After leaving the last district in which he had lived with his adopted family, Akuryō had traveled around a lot in the months that followed. He had seen a lot of the soul society and many of the districts. And of each district he had seen the good and the bad. And in each district he had uncovered every criminal and, catching them in the act, he’d eliminate them. doing this, he had also uncovered criminal organizations and had taken them out singlehandedly. After he had cleared out an entire district of criminals, he moved onto the next district.
at the end of each week he send Lyna a letter to tell her in which district he was, or which district he was headed to, as well as what he had done, seen or something he had uncovered. When she replied, she usually also send a basket of food with it. as such, Akuryō suspected that every time she was just one district behind him. the messenger hawk he used to send messages had been trustworthy, something Akuryō had doubted in the beginning, since the salesperson seemed rather shady.
and after doing this for several months, people would know of his description, would know his name, as well as his nickname; Grave Digger. Akuryō had wanted other criminals to know he was coming and to possibly better their lives. As such, with each criminal he found and killed, he would dig a grave and burry the criminal on the place he had killed them. sometimes, when sitting in a more shady bar in disguise, he heard his name along with the grave digger. Some people were wondering who would be the next victim. Some people even wondered; who would be more dangerous; Akuryō or Yachiru. And he wondered the same thing.
as it was getting dark, Akuryō left his rented room through his window, taking his Zanpaktou and his shovel with him. he was in a new rukon district tonight and wondered what kind of scum he would encounter tonight. As the lights were being put out, less and less people could be seen on the streets. However, through his work as a vigilante, as well as his sense of spirit energy, Akuryō could usually tell when a criminal or more were out. And tonight he smelled three dirty rats.
as he walked through the shadows, he heard smothered screams and as he turned a corner, he saw a woman being dragged into a dead end alley. Two men dragged her and two men remained on guard at the entrance. Finding no need to hide, he simply stepped out of the shadows and walked straight toward them. the moment they saw him, both men drew their swords and silently rushed to kill him. things didn’t go as they normally did. Usually when someone saw them attacking, he would turn around screaming. This man calmly walked up to them, before walking by them. the only thing they noticed when he did was that he held a sword in his hands. But as they had walked up to them he hadn’t held a sword. So when had he drawn it? as blood spouted from their throats, both men fell to the ground.
Akuryō entered the alley where he saw the woman was pinned to the wall at the end, while both men were stripping her and fondling her. the men looked back. They had heard their comrades leave and had assumed they had now just returned. Instead they saw this tall stranger. And this man held a sword. One of the men turned around and drew a wakizashi. But as he took a step forward, he fell to the ground, suddenly feeling a hole in the middle of his body. He didn’t even notice this guy stabbing him. how fast was this guy?
the other guy also drew a wakizashi, but held it at the girl’s throat, ‘hold it right there if you want her to live!’ however, Akuryō didn’t stop walking. The man started shaking, why did this guy not stop?! He nervously grinned, ‘maybe you want to join in, is that it? sure, you can join me in fucking this fine piece of ass!’ he pulled the girl’s remaining clothes away with his free hand, showing her naked body, before grabbing in between her legs. The girl tried to scream, but stopped as she felt the man’s blade on her throat.
the man grinned as he saw Akuryō’s blade go down, ‘glad to know you’re into this sort of thing. You really are,…’ he stopped mid sentence, as he noticed the shovel this large man carried with him, ‘you,… you’re the grave digger!’ in a quick swing, the man fell to the ground, following his right hand, which had been cut off first. The naked woman stumbled away in horror and shock. Akuryō stuck his Zanpaktou and shovel into the ground and walked toward her. she closed her eyes in fear, not knowing what this monster was going to do to her. however, as she felt her own clothing draped around her shoulders, she looked up. Where before she had seen the cold dark face of a killer, now she saw a warm caring face, followed by a soft gentle voice, ‘please go home. These men won’t bother you, or anyone else, ever again.’ she nodded and stumbled away, covering herself in her own clothes, still in shock about what had just happened to her.
the next morning, when this woman reported to the soul reapers of this rukon district what had happened to her and where. And as they went to look, they indeed found four graves that had been recently dug. They knew the grave digger only went after criminals, but they wondered why he dug all those graves.
