Artist: Nujabes/Idst - Song: BattleCry - Word Count: 2134
Ryuzaki sat and meditated, as he had many times up until this point. He reached out to his Zanpakuto and after a time he found himself once more on the black beach that was its inner world. In front of him, back turned as usual sat Asanagi. He looked the same as he had previously but there was something different about him this time. He gave off a different feeling. Ryuzaki slowly approached, and when Asanagi made no move to greet him he simply sat himself down as well, content to wait. After only a short time Asanagi turned to him and began to speak."There is more to being a successful warrior than training your body. Your mind must also be fast and sharp. If you lack in either of these areas then you can not possibly live up to your potential.
To neglect one would be foolish, but so far in your training you have done just that. You train your ability to swing your sword, and your body's physical endurance, but you have undertaken no scholarly or intellectual endeavors in your whole time here. Perhaps this is because you've had time all of your life to train your mind, but just recently have you had the opportunity to train your body in this way. Well this line of thinking leads us nowhere good. You must adjust your mind to the scope of your new abilities as they grow so that your body doesn't rise beyond the limits of your strategy. This is a very important lesson that you must not forget, or your growth will be severely hampered. Today I'll be helping you hone your intellect by presenting you with a few problems. Do your best to come up with the answer, and feel free to take your time.
Ryuzaki sat in the sand, stunned by the onslaught of words that Asanagi had just spewed at him. His Zanpakuto spirit has always been tight-lipped in the past, but recently Ryuzaki felt that they'd been growing closer. Perhaps he'd been right after all, after this display. Putting his hand behind his head Ryuzaki sheepishly scratched at his scalp and smiled slightly.
" I guess you're right, I have been pretty caught up on developing my physical abilities lately and I've completely neglected any sort of training for my mind. Well, alright then, what do we do exactly?
Asanagi smirked and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a strange metal object with several interlocking parts which were easily maneuverable but at the moment, unfortunately, seemed to be stuck in place. Asanagi deftly maneuvered the pieces and within only a few moments he'd assembled it into the final product. He presented the object for view, several metal rings made up the bare bones ghost of a sphere. Just as quickly as he'd solved the puzzle Asanagi rearranged the pieces so that they were once more hopelessly intertwined and handed it to Ryuzaki."This is a simple puzzle, I'm sure you'll be able to solve it with no problem. Move each piece until it aligns with the corresponding piece on the opposing side. If you move one piece too early then a different piece will not be able to shift into its place, so think ahead.
Ryuzaki took the strange silver puzzle and inspected it closely for several moments. For a long time he could make neither heads nor tails of it, and began to worry that it he wouldn't be able to grasp the concept behind the whole thing. After around ten or fifteen minutes though Ryuzaki began to understand what he was doing. He wasn't making incredible progress, and he had to undo everything he'd done so far many, many times during the process, but he was learning. He began to realize that there were some special maneuvers required, although he couldn't quite work out what they were supposed to be. Taking a few moments to think Ryuzaki finally began to move the pieces once more and... failure. Frustrated, he returned to square one and began once more. This happened a few times before he finally got close. It happened quick once it finally did start happening. First he could see that he was about two thirds of the way there. They next try he was missing only about 4 pieces, and then finally he managed to solve the puzzle. It had taken him orders of magnitude longer than Asanagi, but he'd asked for no help, and he'd received no help. He was able to solve the thing all on his own in the end, it just took him a bit of work."Alright Asanagi, I've figured this one out. Now what? Do you have riddles for me to solve as well? Are we going to play charades?
Asanagi turned towards him and smiled. Then he simply pulled another puzzle from his pocket and handed it to Ryuzaki, taking the completed one back. This puzzle appeared to solve into a cube, whereas the first turned into a sphere. Ryuzaki sighed, and prepared himself once more for the grueling task of solving these strange metal puzzles. "It took you an inordinate amount of time to solve the first one, you know. Quite disappointing. Well you certainly won't have an easier time with this one if you struggled with the first. Hopefully it won't be too much for you though, that would really be a shame, wouldn't it?
