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Maki's Training: Kenji's ImprovementEdit

The Rukon District. Near a large waterfall where Maki also lives and trains.

Kenji looked around the impressive sight with a sense of awe. The water spilled over the cliff face in a thundering torrent that roared loudly. "...How did you find this place?" Kenji asked carefully. To get here, they had to pass through a thick forest. The waterfall was in a descent sized clearing with a small, wooden house and several training apparatus set up. Dummies for Hakuda and Zanjutsu training and several targets with rings around them spotted the area. "I get what the dummies are for," Kenji began, "But what about those targets? The only long-range attack I know is Sandādoragon o Utsu and it leaves me knackered."

Maki sighed and flicked his finger. The target he aimed at snapped in half immediately and fell backwards! "There's far more to a Shinigami's abilities than their zanpakuto. Remember that."

Kenji was left speechless! He just flicked his finger...Haha! I've hit the mentor jackpot! Running after his new Sensei, Kenji asked excitedly, "Um, that whole flicking-finger thing? Are you gonna teach me that?"

"Trust me Kenji, I'll be teaching you far more advanced abilities than simply hardening your spiritual energy into a projectile. Now, defend yourself!" Maki flashed forward, Chi no Gisei flashing as Kenji barely managed to block the attack! Maki smirked, turning quickly to avoid Kenji's hasty counter and met Kenji's drawn wakizashi. "Hmm, dual zanpakuto while sealed and whilst in Shikai? Interesting. Now, I'm going to tell you the easiest way to gain strength. You and I are going to fight like we mean it. And your going to stay alive as long as you possibly can." Kenji's training began quickly and with little remorse. Maki expected you to try your best and improve upon your best the next time, or at least to equal your previous attempt as long as you bettered it into the ground the third time around.

Time Skip...

And so, Kenji's training under Maki was swift and brutal. In the day, he done his studies at the Academy, and afterwards, he trained into the early hours of the morning with Maki and on occasion, Rikimaru Ichinose. Both were harsh taskmasters, but they were fair. After the first handful of sessions, when Kenji couldn't seem to keep up with their superior strength or abilities, he would concentrate on avoiding one more strike, inflicting one more injury on his teacher; to go another hour without dropping from exhaustion, and he'd land one more blow than he had the day previous to that. His body was in agony all the time; but his skills were growing quickly. His Academy Instructors were greatly surprised by his progress in all his classes, despite the fact he was wracked with pain. He discussed his training daily with Yoshiro and exchanged tips on how to avoid what and how to better counter that. Momoko was even giving them pointers.

After four months, his Zanjutsu skills increased to the point that he could challenge Maki seriously without relying on his wakizashi; his Kidō developed until he was the second best in his class, only lagging behind Momoko Misaki. His Flash Steps improved also and he now had the reflexes to avoid Maki's hardened spiritual bullets, and could do the same with his own spiritual pressure. Those around him remarked that for one only in the Academy, his skills were equal to that of a seated officer. But the brutal levels of his training regime was about to get a lot worse...

Time skip ended...

All Kenji felt these days were pain topped with more pain. He refused healing because he'd only feel the pain anew a few hours after. But the way he seen it was that the more injuries he received and the more pain he endured, the stronger his body and will would become. Sometimes, the pain would be so intense, he felt he wouldn't be fit to go on. But one thing kept him going, one image, one event that burned in the back of his mind with all the intensity of a thousand suns; his friends being cut down and defeated by someone who was after him. When he pictured Yoshiro and Momoko, lying with The Trickster standing over them, Kenji somehow found the resolve to keep going; to deliver that one final blow, to avoid another strike and to increase his reserves of spiritual energy by a little more that he did the last time. Maki was even forgetting to hold back during their sparring sessions, but Kenji didn't mind that in the least. Those small, unintentional bursts that were calmed with an apology, gave Kenji an idea of what he had to be aiming for. To beat The Trickster, he had to become as strong as The Trickster and there was no magical way to become stronger overnight, except through hard work and patience.

Rikimaru profile pic

Rikimaru Ichinose.

Rikimaru Ichinose was his Instructor today. A tall man who spoke little and trusted far less, Rikimaru was a man who's trust had to be earned. Trained by head-Captain Yamamoto, he was deceptively skilled with a blade, to the point the only person Kenji knew who was more skilled was the man overlooking his training. Maki had honed his skills to well beyond a masters level and could defeat most with a single blow if he wanted. Rikimaru's strength, however, didn't lie in his swordsmanship, or his fantastic skill in Flash Steps. It lay in the many ways his zanpakuto allowed him to amplify his spiritual pressure to the point it could be used as a physical weapon. He wore an all red outfit with a jacket and trousers and a black shirt underneath and goggles wrapped around his neck. His long black hair blew lazily in the wind.

Kenji's Sensei smiled a cruel smile as his sword cut the air. Kenji avoided the shock-wave of spiritual energy that tore through the ground in the forest clearing with just a jump. His leg strength had grown a great deal over the last four months, and he now only used Shunpo when he needed to. The forest clearing had long been reduced to a crater with many smaller craters within; the only completely untouched area was the area where Maki kept his home. Most of those craters were from Kenji being slammed into the ground, but some had been caused when Kenji had been the one doin' the slamming. He was quite proud of that.

