Zanpakutō Name: Yūrei (Ghost)
Zanpakutō Appearance: Yūrei, the fearsome blade of the Kenpachi, has sown the seeds of a dark reputation. The rumors from its whispered name always speak of its raw power: the destructive past, present, and future that it seems to embody. Outside of Chūsei, the legendary Zanpakutō of Harotaissen Tsuribakki, this particular weapon is considered to be the most spectacular blade in the Gotei 13. And such compliments are not given lightly; dozens of scholars have studied the spiritual power, abilities, and history of the weapon, writing veritable encyclopedias on its every intricacy and nuance. The fact that its powers have allowed 'the Ghost' to live over two centuries past the average for a man in his condition is astounding, and many believe that it holds the secret to elongated life. Whether or not this is actually true has been under scrutiny for decades--no acceptable conclusion has been formed.
Taking the shape of a katana, this particular Zanpakutō does not seem all that fantastic at face value. The clean silver finish has surprisingly little wear considering how much use it sees on the field of battle; Naito's massive spiritual pressure consistently fills in and repairs the gashes and breaks in the weapon. But due to the vicious beatings it can dole out to sparring partners and enemies, blood stains and caked dirt are pretty constant, although a quick application of spiritual energy around the blade of the sword can vaporize any matter and make it pristine in a matter of moments. Although he is not much for keeping Yūrei in particularly good aesthetic condition, the least he feels he should do is make his Zanpakutō comfortable in its own saya. It does keep him alive, after all.
Unlike most katana, Naito's weapon does not have a tsuba. Instead, the tsuka of the Zanpakutō leads directly into the razor-sharp blade without any form of protection. Although many weaker Shinigami and those without spiritual powers might assume that this is a dangerous design, the Kenpachi cannot be so easily harmed by his own sword. The bond between the spiritual pressure of him and Yūrei is so strong that an almost impenetrable barrier is created between the two--this is true of most Captains--and even grabbing the cutting edge will produce no injury.
The ito that wraps Yūrei's tsuka is a deep, royal purple that matches Naito's eyes and their vibrant hue. A midnight black material rest beneath this decorative wrapping. The rich contrast of these two colors makes the famous blade instantly recognizable to those who follow the exploits of 'the Ghost'. A full-tang design allows the weapon to transfer the intense shock of Naito's powerful attacks through the grip without threatening structural damage, which is absolutely necessary for such a physically-focused weapon. Although recoil might reach the tendons in his arms, wearing and tearing at his flesh over time, his constant visits to the 4th Division allow his wounds to be dealt with long before they bloom into serious issues.
Unlike many other Captains and Lieutenants, Naito keeps his Zanpakutō on his person at all times, whether or not a state of war has been declared in Soul Society. Permission for this was granted to him by the illusive Central 46 due to his status as the leader of the most martially oriented group of Shinigami. This open wielding is made obvious by the rather public strapping of his black, spiritually-suppressing saya diagonally across his back. A thin, brown string made of incredibly strong material keeps this sheathe tight against his body, wrapping around his shoulder, chest, and upper-waist. The grip of the blade, while stored away, pokes out to the right of his head for easy right-handed removal.
When wielding Yūrei during war, sparring, or training, Naito generally keeps it held as a one-handed weapon, favoring his right side for consistency and strength. Although this kind of simple stance and style is somewhat common, especially amongst the martial 11th Division Shinigami, the Kenpachi is a demon with basic swipes and cuts that only require a one-handed weapon, making it far more effective for him than it could ever be for most other swordsmen. The pure strength of his strikes more than makes up for the lack of care he puts into the specificities of his technique. His Zanpakutō has only continued on with this reputation by causing severe damage wherever it makes contact, making it one of the most feared and respected blades in the Seireitei.
Zanpakutō Spirit: Deep within the heart and soul of a man destined for inevitable death lies a dreary, muck-soaked plane of existence. This seeping realm--a picture painted by Naito's tortured life--is the home of the dreaded blade Yūrei, one of the most powerful Zanpakutō spirits in the current Shinigami population. Rumors of its features are incredibly scarce due to the silent nature of 'the Ghost' and the limited contact he has given to the many scholars who have requested further research. Although some have had the privilege to be let in on some of its intricacies--usually through Naito's own writing--such sources are generally meager and rarely amount to anything but rampant speculation. As such, this particular inner world is one of the more mysterious amidst the Captain-class.
