Hiraku Masaru
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Age: Late 20's (Apparent); 121 (Actual; partially due to Dangai time-warping)
Gender: Male
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 220 pounds
Station: Captain of the Combat Division (aka "The Pack")
Speech/Reiatsu: #2E2E2E

Description:
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Masaru is tall and lean, but not "willowy" (though in his youth he was all knees and elbows). His frame is corded with muscle, but is not overly bulky. He keeps his black hair tied back in a ponytail, keeping himself clean-shaven. He has a slightly angular look to his face, his chin narrowing a bit (though certainly not unhealthily so), giving him a vaguely avian sense to his features; this is enhanced by his (slightly eerie) green eyes. Much of his torso, arms, and legs bear a multitude of small, faded scars, testaments to his determination and experience.
Masaru typically wears the regulation Gotei 13 outfit with three additions: a pair of jika-tabi, colored flat black all over (after seeing some in the Mortal World, he found one of the better cobblers in Soul Society and ordered many, many pairs), a loose haori patterned like a starry night (thought it can be flipped over to a dark navy blue with no pattern on it), and a dark brown conical straw hat. When fighting an opponent he does not take seriously, Masaru leaves these garments on; however, more serious opponents will cause him to remove and set aside his coat and hat to keep them safe from harm.
His twin blades are kept on his left side.
More recently, Masaru lost his left arm in a fight against Izanami. For a time he had a shadowy arm she had conjured/turned herself into. Ultimately this was purged from his being. His replacement is a high-end cybernetic limb developed by Researcher Chouko, made of glossy black metals and composites.


Personality:
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There was a time when "Hirako Masaru" and "party animal" were basically synonyms. In fact, that time has only passed in the last couple of months (most of which he was either in the Hellpath, or in a coma). Since awakening, Masaru has shown a self-awareness that he lacked before. While still friendly and jovial, his "party hardy" philosophy is tossed out the door. As well, while he would always stop joking and laughin in a serious fight, now his attention and focus is as sharp as his sword's edge. Whereas before the Hellpath, he wanted to become a Seated Officer so that he could brag that he could/had, now he has realized his desire to apply his natural talents and skills to the Division's forces.
Masaru is the sort of commander many soldiers might appreciate. In downtime and otherwise casual settings, he is open, honest, friendly, and attentive to the soldiers under his command. When there's serious business about, Masaru's face slips into a mask of focused calm, and he often speaks in short, terse sentences. One thing he doesn't tolerate from anyone under his command is disrespect for himself, Vice-Captain Kiba, former Captain Kenpachi Osuma, or the Captain-Commander of the Gotei (whoever holds that position at the time). Masaru has made it clear his soldiers are free to bring legitimate concerns forward, but disrepectful complaining or other such talk will earn them a personal training session with Masaru or the Vice-Captain.
Masaru has a bit of a weakness for beautiful women, one he used to proclaim often and with decent volume; now, he simply keeps most of his thoughts to himself. It's part of his recent campaign of greater self-control.
After emerging from his years of training in a special Dangai-warped space, Masaru has become generally more serious and responsible than even before.


History:
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Masaru is the bastard son of a disgraced member of a terribly minor house that he doesn't even know the name of; he was graced with his mother's surname before she died a year and a half after his birth.
He was taken in by some shopkeepers in the mid-30s districts, and spent a few years just being a "normal" child in the Rukongai.
Of course, just as he was hitting his teens it became clear he'd need to go to the Shinigami Academy. Surges of his reiatsu were causing frightening things to happen when he was struck with slowly-more frequent nightmares; shadows moved, on their own accord...

In the academy, Masaru was generally a good, average student. He didn't do so well in Kido, but in comparison, his physical performance was top-notch, his written and verbal scores were good, and his swordsmanship was phenomenal. It was little surprise he ended up in the Combat Division...

Of course, it wasn't long after he graduated that Soul Society began experiencing some of its most turbulent times. In an almost unconscious coping mechanism, Masaru began to slip into the persona of a "party animal". He laughed and drank and feasted and generally had as much fun as possible. He forged a unique friendship with Takenaka Chouko of the SSI, despite her being something of a "nerd". Their love of loud music and rap battles cemented the friendship. He fought and trained and lived, but often it was as much existing as it was living (in the metaphorical sense rather than literal).
Still, his power and skill grew. He unlocked his shikai (or at least, part of it), and was on the cusp of becoming a Seated officer.
Finally, 5 months ago he entered the Hellpath...


Story So Far:
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It took six and a half weeks before Masaru successfully completed the Hellpath. For two of those weeks, he was sitting in a dark corner of the section inspired by Death By Darkness. Just...sitting there, his swords (which only appeared for that period of time, before somehow arriving back at their storage location) laid across his knees the entire time.

