From the latest official novel of Bleach released in 2017.
The events in this story take place right after the defeat of Yhwach but years before the manga epilogue.
Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World volume 1 Full Translation
CANT FEAR YOUR OWN WORLD Part 1 Full Translation
“Do not seek the aesthetics in waging war.
Do not seek virtue in death.
Do not think your life is your own.
If you wish to protect each of the heads of the five court nobles, then you must slaughter every foe from under the shadow of the leaves.”
— Excerpt from the old edition of the Shino Academy’s textbook, Shinigami regulations encyclopedia.
“Do not seek the aesthetics in waging war.
Do not seek virtue in death.
Do not think your life is your own.
If you wish to protect the things you ought to protect, then you must strike down the enemy by cutting them from their backs.”
— Excerpt from the latest edition of the Shino Academy’s textbook, Shinigami regulations encyclopedia.
Once, there was a battle.
A great war between those who called themselves gods who governed death and those who extinguished evil spirits.
The conflict ceased in the form of losing their respective ‘kings’ by the end of the feud which spanned a thousand years.
The relationship between the Shinigami and the Quincy hailed a new era as a result of this great loss.
It is said that it was the very same person who killed both kings, he was neither Shinigami or Quincy, but only a small fraction of people are aware of that fact.
There was a young substitute Shinigami boy who was a guest of the Gotei 13, who defeated the ringleader of the “Wandenreich” rebel army which invaded Soul Society —- only that part of the information along with the proclamation that “the Gotei 13 successfully defended the Soul King Palace” was propagated throughout the Soul Society.
In other words, it was to be permanently concealed by those who were the very foundation of the Soul Society, that the Soul King himself was dead, for the purpose of avoiding confusion and disorder.
Even now, many inhabitants of the Soul Society including ordinary soldiers still believe they have their Soul King enshrined at the Soul King Palace.
Those who know the facts is limited to only a handful of Shinigami such as captain ranks and superior officers, or people attached to important posts in Seireitei, they also dare not expose the truth and thus the people’s peace of mind was not disturbed.
From there, the revival of the Seireitei that was left utterly devastated, began.
Whether or not the decision of the higher-ups, who did not deem it acceptable to snatch away the people’s moral support, was right as they had expected — well, it seems that is something to be judged by history 10, or 100 years down the line.
The series of conflicts that would subsequently be known as the “Protection of the Soul King Great War”, ushered in the conclusion to such a state of affairs.
Going back in time to the point immediately following the end of the war.
Soul King Palace main shrine - Greater Soul King Palace.
At the spot where the former Soul King was enshrined, the holy soldiers (shinpei) were busily moving around.
There was a member of squad zero, Hyōsube Ichibē 'Monk who calls the real name’ (aka high priest) — he stroked his deep black beard whilst silently staring at the ‘thing’ that is at the centre of the room.
From behind, he heard an easygoing tone of voice call out to him.
“Oh my…so that is the new Soul King? High priest?”
The high priest turned to look over his shoulder, there stood a man with an eyepatch over his right eye — Kyōraku Shunsui.
“Hey, you’ve become able to move already? Hmm yes, you’d be no good as a captain commander otherwise” The high priest remarked with a cheerful smile.
He answered his companion’s query by checking to see if Kyōraku’s line of sight was not on himself but at the center of the space where the holy soldiers were working.
“You already understand. The soul King is neither new or old. It is significant that what we call Soul King can continue to exist here”
“Aren’t you the guy that said… all power is carried in names?” With a complex expression still on his face, and switching to honorific speech, Kyōraku continued.
"…that is why, in the worst case scenario, it would have been Ichigo kun that is being sealed under that name”
“If that was the case, you would have accepted it right?”
The high priest had quite casually informed him of the various scenarios in which it was possible that Ichigo would be named “Soul King”. However, that word seemed as if it does not harbour a shred of emotion.
And then, he laughed displaying a toothy grin as he spoke about Kurosaki Ichigo.
“I’m also pleased for that boy. To reach a point where we would be unable to talk to him would be somewhat lonesome huh?”
“Above all. With this, I can also feel at ease not having to endure the resentment of Ichigo kun’s friends.”
“Ah, you gave them those soul tickets didn’t you? Let’s keep that quiet from some of the 46 chambers and the noble bunch.”
“…oh dear, how perceptive of you, high priest”
The position of Soul King. That is by no means a good thing, far from it in fact, Kyōraku considered that the single most, worst possible outcome as far as Kurosaki Ichigo is concerned.
Looking at the 'thing’ before his eyes, Kyōraku was reminded of that once again.
In preparation for the worst, Kyōraku handed out special spirit tools called “soul tickets” to persons who were close to Kurosaki Ichigo in the Human World.
This is a ticket that makes it possible to freely travel back and forth between the Human World and the Soul Society, improvements have been made based on the technology that was previously used to transport the humans of Karakura Town alive to Soul Society, resulting in this practical substitute.
Kyōraku calmly casts down his eyes, scenes of the time he went to inform Kurosaki Ichigo’s friends of that one possibility played out in his mind, “depending on the nature of his powers, it could mean that it will become impossible for him to return back home to this world.”
He had said it himself that he hadn’t come to joke around, the young boy, despite acting the most foolish was also filled with deep anger, “you're not joking, yet how are you expecting us to say goodbye so easily!?”
In contrast to the true anger he displayed for Ichigo’s sake, there was the black haired boy who stubbornly continued to believe in Ichigo with eyes that remained calm, and then, there was the girl who was more concerned about Ichigo’s family members rather than herself whilst harbouring deep anguish and fear for Ichigo’s well-being.
—- both Sado kun and Orihime chan, Ichigo kun is blessed with friends isn’t he?
—- well, that is surely because those kids are captivated by Ichigo kun…
Considering the young people of the Human World, Kyōraku was safely relieved for Kurosaki Ichigo, a key player who ended this war, Kyōraku lightly lifted his eyes as he addressed the high priest.
“Above all, it's good that Ichigo is not the one being cut down by the high priest and co.”
Kyōraku said without hesitation in a curious manner of speaking.
Without affirming nor denying that, the high priest rubbed his bald head as he laughed cheerfully.
“Seeing as how I’m not Yhwach. That means I cannot see into the future… Well, technically speaking, Kurosaki Ichigo could not have won but rather ought to have been defeated.”
“So, as far as the boy is concerned, he was fortunate that Yhwach had completely obtained the power of the Soul King. It is for that reason, even regardless of the fact that Kurosaki Ichigo had won, that the Soul Society was able to escape collapse in such a way.” As he said that, the high priest clapped his hands together.
Behind the high priest whose eyes closed along with the clear sound of his hands clapping together in prayer, Kyōraku tried to question him further.
“High priest, is that the will of the Soul King?”
“Or…is it the 'dying wish’ of the founders of the five great noble clans?”
In a slip of the tongue, the honorific language disappears from Kyōraku’s speech, the high priest then replies with aloofness.
“This and that, paying respects to the original dignitaries. You cannot hide your hostility. Do you also perceive Kuchiki Byakuya and Yoruichi Shihoin from that sort of viewpoint?”
“There is no place where I think of them like that. They are comrades of the Gotei 13, my precious friends.”
He smiled wryly as he shook his head, he continued speaking in a lower tone of voice.
“The actions of their ancestors have nothing to do with them but, on the other hand, it’s not like the sins of their ancestors were nonexistent. Am I right, high priest?”
“You say that but, in any case, there are no longer any founders of the five great noble clans left…”
The moment the high priest had said that, the dull sound of an explosion echoed throughout the greater palace.
“ ! ”
When Kyōraku turned to look in the direction of the noise, he could sense distinctive spiritual pressures different from that of a Shinigami’s coming from there.
Ahead of their sightlines, there was still a section that was fused with part of the “Wandenreich”, a portion of the wall was now destroyed and white smoke flowed up.
Then, a few more white figures emerged from the inner part of that wall, out of the white smoke.
The alarmed holy soldiers simultaneously drew their swords, adopting a fighting stance in order to defend the greater palace, but the high priest gained control of the them with his commanding voice.
“Ah, no need to concern yourselves. These are not opponents to defeat.”
One of the white figures had already leapt in their direction, he clicked his tongue as if drawing out a poisonous air.
“Che…what? You ain’t gonna fight?”
The white figure that was reminiscent of a wild beast — Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez glared at the high priest and Kyōraku with a sharp look in his eyes as he landed.
Grimmjow touched his hand to his Zanpakutō, but then a small Bala* (*Hollow bullet) struck the back of his head.
In response to the shock of something striking his head, Grimmjow turned around, there stood the female Arrancar who turned up at Soul Society at the same time as him, Nelliel Tu Odelschwanck, with her left hand was pointed towards him, she appeared to have just shot that Bala.
“Nelliel, why you…!”
“Picking fights on such an occasion? With the demise of the Quincy king, now, it is we who are the largest foreign body of Soul Society you know”
“So what? If you’re scared then you might as well take your burden and escape through Garganta at once.”
The one Grimmjow had called 'burden’ was a female Arrancar who was being carried on Nelliel’s left shoulder.
Same as Nelliel, Tier Harribel held the title of Espada 'no. 3’.
When the “Wandenreich” attacked Hueco Mundo, Harribel stood at the forefront of the battle, bearing the full brunt of it —- However she was weakened by Yhwach’s overwhelming power, consequently, she was captured as a symbol of Hueco Mundo’s oppression.
At the time he was remodelling the Soul King Palace, Yhwach incorporated a prison into his castle in which she became his prisoner.
Whether it was meant to teach the Arrancars a lesson, or even remodel her to serve as part of the Quincy vanguard, and with Yhwach now deceased, the purpose of her continued captivity had become unclear.
The one thing that was for certain is that she was alive, only now was she set free thanks to the efforts of Nelliel who had arrived along with Kurosaki Ichigo and the others.
Nelliel effectively rescued Harribel the new ruler of Hueco Mundo, but she held mixed feelings at the current state of affairs.
Whilst feeling bewildered at the fact that it was the former subordinates themselves who were standing in this place before Aizen who desired to reach the Soul King Palace to such a degree, Nelliel addressed Grimmjow who was being hostile towards the Shinigami.
“You pick fights with opponents who are exhausted from war with the Quincies? Is that your idea of a satisfying fight?”
“……Che. What a sentimental thought. Anyway, do you think these shinigami guys are really going turn a blind eye to us? Save me the trouble, the moment we leave, they’ll slash us up from behind.”
It was the bald-headed, good-natured old man with the deep black beard that then replied to this.
“Hey, don’t worry, we’ll turn a blind eye to you guys as much as you want. If you like, we can even escort you up to Hueco Mundo, it’s no problem.”
“…huh? Who do you think you are? You take us so lightly huh.”
They were not even considered a threat as they were wounded themselves.
Grimmjow took the remark as just that, he glared at the bald old man, his whole body overflowing with bloodlust.
But the man in question replied in an unfazed manner whilst easily brushing aside that thirst for blood.
“On the contrary, the opposite is true. At any rate, even if we purified or even eradicated numerous hollows of the area, it would strongly point to calamity as a result, eventually the equilibrium of the three realms of existence would be sure to collapse if we did such a thing so carelessly in the current state of affairs.”
For a brief moment, Grimmjow was silent, but then he clicked his tongue whilst bringing his bloodlust under control whether or not he came to terms with it himself.
It seems he would rather settle things with Kurosaki Ichigo than mess around in this place.
Nelliel guessed as such, when push comes to shove, she considered silently launching a surprise attack and dragging him back to Hueco Mundo, suddenly Harribel who was leaning on her shoulder opened her mouth to speak.
“…is that what you’re all going to be calling Soul King?”
She whispered her words as if saying it to herself.
Her eyes turned towards the thing being enshrined at the center of the palace, behind the Shinigami.
“…such a thing is at the core of soul society?”
“Hmm, lady Arrancar. Can you still tolerate something like this?” The bald man asked whilst scratching his beard, at his words, Harribel slowly shook her head.
“…right now, I am merely a defeated soldier. I am not qualified to say anything. But, I understand why the man that was once our ruler continued to detest that thing.”
Harribel separates herself from Nelliel’s shoulder, on her own feet, she then turns her back to the Shinigami.
“We have inconvenienced you…One of these days we will repay this debt to you.”
“Ah, it’s okay. As for this over here, it would be great if you can keep quiet about it in Hueco Mundo. Moreover, if you want to show your gratitude, don’t thank us, you ought to say it to Kurosaki Ichigo kun.”
As Kyōraku said that, the Arrancars showed themselves out, leaving the greater palace area.
The same kind of arguing back and forth from just a moment ago could be heard, “ah that’s right…I have to repay a debt to that Kurosaki bastard…”, the male Arrancar could be heard saying, although he was speaking of a different kind of 'debt’ to the one Harribel had mentioned earlier, in response to that the female Arrancar with the ram’s horns said “do you really wish to settle things with Ichigo with wounds all over your body?”
“Oh my, Ichigo kun is really popular isn’t he…?”
Next to the muttering Kyōraku, the high priest also turns on his feet heading outside the greater palace.
“Where are you going, high priest?”
“To wake up the zero division a little”
The zero division.
The Royal Guards are elite guardians with five members, including the high priest Ichibē, who are said to be comparable to the entire force of the Gotei 13.
Each member is a pioneer who has created things such as Zanpakutō or shihakushou, that can be described as the very foundations of the present day Shinigami, perhaps it could be said that these great men and women thoroughly refined the history of the Shinigami, from zero.
However, up until Kyōraku had arrived here, he had heard that the zero division, excluding the high priest, had died at the hands of Yhwach and his subordinates.
Kyōraku inclined his head at the words “wake up”, but the answer soon came spilling out from the high priest’s mouth.
“It’s not the case that my own flesh and flood was converted into the Ōken just for show you know? The spiritual pulse that surrounds the Zero Riden* which everyone was given, is almost fused with the individual spiritual pressures of squad zero. As long as the Zero Riden are not completely destroyed, they will be revived if I call their names”
(*TN – Reminder that the Zero Riden are the separate palaces/estates of the zero division members)
“That, would have been truly unfavorable, if Ichigo kun didn’t win isn’t that right, high priest?”
On one occasion, the Soul King Palace was reworked to “Wahrwelt” by Yhwach.
If Yhwach was alive, before long, the last vestiges of the Soul King Palace would have disappeared, with the exception of the high priest, squad zero may have been quite literally, annihilated.
“The zero division do not die so easily, I won’t let them die. Such is their fate. Well, anyway, Ōetsu and the others must work harder from now on.”
The high priest spoke in an easygoing manner that was particularly similar to that of Kyōraku in times of peace, accordingly, once he had finished speaking, he scratched his beard several times whilst looking up at the sky of the Soul King Palace.
“There seems to be a young person who has taken advantage of wartime to cause a little mischief”
One hour later - Soul King Palace - Hōōden
“…Oh. They’ve got me beat huh!”
Nimaiya Ōetsu had just managed to return from the boundary of life and death thanks to the efforts of the high priest.
He carried his head in his hands, deep in the basement of the Hōōden, there would ordinarily be a sword that existed here at the bottom of the sea which extended around his Zero Riden.
It was a destroyed iron door and the remains of the shimenawa* rope cut up into pieces that stared back at him through his eyeglasses. (*Lengths of braided rope used to cordon off sacred or consecrated areas)
There was supposed to be a certain Zanpakutō sealed there.
However, that seal was tragically destroyed, and there was not a trace of Zanpakutō in question left to be found.
The girl who was standing next to Ōetsu - Hiuchigashima Mera, one of Nimaiya’s bodyguards and Zanpakutō spirit - looked at the situation exhaling a large sigh.
“So this is the end result of master getting carried away with the excitement. Jeez.”
This sword is usually kept deep in the sea so it is a difficult place to reach, but since it dried up at the time Kurosaki Ichigo’s Zanpakutō was being forged, the floor of the sea was now widely exposed.
“Even though it’s an emergency, the unfavorable conditions have piled up.”
Saying that, Ōetsu corrected the position of his glasses as he eyed the surroundings.
All the men that were stationed there had fallen, each of them were undergoing revival by Ōetsu’s guards which included Tonokawa Tokie and Nomino Nonomi.
Those who were charged with the security of the sword were all defeated.
Ōetsu squinted his eyes. The kind of emotion in those eyes - enveloped in a quiet anger - it was different from the time of his confrontation with Yhwach and his Schutzstaffel.
“And now, above all…there is a low-life taking advantage of the emergency situation in Soul Society to commit thievery.”
Among the Zanpakutō that were transformed into a human form, and although they are all relatively skilled, there were some noticeably strange aspects to their injuries.
There are those who had suffered burns, those who had parts of their bodies frozen, those who kept on spasming like they had been electrocuted, those who appeared to have been harmed with poison, those who had been pierced with holes throughout their body, up to those who seemed to have had their limbs crushed with a blunt instrument.
Mera clicked her tongue as she observed the guards who were covered in numerous 'sword wounds’ that were particularly characteristic of Zanpakutō.
“Good grief, how many people did this take? If they have such military force then they should turn to war”
Then one of Zanpakutō who had regained his consciousness shook his head at Mera’s words.
“It’s not like that…”
“Hey, are you alright? 'Not like’ what?”
“They were alone…when they attacked this place…it was just one person…”
Mera further tilts her head at the other’s words.
If his words are the truth, then various types of scars were incomprehensible.
However, Ōetsu displayed a different reaction. He narrowed his eyes behind his tinted glasses in a smiling expression, and nodded furiously whilst spreading both hands apart as if he was satisfied.
“I see, I see, well well, well. That’s right! So it’s like that!”
“Don’t convince yourself, it gives me a bad feeling in many ways, master”
“So harsh Mera chan. With this chat we can simply narrow down to the main criminal now”
After thinking for a brief moment, Ōetsu picked up a piece of the seal cloth that were scattered about on the floor whilst calling to mind a specific person.
As he observed that cloth which looked as if something had bitten it off, he mumbled to himself.
“No sword should be handled by small fry…but "Ikomikidomoe” is not a sword that can be handled by small fry in the first place.“
Whilst he whispered the name of the Zanpakutō that had disappeared, Ōetsu glares at the empty space with a slight sadness and anger as a swordsmith, his eyes were enshrouded in heavy doubt.
"If that is so, I wonder who intends to wield it…four great noble clans.”
And with the conclusion of the war, the boundaries of the Soul King Palace was closed once again.
The frozen atmosphere makes one feel the remnants of war, and the influence of the “Soul King” that remains as unchanged as before.
Even more so, the several live coals of the calamity.
letting the various"crimes" that persists since the dawn of the Soul Society float within it’s pronounced Reishi.
In Soul Society, there is a man.
A man who aspired to the shinigami who once saved his life, he aimed himself down the same path.
That man, despite being a commoner from Rukongai, achieved excellent results at the Shinō Academy and ascended to the position of vice captain.
Righteous, faithful to orders, willing to risk injury in order to save his comrades, even going as far as to stake his own life if it’s for the sake of Soul Society.
In addition, he is a man who can bear mercy towards hostiles, and although he prefers to play fair, if it’s for a moral cause, he is a man who can lurk in the mud and slay the enemy with a surprise attack.
He is a person who gives death to his enemy.
He is a person who purifies the deaths of the world.
And he is a person who transforms “death” of people residing in the Human World, into “salvation”.
Evidently, one might call it the 'template’ of a Shinigami in Soul Society.
He was a man who embodied a “Shinigami of the Gotei 13”, both the good and the bad.
The name of that shinigami, is Hisagi Shūhei.
The position of the 9th division’s vice captain is worthy enough to reserve his name in the Soul Society’s records, he is a strong warrior clearly drawing a line between him and the ordinary soldiers.
However, even though the names remains in Soul Society’s “records”, there are clear walls between those who remain in everyone’s “memories” such as Yamamoto Shigekuni Genryusai, Zaraki Kenpachi and Kurosaki Ichigo.
Such aspects include, 'vice captains who are worthy of the name vice captain’.
Even if that evaluation receives words of praise or even ridicule, Hisagi Shūhei himself doesn’t know.
Nevertheless, he will never change his way of life even if he did know.
Because he has already chosen his way of life.
When a shinigami saved his life?
When he enrolled at the Shinō Academy, and the moment he grasped a Zanpakutō for the first time?
When he lost his comrades in a training exercise?
When he encountered the way of life of a man who ought to have been his example, when he devoted his life to that man as his vice captain?
Or— when he cut down that man with his own hands?
It was not clear to anyone at which point in time he accepted the way of life of a 'Shinigami’.
Perhaps even to Hisagi Shūhei himself who continues to walk down that road.
Seireitei - In front of the 1st Division Barracks.
“Well then, do you have any last words?”
The captain commander’s remark calmly echos around the criminal.
A few days after the conclusion of war with the Quincies.
The removal of the mysterious bird like creatures that rained down on Seireitei has also been completed, and although the stench of death has faded considerably from the surroundings - the threads of tension that is spreading around in front of the 1st division barracks at the present time, is as unchanged as it was during the course of the war.
Surrounding Kyōraku, the captain commander, members of the punishment force who manage “Muken” which is the lowest level of the underground prison, and the captain rank shinigami have been deployed in preparation of the emergency situation.
The man accused of high treason that was temporarily released from “Muken”, Aizen Sōsuke, is up for reincarnation.
As it stands, many shinigami have passed away after battling the Quincies, and the majority of those who had made it to safety were still in the midst of receiving medical treatment.
With the assistance of Inoue Orihime, many shinigami who were between the threshold of life and death were able to hold on to their lives, however the power of her “Sōten Kisshun” is not suited to recovery of lost spiritual pressure.
Even though wounds can be healed, if they are completely cured up to the point of their original spiritual pressures, the lives of other patients as well as Orihime’s physical strength itself would become unstable.
Consequently, Orihime was put in charge of patients who were at the level of 'seriously ill’ and could not be handled by anyone else, the 4th division then took over in the form of further progressing the medical treatment from those who had gotten over the worst of their injuries.
Despite there being Arrancars who have had their upper bodies blown off and then later regenerated, even Orihime’s powers has its limits.
Those who have allowed too much time to pass since receiving fatal injuries, those whose souls that have been completely extinguished, and those who haven’t even left a trace of themselves in the first place are all the likes of which Sōten Kisshun is helpless against.
After the mass loss of life, there were also many amongst the disheartened shinigami who felt a sense of powerlessness - and yet, news of the eventual victory was enough to encourage the Gotei 13 as one tenacious organisation.
Although there are no words such as “all possible measures” that would make sense in front of Aizen Sōsuke, they will nevertheless deal with his reincarceration by maintaining maximum vigilance.
Be that as it may, it is only the captain commander Kyōraku who will ultimately enter inside “Muken”.
Kyōraku asked Aizen about “last words” as a formality, however he is also well aware that allowing Aizen to talk so heedlessly is dangerous. Even in his present condition where he is restrained in a chair and various parts of his body are sealed, he is still able to use Kidō and even the very words that comes out of his mouth could end up being one of his schemes.
Kyōraku thought that he would have to seal his voice immediately in case he started saying something disturbing, but as appeared to assume that, Aizen shook his head whilst expressing a daring smile.
“It’s a pity but, there is no one here that is worthy of bequeathing my words to. That even includes you, Kyōraku Shunsui.”
“Glad to hear that. It means that you are only worthy for yourself and misfortune for others.”
“I wanted to talk to Kurosaki Ichigo a little more. Urahara Kisuke is attentive to small details though isn’t he?”
Ichigo is currently staying at the residence of Kukaku Shiba in Rukongai with his father Kurosaki Isshin as well as Inoue Orihime and the others.
If one considers his war potential, Ichigo probably should’ve been at the scene to seal Aizen, however it was a precautionary measure taken against Aizen who could somehow influence the likes of the hollow inside Ichigo.
“Since Ichigo kun is originally an outsider huh? Besides, if you have something to tell him, he’s already finished with you, don’t you think?”
Speaking as if he was dodging the subject, Kyōraku adjusted his conical hat, he looked down at Aizen with his intact left eye.
Although the seals have become even more powerful than before thanks to Urahara Kisuke, he was still not going to let his guard down.
Kurotsuchi Mayuri who had just come out of his lifesaving device had tried to create new physical restraints himself but there was no time to wait around for that, “you trust the likes of Urahara Kisuke’s countermeasures right?” he said.
“Well then, shall we go? After you’ve finished your prison sentence, I pray that you are an ally of the soul society.”
“You express a sentiment that is foreign to your heart”
Whilst smiling as if he could see right through everything, Aizen crafts his words without looking at Kyōraku.
“At any rate, do you really believe the soul society will continue to exist till my prison term is over?”
“Of course. Because it’s our duty to keep it going.”
“You saw it at the Soul King Palace too didn’t you? This soul society’s original sin”
Strangely, Aizen wore the same expression as his former subordinate Harribel when he spoke.
He had seen it for himself inside the greater palace area of the Soul King Palace, the things Aizen was talking about.
However, he purposely did not respond to Aizen’s words, it remained like that as he prepare to lead the way to the entrance of Muken.
Even if he had a reply to Aizen’s question, it was that he decided it should be done after finally arriving at a place where the voices of the other captains would not reach them, and that is inside Muken.
Aizen did not anticipate a reply either, but he then spoke in a cynical manner as if he was seeing through the heart(s) of Kyōraku or the shinigami around them.
“You are a man of few words. Are you afraid that a conversation with me will evoke memories of treacherous shinigami? Like Kaname Tōsen.”
Then in the next moment, a voice filled with anger reverberated across to the front of the 1st division barracks.
“Don’t you screw around!”
It was not Kyōraku that raised his voice in anger.
It was a shinigami who was short of breath and gradually came running up to this spot.
A young shinigami characterised by the scars and tattoos on his face — it is the 9th division’s vice captain, Hisagi Shūhei.
His bandaged body was painful a look at, it appeared as if he had just slipped out of the sanatorium of the 4th division.
In fact, he is is still in a condition that can be only be described as being covered head to toe in wounds.
His body was shot at by Yhwach’s Schutzstaffel Lille Barro, he was on the verge of death with damage taken to his Saketsu* (*binding chain) and Hakusui* (*soul sleep) which can also be described as the heart of a shinigami.
Nevertheless, because the power of Lille’s “X-Axis” was too sharp, his body tissue, with the exception of where he had been pierced with a hole, was not destroyed, miraculously he had escaped death.
Hisagi who received medical treatment from Orihime, only had his physical wounds healed, but the spiritual pressure he had lost at the time his Hakusui took damage could not be recovered so easily and he was practically in a comatose state for several days.
In spite of the fact that he was not completely healed, he had arrived in front of Aizen who about to be resealed.
One of the reasons why he rushed to defy the odds until he fulfilled his duty as vice captain of the 9th division. Hisagi Shūhei’s superior and captain of squad 9 Muguruma Kensei, who had come to a state of apparent death due to his body being zombified, was put inside the 12th division’s special medical treatment capsule in order to return him to his original state.
That’s why, even though he had just barely managed to move himself, he tried to confront the scene with his guard up.
And another reason — this was his subconscious mind but, it was out of personal sentiment that he wanted to plainly see with his very own eyes, the imprisonment of the man who was the cause of ruin of his former superior Tōsen Kaname.
In actuality, he should have understood what’s in his heart.
If Aizen is imprisoned once again, everything works out peacefully.
Hisagi clenched his fist tightly and tried to restrain himself, thinking there is no way he can afford to complicate the conversation with his own personal grudges.
However, that resolve was broken down by Aizen’s words which he heard as soon as he hastened to him.
“Do you mean to say that captain Tōsen…bent his conviction at the likes of your words…?”
“Do not speak in such a strange manner, Hisagi Shūhei.” Aizen retorted with a calm and self-possessed attitude in front of Hisagi who had exposed his anger.
“Are you wondering at what point I bore witness to Tōsen Kaname changing his mind? By the time you had become a shinigami, Tōsen Kaname was already my subordinate.”
“Shūhei kun, your anger is legitimate. But, I’m sorry. Won’t you hold back for now?”
“……yes, I understand, captain commander” Hisagi said in response to Kyōraku’s chiding, looking like he was about to extend his arm to his Zanpakutō, Hisagi quelled his heart whilst opening his mouth to address Aizen.
“You may have put up a united front with Kurosaki to defeat Yhwach, but…no matter what you try to do, to me, you will eternally be the one who brought ruin to captain Tōsen.”
How many times is he reminded of that word whenever he hears the name 'Aizen’?
However, it was a positive and a negative, which simultaneously called to mind two meanings.
In his heart, there is certainly hatred for Aizen who guided Tōsen down the wrong path leading to his ruin.
On the other hand, the doubts and frustrations towards himself being caught up in strong negative sentiment was sweeping through him.
From the point of view of Hisagi - who was caught up in his desire for revenge and had moved to put a stop to Tōsen’s misguided ways - for him to speak of “revenge” was nothing more than an insult to the shinigami, captain Komamura who had joined him on the battlefield, and above all, Tōsen himself.
As if he was seeing through Hisagi’s mind, Aizen donned a thin smile and stringed together his cruel words.
“Eternity, that’s not something you can speak so lightly of, don’t you agree? Even Tōsen Kaname’s convictions were not eternal.”
“……ugh! About that, you…”
An enraged Hisagi’s angry voice is pushed back by Aizen who continued his speech.
“You seem to misunderstand one thing.”
A calm voice.
And yet, it was a thick voice with a distinct “force” that managed to overwhelm the shouts of Hisagi.
“It is not that the case that I killed Tōsen Kaname with my own hands as a remnant of a defeated soldier that must be punished.”
A momentary pause.
At the bewilderment of the others around him, Aizen encapsulated his will in those brief few words.
“That is, my mercy.”
The air surrounding them freezes at those words.
Not only Hisagi, but also Kyōraku and the shinigami in the area were unable to immediately decipher the meaning behind the word Aizen had just uttered.
In the relative silence, Hisagi opens his mouth to speak as his tightly clenched fist shook.
After Aizen’s brazen proclamation, Hisagi boiled in anger even more.
Not towards Aizen.
But against his own weakness that allowed such a man to kill Tōsen Kaname so easily.
“If that is true…to what extent did you fool captain Tōsen you bastard.”
In contrast with Hisagi, Aizen continued to talk in an unfazed manner.
“In that situation as it stood, it is obvious that either Inoue Orihime or Unohana Retsu would eventually arrive and try to save Tōsen Kaname. But, you lot could not understand what that would mean for him.”
"If Tōsen Kaname remained alive, his whole being would eventually succumb to unparalleled despair, and his heart would rot away completely. I could not bring myself to let the owner of such beautiful readiness to be killed, entwine himself further into despair. For this reason, I granted mercy as a tribute to the subordinate that had the most amount of loyalty. That is simply all it is.”
(TN – In the space reserved for furigana, above the Kanji for “mercy” in that last passage, the kanji for “death” appears - as a side note, furigana is almost always in either Hiragana or katakana to highlight kanji readings so of course it’s strange to see kanji in a space that’s originally reserved for kana - this usage of the kanji for “death 死” in the furigana space of the kanji for “mercy 慈悲” is most likely the author’s attempt to illustrate Aizen’s use of the word “Mercy” being synonymous with the word “death”)
Shūhei could not fully comprehend what the other was saying.
Despite this, it didn’t appear likely that he was deceiving them with vague excuses.
Other than a perplexed Hisagi, Aizen continued to throw words at the shinigami around him.
“The time will come when you will all know too. This Soul Society…and how shinigami are being shaped by its dangerous illusions.”
“……shall we really go that far? You’re being awfully talkative.”
Stopping Aizen’s speech, Kyōraku issues instructions to the punishment force in an attempt to transport Aizen to the entrance of Muken.
“Please wait captain commander! What in the world is that Aizen guy……”
The captain of the 2nd division Soifon stood in Hisagi’s way.
She then twists one of Hisagi’s arms whilst rotating behind him.
“That’s enough! Do not think that you alone are the only person to have been robbed of acquaintances by that guy!”
“ *Gulp*……! But captain Soifon…!”
“If you just want to avenge someone to your own extents, then naturally we will deal with him! Your conduct is only a nuisance that’s bringing disorder to your surroundings!”
Hisagi Shūhei himself was keenly aware of that more than anyone else.
He could not do anything against Aizen’s mighty presence by himself.
What can he do with himself when he gets so upset by Aizen’s simple words?
Even though one harbours hatred it is no wish to kill, having said that, forgiving or forgetting is out of the question. Hisagi had understood such a thing from a long time ago.
Then as Aizen was being hauled away in his chair, he inclined his head slightly and directed his gaze at Hisagi.
“—"Swinging one’s blade out duty alone is a captain's job. Swinging one’s blade out of hatred is nothing more than filthy violence.” Hitsugaya Tōshirō once told me that.“
At those words, Hisagi was unable to say anything more.
He felt that it could be said that he is still far away from the rank of captain, but he thought Aizen was right as well, so instead of refuting him, Hisagi cast down his eyes, stiffly grinding his teeth out of vexation.
Nevertheless, Aizen spared Hisagi the humiliation.
