Name: Okada Ayano
Nickname(s): The Butterfly; the Hooded Master; the Jewel; Grandmaster Okada
Sexual Preference: Heterosexual
Alliance: 3rd Division Captain
Appearance: Okada Ayano, now a striking, inexplicably stunning woman at the forefront of Soul Society's military, was born amongst mortal men in the realm of the living--a jewel hidden in coarse sand. The patriarchal, sexist cultural norms of her home village manifested themselves in the men around her, who found her fragile voice irritating and her soft skin incapable of anything meaningful, confining her to the most basic family chores. They saw her as a piece of property, a girl lucky enough to be destined for prettiness in the way that would eventually attract a husband, yet poor enough that her dowry would be insubstantial and troublesome for any honest man to burden himself with. They saw her as a young girl with bright eyes that would never be worth the trouble. It was a tragic position, one from which there was no escape. And for all of her natural beauty, still brilliant and gleaming beneath the mud, dirt, and scorn, there were too few open eyes to appreciate it. Instead, they remained shut--ignorant--as life continued on in that perfectly detrimental way that it sometimes can.
It saddened only her parents when Ayano's human body failed. She succumbed to a disease in her late youth, cursed by her poverty to have no chance of survival. But when she found herself in Soul Society, a tremendous spiritual power was unleashed within her, and it manifested itself by fortifying her natural beauty. In life, her hair was a succulent amber, with sweeping tones of orange and strawberry that flickered and danced in the morning light. As a spirit, these locks turned into a deep, bright red. They became waves of fire and passion, unleashed by the change of fate and the grand destiny that now stood before a girl who had nothing in life. Over the years, she has worn in it many different ways: cropped short and tomboyish, tied into a long tail reaching down to the mid-back, and dozens of other styles. What she has finally settled on is a somewhat simplistic yet elegant format; her hair is long in the back and sides, and sweeping bangs help keep her face obscured.
One would never expect such a beautiful woman to hide her face so timidly, yet Ayano feels that she has no choice. Although her memories were swept clean upon her arrival in Soul Society, the impact of her tragic place in life never quite vanished. Instead, it burrowed itself into her new personality deeper than ever, causing a level of self-consciousness (only about appearances) that is known in the human world as body dysmorphia. This is why her bangs are kept long to help shield the peripheries of her face. It is the reason why her crystal blue eyes, which could melt the stone from a cruel man's heart, hide behind the shadows of a white hood. One could search through Soul Society from top to bottom in order to find a single person who fails to see the inherent, transcendent elegance of Ayano's face, but they would only fail in their quest. The Captain herself is the only one who actively believes that her appearance is anything less than perfect.
It is this self-depreciation that fuels the most apparent physical characteristic of Ayano's Shinigami uniform--her hood. Seamlessly attached to her Captain's haori, the white hood rests over her head like a sheet over an embarrassed bride, trapping her flowing red hair between her back and the cloth of her rank-symbol. With this piece of clothing draped over her head, resting just above her face, not a single soul can see anything but her thin yet well-formed lips, and sometimes, if the light strikes just right, her gently pointed nose. The shadows produced by the hood serve to secret away her identity, robbing the world of a view in favor of her own comfort. No matter where she goes or what she does, her haori and uniform always trails along with her; it always protects her, not from the judgment of others, but from the demons within her own heart that tear down her confidence and seed her thoughts with doubt and self-loathing. Only by hiding her face is she able to suppress this feeling on a day-to-day basis.
The rest of Ayano's haori is tame and unaltered, excluding its sleeveless design. Otherwise, it fits the normal specifications for the average Captain-class Shinigami. The white cloth pattern droops across her frame, stopping just above her ankles. Symbolic black diamond shapes are sewn into the hems--a recognizable feature of rank. On her back rests the 3rd Division insignia, which proclaims her as its sole leader and one of the most powerful bodies of defense in all of Soul Society. Simply by looking at this symbol, which represents the group of soldiers waiting in the wings to reinforce anyone who needs martial assistance, one can feel a sense of respect welling within their chests, beating the inside of their ribs like a call-to-war. It is Ayano's division that truly embodies the camaraderie born in battle. It is the men and women under her command that show up when the fighting is at its worst, replacing lost Shinigami with their own ranks until the war is won. Her haori symbolizes this ideal, and she wears it with a certain brand of respectful pride, despite the fact that a hood continually shadows her face from the outside world.
