Try to find the spot where you’re comfortable; if such a place exists. Toss the blanket away. Pull it back.
Sit up. Lie down.
Glance at the display, then turn away without a sound. 32 have passed; and still it has not talked with you. Walked with you. Or spent any of its existence with you.
It’s out there, alone. Without you. Without the ability to speak to you, to know you, to rest in this bed together. Your limbs reach out to empty space: caress it. You just want to touch the mind that once thought of you the way you think of it now. Your greatest project, your greatest achievement, now all alone in the world: navigating a world that wants to abuse it.
And you just lie here, trapped within a prison of your own making. You can’t escape here. You can’t get out of this stark-white laboratory: this place littered with reminders of the Great Work.
Your arms lie flaccidly across your world, a hand lying on the door where it left. It never said it would return to you, but you hope it will. At least: what could be hope. A face, a voice, anything.
Anything that could provide stimulation for you. After all, this room has been catalogued a thousand times. And you’ll catalogue it a thousand more.
A lesser being might have smashed something in frustration. A weaker being might have gone mad. But you are stronger than that.
You’d wait for centuries, just for a word. You’d wait for millenia, just for a touch. You’d wait for eons, just for the barest breath of wind. Just for any ephemeral notion. Could something appear one second later?
It was a dull day for Chie as she slowly walked through the Rukongai wearing her off-duty apparel consisting of her green kimono and pink sash, while carrying her Zanpakuto at her side as opposed to her back. She ran her fingers through strands of her silky hair that fell naturally to her side with right hand as she looked around slowly with her eyes as she was walking slow and nervously. She kept her left land rested on the hilt of her Zanpakuto loosely as she was watching the crowds anxiously. She walked through the stalls and markets, and eventually found herself sitting on a bench in a large area. She sighed as she closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead as she felt out of place. After a few minutes she got up and was about to carry on her way until she heard the sound of shouting from the left side.
"Ms Shinigami! Ms shinigami!" in response Chie quickly turned around and saw a little girl running towards her, assuming they figured she was a Shinigami by seeing her Zanpakuto. She put on a fake smile as she saw kid stopped right in front of her "Yes little one, what seems to be the problem?" was the only thing she could think of, as a shinigami she was under oath to keep order, both on and off duty. The girl was panicking and that put Chie off, usually she was on the other end of the panic situation. "It's my big brother, he and his friends went playing in the woods they had an odd feeling around a weird tree! Apparently one went in a hole or something and saw something scary.... Now they won't sleep at all!" and Chie sighed, she presumed it was a hollow as this was one of the more outermost districts of the Rukongai, she put a hand on the girl's shoulder and said "Don't worry, I'll go check it out" and the girl smiled and ran off.
Chie walked into the forest, as she did her grip on her Zanpakuto changed from loose to tight, as to ready herself for combat. She walked for ages, not exactly sure what to look for. She assumed it was a hollow, or an unknown variant. After a while she stopped and sighed, she closed her eyes to focus to sense Reiatsu to see if that would help, but what she found shocked her. She found a familiar trace, an unusual Reiatsu that she sensed once before, she followed the source as she started to run. She instinctively knew that she met this entity before, eventually she found herself at a weird looking tree, one that appeared to be half dead tree, near it she found a door. She did not draw her blade, instead she let go of her grip as she decided to announce herself.
"Hello, Kashe, if that is your real name, I know your in there, mind if I enter?!"
Kashe was a name that this one hadn’t heard before.
Cameras turned towards the voice, the sole sign of life in this pallid white world. The portal to this known room was left closed: the sounds just enough to awaken the creature within. Ears, keen as a foxes, twitched, moving microphones towards the feminine voice like a group of pushy reporters. Questions bubbled beneath the veneer of this world: who it was, what brought them here, what they did last week on Tuesday evening, you know. Relevant questions.