The rest of that time, something on the order of 3 and a half months, has been spent in a coma. The first half-month was spent minimizing the actual injuries, leaving him with nothing but a new collection of scars. The next month they worked on getting his energy restored and stabilized (as it kept spiking oddly during this time). But after that, he just...laid there, for two months, seemingly whole and healthy. A smile was on his face, and in the quietest part of the night some swore he whispered to himself (though the voice coming from his bed didn't quite sound like him, but was never really scary, just odd).

Masaru awoke to Hollows at the gates, and nothing went right from that point on.

First a confrontation with a group of Arrancar led by one of the oldest and most powerful Hollows...that ended in a truce proposal. One that everyone accepted.

Then, he went to try and stop a Cult from freeing a member...and was knocked unconscious before even releasing his sword.

After that, he woke up not long before Izanami, Death, seemingly snapped and threw a temper tantrum at the gates of the Seireitei...and was then pressed on him as a prisoner who demanded all of his attention.

Then, said prisoner decided she wanted to kill and destroy, and Masaru knew he was the only way to stop her. And so he kept her attention. And for that, he lost his left arm, only to "gain" a shadowy replacement that he's still unsure about being a good thing or not.

Now, Masaru has finally, after years spent in Dangai-time-warped place, cast off the crutch and burden that was Izanami's "gift". He has achieved Bankai.

And after a meeting with the Central 46, he has achieved Captaincy of the Combat Division. He hopes to lead them into a new, brighter future as Soul Society's strong sword arm.


Abilities:
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Intelligence: Behind his "party animal" facade, Masaru has always had a keen intellect, especially for both the individual fighting arts, and the application of force on a larger scale (strategy and tactics). His spatial perception and reasoning is particularly adept, allowing him to quickly figure out the best places to have himself and his troops move to for the optimum result. His general ability to think through situations and remember things (large and small) is as sharp as his swords.
He is fluent in Japanese, English, Spanish, and Gotei Hand Signals.
Physical Strength, Endurance, and Agility: Masaru's strength is par for a shinigami of his stature and fitness, with physical endurance to match. His agility is top-notch, and has hit a point of near-legendary status; between his deft sword skills and his quiet steps, it's no wonder he's a danger for an unsuspecting opponent.
Stealth: While not quite as good as those of the Guerilla Squad who focus almost all their training on "stealth" and "fighting skill", Masaru is still quite good at remaining undetected when he wishes to remain so. He has a personal affinity for ending up in rafters and ceiling corners, perched in a way a human shape shouldn't be able to manage against gravity.
Hoho: Masaru is highly skilled in the use of the basic shunpo, having achieved Expert skill level. He moves quickly, precisely, with a fair degree of flexibility and quietly. He has not mastered (or tried to master) any of the more exotic Hoho abilities.
Hakudo: Anyone who is an Officer under Vice-Captain Kiba will end up fairly skilled at hand-to-hand, if not the level of expert the Acting Captain possesses. Masaru is no exception; while not a Master by any stretch, his hand-to-hand skills are nothing to sneeze at. He has taken inspiration from the Mortal art of Taekwondo, adopting a form that allows him to focus on leg-based attacks, meaning he can mix it in with his sword style as needed.
Zanjutsu: It is with his swords that Hirako Masaru truly shines. Sealed or released, he uses them as if they were extensions of his own arms, displaying an instinctive skill that will only grow more deadly with time. The raw talent that he has honed over the years, refined further in his Dangai training, has left Masaru as a true Master in the art of sword-fighting. His style is fluid and adaptive, able to accommodate foes armed and unarmed, with weapons large and small, short and long. He can fight with either blade alone in either hand, or both blades at once, with equal skill. One of his favorite "tricks" is to use only the katana of his Zanpakuto and move it between hands as the fight progresses, keeping his enemy off-balance as to which hand is his "primary" (neither, as he has long mastered being ambidextrous). Masaru's skill is such that, in a century or so he might found an entire style, having ground down the rough edges of his technique. All he needs to do now is forge ground in innovating more new maneuvers.
Kido: Masaru's time in the Dangai training area improved his Kido by leaps and bounds. He is now capable of a respectable number of spells, with solid control and finesse. It will never be his strongest skill, but he can now boast that he's as good as any other Officer, at least. Generally speaking, he could be classified as a Skilled Practitioner, with potential to eventually become an Expert (though not at that level yet).
-Bakudo: Masaru can cast Barriers up to the high 40s, and Bindings in the high 30s.
-Hado: Masaru is capable of Hado into the mid 40s.
-General Reiatsu/Reiryoku Control/Presence: Control of his Reiatsu comes naturally to Masaru; his time of training and meditation has honed this part of his skills to low Mastery levels. He is highly efficient in the use of his energies in all his attacks, and has utter control over the range and degree of effect from his Reiatsu. Those affected enough by his unleashed Reiatsu experience washed-out colors and tricks of the light in the corner of their eyes. Someone trying to pin down the "feel" of his presence and energy might be reminded of tattered silk cloth, or the cool of a darkened room.
-Cybernetic Arm: The black metal-and-composite-materials arm is a wonder of engineering. It is the same size/dimensions as Masaru's original left arm. It has the same level of speed and control his original flesh arm had, though the full-scope sensory feedback (sense of touch) is only about 90% of the original. It can channel his energy with no problems to allow for normal casting of Kido. In addition, it can channel energy (with no gestures or incantation) to produce a shield roughly identical to Enkosen, maintained for as long as he can give it energy.
There is a "temporary overclock" feature that ups the speed and strength of the arm to 150% of normal operation; this requires an investment of Masaru's Reiryoku and does lead to some discomfort or pain if used for more than a brief moment. Currently, Masaru's favored tactic is a brief high-speed sword draw or slice to catch an opponent off-guard.
A handy additional feature is the presence of an integrated communications system, able to reach between dimensions, and over the majority of Soul Society or large swathes of the Mortal World.