He moved gracefully through the air, avoiding another quick shock-wave before he shunpo'd 'round to the right. Rikimaru-Sensei...you're attacks have a time limit. I've only seen it recently, but it's there. It takes you five seconds to build up the energy, compress it and then release it. Five seconds...Not much to work with, but I think I can show 'em my newest ability.

With another shock-wave avoided, Kenji began his approach, cautious encase Rikimaru allowed him to see that time gap on purpose. He was good at that. Too good. He would often make something obvious, baiting you to go for it, and then show you that you were completely wrong. Kenji still remembered the time he thought his Kidō shots were limited to seven at a time. For badness, Rikimaru blasted him at point-blank with one more and told him not to be foolish. Kenji had no eyebrows for the better part of two weeks.

Kenji released his sword mid-run, "Strike Aoi Inazuma," and grinned as the sword changed and the lightning flowed. Peeling off the blade at like a snake shedding skin with mere conscious thought, Rikimaru assumed a defensive posture, He means to come at me head-on, again? No...there's something different this time, Rikimaru observed calmly. Okay, Kenji, I'll play along this time. If anything, I'm curious to see what kind of tactic you've come up with. He slashed his zanpakuto to the right horizontally and then swiftly to the left, making sure he kept the time span between blasts five seconds.

Lightning shot from Kenji's zanpakuto, splitting into four segments, two going to collide with Rikimaru's shock-waves and the other two surrounding his feet and ankles. That's it! The only one who's seen this ability is Yoshiro. The lightning propelled his next Shunpo at an incredible speed, fast enough in fact to appear to Rikimaru's left and deliver a wound upon his Sensei's shoulder while he could do nothing but stand and gape! Keeping his spiritual energy high and not allowing it to waver was difficult, but he'd need to be prepared to lessen the damage caused by Rikimaru's counter attack...

...which came when Rikimaru slammed his blade into the ground and sent everything around him flying with a shock-wave of immense power! Feeling a trickle of blood flow from his mouth as he slowed himself with Shunpo, Kenji whipped it away. Maki sat up from the stump he'd assumed as his seat and began clapping. "Very good, Kenji. You kept your energy strong and hardened it when needed to lessen the damage. Now, let's test your reflexes. Rikimaru, I think we'll both have a go. Kenji," Maki said with an expressionless face. "My bullets will come from the north and west. Rikimaru's to the south and east. Avoid as many as you can for as long as you can without actually taking to the air. That will be the signal to stop. Take a deep breathe, boy, because we begin at the count of ten."

Kenji reached for the wakizashi now strapped horizontally on his back. At a time, he had tried to keep the blade hidden, but Maki and Rikimaru had convinced him to wear it and be proud, telling him that only those with a truly unique spiritual pattern had dual zanpakuto while sealed. The count reached six as Kenji prepared himself mentally. These spiritual bullets are small, fast and pack a punch. If I cut them, I'll only increase their numbers. Kenji channeled his spiritual energy and closed his eyes. There was no point using his eyes for this exercise. The bullets of spiritual energy would be coming in too quick for his eyes to follow them all. Feeling his two Sensei's energy helped, because those blasts were simply their spiritual energy flying towards him.

"Ten!" The bullets commenced and Kenji began moving as though he was performing the steps to an intricate dance maneuver. The flat side of his swords were large enough to completely repulse the bullets and he avoided those he couldn't reach with the blades. Thirty seconds stretched to a minute, and a minute stretched to two, but Kenji still avoided them until he finally leapt skyward. The bullets stopped immediately and Maki nodded in approval. "Two minutes fourteen seconds. You improved your time by nineteen seconds."

"I'll do better next time." Whipping sweat from his brow and allowing himself a chance to catch his breathe, Kenji drunk deeply from the bottle of water Rikimaru tossed him. "Maki, my father won't tell me the reason this Trickster fellow's so hung up on me. I mean, he want to kill me and all, but do any of you know why?"

Maki turned his gaze towards his old friend and training partner, but Rikimaru only sighed and shrugged his shoulders in reply. That one action alone spoke a hundred words. Maki motioned for Kenji to have a seat. "...It really isn't my place to tell you what happened, Kenji, but I believe you have a right to know. You know that Koichi and Ryouta found you as a child, correct?"

"Yeah, I've known for a while now that the Hiroshi's aren't my blood parents. But that doesn't stop 'em bein' my mother and father. They've both raised me, not knowing where I came from, and showed me every kindness they would've had I have been there own."

Maki grinned at the response and continued, "It wasn't as simple as they made out. The Trickster was there that night as well, but Ryouta fought him and Koichi drove him off. The next time he made an appearance was when you were three years old. That time, he was driven off by Jiro Kazuki and Garian Shinjo. They almost killed him too, but he managed to get away."

Kenji nodded and sighed. "So he's been after me since i was an infant, basically? Lovely. Thanks, Maki. Let's keep this our little secret, okay?" Kenji got to his feet and sighed. "I'm sorry to ask this, Maki, but could I have the rest of the day off? I was hoping to put in an evening with Yoshiro and Momoko."

Maki nodded his allowance and motioned Rikimaru forward, "Rikimaru will accompany you as far as the Seireitei. I'll stay here and see if I can't tidy the place a little. Kenji, your training will be all the harder tomorrow to make up. Can't have you slacking on me."