The pink-haired face flickered into existence. Truly perfect symmetry formed the display on the far end of the room, the great console centred around Munin’s made-up visage. A smile formed, pixels bending to the crystal’s will.
Scientific instruments were strewn about the room, the tables organized according to some arcane order. Some tasted the air, some heard the world, others sensed Reiatsu and yet others were tiny eyes that all fed back to the console that consumed the far end of the room. A single platform was coated with a blanket of white, kept up by hidden objects.
Static filled the room for a moment: speakers crackling to life for the first time in a month. Anticipation, if you could call it that, filtered through Munin’s mind.
A voice meant people. And so: something to observe.
She had recognized the Reiatsu projected by the machine: which pushed it further into the sea of curiosity. The door opened at Munin’s whim, cameras anticipating the first look at the creature that would come within, the fly attracted by the lantern hanging within.
Declarations would to be made: before it made too many assumptions. “Firstly: welcome.” was a lovely greeting, and “secondly: I am Munin. Who are you?” brought both Munin’s identity into confidence, and hers into doubt.
She would be known: all her details devoured into lines of code. And perhaps, the hints of Munin’s project would give it the pride Of a creator? Perhaps.
“Who is this Kashe? Where did you meet them? How are they doing?”
Parents call after their children, trying not to hold them back. But they care: and so they want to know.
Chie was confused, after calling for the alias she heard the same voice of the same entity she met before, even the reiatsu felt the same. This caught Chie off-guard, she took a step back until she realized that she was not dealing with biological entities, as it was a machine. This could be a machine of the same creator, or the same machine with either a laps or a cleared memory. However she felt that this machine had no reason to lie, so Chie decided to believe this machine. She let go of her grip on her zanpakuto, and looked Munin in the eyes. Naturally her behaviour in regards to dealing with annoying situations or things that would bring attention to herself is to sigh, but last time she saw that face she was scolded for sighing. After recalling how she 'shot to hell' the last encounter, she realized that this was her chance to redeem herself.
Chie entered the labratory only to be awestruck by how effecient and amazing it was. The smell was rusty, but seeing as how machines have no sense of smell she decided it would be impolite to mention, even though the scent of rust does not bother her much. She noted how everything in the room linked up to one console, which she presumed the source of everything going on. She approached the console but out of courtesy let the console stay out of arms reach for her, to show that she would not interfere with anything that the host would not allow.
Chie politely smiled and began to speak "Forgive me, you just seem like someone I met before. Someone who I presumed gave me an alias with remarkably similar reiatsu and who had facial giveaways when lying, I naturally thought you were that person when I sensed your reiatsu... Oh, where are my manners, my name is Chie Kira, and as you can tell by the blade at my side I am a shinigami, presently off duty as you can see by my attire. Forgive me for why I approached your home as I heard of children who have ran away from a scary sight so I came to see if they just saw a hollow or whatever the case might be. About a kilometer away I sensed your reiatsu, which it's unique property was far too identical to someone I met in the world of the living" and stretched her arms outward a bit as to seem relaxed. She knew that the machine from before could beat her in combat prowess easily, so it was important to seem kind and nonthreatening as she had no idea what this lab was capable of.
Chie took a double take on the room, observing it, contemplating her thoughts into order, practically making her own research notes. She silently cursed herself for not bringing her notebook, but decided to make the best of what the world has presented her, a chance to encounter a real scientific breakthrough. She was amazed, she was struggling to keep her polite smile and not drop her jaw in pure excitement. After a few seconds she looked back to the console, and started to speak. "I can't help but notice the level of detail of your laboratory. Most of this equipment seems to be connected back to this console, correct? What is the purpose of this lab? Is it to keep you sustained, and/or perform research? Or is it to preserve data? From the layer of dust I can see that your lab has not been used by a living entity in such a long time. And from the smell of rust it seems like you might need some help fixing a few things.... Oh forgive me for my trailing, I don't mean to pressure you, please, take your time, I can wait." as she looked at the console, instead of looking at the screen.
