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 Falling in the Well [Solo]

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Hibiki Jishin


Number of posts : 71
Age : 23
Registration date : 2012-01-18

PostSubject: Falling in the Well [Solo]   Mon Jan 28, 2013 1:59 pm

Exhaustion. A fighter's friend, as well as their enemy. It's a measure of how much effort you put yourself through, and how much effort you're putting your opponent through. It determines the winner and the loser of any battle, race, competition, and so on. It's the difference between life and death, and a constant struggle to never reach that point. It was also Hibiki's biggest adversary. Far too many times, he was falling behind when they would use the track, or he was becoming winded after just a few strokes of his blade. Yet, he gained no endurance. After all his classes from the day were done, he lay in his dorm, mulling over this troubling matter, his mind weary from the day, though his body all wound up. He thought back to the moment he was watching his father in battle, a blur of elegance and fluidity that flowed endlessly, and never seemed to tire. Part of it was the speed, he knew, considering the man he had seen was far too hard to follow with his naked eye at most times, lest he was standing still. However, he recalled the intense pressure that had settled on his shoulders as his father released more and more of his power. As a result, he had come to the conclusion that one's Spiritual Power is a direct reflection of the amount of stamina in which they possess. This, however, was just a guess and check kind of ordeal, but something he was willing to test, later. With a heavy sigh, he closed his eyes, letting his mind drift off. Without warning, his consciousness was shoved aside to the background, Akki taking control. Hibiki said naught as he watched through their eyes the events that took place.

Tossing aside their blankets, Akki deftly rolled their form out of bed, their bare feet embracing the cool floor as he stood. Without a word, he set about, gathering seemingly random things. A roll of bandages, a rolled up mat, a bento they had prepared for lunch the next day, along with a full loaf of bread. Next, he walked to a wardrobe at the far end of their room. Placing his hands on the knobs, he took a deep breath, bowing his head. Hibiki, inquisitive as he was, often knew that while his consciousness was in a dormant state, or sleeping, as it was for them, that Akki would venture out on his own, though he had no clue what was in the wardrobe, as he never used it himself. Akki, sensing his curiosity, grinned slightly, and tugged open the doors. What lay on the inside both struck Hibiki with awe and slight discomfort at the same time. Akki chuckled to himself, not saying a word and dropped their robes from their lean frame. Within a few minutes time, they were dressed and ready. Hibiki was more at a loss now than before, but that changed quickly as Akki passed the tall mirror on the wall opposite them, and he got a good look of themselves.

Their upper body was tightly wrapped from waist to shoulder in dark grey cloth bandages, like a makeshift compression shirt, neatly outlining their physique and almost tracing every divot and curve. On their chest, held up by their shoulders, was a black leather chest piece, small, light, and close fitting along the skeletal flow of their ribcage. It had no shoulder pieces, and nothing covering the abdomen. Sitting lazily on their hips was a broad belt of the same make and fashion as the chest piece. Attached to the belt, the blood-red hilts of their Zanpakutou angled slightly forward from the back, a single line of the red cloth attached to each hand, each of which was wrapped firmly, up to the top of the forearm, with enough slack that they could lift their arms all the way above their head without any tautness. Subtle, though extremely useful. From their waist, down, they were wrapped in the same grey bandages as their upper torso, all the way down the leg to the arch of their still bare feet. Over that, they wore simple shorts of cotton, the same shade as their Zanpakutou's wrapping, close fitting, but not tight, the bottom ending just below the knee. To top off the ensemble, a scarf, red as blood and frayed from use, surrounded the lower portion of their face. All in all, they looked like they were ready for travel, a spar, and intensive training, all at the same time.

Leather Armor
Scarf Reference

Akki grinned as Hibiki admired his outfit. As he moved their form away from the mirror, and picked up the pack that was now completely full, Hibiki questioned his brother, of several things at once; The outfit, the spontaneous packing, and their apparent need to hide their identity. Akki simply growled softly in his throat, a sound that was both comforting and threatening simultaneously. Shouldering the cloth pack, he then made his way to the window opposite their bed, that overlooked one of the still open gates of Seireitei. In his left hand, he held three small objects; smoke bombs, to be precise. Gauging the distance between himself and the guard that stood by the old wooden door, the young student reared back, gripping the sides of the window, and launched himself forward like a slingshot. Just before he entered the Shinigami's field of view, he threw down his payload of smoke bombs, giving a large area a thick cloud of cover as he continued to sail by. He hit the ground still inside the cover, and let his momentum carry him into a forward roll. Mid-roll, he set his palms down and shoved off, his legs kicking out and forward, sending him sailing once more, this time out of the smokescreen and into the nearby brush, a quiet rustle amidst the Shinigami guard's coughing as he stumbled about.

Landing lithely, Akki took off as soon as his footing was set. Hibiki sat in the background of their consciousness, watching his brother's view of the world in awe. Whereas Hibiki took heed of the bigger picture, and searched out objects that didn't fit, seeing the world in an array of flat colors, Akki's attention was far more expansive. Everything had a sharper contrast to it, especially the whitened glow of the full moon as it filtered through the branches of the trees above them. So raw and instinctive was Akki's mind that he needn't pay attention to what was to the left and right, for his body was moving in perfect sync with his surroundings, his eyes never shifting to either side. There were moments when movements of animals would catch his attention, though he dull note of the disruptions, aware that there was no imminent danger, even if his impulse was to hunt, track, and eradicate whatever it was. So animal was his brother, so... Hollow.

