Aldrich assessed the situation. There were two ways to approach this. First was direct conflict. Take out three swords here and now. No, four counting Shuten Doji. The second was to accept the first sword's offer.
The first choice was tempting in its own right. It would heavily cripple the swords if, of course, Aldrich and his current group managed to beat them. That alone was a massive if. He had too little information on the battle capabilities of the three swords, and they were the strongest out of the seven.
The first sword's display of power was a deterrent enough. He had instantly sliced Clint in half with little to no effort. Clint, a man so tough that he was called the Unbreakable. That was offensive power that Aldrich had never encountered before.
The attack was lightning fast, too, extremely difficult to react to even for Aldrich. Had Volantis not been amplifying Aldrich's reaction time, even he would have not been able to deal with it. Granted, slicing attacks were not that effective against undead. But it was impossible to tell whether the first hand had more powers or not.
Eliminating the swords here also meant more trouble later on. It would weaken them, but it would not destroy them given the swords' reputations for being diehard fighters with a battle forged code of honor. It was very likely the remaining swords would fight harder than ever before, and all of them were capable threats, even the remaining fourth, six, and seventh swords.
Technically speaking, if Aldrich wanted the path of least resistance, then fighting one sword was better than three enraged ones, even if said sword was the first and strongest. The best way to defeat an experienced and aged Alter was to run them out of energy, and that was done better in a sustained siege.
The second option meant that in exchange for Shuten Doji, Aldrich would only face the first hand at Blackwater. By now, it was fairly obvious what Aldrich, or rather Thanatos, was after: the Machineheart.
It was a three-way war between Aldrich, A.I.I., and the Italian and Japanese Prongs entrenched in Blackwater. Both enemy forces were extremely formidable. One was a deranged demon merged with a fragment of the greatest cyberspace entity in existence. The other was arguably the most well-resourced criminal syndicate in the world, and defenders always had the homefield advantage.
Weakening any of these forces was a tremendous advantage. Aldrich had no way to take A.I.I. out a�" the demon maintained far too much secrecy for that. But if Aldrich took the swords out of the equation, then he estimated he would easily take out a huge chunk of Blackwater defenses, especially with the Kryptic warding off Solomon Solar.
That just left mercenaries and Italian Prong forces to deal with, and Aldrich had a plan to thin out both of them before the fight already.
The decision was fairly obvious in Aldrich's mind. What mattered was if he trusted the first sword's words, and that, he had no real answer to. However, there was someone here who knew the first sword better than he did.
"Clint," said Aldrich. Clint perked his head up. "Do you think the first sword here will keep his word? You know him better than I do. Better than all of us do."
"You would dare to question grandfather's honor!?" said Yuki. She clutched her naginata tight in her porcelain white hands. The temperature of the hot Wastelands air turned into a chilling freeze in an instant.
Monk raised his hand to stop her. "Stop, my child."
"Old shit's a cruel fucker. But he don't lie. I'll give him that," said Clint.
"And you, Clint, are you fine with setting your fight aside for now?" asked Aldrich.
"I'd love to smash his masked head in now, but I can hold off. I don't got as much a quarrel with the rest of em'."
"Then it's done. I will allow this exchange to happen." Aldrich motioned down at Shuten Doji, sending a mental command to bring him up. Alexis did so, grabbing the large man by the shoulder and heaving him up with her flight.
"My child. I am glad to see you are unharmed." Monk held prayered hands toward Shuten Doji.
"Seen better days." Shuten Doji grunted, bruises marking his body from the fight he had taken before with Clint.
"I give you your fifth sword, and you'll come alone," said Aldrich.
"That is the terms of our negotiation," said Monk. "But I do have one more request."
"Somethin' else? Don't be adding on anymore to our fight, Monk," said Clint.
"Not like that. I have resolved myself and only myself to the fight." Monk pointed at Shuten Doji. "I merely request that my child's daughter is held to safety. That no harm fall upon her until the time of my passing.
Whether that be soon-," Monk glanced at Clint. "Or far in the future."
"I'll agree to that," said Aldrich. He looked to Clint to see if he was fine with this, and Clint nodded slightly. "But only if you can promise that there will be no retribution from your other children afterwards."
Clint had vengeance in his mind, but he was not and never had been a cruel man. Aldrich could tell there was a part of Clint that could empathize with Shuten Doji's bond with his daughter.
"Of course." Monk nodded.
Aldrich waved at Alexis, and she shoved Shuten Doji forward. Before the big man could fall, Otakemaru reached out and grabbed him with one brawny hand.
"With this, the exchange is completed. You have your child. I'll see you and only you at Blackwater," said Aldrich.
"I will see you too, Shinigami. I have always wondered what it was like to see the face of death," said Monk.
"And? How is it?" said Aldrich.
Monk let loose a single, curt laugh. "Cold," was all he said.
Otakemaru curled his fingers, and from them, bright white claws grew out, savage and feral like that of a wild beast's. He swiped at the space behind him, ripping seams in the space. Through these, the swords disappeared.