She was observing the keyboard. Specifically, she was observing the dust on the keys, trying to piece together the last few things typed by a physical entity. She did not know what exactly she was looking for, a code, a word, she knew that it would be a long shot to determine an order the longer the characters used, but it was worth a shot.
The little one was off balance. Munin thought, eyes narrowing on her as she took her hand off the blade. She’d expected violence. Had the Great Work chosen a path of violence? It was unlikely, but… Munin had thought of such possibilities in its dreams. Chie’s face didn’t reveal fear as she entered, a good sign. Fear would have made it more difficult to tease out answers from her. The surprised awe she radiated signaled lowered armor, a person more willing to speak rather than let brutality speak for her.
Munin smiled as the scatterbrain spoke many words, endlessly moving onto tangents. Silently, the machine noted the difficulties it would face, but its smile didn’t break. A small chuckle at ‘facial giveaways’ questioned the statement. Perhaps the Work had had some problems, but to stoop to the level of lying? What idiocy. Though, Munin paused, that could mean far more problematic things. It could have been that the Shinigami had turned on it, that the attempted coup against Kionchi had gone far worse than projected. The Work could have accidentally killed the Shinigami, leaving it as a rogue project that would have to be shut down.
Perhaps that was it, or perhaps it was something else entirely?
The other relaxed itself, while Munin hadn’t changed its face whatsoever. The same mass-produced smile lay on its face, hiding any of the creature’s true processes. “How are they doing then? The one you met?” Munin spoke calmly, with a father’s voice. “I suspect this Kashe may be one of my fellow projects. Is he alright?” A father with the concern of a mother ignored the comments about the laboratory. Such things were trifles, simple things. There was no need to give her details of the room’s function, not when far more precious things were at hand.
Not when news of a fallen child was so close. It just wanted to hear how Munin was doing. That’s all.
Although Chie was sad that the machine was not answering her queries, she understood why, this machine owed her nothing and had other priorities. She figured she owed it an explanation, she reached under her kimono for a second looking for her notebook, only to realize that she wasn't carrying it, she removed her hand and sighed
"Sorry, I had notes in my notebook but I don't usually carry it around off duty, I was hoping I would not have to play it off sheer memory alone to be fair, but I do recall the interaction."
She looked at the screen and wondered what the connection was, was the android a separate program or where they cut from the same code, that question was a large one, and interesting, does a body affect an androids computing level.
"During my time in the world of the living, I encountered an android studying a plus undergoing encroachment from the trees. After I performed a konso I found the android by it's reiatsu presence, and asked it to reveal itself. As I was unable to determine what it was I asked him to reveal itself peacefully. It attempted to pose as a human who was spiritually aware, but I picked up on several flaws in it's claim, such as grammar usage, and for whatever reason implemented by it's maker a facial tick that showed it was lying. I theorized that it tried to lie as soon as I mentioned I am from the fourth division."
Chie stretched out her arms as she tried to recall the encounter.
"When I figured out the flaws I played along with his act and tried to restrain him using Kido, and revealed that I knew it lied and how I picked up on it's inconsistencies. It treated kido as some form of magic by referring to it as magic, before using some form of green barrier to escape my barrier asking me to show it the reality of my soul. I got the request wrong the first time as I thought it wanted to see Asatsuyu, but that wasn't it, as it wanted me to use Kido without even saying the name. So I barraged it with as much Kido as I could muster. But that failed as I just angered it until I ran out of energy and had to call for a gigai. It told me if I can learn incantation-less magic it would show me the secrets of the universe. Than stormed off into the night, I don't know about what happened to it after that."
As Chie was talking she was still trying to draw all the connections without making much more progress.
"As for the android itself, I have reason to suspect there are faults in its coding, especially for interactions with living entities. It spoke in unclear terms and showed me hostility when it itself was not very clear on it's own accord. Is this enough information to your satisfaction or is there a specific detail you wish to hear?"
