97 CHAPTER 102: The First Trial

Fifteen days later, the time had come. The Rukongai shimmered with excitement under the glow of the morning light. A stark contrast to Hueco Mundo's sky which was shrouded in perpetual darkness, forever separated from the light of life. These realms were polar opposites in every sense. Precisely why the topic of Hollow wielding Shinigami powers (or vice versa) was forbidden within Central 46 and Gotei 13.

{Cannot wait for you to reveal your true face as the Prince of Hollows.} Nami hummed with enthusiasm. She shared Kazuya's excitement to bid farewell to Rukongai. {Before you say anything, you're the Prince of Hollows. Harribel has legally and nobly adopted you as her boy.}

Kazuya could only respond with a dismissive, 'Whatever you say.' He had no interest in bickering on this particular morning. He contentedly savored his breakfast, his eyes drifting towards Yoruichi as she casually lapped milk from a bowl. Her decision to assume the form of a cat for the sake of freedom was truly baffling in his eyes.

{Powerful people always have some quirky personalities.}

'I'm also powerful but I don't see anything quirky in myself.'

Sure, he had his unhinged moments, but on the whole, he saw himself as a completely normal person.

{You're perfect as you are, Partner. That's why I'll burn down this whole damn world if anything happens to you, starting from the one who harms you.}

Kazuya got shivers. Her burning passion didn't allow him to laugh it off as a joke. Every word was laced with a chilling promise that couldn't be overlooked — his Zanpakutō Spirit had thoroughly embraced her unhinged, yandere side.

"It's the last day," Ganju broke the ice, serving as a distraction from the madness in Kazuya's mind. "Nee-san, we won't see him for years now. Let's throw him a farewell party."

Ganju, who had warmed up to Kazuya after a couple of friendly sparring sessions, saw the parting as bittersweet. He had sought Kazuya a few days ago to learn the art of combat. Suffering from boredom, he went along with the idea. To sweeten Ganju's experience, he even demonstrated a few Kidō spells. The younger Shiba brother had a tiny dream of becoming a Shinigami but was hesitant about leaving his sister alone.

Kūkaku cast a sidelong glance at Kazuya. Over the weeks, she too had developed a soft spot for him, and Ganju's suggestion planted an idea in her mind. A farewell party seemed a bit too extravagant, but she figured a memorable surprise for his departure couldn't hurt much.

"Going to miss me?" Kazuya asked teasingly. "Don't be shy. It's the last day to pour your heart out and confess your passionate feelings. Regrets can be pretty hefty."

Kūkaku had warmed up to him significantly, to the extent that she now brushed off his playful flirtations without ire. His intense training with Yoruichi had left little time for seducing Kūkaku. A fiery tsundere like Kūkaku required a lot more time and care, even more when Yoruichi was by his side.

Kūkaku punched the table with her prosthetic arm. "I only have one regret — I couldn't get to smash your face with my fist."

"Awww. You're such a considerate sweetheart."


After the breakfast chatter had quieted down, Kazuya joined Momo, who had been eagerly waiting outside his house. Her smile shone as brightly as the day, then she pointed him towards the Seireitei. The noble estate couldn't be seen with the towering walls surrounding it, summoned by any presence near the vicinity of the Seireitei's boundaries.

His sharp gaze spotted a sea of people gathered outside the western gate. Given their lack of physiological needs or carnal desires, many low-level souls aimed to join the ranks of the Shinigami for a taste of purpose. Today was an opportunity for them to break the shackles of poverty and step towards a better life and a more remarkable destiny.

"We should head there," Momo suggested, her voice filled with anticipation. "Come on."

He smiled at her enthusiasm. "Toshiro didn't come?"

Only a week prior, he'd given the young Toshiro a comprehensive lecture. Toshiro's Zanpakutō Spirit Hyorinmaru's ice powers and his own Reiatsu severely hurt his grandmother whenever he slept. Toshiro had to become a Shinigami to control his frost powers.

Kazuya wasn't in any way, shape, or form brainwashing the lad.

{Keep telling yourself that.}

"Shiro-chan…" Momo's voice faltered, her expression clouding over. "I couldn't find him..."

