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  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "No. Let's us go." Li leads Koutarou out of the greenhouse. Once they get a hundred meters away from them, the houses fade from view, like they had never existed.

    "That is something I'm glad you understand. It is something Kiba-san, in his indignation, glossed over. Hollows are not some happy family either. In fact, they are their own worst enemy. They are cannibals. There's nothing to eat in Hueco Mundo except for other Hollows."

    "I have not verified if these Arrancars require food, like we do. But if they do... their leaders may be pressured to this war whether they want it to or not. Because, well... if they can't eat us, we know who they must eat."


    Li remains quiet after those words, coughing a couple of times as they walk through the dark streets. The street lamps have dimmed down, and there's pretty much no-one else around.

    Then, they reach HQ barracks. The lobby is still lit, with light welcomingly shining from the door and windows.

    "There's one more question I need to answer this night. Inside, you are wondering 'Why me?' I can see it in your eyes." The Commander sighs, turning to face Koutarou.

    "The sad truth is, I have no-one else left. Neither Nanoha-san nor Lucita are ready for this kind of responsibility. The other Captains... well, there aren't many left. Tsukino-san? Just as ill-prepared as you. Hishikawa-san? He literally appeared out of the woodwork just now. I maybe trusting him too much as it is. Takeshi-san? He would rather follow Sparrow-sama, than me. Despite our friendship, we don't really see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. Sawada and Kiba are missing, as I told you."

    "So, it doesn't really matter who I tell. As long as I tell someone. Might as well be you. Izanagi-sama and Sparrow-sama trusted you, after all."
    Li gives an apologizing smile and offers hand to shake for Koutarou. "What is your name, by the way?"

    ((OOC: Kuroi, do you want to move on to the second night right away, or do you want to interact with other characters with Koutarou in the main thread for a break?))
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  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Koutarou smiled as Li explained his reasons. He seemed to... enjoy them, such as it was.

    The truth is, he didn't have many friends, and many did not trust him so much as tolerate him. He was, after all, a competent officer, tough but fair. But he didn't open himself to people much.

    He took the hand and shook it. Firmly, but not too hard.

    "I believe in respect for authority, Commander. I'm a soldier - when it comes down to it, the difference between me and any other Shinigami, regardless of Division, is a title. We each have our duties to see to, and if mine ends up being to apply your experience to whatever comes in the following years, that is something I can live with.

    I want only what's best for us all. I only hope I am able to see the path that leads that way."


    ((OOC: I'm fine either way. With the exception of maybe speaking with Sho, Koutarou shouldn't have that many duties outside anyway.))
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    After bidding good night to Koutarou, Li returns to Li's own quarters - but not before sending one last message for the day.

    In the dead of night, a light blue butterfly flutters across Seireitei and sneaks our of the northern gate, disappearing into Rukon in search of its recipient...

    ---

    [Soul Society]
    Headquarters, the following night

    It is time for the second discourse between Zheng Li Li and Koutarou, but the Commander-General is conspicuously absent. The elder has, however, left a message to Koutarou at the Duty Officer's desk:

    Quote Originally Posted by Zheng Li Lin
    "To my Vice-Commander:

    I'll meet you at my alchemical gardens at 2100 today. Be at least half an hour early. You can find the greenhouses in the same place as before. Say 被揭示 and they will show themselves to you. You will find further instructions in greenhouse #3."
    Last edited by Frozen_Feet; 2013-07-07 at 11:56 AM.
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  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Ooooo, scavenger hunt!

    No, Li isn't enough of a playful man for such things. It takes Koutarou a couple of tries to get it right - he never did learn Chinese, after all - but he eventually manages to enter the greenhouse.

    He did briefly wonder why plants seemed to make people calmer, however. It looked as if lots of places for reflection sported greenery. Nature itself as a relaxant, perhaps?

    In any case, Koutarou followed his Commander's instructions pointedly.
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Alchemical gardens

    Greenhouse 3 is even darker than 2, and if Koutarou takes some time to admire them, he'll note the specimens in this greenhouse are mostly various sorts of fungi and lichen, rather than actual plants. There are still lots of ferns and other primitive leaved plants growing from amongst them, as well as some brightly coloured exotic sorts that could be carnivorous. They all seem very... lively. Lively in the sense that one of them just seemed to grow eyes and is now staring at Koutarou. One purple-and-blue thing snatches a fly from mid-air.

    There's a letter on the workbench. Next to it is some kind of grey cloth, neatly folded into a square. The letter reads: "This is a spirit-sealing cloak. Please wear it and hide in the corner. I will be arriving shortly."