“Rest assured. What you’re harbouring is not hatred. It is merely sentimentality for your lost Tōsen Kaname and the impression he left behind.”
“You should remember. No matter how solid one’s resolution is, it is impossible to slaughter a warrior with mere sentiment.”
The sound of Kyōraku clapping his hands firmly together in an attempt to break up the conversation could be heard.
“Alright alright, you’ve talked to such an extent huh? Won’t you stop intimidating these children with your spiritual pressure? There’s no one worth bequeathing your words to in this place, right?”
In response to those words, the shinigami turned their eyes towards the members of the punishment force - who were carrying the immobilised Aizen that was sealed in his chair - their whole bodies had broken out into a cold sweat.
“Those guys are merely entertainment. Since I’ll be spending my time in boredom from now on, whether or not the future of the Soul Society changes even in the slightest with my modest words let me assume that it will be enjoyable.”
“My my, I can’t say your idea of fun is a good one.”
The members of the punishment force who were finally released from the influence of his spiritual pressure, frantically caught their breath whilst starting to advance forward once again.
Whilst he gradually disappears underground, as if to trying to get at something, Aizen bombards the shinigami around him with more words in a calm voice that remained as unchanged as before.
“If you want to see the truth without obstruction, then struggle by sacrificing your own flesh, blood and soul”
Lastly, addressing Hisagi Shūhei, who was standing in a daze, with a few brief words that could be considered an unnecessary addition to make.
“At the very least, Tōsen Kaname was able to do so. I wonder if it's not your place to know?”
Thus, the form of the heinous criminal disappeared back into the depths of darkness.
Although Aizen’s speech which took on a philosophical view of the world could not possibly appear likely to be that of a prisoner’s, and although he knit his eyebrows in disapproval at the many shinigami he considered insolent losers unwilling to admit defeat —- many amongst captain ranks steel themselves up and keep it locked up in the corner of their hearts that “he is a man who plays with lies and falsehoods, but he is not a man who says meaningless things.”
Hisagi was unable to organise his emotions until the very last moment, and Aizen’s words had become a loose poison that remained in his heart.
That poison did not distort Hisagi’s heart but instead it gnawed at fate itself, and before long, it would lure him to a battle.
Or perhaps, it was always a fate he had to finally reach as long as he was a shinigami, following the path of Tōsen even if there was no poison left behind by Aizen.
Hisagi Shūhei is neither a prophet nor an omnipotent being, naturally there is no way he could know his own future.
He is not a hero that remained in people’s memories like Kurosaki Ichigo,
Neither is he an absolute powerhouse like Kenpachi Zaraki,
Nor a man of wisdom like Urahara Kisuke,
He is not an inventor like Kurotsuchi Mayuri,
He has no status like that of Kuchiki Byakuya,
He is not a prodigy like Hitsugaya Tōshirō,
He has no experience like that of Yamamoto Genryusai,
No flamboyance like that of Kyōraku Shunsui,
No vigour like that of Komamura Sajin,
No fearlessness like that of Muguruma Kensei,
In this regard, there are a few qualities he possesses, like self-mockery at a drinking party, “whether I aim for captaincy or continue to remain as vice captain, I am lacking in countless qualities.”
In other words, his pride as a Shinigami.
Hisagi Shūhei didn’t know yet.
In order to protect such commonplace things that practically all Gotei 13 troops had as their own foundations, they would fight with the fate of the world on their backs.
It was only half a year after the end of the war when he would face that reality.
CANT FEAR YOUR OWN WORLD Part 2 Full Translation
Hundreds of years ago - Seireitei - Governmental District.
“Why, why wasn’t that man sentenced to death?!”
It was an outcry that risked his life.
“I’d like an audience with the Central 46! Please!”
A young man continues to raise his voice whilst being blocked by the steel staff weapons being held up by muscular guards.
Judging by the young man’s eyes that were void of colour, and from his meticulous movements, he was blind.
This blind young man seems able to perceive the state of affairs around him through sound alone, it appears he can feel the presence of the fierce guards standing in front of him.
Whether the door guards were related to nobility or not, in their eyes, they expressed a look of clear disdain at the young man who appeared to have come from Rukongai.
Nevertheless, the young man reached his hand out towards the interior of the gate without hesitation.
The outcry that came spilling out of the young man’s mouth demanding condemnation of the crime. A genuine plea seeking enforcement of justice.
But the guards wouldn’t lend an ear to him, they raised the staves they were wielding against the blind man.
A sound of chafed fabric. In the air, the noise of footwork.
The blind youth, perceiving all of it, understood that a guard was about to deal a merciless blow against him.
But, he did not try to avoid it.
Is it despair or sorrow that hangs in that facial expression of his?
Regardless, there was not even a splinter of reaction not even the likes of giving way to fear, that could be seen in him.
That young man had already prepared to risk his own life when he came here.
The guards who weren’t aware of this, swung down their weapons without wavering on their nonresistant opponent.
The sound of a violent collision reverberated as the guard’s strike snapped back.
“ ! ”
A Zanpakutō still sheathed in its scabbard met the guard’s eyes.
The moment the guards saw the person who was holding it, the looks on their faces stiffened.
“Do not behave in such an unsettling manner. We are still in mourning for Kakyou san.”
“I will persuade this gentleman over here. You guys can return to your guard duties.”
“Y- yes sir!”
The blind young man was unable to comprehend what had happened at first.
His consciousness was captured by the name that was disclosed by the man that appears to have just rescued him.
The reason he had come, risking his life here.
It is the name of his irreplaceable dear friend with whom he had spent his time together with in Rukongai, since childhood.
The man that uttered that name then addressed the blind youth with a gentle voice.
“I recognise you. If I’m not mistaken, I believe you came to Kakyou san’s funeral.”
“She was a comrade. I’m also a Shinigami…although, perhaps I am incapable as a shinigami when I couldn’t protect her.”
The man spoke with a pensive expression as he held out a hand to the blind youth.
“Let’s move to some other place. You no longer have anything to discuss with these stubborn guards don’t you think?”
“That’s right, you’re Tōsen Kaname kun aren’t you? She would occasionally mention your name, even at the squad barracks. So I guess you were invited specially for the funeral service huh.”
The blind young man —- Tōsen Kaname is a resident of Rukongai, if he’s not a Shinigami himself, then he is unable to freely travel in and out of the Seireitei.
It was a special exception that he was admitted inside Seireitei.
“When she enlisted as a Shinigami,, Kakyou san left behind a will in advance. Because we don’t when we’ll die in the battle against Hollows. if anything, it’s the recommendation of the Shinō academy.”
The Shinigami who was acquainted with Kakyou says that in her will, a principle aspect she described was - “If I should die, I wish for my remains to be buried in Rukongai.”
“It seems she wished to be buried at the foot of a hill where the stars could be seen. That place is known by her close friend, Tōsen Kaname.”
“Yes, I happen to know that hill.”
Tōsen’s mind recalled a memory, he remembers when he used to look up at the night sky together with his friend, on top of a hill that was to the side of a village.
—-“I love the night sky. Kaname.”
—-“They say, the night sky reflects the world.”
—-“Everything is wrapped in darkness and there are many little lights.”
—-“But, there are clouds that try to conceal them from sight.”
—-“As for me, Kaname. I want to become the person who will clear away those clouds.”
—-“Not even a single light should be allowed to go out. I will clear away the clouds, Kaname.”
She said that as she raised her eyes to the stars, before long she would fulfill her dreams.
She gained power and position for the sake of protecting the world’s light.
They’ve become the basis of the entire Soul Society, charged with the responsibility of circulating the world’s souls, guiding those who existed in the Human world to this next one.
It became everyone’s aspiration to drive out hollows that are evil spirits.
She was certainly given the privilege to protect the stars.
However, as her dreams came true, she was unable to continue stepping any further.
“…I heard that her husband was the one that killed her.”
“Ah, that’s right. Her husband slayed a comrade of the same division over a trivial dispute, and then when she tried to admonish him for his behaviour, he even killed his own wife. That’s the truth.”
“…why did she…have to die?”
Tōsen clenched his fist tightly in frustration, the Shinigami man then answered him.
“This is my guess but, I think she’s a more straightforward person than anyone else…because she continued to foster justice and peace.”
Tōsen understands that too.
His good friend Kakyou loved peace more than anyone. Honoured justice more than anyone.
It is for this reason, she was prepared for her own hands to be stained with a Hollow’s blood splatter.
“I was also, always concerned about her, that someday this would happen. She loved peace too much to preserve justice. If both love and peace were negated, and she had only lived by nothing but stern justice, quite conversely, it probably would have been her that ended up killing her husband. But, she could not do that.”
“Is it that she had made an error regarding her hopes!? I heard that the man who killed her won’t even be charged with this great crime!”
“Therefore, you’d like an audience with the Central 46 right?”
The shinigami released a small sigh and continued to speak as if he was hesitant to do so.
“…Do you know about the five great noble clans?”
“I do not know the specific house names, but surely…they are the most prominent well born families amongst the nobles of the Seireitei…”
“The man who killed Kakyou san is from the bloodline of one of the five great noble clans.”
“ ! ”
He knew she was married to a Shinigami, but he’s never heard that it was into a distinguished family going as far as being one of the five great noble clans.
At the bewilderment of Tōsen, the Shinigami continued to speak even more.
“He is not a descendant of the main house, he is descended from a branch of the family. Although that man has no significant political power, a noble is able to have the crime of murder abated, whether or not he’s in such a position to do so. If he was a member of the head house, it would have been treated as if the murder itself was nonexistent, then I suppose things would be settled under the guise that Kakyou san was accused of treason and thus executed.”
“Such a thing! Such a thing is…absurd…!”
Tōsen reflexively raises his voice in anger.
From the moment he heard that the man who had murdered his good friend was not condemned for his heinous crime, in his heart, he had even considered that such a possibility existed.
However, he did not want to believe that such things would happen in an organisation that she herself had positively described as “a force for the sake of justice.”
For this reason —- and particularly because he wanted to disprove it, he had come as far as this place to appeal directly to the central 46 at the risk of his own life.
“What are the Shinigami? Was the Gotei 13 not a group that defends the peace and harmony of the Soul Society and the Human World!? Were Central 46 not the people who personify the principles of the world!?”
“The peace was defended. Nobility are also part of this world. Their peace was defended. And thus, surely the current Central 46 are a symbol of such an irrational world.”
Tōsen stood dumbfounded at the Shinigami’s assertion.
In response to this, the rather vexed Shinigami distorts his face in a grimace as he opens his mouth to speak.
“I’m painfully aware of your feelings. I also think it’s peculiar no matter how you think about it, that the likes of the man who killed her was not seriously charged for his crime. But that is the Soul Society. The central 46 are under the thumb of the five great noble clans…particularly the influence of the Tsunayashiro clan.”
Talking with a sorrowful expression, he tightly balled up his fist similar to Tōsen —-
After checking to see there was no people around, he began to ask a question in a quiet voice.
“Still, with all that in mind, I daringly want to ask you, her close friend.”
Although Tōsen was being devoured by resentment to no ends, he had lost his mental battle at the man’s serious tone of voice, he closed his mouth that was slightly agape and listened attentively to his companion’s words.
“If both me and you have enough power to take revenge, should we take it?”
“This is also a question of how we confront her wishes and honour. Could it be that she actually wants you, Tōsen kun, to avenge her?”
Although Tōsen couldn’t see his companion’s facial expression, he could sense something, like a slight bloodlust, in every word that Shinigami uttered.
In contrast to that, and as a result of him regaining his composure, Tōsen had who had just barely managed to hold back his own anger, recalls the words of his dear friend whilst crafting his sentences.
For her comrade to reveal a thirst for blood, that is far removed from the world she wanted.
As he frantically tried to reach an understanding within himself, Tōsen attempted to answer the Shinigami’s query.
“…I think she would not wish for us to avenge her. If that is her wish…I also…”
All of a sudden, his words stop there.
—-[“I also have no desire for vengeance.”]
He found it impossible to spit those words out from his mouth.
He knew that she would never want another person to take up revenge on her account.
However the incessant pulsing of his emotions in the pit of his guts did not deem it acceptable to admit that.
—- Her wishes has nothing to do with it.
—- Take revenge for yourself.
A mass of dark sentiment welling up inside makes an appeal to him, but Tōsen could not follow that voice.
Because he understands. If he allowed himself or some other person to submit themselves to that hatred —- in that moment, it would be as if she had died a second time.
He would become her living witnesses as everything gets trampled underfoot, her hopes butchered by his own hands.
Tōsen couldn’t do anything but continue to form his words in exchange for killing off his own feelings.
“I also think…she wants me to honour her desire for justice and peace.”
“I see. Right. Certainly, she loved peace. That’s why she lost her life, but I do not think it was her weakness.”
The Shinigami, whose bloodlust had faded, continued to address Tōsen in a matter-of-factly fashion.
“If someone could prove that what she her hoped for was not a weakness but a strength, then that would be how people like you would live in the future, don’t you think?”
“Please, live by taking on her wishes. So that pointless bloodshed will not sweep through this world anymore.”
It’s not that he could comprehend the Shinigami’s words from the bottom of his heart.
But rather, he realised that this man who stood before him is a person that understood his good friend in the same way he did, he decided to thank the man for holding back the hatred that was tainting his heart.
“……Thank you very much.”
“No, it is I who must thank you. In this way, a person like you has inherited her dying wish.”
“You’re welcome, but for me to have the sort of qualifications to…”
Even now he was desperately suppressing the anger and hatred that he was still seething with, he felt he was incapable of protecting her will himself. In response to Tōsen who was thinking as such, the shinigami addressed him with a gentle smile.
“You don’t need the likes of ‘qualifications’ to inherit a person’s wishes don’t you think? She once told me - my own wishes are not a big deal, like the stars in the heavens I simply want to safeguard something that just keeps on shining, it is that sort of modest hope that is a big deal.”
The fact that she had also told that story to the man before his eyes, he guessed she truly had hope for her Shinigami comrades.
As Tōsen decided as such, he was relieved that there was a person amongst the Shinigami that respects her worth.
“Say…if you don’t mind, could you tell me your name?”
And so, he heard the name.
The fact that there is also a person other than himself that had seen her inner-self, and as a consequence it was etched into their hearts that the world is cruel but not without mercy.
With a calm demeanour, and without faltering the man spoke his name.
“Indeed, my name is Tokinada. Tsunayashiro Tokinada.”
“Pardon? You…are…Tsunayashiro sama…………?”
Tōsen’s thoughts stop functioning for a moment.
A feeling of severe discomfort.
Because a familiar name had just been uttered from the mouth of the man that was before him.
—- No. But. No way.
—- It appears to be my misunderstanding.
As he thought that, Tōsen tries to ask a second time, looking at Tōsen’s facial expression, the man shakes his head a little.
“It’s not a misunderstanding, nor did you mishear me, Tōsen Kaname kun.”
“You probably wouldn’t recognise my face of course, or even my voice for that matter. I must say, you didn’t hear my name at the beginning by chance. I don’t like the idea of adopting an alias very much.”
“Huh, what are you……”
Tōsen was bewildered, but his guts cried out, his instincts lined up two contradictory words.
Feelings of hatred and fear intermingled and began to rush through the veins in his body.
Rationale and reasoning would not catch up with him, in response to Tōsen who was unable to perform either action, the man informs his companion of his own standpoint in an unfazed manner.
“Let me say it once more. I, Tsunayashiro Tokinada…am the man that was your dear friend’s husband. Well, I should say, now that things have come to pass, I am the cause of your dear friend’s suffering.”
“Ah, I’m glad you do not seek revenge. It is much more frightening when the poor people of Rukongai who have nothing to lose bear a grudge against you, compared to noblemen who would consider their own self-preservation and think twice before bearing a grudge.”
The man talked shamelessly, with an unwavering smile that remained on his face, he placed his hand on Tōsen’s cheek.
At the same time, Tōsen is struck by a chill that he’s never experienced before now.
His whole body was pierced with a heavy Reiatsu that was nothing but grim unlike that which he had sensed from the his dear friend, he was pinned down with brute force by those violent Impulses that swept through his body.
The feeling of extreme fear had drowned out even his instinctive screams to 'escape’.
“It was my intention to kill you if you had answered my earlier question with 'I want to avenge Kakyou’. It’s unpleasant to talk with fools who don’t understand her at all you know. Whether or not they’re fellow Shinigami, it’s not a problem however much I decide to kill the likes of Rukongai citizens.”
He realised the murderous intent that he sensed in the man’s words earlier was now directed at himself, though it no longer made a difference either way.
He couldn’t even begin to comprehend the meaning behind the words his companion was uttering. He didn’t want to.
However, it was enough to release his body from the fear that weighed so heavily on him, Tōsen’s emotions erupted.
Right in front of him, there is a man who claims to be the cause of his dear friend’s suffering.
Whether it was a lie or the truth, it no longer mattered.
A man who would point people to such ominous signs and talk of his dear friend in such a way could not be forgiven.
The dam that held back the negative emotions in the very depths of his body until now, burst open, and then he launched an attack on Tsunayashiro Tokinada, the Shinigami before his eyes.
A mute voice.
As he screamed like a beast, Tōsen grabbed the man before him.
But then —-
“My wife’s good friend, why are you so angry?”
Tōsen’s world went spinning around him.
He was slammed down into the ground from behind, rendering him immobile.
As far as he could tell the taste of blood was spreading through his mouth and his limbs were paralysed with sharp pain.
Still, Tōsen tried to rise up one way or another, a calm voice then continues to resound above him.
“If my wife…Kakyou, was in your shoes, would she forgive me?”
Tōsen tries to shout towards the origin of the voice, but the blood overflowing from his throat does not allow him to form his words properly.
“You answered my earlier question right? 'honour her wishes’ you said. If you consider my wife, you would forgive me, and forget about your hatred, we should live out our days within the peace that is preserved by the Shinigami don’t you think?”
“My wife would have also wanted you to do so. Please understand, for her sake too.”
Tokinada presses his sheathed Zanpakutō against Tōsen’s throat who was trying to get up, he forces Tōsen back the ground whilst crushing his throat.
“Of course, you probably have no power to take revenge from the outset, for you cannot even use a single one of the Zankensoki*.” (*Four basic Shinigami combat techniques)
Then, he called out to the guards as they assembled having heard Tōsen’s shouts.
“Hey, you guys. You’re on duty? This Rukongai citizen tried to raise a hand to me. Would you quickly kick him out for me?”
The guards follow his instructions whilst also feeling a vague fear of something in front of a relative of the five great noble clans who had spoken with a smile still on his face.
As he left Tōsen in the form of the guards exchanging places with him, he opened his mouth to speak appearing as if he had remembered something.
“Oh, and let me tell you it’s no misunderstanding. I have not lied to you at all. That a man like me was not adequately punished, it is truly a ridiculous world. Moreover, I think it’s regrettable that I couldn’t even protect Kakyou from the irrationalities of this world, I also understand that her wishes are a precious thing.”
Even though his throat was crushed, Tōsen still tries to yell something whilst glaring at Tokinada.
It seems clear, that he was even blind to his injuries.
A villainous smile full of malice and pleasure was affixed on the retreating Shinigami’s face.
“Nevertheless, merely talking about such wishes is detestable to the point where it nauseates me.”
And, even deeper than his anger towards such a man, Tōsen harboured a profound sense of despair towards the world that trampled on the hopes that his dear friend embraced.
That day, she looked up at the stars —- those stars would never shine down on her.
It is surely she who was actually the light that illuminated the world, and that is now lost for an eternity.
Above Tōsen who was enveloped in deep despair and anger, the guards raised their staves up once again —-
This time, there was no one there to stop it.
Present time - A certain place in the Seireitei.
There, a man wakes up.
“Oh my, that was a very nostalgic dream.”
The man who was outstretched atop an extravagant throne-like easy chair, turned his attention to the sight of his dim surroundings.
The first thing that met his eyes was the figure of a small person whose eyes sparkled in excitement as the person raised their voice.
“You’re awake?! Tokinada sama!”
“Ah yes, I had a nice dream. That’s a promising start huh.”
“You had a dream? What did you dream?! Tokinada sama!”
The man – Tsunayashiro Tokinada, was asked that question by the voice of a child still young; “Hrmm”, he recalled the dream he had seen just a moment ago, he then contorted his lips into a wicked smile as he answered back.
“It’s a dream that is both nostalgic and pleasant. I can still remember it clearly. The moment a person’s heart fills with despair, it is truly a satisfying thing. I will never get tired of it, no matter how many times I’ve tasted the moment they are defeated crushingly by the boundless hatred they feel. Even if it’s inside a dream.”
“Is that so? I do not quite understand, Tokinada sama!”
“Ah, that’s alright. You don’t have to understand anything. You are still very young.”
Ahead of Tokinada’s line of sight there was a child clad in black garments similar in appearance to a shihakushou.
The child did not bear a squad emblem or the like that would indicate their affiliation, the child was sporting a somewhat different air than that of the regular inhabitants of the Soul Society.
If one was to apply an approximate age by the standards of a human from the Human World, then the child would probably be around 15 years of age. It is safe to say that the child’s features were good-looking, but those features were androgynous and it could not be determined from appearances whether the child’s gender was male or female. The sort of outward appearance was simply that of a child.
“What was Hikone doing? It’s not like you were standing there upright until I got up, right?”
Then, that child named Hikone replied with an equally childish smile that played on their lips.
“It’s true I was! I followed what Tokinada sama told me to do! There were some people who had come to try and kill Tokinada sama, so I promptly made them motionless!”
Accordingly, Tokinada shifts his attention to the scene around him once again.
Several figures of people dressed in black had collapsed and were strewn around Hikone, some were spasming after having the bones in their limbs completely fractured.
Judging from their attire, they were probably assassins recruited by the four great noble clans from the Onmitsukidō* (*stealth force), Tokinada slowly rises from his chair and lightly pats Hikone’s head.
“I see. Well done. I appreciate your troubles.”
“Yes! Thank you very much! Tokinada sama!”
Hikone’s eyes sparkled like a puppy’s as Tokinada slowly approached the assassins.
He stood in front of a person who appeared to be still conscious, he then began to ask a question in a dispassionate tone.
“You lot don’t believe that your client is dead already? What are you even trying to accomplish by staying faithful to this task?”
As Tokinada says that he turns his eyes to glance at what was at his back.
There was a long table with chairs that were occupied by several aristocratic looking people.
Each of them had the same family crest as Tokinada sewn onto their clothes, it would appear that they are members of the Tsunayashiro clan.
However, they did not stir in the slightest.
Everyone’s throats and abdomens were slit, it was a state of affairs in which one could clearly understand with a single glance, that they were all dead.
“Assassinate Tsunayashiro Tokinada huh. Considering the general rule of thumb, the client is a leader in the very Tsunayashiro clan I belong to. But they’re dead. It would have been a good opportunity if only you had run away taking the advance payment free of charge, leaving things as they were, would it not?”
Not uttering a word, the assassin remained silent. It seems he didn’t want to leak even a shred of information pertaining to himself or his associates, but if he was looking at the place not with the intention to commit suicide, then it could be inferred that the assassin was still watching for an opportunity to kill Tokinada.
Having analysed that, Tokinada smiled softly in delight, slow clapping his hands together to commend the assassin.
“Wonderful. As soon as you received the request, you tried to accomplish it successfully till the bitter end even if the client is dead, I must pay my heartfelt respects to that sort of disposition…because I could never do such a thing.”
The assassin scowled In response to Tokinada’s words.
“Oh, as your reward, I’ll tell you one good thing to have come out of this. Your client is still alive, in brief, what I mean to say is, your actions were no fool’s errand.”
The assassin who was still collapsed, knit his eyebrows together in unease.
Although there was a middleman, he had guessed that it was probably the people of the same family who had distanced themselves from him, that requested the assassination of Tokinada.
Earlier Tokinada said “don’t you believe that your client is dead?”, but now he was saying an entirely contradictory thing, feeling a strange sense of discomfort, the assassin anticipated his opponent’s next words whilst waiting for an opening to kill him.
Then Tokinada smiled as if soothing a child as he opened his mouth to speak.
“It's me that put in the request to you guys, to have me killed.”
At the puzzlement of the assassin, Tokinada continues.
“I turned the tables on the assassins that brought their daggers to the throats of the Tsunayashiro clan, and I found that everyone was already dead. A story that will no doubt invoke sympathy, don’t you agree?”
The assassin made a wry face in response to being informed that Tokinada had them dancing right into the palm of his hands.
The person who was the go-between was always a man who is an underling of the Tsunayashiro clan.
He wouldn’t obey Tokinada, a disease against the family.
However Tokinada then spoke sneering mockingly at that opinion.
“It’s confusing huh? You can believe me or not, either is fine. Since in many cases, assassins like you carry feelings of despair from the beginning. It’s more amusing to make people feel confusion than despair.”
Tokinada sneered at the assassin’s strained voice.
“Why do you think I am talking so indiscreetly about such a thing? Do you think it’s foolish to speak of my own scheme also taking into account that you can’t bring the 12th division’s Rokureichū* (*spirit recording bugs) inside this estate? I think it is foolish.”
Without pause, Tokinada tramples the assassin’s fingers underfoot.
Whilst listening to the sound of several bones breaking, Tokinada laughs happily, in ridicule, and in joy.
“However, I can’t help it. This bad habit. Even though I ran the risk of being heard by someone, I wanted to see it! The bewildered face of a proud assassin like yourself! That facial expression!”
Thoroughly, slowly, Tokinada tramples down on the every bone in the man’s body again and again whilst continuing to laugh.
Suddenly, that smile disappeared from his face and as soon as it did, he dispassionately shook his head whilst mumbling something.
“Come to think of it, if you truly were proud, you wouldn’t even be the likes of an underling assassin of a nobleman now would you?”
Releasing a small sigh, Tokinada drew out his Zanpakutō.
Looking at that scene, Hikone’s eyes sparkled as unchanged as before whilst calling out to Tokinada.
“That looks like fun! Tokinada sama!”
Tokinada slowly stabs his Zanpakutō into his opponent’s spinal cord, at the same time he returned a smile to Hikone.
“Indeed, it is certainly fun! Trampling down on something is fun! I easily get weary but even so, my heart will desire it again in about an hour.”
After Tokinada had spent several hours finishing off each assassin, he wiped the blood off his Zanpakutō whilst calling out to Hikone.
“Well, let’s go Hikone. I must inform the Seireitei that from today, I am the one who has become the head of the Tsunayashiro clan, replacing the grand elders who were killed by some ruffian.”
“Yes! Tokinada sama! Uh, is it better for me to call you by the title of 'clan head’ after this?”
“Don’t worry about it. Just between you and me. Tokinada doesn’t mind.”
“That’s really okay?! Tokinada sama!”
Hikone’s face lit up with an innocent smile amongst the several dead bodies scattered around them.
Whilst gently brushing the androgynous child’s head, Tokinada gave his affirmation with a particularly wicked smile playing on his face.
“Huh, it’s no problem.”
“Since Hikone will eventually become the Soul King. Let’s go with an equal relationship.”
Bleach: Can’t Fear Your Own World - Part 3 - Full Translation
Several days later - Rukongai.
Hisagi Shūhei is engaged in two different occupations at the same time.
One of those occupations is his professional duties as Squad 9 vice captain, which everyone knows.
The other is being the editor-in-chief of the Seireitei Communication.
Seireitei Communication is a public institution magazine that is occasionally circulated throughout Seireitei and as far as some parts of Rukongai, it is basically under the management of the 9th division.
Naturally, it ought to be treated as equal occupations, but because the nature of the work differs too greatly from primary Shinigami duties, it was in effect, perceived by society as something akin to a side job.
As far as several hundred years ago, something known as ‘tile block print’ was used to conveniently issue proclamations to the general public, but from the period when Tōsen Kaname became captain, that format rapidly developed in accordance with printing techniques of the Human World.
Due to Tōsen’s serious disposition, the captain himself began serving as an editor, it was now being spread throughout Seireitei as one large informational magazine, published with many running stories, or essays and novels and so forth, penned by the captains themselves.
After Tōsen left Soul Society, Hisagi, who was his vice captain, became responsible for that role.
Although the original captain Muguruma Kensei had made a come back and was supposed to become editor-in-chief, the man himself entrusted all the decision making up to Hisagi saying “during my time, I left it up to the troops. Frankly, It just doesn’t suit me”, even now, Hisagi had continued editorial duties as the responsible editor.
“So? The Seireitei communication’s editor-in-chief sama has gone to all this trouble, what can he possibly want with me?”
The quizzical voice of a woman resounded from the doorway of a certain residence.
“I’m collecting information for an article of course.”
The other party to whom Hisagi replied to is the pyrotechnician, Shiba Kūkaku, it can be said that she is person of clear influence within the vast expanse of Rukongai.
“What is it? Is it about my new objet d'art? I give up. Jeez, it’s not an exhibition you know.”
With a boastful expression that was contradictory to her words, she shifted her attention to the item of artwork, stone statues holding up a banner which Hisagi had just passed under a moment ago.
Two huge statues imitating stern looking men stood beside each other whilst striking an odd pose, printed on the banner were the words “welcome to Shiba Kūkaku’s residence”.
“No… well, it would certainly become a popular topic of conversation in some places.”
“Then is it about the front cover of the next issue of Seireitei Communication?”
“…uh, I’ve more or less prepared a plan for that already.”
Shūhei had responded with a rather innocuous reply in order to half dodge the real issue at hand which he had to broach.
“I would like Kūkaku san’s cooperation in documenting the memoirs of the Protection of the Soul King Great War.”
“Huh? Memoirs…? It’s not yet past half a year since then you know?”
“That’s precisely why, I want to keep accurate records without any delay.”
Shiba Kūkaku is both a pyrotechnist at the surface as well as behind the scenes, all involvement with the zero division was declared 'side jobs’. Therefore, Hisagi the 9th division’s vice captain, approaches on that standpoint, but there is a curious big-shot like air about Kūkaku, the attitude of many of the vice captains was that of respect towards her.
In fact, although they are currently a fallen house, the Shiba clan is a respectable family that once produced a number of seated officers and captain ranks, they were a family of good social standing to the degree that they were named as one of the “Five great Noble clans” alongside the Kuchiki and Shihoin clans.
In other words, Shiba Kūkaku herself who is standing before him, is also a considerably powerful person.
He had heard that she defeated one of the fierce gatekeepers of the Seireitei with Kidō alone, in Hisagi’s eyes, she wasn’t merely a pyrotechnician, he believes Soul Society are seemingly unaware of the extent of her power.
Such a visit to her is for the purpose of collecting information for the Seireitei Communication, exactly as he stated.
Although Seireitei Communication has currently suspended publication due to problems with its publishing systems, a small circulation of a simplified version is being distributed in various places in order to extensively report on the state of postwar reconstruction to the general public. With the target of officially getting it back into print on the first anniversary of the the postwar period, it was gradually gaining a secure foothold.
Then, as hope for the highly anticipated first reissue, he started receiving requests from many readers asking for details regarding the 'Protection of the Soul King Great War’ to be addressed in his own segment called “Teach Me! Shūhei Sensei!!”
“Teach Me! Shūhei Sensei!!” has featured in Seireitei Communication for a long time, it is a page where Shūhei answers the questions of the readers.
However its popularity is shaky, and although it may be revived whenever there is demand, it is an unstable project that is often discontinued after only a few runs since its resumption.
Yet the people of the Seireitei still cannot grasp the complete picture of the war, it seems they are either caught up in anxiety over whether the war had truly ended or whether such things would really never happen again, a section in this public magazine 'Seireitei communication’ seeks to dispel those fears.
In truth, although there were many opinions, and an explanation of the whole story of the war was wanted in the magazine itself, not just limited to “Teach Me! Shūhei Sensei!!”, Shūhei decided to treat those all as requests in his own segment.
This is a huge task imposed upon Seireitei Communication. It couldn’t be left entirely up to the ordinary squad members. In accordance with the first reissue of Seireitei Communication, “Teach Me! Shūhei Sensei!!” will make a comeback in the form of a series, it is he who must clutch the reins of information himself.
With such enthusiasm, Hisagi set out every day, running around interviewing the likes of the visuals department, the department of research and development, and the 4th division’s special relief squad, but just as he had expected, he was not gathering enough information.
It seems there was virtually no one amongst those people, who were able to observe the entirety of the war from a bird’s-eye view. Really, how many people’s stories would he have to put together before getting any closer to that domain?
Such misgivings crossed Hisagi’s mind for moment.
The man who had the most extensive view of the battlefield – Yhwach had already been subdued at the hands of Kurosaki Ichigo.
If that’s the case, then he has no choice but to proceed forward on his own feet to pick up and assemble the pieces of war.
If it could be spread far and wide, how the Shinigami battled and triumphed in various places, then it’s bound to become hope for the people who were dealing with the restoration efforts.
Now, Soul Society has stepped into what has become a new battle called post-war recovery.
Because it is such a time, the people can only reassure themselves from seeking 'information’.
“…In other words, from here, it is a battle that only I can describe!”
