Black and White Edit
It was as pleasant an afternoon as any, meaning the commoners of the island were out doing just about the only one thing they knew how to do: party. The local pub was swarming with people of both genders, of many sizes, of various shapes, of all colors. The vibrant sound of cheers rang rampant, rendering the creeks of the tavern's wooden floorboards entirely inaudible. In such an atmosphere, it was hard to hear the words of the inner subconscious, and perhaps that was the reason behind the many rash decisions that were made that day.
Sitting in the far corner of the room, one such man hoisted a proud bowl of sake to his lips for a taste. Oh how the taste lingered upon his tongue! This man, whom the sea itself feared under the guise of the Black Panther, was fortunate enough to have retained his sanity under such grueling circumstances. For the powers invested within him would have not allowed for otherwise, the powers he had obtained from salvaging himself to the devil itself. Indeed, he had conquered his inner self to a degree which few could so much as comprehend, yet for all he was worth, a weakness corroded his mind and his spirit.
One look yonder, and his heart began to race.
What was this mystical feeling that encompassed his every vein? Could this have been love at first sight? Yes, most certainly it had to be! Though he had long since forgotten, poor Aoshin had felt this way just the other day. But in the current moment, as he laid his eyes upon the beauty stradling toward the counter, he simply could not get himself to think straight. Nor did he truly want to, for that matter.
In an ironic twist of fate, the man who had the capacity to ponder upon even the unseen, had suddenly lost himself to a sight of the mortal realm. With every wobble of her breast, with every jiggle of her shapely rear, blood rushed to and fro, until it forced him to his feet and led him like a man possessed down a long isle, where his prize lay at the very end of the road.
Aoshin nearly galloped in the air as he made his way toward the woman, who by now was conversing with the bartender. He could feel it already, the touch of her body against his own. He would see to it that she was rolling around with him at his bedside, no matter the cost.
An illusion of love born by the instinctive male lust was quite the strong one, a mirage not easily shattered nor tampered with. Though amidst Aoshin's advances toward the buxom beauty, unbeknownst to the patron, another man had his own sights set on the very same woman. Perhaps what could only be described as a difference in timing of having noticed the woman, split between mere seconds, the woman was approached from the side by another male moments before Aoshin attempted his own interaction.
"For such a lovely woman to be in this rambunctious tavern all by her lonesome, I can only understand her to be a person of strength and fortitude rivaled only by her tremendous beauty. A frightening yet alluring combination, to be sure." the newcomer proclaimed to the woman, a silver-haired gentlemen who dressed with a casual motif though carried himself with such formality that it was no mistake that he held some sort of higher station than the majority of tavern-goers. Though it was rather clear that even this man was bound to the temptations of the flesh no different than Aoshin, given by his advance on the young maiden.
"My dear sweetest, why does it feel as though my every breath in this world was meant for you? Your beauty has taken my heart and led my mind astray, frolicking upon an endless ascent into the heavens! You and I, we were made for each other!" Aoshin pranced forth, singing with his eyes sealed. It wasn't until he appeared at the woman's side that he dared to open them, and upon doing so, he was instantaneously infuriated at the revelation of the silver-haired man.
When in the world did he get there? Aoshin blinked his eyes as if in disbelief. And then his brow narrowed. "Oi, oi, what the hell do you think you're doing?" The pleasantry in his tone and words had vanished with the turn of a switch, exposing his former self as nothing but a certain fraud. "Get lost, Shirobaka, this one's mine!"
To Aoshin, a woman was but another possession, one that could be acquired through mere sight alone. She was no different to him than his katana, a prized token that he could strut to the public. She was to him his territory, and this silver-haired man had long since trespassed into enemy grounds. To make his words all the more convincing, Aoshin clasped his hands over the sheathed blade at his hip.
"Tsk, tsk..." It was almost in natural response to his rival-in-scouting's outburst that he slipped an arm around the woman's waist. Without a doubt, that rather threatening statement probably would have spookened an ordinary person such as this woman, and it was those moments - windows of opportunity, as some might call them - that Kurama was the type to take advantage. If it didn't occur to Aoshin at that instant, Kurama took his threat almost to a negligible degree, instead using his wording as a chance to get closer to the mark that caught his eye. Almost in a comforting manner, his right arm remained at the woman's waist, drawing her a bit close to the male's form as his eyes were centered on Aoshin.
"You've gone and upset this poor innocent woman with your harsh words." he chastised, almost in a playful tone before turning his head to look upon the woman. "I would like to apologize for my friend here, but could you blame him? Many men would find themselves unable to maintain their composure before such beauty." Kurama directed toward the woman. At this point, it almost seemed like he was ignoring Aoshin entirely, using his very actions as a stepping stone in the pursuit of winning the girl. It wasn't that he was trying to acquire her as a trophy, like his counterpart here, nor was he searching for some true love. Kurama was a man driven by interest, nothing more and nothing less. If something interested him, he would pursue it, do what he pleased, and once the interest waned, so too would he depart. This woman was no different. Her beautiful features interested Kurama in the most simplistic way a woman could invoke interest in a man, but it was genuine interest nevetheless. Once he was done with what interested him, he would more than likely forget the girl's face.
To pit his own words against him and utilize them in a manner in which to make himself appear that much more promising of a mate in the eyes of the woman... Aoshin had reason behind his anger. What triggered him more than anything, however, was the fact that the man, that awful man, had gone as far as to lay his filthy hands upon his prize! He simply could not, would not stand for this sort of humiliation.
While it was true, Aoshin too, would more than likely forget the girl by the time of the next sunrise, in the dire moment, she was his wife, or at least the top candidate for such a position. He would never end up knowing her name, however sad the truth may sound, but Kurama's behavior was a knock against Aoshin's pride, and there would be no getting over that. No sort of apology could ever change that. An enemy was born within Aoshin's heart in that very moment, and he sought his blood!