"I wouldn't dream of it." The youngster replied, a grin on his face as he directed his Sensei a look over his shoulder.

A Night Under the StarsEdit

Momoko lay with her back on the grass, the wind blowing slowly over the green just outside the Academy structure. The sky was a sea of stars tonight and looked like something pulled out of a fairy tail. She often came to places like this with a good view of the stars and moon. The moon was full tonight and had pride of place in the skyline.

With a sigh, she recalled the events that almost ended her life four months ago. She was still having nightmares about it, could swear she felt his sword tearing through her chest. The man who saved her, Maki Zhijun, had brought her back from the brink. The memories of a tunnel of light in the darkness that urged her to approach and then being wrenched away so quickly. She also owed Kenji thanks. He possessed little skill with healing Kidō, and yet he had managed to keep her alive until Maki brought her back.

Turning around at the sound of rustling leaves, Momoko regarded the figure with a warm smile. "I was beginning to think you wouldn't be able to make it." The figure stepped from the shadow of a tree and took a seat beside her.

"I wouldn't miss this. How could I? It's been exactly four months since we fought him, after all." Yoshiro sighed as he stared across the skyline. He, like Kenji, had undergone some harsh training in the last four months. Momoko seen him more muscular, he carried himself with less of a goofy air and his spiritual energy was stronger, but more calm than it was before. It was also beginning to take on a more icy feel, even without the use of his zanpakuto.

"Yeah, do you think Kenji will make it?" She replied quietly, attention on the stars instead.

Nodding quickly, Yoshiro scanned the area quickly. "He'll be here shortly."

"You two have really gotten stronger. I mean, the Academy Instructor's have even compared you both to seated officers! I can't help but feel a little left behind."

Yoshiro laughed at that, but stopped when she thumped him hard! "...Your not weak, Momoko. You never where. We've all got out strengths and weaknesses. It's just part of what makes us who we are. I mean, I suck at Hakuda."

"Yeah, and I suck at bein' anywhere on time!" The two turned as Kenji dropped in beside them, bumping fists with Yoshiro and hugging Momoko. "It's good to see you guys outside the Academy for once. We haven't had a day like this in so long."

"Tell me about it, pal." Yoshiro said, leaning back and slipping his left arm out of his kimono to expose a good portion of his chest. "...Ah, feel that wind. You know, I always stare at the stars like this. Don't know why, just do."

Momoko looked at them both and took both their hands, "Let's promise that we'll all try to meet up like this more often, okay? I mean, I see you both everyday, but I don't really get to talk to you. Kenji's off training in the Rukon District and you, Yoshiro, are off sparring with Ryouta."

Nodding their agreement, Kenji and Yoshiro leaned back to stare at the black sky above. Momoko looked at both and then placed a hand on both. "I can sense how tired you both are, you know. How are both handling this level of pain and weariness?"

Kenji kept his mouth shut, as did Yoshiro. This pain is nothing compared to what I seen him do to you two, Kenji thought, suddenly angry. He beat that down quickly, though. He wasn't going to let his temper ruin this.

Because I couldn't help the last time. What type of man can't protect their friends? Yoshiro thought sadly.

The two settled for the same answer, and spoke in unison, "Pain is only temporary."

The two looked at each other funny, and then laughed. "I swear, you two are like children! Pain is only temporary." Momoko scoffed, tone pissed off.

Kusaka portrait pic

Kusaka Kori.

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Sojiro Kori.

The three sat up alert, when two spiritual energies they recognized from their classes in the Academy approached. "Oh, sorry, I hope we're not intruding." The owner of the voice was Sojiro Kori, the youngest son of the lesser noble family Kori. His older brother, Kusaka Kori was with him.

Sojiro had a pale appearance, especially in the light of the full moon, with short silver hair with a good portion of it hanging in front of his face to frame it. His eyes were violet and he wore a slightly modified Academy outfit with a high, white collar.

Kusaka had fair features with neck-length, dark brown hair with a great deal of it hanging in front of his face just like his brother. His eyes were red and he wore a regular sleeveless Academy outfit with a gray coat over the top.

Kenji and Yoshiro seen both as rivals, because their marks were consistently at the top. Kusaka's swordsmanship was flawless, his Kidō skills high and he had an extremely high level of spiritual energy. Sojiro, unlike his older brother, had a genius intellect and a keen analytical eye. His Kidō skills were only below Momoko's in potency and his reflexes were top notch. His swordsmanship, although not as good as his brother's, was nothing to scoff at either.

Kenji smiled and rose to greet the two, "Naw, you ain't disturbin' nothin', Kusaka, Sojiro. C'mon, have a seat and chat a while. It ain't as if we own the view, right?"

Kusaka nodded and took a seat near Kenji. He was more talkative than his brother, Sojiro, and was much like Kenji was himself in the regard he cared little for a person's origins or rank. He simply spoke to whoever he wished in a way he wished others would speak to him. "We normally come up here," He said as he stared across the skyline. "Not often you get as clear a night, either."

Sojiro took a seat opposite Momoko and the two began to discuss the history of the Soul Society as described in a book Sojiro had loaned Momoko. The two were having a good time, laughing as they made their own observations about the topic as it was known and how it differed from a version they read in another book.

