Ethereal Locus Chapter V:
Deep in the depths of Emi’s mind, the battle between her and Reijin raged on while The Speaker was allowed to rub rampant on the surface. Steel clashed again steel sends sparks and boisterous clanging to rip through the skies followed closely behind by a combination of blood, sweat and tears to rain beside. Despite his age, Reijin was no slouch. He was a much a master of the blade as Emi was, and his skill was too the point that his continuous assault on Emi was so precise that parrying his attacks left her vulnerable. Though she was quick to realize as much, and opted for other means to keep him from harming her.
“Emi, please,” the elder spirit pleaded. “The road you walk leads to nothing but sorrow. You cannot keep him here in the prison. You must let the past go!”
Reijin launched a flurry of slashes but each was each deftly intercepted by Emi’s blade. No matter how ferocious Reijin’s assault was, the woman vehemently refused to allow him through to her. With each blow she deflected, Reijin could feel more and more of her slipping away from him. She couldn’t see it, but the rift between them was growing larger by the second.
Even while Emi remained on constant defense, the battle remained incredibly intransigence. With each slash Reijin unleashed a torrent of shimmering blades at her, to which she countered exactly with a wave of her own. Every attack Reijin launched, she replied with a perfect counter to it. She had progressed too far in her training to fall victim to any of Reijin’s attacks, even now when mental stability was in question. She knew everything he was capable of, and had transformed his teachings into techniques of her own in order to transcend her former master. Reijin wasn’t much of a match for her anymore and they both knew it.
Yet still, they pressed on without signs of slowing. To Emi, it was clear what Reijin was trying to accomplish. This relentless, almost over the top assault on her was a tactic to provoke her self preservation instincts and force her to actually attack back for a change, but she wouldn’t budge. He was desperate. Though both knew that Reijin almost paled in comparison to Emi now, he was far from allowing the odds dissuade him.
In fact, as time went on Reijin forsook more and more of his honor as a Bushi, soon resorting to more underhanded tactics. From kicking up dust, attempts at hair pulling, to relying on deceptions and even attacking below the waist. This was now war, and all bets were off. By the end of it, Reijin had adopted an approach to battle more akin to that of the Shinobi, even employing various ninja tools as a means to gain the upper hand. All attempts of course, ended in vein. Emi was the wall Reijin simply could not climb. She was an impassible obstacle backed by an even more obstinate will.
It was the hard pill to swallow. Despite the Zanpakutou spirit’s merciless push, Emi was able to keep Reijin at bay at every step. When not matching his techniques with equal if not greater opposing force, she was simply and subtly stepping out of his attack range. The results lead to dramatically reducing the force behind every last one of his attacks. She made it look easy, the way she managed to keep the match to a perfect stalemate. And in what felt like an instant, little over an hour had evaporated.
Reijin had toiled on with nothing more to show for it than a sweat drenched body and a broken heart. Emi was lost to him completely. The years they spent training, talking, being such close friends and more meant nothing to her now. Emi was so stuck on holding onto something she barely had and would so willfully throw it all away for her father. Even knowing full well that her very existence would be forfeit she carried on stubbornly and without hesitation. Then, a dark thought crept into Reijin’s mind.
Looking at the sorry state of things, Reijin was beginning to wonder if the two of them ever connected at all. While Emi never outwardly noticed that Reijin wasn’t truly who he was meant to be in her eyes, he began to suspect that her heart knew that the man before her was in fact her father. Whether it was the idealized version she saw when dealing with the spirit, or a feeling in her soul that allowed her heart to recognize that her father had been slumbering within Reijin’s soul this whole time was unclear. Nonetheless, the results appeared to be the same. Emi never saw Reijin, and quite possible he never even existed to her.
The woman’s loss and subsequent longing were so great that it metamorphosed into a twisted obsession. She’d spent years, decades moving through the motions of life carrying the void left by her father’s murder. Now, when suddenly given and then just as suddenly having to give up the one and only thing she had that could fill it, letting go presented itself as something truly impossible. After this long and drawn out battle, Emi only showed that she would sooner damn the whole of the universe than forsake her desires. She was as selfish as she was stubborn, but in this case, could anyone blame her?
To have spent years serving an organization that did nothing but conspire and plot against you before you even had the chance to interact with them. To be taken away from your home, only to be told that your one and only living and closest relative was killed in a tragic accident. To spend your following days, being beaten to the brink of death and then have the closest thing to a new family taken from you. And then finally, to have lived your life having believed to have moved on from it all, only to learn later that it was all a part of some grand scheme. And for what?
The one and only think Emi felt like she had any genuine control over, and it was just as cursed as everything else that lead up to this moment. It was the wish from the monkey’s paw that she never made to begin with. It was the wish that continued to take, and take, and take from here but never give. In the end, all roads lead now to the insurmountable distance growing between her and her closest companion.
Enough was enough. Reijin himself couldn’t reach her, not physically, not emotionally or beyond. She had completely sealed every last bit of herself off to him and cast the keys into oblivion. He knew she was stubborn, but this was so much further beyond that. He knew that even for being as hard-headed that should could be, she still wouldn’t ever allow herself not to do the right thing in the end. But now? It was time for a new approach.
Reijin jumped back. Unsure of what exactly the elder spirit was planning Emi kept her guard up, but Reijin seemed to have lost all his will to fight. Looking down and his own sword with dismay and then back to Emi he let it fall. Before hitting the ground the blade turned tip down and slowly melted into the ground. Soon the world turned black.
“If I cannot not reach you... then perhaps he can.”
The blackness became like tar. A thick, heavy and all consuming force that swallowed and drowned the two of them. Even when resorting to less than reputable tactics in battle, Reijin knew even then that he was being too permissive. The only way to reach her now, to end this charade was to hit her where he knew it would hurt her most. In order to leave this tragedy and force her to move forward, not just as a means to better herself but the bonds between them as well, Reijin had to tear her down.
Regrettable as it was, she had left him with no choice.
An eternity later the black pit belched Emi out into a new setting. Here, in this dank looking cave the peaceful looking mansion was a distant memory, and memory was here the pain hid. Emi had been dumped back into the Seventh Division’s Pit of Beasts. In the distance she could see Solus kneeling over what appeared to be a corpse, pummeling what little was left of it into paste.
