"Overkill" on the "Wind"
Well, it looks like Nianzol did not survive Shutara's trap, and he falls as Shutara throws his words about bad habits back in his face as he dies.
I know some people are likely disappointed about this, but I am also reminded a bit about Driscoll in the way Nianzol went down within two chapters of his introductions. We were not formally introduced to Driscoll until the chapter before Yamamoto vaporized him, and it was in that time he was revealed as the one who killed Chojiro.
When you got over twenty individuals in a group of antagonists to juggle around, you can't spend a long amount of time on all of them or else things will drag out to an intolerable extent. An antagonist being taken down within two chapters of their introduction is not unheard of in regards to manga, as I have seen it happen in other stories.
For example, one of the twenty-seven Stand users fought by Jotaro and Co in "Stardust Crusaders" had "The Sun". It was a very powerful Stand, but its user was this overweight fellow who went down to a rock thrown by Star Platinum, had no dialogue whatsoever, and only appeared in two chapters (his Stand, at least). In Nianzol's case, he was used as a means to show off Shutara, who was able to think around Nianzol's ability.
The Spirit King's Soldiers
Having disposed of Nianzol, Shutara is now confident enough that her soldiers' blades will be enough to reach Yhwach. Yhwach responds by summoning more Stern Ritter from his Shadow, and comments they will be enough to deal with the Spirit King's soldiers.
With these words, I have to re-evaluate my thoughts on the soldiers with Shutara being her Zanpakuto. While strong, the Soldat are still below the level of a Vice-Captain - we saw Momo blow up a group of them with Tobiume - yet Yhwach is confident they will be able to take on the Spirit King's soldiers. He would not be saying that if these soldiers were the result of Shutara's Zanpakuto.
However, they are not all Yhwach has stored in his Shadow...
Stern Ritter of the IX Monogram
Because Yhwach also kept his Elite Guard in his Shadows.
What is distinct about these four is they have the IX monogram emblazoned upon their mantles, which in themselves are visually different from the standard Stern Ritter mantle beyond that. So far, the IX monogram has been associated directly with Yhwach, so this is likely an indicator of their rank within the Stern Ritter.
Now, let us break down the Stern Ritter and their Schrift:
Gerard Valkyrie - Stern Ritter "M" The Miracle: From the start, he seems to take inspiration from the Norse culture, and the helmet he wears is even similar to the comic book Thor's own. His Schrift is "The Miracle", and there are a myriad of things that could mean. By definition, a "Miracle" is an event not attributable to scientific or natural laws, and is often attributed to the acts of supernatural beings - mainly Gods. Considering the religious theme of the Quincy, this is likely the kind of "miracle" Kubo is referring to. Considering the power displayed by the other Stern Ritter whose epithets embody abstract concepts ("The Visionary", "The Balance"), I have a feeling "The Miracle" is going to have a very OP power.
Lille Barro - Stern Ritter "X" The X-Axis: The most distinct features Lille possesses are the X-mark over his left eye, as well as the protrusion visible under his mantle. I would not have expected Stern Ritter "X's" Schrift to be X-Axis. As Andy pointed out in the Sternritter Letter Tally thread, the Kanji used says "rock penetration". At this point, it is hard to guess what it means and has to do with his power. Perhaps it has something to do with Cartesian coordinates, but it is a mystery at this point.
Pernida Parnkgjas - Stern Ritter "C" The Compulsory: The strangest one of the bunch, we don't even see their face. Even the hood of the mantle shows a strange outline - especially with the eyes situated at the top of the hood. The Compulsory is a power we will see later in the chapter, but the word itself is derived from "compulsion", and that is when you compel/force someone to do something. Andy even translated the Kanji as "Compulsory execution".
We already know about Askin, and we finally have his Schrift confirmed as "Deathdealing", and the Kanji used is "lethal dose". It does tie into what Askin mentioned about how many scenarios he would have to try for Mayuri to die. By this, it likely means he can analyze his opponent, and through that determine which scenario would be most likely to kill them, or something like that. I also heard it mention (can't recall if it was here or elsewhere) that the "lethal dose" could tie into his remark of "poison" to Haschwalth.
As Askin points out, he was the only one who was "promoted from below" - he even seems nervous when pointing it out - which means that, while the Stern Ritter all share a joint title, there seem to be a distinct set of ranks within the Stern Ritter hierarchy. It must say a lot about Askin's abilities if Yhwach promoted him to his Elite Guard. That said, it says a lot about the Elite Guard as a whole if Yhwach considers their powers to be great enough to take on the Royal Guard. As it stands, I don't think these guys fought in the first invasion.
NOTE: Personally, I think that there are other members of the Elite Guard that Yhwach might have kept in the Seireitei, but that is just me.