Although Asanagi was often sarcastic or distanced, he seemed to truly mean what he said now. He was hoping that Ryuzaki would be able to solve this puzzle, and that was a welcome change from the usual. Content to sit and think for a while longer yet, Ryuzaki began to ponder the second silver puzzle. It seemed similar in some ways to the first, yet in other ways it was obviously very different. It certainly had more pieces to it. Ryuzaki started off simply by seeing how the pieces moved, one by one. He tested them all, and found out which pieces interfered with the others, the he made a note of it in his mind. Then he began trying to solve different sections of the puzzle before he worked on the whole. He was able to complete one quadrant, but then he realized that the pieces would react differently once they were built up, so it seemed he had a lot more to learn about this puzzle box. After only a few more tries Ryuzaki had gotten remarkably close to a solution. While this puzzle was certainly much harder than the first he now felt confident that he could solve any puzzle like this. Once he warmed up and began to think critically about his actions it was much easier to move forwards.
Right before he finished the puzzle though Ryuzaki ran in to one final problem. With each quadrant almost completed, only one piece left out of place he found it impossible to move forward. He was stumped momentarily, but after a few moments he noticed the solution, went back a few steps, and tried it out once more. He'd simply switched a couple of the pieces, and now they all slid neatly into place, completing the cube. Ryuzaki was quite pleased with himself, he'd managed to solve the second puzzle in slightly less time than the first had taken him."Well that's a pleasant surprise. I was worried that you'd be stuck for a while on that one. Seems like you got the hang of it thought, that's good. I've got one more puzzle for you to solve before we're done with training for now. I'll warn you now, this puzzle is considerably harder than the first two. I'll give you one hint to help you along with this one if you need it.
Asanagi handed Ryuzaki the final puzzle and once more turned away. Ryuzaki twisted the puzzle in his hands and studied it. It was radically different from the first two, this one had very many more pieces, and it didn't seem to form into any completed shape when it was fully put together. He moved a few of the pieces but almost immediately he was met with resistance. This would take some figuring out."Asanagi these are some interesting puzzles you've gotten your hands on, truly remarkable. The first two were much simpler than this one is though, this might take a little while, so you had better get comfortable.
Asanagi smirked, but did not answer. Ryuzaki focused his attention once more on the puzzle he held in his hands, moving pieces this way and that until he began to think he was getting an idea of what to do. He spent more time simply figuring out how to start this puzzle than he had spent completing the last one. Once he was finished with that though things got easier, at least for a while. About half way through the puzzle though, Ryuzaki realized that there was more to it than he'd initially thought. He once again found himself having to undo all of his hard work, and started again, from scratch. He knew that Asanagi had offered to give him a hint if he needed it, but he was determined to prove himself capable. He would figure it out on his own if it took him the rest of his life to do so. Now that he was working on the puzzle after having just taken it apart he realized that he had to assemble a few small pieces then twist them up and out of the way before finishing the pieces that sat between them, and then finally swinging them back down and into their proper places. He accomplished this and then smiled. He'd managed to get about halfway through the puzzle. Before he continued he looked over the puzzle once more. This was as far as he'd managed to get and he didn't want to have to undo more of his work later, so he carefully inspected the puzzle until he thought he had an idea of exactly where every piece needed to go, and how it would get there. There were a couple of tricky bits left in the puzzle but fortunately Ryuzaki foresaw them, and was able to overcome them on his first try. He was learning quickly. Only a few minutes later Ryuzaki stood, held the puzzle up, and examined it once more. He thought it was completed, but it was still no recognizable shape, just a bunch of random pieces that fit together nicely."Asanagi, I think I'm done. I'm not sure though, what's up with this one? Both of the other puzzles were normal shapes, this one's just, well nothing. A few dozen different pieces all smashed together. I just don't see why this would be its final shape."That is not its final shape. You still have yet to complete the puzzle. You've done everything correct up to this point,
but you're not yet done. Consider that your hint, although I know you didn't ask for it.
Ryuzaki frowned and looked at the puzzle once more. He turned it several times in his hands and then folded it in half. The pieces went along with him easily. He did this several more times, against different, very faint, and very small lines on the puzzle. After ten or so minutes he'd finished and what he was left with was a small pyramid. He sat it in his palm and looked at it more closely. It reflected the light that shone from the full moon above him, and he thought it was rather beautiful. Asanagi appeared at his side, looked down at the pyramid, and smirked."That one's really something, isn't it? You keep it,
you can rearrange it in to different configurations and then build it in to different shapes, not just a pyramid. You've still got much to learn about that puzzle. But that's enough for now. I'm tired, it's time for this world to sleep.
As Ryuzaki prepared to leave he could see the sun slowly rising above the horizon far in the distance. He found himself sitting once more, with his sword in his lap. It was nice having a Zanpakuto spirit that helped him out. Maybe he'd finally proven himself, and things would be easier with Asanagi in the future. Or maybe this was just a rare occurrence. It was impossible to tell with Asanagi.