Kusaka motioned Kenji and Yoshiro to the side, where he spoke in a whisper, "Heard anything else about this Trickster fellow?" Apart from Koichi, Ryouta, Maki and Rikimaru, Kusaka and Sojiro were the only people who knew that Kenji and his friends were almost killed four months ago, and why they were training so hard in the first place.

Yoshiro sighed and shook his head solemnly. "We've heard as much as you have. Remember that sample of Reiatsu Maki preserved? It disappeared without a trace. We're back to square one, no leads and no idea who he is."

"We don't need to know who he is," Kenji interjected suddenly, voice calm. "We pound him into the ground! There's nothin' else for it. Why else have we been trainin'?" Turning to Kusaka, Kenji slapped him lightly on the arm. "The guy won't get away with what he did to me, or my friends. This guy's been stalking my shadow since before I was in diapers. I think it's about time I was rid of him."

Yoshiro and Kusaka looked at him strangely, but it was Kusaka who spoke. "He's been after you this long!? Man, why didn't you say anything? Between the five of us we-"

"Would get our assess kicked," Yoshiro put in firmly, but sadly. "Don't give me that dumb look, Kusaka. We've already fought him, remember? Kenji's teacher, Maki, says he could've killed us with his spiritual pressure alone if he wanted to. A hundred of us wouldn't make a damn difference."

Kenji shook his head when the two began arguing. Silencing them with a spiritual bullet apiece, he looked them both in the eye, his own burning crimson. "Listen! You've gone and written yourself off already! No, we won't be beaten, not again. I've been trainin' my backside off for four months, and I intend to do the same until I'm strong enough to crush The Trickster like a bug beneath my boot! That's a promise."

Kusaka sighed and smiled finally. "Kenji, your right you crazy-son-of-a-bitch! You know what? I'm gonna help you when that time comes. Sojiro!" His younger brother growled at being disturbed, but turned his head anyway. "We're gonna train like there's no tomorrow. Kenji might need help with this bastard, and we'll be the ones to help him."

"Yeah, yeah," Yoshiro put in with a laugh. "Enough about assassin's for tonight, eh? Let's enjoy the view and catch up, like we were supposed to."

"So, how have you two been, then?" Kenji asked, eyes returning to their normal aqua green. "You weren't at the Academy for the last three days."

Kusaka grinned and showed the zanpakutō strapped to his back. It was sealed in the form of a straight-edged sword. His blade was straight and slim, though somewhat short, with the tip ending in a slanted razor-like edge instead of being tapered to a point like most katana. The sheath was colored a dark red and was decorated with a piece of blue string. "I was off learnin' my Shikai. Spent three days in Jinzen, which wasn't at all nice. Knackered afterwards."

Sojiro nodded and rose, showing his own zanpakutō. Sojiro's zanpakuto took the appearance of a normal katana with a blue hilt and square guard. The sheath was colored red, and like his brother's, was decorated with a piece of string, only Sojiro's was red instead of blue. "I learned mine as well, and he was far from accommodating. Our swords decided to test us with a battle beforehand. Pretty brutal."

"You want brutal," Kenji declared loudly. "Then train with Maki and Rikimaru for a week. I've been with 'em for four months, and my bodies in agony all the time. I think I've forgotten what it feels like not to feel pain of some kind. I've broken bones, cracked ribs and have been concussed more times than sense. I've nearly died six times. That's brutal. Fighting your zanpakutō? That's a walk in the park with a comforting breeze at your back."

Yoshiro nodded agreement. "Ryouta's the same way, only worse. I've actually been revived once after being technically dead for two or three minutes. Captain Unohana wasn't pleased."

"Yeah, but you're both more muscular." Momoko put in with a grin. "And I can't say I'm complaining..."

Kenji flashed a grin, "You should've said so," He dropped in beside her and put his arm around her shoulders and earned a thump in the ribs for his trouble. She tried to thump him again, but he patted her arm away and kissed her on the cheek. The five friends laughed and talked well into the early hours, leaving their troubles, worries and fears behind; if only for a short time.

Hollow Invasion!Edit

Yoshiro dodged to the right and blocked Ryouta's steel spikes with a shield of ice that didn't even shatter this time when the steel struck its clear surface. I'm getting stronger. Ryouta-Sensei always used to shatter my defenses without much trouble. Turning quickly, he shunpo'd to Ryouta's back and was met in the jaw with a spin punch that almost unhinged it! Falling on the flat of his back, Yoshiro put his hand on the ground and watched with a bloody grin as ice sprouted from the ground, seeking Ryouta as a target.

The steel he wrapped around his limbs blocked it all, but the attack fulfilled its purpose. Yoshiro jumped to his feet and outstretched both hands. "Ryouta-Sensei! I'd dodge this if I were you! Aisumēkā: Sasu yōna Tama!" The semi-frozen sphere of spiritual energy formed and countless shafts of ice, some sharpened and others not, shot toward Ryouta, seeking him like a missile with a heat-seeker! Ryouta batted some away, avoided others and shunpo'd around the one's he couldn't reach, but six of those shafts struck him and sent him soaring into the ground below!

Yoshiro's Ice Bow

Yoshiro's Ice Bow in use.

"Yes!" Yoshiro ran forward, a bow encrusted with ice forming in his hand as he rained arrows upon his mentor. Ryouta literally burst from the ground, a happy, mocking grin on his face before he struck the ground with enough force to cause a crater to form beneath him! Sharpened steel spikes shot from the ground in all directions, trapping Yoshiro in like an animal.

