lash out at Iwa. Strangely enough, they expressed that they understood the logic behind the idea but were upset that Iwa had considered it after only the first round. Chizuru in the end felt obligated to back Iwa because, ultimately, he wasn't wrong. They'd all came to the same conclusion, Iwa was just the one to voice it. Besides, Chizuru thought Ryūnosuke and Kanako were behaving too emotionally in regards to Juri anyway. Which, while not atypical for them, was still unproductive. Iwa nodded back and signaled to Ryūnosuke. "We're ready! Tamura-kun, hit it!" "Right!", Ryūnosuke replied from the rear of the group before he reactivated the blackseat. He let out a painful grunt and then shouted, "Go, go, go!" Juri took off her her zone without hesitation. Chizuru, Kanako, and Iwa hung back and watched Kiyoku like hawks. The white tiger of WILD'S followed Kiyoku's eyes, she watched her track Juri's movement and alerted the others. "She's going after Juri again!", she roared as she dashed to her left to intercept. Kanako flanked her from the right. "We're not gonna let you!", she yell at Kiyoku. "Run, Juri!" Iwa had already zipped past them both and lunged at Kiyoku. Kiyoku hopped one step backwards and evaded him. Nevertheless, Iwa's attack had been perfectly timed to place her directly in Chizuru's path. The Pakuto Pan-chi (Packed Punch) value above Kiyoku's head was "170", which although it was considerably on the lower end meant she was consequently guaranteed to enhance the overall impact of her attacks if she landed a hit. Chizuru threw a straight right jab at Kiyoku's side. To Chizuru, it seemed as if Kiyoku had preemptively read her attack and weaved forward to dodge it. A decision that initially seemed odd, as it left her open to the flying punch from Kanako that landed squarely on Kiyoku's jaw. However, the logic behind her maneuver was made clear in the very next moment. Kiyoku willingly took the punch from Kanako because she was the easier target to push past on her path to Juri. Iwa was effectively now the last line of defense between Kiyoku and Juri. "Don't let her pass you, Iwa!", Kanako shouted earnestly as she and Chizuru both made chase behind Kiyoku --it was a futile effort but they had to try. Maybe Iwa could stall her just long enough. Iwa stood determined to stop his older sister in her tracks but Kiyoku started to zigzag side to side at a mind-splitting pace. Even Chizuru found it nigh impossible to accurately track her movement. Then Kiyoku simply breezed pass Iwa as if he were no obstacle at all. To add insult to injury, she shoved Iwa in the back from behind and he stumbled forward, off balance and directly in Chizuru's and Kanako's path, abruptly ending their chase. Kanako could only curse furiously. ... JURI had just passed the halfway mark to the blue zone when she heard Kanako swear from behind her. She deduced that Miss Kiyoku had gotten past the others. Which meant it was down to her. It would be impossible for them to complete the trial before Ryūnosuke had to deactivate the seat but if she could at least reach her zone, then Juri could prove to the others that she wasn't as helpless as they thought she was. That she was just as capable as everyone else and that she didn't need to be protected all the time. She told herself she could do it, that she had to succeed. As much as going against Miss Kiyoku terrified Juri --Kiyoku was faster, stronger, and infinitely more experienced than she was-- she still had to believe in herself. After all, she couldn't expect the others to believe in her unless she did so first. Juri thought of Ryūnosuke and the confidence he had. It seemed like Ryūnosuke always pushed forward without fear no matter what he was up against. Kanako liked to tease him about it, she thought his overconfidence was born of stupidity, but Juri thought it was cool. She wanted to be like Ryūnosuke in that way. Definitely not all the time, but maybe just this once she wanted to have the sheer confidence to will to succeed against ridiculous odds. Juri could feel Kiyoku's presence closing in on her and with each Bringer Light step the distance between them got shorter. Juri roared out, partially in frustration but equally in defiance. Halfway through a step she caught glimpse of a punch coming for her chest. Kiyoku was in front of her already. Juri barely managed to spin around the side of it and used Bringer Light to establish distance again. Unfortunately, there was no out-pacing Kiyoku now. Kiyoku followed her with every step and Juri was forced to go on the defensive. Rather than advancing towards the zone, Juri had to block an attack with every move and then evade in any direction she could, away from her relentless pursuer. If she hadn't before, Juri definitely felt targeted now and it wasn't at all pleasant. Each strike she blocked hurt like hell and packed enough force to nearly knock her off her feet. After the fourth strike Juri could hardly hold her arms up. Her bones felt like they would snap any moment and the repeated Bringer Light maneuvers were exhausting her stamina. The worst thing about it was that she was so close to her zone, but Kiyoku was intentionally blocking her advance. On top of that, they were going to run out of time any moment now. Juri cried out again as she made a final effort to get past Kiyoku and reach the blue zone. She dashed forwards in Kiyoku's direction as if to challenge her head on. Kiyoku stood ready to meet the confrontation. Juri wound up her fist as if to throw a punch and Kiyoku did the same. Juri noted the hand that went up, Kiyoku's left. Just as Kiyoku would have expected them to collide Juri dropped into a slide. With Kiyoku's left fist mid-release it should be significantly easier for Juri to slip by. At least it should have been. Juri nearly cracked a smile, she could see the blue zone in front her again, with another Bringer Light step she could just barely make it. "I can do. I can do it!", she told herself, rallying all her might and willing herself to seize the victory. Then she felt a tightness around her throat as her forward momentum came to a sudden halt. The moment Juri recognized that it was Kiyoku's arm wrapped around her neck like a noose was the same moment she felt the the overwhelming force of a rear naked choke be applied. The pressure swelled to the extent that Juri felt her head would pop off any moment. Still she kicked and reached with all her might. It couldn't end this way, not when she was so close. She could faintly hear Kanako screaming and cursing. As Juri's vision blurred, partially from oxygen deprivation and partially from the tears building in her eyes, she asked herself why it hadn't worked. She wanted to know why she couldn't make it despite her will, despite how hard she tried. She wanted to know why Kiyoku had targeted her so relentlessly. It was frustrating, it was painful and it was embarrassing. Her arms and her legs hurt, still she never gave up. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction of seeing her quit or cry. Juri reached into her pocket and grabbed the flag. It was an optimistic dream, born of her desperation as she teetered at the border of consciousness. If she couldn't carry the flag to the zone herself, maybe she could throw it? "I c-can... do." Juri strained as she struggled to raise her arm. Then she blacked out for a second time. When Juri regained consciousness she saw a familiar scene of familiar concerned and sad expressions and although she knew she ought not have, it was impossible to dispense of the thought that they were looking down on her. Before she'd been disappointed and embarrassed with herself; and so she'd looked away. Not this time. Now she stared back with a glare in her eyes. She wouldn't back down to their patronizing gazes. They all seemed surprised by her expression. "J-Juri?", Kanako called to her. "I'm fine! Let's try again.", Juri responded firmly. She then stood tall on her feet, as tall as she could, and marched towards the podium. "It's fine, Juri, we can take a break if you nee-" "I said I'm fine!", Juri shouted back, cutting Iwa off. There was a pause that lingered just long enough to annoy her. Juri spun on her heel and was about to give the others a piece of her mind but was shocked to see a wall of Ryūnosuke standing in front of her with his arms crossed. "T-Tamura-kun?", she stammered. Ryūnosuke hinged forwards and hovered his face just inches from hers. He gave her an inquisitive and instantly disarming stare. Juri, ever defiantly, tried to stare back as she mentally warred against the urge to look off to the side. Thankfully, Ryūnosuke stood upright. Then he smiled at her. "You're gonna need this, aren't you?" Ryūnosuke said as he held up the small blue flag in his right hand. Juri felt like she could have died from embarrassment in that very moment. "Whatever, Tamura-kun. Give it here!", she shouted and reached out to snatch the flag from him. Ryūnosuke held it up higher out of her reach. "Hold on a sec, Kenzaki-senpai." Ryūnosuke replied. "Hey dumbass, stop teasing her.", Kanako interjected as her approached and stood beside Juri; it was more like Juri was snugged between them, being smothered by them as they bickered. "What! I'm not teasing her! You're the dumbass!" At some point Juri stopped reaching for the flag and just stood still, stewing in her own frustration. Why were they always like this? "Just give her the flag already! Can't you see she's frustrated enough as it is?" "I was just about to and I can see she's frustrated, that's why I was trying to talk to her, idiot!" Juri had heard enough. She wouldn't even bother to mediate between the two of them this time. She helped herself and reached into Kanako's pocket, plucked out the pink flag and stomped back towards Chizuru and Iwa without a word. She stood beside Chizuru and crossed her arms. That seemed to have the effect of silencing the pair long enough for them to realize she didn't care. "Now look what you've done.", Ryūnosuke hissed at Kanako. "Shut up.", Kanako hissed back and snatched the blue flag from his hand. "So, whenever you two are done...", Iwa interrupted. "Don't even start, Iwa!", Kanako warned. Ryūnosuke groaned in annoyance, walked back to the blackseat, and plopped down into it. "Just give me the word, already." The next three rounds played out similarly to the second. Each time Kiyoku went straight for Juri and eliminated her from the round before she could reach the zone. With each failed round the team's frustration grew and morale started to flat line. Iwa tried and failed to capture Kiyoku, which caused Kanako to lash out at him repeatedly. Ryūnosuke looked visibly pale and exhausted. It was clear he wouldn't last many more goes in the blackseat. Chizuru paced back and forth in frustration. Juri was simply emotionally and physically exhausted. She also felt resentful towards Kiyoku for what she could perceive as nothing other that personal attacks meant to further reduce her standing among the rest of the team. It was simply cruel and unfair. She wanted to scream. She wanted to demand answers. Why was Kiyoku doing this? Nevertheless, Juri fought each round confidently and tried her best. She maintained faith in herself and believed that she would succeed well into the sixth round. Until Ryūnosuke ended the round after only ten seconds. "Again.", Kiyoku ordered. Juri looked around at the dejected faces of her teammates as they marched towards the podium as if nothing had happened. Juri didn't understand it. "Tamura-kun, why did you end the round?", she asked. Ryūnosuke sighed and only half met her gaze. "You see-" "We agreed to end the rounds early from now on if Kiyoku gets pass our defense.", Iwa explained. "Wh-why!", Juri shouted. She hadn't even noticed the anger in her voice. "Because there's no point, Juri.", Kanako responded with a concerned yet somehow also exasperated tone. "N-no!", Juri marched back to the podium. "Juri please.", Kanako pleaded, "We're all tired of seeing you get picked on." "But, I can do it. If I can just get pass her I can reach my zone!" "Juri, none of us are doubting you.", Chizuru said. Except they were doubting her! "Then let me keep trying!", Juri begged. "Enough Juri, the team's decided on this.", Iwa said sternly. "I didn't! Am I not part of the team? How can you decide without me, it's not fair, Iwa!", Juri shouted back. She was furious --the worst possible time for the tears to start pouring. Ryūnosuke was on his feet again and approaching her. "C'mon, Kenzaki-senpai, of course you're part of the team. And you've fought hard enough, you don't have anything to prove to us." Juri felt disgusted, out of everyone she expected at least Ryūnosuke to understand but he was acting just like the others looking down on her just the same way. She saw his hand reaching out to pat her head and she swatted it away. "I have everything to prove, you- you stupid dumbass!", she shouted in his face. Her outburst seemed to stun the rookie for a moment but eventually he withdrew his hand and sighed. "Alright, then.", he replied flatly and then turned to face the others. "Sato-senpai, I know we kinda scratched the idea, but I think we should reconsider." "Hey!", Kanako barked. She looked the angriest Juri had seen her in years. "Are you out of damn mind!", she started to charge towards Ryūnosuke but Iwa held her back. "Settle down, Kanako.", he strained. "Tamura-kun, that's a terrible fucking idea.", Iwa replied as calmly as he could. His eyes read as if he was urging Ryūnosuke to shut up and drop the subject. Chizuru stood off to the side, seemingly completely disengaged with the conversation. "What idea! What are you all hiding from me!", Juri asked for herself. "Right-", Ryūnosuke started to answer. "Shut your fucking mouth, rookie!" "Oi, Kenzaki-senpai, weren't you just on my case about withholding information? Listen, I'm just as much against the idea as you are but the least we can do is let Juri decide for herself." "Decide what!" "If you want to have a go at the blackseat.", Ryūnosuke answered. Juri felt her eyes go wide. So, that's what it was! "Son of a bitch!", Kanako shouted. Too late, the cat was out of the bag now. "It's been obvious from the first round that Ms Sato's had a big red target on your back. Iwa figured that the only workaround would be for you and I to swap roles this trial. We've been trying to avoid it but nothing else has worked and after six rounds of you getting targeted we didn't think it would be fair to make you take the blacksea-" "I'll do it!", Juri shouted confidently. She couldn't say if it was her rage that have driven her to that decision or her sheer resolve. Regardless, she couldn't have asked for a better opportunity. "Wait what?", Ryūnosuke spun around and faced her. "Really just like that?" Juri nodded, reached into her pocket and held out the pink flag to Ryūnosuke. "I'll take the blackseat.", she declared for a second and final time. Iwa, Kanako and Ryūnosuke argued about it for some time afterward, although it was mostly Ryūnosuke and Kanako again with Iwa trying to mediate from a rational angle. However, Juri more or less put the arguing to rest by planting her butt firmly in the blackseat and refusing to move. Kanako threatened to physically remove her, but Ryūnosuke got in her way until she gave up. Juri took a mental note that she would have to thank Ryūnosuke later. It had taken him getting a good shouting to but she was glad that he eventually decided to back her on her decision. It was more than she could say for the others, especially Kanako. Ryūnosuke stood in front of her to offer some final words. "You good, Kenzaki-senpai? It's not too late to call this off, you know?" Juri's only answer was a brief piercing glare. "Alright, alright. I get it." Ryūnosuke replied and raised his hands in submission. "At least let me give you some advice, then?" Juri nodded meekly. Truthfully, she was still very frightened by what he described about the blackseat before and she'd be thankfully for any advice Ryūnosuke had to offer. "So, there isn't much you can do about the pain. It's gonna hurt like Hell, but it does help to remember it's not real. I mean, it's gonna feel real but it's not. Also, the most important thing to remember is that you can let go of the handles at any time you want. Once it gets to your hands you're gonna feel like you're stuck and like you can't let go, if that happens you're pretty much trapped in until you pass out, you don't want that. Remember it's not real and let go when you feel like you can't take anymore, okay?" Somehow Juri felt even more terrified than she had before, but she nodded to let Ryūnosuke know she understood. He smiled and patted her head. "You got this, Kenzaki-senpai. We're counting on you, so you can count on us as well." Ryūnosuke smirked reassuringly and Juri allowed herself to be caught up in his confidence again. She nodded again and smiled back. "Thanks, Tamura-kun. Let's do our best!", she cheered and gave him a thumbs up. Ryūnosuke looked surprised and then snickered. "Well, now I absolutely have to win this trial.", he replied and he walked backwards to the podium and joined the others. Seconds later the others were all gathered around the podium and preparing for the seventh round. Considering that they didn't know how long Juri would be able to keep the blackseat activated, their initial approach would be to see if they could actually subdue Kiyoku with Ryūnosuke's help. If that was possible, then Iwa could trap her in his pocket dimension, hopefully long enough for them to secure the zones within a second or even a third blackseat activation. Kanako still appeared to be in a foul mood with Ryūnosuke but besides that it looked like the rookie was fitting in with the active team members already. Until now, Juri hadn't considered that this would be Ryūnosuke's first time actually participating in the trials. He didn't seem nervous at all. Juri felt inspired all over again just watching him. She had to do her best to give him and the others the best chance at succeeding. "Oi, Sato-senpai.", Ryūnosuke said to Iwa. His tone was hushed, but still loud enough for Juri (and she assumed the other two as well) to hear. "Yeah, what is it?", Iwa replied, and glanced at the rookie curiously. "Trade flags with me, will yah?", Ryūnosuke asked. "Wha-", Iwa looked at the pink flag in Ryūnosuke's hand and then bluntly replied, "No. I don't wanna.", with a deadpan stare. "C'mon!" Ryūnosuke protested meekly. "Please... orange is my color!" "You just don't want the girly color!" "Yeah, obviously!" "Well, I don't want it either.", Iwa argued back. "Ask Chizuru or Kanako." "I'm asking you." "Well, my answer is still, 'no'. Ask the girls or drop it." Iwa turned away. "Final answer." "Rock, paper, scissors me for it?" "No!" "Coward." "Well, at least I don't have the pink flag.", Iwa taunted and then addressed the team collectively. "Everyone set? Juri, ready to get started?" Ryūnosuke begrudgingly tied the pink flag around his left bicep and grumbled, "Ready." Juri chuckled at the little exchange and then said, "I'm ready, everyone!" "Ready." Chizuru. "As ready as I'll ever be." Kanako, sarcastically. "Alright. Go for it, Juri!" Juri took a deep breath and steeled herself mentally and physically before taking the handles of the blackseat tightly in her hands. "Go, everyone!", she shouted as the dungeon lights tuned pale blue. She watched them take off just as the pain started to set in. It was precisely as Ryūnosuke had described it; all across her body it felt as if metal corkscrews were slowly growing out of the blackseat and poking her in hundreds of places at once. In the beginning it felt like being pinched which was severely discomforting but still bearable. Of course if the pain ended there then it wouldn't be much cause for concern. Three seconds in is when the real pain started, once the twisting sensation of the corkscrews started to feel as if they were piercing the skin and burrowing into the flesh. Juri opened her mouth but held back her scream --at least initially. She didn't know when she actually started to scream but Iwa would later tell her it was around six seconds in. ... RYŪNOSUKE pushed down the sounds of Juri's terrible cries as he rushed forwards with the others. He already hated himself for not only agreeing but in a way also encouraging Juri to take the blackseat. He had to shoulder his part of the blame for Juri's torture and he'd accept if the others wanted to hate him for it later. However, right now, they had to push forwards, they had to beat the trial. That was the only way Juri's suffering wouldn't be in vain. Ryūnosuke hadn't even noticed that he and Kanako were leading the charge, which was odd because... that wasn't the plan. "What are you two doing!", Chizuru shouted at them from behind. "Shit!", Ryūnosuke hissed to himself. He'd already lost focus; in fact, he hadn't even released his Fullbring yet. He glanced at Kanako to his left and noticed that she was running purely on rage at this point. He wondered if hearing Juri's screams had effected them both in the same manner. In any case, there was no reasoning with Kanako in her current state and it was too late to back down. "Ichihara's lost it, we have to back her up!", Ryūnosuke shouted back continued forwards. "Oh for fuck's sake!", Chizuru lamented. "No use complaining now. Let's do what we can.", Iwa cut in. Kanako was already lashing at Kiyoku with a flurry of punches and kicks with elemental blasts sprinkled in chaotically. Kiyoku seemed to endlessly evade her without much difficulty. Rather it was Ryūnosuke and Chizuru who found themselves inadvertently stalled by the constant need to dodge stray attacks. "Ichihara, you gotta ease up a bit.", Ryūnosuke shouted as a blast of electricity crackled just inches from his face. "You're gonna gas yourself out!" "Or hit one of us!", Chizuru added. "GRAAAAH!!!" Kanako roared back while hurling other unintelligible obscenities along with blasts of flames. "Sato-senpai!", "Iwa!" Ryūnosuke and Chizuru both pleaded at once. "Yeah, I'm on it!", Iwa responded, having already sliced a gateway to his pocket dimension in the air. He then used Bringer Light to blink just behind Kanako. "It's off to timeout for you.", he said before Kanako disappeared. Iwa then looked at his watch to check the time. "Eleven seconds in. Make something happen quick!" "I'm trying!", Chizuru roared back. Ryūnosuke and Chizuru were both rushing Kiyoku from her left and her right respectively. Ryūnosuke noticed that it looked like Chizuru was going to attack low, so he swung his bat higher. Unfortunately, he couldn't predict that Chizuru would speed up at the last moment or that Kiyoku would somehow deflect her attack and spin her into the path of his bat. Completely unintentionally, Ryūnosuke effectively clotheslined Chizuru with his bat. Even Iwa exclaimed and winced at a distance as the bat hit Chizuru's chest with a loud and blunt PING. "Sorry!" Ryūnosuke shouted as Chizuru landed on her back with a dull thud and groaned in pain. Ryūnosuke hadn't even looked up before Kiyoku landed a jab straight into his solar plexus. Instantly winded, Ryūnosuke dropped beside Chizuru like a sack of bricks. Juri managed to hold out for another three seconds. In total she lasted nineteen seconds before she released the handles and deactivated the blackseat. Ryūnosuke was impressed that she'd endured for that long, he regretted that they couldn't make the most of the time she'd given them. "Do it again... Preferably, with less friendly fire this time.", Kiyoku ordered. Iwa released Kanako from his pocket dimension; she looked visibly insulted and refused to speak to anyone, but at least she appeared to have cooled off. Ryūnosuke approached Chizuru to apologize but before he could say a word she had a finger in his face. "Watch where you swing that thing, jaskass!", she shouted and stomped off. "It wasn't on purpose!", Ryūnosuke shouted at her back. At least he hit her by accident, she couldn't say the say about all the twisting, bending, and striking she'd intentionally done to him over days of martial arts "demonstrations". Maybe he should have considered hitting her for real with her attitude. "Alright everyone...", Iwa called out, trying to rally the team again. "Let's take a moment to decompress and... reassess.", Iwa ended with a sigh. Looking around, Ryūnosuke agreed that a short pause was needed. Seven rounds in and it felt like they hadn't made any progress at all. They were just getting exhausted and hostile with one another. "Let's go over the plan again. Tamura-kun, what happened with your Fullbring? We were counting on your Pitching Stage to buy us time." "It's just a useless gimmick anyway, there's no guarantee Kiyoku's even gonna buy it. Why are we even making a plan around an incomplete Fullbring?", Chizuru complained. "Firstly, it's not a useless gimmick. I just can't use it's max potential yet! Secondly, I didn't release my Fullbring because I kinda got wrapped up in the moment and forgot." "Oh, that's wonderful.", Chizuru chuckled. "Oi, Sugiyama-senpai. Get off my case will you? If you've got some advice I'm all ears but it sounds like you're doing a lot of complaining and nothing else." "You want some advice rookie? Stay out of my fucking way." Ryūnosuke scoffed. "Screw it, I think I should have hit her harder." "Come again." "That's enough! You two can fight each other later. Save it for after the trial." Iwa interrupted. Ryūnosuke noticed a weird look shared between Juri and Kanako after Iwa's statement but in the moment he thought nothing of it. "Iwa's right. This infighting is a waste of time.", Kanako agreed. "Anyone else feel like... like we're getting worse with every trial?", Juri asked. Iwa sighed again. "Yeah, I'm fairly confident that's by design." "It's gonna get reeeal ugly before it gets pretty.", Kanako remarked and stretched her neck. "I think... maybe it would