In response to Hisagi having explained the situation, Kūkaku fired herself up and folded her arms as she replied.
“But I am hardly able to speak of such things you know? Since I merely launched up the zero squad bunch and Ichigo’s group.”
It is the rough tone of voice of a strong willed woman, but it is a wondrous voice that penetrates one’s core.
From that alone, Hisagi somehow concluded, “ah, I guess there really isn’t much to talk about here”. Rather than being unwilling to speak of the past, saying “I did what I had to do” only brings about a mood like accepting everything as part of everyday life.
“Well, I guess I’ll just be giving you my greetings for today, I’ll visit another time.”
“It’s nothing but trouble however often you may come here, since I tend to pull a muscle whenever you lot complain to me about your Shinigami squabbles, if you want a story ask my younger brother Ganju. That guy marched up to the Soul King Palace together with Ichigo and his gang, I suppose you can talk to him.”
“! …to the Soul King Palace?”
Speaking of Shiba Ganju, he is the man who once appeared as a Ryoka along with Ichigo and the others during the time of Kuchiki Rukia’s execution scandal. Why did a man from Rukongai go up to the Soul King Palace? Having been decommissioned from the front lines at the final stage of the war, this is the first time Hisagi has heard of this fact.
—- Come to think of it, I still haven’t covered what happened around Kurosaki and his group……
Naturally he should interview Ichigo’s group who were the most deeply involved by the end of the war. However, they are inhabitants of the Human World, not Soul Society. In order to travel expressly to the Human World for interviews, he must obtain the permission of the captain commander.
—- I think I’ll be able to receive the captain commander’s permission, but I wonder if Kurosaki will give his full cooperation…I can’t see that guy talking about himself in much detail at all.
As he considered asking Inoue and Sado, if need be, both of whom apparently reside in Ichigo’s neighbourhood, Hisagi decided to postpone that for the time being in favour of the Shiba household.
“I understand, I will listen to your younger brother’s story first of all.”
“Alright, if you want Ganju, he’s probably mounted on his wild boar, wandering around west Rukongai again. If you look for him correctly I think you can find him right away? He’s a noisy idiot so you should be able to recognise him with a single glance.”
“Right, it’s okay though, I’ve caught sight of his face now and then whenever a disturbance occurs.”
Following the advice on this dynamic manhunt, Hisagi bows to Kūkaku before leaving behind the house with the fireworks launch pad attached to it.
Then, when he came closer to his vehicle which was parked a little further up the roadside, Hisagi noticed something.
A few men had gathered around 'that vehicle’, which Hisagi had gone to the trouble of ordering from the Human World 'Reishi-fied’. Those men appeared unlikely to be ordinary citizens of Rukongai, on top of that, the nature of the Reiatsu that dwells within them is different to that of a Shinigami’s or Quincy’s.
“…What? Why is there a Kawasaki Z-II in a place like this?”
At the words of the man who had swept back hair that extended around his shoulders, the tall figure of the young man who was beside him shrugged.
Before the men’s eyes, there is a Human World motorbike characterised by its deep crimson paintwork.
They had themselves died and come to Rukongai where they had grown accustomed to the presence of the surrounding standards of culture said to range from Heian era to Edo period. Because there was no big cultural reformation in comparison to the Human World, there are many things that make you feel that antiquity from the clothes to the buildings, and since coming to Soul Society, they have never seen this sort of automobile until this very moment.
Then, standing behind them, a gentleman-like fellow with a black eyepatch that covered his right eye, stared at that motorbike with great interest as he opened his mouth to speak.
“Hmm… regardless of whether we are Fullbringers who manipulate the souls of matter, things that can be brought to this place through Konsō are only the clothes and articles that can be said to be part of our person, although… Perhaps there is someone who loved two-wheeled vehicles at a level that can only be described as unity of rider and horse.”
“What about such things as gasoline?”
“It’s said that the Soul Society basically does not produce oil. It seems, most of whatever becomes fuel will instead be sent around to the technological department and nobles of the Seireitei.”
“So does that mean, this motorbike is some noble’s plaything?”
Listening to the young man talk about that aspect of Soul Society, the man with the swept back hair frowned ever so slightly.
From behind him, words that denied such speculation was thrown out to them.
“I saved up my wages to buy that thing. Well, as far as it being a plaything however.”
Turning to look in Hisagi's direction - the newcomer that had just appeared - the man with the swept back hair narrowed his eyes in a smiling expression.
“…Oh. If I came to think that I had heard the sound of a rare motorbike here, I’d never expect to come face to face with a Shinigami as a result.”
Observing the face of the man who had turned to look at him, Hisagi knit his eyebrows in unease.
That face matched well with the personal description that had circulated amongst the Gotei 13 many times prior as a 'dangerous character that kills Shinigami’.
Hisagi had never seen him personally, but his corpse, after being defeated by Ichigo in the Human World, happened to exist in Soul society.
The man who was the first substitute Shinigami, then was later estranged, a man who pursued and slaughtered a number of Shinigami.
That corpse was buried in the Human World at the request of Kurosaki Ichigo, but naturally, souls are a different story.
Since they were also human beings who lived in the Human World, their souls which had slipped out of their dead bodies had drifted into Rukongai.
“Oh my, this is an honour. They say a guy who wears a vice captain’s armband is a famous face.”
Hisagi’s Shihakushō is sleeveless, but when going out to a public place, he fastens his armband, putting it on display around his exposed arm.
Ginjō looks at the armband whilst smiling daringly, in response to this, Hisagi speaks in a lowered voice.
“I’ve heard rumours that you didn’t fall into the depths of hell…what are you doing in a place like this?”
“Dear me, you shouldn’t glare like that on our first meeting, don’t you agree? Have I done something to you?”
“Playing dumb all of a sudden…Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten what you did to the Shinigami and Kurosaki.”
As his eyes narrowed, Hisagi fixed a glare at the man who was once a substitute Shinigami.
Then, Ginjō also narrows his eyes once more, smiling fearlessly in Hisagi's direction.
“So what? You mean to say I should get down on my knees and apologise? For your information, I have an obligation to Kurosaki Ichigo, but I’ve never planned on becoming a friend of you Shinigami lot, I don’t regret being turned into their enemy.”
“You bastard…what are you planning?”
“Huh. Does it look like I’m planning something? If that’s the case, what are you going to do to me?”
Ginjō laughed scornfully, at the same time, the tall young man who was standing next to him, closed the book he was holding and took out a bookmark from its crevice.
“Stop it, Tsukishima.”
“Are you sure? But he looks like he’s going to stab him any minute now?”
The man called Tsukishima spoke with a cool facial expression.
Hearing that name, Hisagi tightens his guard even more.
“Tsukishima…if I’m not mistaken, you were the asshole that messed up Kurosaki’s past.”
Tsukishima looked at Hisagi, expressing a cynical smile.
“That’s a cruel manner of speaking. The past of the person himself hasn’t changed. Yes, the last time, I merely took care of his sword a little.”
Unable to comprehend the meaning of Tsukishima’s words, Hisagi looked at him in puzzlement.
The gentleman with the eyepatch who had observed the situation, let out a sigh whilst opening his mouth to speak.
"Ginjō san, it appears he has no knowledge of the fact that you two assisted Kurosaki Ichigo?”
—- That reminds me, I get the feeling that Renji said something along the lines of “there was an unexpected helping hand"……
—- Che. Should I have interviewed the others first?
For the past six months, Hisagi had come to work his fingers to the bone as acting captain of the 9th division in exchange for Muguruma who was undergoing medical treatment for his zombified state.
Therefore, until Muguruma returned, he couldn’t get around to conducting detailed interviews.
Ginjō looked bored as he spoke to the gentleman with the eyepatch.
"Assisting him was no big deal. I only paid back a small debt.”
Watching the three people who remained chatting as they displayed placidity, Hisagi thinks.
—- Can I win against these three guys, alone?
—- I don’t know this eyepatch guy, but he’s probably Ginjō’s comrade.
—- I’m not sure about his abilities…although, considering other stories I’ve heard from Madarame and captain Hitsugaya…
He had heard rumours that “Zaraki Kenpachi cut down his opponent with a single strike”, could they possibly be speaking about this man?
Hisagi thought as such, but he is not stupid enough to conclude that this man was weak just because Zaraki Kenpachi defeated him with one blow. Because Hisagi knows well that there is not much difference between a wolf and a puppy in the presence of Kenpachi.
However, what was before his very eyes, is the 'enemy’ who once butchered members of the Gotei 13.
Apparently, Kurosaki Ichigo seems to have forgiven them, but this is a different story, as a Shinigami, this is by no means an opponent he can overlook.
Having concluded that, Hisagi decided to first of all keep the opponent talking whilst keeping his guard up in order to probe into their intentions.
“The Shinigami…Ukitake san, why did you betray them?”
Then, the darkness that was dwelling at the back of Ginjō’s eyes for a moment, faded away, he opened his mouth to speak as surprise and disgust intermingled on his face.
“…what a surprise. A Shinigami would ask me that now after such a long time?”
“If I remember correctly, I heard that captain Ukitake used a substitute badge to monitor you. Was that alone enough to turn every member of the Gotei 13 into an enemy? Surely unpleasant, but it’s merely a matter of protesting against Ukitake san once you’ve noticed it, huh?”
“…once I’ve noticed it?”
As Ginjō murmured that, he went silent for a short while.
In the next instant, he broke out into a laugh as if he had just witnessed a humourous circus trick.
“Haa…Is that so. I must be a fool for not seeing it. Does that mean, even at vice captain level, your awareness is only to such an extent?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You don’t understand anything at all.”
His smile disappeared and he began fiddling with the cross shaped pendant that was suspended over his chest.
Hisagi sensed some unpleasant Reiatsu fluctuating in that pendant, taking a step back, Hisagi reached his hand to his own Zanpakutō.
As they maintained their distance from each other, the air of an explosive situation fills the surroundings ——
In the next moment, that atmosphere was shattered to pieces by the squeals of a beast and the trembling of the ground.
Turning their attention to the squeals, a huge wild boar as big as a Kei car, came careening from the direction of a neighbouring village, and plunging in between Hisagi and Ginjō’s group who were opposite each other.
The wild boar rapidly eased up on its speed in front of them, and as a result, 'he’ who was riding on the back of the boar was thrust headfirst into the grassland between Hisagi and Ginjō.
The man who had crashed into the ground whilst comically shrieking, stood up as he remained unsteady on his feet, he then gave a firm thumbs up towards the boar he was riding, raising his voice at the same time.
“Heh…great! Your style was so cool today too Bonnie-chan!”
As if ignoring the man who had just spoken, the wild boar galloped away in the opposite direction with momentum that was as swift as the wind.
With Hisagi watching the sudden comedy exchange in round eyed wonder, the man who had followed the wild boar with his eyes until it was out of sight then turned to face their way and began to speak in a high-spirited voice.
“Hey, hey, hey! What are you guys up to? Trouble?”
“It’s nothing, Ganju. I was just poking a bit of fun at this Shinigami who is ignorant of the ways of the world.”
Hisagi Looked at the stern face of the man who Ginjō had called “Ganju”.
“Have you gotten into a dispute with the Shinigami? Jeez, I can understand your poor opinion towards the Shinigami, but you don’t need to raise a riot! Don’t say let bygones be bygones but then suddenly go head on to pick a fight, it’s distasteful!”
Listening to that, the gentleman with the eyepatch inclined his head as he asked a question.
“Really? In Kūkaku dono’s stories, I heard that when you met Kurosaki san, you had a childish fight.”
“Guuhh…! Big sister talks too much!”
As he said that, the man who had the same face as the banner holding statues seen just a short while ago, pulled a wry expression.
It was unmistakably the person himself, the one he was looking for —- facing Shiba Ganju, Hisagi then knit his eyebrows as if he was annoyed.
“Your timing is good and bad…”
“Huuhh!? What's that you jerk!? …… Oh you're… if I’m not mistaken… you’re the vice captain of some squad… vice captain…Hi…Hisa…”
After an awkward silence, Ganju gives a firm nod, he presents Hisagi with a thumbs up and the same smile he had given his wild boar earlier.
“Long time no see! Vice captain! Vice captain who is an acquaintance of Kuchiki Rukia!”
“It’s only one more character, come on you can do better! It’s Hisagi! Of the 9th division! Hisagi Shūhei!”
Beside the shouting Hisagi, Ginjō let out a sigh as he released the pendant from the grip of his fingers.
“What's this, you guys know each other?”
Having confirmed that the tense atmosphere was now completely demolished, Tsukishima also opens his book once again and turns his attention towards that.
“…Oi, Shiba Ganju, what’s the meaning of this? Do you and Kūkaku san know what kind of people these guys are?”
“Isn’t it obvious? We also know everything, big sis found these guys and took them all in as freeloaders.”
Away from Hisagi who was unable to make heads or tails of it, Ginjō and the others were trying to leave this place a step ahead.
However, the sharp sighted Ganju who detected that restrains them with his enigmatic, overbearing attitude.
“Hey wait a minute! Where are you guys going!? I don’t know what happened between you and this vice captain brother here, but while I’m still alive, I will not allow suspicious grudges between the Shinigami and friends of the Shibas to be left behind!”
In contrast with Ginjō’s group turning to look back seemingly troubled, and Hisagi’s befuddled expression, Ganju’s face is brimming with self confidence as he spoke of his bright solution.
“Leave it up to this self proclaimed 'crimson bullet of West Rukongai’, the number one self proclaimed 'person who wants to be called big brother of West Rukongai’ for 17 consecutive years! And self proclaimed 'former Shinigami hater’, Ganju sama!”
Ganju was raising the tension all by himself.
Unable to comprehend how to respond to he who had just spat out a speech on his puzzling self-introductions, Hisagi whose eyes had managed to stay open only halfway, could barely produce rational words.
“That last one… It’s not particularly necessary to call yourself by that title if it’s 'former’ you know…?”
—- This is bad.
—- I’m not being dragged into some troublesome course of events am I?
A few hours later - Seireitei - 1st Division Barracks.
“This has become troublesome huh, very much so.”
In response to those words issued from the mouth of the captain commander, Kyōraku Shunsui, the two vice captains who were before him – Ise Nanao and Okikiba Genshirō, exchanged a quick glance.
The words Kyōraku had spoken has half become a habitual saying, but from his tone of voice, the vice captains Nanao and Okikiba could sense something was up.
Although it is a difference in tone that can only be understood by those who are accustomed to hearing it, the captain commander's muttering at present was in a tone of voice that was used only when something truly unpleasant had happened.
“What’s the matter, captain commander?”
At Nanao’s words, Kyōraku releases a heavy sigh.
“Ah, sorry, did I make you anxious? You can jump into my chest if you want to stop your trembling you know?”
“I’m asking you seriously, captain commander.”
“…yes, well then. A while ago, before Nanao chan came, Nayura chan came to me with an escort. There was an official notice and request from Central 46.”
“Amakado Nayura sama, came to you personally?”
Nanao also knows Nayura.
In Soul Society, the highest judicial body that guides the Shinigami as the mouthpiece for the Soul King and occasionally hands down judgement, is the Central 46.
Amakado Nayura is the youngest amongst its constituent members, she is a young girl who only looks around 10 years of age in appearance.
However, her shrewdness which has existed longer than what meets the eye, is acknowledged by both Kyōraku and Nanao, with her as the pivot, the central 46 who prioritised nobility, were gradually changing.
There is a conscious disparity between the status quo of the Shinigami and the Central 46, but that gap is gradually being filled by the pressure and encouragement of both her and Kyōraku. At least Nanao feels as such, although it is a matter of balance, she was hoping that the judiciary would settle things in good form for the current position of the Shinigami and the nobles, or the commoners and all the inhabitants of Rukongai.
From Nanao’s standpoint, she wanted Kyōraku to hold back on referring to a member of the Central 46 with “chan” attached to their name, but since there are many people associating with Nayura who occasionally comes to visit by pretending to be a commoner, she also found herself inadvertently coming close to calling her “Nayura san”.
Kyōraku, who spoke the name of the young girl from Central 46 in such a way, let out a sigh with a look of slight discomfort.
“Not too long ago, a fairly troublesome incident occurred amongst one of the four great noble clans. Although I think you’ve heard about that.”
“Yes. It’s regarding the assassins who invaded the Tsunayashiro clan and murdered their family head isn’t it?”
The fact that the head of one of the four great noble clans and their household members had been massacred, is a major incident that sends shockwaves through the Seireitei itself in peacetime. To make matters worse, there is also the fact that the confusion and disorder after the war has not completely settled down, and the official story that was declared took the form of - "their health came to harm out of anxieties during wartime, this epidemic took their lives".
That is why the particulars of the case are only known by a handful of the higher-ups, even amongst the Gotei 13, only a few people including the captain commander Kyōraku and his vice captains, and the commander-in-chief of the Onmitsukidō - Soifon, have a full grasp on the outcome of things.
“Well, I suppose captain Kurotsuchi and Yoruichi chan know through their own independent routes huh. Or rather, after such events, they probably knew things before me.”
“…Does this mean, there is some issue with the subsequent succession of the clan head?”
“I heard the general story from Nayura chan, but the disputes between members of nobility is out of our jurisdiction. This is not for the Gotei 13, this falls under the classification of the Kinin* (*Golden seal) Noble Assembly…at least, for now.”
Nanao understood his intentions and narrowed her eyes at the implications behind Kyōraku’s manner of speaking.
“For now? Does that mean the Gotei 13 will become involved in this situation?”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
After Kyōraku replied with a somewhat distressed expression, he looked at the letter from Central 46 whilst continuing to speak.
“Ah, also, won’t you summon Muguruma kun and Hisagi kun for me?”
“It would be fine even if it was just Hisagi kun. But this problem must be carefully judged, so far as it goes, I think it’s better to have the captains grasp the situation too.”
Meanwhile at Shiba Kūkaku’s residence.
“Suddenly, Just as I thought I wouldn’t get get any excitement, that Ichigo asshole, somehow stone statues materialised at our backs! Me and Chad were in such high spirits in order to 'prepare the way home for Ichigo!’ and yet everything move down a step ahead to Seireitei on our way back, what’s the meaning of that huh!?”
The guest room in the basement of Kūkaku’s house.
At the centre was the figure of Ganju who was making Hisagi listen to his complaints whilst gulping down his sake.
"Really!? That chad guy was saying ” Ichigo sees nothing but the path ahead" you know!? But I never thought it would make me realise that in such a way, damn it!“
"Yes…I guess, it was difficult huh.”
Midway through his speech, Ganju received a firm kick from behind and was planted face first into the ground.
Kūkaku, the person who had dealt that kick, spoke as she trampled on her fallen brother’s back.
“Don’t yap on so loudly! You’re spirit was practically pathetic wasn’t it!”
“That's cruel, it hurts! Big sis!”
“You punk…even though I’ve trained you for several years to be able to fight on the front lines till the bitter end, you managed to lose sight of your companions by losing your way on the road, what’s the meaning of this…?”
“From whom did you hear that I got lost!? Besides, it’s Ichigo that jerk- ow-tetetetete! Will you cut that out big sis!? My spine is turning into sand! It’s turning into sand!”
Ganju whined as Kūkaku continued to relentlessly trample on her brother.
Unable to comprehend how to deal with two such people, Hisagi, as if he was troubled himself, downed his sake.
In the midst of that, Hisagi also shifts his attention towards a seated Ginjō that was at the corner of his eye.
Earlier, Hisagi had been lead to the guest room by forceful invitation of Ganju who said “drinking sake will wash your grudges away”, however, for the time being, he inquired about the relationship between Ginjō’s group and Ganju, before he knew it, he was stuck listening to the idle complaints of Ganju who had gotten tipsy.
Incidentally, Tsukishima did not partake in the drinking party, he was at the corner of the room, leaning against a wall whilst reading his book, en route here, the man with the eyepatch who introduced himself as Kutsuzawa Giriko, sank into the Shiba clan’s kitchen saying “allow me to prepare some snacks.”
“Both Ginjō and Tsukishima are suspicious too you know!? From what I've’ heard they managed to jump straight to Ichigo’s location! Wasn’t that unfair!? It’s unfair isn’t it?!”
Ganju who was released from under his sister’s foot, changed the subject of his complaints to Ginjō.
Dismissing Ganju's words with a nonchalant air, Ginjō drinks his sake in a refined manner whilst shrugging his shoulders.
“We traveled there directly with Yukio and Riruka’s abilities.”
“Yukio and Riruka?”
In response to Hisagi’s muttering, Ginjō averts his eyes as he opens his mouth to speak.
“Oh, I used to hang out with those guys in the Human World. Unlike us, they’re not dead, they came all that way to help Ichigo.”
As an editor of Seireitei Communication, he wanted to ask inquisitively about every detail surrounding that subject, but his wariness towards Ginjō did not readily allow that.
“Don’t drink behind such a tightfisted mask. You were told earlier weren’t you? Both me and Ganju have an understanding with those freeloaders. Even if we got cut up from behind, we don’t bear grudges.”
“But, those guys…”
“Ukitake would understand too.”
Kūkaku continued addressing Hisagi who held back the voice of protests at the back of his throat.
“Well, now that things have come to pass, he can’t even attest to that..”
“Wait a moment. So, has Ginjō also met Ukitake San?”
When Hisagi shifts his eyes towards Ginjō, he spoke whilst rolling his empty sake cup in hand.
“I haven’t met him. Honestly, I did not intend to meet him until things became troublesome here.”
“It’s different now?”
“Well. Even if I had met him, he would probably have been killed already right?”
“So, why go that far……”
What exactly happened between Ukitake and Ginjō the first substitute Shinigami?
At least, as long as he found it impossible to dispel his vigilance, he would never come to know that.
No, no matter what reason he may have, the fact remains, that the man before his very eyes is the menace that has murdered Shinigami.
“However”, Hisagi thinks with a little doubt —- or possibly fear harbouring in his chest.
Were it possible to think he could kill Ginjō by simply crossing blades with him here, would it be possible to say he had struck down an enemy of the Shinigami out of duty to the Gotei 13? He tried to stop captain Tōsen’s revenge himself, is it not a mistake to rely on emotions to swing one’s blade?
Aizen’s words from six months ago are called back to Hisagi’s mind.
—- “What you’re harbouring is not hatred. It is merely sentimentality for your lost Tōsen Kaname and the impression he left behind.”
That manner of speech may be correct in a sense.
If he was asked whether or not he carried fragments of emotion through his own blade too, he would probably answer 'No’.
However, he couldn’t simply turn a blind eye to Ginjō. Being mislead by the likes of Aizen’s words, and even losing sight of how to use his own blade would be reversing the logical order of things.
Hisagi who realised there was indecision and fear within himself, then quite conversely recovers the composure in his heart.
Erasing the emotion from his face, as a member of the Gotei 13 who must assess threats to the Seireitei, he turned to face the man named Ginjō Kūgo once again.
"……well, I certainly don’t understand anything. For this reason, please enlighten me. What did the Shinigami… what did we do against you the first substitute Shinigami?”
Having observed the situation, Ginjō raises one eyebrow in slight astonishment, he placed his sake cup down on the tabletop and replied.
“Of course, certainly, you’re not seated as vice captain for nothing.”
Although laughing with great interest, Ginjō paused for a short moment before slowly shaking his head left and right.
“…I appreciate you confronting me seriously. But, no matter what comes out of my mouth, isn’t it unthinkable to digest what a 'dangerous character’ says? Why don’t you talk to your captain commander?”
“That in its own way is not fair. The captain commander isn’t a person who would tell lies, but I am a journalist for the time being. I have to listen to both sides of the story for the sake of impartiality.”
“A journalist’s words have jumped out of a Shinigami’s mouth huh? There are no rules that journalists must be fair in the first place.”
“Fairness is the number one priority, it is a policy I carry on from the former editor-in-chief.”
Hearing those words, Ginjō stifles his laughter.
“You’re a strange guy. At first glance, you look like nothing more than an ordinary Shinigami.”
“I’ll take that latter half as a compliment.”
“And so? What would you do if I was not able to convince you, even after I’ve told you the reason why I betrayed you all?”
“I understand. In that case I’ll —-”
The voice of Kūkaku, who had remained silent up till now, interrupted Hisagi’s speech just as he was about to reply with resolve.
“I don’t mean to interrupt this discord between the Shinigami and the freeloader. But if it comes to crossing swords, do it outside, got it?”
“Understood, we won’t cause any trouble for you.”
Hisagi obediently nods, Ginjō accepts whilst shrugging his shoulders.
The tension that was in the air fluctuated, after a few seconds of silence, Ginjō opens his mouth to speak.
“I guess I ended up deceiving Kurosaki Ichigo.”
“? Ah, so they say.”
“I personally made Tsukishima alter my past… In that past, there was a Half-Shinigami who cooperated with us in order to remove the Hollow power from Fullbringers… It was supposed to be the case that the half Shinigami and our former comrades were killed by Tsukishima.”
Something Fullbringers like Ginjō have in common, is that they each have a parent who was attacked by a Hollow.
Therefore, Hisagi had heard that they are born mixed with Hollow powers, and that it manifests as a unique ability called Fullbring.
“So, how was it that the original past was restored…There was no such Half-Shinigami guy similar to Ichigo. It suffices to say that I was the one who was undertaking the role of substitute Shinigami. Well then, who killed the former comrades that were in those memories?”
“…wait, all that was down to Tsukishima’s modified past too…”
“Tsukishima’s ability…"Book of the End” allows Tsukishima to insert himself into another person’s past. Although things such as 'memories’ and 'outcomes’ where Tsukishima was concerned can be inserted, as far as inserting people who don’t exist, that’s impossible. By the way, the guy who was thought to be a Half-Shinigami was actually one of the Shinigami I killed in a rage.“
Getting an unpleasant feeling, Hisagi gulped.
Tsukishima, who was at the corner of the room, lifts his eyes up from his book to glance at the scene between Hisagi and Ginjō.
He noticed that Ganju was in no mood to interrupt, silently straining his ears to listen to the conversation of the other two, Kūkaku had an expression as if to say “it’s no concern of mine”, but slightly out of the ordinary, she was quietly gulping down her sake.
An uncomfortable silence dominated Hisagi’s surroundings.
Then, it was the words of a dark eyed Ginjō that killed that silence.
“It’s the Shinigami…who killed the comrades from my past.”
Silence and a chilling air fills the place again.
However, Hisagi who couldn’t stomach that shook his head as he tried to stand up.
“Wait…well then, why did you say it was Ukitake san’s fault!?”
“Come now. I noticed the secret of the substitute badge at the time. I don’t have to tell you the rest for you to understand do I?”
Hisagi recalled the conversation from a little earlier to mind.
—- “It’s merely a matter of protesting against Ukitake san once you’ve noticed it, huh?”
Although he was unaware of the circumstances, he realised how beside the point his own words were, he was seized with the feeling of shame.
“I see. I couldn’t swallow your story just yet, but…earlier, I was in the wrong.”
“I don’t give a damn. It made me laugh didn’t it.”
After mixing in a bit of playful banter, Ginjō continued talking some more.
“On the day I repaid my debt to Ichigo at the Soul King Palace, I planned to meet Ukitake. I wondered just how far his orders went, in any case, I had no trust in him from the onset, why did my Fullbringer comrades have to be killed? But it’s a funny story. I searched for Ukitake prepared to clash swords with him in the worst case scenario, but he was not in a state where one could talk to him anymore.”
Hisagi tried to say something, but his words wouldn’t come out properly.
In his mind, the scene of the moment Tōsen is killed by Aizen plays back to him.
At that time, Hisagi was certainly able to exchange words with Tōsen in his final moments. However, just before they were about to cross that path together once more, Tōsen was cruelly murdered at the hands of Aizen —- Hisagi too had forever lost that opportunity to exchange words with his opponent.
Seeing the look on Hisagi’s face who had remembered such a thing, Ginjō clicked his tongue as he released a sigh.
“Che… I’ve said more than what’s necessary. I’ve gotten drunk already.”
“Please wait. If that’s true…”
Midway through his sentence, a noise played out from the denreishinki* (*a Shinigami mobile device) that was in his pocket.
When he took it out and checked it, there was a familiar convocation notice there.
“…This isn’t good. It’s a call to a meeting, from the 1st division.”
“You were summoned with this timing, well I never, are you also being monitored from above?”
“Perhaps, if it was captain Kurotsuchi, the captain commander wouldn't… still, I guess it may seem like I’m being monitored, but I am nevertheless, merely fulfilling my duties.”
Hisagi rises from his seat, finally he speaks to Ginjō in a blunt manner.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that I take you completely at your word. I don’t want to believe that my colleagues carried out such atrocities in the Human World with no motive, but… I will get to the bottom of this story. Because I am a Shinigami, and at the same time, I am editor-in-chief of Seireitei Communication. You can count on me.”
“Anyway, we’ll talk again soon. And Ganju, please let me know next time. Next time, the sake is on me.”
Lastly, Hisagi bowed to Kūkaku and left the Shiba residence.
Hearing the noise of a bike engine echoing in the distance, Tsukishima who was silent up till then, raised his voice whilst his eyes were turned towards his book.
“That’s rare. For Ginjō to tell that story himself.”
“Yeah. I’ve finally lost my edge haven’t I?”
After talking jokingly, Ginjō stares at the empty space with a serious expression.
“I guess he’s a serious Shinigami. Reminiscent of the Gotei 13 indeed. whether I doubted such a guy would respond to my story with honesty or not… well let’s just say, instead of Ukitake who’s gone now, I probably just wanted someone to vent my frustrations at.”
Then, Giriko appeared holding a plate saying “Oh. Even though I’ve prepared snacks, the Shinigami gentleman has already left?”
“Yeah, I suppose he’s a punctual guy. He was in such a hurry.”
“I see, that is a wonderful thing. Because the flow of time is an absolute law that remains as unchangeable in the Human World as it does in Rukongai as well as Seireitei. On any account, if the Shinigami call themselves 'gods’, then it is only a natural matter of course to abide by that rule.”
Elsewhere from the Fullbringers who were having that conversation, Ganju posed a question to his sister who was unusually quiet as she continued to drink.
“Say, big sis, what do you actually think?”
“I don’t know. I told you didn’t I? It’s not something we can poke our nose into when we’re not even Shinigami ourselves.”
“……I wonder if big brother knew something.”
That big brother was Kaien Shiba who served as Ukitake’s lieutenant before the collapse of the Shiba clan –
– Due to his death and the disappearance of Kurosaki Isshin who was a descendant of the main house, their noble status was ousted, however, even now Ganju considered his big brother the pride of the Shiba clan.
Recalling the face of her older brother who was already dead and gone, Kūkaku cast her eyes down to her sake cup whilst forming her words.
“…who knows. The Shinigami are looking away in order to protect Seireitei.”
“As with that Aizen bastard, the Shinigami are probably becoming all kinds of thick-skinned against the scoundrels created by the Seireitei itself.”
One hour later - 1st Division - Head office.
“Ah, you’re late Shūhei. Just how far did you come from?”
“My apologies captain, I went up to Shiba Kūkaku san’s place in West Rukongai to collect information.”
“Kūkaku…? Oh, Kaien’s younger sister…”
When Hisagi enters the office, the captain of the 9th division Muguruma Kensei is already waiting there ready to receive orders, then Kyōraku made an appearance from the opposite side of the door.
“Hello there, it’s wrong of me to ask you here when you’re so busy isn’t it.”
Seeing the captain commander raise one hand in greeting with his usual rhythm, Muguruma spoke up.
“So? What’s going on captain commander? Is there any particular reason why it’s only the 9th division that’s been summoned too?”
“ Ah, well. It’s kind of a matter that involves Seireitei Communication.”
“Huh? If so, then why am I here?”
Muguruma is the captain of the 9th division, but he is not involved in editing of the magazine at all.
Just a few days ago, he was resting in order to treat his zombified flesh, and for a short while he was in a position where he was not even aware of the current state of Seireitei Communication.
“Well in fact. I was told from the higher-ups, that there is something they want you to officially announce directly in Seireitei Communication. Therefore, I think it is better to also pass this onto you, the captain.”
“Official announcement? Is it from the zero division?”
“No, it’s from Central 46. The group of nobles behind the Central 46 to be exact.”
Saying that, Kyōraku turns his eyes to Hisagi for a moment and continues to speak of the matter.
“Actually, it has been decided so that one of the four great Noble clans is to install a new clan head. The matter has already passed through the governmental district and as a formality the new clan head has by now been instated, but very much at the request of that new clan head, it appears that he wants to publicise his own inauguration extensively throughout Soul Society.”
“Damn it, why does it always have to be about self indulgent nobles?” Kensei said looking rather bored.
Although there is the exception known as Shihōin Yoruichi, basically, it is known only too well that the nobles are unable to cooperate with others, Kensei was rapidly losing interest in the matter as the subject also concerned Seireitei Communication. On the other hand, Hisagi continues the conversation with a look that says he’s not quite sure on some aspects.