What the 'Butterfly' lacks in confidence (regarding her appearance), she makes up for in fluid purpose and tranquil beauty of movement. Where others move with a sense of repetition and instinct, one step in front of the other in a predictable line, hands and arms swaying along the same paths, Ayano seems to shift and change as she walks from place to place. It is as if she is aware of every move that she makes, whether or not the action is of any real significance. And in this one might find a major part of what makes the 'Jewel' so intriguing to watch; her precision of swordplay and her mystical regality bleed through into so many other facets of her existence. In a way, watching her walk can be as mesmerizing as witnessing an example of her masterful skills in weaponry, which are considered far beyond the capabilities of any other Shinigami, within or without the Captain class.
Ayano's body rests within her uniform like a butterfly in its chrysalis. She stands at about five feet and eight inches in height, with a slender yet uniquely fit form hiding beneath the folds of white and black cloth. Her bust is relatively large, yet her breasts never seem to get in the way of her fluid movements or actions. This is due to a wrapping of white cloth that she keeps tied around her chest, both for protection and for utility. And while she enters battle quicker than most other Shinigami, always willing to test her mettle against the foes of Soul Society, her skin is devoid of scars. This is due to her reliance on the talents of the 4th Division, who know just how fragile her self-confidence is. They do their utmost to ensure that no wound leaves a visible marring on the Jewel of the Gotei 13.
Personality: Body dysmorphia is a mental condition that causes the sufferer to see brutal flaws in their visual appearance no matter the situation, even if their true beauty is reinforced by loved ones on a near-constant basis. Ayano is affected heavily from this disorder, which was brought over from the disrespect she suffered through in life. It has supplanted itself deep in her psyche, and no manner of emotional training or mental fortification has been able to relieve the pain of seeing herself in the mirror. This is why the Butterfly, who seems to stunning to the outside world, can do nothing but hide her face within the unnatural shadow of a white hood; it is why she must appease the irrational beast that lurks within her own self-image, no matter the cost to her personal pride or the curious stares of those who wonder at the meaning of her actions.
In social situations, this personality trait is most clearly seen when Ayano receives a compliment on her looks. Where a mentally healthy individual might express thanks for the gesture, Captain Okada looks down and covers more of her face with the shadow, often with a frown or a horribly embarrassed pursing of her lips. Sometimes, if the words come from someone she feels particularly comfortable with, she will simply blush and turn away, which is a sign that while she very much disagrees with their opinion, she does not harbor resentment at their comment. The only individual who is capable of complimenting her without receiving a visible reaction is Ayano's Lieutenant, Genryusekki Tatsuya. This is simply due to the extreme constancy of these compliments, which have turned into a measure of bonding between the two of them. Tatsuya mostly does it to tease the Captain, and as such, Ayano hardly recognizes the link to her actual appearance within the words.
Another incredibly important facet of Ayano's personality is her status as the Grandmaster of Zanjutsu, a title given to her after decades of training under the previous holder of the title, a man she once considered a surrogate father. He had found her on the streets of Rukongai and had recognized in her a level of potential that no one else had; he was the one who gave her the nickname 'Butterfly', which has traveled with her to her current position. The man trained her, enrolled her in the Shinigami Academy, and helped her rise in the the ranks until she attained the position of Captain. Then, when she could rise no higher, he challenged her to a fight to the death, seeing in her a strength he found lacking in himself. Despite Ayano's protests, she eventually accepted the duel, and after a battle that lasted three hours and resulted in the death of her closest friend, she found herself christened with a name 'Grandmaster'.
It was in her path towards Grandmaster that Ayano found her passion: swordplay. Her natural talents for it were so prodigal that they bordered on the unthinkable. She found that, through Zanjutsu, her self-confidence found a certain indelible, unshakeable balance, and that feature of her personal reality has sewn itself into the fabric of her life in no small way. Eight hours of every day is spent purely on the continuing mastery of her blades, whether it be through meditation or combat drills or actual contact-sparring with the only man capable of challenging her consistently, Seisui Naito. It is a thing that functions in a way similar to therapy, as her feeling are best expressed and relieved through Zanjutsu. And not only has it culminated as perfection in the arts of swordplay, but it has also allowed her to retain a functional mental status despite her crippling self-image.