help if we remember that we're friends." "Are we, though? Really 'friends' I mean?" Chizuru said. "I mean, we're colleagues, sure. But some of use can't stand each other." "Speak for yourself.", Ryūnosuke cut in. "Discussion about exactly what we are will have to wait. For the purpose of completing this trial we are first and foremost a team. Can we all agree on that?" "Sure." Ryūnosuke shrugged. "Of course!" "Yeah, whatever." "Most dysfunctional team ever! WILD'S on three!", Kanako held her hand out for a cheer. Ryūnosuke almost put his hand in but retracted when he noticed no one else had made a move. "WIIIIILD'S..." Kanako swung her arm up and fake cheered alone. "You all suck." "Let's get back on track. Juri you held out for nineteen point thirty-seven seconds. Well done." "Good job, Kenzaki-senpai." Ryūnosuke commended Juri sincerely as well. "That's almost as long as the rookie, too. Maybe the blackseat isn't that big a deal." "How about you sit in it next then, Chi-zu-ru?" Kanako jabbed back bluntly before Ryūnosuke had a chance to respond. Ryūnosuke was surprised that Kanako had in a roundabout way come to bat for him, although on second thought she probably meant it as a defense for Juri instead of him. In any case, Chizuru didn't bother to respond. "No, I assure you, Chizuru, the blackseat is terrible.", Juri confirmed. "That being said.", Iwa interrupted. "Juri, do you think you can give it another go?" Juri replied with only a hearty nod of her head. "That settles it then. Let's agree from now then, we give it one more go." "And if we fail again?" "Why do you always have to think so negatively?" "I'm being rational. Not all of us have the benefit of being moronically overconfident. Most of us live in reality." "It we fail again, I think we should forfeit for today." "What!", Juri protested. "Nah, screw that! I'm not quitting!", Ryūnosuke stated and crossed his arms. "Not up to just you, Tamura-kun. That's why we're voting on it now." "Yeah, I'm all for it.", Kanako replied and yawned. "I'm done with this stupid trial for today. I'm exhausted. I need a bath and I want to sleep this off." "We're seven rounds in and we aren't getting anywhere with this. This time and energy could be better spent training." "So, that's it then. We hit one bump in the road and we quit?" "You call all this 'one bump'? We've gone off a damned cliff, we're falling to our deaths here! Better to call it quits while we can. Live to fight another day or something." "I hate to admit it, but Kanako's right. We're completely out of sort here and out of our depth. We know what the trial is now. Best course of action is to forfeit for now and come at it fresh another day with a better strategy. Honestly, I only suggested we give it another shot as a courtesy to you and Juri.", Iwa elaborated. "I'd rather not give up, but if that's what everyone wants and it's the best decision... I just want us to all get along. We can accomplish so much more if we're nicer and more supportive. Instead of constantly being at each other's throats.", Juri replied. "Majority rules, we're giving it one more shot win or lose. Tamura-kun, even thought your choice won't effect the outcome we'd still appreciate hearing it, anyway. As a member of the team your opinion does matter. What's it gonna be for you?" "Let's just get on with it." Ryūnosuke muttered. ...IWA gave a light nod and then replied, "Very well. Then let's ready up gang." Within the minute, the others got into position to begin the eighth and final round of the trial. Surprisingly, they straightened up a lot quicker than Iwa would have expected them to given the circumstances so far. Looking around, he could almost hardly tell they'd failed to complete the same task seven times already. As dysfunctional as they might've seemed, there was no mistaking that they each desperately wanted to complete the trial. Iwa watched Ryūnosuke release his Fullbring in preparation for the round. A fiery cap of orange Reiatsu formed on the rookie's head and two horizontal warpaint markings formed under both his eyes. Additionally a second flame of orange Reiatsu had shaped into a catching mitt around Ryūnosuke's left hand. Once everyone was ready, Juri activated the blackseat and Ryūnosuke charged forward in the lead with Iwa and others following closely behind. Kiyoku held her position even as Ryūnosuke slid to a stop and the others fanned outwards in an arc, Chizuru took the left while Kanako and Iwa took the right. Just as planned, Ryūnosuke activated the Pitching stage of his Fullbring, which caused a box outline to form under him and another under Kiyoku. Kiyoku chuckled. "Oh, isn't that cute?", she remarked before she lifted a foot to step outside of the box. "I wouldn't if I were you!" Ryūnosuke cautioned. At the same time, Iwa, Kanako and Chizuru all pivoted inwards and charged, set to converge on Kiyoku's position. "We're in the Pitching Stage of my Fullbring, Asōruto Ando Batarī. Neither of us can move until certain conditions are met.", the rookie explained. This was perfect. So far, it looked like their gamble was paying off. "And exactly what happens if I move?", Kiyoku asked. Iwa watched the flash of uncertainty appear on Ryūnosuke's face and understood immediately. "Uh-" , the rookie started to answer (obviously searching for a convincing lie) but Iwa could tell he also knew there was no point. Kiyoku had already called their bluff. "Shit!" Ryūnosuke exclaimed and started to charge forward as well. "She's caught on already!", he warned. "It's all good, you've bought us enough time already! Go, go, go!", Iwa replied. Ryūnosuke roared as he stormed forward and lunged at Kiyoku with a punch followed by a swipe with his Reiatsu mitt. Kiyoku deflected the punch and ducked under the swipe. Then Kanako pounced on her back and went for a rear naked choke. "Sucks when the shoe is on the other foot, doesn't it?", she taunted. Ryūnosuke was already unleashing another punch which landed in conjunction with Chizuru's. The combined force of their punches sent Kiyoku gliding backwards. However, she managed to throw Kanako over her shoulder midair and launched her at Ryūnosuke. The rookie caught Kanako as Chizuru continued to rush on Kiyoku. Iwa reached Kiyoku first and made several attempts to jab her with the hilt of his knife but Kiyoku skillfully swatted away or evaded all of his attacks. Chizuru dropped into a sweeping kick but Kiyoku simply cartwheeled forwards and dashed towards Ryūnosuke , who'd only just set Kanako down. "Watch out!" Ryūnosuke shouted and pushed Kanako to safety right before he ate a punch to his jaw that spun him in a full circle. What followed next was extraordinary to witness, but Ryūnosuke quickly regained his footing and answered with backhand punch that Kiyoku weaved backward to avoid before the two started to trade attacks back and forth. Ryūnosuke used a backwards Bringer Light to create enough distance to throw a small orb of Reiatsu the arced upwards then dived towards Kiyoku with pinpoint accuracy. Before the first was even halfway through its trajectory the rookie had already launched three more in rapid succession. Kiyoku was left hardly milliseconds of breathing room to evade each pitch. Which luckily gave Iwa, Kanako, and Chizuru enough time and breadth to close in. Seeing that Ryūnosuke had been established as the target this round, Kiyoku would only be able to defend against them in the three on one blitz. "Get her!", Ryūnosuke shouted as he planted his feet and flared his Reiatsu at a distance. He was winding up for a much larger pitch but with how telegraphed the attack was it had almost no chance of landing without some set up from the others. Frustratingly, Kiyoku seemed to be effortlessly holding her own while being attacked from three different directions. Furthermore, they were already down to half of their time. Then Ryūnosuke started to charge at them with an orb the size of a beach ball held in from of him. "Sato-Senpai!", He shouted as he threw himself into Kiyoku. "Portal now!" Understanding the rookie's intentions, Iwa opened the portal to his pocket dimension with a slash of his knife through the air behind his sister. ... KIYOKU spun with Ryūnosuke, effectively swatting the others away and placing the rookie's back to the portal him intended to push her into. "As if I'd make it that easy!", she shouted back, grinning behind her mask as she started to push the rookie into the portal. Then, Ryūnosuke grinned back at her and hugged her tight around her waist with his right arm while extended his left arm bearing the massive fiery orb out over her shoulder. "Barsuto Impakuto!" Kiyoku felt a sudden explosive of force rocket herself and Ryūnosuke forwards as the orb blasted then like a rocket directly into the white room of Iwa's pocket dimension. ... IWA closed the gate immediately. "We got her.", he whispered to himself before realizing the gravity of the development. "We got her! Hit the zones, now!" Without a second to spare, the three raced for their zones as quickly as they could. Iwa couldn't resist the urge to chuckle as he ran, it completely threw off his breathing, but still he couldn't help himself. They each barely reached the halfway point to the zones when Juri deactivated the blackseat. However, shocking everyone, Juri managed to activate the blackseat again just seconds later and urged them onwards even as she screamed in pain. Iwa arrived at the orange zone first, thankfully he'd lucked out with the zone placements after the last reset. Chizuru had a bit more ground to retread, but Kanako was forced to run in the completely opposite direction of where she'd been headed before. She cursed in frustration but never stopped moving. Chizuru arrived at the green zone next, shortly followed by Kanako at the blue. Now, all that was left was for Ryūnosuke to reach the pink zone. Unfortunately, he'd have quite the distance to cover, due to the position of Iwa's pocket dimension. As expected, Iwa's knife hilt started to raffle in his hand, indicating that the portal would burst open any second. When it did, Ryūnosuke gunned it for the pink zone with a terrifying Kiyoku close on his heels. "Run Tamura-kun!", Iwa roared out. "Go go go, move your ass!", Kanako shouted. Even Chizuru yelled for the rookie to run faster. "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!", Ryūnosuke exclaimed. He was shockingly agile, even faster than Iwa was. Sadly, he wasn't quite as fast as Kiyoku who quickly gained ground on him and then pounced on the rookie from behind like a leopard. Ryūnosuke fell forward, his forehead smacked into the floor as Kiyoku pinned him down and locked his neck into a rear naked choke. Ryūnosuke was motionless for a few seconds. Iwa thought the trial was as good as over. It was a shame, Ryūnosuke was only a few meters away from the zone. ... KIYOKU felt the rookie straining beneath her as she squeezed and tightened her choke hold on his neck. It was a commendable effort on all their parts, but unfortunately it hadn't been enough. A kinder mentor might've let them have this victory but Kiyoku simply could not allow the team to advance beyond the second trial --not as they were now. "You fought hard, Tamura but in this job you don't get points for effort. It's life or death." Kiyoku whispered into his ear. She could feel him sinking lower to the ground as he struggled to breathe. He muttered back something unintelligible as he made another futile effort to resist the inevitable. "Shush now, Tamura. Shuuuush, just let it happen... Sleep." Kiyoku whispered sweetly. Ryūnosuke's muscles tensed suddenly as his Reiatsu flared violently. "Oh!" Kiyoku exclaimed feinting a little shock as she felt herself being slowly lifted from the ground. "Still got some fight left in you, then!" "I said-", Ryūnosuke muttered through gritted teeth, his face painted with the blood pouring from a fresh cut in his forehead. His eyes blazed with a fiery orange glow as he stood on his feet, carrying Kiyoku on his back. He started to march forward one firm step at a time. "I'm... not... done yet!" Kiyoku felt the laugh rise from deep in her belly like a hearty belch, She threw her head back and cackled maniacally. No one could ever say that Ryūnosuke didn't amuse her from time to time. She could relate to his will and stubbornness which meant she also understood how dangerous it was in their line of work. People like Ryūnosuke, the flames that burned the brightest and most ferociously were always the flames that burned out too soon. More likely than not, they also burned those closest to them along the way. That was the lesson he had to learn in Hell Week. "Attaboy!" Kiyoku cheered on teasingly as she tightened her choke hold even harder. "Let's go all the way, shall we!" Kiyoku could hear the other cheering him on from the distance. Ryūnosuke gasped for air and tried to pry away her arms, all while he continued to slowly march step by agonizing step towards the pink zone. He was barely four steps away from his salvation. He'd never reach it though --Kiyoku would make sure of that. He flared his Reiatsu a second time and took another step, but then he fell on all fours. The others urged him to stand again but Kiyoku knew that would never happen. "C'mon, Tamura. You're so close. Don't stop now." Kiyoku faked an pleading tone. She then hovered her lip close to his ear and teasingly whispered. "Here's some encouragement, Ryūnosuke. Do. Your. Best." Ryūnosuke inched forward suddenly and Kiyoku laughed again. He was crawling. Well, it was more like dragging himself along like a turtle. Moreover, it didn't last for long. He held out for a couple of more seconds before dropping to his elbows and then finally he toppled over unconscious. ... RYŪNOSUKE sprung awake suddenly and reached out with his hand for the pink zone that was no longer in front of him. He looked to his right and his left and saw the others all standing side by side. They were all silent, but their faces could say a thousand words. Right now, their faces all said that they hadn't passed the trial. "Rise and shine, rookie." Kiyoku called out to him. She was standing beside the podium and facing the team. Ryūnosuke sighed and stood up shakily while massaging out the knots he felt in his neck. "How long was I out for?", he asked. "It's only been about twenty seconds. More importantly, you should be curious about how close you got.", Kiyoku replied. She raised both her index fingers and held them four inches apart. "This close!" Ryūnosuke sucked through his teeth. He was disappointed and frustrated but he didn't have the energy to express it adequately. His arms were already tired from from rubbing his neck so stood with his hands on his hips. "Your teammates tell me you all agreed to forfeit this trial." "Argh!" Ryūnosuke exclaimed angrily as he looked up at the ceiling and sighed. He'd completely forgotten about the agreement they'd made. The defeat was one thing, but quitting was just salt in a very fresh wound. The rookie sighed and dropped his head low. He could feel the others eying him. "Yeah, it's true.", he replied. Saying the words himself stung nearly as much as the defeat itself, but he'd already given his word. "Well then, team... Unfortunately, you did not pass the second trial. Which means forty-eight hours from now you will have the choice of either repeating it or, you can move on to another trial. In the meantime, I don't doubt that you all are aware you have a lot to work on --and I couldn't possibly emphasize this enough-- as a team! I'm sure some of you might think you're a team, hopefully today's events have been evidence enough to the contrary. Hell, I'm not even sure if half of you even share an understanding of what it means to be a team at all. I can't answer that for any of you but I suggest you figure it out together within the next forty-eight hours. Otherwise... well, expect to fail every trial from here on out." Kiyoku said and then took her leave. It was strange, Ryūnosuke somehow had expected a longer lecture but Kiyoku had said everything she needed to in just a few sentences. He figured that perhaps she didn't require many more words because they all knew exactly what she was trying to tell them. "Alright, guys. Let's all freshen up and then we'll uh... I guess we'll talk after lunch.", Iwa announced in a defeated tone as he walked away in the direction of the base. The others followed behind him, Ryūnosuke included. For the next few hours he contemplated on what a team meant to him. To Be Continued... ______________________________ WC|10,220 -----
  8. Night looked at the two paths that lay before her. She was unsure of the layout of the place so she wasnt to sure which way to go. Night pulled out her Soul phone and accessed the mapping app, and she was met with a screen of static. Well thats not good. She murmured to herself. She closed out of the app and pulled up the radar app next yet was met with the same static. She closed out of that one to, So thats two for two, guess hopefully it isnt the applications themselves. Will have to check them in the lab when I get back just to be sure. She looked over her options again and shrugged. She decided she would go left. Leaving through the door and a small hallway she noticed some graffiti on the walls. Including things like, "Help me." "Blood" "Beware the Artist" "The pictures are alive." Night wasnt to sure what they meant beyond maybe help me, and the pictures are alive. At least if they were referring to the living painting she had run into in the last room. As she entered the next room she stopped in the doorway. The walls had blood splatter and black liquid smeared on them but it was the floor that concerned Night the most. The floor looked like it had collapsed and into some kind of black slurry like liquid. The slurry was emitting spiritual power but not like anything Night had ever sensed. It felt like, well a mix of every reishie she had ever come across, from hollow, shinigami, to quincy and bount even. It was all twisted up though and mixed together into, well whatever this slurry was. Night pulled out a dropper and a phial and bent down carefully and took some slurry as a sample. She looked around once more but saw no way through that she felt like risking, nor did she see another doorway in the room besides the one she was standing in. So with that being about all she could do here she turned around and left back the way she came? Or at least it should have been but the hallways was different. The graffiti was different now, "Beware the leech", "We cant escape", "What happened to Site 13". Once out of the hallway she was in a room with two other doorways besides the one she had just entered. This room was sparse except for in the corner was a large pool of the strange slurry. However it was what was at the pools edge that caught her attention. Three large creatures that kind of looked like leeches, but they were bigger than a dinner plate. They seemed to be eating the slurry? One of the creatures raised its head and Night recognized that is was some kind of hollow. It had a mask above a mouth the white mask was flat with three prongs, it then went back to eating? They kind of reminded Night of leeches. Wait one of the graffiti messages had mentioned a leech. They hadnt seemed to notice her yet so she figured she would go ahead and get the jump on them. Her eyes turned bright pink as she drew upon her inner hollow. She held out her left hand and fired her cero blasting the three before they could react. She let out a sigh as her eyes returned to normal and she took a picture of the slurry and the hollows remains before they vanished. Might as well record as much data as she could while she was here. She also noted that this should have been the room she entered the building in but the exit was no longer there. It seemed the rooms were changing, which would make navigating the place a lot harder. It also might explain why her apps hadnt worked earlier. This just keeps getting better and better. Just what is this place? She spoke out loud to herself. Maybe she should have brought some help along with her. Though beyond her own cellmates she was unsure who she could have gotten ahold of to help.
  9. It was just another day in the Soul Society when in the outskirts of the East Rukongai 80'th district A rather large and modern looking structure appeared. It looked like three rectangles on top of each other, with the center one being the largest and the other two being a bit smaller connected on the sides. Each one has a smokestack with thick black smoke pouring out from each one. Ground, grass and tree that had previously existed where the building now did were gone. The ground in a 100ft diameter was replaced with a gray stone and in the center of the diameter stood the building that would come to be known as Site 13. The appearance of the Site would set off any number of alarms that could potentially be set up throughout the Seireitei. The reishie within the diameter of the circle was severely corrupted but not spreading outside of said circle. The basic measures would occur, A number of Soul Reapers would cordon off the area all the while word would likely be spread to the leaders of the Soul Society. Any further action needing others permissions granted, or actions taken. Nights own alarms had sounded when the anomaly had occurred. The alarm sounded through the mansion of Cell 2. Night responded first by observation, one of her Niflheim butterflies providing visuals. She still wasnt to sure how things actually stood in Soul Society between her Vizored Cell and the current Squads, but something like this was hard to ignore. A strange building had just appeared out of literally nothing, not to mention the abnormal reishie reading the likes of which she had not seen before. She pulled out her Soul Phone and set up a group text for her and those of Cell 2. In it she sent the words. "Strange building has appeared in the Runkongai. Reishie readings suggest it is dangerous, I am going to investigate." She then hit send as gathered supplies, potions of sorts for healing, and stamina recovery. Her cero necklace was charged all that left she paused at grabbing. Would rations be called for? She decided to err on the side of caution and grabbed a weeks worth of rations . she opened a Senkaimon and left for the soul society. As she arrived on the outskirts of the diameter of what had appeared she noticed the cordon was not to tight. It hinted at inaction at the moment from the squad captains. This made her wish she knew what the situation in the Soul Society currently was however she had yet to to get ahold anyone. She sent out a few of her Niflheim butterflies to let any leadership that existed with the message. I am Night Kuchiki, commander of Vizored Faction Cell 2. I am commencing an investigation into the strange structure that has appeared in East Rukongai district 80. She would then send the message out, hopefully at worst it was ignored. At best reached some sort of leadership of the Soul Society. She then started using her flash step to close the distance between her and the main structure. The front doors were ajar but it did not seem like anything had come through them recently. She pushed the door the rest of the way open and then closed them behind her. The double doors were of metal and the hinges creaked with rust as they shut. The spiritual power that emanated from the structure was thick and cloying, it was like walking from clean air into a thick smog. Night had to pause as she maid an unpleasant face at this difference. The first room had two other doors besides the entrance. One to the left, and one to the right. As she scanned the room Night took note of the appearance, grey walls grey floors a simple light fixture hung in the middle of the room. She looked around spotted nothing that looked welcoming or threatening, hell not even furniture. However there was something on the wall. Though whether it was graffiti or actual decoration Night was unsure. It took up a large part of the wall, a picture or painting? of a large black cat with overproportioned front paws and curved fangs. It was all black painted in a questionable substance. Night pulled out phial from one of her haori pockets it had a swab inside of it. Night uncapped it and swapped the paint getting some dry flecks off the wall. She stored the phial away for later, she stepped back with her soul phone and snapped a picture, the phones flash caused the painting to close its eyes and let out a disgruntled growl. Night blinked as she watched the large fore pawed cat step out of the wall, or off of it? It had reishi, feeling similar to that of the reishi flooding the place, just with its own shape. Night slipped her phone into her pocket as the beast charged and side stepped a swipe of its rather large claws. Hado 33, Sokatsui. A powerful orb of blue flames fired from Nights palm blasting the painted beast and threw it into the wall. The beast collapsed into a heap but quickly rose to it's paws the burns seeming to churn into the black liquid that composed it. Before it could attack again Night fired hado four byakuri without a word. The Lightning arced from her fingers striking the beast, this time its form partly splattered onto the wall though it still pulled itself back together, albeit a bit slow. Night felt like she was doing damage but it wasnt to easy to tell. Maybe another hado or a few sword slices would do? Whatever she would decide on she would have to decide soon as the large cat was dashing at her. She opted to unsheathe her zan and slid across the floor slicing through the beast legs and sending it tumbiling, or more of a splat? Night turned and looked at what had been the beast was now just a puddle of swiftly drying black liquid. In a few seconds it was dust absorbed into the stone floor. Well if this was how the place welcomed guest she knew worst was probably yet to come.