“Uhh…around how many pages will it take? From the onset, the first reissue is still scheduled several months ahead, and it commences with a special feature that looks back on the Protection of the Soul King Great War, so the balance with that will……”
“It seems he wants you to produce an extra special edition. He wants you to distribute it widely, as far as Rukongai.”
“S-special edition! If we are to completely set up the publishing systems right away, the sort of budget required for that would be awfully……”
The inauguration of a new clan head from one of the four noble clans is big news in itself. However, because the highest ranking being is the Soul King, it is rare to go as far as issuing extra special editions even in the case of things such as auspicious events and times of mourning related to the four great noble clans.
Of course, unexpected budgets are sometimes required, and if it was being distributed widely up to Rukongai, then there is also the potential for that alone to bypass the annual budget.
Hisagi pondered how he could possibly get by on that budget whilst groaning in frustration, but then, with a plop, Kyōraku placed his hand down on Hisagi’s shoulder as he smiled.
"You can rest assured. Since it appears that the budget will be completely handled by that noble clan.”
If that’s the case, Hisagi considered it an opportunity to use the special edition and advance notice of the resumption of publishing as a pretext to broaden subscriptions to the usual edition of the magazine, in Hisagi’s mind he began to weigh up the benefits, the implications of which differed from just a moment ago.
As if to pull him back to reality, Kyōraku’s smiling face then clouded over.
“And, that noble who is the new clan head……”
“? …Is something wrong, captain commander?”
“I’m speaking about the Tsunayashiro clan’s, Tokinada…you understand right?”
The blood vessels in Shūhei’s body pulsated frantically.
Hisagi had already known that name too.
With the objective to bring Tōsen Kaname - who once ran counter to the correct path - back to the other side, and in an attempt to learn even a little more about him, Hisagi closely investigated Tōsen’s past for some time.
The details of the incident in which Tōsen’s close friend was killed was gruesome, her husband at the time considered the idea of imprisonment mere folly, he continued to live his life comfortably without even being sufficiently punished.
“Hold on a moment. Surely that man is supposed to be at the lower end of the branch family.”
“He’s risen to the top. Factors such as the time Aizen massacred the Central 46, and the disorder born out of the last war worked to his advantage no doubt. Furthermore, last week the head of the Tsunayashiro clan and the surrounding family members were murdered by assassins, one by one.”
Nanao who had remained silent beside him up till then, raises her voice.
After the assassination scandal of the Tsunayashiro clan, martial law was declared, Nanao couldn’t imagine it a good idea to carelessly reveal information to Hisagi even though he held the position of vice captain.
However, holding out a hand to silence Nanao's protests, Kyōraku daringly continued to speak.
“I won’t speak from conjecture. Nevertheless, those assassins were completely wiped out by Tsunayashiro Tokinada alone, with that meritorious deed in hand, he was then promoted from the lineage of the branch family. Conveniently enough, no members of the branch family had passed away…that’s what I was told.”
Contrary to Kyōraku’s opening remark, no matter who was listening, it was like they were all hit by a stream of understanding about 'the true culprit behind the assassination scandal and his goals.’ Of course Hisagi was no exception and he gradually raised his eyebrows in discomfort during the course of the conversation.
“I also know about him. I think you understand already, but he is a man who can do those sorts of things without compunction.”
At those words, not only Hisagi but even Nanao and Kensei expressed a little surprise, judging by Okikiba Genshirō who maintained a deep silence, it seemed he agrees with Kyōraku’s words too.
Hisagi and Nanao were surprised because those current words did not seem likely to be the speech and conduct of the usual Kyōraku who seldom speaks poorly of others.
Whether or not he noticed that scene, a self-mocking, wry smile played on Kyōraku’s face as he formed his words.
“I don’t like it, not even I, am a man of noble character. Let’s hope this is only a matter of one or two men who do not see eye to eye.”
Then Kyōraku’s smile disappeared once again, he threw a question at Hisagi with a serious look in his eye.
“To sum it up, you have been instructed to put out a special edition celebrating his… Tsunayashiro Tokinada’s inauguration. Hisagi kun…… can you do it?”
Bleach: Can’t Fear Your Own World - Part 4 - Full Translation
An abnormal event was gradually eating away at the world.
Tragedy struck the noble district of Seireitei.
That may be just the beginning.
Strangely, it started from the day Hisagi Shūhei learned that Tsunayashiro Tokinada was to be inaugurated as clan head —-
A budding malice that spreads like leaves and branches, extending its fingertips to the Soul Society, the Human World, and Hueco Mundo.
Seireitei - 4th Division - Squad Barracks.
In front of the 4th division barracks, there is a timid looking shinigami.
He kept glancing over his shoulder, looking intently in the direction of the main street that merged together with the paths leading to the other squad barracks.
“What’s the matter, 3rd seat Yamada?”
That timid young man who was referred to as “3rd seat Yamada” – Yamada Hanatarō , turns to the members of the 4th division who just had emerged from the squad barracks.
“Huh? Ah…sorry. I’m okay!… probably.”
“Well, on the contrary, there is nothing but anxiety in that answer.”
In response to the voice of seated member Ogidō who had spoken with a calm visage, Hanatarō awkwardly replies.
“A short while ago, vice captain Hisagi was heading towards the 9th division barracks with an awfully grim look on his face, I wonder what happened…”
He replied as if he had become somewhat frightened, the likes of which would only be seen in faint-hearted fresh recruits.
Nevertheless, amidst the 4th division, he is one of the most prominent users of ‘Kaido’ – the healing spiritual arts, despite his timid disposition, his gentle character makes him trustworthy and he was assigned to the position of 3rd seat of squad 4.
However, the person himself thinks he was able to become 3rd seat because of the fact that Iemura Yasochika, who was originally the 3rd seat, had transferred to another squad, he confronts his personal duties whilst struggling with the pressure of thinking “by all rights, I am not well positioned.”
It was a squad 4 member whose large build contrasted with Hanatarō’s own, that reacted to the name of squad 9’s vice captain.
"Ah, Aoga san was classmates with vice captain Hisagi right?”
At Ogidō’s query the shinigami called Aoga answered.
“That’s right…we seldom meet these days. But around six months ago we met on a visit to our friend’s grave, and the last time I saw him was in a hospital room after the war.”
Although from outward appearances Aoga looks more seasoned than Ogidō, since Ogidō is a seated member, Aoga uses honorific speech when addressing him. Hearing those words, the 4th division members around them begin to stir.
“Aoga san was Hisagi san’s classmate……”
“That’s so awesome, that was a season when many elites were produced right?”
“Yeah, during the several decades since lieutenant Hisagi’s time there, it was a generation were many captain class Shinigami were produced, such as lieutenant Abarai, Lieutenant Hinamori, Lieutenant Kira and above all, captain Hitsugaya. The exceptional speed of their advancement through the ranks was also a topic of conversation even at the Shinō Academy.”
“While we’re on the topic of advancing quickly through the ranks, it’s the same with 3rd seat Yamada right?”
In response to the subject that was suddenly brought up, Hanatarō, despite being 3rd seat, bows his head to the squad members.
“err, umm……I’m sorry.”
“Why are you apologising?”
“Well, compared to Hisagi san and the others, I’m nothing special and I only end up annoying everyone at squad 4…”
Remaining expressionless Ogidō then addresses Hanatarō who had spoken of himself with pessimism in spite of being praised.
“What are you saying, 3rd seat Yamada? You are also an elite amongst the elites which goes hand in hand with your lineage and raw talent, aren’t I right? Isn’t it the case that even Urahara Kisuke san took his hat off to your kaido?”
“I realise that seems awe-inspiring but… what I mean is, saying that I don’t feel like I’m going through a bad experience every time Urahara san is involved, wouldn’t be entirely accurate…”
“By the way, a visitor came by a while ago for 3rd seat Yamada, he’s been waiting more than an hour in the guest room already.”
“Ehhh!? C-can you please tell me about these things earlier!?”
After watching Hanatarō hurriedly dash into the squad barracks until he was out of sight, Ogidō whispered with a nonchalant face.
“My apologies, that was a mistake. He arrived just a moment ago so he hasn’t been waiting around that long.”
One of the soldiers who heard those words then chided Ogidō with an astonished expression.
“You should've just said that beforehand no matter what… Your personality is as bad as ever, Ogidō san.”
“Come now, if it’s the case that we must not keep visitors waiting, then I spoke shrewdly didn’t I?… Also, if I have a ‘bad personality’, then I think that guest is considerably worse.”
“ ? ”
When Ogidō shrugged his shoulders as he spoke, the soldiers around him tilted their heads in puzzlement.
Meanwhile, Aoga alone gazed in the direction of the main street where Hisagi had traveled down a while ago, with a complex expression he spoke to himself.
“Making a grim face, huh…?”
He remembers the time after the war, when Hisagi was carried into the 4th division, in a serious condition.
Although he was still alive his injuries were inconceivable.
With the help of Inoue Orihime’s powers, he managed to escape death, however it took a considerable amount of time to recover his reiatsu afterwards.
After Hisagi had regained his consciousness, Aoga evasively posed a question to him.
"You still intend to continue the fight?”
That time they reunited in front of the grave of their former classmate Kanisawa, Aoga remarked to Hisagi, who continued to fight whilst often on the verge of death, that “you have pushed aside your fear.”
However, seeing him on the verge of death again, Aoga understood.
No matter how many times one pushes it aside, when Shinigami do battle on the front lines they cannot escape from fear.
He thinks Hisagi’s strength exists in his resolution to continue with his life whilst being at odds with that endless fear.
Therefore, although he had perceived his companion’s reply, he couldn’t help but ask
He only said a few brief words and laughed “Even though they say the war is over, you’re making such a face. Kanisawa would have your hide.”
The next day, he forcibly left the hospital saying he would be witness to Aizen’s imprisonment.
Concerned about the fact that Hisagi hurried off with a grim face, and not being able to do anything about it, Aoga whispered with a voice that seemed regretful of his own helplessness.
“For at least a little longer… until Seireitei is revived, I hope it doesn’t come to something like fighting at the risk of his own life.”
He would confront that battle if something does happen regardless of whatever the state of affairs around him may be.
That’s because Aoga knew Hisagi’s character well.
However, the fate surrounding Hisagi had already crushed Aoga’s hopes.
Squad 4 Barracks - Guest Room
Inside the 4th division barracks, which placed importance on its functionality for the purpose of performing Kaido, there is a room built there which adds just a little emphasis on splendour.
It is a guest room used when the captain commander or noble envoys are invited in.
Nonetheless, the 4th division, whose number one priority was the lives of the soldiers attached to the Gotei 13, opened up that guest room during wartime to serve as a temporary first aid station, even now the faint smell of medicinal odours were still left in the room.
Yamada Hanatarō rushes into that room with footsteps that sound equally as hurried.
As he stumbles over himself into the threshold of that room, with the same momentum, he bowed his head and spoke words of apology.
“Awawa……uh…uhmm…I’m sorry…for keeping you waiting.”
Before even seeing his host’s face, a disheveled looking figure met his eyes, however the visitor couldn’t even blame him for it, he let his witty voice resound within the room.
“As usual, you have a lifeless voice to go with your lifeless appearance. Did you plant a lesion in your heart whilst trying to understand the feelings of your patients? Hanatarō.”
Feeling a sense of nostalgia, he realised it was a voice and manner of speaking he was used to hearing, with eyes wide open Hanatarō lifted his face.
“Oh my, lifeless even up to your face. It’s worrying, whether patients taken care of by you wouldn't come to hang themselves from the anxiety.”
He is the older brother of Hanatarō and the man that served as vice captain of squad 4 till a few decades ago.
Currently he is retired from the Gotei 13 with his name withdrawn from the official roster, and even his Zanpakutō is left in the care of the squad barracks.
However, though he is retired from his vice captain’s seat, it's not the case that he is without an occupation, in fact he was headhunted to a new workplace which is a special case within a special case. In the Gotei 13, where “military discharge” basically meant being thrown into a special prison called ‘Nest of Maggots’, it was necessary to officially retire in order for him to leave his post.
And because he knows about the new workplace that recruited his brother, Hanatarō inclined his head.
“W…what happened? Is it your day off today from your work over there? I heard that you are kept busy these days.”
“Hn. I guess so. But it’s a job worth doing. After all, In spite of being Shinigami noblemen, the old people who are unwilling to die come to me all the time. It is a pleasant feeling whenever I see a powerful, influential person frightened by old age, the unflattering sight of them struggling to cling on to something.”
“U-uhh… Is that really okay, nii-san? To say such things about the noble people…”
“Of course not. That sort of treachery will probably be punishable by death. Does Hanatarō intend to inform on me, to tell someone what I’ve said? If Hanatarō wants me dead, then that is the request of my precious little brother. I have no choice but to graciously give up my life.”
“Eehh…? I…I would never do such a thing, Seinosuke nii-san…”
After frantically waving his hands, Hanatarō clumsily refuted his brother.
“I-it’s true nii-san is mean, and everyone dislikes that bad personality, but…if we look, there are also good points…probably…besides, I think a person who wants another person dead should not be in the 4th division to begin with!”
“It would be rather hurtful if you had seriously considered that.”
Contrary to his words, a beaming smile was expressed on Seinosuke’s face as he shrugged his shoulders and came clean.
“Well, I’m on a break from work, but I had things to do here, so I thought I’d just come by and take the opportunity to give Hanatarō a little advice.”
Then Seinosuke narrows his eyes ever so slightly and the smile disappears from his face as he touches on the real issue at hand.
“Hanatarō. Wouldn’t you like to take time off from squad 4 for a little while?”
“Various rumours have reached my ears, relating to my work.”
The representative of the Seireitei’s central pharmaceutical institution —- or in other words, Seinosuke, who is the chief executive of a specialised relief station for upper class nobility with a focus on the four great noble clans, chuckled as he spoke in response to Hanatarō tilting his head at the sudden proposal.
“With the Quincy threat now gone, there probably won’t be any big wars occurring for some time. However, the Seireitei seems to have fallen into slight crisis instead. This is not such a small course of events that will stop just because someone tries to stop it.”
“If you don’t want to get dragged into this, then separate yourself from a position of responsibility for a while, and cover your eyes and ears.”
Human World - Karakura Town
“Whoaaaaaa! Got dragged into thiiiis! We got dragged into this!”
Evening in Karakura Town.
As he ran through a deserted back alley, Asano Keigo who was fully enjoying his break until just a few minutes ago, was now making his tearful voice ring throughout the surroundings.
Running alongside him was a boy with a solid pokerface – Kojima Mizuiro, who then spoke up.
“Be quiet Keigo. Your stamina will become just as useless as your yelling you know?”
“I’ve thought this for a long time but, why are you always, always so calm in situations like this!?”
“I can’t help whether I’m calm or not.”
Reducing his running speed, Mizuiro shifted his attention, glancing over his shoulder.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen a monster that looks like that, but at least it’s better than that cheating Aizen guy…”
Before his line of sight, there was an enormous and grotesque figure shaped like a crab – a huge Hollow was drawing near, it let out an unpleasant shriek whilst raising its pincers overhead.
Kojima Mizuiro was once pursued by Aizen Sōsuke along with Keigo and Arisawa Tatsuki.
Although this situation isn’t as bad as that time, the fact that their lives were in danger remained unchanged.
However, currently it’s not Mizuiro or Keigo the monster was directly aiming at.
It was the figure of a young boy in a Shihakushō who was running slightly behind the other two that the Hollow was trying to crush with its pincers.
“Uwaaaaaaahh!! D-Danger! It’s dangerous, so leave this up to me now, please escape quickly! But then who will save meeee!? Whoooo!?”
The young Shinigami who appeared to yell with almost the same tearful voice as Keigo, continued to run away from the huge hollow without being given even a bit of leeway to perform Shikai.
Yuki Ryūnosuke - a shinigami in charge of Karakura Town - casually happened to encounter a Hollow that was much stronger than himself, and in the midst of escaping in a panic, he ended up getting Keigo and Mizuiro, who were walking through a back alley, caught up in this situation too.
Keigo and the others have been involved in various events concerning their friend Kurosaki Ichigo, on top of that receiving something called 'soul tickets’ from the eyepatch wearing Shinigami also seems to have been a trigger for them to become considerably susceptible to sensing spiritual phenomenon.
They’ve caught glimpses of Yuki’s presence every now and then, and they’ve heard his name from Orihime and the others, but Keigo and Mizuiro didn’t concern themselves with such matters by giving him a level of recognition thinking “they have chosen a successor, that probably means he is much stronger than Af-san”.
It turned out now, that this young Shinigami who showed up in place of Kurumadani Zennosuke – the Shinigami who is his predecessor, referred to as “Af-san*” (*short for Afro-san) by Keigo and “Imoyama san” by Ichigo – is far more unreliable than Keigo and Mizuiro could have imagined.
Watching Ryūnosuke escape whilst drawing out his Zanpakutō in a shaky manner, Keigo screamed loudly, Mizuiro on the other hand calmly thought “at this pace, I wonder if we can escape to Urahara san’s shop…”
Mizuiro had also implicitly asked Ichigo about Urahara Shōten, he was told that he would be safe if he escaped there first of all if they were ever attacked by a Hollow in the event that Ichigo himself was not present.
In the course of handling the aftermath of the Aizen incident, Mizuiro was gathering a certain degree of intelligence, so he understood that the shopkeeper of that Urahara Shōten was on par with the captain ranks, and moreover, he understood that Urahara is a man of great importance.
—- “I think he will try to sell you various items afterwards. But I guess you may as well give in and think of it as a 'thank you’ for receiving his help.”
Since Ichigo said that, Mizuiro has entered the shop a few times, of course there was a variety of suspicious goods stacked alongside each other such as “Anti-spirit serum Katakoran Alpha” and “Spirit Repellent Spray Sekirei X” which were clearly not brand-name goods.
“Oh, that reminds me.”
Remembering something, Mizuiro dexterously began fishing inside his bag whilst running.
“W-w-w-what are you doing, Mizuiro!? Don’t tell me you’re trying to take out some stun gun like thing again!?”
Mizuiro then produced a ball with a strange face drawn on it before the shouting Keigo.
'Electromagnetic Capture Sphere - Zeta-ball tan’.
It was the name of that product that Mizuiro had recalled.
When he asked the young girl tending to the store - who looked to be a junior high school student - about how to use the product, the explanation she gave was “uh let’s see…if it is the case that you are being chased by something that defies human understanding, then after twisting this knob, please throw it at the Holl…… at the monster.”
“Well, I might as well give this a try since I have nothing to lose.”
As he muttered that, Mizuiro threw the item he was carrying at the huge crab monster in the way he was instructed to do so.
Then in the next instant – an intense noise along with lightening devoured the surroundings, the monster’s movements were slowed down as its whole body convulsed.
“Wow…how amazing. If I had thrown that at a person I wonder if it would have been fatal…?”
Next to Mizuiro who said that with calmness, Keigo slowed down to walking speed in blank amazement.
“What now!? Stun guns!? Eh?…huh? What do we do now!? stun guns!?”
As soon as he gave up trying to think, Keigo repeats the same line twice in bewilderment.
With a sidelong glance, he expected the boy clothed in black to now move on the offensive, however – the 'key player’ Yuki Ryūnosuke was unable to stay standing due to the surprise of the lightning and thunderous roar from just a moment ago.
“……lets resuming this marathon course again shall we?”
Although its movements were slowed down, it didn’t mean that the Hollow was completely defeated. Because of this situation, Keigo began to consider the idea that he would have to flee whilst carrying Yuki underarm.
However, he was brought to a standstill midway through that thought –
– By the loud voice of an assertive young woman which echoed through the back alley.
“What are you doing!? Ryūnosukeee!”
Watching the silhouette of the young woman – the owner of that voice –jump down from the rooftop of a multi-storey building, Mizuiro confirmed that she was one of the Shinigami that had come to their town together with Yuki.
—- If I remember correctly, it was Madarame Shino san.
As her Shihakushō fluttered matching the force of her drop, with all her might, Shino swung down her Zanpakutō which had transformed into the a Naginata*. (*A pole like weapon with a curved single edged blade on its end - same weapon type as Ikkaku’s Shikai).
The violent impact made the area around the alleyway tremble like an earthquake.
The giant crab shaped Hollow is crushed and dissolved into tiny pieces, its Reishi purified by the power of her Zanpakutō.
Keigo’s facial expression was one of amazement towards the Shinigami who had defeated that huge monster with a single strike, Mizuiro took in the situation with a cool composure thinking “ah, at least there is also a competent Shinigami.”
Meanwhile Ryūnosuke who realised that the Hollow had been purified, looked at Shino and spoke words of relief.
“That’s good…you were safe Shino san.”
“That’s my line, this idiot!”
Shino who landed on the ground with her back turned towards Ryūnosuke, jumps behind him and collides with the top of his shoulder.
Whether by chance or intentional, after she had sent Ryūnosuke tumbling to the ground with a luchador’s 'tope de reversa’ move, she attacked her defeated partner further by using a joint lock technique on his body.
“Pathetic! Why is it that this is a chance in a million and still you are too intimidated to even stay standing yourself!”
“Ai-tatatata! Let go, let go Shino chan! Please let go of my arms neck and back!”
Watching that sort of comedy exchange between the other two, Keigo was finally able to exhale a heavy breath realising they had overcome their predicament.
“Phew… we’re saved. Shino chan was it? Somehow, I feel like I’ve seen you before.”
“…oh? It’s you? So you’re the guy Ikkaku-nii took on as an underling in this place…”
“Ikkaku-nii!? And is that the way I’m supposed to be treated!? As an ‘underling’? That baldy was nothing like a leader to me at all you know!?”
Asano Keigo was once threatened by Madarame Ikkaku who had come to the Human World, he ended up being half forced to accommodate Ikkaku. However the fact that Keigo’s sister was so eager was also a major reason why he lent the accommodation.
“Baldy you say… I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that but, if word reaches Ikkaku-nii’s ears, he would kill you.”
Listening to the conversation in a setting that has calmed down, Shino appeared to be either Madarame Ikkaku’s sister or cousin. It seems the family of both her and Ikkaku were being repeatedly involved in violence everyday in Rukongai, before the both of them were old enough to understand the world around them, their parents had died one after the other and they were passed onto their relatives who kept giving them the runaround, as a consequence they also didn’t have have a clear understanding of exactly how they were related.
After Ikkaku had suddenly become a Shinigami, she herself followed by entering the Shinō Academy, however that brother told her directly from his mouth “I think squad 11 is too intense for Shino”, top management also concluded as such, and to this day, she is attached to the 13th division where she was eventually assigned to.
“Good grief, even though you’ve been training continuously all that time since that war with the Quincies ended, you still can’t help but essentially be a good for nothing loser!”
“Oof, I’m sorry, Shino san…”
At Shino’s telling off, Ryūnosuke dropped his shoulders despondently.
Unable to just watch without doing anything, Keigo interrupted the lecture in order to divert the conversation.
“I mean, it wasn’t a matter of concern because of Ichigo's safe return. But even though the battle ended it didn’t exactly mean that those white monsters decreased too did it…?”
Releasing a small sigh, Shino responded to Keigo’s question seeing as how he was a victim who was dragged into this.
“It’s not that we Shinigami and Kurosaki san were waging war with Hollows or something. This region is prone to hollows from the start…”
Listening to Shino’s words, Mizuiro nodded in understanding.
“Ah, it was about that special sacred place wasn’t it? The one that Aizen was aiming for right?”
“…You’re a human, and yet you are well informed huh. I see. For that reason, anything could happen in this locality, so we can’t be off our guard.”
Then, Ryūnosuke opens his mouth to speak with a serious look in his eye.
“But, I think I’m pretty unprepared whenever I’m dispatched!”
“Don’t say that to yourself!”
Ryūnosuke’s scream echoed across the alleyways of Karakura Town as he was subjected to the joint lock technique again.
However, as if drowning out that scream, a voice on a loudspeaker resounded from the direction of the main street.
[“……therefore, it is unacceptable for the world to remain in its present condition, however people do not wish to return to the past, what the Dōshi* seeks is an escape to a new world——” ] (* An officiating monk/priest/guru)
When Shino knit her eyebrows together in discomfort at the voice that was streaming out from the propaganda vehicle like thing, Mizuiro answered that question.
“It’s an emerging religious cult that was recently born. Because of the lengthy earthquake we had half a year ago, it sparked a considerable amount of disorder around the world.”
The lengthy earthquake.
This had occurred because of the fact that during the course of the war between the Shinigami and the Quincies, the Soul King had perished and as a result the boundaries between Soul Society, the Human World and Hueco Mundo began to collapse.
It was completely different from the geological system so far, due to the extraordinarily long earthquake that occurred for reasons that cannot be explained by science, the world was gradually being wrapped in deep anxiety to no ends.
Many people had premonitions.
One could say they smelled danger.
They wondered if this meant that some mighty force had encircled this world, defying science and conventional common knowledge.
It was dealt with publicly as “a large scale deformation of the Earth’s crust that was not present in our previous data, at present the cause is under investigation”, however that alone was not enough to eliminate the anxiety that was born in people’s minds.
As a result, religious people who sought answers themselves, or those who tried to take advantage of people’s anxieties, founded new religions one after another, good and evil was jumbled together and chaos had slowly spread throughout the world.
Currently, amongst those religious faiths, there is a particularly influential one, it is the same group that was distributing its doctrine with a propaganda vehicle just a moment ago.
Trying to supplement the subject Mizuiro had brought up, Keigo talks about the information he himself knows with serious eyes.
“They say, the founder of that religious sect can truly make things like miracles happen. And most importantly, it was rumoured that the founder is a sister with a nice body and a considerably beautiful woman! That founding sister came to encourage me directly about how a truly ideal world should be!”
Listening to that, Shino’s eyes became half closed as she asked Mizuiro a question.
“Hey, can I beat this guy up?”
“I think that’s fine.”
Watching as Mizuiro nods, Ryūnosuke also poses a question feeling some doubts himself.
“All that out of the way, what is the name? The name of that new religious group?”
“Right. If I remember correctly, the name of that group was……”
Human World - Inside a certain multi-floor company building - President’s office.
“Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to talk with you this time. President Vorarlberna.”
The woman who is ushered into the simple black themed room respectfully bows her head to the young boy who was seated on a sofa playing on his handheld gaming device.
The woman was wearing a style of suit that gave off a flirtatious impression, and although it had nothing to do with her actual attire, it was her very being that would somehow make any observer sense the mystical seductiveness about her.
However, without even turning his eyes to such a woman, the young boy that was referred to as Vorarlberna, continued to play around with his gaming device whilst crafting his words in an uninterested manner.
“…Enough of your barefaced greetings. What are your objectives?”
Addressing the boy - Yukio Hans Vorarlberna - who had asked that question, the woman answered courteously.
“Dear me. My one and only purpose here is to meet with president Vorarlberna representative of 'Y. Hans Enterprise’, who is promised to be a victor of the future by fate. Young, talented people like yourself have the power to lead everybody into the future. As a guide that will pave the way to a righteous world, I would like to have your allegiance to our creed.”
'Y. Hans Enterprise’.
It is a corporation owned by Yukio and a large company that is currently expanding its business with enough force to knock down birds in flight.
He obtained the company by seizing control of it from his father and thought it was not worth worrying about, but after going through conflict with Kurosaki Ichigo and the Shinigami, it was now one of his objectives in life is to expand that company. In the future, it is his aim to construct fertile grounds that accepts stray people who are fellow 'Fullbringers’ like himself. Actually, even at this stage, Dokugamine Riruka was part of the company as a cooperative worker, and although it was earlier than planned, it was through her that he was also able to call out to Jackie Tristan.
That young company president that had a hidden identity as a 'Fullbringer’, in a cold manner and for the second time, questioned the woman who was enticed into his multi-floor company building.
“Do I look like the type that would keep company with someone who gives such a farcical response?”
“Would it be better for me to outright tell you that I want a donation as a collateral in exchange for slaving away to expand your business?”
“That is also a farce. That is not your, no, that is not your people’s intention now is it?”
Unfazed, and as if reading her like a book, Yukio continued to talk in a manner that was not dissimilar to muttering to himself.
He then parted one hand away from his gaming device, taking his business card out of his pocket and placing it on the the tabletop.
Looking somewhat ill-humoured he opened his mouth to speak to the woman.
“Although it has been on my mind for a while, by you coming here today I was assured…from this point, you will not be given a chance to retry, I think it’s better you answer me honestly.”
Taking it as an opportunity to make an appointment, a single business card was handed over to Yukio. As he glared at the name of the organisation that was written there, Yukio asked her again.
“You people, what are your objectives?”
On that business card, the name of the woman is also written down with monotone characters.
For Yukio, both names could by no means be overlooked.
[Religious corporation - XCUTION representative - Michibane Aura]
CAN’T FEAR YOUR OWN WORLD PART 5 Full Translation
6 months since the Protection of the Soul King Great War.
Even in Hueco Mundo, the world of the Hollows headed by the Arrancar, a gradual change is occurring.
After the Arrancar hunt by the Quincy of the Wandenreich came to an end, powerful Arrancar such as Harribel and Grimmjow had disappeared, a new period of civil unrest was about to be ushered in.
However, as Nelliel, whose whereabouts had been unknown thus far, suddenly returned accompanied by Harribel, the ambitions of the Arrancar and Vasto Lorde class Menos Grande were instantly met with disappointment, and they retreated back to their respective colonies as a result.
Several Arrancar launched surprise attacks on Nelliel and Harribel thinking “surely they’re exhausted now”, however most of them were beaten at their own game, and even those who had managed to escape were sent sinking to the ground unlucky enough to bump into Grimmjow who was in a foul mood.
In a corner of Hueco Mundo which was in the gradual process of restoring its peace from such a ‘return of the leader’, a man wearing a mask resembling a bull’s skull released a sigh.
“…That was a brief dream huh.”
He is an Arrancar that was once the leader of the “Exequias” directly under Aizen, and he is the man that continued to manage Las Noches alone in Hueco Mundo after Aizen’s departure.
“After all, for a weak person like myself to dream of such things, wasn’t the very idea itself presumptuous……?“
He is also one of the Arrancar that tried to unify Hueco Mundo after Harribel’s disappearance.
Rudbornn still felt an obligation to Aizen and was attempting to defend the new order as much as possible in its original form, created after that leader seized control of Hueco Mundo from Baraggan.
In addition to the likes of the Tres Bestias and the Espada, there are also several other Arrancars that are stronger than him.
However, without having any interest in governance to begin with, they did not participate in a succession dispute. It could be said that it was Rudbornn alone that tried to fight for hegemony considering that very 'order’ itself as the number one priority.
It's not that he was without ambition.
He could not deny that he had dreamed of a day where he would eventually develop Hueco Mundo himself, and be worthy of being acknowledged by Aizen as a being that was a cut above the rest like the Espada.
Although he had heard that Aizen had quite literally 'cut down and cast away’ Harribel as well as leaving behind words of disappointment with the Espada, if Aizen had returned to this place at the time, he wished to communicate that he had accomplished something with the powers he had received from Aizen.
Even if he would be astounded thinking the results were unfavorable, and then cut him down on the spot, it was no matter.
And now, as before, for the sake of protecting Hueco Mundo’s order —— he was battling the Quincies.
"Dear me, I didn’t expect that there would still be Quincy survivors left.”
Half a year ago, the Quincy who captured Harribel later deployed a unit called “Jagdarmee” throughout Hueco Mundo to conduct Arrancar hunts in every place.
After the executive captain of the Jagdarmee Quilge is defeated by Ichigo and Grimmjow’s group, the majority of those separated units were left behind in Hueco Mundo.
It was those Quincies that put up a do-or-die resistance which took various forms for each unit from desperate suicide attacks to guerrilla warfare, however most of them were annihilated at the hands of the “Exequias” led by Rudbornn.
There had been no movement for several months since then, so just when he thought their extermination was complete, he received eyewitness reports of Quincies going on the offensive.
“Truly disappointing indeed. The “Pikaro” are disobedient as usual, and I hear they frequently go to the Human World with Roca. And even now Grimmjow sama refuses to give his cooperation to establish rule in Hueco Mundo. If things continue like this, I wonder if order could genuinely be brought about someday…”
(TN – For those who are unfamiliar with Narita’s previous works for Bleach - Spirits are Forever With You I and II - You can read about the 'Pikaro’ and Roca there)
Rudbornn shakes his head at his own shortcomings, but as he uttered such things, coming towards his observation spot, a voice of protest is raised against him.
“Hey! Don’t sigh, you also have to fight for yourself once in a while! It’s not just about pushing the job to us and the small fry you create every time!”
“Forget it Loly, even talking about it is pointless.”
The Arrancar with the twin ponytails who was talking smack – Loly Aivirrne – is rebuked by an Arrancar with a short-cut hairstyle – Menoly Mallia.
When they were discovered on the verge of death after battling with Quilge, they were transported to Las Noches where they were left in the care of Rudbornn.
Soon after that, they were dragged into acting as members of the “Exequias” to gradually match the fighting power of the Quincies, but because they are not under the direct supervision of Rudbornn, they failed to reach an understanding in any way whatsoever.