Emi stood confused to find herself and her former so-called leader here once again. It was surreal jumping back into a time that she considered one of her lowest points in life. Plain as day, as if the moment truly were right now, Emi remembered down to the exact moment that the day she destroyed the Seventh and moved to change the course of the Seireitei forever. Why would Reijin bring her back here now?
The woman moved to get a batter vantage point and find out who or what Solus was attacking. Creeping off to his left a short distance it all became clear. Emi fell to her knees both horrified and disgusted as what she saw. It mad her sick to her stomach, but Emi was woefully placid in her response. Laying just a few feet away from here, torn apart and mutilated was her father. But barely a reaction.
It was almost too hard to take in, sure. But she knew this wasn’t real. She knew exactly how her father died and this wasn’t it. This was a trick and Reijin was responsible. Emi was not falling for it. She couldn’t allow herself to be tripped up by the falsity of it all. And so she forced herself to remain as calm as she could.
“Oh, no good? Then allow me to interject.”
A shadowy figure appeared behind her and leaned down as if to whisper in her ear.
“You see, Reijin isn’t here anymore. He might’ve gotten lost along the way, or most likely he gave up on you. That said, I can assure you that this wasn’t what he wanted to show you. In fact, this is not a hoax. It’s real, and you know it’s real.”
The figure massaged her shoulders, pretending to console Emi in her time of weakness.
“Why else would I be here? I am your voice of reason. A Speaker, so to say. Seeing as you’ve lost your way, I’ve come to guide you back to the proper path. You see, that man murdered your father and is now dancing in his remains with such elation. If you don’t stop him, everyone and everything else you held dear will die too.”
The shadowy figure wrapped its harms around Emi and soon after melted into her. Emi stood, her Reiatsu and and anger boiling over to the top. Drawing her blade she jumped into action, but her actions failed to match the emotion.
“Solus! I cannot allow you to lead the Seventh. I cannot allow you to to keep killing people you think are inadequate, attacking other Captains and their divisions. Banishing people! You’ve lost your mind, you’ve lost your way, you lost yourself!”
The world flashed, resetting itself to just before Emi jumped into action. Her voice echoed out, but this time her words were different. Her voice was more agitated and unhinged. Speaking now with more hatred than an apparent sense of justice.
“YOU BASTARD! I WILL RIP YOUR HEART OUT THROUGH YOUR THROAT!!!”
The world reset again, this time not as instantaneously as it had done so before. It was a struggle even, like the entirety facade was trying to self-correct from some terrible error. For now, it seemed to be successful.
Solus stood, strong and stark. Their towering stature, dark skin, toned body all radiated with fierce energy. Their reiatsu surged to a level most would struggle to even understand. It hit Emi like a tidal wave, forcing her back from where she stood a short distance and bore it full weight upon her.
It was absurd. His spiritual presence was so dense that she could swim in it if she tried. It was hot, and burned her throat every time she inhaled. It was suffocating, crippling, paralyzing. This unbearable force wasn’t anything like how she remembered. How could she have forgotten a power this terrible?
The whole of the Pit trembled in the wake of this insane power and for a moment it seemed as if Emi would fall to its might. Then her own reiatsu came pouring out. It was black, spitefully twisted. It coalesced around her and fell like snow, freezing the ocean of power Solus had summoned around her. The meeting of the m two titanic forces threatened to tear down the Pit, and possibly even the rest of Soul Society. From the girl that barely graduated form the academy to the woman who was one of the few that could not just stand against Solus, but also something that threatened to be something far far worse than he was. Emi had transformed entirely.
The contempt and disgust in her eyes was incomprehensible, but somehow she found it in herself to find restraint in this moment. She stood, studying everything about them, and they studied her in. Their breathing, their collective stances, the beads of sweat forming at their brows, even the movements of each other’s eyes as they tried to assess each other. Master carried on as they had always done, while student had followed on her teachings through and through. It could only beg the question, was she able to surpass them, or were they still firmly deserve every of the title.
Emi’s thoughts raced, somehow untainted by her rage. Somehow every passing second was starting to feel like an out of body experience. Even her thoughts didn’t feel like her own. The lacked the intensity, the overwhelming feeling that welled up within her breast.
“He’ll wait at least until I make the first move. He knows I’m a threat now and he’ll be waiting to see how I handle the initiative before I act. I know he will stay close at first. I can’t compete with him hand to hand so he’ll try to push in too close for me to react and respond. I have to let him in. The moment he does I’ll force him back and force him to respect my space.”
Emi’s heart roared and the world reset once more.
“This isn’t right! I should rush him down, take his head as soon as he twitches! I will not give him an inch to move or even breath. I’ll crawl so far down his throat I’ll suffocate him with my very existence!”
The world reset again, once again with signs of struggle. The scenes, perhaps as if they actually occurred played out once more.
She reached back with her right hand and drew her blade, shouting the words “Kirisuteru Reijin!”
and as soon as she finished, Solus exploded forward at her. She knew exactly how they going to react but the ferocity with which they moved scared her. Even now. It wasn’t enough to force her to freeze but deep down knowing that now this fight was real, that he would truly stop at nothing to put her down, was terrifying.
Despite playing out almost exactly as she remembered , this didn’t feel right. Yet, Emi wasn’t able to respond to the situation in the way that felt most appropriate to her in the moment. As it was, she was merely a passenger on a ship trapped on journey of her own memories. All the while, her heart raged knowing that this man had taken her father in such cold blood and couldn’t do anything about it but helpless watch as things played out.
Swallowing her fear as her blade was finishing its transition into its Shikai form, Solus manifested in front of her throwing their left fist forward. With beyond decisive force, they threw a jab straight for Emi’s face. She, however, would have none of it. In response she pointed her left palm Solus and shouted “Sho!” which forced them backwards ever so lightly. Just as Solus moved, her stance changed. Emi’s left foot shifted forward and held her sword pointing upright, to position hilt is shoulder, and the blade should leaning slightly to the behind her head.
With Emi adopting her Gyouten Shisei, Solus immediately knew what was coming and shifted their hands over their chest in front of them to block the incoming swing, but as Emi sent her blade forward in downward diagonal motion, starting from the right and heading left she cried out “Suimei!” Hundreds of shimmering blades flowed from her blade like water. Instantly they cutting and ripping away at Solus’ flesh, with the metal of her blade hit the metal at the backs of her Captain’s gauntlets.