Ryouta began spinning his staff-like zanpakuto continually, until a single steel spike, moving so quickly Yoshiro could do nothing as it pierced his shoulder and slammed him into the trunk of a tree, pinning him there as pain surged anew throughout his body. "No pain, Yoshiro. Ignore it. It's only temporary. You can break free...all you have to do is look for a way."

Spiritual energy as cold as Yoshiro's ice burst from the trunk of the tree and pushed the sharpened spike directly out of his body. Blood spurted until Yoshiro froze the entire wound over and stood again. "Don't be a fool," Ryouta said quickly, and in a tone that meant he meant it. "Head over to the 4th Division Barracks and get that seen to, okay?"

Meanwhile, on the streets of Seireitei....

Kusaka Kori was walking quickly through the streets of Seireitei with his younger brother, Sojiro, when he overheard two Shinigami talking anxiously, "I'm telling you, they'll kill us all! The Captain's don't wanna tell us anything, but I saw 'em. There's an army of hollow running rampart through the lower districts of the Rukon District."

"Your crazy," The other one replied with sweat running down his face. "Be careful who you tell that to, or you'll be sorry."

Kusaka continued walking. Sojiro followed, obviously pondering what was just said. "You look like you've got something on your mind, bro. C'mon, tell me what your thinkin' about." Kusaka said as he walked.

Sojiro smiled and began curling his finger through his silver hair. "Isn't Kenji in the lower districts of the Rukon District? I know he's stronger than us, but..."

"If there's an army, even he's screwed, right?" Kusaka finished, hand on his zanpakuto. "Only one thing we can do, then, isn't there? You ready to go help our pal out?" Sojiro nodded his reply and both vanished together.

At the 4th Division Barracks.

Momoko watched as people were rushed in and out of the infirmary. In no time at all, a descent sized army of hollow had invaded the Rukon District and were destroying all they found. It wasn't just the Rukon residents that were getting slaughtered and injured. The Shinigami on patrol duty were surprised and easily overrun. Healing another poor soul of their injuries, Momoko moved to her next patient. Captain Unohana had sent a messenger to the Academy to bring Momoko here because the 4th Division needed extra hands with healing experience.

Captain Unohana directed a new arrival over to Momoko, and she gasped when she saw who it was! Running over, she placed her hand on Yoshiro's wounded shoulder. The only thing that kept the blood from flowing was a solid block of ice made using his zanpakuto. "What happened to you? Did you try to face those hollow?"

Yoshiro grinned, eyes suddenly excited. "What hollow? I was training with Ryouta when this happened. He was showing my that no matter the situation, there's a way out and demonstrated by pinnin' me to a bloody tree trunk." He said that with a smile, too. Are all boy's idiots!? I expect this from Yoshiro and Kenji, but Ryouta-Sensei? It's like being friends with a bunch of small boys!

Yoshiro grimaced as the ice melted away. Their was a circular hole in his shoulder a good 2 inches in circumference and the blood was flowing anew. Healing the tissue with the new healing Kidō Captain Unohana demonstrated, Momoko slowly began healing the wound and easing the pain. When the time-consuming process was finished, she wrapped the wound tightly in bandages. "...You really didn't know about the hollow?" She asked as she finished the dressing.

"Naw, I finished my classes early today and went straight to Ryouta-Sensei. What areas have been attacked?" He flexed the muscle a little and grimaced in pain. It's only temporary, he thought stubbornly. "There, good as new."

Momoko sighed and looked across at the people being rushed in and rushed out. Some were close to dying, others had severe internal injuries that would kill them without aid. "The lower districts of the Rukon District. We haven't received word from Kenji or Maki." Worry entered her tone.

Yoshiro got to his feet and tested his arm again and again until it didn't hurt as much to move it. "I'm going. If this is the damage those hollow can cause, then Kenji will need help, regardless of what he thinks or how strong he's gotten. I recognize some of these Shinigami," he said carefully and quietly. "They're special forces. The Omnisukidō. If they're gettin' beaten by mere hollow, then these are a cut above the average."

"D-don't go...after t-them, son." An injured man in a black mask covering his entire face said. "Something...something new," Momoko went to him immediately and checked his pulse. Upon finding one, she began emergency treatment immediately. Glancing over her shoulder, however, she seen that Yoshiro had bolted, a small sculptor of ice made that read "He'd do the same for me".

Yoshiro ran through the streets, avoiding those who would move and knocking ones out of the way that wouldn't move. He'd do the same thing for me, he repeated again in his head. Images flooded his mind. Ever since the two met, they'd been the best of friends. Ryouta-Sensei said it himself that their teamwork was impeccable despite not knowing one another. They'd fought, bleed and trained together. Conquered tests their mentors placed upon them that would break the wills of any other. I have to help him. He's like my brother!

In the Rukon District! Somewhere outside District 80: Zaraki.

Kenji turned quickly and felled another hollow that appeared to his right. He held his katana firmly in his right and his wakizashi in a backward grip in his left. His blades were sealed currently, because Ryouta had told him to conserve his energy. Rikimaru was in the middle of a large group of hollow that were suddenly sent flying when he slashed the ground once and released a powerful shock-wave!