as Akuryō continued to travel, he also continued to train with his Zanpaktou. Kage no Shihai-Sha had taught him several techniques and when hollows showed up in the soul society, Akuryō had tested them out on them. and with him owning his Zanpaktou for eight months now, combined with his daily training, his spiritual pressure had grown enormously. Lyna, who indeed followed Akuryō and remained one district behind him, could feel his power even from one district away. she knew only a few soul reapers who had such power. She had tried to train herself and her power had grown. But compared to him, her power seemed insignificant.
as the ninth month since him possessing a Zanpaktou came to an end, Kage no Shihai-Sha contacted him. it had been since the end of the first two months that Kage had contacted Akuryō. It had taught his master how to use Jinzen, the true way to commune with one’s Zanpaktou. Placing one’s Zanpaktou on one’s lap, or stabbing it in the ground in front of your lap. Than the soul reaper in question focused their spirit into the Zanpaktou. Now Kage summoned its master back into their inner world on its own.
Akuryō look up at his tall Zanpaktou spirit as both of them held their swords, ‘what is it? you haven’t summoned me in a while. Usually I come to you.’ Kage nodded, ‘I know Akuryō. But I’ve felt our connection grow stronger and stronger with each talk. I’m proud to serve such a strong and vicious master.’ Akuryō smiled, ‘I’m glad to hear that. but I don’t think that’s all you wanted to tell me.’ the Zanpaktou nodded and replied, ‘through our stronger connection I have felt that the next step, the next phase, has opened up to us.’ Akuryō’s smile grew into a grin and he locked blades with Kage, ‘do tell Kage. What path has opened? Is it worth walking?’ Kage nodded and exchanged a few powerful strikes with his master, ‘certainly. It’s called the Bankai! The joust blade with skull guard is called the Shikai, you know this.’ Akuryō nodded, blocked Kage’s attack and countered, taking the offensive again, ‘yes. Your Shikai is your true form. The form your blade can take when I call out your name.’
Kage nodded, jumped back, spun around, before launching forward. Akuryō parried it, before pushing his Zanpaktou back and launching a forward slash. Kage blocked and continued, ‘the Bankai is the final stage of the Zanpaktou. You are ready for it.’ Akuryō grinned, ‘is that why you brought me in here? So you and I can fight, so I can obtain it?’ Kage chuckled, ‘I wouldn’t make it that easy for you. where would the fun be in that!’
both fighters jumped back, adjusted their footing and locked blades again, as Kage continued, ‘it’s actually the other way around the Bankai is obtained. Not in here, but out there. Where I brought you in here, you must bring me out into the material world. Use your power to materialize me. than your Bankai training can begin. Akuryō nodded and pulled back, before returning to his body.
the next day, he traveled to a nice wide open field. There was lots of room to move around and even to fight. He was close enough to both rukon districts to move there and buy some food while he also received another basket of food from Lyna. He drew his Zanpaktou and started to focus. This time he had to do the opposite thing of Jinzen. This time he didn’t have to focus his spirit into the blade, this time he had to focus his Zanpaktou spirit out of the blade. It took him a few tries that were fruitless, before getting a result. But even when he achieved results, he only managed small pieces of clothing that didn’t stick around for long. As such, Akuryō kept on trying and trying. Day in, day out. He only took care of criminals when he happened on them. he didn’t hunt them down anymore. Only after a month of this intensive training did he finally manage to fully summon his Zanpaktou.
Kage looked around as he walked over the field. For several kilometers there was no one to be seen. And both rukon districts that could be reached by this road were out of sight as well. he nodded, ‘this is a perfect place to train Akuryō. I hope you’re ready. Obtaining Bankai can take a long time. And it takes a long time to master it as well. but compared to the Shikai, the Bankai’s power can be five to ten times greater.’ Akuryō smiled, ‘now that’s some good news! Let’s begin.’
Akuryō took a fighting position. But as he did, Kage lifted up his right sleeve and sucked in the blade his master held. It disappeared from his hands. Kage nodded and knelt down and put both sleeve covered hands on the ground. As he did, the entire field around them started to slowly be covered in shadows, until finally everything was covered in darkness. The only things that could be seen were Akuryō and Kage no Shihai-Sha. Akuryō looked around him, ‘impressive field Kage, but how am I supposed to fight without a weapon. In Jinzen I usually fight you. so I’m guessing now we have to fight as well.’ Kage nodded, ‘that’s correct. But as I’m no longer in that blade you just held, it wouldn’t do you any good. So, allow me to show you what this shadow field is for.’