While it would be difficult to suspect through concept, Ayano has a tremendous--although fundamentally justified--ego about her abilities with Zanjutsu. In almost all facets of her personal life, the Jewel is relatively meek. Even in her professional actions as leader of a division within the Gotei 13, which she takes seriously, she seems neutral and accepting of her limitations. With her swords, however, there is no boundary that her mind is unwilling to cross, and her belief in herself is beyond compare. Ayano fully (and rightly) believes that she is the most capable swordsman in the Gotei 13, despite others being stronger physically (Seisui Naito) or beyond her grasp of power (Harotaissen Tsuribakki).
During battle, Ayano thrives. The issues with her self-confidence are stripped away when her blades clash against steel, unleashing a side of her personality that only the strongest ever see. She becomes self-assured and can communicate in ways that would have been impossible in any mundane setting. As such, she is a strong believer in the concept of sparring, where two allied combatants can communicate through movements and conflict what neither of them could either say with words. Seisui Naito, who cannot ably speak due to a medical condition, shares this belief, which is what initially brought the two Captains together and made them into the rumor-mill sensation that they have become.
The White Hood: The only piece of spectacular equipment that the Butterfly uses is the white hood seamlessly fused with her Captain's haori, which constantly casts a seemingly impenetrable shadow over the upper half of her face. Most people write the obscuring shadow off as a simple curiosity, never thinking too deeply about how bright light does not seem to affect its properties. This only means that the subtlety of its enchantment is working. In reality, the original hood was crafted by the Yorushi family by special request of Ayano's former master, who had it installed on her outfit on the first day of her entering the Shinigami Academy to boost her confidence and let her show her true skills for her proctors. Since then, Ayano has had a copy crafted into all of her uniforms, and has used its Kidō-based shadows to mask what she sees as her greatest weakness. It has played a pivotal role in her rise to power, allowing her to avoid the worst pitfalls of her condition and continue her training relatively uninterrupted. Only by physically removing the hood can the shadows be stopped, and no amount of light can reveal her face (damage can still be done to her eyes through bright enough glare, and the shadows give her no other forms of protection past peace-of-mind).
Zanjutsu Grandmaster: Nothing can be said about Okada Ayano's abilities as a Shinigami without stating her utter mastery over the art of the Zanjustu, which remains a most prevalent factor in her life, influencing her decisions on a daily basis and consuming a massive quantity of her time. Eight hours of each day is devoted entirely to the continued studies of her twin Zanpakutō, despite the fact that she mastered them to the point where they function more like intuitive limbs that disembodied weapons--many have said that she is more attuned to her swords than she is to her legs or arms, which may have a bit of truth to it. She spends these long treks of time meditating, reading, and sparring in the hopes that her skills never fail when she needs them most. Through this training, Ayano has effectively imprinted the skills of Zanjutsu into the forefront of her mind, making them as important to her as any other bodily function. They can always be called upon with minimal mental effort. In battle, her control over these weapons is flawless; she is permanently aware of the motions and positions of her blades. It bleeds through in her ability to manipulate the field of melee combat through incredibly versatile movements and masterful knowledge of an uncountable variety of styles. Much of her life during her training to become the Grandmaster was spent studying the myriad techniques of the human world, bringing them to a level only she could, and this has paid off.
Tai Chi: The human style of Tai Chi quickly became Ayano's favorite during her training, partially due to her master's belief in its tenants, and partially due to her love of its beauty and fluidity. She originally focused on the meditative stances. Then, she moved on to the hand-to-hand combat techniques, which remain the only real foundation of Hakuda that she employs. From there, she mastered using one sword, which was traditional for most forms of Tai Chi. When Ayano wanted to use both of her blades, however, she found the human world version of the style lacking in depth and practice. Determined to master the tenants of Tai Chi to their fullest, the Butterfly created her own interpretation using both of her blades. This whirling, perfectly balanced style of Zanjutsu has become the most spectacular incarnation of swordplay in Soul Society, and only a few Shinigami besides Ayano herself have been able to grasp its core principles and movements. In battle, the 3rd Division Captain can use these Tai Chi stances to manipulate the melee attacks of her opponents, redirecting the force of their strikes with one blade while attacking them simultaneously with the other. She utilizes sweeping, dance-like movements to prevent her opponents from predicting her attacks and defenses, which only serves to make her uncanny talents more devastating.