With a broad grin, Kenji danced through the hollow horde, swatting them like flies and delivering precise strikes like the type Maki favored during combat. Speaking of Maki, he was enjoying himself by really letting loose! His shinigami robes were splattered with blood, but not a drop his own. With a lithe, graceful movement befitting a much younger man, Maki severed three hollow at the waist with a single slash and leaped high before splitting the very ground with a downward strike! "Hah! Rikimaru, this brings back memories, eh? Kenji, don't lag behind, boy! This is your training!"

"Ha, I hear ya Sensei! Rikimaru!" Kenji called, flying past him. Rikimaru grasped his kimono, halted him in mid-air and hurled him straight into a group of hollow charging towards them! Spinning like a wheel in the air, Kenji cut a line straight through them and spin-kicked the closest in the chest as he landed. Sheathing his blades momentarily, he let loose with Hakuda, hardening the spiritual pressure to crush masks, arms, legs and ribs with but a few strikes. Looking to his right, a hollow slightly faster than the rest moved in on Rikimaru's exposed flank. Kenji shot forth like a bullet from the chamber and caught the hollows face in the palm of his hand, turned and plowed it through several others before releasing it to collide with the trunk of a tree!

Turning, the previous 3rd seat looked Kenji up and down with a smile. He slapped the youngster lightly on the shoulder before pushing him to the side and splitting a hollow with enough force to split the ground afterwards! Nice to see he cares, Kenji thought happily as he returned to the slaughter. "Hey, Maki!" He shouted over the continual wail of hollows dying. "Where did all these hollow come from, anyway?"

"Not a clue, boy. My attention's been on your training, least you forget." The seasoned veteran called back just as loudly. Hollows fell by the dozen-full when Maki swung that sword, and they went flying every-which way when Rikimaru swung his. But I'm keeping up, Kenji thought excitedly. He turned, patted away a hollows talon, spiritual energy hardened like steel around his hands as his right hand struck like a viper. Pulling it free, the hollow fell forward and Kenji kicked it square in the left temple, using it crashing through the horde to distract the others while he gathered himself again.

There was just no end to them, though. The three Shinigami had been here taking a break when several Garganta opened and out poured the bowels of Hueco Mundo! The Districts behind number 80 would be under attack, but they couldn't ignore the people who were already here. Any survivors were grouped behind Rikimaru's Kidō barrier and watched anxiously as the hollow struck at it; but never did it bend or stress in the least.

Meanwhile...Yoshiro was running through the Districts, helping those he could as he looked for his friend.

Encasing any hollow he seen in ice, Yoshiro continued moving. He no longer felt the strain of using his Shikai continually, because he used it so often. During his training sessions, Ryouta would always make him use his Shikai, because increasing strength came easiest when the Shinigami harmonized with the spirit of their zanpakuto. His relationship with Aisumēkā had improved as well, and his spiritual energy rose whenever he asked his blade to help him.

He had no idea how far in he was currently, but the hollow were definitely increasing in number and strength. He was probably getting close to where the main battle was taking place. If there weren't anyone fighting out here, then the entire place would be overrun. Those hollow are too organized for my liking, though. Guess I should hurry up- Yoshiro turned quickly and saw a Garganta open almost beside him, and at least twenty hollow poured from it before it snapped shut. Turning and preparing to blast every one of 'em into oblivion, he was halted when a very familiar and welcome spiritual energy appeared nearby...

Kusaka Kori Shikai

Kusaka Arrives! Shirudomun Released!

...and Kusaka burst forward with a shunpo, a fierce, battle-hungry look on his face, "Guard Shagetsu!" he called, and his zanpakutō changed into a massive blackened scythe and his eyes flashed red with a blue hue as he cleaved the hollows clean in two with a single strike! Landing beside Yoshiro, he flashed him a thumbs up before spinning the crescent moon blade dangling from the long chain attached to his scythe's base. "Now that's what I call an entrance, eh Yoshiro?"

Sojiro walked forward and sighed. "Kusaka, you never change, do you? Are you okay, Yoshiro?" He asked concerned. "We would've gotten here sooner, but someone," He glared at his brother, "decided he needed to kill every hollow he seen. Then, well you seen his entrance."

"That's what I do best, little bro." Kusaka replied with a grin, but afterwards, he was serious again. "Yoshiro, we need to get goin'. Now. If I know Kenji, he'll need someone to pull his ass from the fire!"

Looking at them both in turn , Yoshiro grasped Kusaka's shoulder, "We kill any hollow we see! Now, let's get goin'!"

"We hear you, boss," Sojiro added as he swiped his zanpakutō through a surviving hollow. "You missed one, Kusaka."

"Ah, it was only one. Besides, it's the little bros job to clean up after their big bro, right?"

Rolling his eyes in turn with Yoshiro, Sojiro and the others bounded into the sky, cutting straight to the heart of the matter; The Hollow Horde amassing on the horizon...

Back to the thick of it...

Kenji looked as hollow closed in from either side. He had a gash across his back and a small wound on his forehead that wouldn't stop bleeding. Both his sleeves had been tattered and there was a hole in the chest area of his kimono. Blood suddenly appeared, forming a shield between Kenji and the hollow and they crashed against it. Maki stood defiantly as he tore his way through them to stand side-by-side with his pupil. "Never thought they'd send hollow this powerful. It's a full on invasion!"