“No, I will say it! Anyway, Rudbornn! Where were you when Harribel sama was kidnapped! You were not even there when that guy called Quilge came!”
“Since the invasion began in various places at the same time, someone had to cause an obstruction in each location that’s all. And while we’re on the subject, when Aizen sama was defeated by Kurosaki Ichigo, we could not have rivaled anyone who was already at his side.”
"…You have a comeback for every remark…”
At Loly’s complaint Rudbornn releases a sigh whilst shaking his head.
“You two are inexperienced, but because you still have respect for Aizen sama, in this way, you were able to join my troops. Because under normal circumstances, disturbing the existence of order with mere presence like your own, is truly unbefitting of Hueco Mundo.”
“Huh, what am I 'disturbing’ just with my presence?”
"Forget about it.”
“Let go of me Menoly! That guy acts like he’s better than everyone else, but what do you think he was doing when the Shinigami attacked this place? A passing Yammy socked him so hard he was practically on the verge of death, isn’t that so?!”
“Since that also happened to us……”
Menoly tugs back Loly’s arm to keep her at a distance from Rudbornn.
Veins were visibly throbbing on her forehead, and even as she was released from Menoly’s grip, she attempted to complain some more, However – a single streak of light passed by before her eyes.
That bullet of light pierced a boulder located a fair distance away from Rudbornn and the others, part of the large boulder is hollowed out as if it had been bitten off by something with a huge set of jaws.
When Loly shifts her attention to the direction in which the streak of light had flown in from, as her eyes popped out in astonishment, there, a figure of a girl with a bow drawn out was standing atop a pile of a caved in building structure.
Her garments closely resembled that of the Quincy lot that once tried to capture them.
In the depths of that structure the figures of others also begin to stir, from there, it appears that a couple were launching an attack their way.
A continuous stream of Quincy arrows that were just shot can be seen flying towards them at alarming speeds.
When Menoly and the others scrambled to avoid it, skull wearing soldiers who are Rudbornn’s subordinates were now engaged whilst numerous pillars of sand shot up in Hueco Mundo’s desert.
As she Looked at the sand craters that were left behind after that with shocked eyes, Loly yells in a cold sweat.
“Just a minute! Those are not the usual small fry! Their kind still remains!?”
“…That group of arrancars, there’s only a few of them gathered here. I’m of the impression that they’re the ones that came to clean us up.”
Whilst clutching a small bow with a design that was reminiscent of shark teeth, the small girl spoke with a straight face.
In response to that, a figure that was in the darkness of the structure which was half reduced to rubble, spoke up.
“So you mean, we only have to get rid of a few small fry? And you missed your target at this distance? Wow, you suck. It’s because you haven’t been practicing properly isn’t it?”
“You’re such a nag. You’d better get to work too. This is a chance to increase our pawns you know, Gigi.”
Then, the Quincy that was known as “Gigi” - Giselle Gewelle - replied as she displayed a mechanical smile which made it impossible for others to read her emotions.
“My power can only temporarily allow me to zombify Hollows, you’re aware of this right? I thought it was common knowledge that Hollow Reishi is incompatible with us Quincies, or did you forget about that?”
“Even if it’s just temporary, it doesn’t matter does it? Everyone other than Bambi is disposed of anyway, and even if they’re able to undo zombification 'over there’, the situation is practically the same.”
“You’re tired I don’t like it. Lil might as well become my zombie, how about it?”
Lil tilted her head as she responded to Gigi – remaining expressionless Liltotto Lamperd gave her companion a tongue-lashing.
“Do you want me to eat you, dumbass? …No, never mind. If I eat Gigi I’d probably get diarrhoea.”
“Isn’t that a bit harsh? I think it’s a terrible insult to eat a girl and then get ‘digestive problems’. Hey, don’t you think so too, Bambi chan?”
Looking at the girl with dark red skin who was 'placed’ like a doll in a corner of the wreckage, Gigi maintained her mechanical smile as she sought the girl’s agreement.
“Y-yes…just as Gigi…it’s just as Gigi says. So, so Gigi…please…blood.”
“Ugh, Bambi chan is really greedy huh. If you want to speak selfishly to me…you get the picture right? Because Bambi chan is smart isn’t she? She’s clever right?”
“…I, I understand…defeat…enemies… Like…to protect…Gigi…that’s why, Blood…”
Watching Bambietta Basterbine - the corpse with the reddish skin rise up, unsteady on her feet, Lil spoke as if she was somewhat amazed.
“Why does it feel like her injuries aren’t completely healed, and her speech has become more ambiguous than before? Is she Frankenstein’s monster? It’s as if she’s become some freak that has just strayed out of a forest and into civilisation.”
“It’s okay, if I give her blood I can 'fix’ her up nicely. But, Bambi chan is cuter when she looks so pitiful like this, so I’m still keeping her this way for a while alright?”
“You’re a real piece of shit aren’t you?”
Although she disapproved of Gigi’s preferences with her candid expression, Lil didn’t try to stop Bambietta who began walking towards the enemy.
Because she knew well.
Even though her ability to think has degraded to such an extent, when it came to Bambietta’s powers, there was no hindrance to defeating average strength Arrancars, hollows and the like.
And as if to prove it ——
An infinite amount of Reishi mass emitting from Bambietta’s surroundings were thrust towards the enemy camp, the white desert was blanketed by dazzling explosive flames.
Apart from Bambietta who has been transformed into a corpse puppet, why were those girls who rose in revolt against Yhwach in Soul Society and then supposedly had the tables turned on them, still alive and staying in Hueco Mundo?
As for how this came to be, one must go back in time to the point immediately following the end of the war between the Shinigami and Quincies.
6 months ago - A certain place in the Human World.
When Lil awakens, she finds herself inside an unfamiliar room.
A bandage is wrapped around her abdomen and a dull pain shoots through her when she touches it.
It appears that she had undergone healing techniques unique to Quincies, however it seems it wasn’t the case that she was completely recovered.
—- Of course.
What remains in her memory is the fact that she had challenged Yhwach to a fight, after being unsuccessful in that regard she was cut down with ease, and just before she collapsed the Reiatsu of Bazz-B, who had been doing battle in another place, disappeared.
—- My abdomen was cut open with that kind of power. Ordinarily, the fatally wounded would have been left alone.
—- Why am I still alive?
When she looked to her side there was the figure of Gigi who had not yet regained her consciousness, and laying down further back was a body that appeared to be Bambietta’s, wrapped head to toe in bandages like a mummy.
All three people including herself had been laid down to rest in simple beds, and had seemingly been given minimum medical treatment.
Lil who noticed that the pillow placed under head was “Wandenreich” issued, speculated that this place is one of their bases in the Human World.
—- There are considerable signs of Quincies outside this room too…but most of them are already half dead.
When she got up to survey her surroundings, the door to the room opened and a woman appeared.
“You’re awake? Liltotto Lamperd.”
It was a female Quincy with a dignified look in her large-pupiled eyes that was standing there.
Lil puts herself on guard.
"Aren’t you the lackey of Yhwach’s lackey? Did you mistakenly rescue the enemy?”
- A member of the Sternritter who possesses the Schrift “B” and is said to essentially be Wandenreich’s second in command -
It was Haschwalth’s close aide that appeared in the room, and amongst the ordinary Soldat with no Schrift, this female Quincy was one of the most outstanding when it came to raw talent.
Although it was rumoured that her handling of purely bows and arrows as well as her combat strength even surpassed some members of the Sternritter, she was not given a Schrift, it is said that this is because she herself wished to continue to serve as Haschwalth’s subordinate rather than becoming equal to everyone who was a 'Schrift holder’ - with the exception of Yhwach.
Haschwalth, who is her superior, is a loyal subject to Yhwach. There should be no motive for her to help Lil’s group who had raised a revolt against the Wandenreich.
“Haschwalth that bastard, what is he thinking of doing? Even if he interrogated us, nothing will surface you know? We merely got sick of Yhwach so we betrayed him, that is all.”
Judging from Haschwalth’s cautious nature, is it not reasonable for him to speculate that those who betrayed the empire had the backing of the Shinigami, or some other organisation attached to them?
In response to Lil who thought as such, the Quincy woman shakes her head a little.
“…Haschwalth sama was killed in action after giving his strength to his majesty.”
At those unexpected words, Lil grimaced.
However, the facts that were narrated after that, was the thing that caused the former Sternritter member Liltotto Lamperd to be surprised.
“…His majesty also passed away by battling special war potential Kurosaki Ichigo, as well as Aizen Sōsuke.”
“ ! ”
In a rare display, both of Lil’s eyes widened and her mouth gaped open a few times, but after about ten seconds had passed, her usual calm demeanor returns.
“…seriously? That Ichigo asshole, I thought he would be outrageously strong, but to that extent? He’s pretty strong, for someone who’s awfully naive huh.”
Recalling the orange haired Shinigami who yelled “you idiot, dodge it!” to a Quincy who tried to stop the huge slashing attack that Shinigami had fired himself, Lil smiled wryly with a touch of self mockery.
“That reminds me, what happened to Candi and Meni?”
Candice Catnipp, Meninas McAllon.
They are her comrades who mobilised jointly with her during wartime, it was unusual for Lil, being recognised as a comrade amongst the Sternritter by each one of them.
Although it was habitual for her companions to throw out blistering remarks to each other, it seemed to be the kind of relationship where they would bring up each others names first and foremost in situations like this, half resigned as she is, Lil quietly waited for her addressee’s reply.
“…I went to rescue them, but I didn’t make it in time. It seems they were captured by the 12th division when they lost the power of their Vollständig in his majesty’s 'Auswählen’. Najahkoop sama too, although it is unknown whether they are alive or dead, they appear to have been transported there.”
“I don’t give a damn about that Peeping Tom bastard. The 12th division huh…? I see…in that case, perhaps it’s better if they had died at once.”
What kind of department is the 12th division? What kind of man is Kurotsuchi Mayuri the captain of that division? Through advance intelligence, she was able to understand.
“Be that as it may…there is a possibility that they’re still alive, isn’t there?”
Lil cast a quick glance at Gigi who was lying down beside her.
If they have the power of Gigi’s Schrift “Z” – “The Zombie”, the others can be recuperated even if they have a certain degree of physical impairment due to 'experiments’ or 'autopsies’ carried out by the 12th division. And even if they are dead, as long as the body and brains remain, it is possible to revive them as zombies like Bambietta in the worst case scenario.
Although, as far as emotional scars are concerned, that cannot be healed.
Taking everything so far into consideration, Lil then posed a question to the Quincy woman before her eyes, in a dispassionate manner.
“…Returning to the subject at hand. Why did you help us?”
“It is Haschwalth sama’s will. When his majesty entered his final sleep, Haschwalth sama ordered the Soldat under his direct supervision to retrieve and provide medical treatment to you ladies and other wounded Soldat.”
“It doesn’t make any sense at all to me. What happened to the Schutzstaffel bunch?”
Despite knitting her eyebrows in bewilderment, Lil thought she should straighten out further details by continuing to enquire.
Returning a shake of her head and with a sorrowful expression –
“…All members were killed in action. I received reports from the observation unit that his Majesty completely absorbed Gerard sama’s power and he dissipated.”
“So even Nakk Le Vaar was done away with huh? Maybe it’s true that guy is lethal.”
—- Is it that we took those Shinigami guys too lightly?
—- Taking in the “Heart of the Soul King” until his own trusted minion Gerard dissipated, that Yhwach bastard was pushed to go that far? When he was done with me and Gigi, he was talking some nonsense about “being able to see into the future” or something…but what kind of future did that guy see with those creepy eyes?
—- wait a minute?
“…You said Haschwalth ordered you to save us when Yhwach went to sleep right?”
“That’s right. Immediately after his Majesty had fallen asleep.”
Haschwalth was granted the “mask of the ruler” allowing him to exercise all powers as a substitute, only during the period where Yhwach falls asleep at night.
“If that’s the case, does that mean that Haschwalth bastard saw the 'future’ too?”
In response to Lil’s query which was uttered as if she was half speaking to herself, the Quincy woman cast her eyes down whilst forming her words.
“…When he handed down his instructions to me, he muttered something as if thinking aloud to himself. Seeing into the future is a cruel power he said.”
“That asshole, what did he see? Did he see a future where both he and Yhwach would die?”
“This is something I am unable to comprehend.”
The female Quincy who was Haschwalth’s trusted aide sorrowfully distorted her face, she spoke as her wise voice was enveloped in a slight sadness.
“Haschwalth sama did not divulge his true feelings. Neither to us, nor the Sternritter…and in all likelihood, not even his Majesty. However, at the very end, “no matter what, preserve the future of the Quincies” was the only thing he said to me….”
“So then, being honest to a fault, you went as far as to save us rebels, is that it? For your information, don’t expect me or Gigi to feel like we have an obligation to you or something.”
“That’s fine. It’s not that we are seeking a reward, we are merely obeying Haschwalth sama’s commands.”
In response to she who had answered matter-of-factly, Lil opens her mouth to speak after lightly clicking her tongue.
“Well, we survived thanks to you. I am grateful for that…just, don’t expect even a word of gratitude from Gigi. When she wakes up she’ll turn you lot into zombies, and she may even use your flesh to treat her own injuries.”
“Don’t give me that look…I think I understand enough to know how to take responsibility for this kind of thing. I can handle Gigi, as soon as she becomes able to move, we will take our leave.”
Leaving Lil who caught a glimpse of Gigi’s condition, the Quincy woman exited the sickbay.
That woman who was Haschwalth’s trusted aide, told only one lie to Lil.
Before confronting his final battle, there were other words Haschwalth had left behind too.
—- “Ishida Uryuu is perhaps the last test his Majesty bestowed upon me.”
—- “I don’t understand the reason why, but my emotions are so violently shaken at times, only by that man.”
—- “If there is ever a time I am driven by passion and forget my role as the balance…in that moment, I will relinquish all power his Majesty has entrusted to me, as well as my life.”
The way in which he had spoken was as if he had seen a future where such a thing would come to be.
But assuming this was visible to him, why could he not take action to avoid that future?
If it’s the case that even after he became aware of the future, he still couldn’t suppress his emotions, what kind of words did he make Ishida Uryuu hear? Or what sort of conduct did he let him see?
Although everything has been nothing but incomprehensible now that things have come to pass, that Quincy who was a trusted aide could only feel proud of her master.
Even if his own destiny was in sight, she believed he carried complete resolution on his back, and chose his path of his own free will.
It was the very next day when Liltotto, Giselle and Bambietta had disappeared from the hidden base in the Human World.
Currently, Liltotto’s group continue their dispute with the Arrancars in Hueco Mundo.
It took several months to regain their powers, but it was restored to all useable levels with the exception of their “Vollständig” ability which was snatched away by Yhwach.
“If only we had Vollständig, we would be able to absorb all their Reishi.”
The Quincy’s ultimate form is Vollständig, if they have the “Sklaverei” ability which is unleashed by the halo that is generated when one enters that state, it becomes possible for a Quincy to completely disintegrate the surrounding Reishi and forcibly enslave it.
There was also the potential to capture even Hollow Reishi - whose Reishi matter is naturally poisonous for Quincies - as a harmless substance with a one time complete decomposition.
However, there are no more Quincies who possess that ability.
If there is a possibility, then that would only be Ishida Uryuu and his father who were spared from Yhwach’s “Auswählen”, but Lil shrugged her shoulders thinking “so what if men who are enemies were able to use it.”
Then, Gigi’s voice could be heard from behind.
“Eh? But Lil can do something similar can’t she? If you wanted, you could just swallow those guys whole. or perhaps you’re on a diet?”
“There is nothing I can’t eat, but poison is poison, my stomach will become awfully upset, so I refuse.”
Whilst replying in a detached manner, Lil watched intently as Bambietta trampled everything in her path, Gigi then spoke some more.
“In the end, most of them have fallen huh? The survivors of the Jagdarmee that is.”
“Every last one of those guys are pitiful. As if marching through this desert for two months wasn’t annoying enough, none of those guys could become a decent fighting power.”
They were now mobilising with the purpose of reclaiming the independent Quincy units for themselves and drawing them in as “pawns”.
Their ultimate goal was to raid the 12th division in Soul Society and recover Candi and Meni.
“Even though Lil tells us to leave her alone, sometimes she places great importance on things like frie~nd~ship~ huh? And then, helping the remnants of the Jagdarmee, half of the time it’s not for the purpose of collecting pawns, is it that you want to repay those people in that sickbay?”
"Whatever. I’m just pushing the guys who are likely to get in our way onto that bunch.”
“Lil is being sultry whilst having such a cold expression, I think it’s really creepy, but I actually kinda like it?”
“Are you praising me or dissing me, pick one, bitch.”
remaining expressionless, Lil spoke in an unconcerned manner.
For some reason, the moment Gigi was called a “bitch”, she smiled looking a little delighted at the thought, she then replied in a cheerful manner.
“Oh my, It’s a joke, It’s a joke. Lil is so cute when she’s embarrassed. There’s no way I can just ignore it. If Candi and Meni are both dead, does it mean they can be my zombies?”
Then Gigi’s expression fades away, she recalls the face of a certain man as she spoke with a voice that was full of resentment.
“…Besides, I won’t be satisfied unless I give that dazzling weirdo a little surprise you know?”
“Forget it. That guy completely outranks you.”
At Lil’s chiding, Gigi then spoke.
“If I use my brains I can manage somehow. Hey, what if I zombify Kurosaki Ichigo?”
“Stop right there. I have no interest in going along with your suicide mission, alright?”
In all honesty, it’s not the case that Lil hasn’t considered that idea in her own mind.
If they could turn Kurosaki Ichigo into one of their pawns with Gigi’s abilities, she has considered the fact that he would become their strongest fighting power. However, as far as Lil could tell, around Kurosaki Ichigo, there were people such as his father who has experience as a captain in the Gotei 13, Ishida Uryuu who had defeated Haschwalth, and his father Ishida Ryūken who is an “Echt” Quincy, moreover she understood there is also the special war power Urahara Kisuke, Lil was neither hasty nor foolish enough to step into such a den of sinister forces.
“Be that as it may, we will continue to crush Arrancars here like this…”
The actions of the Quincies, eradicating Arrancars, is a prohibited act that will disturb the balance of the world from the Shinigamis viewpoint, if they overdo it, the shinigami will likely sense this and send in assassins to eliminate the threat.
Considering the fact that they lent a hand to the Shinigami together with Bazz-B in the end, it’s not impossible for them to reach an understanding, however – even if they reconciled it did not appear likely that the 12th division captain will release Candi and the others, above all, formal reconciliation will probably be difficult when Gigi has zombified many Shinigami and then let them kill each other.
“Well, first of all, after we’re finished with these guys, we will return to the Human World to plan……”
Lil suddenly stopped talking in the midst of her muttering.
Before her line of sight, there were figures of Arrancars being ravaged by Bambietta’s bombing raid.
However, Lil had then realised that something felt wrong.
“…it’s still not over yet?”
It’s not that Bambietta was dealing with this at a leisurely pace.
As much as her reasoning power has weakened, there is still a part of her that maintains her ability to carry out a reckless bombing raid.
But the number of Arrancar soldiers has not decreased in the slightest.
Rather, it even felt as though their numbers were increasing with time.
“Reinforcements? No, that’s not it…”
Furthermore, those countless number of skull masked soldiers that had newly appeared assembling on top of one another thus creating a wall, could it be that they were putting themselves in harm’s way to continue to defend the troops at the centre?
There was not a shred of hesitation, as if they were accepting of their own death.
“What? …What’s going on?”
Going back in time to just a few minutes ago.
“Th, that was close! What the hell is that sickly looking girl?! Endlessly throwing bombs or something without warning huh!?”
Whilst hidden in the shadow of the skull masked soldiers, Loly yells in a cold sweat.
Menoly who she had directed the question at was also unable to stand and trembling as she responded.
“Th-this is bad, Loly…She’s as strong as that guy with the glasses, Quilge or whatever…”
Next to the two flustered 'Aizen bodyguards’, there was a man who calmly analysed the progress of the battle alone.
It is the leader of the Exequias, Rudbornn.
“Hmm…apparently, her Reishi seems to have the power to convert anything it comes into contact with, into an explosive. The underlying Reishi itself doesn’t have the ability to explode, so I guess it can only be rapidly fired to those extents but…it doesn’t seem like a good plan to wait for our opponent’s Reiryoku to become exhausted.”
“Just a minute! What are you talking about in such a carefree manner?! At this rate our situation will only get worse won’t it?!”
Hearing that complaint which was mixed with yelling, Rudbornn releases a sigh as he shakes his head.
“You are not to expose such disgraceful behaviour as Aizen sama’s former servants, not even for an instant. Always keep calm. Do not harbour despair in the face of death. Even if your lives end here, continue to think of what you can leave behind for Aizen sama’s sake until the very last moment.”
“We don’t have time for that Zommari like manner of speech! As things stand, we’ll be charred to the tips of our nails let alone leave something behind!”
“How truly awe-inspiring that I am being compared to someone like Zommari dono… it doesn’t matter, there is no need to worry about anything. Because either way, I have no intention of dying here.”
As he said that, Rudbornn pulls out his Zanpakutō setting the blade level with the ground.
“Let’s show them. As someone who once fell behind the Shinigami, we’ve refined our abilities to shave away our shame…!”
In an instant, Rudbornn’s Zanpakutō transforms and spreads like tree vines, it coils around Rudbornn’s arm and the lower half of his body, changing into a tree like shape.
Additionally, from the 'branches’ that grew on his back, skull soldiers were created one after the other, the intact soldiers once again became part of the wall, proceeding to defend the others from the enemy’s bombing raid.
“What’s this, the same as always……”
Stopping mid-sentence, Loly’s eyes widened.
When she looked carefully, a little further ahead the sand was swelling up, new skull wearing soldiers were starting to emerge out of the desert.
It seems that bamboo like rhizomes were spreading underground, appearing to produce fresh soldiers in succession of one another.
Árbol’s ability “Calaveras” sucks up Hueco Mundo’s Reishi from the roots and with that as its source, creates an infinite number of Rudbornn’s loyal soldiers.
Even though its nature hasn’t changed since before, growing trees at the tip of the rhizomes and continuing to extend its range further, changes the speed of production to an astonishing one.
Although this was originally a technique developed on reflection of the past when his branches were sealed because they were frozen over by Kuchiki Rukia, he attempted to produce them underground where an icy chill wouldn’t reach, the extraordinary rate of the mass production of soldiers resulted in a great upsurge in Rudbornn’s power acting as his new weapon.
The several newly born skull soldiers eventually exceeds the numbers that have died out due to the enemy Quincy’s bombing raid – becoming a great army with no fear of death, they surrounded the deathly pale Quincy.
“No…no way, these guys…don’t fear death……”
In Bambietta’s broken mind, her past fears are resurrected.
The captain with a dog’s appearance who was called Komamura, sacrificed his own heart, she felt fear when he approached her as a dead warrior.
Bambietta’s biggest motive for fighting was “I don’t want to die”.
In the Wandenreich, what is given to losers is a 'death penalty’ called execution.
That is why she keeps fighting.
For her, battle was a process through which one could continue to evade death for an eternity, and for that reason she could not even begin to comprehend the act of abandoning one’s own life.
When she battled that man named komamura, she was seized with a fear she had never experienced before.
That Shinigami had told her, “I am not throwing away my life, I am merely staking it.”
In that moment she felt fear, as though she was truly dealing with a god who governs death.
However, now, the skull masked swarm that had gathered around her were even more abnormal in nature.
They were not staking their lives, nor were they throwing it away. Instead, this humanoid army was behaving as if they had no lives to begin with. Could it be that even dying was merely part of their system and nothing more, that this swarm of skulls have robotically embraced 'death’ when they are engaged in an attack?
They were not even Hollows, not even beasts, it’s as if they were a huge swarm of insects that have transformed into a colony, and it seemed like they were trying to drag Bambietta into their cycle of 'death’.
That frightened even Bambietta who has been reduced to a living corpse.
The primordial fear that was engraved in her soul and brain momentarily stimulated her damaged mind.
But, she could only raise her fearful voice.
“No…no…don’t, I don’t like it, I’m scared, I’m scared…”
Several hundreds, thousands of skull swarms transcend the explosive inferno, gushing forth from the the depths of the flames.
Using the corpses of their own, even the bodies of those who were alive as stepping platforms, the skull swarm became one huge tentacle that tried to swallow up Bambietta who was fluttering about midair.
The face of the young lady who had forgotten even the fact that she was already dead, distorts, and she trembles like a little girl.
“Lil…Candi…Meni…Gigiii…! Save me…save me…everyone…!”
Then in the very moment she was about to be captured by the huge wave of skull soldiers ——
That ominous, white heaving wave disappeared in the blink of an eye.
“ ! ”
Rudbornn and the others who were watching with a panoramic view from a spot in the distance, were shocked to see the new development in the course of events.
“W…what happened just now…”
As a cold sweat ran down her cheeks, what met Loly’s eyes was the petite Quincy’s mouth that came flying their way from the direction of the ruins, that mouth started to deform into an irregular shape – in the next moment, the huge mouth appeared as if to chew up the heavens, it was a spectacle where nearly a thousand skull soldiers were swallowed with one mouthful.
Where did all that mass disappear to? Under the night sky, there was only the few figures of those who were apparently Quincies, still left standing.
Reflected in the eyes of that trembling zombie was the figure of Liltotto who was chewing something before gently swallowing it down.
“How unpalatable…no, it doesn’t have any flavour to begin with. What the heck is this?” Lil remarked dissatisfied with what she had eaten just a moment ago.
Gigi suddenly appeared from behind her, with both hands she grabbed Bambietta’s head.
“Really, I don’t know what to do with you! Bambi chan is truly useless huh!
What’s wrong? Don’t you want your reward? If you don’t want it I can send you to sleep? I won’t be troubled right?”
“Ah…n-no, not that…I’m sorry…sorry, Gigi…”
When Bambietta became teary eyed once more, Gigi looked at her displaying an expression full of ecstasy.
Watching the scene between the other two with a cold look, Lil spoke to Gigi in a detached manner.
“Yet you, of all people, being unashamedly able to make public that "I’m not an ’S’ type” huh……?“
(TN – In Japan ’S’ = Sadist ‘M’ = Masochist, I often hear young people using it - even though in terms of context, it’s not usually used to the extremes of the English meaning, Gigi’s probably an exception though - if you’re an S you’re more aggressive/dominant if you’re an M you’re more submissive/passive.)
After watching Gigi tilt her head in seriousness and giving a small shrug of her own shoulders, Lil turned her attention to enemy lines once again.
“Good grief, they’re still rapidly hatching out. Are these guys cockroaches?”
“By the way are you alright? You said you’d get an upset stomach if you eat Hollows.”
“I have no choice but to forcibly digest them, after all, we are in this predicament.”
Although Lil who used her own ability “The Glutton” to absorb Reiryoku by devouring a huge quantity of enemies with her heteromorphic mouth, it was never an easy task.
Hollow Reiryoku is a poison to Quincies. It is naturally a suicidal act to absorb it, if Lil wasn’t included as a member amongst the Schrift holders, she would probably have become immobilised by now.
Continuing the digestion process whilst battling with the sensation of her entrails being eroded away, Lil nevertheless maintains her composure not revealing even a splinter of such a sensation on her face as she spoke to Gigi and Bambi.
“I think I can eat another 2 or 3 more times, but those guys from just a moment ago were seriously lacking in both flavour and nutrition. That damned garbage won’t satisfy my hunger.”
Then, they shifted their attention to the several 'trees’ that continued to give birth to skull soldiers, and the Arrancar with the lower body that had transformed like a tree who was at the centre of it.
“So then, you eat guys that seem flavoursome right away?…but that seems unsavoury.
Sensing the imminent threat drawing near, Rudbornn let out a groan.
The Quincy who had 'devoured’ skull soldiers earlier, danced through the air with hirenkyaku whilst making a beeline in their direction.
The skull soldiers immediately rushed forward, but the Quincy who had manipulated explosions earlier began firing out her Reishi in a manner that would restrain them.
Watching as the petite Quincy approached by weaving her way through the army that was confined in the blast from the explosions, Rudbornn built up his flesh wall of skull soldiers to carry out defence.
“What an ugly layer of skin you’re hiding behind.”
The mouth of the Quincy, who was whispering whilst expressionless, strains like slime that then immediately stretches out horizontally.
With a 'single bite’, she intended to consume what was on the inside, skin and all, so that the wall of skull soldiers would instantly disappear.
“…There’s nothing there.”
Apparently the wall was merely a diversion tactic, and Rudbornn and the others who were on the inside had already moved.
Then, Loly sprang out from behind the Quincy whilst shouting her release command.
Her Zanpakutō which took the form of huge a centipede like creature entwined with her body, Loly brandished parts of it like a blade.
“ ! ”
The Quincy dodged it by a hair’s breadth, but the desert sand that was struck down upon by that blow began to melt into pulp.
Loly yells whilst trying to land a blow on the Quincy however ——
The tentacle that gave the impression of a centipede’s body vanishes into thin air.
“…Rather pointlessly spicy. But, not bad I guess.”
“Y-you! Part of my Resurrección……!”
—- it’s been eaten.
Realising that a clump of her own natural power sealed in her Zanpakutō had been eaten, Loly turned pale.
Although it was far from a fatal injury, the feeling of losing part of her body reminds her of fear.
But the thing that truly surprised her, was what happened immediately following this.
The Quincy scatters arrows all around the place, piercing the skull swarm and the splitting trees that were creating them.
Consequently, the skull soldiers and the trees that were struck by those arrows, like the sand from just a moment ago, dissolved as if they were pulp.
“It seems I managed to digest it somehow. My stomach acid was stronger huh.”
As she watched the enemy army melt, Lil murmured in a relaxed manner.
The ability of “The Glutton” is not just to consume enemies.
It is possible to freely use the unique abilities possessed by a target who she had torn into “only up until the part that was eaten is digested”, she also gained the secondary power to understand how to use said abilities instinctively.
During the last war she 'consumed’ a man named Pepe, but it seems there was no way she could demonstrate her true abilities because Pepe’s power appeared unlikely to be effective on Yhwach who was her battle opponent.
Nonetheless, according to what she told Gigi “do we really want to use such a disgusting bastard’s powers?”, It’s possible to say that in the end, the man named Pepe was devoured only for retribution and replenishing Reiryoku.
“So…where are they hiding?”
—- Although I don’t want to act impulsively like Bambi…will scattering this 'poison’ at random bring them out into the open?
—- No, I’ll start by getting rid of that one who in all likelihood has the ability to counter the poison.
Then, Lil turns her bow towards a single Arrancar.
Towards the female Arrancar with the twin ponytails who had her 'poison’ ability plundered just a moment ago.
Loly has never attempted to find out whether her own poison is effective on herself.
But Loly had heard that Baraggan who was once the king of Hueco Mundo had died by his own curse, in a panic Loly tried to run away.
However, because part of her body, after using Resurrección, had been eaten, she fell down unable to maintain her balance.
In response to Menoly who rushed over to try and help her, Loly yelled as her eyes widened.
“Idiot! Run away……”
Without waiting for the other two to finish their conversation, poison arrows were fired from the Quincy’s bow ——
In the next moment, a large mass of water swept away the poison infused arrows together with the surrounding skull soldiers.
A barrier of water that protected them.
Watching the form of a large body of water which is out of place in a desert, dancing in mid air, Loly and Menoly embraced each other realising what had just happened.
And then, before anyone could notice, Rudbornn reveals himself, he bowed his head deeply whilst uttering words of apology.
“Oh…for you to go as far as to come to such a place in person. How should I express my humble apologies for causing you trouble……”
The Arrancar that appeared on the scene opened her mouth to speak in a manner that interrupted Rudbornn’s apology.
“There’s no need for you to apologise. I’m sorry for arriving so late.”
The Arrancars mouth was covered by a mask which was reminiscent of a set of fangs, and then concealed behind a long collar —- Tier Harribel turns her eyes towards the Quincy in the sky whilst the water steered by her Zanpakutō was made to surround them as a river flowing through the air.
“…You’re leader is supposed to be dead. Why lay waste to our territory?”
In contrast with Harribel who had posed that question, a man who appeared from behind flashed a villainous smile as he spoke.
“Ha! Does it matter what kind of reason they may have? If they came here for a fight let’s give them one.”
Looking at the Arrancar who had just made an appearance, Loly and Menoly who were once attacked by him shrieked.
Grimmjow looked at the pair and simply muttered to himself “huh? I feel like I’ve seen their mugs somewhere…”, however, appearing to not take any particular interest, he removed his eyes from them right away.
“It’s been a while since I’ve felt such a flashy Reiatsu so I came to see, is this some sort of festival? And you’re leaving me out in the cold, you have some nerve, don’t you Rudbornn!”
“…But I’ve requested your assistance for the subjugation of Quincies many times…”
In response to a perplexed Rudbornn, Grimmjow replies without even a hint of shame.