  10. As I am at a writers block on how best to proceed in past present future and am waiting for two others for the Himuro mansion to get it properly underway I will be commencing Site 13 this week to give myself something to write as I wait plus I really want to get to this urp. The URP will still be joinable upon commencement, as I would love to have others to rp with, time wise this will either be a little after Himuro Mansion whenever that gets to its end. I have a four page document outlining this URP adventure from enemy encounters to ways to deal with the Research site. This adventure is heavily inspired by weird fiction, specifically the SCP foundation scp 1730. This site is dangerous, but there are safe rooms that can be found, but know most if not all floors have some randomization due to dimensional instability. There are a total of 25 floors, a d100 table has been made to help generate each room as progress is made into Site 13. A number of experiments exist here, a large number are loose in the facility, and this includes a true eldritch horror or two.
  11. For those who are wondering about some broken imagery on the forum, back a little while ago the site was somehow hijacked by someone in Germany who started directing traffic to some bullshit site.. I got that sorted out, but unfortunately they dumped everything off the server and put their own shit up.. this is why there are broken image files, because those were in some of the folders that were deleted.. I'll do what I can to see about getting those back.. but worst case scenario I make some new ones,. I had to upload the forum from scratch again, luckily the sql database that stores all the users/posts/pm/etc was still intact.. but yeah some picture links are broken, i'll work on getting them fixed (namely the badges/ranks) Another side note, the chat is new and improved and should be functional for everyone now.
  12. I think the forum is broke again

  13. Merry Christmas & A WILD'S New Year ----- ___________________ [Sato Gift Shop & Dangos] It was the morning of Christmas Eve and Karakura as a whole was brilliantly decorated and lit up for the occasion. From the buildings and landmarks and even down to the trees of the Community park, everything was draped with illuminations. Across the street from the park Sato's Gifts Shop & Dangos sparkled like a star. The entire building was covered in festive lights, decorations, and trinkets. There was a Christmas tree just to the side of the entrance and a sound system played sweet festive jingles for all passers by to hear. Ryūnosuke was dressed in full santa costume, complete with a fake, fluffy and white mustache and beard. He stood outside, impersonating Santa Claus; cheering and ho ho hoing to promote the gift shop and welcoming in the many customers. Juri did the same from the dango booth, dressed as a reindeer. Patrons seemed especially pleased by their performances and some even asked for pictures with them, which Kiyoku encouraged her employees to oblige. The shop was so packed that there was a line of patrons outside waiting to get in. Inside the shop, it was all hands on deck. Iwa, dressed as a tall and handsome blonde elf, worked at one of the cash registers with Kiyoku, dressed in a red flowy suit blazer with a santa cap, manning the second one. She also donned a fake mustache and beard, despite the odds, she somehow made it work for her. Kanako and Chizuru were dressed in santa costumes as well. Kanako's costume was especially fashionable and featured a shorter skirt, stockings and garter belt, and knee-high boots. Her wavy, pink-blonde hair flowed freely around the fur trim of her santa hat. Kanako was drawing plenty of eyes; from simply impressed shop-goers, younger male patrons, and a few jealous partners as well. Of course, that was exactly the point. As people were drawn to her, she made some small talk, took pictures, exchanged holiday wishes, and encouraged them to purchase from the many gifts the shop had to offer. Chizuru's costume was better built for function over fashion, her skirt was a bit longer and she had on long black boots trimmed with white faux fur. Despite that, Chizuru also got her fair share of fans and admirers, Ryūnosuke being the biggest one of them all. Kiyoku had caught him distracted on the job a number of times and of course she never shied away from calling him out for it. After closing in the evening, the gift shop wouldn't open again until after the new year. Combined with the fact that they all had their individual holiday plans, it meant that this shift would be the last they'd all spend together for some time. Kiyoku and Iwa were already packed to catch their evening flight to Bavaria, where they would spend the holidays with extended family. Kanako and Juri were going to the Ichihara family home in Hokkaido the day after Christmas. Chizuru's parents had already returned from an archeological expedition just days prior and they had plans to spend the holidays together in their family home, as well. Lastly, Ryūnosuke seemingly hadn't made any plans, at least none that he'd announced to the others. He had his house all to himself but that wasn't any different from how he'd spent half of the last year since his mother returned to Osaka back in June. Although the Tengu of WILD'S hadn't as much as commented on the fact yet, the others had already begun to suspect that he was likely going to spend Christmas alone. ----- ... CHIZURU glanced at Ryūnosuke pensively as she made her way towards the back of the shop for her lunch break. She could see him vibrantly attracting customers outside through the glass store front. He hadn't slowed down in hours and part of her worried he'd overdo it and forget to come inside to warm up every once in a while. Thankfully, it seemed like Kiyoku had that covered, judging by the way she periodically looked between her wristwatch and Ryūnosuke. Ryūnosuke must have sensed Chizuru watching him and he turned to face her direction. He smiled as his eyes fell on her and he waved her way. Chizuru blushed and waved back at her boyfriend. He looked like he was about to mouth something but was distracted as a pair of elderly women approached the store and he welcomed them inside. By this hour, traffic to the shop had slowed down quite a bit, so every potential customer mattered that much more. Not wanting to keep Ryūnosuke from his work too much, Chizuru took the chance to be on her way and headed for the base. She went through the back door and descended into the basement bunker that doubled as the WILD'S headquarters. Once inside she immediately noticed Kanako sitting at the kotatsu table in front of the television with her coffee mug in her right hand and her phone in the other. "Hey Kanako.", Chizuru greeted warmly and walked towards the pantry. "Hey, Chizuru. On your lunch break?", Kanako replied. "Mhm.", Chizuru nodded. "Niice." Kanako took a slurp of her coffee and put down her mug. "Well, hurry up and get under here, it's nice and toasty.", she added and twice tapped on the table. Chizuru chuckled as she stepped out of the pantry with her bento in hand. "You don't have to ask me twice." Chizuru sat at the blanketed table and let out a sigh of relief as the warmth engulfed her legs. "That's better.", she gasped lowly and then started to eat her lunch. "Enjoy!", Kanako nodded. Chizuru offered Kanako some of her food, but the latter graciously declined. "I ate mine already.", Kanako said. Chizuru decided to make some small talk while they were on break. "So, you excited for Hokkaido?" Kanako shrugged, "Eh, it's nothing new. We do it every year, after all. Although, I will admit it'll be nice to have break after the year we've had." Chizuru, agreeing with that sentiment wholeheartedly, nodded. "Definitely, we certainly went through a lot." The pair shared a chuckle and Kanako sipped her coffee again. "Speaking of, how have things been with you and our fearless leader? You've been official for a week now." Chizuru paused for a moment and interlocked her fingers over her lap. Kanako's question wasn't completely unexpected. After all, both Chizuru and Ryūnosuke had confided in her regarding their feelings for the other in the past. It was also a given that Kanako wanted the best for the both of them; and seeing as this would likely be the last chance they had to talk in person before they all went their separate ways for the holidays, it made sense that Kanako would bring up the topic now. At the same time, Chizuru hadn't really been prepared for it. Nevertheless, there were some things she wanted to discuss. "I guess we're fine." Chizuru paused as she realized how unconvincing that answer might've sounded to the ever perceptive Kanako. She shook her head lightly and course-corrected --she didn't want to risk Kanako getting the wrong impression from her words. "No, things have been great when we're together. It's just been hard to find time for couple stuff this past week.", Chizuru elaborated. She watched Kanako frown momentarily before she shrugged and sipped her coffee again. "Yeah, that's understandable, all things with WILD'S and the shop considered.", she replied. Chizuru nodded, relieved that Kanako seemed to understand her answer as it was intended. "Still." Kanako put her mug down on the table and faced Chizuru. "The holidays are the perfect time for you and Ryūnosuke to spend more time together. That's pretty normal for couples, yah know?" "Yes, I am aware.", Chizuru replied. She felt her cheeks reddening at the thought of walking through the shopping district, side by side with Ryūnosuke, admiring the festive illuminations together --it was cliche, sure, but that didn't mean it wouldn't be nice to experience. "Has he made any plans or brought it up with you at all?", Kanako asked. Chizuru shook her head. "He hasn't said anything about it to me, yet --but he knows my parents are in town. I guess he doesn't want to impose." Kanako sighed. "He sure picks the best times to be thoughtful.", she remarked sarcastically. "That aside --Chizuru, it's fine if you want to make the plans. In fact, I'm sure Ryūnosuke would appreciate it." "I don't know. It's true he's been the one steering things so far.", Chizuru replied. Thinking on it, the reason was simple; Ryūnosuke had taken charge in the way he typically did. When it came to missions and training, Chizuru was usually confident enough to express her own agency. However, so far in their relationship, she'd been fine just following his lead --it did help that Ryūnosuke kept things exciting but was also surprisingly thoughtful. "He's just better at this relationship stuff than I am.", Chizuru conceded with a low sigh. "That can't really be helped, he's got you beat with experience." Kanako remarked offhandedly. Chizuru found herself involuntarily shooting her a sharp look. "S-sorry, Chizuru." Kanako apologized. Chizuru softened her expression and rested her chin on the table with a defeated expression. "No, you're right. It's just me." "I'm assuming you haven't had the chance to discuss this yet and to be honest that topic might be a little too heavy for the holidays.", Kanako stated. Chizuru groaned, the issue was starting to sound a lot worse than she'd thought based on the way Kanako was speaking. "In any case, now I definitely think you should try to makes some plans. Try to take the reigns for a bit and see how things go. It might even help with your insecurities." Chizuru sat upright again. As usual, Kanako's words were making sense to her. So far, Kanako hadn't given her any bad advice yet when it came to relationships and she seemed particularly informed in things as they related to Ryūnosuke specifically. That fact in and of itself was still a source of some jealousy and tension but Chizuru had come to understand that Kanako wasn't competition for her --she and Ryūnosuke were more akin to siblings. Their bond was very strong but completely platonic from both sides. Still, she hoped that she could one day understand Ryūnosuke as well as Kanako did. Until then, she'd continue to take advantage of Kanako's insight. She already started to think of some things she and Ryūnosuke could do together over the coming days. ----- [Several hours later] After the evening shift ended, the team assembled in the base. Everyone had changed back into their normal clothes and received their final wages for the year. Kiyoku and Iwa were dressed to travel. Their taxi to the airport was now merely minutes away. ... KIYOKU was taking that time to leave the team with some parting advice. She stood with her arms crossed at the bottom of the stairs, dressed in a maroon skirt suit and black heels. Iwa stood to her left with a grey hoodie and jeans on under his green trench coat. "Listen up, gang. Allow me to impart some wisdom upon you before we skip on outta here. Firstly, no one knows better than I do that you all have earned a break many times over. It's been an very busy year for WILD'S and you've all thrown yourselves wholeheartedly to the cause. Looking at you lot now, you're completely unrecognizable from the dis-coordinated, fledgling crybabies you were only nine months ago." She grinned as that remark made the team groan and squirm a bit. "Now, now --that was a compliment. I probably don't say this enough but I'm extremely proud of you all. I want you to enjoy the holidays as much as you can --unfortunately the enemy are restless sons of bitches. Hollows don't gives a shit about the holidays. Have your fun but stay diligent and remember we make sacrifices so that others can enjoy the better things in life." Kiyoku looked around at the young faces she'd addressed. Their expressions read of understanding as they nodded at her. Unsurprisingly, Ryūnosuke was the first to speak. "Don't worry about it, boss. We're not gonna slack off. I've already coordinated with some of the Shinigami teams and Armory S.", he replied confidently. "Mhmm." Kiyoku nodded at the Tengu of WILD'S. Her concerns with his growing involvement with the Shinigami and the Armory S. group would have to be addressed another time. For now, what mattered was that his heart was in the right place and that he had the others --mainly Chizuru-- to keep him in check. "Ryūn, I'm leaving the keys to the shop with you. Juri, Kanako, Chizuru --you three keep an eye on your fearless leader. Make sure he doesn't do anything extraordinarily stupid." "Oi, Boss!", Ryūnosuke protested to the amusement of the others who all snickered. "You got it, Kiyoku." "Leave it to us!" "We'll keep him out of trouble.", Chizuru concluded. "Tsk, don't be ridiculous.", Ryūnosuke murmured and crossed his arms. "That's all from me. Stay in contact and have fun, but be responsible and be safe.", Kiyoku said. Iwa's phone buzzed and he looked at the screen. "Yup, that's our taxi. He's waiting outside.", he announced. "Then, we should be on our way.", Kiyoku nodded. "We'll see you off!", Juri insisted with the others quickly agreeing along. Together they all walked Kiyoku and Iwa outside to the front of the shop, where their taxi was waiting. Juri hugged them both and they all gave their farewells and safe travel wishes. Kiyoku sat in the taxi and watched Ryūnosuke and Iwa shake hands as they shared a non-verbal exchange that concluded with a nod before Iwa joined her in the backseat of the cab. As the car drove off, Kiyoku watched them wave goodbye through the rear-view mirror. She stuck her arm out of the left window and waved back. ----- ... RYŪNOSUKE lowered his arm and stuffed it into his pocket once the taxi was out of view. As he exhaled, his breath formed a warm cloud in front of his face. "Let's head back inside?", he suggested to the remaining members of WILD'S. "Yeah, I'm freezing my ass off already.", Kanako agreed and the four remaining members of the team reentered the shop. "I'll put on some coffee.", Ryūnosuke offered from the tail end of the group as they descended into the base. "Yay!", Juri cheered happily. "Look at you! Naughty boy ending the year off right.", Kanako teased. "Shaddap, will you?", Ryūnosuke grunted as he passed the others on his way to the pantry. As he prepared the coffee, the girls got comfortable at the kotatsu table. He overheard their conversation from afar, mostly Juri expressing her excitement about the Ichihara family trip to Hokkaido. Ryūnosuke was happy to see Juri so thrilled about it and he hoped she and Kanako would both enjoy it to the fullest. "I'm surprised you still get this excited about the trip after all these years, Juri.", Kanako remarked as Ryūnosuke handed out the coffee and then sat down beside Chizuru. Chizuru snugged up against his side and rested her head on his left shoulder. He felt warm and fuzzy inside and it wasn't from just the blanketed table. He allowed himself to dwell on the moment happily but of course his bliss was interrupted when he noticed Kanako giving him a sly glance as she sipped her coffee. "Of course I'm excited about it. It's one of my favorite family traditions. Kanako, let's do a lot of shopping again this year!", Juri exclaimed joyfully. Kanako sighed and smiled back at her. "I don't think mom's gonna have it any other way. Pretty sure we still have unopened stuff from last year tucked away at home.", Kanako replied. "Oh, that reminds me!", Juri perked up suddenly and faced Ryūnosuke and Chizuru. "Ryun, Chizuru --do you want anything special from Hokkaido?", the phoenix of WILD'S asked with a big pearly white smile. Ryūnosuke ruminated on the question for a moment; he couldn't think of anything that he'd like specifically from Hokkaido. Moreover, he didn't want Juri to worry about buying him a gift, anyway. "Hmm, I don't have anything specific in mind. I've never been to Hokkaido before so maybe just some pictures. I'll be happy as long as you two have tons of fun.", he replied. "Same here, you two just have a great time. Enjoy the holidays with your family.", Chizuru nodded. "Then, we'll take plenty of pictures and share them in the team chat. I'll take pictures of the festival and the fireworks too.", Juri promised. The four teammates chatted for a little longer as they finished their coffees. Once they were done, Ryūnosuke washed the mugs while the girls tidied up the base and unplugged all the appliances. Even though they were still inside, the base seemed to be the most "vacant" Ryūnosuke had ever seen it. The absence of Kiyoku and Iwa could already be felt and he could tell the others had probably all accepted the fact that they were going their separate ways for a while. There was a sadness in that fact, one that was at odds with the jovial and festive ambience that was present on the surface. Once they finished tidying up and collecting their belongings, Ryūnosuke again tailed the group as they climbed the stairs out of the base. The four of them stood together at the top of the stairs and looked inside. It was silent, cold, and nearly pitch black; save for the single light that dimly illuminated the stairs. Juri let out a sad sigh and Ryūnosuke rubbed the top of her head reassuringly as Kanako and Chizuru both rested a comforting hand on her shoulders. "It sure is gonna be strange not seeing you all here for the next few weeks.", Kanako commented sullenly. Ryūnosuke thought he heard her sniffle but didn't turn to confirm it. "Yeah, it'll be the longest we've been apart since --well, since the beginning really.", Ryūnosuke added. "We have to stay in touch, like Kiyoku said!", Juri sniffled and rubbed her eyes. "And we will. Just because we're not together at the shop doesn't mean we stop being friends.", Chizuru said. Ryūnosuke and the others nodded in agreement and then the former turned off the light switch beside the entrance and the base disappeared into complete darkness. "I'll finish