In that moment, he lost track of anything and everything else within the world. He forgot about where he was, who he was with; hell, he even forgot about the darn girl! All he could comprehend was the lust for murder he felt surging through every one of his veins. Whether or not he'd live to regret his actions... in the moment, he simply didn't care. He wanted this man dead, here and now.
Without any further beacon of hesitation, the Black Panther clenched his sheathed sword and swiftly pulled it over his head, allowing it a moment to rest in still air before gunning it down with ferocious strength. He unleashed a complete swipe, finishing with his covered weapon facing in the direction behind him, only for nothing to have happened. For a period of several seconds, it remained that way, until the floor and ceiling shimmered mere cracks, and the entirety of the tavern was thrown off course and off balance as if a tsunami had struck.
And that was when it happened. Just when the all the attention in the room was diverted over to the counter where the panther and tiger had ushered their mating calls, the entire tavern, nay, what appeared to be the entire world, was suddenly heaved into separate segments. Cries were heard all around as the rays of the sun beamed triumphantly into the once dimly lit tavern, and all its inhabitants scurried to opposite sides so as to avoid falling into the ocean that appeared between.
A powerful gust of wind surged next, forcing the two cleanly divided sides of the island in opposite directions, so that they were separated by ocean water. Aoshin himself stood for awhile with a foot on either chunks of land, until the distance became so great that he had to choose to remain on one side. Were the great Byakko still in his former position along with that woman, then there was a good chance the two of them had been minced along with whatever else had been caught in the way of the ridiculous swing.
It was quite simple to recognize the danger that fastly approached. That killer intent was heavy enough in its entirety to have literally suffocated an innocent bystander. Following it came an attack which matched the intensity of Aoshin's will to utterly annihilate Kurama in that land-defying slash. But with him able to anticipate that violent course of action, the silver-haired man had ample time to respond. Grasping the woman's hips tightly, he kicked off the ground with such tremendous leg-strength, it appeared as though he had instantly teleported in the very moment that the sword swung had begun its descent; long after Aoshin would be able to divert the direction of the impending attack. Smashing through the roof of the tavern, he effortlessly relaxed his body in mid-air, allowing for the gargantuan bursts of air following the sword slash to carry him off far enough that he garnered a safe distance from the swordsman. A combination of Soru and Kami-e, merged together with such elegance in order to avoid the vicious slash. Such was the skill of Kurama, the White Tiger, but even such a display was naught but the very tip of the glacier for him.
Landing to the ground, atop one of the two land fragments of the island cut in twain, he would drop the woman to the ground and peered toward the direction of his attacker. His eyes fixated upon Aoshin's form, despite the considerable distance between them, but after a moment or so, he returned his gaze to the woman that was still against the ground, coughing into her trembling hand. Kurama narrowed his eyes as he glared upon the frightened woman. "Oi. Stand up. You suffered not even a single scratch courtesy of me. So get up." he ordered with a stern voice, watching the woman who, while continuing to tremble, seemed to tear up; drops from her eyes falling onto the dirt beneath her shaking body. Kurama's brow tensed up in silence, before raising his hand upwards and extending his index finger. With a sudden thrust, he pierced the air in her direction, sending a shockwave of precise force that drilled into the woman's chest. A bloody gasp accompanied, as her eyes grew cold, the tears and trembles finally stopping before she fell to the ground motionless. Dead. Such was the Shigan technique, a power meant for murder and assassination.
"Weak people disinterest me. But weak women are simply abhorrent." he spat, before turning his attention back on Aoshin. He kicked off the ground once again, landing not too far away from where he left the woman's corpse behind, so that he stood a couple yards away from Aoshin. "All that for some woman. You really need an attitude adjustment." Kurama mused.
Having been temporarily blinded by his lust for blood, Aoshin was quite surprised to find the silver-haired man still alive. It was through sensing the latter's presence that he was made aware of his survival, and, turning to face in Kurama's general direction, Aoshin was even more surprised to witness the death of the woman at the hands of the tiger himself.
"Oi, oi, how am I supposed to make love to a dead body?" Aoshin pondered aloud, attesting greater importance to his sexual desires than the actual well being of the woman herself. Itching the back of his head, his eyes glistened for a moment as if lost in thought, as if he were truly considering the possibility of… having sex with the corpse. "Well, it wouldn't be the worst thing I've ever done." He puckered his lips and merely shrugged off the rather morbid event.
With the woman dead and the distraction extracted from his mind, it wasn't until that very moment in itself that Aoshin bothered to so much as acknowledge Kurama for who he was. While he couldn't match the admiral to his exact profession, the powerful haki that was flaring from within him was enough to garner Aoshin's praise. More so than anything, however yet, it left him utterly confused. Was this guy another pirate?
"What the hell are you so strong for?" Aoshin juggled his sheathed blade between his hands, before setting it to rest against his shoulder. "Just sensing your haki is giving me a real headache. Honestly, what a pain!"
Fights were fun for Aoshin, but only when he didn't have to exert himself so much. He was on the lazier end of the human race, the kind of guy who'd much rather be gulping down a bowl of sake or rolling around in the grass with a fine woman. It had been a long, long time since he had to so much as unsheath his sword; but, seeing as how the silver-haired man had really ticked him off, Aoshin was willing to make an exception.
Yes, he'd welcome the challenge of fighting this man, whoever the hell he was. It'd have made for a greater knock on him as a man otherwise. With the powers of the Giro Giro no Mi intact, Aoshin could see the entire island and beyond from where he currently stood; and that was including the two sides he himself had divided through the swing of his sword. The tropically infested island was blooming with rich plant life, harboring all breeds of vicious predators. But none that imposed greater wills than the panther and tiger themselves.
There was a town upon the island as well, centered around the tavern the two big cats had initially met within. But, seeing as though Kurama had presented himself as the type of person to not care for the lives of civilians --at least, that was all Aoshin could infer from his limited exposure to the man-- Aoshin didn't think the two of them would encounter any issues in using the entirety of the island as their battleground.