"Was it just me, or did i see some hollow doin' the commandin'?" Kenji asked as the blood shield parted for him to strike out and then closed swiftly afterwards. Rikimaru wasn't even touched yet, but with those shock-waves of his, who could blame him? Anything that came within a foot of him was sent flyin' with spiritual energy, and he could fire those things off all day long. Kenji had personal experience of that because at times, he thought he could still fell his head ringing from one of 'em.

"The leaders? Suppose I wouldn't expect you to know that." Maki said as he tore his sword through six different hollow. His blood gushed forth and ensnared them before crushing them tightly. "Those are the Adjuchas. Think of 'em as annoyin' little blighters that can command anything below them in the hollow peckin' order. Yeah, and Menos Grande are below 'em." He didn't sound happy at that.

Menos Grande. Those things are supposed to be strong enough that when they fire their Cero, there isn't supposed to be an atom left. "Are Menos Grande really that special?" Kenji asked as Maki's blood shield vanished and the two laid into the hollow amassing around them. They were in the center of it now, the heart of the hollow army, but there was one very nice piece of news Rikimaru had obtained earlier. There were no more coming. The Garganta's had simply stopped opening for some reason.

Maki, eyes going wide, received a wound on his arm just to drag Kenji from harm's way and slashed the hollow in question across the face before releasing his grip on the youngster's kimono. "It depends what way your lookin' at 'em, boy." He went on as though his arm just hadn't been slashed at all. "In groups, they're powerful. One-on-one, the only thing you have to watch is their Cero. You can repel it...but it ain't ideal and it wastes some serious energy. Besides, you risk losin' your eyebrows."

"Oh come on!" Kenji declared loudly. "That happened once! Once damn it!" The smile vanished as Kenji done the saving this time and slipped his katana under Maki's arm to kill the hollow coming from behind, talon raised. It slumped back lifelessly. "Hey, your watchin' my back, right?" The two suddenly stopped dead, as did the hollow. A man with rich clothing and a large blade stood in the sky, a confident, mocking smile upon his face. "Is this all the Soul Society can throw at us? Three Shinigami?" He scoffed. "Pitiful! Go my hollow! Leave not a one of them alive!"

The fellow vanished into a Garganta, but Kenji burned his face into his mind. That man would be back, at some point in time. Taking to the air, Kenji stood alone, using Shunpo to float. The winged-avians of the hollow world soon circled him, but that was his plan entirely. With a deep breathe, Kenji raised his blades into the air as he prepared to release. The clouds darkened and storm clouds gathered as he directed his spiritual energy into the atmosphere. Since training with his zanpakuto more often, his spiritual energy was beginning to take on many lightning-like attributes. He had a tendency to shock people accidentally and when powering up, his energy would often short out nearby electrical appliances. "Strike Aoi Inazuma!"

Kenji's lightning

The effect of Kenji's downward strike.

Lightning struck the blade, and when the smoke cleared, Kenji grinned before electricity gathered at his feet, propelling him forward at a tremendous rate! With a single running strike, he tore through six hollow before turning and releasing a concentrated electric blast through the air that felled four more. Looking down at his Instructor's, Kenji picked out Rikimaru. He was fighting alone against odds that would kill even the most seasoned Shinigami. He had a cut across his chest and another on his left arm, and by the look of it, he couldn't use it properly. Anger gripped the young Shinigami. Descending, lightning cloaking the blade, Kenji roared "Rikimaru! Take to the air, damn it!" And he did, just as Kenji slammed his katana blade into the ground! The ground erupted from below with a fantastic display of lightning energy that expanded to cover an earlier crater Rikimaru created. The wailing of dying hollows were drowned out by crackling electricity! Breathing haggard, Kenji stuck his sword into the ground to keep himself from falling. "No one...attacks my mentor..."

Rikimaru looked at the scene with genuine awe. Four months ago, this child could barely handle his Shikai or spiritual energy. Now look at him! Four months later and he's fighting side-by-side with Maki and I, and he isn't even slowing us down! Unbelievable! Kenji Hiroshi, you have my respect, young one.

Maki shook his head as he appeared beside Rikimaru. "What did I tell you?" Maki said quietly. "I knew he'd be something special. This in only four months. Imagine what he could do in a year."

Goosebumps rose on Rikimaru's arms. "Do I have to? Do I even want to?" He admitted. "Maki, this kid would be a brilliant Captain. We know his character better than most. He was the one that convinced us - US - to come here to fight in the first place."

"I know, it would nearly bring a tear to your eye, wouldn't it? Ah, but we're in the middle of a fight, and I doubt these hollow will be courtious enough to allow us to finish. Let's go Rikimaru...and watch yourself."

The two oldies landed beside Kenji and grinned. The three stood on a descent sized crater. Grinning like a chesire cat, Kenji spoke. "You gotta admit that that right there, was good. Wait a second here." He said, scanning the area quickly through quick breathes. "That's Yoshiro! I'd know that energy a mile off. And Kusaka's with him! Sojiro too! We'll eradicate them all when they get here."

Maki looked over his shoulder as well. "Hmm, they wouldn't be the ones I'd name first. The Gotei seem to have finally moved on this. It seems we're finally gonna get ourselves some reinforcement."