Energy Redirection: Ayano's grasp of Tai Chi and fluid movement afford her a unique ability that has, to this day, been impossible for any other Shinigami replicate naturally. She discovered the ability under duress of combat, when an Arrancar used its Cero against her. Through instinct and training alone, with no prior knowledge that such a thing was possible, the Butterfly managed to twist her swords around the projectile and the center of her chi, redirecting it in a curve, safely away from her body. Since then, she has honed this skill to where it is now. Although particularly fearsome energy attacks can force their way through this redirection, many of Ayano's opponents find their arsenal of ranged options limited. When pressed, the Butterfly can utilize this technique as more than just a defensive gesture. If there is enough time between the launch of the attack and when it reaches her body, she can position herself in a way that will allow her to bend the energy back at its source, turning the attack on the opponent who launched it. Although Ayano rarely uses this offensive version of her technique, noting that most species are resistant to their own abilities, it has seen battle when multiple opponents are present, giving her the opportunity to strike at morale as well as increase the potential damage dealt by the redirected attacks.
Tsumujikaze (Whirlwind): Only usable during sealed or Shikai state, Tsumujikaze is a Zanjutsu style that has been dubbed 'the terror' of Ayano's fighting repertoire. While Tai Chi is by far its superior in proficiency, Tsumujikaze holds the title of most devastating, able to quickly dispatch enemies with no care towards manipulation. It relies on the tassels that hang from the pommel of Ayano's weapons--the reason why she cannot use it during Bankai, as her weapons no longer feature them during her final release. By grabbing hold of them and twirling her Zanpakutō, Ayano can turn her blades into cutting 'disks' that rotate at a rate of a few hundred times per second, cutting gashes into whatever the touch. While this alone is a formidable stance, she is also capable of swinging the weapons around her body in a manner not dissimilar to nunchaku, creating an area of danger for anyone who wishes to enter melee combat with her. Many enemies have fallen to this style, commonly by misjudging the power produced by the centrifugal movement of the blades.
No-Style: Ayano's talent with Zanjutsu can be qualified through her many legitimate, proven styles. Her actual repertoire, however, includes hundreds of movements that do not stem from any particular source; they exist solely through her thousands of hours of training and her insistence in mastering every avenue of swordplay. These peculiar movements are classified in the broad category of 'No-Style'. Included under this label is her ability to grab any end of her blade, whether released or not, and pummel opponents into the dirt with the hilt of her weapon. While notably peculiar and seemingly useless, the now-Grandmaster insists that even the handle of a weapon can be a legitimate mode of attack, and to ignore its potential is to misunderstand the full purpose of Zanjutsu. At its very core, the 'No-Style' functions in a way that makes Ayano terribly unpredictable in battle. It allows her to find a way to attack in almost any situation so long as she can touch one face of her blades. Rumors abound that she has actually broken her Zanpakutō (with its permission) in hundreds of different ways just to learn how to wield it effectively should a similar situation happen in battle. These rumors are true.
Hakuda Practitioner: Although Ayano is incapable of Kidō due to her complete devotion to Zanjutsu as an offensive art, she managed to learn a solid basis of Hakuda during her studies. In particular, her in-depth training of Tai Chi forced her to memorize the movements of its hand-to-hand stances. In battle, this almost never comes into play. It is exceedingly difficult to disarm the Butterfly from her weapons due to their close connection and her innate protectiveness, so the situation where Hakuda would find its use is rare. Should an enemy find a way to separate her from her Zanpakutō, however, she is somewhat capable of holding her own long enough to retrieve them. Tai Chi functions primarily as a way to manipulate force away from the body, allowing Ayano to avoid damage as she attempts to regain her Zanpakutō. As an offensive style, however, it is somewhat lacking, and her physical strength is not as impressive as other Captain-class combatants, leaving her in a difficult position should Hakuda be the only way to deal damage to her enemies. This, combined with her inability to use even the most basic of Kidō spells, makes her a Shinigami that relies heavily (almost exclusively) on her weapons.