After three minutes of solid running, Hibiki could feel their body beginning to tire, their legs burning, their lungs blazing with each breath, and the sharp tang of blood in their throat as the cool night air dried out their mouth. A gentle nudge to the other consciousness in an attempt to alert him of their distress proved to fail. A sharper nudge only received a sharp growl and a mental backlash. When Hibiki actually put force behind his mental nudge, Akki let out a physical roar, stopping so hard in his tracks, deep furrows arose in the ground as he slid to a halt. Huffing and exhausted, the body weary, he turned his attention inward, mentally, wrapping the whole of his mind around his brother's. When he spoke, he did so out loud and in his mind.

"Listen, brother, you do your part day in and day out, taxing our mind with as much information as possible, and then fretting about what we can and can't do physically. Let me give my part to this... To us. This is what I am best at. I'm going to release you, but so help me, if you nudge me once more, I'm stopping, and you find your own way back home."

His words completed, Hibiki receded back into the background, as Akki would normally do, and watched his brother work. Akki had resumed his dead run, somehow, despite the physical exertion and pain Hibiki could feel even so far withdrawn from their body. Then, it struck him, a simple thought he had failed to see through in his brother. They were, in fact, going to travel, as well as train. In fact, the dead sprint Akki was exerting was part of that training. Hibiki was abashed, not having realized sooner what his brother was doing. He was testing their limits, gauging just how far they could push their body before-

Without warning, Akki's legs stopped moving, both going limp. The ground loomed up from beneath them, it's surface covered in all manner of roots, rocks, and plants. Akki, ever the acrobatic one, let their body relax, shifting their center of gravity up and to their back. As they fell, the sudden shift in their center of gravity put them into a ragdoll roll, their relaxed form hitting back first as Akki tucked his head to his chest. Several rolls and a dizzying turn later, gravity finally took it's full hold, and Akki's roll stopped, leaving him splayed on his back, chest heaving with an effort to suck in as much oxygen as possible, mouth drier than a desert, and legs beyond overworked, both currently useless. Still, a manic grin played at his face as his slit pupil eyes gazed at the moon overhead, the stars only adding to the magnificence. He inhaled deeply through his nose, drawing in the fresh air, filled with the scent of earth, ozone, and the sickly sweet odor of night blooming flowers. Slowly, he exhaled through his mouth, letting his body relax as his heart rate slowed to a normal pace versus the erratic hammering it was now. Pushing his own limits, Hibiki gently tapped his brother's consciousness, inquisitively, not forcefully. With an airy chuckle, his breath still fleeing, Akki responded out loud,

"Now... We train... I only hope... you're right... about your... 'Spiritual... Power... equals endurance'... assertion..."

For some reason, this set Hibiki's mind at ease, as his brother died laughing, his sense of humor somewhere far removed from anything normal people would consider funny. After he caught his breath, and his heart slowed to it's normal pace, Akki resumed his serious composure. Both of their legs were virtually useless, so he propped himself up against a tree using only his arms. The night was already half over as he looked to the moon, directly above them in the sky. Gathering his thoughts, he accessed their shared store of knowledge, trying to remember everything he knew about Spiritual Pressure. Reiryoku was the basic level of their endurance, their physical limit, their total amount of energy, as he recalled from one of their classes. The manipulation and use of that energy was Reiatsu, he added to himself, building the levels up one by one. Therefore, if they learned to manipulate their Reiatsu better, and use it efficiently, they would have a larger reserve of Reiryoku, which would, in the long run, increase their overall endurance, as well as their power.

If Hibiki had a body all his own, his jaw would have dropped to the ground. He never thought of his brother as stupid, or incapable of intelligence, but to remember something of their classes that even he himself had forgotten long ago, and then build on that on his own... He really needed to stop underestimating his brother. As he thought on this, he arrived at a rather sad realization; despite them sharing a single body, an intimacy so close, no other could compare... He hardly knew his brother. Taking a mental note, he tucked that away as he let his consciousness slip off into oblivion, paying no heed to what transpired outside his weary shell.

On the other side of things, Akki was warming up by munching on the loaf of bread he had packed, rebuilding some of his energy, knowing that their legs would suffer if he didn't provide nutrients to heal them. Peanuts completed the odd meal, along with a few swigs of water. Not wanting to risk injury to his legs, he used his hands to pull each of them in close, then into a cross-legged position. Carefully, he slid himself backwards until he was straight up against the tree. Here, he let his body at ease, taking a moment to relax before he would initiate his training. It was then that he realized he was at a loss. He knew that managing their efficiency in the use of Reiryoku was the key, and the effect it created was Reiatsu, but the actual mechanics of how to do so were a complete mystery. Really, neither he nor Hibiki were advanced enough in their classes to learn how to do so. Hell, they could barely do Kido, and only succeeded because of the incantations.