    ---

    Meanwhile at the Northern Gate

    Li, meanwhile, is waiting for a visitor at the northern gate, also dressed in a spirit-sealing cloak. It does not prevent anyone from seeing the Commander, but it should prevent nosy people who think it's fun to track people by Reiatsu from getting too curious. It looks the cloak will soon turn out to be handy in a more mundane way as well, as clouds look like it's going to rain soon.

    As Li waits, Li's mind drifts back two nights, to the evening prior to the Captain's meeting...

    ---

    Headquarters - the night before Jehoel arrived to make his offer

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet & Terry576
    Li arrived in the Commander-General's office. "Hello, Sparrow-soutaichou. How are you this evening?"

    "Feh," the woman responded, her desk covered in papers. She leaned back in her chair, breathing deeply before replying. "Tell me... Li. Do you... do you really think that I deserve this?"

    The elder smiled sadly. "That can be taken two ways, Soutaichou. The position of a General is very demanding and esteemed one. It requires a great deal of skill, power, and strenght of personality. In those regards, yes, you do deserve it. You are perhaps the only one deserving it."

    "But the burden of responsibility it places on you? No, I don't think you deserve that."

    Sally Sparrow - Death - chuckled, throwing her black hair over her shoulders. "I have all those things, yeah, but I'm not responsible enough. If strength is really all that determines who is the leader, then doesn't that mean the leader is a brute? I'd rather be far away, relaxing, dancing in the sun or flying by the moon then here." She idly twirled her writing utensil, a pen, circa 1864. "I have none of the drive to be the leader. And that's really the most important part, isn't it?"

    "No. Many times, those who most want power are the least fit to wield it. But you are half-right. Without strict sense of responsibility and duty, it's impossible to lead an organization of this magnitude. Not succesfully, at least."

    "And that's unfortunately why I have to ask you to step down."


    Death stood slowly, her eyes dragging up from her desk at a snail's pace, as cold as ice when they finally lock onto Li. "So, it's finally time, is it? I suppose that I don't really regret losing the position, it's all work, no fun. I miss fighting. I miss the panting, the threats, the cold steel." She laughed, shaking her head. "I suppose that's just another reason why I was a terrible Commander, isn't it?"

    As she moved away from her desk, she looked at Li again. "Tell me then, who is the new Commander? Before I leave, I'd like to know that. Just that."

    Li looked sorrowful. "I wouldn't say that, my Lady. You have a warrior's heart. At times like these, I hope I had one too. But you were gone for too long. We have changed. You will do more good alone than when hindered by us. As for your successor, I can't tell. Traditionally, a General chooses her own successor."

    "Very well, then. I suppose that I shall take my leave."

    As Death opened the door, she sighed. "I will not name a successor. I have reasons of mine own for this, and I have never truly felt that I was, in fact, the Commander in the first place." Shrugging off her haori, it fell, and she smiled, free for the first time in far too long.

    "Goodbye, my friend. Let's meet again, in the next life."

    Li smiled. "Oh please. I'm not that old yet. I'm sure we will meet again. Hopefully, this disaster has passed by then, but I'm not holding my breath. Remember to write if anything unusual is coming our way." Then something hit Li, and the elder coughed a little. "... oh, before you go, I'm going to need a formally signed resignation. As proof, for the others. Could you do that?"

    Death nodded, almost absentmindedly, and pulled out a letter, handing it to Li. "I've kept that on my person ever since the start. Just as a reminder, that I could quit whenever I wanted."

    As she finally leaves, she murmurs, "Even if it wasn't my own choice."

    Li watched Death leave the office, waving after her. "... if only you knew all I know", Li muttered alone as the light of the setting sun trickled in from the office window...
    ---

    Northern Gate, now

    Life, it seems, has a sense of irony. As the visitor finally arrives and the titanic gate guard lets her through on command, Li hands her a spare cloak just as the first drops of rain hit the elder's face.

    "Good evening, my Lady. Sorry for bothering you again this soon, but things have cropped up I couldn't foresee. I need your counsel. There are questions to which I believe only you can give answers."
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post

    Northern Gate, now

    Life, it seems, has a sense of irony. As the visitor finally arrives and the titanic gate guard lets her through on command, Li hands her a spare cloak just as the first drops of rain hit the elder's face.

    "Good evening, my Lady. Sorry for bothering you again this soon, but things have cropped up I couldn't foresee. I need your counsel. There are questions to which I believe only you can give answers."
    The Northern Gate

    "Feh."

    The woman grabs the cloak from Li's hand, draping it across her form. She looks... different, without the haori. Bizarre, out of place, and unreal. The woman who had been the Commander didn't look as if she was her, she was instead an imposter, a bastardization of the woman who had raised hell and killed those who stood against her in a barrage and onslaught of blackened despair.

    She was no longer that woman. She had become the Girl who had Played at Being Queen, and it had gone wrong.