closing up, you guys head on home.", Ryūnosuke said as he closed and locked the base entrance and then walked the trio out to the store proper. "Still racking up those last minute good boy points, eh?", Kanako teased again. "Alright, cya lovebirds after the new years.", she waved. "Maybe sooner than that?", Juri chimed in and spun around to face Ryūnosuke and Chizuru. "Will you come see us off the day after Christmas?", she asked earnestly. "Of course!", "Of course!" Ryūnosuke and Chizuru answered together without a second thought. "Thank you!", Juri beamed and hugged them both tightly. "See you the day after tomorrow --don't forget!", she said and then rushed back to Kanako who was waiting at the exit. Kanako looked directly at Ryūnosuke and pointed at him. "By the way, you're the only one who hasn't mentioned any holiday plans. You better have something in mind besides staying in the house alone like a total loser.", she jibed. The terrifying accuracy of her assessment had caught Ryūnosuke completely off guard but thankfully he was able to hide it with an exasperated scoff. "Oi, don't be ridiculous, dumbass. Give me a little credit.", he replied confidently and hoped it was convincing enough. Kanako frowned for a second but her expression softened as she appeared to glance at Chizuru and then she shrugged with a smile. "Yeah, whatever. Later!" The door bell jingled as Kanako swung it open and she and Juri walked off, huddled side-by-side, on their way home. "What was that about?" Ryūnosuke wondered as he rubbed the back of his neck. He turned to his right as he noticed Chizuru had moved towards a stack of boxes beside the cash register. "Chizuru, you can head home, too. I've got it from here.", he said as he rushed after her. "I'll help.", Chizuru replied flatly. Ryūnosuke didn't bother to argue any further --it would have been pointless. Besides, honestly, he was absolutely thrilled for every second he could have with Chizuru. Especially considering they hadn't had much time together in the past week and that would likely be the case for the next couple of weeks. It was understandable because her parents were in town and the holidays were one of the only times during the year Chizuru got to spend with them. Together, the pair started to carry the boxes into the storage room. "What are in these, anyway?", Chizuru asked. "Mostly just the leftover Christmas-themed stuff.", Ryūnosuke answered as he held the storage room door open with his leg and let Chizuru through. "Thanks.", she said with a smile. Ryūnosuke smiled back and watched her set a box down on an empty shelf. "So, you looked really pretty in your santa outfit.", he remarked. He watched Chizuru pause and he could see her blushing even though her back was to him. He didn't think he'd ever get bored of the way she reacted to his compliments. "I'm glad you think so. I thought it was kinda silly.", Chizuru replied. "What!" Ryūnosuke gasped in disbelief. Chizuru started to leave the storage room to fetch another box. Ryūnosuke followed after her as he spoke. "What do you mean? It was amazing, you were so hot! I was getting a little jealous of all the people snapping pictures with you.", he admitted unashamedly. Chizuru paused again. "Really?", she asked and looked dead at him with a blank expression. "Y-yeah! I mean, if anyone should get a picture of you in a santa outfit, it's me, right?", Ryūnosuke reasoned adamantly. Surprisingly, Chizuru just giggled, picked up another box and walked over to him. "What's funny?" "Here." She handed the box to him. As Ryūnosuke took it from her, Chizuru pounced forward and pecked him on his lips. Ryūnosuke felt his heart freeze as Chizuru's lips touched his. As she pulled away he lamented that the moment ended far too soon. Nevertheless, the happiness that remained impressed a lasting smile on his face. "Still feeling jealous?", Chizuru asked teasingly as she picked up another box. "Just a little bit.", Ryūnosuke murmured. "Another kiss will probably fix it.", he added with a smirk, trying his luck. ... CHIZURU playfully rolled her eyes as she approached Ryūnosuke. "Sure.", she replied and then pecked him on the lips again. She lingered for a moment longer this time, long enough to taste the faint hints of coffee on his lips and breath. "Okay, that's enough fooling around, let's finish up here.", Chizuru said as she pulled away. Ryūnosuke nodded speechlessly and they continued to move boxes in relative silence. Chizuru didn't mind --it was wonderful just being alone with Ryūnosuke, even if they weren't talking or touching. However, in that silence, Chizuru thought more and more about what Kanako had told her earlier. It was becoming increasingly apparent that Ryūnosuke likely hadn't made any plans for them, let alone for himself. Still, asking prevailed as the only way to know for certain, so Chizuru did just that as they were organizing the last of the boxes. "Ryūn, you actually have plans for the holidays, right?" Ryūnosuke's lips tensed shut and he chuckled nervously before interlocked his fingers behind his head. That pretty much confirmed everyone's suspicions. Chizuru gave him a concerned stare. "I did make plans. I was gonna patrol and stuff and play video-games at home.", Ryūnosuke answered defensively. "You're joking, right?" Chizuru asked, exasperated. While she was glad she'd asked, she wasn't sure she could have expected that answer. "That's not--", she sighed. "What about your family." "Well, my mom called and asked me about going to Osaka for the holidays but I told her I'd stay here.", he answered impassively. "Why?", Chizuru asked. "Because, I'm more useful here in Karakura.", he replied in a matter-of-fact tone. That was as stereotypical a Ryūnosuke-like answer one could expect. Chizuru shook her head. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were disappointed that I decided to stay.", Ryūnosuke frowned. "It's not like that." Chizuru crossed her arms. "I think you should've gone but of course I'm happy you're here." "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. Just --have a great time with Tak-sensei and your parents. You haven't seen them all year.", Ryūnosuke placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and smiled. "It means a lot to me that you care, though." Ryūnosuke started to walk off and proudly remarked. "I'm lucky to be so loved.", as he left the storage room. "Idiot." Chizuru whispered to herself and sighed as she left the storage room, turned off the light switch, and locked the door behind her. Ryūnosuke swept and mopped the floor and Chizuru wiped down all the counters and surfaces. Once they were done, Ryūnosuke closed and locked the shop. "Thanks for the help!", he said. "You're welcome." Chizuru nodded. "I'll walk you home.", Ryūnosuke offered. "Let's go, then." Chizuru snuggled closely to his side and hugged his arm. She held and warmed his right hand in her two palms. From the shop, the walk to her childhood home in Tsubakidai wasn't that long, but it felt especially short as the couple walked in silence. Chizuru was focused between her own thoughts and trying to enjoy living in the present moment. Occasionally, she'd look at Ryūnosuke's face and wonder what he was thinking about. He eyes and his expressions never gave anything away --he seemed focused and observant at times and pensive at others. However, he always smiled when they locked eyes. It wasn't until they arrived at her home that Chizuru noticed a distinct expression of despondence flash across Ryūnosuke's face as the house came into view. He forced a smile as quickly as it had occurred and glanced at Chizuru, checking to see if she'd noticed it. She had. She just so happened to be looking at him that very second, if she'd blinked she might've missed it. Regardless, Ryūnosuke continued under the assumption that she had been none the wiser. "We got here pretty fast, huh?", he said and chuckled. Chizuru felt a heaviness in her heart as she picked up on the pain he tried to hide behind his words and smile. An irrational part of her was ready to stay with him in the cold, insisting that trivial things like hunger and exposure to the elements weren't an issue at all as long as they were together. "Well, let's get you inside and out of the cold." Ryūnosuke added. Chizuru held his arm tighter and didn't let go until they reached the front door. ----- [Sugiyama Residence] ... RYŪNOSUKE took a step back and watched Chizuru open the door. As sad as he was that their walk had come to an end, he was grateful for the time they'd spent together. Ultimately, there was no need for him to be melodramatic about parting ways for now, he'd still be able to reach her by phone and they were both staying in town. Finding time for dates between now and the new year wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility. Just as he was about to say his farewells, Chizuru turned and faced him. "Come inside and warm up for a bit.", she said. Ryūnosuke raised his palms dismissively. "Uh, no. It's fine, Chizuru. Really." "Are you that scared of meeting my parents?", Chizuru replied. "I'm not scared." Ryūnosuke retorted sharply before he sighed and continued with a neutral tone. "I just don't want to impose." Chizuru stepped towards him and grabbed his hand. "You're not imposing. I want you to stay for dinner.", she said and pulled Ryūnosuke inside. "I'm home!", she announced as she let Ryūnosuke in and closed the door behind her. The comforting warmth of the house hit him liked a welcomed embrace and banished the sting of the outside cold within moments. The house was lit with warm hues of orange and yellow and the air was heavy with a sweet scent that reminded Ryūnosuke of peppermint candy, as well as the savory smell of hot food. The Tengu of WILD'S felt his mouth beginning to water as he realized how hungry he was. "Pardon my intrusion.", Ryūnosuke murmured and bowed. "Welcome home, dear!", replied a feminine voice from deeper within the house. "Welcome home, Chizuru. You're just in time for dinner!", followed a masculine voice shortly afterwards. Ryūnosuke could tell that it wasn't Takeo, so he assumed it must've been Chizuru's father speaking. Ryūnosuke's heartbeat spiked and he accepted that he was in fact a little bit nervous after all. "I brought a guest!", Chizuru announced and then, as if she'd sensed Ryūnosuke's growing unease, she turned and whispered to him reassuringly, "Mom and dad can be a bit eccentric but they're harmless. Just be yourself, they'll love you." She gave a wink as the sound of approaching footsteps could be heard from down the corridor. Ryūnosuke nodded and swallowed down his nerves. "You brought a guest, who is it?", asked Chizuru's mother before her head poked out for the side of a wall. The woman bore a striking resemblance to Chizuru; it was almost as if she was an older, matured version of Chizuru from the future. She shared most of Chizuru's facial features, except that her cheers were a little puffier and she had the traces of emerging wrinkles. Her silky, raven-black hair was cut much shorter than Chizuru's and even Takeo's; it extended down to her chin and framed the sides of her face. Her dark eyes and thick lashes sat behind the round lenses of frameless glasses. "Oh, honey, come look --quick! It's a handsome young man!", she exclaimed excitedly with widened eyes. Ryūnosuke blushed. "A young man, you said?" Chizuru's father replied back before his head stuck out from above his wife's. He looked like a middle-aged actor from one of the drama series Juri liked to watch. Handsome and well put together. He short black hair was neatly brushed back in the same way Ryūnosuke's father styled his own. Ryūnosuke could immediately tell that Chizuru's father was a tall man; at least 193 centimeters tall by the teenager's estimation. He supposed that's where Takeo got some of his height. "Wow, it is a young man!", he exclaimed after his wife. "Yes, that's what I said, dear.", Chizuru's mother smiled warmly. "Our little girl brought a young man home on Christmas eve!" Chizuru's parents stepped out from behind the wall and started to pace excitedly towards the door. "Could he be the boyfriend Takkie was mentioning?" "No way! I thought that was a joke!" "Me too!" "We can hear you both.", Chizuru cut in. Ryūnosuke bowed and introduced himself, "N-nice to meet you! Good evening. I'm Tamura Ryūnosuke. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!". As he raised his head, Ryūnosuke saw Chizuru's mother clapping excitedly, while her father beamed as her side. "Mom, dad this is my-", Chizuru's sentence was cut short. "Yes, yes we know!", her mother interrupted. She yanked Chizuru closer to her and started to whisper and giggle something into her ear. Ryūnosuke looked up and met eyes with Chizuru's father as he stepped forwards and outstretched his hand towards the teenager. "Pleasure to meet you, Tamura-kun. My name is Sugiyama Tamaki and that lovely bundle of girlish joy is my wife, Sugiyama Asuka." Ryūnosuke shook Tamaki's hand firmly and bowed. "Wow, that's an exceptional handshake.", Tamaki complimented. "Pleasure to meet you, Tamura-kun.", Asuka said, facing Ryūnosuke again, and bowed. "Welcome into our home. I'm Chizuru's mother. Thank you for looking after our daughter." Chizuru hugged Ryūnosuke's arm and addressed her parents. "I invited Ryūnosuke for dinner. That's okay, right?" "Of course!", Asuka replied. "Come on in, Tamura-kun! No need to be bashful!", Tamaki added and laughed as he patted Ryūnosuke hard on his back three times and nudged him towards the dining room. "Takkie, we have a guest!", Asuka shouted up the stair case on the left of the corridor. "We're having fried chicken, I hope that's fine with you, Tamura-kun." "Yes, of course. Thank you.", Ryūnosuke replied. Asuka pointed Ryūnosuke to the small bathroom at the end of the corridor so he could wash his hands. Chizuru went upstairs to change. When he returned to the dining room, Tamaki had already pulled out a chair for Ryūnosuke and ushered him to sit. On the table was a full spread of golden-brown and crispy food and soft drinks. Ryūnosuke felt his stomach rumble hungrily as he sat down. He again thanked the hosts and bowed. Tamaki sat at the head of the table just to Ryūnosuke's right. "Tamura-kun. I have to admit, my son Takeo has mentioned you on a few occasions." Tamaki commented. "Mostly to tease his sister. We were starting to think you were just a joke he made up, honestly.", Asuka chimed in as she sat down directly across from Ryūnosuke and rested her chin on her palm with her elbow on the table. Ryūnosuke tensed up momentary as he felt their eyes studying him. "Relax, it was all good things." Tamaki laughed and patted Ryūnosuke's shoulder twice. "That's why we felt we should get to know you better for ourselves. I just thought you should know that you've come up in passing a few times." "Of course he has!", said a third voice that was very familiar. Ryūnosuke looked up and locked eyes with Takeo and he casually strolled into the dining room and plopped down in the chair beside his mother. It was strange that Ryūnosuke found himself feeling a bit relieved to see Takeo. He was wearing a gray short-sleeved sweater with dark blue tracksuit bottoms. "He's my number two disciple and the romantic interest of my darling brat of a little sister, after all." Ryūnosuke narrowed his eyes at Takeo and glared. "Oi, stop calling me your number two disciple, Tak-sensei.", Ryūnosuke muttered. "Tamura-kun, Tamura-kun." Takeo slowly shook his head. "You know I can't rightfully call you my number one disciple --that title is still rightfully Chizuru's." "No, that's not the issue.", Ryūnosuke retorted through gritted teeth. "For the hundreth time, we're not your disciples, stupid big brother." Chizuru walked into the dining room and sat down beside Ryūnosuke. She had on a beige knitted cardigan with a white top and grey joggers. She smiled and held Ryūnosuke's hand under the table. "So harsh." Takeo slumped back dramatically and placed his hands over his heart. Asuka giggled. "That's so cute, you three seem quite familiar already." Ryūnosuke and Chizuru shared a look and blushed. "Well, we can talk more as we eat. Tamura-kun, I hope you brought an appetite, don't be shy." Tamaki said. Shortly after they started to eat, Asuka looked at Ryūnosuke and plainly asked, "So, Tamura-kun, what's your birthday?" "November thirteenth.", Ryūnosuke answered curiously. Asuka clapped and looked at Tamaki with a prideful grin. "Hah, topaz! Just like I told yah." Tamaki sighed with a defeated expression. "Yeah, yeah --you were right, as always, dear." "You owe me six thousand yen.", Asuka teased. "Topaz?", Ryūnosuke asked. As far as he knew, that was some kind of gemstone but he didn't understand it's relevance to the conversation. Chizuru snickered. "It's your birthstone. Whenever mom and dad meet someone new they bet on who can correctly guess the person's birthstone. It's a fancy way of guessing the month you were born.", Chizuru answered. "Dad thought your birthstone was sapphire --that's September." "Whoa, that sounds fun." Ryūnosuke beamed. "Can I try it?" "Sure, if you've got six thousand yen.", Tamaki cackled. "Deal!", Ryūnosuke answered without hesitation. "Honey!" Asuka cut in. "I'm joking, I'm joking. Tamura-kun you get one free guess each. Go for it!" "Ain't no way he gets it right." Takeo scoffed and took a big bite of a chicken leg. Ryūnosuke paused for a moment to think about it. He didn't have anything concrete to go on but for some reason he recalled that Chizuru's birthday was August 27th. Ultimately, he decided to just wing it with a random guess. "So-", Ryūnosuke paused as he realized he wasn't sure how he should address Chizuru's parents. However, Asuka must've caught on from his expression and waved nonchalantly. "Oh, Asuka-san and Tamaki-san will do!" Ryūnosuke blushed and shook his head. "No, I couldn't!" "We insist. It's fine, Tamura-kun." Ryūnosuke glanced at Takeo, the latter seemed to be enjoying his nervousness, which had the effect of boosting his confidence out of sheer opposition. Followed by a reassuring squeeze of his hand from Chizuru, Ryūnosuke had finally mustered the will and composure to answer. "Then please call me Ryūnosuke, as well. So, A-Asuka-san. What's the birthstone for March?", Ryūnosuke asked. "That would be Aquamarine... but sadly, that's incorrect.", she replied. "Dammit!", Ryūnosuke hissed lowly and dropped his head in defeat. "Don't give up yet, Ryūnosuke-kun. You might guess Tamaki's correctly." Ryūnosuke snapped up and faced Chizuru's father confidently. "Give me a hint?", he requested boldly. "Nope.", Tamaki replied back bluntly. Asuka shook her head slowly with a smirk. "No hints allowed." Ryūnosuke grunted. "Fine then. What's July?" "Ruby." Chizuru answered. "Tamaki-san, is your birthstone ruby?" Ryūnosuke watched the surprise grow on Tamaki's face and it filled him with triumphant pride. "That's right, Ryūnosuke-kun! Good guess!" Tamaki declared cheerfully. "Haha! Really, I got it right!", Ryūnosuke cheered. "No.", "Not even close.", "Sorry, Ryūnosuke-kun, you're zero for two." Tamaki burst into a fit of laughter and Ryūnosuke sunk into his chair a bit as the rest of the Sugiyama chuckled along. "Sorry, Ryūnosuke-kun. We were only teasing you a bit." "My birthstone is actually topaz, just like yours.", Asuka answered moments later. "Mine's Garnet, the stone of January.", Tamaki said afterwards. "I must say, Ryūnosuke-kun. You're one of the only people to every ask to play along like that, I was surprised." "Mhm, me too.", Asuka agreed. Ryūnosuke smiled as he silently accepted what sounded like a compliment. Gradually, he was feeling his nerves melt away the more he interacted with Chizuru's parents.