With a heavy sigh, Akki's head dropped against the tree behind him, for once wishing he had been a bit more like his brother in his work ethic. He thought about that day, which seemed so long ago, that he and his brother met their father... The frantic battle, the acrobatics, and the short-lived reunion. Then a thought struck him. The feeling they got in their body when they had channeled their ability... Maybe it was the same thing as channeling Reiatsu. As he recalled, after a few shots, they would eventually grow tired, the same way they did after just a few incantations of Kido. Putting two and two together, he figured he had a 50/50 shot... Except he didn't know how to channel the energy anywhere except his hands. He mulled over their other abilities, and decided that their Resonance, an ability they'd had active virtually 24/7 would be the best place to start, since it was one that was within effect in the environment.

Closing his eyes, he calmed his mind, letting his senses feel around him, slowly ceasing each, one by one. His sense of touch slowly decreased, until he felt nothing. His ears detected less noise and feedback, until not even his own heart was heard. His sense of smell and taste both faded away into nothingness. His body in total sensory deprivation, he let his mind expand, exploring his own body, deep to the core. In his gut, he nudged against the vaguely familiar pocket of energy that he felt during Kido, the same place they would feel their energy coming from had they still been human. The mass resisted, and Akki, eager to test, surrounded it with his consciousness, aiming to leave it no choice. He was shocked when the single mass suddenly broke into two, the other half staying outside the circle. He attempted to reign in the escaped mass, but it resisted further, molding itself into a thin, unattainable mass. Giving up, Akki focused on the energy he had surrounded, dully noting the resonance of the other mass. He used his consciousness to poke at his mass a few times, to no avail. Growing frustrated, he nudged it a bit more forcefully, and it rippled within him, sending a shockwave of raw power, gritty, and somehow dark in nature. Slightly shocked at the event of any type of reaction, he extended his consciousness into a single, sharp point, slowly moving closer to the mass. Outside his mind, his body was sweating with anticipation, his brow furrowed, deep in a meditative state. Ever so gently, the needle-sharp point he'd given his consciousness grazed the mass. Like a too-big balloon, the mass burst open, the shockwave bursting the other mass within him, both exploding with such a violent fury, it literally threw his consciousness back to his physical body, and for the best.

As his eyes snapped open and his senses returned, he heard an odd noise from somewhere; A gut-wrenching roar of sheer anger, shock, and pain. It was so loud, his ears were ringing, and he was sure it was close. It wasn't until he regained feeling and total cognizance of his senses that he realized the howling beast was himself, and that the surrounding area, everything within a fifteen foot radius, was being devoured by both a gritty, black Reiatsu and a flowing, silver Reiatsu, both disintegrating what they touched due to such a raw nature. His body felt an intense amount of pressure as he began to panic, unable to stop the steady torrent that was pushing its way out of his body. The ground beneath his form began to crumble, his untamed Reiatsu widening the cracks beneath him. Try as he might, he could not regain composure of himself, and he watched in fear and awe as, several feet away, the ground fell out, revealing a large dark hole. Slowly, cracks began to snake their way towards him, his black Reiatsu streaming up from each like a wicked inferno. Without warning, Akki's Reiatsu was violently cut off, virtually emptied. The boy's head bobbed down, and he coughed violently, droplets of blood spattering his legs and the ground, each scarlet dot reflecting the light of the moon. A grin spread across his face, despite his blood-stained teeth and inability to move his body. He had found out how to open up their reserve of Reiryoku, of that he was sure. His excitement was short lived when he heard the deep rumbling, like rocks grinding against one and other. He let his eyes refocus, searching for the source. Looking down, he saw the cracks had reached him, and were still webbing their way about. Wider now was the hole that had opened up, and that was without extra weight. As the cracks reached their way under his immobilized form, the grin slipped from his face and he began to slip away from consciousness. A loud "CRACK!" echoed from underneath him, as he muttered to himself.

"Aw shi-"

The ground gave way, and Akki's helpless body was gripped by gravity. His mind slipped away, though his eyes still saw, and he watched as the giant moon above him slowly began to shrink... Or was he falling? He didn't know, nor did he care, until he heard the splashes far below. This seemed to kick his mind into a state of alert. He still had virtually no control over his weakened body, but the human mind is capable of amazing feats when preserving life. His center of gravity shifted, causing his body to tilt so that his fall was headlong. Despite the pain, his arms extended in front of him, his hands clasping together. It was then that he noticed Hibiki's panicked consciousness alongside his own, barely able to keep his own mentality straight, given the distress of both their body and the situation. Not wanting to let him interfere, Akki gave himself an internal kick, taking control back from his brother, just in the nick of time. As he regained control, his form plummeted into the frigid waters.

The cold seized him like a vice, squeezing the air from his lungs and sapping both his warmth and his strength. He had no idea how large this mass of water was, nor how close he was to any form of help. Far above him, the moon looked like a tiny pinprick against a gaping hole, which from this distance, appeared no larger than a hole in a saltine. Still, he began to swim, painfully and miserably. Thrice more he lost consciousness, slipping under the placid waters until his burning lungs alerted him of the danger, his survival instincts in full gear. He lost track of time, his mind unable to think anything but of self-preservation. During the middle of his ordeal, he even attempted to re-access his Reiatsu once again, this time trying to spread it through his body, aiming to keep it contained. He didn't maintain his wits enough to know if he had or not, and was sure he was hallucinating, because as he did so, the waters around him began to glow, and he could make out the same strange pale-blue glow intermittently beneath and in front of him, about a hundred meters off. There was something relaxing about it, and for some reason, he set himself at ease, ceasing to move his arms as his world went black.