    "I don't have any answers for you, Li. I'm Death to my enemies, and Sparrow to my friends. And you know what they say about sparrows, don't you, Li? They're... fickle. They never listen, and they always leave. I've returned to my old life, Li. A life of solitude."

    She looks at Li, and her eyes are black, black and deep and dark and all-consuming. They are the eyes of a God, not a man, not a person, but a God and a concept.
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  7. - Top - End - #37
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Alchemical gardens

    There's a letter on the workbench. Next to it is some kind of grey cloth, neatly folded into a square. The letter reads: "This is a spirit-sealing cloak. Please wear it and hide in the corner. I will be arriving shortly."
    Koutarou didn't particularly understand the need for secrecy, but it wasn't as if he could just... ask. So he did as told, and hid as best he could, in a position that was simultaneously easy for him to spring into action and relaxed enough to be sustained.

    Which meant he shifted around a lot. Hiding was not his forte.
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  8. - Top - End - #38
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    From the Northern gate to the Alchemical Gardens

    "We shall see about that, my lady. Could you please follow me?"

    At 2101, the door of greenhouse 3 creaks open again. Various organisms kept inside tilt as if to see who will step in - or it could be they're just swaying in the draft, who knows. Hopefully Koutarou has made himself comfortable.

    Li takes off hood of the cloak when stepping in, so Koutarou can see the Commander's face. Whether the Vice-Commander recognizes the person stepping in in Li's wake is up to him. Rainwater drips down Li's cloak as the elder walks to the workbench and sits on the sole chair around.

    "... the reason I called you is because while I'm old, I'm not eternal. In absence of Izanagi-sama, there are still details of our past that make no sense to me. Such as a certain alarm brought to my attention by diligent Reconnassaince officer." Li gives Death a solemn look.

    "I brought you here in the hopes you knew your former spouse better than me, Sally. Or Izanami-no-Mikoto, as they used to call you."
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    The Alchemical Gardens

    "Hahahaha..." The laugh was quiet and cold, and the hood fell off of notDeathnotSparrownotSally, but Izanami-no-Mikoto, the greatest and grandest of the Shinigami, the first of her name, the wife of the Commander General, and the woman who singlehandedly created the very idea of Shinigami.

    "How long has it been, Li? Not since we met, but since you first discovered my secret."

    Her hand trailed along the leaves of one branch, and she smiled sadly as it turned to ash before her very eyes.

    "Although I suppose I was not hiding very well. "Death"... honestly, such a simple, obvious name. Most do not look hard enough to find the answer, they are far too distracted by my... outer persona. Sally Sparrow. Kind, presumptuous, and too trusting by half. Quick to anger, afraid of her sword."

    She looked at Li again, those black pools she called eyes swirling around, so calm and yet so filled with power.

    "So Li, I must ask, how long? How long did it take you for you to discover who I truly am - not Sally Sparrow, not Death, but Izanami-no-Mikoto, the girl who played with darkness?"
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  10. - Top - End - #40
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Koutarou did his best to breathe in calmly and just listen.

    What the hell was this all about?!

    The thing is, there are a half-dozen different ways to discover someone in hiding that do not rely on hearing alone. Completely erasing one's presence is an extremely difficult thing to do, especially when one is trying to focus on it - and the truth is, the Vice-Captain never really had the training for this.

    He half-expected to be called out of his hiding place by either party of the conversation. He hoped it wouldn't be in anger, especially if Izanami --

    --wait. Izanami?

    Koutarou's mind briefly raced back to what little human history he knew. The name rung a bell. The myth of creation, according to the Japanese...

    But... in the myth, Izanami died because she gave birth to Kagutsuchi. Izanagi was infuriated so he decapitated Kagutsuchi...

    ...but then, who is Kagutsuchi in this story?
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  11. - Top - End - #41
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "It was a fairly trivial problem to solve after I became Academy Chief Instructor a century ago", Li replies, smiling. "The Academy holds records on every student and every Asauchi given to them. Listed with their real names. Your name wasn't hard to find. You arrived shortly after Gotei was founded fifteen centuries ago, and left almost as quickly. Given that Izanagi-sama wrote it down himself, it was safe to presume there was no mistake."

    "Recognizing you when you came to our gates was simply a matter of reading your Academy profile. You have weathered time much better than I have - you have not aged a day since then. I wasn't the only one who knew either. Shenryu and Osuma knew too. We also knew you were supposed to be the first Commander-General. It must have occurred to you by now. We would not have thought to give you back your uniform if we hadn't known. We would not have known you had an uniform in the first place if we had known who you were."

    "As for how I knew to look for you in the first place? Well, let's say your existence was always bit of an elephant in the room. Izanagi tried to keep it hidden, but as his family and friends died and were reincarnated, their mortal selves only remember bits and pieces of the story, not that it was supposed to be a secret."