“I’m not interested in small fry. However, these guys look like they’ll do just fine.”
Although he’s not as irrational as he once used to be, there is still a part of Grimmjow that is typically battle hungry.
As if to reprimand him, an Arrancar who was a little further behind him spoke.
“It’s no good if you just throw yourself at the enemy all of a sudden, Grimmjow. We have to probe into our opponent’s goals and abilities first of all.”
“Huh? Back off Nelliel. Their goals ain’t worth shit, it’ll be over when I beat all of them to death.”
“You say that but, who was the one that was almost killed by the Quincy in Soul Society, I wonder?”
Taking Nelliel’s words as a provocation, Grimmjow turned his irritated gaze towards her.
In a vast desert where the silence resembles nothingness, showy explosive flames and Reiatsu was enough to attract the attention of powerful Arrancar.
Watching the current scene where practically all the top class powerhouses amongst the Arrancar were gathered, Rudbornn concealed his emotions, in his heart he was choked with tears.
Menoly is relieved thinking “we’re saved, for the time being”, Loly experiences a sense of envy towards the stronger warriors and irritation towards her own helplessness, she ground her teeth seemingly vexed.
Strangely, it just so happened to be the case that each of those three strong warriors were all present, and even though the battle seemed to intensify further – they have not yet noticed.
The fact that it was not only the inhabitants of Hueco Mundo who were being drawn in by the conflict of the desert.
“Hey, some dangerous looking guys have turned up.”
Vigilant of the huge mass of water Lil kept her distance, Gigi addressed her from further behind.
“That person over there, wasn’t she a prisoner of war in Silbern?”
“Yeah, she’s the Arrancar boss that was captured by Yhwach personally. She’s not an opponent you can be careless around.”
Whilst trying to predict the abilities of the newly arrived Arrancar, Lil tries to issue simple instructions to Gigi.
“Gigi, use your blood on that water……”
However, she was interrupted midway through her sentence.
A sudden chill runs down the spines of Lil and the others.
—- What the heck? What’s this creepy Reiatsu?
Lil turned her attention to the three newly arrived Arrancar, but it seems not to belong to them.
On the contrary, the Arrancars seemed to pick up the same feeling, shifting their cautious eyes back in Lil’s direction.
They have never felt such a thing before now, but despite that, when they probed around for the source of that Reiatsu that seemed as if it was familiar somehow ——
“It” suddenly appeared from the sky.
A small gate that resembled a Garganta, opened up high in the night sky.
The small figure that jumped out from it, dropped down to the ground with tremendous force as the Reiatsu of that figure in question dispersed, a cloud of sand was made to rise several hundred metres in height.
A few seconds later, the mass of dense Reiatsu that was at the centre of it swirled around resulting in a crater far more wider than that created by the Quincies’ attack earlier.
“What…? This Reiatsu…”
“…It’s a strange Reiatsu. It reeks of a Shinigami and Hollow mix…”
Grimmjow responded by continuing Nelliel’s words.
—- It’s similar to that blonde masked asshole, the one who got in the way during my fight with that Ichigo bastard.
Grimmjow did not know his name, but it’s one of the “Visoreds” that appeared before him in the past – it closely resembled Hirako Shinji, despite this, he felt the Reiatsu was even more sinister as he turned his guarded attention towards it.
Then, Harribel who was silent up till then raised her voice.
“…It’s like the Quimera Parca that belongs to Apacci and the others…”
Although they haven’t arrived here yet, the three Arrancars who were Harribel’s direct subordinates, are able to create a ferocious beast by sacrificing one arm each.
“Ayon? It certainly has that sort of stench to it.”
An eerie Reiatsu, intermingled with a myriad of elements.
What kind of monster has materialised from within that cloud of sand?
As the Arrancars keep their guard up, that cloud soon clears away ——
“Aitatata……Sand becomes rock hard when you dive into it huh? I’ve learnt something new!”
A voice resounded as if to shatter the tense atmosphere, a child wearing black garments similar in appearance to a Shihakushō became visible.
The child is beautiful but with androgynous features whom one cannot distinguish as either a boy or a girl, looking at the group of Arrancars that were in the surroundings “It” nods with evident satisfaction – next, “It” looked at the three Quincies and tilted its head.
“Huh? Quincies? I haven’t heard anything about how to deal with Quincies. What should I do?”
Muttering that to itself whilst standing up, “It” turned in the direction of the Arrancars.
“But, if I don’t do what Tokinada sama told me to do first of all……”
An out of place child without any indication of nervousness.
Although, seen from the outside, the child made such an impression, there is no one who could laugh or drop their guard after watching that.
The fact that they had maintained composure in a situation like this is an abnormality in itself – because the sinister Reiatsu they had sensed earlier is without a doubt being emitted from the child in front of their eyes.
“Stop right there…Who are you?”
Harribel enquired, her Zanpakutō remaining in a readied state.
Rudbornn has already produced countless new soldiers, enclosed in a horde of skull soldiers running in the thousands, “It” displayed an innocent smile and gave its name.
“Right! I’m Hikone! Ubiginu Hikone!”
The child named Hikone, remained completely unperturbed by the fierce Arrancars.
Observing that scene, Lil then spoke.
“…I’m getting a sick feeling. That brat’s smile doesn’t reach its eyes at all.”
Whilst sensing an aura similar to Gigi’s zombies, an expressionless Lil continued to speak some more.
“Moreover, I also sense signs of familiar scum…what’s going on?”
In an atmosphere surrounded with confusion, Hikone quietly bowed before speaking of their own intentions.
“Well err, to all the Arrancars, I have a gift from Tokinada sama.”
The Arrancars are even more perplexed at the fact that a completely unfamiliar name had just been brought up.
“I heard that the one called Baraggan san and the one called Aizen san are gone, and this world has no king now.”
When Hikone said as such in a cheerful manner, some degree of the Arrancars’ bewilderment turns to hostility.
Whether or not the child noticed the change in atmosphere, Hikone continued to speak unfazed.
“Therefore – it seems Tokinada sama is kind enough to be king of Hueco Mundo himself! Isn’t that great?! He will do his very best to become a good king!”
Hikone quickly bowed their head.
The skull soldiers brandished their blades and advanced at Hikone’s back.
“Your disrespect knows no bounds. You even talk about replacing Aizen sama or something, surely you jest.”
Although Rudbornn speaks with a calm voice, he took those words from just a moment ago as an insult towards Aizen, a wave of fierce emotion overflowed within him.
However, Hikone doesn’t even try to avoid the attacks of the skull soldiers who came swooping down on them, Hikone took every hit with their whole body.
Then, the sound of a violent collision could be heard —— the shattered blades of the skull soldiers went flying into the air.
Nelliel raised her voice in astonishment.
Why does that Shinigami like child have hardening skin which is a special characteristic of Arrancars such as themselves?
In front of Nelliel, who held some doubts, Hikone delightfully looked at the surrounding Arrancar and spoke.
“Tokinada sama said it’s likely no one would accept. As expected of Tokinada sama. It’s become just as he said it would be.”
Accordingly, Hikone unsheathes the Zanpakutō that was being carried on their back.
Looking at the blade that had just come into view, the Arrancars perceived the drop in the surrounding temperature.
The child was clearly enshrouded in an aura that differed from that which ordinary Shinigami or their own employ.
Before the Arrancars could even ascertain the true nature of that sense of discomfort, Hikone poetically recites the instructions of “Tokinada sama” aloud.
“In that case… beat them to a bloody pulp, until they consent, until their hearts yield, that’s what I was told!”
As soon as that was said, Hikone grasped the Zanpakutō they were holding tightly, with a smile still on that face, Hikone chanted the name of the sword.
“Orbit the stars —— Ikomikidomoe!”
CAN’T FEAR YOUR OWN WORLD Part 6 Full Translation
Squad 9 Barracks.
Hisagi Shūhei was sitting at his vice captain’s desk, gazing at and reflecting on previous issues of Seireitei Communication.
At his back, the voice of Muguruma, his captain, called out to him.
“Hey, what’s with the long face, Shūhei.”
“Is it because of the business from just a short while ago? Well, it’s not surprising that you’re irritated.”
“…sorry, it really shows on my face huh?”
He intended to bottle up his emotions, but it seems he couldn’t even do a good job of that, no matter how hard he tried.
After taking a deep breath, Hisagi posed a question to Muguruma.
“Captain, did you know about it? Captain Tōsen…I mean, Tōsen Kaname’s past?”
“…Just a little.”
Even now, Hisagi has a habit of calling Tōsen “captain Tōsen” when he gets worked up.
He understands this is discourteous towards the current captain Muguruma, but no matter what, when it came to Tōsen, it seemed impossible to keep in control of his reasoning power.
Because Muguruma is understanding of that, he couldn’t even blame Hisagi for it.
“I’m not the kind of person who concerns myself with a subordinate’s past or something. So I didn’t inquire that deeply, and even if I didn’t ask, he was able to work in a reliable enough manner… but thinking back on it now, perhaps I should have gotten to the core of things some more.”
“What about the Tsunayashiro noblemen…?”
“All the same, the likes of nobility was not a matter worth worrying about as far as I was concerned. It’s okay if they were like Kyōraku san, Kuchiki or Yoruichi, but ordinary nobles were not ones who wanted to get too close to that bunch.”
Hisagi also knew well about the arrogance and irrationality of the Shinigami noblemen.
If it was arrogance that is somewhat genial in nature like the Omaedas’ then it would be excusable, but the conduct of nobles like that which was seen from the Central 46 not too long ago was outrageous.
Although he had heard that Central 46 had also happened to reform their way of thinking after the war, still, among those who live in Kizokugai*, there were many who openly looked down upon commoners or those who hailed from Rukongai.
(*TN – “Noble Town” i.e. the district within Seireitei where many nobles live, see my WDkALY Part 6 translation for more info.)
“It would’ve been great if they were all like Yoruichi san.”
“…That in its own way will only spell trouble.”
Imagining the figures of a crowd of Yoruichis leaping around Kizokugai, Muguruma knit his eyebrows together in unease, whilst recalling the past he crafted his words.
“Come to think of it, around the time that Byakuya guy was still a brat, whenever Yoruichi would tease him, he’d be furious and he was a delight to be around, but now he’s become completely nobleman-like.”
“It can’t be helped. He is the head of one of the four great noble clans after all.”
“But then Yoruichi would have had the same standpoint too back then…”
As he said that Muguruma picked up a copy of “Seireitei Communication” which was on the desk, he flipped through the pages whilst questioning Hisagi.
“Anyway, you’ve dared to undertake this task huh? Given the circumstances, I think it would have been fine if you had refused and passed the matter off to others in the squad you know?”
"…I was also hesitant when it came to deciding.”
An hour ago - Squad 1 barracks
“…Understood. I will take on this special edition matter.”
“Eh? Really?… You’re fine with it?”
In response to Kyōraku who spoke as if he was surprised, Hisagi gives a firm nod.
“Yes, I am, but I inherited Seireitei Communication from the former editor-in-chiefs like it was my castle…so, whether or not that guy deserves to have a special edition made for him, I will first and foremost collect information on him with my own hands.”
“You talk more boldly than I could’ve imagined… ah… Just so you know, if you’re bringing up the past it’s likely you’re already being watched by the Kinin Noble Assembly*. But I think we can curb the efforts of those belonging to Central 46 one way or another if we ask Nayura chan.” (*TN– they deal with matters relating to the four great noble clans, see WDkALY Part 9 translation)
“No, it’s not the past I’m going to collect information on, but rather the current situation around that man. I will write down exactly what I have observed with integrity, if there are no problems, then please leave the special edition up to me.”
“…You have no personal grudges?”
Kyōraku inquired in a certain manner, as if feeling him out, after a short silence hung between them, Hisagi replied.
“I can’t be certain of whether or not there is some…in any case, to distort an article with my emotions, that in itself would be an insult to captain Tōsen.”
Although he had unintentionally called Tōsen “captain” even here, Nanao only slightly narrowed her eyes and and no one directly pointed the issue out to him.
After watching Hisagi with a serious look in his eye for a short while, he lightly shrugged his shoulders and opened his mouth to speak.
“I see, well then, you’ve been asked to do this. But don’t push yourself too hard. Your addressee is a leader amongst the nobles who operates under a completely different set of principles to we of the Gotei 13. It’s possible that they may meddle with any weak points they see in you the interviewer.”
"I’m prepared for that. I can’t interview cunning Shinigami if I’m afraid of such things.”
“Really? You’d be okay even if a seductive young lady like Rangiku chan used flirtatious means to get what they want?”
“Ehh? You really think I’d be taken in by that kind of thing…?”
A flustered Hisagi turns his attention towards Nanao, but she immediately averts her eyes.
Subsequently, when he turned his face towards Muguruma–
“Well, amongst the vice captains you seem to be second only to Omaeda when it comes to falling into a trap.”
–He said, expressing his impressions quite frankly.
“Second to Omaeda!?”
“That’s right, but Omaeda has money, so perhaps he’s galavanting about the place more than one would expect and is accustomed to flirtatious advances. Then that would mean your actually number one…”
“No, no, not at all! What about the others, such as Renji… the others…?”
He recollected various things that happened in the past – more specifically things like the reactions of both himself and Renji when Kurotsuchi Mayuri once told them “I can perform a Zanpakutō sex change”, he realised there was little difference between them.
“Well, that’s quite enough of that conversation don’t you think! Anyway, you can leave this matter with me!”
“Of course, it’s better to have a certain kind of relaxed attitude. Since it’s pretty tough keeping company with those nobles who do nothing but strain your nerves.”
Realising that those words from just a moment ago were said for the purpose of alleviating his mental strain, Hisagi felt a sense of gratitude towards Kyōraku whilst speaking once again.
“I understand. In the name of Seireitei Communication, please allow me to undertake this task.”
“Yes, do let me know if there’s anything I can assist you with too. However, a captain commander’s job is more hectic than I expected, so I can’t be available at all times.”
“Thank you very much! Err……”
Then, Hisagi remembered.
Questions he had to ask the captain commander personally.
“ ? What’s the matter?”
Responding to Kyōraku who tilted his head in puzzlement, Hisagi broached the subject with a serious look on his face.
“Captain Kyōraku…sorry to change the subject but, there’s one more thing I want to ask you.”
“What would you like to ask me? I hope I can give you an answer.”
“……It’s about captain Ukitake, and Ginjō Kūgo.”
A slight shadow is cast over Kyōraku’s expression and after a brief silence, he opened his mouth to speak.
“I’m at a loss, why ask about that at this point in time I wonder?”
“I met with Ginjō today.”
“! I see… right, there’s no need to worry about him. Regarding his treatment, Ukitake requested to prolong it as much as possible.”
Whilst calling to mind the face of his now deceased dear friend, Kyōraku quietly glanced towards an empty space.
“Captain Ukitake, he……”
“However, that’s because it wasn’t possible to say whether or not he was innocent in all this from outward appearances, in truth, Ukitake tolerated it and adopted a wait and see attitude.”
After displaying a wry smile, Kyōraku then asks Hisagi about the fundamental points.
“So then…did you hear the story from him?”
“Yes, but, I can’t very well listen to and swallow up only one side of the story.”
“You treat such matters seriously huh? I think that’s a good thing, yes.”
After flashing a smile as if he was reassured by Hisagi’s attitude towards his work, Kyōraku released a small sigh whilst he formed his words.
“Be that as it may…will you give me a little time?”
“It appears that Ukitake tried to keep the matter to himself. I too was unable to grasp the whole story. However, with my current position, various things that were ambiguous before can now be cleared up I think. If that happens, it’s possible that Ginjō Kūgo will also be given a pardon of sorts.”
After going as far as to say that, Kyōraku narrowed his one eye.
“…On the flip side, there is also a possibility that a criminal amongst the Shinigami will be uncovered.”
“…Understood. I will wait until then.”
Following that, he was given a short briefing and after obtaining a number of ‘interview permissions’, Hisagi left the 1st division barracks.
As he hurried back towards his own squad barracks, Hisagi thinks over the instructions for the special edition issue once again.
—- Tsunayashiro Tokinada.
Whilst reflecting upon the name that was carved into his mind many times over, he tried to subdue his emotions as he headed towards his squad barracks with an extremely grim looking face —— it was enough to frighten Yamada Hanatarō who he had passed by en route.
Present time - Squad 9 Barracks.
“Oh damn, is that the time? Sorry captain, I have to head out for the interviews.”
“You’re a busy guy huh. Where will you go to next?”
“Squad 11. To those guys Madarame and Yumichika, I’m going to interview those two about the left arm of the Soul King.”
One hour later - Squad 11 Barracks - Resting Area.
“Well… that’s precisely what we saw. If that’s somewhat helpful?”
“In fact, during that battle we were mostly just watching. So it’s a rather tedious matter. Oh, I hate to admit it too much, but Nemu chan’s fight was truly beautiful.”
In response to to Madarame and Yumichika who continued to narrate their rough accounts on the matter, Hisagi knit his eyebrows as he replied.
“So in brief, if I understood you correctly, captain Kurotsuchi was being crazy as usual. Still, I hope Nemu san will be healed without problem…”
“Rather than 'healing’, it seems she’ll have a new body soon. That Akon guy said that a few years later, by crawling around she’ll probably be able to use a certain level of shunpo.”
“That will be a sight to behold.”
Unable to imagine it he tilted his head to the side, but Hisagi didn’t probe too deeply into the subject and decided to ask other questions instead.
“So then, surely captain Kurotsuchi talked about the left arm of the Soul King?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t understand anything at all about that thing…”
Because he had heard rumours surrounding that topic, Hisagi had paid a visit to these two specifically to enquire about the details of the battle.
Hisagi was trying to investigate whether or not there was some kind of connection between the “right arm of the Soul King” that dwelled in captain Ukitake, and the “left arm of the Soul King” that for some reason was in the Wandenreich camp.
A local deity called “Mimihagi sama” dwelled within Ukitake. If it was truly the right arm of the Soul King, why in the world were the arms of the Soul King detached from the body?
Given that this may also affect Ukitake’s honour depending on the circumstances, Hisagi wanted to make a clear distinction between the boundaries of rumour and reality, however – with this interview, the state of affairs started to appear increasingly chaotic.
“That guy, he was changing his manner of speech and had some strange things to say. Like "I have always been a Quincy” for example.“
At the words which had unexpectedly left Yumichika’s mouth, Hisagi reflexively knit his eyebrows together.
“No way, that’s strange. Why is the left arm of Soul King sama Quincy from the beginning? Could it be that somebody amongst the Quincies obtained the left arm of Soul King sama somewhere, and then implanted it within their body like Ukitake san or something?”
“How should I know? It’s not like we could even hear the whole exchange after all.”
“What about you Madarame?”
“I probably can’t explain the reasoning behind things that Yumichika can’t understand. Ask captain Kurotsuchi.”
Although it was a reasonable suggestion, Hisagi could only release a sigh at that.
“I’ve requested permission to collect information on a variety of other subjects, such as the situation with kira…but these past six months he seems to be busy all the time. He rejected any interviews. He says he has a mountain of new research.”
Realising that he was already complaining, Hisagi dropped his shoulders whilst backing-up with his next words.
“Well, that’s mostly because of Seireitei’s restoration and Nemu san so I guess it can’t be helped…”
“You look like you’re having a hard time. You never seemed suited to this line of work to begin with.”
“It’s not a question of being suited or not. Madarame, you too wouldn’t listen to someone who told you "the battle is not suited to you so give up” would you?“
"Right, I would cut the guy down before he could tell me a joke like that.”
Just when he let out a sigh at Madarame’s unsettling reply, Hisagi remembered something.
“Come to think of it, you have a younger sister right? When I investigated the name of the Shinigami who is currently in charge of Karakura Town with the intel I recovered, I was surprised that the name that came up was Madarame.”
“Oh…Shino? I’m not sure if she’s my sister or a cousin. Apparently, on the first day she was dispatched to Karakura Town, she was knocked out by a group of huge Hollows and then rescued by Ichigo, she’s still got a long way to go. It’s just like what I kept telling her, squad 11 is too difficult. She won’t be able to mix in with us tough guys.”
Madarame looked worried despite speaking so bluntly, in response, it was Yumichika who matter-of-factly pointed out the flaws in his argument rather than Hisagi.
“Well, if several large Hollows were your opponents, normally, a novice soldier alone would end up dying even if they were squad 11.”
“…That’s right Madarame. Not everyone is like you or captain Zaraki.”
After his vague interjection, Hisagi cast his eyes down.
The time he was still a pupil at the Shinō Academy sprang into his mind – he was leading the juniors in a training exercise when they were attacked by huge Hollows, that was when he lost his comrade Kanisawa.
At that time, Hisagi was at his wit’s end, the incident was swiftly dealt with when Aizen and Ichimaru Gin who had appeared in the wake of the trouble, defeated the enemies by themselves.
—- I wonder if the person I am today has become as strong as Aizen and Ichimaru was back then…?
Despite thinking that, he still cautioned himself, what he wanted to obtain was not really such strength.
He reaffirmed that since that fight, it was Tōsen who gave him a 'way’ to regard fear in battle —- at the same time, he recalled the name of the man which he had heard from Kyōraku.
The man who was the root cause of Tōsen being led astray.
—- Such a guy is really a clan head of one of the four great noble houses?
“Oi, what’s the matter Hisagi?”
“Huh? Ah, it’s nothing, sorry. I was just thinking about something.”
Coming to his senses at Madarame’s voice, Hisagi scolded himself whilst returning to the subject of the “left arm of the Soul King”.
“Isn’t there someone else who also witnessed that battle? I want to gather as much information as possible.”
“Ah, perhaps, there is someone.”
When Hisagi enquired - thinking that surely there was no other spectators other than Madarame and co. - with his curiosity peaking, Madarame calmly revealed the name of the person in question.
“Yamada should have been lying around nearby. That’s right, the 4th division’s 3rd seat.”
1 hour later - Squad 4 Barracks.
“Well, about that…I was really just paralysed and ended up collapsing that’s all…”
As he tilted his head at Hanatarō who for some reason had a fearful expression on his face, Hisagi began to consider that this trip had been made in vain.
At the time of the battle against the Quincy called Pernida who was apparently the “left arm of the Soul King”, it seems Hanatarō was caught up in Kurotsuchi Mayuri’s Zanpakutō ability and all the muscles in his body were paralysed.
“Anyway, why does it seem like you’re too afraid to look at my face?”
“Eh? No, about that… you were making a grim face earlier on the street, I thought something had put you in a bad mood…”
“…Ah, sorry. I was feeling a little irritated earlier.”
—- I let it show on my face that much?
As he reflected upon himself, Hisagi crafts words in order to dodge the real issue.
“It’s nothing, after this I have to go to Kizokugai to collect information, but I’m not quite sure how to start work on it. I was just a little irritated because of that.”
“That’s right, in brief, I’ve received authorised entry, but the question is from which establishment do I start the interviews… captain Kuchiki and Yoruichi san seem busy. And the procedures surrounding Central 46 and the Noble Assembly are troublesome.”
The latter half of his sentence was no deception but rather a true sentiment.
Although he had obtained permission from Kyōraku to freely enter Kizokugai in order to interview this Tokinada character, it was necessary to acquire separate permissions to collect material on each of the institutions surrounding the nobles.
Hisagi considered it too early to go to the Tsunayashiro clan directly, he intended to begin his investigations in the documents of the Great Spirit Book Gallery which was under the management of Amakado Nayura, however —-
“Well err, if you need someone who is well acquainted with Kizokugai, then I know a person.”
“Ehh? This person is in Squad 4?”
“N-no… not quite but… but he said it’s his day off today, so I think it would be no problem.”
“? Who in the world is it?”
At Hisagi’s question, Hanatarō lowered his head seeming somewhat apologetic, at the same time he replied as if he was lacking in self confidence.
“R-right… it’s Yamada Seinosuke…he’s my older brother… probably. He left just a short while ago, so if he’s not at our family home right now, then he’ll be at the central pharmaceutical institution in Kizokugai I think.”
“Oh! Come to think of it, Yamada was the name of a representative of the Central Pharmaceutical Institution! So he’s actually Hanatarō’s older brother! I remember because he was featured in articles a few times before I became editor-in-chief! ……wait a minute, what do you mean by probably?”
“…My brother, he’s got a talent for Kaidō unlike myself…sometimes I grow doubtful about whether or not we’re truly brothers”
“How can someone like you be worried about something like that…?”
Releasing a sigh Hisagi tries to cheer Hanatarō up.
“Relax. Your reputation for Kaidō is considered top-class even in Seireitei Communication opinion polls you know?”
“……How can…such a thing… huuhh? M-maybe my brother pitied me, and handed out bribes to everyone who voted……I-I’m sorry, I beg your forgiveness!”
“Both you and captain Kotetsu too, why are talented members of the 4th division so negative about themselves…?”
—- Perhaps it’s a reaction to Unohana san being more than twice as powerful as almost any other Shinigami.
Although Hisagi considered such a thing, in his eyes, he could confidently say that Hanatarō’s skill in Kaidō was more than outstanding. Even if the person himself says he has no talent, if he was able to reach his current level just by pushing himself, then it’s safe to say that he has plenty of talent in Kaidō.
In fact, the opinions on Hanatarō that was sent into Seireitei Communication also had some saying that “because he always has a negative expression on his face, we get somewhat uneasy around him”, but for the most part, only when it came to healing did he display a positive stance, and the voices of those who acknowledged that talent and attitude were in the majority.
It was the same after the Great War had ended, far from being timid, he rushed around the scene of the battlefield together with Inoue and others to provide medical treatment, and everyone who saw him acknowledged Hanatarō as a respectable Shinigami.
Hisagi who was one of the people among those who acknowledged him, began to once again consider Hanatarō’s suggestion from earlier.
Meeting the chief of the pharmaceutical Institution in Kizokugai would mean there is an extremely high possibility of being able to detail things such as the interpersonal relationships between the nobles and their reputations. If that’s the case, then there was no way he could let slip the opportunity to secure connections here.
—- well, if he’s Hanatarō’s brother, then he’s surely a friendly person.
Coming to an optimistic conclusion with his carefree speculations, Hisagi decided to accept Hanatarō’s proposal.
“Pardon me, Hanatarō. If it’s alright with you, I’d really appreciate it if you could introduce me to your older brother.”
He remained unaware of the fact that this choice has once again, significantly altered his fate.
Meanwhile at the Squad 1 Barracks.
Around the same time as Hisagi meeting with Hanatarō ——
Even at the 1st division barracks, a reunion drama was unfolding.
“Long time no see, Shunsui. Since I was sent to the Maggot’s Nest I think.”
A large escort had accompanied an important noble to the 1st division barracks – Tsunayashiro Tokinada ordered those people to leave the room so now he was facing the captain commander of the Gotei 13 one-to-one.
“Is that so? At any rate, I heard that you were in a state of house arrest for a few hundred years.”
“It’s a foolish affair. Those guys from the head house tried to humiliate me by making me take responsibility for my crime, so they tried to treat my very being itself as nonexistent. Rather than behaving in such a way, they might as well have given me a formal sentence, like execution or exile. And what is the consequence of hesitating to root out the criminal from their own house? Take a look, that criminal has now taken everything from them.”
If one were to hear those words alone, its contents could be interpreted as something akin to self-mockery.
However, he was talking whilst his whole face was lit up with a smile, Kyōraku could sense that Tokinada was sneering at each and every aforementioned member of the Tsunayashiro clan, from the bottom of his heart.
“…Can I take that as a confession that you conspired to dispose of your family predecessors?”
“Oh my, you’re not serious are you? I was merely being sarcastic you know?”
After giving a strained laugh, Tokinada narrowed his eyes as he spoke.
“However, even if that is the case, I am clan head already. And even if something happens afterwards, I can easily silence it. There won’t be a reduction of penalty like the time I killed my comrade and wife. Rather, I can make it out to be so that the crime itself was completely nonexistent.”
“Would you really be able to pull off such a thing? The current Central 46 are beginning to change their old fashioned ways you know?”
“Nonetheless, aristocrat society itself hasn’t changed. Isn’t that right?”
“Even though everything was being destroyed by that herd of Quincies, and they only had to seclude themselves indoors, the majority of the nobles of Seireitei still couldn’t change. The only ones that have changed are those who have had various experiences out in the world from the very outset, such as you, the Kuchiki clan, the Shihōins and so on. It’s laughable that as many as two houses among the four great noble clans were fighting on the frontline. Though if the Shiba clan were taken into account, then it would have been three houses amongst the five great noble clans.”
The five great noble clans.
The Shiba clan which had completely collapsed in recent years, used to be counted amongst the four great noble clans, the “founding five houses” are said to be connected to the beginnings of Soul Society.
It is also said that Tsunayashiro clan were the leaders amongst the five great noble houses, and aside from the Soul King and squad zero who were in effect isolated from politics, it’s possible to say that they were the most influential voice in existence within Seireitei.
The current head of that very Tsunayashiro clan distorts his lips into a leering smile.
“Naturally, I haven’t changed from the old ways either. The same is true of my resentment towards you, Kyōraku Shunsui.”
“Your resentment is undue. I was merely preventing you from committing evil deeds that’s all.”
“That was a completely unexpected turn in the road. I intended to play the part of an ill-fated husband who was betrayed by both his comrade and his wife whilst remaining undetected by everybody, however… I couldn’t believe it, a man like you who did nothing but chase after women was too sharp-witted for me. Truly, it’s quite admirable how you were the one to expose my crimes.”
With a crooked smile still playing on his lips, Tokinada talked about the past in a dispassionate manner.
“I didn’t expose anything. "He killed his buddy following a dispute, and while he was at it he also killed his wife who rebuked him for it”…… Something like that was the only conclusion I could come to when all the fundamental details were in a grove*.“ (*TN – "in a grove” is a Japanese idiom taken from a story title meaning one is unable to discern the truth because it’s shrouded in mystery/evidence is conflicting or insufficient)
After responding with that, Kyōraku also uttered an 'apology’ of sorts.
“There is one thing I need to apologise to you about.”
“…What? You apologising to me? I don’t think it’s possible but, you’re not going to beg my forgiveness because you exposed my crimes are you?”
Then, after Kyōraku shakes his head a little, he fixes his eyes on the man with the cool demeanour who belonged to one of the four great noble clans.
If the escort of noblemen were still around him whilst he stared at Tokinada with that kind of look, that alone would have them up in arms considering the act 'disrespectful’, in an unconcerned manner Kyōraku then spoke of his own ‘crime’.
“At the time of Rukia chan’s execution scandal… to be honest, until I understood the truth of the matter, I even suspected you just a little. I wondered if you had given her a heavier punishment than what was originally intended by making the necessary preparations in secret from the shadows of Central 46.”
“Dear me, you were on the verge of pinning Aizen’s wrongdoings on me? But why would you think such a thing? I don’t have a motive to force the killing of Kuchiki Rukia do I? I’ve never even met her anyway.”
“When Kuchiki kun took Hisana chan who was a resident of Rukongai as his wife… as well as the time he tried to adopt Rukia chan into the family……it wasn’t just the Kuchikis. The voice of opposition also came from the Tsunayashiro clan. So I thought that if it’s the case that you made those recommendations whilst in the process of reinstating yourself, then it’s possible that you were pulling the strings behind the Tsunayashiro clan.”
“So, I had no reason to make the recommendations in the first place?”
In response to Tokinada who shrugged his shoulders, Kyōraku spoke.
“You don’t need things like reasons. It merely stems from harassment… killing time. And attracting the attention of the nobles.”
“You’ve made it this far through sheer harassment. That’s your true nature isn’t it? Tokinada.”
“Show some self-restraint, Shunsui. Do you really think the likes of a mere Gotei 13 captain commander can talk about me as they please?”
Quite in contrast with his words from just now, Tokinada grinned from ear to ear.
It was as if he was admiring Kyōraku’s speech word for word.
Without returning a smile to him, Kyōraku simply questioned him in an unfazed manner.
“And? What business has brought you all the way here specifically? If you have a complaint against the Gotei 13, I’d be happy to pass it onto the Kinin Noble Assembly or the Central 46 for you.”
“Ah, it’s an uncomplicated matter. I wanted to obtain some contacts.”
“Kuchiki aside, Shihoin Yoruichi cannot be contacted through the aristocratic networks. Even the Kinin Noble Assembly are unable to get a hold of her whereabouts… but, perhaps you know a way to get in touch with that unruly woman?”
As Tokinada said so, he handed over a piece of paper on which he had written his message to Yoruichi.
After receiving it and scanning through it with his eyes, Kyōraku maintained a blank expression as he posed a question to Tokinada.
“She has already handed over her position as clan head to her younger brother Yūshirō… but what are you planning?”
“Nothing at all? I’m merely thinking of putting forward a solemn proposal. For the sake of Soul Society, no, for the sake of harmony in all worlds, the Human World and Hueco Mundo included as well.
Unable to place even a fragment of trust in the words Tokinada had just spat out, Kyōraku grew even more suspicious.
"Really, you came for that alone?”
