Li's sets the book aside and as Koutarou speaks, Li's fingers start to drum the table. "I appreciate the sentiment. But you should not say you understand or respect my position, when it's apparent from your words that you really don't."
Li leans forward, placing both hands on the cane. "There is a widespread misconception among young Shinigami that we 'uphold the circle of life'. That is, shall we say, a naive way of looking at it. Or rather, it is the outlook of someone who thinks being a Shinigami is like a job. Something you do when put on a black kimono and wield a sword."
"But that is not true. Being a Shinigami does not depend on an uniform. It does not depend on learning kido. It does not, even, depend on wielding or using a Zanpakuto. All of these are simply inventions of times, tools that someone had to make, and tools that will once be forgotten. I've personally witnessed many of them coming to being."
"Being a Shinigami is something you are. What you grow to be. It is ingrained in your very flesh and bones. Our lot existed before any of the paraphernalia you now associate with us." Li straightens up.
"We do not 'uphold' the circle of life. We are part of it. And not in the same sense as mortals who are just carried around by the wheel. We are that wheel's beams. We are a manifestation of one of its fundamental aspects." Li sets the cane aside.
"There is no magical force that guides souls to their proper resting place. There is just us. Just in case the implication doesn't occur to you, let me spell it out: if there are no Shinigami, the wheel breaks. The existence of Hollows is not a natural state of things. Behind each and every Hollow, is the failure of us Shinigami."
"That is why hating them makes no sense. Imagine a child dropping a glass from a table, and then hating the glass for breaking. You would hardly call that adult behaviour."
The Commander reaches for pen and paper. "Before the Academy was founded, many Shinigami did consider Hollows just a force of nature. 'There's nothing we can do', they said, 'they're too powerful for us. We better avoid them'. But that was just laziness. Then came those who considered Hollows evil. 'We must protect mankind from these demonic creatures', they said. And there was no extreme to which they would not go in pursuit of that goal. They destroyed Hollows without care - not purified, destroyed so they would never be born again. Then they herded mortals around like cattle. It was 'for their own good', they said."
"That was hatred and condescence speaking. But then Izanagi-No-Mikoto came. He had a different view: 'It is not the purpose of Shinigami to judge. Ours is the task of messengers and ferrymen, not of rulers. The decisions of mortals are them and them to make alone - they deserve freedom from our tyranny. And the crimes of Hollows, are born out of insanity - they deserve freedom from our hatred, and restoration to their natural state'."
Li hands Koutarou a drawing. It is a fairly simple diagram, with Humans on the right and Hollows on the left. "In this drawing, where would you place us Shinigami?"