    "By the time I came to Seireitei, the myth of Izanagi and Izanami-no-Mikoto was already well known. In fact, one of the first questions asked by all Academy students was: 'If the one teaching us is Nagi-sama, where is Nami-chan?"


    Li lets out a brief chuckle at the memory. "For a long time, we wondered what had happened to you. At first, I thought the myths were mistaken - it was not islands of Japan you two created, but Soul Society - and when you died your first death, it was Earth you were cast down to, not Yomi."

    "Later, I considered it was more plausible Izanagi-sama had just died as well at some point, and joined you as a Shinigami. Did not explain why he was present, and you were not, however. I thought maybe the bit about a Soul King was false, and instead we had a Queen hidden away. But Izanagi-sama shot that theory down himself." Li's smile fades.

    "Lately, I've developed a third theory, however. You see, the thing that always puzzled me is this: in the myths, your behaviour following your first death was always described as fitting a Hollow better, than a Shinigami. So why are you the latter, and not the former? First, I thought maybe you had been purified by your spouse. But now I know Hollows can become like Shinigami on their own. Maybe you are just the logical end point of that evolution."


    Grasping Hei Lin with both hands, Li leans back. "So please enlighten me, my Lady. When you first died, did you become the first Shinigami? Or the first Hollow? Or was there even a difference back then?"
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  12. - Top - End - #42
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Izanami no Mikoto, the Goddess, laughs, and her laugh is bright and it sounds like bells and roses, all mixed with ash and flame and death, endless death and pain as she stares at the General.

    "Both, Li. I was both. I died here, and I fell to Earth in pain and hatred. What did you think happened?"

    She waves her hand, and a chair appears out of thin air, the wood creaking with age that doesn't exist as she sits in it with a sigh and a look of peace.

    "The Chain shattered. There was no simplicity for it, there was no easing into death. I was executed for my crimes, and awoke on Earth as the first Hollow. And it hurt, Li, it hurt so much, so very, very, very much, and I was... incapable of resisting."

    Her eyes glint fiercely, as she speaks and they burn and burn with all the fires of all the heavens and hells while she tells a story of loss and desecration.

    "And so I awoke, in nothing but pain and hunger. And so I ate, and ate, and ate and ate and ate, until I awoke once more."

    She laughs and stands, and her laugh is evil and vicious and all the things that Sally Sparrow never was and Izanami never should have been.

    "And then I kept eating, Li. For months and months, I ate until I could eat no more, and then I awoke for the second time, standing upright and feeling nothing at what I had done to this world I lived on. So I ate more, I destroyed continents with my hunger, and when nothing but desert and dust was left, I ate the beings that thrived on top of it."

    Her grin widens, and nothing nice is left in it nothing good. She is not mortal, no, that much is clear. Izanami-no-Mikoto has not a trace of human compassion for others, she only returned for one, and he is not here.

    "And when I awoke for the final time, and stood upright, I did not tear off the mask I wore. I was not going to lower myself to the standards of you and yours. And so I was the First Vasto Lorde, the first Adjuchas, the first Gillian, and the first Hollow. And I ate. I ate so, so, so, much. I jumped through dimensions and devoured worlds. I created Hell with my hunger, with the fires in my stomach, and the burning and nothing but fire and death for those who lived there. And then I ATE."

    She turns to Li, tossing her hair as she moves closer, and grins widely.

    "I can stop now if you'd like Li, I do not care for the story myself, but you asked. And as the Goddess of Death, of Destruction, of all that you should hate, you must understand - there is a reason I am both Hollow and Death God, and it all stems from my titles. Destruction. Death. Desecration. Lover. Mother. All of them, are mine and mine alone. And why do you think that is?"
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Li's fingers tap Hei Lin's sheath ponderously as Izanami all but frothes at the mouth. Despite the Goddess's unstable mannerisms, her distressing words and near-psychotic grin, the only thing reflected in the elderly Commander's eyes is interest. "I couldn't even begin to guess, my Lady", Li says with a smile, "Please, enlighten me."
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "Hmph. Very well, Li. Then I will tell you how I became the first Death God."

    She paces around, touching one of the plants, watching it as it slowly dies in her hands.

    "After I had eaten so much, Izanagi came. He asked me to stop. I laughed - I was a Vasto Lorde, the pinnacle of evolution! He came down from the heavens, and asked me to stop."

    Grins and death dances in her eyes and face.

    "I refused. And so we fought. And so continents were destroyed, turned into ash and dust and sand, endless, endless sand."

    She looks at Li, her eyes glinting with unfathomable emotion.

    "You might know what we made, Li. You've seen it. You've hated it. You've damned it. Hueco Mundo, the home of Hollows. We created it. A Vasto Lorde and a man who would not give up. That is the story of Hueco Mundo. That is the tale of Izanami and Izanagi. He shattered continents to return me to him, in the end. And so when he cut my throat..."