  14. On their way back to the Kasazaki apartment, Sylvia had messaged Vadim that she wanted to meet right now so he started making his way over. Behind her Tenzaimon complained,’Ugh, why do I have to carry this loser?’ He was talking about the knocked-out Jino who showed no signs of waking up,’Weren’t you a gentleman? Would you let a delicate woman like me carry a heavy man like him?’ she asked sarcastically. Naturally, she would have no problems carrying him, but it was better to give Tenzaimon a task so that he wouldn’t get distracted. He was a simple man after all. He answered proudly,’But of course! What’s gonna happen to Emiri-chan now?’ The 4th seat let out a sigh,’It’s best that you forget about her. She conned you so nothing she said was true. You’re better off continuing your search. Without running away, that is.’ He got a bit sad,’An’ here I thought she was the one…’ Once they returned to the apartment, Tenzen was on the roof having a smoke and he called out,’Oh, you’re back!’ and he then descended the stairs to meet them. Perhaps it was just an innocent smoke break and she was looking too much into it, but to Sylvia it felt like he was waiting for her to come back. Had he been worried about her? Either way she voiced her gratitude,’Thanks.’ The owner briefly looked them over,’What happened to Jino?’ Sylvia made a wry smile,’He’s ok but he got drugged so he will be out for some time. Maybe Chisa could have a look at him to see if she can expedite the process.’ Tenzen nodded along,’Sure, what about you?’ The 4th Seat gave him a confident nod,’I’m fine. Is Vadim here yet?’ The owner shook his head,’Nope,’ and then he leaned in closer as he whispered,’Why is he only wearing bed sheets?’ Sylvia let out a sigh,’Don’t ask…’ The owner took Jino with him inside and Sylvia motioned to Tenzaimon,’Go get dressed. I’m sure Tenzen can borrow you something.’ He nodded,’Cool, ‘s a bit breezy for…’ She raised her hand with a disappointed look,’I don’t want to know.’ Inside, Chisa examined Jino and just like Sylvia thought, the verdict was that he was fine but they will just have to wait it out as she couldn’t remove the drug from his system. Not long after Vadim arrived, he was surprised to see Tenzaimon who was now dressed in clothes too tight for him,’I found your lost sheep.’ He couldn’t help but be impressed,’It’s only been a day and you found him already! You’re amazing!’ It did end faster than she had expected but it was only because she had help,’I got a bit lucky as well.’ Vadim sighed,’There’s a limit to being humble, you know.’ Sylvia shrugged as he sat down opposite them,’So, we can’t have you running around without a Gigai tracker so you’ll get a new Gigai and be under house arrest until you can be trusted to go out by yourself again.’ Since it was Vadim who asked her for this favour, he would now let her decide how things go. Obviously, leaving Tenzaimon to his own devices right now would be neglect on their part so he agreed with this judgement. Tenzaimon complained,’But the house is borin’…’ though that is something he would have to come to terms with. The 4th Seat continued,’As for the report, I want you to say the whole truth. We can’t leave the Sakurabashi team in this state. I have some recommendations for the members but the rest will have to be decided by the higher ups.’ Vadim also agreed with this as if he got caught lying down the line then he wouldn’t get away without consequences. These were the only two major points that she wanted to discuss and as it has been an eventful evening, it was best to keep it short. Vadim took Tenzaimon with him and Sylvia went to the Morishima’s room,’So, case solved then?’ Hanao asked. The 4th Seat nodded,’Yes, Tenzaimon has been found and will be dealt with accordingly.’ The female owner clapped in awe,’Wow, if everyone worked as hard as you then we could have achieved world peace by now.’ Not only did Sylvia improve the performance of the Kasazaki team, she was also able to solve a case so efficiently. She truly was an inspiration to how they should carry themselves. Sylvia spoke,’Since the case is over, it means that tomorrow will be my last full day. I will return to Soul Society on the morning the day after tomorrow.’ Suddenly, Hanao became a bit pouty,’Aw, so quickly?’ Tenzen chimed in,’Now now, darling. We knew that Sylvia won’t be staying here for long. It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is.’ Hanao nodded sadly. She had quickly become used to Sylvia’s presence around the house and besides her duties, she has proven to be a great companion as all the members can attest. In a way, it was like one of the questions that the evaluator had asked: by the time they got used to someone it was already time for them to go. The 4th Seat smiled slightly,’Don’t get emotional yet, there’s still a whole day to hang out.’ Tenzen agreed as they shouldn’t let their emotions get the better of them. She left shortly after as she returned to her room though she decided to stay up a bit more as she started compiling her notes into a report. By now, she had all the information she needed so she just needed to write it in a nice way. Sylvia managed to get about half done before stopping and going to sleep. The next morning, breakfast went as usual though since it was her last day, they insisted that she doesn’t help out and let herself be treated like a guest. After the meal was done, everyone split up to go about their day. Sylvia was with Chisa in her room as she wanted to have a decisive chat,’Have you managed to talk to Youma?’ The nurse shook her head,’No, not yet… I guess that I’ve been stalling but I really have been thinking about it!’ The 4th Seat inquired further,’And what about the transfer?’ Chisa replied with her mind made up,’Yes, like you said I think that it would be best if I moved teams. That would be the best for the both of us.’ Sylvia nodded as she acknowledged her decision,’In that case, I would like you transfer to the Sakurabashi team.’ The nurse was a bit surprised,’Uh… but those guys…’ Sylvia agreed,’That’s precisely why. In light of recent events, the Sakurabashi team will be restructured. Since the Hollows that appear there are strong, they will need a skilled medic. This will be a good opportunity for you to put your skills to use. Depending on how things go, maybe I can even trust you to lead the team.’ It was unfortunate, but in order for her to improve people had to get hurt. The Sakurabashi district was home to many fights and so she saw no reason to refute that logic. She nodded,’Hmm, alright but I think leading is a bit much…’ Sylvia shrugged,’Well, I won’t push it onto you but you are insightful when it comes to the team and their personalities. I think you could do it. Anyway, the transfer won’t be immediate but I do imagine that it will happen within a week. Please, talk with Youma before then. Both of you need to have this conversation. It might not be perfect but if you don’t talk before you leave then you will regret it.’ Chisa nodded,’I will. I promise.’ Thankfully, it seemed that she became a bit more determined now so Sylvia had nothing else to add. Next on the list was Jino, the 4th Seat went to his room and he motioned,’Whassup?’ He woke up in the morning like normal though he complained about his headache which was probably caused by the drug. The female Shinigami responded,’I want to talk to you about the future.’ Jino became a bit confused,’The future, in what way? I mean you are nice and all but…’ She sighed,’Your future,’ as she wanted to clear any misunderstandings he might have. They sat down as she explained,’So I’ve accompanied you to a few Hollow appearances and I know you are a capable fighter. Despite your recent agreement with Tengu, I still think that you could do better.’ Jino was starting to see where this was going so he got a bit frustrated,’So, you think that I’m not good enough? Are you sending me back?’ Sylvia calmly shook her head,’No, that is not what I think. Look, you want to keep getting stronger, right?’ He nodded resolutely,’Tha’s right,’ and she continued,’That’s why I would like it if you became the vanguard of the Sakurabashi team. Their team will be undergoing changes soon and since there are many strong Hollows there for you to fight. Plus, you will be able to show off to Tengu that way. How does that sound?’ He thought about it and there was truth in her words. Even though he liked the Kasazaki team members, when there were no Hollows around it could be quite boring. Furthermore, the Hollows that did appear in this district were mostly small fry so in a way it was a dead end to his progress. Sylvia added,’I’m not punishing you. You’ve been one of the most helpful members during my stay here. I’m making this suggestion because I trust that you would do well.’ When she put it that way, Jino couldn’t help but agree,’A’right, I’ll do it. Getting stuck like this for too long ain’t good for me. I wanna be where the fight is!’ The female Shinigami was glad that they could see eye to eye and it relieved her that Sakurabashi will be more protected in the near future. Those were the only two changes that she wanted to make to the team. Even if the district wasn’t that activity, downsizing too much would still be detrimental. The rest of the team were good at their roles so she trusted that they could keep this up even with two members less. After this, Sylvia returned to her room where she finished the rest of her report. This allowed her to spend some more time with the rest of the team as she went to town with Hanao, arm wrestled with Jino which he won, played games that she wasn’t good at with the twins and helped Tenzen with a crossword. With the evaluation over, they simply had a good time though she did ask the two concerned not to share news about their transfer as it might sour the mood. Evening came as Tenzen gathered everyone and announced,’Since it’s Sylvia’s last day today, let’s do something a bit more special and go out for dinner, huh?’ The members cheered as they were unanimously for the decision. However, the decision where to go wasn’t as easy as everyone named a different restaurant. A few were immediately ruled out due to the fact that they had a party of 8 and so the choices were narrowed down. They ended up going to a barbecue restaurant which was Jino’s choice. They started preparing themselves and, in the meantime, Tenzen had received a message from Yutaka not to expect him for a while. Sylvia was glad to hear this as she wouldn’t want him to suddenly appear and ruin what was supposed to be a happy final day. Once everyone was dressed, they made their way into town and arrived at the restaurant. After they had decided, Tenzen quickly booked a table for them so there was no risk of not enough seats. The group had been shown to the table and menus were handed out as everyone started browsing. In the end, for starters everyone got something different which they would share with anyone who wanted to try. For the main dish, everyone also got their individual choices with Sylvia’s being sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice. Instead of dessert, they decided that they would get something for the grill and they could buy something sweet on the way back if someone still wanted it. When it came to drinks, Sylvia and Hanao, who were sitting opposite each other on the right end of the table, were going to share a bottle of red wine. Jino and Tenzen who were next to them wanted Sake as their manly drink. The twins got cocktails and Chisa and Youma who were on the left end of the table got rose wine. Naturally, this was all coming out of the entertainment budget of the team but as it was for her sake, Sylvia was planning on refunding them a bit once she returned. Since it was still the beginning of the year, she didn’t want them to use it all on her so it wasn’t something that she needed to think twice about. As they were eating, everyone was chatting amongst themselves, usually with the person opposite or next to them. Hanao complained to her,’Have you noticed how all the clothes designs are all becoming so similar? It’s so hard to find something new that’s not part of the dominating brands.’ Sylvia agreed as she too had noticed this trend,’You’ve got much more choice down here but even in the Soul Society the same thing is happening.’ The female owner was disappointed,’It’s probably easier for them to copy others than to make something new. Ugh, I just want some cute clothing!’ Meanwhile, Tenzen was chatting with Jino,’The weather has been pretty nice lately, I think I should go fishing soon. You want to come with?’ Jino waved him off,’Nah, not my thing. I ain’t gonna freeze my ass off while waiting.’ The owner chuckled,’But if come back with some salmon you won’t be complaining right?’ He started grumbling as he wouldn’t mind some tasty salmon,’Well… maybe… but can’t we just go to the local fishery?’ Tenzen shook his head,’Now now, that’s the easy way out. Being out in nature is part of the experience!’ The twins were talking about their games which was basically gibberish to Sylvia and she couldn’t hear what Chisa and Youma were talking about. All of them had finished their drinks and so they got second bottles of the same. Tenzen turned to Sylvia to make conversation,’So Sylvia, what are your plans after you get back to Seiretei?’ She shrugged,’Probably more work awaits me though my birthday is coming up at the end of the month so I’ll need to plan something unless my friends want to keep it a surprise.’ Hanao perked up happily,’Aw, how nice. Are you looking forward to it?’ Sylvia nodded with a smile,’Yes, meeting up with them is always good fun.’ Tenzen agreed,’Yeah, it’s always good to make more memories. It’s events like these that give value to our lives.’ She agreed as they continued to have a good time while chatting away. They drank more of their alcohol as some were feeling their effects more than others and they got their platters for the grill which they put to use. Saya exclaimed,’Ah, Jino you pig! That one was mine!’ He only smirked in response,’Huh? I didn’t see your name on it. Besides, you sit at your computer too much so if you keep eating like this, you’ll get fat.’ Then, Jino cried out,’Ow ow ow! Let go! You’ll break my fingers! Ow!’ Tenzen and Aya both scolded him and told him he got what he deserved so Jino offered her a bigger piece as an apology. Sylvia couldn’t help but smile at seeing the group like this. She too felt that it was a shame that she would be leaving so quickly as she became fond of them. Since they resided in Karakura Town, seeing them would also be difficult but at least they could keep in touch through text. It was then that Youma whose face was quite red and he looked drunk blurted out,’Chisa, I really like you so I want to do my best to be the perfect man for you!’ The whole group suddenly turned to them as Chisa had a deep blush on her face. Everyone knew that they liked each other so it didn’t come as a surprise though the nurse probably didn’t imagine for it to happen this way. Seeing that she was struggling in front of everyone, Hanao, who was also tipsy, clapped to get attention,’We don’t talk about this often! Jino, you go first! Got anyone?’ Jino got a bit embarrassed,’Well… I’ve had my eye on this girl from the Fourth Division. Since I’ve been here didn’t have much opportunity to hang out. Seeing that idiot’s resolve, I think I’ll ask her out when I get back.’ He passed the baton to Saya who answered,’I’ve got a boyfriend,’ to which Jino replied,’Oh yeah? How come I never seen the guy? He even exist?’ Saya got irritated,’Of course he does. How can I bring someone over when we have uncultured swine like you living there?’ Once again they were butting heads as Aya took her turn,’I haven’t found anyone who can live up to my 2D husbands.’ Hanao commented,’Come on Aya, pixels can’t keep you company and won’t warm your bed,’ to which she just shrugged. Obviously, Chisa didn’t need to answer but she said,’I’ll do my best from now on as well.’ They all knew what she meant but it didn’t look like the drunk Youma understood. Hanao then turned to Sylvia,’What about you Sylvia? Got someone special?’ she asked teasingly. All eyes turned to her as she was put on the spot so she had no choice but to answer,’I’m single.’ Everyone apart from Chisa was surprised to hear this,’No way! But you’re so pretty and have a good personality!’ The girls flattered her while the guys tried not to comment on the matter,’If I had to consider someone, then then there is a person like that but it’s complicated.’ She wasn’t confident about her own feelings or his but whenever she was asked this question, at the back of her mind was his image. It wasn’t something that was voluntary and when she realised this, her heart also tried to tug at her mind but she suppressed it. Seeing this, Tenzen raised his cup as he spoke,’On that note, let’s have a toast to Sylvia. To her romantic prospects and future successes. May she be fulfilled with both!’ They all cheered and drank their respective drinks. Not long after, they finished up with the food and it was time for them to go. However, the group was in the mood for something more. Seeing that Youma was in no state to continue, Chisa escorted him home. They did offer to help her but she insisted that it was fine so they let her go. The rest of them then went for a round of bowling as they split into teams of three. To make things fairer, Tenzen and Hanao as well as Aya and Saya had to be on separate teams. Following that, they also had a round of pool but split up into teams of two so that everyone got a proper game. It was a late night but one that Sylvia will definitely remember. The next morning, after breakfast was over Sylvia started packing up her things and got ready for her departure. It wasn’t long before she was ready so she left her Gigai which they put away,’What’s going to happen to it now?’ Chisa responded,’I’ll keep an eye on it to make sure that nothing happens to it. It will be here if you ever need it during another visit.’ She didn’t really know how to feel about leaving behind a copy of her body but she trusted them not to abuse it,’Keep it far away from Yutaka.’ Chisa nodded,’Of course, especially from him. It will be under lock and key.’ As it was time, the Kasazaki members had all come out to see her off. Aya approached Sylvia and hugged her,’It was fun having you around. Take care of yourself.’ She agreed,’You too.’ Saya waved to her,’Drop by once in a while or these fools will start slacking off again.’ Sylvia nodded,’I will when I can.’ She shared a handshake with Youma who gave her a simple goodbye. Jino too gave her a handshake,’Take care of yourself and keep up the good work.’ He was dressed up so he was probably going out to patrol after this. Chisa hugged her,’Thank you for everything. Don’t worry, I’ll keep my promise today.’ With all the steps set up yesterday, there was no longer a need for her to delay. Sylvia was happy for the both of them,’I hope that everything works out.’ The nurse nodded,’For you too.’ Hanao approached her next as she gave her a sincere hug,’I’m sure that you are going to do alright for yourself, now and in the future. Remember that you are always welcome here and there will be a spare bed for you. Keep in touch, okay?’ She thanked her and finally it was Tenzen that approached,’Listen Sylvia, you are an incredible Shinigami and without a second doubt you have a bright future ahead of you, much brighter than any of us. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but be careful out there, yeah? We still get news from the other side so we will be following your success. It’s a dangerous time to be a good Shinigami like yourself.’ Sylvia nodded,’I’ll do my best. Thank you for having me over and for the great treatment. Last night was very fun.’ Tenzen was glad that she could enjoy herself despite her work and then he whispered to her,’I hope that you won’t ever have to take my offer but if you ever need allies or a place to hide, you can come to us.’ She appreciated the offer and then they shook hands. With all the farewells said, it was time for her to go. Sylvia unsheathed her Zanpakuto and opened the Senkaimon. Before she went through, once again she turned back to the Kasazaki team and waved at them with a smile,’Thank you everyone. Take care of yourselves.’ Then, the Senkaimon closed behind her and she was gone. Even though Sylvia was no longer physically there, she had left behind a powerful impact on all of them and they would not forget her. Tenzen chuckled,’That’s just the type of person she is.’ Word Count: 3,786 Achievement Earned: SB#9 [Caught In A Bad Romance (2): [Sylvia Barlowe Exclusive] - Solve the mystery behind the disappearance of Tenzaimon and complete the Karakura Assignment. [Expires: 01/01/2023] Thread Complete
  15. By using her expert investigative skills to gather clues and enlisting the help of some colleagues as well as the Tengu of WILD'S, the Fourth Seat Sylvia Barlowe was able to solve yet another case with astonishing efficiency. Additionally, in uncovering the mystery behind Tenzaimon's sudden disappearance, Sylvia had also inadvertently exposed an entire criminal operation and no doubt saved countless potential future victims from the scam run by Emiri and the lawless thugs. The operation was rather simple when viewed with full context. Emiri used the anonymous chatting app to fine vulnerable and lonely men, usually ones working good careers. After gaining some rapport through flirtatious chat exchanges, Emiri would invite the men on dates at the cafe, where they were be drugged with help from the waitress, who was in on the operation --to signal that a man was a target Emiri would initial physical contact with the mark when the waitress came to the table. Lastly, Emiri would leave the cafe with the clueless target, either to the hotel or a alley. The final result was the same; the target would be robbed by the thugs who were lying in wait from the beginning. Tenzaimon had simply been another hapless and immeasurably unwise victim roping in by Emiri's charm and feminine wiles. He'd managed to somehow genuinely fall stupidly in love to the extent that his already fickle intelligence was nullified entirely. Fortunately, Sylvia's sting operation with Jino was a success and the truth was finally brought to light. Emiri, the waitress, and the thugs were promptly reported to the authorities and taken in for questioning. It would be a very long time before they could victimize any other lonely men and Karakura was all the better for it. With that case closed, Sylvia had only her duties left to attend to. All that remained for her to do in Karakura was to finalize her reports on Team Kasazaki and return to the Soul Society to submit them along with her recommendations. The team made the rest of her stay as comfortable as possible and on the final evening of Sylvia's stay Tenzen and Hanao invited them all out for dinner in the city. Sylvia would return to the Seireitei the following morning. [Instructions: Spend a final evening with team Kasazaki and return to the Soul Society the next morning.] ------------------------
  16. Night walked over to the and pressed the call button for the elevator, having decided against going back down stairs. If the one up here was already starting to recover she was sure the one below would be as well. Not to mention she knew the bakudo holding the one locked in the room below wouldnt hold up for much longer anyway. The elevator doors opened and Night entered. As she pressed the basement button and the door slid shut she let out a small sigh. She really needed to find something to make this blunder worth it. Two spider undead, two humanoids still, and whatever the worms are. The ride wasnt long and the door opened with a ding, Night stepped out and didnt see any sign of the nurse and wheelchair of worms. She closed her eyes feeling out the reiatsu, and sure enough she well think she had found it. There was a heavy concentration of the reiatsu that was all through the air. It was like a current converging into a lake, the lake then flowed out into several rivers connecting to smaller ponds. It was still a murky picture but it reinforced the idea of the others recovering faster due to the weird worm bunch. She walked down a hall following her senses, she stopped at a door. She tried it and it was locked, she called forth a small bit of starry darkness and had it flow into the lock. She had it force the lock undone and return back to her zan, it helped preserve some of the energy it took to call it forth. She opened the door as quietly as she could and was a bit lucky. The undead nurse sat at a desk scribbling away at some paper? There was a hole in the far wall seeming to creep into a tunnel, or maybe a cave? She would have to get a better look later as she noticed the wheelchair she had seen earlier. It was parked next to the desk the nurse was sitting at. Night couldnt help but smirk a bit feeling some confidence. She had the advantage and would take it as swiftly as she could. She had the tip of Bokyaku resting against the floor and the starry darkness poured out into a pool. She had the pool slither across the floor under the wheel chair. She then motioned pointer and middle finger up, and the darkness erupted upwards in the shape of a blade piercing the ball of worms and destroying the wheelchair at the same time. At about the same time as she destroyed the worms the nurse next to them went slack, like a puppet with its strings cut. Night recalled the darkness back to Bokyaku as she heard something fall to the ground by the stairs down the hall. She peeked her head and it was one of those spider like undead its body splayed and slack very much like the nurse. She walked back into the room and over to the nurse. She waved her hands in front of the undeads face but it still did not move. She closed her eyes feeling out the spiritual pressure and sensed nothing, so they all indeed had been connected to the worms somehow. Their healing factor had been increased and from the brief conflict with the spider like ones, stronger to. However it also acted as a giant weakness in return as destroying them seemed to have caused the others to become dead, or unconscious? She looked over the desk the nurse was sitting at and saw what the Nurse had been scribbling on. It was a journal, the nurse had scribbled over a good number of pages, but it didnt look like it had been done out of ill intent. Rather it looked more like the undead nurse very much like other undead Night had come across, was imitating something she would have done while alive. There were a few parts left though that were legible at least. Night picked it up and began to read. "We need to take precautions regarding the disposal and isolation of the patients body, and potential future patients. Especially those from the old ward. This is the sixth to die of cardiac arrest. It does not seem to be a virus or anything. However it is just unnatural for healthy people to all of a sudden just drop dead. I need to figure out the cause and soon before more people die. The old ward has been quarantined due to the number of heart attacks. I dropped by it today to investigate and found recent foot prints. I need to remind staff and the law enforcement that the old ward is off limits. I have received the seals and documentation officially confirming Miyakos betrothal. Starting today, we must enter the period of purification in preparation for Kaiko's coming. A curfew shall be imposed and any conversations with outsiders must be kept to a minimum from here on out. The calculations have been done to determine Miyako's bridesmaid, it needs to be a 24 years old woman. Yukie? Surely there must be another? I must fulfill my responsibility as the head of the Saiga household. But surely there is someone other than my love? If not can I, no better not wright anymore incase this is found." The Journal ended there. Their were some useful tidbits at least. It explained why the ritual had had two women, and the ritual was some kind of wedding? Miyako was likely the woman in the black dress, and the nurse seemed to have been Yukie? A bridesmaid, and the bride. It also seemed like there were notable families in the village, Saiga was the name on the hospital. It also seemed to have been the names of one the doctors and a deciding factor in the ritual? She was guessing Kaiko was the name of the god the village worshipped. Meanwhile leading up to the ritual it seemed people were dying from a heart attack? She remembered though the siren noise and the intense spiritual pressure earlier on. Maybe the heart attacks had been caused by their gods spiritual pressure? After all if a spiritual power was great enough, it could kill regular humans, and she was guessing that maybe an autopsy on such a death would look like a heart attack. She set the journal down and sighed, a few more puzzle pieces but she still did not have a complete picture yet. She turned to the tunnel. She could see now that was indeed what it was, but were did it lead? And why did a hospital have such a tunnel? It looked like it had been recently made to, maybe in the last few days before the ritual? She couldnt be sure as this was not something she had a lot of experience with. Well might as well see were it leads. With that she set off down the tunnel.