On and off, he re-awoke, feverish and half out of his mind. Above him, he could see the sun, and then his eyes would fade to darkness again, and when next he would open them, he could see the moon. Several times he went through this cycle, unsure if he was actually seeing what was happening or if he was dreaming all this. Once, he swore he heard the gentle humming of a female voice, though he was positive there was no other life anywhere nearby. Some time later, his sight came into focus, and stayed. Weary and worn, he lay there a while, looking at the sun far above him. He wanted to believe it was a bad dream, that he wasn't actually this far away from any refuge or from the warmth of the sun, trapped in these expansive waters-

With shock, he gasped, sitting up, realizing he was underwater. Frantically, he swam towards the surface, then stopped, the reality of what he was noticing dawning over him. He was underwater... and he was breathing. He shook his head, not wanting to believe it. Slowly, he took a deep breath, shock turning into wonder as he completed the task without inhaling any water. Testing his limits, he took a swing underwater, noting that it still behaved like water, slowing his strike, even if he could breath and was dry. Letting himself sink lower, he found that the water pressure had much the same effect as a change in altitude, making it harder to breath, though still possible. As he touched the bottom once more, he knelt down, getting his bearings. An upward slope off to his right told him that was the way to a shore. Off to his left, the slope downgraded, leveling out some distance away, a bright, pale blue glow piercing the eerie gloom. As much as his curiosity egged him to venture towards the glow, his gut told him that land was his best bet. Using the water to his advantage, he trudged, step by step, his legs, as of yet, not fully healed, though capable of movement, which the water amplified. As he drew closer to the surface, gravity began to come into effect, making the strain on his legs worse and worse. Eventually, he was forced to pull himself along using only his arms as he scooted across the ground, his head breaking the surface. He paid no heed to his surroundings, his mind focused on the task at hand, until he was safely on the shore. Only then did he take on the full scope of his surroundings.

He was in an underground cavern, the size of which made his head spin. With the aid of the single shaft of sunlight that filtered through the hole hundreds of stories above him, he could make out one of the nearby walls. Crystals coated the wall like a multitude of insects, each one glowing a different color in the shade of the massive space. However, some of these crystals were broken, their shards littering the ground like shattered glass. As he picked out the little details, he noticed that a lot were cleanly sliced off, and the angle of the cuts perfectly matched deep gouges in the wall, each one straight, tapering to a point at each end and widest in the middle. They were too far spaced to be claws, but too close to be natural. Someone had been practicing here with a blade. The thought that there may be someone down here that was armed worried Akki. This worry only increased as he noticed a slight movement on a pillar off to his right, slightly behind him. Turning round, his face blanched and his heart skipped several beats. Thirty feet up the massive pillar, two Zanpakutou were embedded, point first, into the stone. Hanging from both, a cloth sack, tied with rope, but otherwise untouched. Akki didn't have to look down to know that the Zanpakutou were his, as well as the bag. Lowering his head, he was going to let himself sulk for a bit, when he noticed the bread. The other half of the unfinished loaf sat there, neatly laid out on some form of parchment. Scooting over to its location, he slowly picked up the loaf in his left hand and the note in his right, reading it slowly.

"The bird in the nest only sets flight when all its feathers have grown."

Below the writing, a row of hash marks was at the bottom of the paper, one of them fresh, as Akki's thumb accidentally smeared it a bit. The blood drained from his face once more as he realized it was a tally, each one marking a full day that he had been there. He counted... then recounted the number of lines, not wanting to believe it.

Five days... I was unconscious for five days... he thought to himself.

On one hand, he noted that if his company had wanted him dead, they would have killed him much earlier. As it were, it may just be some sick joke, what with the cryptic message. He pondered his options for a while, slowly eating the bread that had been so graciously laid out for him. He could stay put, and pray for aid to come to him, since his legs were virtually useless, or he could try and get himself out. Sighing a heavy breath, he looked about his temporary home. Through the massive hole in the ceiling that was a fraction of its actual size this far down, sunlight illuminated a large portion of water, the rest disappearing into the darkness, far further than the way he'd had to swim to get where he was. If he focused, he could still make out the pale blue glow, several hundred feet away. Exasperated, his mind made up, he lay down on his back, his full stomach clouding his mind, lulling him to sleep.

The bright orange glow of a fire, along with a scintillating scent of smoked meat, brought Akki from his slumber. A grin on his face, he let his eyes open lazily, until his brain registered that there was a fire. As quickly as it had taken him to wake up, he was on his feet, scooting away from the inferno. His heart beat rapidly, his brain racing as he scanned the area for any kind of threat. Sensing and seeing nothing, he settled his tensed body, taking in the scene in front of him.