"Kind of a waste," Yoruichi commented. "He could've become a high-level Shinigami in no time."

He brushed off Yoruichi's comment, patting Momo's shoulder comfortingly. "He'll come, don't worry."


As they started their journey towards the western gate, Momo continually snuck nervous glances at Kazuya, her worries hanging unsaid in the air.

"He'll be here," he reassured her once more. "Just relax."

Momo nodded her head vigorously. "I believe in Kazuya-san."

She had an innocent crush on him but he was sure he'd get over him. Despite being over a hundred years old, she was way too innocent.

His train of thought was interrupted as a familiar head full of silver hair caught his eye amidst the sea of people. A wave of relief washed over him; he'd begun to worry that Toshiro wouldn't come. If he couldn't convince a child like Toshiro, what chance did he stand against Yamamoto?

"Shiro-chan!" Momo's voice pierced the crowd, her arm waving in the air with uncontainable enthusiasm. "Over here!"

Toshiro turned around to Momo's voice and frowned. "Bedwetter…"

As Toshiro approached them, Momo slapped his shoulders affectionately and hugged him. "You made me so worried. Why couldn't you just come with me?"

Toshiro gently nudged her away, scratching his cheek awkwardly. He'd been busy gathering a parting gift for his grandmother, but the words stuck in his throat until...

"Yeah, tell us why you were so busy?"

Kazuya posed the question, and Toshiro averted his gaze. The boy had mad respect towards him for pointing out the harm he had been unknowingly inflicting upon his grandmother. His negligence could've killed his grandmother — the realization still gnawed at him.

"I-I was collecting flowers for Oba-san."

Momo's features softened into an understanding smile. "Thanks, Shiro-chan. Don't you worry over Oba-san. We'll visit her as much as possible."

"Yeah," Toshiro mumbled, his agreement barely above a whisper. "I will."

Meanwhile, Kazuya watched their exchange with a hint of a smile. The innocent dynamics between Toshiro and Momo stirred within him a sense of nostalgia, invoking memories of his own pure bond with Izumi. He was a little curious how Izumi was coping with his absence. After all, the first weeks were the hardest that could make or break someone, but he took comfort in knowing that Lisa was there to lend her a shoulder.

{Don't you dare compare that cultist woman to these kids.}

'I don't care about that. Our relationship is pure. That's what matters.'

{Yare yare.}

A thunderous roar echoed around them as the towering entranceway gradually lifted, revealing the colossal figure casually holding the door's weight. With a last Herculean effort, the giant hoisted the gate and stepped into the Rukonga. The monumental gate crashed behind him, making the ground tremble beneath their feet.

A cheer erupted from the crowd, rivaling the impact of the massive door.

"Jidanbo-san!" Momo also joined in on the excitement. "Kazuya-kun, this giant is Jidanbo. Formerly from the Rukongai, he has been the Western Gate's Guardian for over three hundred years. As you can see, everyone here loves him."

"Can't see why," Toshiro retorted with a shrug, unfazed by the fanfare. "When does the test start, anyway?"

"Be patient," he said, placing his hands on Toshiro's shoulders. "The key to everything is patience. We get a chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it."

{Says the most impatient man on the planet.}

Toshiro nodded solemnly. He had learned more from Kazuya in ten days than he did in the past few decades.

As Jidanbo stepped aside, a middle-aged woman in a black kimono took his place. With her tidy glasses and a book in hand, she seemed every bit the scholarly type. But standing next to Jidanbo's hulking form, she looked more like a child than a woman. The giant was over ten feet tall, boasting muscular arms thicker than most trees.

"Welcome to the annual Shin'o Academy's entrance exams. I'm Eri Masashi, your examiner," she declared, adjusting her glasses and flipping open her book. "Anyone wishing to enter the Academy, please come forward and register your name before afternoon."

As her words dissipated into the bustling crowd, an overwhelming pressure washed over the scene. Jidanbo had released his Reiatsu, dispelling any doubts about the difficulty of the test.

Eri smiled coldly. "I wish you the best of luck!"


You can read 20 more chapters on my Patreon!


Next chapter