  17. 041: Post-Trial Reflections! ----- ____________________ [Hell Week Day 3] After The First Trial A minimal amount of training occurred in the hours that followed the conclusion of the first trial. Even more concerning than that was the drastic shift in moods that occurred once the excitement and adrenaline started to taper off. The atmosphere was uncharacteristically gloomy. Everyone seemed to splinter off into their own zones and remained generally avoidant thereafter. They each recognized --individually-- that the first trial had exposed some major cracks in their team dynamic. Now a murky ugliness had seeped within those cracks and begun to expand. Again --individually-- they all accepted that the issue needed to be addressed soon but none of them wanted to be the person to bring it up. The reason being, ironically, that none of them wanted to 'ruin the mood'. So, for the rest of the day, Juri sat silently in front of the television and watched dramas. Occasionally, someone or two people would join her; however, they never stayed for long and eventually went off to do something else. Kanako made and drank copious amounts of coffee while playing and singing along to her music. At some point early on, she'd essentially claimed the pantry as her personal space and migrated between there and the bathroom as the need arose every few hours or so. Ryūnosuke spent hours in the new bathtub soaking and eating chocolate; much to Chizuru's annoyance. Though, he was allowed a bit more breadth, considering what he'd personally endured during the trial. Collectively, the others mostly overlooked the small things he did that annoyed them. For instance: no one complained about him taking too long in the bath or that he again trailed water out when he was done; and no one said anything about the noises his baseball made as he repeated bounced at off the wall afterwards. Iwa and the others had all asked him about what happened when he sat in the black seat, so far he'd refused to answer and that had been enough to stifle their curiosities for the time being but they were all growing increasingly agitated by it. Iwa guzzled his beer down just seconds after he'd gotten it and had spent the rest of his time alone in his notebooks again. Sensing the general mood about the team, he hadn't even tried to get them back on routine. He acknowledged that they could all use a break and time to reflect on their own. At the very least, he had major reflections to make on himself and his role as the team leader. Chizuru was the only who spent any significant amount of time training, mostly with weights. Eventually, seeing her hard at work made Ryūnosuke begin to train as well. However, by that point there were only a couple of more hours in the day. After a similarly uneventful dinner, the team settled down and prepared to rest. Iwa offhandedly remarked that they were to resume their training regimen the following morning and the others acknowledged. ----- ... CHIZURU sat upright on her futon and looked around at the others. She couldn't believe how nonchalant they were acting after how they'd wasted the day away and she had no idea how they were expecting tomorrow to be any different; seeing at the issues weren't really being addressed at all. At the same time, she didn't want to be the one to bring it up. After all, as far as Chizuru could tell, she wasn't the one with any issues. She'd stayed focused and trained on her own while everyone else goofed off. However, she also acknowledged that that fact ironically placed her as the best person to bring up the subject. Given how the others had collectively shirked their duties and training, none of them had any grounds to call out anyone else on. They especially couldn't call out Chizuru herself. The Byakko of WILD'S took a deep breathe and considered what would be the best approach. She couldn't be the only one who wanted to see their course corrected sooner rather than later. If given the opportunity, the others would likely speak on their own --at least that's what Chizuru predicted would happen. Still, the thought of starting the dialog was harshly unpleasant. Under normal circumstances, Chizuru likely would have remained silent but this was Hell Week. They had less than 48 hours before their second trial and Chizuru couldn't win it alone. The raven-haired Fullbringer crossed her arms and sighed before she turned on her futon and faced the group. Their mattresses were arranged in a way that Juri and Kanako where adjacent to her. Chizuru was looking right at them both, while Iwa and Ryūnosuke were a few meters away slightly off to her left. "Before we get to sleep, I think we need to address what happened today." Chizuru stated firmly. Kanako and Juri looked at her as did Iwa and finally Ryūnosuke sat upright and faced her as well. He was however, the first to reply. "I agree. Let's get it out of the way now." Iwa rubbed the back of his head nervously and groaned. "We didn't get any training done, I suppose a discussion to clear the air now is fine. That way the day doesn't go completely to waste.", he reasoned. Juri then nodded in agreement. "Yeah, this is absolutely the best time to have a heavy conversation about the day's events. Right before we're all about to get some sleep. Let's do it, everyone!", Kanako replied bluntly. Iwa and Juri looked like they were fine to let the sarcasm slide. Chizuru was already beginning to find it annoying but she was prepared to overlook it. However, surprisingly, Ryūnosuke wasn't. "See, Ichihara-senpai. That right there is part of the problem.", the rookie remarked. "Oh yeah? What is, dumbass?", Kanako retorted with a smirk. Ryūnosuke sucked through his teeth. "Your shitty attitude." "Hey!" Kanako interrupted. Chizuru shook her head. She might've agreed with the point Ryūnosuke was making but if left on their own the conversation risked devolving into Kanako and Ryūnosuke bickering back and forth. Thankfully, Iwa must have sensed the same thing and interjected to moderate. "Let's try to refrain from insults and character attacks, guys. The point of this discussion is to address and find solutions to the problems, not to exasperate them." "Well, tell that to him.", Kanako shot back and signaled towards the rookie. "I'm telling it to everyone, Kanako.", Iwa restated firmly and then looked at Ryūnosuke. "Tamura-kun. If you have a concern you want to address to Kanako, say it directly." "I was going to." Ryūnosuke crossed his arms and faced. "Look, I'm not implying intent or anything, it's just an observation. It's hard for anyone to know what you really mean when you're being sarcastic. You did it just now. Sugiyama-senpai mentioned we should talk, everyone said yes except for you. If you didn't like the idea, just say so plainly. Now, I'm confused. I don't know if you actually want to have a discussion or not." Kanako scoffed. She appeared to be a little baffled by the remark and looked around at the others. It didn't seem like any of them were disagreeing with Ryūnosuke --Chizuru knew she didn't and she said as much when Iwa asked if anyone else had the same observation. Juri, as well, affirmed with a weak nod. "Alright, anything you'd like to say in response, Kanako?", Iwa asked. "Yeah, I do actually!", Kanako looked hurt and a little embarrassed. Chizuru was starting to feel bad for her. Perhaps this wasn't the best idea. "I think it's a little unfair that you're making the way I talk an issue now. As if my attitude is the reason things went to shit today when we all know that isn't the case!" "Okay. I never said it was, but it could have been. You nearly sabotaged the entire trial.", Ryūnosuke replied. "It lends itself to the overlying issue, which is that at times you can be a bit selfish." "I'm selfish because I didn't want you or anyone else to be tortured in some stupid trial!?", Kanako retorted. She looked around at the group. "I find it appalling how fine you all were with letting any one of us suffer something like that for some fucking training!" Kanako choked up, and then spoke more passionately. "We're supposed to be friends! Friends aren't okay with shit like that! And then you all treated me like the villain for thinking that? What the fuck!" Her words compelled silence among the others. Chizuru herself reflected on the trial. It felt terrible in hindsight but she couldn't deny that concerns for Ryūnosuke's well-being had came secondary to her desire to win. It had been easier to convince herself that was acceptable at the time because Ryūnosuke himself consented to it. Nevertheless, that excuse didn't hold up when Chizuru considered her choice likely would have been different if it was anyone other than Ryūnosuke that had to be 'sacrificed'. "Ichihara-senpai, getting in the chair was my choice and I don't blame anyone else here for that. Ultimately, we did what we had to to win. That's what we agreed on from the beginning and you almost sabotaged that. We're friends, sure, but the trial was a mission and the mission has to come first." "Where do we draw the line, then, huh? How far are we willing to let things go for the mission, Ryūnosuke?", Kanako countered. Ryūnosuke was silent again, he seemed to avert his gaze from Kanako momentarily and glanced at Iwa. "That's something we'd have to discuss and agree on as a team.", he answered lowly. "That's as good as no answer at all and you know it!", Kanako replied. "Fine, I'll make it easier for you. How far are you willing to let things go? How bad does it have to get before me or Juri come before winning? Would you put either of us in that chair?" Ryūnosuke winced at that last question. "I already told you." Chizuru and the others noticed how cold his tone had gotten suddenly. "I wasn't going to let anyone else sit in the black seat." "Not even if it was the only way to win, so you do have a line after all? Lucky us, I guess.", Kanako asked. Ryūnosuke was silent and Kanako had her answer. "Kind of hypocritical of you though, don't you think? Only difference between us is that your tolerance for seeing your friends in pain is higher than mine." "You don't know what you're talking about!", Ryūnosuke was suddenly on his feet. "It's not the same!" "You might be right, Tamura-kun.", Iwa interjected before things could escalate further. "However, you can't blame Kanako or anyone else for drawing that same conclusion when you've refused to tell us what the black seat even was. As the team leader, I gave the order for us to continue based solely on your assurance that you could handle it but that decision might've been different if you'd told me what actually happened to you when I asked. I don't entirely disagree with Kanako, there is definitely a line that none of us should be willing to cross, even for the sake of the mission. I don't think anyone here will deny that. Given the information we had, Kanako drew her line in the most reasonable place she could. She didn't want to see you or anyone else in that much pain. I think it's the same for all of us but only Kanako was willing to act on it in this instance." Chizuru was again caught off guard. They each had valid points and none of them were necessarily 'wrong' which complicated things. Ryūnosuke then turned to Iwa. "Sato-senpai, I get that but I told you all that I could handle the black seat and you trusted me to do it and it worked out in the end --we won. The alternative was giving up and not trying at all. Sure, this was a trial but what if this was a real situation out there? The stakes are too high, not just for us. There are going to be times where we have to take risks and make sacrifices, that's the job, isn't it." "Be that as it may, Tamura-kun, this isn't just about you. The bottom line is that you withheld vital information that very well could have affected our ability to make a decision as a team. That could be just as bad if not worse than Kanako's refusal to cooperate. Basically, you were being just as selfish.", Iwa replied. Ryūnosuke silently balled his fist, "Oi, stop being ridiculous." His voice was shaky and Chizuru could hear the pain and anger in his words. "Isn't it true, though. If I had to guess, you're refusing to talk about it because you don't want any of us to feel guilty about what we let you endure alone. You and Kanako both made decisions based on your emotions rather than what was objectively best for the team and our chances for success." "Yeah, well what about you!", Ryūnosuke shouted. "You just fucking froze there. At least I made some decision!" Iwa grinned sadly and stood to face Ryūnosuke. "You're right. I messed up big time. I should have done more as your leader. I shouldn't have froze up like that but I did and it wasn't the first time. That's my mistake and something I need to work on. The first step in doing that is explaining to you all why it happened.", Iwa placed a comforting hand on Ryūnosuke's shoulder. "Tamura-kun, if I open up about my personal trauma and the reason why I froze, will you tell the rest of us about what happened to you in the black seat?" Ryūnosuke looked down, his expression softened suddenly as he seemed to consider Iwa's words. Chizuru knew the story behind Iwa's trauma, which was the reason she never judged him harshly about his freezing up. Personally, she believed the team should have been informed sooner; that would have helped them understand it but it wasn't her story to share. She chose to believe that Iwa deciding to tell it now was a step in the right direction. "You don't owe me any explanation, Sato-senpai. I trusted you to lead regardless and in the end you did.", Ryūnosuke reasoned. He appeared to have calmed down again. "I appreciate that, Tamura-kun, but I think I need to explain it anyway. As a step in the healing process at the very least.", Iwa looked at the team. "If you all will be so kind as to hear me out." "I would like to hear your story, Iwa.", Juri answered --it was the first thing she'd said in hours and Chizuru was glad to hear her sweet voice. Kanako answered simply with a sincere, "Yes." "Of course I'll hear you out, but I'm not promising anything else.", Ryūnosuke agreed lastly and sat back down. "Thanks, everyone." Iwa smiled and sat down as well. "The story begins six years ago, with the former WILD'S team; the 'First Generation', as Big Sis called them. She'd already retired as the Kijo by that point, but just as she does for us, Kiyoku also served as the mentor for that team. There were only three members. 'Genbu', Takeo Sugiyama --Chizuru's older brother. 'Jorogumo', Yui Natsumi, she was the team healer but you'd have never guessed it from her personality. She could swear up a storm at the drop of a dime." Iwa looked at Chizuru. "Remember how Big Sis and the others used to rush and cover our ears whenever Yui had an outburst." Chizuru and Iwa shared a brief laugh. What Chizuru also remember about Yui was that she was the one who inspired her to start weight training. She recalled how Yui would challenge her to arm wrestles all the time and never let her win, even though she was just a kid. Iwa's smiled, "Lastly, there was the team leader; 'the Nurikabe of WILD'S', Daichi Tatsuyama. He was a really awesome guy, stupid strong and really smart too. All around just an incredible big brother figure. A real-life super hero, that's the kind of vibes he gave off. For as long as I can remember, I've looked up to Daichi and wanted to be just like him. His favorite thing was a green trench coat, he wore it everywhere, all year round and he made it work. One day, he just gave it to me, it was one of the happiest days of my life." Iwa smiled as he seemed to reminisce on the past. Chizuru smirked as well. She also remembered the day Iwa had been given the infamous green trench coat and how silly he'd looked running around the base and nearly tripping over it, just proud to have it. Sadly, along with those memories came the recollection of the tragic event that followed merely days afterwards. The Weisscast incident that irreparably changed their lives. "Chizuru and I were sixteen and thirteen respectively. We weren't officially members of the team then, but we were being trained for it. Even back then we were called the 'Second Gens' as an inside joke. Chizuru wasn't allowed on any missions at all yet, but I got to tag along from time to time, just to observe. I would log things like new Hollows, their abilities, where they appeared, and such. Sometimes I was even allowed to participate in the planning of battle strategies. I started the story this way because I wanted you all to understand how close the team was. Takeo is Chizuru's brother and along with Daichi, they were both the closest things I had to real brothers. Yui was like another older sister to me." Iwa paused and started to sob a little. "She and Daichi were talking about getting married soon. He'd already planned out how he was gonna propose to her at the shop. Big Sis and I were the only one who knew about it." Chizuru felt her own tears beginning to build. The others looked similarly affected with Juri already crying into her sleeve. Iwa cleared his eyes and continued. "None of us could have predicted what would happen the day Weisscast attacked. As far as we knew, it was just another Hollow appearance in Yumisawa. I was allowed to tag along and observe just like any other time. Weisscast was a bit on the smaller side when it came to Hollows but strangely she walked with a sort of arrogance that pissed us all off-- especially Yui. She and Daichi attacked first and the next thing I remember is a flash of white light and I heard Yui scream. When I could finally see again --it couldn't have been more than a few seconds-- I saw Yui just standing there but she had two massive holes in her chest. I could see right through her." Iwa's voice broke and he sobbed. Chizuru was frozen solid, she knew the story of how Yui and Daichi had died, but she'd never heard these details. "I froze then and just watched... m-my mind just took in every little detail --everything. Yui had only half of her heart left, I can remember the second it stopped beating and then the moment Weisscast burrowed another hole through her neck. Then Daichi picked me up. Takeo wanted to stay and fight but Daichi grabbed him too and ran. He fucking carried to both of us, one in each arm. Takeo begged him to stop and let us go and I didn't understand why until we arrived at the park. Daichi dropped Takeo first and Takeo ran to fetch Big Sis. When Daichi put me down I noticed that an entire chunk of his left side was missing, he was pale and soaked in blood from the waist down. At the time I thought he'd be fine if Big Sis could get to him but things only got worse when we realized that Weisscast had followed us. Fucking monster had skewered Yui's remains on her horns and drenched herself in Yui's blood and then it started to pick her apart and ate her in front of us. Daichi told me to run and went to fight Weisscast but the Hollow ignored him completely and just pranced slowly towards me. I was its new target and I couldn't move. Daichi did everything he could to stall Weisscast. I watched him bleed out as he stood between the Hollow and me. Weisscast basically telegraphed its next attack as if it was challenging Daichi to stand his ground and die or move and let me die instead. If I could have just moved, it wouldn't have been that way. Of course, Daichi stood his ground and Weisscast tore him in half. Just like that, like he was nothing. Big Sis and Takeo arrived but they were too late for Daichi, I held his upper half and my mind counted his last breaths. I just watched him die right there in my arms." Iwa narrated the rest of the story but from that point Chizuru knew exactly how events unfolded. They couldn't return to the shop because Weisscast would follow them, so they were forced to run and hide throughout the community park. Takeo described it as them being hunted by the Hollow like mice. That Weisscast basically made a game out of slowly tormenting them. Kiyoku fought the Hollow alone but there wasn't much she could do outside of the shop. Takeo was ordered to keep Iwa safe. Chizuru had been at the shop the entire time. She'd been told not to move but being a stupid and stubborn 13 year old, she did. She entered the park and tried to find the others based on the location of the Hollow. Her disobedience and foolishness placed her in the direct sights of Weisscast and in the end it cost her brother his left arm and his Fullbring. WILD'S wasn't the only group to suffer causalities that day either; a small team of Shinigami, in their own isolated attempts to eliminate Weisscast were similarly outmatched and suffered their own loses. However, the Hollow eventually returned to Hueco Mundo of it's own volition. From that day onward, Chizuru dedicated herself to her training with the primary aim of killing Weisscast herself with Iwa's aid --despite her brother's insistence that she abandon the notion entirely. She'd given up trying to understand how Takeo could simply put the tragedy and WILD'S behind him. Nevertheless, she accepted that her brother had his reasons but also that his reasons ultimately held no sway over her own actions. As Iwa concluded the story it was abundantly apparent how deeply it had impacted the others. In addition to finally understanding and sympathizing with Iwa's trauma, they'd been exposed to the truly gruesome nature of the enemy they were training to fight against. Ryūnosuke in particular might've thought of Hollows like Baron Quadhorn as anomalies due to his own personal encounter with just that Hollow but the unfortunate and terrifying truth was that Quadhorn was just one of many and that there were many others far worse than the Baron. Chizuru had always thought Kanako's perspective was the more troubling one; when Kanako talked she tended to romanticize things to a large degree. She spoke as if they were immune --like they couldn't be seriously injured, let alone killed, because they were the 'good guys'. That they were suppose to win, simply by virtue of being the 'heroes'. That simply was not the case at all. Ryūnosuke, Kanako, and Juri offered sincere comforting words and apologizes to Iwa, who graciously accepted their sympathy and kindness and thanked them but then did not shy from circling back to the main discussion. "Ultimately, the point of sharing the story was to give you all some much needed context to the reason I've been freezing up. However, it seems I've been misunderstanding my trauma this whole time. Actually, that's a lie-- sorry." Iwa paused and took a deep breath. "The truth is that I didn't have a reason to really confront it until now. I started to reflect long and hard on it after the Jetz B. Layd attack and again today." Iwa looked up at the team collectively and smiled. "Fortunately, it's not a major cause for concern. I have a better understanding of what's going on and of course a solution to solve it. However, I ask that you all grant me a little more time to make a decision." "Take the time you need, Sato-senpai. If you say you have a solution, I'm willing to trust you'll figure it out. Just remember what I told you on the roof, if you need someone to talk to man-to-man, I'm right here." Ryūnosuke replied reassuringly. "We're all here for you, Iwa and you can reach out to any of us as well.", Juri chimed in with Kanako agreeing and nodding along. "We've trusted your leadership until now and it's gotten us this far, even if with a few hiccups. There's no reason for us to start doubting you now.", Chizuru concluded with a smile. She watched Iwa smile back, his expression was strangely soft. He looked relieved by their answers but there was more to it than that. Chizuru understood the look probably better than anyone else on the team had. It made sense, as she'd known Iwa for the longest. Experience had taught her that Iwa, must like his sister Kiyoku, constantly schemed and planned things, usually conversations and arguments. At times it was annoying because it made it nearly impossible to win arguments against them. They always had an answer to everything and they have a particular affinity for recalling prior interactions and using them as ammunition. While Chizuru would never attribute any malicious intent to Iwa, her instincts immediately picked up on the fact that the entire conversation was possibly part of some undisclosed plot. Iwa wasn't being entirely innocent and now, as he glanced between Ryūnosuke and the others, Chizuru got a strong sense that Iwa had just won some discussion they hadn't even had yet. "Now, with that part of the discussion resolved, let's get back to the other issues.", Iwa said. Just like that, the Kappa of WILD'S changed the subject as quickly as Chizuru made her mental observation. Ryūnosuke and Kanako shared a look at one another and then it looked like the former was about to say something with Kanako spoke up first, addressing to whole team. "Look, if any of you are expecting me to apologize for caring about you enough to not want to see you tortured, I won't. Let's make that clear first.", she declared firmly. Chizuru was inclined to think Kanako hadn't conceded at all and was in fact doubling down. However, at the same time, so far nothing Kanako had said was objectionable in it's own right and she for the moment had chosen to believe that was some change --even if minuscule-- in Kanako's perspective after hearing out the others. "That being said, I understand that as a team we need to be on the same page. Today, we all agreed that we wanted to beat the trial. Today the price of winning was Ryūnosuke sitting in the torture chair. For me, that's when winning didn't matter anymore. I know you all care just as much as I do but in the heat of the moment, I didn't give any of you that credit. So, I apologize for that. I'm sorry for doubting you.", Kanako apologized and then, to Chizuru's surprise, bowed her head in humility. "As far as my communication tendencies, I will also offer no apologizes." She lifted her head and even seemed to have her chin raised in pride. "I'm not going to change the way I talk, you idiots are my friends and you should now when I'm being serious or sarcastic.", she eyed Ryūnosuke in particular, "That goes especially for you, dumbass." "Eh? And exactly how do you figure that?", Ryūnosuke asked sharply. "Because we talk to each other the most!" Kanako and Ryūnosuke shared a quick look before they both blurted out, "Unfortunately!"