Zanpakuto: Ancalagon
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Description: In its sealed form, Ancalagon is a pair of swords, a katana and a wakizashi. While some swordsmen would struggle wielding them paired, Masaru's tall frame and natural dexterity mean they are a perfect match to him. Their guards are rectangles of dark bronzed metal inscribed with a dragon consuming its own tail. The hitls themselves, and their cloth wrappings, are dark navy, while the pommel shares the same metal and coloration as the guard. The blades themselves are seemingly painted a gleaming metallic black, with their sheathes matching the color of the hilt and its wrappings
Spirit: Typically shrouded in shadows, Ancalagon is an enormous dragon, large enough to cast shadows over a city with its wings and body. His scales are black as midnight, his claws gleam like black steel, and his eyes burn like the afternoon sun; smoke escapes in wisps from his nostrils and mouth at regular intervals. When agitated, he breathes flames as black as his own scales.
On rare occasions, he appears as a human-ish figure, clothed in fine silk robes, with a countenance like the old kings in Europe, his hair the same shining black as his scales, his eyes still that burning red, and smoke still escaping from his lightly-fanged mouth.
In attitude, Ancalagon is prideful, but pragmatic. For most of Masaru's life, he has been discontent with his wielder, finding his lack of focus or discipline frustrating. He kept the greater portion of his power held back even when Masaru discovered Shikai, waiting for the day his Shinigami-self would become worthy of his power. That day has arrived, especially after two weeks of intense discussions in the Inner World.
As well, Ancalagon has an eye for beauty, mostly in the form of beautiful works of metal or wood, or the form of beautiful women. His sense of humor is dark, and he holds grudges far longer than Masaru seems able to.
He does not particularly care how Masaru uses his power, so long as he does so with pride and discipline, composing himself as the container of such a powerful, noble being ought to.
Inner World: A blasted blackened mountain range, with four particularly large volcanic peaks surrounding an enormous Gothic castle around which Ancalagon often lounges, enjoying the heat from the magma trickles flowing down into a moat around the imposing structure. His head is positioned such that he can raise it a bit and speak with Masaru if his wielder climbs to one of the high towers in the castle.

Shikai: "Blot out the sun and drink up the stars! Crush the mountains! Burn the sky and boil the sea! Ancalagon!"
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Description: In its shikai, Ancalagon becomes a pair of heavy curved broadswords, with the blades becoming a flat black, the guards and pommel becoming a metallic silver, and the hilt wrappings and tassels a dark navy cloth speckled with tiny pricks of silver, as if they were the night sky.
Power(s): While the most obvious power is the alteration of his swords' shape, this is not actually the primary ability of Ancalagon. Instead, it's the control of shadows. The shadows he generates and controls are decidedly not normal, as they are just as powerful in broad daylight as they are in a dark room. That said, particularly bright, focused light can dissipate his shadow constructs, though he's always able to just create more shadows once the light dies down. And failing that, his swords can still slice things.
-Night's Blade: The simplest of Ancalagon's powers is the one Masaru uses the most. With but a thought, he can cover the blades in shadows, and cause said shadows to increase the length and size of the blades, up to about two-and-a-half times their normal size. These shadows are either as hard and sharp as the metal of his blades, or as massless and harmless as your own shadow, however Masaru happens to will them to be. These "shadow blades" can also be thrown off of his swords as a ranged attack, though they lose cohesion after about 50 feet. Still, within that range he can exert a degree of control over their course and velocity, an unexpected "twist" that might surprise an opponent.
-Night's Eyes: Masaru has the ability to see in all levels of darkness, even the pitch black of a completely light-less room.
-Night's Touch: Masaru can exert a degree of control over any existing shadows within 50 feet of his position, even without touching them. He can bend and twist them into simple shapes (typically weapons), and even cause a person's own shadow to attack them, or wrap around their eyes, blinding them. He can control 2-3 patches of shadow at a time, though any more than 1 reqires him to stop and actively concentrate without much other activity. These patches of shadow are more vulnerable to dispersion by sudden, bright light than his Night's Blade.
-Night's Step: Something of an extension of Night's Touch, Masaru is able to attack through a shadow under his control, typically by stabbing his sword into a shadow next to him and causing it to erupt from an opponent's own shadow. He is unable to fully move himself through these shadows, though.
-Night's Breath: Masaru's "ultimate attack" while in Shikai. Masaru draws in all the shadows he can within his "zone of control", and compresses them into his sword blades, where they begin to not-glow. Then he flings the collected and compressed shadows at an opponent, and when they strike, they burn, as flames of deepest black, seemingly drinking in the night around him. These flames burn as hot as "normal" fire for a good 30 seconds, before finally sputtering out. They can be washed away with water or something similar, but will not fully go out, and cannot be dispelled by light.
However, the use of Night's Breath leaves Masaru's swords unable to control shadows for a short time, meaning it is typically a "finishing" attack against a foe he wishes to die (rather than simply to overcome, as if in a spar).