A swamp of infinite dimensions and incredibly complex geography, Naito's inner landscape sits silently under a starless night sky. Mysterious, somber light drizzles down from above despite the lack of celestial bodies, illuminating the murky waters and fetid bogs with an otherworldly glow that can mimic everything from a midday sun to moonlight. Silver and black hues dance across the the surface of the numberless pools of bubbling liquid. Although sometimes difficult to navigate--there are few constant landmarks--the pools of water always seem to flow in the direction of Yūrei; its spiritual pressure and power over the inner world pulls on the surface of the fetid water, drawing it inward as it moves about.
But the most peculiar feature of Naito and Yūrei's shared world is the variety of plant life. The different 'species' of flora--a loose term that hardly even applies--all seem to take the shape of a humanoid organ. There are root vegetables that look like beating hearts that pump mud beneath the ground; trees reach into the sky with leaves like patches of skin; multicolored flowers with eyes in the center of their petals stare, unblinking, at whatever passes by; and there are even hand-like wooden roots with fingernails of stone that burst from the muck and grab at the sky. These symbols of Naito's deteriorating body are almost endless in their variety and gruesomeness. The constantly shifting forms are always congruent to the condition of various parts of his body, although their actual appearances seem far more unbecoming due to their hybrid nature. Long before these plants lost their luster, the dreary bogs were open fields under a bright sky.
Charon's Breath, which causes the degeneration in Naito's lungs, gave birth to the rarest and most delicate organ-plants in the infinite marshlands. In the most secluded patches of somber light, one can find withered lungs dangling from short brown stems. These are representative of the most deteriorated part of Naito's body not only in their perfectly symbolic appearance, but their motion, as well; each time he breathes, even during deep meditation, they all seem to inflate and deflate at precisely the same time. There used to be many more of these plants--millions were present when he first visited his and Yūrei's inner world--but the numbers have died down as his condition has worsened. When the last one of these plants has withered away, the Kenpachi will be no more.
Yūrei, the guardian spirit of this inner world, takes the form of a mythical will o' the wisp made of pure white light. Its small size and rapid, spastic movements make it deceivingly weak and seemingly flighty. With a personality drawn from the basic instincts of self-preservation that Naito holds at his very core, this spirit, which is only five inches in diameter, has a drive to protect that can outmatch that of any other Zanpakutō, no matter how large or powerful they may seem. All of its time is spent in a vain quest to find and nurture the lung-shaped plants that hide in the far reaches of the swamplands. Although it knows full well that its efforts will change little, its duty to Naito is clear, and it continues to bolster his strength no matter how futile things seem or how close to death the Kenpachi falls.
Because of the unique shape that Yūrei takes, it is incapable of producing speech from its own form, nor is it able to see, hear, touch, or interact directly with any material--it can phase through anything, much like its namesake implies. An essential connection between itself and the organ plants of the bogs allows it to bypass these issues. As Naito walks through his inner world, eye-shaped flowers follow his steps. Vine-grown ears can transmit auditory information over impossible distances. Essentially, Yūrei is omniscient while these organ-plants survive, and its bonded awareness with its wielder only helps to increase its recognition of his arrival.
Shikai Appearance: Unlike most other Captains, especially those who use highly advanced tactics, Naito is extremely quick to unleash the Shikai form of his Zanpakutō, often relying on it against opponents far beneath his capabilities. To him, its presence is a necessary step in increasing his strength and absolutely ensuring that his offense is at its highest potential. Such a simple fact makes it very difficult for him to fathom why others hold back their full strength so far into battle, or why some Captains keep their higher abilities secret. The idea of specialized tactics and misinformation is something that he certainly understands and accepts, but it can be difficult for him to empathize when subtlety has played such a miniscule role in his life.
Naito has a deep bond with Yūrei--similar to the links that other Captains have with their own Zanpakutō--that allows him to bypass the release command and ritual normally required to enter Shikai. It is an extremely rare occasion where he will actually find a purpose for going through the extra step, which only grants a small boost in power, and it often comes down to intimidation against particularly important opponents. If his weapon is drawn and he chooses to release this way, he begins by sheathing it--this step is ignored if the weapon was never taken out from its scabbard. He then grabs it with his right hand from over his shoulder and states:
The metallic words echo through Naito's ventilator as he pulls his Zanpakutō from his saya. A white and purple light glows from within it, changing the shape of his blade as quickly as it breaches the top and is touched by the open air. While the grip of the weapon remains completely unchanged, its thickness and style shift from a traditional katana to a machete, with a wider, straighter cutting edge that functions perfectly with the quick and brutal slashing style that the Kenpachi employs. This increase in surface area only starts a little more than an inch above the end of the grip, leaving an awkward gap where a tsuba would normally sit.