Inside a deep crater, which had mysteriously appeared in the time he was asleep, dozens of tree trunks had been uprooted, and tossed into its depths, then set ablaze, becoming fuel for a hungry force. It wasn't until the unbearable pain set in that he realized that he was actually standing up, albeit barely. As his mind became more aware of this fact, it seemed the shakier his legs grew, but he was determined to stay standing. In an effort to push the pain away, he took a step... And then another, followed by another shortly after. Step by step, he made his way around the flames, his body letting the pain meld into the background, the warmth of the blaze seeping into his bones.

As he made it to the opposite side, he caught sight of the source of the delightful scent. Rotating slowly on a hand-fashioned rotisserie was an animal unlike any he'd ever seen before. It had an elongated body, lean and muscular, built narrow. Four abnormally long legs that ended on blunt, hoof-like digits attached at the beast's fore and rear. Bodily, it was much like a deer... mixed with a feline's skeleton. The blunted structures told Akki this was no hunter, so he needn't worry, but as he looked at the beast's body, he noticed that on the strange, elongated face, he could make out scarring, each mark close together, and all in straight lines and jagged holes, but in a straight row, rather than the arch produced by a bite. As he examined the rest of the body, even through the strange, leathery skin, Akki could see the tell-tale signs of having been hunted; bite marks on the legs, with what he could only guess were abnormally long claw marks on the waist area, though they seemed almost like knife wounds in some areas.

His attention so focused, he reacted purely on instinct when he heard the clear flapping noise, his bandaged fists raising up in both defense and offense as he crouched down low, eyes on the sky. It was then that his eyes adjusted to the gloom outside the glow of the fire, and the massive structure before him. Standing back up, though never lowering his guard, he stared in wonder and utter curiosity at what he was seeing. Stacked neatly in a pyramidal structure, at least 70 feet tall, were tree trunks, each bigger around than probably three of him. Attached to the front of the pile, flapping every so often in the air currents caused by the fire, was another piece of paper, the same as the one from before. Wedged between a crack in two trees, right next to it, was a large, leather-bound book.

Focusing on the paper first, he hobbled slowly over to it, pulling it free from the massive post it had been attached to. He smirked to himself as he read, this note much more straightforward than the last.

”I won’t go into riddles; You’re lucky to have your life, releasing so much Reiatsu. You can barely control alone, so there’s no way you can control both yours and your brother’s. I’ve treated your legs to the best of my ability, but it will take more than that to get out of here. The only way to leave, without getting lost in these caverns, is the way you came in. To get there, you will need to learn to balance your Reiryoku and your Reiatsu. Beforehand, you must regain your strength, study, and train. The book will help, as will the food. However, be warned. You have only a week. Godspeed”

At the conclusion of the letter, he re-read it again, to be sure he was getting it all. He couldn’t tell if the last words were more more of a threat, or a friendly reminder. Letting the thought go, he focused more on the thought of how he was going to manage to train himself proficiently enough that he could escape within a week. Setting down the old parchment, he hobbled over to the book, dislodging it from its perch. Before opening it, he looked over the outside of it.

It was leatherbound, black, and had obviously seen much use, though it was still in good condition. A few sections had been marked, and Akki started with those, though he soon found out most of them were old sections that pertained to things he didn’t need, like a section describing beings that could only have been Vizards, and objects called Soul Gems.

However, one section caught his attention, and it had been marked with an old tab, then reinforced with a newer marking. It began on a page where a new chapter started, titled, ‘The Cavern of Souls.’

”Almost all landmarks in Soul Society are well known, and highly researched, with much knowledge of each ascertained. However, none have yet to puzzle the masses as much as the place known as the Cavern of Souls. Very little is known about this massive complex, save the entrance, located at the base of a mountain far off the outskirts of Rukongai, and the manuscripts, ancient, even by the standards of a Shinigami. From what has been discovered, the cavern seems to stretch on for hundreds, maybe thousands of miles, the manuscripts describing it as ‘an endless place, untouched by time, with a life of its own.’ Though seemingly uninhabited, the explored sections of the Cavern of Souls give off an uncharted amount of Spiritual Pressure, though the source of this phenomenon is unknown. Future study must be conducted in order to fully understand this structure.”

His curiosity piqued, Akki searched for the next section marked similar to this one, just a few pages past, this time, it was clear that this was not just a book, but a research journal, the handwriting that had previously been precise enough to look like text now hurried.

”The manuscripts have all been deciphered, and what they reveal is truly remarkable. The Cavern of Souls is exactly that, in short, a cavern in which the essence of a soul gathers, at least according to the deciphered manuscripts. They speak of a place called the Spirit Well, a vast sea of such highly concentrated, naturally occurring Reiryoku, it has formed itself into almost a liquid state, though the source of it has been carefully removed from the tablets that the story has been etched on. It goes on to speak of the nature of the Cavern, how it’s still growing, with a will of its own, and what strange things happen to some that enter. This is the truly intriguing part, as it goes into detail of a rite of passage, to determine who among these people would become warriors. At a certain age, one would enter the Cavern through a pathway that led directly to the Spirit Well. For one week, they would survive, alone. Most never emerged, but those that did bore a mask of bone, and wielded unimaginable power. This seems eerily similar to the likeness of a Vizard. Could they be one in the same?”