    She turns away, staring at the plants.

    "I woke up. I awoke with a robe and a sword and a will that could not be denied. And I swore vengeance on all that had wronged me, even against those that I had created in my hunger. And Izanagi stood by my side, as he always did. We created Seireitei, we forged Zanpakuto together in the firelight. We planted ideas in the minds of those like Eibon, deep within his subconscious, for we were GODS among MEN. We made decision after decision that affected all in Soul Society on our own whims and fancies, and then... he left. And I had no reason to remain."

    She turns, and smiles at Li again, and its so right this time, hesitation and worry and happiness, everything that Sally Sparrow was and could have been, all wrapped up into a single moment.

    "That is my story Li. That is the story of Izanami and Izanagi. That is how I died and rose again and died again and FORGED everything you hold dear. Izanagi and I played the whole world to the tunes of our whims and choosing, and when he left, our song ended. And so the world ends, because there is naught left for Izanagi or I to play. So the Hollows rebel against the Shinigami, and Soul Society stirs up dissent and unrest. And if Izanagi returns, oh, woe betide those who opened the Gates to our song's destruction, for they will BURN in fires that can never be put out, and he will CROW with nothing but HATE for those who destroyed our songs."
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    A quizzical smile governs Li's face as the Goddess ends her story. "Thank you for sharing this story with me, my Lady. It will make it easier for me to choose which path to lead our organization on." The elder stands up and leans to the cane.

    "You've told me all I wanted to know of your history. I wish I could let you go with just that, but there's still two favors I need from you."
    Li opens one of the work bench's drawers, and pulls out a syringe. "First, could I take a sample of your blood?"
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  16. - Top - End - #46
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Izanami looks puzzled and confused and sad all at once, her story told and her part played, she has nothing left and nothing to say or do, forever and ever.

    So she nods amicably, and extends her arm, the pale skin and paler veins jutting out and looking so so at odds with the woman from before, so proud and strong and lively.

    "Hnf. Very well, then Li. I have no use for it, take it. Do with it what you will, but remember, and be warned: there are those even stronger then I, and they will strike with the fires of all the stars in the sky if you try to surpass them, if you try to touch them, if you dare, dare, dare, to dream of a station higher then yourself. Do not Li. Do not become like me. Do not be a shade of yourself."
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  17. - Top - End - #47
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "Thank you, my Lady." Li quickly fills the syringe with Izanami's blood and then sets it aside on the workbench.

    "Now for the second favor. Like I said, an alarm was brought to my attention."
    Li returns to sit on the chair and leans back with a worried look on the wrinked face. "An alarm tied to prison facilities only Izanagi-sama knew of. One facility had already been compromised decades ago, but it was not brought to anyone's attention. Now, three more facilities have been breached, one in Hueco Mundo and two on Earth. The pattern is clear: someone is trying to free the inmates in these facilities."

    Li reaches to folds of the Commander's haori and retrieves a Reiphone. "That these inmates are still alive is a wonder in itself, but more pressingly, they are all Menos of the most dangerous sort. The prisoners released so far have all been Adjuchas class. I can't be certain, but I fear they will seek to join forces with our new enemy."

    Li hands the Reiphone towards Izanami. "There's one prison, here in Soul Society. I believe they will come looking for it next. It was built far from Seireitei, in a place that used to be in the middle of uninhabited wilderness. However, no-one has visited it in 450 years and Pluses from the Rukon have taken over the area. Ascertaining its exact location will be difficult, but I can tell you it is somewhere in northern quadrant of Ring 49."

    "The facility was sealed due to a biological threat. There is a Hollow of great strenght, possibly of Vasto Lorde level, kept in hibernation there. I can't let it fall into the hands of our enemies. Unfortunately, I can't send a search party there without raising suspicion. If the ones searching for this creature are allied with the new threat, it is safe to presume they are keeping tabs on Shinigami activity in the Rukon. I don't have strong enough troops to spare anyhow."

    "However, I have already announced you would be in the Rukon. You are also the sole Shinigami entity still feared and respected by these new Hollows, and powerful enough to eliminate the prisoner if it comes down to it. As one not bound to our organization anymore, you have perfect freedom to act."

    "Could you retrieve that prisoner and bring it to me?"
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  18. - Top - End - #48
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Koutarou's mind was still burning with activity, though admittedly, said activity had been to ask himself why Li had told him to do what he did.

    The Vice-Captain had the distinct feeling that Death already knew he was there, and that she did not call the fact to attention because it did not matter on some level. But not knowing was driving him nuts. He was anxious, yet trying to remain patient - there's no telling what would happen if he were wrong.
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  19. - Top - End - #49
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "Alarms and ancient beings and you and me - Li, are you saying you don't know what's going on? Heh. Of course not."