The Pit’s floors cracked beneath the both of them as droplets of Solus’ blood began to stain the stone. Her blade flashed then a mark in the form of a four-pointed star burned itself onto the right side of her sword near its base. At that moment it became clear to Solus that Emi wasn’t only prepared to face them, but that she was just as strong as he was physically. Yet even more so than that, she was smart enough find ways to attack them though their defense. A mistake they would be resolved not to make a second time.
Emi moved as if to push the blade further down and into the Captain’s left shoulder, but by the time her blade even made it an inch down Solus had simply vanished. For a moment, Emi considered pursuing as pressuring them in much the same way Solus often did would keep them on edge and unable to think about defending theirself , but the moment her eyes caught them again she knew it would’ve been a mistake.
Solus had solidified their defenses, having crouched lowed and tightly wrapping their spiritual energy around theirself. They were expecting her to follow them, and if she had, she would have died in that instant. The blood soaked man forced a toothy grin. Bright yellow fangs shined from beneath the blood, and they laughed. It was a weird mix of a deep belly laugh and twisted cackle that seemed more like barking than actual laughing. The Captain was elated.
“So! The dog does bite! Excellent! It seems we’ve taught you well.”
Their first words to her we both a compliment, and their arrogance shining through. She paid it no mind and kept her stance firm as she observed and waited for them to leave enough of an opening for her to approach, but he continued.
“And here we thought we would simply remind you of who we were, and yet there you stand... so full of conviction, so intense! Your heart is actually in this!”
Solus stood. By now they were no longer projecting thei reiatsu. Instead they pulled it back towards them, consolidating their power. The smile faded, their demeanor changed. The joy was dead and now something much more severe had taken its place.
“We acknowledge your intent. However this is a mistake we will not allow you to make twice. Allow us to face you in earnest.”
The world froze. The shadowy figure returned, this time to face Emi. He shook his head in disappointment.
“This wasn’t how went. This isn’t how you remember it. You’re fighting the past and you know you can’t. This rage, this helplessness you feel, that’s what really happened. Give into to that. Let the real you out of this jail you’ve kept it in. Let the one that hates him, the one that wants to kill him take over.”
Emi nodded, and time returned but she was still reluctant to give in to it all. Not yet, not now.
Solus inhaled, and then exhaled slowly. It was time for them to awaken.
“Complete me... Zetsriel.”
That terrifying reiatsu exploded forth again, but this time it didn’t reach near as far as it did previously. Instead it flooded into the space directly around them and formed a dense sphere of flames, darkness and sinister power. Slowly the orb of blackness contracted around them to become skintight. The darkness swirled and slithered around their body almost aimlessly until they realized their purpose and found their way while the flames cauterized the wounds and halted the bleeding.
The shadows crawled to each of Solus’ hands and legs and quickly hardened into the flexible shells that made up their Shikai. Fists, lined with spikes. Hands and feet both clawed. For the master of the fist that Solus was, these were the perfect tools to let the beast inflict immense pain to those that stood against them, and there she stood. The foolish, rebellious Vice-Captain they had trained to replace and and surpass those that had come before her would now fight this grotesque figure Solus had now become. Armed in pitch, covered in scars and minor burns.
All of their effort, all of their work and she stood to turn it against them in this one defiant act. She was cursed. Cursed to be the one that both Solus and Zetsriel together would have to extinguish once and for all. Cursed to have taken the greatest title that the Seventh could have bestowed and thrown it all way. Cursed by whatever madness she was clearly suffering from that moved her so strongly to challenge Solus in earnest, something that none had done before. Be it out of respect, or fear, or even utter contempt and the dislike of interacting or even being near them. Emi moved in error.
Solus Solaris was at the forefront of Gotei’s Power whether one acknowledged it, or rejected it. The truth was that they had long cemented themself as one of the greatest warriors ever born, one of the most powerful fighters to have taken on the Captain’s mantle if not the most powerful. They were everything Emi wasn’t. Solus was string at birth, strong as a child, and strong even in his adolescence and beyond.
They were living achievement, far surpassing the accomplishments their father, who was the Vice-Captain before them even before stepping foot on the Seventh’s grounds. Yet Emi had the audacity challenge all that they were with such sincerity, with such conviction of the idea that she could actually defeat them. Nonsense. The notion and it’s absurdity haunted Solus, yet even as they were now. Beyond capable of subduing even her, she stood their unwavering.
“She’s arrogant. No, ignorant. Not once has she seen what we were truly capable of. This is the only logical explanation for this. We raised her to fight alongside us, to become the same terror to of our enemies that we were. Yet she seeks to discard that all. It’s time we end this.”
And with that thought they approached her once more. This time, however, they held nothing back. Unlike before Solus was now moving far faster than earlier and the strength behind each step was so incredible that the ground beneath them exploded behind them.
Yet before fully closing the gap, which would’ve happened in a mere instant, they pointed their blackened hand forward as if to release the full extent of her terrifying power at her and began to roar ‘Therava-‘ they cut off just as it became clear to them that Emi was preparing herself to defend against what was one of Solus’ more terrifying powers, and suddenly changed directions. They sharply cut to the right and then cut back towards Emi, approaching her from her left side rather than directly in front of her.
Solus right fist shot forward just the same as it did before just as her blade came down and caused the ground to break up. “Chikyuu Nikushim!”. Emi’s words hit the air as Solus stumbled as the earth beneath him shook, all the while the rock suddenly jutting up from the ground not only served to deflect the Captain’s attack but also surrounded Emi on all sides. Reacting quickly, a wave of flames shot forth from the selfsame hand that Solus had used in attempt to punch Emi into oblivion. They curirled up and around her earthen barrier in order to bathe her in the dark fire, but this attempt too was a failure. Well before the flames had reached where Emi would have been, she had jumped up straight up and out of the path of the dark fury Solus had set forth.
It was then that Solus realized that Emi challenging them wasn’t an act of hubris, she was in fact truly prepared to take them down. They had trained and sparred together countless times by now. Solus simply believed that she was merely eager to grow more powerful, which in some regard was true, but her ulterior motives had become clear now. She had been studying them this whole time. All their habits, their tactics, strategies, abilities, mindset. Everything she had long since been taking into consideration and used it to develop this grand scheme to defeat Solus for good. And yet, this would inevitably be her undoing as far as Solus understood it.
They had failed up until this point by allowing themselves to be so predictable. Emi clearly had a plan and she was executing on it to near perfection, but now Solus held the cards in their hands. Her whole since of reality at this point would soon no longer be valid as the beast within had taken over. The true fight would begin now.