Although the abilities of his Shikai are entirely under his mental control, perceptive opponents may be able to notice a slight shifting of light around Yūrei and Naito as his spiritual pressure quickly spikes, as if he were somehow fading in and out of reality. This is a window into the abilities of his Zanpakutō, but it is only momentary and can be incredibly difficult to spot without prior knowledge of what to look for. Those who manage to gain a glimpse of this peculiar sight can get their hands on a slight tactical advantage; unfortunately, the Kenpachi's vicious fighting spirit can easily make such knowledge rather moot.
The immediate spiritual pressure released upon the activation of Shikai is monumental. The forces of energy that explode outwards from the Kenpachi, a title held only by the strongest of Shinigami, are proportionate to the weight that his position holds and can easily blow away unseated Shinigami and normal Hollow as if they were paper in the wind. Lieutenant-class individuals are also pressed to find themselves standing within this aura of Reiatsu, although the strongest amongst their ranks might be able to withstand the pressure long enough to escape to a safe distance. Captains, Espada, or other extremely powerful combatants, even with their incredibly astounding abilities, are loathe to bathe in the waterfall of spiritual power for too long without bolstering their own in defense. Those who find themselves unable to keep this energy at bay are quickly wracked by feelings of impending death and unimaginable sorrow, stripping away the will to fight, defend oneself, or, in extreme cases, to live.
Incorporeal Shifting: The primary ability of Yūrei, which is classified as a utility-type Zanpakutō, allows any proportion of both Naito and itself to phase out of the material realm and into an incorporeal state. Physical matter, whether made of mundane particles or reishi, cannot actively interact with anything shifted in such a way. This allows 'the Ghost' to pass through solid material as if he were a specter--his namesake is derived from this--or bypass a parry in order to cut the opponent behind it. It also permits him to dodge many forms of ranged combat by fading portions of his body out of the corporeal world; any body parts or items in this state are identifiable by their translucence. Due to the non-interactive nature of phased out and normal material, Naito should, conceptually, fall into the ground or, in the expanding universe of the Human realm, rocket across the solar system as space moved around his unaffected form. What stops this from happening is the fact that Reiatsu, a unique state of spiritual energy, can still influence incorporeal particles. By instinctively controlling the spiritual pressure around his feet, he can effectively remain in one spot, float in the air, or sink into the ground at whatever pace he chooses. This is similar to the ability that skilled Shinigami can use to hover in the air. This capability to be affected also means that anyone who can surround their physical weapon/body with Reiatsu stronger than Naito's, which is what creates the effect in the first place, can actually cut him or block his strikes without having to time them perfectly. Fortunately, such individuals are extremely rare. Attacks that are comprised entirely of spiritual energy such as fire-type Zanpakutō, Cero, or illusory abilities are similarly uncaring of the transient state of the incorporeal shift.
Ectoplasmic Blood: As soon as Shikai is released and Naito's Reiatsu spikes, a strange reaction begins to occur within the blood cells of his body that constitutes the second ability of his Zanpakutō. 'The White Tear', a nickname given to him because his tears are, in fact, white, is lifted to a new level as the same hue begins to take over his bloodstream, as well. This odd effect is due to the internalization of Yūrei's power, which is almost entirely concerned with protecting the Kenpachi from harm. Any open wounds or internal injuries expose this blood to a situational trigger that sleeps deep within its genetic code. Like the normal congealing effect of regular blood, this ectoplasmic variant can seal up wounds, battle infection, and prevent further bacteria from entering the body. Among the differences between these two sanguine forms are the speed in which this happens--a couple of seconds instead of minutes--and the fact that the Reiatsu-tainted blood does not need to come in contact with the air for it to trigger. Any injury can cause this reaction to take place, which helps Naito's body suppress internal injury before bleeding causes organ damage. Even broken bones are isolated and kept clean. A peculiar side-effect of this ability is an extreme drop in internal body temperature. While this does not give the Kenpachi any weaknesses or strengths against fire-based or ice-based techniques, it does make him cool to the touch, and his spilled white blood seems to let off a trail of mist as it bakes in direct sunlight.