-"Unfortunately!", at the same time. Even if this conversation was removed from the equation, there was no denying Kanako's point in Chizuru's eyes. Kanako and Ryūnosuke were definitely the most outspoken personalities on the team and got into some banter virtually every time they were in the same room together. Chizuru recalled thinking how bizarre it was that Kanako had warmed up to Ryūnosuke so quickly, arguably becoming to closet one to him, after she'd initially been the only other person on edge about his recruitment into the team. Chizuru supposed the time they spent in class together had something to do with it, but regardless, as things were now one could've easily been excused for mistaking the pair for best friends who'd known each other for years. The pair bickered for a few seconds more before Kanako continued her point. "I will make an effort to tone down the sarcasm and to speak directly during missions." Chizuru nodded in agreement. That was about the best they could have hoped for in that regard. Seeming to agree with her, the others voiced their approval as well. With Kanako's admission of her faults and her agreement to make changes in the future, the team had now addressed two of the main issues. However, there remained another that had still gone largely unaddressed. All eyes fell on Ryūnosuke, including Chizuru's, as they waited for the rookie to finally answer the question about the black seat. Admittedly, on Chizuru's part, she'd initially wanted the answer merely to satisfy her our curiosity. However, Iwa had raised an extremely relevant point about Ryūnosuke's refusal to disclose the nature of the black seat. He was selfishly withholding potentially vital information from the rest of the team. On top of that, he'd yet to present any reason for it. So, optically, Ryūnosuke had done himself no favors. In Chizuru's opinion, he was being unnecessarily stubborn and stupid about the whole thing. "What?" Ryūnosuke asked and looked at the group. "No, we went over this already. I haven't changed my mind. I'm not talking about the black seat." Chizuru shook her head. It was just as she'd expected. "Really, even after everything Iwa and Kanako said. You're going to be the only one to not acknowledge your faults?", she stated. She let a tinge of her annoyance seep through her voice but largely tried to remain objective. Ryūnosuke eyed her coldly. "No, I didn't say that either, Sugiyama-senpai." Ryūnosuke turned away from her appealed to the others. "I'm willing to accept that withholding information at the time wasn't the right decision. Iwa is correct, the choices you all made today might've been different had I told him what happened in the black seat.", Ryūnosuke paused and seemed surprisingly introspective for a brief moment. "Actually, if I'm being completely transparent, I think I knew that subconsciously at the time." "So, you're admitting it!?", Kanako interjected just before Chizuru could herself. Thankfully, Kanako was able to convey the same frustration Chizuru would have. "Tamura-kun, I appreciate the honesty now but you have to understand you can't do that.", Iwa stated. His tone was measured but there was no mistaking his frustration either. Chizuru nodded. It looked like the new golden boy was finally getting told off. It was about time. "Yeah, in hindsight not my proudest moment but I knew if I did speak you'd all have probably called off the trial. It was bad enough that Kanako wanted to quit." "That would have been our choice to make as a team, Tamura-kun.", Iwa accurately pointed out. "I get that but look we won. Everything worked out in the end.", the rookie reasoned. Chizuru had heard enough. "You keep saying that, as if it changes anything.", she cut in again. It had the be the fourth time she'd heard him say 'it worked out in the end' in this conversation alone and if she heard it again she was probably going to punch him in the face. "It doesn't matter that it worked out this time." "Really? I think it matters a whole lot.", Ryūnosuke argued back. "I told all of you that I wanted to win --we all agreed. I wasn't about to let some bullshit chair get in the way of that. It was my ass on the seat, literally. And I chose to endure it because I trusted you all could do your part to win the trial." "Hey, dumbass. Is this how you were as the captain of your Baseball team? I can hardly imagine it.", Kanako cut in with a remark. Chizuru didn't think much of the comment. Surely, it was a bit snappy if not a little critical but it seemed relevant and deserved as far as she was concerned. However judging by his reaction, Ryūnosuke didn't take it well at all. It looked like the comment hit close to home. The rookie with visibly stunned, he didn't even argue back. He just looked hurt. "Okay." He nodded shallowly. "Fine. I'm sorry I withheld information about the black seat and in doing so manipulated you all into going through with the trial. From now on I'll bee completely transparent.", Ryūnosuke bowed his head. As he raised his head he avoided eye contact with Kanako. "Aren't you forgetting something?", Kanako said. "You still haven't told us what we were tricked into playing along with." "You're still going on about it, Ichihara-senpai?", Ryūnosuke muttered. "Of course I am!" Kanako exclaimed. "You all made me look like the unreasonable one for not wanting to participate when the reality is that we might've all agreed to tell Kiyoku to fuck right off if you'd just been honest about what happened to you in the black seat!", she argued. "We already went over that." Ryūnosuke replied. "More importantly, the point was that by not telling you I manipulated you all into making a decision you wouldn't have. My bad, it won't happen again. As far as the black seat goes, the details don't matter anymore. The trial is over." Ryūnosuke counted. "But-!" Kanako objected but she was cut off by Iwa. "Fair enough." He nodded. "Tamura-kun has a valid point. What's done is done and what matters now is that he acknowledged his mistake and promised not to repeat it. I'm willing to let the topic go but obviously that's a choice we all have to make individually and revisit later if needed." Ryūnosuke crossed his arms and held a stringent pose as if awaiting the verdict of the others. "I'm willing to let it go as well. Tamura-kun meant well and he's apologized and promised not to do it again.", Juri answered first. "Don't you think you're being a little too forgiving, Juri.", Kanako replied. "He doesn't look particularly apologetic to me." Ryūnosuke snickered lowly and then sucked through his teeth. "She's really still going.", he muttered to himself before glaring at Kanako. "Oi, knock it off already, will you. Okay, it's getting exhausting." Chizuru stepped forward and stood beside Kanako. "No, I agree with Kanako. I don't really care if the details aren't relevant anymore or that you promised not to do it again. I'm not letting you off until you've been fully transparent.", she stated. Chizuru standing in solidarity with Kanako seemed to rile the latter up even more. Ryūnosuke didn't look amused at all. "Yeah, exactly what she said." Kanako agreed fervently. Chizuru smirked and immediately noticed the rookie pick up on it. He scoffed and shook his head. "You know, I was just starting to think maybe I should just say it, since it doesn't matter any way but now --nah, I'm not saying a goddamned thing." Chizuru cackled, "That's so pathetic. You're going to be petty about it now. I don't get it, why are you being so stubborn about this. It's so stupid." "I could literally say the exact same thing about you two!", Ryūnosuke argued back. Chizuru took a step forwards, Ryūnosuke did the same and they glared at each other. He had a lot of nerve, she'd give him that, but he had to know he was way out of his depth. Iwa and Juri stepped between them. "Alright, let's end the discussion here for now.", Iwa said as he started to hold Ryūnosuke back. Gradually everyone returned to their respective mattresses. "Believe it or not, this was mostly productive. We cleared a lot up. Things still aren't perfect and I'm sure we'll run into more issues before this Hell Week is over but this was a good start. Everyone get some sleep, we have a lot of work to do tomorrow." Chizuru laid on her mattress and sighed. Iwa was right, the conversation overall was a success. The Ryūnosuke issue wasn't even that big a deal if he really intended to keep his word about not repeating it. The details of the black seat didn't matter anymore, since the trial was done and dusted. Nevertheless, Ryūnosuke's attitude about it bothered Chizuru anyway. He was being idiotic and needlessly stubborn, which Chizuru didn't want to let slide. Eventually, one side would have to concede and that would be that --but, as long as Chizuru had a say, it was going to be him. On that thought, she closed her eyes and went to sleep. ----- [Hell Week Day 4] The next morning the intense training regimen resumed. On the surface-level it seemed like the conversation the night before had given everyone a much needed reset. The team was refocused and working twice as hard to make up for the lost time. There were very few signs of any lingering resentment. Although Ryūnosuke and Kanako were a lot less talkative than usual, the former honored his promise to make the latter's coffee on request. For her part, Kanako did not abuse the fact as a way of getting under Ryūnosuke's skin. Iwa was as focused as ever, however he had a keen eye on Ryūnosuke now and had handed the rookie more responsibilities than usual when it came to assisting the others with their training. Ryūnosuke assumed Iwa intended it as a form of recompense and so he worked without objection. Kanako and Juri were amicably receptive to Ryūnosuke's help and feedback. However, observably, the same could not be said for Chizuru. ... JURI had a major concern of her own that had yet again gone unaddressed during the discussion the night before. As much as she'd hoped her performance in the first trial would have changed things, it seemed like that had not been the case at all. Unfortunately, her accomplishment had been overshadowed by the issues that plagued the team afterwards. Understandably, the problems facing the entire team took priority over her own personal gripes, so when the time for discussion came, she remained silent. And now, it seemed she'd have to continued to put her concerns on hold until things between Ryūnosuke, Kanako, and Chizuru were fully resolved. Ryūnosuke and Kanako were at least on the right track, but Ryūnosuke and Chizuru were still very clearly having issues. Anyone who observed the pair for more than a few minutes could see it. Thankfully, it seemed Iwa was watching and he had recognized it as well. Juri noticed at the first instance of their group training. Chizuru was demonstrating some martial arts take downs and while Ryūnosuke volunteered to be her assistant as usual, it was clear that Chizuru was being a bit more aggressive and harsh that usual. She was also hypercritical of every move he did. Ryūnosuke seemed to take it in stride but Juri could see it was getting to him and it looked like his refusal to react only pushed Chizuru to antagonize him more. Juri had pulled Iwa to the side and brought it up but Iwa simply acknowledged that he knew it was happening and asked her to trust him. She didn't like the answer then, but she decided to trust Iwa's judgement. Nevertheless, Juri worried that if things continued as they were it would end badly. Predictably, it only got worse. Ryūnosuke first became less cooperative, which Chizuru called him out on. Thankfully, Iwa finally intervened and pulled Ryūnosuke away before things could escalate any further. After that, Ryūnosuke and Chizuru weren't forced to train together for the rest of the day. By the end of the day they were all too exhausted to get into any arguments, let alone fight. Which was a good thing, Juri supposed. After dinner, she and Kanako bathed together and surprisingly Ryūnosuke was already sleeping when they were done. Iwa was in the pantry washing dishes when he called Juri over. "Comin', Iwa!", she answered and started to make her way towards the pantry. "Wait a second, Juri.", Kanako stopped Juri and draped a towel over her head. "Dry your hair properly or you'll catch a cold.", she said. "Thanks, Kanako. I will.", Juri replied before hugging Kanako and then skipped towards the pantry while blotting her hair with the towel. "Need some help?", Juri asked as she stood in the pantry entrance. Iwa faced her and smiled. "No, thank you, Juri. I'm just wrapping up here --be done in a sec. I actually wanted to talk to you about something.", Iwa replied. Juri was surprised, she wondered what it could be about. "Sure, whatchu wanna talk about.", she asked. "Well, it's about what we discussed earlier." Iwa finished rinsing off a plate and set it on the dish rack. Juri's eyes widened. So that's what it was about. She waited and allowed Iwa to continue without interruption. "You were concerned about rising tensions between Tamura-kun and Chizuru, right?" Juri nodded sharply. Iwa smirked. "Yeah, it almost got out of hand.", he sighed and then started to rinse off another plate. Juri pressed her lips together nervously as she tried to read Iwa's demeanor. He didn't seem bothered or surprised at any point during the day or now. It was almost like he'd been prepared and expected things to escalate the way they had --but that couldn't be true. "Iwa, can I ask you something?" "Hm, yeah. Of course.", he replied and smiled again. "Why didn't you stop them sooner?", Juri asked. Rather than assume things, she'd let Iwa answer for himself. Iwa racked another plate and then turned of the faucet and faced Juri. He looked pass her towards the others, as if to ascertain if they were far enough away to not hear. Juri looked back as well. Ryūnosuke was sleeping, Kanako was on her futon drying her hair and listening to music. Chizuru was on her way to the bath. Once he confirmed that no one else was within earshot Iwa looked at Juri with a serious expression. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about. But first, I wanted to acknowledge that you for paying close enough attention to notice and for speaking out." "I couldn't not say anything. I know Tamura-kun and Chizuru don't exactly get along most of the time but she was really mean today.", Juri replied. Iwa nodded in agreement, which made Juri even more confused. If Iwa agreed with all her observations why didn't he do anything about it? "You're absolutely right. I expected there would be some hostilities between them, it's understandable after the discussion last night. Well, I want to reassure you that I've noticed and that it's all under control. Unfortunately, I have to ask that you let them settle things between themselves for now without intervention." "I-I'm not following.", Juri replied. Iwa looked sympathetic for a moment nodded lightly. "I know it's a terrible thing to ask of you but I need you to ignore any conflict between those two and just focus on your training." Juri's expression contorted into a disapproving frown. "I don't think I can do that." She gasped and shook her head. "No... why would you ask me to do that, Iwa." Iwa sighed. "Because, the sad truth is that Chizuru and Tamura-kun are going to get into a fight. Actually, they have to.", Iwa replied. "What!", Juri objected sharply. "Juri, please, your voice!", Iwa whispered and lunged forward to hush her and then looked out again, Juri looked as well. Kanako hadn't noticed a thing and Ryūnosuke was still sleeping. Juri faced Iwa again and she didn't even attempt to mask her frustration and disbelief. "Tell me you're joking, Iwa. You want them to fight, that's why you let Chizuru bully Tamura-kun today.", she said. "Yes, I just couldn't let them fight today because it's too soon and I needed to tell you beforehand.", Iwa confirmed. Juri scoffed. "We just discussed the need for transparency in this team-" "Kanako knows. I told her earlier and she agrees it's inevitable.", Iwa interrupted. Juri stammered. She couldn't believe what she was hearing but if it was true she was disappointed with Kanako as well. And what was this logic? A fight between Ryūnosuke and Chizuru was 'inevitable' how did they figure that? There was no reason for them to be fighting each other and a fight wouldn't be inevitable if the others called them out on their bad behavior. "No infighting is inevitable if we sit them both down and discuss things like mature young adults, with our words.", she countered. Juri was shocked that she, the youngest member of the team at 15 years of age had to be the voice of reason. Again Iwa was just nodded along. If he actually agreed with her, why was he entertaining such a ridiculous notion? It didn't make sense! "Normally, you'd be absolutely right. Unfortunately, we're dealing with two very stubborn individuals. Chizuru and Tamura-kun have been butting heads from the jump and we've constantly been intervening to settle things between them but it doesn't work for long. I'm not proposing this as a permanent solution at all but we need to try a different approach and letting the unstoppable force meet the immovable object might just work.", Iwa explained. Juri listened and the fact that Iwa's words sounded so reasonable and convincing made her feel physically ill. She hugged her arms over her stomach and grimaced painfully. Iwa looked at her with remorse and understanding but Juri couldn't bring herself to face him. "This is disgusting.", she muttered. "We're talking about letting our friends fight each other. Besides, it's extremely unfair to Tamura-kun. Chizuru will-" "Yeah, if they end up fighting there is a ninety-eight percent chance that she just obliterates him.", Iwa finished her thought. "And we're supposed to just let that happen!?", Juri exclaimed in a subdued tone. "Trust me, Juri. They will both be better off for it. By not allowing them to settle their differences on their own we're only delaying the confrontation. At least now, we can let them duke it out in a relatively controlled environment." "I'm not opposed to letting them work things out between themselves but does that mean we have to let them physically fight?" "Unfortunately, it's looking like that might be the case. We have to let them fight and hopefully they'll mutually understand why they need to find alternative ways to work out their disagreements.", Iwa explained. Again, he was making too much sense for Juri's liking. "I don't like this at all." "Believe me, none of us do but things can't keep going the way they are. If the team gets gridlocked every time those two have a disagreement, we'll never get anywhere and the alternative would be having to let one of them go. We definitely don't want that." Juri shook her head to that notion. She'd rather there be no infighting but seeing either of them leave WILD'S was unfathomable to her. "Why did you say letting them fight today was too soon?", Juri asked. Regrettably, she was slowly coming around to the idea of letting Ryūnosuke and Chizuru have their duel if it would keep them both on the team in the end. It might've been selfish of her but that was okay. Everyone else got to be selfish, so why couldn't she? Iwa sighed, he seemed relieved to see her warming to his perspective. "It's bad timing. With the second trial coming tomorrow there are bound to be heightened tensions again afterwards." "I see. If they fought today there is the possibility they would have ended up fighting again tomorrow." "Exactly. Plus, if it didn't work the team could have ended up in an even worst state for the trial. This way things are probably going to boil over tomorrow, after the trial. We'll have two days to fix the broken pieces afterwards. No pun intended." Juri sighed, she wasn't prepared to fully resign herself to the idea but now she understood where Iwa was coming from. "This feels so wrong, Iwa." "I know. I'm sorry, Juri.", Iwa replied. Juri reached out and held his arm. "It's not easy being the leader is it? Can't say I envy you." Iwa eyes widen as he heard her words. Then he smiled and chuckled. "You have no idea.", he replied. Juri saw the pain behind his expression but there was something else as well. An acceptance of some other unspoken thought Iwa must've held within. Juri forced a smile back and then crossed her arms. "I'm not agreeing to anything now but I promise to sincerely consider it.", she stated. Iwa nodded. "Thank you, Juri.", he smiled again. "Iwa, are you okay?", Juri asked. "Oh, me?", Iwa brushed off her concern. "I'm perfectly fine, Juri. Don't worry about me.", he chuckled. "Are you sure?" "Absolutely.", Iwa stated reassuringly. "Now, you go get some rest. We're gonna need everyone well and rested for the second trial tomorrow." Juri grinned and gave Iwa a light nod. She turned around and walked back to her futon as she thought about the conversation and Iwa's behavior. "You good, Juri?", Kanako asked her and pulled the damp towel off her head. "Mhmm. I'm going to get some sleep now, Kanako.", Juri replied. "Alright, me too." Kanako reclined on her back with a dull thud. "Good night.", she said and then turned up the volume of her music. "Good night.", Juri replied as she laid on her side, snugly beside Kanako. Her eyes drifted to the sleeping Ryūnosuke and then towards the door of the bath where Chizuru was still inside. Her heart filled with worry for the both of them. Her only hope was that they could find a way to solve their issues soon. It didn't make sense to her that they couldn't find a solution with their words. Then again, she was in no place to judge when she continued to let her own issues go unaddressed. Still, Juri couldn't imagine herself fighting with any of them. These were all people she cared for deeply. It seemed there were still more than enough problems threatening the stability of the team without hers being added to the equation. Ryūnosuke and Chizuru had their conflict, then there was whatever Iwa was going through, and even Kanako was having her moments. Juri needed to be the one to pick up the pieces should things fall apart. To that end, and if it meant it would help the others, Juri believed it was worth it to suffer in silence for just a little longer. To Be Continued... ______________________________ WC|8,630 -----
  18. Tenzaimon looked at the defeated thugs with disdain,’You scum ain' gon' kidnap my Emiri-chan!’ He then opened his arms widely,’It’s safe now, Emiri-chan! Yah can leap into my strong arms.’ Emiri didn’t seem so eager though,’Moron, why are you still here?! Useless!’ Jino groaned,’Oi, Tenzaimon! The hell are your pants?’ Tenzaimon finally took notice of something besides the woman,’Hmm? Jino? Whatcha doing ‘ere? Are yah with those thug bastards tryna kidnap my Emiri-chan?’ Jino waved him off with displeasure,’Nah, who would want that ugly broad? I’m here to get you!’ Tenzaimon got angry and took a swing at Jino,’Don’t yah disrespect Emiri-chan like that!’ Jino skilfully avoided the punch but then stumbled back and fell on his behind,’Huh?’ He tried to get back up but kept falling to the ground,’Why do I feel so weird and dizzy? My head is spinnin’ an I’m seeing double.’ Seeing that Jino suddenly wasn’t doing too well, Sylvia revealed her presence and took her place at Jino’s side who was now out cold. She saw that he avoided the punch so this wasn’t Tenzaimon’s doing. He didn’t even fight the thugs so he wasn’t hurt by any stray attacks. Since he passed out so suddenly… was he drugged? But when did that happen? Jino’s meeting with Emiri was very short so they didn’t even eat anything, though they did have drinks. Was it the coffee then? Neither Sylvia nor Emiri had any adverse effects from drinking from the same café, which must mean that it was not a coincidence and he was indeed the target. Still, Emiri was pretty touchy with Jino so it didn’t look like she slipped something into his coffee. Furthermore, she wasn’t the one who made the coffee. So, when exactly was it drugged and by who? Noticing Sylvia’s arrival Tenzaimon’s eyes widened,’Whoa, mama. What a beaut. No no, think of Emiri-chan. Do not give into the temptation. You are a faithful man.’ The female Shinigami ignored him and looked at Emiri,’Mind explaining this situation, Emiri-chan? Who were those ‘gentlemen’ that boldly came to rescue you from your failed date?’ Emiri was not pleased with this turn of events,’I don’t know what you mean. This brave and dashing man here stopped them from kidnapping me!’ Obviously, Sylvia wasn’t buying any of that,’Oh really, from the way he keeps calling your name you seem to be quite closely acquainted rather than him being a random kind stranger.’ Tenzaimon raised his index finger with pride,’Course, me and my sweet Emiri-chan are serious now! We met through destiny ‘cause real love will find a way no matter the circu… circ… situation!’ Emiri got even angrier,’You shut up! He’s just a stalker, I don’t know him I swear!’ The woman was still trying to play dumb even though all the evidence was stacking against her. Sylvia decided to take a different approach,’Tenzaimon, why don’t you tell us where you’ve been for the last week and how you were able to come to Emiri’s rescue?’ Tenzaimon puffed out his chest with pride though since he was only wearing bed sheets, he just looked like an idiot exhibitionist,’Me and Emiri-chan were in the hotel room since things were getting heated up. While my darling was getting ready in the bathroom, I was waiting on the bed in my birthday suit. That was when those thug bastards barged in and they musta got me real good ‘cause I passed out. When I woke up next, my things were gone! Can you believe it?! Not only do they try to kidnap innocent woman they also take people’s belongings! So then I covered my family jewels and then started searching for Emiri right away! Though I got a bit hungry along the way so I also visited some empty rooms and took snacks from the fridges. Can’t save Emiri-chan on an empty stomach after all!’ Emiri got more agitated the more he talked but to Sylvia everything was becoming crystal clear. This explained why Tenzaimon had been missing for so long and why he had nothing on him right now. The female Shinigami took this opportunity to address Emiri,’Hmm, what a coincidence that both you and Jino passed out after your meeting with Emiri… By the way, you’re wearing quite a lot of jewellery, how much did that cost? Also, since Tenzaimon passed out back then, how did you manage to escape from your kidnappers until now?’ Tenzaimon seemed to only be paying attention to the things that suited him,’Oi, that punk was trying to hit on my Emiri-chan! What a lying scumbag. That’s against the bro code and I ain’t sharing!’ Sylvia ignored his jealousy,’Before you went to the hotel with Emiri, did you go to the café as well?’ Tenzaimon crossed his arms in thought,’Yah, that was our meetin’ point. I don’t really like coffee though so I got some kinda tea.’ Since Emiri wouldn’t say it, Sylvia voiced her deduction,’So, Emiri, you take the men that you find through the app to the café as the first date, where they receive spiked drinks. Either you do it yourself or the staff are helping you. You bring them over to the hotel where they pass out and these men come up and steal their things. Naturally, they are your accomplices which is how you got away without a scratch. Then, you share the stolen money with the involved parties and buy yourself new clothes and jewellery. Does that sound correct?’ Tenzaimon who wasn’t really following the conversation chimed in,’Nah, no way! Emiri-chan is the kindestest woman that I ever met! Beside I just saved her right now, she wouldn’t be with these bastards.’ Emiri didn’t actually deny Sylvia’s deduction and neither did she answer her previous questions. The guilt was written on her face as she was breaking out in a cold sweat. However, with Sylvia in front and the van at the back, she had nowhere to run to. Emiri collapsed to her knees and pretended to feel weak,’Ten-chan, I’m feeling dizzy. They probably drugged me too…’ Tenzaimon tried to go help but Sylvia pulled him back,’You suddenly know his name? Then he was saying the truth that you two met up and the following events?’ She sighed,’Ugh, yes, this was all my plan. Though I didn’t plan for this idiot to still be around.’ It was more than a scam and actually a crime, so Sylvia couldn’t judge her as she was a Shinigami. That was why she called the police and informed her about this scheme. The human authorities should be able to take care of this case and resolve it correctly and hold those involved responsible. Since she was caught, Emiri started crying which made Tenzaimon want to console her but Sylvia didn’t let him,’Don’t think that you are getting away with this. You got your Gigai tracking device removed and you ran away from the Sakurabashi team. This will be reported and you will be punished as well.’ Well, she would mention that he got wrapped up in this unfortunate scheme but it wasn’t like he had the best intentions to start with. Tenzaimon only now realised,’You! You’re a…’ Sylvia stopped him from saying anything more,’Quiet.’ When the police arrived, they took the thugs and Emiri away while Sylvia gave her statement of what had happened. They were clear to go for now though Jino and Tenzaimon might be questioned further depending on the situation. With this, the case seemed to be resolved as Tenzaimon had been found and had been brought in by Sylvia along with the knocked-out Jino. Word Count: 1,268
  19. Night about blushed when Dante thanked and complimented her on the soul phone. She had never been sure how to take a compliment, and she honestly couldnt even remember the last time any of her work had received it. Aya also thanked her, for both the phone and the advice. She did truly hope it would help, even if it sounded vague the honest answer was that a zanpakuto was as unique as the person who wielded it. They were blank slates before they were wielded by a shinigami. Then they would come to reflect the one who wielded them, it was part of why the best advice she could think of would be to approach it as one would approach themself. In the end it was truly up to the wielder to find out the best way to approach it. She knew though how vague that sounded, something that sadly just went hand in hand with supernatural and mythical concepts. Mog would you mind grabbing my bag. She called out so the moogle could hear her. She had stored her adventuring supplies in it as usual, including the stuff to take some samples from the mansion. The bag was designed like a bag of holding from dnd. It had been a project she had worked on back before she was even a Vizored, in part sadly thanks to Malakai. So are you both ready? Have you had breakfast yet? She asked the two as she took a final drag of her pipe and emptied the ash out. She followed it with a swig from her mocha as she enjoyed the warmth of the coffee.