Bankai:
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Ancalagon the Black Death
Description: Ancalagon's two blades become shadow for a moment and flow together, merging into a great and terrible spear of black metal (OOC: 2nd from right design, is about 7 feet long); this spear is as sharp and solid and hardy as his swords. His body is clad in a shifting cloak of shadows that offers a greater measure of protection than simple clothes (though by no means is he invincible), with no particular strengths or weaknesses. All light within 5 feet of his presence dims just a bit.
The most noticeable affect, however, is the presence of Ancalagon itself. Or at least, a facsimile of the great and terrible sword-spirit. A stunning reproduction of the manifestation of his soul's will to fight, this version is only 50 feet long (a decent bit of that is tail, with some added by the neck), with a wingspan of 60 feet. It is a solid creature, with scales that feel somewhere between "natural scales" and "metal", and the same glowing red eyes (the only bit of color on him that isn't "black"). There is a simple, sturdy saddle strapped to his back, right where his neck meets his shoulders, giving Masaru an excellent perch to both see and "steer" from, as well as an ideal position to attack from.
Power(s): Masaru himself (and his spear) gain no additional abilities, and in fact cannot himself use Night's Breath; Night's Blade, Touch, and Step all work essentially the same way, though the range has been increased to 100 feet, and the shadows under his control are no longer vulnerable to light. He is more easily able to control shadows, and can affect up to approximately 15 square feet of shadow (connected or not) at a time. He can extend the reach of his spear from 7 to 20 feet, or fling a projectile of shadow out to (again) 100 feet. And of course Night's Eyes still work the same.
Most of the power increase is in Ancalagon himself. The dragon-construct is controlled by Masaru's sword spirit, though if it is somehow destroyed, Ancalagon is left ultimately unharmed.
-Night's Bones: Ancalagon is able to actually absorb light in a radius of 100 feet, casting that area (dome or sphere, depending on if he's ground-bound or airborne) into dim lighting that many would struggle to see in. Alternatively, he can actually absorb the shadows cast by people and objects; this offers no harm to those who "lose" their shadow (which seems to return after 15-30 seconds), other than perhaps disorientation. Either way, this absorption allows Ancalagon to heal himself of injury or at least partially replenish his strength (lengthening how long Masaru can maintain his Bankai, at least to a degree).
-Night's Strength: Ancalagon is a large flying dragon. He is very strong, and shockingly agile for such a creature; he could probably out-maneuver (though not out-run) any but the newest of jets in the sky, given the chance. His claws are as hard and sharp as swords, as are his teeth; his tail possesses great strength, and his is fond of swatting foes aside with it. He is even capable of delivering a bite in a strike not dissimilar to a snake's, his head flashing forward in the blink of an eye to tear an unwitting opponent in half. He is difficult, but by no means impossible, to harm; weapons like a spear work best, much better than swords or clubs.
-Night's Black Breath:Ancalagon can breathe great gouts of the same black flame that Masaru summons in his Shikai, reaching out 100 feet. These black flames burn hot and hard, and are difficult to extinguish. They fade after perhaps a minute's time. Ancalagon cannot simply walk around constantly breaking these "shadow flames", but neither is he exhausted after one breath; after each exhalation (of several seconds), he needs several moments to "gather his breath" before he can breath the Black Breath once more.. This is perhaps his most dangerous and potent weapon in this form, at least as much as his size and strength.