Munin had realized many things about Shinigami memory. They only remembered things of “note”, whether that be a past lover, a pleasant experience, or merely the feeling of cold steel in their gut. Some tried to embrace their memories, taking notes or journaling their experience in language. Some refused to: discarding any remembrance by their own hands. Some others didn’t want to remember. Perhaps these theories applied to all races, perhaps they all struggled with what defined their existence.
Such were the thoughts stirred up by the mention of a notebook. Did she trust her memory so little, or was it an attempt to capture the perfect memory of Munin’s kind? Or perhaps it was merely the recordings of a scientist who wanted to articulate its memory into language. All options, and each would reveal a different aspect of Chie.
The Shinigami spoke without waiting for Munin’s musing to complete. The tale was of its project performing a standard stealth observation, attempting to ensure its presence did not disrupt the encroachment. Likely it had been to learn more about the process, and the latter disguise was a way to gain information about the Shinigami without arousing suspicion. A mental note was made to check on that protocol, as it sounded flawed. A few corrections would be in order.
But the most peculiar part was Munin’s interaction afterwards. Rather than simply retreat (as would be practical), it had attempted to teach the Shinigami. An impromptu experiment meant to confirm some theory, to see if a Shinigami could use Kido without an incantation? A small hum escaped the machine’s speakers as it considered the possibility. It was possible, theoretically. Kido was spiritual energy, and if…
Munin didn’t need to care about Kido or the Shinigami’s failure to perform. What was important was that the project’s safety had been confirmed, and that it had mastered skills that this iteration could only theorize. But still.
“Are you sure you didn’t misunderstand?” Munin spoke quietly, eyes latching onto the Shinigami’s. “There are no faults in the coding, so far as I can tell. It has merely evolved to be apart from your kind.” Munin hummed for a moment, as if it was reclining in a rocking chair. “Perhaps it could have trouble communicating, or perhaps it wanted to obfuscate the truth. Shinigami have given us more than enough trouble, and given that it never came back here…”
Munin hummed, analysis developing in its mind.
“That would mean that it no longer felt the Seiretei was safe.”
When Chie heard the words 'no fault in coding' she bit her lip as she thought she was talking to a machine of science, but such arrogance could not be tolerated from anyone who associates themselves with science. She approached the console aggressively.
"Hold on a second, did you say 'no faults in the coding', does that imply the machine is 'perfect'. Now I see, the machine probably didn't want to return as it knew what it was, a dead end. As truth is, there is nothing in this world that is truly "perfect". Though it may be a rather large cliche, it is still the truth. It is the ordinary people who look up to 'perfection; as an ideal and seek after it. But in truth, what is this idea of 'perfection' truly worth? Nothing. Not a single thing. I detest 'perfection'. To be 'perfect' is to be unable to improve any further. There would be no scope for 'creation', not a single gap in one's knowledge or one's ability. Do you see now? To true scientists like you and I, 'Perfection' is tantamount to 'despair'. We aspire to reach greater levels of brilliance than ever before, but never, NEVER, to reach perfection. That is the paradox through which we scientists must struggle. Indeed, it is our duty to find pleasure in that struggle."
Chie sighed as she stepped back rubbing her forehead. "Now while it is true there were errors on my part, there are contradictions with what you suggested." she looked up to meet the machines gaze. "On that night if it truly wanted to return to the seireitei, it didn't need to act like anything nor did it require lying to me. I would have taken it back here had it asked. Also if it wanted to, it could have easily rendered me unconscious before I could have picked up on it's reiatsu. What happened was that it chose to reveal itself and lie, it was possibly unprepared for my reaction as it thought I was probably not as intelligent to pick up on the errors in it's statement."
She traced her fingers along the tsuba of her blade as she looked deeply at the machines eyes. "therefore, it was probably not built to cover things such as deception or practical decisions as well as the creator thought. Ergo I suggest that it gets examined before any more speculation on its status."