Akki’s body shuddered as he read these lines, and he shuffled closer to the flames. Taking a break as his stomach rumbled harshly, he set the journal down and carefully removed the beast from the crudely made rotisserie. Hobbling over to the far wall, he picked up one of the larger slivers of the cut jewels, with a keen, even edge. He made his way back to his meal, the smell of the meat setting his mouth watering. He kept it close to the flames, so the meat wouldn’t go cold, but set about carving off strips of it, setting some aside to dry, for later use, while he made a meal of the rest, eating absentmindedly as he picked back up the journal, turning to the next page of information.

”I’ve done it... I’ve found an entrance... No, THE entrance... I’ve brought my equipment down to study as much of this phenomenal place as possible. From what I’ve gathered so far, the manuscripts have yet to lie. The Spirit Well... It’s magnificent. For such a large body to exist underground, and to be made of sheer Reiryoku... It’s simply astounding. In the distance, deep underwater, I can see a pale blue glow, but it’s too far out to try and determine what exactly it is, and I have no idea what effect so much raw Reiryoku would do to my body. For Now, I’ll just gather data.”

”It’s so much more than I could’ve ever dreamed of... I found a new manuscript, one that hints at the source of such a place, how the Well could even exist... It’s almost impossible to believe... The eerie blue glow in the distance is supposed to be a some kind of storage unit, from what I gather. Storage for what, it doesn’t say, or at least, I can’t figure it out, though it has some connection with the true nature and existence of this place. I’ve determined that, despite the raw nature of the Reiryoku, it’s so mild, one could even swim through it, with no harm. Despite the risk, I tested and proved this, and the results proved astounding. While it does have similar properties to water, it is possible to breath while completely submerged, and it doesn’t wet the skin or clothes. Prolonged exposure seems to reinvigorate my personal store of Reiryoku. The less I have, the faster it seems to refill. I’ve resolved to go far enough out that I can examine and test the source of the blue glow.“

”Memories... That’s what the receptacle held... I swam out to it today, and was shocked to discover it was much more than what it appeared. It looks just like a large crystal, almost completely clear, though palest blue in color, with an internal glow. It’s ten feet thick, and tapers to an obelisk. Inside... Locked away, inside the crystal, is what appears to be a person... A Shinigami. They are suspended exactly in the middle of the structure, like a fly caught in amber, though it appears to be on purpose. They are cross-legged, and seem to be holding a Zanpakutou, straight up and down, though halfway up, the blade disappears, and becomes the same as the structure. I can only hypothesize that this is some kind of Zanpakutou ability, both preserving the life of this individual, as well as the vast store of collective knowledge that I can no longer displace from my head. I now know what is the cause of this place, what dark secrets it held... I have to leave, soon, or I fear I may suffer the same fate as many before me.“

Despite the heat of the flames, Akki felt cold. He gave his eyes a rest, and set the book down, his appetite no longer bothering him. He looked out to the pale blue glow, and narrowed his eyes. For a moment, it seemed to shine brighter, as if beckoning him, but he blinked, and all seemed normal, so he attributed it to just a trick of the light on his tired eyes. Then, it happened again, this time, several incessant flickers, brighter, dimmer, brighter, dimmer, trying to get his attention. Despite the tone taken in the journal, Akki found he couldn’t resist the urge. Slowly, he stood, his legs supporting him a little better, now that he had eaten and was beginning to regain strength, and made his way to the shore of the Well. Without thinking twice, he waded into the sea of Reiryoku, and began making his way forward.

Rather than swim, he let his form sink to the bottom, then began walking, letting the gravity-nullifying effect work to his advantage, making his small movements exaggerated, so he used less energy for more effect. It was slow going, but he didn’t care. He could already feel his strength growing, the raw Spiritual Power having an unseen effect on rapidly healing his body. Ten minutes in, his muscles no longer ached, and his weariness had all but disappeared. He could move about easily now with his arms and his legs. His mind snapped back to attention as he realized he was but a few feet away from the structure now.

His hair stood on end as he gazed at the obelisk before him, such a pale blue, it was almost clear. It radiated power, so forceful, he was just now realizing that it was pushing away the natural Reiryoku around it, creating a sphere of influence all its own, like dry ground underwater. Akki stood there, mesmerized, and then he saw her. Five feet into the crystalline structure, a girl, his own age, it looked like, sat there, her Zanpakutou held straight up, half of it seemingly fused to the prison. His heart beat as he looked at her steadily, trying to determine any possible reason why she would be imprisoned within such a structure. Then, she opened her eyes.

Akki stopped moving, altogether. She didn’t move any more than opening her eyes, but Akki could see them all the way from where he was. They were icy blue, and seemed to fill the entire socket. In any other case, he would’ve felt threatened, and probably retaliated, but this was different, he knew there was no danger, rather, he felt the need to come forward. Step by step, he closed the distance between himself and the obelisk, and stopped. His brow furrowed as the girl’s gaze never broke. Without thinking, he lifted his hand, and pressed against the surface of the glass-like structure. When his palm struck, he felt a surge of warmth, and thoughts began flooding his mind, images of such vivid nature, he wasn’t sure they were even through normal eyes. He wasn’t sure how long had passed when the spell finally broke, the last image an eerie one, as he was watching himself, from outside his own body. Letting his hand drop, he sat down abruptly, feeling both drained and filled simultaneously. His mind hurt, as he realized what the journal had meant by memories. He had now become a vast store of knowledge, half of which frightened him half to death, the other half giving him a slight glimmer of hope.