Algorithm of Antagonists
What is going on right now in the Royal Realm is living proof that the Stern Ritter and Quincy as a whole are not simply depicted as greater antagonists than the Arrancar, but are greater than them. The ten Espada were so hyped because they were ranked as the ten most powerful Arrancar in Aizen's army, and the hype further increased because of how Toshiro described the Vasto Lordes.
However, the top three Espada failed to live up to the hype the fandom attributed to them at the end of the day. While Starrk did overwhelm Rose and Love when they went against him, and Barragan had Soi Fon on the ropes, none of them fully defeated a Captain at the end of the day (the only Arrancar to do so in FKT was Wonderweiss), with Starrk and Barragan killed by the Shinigami and Harribel disposed of by Aizen personally. For all the hype the Espada got, they failed to out-right defeat a single Captain of the Gotei 13.
On the other hand, those Stern Ritter whom Yhwach picked to be his Elite Guard are being set up against the Royal Guard, the same group of people described by Shunsui as being stronger than the entire Gotei 13 combined. These four are the Elite Guard, yet the other Stern Ritter still in Soul Society were still able to easily clean the clocks of the Gotei 13, with the only Shinigami (who have fought so far) able to actually fight and defeat them being Rukia, Renji and Byakuya (after training by the Royal Guard), Zaraki Kenpachi (after having his full power awakened), and Mayuri (living up to his claim he's the only one who can win without Bankai). Everyone else suffered complete defeats or pyrrhic victories.
Now Yhwach has marched right into the Royal Realm and he brought Haschwalth, Uryu, and his four Elite Guard members with him, and he is setting up the latter to fight against the Royal Guard. He trusts these four enough to fight against the Shinigami whose contributions to Soul Society shaped its history, and none of them are Haschwalth or Uryu.
Assault of the Elites
As Askin talks about how he needs to make himself look good - looking nervous all the while - Gerard prepares to leap into action, removing his mantle to show a sword and shield, and a freakin' cape (he really is like Thor ). He also tell Askin that he better prove himself useful or else he'll cut him down himself. This seems to set up the difference between the Elite Guard and the normal Stern Ritter - if being in their presence can make Askin sweat, then they must be a big deal.
Gerard channels his Nordic roots and is the first to charge against Shutara, who draws a short blade to respond to Gerard's attack, but he cuts right through it and even appears to cut Shutara as well. As he strikes again with a blow that goes right through the platform, Shutara dodges it and tells her soldiers to enter into the "Soul King Formation" and stop the Stern Ritter. At this point, we see a giant entity appear that bears the same appearance as the foot soldiers with shields on its arms.
As I said before, I am reconsidering these things being Shutara's Zanpakuto, and it is clear now they are not even Human if they can combine themselves into a shape like that. Given that Shutara is commanding them, I am feeling pretty certain they are of her creation, and I suspect they may even be based off the Gigai, if that turns out to be her invention. It would make sense that Shutara's contribution that put her in the Royal Realm be the Gigai, considering her skills in weaving and how it could have led her to invent the Gigai in the first place.
If this is the case, there may be more Spirit King soldiers commanded by other members of the Royal Guard, such as Nimaiya commanding a squad of Asauchi, and it is possible Hikifune could have a squad of Artifical Souls. That would leave Kirinji and Ichibei without subordinates like the other three, but that is just speculation for now.
Summarizing the Behaviour of Defeat
As Gerard comments on the size of the entity, Perinda says something that we and Shutara cannot hear. I think both translations might be wrong here, so I believe Lille is telling us what Perinda is saying: "So it's huge? What of it?" Perinda says more, air is expelled from behind the hood, and the Giant Spirit King Soldier is suddenly twisted and distorted in all the ways a body is not supposed to be twisted as Shutara watches on.
This seems to be what the "compulsory execution" means of the original Kanji: whatever Perinda says, the target's body is "compelled" to act that way, most likely through a bodily manipulation of their reishi. If that is the case it means Perinda seems to be another Stern Ritter whose power is channeled through their voice, like Berenice and Jerome.
As Shutara reacts to this, Lille asks her if she just entertained the possibility that the Royal Realm will fall. As he unveils the freakin' cannon that seems to make up his right arm, he then says this: "If comprehension comes slowly, reaction will also follow suit...that's always how it is...when you're on the losing side of things."
I do believe this fits with the behaviours of the majority of villains in defeat in stories. The comprehension of their defeat comes very slowly to them (if ever) and their reactions to that possibility also comes very slowly.
Once he is finished saying this, he blows a hole in Shutara's skull and that ends the chapter.
At this point, I am thoroughly convinced that this Shutara could be a Gigai of herself she whipped up and sent ahead, as I do not believe Kubo would have one of the Royal Guard killed like that without even showing her Zanpakuto. After all, Urahara has pulled the Gigai trick more than once in his time on-screen, so why not Shutara?