Kage stood up again and held out its right arm. And from the shadowy ground, a spear rose up and Kage took it in hand, ‘this field is like an entire arsenal. It’s filled with your spirit energy and mine. We can both summon any weapon from it we want. And with each weapon we can use my Shikai’s techniques. But only one weapon can defeat me. that weapon is your Bankai. Find it within your mind, summon it and use it to defeat me. if you can defeat me, I’ll enter your weapon and make your Bankai complete. But, I won’t let you take it easy. Just like in Jinzen, I will fight you without holding anything back!’ Akuryō nodded, held out his hand and summoned a large blade joust blade into his hands. For a moment everything was silent, the next moment clashing weapons could be heard.
as both fighters were pushed back after the first clash, both Kage’s spear and Akuryō’s sword shattered. He held out both his hands and summoned up two black katana and rushed over to Kage, swinging both weapons at him. Kage summoned up a black shield and a broadsword, blocking the katana with his shield, before countering with a wide swing. Akuryō pulled back one of his blades and blocked the incoming attack, before pushing it down and countering. Kage swung his shield sideways, blocking it, before pushing it forward, forcing Akuryō back, before jumping back, himself, as well.
the battle continued for the rest of the day and both fighters managed to shatter more of the other’s creations, as well as get some hits in on their opponent. However, when Akuryō hit Kage no Shihai-Sha, he noticed that whatever was under that cloak was tough. For not one of his slashes had drawn blood. while Kage’s slashes had drawn some blood. as they ended fighting, Kage drew in the shadow field, turned back into a sword and fell down next to its master. before eating his dinner, he patched up his wounds and rested for the night. He would try again tomorrow.
Lyna, who had watched the battle in the shadows from a distance had seen how much blood Aku had lost. As such, the next morning she went to the soul reapers in charge of this rukon district and asked if one of them could teach her the basics of healing kido, so she could heal the people she cared about. She knew her power could never reach as high as Akuryō’s, nor could she use it as violently as he did. But she knew that he needed help. She didn’t know why he was fighting his Zanpaktou like this, but if he continued, his wounds would never fully close and would never get the chance to heal. So, this was her way she could train and help him at the same time.
as such, both of them trained like that for an entire week. Akuryō had summoned an enormous arsenal of weapons against Kage and his Zanpaktou had countered each weapon. He had known his Zanpaktou was strong, but he hadn’t expected this training battle would become so one sided. As the seventh battle came to an end, Akuryō wore nothing more than his loincloth and bandages. He patched up the new wounds and rested as much as he could. His body had been pushed to its limit. Seven days of intense fighting like this. maybe tomorrow he should take a break. As he went to sleep, for a moment he thought he felt something familiar.
as he woke up the next morning, he felt better than ever, like he had been completely reborn. All of the bandages had been removed and all his wounds had been healed. He didn’t even have any scars. His body didn’t ache from any strain he had felt before. and almost better, a new kimono and Hakama had been placed next to him with a note on it. a letter from Lyna, wishing him the best in his training and that she was always with him in spirit. And the best part, a new basked with food next to the clothes. He got dressed, ate, had a small warming up, before materializing Kage no Shihai-Sha once again. the spirit nodded, ‘I see your body has recovered. Let’s see how well you do today Akuryō.’
as the fight continued, Akuryō noticed; “not only do I have all my strength back, I’m even stronger than before!” as such, the clashes from the weapons he used landed much harder than before. but unlike the first week, Akuryō now also used something extra. So long as he could think of it, he could summon it from these shadows. As such, he also summoned beasts from these shadows. And as one of his beasts attacked Kage no Shihai-Sha, Akuryō used a weapon to aid in the attack. however, Kage managed to cut down every last one of the summoned beasts and shatter each weapon Akuryō conjured up. That being said, Akuryō had shattered some of his Zanpaktou’s conjured weapons as well and get in some good hits as well.
as another week passed by, Akuryō had become quite flexible in his thinking and summoning of complex shadow constructs. For his defense he could even summon an entire castle around him. and all the beasts he had summoned were just as capable of using his Shikai’s abilities. Kage no Yorumungando; it gathered spirit energy, before sending it out as a massive wriggling serpent. Kage no Fenriru; it summoned a massive fang around the weapon being used, increasing the slashing and piercing attacks and extending the reach of the attack. Kage no Jigoku; by stabbing the weapon into the ground a large amount of shadow spikes would erupt from the ground. As he was thinking this, something came to mind which he could try tomorrow.