Up above Emi was looking down, hands pointed towards the ground and ultimately at the Captain. Her reiatsu was surging all around and within her body, something massive was coming, or at least that was what she wanted Solus to believe. As per her expectations, he pursued, leaping up at her with such force that he blew away the upturned earth Emi had brought forth. The rebellious woman, ready and awaiting her master’s approach had willed a spectral hand into existence from her chest, which shot down in a trusting motion to intercept Solus as they shot up. The blade flashed once again, forming a crescent moon between the four-pointed star and tomoe symbol that had formed after she had used Chikyuu. Yet, much to her surprise Solus stopped mid air well before the phantom blade could meet them.
In all her calculations and planning she had never expected Solus to accomplish this. Then it occurred to her that his psychic influence over Zetsriel applied even to the shadows he had worn on his body. Using that, the blackened shells he wore as armor were holding him in place. By keeping them held in suspension, and by being attached to his being, he was able to indirectly allow himself to levitate. Typically Solus rode atop or within the palms he summoned but never did it occur to her, or perhaps anyone else, that he would accomplish a similar feat using the very shadows he wore.
She was stunned initially, but it wasn’t enough for her focus to break. Emi too reacted quickly and forced her spiritual energy into submission. Hastily she molded her power and projected it forth in an impressive torrent of cerulean flame. The words she called out to summon forth this incredible power was lost to the roaring energy, but it was clear that she had called forth Sokatsui. This was what Solus wanted.
The sheer size and scope of the blast was far too great for her to maintain a line of sight with her target. Additionally the force of the blast would soon prove to have the unfortunate consequence of keeping her aloft as Solus reached out with their right hand, uttering the words ‘dark mantra,’ which caused their hand to grow to extreme proportions. With ease the now colossal shadow hand had grown large enough to shield Solus from the burning tidal wave, a fact Emi had come to realize almost immediately but she was unable to stop it.
The captain had pushed through the blast, reaching out to grab hold of the woman and clamped down to crush her in the palm of their hand. Her body was strong, and her will even stronger. Though the pressure within Solus dark clutches was immense, Emi refused to let herself be squeezed out of existence so easily.
Pushing back with all her strength she found herself beyond capable of keeping the Captain’s crushing grip at bay, but of course this was the least of her troubles. By the time Solus noticed even the slightest bit of resistance they had begun flooding the palm of their right hand with their own dark flames. The temperatures were extreme, easily reaching their 6000° peak.
The large swathes of flesh and most of her clothing were immediately torn from her body, even despite the initial protest of her rieiatsu. It was strong enough to help mitigate some of the blow, and her body was fairly sturdy as well, but still the blow was critical. Moreover, however, even that was not the end of her suffering. As Emi struggled to deal with the pain of Solus’ attempt to cremate her alive, the Captain had taken the opportunity of her slight show of weakness to send her plummeting toward the pit’s hard floor as she screamed the whole way down.
She hit the ground with such an impact that the ground beneath her exploded, sending bits of stone and dust flying in each direction. Emi had fallen into it now. Even then Solus wasn’t finished, for the moment she hit the ground Solus shouted the words ‘Theravada’ sending a hefty beam of darkness wrapped in the same flames they used to singe her flesh down at her. Another explosion, this time it cleared out the smoke and dust of the last one and replaced them with scattered flames and lingering reishi particles from Theravada.
Looking down Solus could see a crater, with Emi knelt down using her Katana as support to her herself up. At this point she was in the same sorry state he was in, if not worse now. Her half naked, bruised and blistered body was painted disgusting mix of dark red black, from the burned and charred skin. She stood. Surprisingly quickly, but her balance seemed a bit off. For as much damage as Solus had apparently done it clearly had gotten to her almost immediately. Another assault like that and she’s be finished.
Oddly enough Solus didn’t press the offensive. Instead they waited for her to get back up before summoning the rest of their arsenal. Four shadowed hands just like the one they used to both crush and throw Emi to the ground appeared. The hands began to orbit the Captain as they slowly floated back down to devastated Pit floors. Solus roared, triggering a massive shockwave of reiatsu to explode from their body. It was no wonder they didn’t press their offense, Solus had lost themself to the thrill of making Emi suffer and asserting their dominance as the superior being.
It was a brief respite, but one nonetheless for her. However it didn’t last long, Solus charged forth yet again. Before long they were upon her unleashing a terrifying flurry of punches, now with all six hands, each following one after another. Their speed and power was impressive, almost to the point that Emi was nearly overwhelmed by it all but almost miraculously she managed to keep pace.
She swung her blade to deflect the disembodied hands into each other while the spectral blades she summoned behind her own strikes helped keep Solus theirself at bay, but she was fighting a losing battle. Solus and Zetsriel outnumbered Emi and Reijin, and worse the hands were able to quickly recover and resume the attack. There was little room for error and keeping up the defensive agains this type of assault was futile. At first, Solus managed to push her back. Before long, a few glancing blows started landing with increasing frequency. Each blow sent sharp pain amplified by the already hyper sensitive flesh from her burn resonating through her body and only served to slow her down.
Glancing blows soon lead to a few solid hits, and those would’ve turned to finishing touches if not for a very risky gambit. Emi fought off the assault for as long as she could, taking advantage of Solus’ singular objective to inflict pain upon her. As they broke down her defense and gained confidence in their attack, critical openings were left behind in the wake of it all.
Emi took advantage of them. First, utilizing the equally disjointed nature of her own disembodied hands. Through wielding ghostly swords attached even more ghostly hands, she found herself successful in piercing through Solus from behind. The phantom blade shot through right side of his chest before dissipating. Blood sprayed forth as Solus’ onslaught came to an immediate end. They stumbled back writhing in agony as Emi stepped forward to deliver a slash from Shinten Shisei which severed Solus right arm from his body. Immediately after another phantom blade mirrored her actions on the left side and rendered that arm free from their beastly master.
Then, while Solus continued to reel from being so cleanly dismembered Emi slashed forward again, while screaming “Suimei”
with all of her soul. Hundreds of blade spewed forth from her Katana as it cut into Solus’s chest, serving to not only cut away at him countless times but also blow him and his arms away in the process. A patient blade would stand to be the victor even it if cost them their flesh and blood. However even after all this, Emi’s counter attack would not be as decisive as she would have hoped.
