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Keepers of Balance

Table of Contents
Basic Information
Powers and Prestige
Miscellaneous Information

Basic Information
What are Shinigami?
Shinigami are spiritual beings of great power, completely imperceptible to most mortals and in possession of abilities that far exceed those of the average soul. Though varied in appearance, they share common, defining traits such as their black uniforms and the swords they wield. These swords, named Zanpakutō, are the main source of a Shinigami’s power. They grant unique abilities to their wielder in several different stages that evolve along with the owner. Shinigami reside in Soul Society, a form of waiting room for souls in line to be reincarnated, and frequently travel to Earth in order to perform their duties.

The typical Shinigami exists in service of a higher cause, namely to monitor and preserve the flow of souls between the living and the dead. It is their duty to expedite the passing of the newly deceased just as it is their duty to cleanse the sins committed after death by those souls who remained on earth too long and became Hollows.

At their core, Shinigami are individuals that have removed themselves from the cycle of souls in order to monitor and regulate it, as well as to protect the balance from external threats such as Arrancar or Quincy. Human in appearance, what sets Shinigami apart is the Zanpakutō they carry and the Shihakushō they wear: a uniform consisting of a black kosode and black hakama tied with a white belt. Typically, tabi socks and sandals are worn with the uniform.

Unlike their Hollow counterparts, a Shinigami develops physically much like a human would, though their aging is greatly slowed. Shinigami are otherwise as varied as mortals: men and women of all colors, creeds, and ages are represented in the Shinigami population, and it is therefore impossible to establish any uniting physical characteristics.

Instead, Shinigami share a common psychological plight as part of their development; a shard of their soul breaks off in the form of their Zanpakutō spirit, which inhabits both their blades and minds, and becomes the source of the wielder’s unique abilities.

A Shinigami’s most trusted weapon, the Zanpakutō is no mere sword—it is an integral part of their soul. Zanpakutō house spirits with distinct personalities and only through developing and strengthening their relationship with their Zanpakutō spirit can the Shinigami unlock their full potential.

The Zanpakutō spirit is simultaneously a Shinigami’s closest companion and their most trusted weapon. Essentially a shard of the owner’s personality, the spirit normally embodies several traits that the wielder may lack, or does not fully embrace about themselves. The personality and emotional complexity of this Spirit can be as complicated and varied as any person, and it takes time and effort not only to develop, but to manifest at all.

Upon entering the Academy, prospective Shinigami are issued an Asauchi, an empty katana that serves as a vessel for the part of the Shinigami that eventually becomes the Zanpakutō spirit. It serves its purpose without flair; these swords are all indistinguishable and ready to accommodate its wielder’s Zanpakutō spirit. Asauchi are wielded by Academy students and low-ranking Shinigami alike, and it is widely considered the most prominent symbol of inexperience. As Asauchi are essentially mass produced, they come in three ‘standard’ sizes with little variety: Katana, Wakizashi, and Tanto.

In order to imprint themselves on the Asauchi and facilitate the growth of the Zanpakutō, Academy students will spend every waking minute with their sword either at their side, in their hands, or communing with it in a state of meditation. For some, this process can be completed in just a few short years, however it is not uncommon for some Shinigami to take upwards of a decade or longer before they are successful in manifesting a spirit of their own.

When the Zanpakutō finally takes its true form the result is a unique weapon, distinct from the Asauchi used to reach this point. This is known as the Sealed Zanpakutō. This is the hallmark of a true Shinigami, however the sword does not yet exhibit any unique powers. It is here that most Shinigami start their long and arduous path toward harmony with their Zanpakutō, a path that begins by learning its name.

Powers and Prestige
Shikai and Bankai
The first step toward harmony between Shinigami and Zanpakutō is Shikai, the first release, and it is a relatively simple ordeal. Through communing with their Zanpakutō spirit, the Shinigami seeks to learn its name. When this name is called out in the form of a release phrase, the sword will transform and take on a different shape as well as unlock its unique ability. This ability can range from the simple control of elements such as water or fire, to complex manipulation of dimensional space, emotions, or countless other effects. Having achieved Shikai is fairly common among Shinigami, and for the majority it is also where their development ends.