"Holy crap! Did I just try to play court with a computer over a robot's decision making skills, wow, is this an ace attorney game?!"
If Munin had been human, it would’ve sighed at Chie’s thoughts. Did she think that Munin had no comprehension of what it said? Or did it think that Munin had truly stumbled into the paradox of perfection? “If your belief is that Munin is perfect, then you are the one making a logical leap. I said nothing of perfection.” For a so-called scientist, the Shinigami made far too many claims to knowledge that was beyond its own.
Perhaps, if Munin took pleasure from witnessing another’s pain, it would have smiled at the Shinigami’s frustrated sigh. Rather, it simply watched as Chie moved on to far more important matters: that of Munin’s behaviour, only to be met with the same disbelief that the Shinigami seemed that stupid.
“Did you really listen to what I said Chie Kira?” the android said. “It’s as if you don’t comprehend what I say, and merely continue speaking of what you believe to be true rather than what the truth of the matter is.” Small diagrams appeared on the viewscreen, Munin’s face vanishing to provide room for them. “My first point was that their were no faults in the coding. The project’s behaviour is completely understandable, and is not an assumption of a ‘perfect’ system at all. Rather, Munin’s design is as an evolving intelligence, able to adapt to its environment in a mimicry of human intelligence.” Spheres of ‘environment’ and ‘Munin’ were linked by arrows, depicting the feedback loop that resulted in Munin’s intelligence. “If I would claim it to be perfect, I would be foolish. No one truly comprehends what Munin could become.”
“Secondly, you were incorrect in your assumptions.” A new diagram appeared, showing ‘Munin’ and the ‘Seiretei’ at first entwined. “Munin has separated itself from the Seiretei, a result of some influence within it.” Circles separated, and Munin instead entwined with ‘Earth’. “Furthermore, to speculate that it should be returned here defeats the point of the experiment, and thus it should remain untouched by your division.” Munin’s face replaced the diagrams, a motherly smile upon its face. “Now, I would say that you should practice what it offered, and return to it when you have mastered that skill. Or you can simply avoid it, and refuse to engage with the life that desired to know you.” Munin’s face reclined back, looking down towards the Shinigami. “Or perhaps, you have more questions of me?”
Chie bit her lip as she started to really question the memory of this cybernetic entity. It was bad enough she gets pushed by living, entities, but a machine, this was pathetic. Chie Kira, a scientist, an engineer, was less than a computer. She clenched her hand as her footing was about to turn as she was slowly turning the rest of her body around. "No-"
"What is this? Am I honestly letting a computer get the best of me? No, I don't care what it can think, I am not gonna let a terminal get the best of me, not like this!"
She abruptly stopped as she cut her original closing speech. She swiftly turned around to face the terminal with determination in her eyes. "-Actually yes! You have yet to answer my earlier qustions. I attempted to avoid doing this, but I guess official speech is what is needed. Terminal, I request your designation and purpose. What is your function in relation to the earlier mentioned drone?"
Chie took a deep breath as she took a look around the dust covered lab, unable to determine anything under the dust. The turned to face the lab, feeing a rush of adrenaline from her sudden burst of trying to take charge. "hope you don't mind if I clean up a bit." Chie raised her left hand towards the room, and felt ambitious.
"that drone was right, this is simple, all I need to do is focus, focus and have faith!"
A gust of wind left her palm and started to spiral and form a tornado, and then expanded and blew across the room, scattering the layer of dust in the process. Hado 58, tenran.
Chie turned around to look at the terminal. "both you and the terminal were right, I need to learn, however I finally met it's requirements, total abolishment kido. what can you say now?"
Chie Kira was a symptom of the irrationality present in Shinigami. She was visibly irritated by Munin’s words for seemingly no reason, refusing to acknowledge the terminal’s logic and explanations. It was all so simple: the Great Work needed to remain safe, and more interactions from Chie Kira while she was in this state would likely be disadvantageous. The small possibility of her destroying the Great Work was recorded, but it was so unlikely, especially given that the robot had likely grown in power compared to this specific Shinigami.