Open Season Edit
Focusing his own gaze upon Aoshin, the silver-haired man let off a light chuckle. "Your Haki speaks to me, stranger. It's like a confident bellow. You mean to fight me, don't you? Well, given by your last action, it wouldn't take much detective work to deduce that being your intent anyways." Kurama proclaimed, turning his head back toward the spot where he left the dead corpse of a woman. "I sure hope you aren't some mercenary or assassin. It'd be embarrassing to fight a killer who can't even hide his intent to kill from his target. Like some mediocre novice. Talk about disgraceful." the man mused, vanishing once more as he appeared at the spot where the left the woman.
Reaching down, he picked her up by the neck, the position by which she was held caused the blood that continued to slowly protrude from the stab wound to drip down onto the ground beneath him like a faint rainfall. "Is this the prize you sought? I am nothing if not a man of fairness. If you want her, you are more than welcome to her." Kurama answered, vanishing once more; this time with the girl in tow. Almost suddenly, the body of the bloody corpse had appeared a couple feet above the head of Aoshin, floating there briefly as it began its descent. A mere fraction of a second after reappeared Kurama as well, hiding the majority of his form from Aoshin's sight behind the corpse.
"You may join her in Hell. Fuck her brains out all you want there."
Using the corpse to hide the motion of his hands, he thrust his extended finger out in a barrage of well-executed and powerful thrusts that pierced through the air; no different than how he murdered the poor girl earlier, but these were far more powerful by far. The tremendous force of the shockwaves behind every one of the finger-tip strikes pierced through the woman's body, drilling forth in order to hit their true target: Aoshin himself. The deceased flesh tore apart with every finger-tip thrust, spewing blood and guts, pieces of disembodied organs, all over the place along with whatever remaining blood had yet to leave the victim's frail constitution. All was nothing more than to hide his attack, in order to maximize the chances of hitting Aoshin with the devastating Shigan strikes.
When Kurama flung about, snatching and lifting the woman as he did, Aoshin keenly examined his every move. Even the most minor details stuck out to him; the direction in which Kurama faced before vanishing, the angel by which he upheld the woman, the distance that existed between his own two feet. To say he had memorized them would have been nothing short of an exaggeration, yet what he managed to do in reality was comprehend them. Understand them, interpret them, perhaps even decipher them.
As a notorious pirate who answered to but a single woman, Aoshin was well received as being a man of many talents. Navigation, swordsmanship, romance, these were without a doubt some of his most promising skills, yet the one trait that stood out far beyond was his knack of paying attention to detail. Quite understandably so, seeing as though he was the man who had devoured the Giro Giro no Mi, after all. With its powers, he could see anything and everything, even that which was unseen.
The world as a result came in an entirely different light to Aoshin. For, but always, he was capable of seeing that which transpired within the vicinity of innumerable miles from all directions, be it from above, from below, from the right, the left, and so on and so forth. So when Kurama laced himself behind the corpse of the woman, registering it as a makeshift guise with which to unleash his havoc assault, while at the very same time, believing himself to have escaped Aoshin's line of sight, he in reality was fooling no one. For Aoshin, there was no hiding. Only seeking.
Sliding his grasp over the sheath of his sword so that the side of his hand pressed against the tsuba, Aoshin flickered his weapon to life just inches from his face, keeping the pommel facing up toward the sky and the sheath aimed down at the ground. When Kurama ran through the body of the deceased woman like it were tape at the end of a finish line, thwarting his incredulously powerful finger directly at him, Aoshin had long since poised himself to respond accordingly: to counter, he moved his arm at a speed equivalent to Kurama's own, utilizing the hilt of his sword to intercept each Shigan attack.
Such an occurrence should have undoubtedly brought the Navy Admiral to ponder upon the mysterious happenings of Aoshin's swift response; no ordinary man could have so easily recognized him having been behind that corpse. It was almost as if Aoshin had seen right through the ploy, both literally and figuratively. And while Kenbunshoku was a definite possibility given the circumstance, it did not seem likely that it was limited to Haki alone.
Nevertheless, the Black Panther found himself quickly losing ground to Kurama's ferocious assault, his own feet skidding backward and leaving a trail of dirt and debris in the ground. At some point during the attack, Aoshin, looking to move onto the offensive himself, quickly parried Kurama's finger through the use of his sword's hilt and took the small fraction of a second that presented itself to retreat backward, shifting the way he held the sword as he did. Leaving the blade protected still yet by its sheath, Aoshin swung the sword horizontally, sending a crescent shaped air projectile blitzing toward Kurama.
Needless to say, Kurama was quite impressed. To find an opponent capable of so easily fending off his Shigan with minor consequence was rare. He fell back, belaying a smirk as he stepped to ground with only his left foot, keeping the right one up high; thus displaying his rather impeccable control over his body. Such was the mark of a martial arts master. As the forceful slash of air rampaged toward the silver-haired man, he went forth to further demonstrate his martial art technique. For him, it was like all things were moving in slow motion. Such was the boon of a mastered form of Kenbunshoku Haki. When all things could be perceived to such detail, it was possible to actually anticipate the future to some modicum of a degree. In every second, millisecond, iota of time itself, that the path of that air slash came toward Kurama, he could see it all within his mind's eye. Nothing could escape his Haki's sight.
Spinning his body around, as the air slash came toward him, everything happened far too fast to truly explain; even for Kurama. The movement was natural, performed at a speed unreal. The momentum of his body rotation, coupled with the force behind his risen leg, it seemed as though the two vacuums of air almost latched onto eachother... perhaps merging would be a better term to describe this phenomena. There was no secret ability nor devil fruit power making this happen. It was all timing. Precision, control, and nigh perfection in timing. Only a Haki master such as Kurama could even attempt such a maneuver. As the two merging vacuums of air collided during the rotation of Kurama's leg, following the arc it was cleaving through the space in front of him, it seemed to grow bigger and bigger before Aoshin's eyes. It was all within an instant. And as that instant came to an end, Kurama swung his leg out, completing the rotation as he returned Aoshin's powerful attack; two-fold.