    With a twisted turn and a flash of black, Izanami-on-Mikoto, the Queen of the Dead, the First, hid her smile as she set forth.

    "Very well, Li. I'll go. I'll take care of you and yours, but beware of my Blood, Li. Do not let it trick you, do not let it consume you, and above all, above all else, do NOT let it out. It knows, and It seeks and It wants."

    And in the back of Li's head a small voice whispers, as entincing and whimsical as Sally Sparrow, offering him all the little things that Li wants, offering any and everything, if only he lets it out.
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  20. - Top - End - #50
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "Call me when you find it. Good hunting, my Lady", Li says as a farewell as Izanami-no-Mikoto steps out of the door and back into the rain. Then the elderly Commander sighs, the aged shoulders stooping.

    The whispering goes unheeded. Or rather, it has gone unheeded ever since the Commander lost a leg to it. But more to the point, Li has already decided on a course of action, and neither warnings of her predecessor or whisperings in Li's mind can alter it. The whispering fades into mocking creak of trunks and rustle of leaves.

    Li looks over Li's shoulder, looking for Koutarou's hiding spot. "You can come out now, Ishinomori-san."
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  21. - Top - End - #51
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    "Knock ten years off my lifespan, that sure did." Koutarou noted, more to himself than not, as he came out of hiding.

    "Honestly, sir, you have me confused. What... was the purpose of this? I think I can say with nigh-absolute certainty that..." He briefly paused as he considered which words to use, "...well, that there's no way she didn't know I was here."

    But perhaps more to the point. "Commander. What are you trying to tell me through this?"
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  22. - Top - End - #52
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Li turns to face the Vice-Commander. "I don't think she noticed you. Neither her eyes or body language suggested she did. If she had senses you, in whatever way, she would've made a show about it. Probably called you by first name. She was likely too fired-up about her story to notice."

    Li stands and offers the seat to Koutarou. "Here. You look rattled. Why don't you sit down and collect you nerves for a bit." Taking a step back, Li leans on the bamboo cane.

    "There are many reasons why I brought you here. One was to test the cloak. It appears to have worked as intended. But more importantly, I wanted to answer the question that has likely been pressing your mind since yesterday: 'who was the first Shinigami?' If you look at our official records, they would say it was Izanagi. But even at a cursory glance, a dissonance can be found, between myth and history."

    "So, what do you think, Ishinomori-san? Do you believe the girl who just stepped out the door was telling the truth?"
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  23. - Top - End - #53
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Of course his nerves had been rattled. Playing hide-and-seek at a professional level with impossibly old entities that had the power to erase you from existance practically by accident wasn't good for anybody's health.

    "I don't think she had any reason to lie. At the very least, she believes what she told you is the truth, Commander."
    Last edited by Kuroimaken; 2013-07-24 at 08:43 AM.
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  24. - Top - End - #54
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "I know she believes it. If I had expected her to lie, I would not have asked in the first place", Li responds. "That doesn't mean what she told is the whole truth. Or solely true, for that matter."

    "How do you think memory works, Ishinomori-san? Do you think it merely records events, so they can be recalled at later point? Do you think that after all these years, her testimony can still be held accurate?"
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  25. - Top - End - #55
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "That's a significantly more complex question, I'm afraid." Koutarou crossed his arms to think. "Memory is contingent on priority. We forget what we ate two dinners past, unless it has been especially delicious and we will want to eat it again, because we consider it not as important. Whether her testimony can be considered accurate would depend on how important these memories were to her - and how much her priorities have shifted over the years. This is not to say there aren't important pieces missing.

    For example, if she really is Izanami... then who was Kagutsuchi?"
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  26. - Top - End - #56
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Li chuckles. "I have no idea. I do know the mythical Kagutsuchi very well, of course. But I have not been able to link him to any real historical person. Nor do I know what became of his soul. I don't doubt Izanami and Izanagi had kids, but they were sadly long gone by the time I was born. Some claim he became the Sokyoku, but that's just another myth."

    "As for memory, your thought of priority is correct. But how do we decide on such priorities? Is it a conscious process? Or does it have more to do with subconscious processes of our minds?"
    Li starts pacing back and forth a bit. "The answer is not clear cut. A lot of research has been done on it however, and one thing is certain: our minds are very poor at remembering facts. They are much better at remembering stories. Know the feeling how everything always seems to make much more sense in retrospect? That is the phenomenom at work in its plainest. Your mind constantly works to link disparate events into a single, causal chain - even if there is none."

    "What's more, when you review a memory, it's not like reading a text that was once written down. Rather, every time you revisit a memory, your mind erases the original and the writes it anew, adding context and information that did not exist at the time of the original event. In its extreme, this leads to creation of false memories. It is rather depressing how easily such fakes are formed. This is why I have taken to cataloguing evidence of important events of my life. So I wouldn't delude myself into thinking they were something they were not."

