"What the hell, is there an earthquake!?" Ichigo was the first to blurt out a response to the literal trembling of the realm around us.
Everyone in the vicinity braced themselves, unaware of what was truly going on.
Due to the nature of my own Divinity, I could feel Izzy's Authority spreading out unabated. This Realm of the Dead was resonating with her to an absurd degree, and the strange thing was, I'm nearly positive that she wasn't doing this on purpose. It was just her stepping onto the 'ground' here that caused it to quake at her arrival.
It wasn't just the earth that was responding to her arrival, the light in the sky – the very sun that illuminated this place began to dim.
"Don't be stupid, there are no earthquakes in the afterlife!" Yoruichi was on Ichigo's shoulder, and smacked his head.
"Then what the hell is happening?" He shot back.
"….no idea." She hissed as the ground trembled once more.
I looked at Izzy who also looked…confused, then a number of other emotions flashed across her face. A kaleidoscope of different expressions before finally she situated on a frown. Her lips thinned as the moments passed, and the turbulent world seemed to slowly calm down. The Sun that was starting to slowly become covered in shadows began to brighten and the earth below us gradually returned to its peaceful silence.
"It stopped." Orihime noted.
"My Grandfather told me some things about Soul Society when I was younger." Uryū calmed himself, his glasses pushed up to their rightful position. "He said that the weather here mimicked the living world, but I didn't expect something like that. Do you also have monsoon season here?"
"That was not normal." Yoruichi answered, looking around. "They have regular weather changes here but those are...mundane. We don't have that kind of insane weather like in the human world. There are no monsoons, no tornados, no hurricanes. And there are certainly not any Earthquakes."
I guess they didn't notice Izzy's little accident.
Not too surprising considering that it was her Divine Nature that spread throughout the area, not something those without any experience in such things could pinpoint. Not to say that they didn't notice the vast changes beyond the physical ripples, but the aura that it generated was more….spread out.
I reached over and took Izzy's hand. Her expression slowly returned to something more pleasant as she relaxed. However, I could feel her seething for some reason, but I was clueless at the moment and this wasn't really the ideal place or company to ask her.
Once everything settled though, I took the opportunity to look around and we were in one of the middle districts of the Rukongai by the looks of it. Not too poverty stricken, but basic things were still apparently a luxury here.
"Alright, which way do we go?" Ichigo quickly brushed himself off, taking charge. "Let's hurry and charge in."
"Don't be stupid." Yoruichi smacked his head again, though it seemed like he was used to it at this point, he didn't even react.
"If we're looking for which direction to go, I believe that the large gate that way is correct." Uryū interrupted.
"Wait, gate?" Yoruichi repeated, hopping over to where Uryū was peering around a corner. "Dammit, why is the wall down!"
"What's the matter?" Orihime asked.
"…The Wall only comes down when intruders try to enter the Seireitei. They shouldn't be down yet even in the likelihood that they detected our intrusion."
"Are we not inside already? Why is there another wall?" Chad asked.
"No…this is the Rukongai." Yoruichi explained. "This is where the….normal souls live. The Shinigami and Nobles live in the Seireitei which is now separated by that massive wall in the distance. And right smack in the middle is where Rukia is being held."
"…..why does it look so…." Orihime turned her head in every direction "….poor." She said quietly like it was a naughty thing to say.
I perked up, wanting to hear what Yoruichi had to say as well. I was curious to hear if she would whitewash it or not.
"Simply put, the Nobles and Shinigami don't care about the Rukongai for the most part. As long as no Hollow attacks or the Souls don't start dying which could hurt the Balance, they're content to let the peasants here wait out their time until they enter the Cycle of Reincarnation."
"….that's sad." Orihime looked downtrodden.
"It's just a wall, what's stopping us?" Ichigo asked. "We're wasting time." He finished with a scowl.
"Do you really think a wall created by the Shinigami would be simple, Kurosaki?" Uryū scoffed. "Clearly there is something special about it if Yoruichi is pointing it out."
"He's right." Yoruichi bounced to Uryū's shoulder, much to the kid's chagrin. "The Wall is made of a special material that's nearly impervious to Reiryoku. As in, none of your Spiritual Abilities will be able to damage it."
"Then let's dig under it or something." Ichigo offered.
"Idiot." Yoruichi visibly rolled her eyes. "Do you really think it'd be so simple? The wall itself extends through the ground, completely enveloping it even if you can't see the barrier itself. What kind of fool would just assume you could dig under it?"
…..I decidedly did not speak up.
"Well, build a ladder and hop over it." He huffed, crossing his arms.
"Of course, why didn't the Millennia old Shinigami think of that." The sarcasm practically dripped from her tone. "Of course it extends upwards as well. Think of the wall as a bubble that envelopes the entirety of the Seireitei even if the physical thing itself is only what you see."
"Well, what are we supposed to do now?" Ichigo asked. "You're the expert, right?"