However Aoshin may have responded, Kurama was already prepared for his follow-through. If he opted to dodge the blow, his legs were pumped at the ready, in order to burst forth with Soru and to cut him down in the confusion with Shigan. If he attempted to block it or to challenge it with a blow of his own, to cancel it out, he would take advantage of Aoshin's body motion and momentum. That same build-up in his legs would launch him upwards, and with a combination of fluid Geppo, Kurama would propel himself downwards, in order to take out Aoshin from above. Whatever the case, he was ready to respond within an instant.
Well, shit. The absolute last thing Aoshin wanted was to be done in by, of all things, his own attack. Juggling the sheathed sword within his hands, he planted it upon his right hip --a rather peculiar maneuver, seeing as though all along, Aoshin had handled his weapon with his right hand. He kept it there for but a single moment, and as the projectile based air vacuum came before him, he met it with another resounding lateral thrust of his sword, sheath still intact. "Shinji-ryū: Chichi Shishi!"
This time, there was no hesitation. The exact instant Aoshin had unleashed his counterattack, the effect was evident: the mass of vacuumous air was split along its waist, corroding its genetic makeup. With no further relation holding the two halves together, they split quicker than a recently divorced couple, going off in their own separate directions, severing countless trees along the way. With regard to his Devil Fruit, Aoshin could visibly see them fly off of the island, but there was no opportunity to delve into such unnecessary sight seeing. For Kurama had already begun to attack yet again!
Unable to withstand the Tiger's superior speed, the Panther was sent reeling backward, his paws lifted up off the ground. He soared a ways through the air --finding himself within a jungle--before he managed to regain enough composure to plant his sword hard into the earth, thwarting the movement. Rising to his feet and plucking the sword out like a turnip, Aoshin ran his thumb across his lip. And what he found was the most surprising revelation of the day: blood.
However odd, he was not nearly as upset as he thought he should have been. No, if anything, he was almost... pleased. A ridiculous emotion, there was a part of him that had begun to feel pride within the Tiger for having been able to wound him so effortlessly, or to have wounded him at all. He couldn't remember the last time one of his opponents had managed such a feat. Yet with all the sudden adrenaline he was feeling, it did not come without its fair dosage of expectation; this battle was only within its early phases, it had only just begun. Aoshin could only pray that Kurama had more in store for him.
"Ohoho, you're quite quick on your feet. I must say, I wasn't expecting that," Aoshin mused, "Chalo then, I suppose it's time I got rid of this." What exactly was "this"? Most would have expected the Panther to have drawn his blade from his sheath by now, but what he did instead was flex his shoulders. At which point, the floral haori he had been wearing up until now fell to the ground instead of fluttering with the breeze, leaving an impressive crater in its wake. Weighted clothing.
"Mmmm, that's much better!" Aoshin titled his head both sides, touching either ear to either shoulder, stretching out his neck. "What do you say? Don't you think it's time we more formally introduced ourselves to one another?"
Then, within the next moment, his playful expression turned grim. "Call me crazy, but I couldn't help but take notice of the few techniques you used earlier. Those aren't just your typical everyday movements that you'd see a common pirate employ. You're obviously a Marine of some kind, aren't you?"
He eyed Kurama from afar, careful to maintain the distance the two of them currently shared. Aoshin wasn't the kind of person to introduce himself to a stranger; if Kurama complied with his request, then he'd return the favor by alerting the other man of his identity. But for now, he wanted to learn of Kurama's affiliation. "Tell me, just who the hell are you, exactly?"
Kurama observed as Aoshin managed to not only catch himself from being launched by that last attack but seemed relatively unharmed. Then he came to shed the weighted clothes he had been wearing; something that Kurama had considered after that last attack. Getting close to him, and dealing a physical blow, gave Kurama an inkling of his opponent's weight. It was far too heavy for what sort of frame the man boasted, which only seemed to suggest that he was being weighed down by something. With those weights removed, the sheer feeling of the man's released physical ability was picked up by Kurama. A sturdy foe, the very thought made the silver-haired male grin in anticipation for what was to come: a true battle against a worthy opponent. But these thoughts were soon interrupted once Aoshin began his line of questioning. It was an odd transition. This man, up until now, only seemed to communicate a sense of rage at being robbed of his lady mark and, of course, devastating violence. But now he seemed calm, rational, and was actually interested in knowing the identity of the man before him. A man with some class, the gesture was not lost on Kurama. Even so, letting loose of his actual identity would perhaps be unwise given the situation as it stood.
"You are correct. I am a Captain with the Marines. The name is Kurama." he replied with a calm smile. To the world, the Fleet Admiral was Byakko, the white tiger. But the name Kurama, in association to that title, was unknown to most, save for those within the man's inner circle and a handful of others. Therefore, there was no reason to think he was lying. "And who might you be? Besides a hot-head who picks bar fights?"
"Captain?" A long silence ensued. Aoshin itched the back of his head. "You're long since overdue for a promotion, in that case." Aoshin had been right in his anticipation of Kurama's affiliation; and while he knew that there was often times a large inconsistency in terms of the power scaling that befell each of the marine ranks, to think that it would be so lopsided as to have a man of such fighting caliber be but a captain… it was preposterous!
...Or was it? There was more to a rank than power alone. Perhaps Kurama lacked in more critical areas, such as leadership or experience. Or perhaps Kurama was simply a slacker, much like himself. Yes, that had to be it! This moron probably spent all his time drinking and partying; at least Aoshin was a pirate. What was Kurama's excuse?
Plucking a finger into his ear, Aoshin smiled wide. "Shishishishi! Alright, I'll return the favor, I suppose." He paused a moment to flick around the dirt from his ear. "I'm a pirate by the name of Aoshin," he paused again, pointing his sheathed blade toward Kurama, "the rest you'll have to figure out for yourself some other time."
And, just like that, within the next instant, Aoshin was gone. He simply vanished from sight, without leaving so much as a flicker behind for the eye to comprehend. This was the product of his staggering speed, which up until now had been greatly suppressed; speed which was of such unprecedented magnitude, that it likely warranted even Kurama to start taking the fight more seriously.