In some removed corner of his mind, he noticed that the light was dying down, not realizing it had increased in brightness. The girl’s eyes still remained open, gazing at him unblinkingly. Akki shuddered slightly, and tucked his legs up close to his body, replaying some of the images he had seen.

The old man with the sword... Entering the cave... Jinzen... Then the materialization... It had shocked the old man... He hadn’t done anything intentionally, and this was no ordinary Zanpakutou Spirit... It looked just like the old man, except for a single strip of bone-like mask that ran from the bridge of his nose, and into his grayed hairline. It even had a blade of its own... The next images were quick, still frames of a frantic battle between the two... Eventually, the draw was set... Both were out of strength, and evenly matched... And then they still drew their blades at one another, striking quick and true, each piercing the heart of the other. Desperate to save the life of the other, each began pouring their power into the other, knowing that if one died, they both did. However, neither were willing to remove the blade from the other, their pride too strong to yield weakness, so they stood there, ceaselessly cycling their Reiryoku between themselves, trying to keep the other surviving...

The next images were in fast forward, almost like a time lapse... In time, their power began to grow, and affect the physical environment. The escaped Reiryoku began to seep into the stones around them, never dissipating, only adding each time. By some means unknown, the length of time each stood was enough that the cavern itself began to recycle and produce its own Reiatsu, like a living force. The amount began to become immeasurable, and began seeping up through the ground, like water. Years pass, hundreds, thousands, and then the cavern was full. Little did the old man know that during this age-long struggle, his daughter had followed him, and had watched over them, day in and day out, hoping beyond hope that he would prevail. The day came when both he and his counterpart came to an agreement. Their will to live was too powerful for either to let the other yield victory, yet staying stuck for an eternity was no wish of either of them. In a single fluid motion, they both removed their blades from one another.

The following explosion was indescribable. Such force was produced, the ground beneath them was rent in a circle of unfathomable depth, the strength of so much Reiryoku being released simultaneously, it seemed to tear the fabric of this dimension.

With tears in her eyes, the girl, who had witnessed the entirety of the event, traveled to the edge of the crater, and peered into its depths. She was shocked to discover that some solid form of crystal, clearer than any glass she’d ever seen, and stronger than diamond, seemed to cover the entirety of the opening, though with just a few millimeters. The ground a little ways away caved in, and like a puddle, the crystal spread, sealing the gap quickly. As she looked through, her mind became puzzled. She wasn’t looking into darkness, but rather, a night sky, close to dusk. Whited dunes of sand rose and fell across the landscape. From her angle, everything seemed inverted, though, as if any moment, it would all come rushing towards her. She flinched violently when the masked form swam past her, a massive figure, close enough it was mostly shadow, but her mind put the pieces together as she realized it was a shark of unfathomable proportions, though like no shark she had seen before. All she felt from it was an emptiness, like it was... Hollow.

Shaking from her scare, she slowly scooted away, afraid that somehow, whatever else lurked beyond that thin film, would break through. She walked, the surface of the sea of Reiryoku above her drawing closer. For ages, it seemed, she walked, until she saw the elevated rise that meant the exit. She stopped then, and turned back, her eyes finding the spot far off in the distance. She looked to the surface longingly, but knew she couldn’t leave in good conscience. Whatever her father had done had created that rift, and whatever lurked on the other side needed to be monitored, and anyone somehow finding this place would need to be warned. Without thinking, she sat down crossing her legs. She unsheathed her blade, and held it still before her, breathing in deeply. Quietly, she whispered, ”Turn, Sunadokei.” Without a sound, her blade transformed, the upper half slowly turning clear, and spreading out around her. Within a matter of minutes, she was enshrouded in her obelisk fortress.

Time lapse again, and the odd crystals he had seen before began to grow, and he realized they coincided with the arrival of a new person. Each time, they would come to the obelisk, and place their hands upon it, then they would look off into the distance, at the place where the opening lay, then they would make way for it. Some came back soon after, though different, each wearing a Hollow mask of a different fashion. Others never returned. Every so often, a bright glow would illuminate the distance from the opening’s location, and one could make out the distinct shape of a slender figure, always in the same position, hovering just a few feet above the ground, suspended in crystal much like that of the living one that held the opening closed.

At one point, Akki could swear he heard a manic chuckle, followed by the clash of blades, which somehow made him think of his father.

Time lapse once more, and Akki witnessed the researcher that had left the journal. She was astounding... Her hair was a deep turquoise blue, with shining, intelligent grey eyes. She was thin, but toned, at the same time. Her face held a permanent look of inquisition, everything her eyes touched falling to her scrutiny. She went through the same routine as all the others, coming close to the obelisk, touching it, and receiving the transference of memories. Akki kept watching in silence as she made her way towards that odd layer of crystal, except this time, he followed. What he saw disturbed him.

Indeed, he had seen a man suspended and frozen in crystal, but what he had not seen was his face. The woman looked on in awe as she studied everything she could of the man with but a portion of a Hollow mask on his face, and a gaping hole where his heart should be, perfectly circular. Without warning, his closed eyes snapped open, locking onto hers. She didn’t scream, or yell, or run in fright, but instead, stood still, much like Akki had done. She slowly reached her hand up and touched the crystal, and it slowly receded, from the top, to just below the man’s bare feet. It stopped, then, and he took a careful step down.