While Solus howled and roared in pain, they found it within themselves to carry on in their attack. Again, a barrage of all six arms, rushed Emi down once more. This time mixing in blasts of flames between the strikes. Emi dashed about the Pit, dodging what she could and deflecting and repelling what she couldn’t using a mixture of Anbu Nikushimi to upturn more of the Pit’s floor, and projecting her own massive reiatsu. Again she was fighting a loosing battle, and at her present rate she probably would’ve ended burning through all her energy, especially with Solus slowly but surely regaining their composure.
“Reijin, I can’t,”
she though as the combination of arms and flames pushed her into one of the Pit’s corners. With literally nowhere left to run, her options were dwindling. The visage of the old spirit appeared to her for a brief moment and suddenly her resolve came surging back to life.
she whispered, and her reiatsu exploded outward once more. This time it was different. Not determined, not angry, nor scared, but instead it was gentle and reverent. As the truth of her power came to being, she found an unusual calmness, and clarity in it. Aside from that almost nothing else changed. She had found harmony amidst the chaos.
Her ascension to Bankai was subtle if not understated. Emi herself only seemed to gain a necklace with what appeared to be holding a handful of ceremonial coins. Then, in almost a bizarre turn, Reijin had become damaged and rusted, in stark contrast to the rather ornate looking blade he was previously. This was Tenka Reijin, the Peerless Spirit Blade despite the looks.
The mysterious shadow figure sat atop a rocking outcropping, looking over the events occurring. It was still disappointed to see that Emi hadn’t yet succumbed to her darkness but there was still something to be gained even despite that. Until just now the shadow was completely unaware of anything beyond Emi’s shikai, but now something much more powerful in the form of Bankai had presented itself. Taking her body was only part of the plan, crawling through and corrupting her memories. Finding more and more of her power, wresting control of it and her body was another.
Though she held many other memories s the shadow could have delved deep into, but this particular memory was special. Emi was at her most vulnerable here. She was at her lowest, aside from when her father died. The sin of killing another officer of Gotei, justified or not, and then purging the entirety of Central 46 on top of that weighed heavily on her. This regret stayed with her, and to the shadow it stuck out like a tasty morsel ripe for the taking. All it took was the right moment, the right push to send her falling into to the pit and refusing to sell her the ladder out. The clock was ticking.
Just as the shadow fists had closed in on her four of the ten coins around her neck turned to dust. At that instant the gentle reiatsu swirling around her condensed around her body and dressed her in the Daimyou’s attire, while Reijin was restored back to a state of fitness. Emi shifted into Muuten Shisei, a stance not recognized by Reijin but a firm stance regardless. Blade held in both hands in front of her, right leg slight forward, with both shoulder width apart to form a rather standard stance. This was enough however as she smoothly, in a manner befitting her mastery of the blade, swung forward. The blade pulled the full extent of her strength and focused it as she swung before manifesting it in a massive shockwave.
The shockwave not only served to blow away the oncoming hands, and the accompanying flames, but also blow a massive hole straight through the ceiling and floor of the Pit of Beasts, turning the affected stone into dust. What hope Solus had of winning against her now had surely drifted away. Reijin, especially in this form was a lot like Zetsriel. With Emi having embraced the Daimyou’s Soul, Reijin was able to act as conduit for Emi’s own massive physical strength, contrasting where Zetrestiel stood as a conduit for Solus’ immense spiritual strength. In the end they weren’t so different, except or the kind of power Emi commanded wasn’t anything Solus seemed capable of dealing with.
This was not the first Bankai they had faced, especially not while he himself apparently lacked one. Yet, Emi was on an entirely different level of power and skill in comparison. Getting near such raw destructive potential was a lot to ask for, even for them. It was as they had been asked to fight theirself, something Solus always felt incapable of accomplishing successfully. These odds did not stop them from trying, however.
Unbeknownst to Emi in her desperate struggle to fend off yet another onslaught from Solus’ personal strike team, the master behind the shadow hands had been gathering and storing their power in preparation for their ultimate attack. The flames that had been scattered everywhere by Solus’ pained frenzy, and Emi’s efforts to keep it all at bay came crawling, then jogging, sprinting, and leaping back towards their master to coalesce in this massive inferno of dark flames.
The concentration of heat and reiatsu, not just around Solus, but within the entirety of the Pit had grown incredibly intense. By now the walls, parts of the ceiling not destroyed by Emi, and the floors nearest to Solus had turned red and even white hot in some places and then started melting. The temperatures kept rising higher and higher as Solus’ spiraled out of control and soon the shadowed hands clawed their way into them. Without ripping apart this flesh, they burrowed deep into Solus, becoming part of his existence and transforming him as they did. The Captains Reiatsu exploded, reaching that monstrous peak once more, and now it seemed as if the world was catching fair.
The transformation was unbearable even to him. His whole body burned with both Reiatsu and flame. He fell to the ground, roaring, belching flames, writing in apparent agony with the sounds of cracking bones filling the air alongside it all. And then it all stopped. Solus stood, his brown skin now a red so bright it almost glowed. Horns had sprouted from his head and his long white hair coiled around his neck and shoulders, becoming like a lions mane. Finally, not only did the arms he lost miraculously grow back, he gained a second set. The Asura was born.
Inadvertently, by pushing Solus into the corner like she did, the Captain was able to achieve what was thought to be impossible. Rather than releasing the power contained inside the Zanpakutou to its fullest, Solus took it into himself. By merging his own fractured existence with that of Zetsriel’s the two were able to become the complete being they never were before now. But, this process was incredibly unstable. The amount of heat coming off of Solus only continued to rise, but it was faster now. Before long it would become unstable. He was like a nuclear power plant rapid approaching the final stages of a meltdown and the blast to wipe out the world was just around the corner.
Solus stepped forward, and with it came a gargantuan wall of flames that threatened to engulf the entirety of the pit behind him. He turned, again, his movements causing yet another wave of flames. Emi flicked her wrists, moving her blade just enough to create a shockwave strong enough to keep the inferno at bay. Yet, in the back of her mind Emi knew that even with the power of her bankai, the monstrous Captain’s newly gained ability to create these massive bursts of flame with even the simplest of movements were a problem.
And then without warning, the flames of battle were set alight one more. Solus exploded forward once again, his step a bit slower than before but the tenacity behind them was higher than ever. Behind him, a wall of flames so vast and all encompassing the world seemed not to exist anymore. He closed in viscously, bearing the full force of his being upon up with such ferocity that Emi was startled into retreating. The flames followed her, being flung forward with a impressive amount of momentum as the Asura came to a halt. Emi slashed, once again using the force behind her swings to keep the flames at bay, but what little that did.