This is because Bankai, the final release, is several orders of magnitude more difficult to attain, and several orders of magnitude more powerful. It is the result of an almost unbreakable bond between wielder and blade, of intimate knowledge not only the self on a conscious level, but also on a subconscious level. While the physical change a Zanpakutō undergoes in the transition between sealed state and Shikai is often minor, Bankai is often far more grand. The Shinigami’s clothing often changes to reflect the Zanpakutō’s final stage of release, as does the immediate surroundings, and it isn’t uncommon for a Shinigami’s Bankai itself to be massive or cover a massive area, depending on its nature.

On rare occasions, Shinigami reach a point of evolution that far exceeds their peers. Their very soul begins to change and expand, and so too does their Zanpakutō. Unlike their corrupted brethren, the Vaizards, these Shinigami do not need an Inner Hollow to personify the dark places in their heart or the repressed portions of their personality.

While by no means necessary, the Zanpakutō Spirit may begin to encompass some of the aspects that an Inner Hollow might have shown, allowing the Shinigami to further develop both their soul and their powers.

Vaizards are Shinigami who have transcended the barrier separating Hollow and Shinigami by conquering their Inner Hollow, a personification of their darkest thoughts and desires. Able to summon forth their Hollow masks, Vaizards call upon powers unavailable to other Shinigami, powers that mirror those of Hollows and Arrancar and augment their already considerable prowess in battle.

Because of the taboo on attaining a Hollow’s powers, Vaizards are considered an abomination by Shinigami; the very concept of a hybrid is simply unthinkable to most and terrifying to the rest.

As Vaizardism does not necessarily require willing participants, some who are afflicted with this psychological malady do not trust their own nature or fully understand the purpose of their existence, and seek to separate themselves from the Gotei as Rogues.

Miscellaneous Information
The Gotei 13
The First Division
The First Division, led by the Captain-Commander himself, acts as high command of the Gotei 13. While the rule of Soul Society ultimately falls to the Central 46, the control of military affairs lies with the First Division and its leadership is largely free to act as it sees fit as far as internal matters within the Gotei are concerned. Though much of the First’s work is clerical in nature and bureaucratically managed, membership of the First is seen as an honor rarely bestowed upon the unworthy.

Members of the First are often seen as dignified, exemplary Shinigami, adhering to rules and traditions.

The Second Division
Special Forces
The Second Division, once a distinct entity from the secretive Onmitsukidō, has since merged with, assumed control of and ultimately become synonymous with the former home of an elite cadre of highly trained Shinigami operatives. Specializing in stealth and speed, their duties include covert operations, bodyguard details, and the secret long-term incarceration of exceptionally problematic Shinigami.

Members of the Second are regarded as mysterious and businesslike, completing their tasks efficiently with utmost professionalism.

The Third Division
Kidō Combat
The Third Division, synonymous with the Kidōshū in much the same way the Second is synonymous with the Onmitsukidō, is the home of those Shinigami particularly gifted in the use of the Demon Arts. Specializing in in the practical application and theoretical development of Kidō, its members are all highly skilled practitioners of the art. The Third also monitors the passages between Soul Society and Earth, allowing or restricting access through the Senkaimon network.

Members of the Third are often intelligent, well-spoken and polite, and although the Kidōshū was originally seen as reclusive, the Third has gradually become more engaged.

The Fourth Division
The Fourth Division houses the medical corps of the Gotei 13, its members particularly skilled at treating wounds and healing the sick or injured. Its members act predominantly as field medics, though they also administrate and staff Seireitei’s central medical facility. The Fourth Division is almost unanimously regarded as the most beneficial organization in Seireitei and is just as—if not more—respected as the First Division.

Members of the Fourth are kind and generous, empathy being a hallmark among its members alongside perseverance and a desire to aid those in need.

The Fifth Division
The Fifth Division has no specialty, just as it has no weakness. It prioritizes the ability to respond to any number of situations equally well, and the division is often seen as a place for promising new recruits fresh out of the Academy to hone their abilities and develop their skills until such a time they become a better fit for another, more specialized division. Some, however, make careers in the Fifth, choosing to maintain a balanced skillset.