    "Repeat this process across centuries, even millenia, and you should see a person's entire conception of personal history warp, to the point where it more resembles a myth than actual events. For example, the soul who was here moments ago was that of Izanami-no-Mikoto's beyond reasonable doubt. However, it is extremely unlikely this is her first incarnation. I find it very much possible there once was Sally Sparrow - but that girl has now become lost as older, twisted memories push to the surface."

    "In the same vein, it is very likely she was the first Hollow. Creation of Hueco Mundo... well, it is within realm of possibility, but there's no real evidence one way or another. But destroying continents? Devouring worlds? What would those worlds even be? Planting ideas in the minds of Eibon and other great men? Purposefully forging Soul Society to be what it is?"


    Li stops. "They make for way too good of a story. They tie seemingly random happenstance into a single causal chain. And because of that, they are likely false, fabrications of a deluded mind."

    "You should realize it by now. You saw how hard she tried to impress me. Sally Sparrow, or Izanami-no-Mikoto, or what ever we want to call her, is a sad example of an actual god developing a god complex. Memories, old or new, true or false, from this life or others, all mingle in her head to create a story of an unconquered, supreme being. And it is very, very hard to convince someone of her power otherwise. That's why I saw it fit to convince her to leave, before that part of her persona takes over completely. The girl who referred to herself as Sally Sparrow did not want to lead, but the woman who refers to herself as Izanami-no-Mikoto does. Worse, she desires to be worshipped. Does the idea of near-immortal God Queen safe in her own omnipotence sound like a good longterm ruler for our organization?"
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

  27. - Top - End - #57
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "It does not. 'Diapers and politicians must be changed often, for much the same reasons'. Don't see why this wouldn't apply to military leaders of standing supernatural armies." Koutarou mused. "That is still rather poor explanation for what the purpose of this meeting was, and what we'll do from now on. Drawing from the same parallel, what we do today is likely to be distorted so far beyound our recognition decades from now that it will be as if we'd done something else entirely."
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  28. - Top - End - #58
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    "Maybe." Li takes the syringe, wraps it in a cloth and hides it in Li's haori. Then the commander moves towards the door. "Come. Our next stop is reception room 4 in the monastery. I'll explain the rest there." Of course, there is no reception room with that number in the hospital.
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Naturally.

    Li had always seemed to Koutarou like a secretive man. He hadn't realized just how unnerving the secretiveness was until just now, however. Luckily, given his new position, Li could afford to mantain such a stance.

    Whatever the case, Koutarou's job was to listen. So he followed his commander with a nod.
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    I met a girl with a really pensive look. I walk up to her, put a fifty cent coin in her hand, "For your thoughts. I know the going rate is supposed to be one, but I figure you play hardball."

    She gave it back, "Keep it. Pretty sure a guy with your charm can find a way to have them for free anyway."

  30. - Top - End - #60
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    Default Re: [BitPR2] Extra Episode 1: Secrets of the Generals

    Li leads them through the rain, to small metallic shed some hundred meters away from the main building of the monastery. Its modern looks are very much out-of-place next to the venerable stone building. It's probably been built within the last 25 years.

    Inside is an elevator. As Li presses the call button, a voice echoes from the control panel's speaker: "<Voice authorization required>". Li clears throat and speaks: "Captain Zheng Li Lin, Medicine and Logistics." There is a short pause, and then a happy chime accompanied by voice: "<Voice authorization complete. Access granted.>" Li steps in and beckons Koutarou to follow.

    The elevator stops some 15 meters below ground. The door opens into a bleak white hallway, with blue electric lights lighting automatically as the pair walks into it. Electric wires, ventilation ducts and plumbing run along the upper right corner. The hallway is some hundred metres long and Koutarou should be able to guess it leads under the monastery.

    "This is one of the maintenance tunnels for the hospital. It is also maintenance entrance to our biohazard containment bunker",
    the commander explains. "Usually we'd use the elevator in the monastery, but I don't want any unwanted attention at this hour. If you didn't guess, this bunker isn't for treating patients. It has a more specialized purpose: it holds a collection of samples from every biological threat encountered by Gotei. There are other similar bunkers, in SSI in particular, but this one's collection is the most flawless."

    The corridor ends in a steel door. There is a strange depression next to it. Li draws Hei Lin from the bamboo cane, and places it in the depression. "<Reiatsu analysis complete. Zanpakuto belonging to: Zheng Li Lin, Captain of Medicine and Logistics. Access granted.>" The door opens into an airlock, and as the two step in it, the door closes behind them. Then, a second door opens, letting them into the bunker proper.