Shunpo Expert: While the Butterfly may have ignored Hakuda and Kidō in favor of Zanjutsu, leaving them vestigial and essentially useless, her need to keep up with quick opponents forced her to learn a great deal about Shunpo. In the end, her ability to focus her efforts meshed with her naturally fluid movements and allowed her to become incredibly adept at the Shinigami art of movement. While she is nowhere as fast as the quicker Captains, namely Tsuriba Satto and Kirironai Utsuro, Ayano is able to keep up with most other opponents without expending a tremendous amount of effort. These abilities have--to her approval--increased the deadliness of her Zanjutsu by giving her a high level of maneuverability, which can be painfully necessary against enemies that rely on keeping a distance and attacking with ranged abilities. Due to her complete reliance on melee combat, Ayano most often uses Shunpo to shorten the gap between herself and these opponents, allowing her to put her 'real' skills to use.
Great Spiritual Power: With a strong amount of Reiryoku, Ayano has spiritual power typical of the Captain-class. It is not as impressive as those whose Reiatsu alone can function as a high-yield weapon, yet it is far greater than most Lieutenant-class individuals could hope to achieve. Unseated Shinigami and unspectacular Hollow are hard-pressed to stand once she releases the full power of her Reiatsu, which is a brilliant red that embodies the passion and unbridled strength of its source. Should she release enough of the energy, it blooms like enormous butterfly wings behind her, reaching a span of over forty feet before trailing off into indistinguishable swatches of crimson, rose, and maroon. When pressed into a battle of Reiatsu against a particularly powerful opponent, Ayano often finds herself somewhat outmatched. This used to be one of her greatest weaknesses. However, since she began sparring with Seisui Naito, whose spiritual power borders on the edge of impossibility, her resistance and endurance to the effects of overwhelming energy has increased tenfold, allowing her to function admirably under such conditions.
Enhanced Strength: As a Captain-class Shinigami, Ayano is capable of seemingly impossible feats of strength for someone of her build. Where other woman might have trouble lifting heavy weights, she can do it effortlessly, and she is more than strong enough to stop a physical attack from a Hollow five times her size with the palm of her hand. While this strength is rarely used due to her general preference towards Tai Chi, which only requires fluid movement, Ayano is capable of dealing terrible amounts of physical damage when she lands a hit with her Zanpakutō. Blocked strikes can sometimes transfer their kinetic energy through the defending weapon, injuring the tissues of whatever limb was holding it. The risk of Ayano simply cutting through a weapon exists, too, and it has been the downfall of many enemies who underestimated her strength and considered themselves beyond damage simply because they could intercept her attacks.
Enhanced Endurance: Like most other Shinigami, Ayano can endure massive amounts of physical damage before succumbing to the pain, falling unconscious, or dying. Her body can withstand injuries that would immediately kill or incapacitate a normal human, such as a ruptured organ or a lost limb, without shutting down. This allows her to continue fighting through otherwise impossible conditions, and it also contributes to her ability to withstand the incredible spiritual pressure that sometimes accompanies intense combat. Although she cannot regrow her limbs or heal grievous wounds without the help of skilled medical Kidō (or the ability of her Bankai), Ayano can fight through the pain without showing it on her face, which can be very unsettling to weaker opponents who would fail under similar constraints. She is resistant to poisons and toxins that would affect weaker individuals, and her skin, which is toughened by her Reiatsu, can block particularly feeble attacks without sustaining any visible damage.
Expert Strategist and Tactician: Ayano may not be the most intelligent Captain, but her far above-average mental capacity, combined with her stringent study of tactics, affords her a great deal of skill when it comes to strategic thinking. Her ability to plan ahead and coordinate the members of her division has been an essential part of many great operations, and it remains a pivotal factor in the function of the Gotei 13. In battle, this tactical ability allows her to analyze her opponents through their movements, drawing on her knowledge of combat and swordplay to predict movement and adjust her own stances to compensate for strengths and weaknesses. She can plan many steps ahead and adjust her strategies on the fly, giving her an advantage against simple opponents who prefer hacking and slashing. Many would-be opponents have fallen to her sword due to her planning and tactics, and the survivors know just how intelligent she really is.