Aoshin's sudden explosion could only be described as a shift in gears; he was moving so impossibly fast that only the most supreme of Haki masters such as Kurama himself had any chance of keeping track of him. And what the tiger would have ultimately been able to discern about Aoshin's movements was that they were not unlike that of Soru; as a matter of fact, the manner in which Aoshin galloped bore a large resemblance to Soru, if not being entirely the same. In terms of application, however, Aoshin's technique differed only slightly; yet it was that miniscule difference that made all the difference in the world.
While most, if not all others, shuffled their feet multiple times in order to initiate a quick burst of speed, for reasons that defied earthly balance, Aoshin was able to achieve levels far beyond whilst garnering less than a single foot. Indeed, it was most peculiar! And owing to Kurama's perceptive ability, there was simply no mistaking it: all this drunken pervert was doing was stomping the big toe on his right foot. Simply through raising it an inch or so above the strap that went over his sandal and lowering it back down to join the rest of his toes, Aoshin was nearly teleporting.
Under ordinary circumstances, it should have been impossible for a man to process the world quick enough to compensate for such behemoth quickness, even with the addition of Haki. But within Aoshin's favor was the Giro Giro no Mi, a Devil Fruit that bestowed upon his eyes benefits any other man could only dream of, one of which made it appear as though the time of the world was transpiring at a plodded, much slower pace. And that was the secret behind Aoshin's luxury; while others may have somehow possessed the same speed that he did, they unfortunately didn't have the same opportunity to make use of it like he did. For a combatant, there were only a handful of things that were worse than not being aware of his own surroundings, even if only for a split second.
Moreover, what made Aoshin's movements that much more lethal was the fact that his footsteps were virtually inaudible. As if he had somehow learnt to erase his own presence, Aoshin simply left nothing behind to identify him by. When he moved, it was as if he had been within his final position from the very beginning, as if he had been there all along. Countless men had lost their lives being unable to detect him. This phenomenon was without a doubt that which crafted his epithet as the "Black Panther".
Appearing at Kurama's flank, Aoshin looked as though he were poised to strike with his sheathed blade planted at his hip. "Shinji-ryū..."
But then, within a fraction of reality, he vanished in the midst of his swing and instead appeared overhead, having planted a decoy in the way of appearing behind Kurama originally. His true intent was to attack Kurama from above; with his weapon held high, Aoshin used both hands to swing down at his opponent, seeking to plummet him into the ground in an awkward maneuver for a swordsman, all the while displaying a stifling combination of both speed and strength. "Kachikachi Yama!"
His speed certainly was impressive. So much so that even Kurama had to admit he wasn't having an easy time tracking his elusive opponent. His Kenbunshoku Haki was elite among even the elite, but against this opponent, even his was having difficulties tracking every move. There were instances where Aoshin was quite literally slipping out of Kurama's Haki senses, causing there to be gaps in-between when Kurama spotted him and when he'd spot him again. For an average master of Haki, this would pose a tremendous disadvantage. But first and foremost, Kurama was a martial artist. They had their own means of tracking opponents that escaped their normal senses. With the degree of battle experience Kurama possessed, this was a maneuver he could perform almost immediately at the start of most battles.
Simply put, wherever those gaps in his Haki appeared, Kurama bridged them together through precognition; that is, to say, the ability to predict the future movements of an opponent based upon their behavior and rhythm. Even the most mysterious and enigmatic opponents had their pattern of movement, regardless of how hazy it might be, and a true master of the martial arts would be able to pick up on it. At the very least, Kurama knew enough to base educated guesses on Aoshin's movements, which alone, would probably not be enough. However, combined with what Kenbunshoku Haki already provided him, he essentially held a nigh perfect read on his speedy adversary. Still, for this to work, even this seasoned warrior needed to remain on high alert.
With Aoshin's feign to the side, and then his eventual shift to above, Kurama flung his body upwards, allowing himself to become calm and relaxed, like a paper in the wind; the Kami-e technique. But this lasted for only a mere moment, just enough that he could become pulled into his opponent's forceful motion. This was Kurama's way, after all. To enter into the opponent's rhythm, their flow, and to strike from the inside. Once pulled closer in the wake of the sword's initial reeling in, prior to its swing, like the waves of the ocean reeling back in before crashing toward the shore, Kurama took the offensive. Swinging his body downwards and his leg up high, a faint green light shone forth as he thrust his leg in the direction of his opponent — the Rankyaku — timing it so that his kick would clash with the blade at the apex of its swing. By doing so, with enough force, he would be able to completely throw off Aoshin's momentum, forcing that sword strike to change trajectory almost drastically, but in doing so, he would also open up Aoshin to a dangerous counterattack. Robbing Aoshin of his momentum was part of the plan, using it to rotate his body once more and swing his other leg around, aiming for Aoshin's waist with a powerful Rankyaku hook kick.
A vicious struggle ensued. Powers collided amidst the sky, flaring potent energies every which way. The two jungle cats interchanged periods of supremacy, whereby for a moment it looked as though Aoshin had suddenly gained the upperhand, and in the very next unfolding second, Kurama. Yet, for all the might that was invested in such an exchange, it truly lasted for but an instant.
The very same strike that had been able to sever an entire island in moments prior this time around amounted to nothing more than a mere parry. Retracting his sheathed blade over his head as the collision of raw talents dispersed, Aoshin found himself in quite the predicament: another one of the tiger's feet was reeling in toward his hip. Juggling his sword into one hand, Aoshin intercepted the incoming foot with the hook of his arm, catching it with his bare hand and trapping it between his curved forearm. He grimaced in pain thereafter as the sides of his clothing were shredded and the flesh around his hip was pierced.
Taming the tiger for but a single moment by keeping his foot pressed against his waist, Aoshin widened his eyes and secreted tears from each of his eyes. Tears that quickly took the form of long stone swords and shot out toward Kurama like bullets, intending to cover the small distance that existed between he and Aoshin by drilling a hole through his body. In times past, the crown princess of Dressrosa --the former wielder of the Giro Giro no Mi-- had utilized a similar technique, albeit her tears took the form of whales. In the current moment, Aoshin instead opted to shape his tears into swords, most probably to compliment the stature of his Samurai heart.
