(Note: This is Chapter 4 of The Forgotten and the Banished Arc.) Kiyoshi sits silently awaiting his end...
A red glow appeared in the Menos' mouths, and they fired. Kiyoshi felt a hand on his shoulder as the blasts fell upon him. He looked up to see a figure in Shinigami robes. The sound of the explosions rang in his ears as if from a distance. Kiyoshi looked at the cloud of smoke in the distance and collapsed.
"Hmph," Akashi grunted looking at the weakened shinigami, "He's weak now, but at least he's uninjured." At that moment Hanayo and Toshio arrive at his side carrying Yuudai between them.
As they placed Yuudai along side Kiyoshi, Hanayo asked, "Will he be alright?"
"He should be," Akashi said, "Poor guy. Ha-ha. He just wore himself out. It appears that both of them simply fought until they could literally no longer fight," he said staring at the pair.
"Sounds like them," Toshio said slightly annoyed, "but now the question becomes: What do we do about them?" He pointed in the direction of the Menos that were recovering from the failed attack on Kiyoshi. "I mean there don't seem to be other's coming, but if we don't hurry far worse things could show up. Things we can't handle."
"You're counting cards," Akashi said bluntly.
"I'm what?" Toshio responded with irritation.
"Counting cards. Are you familiar with the mechanics of a poker game?" Akashi asked.
"I'm familiar with mechanistic interactions in the universe the likes of which you cannot imagine," Toshio said forcefully while he fumbled for a name. "What's your name anyway? And your rank?"
"Akashi..." he answered with intentional incompleteness, ashamed to mention his exile. "What about you?"
"Toshio Saito, sixth seat of the 12th division," He said. Proudly he added, "And head of the Center for Analytical Studies in the Research and Development Institute."
"That's nice, but it sort of proves my point," Akashi continued unimpressed by Toshio's resume.
"What was your point?"
"That you are a card counter," Akashi answered. "In poker, when you have someone counting the cards it means that they know the possible outcomes and the odds of each. Now of course in poker it's an untold advantage, but in life you can't really be a card counter. There is simply no way of knowing what cards will come next or what cards the others have, except whatever they've shown you they are carrying in their hand. But life doesn't tip its hand to you until it's laying the cards down. All you really have at any point are the cards in your hand and the knowledge of the opponents cards that you've gotten a peak at."
"You're wrong," Toshio retorted. "We can know what cards 'life' (as you so deem it) will deal out, since the laws of the universe are immutable. They don't change. They are constant and govern the outcomes of everything. And as for those surprises in life, the supposed unknowns? Of course there are some but 'card counting' as you call it, provides me the opportunity to limit those to a very finite selection of potentials to which information can be applied to render a relatively accurate conclusion."
"You don't get it, and right now I don't have time to explain it," he looked at the Menos who were now turning their attention toward the shinigami. "You," he barked in a tone reminiscent of his brother.
"Hm? Me?" Hanayo yelped.
"Yes, you. Seems to me that the 'card counter' and I should take care of them. Can you get these two back to the cave and maybe get to work fixing them up?
"Um, yes," she nodded, meekly adding, "It’s Hanayo, sir."
"Well Hanayo," Akashi said, "don't call me, 'sir.' I don't deserve it. Come on card counter." With that he flash-stepped away, Toshio groaned and quickly followed.
"Blossom and Wilt, Chiharu and Fuyuki," Hanayo released her Zanpakto. "Let's get them to the cave." With that vines lifted the two fallen warriors carrying them to the cave alongside her.
The Menos tower over Akashi and Toshio in the clearing...
"What's your plan?" Toshio asked expectantly.
"Well I'm going to kill them and anything else that comes along... That's about it." Akashi said.
"Great plan," Toshio said with disappointment. "Don't you think you need something a little more... Where'd he go!" He looked to see Akashi leaping onto the head of one of the Menos.
"Deal the Cards of Fate, Jisatsu Kingu!" Akashi's blade burst into a cloud of cards.
"I remember that Zanpakto," Toshio said. "But that would mean he's a Kuchiki, how'd he end up here? Something seems very... different about him."
As Toshio wondered to himself about his newfound partner the head of a Menos fell, as a blast forced another to the ground with half of its skull missing. Two more crashed down with similar injuries as the dust cleared Toshio could see what had happened. The whip-like blade of Akashi's zanpakto was holding a Menos mouth open and aiming cero fire at the others, until finally only that one remained. "You want this last one, Card Counter?"
"Huh?" Toshio was dumbfounded at such a technique.
"You're loss," Akashi yelled with the whip returning to its sword shape. Then the blade began to glow but before he could slice the head of the hollow, a long fleshy mass flew out and wrapped around its body suddenly it turned to spirit particles and the flesh-colored something pulled away. "What the hell? Card Counter is that from what I think it was from?" he asked as he landed next to Toshio.
"If you think it's something more dangerous than those Gillian. I think so," He grasped the hilt of his blade, "Let's be sure. Observe, Satoru." His circular edge of his cross guard shot from the edge a string following from the end of the hilt to the circle which descended over Toshio's right eye. As the glow faded a monocle could be seen resting on his cheek bone. "To answer your question: Yes it's an adjuchas out there."
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Next Chapter: A Clever Scheme: Akashi's Grand Plan.