While she could safely keep the fires from touching her, she couldn’t avoid the heat. Simply being with in proximity to them was enough to sear away her flesh. The situation had become dire. To approach risked being consumed in the sea of flames, keeping her distance not only limited her options but she burned anyway. Worse, the fires were only growing hotter by the second.
The decline of the situation didn’t stop there. Aside from the absurdity of the heat, the flames were completely unnatural. They were blood red and weirdly heavy. By blowing back the flames, Emi noticed that the fell, or even gravitate towards the ground and other objects and seemed to stick to them. The flames even ate through the ground and even the walls and ceiling of the cave.
Somehow it was if the abrasive, beat everything to death nature and attitude Solus had became the flames. The propensity to create widespread destruction with no concern for the consequences or the casualties left behind in his wake. It was all his was plus a dash of pure destruction and chaos made fully manifest. The flames were merely the disguise it wore.
Perhaps it had all come full circle in the end, however. Long ago in his youth Solus bore the ‘Crimson Catastrophe’ moniker. A foreboding title that paid tribute to his dark red locks of hair, a trait born from the fact that it remained near permanently stained with the blood of his enemies and the fact that every field that Solus did battle in had its entire landscape restructured. Even several divisions were leveled when Solus entered the fray. And now, history would repeat itself once more here in the Pit. Collapse was imminent.
Having frozen, Emi allowed Solus to take the initiative and keep up the pressure. The Asura changed at her relentless, throwing fists and flames at every chance it had. Emi was barely able to keep up, and the heat coupled with the constant dodging was making things worse. Exhaustion was quickly setting in. It was hard to move in this heat. Her body was becoming heavier, more sluggish with each passing second. It got to the point where even swinging her blade felt like a chore, a reality that forced her to employ the use of some rather high level barriers just to help stay safe.
It wasn’t a sustainable strategy however.
The flames weren’t just burning the world, but almost literally everything both physically, and metaphysically. Her Reiatsu reserves, burned. Her stamina, burned. Her flesh, burned. Her resolve, burning. This was the end. Her whole reason for joining the Seventh. The years of training, pushing her body to the brink of death over and over again. Amassing all the power she could find in order to avenge her father and the friends she’d found along the way, and those lost to Solus’ fury. All of that baggage she carried, everything leading up to this point went up in flames and things were only getting worse.
Moments passed and the temperatures nearly tripled what they started out as. Instead of radiating flames, Solus was now emitting this blinding aura of light. It was bad enough that the heat was tremendous, but now being unable to directly look at him was making matters that much more hopeless.
The game of cat and mouse carried on with Emi managing to land a few glancing blows here and there, but nothing on the scale of damage she was taking just by being near Solus. Yet, neither was able to land the finishing blow. Despite that, the battle was leaning heavily in Solus’ favor. He was perhaps minutes away from reaching critical mass, and the battle would be decided then. Whether she, or Solus survived the impending cataclysm would decide it all, or so she surmised.
But then out of nowhere, the world froze once again. The shadowy figure appeared, making an somewhat of a triumphant return with its flamboyant manifestation. However this time there were three of them. The shadow sighed exasperatedly in response to Emi’s apparent lack of impetus in this situation. She was a caged beast, but wasn’t able to break free and be the her she wanted to be. The events that played out were more akin to a battle of attrition between them but in actuality...
“It was a slaughter wasn’t it? You remember the fight between you and him being completely one-sided in your favor. He never stood a chance against you. Hate him. Let that anger speak for itself. Do not fear it.
This man not only killed your father, but many of your friends, and countless other innocents. Take that, use it. Break yourself free from this lie. Let’s show our audience what really happened, shall we?”
The figures faded away one by one, and the world reset to just before the battle began. Emi spoke but her voice was devoid of all life, all hope, devoid of anything really. She was broken. The man before her had taken everything and she was past the point of anger. Emi had fallen into despair and was now about to wield it as her greatest weapon.
Her Reiatsu flowed out, taking on that dark and wicked nature that appeared every so often. It reached out to Solus, gripping him by the neck and choking him, and in doing so suppressed Zetsriel. Solus was alone. It was now just him, and Emi. As more and more of her despair seeped out into the world, the nastier her Reiatsu became. Soon it had grown to the point that tears ran down Solus’ face.
He was afraid, alone, and sad all at the same time. As Emi’s vile energy gripped him tighter and tighter, a life time of inadequacy and failed flashes before his eyes. His fear of being weak, unloved, and unable to control himself to the point that he lashed out at anything and everything he could confronted them all at once.
The souls of the dead, the deaths he was responsible for appeared before him. Each of them professed their woes without end. The noise, the wretched screeching burrowed into his mind driving him mad almost instantly. Emi could feel every last second of his suffering as if it were her own, and only served to strengthen her malignity.
Solus fell and Emi approached him slowly. She drew her blade, and with a single swing she removed his right foot. With a thud he hit the cold hard ground, screaming not in pain, but in fear. With each show Emi cut away more and more of him.
First the other foot, then up each of his legs in sequence until she reached his thighs. The poor soul was cursed by his own Reiatsu which had flared up to cauterize the wounds in a sad act of self-preservation. This would only add to and prolong his suffering, and Emi knew as much. She knew exactly how miserably resilient the Shinigami body was.
Emi knew he would eventually die, but that death would take some time before it could reach him. In the meantime she could take her time and make him pay in blood for everything he had done. So slowly, and so she spent the following moments cutting a small piece of his flesh away and watching as the wounds burned themselves shut before repeating the process again and again.
To make matters worse, Emi didn’t even find any pleasure or accomplishment in tearing him apart like this. No joy, no relief, or anything in that vein. One could argue that it only made her feel worse, but even that was hard to see. She continued on because she felt compelled to. The sensation was addicting, and there was a morbid interest in seeing how much of him he could carve away before he finally gave up. It appeared as though that, and only that would drive her on.
Eventually with each additional piece of Solus she cut away, a black flake almost like an infected scab appeared somewhere on Emi’s body, both real and in the mindscape. Having delved deep into vulnerability left by her anguish, The Speaker found a way to take advantage of it and place its thumb on the scale. With each piece of flesh Emi took from Solus, The Speaker took a small portion of hers.