“In addition to that, I came to see you. Though you’ve already dwindled quite a lot by now, compared to your time at the Shinō Academy. Thanks to you, my resentment has simmered and risen to the surface once again.”
Continuing to flash smile in which one could not discern whether he was being serious or simply joking, Tokinada added one more thing as if he had just remembered something.
“Which reminds me, it seems Ukitake has kicked the bucket?”
“And the right arm of Soul King sama dwelled within his lowly body, I suppose it’s too much of an honour for the undeserving paupers of Rukongai.”
Although Tokinada’s manner of speaking was not dissimilar to a provocation, Kyōraku remained unswayed by it and asked further questions instead.
“Ginjō Kūgo. Do you know that name?”
“…Ah, if I’m not mistaken, he was the first substitute Shinigami. I heard that he’s the mad dog that betrayed Seireitei but, well, thanks to that precedent we were able to gain a hero named Kurosaki Ichigo. It must have been a good bargain from Ukitake’s viewpoint too. But, why ask me about such a man?”
“Nevermind, I was just checking… and, Ukitake’s resolution was never cheap like you think it is.”
When Tokinada heard that, he shrugged his shoulders a second time, as soon as there was nothing more to talk about, he turned his back to Kyōraku.
“There is nothing of great value in this world. Especially in Soul Society where just about everything is a sham.”
After taking a few more steps, he came to a stop once again and cast a glance towards the corner of the captain’s office.
“Oh, just so you know, I truly had nothing to do with the execution of your mother, Ise Nanao.”
“ ──── ”
At the corner of the room, from the depths of the space which to all appearances seemed empty, came the sound of a gasp.
“It’s not like I’m the mastermind behind everything. Anyway, if I had the authority back then… I wouldn’t execute her so quickly. Just like how it was in Kuchiki Rukia’s case, I would play cat and mouse before killing her in a grand performance atop Sōkyoku Hill. And, I’d order Kyōraku to attend with front row seats at the Garden of Judgement*.” (*TN – Mentioned in Bleach Ch. 65, the name of the area atop Sōkyoku Hill where one would gather to witness an execution.)
Flashing a villainous smile towards the vast empty space, Tokinada added more words.
“Just like that time with Kuchiki Rukia, will Kyōraku try to rescue your mother by going as far as to destroy the gallows? Would he go as far as making an enemy out of Seireitei like Kurosaki Ichigo by trying to save her? I’m afraid that’s unlikely to be the case. Kyōraku would forsake your mother. He did forsake her. In order to protect none other than you, Ise Nanao!”
“Would you kindly end your monologue right there? Head of the Tsunayashiro clan, Tokinada sama.”
Although it sounds like a statement made in jest with his usual easygoing manner, Tokinada who was before his eyes sensed Kyōraku’s cold Reiatsu on the back of his insincere honorific language, like he was under a bed of water that had frozen still.
After Tokinada had become aware of that atmosphere and narrowing his eyes in response, he placed his hand on the Zanpakutō attached at his hip as he continued to speak.
“…Good heavens, how frightening. I don’t want to get dragged under a sea of water and have my throat cut up. Allow me to excuse myself for today.”
After confirming that Tokinada had left the squad barracks along with his escort group, Kyōraku walked over to the corner of his captain’s office and lightly brushed his hand through the space there.
Then, the space distorts like cloth, Nanao, whose face had turned pale, materialised from the other side of the scenery which was being lifted up.
Kyōraku encircled his arm around the shoulders of Nanao who was trembling whilst washed in a cold sweat, she was engulfed in the warmth of his Reiatsu which made her feel safe.
“Are you okay, Nanao chan?”
“Y-yes…I’m sorry, captain.”
“Oh my, not even I could notice you eavesdropping, you’ve grown up fast haven’t you. Is this Lisa chan’s influence?”
Perhaps he was trying to put her mind at ease by making her remember a familiar face and that’s why he mentioned Yadōmaru Lisa’s name, his former vice captain and a person who is currently being regarded as a candidate for captain of squad 8.
Perceiving Kyōraku’s concern, Nanao used her willpower to regain control over her breathing.
“Did he scare you? He gives you such a feeling because he emits quite a creepy Reiatsu doesn’t he?”
“…In the past, when I was exposed to former captain commander Yamamoto’s Reiatsu, I was unable to even move…but in that man’s case, it’s completely different in nature.”
If it’s the case that she was a frog being glared at by a snake when she was faced with Yamamoto Genryusai’s wrath, then in her self-analysis, just now, she was the one that appeared to be the snake that has been made to dissolve into a slithering slug. (TN– The frog being glared at by a snake is a Japanese idiom meaning one is paralysed on the spot, it has the same nuance as “a deer in the headlights” idiom in English.)
Before she could even get aggravated by the fact that he had used both herself and her mother as tools in order to denigrate Kyōraku, a deep and bottomless feeling of eeriness was gnawing away at Nanao’s heart.
Whilst harbouring fear of this mysterious character in addition to the fact that he had the ability to see through her own Injūtsu* (*Concealing art) that not even Kyōraku could notice, Nanao opened her mouth to speak with a slight tremble that remained in her voice.
“Captain…I am against such a man… becoming a head amongst the four great noble clans.”
As he pondered 'when was the last time she spoke about things relating to personal matters with personal feelings’, Kyōraku quietly looks up at the sky.
“Regarding that matter, I agree completely.”
Next, reflecting upon the man’s request to contact Yoruichi, Kyōraku mutters to himself.
“Things have become troublesome huh… very much so.”
CAN’T FEAR YOUR OWN WORLD Part 7 Full Translation
Soul Society - Kizokugai
“…No matter how many times I come here, I’ll never get used to walking around Kizokugai.”
In the eastern end of the 6th sector, Kizokugai is lined with mansions belonging to noblemen, high class ryōtei*, and establishments catering exclusively to nobles. (*Fancy, traditional Japanese restaurant.)
At the heart of Kizokugai, Hisagi releases a small sigh whilst heading towards the central block where commoners cannot enter unless they obtain formal permission or an invitation from a noble.
Responding to Hisagi, Hanatarō posed a question.
“You’ve come here a few times then?”
“That Ōmaeda guy invited me to dine with him, along with Abarai. After all, it’s impossible for me to come here to a ryōtei street alone on my salary.”
“I-impossible even on a vice captain’s salary…it’s really that bad…?”
“Oh…well, that’s because I use most of my salary on ordering things like Gasoline or guitars from the Human World… I only have a bit of money…”
Hisagi replied self-consciously.
He ordered a ‘Reishi-fied’ motorbike and guitar, amplifiers and electric generators to accompany it, fuels to work them, all from the Human world, in so doing, he paid a considerable amount of money as a 'Reishi-fication’ fee to Urahara Shop.
As a result, and despite being in the position of vice captain, his wages had practically disappeared due to transactions with Urahara Shop, but it seems he still had no intention of giving up his hobby of motorcycles and guitars, even now.
“Even though he’s a fellow vice captain, it’s rumoured that Ōmaeda has his own gem mining business. Indeed, it’s true what they say, money attracts money.” (TN – Alluding to the Ōmaedas’ business dealings with the wolf clan/Jewelry business, see WDkALY part 9)
The pair chatted away whilst walking on, however, Hisagi’s feet suddenly came to a stop, he turned his attention to a noticeably grand structure which could be seen in the distance.
“What’s the matter, Hisagi san?”
“No…I was just thinking, that’s the Tsunayashiro mansion isn’t it…?”
Ahead of their sightlines stood an extravagant mansion, its roof which was far taller than the surrounding buildings is spread wide.
Aside from some facilities, Soul Society is generally less inclined to build tall building structures making it a set of community developments reminiscent of a city during the Heian period in Japan rather than downtown high-rise areas like in the Human World.
Although it’s the same in Kizokugai, the architectural style of the Tsunayashiro mansion appeared as if it was looking down on the estates belonging to the other nobles, and despite the fact that squad 6 and the Kuchiki clan were the wardens of the entire sector, it almost appeared as if the Tsunayashiro mansion was insisting that it was they who were in fact the rulers of this neighborhood.
“Ah, it appears you’re right, it seems like their clan are the leaders amongst the four great noble houses doesn’t it? It’s built on a spot that’s directly opposite to the Kuchiki clan.”
Whilst thinking that he may end up having to go to that place sooner or later in order to 'collect information’, at the same time he also considered that an outsider like himself probably won’t be allowed entry.
At the very least, the atmosphere around the Tsunayashiro mansion did not feel openly inviting like the Ōmaeda family at all, rather it exudes an atmosphere that seemed even harder to probe into than that of the Kuchiki clan who were practically like the embodiment of the word 'strict’.
Hisagi continued to walk whilst fixing a sharp look at the mansion for a short while, but then Hanatarō raised his voice as if he had noticed something.
“Ah, I can see it. That over there is the Central Pharmaceutical Institution. Although, I haven’t even been here since the time I went to celebrate my brother’s inauguration…”
“…This is built more extravagantly than the squad 1 barracks, don’t you think…?”
Whilst embracing such a thought, Hisagi also harboured another Impression.
“How should I put it… the atmosphere is somewhat similar. But the outward appearance is completely different…”
“Eh…? T-To what?”
Overpowered by the serious look on Hisagi’s face, Hanatarō enquired whilst breaking into a cold sweat.
Then, whether or not he completely understood it even himself, Hisagi opened his mouth to speak appearing to lack in self-confidence somewhat.
“…The 12th division’s Department of Research and Development.”
Squad 12 - Department of Research and Development.
“Can you point out the most important facility within Seireitei?”
When asked that question, most nobles and commoners alike would indicate to the places associated with Central 46 or the name of an institution within the governmental district, but many amongst the active Shinigami would speak about one of the following three.
Firstly, the squad 1 barracks, as well as being the general headquarters of the Gotei 13, it is also the fortress that accommodates “Muken” in its basement, the lowest level of the Central Great Underground Prison.
Next, the 4th division’s relief station where many of those who were injured were transported to. Previously there were numerous relief specialists from the 4th division who were looked down upon, however as many Shinigami narrowly escaped death after battling with the Quincies, now there was practically nobody who underestimated them.
And finally, the Department of Research and Development which is under the management of squad 12.
It’s said that ninety percent of the advanced Reishi technology currently being handled within Seireitei is born out of this Research and Development Institute, Urahara Kisuke, its founder, and Kurotsuchi Mayuri, its second president, were said to be entities who were inseparable from the very history of Soul Society itself.
However, obviously it’s not like it’s only the president that works here.
A multitude of researchers were at the forefront for the advancement of civilisation, sometimes under the instructions of the president, sometimes at the request of the Shinigami, and sometimes simply continuing to exhibit shrewdness for their own interests - a beacon of hope that rapidly settles the various impossible demands of the Soul Society - that was the place they called the Department of Research and Development.
Even today, a new impossible demand stood in their way.
“Hmph! I’m hungryy~! Hungry, hungry hungry~! Nicorun, snacks~! Give me snacks~! I want to eat castella*~! Something that contains a heap of sugar~!” (*TN – a type of Japanese sponge cake.)
Kuna Mashiro the self-proclaimed “squad 9 super vice captain” was noisily flapping her hands and feet around like a child on the floor of the Department of Research and Development.
A female technician who was wearing glasses – Kuna Nico – addressed her as if scolding a child. (TN – Nico is short for Nicorun)
“You ate the snacks yesterday didn’t you, Mashiro onee-chan.”
“No fair, no fair, no fair~! I have to eat some everyday~! You also have to give me otoshidama* every year~!” (*New year’s gifts, usually in the form of money given to children)
“It’s pointless, onee-chan! I also gave you otoshidama this year already so next year you won’t be getting any!”
Watching as Nico scolded her saying “enough” and Mashiro who continued to throw a tantrum, even starting to roll around on the floor let alone flapping her hands and feet about, a man who had horn like protrusions on his forehead – Akon the vice president of the Department of Research and Development – muttered to himself as if he was exasperated.
“Well… it doesn’t even matter if you give Otoshidama every year does it.”
“Or rather, should the younger sister be giving otoshidama to an older sister of that age…?”
Next to him was a man whose outward appearance looked like a cross between a Namazu* (* a giant mythological catfish) and a temple bell – Hiyosu – after also muttering to himself, he released a sigh seemingly astounded as he continued to speak.
“Just when I thought Miss. Kusajishi would stop coming here, it seems it’s come to be that we have her replacement instead…”
Hearing that whilst continuing his keystrokes on the nearby observation equipment, technological development staff member Tsubokura Rin groaned with a heavy sigh.
“This place is cursed, isn’t it…”
As he says so, he reaches his hand out to a space that is seemingly empty.
Then, he stealthily took out some sweets from the small hole that had opened up above that space.
“So in the end, your sweets were being hidden away in that artificial subspace huh…”
“This guy is also a member of the Department of Research and Development after all.”
Akon who replied emotively in response to Hiyosu’s words, looked at Mashiro who still continued her riot on the floor, he then opened his mouth to speak as if remembering something.
“That reminds me, an interview request was submitted to the captain again, from the real vice captain of squad 9. But it was swiftly rejected.”
“If that’s the case, why don’t you answer the vice captain’s questions instead?”
“Even if you say that, what answers can I……”
“Huh? I’m getting some kind of weird feedback!”
Interrupting Akon’s dialogue, Rin points out the abnormality on his monitor.
Confronted with that feedback, Akon leaned forward in curiosity and continued to observe for a short while, he then knit his eyebrows together ever so slightly whilst addressing Rin.
“…ah, that is something we can disregard.”
“Is that so? But, this is some unusual Reishi, without even using a gate, it’s made a direct appearance in Kizokugai…”
“It’s fine. That Reishi pattern. It’s something that has a "no interference required” directive against it personally issued from within the four great noble clans. That’s why the alarms didn’t even ring… Of course the captain is certainly not satisfied with this, I’ll probably have to keep monitoring it independently.“
Despite answering in an unconcerned manner, Akon frowned as he watched the numerical values of that Reishi pattern.
"Compared to what I observed in Kizokugai few hours ago, this Reiatsu has depleted by a significant amount… what the hell happened?”
Central Pharmaceutical Institution - Waiting Room.
"…Incredible. Everything including the furnishings, it’s just like a nobleman’s estate in itself don’t you think… is this place truly a waiting room for patients?”
Hisagi and Hanatarō were currently standing by in the Pharmaceutical Institution’s waiting room.
It appeared that Yamada Seinosuke was away from his workstation right now, but they were to wait as he would return soon. Today was apparently his day off from general medical examinations, and with the exception of emergency cases, it seems he was not receiving anyone, however when Hanatarō gave his name at the reception desk he was met with a polite response and shown into this room where they were presently waiting.
Although there was also a formal guest room, he thought he would lose his nerves even being brought into a room used for important nobles, so they were invited into the waiting room at Hisagi’s suggestion.
“P-perhaps, I think that even all this is considered the bare minimum. My brother, he dislikes pointlessly decorating things, so I think this is probably just the demands of the noble people.”
“So in other words, even the room in which they wait for a medical examination must be extravagant or else they can’t stomach it. It’s a drag isn’t it, this so called aristocratic vanity.”
“But captain Kuchiki doesn’t seem to pay too much attention to vanities does he?”
“You say that but, doesn’t captain Kuchiki have that piece of cloth he used to wear around his neck? Apparently one of those is worth around ten stately mansions.”
At Hisagi’s words, Hanatarō raised his voice in surprise as his eyes remained partly open.
“I didn’t know at first either, but I happened to hear about it when I was collecting information for a special feature on well established shops… I wonder how many motorbikes one of those hair ornaments of his are worth… hn?”
Hisagi was just releasing a sigh at the difference in financial standing between himself and the nobles, but then he suddenly lifted his face up, he turned his attention in the direction of the Pharmaceutical Institution’s courtyard which was adjacent to the waiting room.
“What’s wrong, Hisagi san?”
When Hanatarō tilted his head in puzzlement, Hisagi replied whilst narrowing his eyes.
“No it’s just… there seems to be some sort of weird Reiatsu…”
As he said so with a glare fixed on the courtyard —— all of a sudden, that space opens up like the jaws of a beast.
It was no gate the Shinigami would use. Cracks similar to a Garganta used by Hollows were produced in the space, from within that a single figure emerged.
—- A Hollow attack!?
—- Inside the Shakonmaku!?
He stood up straight despite being in shock, but then he realised he was currently not carrying a Zanpakutō at his waist.
At present, there were no war-time special exceptions in operation, even if one held the position of vice captain, carrying a sword was prohibited in several places, inside the Pharmaceutical Institute was one of them.
Hisagi considered that he would need to run over to the reception desk and retrieve his Zanpakutō which he had left with them, but his feet stopped when he looked at the true form of the figure that had just appeared.
It was a youngster wearing clothes similar to a Shihakushō and it appears the child’s whole body was covered in injuries.
“That’s not a Hollow… a Shinigami? They’re terribly injured!”
“T-this is serious! If I don’t give medical treatment right away…!”
Hanatarō set off in a hurry towards the courtyard where he then came to a stop.
There, an androgynous youngster impossible to characterise as either a girl or boy, the child’s shoulder tips were severely mutilated, holes had pierced several places on the child’s abdomen, and one arm was twisted back into an irregular position.
Rather than describing it as wounded head to toe, looking at the youngster’s condition, it wouldn’t be surprising to mistake the child for a corpse even if it was still standing and walking - Hanatarō immediately hovered his hands over the openings to those wounds, activating healing Kidō known as Kaidō
The child drops to both knees on the spot and distorts their face seemingly in pain.
“It’s okay, I will close up those wounds at once! Can your hear my voice?!”
The usually timid Hanatarō was like a different person, his voice echoed across the courtyard as he tried to vigorously encourage the youngster.
However – as the child shook its head from side to side looking sorrowful, its eyes welled up with tears and it opened its mouth to speak.
“It’s pointless, I can’t go on any longer…”
“Such a thing, why would you–”
“I, I was unable to carry out Tokinada sama’s commands… life, life isn’t worth living anymore, please just let me die here…!”
“You must be confused… it’s alright! Please, try to pull yourself together!”
Hanatarō frantically said so whilst continuing Kaidō, behind him however, Hisagi’s body tensed.
—- Just now…what did…?
—- …Did that kid just say, “Tokinada sama”?
Before Hisagi who was bewildered at the name that had just left the child’s mouth, Hanatarō looked anxious for other reasons.
—- this Reiatsu… it’s continuously changing!?
—- I cannot close up these wounds with my Kaidō alone…!
Deciding that continuing on like this was perilous, Hanatarō cried out to Hisagi.
“Hisagi san! Please call a Pharmaceutical Institute staff member quickly! We’ll move the patient into an emergency treatment room!”
Hisagi had come to his senses at Hanatarō’s voice, but as soon as he turned on his heel ——
There on the spot he had turned to look, stood a man.
“……!? Are you a staff member here!? We have an injured person…”
Before Hisagi could even finish talking, that man calmly started to approach the bloodstained youth, lining himself up beside Hanatarō, he placed his hands over the wounds.
“Indeed, your efficiency in Kaidō has improved. However, this patient is a bit of a special case. You won’t be able to heal them alone.”
Looking at the person who has appeared beside him, Hanatarō’s eyes widened as he raised his voice in surprise.
Subsequently, Hisagi’s eyes also opened wide.
A man with a sharp look in his eyes and a self-possessed demeanour, one would be completely unable to associate his image with Hanatarō in any way, shape or form.
This man – paying no heed to the surprise of the other two, Seinosuke continued to proceed with his medical treatment whilst skillfully changing the nature of the Reiatsu in his own Kaidō.
Then, the wounds began to heal in an instant and the bleeding had visibility halted.
Observing that scene, Hisagi’s breath was taken away.
Even from the viewpoint of Hisagi who has grown accustomed to receiving medical treatment, he could understand that the man’s Kaidō level was in a completely different league in comparison to that of the ordinary members of the 4th division.
—- He’s far from Hanatarō… this guy… could it be that he may even be on par with Unohana san…?
Although it’s still no match for Inoue Orihime’s “rejection of events”, at the extraordinary talent for Kaidō that was being displayed before his eyes, Hisagi marveled about whether this was truly the power that belonged to the chief of the Central Pharmaceutical Institution.
Only the youngster being healed showed no signs of improvement in their countenance whilst undergoing the Kaidō treatment.
“…oh, Yamada san. I’m already a lost cause. Please don’t heal me…!”
“I don’t like the sound of that. I prefer keeping a patient who is eager to die, alive against their will. Since I won’t let you die so easily, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself while you still can. Prepare to live with that dishonour.”
“I can’t face Tokinada sama…! Please just let me rot here like this…!”
“That’s out of the question, after all, you are the property of Tsunayashiro Tokinada are you not? If you were to die here of your own accord, then Tsunayashiro Tokinada would be unable to forgive you for such a thing don’t you think?”
At the words of the chuckling Seinosuke, the child opened its eyes wide and gave a grunt.
Hisagi and Hanatarō were dumbfounded by that exchange, when the youngster’s wounds were closed up, it began to rise and slowly move.
“…Thank you very much, Yamada san. I almost committed an unforgivable act of disloyalty to Tokinada sama…”
looking at the disheartened youngster, Hisagi noticed something.
The suffering this child displayed just a moment ago did not originate from the pain caused by its injuries, but rather from anguish at the simple fact that it had failed in its duties to the man named Tokinada.
—- Does this kid… even feel… things like pain to begin with?
Hisagi who had just undergone this strange sensation, was at a loss as to how exactly he should engage in conversation with them, however in that moment it was Yamada Seinosuke who started to talk instead.
“I’ve given the patient emergency treatment for the time being, however full-scale medical treatment is still required, I’m sorry that you’ve been made to come on this errand for nothing, but can I ask you to reschedule this for another day? Lieutenant Hisagi Shūhei dono?”
It seems the reception desk had already contacted Seinosuke about both himself and Hanatarō.
Although he realised it was impossible to try and proceed with today’s interview since he was told so by name, there was still something pressing on his mind spurring him on, with a strong tone of voice Hisagi posed his questions.
“Hey, that kid, why are they injured like that? What kind of connection do they have with Tsunayashiro Tokinada!?”
Then, rather than Seinosuke, the injured youngster who began to walk forward was the one to reply with an unexpected smile on its face.
“You mean me? I am Tokinada sama’s retainer!”
“… you’re, his ’retainer’…?”
A perplexed Hisagi turns his attention to Seinosuke, but he flashed a wicked smile as he opened his mouth to speak.
“Sorry but, as a medical professional, I cannot disclose a patient’s personal information.”
“Please wait, also as the vice captain of squad 9, there’s a heap of things I want to ask you. Firstly, bringing this child to the scene of a battle, that Tokinada guy, what is he thinking…”
As a Shinigami of the Gotei 13, there were many matters he simply could not ignore, such matters include the fact that this child had emerged from within some Garganta-like thing, or those serious injuries said child had received.
Moreover, this Shinigami called Hikone did not even appear matured, with a figure which was still that of a child’s much like Hitsugaya, and it seemed as if the child’s age would probably match its outward appearance too.
Even if this was a matter connected to the four great noble clans, looking at the bigger picture here, if a man was to turn a blind eye to an injured child, Hisagi probably wouldn’t even be in the position of vice captain today.
However, the instant he went to reach his hand out to Seinosuke’s shoulder in an attempt to hold him back ——
Hisagi’s world rotated around him in a half spin, he realised he was now looking up at the sky of Soul Society.
Perceiving the fact that he had apparently been thrown down to the floor by Hikone who seized his hand from the side, Hisagi opened both of his eyes wide.
Hikone’s voice resounded from overhead, down towards Hisagi.
“Uh, s-sorry! I actually thought that Yamada san was in danger…”
“But, if you are able to understand that in this way I… Ubuginu Hikone, will have the power to fight for Tokinada sama, then I’d appreciate it! Okay!”
He was unable to discern whether or not he could read the mood in the things Hikone was blurting out, but Hisagi’s thoughts were also captured in deep confusion.
—- Hey, wait a minute…
—- Just now… what did that kid do to me?
Although this was a surprise attack, he still prides himself on the considerable amount of varied experiences he’s accumulated amongst the Shinigami.
Nonetheless, coming from the Shinigami that introduced itself as Hikone a moment ago, he could feel a flow of Reishi which was different from any Hollow, Shinigami, or Quincy he had battled in the past.
—- It’s different from any guy I’ve met in battle so far…no…
—- This sensation… it’s somewhat similar to the time my Reiryoku was absorbed by that Zanpakutō Ayasegawa has…
Although he had faced defeat against it only once, Hisagi who had received such an attack did not feel the slightest bit of pain, instead he had fallen into this sensation as if every possible “power” such as his spiritual power, or his physical power and his will power, had all completely dissipated.
Hisagi stared up at the sky in a daze.
Watching him, Yamada Seinosuke shook his head, a smile still on his face.
“This place is the domain of the nobles. As long as there are no wartime special exceptions, the principles of the Gotei 13 don’t apply here. If common practice is generally praised as good sense, then I think it’s better that you never set foot in this place.”
Then, Seinosuke turns to face Hanatarō.
“I will tell you again, Hanatarō. Take some time away from the squad for a while.”
Along with a smile that held a touch of self-ridicule, Seinosuke shrugged his shoulders and continued talking.
“If you don’t want to get dragged any further into matters such as this.”
As Hisagi got up, he began to ask a question at the backs of the two people who were about to leave.
“Hey… I don’t know anything about the circumstances at all but… is this Tokinada guy really worth serving under to the point where you’d get injured in such a way?”
In response, the child turned its head to look in his direction —— said child replied, smiling with its whole face almost making it appear as if the youngster wasn’t just on the verge of death.
“Of course! Tokinada sama is a wonderful person! There is nothing worthy enough that can compare, not even the extent of my own life!”
The youngster continued even further at Hisagi who wasn’t quite sure how to respond.
“Also… Tokinada sama told me he will let me become king! So I must repay that kindness by staking my life for him for the rest of my lifetime!”
Looking at the suspicion on the faces of both Hisagi and Hanatarō, Seinosuke gave a strained laugh whilst addressing the child.
“Did Tsunayashiro Tokinada inform you it would be okay to just casually tell others about that?”
After tilting its head slightly to one side like some small animal, the child’s face instantly turns pale.
“…? …. …! Uh- ahhh! I didn’t say anything just now! Please forget about it! Your kindness Mr… err… pardon me, but your names are…?”
“S-sure. I’m Hisagi Shūhei. And this is Yamada, Yamada Hanatarō.”
“I see! With your kindness Hisagi san, Hanatarō san! Please be sure to forget about my business! But, I won’t forget this favour! When I become king someday, I will repay this favour properly!”
After continuing to laugh in a strained manner, Seinosuke departed towards a medical treatment room taking the youngster along with him, Hisagi held doubts about whether or not the incident from just a moment ago was all a dream, but the child’s blood which stained the courtyard was a clear indicator that this was indeed the current reality.
“That was baffling… what the hell just happened…?”
At the same time, Hanatarō is dumbfounded as he mutters to himself.
“My brother’s emergency treatment is truly amazing but… for a person to even be able to walk with their own strength right away in such a state of injury…”
Next to Hisagi who was in deep thought over something, Hanatarō recalled the people he had treated in the past, and spontaneously spoke these names.
“It is just like captain Zaraki or Ichigo san…”
Hikone’s body was lying on a medical table inside the emergency treatment room. The child’s internal nervous system had become a complete mess, it almost seemed like an illusion that this youngster was chatting with a smile on its face only a short while ago.
Whilst carrying out the treatment in a detached manner, Seinosuke mutters to himself before an unconscious Hikone.
“Good grief, it seems the Hollows didn’t go easy on you, but this was also within the plan wasn’t it… well, either way I won’t let you die.”
Seinosuke made use of the Kaidō which set him apart from the ordinary person and at the same time he displayed a smile, as if to conceal his true feelings.
“Even if there is not a shred of hope for this child’s life.”
“…It was quite the flashy showdown huh.”
An Arrancar who had arrived late at the scene chasing after Harribel – Cyan Sung-Sun one of the “Tres Bestias”, opened her mouth to speak when she saw the devastation in the desert.
The bodies of skull masked soldiers reaching the tens of thousands, pitifully littered the surroundings, Rudbornn who had apparently created them also had a large gash on his body, and was in a state of dying.
“…Your blood vessels and nerves have all been connected. Please rest until your Reiatsu is recovered.”
An Arrancar healer who arrived late much like the Tres Bestias – whilst receiving Roca Paramia’s medical treatment, Rudbornn releases a groan in a weak voice.
“Understood… But, I am extremely ashamed… not only did I inconvenience Harribel sama and the others, but I actually exposed myself to be such a disgraceful sight…”
Looking at Rudbornn, as well as Loly and Menoly who were similarly injured and receiving treatment, and then the several huge Hollows in the vicinity who had gotten caught up in the battle now collapsed on the ground, one of the other Tres Bestias Emilou Apacci raised her voice.
“Ha, you are truly pathetic Rudbornn. I heard that you were mowed down by some Quincy survivors, and then beaten up by some strange Shinigami brat who had burst onto the scene?”
“Humph… even if I wanted to deny it, I can’t.”
Listening to Rudbornn’s pained voice, Franceska Mila Rose, also one of the Tres Bestias, opens her mouth to talk.
“Well, in the end, Harribel sama drove them away right? Honestly, do those goddamned Shinigami look down on Hueco Mundo as a sort of tourist attraction or something?”
Then, Harribel shook her head with eyes that were somewhat sombre.
“It wasn’t with my power alone. Without the assistance of Grimmjow, Nelliel… and those Quincies, there was even a possibility that we might have been annihilated… we may come to regret letting this individual escape.”
“Huuuh!? What are you saying Harribel sama! Even if it’s a Shinigami, it was only one person right!? Could it be some sort of freak, like that old fart who could manipulate fire!?”
Harribel shook her head at Apacci who questioned her whilst in shock.
“The individual’s physical strength and Reiatsu were certainly comparable to a captain class Shinigami. When it comes to their physical abilities alone, it may even have rivaled the ice user I once fought against.”
“So then, did they intentionally send in a captain rank Shinigami to Hueco Mundo?”
At Sung-sun’s question, Harribel speaks words of denial.
“No, this individual is too inexperienced for that to be the case. That’s why we were even able to catch them off guard. However… I am very concerned about the Zanpakutō which was in that person’s possession…”
“What kind of Zanpakutō was it?”
Harribel pondered on this for a short while – before even mentioning the form and nature of this Zanpakutō, she stated one fact first.
“It wasn’t that Shinigami who opened a Garganta… but rather the Zanpakutō.”
In a spot slightly further away from where Harribel was conversing with her subordinates, Nelliel questioned Grimmjow who was staring at the empty space where the Shinigami had disappeared.
“Don’t you need to get Roca chan to heal you?”
“Huh? This thing, It’s just a scratch.”
Disregarding the deep gash on his left arm, Grimmjow clicked his tongue whilst thinking back on the battle from earlier.
“I’ve even lost my edge, I missed the chance to kill it in my Resurrección state.”
“Yeah, there’s no way a Zanpakutō could become aware of that child’s crisis and act of it’s own free will. One could clearly see it opened up a Garganta and let the child fall into it.”
“It doesn’t make any sense. A Shinigami Zanpakutō acting of its own accord, and making use of a Garganta of all things.”
Nelliel did not seem to have an answer for that either, after some reflection, she spoke.
“The next time they come here, things may not be like they were this time around.”
“Right, this will allow me to become stronger through battle. I don’t particularly care, but you lot, from your points of view, it was a failure that you didn’t put an end to the brat’s life.”
After giving a contemptuous laugh, Grimmjow’s smile vanished, with a serious expression he was reminded of the face of his rival, his back teeth made a creaking sound as be ground them together.
“I really do hate to say this, but… in this way, I’m the same type as Kurosaki. Each time we have a narrow escape from death, it’s like we’re born again but stronger.”
“Well… other than that detail, I feel we’re completely different.”
A certain place in the Human world.
Ancient stone ruins in a certain small country.
Within those decaying ruins which were reminiscent of some sort of temple, two Quincies and one corpse were hiding.
“If we were going to end up running away, wouldn’t it have been easier to just run away from the very beginning? Hey Lil, why did you even bother to take advantage of the confusion and attack that Shinigami?”
At Gigi’s teasing words, Lil replies with her usual poker face.
“There was something I wanted to check. You noticed it too right?”
“Yeah, I even sprinkled some spurts of blood on that kid, but I wasn’t able to turn it into a zombie huh? I wonder what’s going on? Is it that this kid is as strong as a captain rank?”
“Not only that.”
When Lil said so, she recalled catching the Shinigami off guard shooting an arrow at it, and then she remembered the sight of that arrow as it was repelled.
“That kid… it wasn’t just using an Arrancar’s Hierro. It was also using the Quincy Blut Vene.”
“Are you kidding me!?… Really?”
It is an ability unique to Quincies which dramatically enhances one’s defence power by circulating Reishi inside the blood vessels, and alongside Blut Arterie which enhances one’s capability for attack, it is the underlying power of soldiers belonging to the Wandenreich.