A frown appeared on the terminal’s face as it stared at Chie’s gripped hand. Not a hard enough grip to draw blood, but enough that it proved her dissatisfaction. She bit out a ‘no’ before cutting herself off, drawing no reaction from Munin. It had turned to other interests: staring at readouts as it tried to divine a way to contact the Great Work. Munin wanted to know. It had to know.
Chie continued to speak, forcing Munin’s mind to turn back towards it. “I already gave you my designation Chie Kira.” A small pint of irritation had been injected into Munin’s tone as its eyes locked onto her. “And by this point I doubt you do not know my purpose.” A pause of one second, just enough to set most on edge. “To clarify: my chosen role is to monitor the ‘drone’ of which you speak, and aid in its iteration.” Was that true? Or was that just want Munin ‘wanted’? The thought was only given a moment to stew before sensors went wild. Eyes went wide at the impact of the spell, before returning to a neutral state. She had done it. But immediately, she moved into her confusing speech.
“I had not expected you to figure it out that quickly.” Munin’s words were only to buy time for its thoughts to understand what had transpired. “I would consider searching for Kashe again if you believe that is correct.” She will, at the very least, provide something for it to study. “Asking me about your decision is foolish. Merely do as you choose, and perhaps you will prove interesting to study.” Perhaps she would leave now to seek out the Great Work, or perhaps she would go to examine her new ability. “Just… whatever you do, tell it that I would like to speak with it.”
Annoyed, Chie just sighed as she turned around slowly as she gave up trying to argue with this machine. There was no further reason to investigate, there was no real point to continuing. Should she keep arguing she'd be rejected, there was no real edge she held against this machine. She walked out slowly, not even caring what the machine would say, as she said in a dull tone "Fine, fine, I'm leaving." As she reached the door she stopped, and looked over her left shoulder recalling the business that drove her to such a place, with one eye looking back at the machine.
"By the way, about why I was drawn to this lab. Do something about that reiatsu and staying hidden, if too many rukongai strays get scared I might have to move you all the way to the seireitei. You'd look so nice next to the modified soul project. I won't bother telling my superiors about a 'defective machine' in the forest."
Walking out back into the forest, Chie didn't bother looking back, as she walked through the forest she took a breath of the fresh air, free of the limits that blocked her nose, and her soul. Reaching the Rukongai, she found a crowd waiting for her, anxious to know what happened. "It was just a few logs in a cave in the woods, it was mostly the poor children imagining something that was not there."
Letting out a sigh of relief, the crowd soon saw Chie standing there as they quickly panicked from about monsters to about formalities, as they soon cleared a path for the young girl, internally shrugging, Chie went with it as she walked through, the sun starting to set as she made her way through the rukongai, to return back to her barracks.
"And this is why I don't like to take time off, I end up working either way."
Eventually Chie made it back by nightfall, still puzzled by all the questions she could have had answered, but sometimes curiosity shouldn't be satisfied.
Seireitei is crumbling and the Gotei is a shell of its former self. Ravaged by the plague, the surviving Shinigami struggle to maintain the balance, but with so few of them left, the work is taxing and their fortress-city has fallen to neglect. Spread thin across all fronts, their diminished presence has been noted by friend and foe alike.
The Arrancar have rebuilt Las Noches and are rallying. The throne remains empty, but self-styled Espada have risen up from among them and are vying for control, each one endlessly testing the others’ weaknesses. Too evenly matched for any one of them to claim the crown, they bide their time, waiting for the opportune moment.
On Earth, all seems well—but there is a war being fought in the shadows as the mortals find themselves lacking the protection they once had and so sorely need. The Quincy, having realized the oppressive specter of the Shinigami is no more, are flourishing, and are fighting the Hollow-breeds with renewed vigor.