"I'm thinking, calm down." Yoruichi hopped onto the ground, staring at the wall. "We have a few options, but I wanna check why the wall is down when it shouldn't be. I'm going to go see if I can't get the answers out of some of the locals. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with this place. You should feel somewhat different compared to the living world. Don't stray too far away though, this place is massive and it's easy to get lost."
"Fine, whatever." Ichigo sighed. "I don't mind taking a look for a little while. We still have time before Rukia's execution, right?"
"Don't worry, Kisuke made it so the exit we took meant we got additional time. I think we got here a few days earlier than when we left."
Ichigo blinked. "Awesome, alright." He nodded in content.
"You two…" Yoruichi finally turned towards both Izzy and I. She glanced at Izzy and sort of….fizzled out on what she wanted to say. "Please watch over them for now, I'll be back in an hour or two."
"We'll keep an eye on them. There shouldn't be too much danger out here right?" I asked a question I already knew the answer to.
"Right, the Shinigami don't really come out this far into the Rukongai." She turned back to the kids who were listening in. "I'll give you a better rundown after I get back. Though if you see a Shinigami, just stay out of their way. They're usually small fry who get stuck with any jobs this far out." At that, she disappeared from the spot she was in.
"Alrighty kids, don't stray too far away from your chaperones, but feel free to go have fun." I clapped my hands.
"Screw you." Ichigo scowled again. "I'm gonna go look around."
"Hmph, I will go my own way." Uryū grunted, walking in another direction.
"Kurosaki-kun, I'll come with you!" Orihime happily beamed and Chad silently walked off as well in another direction.
Well, they knew to stay close, and I was fairly sure between both Izzy and me, there wasn't anything that could sneak up and harm them this far away from the Seireitei. Not to mention the 'locals' had disappeared in a flash once the place started showing signs of trouble. I couldn't see a single soul on the street in any direction.
Admittedly, I was a little…concerned about what Yoruichi was going to find out. I was gonna let her do her thing though, if there were any problems, I would step in and offer my own particular solution to the wall problem. However, I was curious to see what Yoruichi would come up with.
I knew my cover was going to be blown eventually, but I was just ignoring that for now. I had something more important to focus on.
"Would you like to take a walk with me?" I offered, realizing I was still holding her hand.
"….that would be lovely." She nodded, though there was still that silent fuming and anger going on under the surface.
"You told me you've been here before. You've explored this…..Rukongai, yes?"
"I have." I nodded.
"I assume this 'wall' being down is your doing as well?"
"…..there may or may not be a link to me there."
"How much of your explanation did you leave out?"
"Depends on what?"
"Depends on how much is found out and if I have to provide an explanation."
She rolled her eyes and I saw the phantom of a smile forming, but once her eyes landed on the surroundings, it disappeared again. "What is your impression of this place?"
"A shithole." I answered almost immediately.
"I find myself unable to disagree." Her lips thinned in disgust. "Yomi is not supposed to be pleasant. Hell is not supposed to be pleasant. Huang Quang is not supposed to be pleasant. This…..Soul Society has no excuse on why it is in this state. You called this place the closest approximation of 'Heaven' here and yet…."
"A professional agitation? You're the ruler of Yomi, are you mad because a different Afterlife is being run so poorly?"
"Hmph, I would prefer it if it was such." She scowled.
"Something's wrong." I stopped, squeezing her hand as she also paused in her steps. "There's no one around. What's wrong, Izzy? Something clearly upset you when we first arrived. I don't think you did that intentionally, but it almost seemed like you lost your cool for a moment."
I felt her squeeze a little harder before calming herself. "Tell me, do you know what I am most proud of?"
"What you're most proud of?" I repeated. "Your children?" I hazarded a guess.
"Yes, my Children are one of the things I take most pride in. Even my younger children who I did not actually give birth to. Regardless, they came from me, so I am exceedingly proud of them. There is one other thing I have unshakable pride in. Regardless of what stories there are about me and what mortals say about me, this one fact is unshakable."
I tilted my head and nudged her to continue.
"I created Japan." She straightened herself. "My…former husband is mostly credited with it, and I'm usually regulated down as a helping hand in most interpretations due to the matters that came later and discouraged my acknowledgement among them. However, I worked just as hard as he did. I turned the mountains and seas, I shaped the very land into what you see today. I created Japan I can feel the land itself and every grain of dirt and every leaf that came about due to my hand."
"I know and I never thought differently." I gave her a reassuring smile.
She smiled briefly but once again it was replaced with a growing fury in her eyes. "Do you want to know why I almost lost control? Why I let my Authority leak out so much?"
"It's because I have a simple question." She held a finger up. "Why?" She hissed. "Why is the land I'm standing on the same as that of Japan!?"
"Wait, you mean –"
"Someone stole part of Japan and made – this." She swept her hand out, gesturing to the surroundings. "I could feel it the moment I arrived. It was why I could nearly take hold of a foreign Death Realm with little effort. This place – by right – belongs to me."