Even with all the battle experience in the world, nothing could have prepared Kurama for that. That ability was certainly interesting and unexpected, even for a man who had lived as long as he did in a battlefield of devil fruits, and while his war-trained instincts reacted in time to avoid a fatal injury, he wasn't able to escape entirely. At least three or four of those tear-turned-swords slashed against his upper body, leaving superficial but concrete gashes while one of those blades managed to slash against his side, damn near piercing deep enough to perhaps even nick one of his ribs. Still, the White Tiger did not falter, using even the slightest opportunity to slip through Aoshin's arm bar and kicked off to garner some distance; kicking the air once more to ensure he'd gain enough space between them.
"That wasn't swordsmanship. Nor did I sense a significant spike in his Haki... Adding to that, the unique nature of that action just now... I see. He's a Devil Fruit user." Kurama deduced as he landed to the ground. "It seems I cannot afford to take this guy lightly." The silver-haired man stood tall and held out his arms wide on either side of his body, standing like that for a brief instant before pulling those arms back to his body. Once he did, he swung his body upwards and engaged in a twirling motion. Perhaps three, four... no, even more. Nearly ten or twenty spirals in the air, all done within the timespan of a second or two, and during each rotation mid-air, his leg had slowly extended further and further out from his body. On the final rotation, as he began his descent for the ground, the very instant one foot touched ground, the other foot had finally extended out fully, swinging a rapid wheel kick in Aoshin's direction.
But this was no ordinary storm leg. That build-up served the purpose of layering force upon force by changing the degree of momentum, inducing a change in torque and maintaining that momentum until the final rotation. The result? As the green light shone forth, it warped and curled around itself, manifesting like a wide tornado of sheer force — a true storm in every sense of the word — that went flying for Aoshin head-on. Kurama, however, was not quite done though. Immediately following this kick, he thrust his arms out like he did before and clenched his fists. To the common onlooker, this action signified nothing. But what actually was happening was Kurama churning and materializing his Haki. Nothing could be visibly seen. Only to someone that had their Kenbunshoku Haki, not only active, but highly refined, would be able to perceive them: four invisible copies of the silver-haired warrior, escaping from his body as if they were part of his shadow, each capable of not only individual movement but interaction with the physical world. Comprised entirely of Haki, they moved quick to corner all possible exits that Aoshin might take should he try to dodge the tornado-shaped Rankyaku heading for him.
A clever follow-up to his initial Rankyaku move, one might think. But nay. This was not two moves working in tandem, but in truth, it was three moves. To understand this, one must first recall Kurama's earlier action. When he spread his arms out, before unleashing his storm leg, he had formed two invisible selves of Haki first. They were his stormtroops, his ashigaru — his cannon fodder. These two were the initial attack, moving toward Aoshin with the intent of not only keeping him in place for the Rankyaku but also to land a first assault if they managed to reach him undetected. Even if their existence would only last for mere moments, they would serve their purpose well if the Rankyaku could follow through to smash into Aoshin. And regardless of that exchange, the four copies that followed that move, the third and final step of this three-stage attack, moved in order to land a fatal blow.
After Kurama had managed to scurry himself free of the hold by kicking at the air, Aoshin too opted to take advantage of the space that the Tiger had opted to create. Landing on the opposite side of the battlefield, Aoshin quirked a brow at his opponent's sporadic movement. While yes, it was true that the rotation Kurama had drawn forth focused most primarily on his leg --similar to the action he had taken earlier before-- something else stood out plainly from reality the way Aoshin had learned to comprehend it.
Truth be told, what Kurama had mustered next was simply out of this world. What enabled Aoshin to fathom his stormtroopers in their least was not his expertise of Haki; but rather, it was very clearly the powers granted to him by the Devil himself. Still, even Aoshin, who was very finely accustomed to seeing the unseen by now, was incredibly perplexed by the sudden emergence of the ashigaru. Perhaps it was more appropriate to say that he was mesmerized by their immediate existence.
And yet, he had thought himself to have seen it all. The very man who could see through whole solid constructs to peep at showering women; the very man who could count the number of legs on an ant treading within the dirt while himself standing upon a highrise building; the very man who, for crying out loud, was fabled to have stoically seen and acknowledged the looming spirits of the deceased, could not completely bring himself to identify with the ashigaru in the least. Just what in the fuck were they?
Caught sleeping, so to speak, Aoshin stood plainly with his sword kept between his legs like it were a tail, merely staring yonder at the ashigaru that stormed toward him. The number of times he blinked he could not dare remember, and when he went so far as to move his hands away from his weapon in order to rub his eyes, out of sheer disbelief over whether what he was currently seeing was legitimate or not, it was in that same instant that it occurred to him that he had really, truly, fucked up.
For the ashigaru had long since covered the distance that had separated him from they, and it was actually they who moved his hands from in front of his eyes, snatching them from him and keeping them tied behind his back. And on the surface, it looked as though he simply couldn't bring himself to pry his arms free; and to make matters worse, there was now a large channel of green energy surging his way, likely with more than enough momentum to cleave his frame into a ruckus of pieces.
But even so, the panther did not waver. Quite on the contrary, being constrained by the ashigaru had somehow played to his advantage: the Giro Giro no Mi --which was nothing short of obscene in the sense of all it was able to achieve-- allowed Aoshin to extract memory from all phases of life through touch.
When he was without direction, Aoshin fondled the trees of the forest to virtually "see through their eyes", forcing them to show him all that they had seen before in order to apply it to his current circumstance. When he sat to dine within a restauraunt, upon lifting a piece of silverware with which to feast upon his meal, Aoshin carefully deduced those whom had wielded the same fork as he in times past. And when a man was so foolish enough to offer out his hand for a firm shake upon greeting him, Aoshin stalked through the inner chambers of his person and extracted information he found to be of any value for his future operations. He was the memory thief, prying the most personal of happenings from life as if it were meant to belong to him in the first place.