Members of the Fifth are of mixed personalities and types, a suitable reflection of the nature of the division to which they belong.

The Sixth Division
Law Enforcement
The Sixth Division acts as the Gotei military police, apprehending and punishing criminal or rogue Shinigami both in Soul Society and on Earth. It also maintains a prison facility and a military tribunal, though it must be noted that exceptionally dangerous individuals are usually sent before the Central 46 for trial—the Sixth concerns itself only with a more conventional version of justice. In the event, however, of an execution taking place, it is ultimately the Sixth that conducts the proceedings.

Members of the Sixth typically have a passion for justice and order, though a worrisome trend of those seeking personal power looking to join the Sixth has been observed.

The Seventh Division
The Seventh Division houses those Shinigami whose skills are best applied in a supportive capacity rather than on the front lines. Deployed as force multipliers, they serve a valuable function and are often found aiding the Fourth, Ninth, or Eleventh Division with their duties or acting as a reserve force along with the Fifth.

Members of the Seventh are viewed as generous and thoughtful, but dislike standing in the spotlight. Perhaps because of this, they are almost as popular as members of the Fourth.

The Eighth Division
Records and Reconnaissance
The Eighth Division functions as a military intelligence organization, providing reconnaissance, surveillance, analysis and record-keeping. Observant, intelligent and efficient, the division’s operatives bear similarities to those of the Second Division (and indeed, some have histories of serving in the Second), though employ far less aggressive—though often equally dangerous—methods, instead preferring to observe and deduce without detection. In addition to conducting intelligence-gathering assignments, the Eighth also maintains the expansive Seireitei Archive.

Members of the Eighth are widely regarded as sharp-eyed and sharp-witted, but with a penchant for secrecy.

The Ninth Division
The Ninth Division acts as a necessary precaution against attacks directed at Seireitei. Essentially a home guard, members of the Ninth protect Seireitei itself from external threats, and as such the division is always on full alert. They often collaborate with the Sixth Division when requested, though they hold no formal authority of their own.

Members of the Ninth are bold and have a strong sense of duty, widely regarded as solid, reliable, and sensible people.

The Tenth Division
The Tenth Division administrates the Shinigami Academy, and also serves as a division where those who are not quite able to perform their duties as a Shinigami at a satisfactory level are placed. Because of this, the division has a reputation of housing not only some of the smartest, most able teachers and instructors in Seireitei, but also some of the most worthless bums in Soul Society. Though the purpose of this mix was originally intended to be a way for the less-able to informally continue their training, it has enjoyed... Limited success.

Members of the Tenth are regarded with either reverence or ridicule, depending on which side of the Academy lectern they spend most of their time.

The Eleventh Division
Melee Combat
The Eleventh Division is the main fighting force of the Gotei 13, and is unquestionably the largest and most unruly division. While its martial prowess is well-known and battle-proven, its members aren’t, strictly speaking, known for their intelligence, given their frequent displays of bravado and reckless disregard for self-preservation. The division as a whole has a fierce loyalty to the captain of their division, whose unofficial title is Kenpachi.

Members of the Eleventh are often seen as violent, bloodthirsty, and slightly insane, but ultimately good-natured and loyal, happy to speak their minds.

The Twelfth Division
Research and Development
The Twelfth Division houses beyond any shadow of a doubt the least social and most intelligent Shinigami in the Gotei, and it administrates the Shinigami Research Institute. The Captain of the Twelfth holds the position of President of the Institute. While the division largely keeps to itself, it spearheads development of new technology and has supplied Seireitei with much of what is today considered essential equipment.

Members of the Twelfth are typically reclusive, unsocial and quiet, hiding their brilliance behind a wall of silence—which many Shinigami find unsettling.

The Thirteenth Division
The Thirteenth Division acts in limited capacity as the diplomatic corps of the Gotei as well as maintains the largest presence on Earth for routine soul burials. While a select few of the duties of the Thirteenth are partially under the direct control of the Central 46, it still falls under the same chain of command as the rest of the divisions in all other respects.

Members of the Thirteenth are charming, polite and well-mannered, and are able—though seldom exceptional—soldiers.

The Central 46

The Nobility
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