as he went to sleep, Lyna snuck toward him. she too had been training this second week, improving her healing kido. She healed all his wounds. Left new clothes for him, along with a basket of food. But as she was about to leave she heard his voice, ‘thanks Lyna. I appreciate this.’ she looked back, saw his eyes were closed, but she also saw the smile on his face. she leaned toward him and as his last greeting to her, she kissed his forehead, ‘just make sure you win.’ As she left, he silently said, “I will. Don’t you worry.”
the next morning, Akuryō stood in front of his Zanpaktou with a determined face. he had decided; today was the day he would beat his Zanpaktou. And he had already thought up how he would do it. but first some tests. He gathered the shadows around him, sending waves and pulses through the large shadow field. Out from these weaves rose a large swirling shadow serpent. And Akuryō took a large one sided blade in hand.
she serpent launched itself at Kage at great speed, swirled around it and attacked with both its tail and head, following Akuryō’s mental commands, while he himself also attacked with his blade. Kage countered with two massive spiked and curved blades. He spun around, blocking and attacking simultaneously, before using Kage no Fenriru and Kage no Jigoku simultaneously to drive back Akuryō and to strike down the serpent. However, Akuryō’s blade had not shattered yet.
next up, Akuryō conjured up a large shadow wolf, having a mouth full of sharp shadow fangs. The wolf ran fast, using its fangs and claws and its speed to great effect, while Akuryō joined in, backing up the wolf and covering it. this really seemed to pressure Kage no Shihai-Sha. However, after ten minutes of putting him under pressure, he pushed back Akuryō and sliced the wolf to bits. He turned to his master, ‘so, what’s next. A massive serpent, a giant wolf, I’m curious as to what you summon next.’ Akuryō nodded, ‘watch closely!’
next up, a creature made out of shadow spikes rose up from the field, sliding over the shadows on its spiky legs and with each step it send out waves of Kage no Jigoku. And Akuryō backed up this hellish spiky creation with his own blade. And this creation could also use its spiky arms for piercing and stabbing. Another round of putting Kage no Shihai-Sha under pressure. But, like before, he still won. The Zanpaktou shook his head, ‘these were impressive weapons. But even they can’t overcome me.’ Akuryō grinned, ‘they can. I’m not done yet!’
more and larger waves spread through the shadow field and around Akuryō rose up the massive shadow serpent, the large shadow wolf and the shadow spike creature. And he still held the sword he had started with today. Kage took a step backwards, before watching how Akuryō initiated his attack. the four backed up the other’s attacks and Kage no Shihai-Sha was put under maximum pressure this time. His weapons were shattered, he was knocked around, cut, slashed, pierced and thrown to the ground. However, he still stood up and summoned large spinning disks of shadows, launching a large amount of them, shredding the three creations to bits. But as he tried to shatter Akuryō’s blade, he failed, as Akuryō shattered the rings Kage fired at him.
Akuryō nodded and re-summoned the three creations he had just lost. Kage didn’t seem to understand, ‘why summon them again? I just showed you that either separately or together, I can best them!’ Akuryō nodded, ‘I know that. I probably knew it before I tried. But I needed to try. These three are manifestations of the three attacks my Shikai can use. But now, one final trick! Don’t blink.’ The three creatures sunk back into the shadows and Akuryō dropped his sword as well, letting it sink into the shadows, before letting himself sink into the shadows as well. the next moment, massive waves went through the shadow field, before Akuryō resurfaced in an armor that had spikes, claws and wings. And in his hands he held a blade with a dragon head as a guard, ‘this is a combination of all four creations, with myself!’
Akuryō dashed forward and attacked. Kage summoned four massive weapons and used the shadows of the ground to swing them at Akuryō. However, his master shattered all four weapons, cut through the shadows and struck down Kage no Shihai-Sha as well, pinning it to the ground. The Zanpaktou started to chuckle as the shadow field streamed back into him, ‘well done Akuryō. This is your Bankai. Now all it needs is me, to fully fuel it!’ after saying that, he disappeared into the armor Akuryō wore and the sword he wielded. Akuryō closed his eyes for a moment, hearing a name whispered in his ear, before opening his eyes, ‘Bankai; Kage no Ryū Shukun!’