Being in contact with the ashigaru at this moment in time, Aoshin studied. And he studied, and he studied, and he studied, until there was not a second left to lose. Through the scarce, yet precious few seconds he had spent within their grasp, Aoshin interpreted a small array of Kurama's thought. So they were his spirit given a malleable form, were they? How clever.
If it hadn't been known to Kurama by now, then this next act would have surely done the trick: Aoshin was a Devil Fruit user, one who was able to see even the unseen. And, in quite possibly the most perverse antic known to all of mankind, the panther purred with no shortage of disrespect. With his hands kept behind his back, Aoshin turned to his most loyal companion of them all in order to unleash his counterattack… his dick.
In a truly ridiculous turn of events, Aoshin quite literally grappled his sword with his genitals, and upon thrusting his hips forth, issued a small torrent of energy from its tip. This was in no way intended to challenge Kurama's rankyaku; on the contrary, the sword was swung on a slope, angling its trajectory downward. This produced a tunnel-like-runway in the form of a crater over the landscape that the rankyaku beam was intended to cover, causing the beam to sink suddenly to a lower elevation. And it was in that small fraction of a second that the beam spent moving downward that Aoshin opened up further time to allot his response.
Turning his arms black with Haki, Aoshin began to combat the predicament of a hold that he found himself within at the hands of the ashigaru, testing Kurama's spirit against his own. By now, another wave of ashigaru had made its way over to him, and Aoshin found himself in an even tighter fix: they lashed out at him from virtually every corner, tearing up his clothing with their relentless swipes. Holding his sword firmly with his groin, he made to fall back with his spine against the two original stormtroopers that were holding his arms in place, leaving him airborne in a lateral position with his sword pointing up at the sky.
Crunching his stomach, Aoshin brought his chin to his sword and bit off its sheath, spitting it out at the ground along with wallops of blood that had accumulated from being struck by the troopers. This exposed the initially snow-white blade of Hima Nobiji to the world, and if Kurama were paying especial attention to detail, then he would have noticed that it seemingly wobbled upon its introduction. This movement was brought entirely to an end within the next frame of time, however, as Haki poured from Aoshin's thighs, shooting up the length of the sword, turning it entirely black.
Still airborne, Aoshion twirled his feet round and round until the momentum channeled the rest of his body. At which point he became a rotating sphere much like Kurama had in the moment before launching his Rankyaku, creating a dual stem of offense and defense with which to combat the ashigaru, who prepared themselves to cope with the rankyaku beam as it hit home. Friction commenced thereafter, with fumes of fire crackling between the spinning copter of Aoshin's rotation and Kurama's rankyaku. Aoshin's sphere was seen turning black, implying he had bolstered a larger sum of Haki over his body to survive the attack, before it lost ground entirely.
"Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-" his chant interrupted by the clatter of the countless trees that he sprang through, Aoshin spun and spun and spun until at last, he could spin no more. Left laying on his backside over a crater that formed beneath his body as a result of it coming into contact hard with the ground, Aoshin found himself surrounded by a smog of smoke. Oddly enough, his sword was still clenched tightly by his… dick, and the tip of the blade was still emasculated by Haki.
No longer with a shirt, Aoshin lay for a few moments with the dirt and grass trickling against his bare flesh. His blood seeped into the ground, enriching the soil with its nutrients. He was a total mess, with his long black hair flung about everywhere, but he was fairly confident that it wasn't anything he couldn't drink himself through. Oh yes, after this was up and over with, he most definitely felt as though it was worthwhile to treat himself to some good rum.
As he sat up slowly, there was only one thing on his mind (well, two things in all technicality, but to be fair, women almost never left the inner premises of his brain): those damn ashigaru. Luckily enough for him, he had just the thing in mind to deal with them: his Devil Fruit awakening.
A concept that was fairly hard to grasp, Aoshin's awakening was as awkward as the standard powers that comprised the Giro Giro no Mi. Far from being his trumpcard, it was nevertheless a battle mechanic he very rarely, if ever, employed in battle. While his standard powers could be best described as "seeing through everything", his awakening was the exact opposite, instead allowing "everything to see through him". In simpler terms, no he did not become a token of invisibility; merely, he became a "receptor", so to speak, of sight and memory.
Indeed, with his awakening, Aoshin could share his power with the world. In the past, he used this ability to map out a diagram of the surrounding environment to be used by his nakama --as a navigator, this was more or less his job amongst the Black Widow Pirates. But in this scenario, he was going to display a slightly different feat. A feat which similar in mechanic, yet appropriately different in what it was that it intended to achieve.
Along with sharing sight, Aoshin could also share the second element that branched his Devil Fruit: memory. Like a film he could re-play what he had experienced in his own life to a crewmate, and for the most part, this was how he went about instigating his illusionary based techniques. Yet, this was still not what he ultimately intended on doing.
Kurama had made clones of himself out of Haki. What Aoshin needed in this situation was a way to even the playing field. By giving physical form to his thoughts, which became memories shortly after he decided on what he wanted them to do, Aoshin could create his own minions. And, as homage to Kurama, he even went the extent of having them look like himself.
So now surrounding Aoshin were a bunch of other Aoshins, the number of which came out to be equivalent to the number of ashigaru Kurama deployed. These clones of his were but mere memories; meaning, as soon as Aoshin forgot about them or in the case that he stopped thinking about them, they would vanish, as if they had never existed to begin with. It was a complex power to make use of, but seeing as though Aoshin's line of sight essentially expanded to the entirety of the island itself, he would be able to see, at all times, what his "memory soldiers" were up to. And so long as they were in sight, they would be in mind.
Desperate times called for desperate measures, as Aoshin thought of it. The only other time he really made any use of giving his memories a physical form was when couldn't find himself a chubby woman to wank him off. In which case he devised a memory of one he had slept with in the past, another hole in his ability. He couldn't exactly "create" anything he hadn't seen before. So while his real body was capable of spontaneous combat, his memory soldiers were only capable of utilizing maneuvers and mannerisms he himself had used at some point in the past.