    Inside, there are three people, dressed in white lab coats. One appears to be a young (17 years approx.) asian girl (?), another a boy (?) of not much higher age, and the last a greying chinese man (?). They all have similarly green eyes, black hair, pale skin with an eerie green tinge, and are all of similar height, 151 centimeters. They all turn to look at the arriving persons in the same second, their timing eeriely perfect.

    "Hello, Zheng-taichou", they all greet in unison, then swiftly turn their heads back to their work. If Koutarou takes a moment to observe them, he'll notice their movements are a bit too perfect and systematic, almost mechanical in feel. The three laboratory workers go around doing their work, not seeming to pay more attention to the Shinigami.

    "These are Orchid, Leaf and Nettle. They are artificial souls. Due to their artificial nature and special bodies I commissioned to them myself, they are immune to 99% of the pathogens and parasites stored in here. Their cognitive capabilities are sharply limited, but they are perfect for holding repetitive experiments and cataloguing the results. We keep them here almost always. They don't work all the time, of course. They're only doing so now because I activated them last night."

    The insides of the bunker are boring, to put it mildly. Save for a second door presumably leading to the monastery, there's just a few lab tables, microscopes and rudimentary lab equipment. One gets the feeling this are is not the one meants for serious research. On the wall opposite to Li and Koutarou, some 7 meters across, there is a third door, and a plexiglass window next to it. Li leads Koutarou to the window, issuing a command to the the old-looking artificial soul as they walk. "Nettle. Enter biohazard examination unit. Retrieve samples #1 and #213. Protocol 1."

    Nettle freezes, processes the command, and replies. "Hai." The artificial soul quickly goes through the third door, leading to another airlock, dons a hazmat suit and then enters the examination room. Koutarou can see this through the window. Inside the examination unit, the walls are full of what look like steel archive boxes - not far from the truth, as they are freezer units containing the samples. There's an operation table and much more lab equipment there, as well as something that looks like a giant oven.

    Nettle walks to one of the boxes, dials a code to its control panel, and once the box opens, brings out a vial of some white goo as well as big glass jar containing - seriously, what is that thing? It looks like some horrible creature right out of H.R. Griger's nightmares. It would be right at home in a scifistic horror movie made by mortals.

    "Remember those alarms I mentioned to Izanami? They were linked to several old prison facilities. Most data on those facilities was fairly straight-forward, but two of the highest priority were encrypted. I couldn't find the password, but I could gather that those facilities were sealed due to biological risk. So I came here and referenced our database for samples added by Izanagi-sama himself. These are what I found."

    "The thing in the vial is called a white plague. I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but we had a small outbreak just today. First confirmed outbreak since invention of the germ theory, in fact. The disease was not properly analyzed until lately, but its symptoms have been known for ages. It facilitates forceful metamorphosis into a Hollow."


    "But that's not all. Remember what I told you of Shinigami powers last night? How they seem to stick with a person for multiple reincarnations? This disease adds that transcendend quality to Hollow traits. In practice, it works like a load of bad karma - a curse, if you will. At the end of their mortal life, a person suffering from it is instantly overcome by negative emotions and undergoes the change. But it can afflict Pluses and Shinigami too, as in the tragic case earlier."

    "The thing in the jar is at least as interesting. It is, for the lack of better description, a soul fragment. From a Menos, potentially a Vasto Lorde. It seeks dead bodies, Pluses, Shinigami - anything it can get its claws on." Claws may not be an apt descriptor. The things the elder is referring to look more like elongated, bony fingers, and a tail-slash-spine. "It then overrides nervous system of their bodies, forcing them to move in accordance of its instincts. In case of a dead body, it will eventually just die due to lack of sustenance. But in case of a spiritual entity, it will eventually fuse with its victim. At first, the fused entity has both Hollow-like traits, and traits it used to have before, but in time the soul will be completely hollowed. Depending on how you look at it, this could be viewed as a flaw in the process, or just result of natural entropy. A functional hybrid would, at least in some cases, be much more useful."

    Li turns to look at Koutarou. "I suspect the Hollow I sent Izanami to retrieve is origin of one, or both, of these samples. I also suspects these things were why these Hollows were contained, rather than purified, in the first place. Izanagi, and whoever helped him at the time, wanted to research these entities. However, 1500 years ago they did not have proper equipment or methodology. So they had to wait. For a long, long time. The last of these facilities was left to guard of artificial souls just two or three centuries ago. Why they were not destroyed after that, I do not know. Maybe Izanagi still wasn't done with his research, or maybe he just forgot. These facilities were not in exactly easy-to-reach places. Why he chose to keep them in secret, I also don't know. I suspect he would have told either Izanami or me, if not for his sudden departure to Royal Guard. I don't think he anticipated the events that have unfolded."
    "It's the fate of all things under the sky,
    to grow old and wither and die."

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