They soon met up with Gin as he had secured seats for them in the caravan. Noticing the glances they were receiving, Gin realised that something must've happened when he left them alone. After hearing what had happened, Gin started to openly swear while he thanked Itsuki for being there. Who knew what would've happened if he wasn't there. Gin shuddered just thinking about it.
Itsuki had noted that his presence had finally started to have an effect in this universe. As compared to the original, Gin was more open to him and Rangiku while with others he would return to the Gin form the anime. Narrowed eyes into slits, a mocking grin never leaving his face and always speaking in a sarcastic tone.
After blowing off his steam, Gin questioned Itsuki, who was cleaning his hat, as Rangiku leaned in to hear the answer
"So, how did you defeat them?"
"Luck, I suppose" Replied Itsuki, while putting on his bamboo hat, not willing to let the beans out the bag. This was related to his biggest secret and, although, he didn't like lying to his friends he had no other choice. Maybe there will be a chance for him to tell them in the future.
Seeing the look on Gin's face, Itsuki knew that he didn't buy his explanation, but kept quite regardless. However, the same could not be said for Rangiku. This naïve little lass, fully believed what Itsuki had said as he could see her eyes had glazed over and a blush had surfaced. The same could be said for some of the other young maidens who had witnessed the fight. Even though his mask was still hiding half of his features, you could still tell that he was extremely handsome. The mask just increased his charm by adding a point of mysteriousness onto him.
And the way he stood forward was, for them, like a Shinigami protecting a noble of soul society from the clutches of evil. Elegantly defeating them before taking her hand and reassuring her.
Seriously, his crude fighting skills had somehow become an elegant dance. Even the soul king would be stumped into how the thoughts of these maidens in love worked.
Now back to the topic on hand.
The three weren't charged on what had happened as they were the victims and due to the fact that the person who told them this was constantly looking at Itsuki in fear while sitting in such a posture that protected his family jewels. Fortunately, the rest of the journey went on without any hitches as they progressed to District 1, the environment getting cleaner and well maintained. They stopped every so often to resupply and pick up any more applicants wishing to join the academy. The population of the caravan exceeded 1,000 people by the time they reached District 1.
The caravan wasn't able to go to all of the districts due to lack of manpower and it would simply take too much time. So when they arrived, they spotted another 6 caravans already there as people pitched tents, to work as temporary shelter, until the day of the exam.
It never crossed Itsuki's mind that so many people had come for the admission into the academy. With a rough estimate of around 6,000 applicants, this was just North Rukongai alone. IF the other areas had similar numbers then there would be a grand total of 24,000 applicants. He wondered how the Shinigami would manage as he made his way with Rangiku and Gin to a cheap inn to finally get some rest.
- The Next Day -
The three got up extra early knowing it would be quite a wait if they went late. The exams were taking place next to the walls of Seireitei, these were humungous walls that surrounded Seireitei, made out of material called sekkiseki, a material that could absorb spiritual energy.
Once they reached the designated exam area, they realised that they weren't the only ones who had thought of arriving early. They joined the people already queuing, spotting some servants setting up a platform and around 5 large tents. The exams would start at sunrise and it would test the amount of reiatsu they had, its potential and the chances of awakening a zanpakuto.
As the sun began to rise, they noticed a group of Shinigami coming towards the platform, leading them was a tall and youthful man. He had aqua green eyes and spiky raven black hair. He wore the standard Shinigami shihakuso consisting of a black kimono and white undergarment with a katana strapped to his obi sash. The katana was most likely his zanpakuto.
He made his way to the top of the platform and waited for the applicants to gather round. Once he saw everyone had gathered he started making his speech,
"Welcome, everyone, to the entrance exam of Shin'o academy. My name is Shiba Kaien and I will be overseeing your exams…"
Itsuki finally realised why the man seemed familiar. Shiba Kaien was a Shinigami that was part of the 13th division, under Ukitake Jushiro. He would later become the lieutenant of the 13th division around the time when Gin graduates. Kaien was a very ethical and down-to-earth man with a strong sense of duty. He treated his fellow comrades indiscriminately, earning him the adoration of his fellow division, aristocrats and commoners alike.
Itsuki quite admired him for his beliefs. Kaien believed that one's 'heart' was determined based on the prospects of fighting and protecting. He was a firm believer in Captain Ukitake's philosophy on fighting, which consists of two types of combat: the fight to protect life, and the fight to protect honor. Kaien took it a step further and believed that they both ended up being the same thing: 'Heart.' He believed that one's 'heart' exists in others, and that it remains with his or her comrades even after death. Having held such views, he believed that people should never die alone.
The speech finally ended as Kaien stepped down and moved into the tent. The people were then grouped into 50 rows each containing 120 people. The ones on the back sat down as it would be quite the wait. Unfortunately the three friends were separated during all the chaos and were part of different rows.
People were then called in one by one into the tents where they would be tested. Itsuki came to the concluded that each tent contained 10 rooms in which the examination would be held. People were called in and were quickly shown the way out showing that the failure rate was extremely high. After waiting for around an hour, his turn finally came up, and to his surprise it was also Gin's and Rangiku's turn.
He came into the tent was shown to a servant where they took his information down
That was all they asked, reason being that if they passed then the Seireitei will become their home otherwise they will be sent back. He then pointed Itsuki to the direction of a room where he will be tested.