Bringing his elbow up to his mouth, Aoshin licked the blood right off of a fresh cut, taking a few more seconds to enjoy the thrill of battle before commanding his soldiers to wage war. "Alright you fuckers, go and reap hell! But leave the real bastard to me, ya hear?" Why he was talking to them when they had no control over their own actions, much less a mind of their own with which to think with, was another example of why Aoshin was an idiot. But at the very least, at least he was a pretty strong idiot.
All Cats Are Grey at Night Edit
If he could even be taken seriously at this point, Aoshin returned to where Kurama was by hovering through the branches of whatever trees were still intact, his flock of soldiers backing him up. "Nice going, Shirobaka; I'll admit, you made me stick my dick up my own ass there for a second. But if you really thought that was enough to get rid of me, then you've got another thing coming!"
Leaping down to the ground in unison with his soldiers, all of whom were armed with replicas of Hima Nobiji, Aoshin pointed his kokuto in the direction of his opponent. This battle had only just begun.
Suffice to say, Kurama was bewildered by this... "unique" display? He had seen some strange things in this world, it was par for the course, but this one was particularly unusual. Nevertheless, he remained steadfast in his behavior. This would not sway him. In fact, one might even say he was feeling excited after seeing the end result of that display. This would pit his own Haki-forged warriors against the likes of his opponent's own battalion, while the real warriors faced off. It was rare for Kurama to follow the lead of his opponent but he became intrigued by this man's abilities; perhaps he had even more to show besides this.
Letting each of his replicas storm off to battle the replicas made by Aoshin, the two originals stared at one another in the distance. As he observed his adversary, Kurama kicked against the ground beneath him with both feet, causing a black spark to leak out from his soles. He would rotate his feet in mid-air, making small circles in the dirt, one foot after the other, and that black discharge started to congeal into a gel-like substance. This was an apex of Haki control: loosening the steel-tight essence of Busoshoku and making it more flexible for combat. It was further proof of Kurama's mastery. He went on to do the same action with his hands, causing them too to become coated in this black gel-like energy.
In a sudden display of raw speed, Kurama launched himself from his starting position, closing the distance as he lunged at Aoshin with his right hand in the gesture of a tiger's claw, seeking to rip through his opponent with sheer brute force. But this was just a fake-out. If nothing else, the claw strike was just to catch his attention, it never meant to make its target nor was Kurama seriously trying to attack with it. The position he was in shifted almost immediately as he threw his left leg up at close-range, muttering to himself a single word.
Aoshin's eyes widened at the sight of Kurama's expertise. Simply put, he had never witnessed such a feat; the level at which his opponent employed Haki was in a tier of its own, all the more reason to doubt his apparent standing as a lowly captain among the Navy's ranks. Just who was this guy trying to fool?
All the while maintaining his focus over his own replicas so as to keep them alive, Aoshin joisted a simple stance and crackled forward to meet the forthcoming Kurama, his blade held in a reverse grip. With eyes that bore into the future, Aoshin dispelled the "captain's" feint and instead brought himself to counter the intended kick with his sword encased in Haki. Sparks flew every which way.
"How much longer do you plan on boring me with the same techniques?" Aoshin mused, fluttering toward Kurama's flank. Sword in hand, he thrusted it in a forward motion --supporting the pommel of the sword with the palm of his offhand-- intending to jab it straight through his opponent's gut.
"There's nothing these eyes of mine can't see! It's obvious to me that you're holding back a great deal!"
One that had mastered martial arts never made a move that did not contribute to the overall fight as a whole. No individual move spoke for itself, every motion had meaning to the overall scheme, and as such, no move was ever made with the intention of only carrying out the direct action. Even as the kick collided with Aoshin's counter, the sheer momentum that resulted from it allowed Kurama to continue, spinning his body around and pulling in his left leg as his right leg spun around from behind him, heel aiming for Aoshin, or rather, the sword that was coming to jab him. Another Rankyaku would've resulted in yet another explosive clash, yet this time...
The heel collided with the edge of the sword, knocking it off course enough that Kurama avoided injury, yet the true danger behind this was the act of turning his heel into a precise pinpoint attack; the finger-pistol, enacted by his heel. Such an attack would've shattered most common weapons in an instant, although it was obvious that Aoshin's was of a more sturdier stock. Yet he wasn't done. Dropping his left leg to the ground as a support, Kurama further demonstrated masterful control of his body, stopping his movement almost immediately after the blade was safety out of reach, turning his foot and changing direction, the toes pointing toward Aoshin directly as the silver-haired warrior thrust forward with his foot; once more performing the Shigan, in an attempt to pierce right through his opponent's chest.
Kurama's heel connecting with the tip of his sword shattered Aoshin's double hold over its handle. His hands flailed backward to his sides, his right hand tightly grasping ahold of the sword so as not to lose complete control over it. His eyes widened at the sight of the spontaneous attack, memorizing the mechanics behind it to dissect it to its very core: a shigan… executed through the heel of the foot.
Rather than panicking in such a moment, however, Aoshin instead continued to decipher Kurama's movements; in the moment Kurama dropped his left foot to the ground to properly balance himself out for his next attack, it was clear to Aoshin that he was planning another heel infused Shigan. And so he sought to exhibit the control he possessed over his own body, by first chiseling his right foot ahead of his left, soil churning beneath his bare toes. In the same motion he tucked his chin against his chest and coiled his torso at his hips, snapping his body forward in an incredibly fluid motion, much like a dolphin diving into water. As Kurama's heel shot forward at great speeds, Aoshin had already dropped his body to the ground, supporting himself with a single foot, thereby allowing the attack to pass over his head. Spinning his off-leg, he aimed to sweep Kurama off of the leg he was supporting himself with, to knock him down onto his back; and yet as he would have began to fall to the ground, Aoshin slipped further forward, planting his elbow against the ground with his sword facing upward so that Kurama could break his fall upon his blackened blade.