“Why is a Shinigami able to use it? They can’t be that cunning can they? Perhaps this the doing of that dazzling weirdo?”
“Perhaps. It’s possible that various Quincy bodies have been tampered with. The question is why.”
“The kid was saying something about becoming the king of Hollows. Was their goal some sort of rebellion like with that Aizen guy?”
Whilst gently stroking Bambietta’s head whose eyes were shut seemingly tired, Gigi offered her carefree response.
However, Lil accepted her response, with her usual composed expression she uttered troubling words.
“If the Shinigami are killing each other because of internal disputes, then everything will work out as desired for us.”
“But I hope we can still retrieve Candi and Meni in the midst of all the chaos over there.”
A few days later - Rukongai.
That day – As Ginjō Kūgo wandered around Rukongai, a strange crowd caught his eye.
“…hn? What the heck is going on?”
There, several men were causing a commotion, as if they were frantically petitioning for something.
“Hey, what the hell happened?”
When he asked the Rukongai dwellers who he’d occasionally encounter, the other party even tilted their heads like they didn’t quite understand.
“Oh, those fresh dead guys who have recently arrived in Rukongai are making a damn racket. Their Gods were right, soon a new world will begin for them and whatnot.”
“What’s this, religionists?”
One of the troubles caused by inhabitants who have just arrived in Rukongai is the confusion that occurs from the disparities between religious views they had faith in during their time in the Human World and the actual world of life after death.
Some amongst religious cult members get caught up in rage and say “I’m supposed to go to heaven, a sorry place like this, there’s no mistaking that this phony world was created by the devil,” consequently, it could be said that one of the roles of the people already living here is also to soothe and humour them.
“No, this isn’t the same as usual. I heard them saying "this world is exactly as the kyouso* sama described” (*founder of a religious sect), they seem to already understand and in quite some detail too about things such as Rukongai and Seireitei. And yet, I have no clue why they’re still kicking up a fuss, saying stuff like “a new leader and a new world will come” or whatever.“
"…Oh? That’s quite interesting.”
Is it that a Shinigami who was dispatched to the Human World, happened to spill the beans about everything to a spiritually aware religionist who then spread that as their dogma?
Whilst speculating as such, Ginjō approached the crowd seeing as he had time to kill.
Then, one person amongst the crowd took notice of his attire and spoke up.
“Ah! H-hey, that brother over there! Judging from the clothes you’re wearing, you must have come here recently right!? If that’s the case, perhaps this brother also knows about our religion!?”
“…Sorry but, I’m not interested in canvassing faith.”
As he thought about the fact that this was not a line he was able to say when he was a former substitute Shinigami (TN – since being a substitute Shinigami entails the need to reassure bewildered spirits about an afterlife in SS), Ginjō decided to listen to what the others had to say however – –
In the next moment, Ginjō was shaken to the core when he heard the words that jumped out of the man’s mouth.
“Our commercial message has even been broadcast on TV for the last few months after all, so you ought to know it, it’s 'XCUTION’ ! えくすきゅーしょん*！(*ekusukyuushon!)”
“……What did you say?”
Hearing that name, Ginjō noticeably drew his eyebrows together in unease.
—- What’s this all about?
It is the name of the Fullbringer organisation Ginjō once established in the Human World.
It’s easy to think that they had simply adopted this name by chance.
However, it is hard to imagine that it’s mere coincidence when it comes to this group who apparently know a great deal about the Shinigami.
—- It’s unlikely that Yukio, Riruka or Jackie would spread such things.
—- …Be that as it may, right now, even if I wanted to investigate, I can't…
Although Ginjō thought as such, he realises that he was now losing sight of ‘what he should be doing’.
Then, the raging flames from when he was still alive reignited in his chest just a little.
—- There’s nothing I can do anyway.
—- But perhaps I should try playing detective, just a bit.
After pondering for a moment, he addressed these “XCUTION followers” with a friendly smile.
“Sorry, I died some time before that. However, you’ve peaked my interest somewhat. Will you allow me to listen to what you have to say about your Kyouso sama just a while?”
He was not yet aware at this point in time.
About the fact that he was already getting dragged into the strife of Soul Society which was enshrouded in secrecy.
And also the fact that a bow was being drawn at the “Fullbringers” from a completely unforeseen direction.
The Department of Research and Development.
“Fullbringers. Now that I have exhausted my research into both Shinigami and Quincies, as well Arrancar, it is they who will become the very trigger for the cultivation of new technology… that, I am certain of.”
“This time around, we’re going back to the basics of the Department of Research and Development now aren’t we?”
In front of the tense looking researchers, there was one man who seems to be enjoying himself as he talked about his new 'area of research’.
It is the man who serves in concurrent posts as the president of the Department of Research and Development, and as the captain of squad 12 – Kurotsuchi Mayuri.
“The targets are three 'Fullbringers’ confirmed to be hiding out in Rukongai. Under normal circumstances, it would be no problem to have just one specimen, but Fullbringers have a great manner of differences in abilities depending on the individual. Much like our Zanpakutōs, or the Schrift power used by some Quincies.”
“Captain, between the three of them, it’s true that one is a criminal, and the other two fought against Kurosaki Ichigo as well as captain Kuchiki and so on, but there is an official notice from captain commander Kyōraku to wait-and-see…”
At the words of one of the department’s staff members, Mayuri emphatically shrugs his shoulders as he shook his head.
“Does it have something to do with analysing whether or not they’re guilty? It’s better if they can obediently devote themselves to Soul Society’s technological advancement, then I suppose it wouldn’t be not too much of an ask to plead for their pardon with the Central 46 from my very own oh so compassionate mouth.”
“Isn’t that going to cause a dispute with squad 1 and Rukongai?”
“What are you talking about, it’s not like I’m going to snatch them away and try to kill them. It’s just a simple matter of requesting their cooperation for a little bit of dismantling and analysis, which of course entails conducting as many experiments as there are stars in the sky. If they feel nothing but a sense of guilt towards the Shinigami, then they will offer themselves up to us willingly. Of course, I suppose I can promise to heal* their bodies back to perfect condition when the experiments are over.” (*TN – Mayuri says “naosu” which means healing but Narita uses kanji that means “reconstructing/remodeling” just a cool way to illustrate his sinister intentions, with this in mind the next line should make sense)
Watching Mayuri as he spoke whilst disguising disturbing characters behind the phonetics he was using, Hiyosu stealthily posed a question to Akon who was next to him.
“What’s going on? These days the department’s president is more aggressive than ever regarding his research, don’t you think?”
At Hiyosu who summed up the proposal of harvesting and dissecting people with the single word “aggressive”, Akon replied with his usual unconcerned air.
“…Since Nemu isn’t by his side anymore. The captain is trying to fill that temporary sense of loss in the captain’s own way.”
“I can only sympathise with the Fullbringers being caught up in this…”
Despite nodding in agreement at Hiyosu’s words, Akon was curious about one thing and began to ask Kurotsuchi Mayuri a question.
“Even so captain, although I’ve heard those guys weren’t exactly captain level in strength, with the exception of you captain, we probably won’t be able to capture them right? So does this mean the captain will carry out this task himself?”
“Honestly, as someone who is a scientist you shouldn’t have to utter such uncivilised comments, Akon. In that case it would be just like acting with a view to cause violence from the very onset, wouldn’t you agree?”
The man who had spoken of a plan that would quite evidently lead to violence, shook his head as he continued to reply.
"In any case, the experiments will embody a number of uncertain elements. In preparation for everything, I am going to have the appropriate 'equipment’ assembled.”
When Mayuri presses a button he had produced from somewhere, part of the Research and Development Department’s walls opened up, and something gradually rose up from there.
A countless array of cylindrical tanks stood in a line filled with a highly transparent scarlet liquid.
One figure per cylinder was floating around in the liquid solution, a small group of researchers knit their eyebrows together in discomfort when they saw the identities of those figures.
Most of the researchers were able to stay calm because they knew that the same thing had been done with 'Arrancar corpses’ in the past.
With his back to the great number of figures that were floating inside those tanks, Kurotsuchi Mayuri revealed his usual crooked smile as he opened his mouth to speak.
“This is a great opportunity. As the first experiment, let’s conduct some thorough tests shall we?”
“– – Concerning the usefulness of Quincies with regards to the Fullbringers.”
Kizokugai - Tsunayashiro Residence.
“Woah… I’m sorry but, can I ask you all to leave? I have an important meeting to attend now.”
As Tokinada was preparing to depart for a certain meeting, he sensed an unsettling air sweeping around his own room.
Perhaps after hearing Tokinada’s voice, they had concluded that “mounting a surprise attack is impossible”. Without even making a sound, the covers were pushed back and a countless number of sword wielding figures emerged within the residence.
Looking at the men who quite clearly appeared to be from the same line of assassins that came for him the other day, Tokinada gave a small shake of his head.
“Hmm… I’d say… there are about eight of you who have the strength of a seated member.”
Whilst reading the Reiatsus of his opponents, Tokinada calmly releases a sigh.
“My my, you’ve actually come to target me when Hikone’s undergoing treatment. What bad luck.”
As he spoke, Tokinada placed his hand on the sword attached at his waist.
Tokinada was no longer a Shinigami of the Gotei 13, and his original Zanpakutō had also been confiscated.
However, just like the Ise clan’s Hakkyōken, there is a sword that is handed down from generation to generation within the Tsunayashiro clan, and he had secretly inherited it as clan head.
To be precise – that Zanpakutō had been stolen secretly before he even became the next clan head.
“And… I’ve been underestimated for far too long.”
As he effortlessly used Hakuda to dodge the leaping assassins who were trying to prevent him from drawing out his sword, Tokinada called the name of the Zanpakutō.
That name sounds extremely similar to the Zanpakutō in the possession of his 'rival’ Kyōraku Shunsui.
“– – Revere, 'Kuten-kyōkoku’ – –”
(TN – As a reminder Shunsui’s Zanpakutō is called “Katen Kyōkotsu”, “Kuten-kyōkoku” on the other hand literally means 9 heavens mirror valley)
Seireitei - Main Street
Without even being aware of his own movements, Hisagi Shūhei was finishing up his preparations for new interviews whilst simultaneously walking through the main street of Seireitei.
Yamada Seinosuke’s next day off was a little while ahead, so Hisagi decided to collect information around Kizokugai beforehand.
After the commotion at the Central Pharmaceutical Institution, he attempted to conduct an independent investigation into this child who gave its name as Ubuginu Hikone, but he did not discover anything as a result. He also asked Kyōraku, however it seems he too was completely unaware about anything pertaining to Tokinada’s personal soldiers, consequently he was unable to obtain any useful information.
—- When that kid threw me to the ground, I didn’t sense any animosity or ill will.
—- Rather than being gentle or naive. Perhaps the kid… doesn’t quite understand the concept of good and evil just yet.
Hisagi is reminded of the face of Hikone who revealed an innocent smile despite bearing such horrific injuries, and once again he is resolute for he simply must know what kind of person Tokinada really is.
Therefore Hisagi decided to approach the interviewees which he had obtained permissions for through Kyōraku in advance.
Perhaps by arranging to meet with those interviewees, he had suspected that he could learn something regarding the Tsunayashiro clan’s internal state of affairs or Hikone’s strange Reiatsu.
Placing interview utensils and the like into a simple kit bag, Shūhei tied the drawstrings and carried the bag over his shoulder.
Coupled with his usual sleeveless garments and tattooed face, Hisagi who had the appearance of a hitchhiking rocker continued on his way until he bumped into Hirako Shinji the captain of the 5th division.
“What’s up Shūhei? Going somewhere?”
“That’s right, I’m going to the Human World to collect information for Seireitei Communication”
At Hisagi’s words, Hirako questions him further whilst inclining his head.
“Huh? It’s being put back into print already?”
“No, that’s still a few months ahead, but the special feature reissue will look back on the Great War. I’m going to take the opportunity to visit Urahara san’s place to conduct interviews. If everything goes smoothly, I may even be able to hear the story from that Kurosaki guy as well.”
“Ha, to Kisuke’s place? That’s an ordeal indeed. That guy is not the type to give you a straightforward response in an interview.”
“Ehh? How could……”
But after thinking over Hirako’s remark for a moment, a drop of cold sweat ran down Hisagi’s cheek.
“…Now that you mention it.”
“Why have you realised this just now? You should have known that from the time you were in your mother’s womb.”
Although Hirako spoke as if he was astounded, he advises Hisagi about going to the Human World.
“Well, if you’re going to Kisuke’s, then there’s a chance you may encounter Hiyori. If you do see her, please feel free make fun of her as much as you like on my behalf.”
“In that case, isn’t it me that’s going to suffer the counterattack instead!? Forgive me, even after I return I’ll be swamped with collecting material in bothersome places like Kizokugai…”
“Kizokugai? Why in the world would you go there, isn’t a feature on Ōmaeda’s bourgeois lifestyle or something during a time where restoration is still underway and everything is in chaos, a rather tedious affair?”
“That’s tedious with any kind of timing don’t you think…”
After exchanging a few rounds of banter with each other, Hisagi departed, heading in the direction of the Senkaimon.
Watching Hisagi’s back until he was out of sight, Hirako then unintentionally shifted his eyes in the direction of Kizokugai.
“Kizokugai huh… come to think of it, Yoruichi was talking about various kinds of suspicious events recently.”
Although he couldn’t observe the state of affairs within Kizokugai from this main street, he felt he was under an illusion as if something in the sky surrounding that place was coiling around it, Hirako released a sigh whilst scratching his head.
“I hope it’s nothing too difficult to deal with… well, that’s probably quite unrealistic.”
A certain place in Seireitei.
Deep underground a certain establishment, there is a space not mentioned on official maps.
Since ancient times, It has been a sacred place where the five great noble clans would very often discuss issues such as the policies of Seireitei, and it was regarded as one of the most important locations in Soul Society second only to the Soul King Palace.
However, it doesn’t mean that the thing that serves as the cornerstone of Seireitei is placed there.
Only in the moment when the heads of the five great noble clans were all assembled in that room, it is sublimated to a state where one could say their safety in that situation was tied to the fate of Seireitei as it stood.
And now – – amongst “the four great noble clans” which excludes the fallen Shiba house, the heads of two great houses and a clan head representative of another great house were all assembled within the meeting room.
Tokinada Tsunayashiro is seated on one side of the pentagon shaped conference table, Kuchiki Byakuya as well as Yoruichi who is acting on behalf of the Shihōin clan head were each seated at the two sides situated furthest away from him.
The remaining house of the four great noble clans has not made an appearance on this occasion.
This is because there is a law established by the former Central 46 that “as a precautionary measure, the heads of the five great noble clans must not converge together in the same place”.
It is a law that was founded on the notion that they cannot afford to lose all the heads of the five great noble clans at the same time in the event of an enemy attack or disaster, it is said that this arose from the Quincy attack a thousand years ago.
Even now when the five great noble clans has become four, that law still remains, and even now in this way, it has come to be that only three clans are gathered in this room.
“Well, it’s the first time I’m entering this place. It seems there’s no evidence of it being used in a while, only the cleaning has been done scrupulously.”
Quite in contrast with Yoruichi who was seated in a laid-back manner, Byakuya who sat in his chair with an elegant posture was quiet, and yet his dignified voice resounded within the room.
“I’ve heard it’s only been used once during an inauguration two generations ago. In all likelihood that was probably the last time. Even during the expulsion of the Shiba clan, this place was never used.”
“Ah, that’s why this place has been specially prepared for us. I think it’s also one of our duties as nobles to carry on these traditional customs of old.”
In response to Tokinada who spoke with an easygoing demeanour, Yoruichi made a sniffing sound as she spoke.
“That aside, there’s a thick stench of blood wafting in the air. Did you capture and consume some children before coming here?”
The pronounced smell of rusted iron was wrapped around Tokinada who remained as unharmed as ever.
With a calm smile still on his face, he replied without even denying the fact that he was indeed soaked in spurts of blood.
“Oh it’s nothing, I was merely surrounded by a bunch of miscreants. I failed to avoid some of their blood that’s all.”
Although they have already been introduced to one another, Yoruichi and Byakuya were still in a state where they could not probe into this Tokinada character’s true intentions. They had considered the idea that in the worst case scenario, he had summoned them to a place like this in an attempt to have them assassinated, but they could not sense a situation like that at present.
—- In any case, this is a man who is suspected of killing members of his own head house. We can’t be careless.
With a small smile on her face, Yoruichi observed the new Tsunayashiro clan head who was before her eyes.
His predecessor was also an arrogant man with all manner of aristocratic vice condensed into him, but this man named Tokinada also made one feel an air that was truly unbefitting of a noble.
However, more than that, Yoruichi’s whole body was ringing with alarm bells from unpleasant signs that goes beyond the scope of things such as nobility and commoner.
Then, whether he felt her gaze on him or not, Tokinada flashed a gentle smile and opened his mouth to speak.
“That reminds me, this is the first time I’m meeting the former head of the Shihōin clan. Indeed, you’re not called the Shihōin princess for nothing. You are a beauty both charming and majestic.”
“Your transparent flattery is unnecessary. Anyway, In your mind you also think of me as an unruly woman who’s unbecoming of nobility, don’t you?”
“If you are conscious about that, then as former clan head you should refrain from acting in such a rash manner.”
Whilst ignoring the words of Byakuya who so matter-of-factly interjected, Yoruichi narrowed her eyes in a smile and posed a question to the head of the Tsunayashiro clan.
“So? Why go to the trouble of summoning me and Byakuya? You asked for me specifically rather than the present head Yūshirō… it’s not like you gathered us here to merely show us your face is it?”
“Ah, of course. I am concerned about Soul Society’s future. After all, you all made a blunder when you let us be attacked by the likes of Quincies, even allowing them to invade the Soul King Palace.”
“It pains me to hear it.”
“Nevermind, you were mere cooperators all along, I don’t even consider this to be the fault of the Gotei 13. Rather than blaming them, there was the Soul King sama and squad zero who completely failed to grasp the flow of the world’s changes by secluding themselves away in their shells. Don’t you think so? If we had a Soul King sama who could conduct themselves better, the damage to the Gotei 13 and so on would’ve also been reduced isn’t that right?”
Although there were no others in the vicinity, Tokinada spoke in a manner as if he was publicly criticising the Soul King.
Although his feelings were not revealed on the surface, Byakuya formed his words with an unfazed demeanour as if rebuking him for that statement.
“That’s quite enough. Pointlessly renouncing the Soul King in such a manner is not appropriate behaviour for a head amongst the four great noble clans.”
Then, as Tokinada held back his laughter, he spat out remarks as if to provoke Byakuya.
“And was your behaviour appropriate for a noble? It’s true isn’t it. You who was manipulated by the information of a traitor, I can’t possibly imitate behaviour such as yours, you who tried to advance the execution of his own little sister.”
Tokinada continued to throw more remarks at a silent Byakuya.
“Your wife… Hisana also did foolish things. After all, that’s the kind of outcome you can expect when you place faith in the likes of nobility and entrust the fate of your own sister to them. Or perhaps her outlook on society had even been clouded over as a consequence of being defiled by the well-fed and finely clothed lifestyle of a noblewoman?”
Yoruichi whose facial expression had gone blank and was about to say something is cut off mid-sentence with a motion of Byakuya’s hand.
“It’s true that I attempted to have Rukia punished. I don’t mind if I receive any kind of slander for that.”
“But, there is not even a shred of fault on Hisana’s part. All blame, falls on me.”
Byakuya remained expressionless, but perceiving the the stream of his inner sentiments, Tokinada quietly shrugged his shoulders.
“…Please don’t make such a grim face. It’s not like I came here to quarrel with you.”
The man who was blatantly picking a fight bowed apologetically after shamelessly declaring as such.
“I apologise for the provocation. I am relieved that you are a man who can separate emotions from politics.”
“Cut to the chase already. Or do I have no option but to send you flying first?”
In response to Yoruichi’s easygoing manner of speaking, Tokinada gave a wry smile, then his expression turned serious and he began to broach the real issue at hand.
“I’d like to revive the five great noble clans… or in other words, I intend to propose a restoration of the Shiba clan.”
At those words, Byakuya was still expressionless, Yoruichi raises one eyebrow ever so slightly.
The Shiba clan were once part of the five great noble clans, but a man who was a descendant of that house and serving as captain of squad 10 at the time - Shiba Isshin - disappeared into the Human World, as a result they were stripped of their noble standing in the form of bearing responsibility for it.
Isshin’s household which was a branch family was broken up, and head house members Shiba Kūkaku and co who had taken up residence in Rukongai from the very beginning, were completely expunged even of their status amongst the five great noble clans which was already a mere title in name only at the time. As an outcome, they were formally prohibited from travelling in and out of Seireitei.
But naturally, in Kūkaku’s case, she would later infiltrate the court by force accompanied by Jidanbō, the gatekeeper of the Hakutōmon* (* White Road Gate) in the west of Seireitei.
As the two waited for him to continue with the conversation, Tokinada went on.
“It’s true, Shiba Isshin’s departure is an act that can only be described as a betrayal towards Soul Society. However as a consequence of that, Isshin’s son… despite coming from the lineage of a branch family, Kurosaki Ichigo a descendant of the Shiba clan, defeated the king of Quincies. Don’t you think that meritorious service is enough to clear their name?”
Because it was a view that was more earnest than what she could have imagined coming from him, Yoruichi in turn was suspicious of what Tokinada was thinking.
Meanwhile, Byakuya’s facial expression remains as undisturbed as before, with a nonchalant air he spoke of his own thoughts.
“I agree about Kurosaki Ichigo’s meritorious service, but Kurosaki Ichigo will not accept the status of a noble or anything of the like.”
“That’s true. For that guy things like status and prestige are simply not regarded as a reward. Rather it only appears to be a nuisance to him at best. If you’re speaking for the sake of entire Shiba clan it may be better received, but neither Kūkaku nor Ganju are thinking of returning to nobility again.”
After listening to Byakuya and Yoruichi’s words and quietly nodding in understanding, Tokinada gave a weak smile as he replied.
“So, it’s true Kurosaki Ichigo is that sort of man. If that’s the case, then how about we make his two younger sisters nominal clan heads? They won’t need to be involved in any practical duties. It’ll only be a formality so there’s no problem.”
“You’ve investigated even as far as Ichigo’s family members huh?… However, I don’t see what you’re getting at. Why are you so fixated on restoring the Shiba clan?”
A look of vigilance was playing on Yoruichi’s face, at her question Tokinada replied with honesty.
“Ah, for the sake of valuing justice. I have no problem forcibly getting things done with the might of the Tsunayashiro clan, but that will only create a breeding grounds for future problems amongst the people of Soul Society. They would think they were under my dictatorship wouldn’t they? For this reason, I want it to be known the world over that the Seireitei operates through just procedures.”
“So long as the five houses are all present, and we’ve acquired the Soul King’s formal consent – – the five great noble clans will have a position equivalent to that of the Soul King Palace and can become Seireitei’s decision making body surpassing the Central 46. Perhaps, the Central 46 at the time decided to decimate the Shiba clan in order to prevent a situation like that.”
As he stifled his laughter, Tokinada continued even further.
“In any case, have you never thought to question it? Why, out of the five great noble clans, it was the Shiba clan that were met with a cold reception from the very beginning? Supposedly, it’s because they took up residence in Rukongai in order to set up a Shiba clan secret cannon there. However, before they were stripped of their position amongst the five great noble clans, the Shiba clan received treatment no better than a bunch of poor people from lesser nobility. Aren’t you curious about both the Shiba clan and why it was deemed acceptable?”
“Who knows, when looking at value alone, the Shiba clan residence was in no way inferior to the ordinary noble’s, perhaps they simply felt that was enough. However, I’m surprised by your arrogance, you go as far as to call even nobles, poor people.”
Although it was a matter that was certainly on her mind, Yoruichi replied as if she wasn’t going to tread to deeply into that topic right now.
She concluded that going along with Tokinada’s ideas here will only serve to stray further away from the truth instead.
Whether or not he was also thinking the same, Byakuya then spoke to Tokinada with an indifferent air.
“I do not intend to step foot in another house’s internal affairs… at any rate, even if you understand it as a matter of stipulation, I expect consent has never before been handed down from the Soul King.”
In response to the point Byakuya had just raised, Tokinada distorts his mouth into a grin.
“I expect you’re right. Even if Soul King sama is able to communicate his general will to the inhabitants of the Soul King Palace, he will not act to give his consent to anything. Well, perhaps I should say, he’s incapable of doing so”
“I still can’t see what you’re getting at. What are you planning? Tokinada.”
“But, those days are over. Eventually, by obtaining the Soul King sama’s consent, the day will come when Seireitei… when we the five great noble clans, will independently govern all three worlds. That’s all there is to it.”
At those words, both Yoruichi and Byakuya slightly raised their brows.
The three worlds.
It’s quite possible that’s referring to Soul Society and the Human world – – and then, either Hueco Mundo or Hell.
At Tokinada’s mention of such sudden absurdities, Yoruichi questions him.
“…Then let me ask you this before we hear the particulars of the matter. You said the Soul King will not give his consent, did you not? How can you be so assertive that the Soul King will go out of his way to approve of your proposal?”
“Oh, that’s a simple matter. Because the next Soul King sama is to have free will.”
In contrast with a doubtful and perplexed Byakuya, Yoruichi’s eyes widened in sudden realisation, then those eyes instantly narrowed as she fixed a glare at Tokinada.
“……! I see. So that’s why you picked me rather than Yūshirō……”
Caught in her line of sight, Tokinada plastered a foul expression on his face, smiling, laughing, sneering.
“You saw it didn’t you? Shihōin Yoruichi. The Soul King that was killed by Kurosaki Ichigo… the kind of the state it was in before being killed. But, what was 'that'… that’s right, it seems you lot don’t yet know what kind of existence the Soul King had in the first place.”
“Though Urahara Kisuke would know about it right”
Soul society - In front of the Senkaimon.
“Urahara san huh… we’ve had conversational exchanges over things like motorcycles and gasoline, but this is the first time I’ll be officially interviewing him…”
Oblivious to the fact that the same topic of discussion was being brought up amongst members of the four great noble clans, Hisagi Shūhei proceeded to take a step towards the Human World, he spoke of his own resolve in order to encourage himself.
“Well, I’ll do it for you. If I can’t at least do that, I won’t be able to call myself editor-in-chief of Seireitei Communication.”
—- Please keep watching. Captain Tōsen.
—- I will definitely light a path for all the people of Soul Society, in my own way.
—- As captain once did for me.
Whilst making use of a Jigokuchō heading for Karakura Town, Shūhei prepared himself and made progress towards the Senkaimon.
By doing so, he remained unaware of the fact that he had thrown himself deeper into a position of conflict.
A number of destinies cling to Hisagi Shūhei, encapsulating coincidence and inevitability at the same time.
Without knowing that the thing at the centre of the conflict is the very thing that is tied to the core of Soul Society – – Hisagi simply continues to walk his own path.
Yielding to fear itself, Tōsen Kaname who had once lit his own path could do nothing but flee.
Rather than the path that was his to walk, he was convinced that a path which he had been directed to was the one which was in fact correct.
Hisagi Shūhei is neither a prophet nor an omnipotent and omniscient being, naturally he has no way of knowing his own future.
It’s not like he could cut a path through a checkered fate like Kurosaki Ichigo.
Unlike Zaraki Kenpachi, there wasn’t a torrent of power dwelling within him.
Unlike Urahara Kisuke, he didn’t have deep consideration for countermeasures.
Unlike Kurotsuchi Mayuri, he didn’t have a curse-like inquisitive mind carved into his very soul.
Unlike Kuchiki Byakuya, he didn’t have the knowhow to confront a never ending heavy burden.
Neither did he have the talent to masterfully control unequalled Reiryoku like Hitsugaya Tōshirō.
Nor did he have enough experience to see through one’s inner nature like Yamamoto Genryusai did.
He couldn’t cleverly parry all manner of temperaments like Kyōraku Shunsui.
He didn’t have the passion to redefine even the ways of the world like Komamura Sajin.
His fists are not so strong that he could persist through his own path like Muguruma Kensei.
A Shinigami who had learned everything about the conflict later told him –
That’s precisely why he is who is he, why Hisagi Shūhei is a Shinigami, so that he might be capable of confronting the world itself.
He may be able to finally reach a resolution to that only because he is walking a different path while continuing to follow after the man named Tōsen Kaname.
And so, Hisagi Shūhei did not yet know.
Perhaps he will continue to never know.
Since when did the man named Tōsen Kaname who had demonstrated the path that was supposedly his to walk, stray away from his very own path?
Or – is it that he never strayed from that path of his until the very end?
Several hundred years ago - Soul Society.
A young man from Rukongai who appears to be blind was seeking an audience with the Central 46.
After leading him away for a few minutes to discuss the matter of this “noble who murdered his own wife”, that very noble smiled brightly as raised voices could be heard coming towards them.
“Hey, you guys. You’re on duty? This Rukongai citizen tried to raise a hand to me. Won’t you quickly kick him out for me?”
Although they were quite frankly oblivious to the circumstances, the men who served as guards had no reason to refuse those instructions.
The guards sense something eerie in the nobleman’s words, nevertheless they decide to obediently follow his instructions.
Whether or not there was something behind those words, it was none of their business, so rather than disobeying the nobleman, they knew it would be far more beneficial to beat up this Rukongai dweller before their eyes.
The noble continues to throw some more words towards the blind man, but they had no need to make sense of it.
They considered the fact that nothing good will come out of getting involved in the disputes of the five great noble clans, even if it’s just a lower seat of a branch family.
The blind Rukongai citizen whose throat was crushed, tries to yell something whilst glaring at the noble.
Such defiant attitude, and from someone with the social standing of a Rukongai pauper no less.
The guards decided to give this pauper a thorough beating so that he would never set foot in the governmental district again.
As sadistic intentions took hold, stimulated by the look of despair on the blind young man’s face, the guards unwittingly flashed grins that were similar to the nobleman’s even amongst themselves.
This youth didn’t know his place, it’s as if he was saying that they needed to teach him a lesson.
And thus, they raised their staves overhead once again, above the blind man who was enveloped by deep despair and anger – – –
This time, there was no one who would stop it.
As the sound of staves making contact with his body continued to ring out, the blind youth - Tōsen Kaname - continues to listen to those sounds in a daze.
—- These guards… what are they doing?
The soul which was boiling over furiously, engulfed in despair and anger, then began to gradually subside due to bewilderment.
Although he couldn’t see anything with the blindness in his eyes, it seems he could sense what was happening just from the flow of sound and air around him.
Donning a sadistic smile, one of the guards proceeded to swing down his staff in front of Tōsen –
Towards another fellow guardsman who was standing next to him.
“Y-you wretch, what the hell are you… arrgh”
The other guard who was hit gave a groan, but his words were cut off by a strike to the face.
“Don’t talk back! You filthy commoner!”
The idea that they might have been overlooking him was immediately dismissed by the beaten man’s palpitations and coarse breathing.
It seems this guard actually intended to deliver the beating to him rather than his own partner who was by his side.
The guard then proceeded to drag his partner who had lost consciousness up to the other end of the street.
In doing so, Tōsen who was still in a state of confusion, continued to listen to the sound of the guards as they gradually faded into the distance, from behind him – an unfamiliar voice of a man could suddenly be heard.
“I switched the water in their flasks with alcohol. It’ll end up looking like their actions just now fits with the story that they got into a scuffle after drinking on the job won’t it? That noble will probably suspect something, but it’s better to let suspicion beget more suspicion.”
A gentle voice.
However, unlike Tokinada - that noble from a moment ago - it made no secret of some incarnation of power dwelling within it’s depths, it was a voice that made one feel pressured just by listening to it.
“Who is it… are you also… are you also a Shinigami…!?”
Despite his bewilderment, Tōsen ignited the hatred in his heart once again and asked his questions whilst enshrouded in enough bloodlust to tear out the windpipe of the man before him.
Then, keeping nothing back from him, the man openly replied.
“Yes. That’s right. A small scrap of a trivial world that put you in despair just a moment ago, that made you willing to burn it to the ground with flames of hatred.”
This new Shinigami that has made an appearance offers Tōsen one proposal.
“That chest filled with hatred, don’t you want to leave it with me… just for a while?”  (TN – see my translation note concerning this line at the end of this chapter).
Although Tōsen is dubious, judging by the voice of the man before him, this man felt confident, as though he had already seized control of Tōsen’s heart – – Tōsen sensed an overwhelming 'power’, giving him the impression that he was talking with an instinctive leader.
The man extended his arm out to Tōsen who remained calm – – Speaking his own name.
It is the name of a man who would reveal the one 'path’ to the man called Tōsen Kaname, and then later aim for the heavens by making enemies of this world.
“My name is Aizen Sōsuke. At present, I’m still… just a lowly Shinigami.”
To be continued in the next volume...
All the credits goes to missstormcaller for the full translation. A big thank you to her.
The next installment is scheduled to commence this fall.