"You could take control of Soul Society?" My eyes unconsciously widened at the insinuation.
"Hmph. This is Japan, I am linked to it beyond what mere words can state." She snorted in dissatisfaction. "I retracted my hand because I felt some strange things and calmed myself. I did not wish to cause you any trouble before I understood the situation."
That was new information that set my mind reeling at the possibilities. "Japan most likely is the most condensed location for Reishi in the world considering that Karakura is the top or one of the foremost places for such."
"What are you getting at?"
"….I had a thought when I came here the first time. I dismissed it because I was preoccupied with other matters. I had thought that this place felt artificial. If someone created this place by hand then it stands to reason they'd grab parts from the place that fits best – Japan." I tapped my chin. "The only question is who created this place. I haven't heard anything about any Gods since coming here."
"I may be able to somewhat answer that question."
"Did you find something?" I looked at her.
"I felt myself brush against a…passive hold around this realm. Nothing I couldn't break with some effort, especially since my claim here is beyond reproach. I vaguely felt that it was up above. A sort of sub-realm that's an extension of this Soul Society. It made me pause due to the inert nature of the 'power' behind the curtain."
"Huh, that's a lot to consider. Anything else I should note?" I asked.
"I'm not sure, this place is strange, and I'm still new to everything here. The sky is limited, as in there is a threshold where you cannot move any further upwards. The laws here seem to be operating to mimic those of the outside world. Perhaps due to the concepts intertwined with the land that was stolen and placed here that it tries to continue as it did before being taken. And the shadows here are odd, there seems to be room inside of them, but I didn't delve too deep."
"Right, I have no idea what to make of that. Let's just start from the top and start looking for the reason as to why someone took a chunk of Japan and made Soul Society."
"I would appreciate it. The thought of someone taking part of the land I spent so much effort to create and stealing it to make this – shithole has made me very upset. If I am not given a satisfactory answer…..I will consider taking back what belongs to me."
That sounded ominous.
There was a Taboo for dealing with Gods. You do not fuck with their domain. Japan was how Izzy gained her Authority over Creation. It was intertwined with her whole being and it thrummed in her Divinity. And someone here basically ripped part of Japan – from what she said – and made their own Afterlife, basically slapping her in the face due to her other domain of Yomi and Death.
"I'll help you with whatever you want to do." I gave her a smile.
"Thank you, Wilhelm." She returned it with a beautiful smile of her own. "
"I admit that this is giving me much nostalgia." Izzy noted as we looked around. She calmed down immensely, but she was still pissed off. Someone touching one of her bottom lines so blatantly sent her almost into a frenzy. "I remember when humanity was at this stage."
"Just a thought. What did you do before internet?"
She playfully swatted at my shoulder. "I did find ways to preoccupy my time. Though…..those were far and few between compared to now. Humanity is nothing if not innovative. I wish I wasn't so blinded by my grief earlier in my life so that they may have been further advanced. How many years did I stymie their potential due to my own anger and resentment?" She let out a sigh.
"Hey, none of that."
"Nope, hug." I didn't give her time to respond and quickly hugged her tight.
"…Thank you, Wilhelm." She said quietly. "But I believe the others have gathered, we should join them." She spoke, slightly turning away from me once she stepped away. "I can sense that Cat is there as well. Perhaps she has chosen our next course of action." She glanced at me. "….you can easily take us there, couldn't you?"
"Just checking." She smiled lightly.
The people around here had started coming back out. And it wasn't hard for us to hide ourselves from their perception, or rather, Izzy was taking care of that. She's walked among mortals for centuries, she's adept at concealing her 'presence' if she wanted to.
"Oh hey, they're back!" Orihime waved as we walked over.
"That they are." Yoruichi narrowed her eyes at me.
"Everyone have fun?" I greeted.
"I had a great time" Yoruichi walked over to me. "I went around, asked some people who should know some things going on in the Seireitei. Wanna know what I found out?"
"...I feel like I should answer: no."
"Well, you see, I heard something baffling." She completely ignored me. "Apparently, they were invaded not too long ago. Within the past month if you could believe it."
"That sounds like unfortunate timing for us." I looked away.
"It's funny you say so!" Yoruichi chirped. "Because they have a name for the intruder. Imagine my surprise when the name they give was Kurosaki Ichigo." She said in the most dry tone possible. "You could imagine my confusion, right? But then, I remembered several things you told me and had a certain thought. Anything you wanna share with the class?"
[Well, that didn't last long.]
I know how to handle this.
I cleared my throat and looked towards the orange haired kid scowling, like normal. "Ichigo when did you invade soul society!?" I exclaimed.
You think so?
[Yeah, you're probably fine.]
Sorry for the late chapter, had a relapse of my stomach issues and been out of it the past few days. Found out that there's something specific I should not be eating just yet :V.
If you want to read 7 chapters ahead or support me, visit my p.a.t.r.e.o.n.c.o.m / astoryforone