The Shadowy figure returned once more, and for what it hoped would be the last time it needed to finally push her over the edge. Now grinning ear to ear the figure gave a hearty applause before speaking to her.
“Now that’s the way. A criminal is all you see, and as harbinger of Justice it is your duty, no your right to inflict it upon him. His suffering is only a fraction of the suffering dealt to the countless others. When there is nothing left of him, behind the cycle anew. He must suffer for eternity with you acting as the judge, jury, and lost important of all the executioner.”
The figure snapped and vanished in a flash. The world reset once more, but not by the shadow’s doing this time. Her Reiatsu flowed out, taking on that dark and wicked nature but this time it was far worse than it had ever been. It was viscous, black and heavy, becoming like the tar that brought her to this never-ending cycle of suffering.
It reached out to Solus, dripping and leaving a trail of unfiltered obscenity behind in its wake. The transformed Reiatsu slithered its way around Solus’ neck and gripped it firmly. Now not only did it choke him, it burned him with all the fury of the sun at the same time. It seemed now with each new loop things would become much, much worse. Time went on, and eventually younger loops would lead to different methods of torture and deaths that Solus was subjected to.
As the loops grew in number, so too did the complexity of Solus’ manner of torture and eventual death. Eventually they reached the point of almost Rube Goldberg Machine levels of over-doneness where in something as benign as flexing one’s fingers followed down a slippery slope of odd conveniences that lead to Solus’ bones being ripped out of his body through his flesh. Another such occurrence began as a routine patrol and then ended in Solus suffering from a mental break that caused him to shoot a stream of flames down his own throat. Before long the loops resulted to less and less and involvement from Emi and more focused around Solus experiencing more and more bizarre or gruesome deaths. All the while Emi remained just as trapped as he did in the fantasy of his suffering. It all played right into The Speakers hands, no matter how the trip from point A to point Z occurred.
With each reset, more and more of Emi became covered and infested with darkness. She was now truly a slave to her own darkness, and now The Speaker’s influence beside. The more of her that was lost to the darkness, the stronger The Speaker and The Collective became inside her body. There was no turning back now. She was in too deep, and the lust for making the one responsible for it all was just too great to turn away from. Letting go just simply wasn’t in her nature.
Outside of Emi’s now cursed mindscape, The Speaker stood ready to face the world. Emi’s body was now almost entirely covered in the black scabby growths. They dripped and oozed with the same tar-like substance that swallowed both her and Reijin only moments prior. Coinciding with this descent into a bow physically manifesting disease of unbridled impurity was the new now now profoundly amplified wave of antagonism radiating from her body.
The miasma had now grown so thick it was becoming hard to see her amidst it all. The noxious emanations slowly rose, forming a dark and thick cloud of enmity above her head, threatening to bring about another cataclysm. However, the world was spared that event, for now. Instead it would act as a beacon for those brave or foolish enough to approach the whatever the hell was happening.
Having now wrested what appeared to be last vestiges of control from Emi, it was now able to access the full breadth of her abilities. All it needed now was a proper target with which to test them on. The Speaker could sense that a rather massive gathering of Tharrans had formed in response to the rather grandiose display of evil. They were clearly fearful for what may happen if left unchecked, but they were too stupid to realize how utterly hopeless they were in this situation.
Emi was bad enough on her own when tainted by her negative emotions, but The Speaker was a brand new breed of evil. Something that delighted in being what it was, simply because it could be as much and there wasn’t anything around to stop it. And so it was, a veritable army of Therrans and poor, hopeless, helpless, and slimy Emi standing there waiting to be devoured by then all. However the hero, the dull and ever inglorious Speaker was there to save her from this massive threat.
The Speaker paced forward glee fully, placing itself firmly in the heart of the army before they even had the chance to realize it. When they did, they swarmed like wasps on a threat to their nests. Tens, hundreds of them piled on to The Speaker, giving it the improper burial it never was allowed to have. Most would’ve been crushed under the weight, but Emi still had a fair amount of her physical strength left over which was also bolstered by her Reiatsu. Simply crawling atop of the stolen body wasn’t enough to end it.
Of course, however, this was exactly what The Speaker wanted. Small blades, blackened by the discontent literally jumping off of the speaker began to rain down upon the piled on heap of weird mutts. One by one, the ones on the surface perished and rolled off the heap. Before long the pile shrunk in size and all that remained was the speaker, still surrounded by hundreds of them still, and the now countless numbers of their dead.
Being witness to the effortless massacre of their comrades, the living tharrans were now spurred into action, now with more enthusiasm than they would’ve showed otherwise. However, it was futile. The Speaker swung Reijin, once again releasing that localize hurricane. It swept up a sizable portion of the lifeless corpses surrounding it, and hurled them at the charging Tharrans. Yet, this wasn’t particularly what The Speaker had in mind. Coinciding with the massive wind force was an ungodly concentration of blades which reduced each of the bodies tossed in the wind into a combination of pulp and red mist.
Meanwhile the blades continued on, spiraling out of control as each and every last one of them found a Tharran like a soulmate and burrowed its way though it’s companion’s head. The blades drilled through them, churning the insides of the Tharran army into a slurry if bones and entrained, before exist them to leave behind a nasty exit wound and a trail of Tharran slushy. In two shakes, the army perished like it was nothing.
At first The Speaker was disappointed. For all its posturing, and making as much of a scene as it possibly could, the turn out was a bit... lacking. Despite that, it found some solace in the fact that it was so easily capable of spreading such widespread destruction and death. And so for the next few moments, The Speaker spent its time rolling and and sliding through the death as a pig would through the mud and filth.
There was nothing human about it. Not to take this much pleasure in the brutality. It was now clear that the thing, the whatever that made Emi love the act of killing as much as she did wasn’t her. The glimpses of wanton chaos and callousness were none other than this Speaker entity, who had been residing within her for who knows how long, waiting for its chance not to shine but stand in the spotlight all the same. This grotesque facsimile of a person without inhibitions, taken to the most disgusting limits was this.
The Speaker had to be put down, but none would know it, or even why. All the witnesses were dead. Or so The Speaker thought. The hero, not the one The Speaker believed itself to be, but rather one more uncanny. It appeared from the sky like some sort of bird or plane landing after a long flight. Up close it felt like a pretty gnarly creature, but amidst the red smoke and dust it was hard to make out any discernible features. But, The Speaker knew plain as night that this thing was far above the rest of the class.