As his feet touched, he seemed to shimmer and disappear. He reappeared before Akki could blink, standing in front of the woman, his hand holding hers to the hilt of her blade, the bloodied point of which was now protruding through the hole where his heart should be, and through her back, just over her own heart. Not a single whimper emerged from her lips, she only smiled and Akki felt the air warm with an intense Reiatsu. The man smiled approvingly and gave a quick surge of his own Reiatsu, channeling it through the blade, just as the woman was. There was a flash of light, and the man was once again enshrouded in his prison, the woman, standing there, her face down, her blade sheathed, as if it had never happened.

Slowly, she raised her head, and Akki bore witness to the Hollow mask that now adorned her face.

It was here that Akki now regained his cognisance, snapping back to the present. He was sure, now that the researcher had been correct, that somehow, these people were becoming Vizards. However, through the vast store of knowledge he had received, he was also sure that they could only do so by use of their own Zanpakutou, both of Akki’s being indisposed. So what was the point of it all...? What exactly was it that he was supposed to do...?

”Ask for a different favor...”

The words were not his own, but seemed to pop into his mind. With a start, he looked up, recognizing the voice, and could almost swear he could see the girl in the obelisk smirking, her eyes still unblinking. Akki looked off into the distance, towards that ominous place, then back to the girl, who had once again close her eyes, though he was sure now there was a smile on her face now, where before it had been passive and emotionless. Grudgingly, he stood, and heaved in a deep breath. He half expected Hibiki to awaken now, and and convince him not to go, but his mind stayed silent. As he walked, he put the thought from his head, and focused only on the task at hand, though he had no idea what to expect.

After several minutes of walking, he began to feel the change in the air, a denser level of Reiryoku surrounding him. Still, he pressed on, though something seemed different than he could remember from the memories before. He couldn’t quite place his finger on it, until he drew to the center of the crystalline platform, and turned to gaze at the trapped figure. His brain stopped functioning for a moment as his eyes processed what he was seeing. Before him was the man with a partial Hollow mask, but before him, curled into a ball and surrounded in a smaller shell, was a being of pure silver Reiryoku. Akki would have been intrigued, save for the fact that as he looked, he began to recognize odd features, such as the long hair, the musculature, the build... He wanted to retch when he realized that, within the other prison, the essence of his brother- His Reiryoku, consciousness, and as physical a form as he could have been- resided, curled into a fetal position.

Not wanting to believe it, he reached into himself, searching his mind for the familiar presence of his brother. Finding nothing he began to panic, so much empty space, he felt so alone and desolate. As if a switch had been flipped, he quickly regained his composure. He studied the shell his brother was in, knowing full well he couldn’t be released with his level of strength. Then, he turned his gaze up, focusing on the face of the man in the crystal. His eyes drifted open slowly, and Akki narrowed his own, preparing himself for anything. Silently, he lifted his hand and pressed against the crystal. This time, however, instead of melting away, the crystal began to glow, and become cloudy, a dark sheen overtaking the clear shell. It remained see-through, but it now had a distinct black color.

After the transformation was complete, the dark crystal began to slowly recede, the figure within now narrowing his own eyes while Akki’s slowly widened in fear and wonder. Once the the crystal had receded fully, the figure stepped down. Crimson hair hung down to his shoulders, accented by coal black eyes. His bare chest rippled with muscle, and from the waist down, he wore much the same outfit as an Arrancar, the high level Hollows he had just recently learned of during their classes. The strip of bonelike mask crossed from one side of his face, to the other, following the natural curve of his features. He gazed down at Akki, his narrowed eyes searching for something. Finally, they seemed to find something, and a grin slid onto his face.

”Well, well... This seems to be a first, eh? A kid with some Hollow blood already... Betcha yer pretty riley, huh?” he said. When he noticed Akki’s puzzled expression, and his eyes move quickly to Hibiki’s still form, the smile on his face widened when he followed the gaze.

”Ooooh~! Heh, this must be yer brother, hm? I understand what’s goin’ on now. Too many people in one body makes a helluva tight squeeze for anything else, ‘less you know how to manipulate it. Looks like that anythin’ else happens to be yer Spirit Power.”

”Teach me.” Akki interjected rapidly, just after the Arrancar finished speaking. He said nothign now, his eyes just narrowed and his face became hard as stone as he looked down at Akki.

”If that’s what it takes, then teach me how to manipulate my Reiryoku.”

The grim expression on the man’s face slowly morphed back into a wicked grin.

”Alright. I’ll teach ya. But you better learn quick. Seven days is all the both of ya got to learn. If you don’t then one of ya takes my place in that damned rock, and the openin’ to my home there shatters. Ya get it?” he asked.

Akki nodded, not saying anything. Excitedly, the Arrancar laughed, and clapped his hands.

”Then let’s get started, eh?” he asked, clapping Akki on the back. With one last look at his brother’s form, Akki resolved to return in time, and turned away, walking further into the darkness with his new teacher, and his mortal enemy.
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Falling in the Well [Solo]
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