  20. Ruroki

    Hey Buttboi #OpenRP

    1. Show previous comments  2 more
    2. Ben


      I came here to see you actually. too bad Dandy is never coming back. He will be missed. RIP #OpenRP

    3. Ruroki


      Yeah bro, dude added me on discord then i never saw him online ever again... Like.. 4 years ago :')

      Anyway, see you in 3 years again for the next reunion. I'm logging out. #OpenRP

    4. Ben


      I'll mark it on my calendar. See you then! :P #OpenRP

  21. *keep a clear head* thats kind of what Yukiko told her, that makes sense. her emotions of regret and lost takes over most of the time. *approach it as you approach yourself?* Aya thinks on that part of commanders words. what does that mean? how does one even approach herself? is it meditation? inner world? or our expectations of ourselves. Aya mostly blame herself for her shortcomings for that she is very ambitious and have high expectations of herself. but for sure commander means something beyond that and Aya wants to find out what it means. *through words comes less meaning and its only the vision of self when the meaning is achieved* she remembers when her mother said that one day when she was brushing her hair, she didn't know what it means back then it took her life time to understand. for that she wont ask more she just contemplates on the wise words of commander. that's her way of learning. " thank you commander, I appreciate your effort for making these communication devices, and ... the advice "
  22. Dante noticed Aya bow and in return bowed before he listened to the commander saying she had passed out working. Dante knew the weight a commander had to carry and the continued search for the edge of improvement for the sake of protecting or improving squad members' lives. He respected that as he himself had that burden and privilege. The commander pulled out the soul phones and explained them to himself and Aya forced him back to reality having been lost in thought for a second there. Dante was impressed with the phone as he was terrible at developing technology and for that matter using it. Dante excepted the soul phone and made a point of keeping it safe so it would not end up damaged. Thank you, commander. I think this is truly a groundbreaking idea. I never would have thought of something like this nor its many different abilities stored within it for us to use.
  23. The Fullbringer stood by quietly as Sylvia was on the phone though he got quite excited when Saya mentioned the The Royal Springs Hotel. Sure enough, it did seem like a good lead but she simply didn’t expect his reaction over this investigation. Did he perhaps like detective stories? Tengu was definitely the sporty type and he seemed quite busy with his WILDs duties so the female Shinigami didn’t imagine that he had much time to read. Once the call was over and Sylvia asked regarding his participation, the Fullbringer said that he had evening plans but would be willing to help out the next day, provided that she hasn’t solved the case by then. The female Shinigami didn’t expect that things would go quite so smoothly so she might accept his offer. She shook her head,’Don’t worry about it. You have your own priorities.’ They exchanged numbers for the future as Tengu said that he hoped that she could find Tenzaimon. Sylvia agreed,’Me too. If this doesn’t drag out for too long then I should be able to return to Soul Society this week.’ The female Shinigami was a bit surprised when he said that she was cool. Perhaps because of his youth, the Fullbringer found it easier to give his honest opinion. Sylvia smiled slightly as she returned the handshake,’Thanks. Your enthusiasm is admirable. It’s been great working with you, Tengu.’ The Fullbringer then took his leave as she waved him back. Sylvia still had quite some time of the day to investigate so she called a taxi to the Royal Springs Hotel. During her journey, she received a message from Vadim that his search was unsuccessful and he was unable to find Emiri’s phone number. It just meant that she had to pursue the leads that she currently had. Still, Tenzaimon has been gone for quite some time so would they really have stayed in the hotel for such a long time? She doubted that and going by the name, it sounded somewhat fancy so it probably wasn’t cheap. His funds were not infinite so he wouldn’t want to spend it all too quickly. Furthermore, it hasn’t been too long since the last payday so Tenzaimon would have to wait a while for his next salary. After her journey was over, Sylvia arrived at the hotel. Despite it having ‘Royal’ in the name, it wasn’t anything extravagant. It was medium in size and it didn’t really stand out from the other buildings in the area. The female Shinigami couldn’t sense any reiatsu that could belong to a Shinigami from within and she doubted that he had the skills to make himself undetectable. She had no choice but to go in as the receptionist greeted her,’Hello, how may I help?’ Sylvia tried to put on her best face,’Hi, it would be great if you could! Actually, I’m looking for someone. My friend has been missing for some time and I’m getting really worried now. Apparently, one of my friends saw him in this hotel. Would you be able to tell me if he checked in?’ The receptionist got a bit suspicious of her but maintained a professional attitude,’I’m sorry, I understand how such a situation might make you feel. Unfortunately, we are unable to share any information regarding our customers.’ Sylvia tried once again,’Please, he has a mental condition so I need to make sure that he is safe.’ The receptionist didn’t budge though,’I’m really sorry. Unless you possess a search warrant, we will not be able to help you.’ Seeing that it is no use, the female Shinigami didn’t persist and took her leave. She let out a sigh and wondered what to do next. Staking out the hotel was one option, but the winter conditions didn’t make her fond of the idea. Looking at the prices online, booking a room was quite cheap but now the staff might be suspicious of her so it didn’t seem like a good idea either. It was then that Saya called so she picked up,’So, I will be expecting perfect points in your report because I hit the jackpot,’ the younger sister said smugly. Sylvia inquired,’What did you find?’ The twin responded happily,’Guess who was finally able to recover Emiri-chan’s contact number and profile from the chatting app?’ The female Shinigami was quite surprised,’How did you manage to do that? You said the app didn’t leave any logs behind.’ Saya stood by what she said,’Yeah, that’s right. The thing is that it will prioritise contacts who you’ve already contacted in the search results. So, I was searching for variations of Emiri and Emiri-chan and I think I found the one.’ Sylvia asked,’Are you sure it’s the same one?’ The twin replied,’Not fully but Emiri isn’t really a common name here. She was at the top of the search results and Aya made a fake profile for Jino so that we could chat with her. She lives in Karakura and has agreed to meet at a café across the street from the Royal Springs tomorrow evening. Sounds like a match, if you ask me. Also, if her picture isn’t fake, then she is actually a real woman after all.’ It did sound quite promising so Sylvia wanted to follow through with this meeting,’Good work.’ The female Shinigami returned to the Kasazaki apartment for the night. The next day, she and Jino went out to the shopping district to get him some clothes,’Why do I have to dress up for this stupid date?’ Sylvia explained,’Even if it is pretend, you still have to look and act the part. This might be the only chance for us to meet with her so we need to get all the information on Tenzaimon that we can.’ Jino still wasn’t happy about this,’I mean I get that and all… but why do I need to blow my hard-earned money for clothes that I ain’t gonna wear ever again and for a chick that I have no interest in?’ Sylvia sighed,’Fine, I’ll cover the bill. Just make sure that you don’t mess it up.’ Since Jino was used to wearing punky clothing, the female Shinigami had to pick out something that would be acceptable for a date. Still, he had to feel comfortable in it so they discussed as they went. The final choice were black jeans, a zip-up knitted jumper, a bronze coat with white fur and a pair of boots. With shopping done, they returned to the apartment where they talked with the twins. Sylvia wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page so she asked about the conversation that happened with Emiri. Saya answered,’Jino here isn’t the brightest crayon so he is using the alias Juno.’ Jino grunted as he was insulted but didn’t talk back,’There is no way Emiri is suspecting anything at this point so just act natural and it should be good.’ The evaluator saw that she did ask how they found her but Aya answered that it was by chance to which Emiri replied,’OMG! that's like so romantic~ We could be like, soulmates~ ’ Did Tenzaimon really fall for someone like that? When it got closer to the time, Sylvia and Jino headed to the café and put in the earpieces that they got from the twins,’I’ll be giving you the questions so make sure you ask them. You do know how you should behave at a date, right?’ Jino answered confidently,’Course!’ Sylvia started the call and went ahead into the café as she ordered herself a hot chocolate and sat at a table. Before long Jino said,’She’s here,’ and then she heard some noise. Looking through the window, she saw a heavily fake tanned woman with brown hair and lots of jewellery appear who waved and then hugged him,’God, you're like so freakin' hot in person. I love your muscles. You must hit the gym or something?’ Jino hesitantly returned the hug and answered,’Uh, yeah! Working out is my passion! What about you?’ Emiri nodded,’Yeah, me and my bff Satomi have, like, yoga and Pilates classes?’ He didn’t seem impressed over her looks or the way she talked though Sylvia agreed with him on this. Jino motioned to the café,’Ready to go in?’ He held the door open for her as they walked in and then pulled out a chair for her at a nearby table. Emiri giggled,’Oh my gosh, you're like totes a gentleman too, Juju. That's so lit! I could, like, so get used to this!’ and then touched his arm playfully as she sat down. Jino smirked,’Thanks, but it’s Juno,’ but she didn’t seem interested. Sylvia whispered,’Ask her if she travelled far.’ Jino flinched as he received Sylvia’s voice directly into his ear as if being caressed,’Uh, did you have to travel far to get here?’ Emiri once again giggled and swatted with her hand,’Gosh no! I live, like, literally ten minutes away? So, what you do for work, Juju?’ They haven’t really prepared a fake persona so Sylvia quickly thought of an answer,’Say Risk Analyst.’ Jino parroted,’I’m a Risk Analyst,’ which impressed Emiri,’Wow, Risk Analyst. So, like, you analyse risk? Does that, like, bring in the cash?’ She definitely seemed like the material type,’Say yes.’ He scratched his head as he tried to appear modes,’Yeah, I’m doing rather alright for myself.’ Hearing that she had a bright smile on her face and then a waitress came to their table to take their orders. Emiri reached across the table and held his hands while giving him flirty eyes,’Umm, can I have, like, a pumpkin spice latte? Without milk or cream?’ The waitress, who was a bit weirded out, wrote it down in her notepad and looked to Jino who also looked uncomfortable,’Black coffee, please.’ The waitress left them and Sylvia whispered,’Ask her if she’s single.’ Jino asked with his hands still being held,’Just to make sure, you are single right?’ Emiri gasped and slapped his hand,’Juju! Like, of course I'm, like, totes single and ready to mingle, bruh? Because, like, if I wasn't would I really, like, be here right now? Cheating is so not based.’ Sylvia found it a bit understand her when she talked like that… what was based even supposed to mean? Meanwhile Jino was surprised that his hand got slapped,’Well, you know, on the app many guys like me can talk with a pretty woman like you,’ he struggled to get the compliment out. Still if she was saying the truth, which Sylvia doubted, what happened to Tenzaimon then? Were they already done? Maybe he realised that he could do better than Emiri? She answered,’Talking is, like, totes fine tho? I value loyalty!’ The female Shinigami whispered,’Ask her what kind of places she likes going to.’ They got their orders and Jino complied,’What kind of places do you like going to?’ Emiri wondered,’Ummm, I can go, like, anywhere? I'm a more, like, the place doesn't matter as long as you're with, like, chill company kinda gal? Right? I think, like, the movies are lit, though. I'm into, like, artsy movies? Stuff that, like, totes thought provoking and, like, philosophical. Like, oh my god, every Marvel film ever? They're so based. What about you?’ That certainly didn’t sound helpful as to where she could have gone with Tenzaimon while Jino struggle with an answer,’I, um, like reading…fashion magazines! Yeah.’ Even though he said that, Sylvia did catch him reading a magazine where the women quite certainly lacked any sort of fashion… Emiri giggled,’Ooh, yea it’s totes important to keep up with the newest trends! Only losers wear untendy clothes from previous years.’ Sylvia whispered,’Ask her what her type of guy is.’ Jino parroted,’What’s your ideal guy?’ Emiri giggled,’So, like, aesthetically, Juju you're, like, totes my type,’ as she feasted on him with her eyes and seductively bit her lip. She continued,’But, like, personality-wise. He has to be, like, smart, but not too smart? I like though guys but, like, he has to be vulnerable? Assertive and dominating but, like, not controlling. He should also, like, be driven and successful? He has to be, like emotionally and physically available, that's totes a deal breaker? What about you, what's Juju's ideal kinda gal?’ The female Shinigami commented,’Oh, sounds like you’re the perfect match.’ She could see Jino’s eye twitch,’I like women that are in shape, like me. Fashionable and clearly one who takes care of herself with nice perfume. Ideally, a brunette.’ As he was answering, Emiri started brushing her foot up Jino’s leg and slowly moved up to his thigh as she seductively bit her lip, causing him to flinch. She then leaned in closer to Jino,’Say, Juju. I think I'm over the cafe. You wanna do me? We could, like, get a room in that hotel across the street and have a good time.’ Sylvia started coughing as she choked on her hot chocolate and Jino was equally taken aback,’Uh… Isn’t it a bit soon? I wanna get to know you better first?’ Emiri insisted as she touched him all over,’Aw, we can, like, get to know each other real better, up close and personal?’ Jino still tried to decline,’Ah, you know, I’m actually a bit shy when it comes to this stuff… I really need more time?’ Emiri then scoffed and backed away,’Loser,’ and got up to leave. Jino also got up and raised his hand,’Ah, wait!’ The situation quickly broke down and they were unable to get any useful information on Tenzaimon. Sylvia hurriedly told him,’Stop her! If she leaves, we lose our lead!’ Jino cursed and raised his voice,’Oi! Where is Tenzaimon!’ Emiri stopped in her tracks and looked back at him, surprise on her face,’I don’t know who that is… Leave me the fuck alone.’ She left the café as some customers stared at Jino. That last expression definitely meant that she knew something about their runner. Sylvia didn’t hesitate,’Follow her, I’ll be right behind you.’ Jino nodded and left some cash on the table before giving chase with the female Shinigami in tow. Emiri had led him to an alley beside the hotel and then a black SUV appeared on the other side,’Oi!’ Sylvia hid herself at the entrance of the alley and watched what would happen next. Much to her surprise, a huge muscular man jumped from one of the hotel windows and landed in front of Jino without a trace of discomfort. He was completely naked save for his crotch being wrapped with bed sheets. The man proclaimed,’Tenzaimon's 'ere to rescue yah, Emiri-chan!’ Sylvia sighed in disappointment,’Why are there only perverts in this town?’ At the very least, it seemed that they found their runner. From the black SUV, a bunch of thugs in suits emerged and headed straight for Tenzaimon who started to fight. Despite being hit with metal pipes and being stabbed with knives, the Shinigami simply brushed it off and threw them around like ragdolls. Being the last one standing, Tenzaimon called out,’Emiri-chan!’ Word Count: 2,503
  24. She gripped the hilt of Bokyaku a it tight, but there was something reassuring having her shikai active. This situation was such an unknown having Bokyaku at the ready helped balance her. She heard a ding of an elevator and moved peaking around the hall corner and saw one of the undead nurses pushing a wheel chair. As the nurse turned around in the elevator and went to push the button Night saw what was in the wheel chair. It looked like a ball of worms, rather large worms. She also noticed it was radiating spiritual power, no that didnt seem right. It felt more like the epicenter of the spiritual pressure filling the hospital. Was it why she had a hard time sensing the other undead? As the door to the elevator closed she watched were it was heading, the basement, of course. It always had to be the basement. She noticed out the corner of her eyes one of those ceiling crawling undead coming around the corner, of well, the ceiling. This one though she noticed was even more mutated than the one downstairs. It had an extra set of limbs under what use to be it's arm, this pair were covered in a carapace and the eyes were now compound eyes. The spiritual pressure it had was more than the one downstairs. However she noticed it still felt tethered and blurred somehow. With a flash step she vanished behind the corner and ducked into a room. It looked like a surgery room judging by the surgical table and medical tool. She kept the door cracked and watched as the spider like creature crawled around the corner. She readied Bokyaku as it the creature crawled by. She was a bit relieved that it had failed to see her. Her blade split in half and unfolded into a bow a star filled darkness forming the bowstring. She drew it back forming an arrow of darkness. The tip was a dense bit of darkness and she fired it silently striking the creature. As the arrow pierced her target it would condense into it through the wound and multiple dark spikes would expand out from the spider undead. The creature fell off the roof as the creatures reishi was slowly erased the darkness of her zan eating away at it. Some few minutes and it had no spiritual power. She figured it would be as good of a time as any to experiment a bit. The darkness of her zan could chip away and eat a beings reishi weakening them over time, and long enough lead to their defeat. However normally Night wouldnt waist the time to let her darkness eat away at something alone, always following it up with another dark elemental attack, or kido. However the fact it specifically targeted reishi was why she wanted to test it on this undead. She walked out of the room and into the hall next to it. She examined the wounds as Bokyaku returned to it's default state and noticed a lack of red water, only a dry red dust now lined the wounds. She scraped some of it onto a slide and stored the sample away. The corpse was more insect like than human at this point and that was kind of concerning. She also remembered that bundle of large worms in the wheel chair earlier. She was really wishing now she had thought to bring a camera with her a photo's of this thing would honestly be great evidence. After a few more minutes examining it and taking a carapace sample she would get up and stretch a bit stiff from being in a kneeling position when the corpse twitched. She noticed a hint of reishi in it now and frowned sure of her zanpakutos ability. She noticed a bit of red fluid starting to leak just a bit out of the wounds. Something was restoring it! She remembered how the reiatsu had felt around the worm thing earlier and wondered if maybe it had something to do with it? Only one way to sadly find out, and that would be to head to the basement.
  25. Night listened to Aya explain. So it had been her zanpakuto, it was promising to hear that the spirit was manifesting. However it was also concerning with how combative the spirit sounded to be. She knew Aya's inner hollow provided regeneration though, so maybe it felt like it could take risk like that. She hoped Aya and her zan would be ok, however that was a private affair so she wouldnt pry beyond the one question she had asked. I am glad you are feeling better. I hope next time goes better, just keep a clear head and approach it like you were approaching yourself. I hope the advice is ok. She said and realized just how long she had kind of been out of touch with other people. She had once helped teach for a bit at the shinigami academy and had swore her advice had felt better back then. Dante arrived and Night took a drag of her pipe and exhaled a bit after as Dante said his good morning. At the mention of yesterday evening though Night smiled. I kind of was in the lab all night, may or may not have passed out down there. I was working on these actually. She said as she reached into her haori and pulled out the two other Soul phones she had spent the night making. One for each of you, they have communication features, picture and visual data recording, mapping and radar. This should help us keep in touch if we get separated during the mission. I have one of my assistants currently helping develop more software to add to them later. You can apply personal touches to them if you want as well. I figured with the extra time I had it would be a good and simple way to help us keep in touch. In case the mansion manages to separate us, or any other future missions, or adventures. She said with a soft smile, a decent way to keep her cell safe without being an overprotective nut.
  26. Aya looks at her new commander, she can see how down to earth she is to compared to her father. leading is a great responsibility and yet a great power and so many people fall for arrogance, yet commander is way more stronger than her father, not even comparable but somehow deep in her subconscious she is still back home in their village. where his father had the authority. " thank you commander for asking, I do feel better, I hope you could have a good night sleep " she then is taken aback by commanders question. she thought Hirako sama would have filled her with details by now but it is polite to answer the question herself. " It was my Zanpakotu , trying to teach me my Bankai " then she looks to her side, as Dante arrives. she bows .
  27. Fate is one of my favorite series, I like Type Moon actually in general, from Tsukihime, Garden of Sinners, and of course the many Fate's that exist from Fate/Extra, to Fate/Hollow Atraxia and more. Fate Grand Order is my favorite mobile game and I have admittedly invested a lot of time in it since it launched globally. If you play and need a friend feel free to add me. my ID is 180611580. My support set up is Summer BB in my favorite slot, Ibuki-Douji in my saber slot, Gilgamesh in my archer slot, Scathach in my lancer slot, Nemo in my rider slot, Scathach-Skadii in my caster slot, Shuten-Douji in my assassin slot, Arjuna Alter in my berserker slot, and KingProtea in my extra slot.
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