Unbeknownst to the evil invader, it had inadvertently drawn the ire of the so-called Zygantre. Whatever it was, The Speaker had made a real mess of its territory and enough was enough. One of the big bads felt it necessary to deal with the threat itself, and now it showed up to do so. Sensing it’s unruly presence, with the tingles now like teeth biting into Emi’s flesh, The Speaker hopped up from the pool of soupy entrails. It slowly wiped itself clean, and then turned to more properly face this much more noteworthy threat.
“Finally, a proper meal. I would likely to thank you for attending our lovely feast. To the guest of honor, a good and vicious death to you. Oh how blessed you must be.”
The Speaker frowned. With more control over not just Emi’s body but furthered dominance over The Collective, The Speaker was able to more directly speak to the world and for itself. But the act of doing so was a bit disappointing. Before, its speech drew in the wills of the Collective, and thus helped it to shape the sinister and foreboding message left previously. But now, The Speaker was troubled by not being able to strike the appropriate tone for what it was. Though adding to The Speaker’s dilemma was the fact that it didn’t quite know who or what it was, nor what it wanted to be.
Yes, The Speaker wanted blood. Yes it wanted chaos. Yes, it wanted destruction. And yes it was more than able to revel in it all. Though, it doubted such pleasure was its own doing as opposed to the influence of The Collective. But why then? Why did The Speaker delight in all those things? Why does it want to engage in those things? There were all those questions and more that it simply didn’t have the answers to, at least for the moment. But then realization set it.
From barely being able to walk, to almost mastering the art of moving, then mastering Emi and Reijin’s power. It was clear that The Speaker was evolving. Not just in mind, body and spirit, but as an entity. Each iteration clearly became more dangerous than the last, and it was now just starting to reach its climb towards the pinnacle.
At the rate it seemed to be going, where the The Speaker was headed is what life would’ve have been had it began with humanity as opposed to single-celled organisms. The results? Not quite to the point to threaten deified entities, but clearly it was on the very of transcending the well established concepts associated with spiritual beings both good and ill. It bore the body, and soul of a human or at least a human-like entity, but its mind was in a different dimension entirely. What it was, what it could do when back by that mindset was what was truly dangerous about it.
It wasn’t about power. If it were, it was only about half as strong as Emi was at her fully strength. That was without consideration for what Reijin and Tenka Reijin we’re capable of in tandem with Emi. One’s potential for greatness wasn’t or isn’t always measured in strength along. Part of it involved skill, experience, knowledge, wisdom, and capacity to grow or chance. Any combination of these things could produce a person with unspeakable potential. But for what the speaker was, human constructs and conventions no longer applied. Humanity’s realms of reason and understanding had their very clear, and very finite limitations. Humans could never make sense of pure randomness and chaos, no matter how smart they or technology became. The only thing more outside their reach was idea of God and what it is or could be. It was starting to appear that one of these things was what the Speaker was becoming.
Emi’s body stood upright. Her shoulder straightened, and her face produced a sly but toothy grin. From uncertainty to an overwhelming confidence, The Speaker changed. None of those questions it asked prior mattered. Their answers mattered even less. There was only one reason thing that fit, and it was the most logical conclusion that presented itself. The truth of itself became unmistakably clear to it.
The Speaker wasn’t a person. It didn’t need a reason for those things, nor did it need much of an identity or a tone to match said identity. Instead, The Speaker understood that it could not be associated with humanity or even the lack thereof. The Speaker was neither good nor evil. Hero nor villain. Moral or Immoral. It was simply was. Neutral, ambivalent, amoral. Not a man, not a god, not monster nor animal. It was a force of nature, something like a tornado, an earthquake or even a plague. It killed not because it wanted to, or because it could. It killed not because it made the decision to do so. It killed because it was bound to happen. The inevitably of its behavior was all the justification The Speaker needed. It didn’t cause death, it was death.
By simply being allowed to exist, things would die. Much as the volcano would claim the souls of many, so too would The Speaker usher in a state of non-existence. The Earth was simply in the way of the asteroid that The Speaker was, and all the living things just so happened to be the dinosaurs that roamed it. Was it planned? No. Divine will? No. It was all just an unfortunate set of coincidences that just so happened to lead to an even more unfortunate set of events. Even if that meant an extinction event ensued. This was The Speaker, the incarnate of the next extinction.
With this newfound knowledge, The Collective ceased to be. There was no longer any point in keeping around a cacophony of voice from things beneath its plane of existence. They were all dead weight on a journey to a destination none of them could ever reach. And so The Speaker devoured every last one of the remaining souls, and rid itself of all unnecessary burdens.
Thus today marked the birth and creation of a new type of being. One where the concepts of Shinigami, Arrancar, Quincy, Togabito and more no longer mattered. It was an entity that associated with none other than itself, and itself alone. It was born because fate saw it fit be be cruel, and it lived only to do whatever it felt like in the heat of the moment. Like a hurricane, it would simply travel ther Earth. Whether it encountered souls and swiftly ushered them into the afterlife, or quietly passed over the ocean without harming a single thing. This was the nature of The Speaker. It could only destroy or not destroy. There was no in between, no gray area. Things were as black and white as black and white could be. It was either the saddest, or happiest of birthdays.
The blood and smoke began to thin, and more of what what lurking inside of it became clear to The Speaker. Though with the developments surrounding this malevolent manifestation, whatever remained hidden among the veil would likely be trounced as hard as the Tharrans were only moments prior. As it had been made agonizingly clear, Emi was dangerous. When letting go some of her inhibitions that level of threat grew exponentially. But what happens now when those inhibitions no longer exist? When, restraint isn’t a concept any longer. When there is no will, no preconceptions, no concerns. What if her power could exist in a pure state, a vacuum, where it was other made manifest or not? What if her power could exist in a state where it was either eradicating something, or not?
When people acted, there was always some part of their psyche playing its part. Whatever thoughts and emotions happened to be floating around in their mind space at the time influenced each and every action they performed, and how they performed it. So what if those walls didn’t exist?
What would happen to the power one wielded when left in the hands of nature where it could act with true randomness, with true indiscriminate force, and with true lack of concern or care for the consequences. When the tsunami sweeps through the ocean, there is no mind behind it to hold it back. It destroys whatever is in its way, or it dies without having accomplished nothing. This was the binary world The Speaker existed in, and the powers it wielded from this realm meant true ruination lied ahead.
“I consume, therefore... I am.”