Echoing the comment with a sword-swing that released a powerful shock-wave, Rikimaru sighed. "You know, the Gotei 13 have really let themselves slide, lately."

"None of that matters!" Kenji barked, standing straight, breathing still a little haggard. "All we gotta do is fight until the reinforcement gets here, right? Yoshiro and Co. will be here before them, so all we gotta do is hold out! Maki, we need to be at our best. I'll keep 'em busy, you see to Rikimaru-Sensei's left arm."

Maki's right eye twitched furiously at being commanded by someone fit to be his grandson, but he also knew when a good idea was being proposed. "...Very well, Commander," He said sarcastically. "Rikimaru, we've been demoted to healing duty, let's go and leave him to it, eh?"

With the departure of his mentor's Kenji re-sealed his zanpakutō and took a deep breathe, relaxing his body and focusing his mind. Looking at the hollow all around him, Kenji sheathed his blades with a clink and channeled some of his spiritual energy around his arms and legs before hardening it. That exercise came so easily now. With a loud roar, the hollow converged on him as one. "From thine hand of staggering might, stab all those who block my path! Hado 26! Yariawai!" Raising his fist, Kenji spun quickly, cutting the first wave of hollow that came with a concentrated wave of blue lightning energy before jumping toward them. Striking out with quick kicks and rabid punches, Kenji continued his dance-like attacks until he touched the ground. Spinning, he caught a hollow in the chest with his kick, heard its bones crack and smiled as it flew into its fellow hollow.

Reaching for his wakizashi, Kenji turned to deliver a decisive blow, but sparks flew as his blade collided with another!

The hollow with a Shinigami's Strength!Edit

Kenji looked the humanoid dead in the eyes, arm struggling to hold the fellow's sword from cleaving him clean in two! I didn't even sense this guy approaching, damn it! And that sword -that's a bloody zanpakuto! - just who is this guy!? Reaching for his katana blade, Kenji attempted to behead the person there and then, but he jumped back and grinned widely, licking the blood from his cheek. "Dude, now that right there, was unnecessary."

Calm down, A voice called confidently. Looking around for the origin of the voice, Kenji stopped when he realized how foolish it made him look. If you only you knew...There it was again! "Maki, did you say something?" He called, but the older Shinigami wasn't even in earshot, so it wasn't him, and since he was healing Rikimaru, it wasn't him either.

The...well, thing...drew his sword. He was about as tall as Yoshiro with what appeared to be mask remnants on his left lower jaw and chin, which ran the entire way around his head and connected at the back. He had long, red hair and wore a white coat which showed a portion of his hollow hole, which was located on the right side of his chest. Well that makes him a hollow. But why do I get such a strange feeling from this guy? Just lookin' at him creeps me out!

"Are you the one who killed my hollow?" The individual said, hissing like a snake. "I'll kill you for that...but I'll...yeah, I'll make it painful. Would you like...that? I...think you'd like....that."

He was only here a total of two minutes tops, and already Kenji wanted to gut him like a fish and forget he ever existed. "What the hell are you?" He said, leveling his katana blade at the fellow's head. Because the strange thing is...your a hollow, but why the hell do you feel like a bloody Shinigami!?

"Ah, I don't...have to tell you...my secrets." Again he hissed, but this time, he licked the tip of his zanpakuto-like sword and grinned as though mad. "I am invincible. That's... all you need... worry about."

"Oh is that all? Good to know." Kenji retorted more calmly than he felt.

Sighing deeply, Kenji shook his head, "I won't ask again," He raised his spiritual energy to back up his threat, and it was reminiscent of a damn bursting! The fellow grinned widely and shot forward with enough speed to make Kenji reply quickly himself. The two struck and sparks flew again and again as they struck repeatedly. Moving to the right with a roll, Kenji came up and struck, his wakizashi blade catching the fellow in the chest! Smiling as he swiped the blade back as he leapt to safety, Kenji took a look at the wound. "What?" He exclaimed in surprise. "I hit you, but i barely nicked you. Look, you're barely bleeding."

"This...will be...good," Whipping the wound clean with his hand, he proceeded to lick the blood again. "Very well, Shinigami." The lazy, annoying attitude vanished, revealing a confident individual who's sudden increase in spiritual energy matched his now cocky grin and arrogant demeanor. "I am Shrieker! Head of this hollow army, and I'm here to destroy the Soul Society, starting with whoever is the strongest. I am invincible! Bring you're best, little man. I shant be kept waiting."

Suppressing the urge to laugh in the fellow's face, Kenji settled for a grin instead. A column of ice tore through the hollow horde, and Yoshiro landed lightly atop it alongside Kusaka and Sojiro. "Kenji, your crazy!" He shunpo'd to his friends side and grasped his shoulder as he stared down Shrieker. Kusaka and Sojiro went about their business, starting with the nearest hollow they could find.

"It's good to see ya, Yoshiro. Beginning to think you'd miss all the fun." Kenji said happily. "Do me a favor and stop any of the small fries from steppin' in. This guy's supposed to be the leader, so I'm gonna carve him a new one."

"Sure thing Kenji. It's good to see that you're all right, bro. Now, allow me and Aisumēkā to clear the way."

Resting his katana blade on his shoulder, Kenji walked towards Shrieker, a confident, mocking smile upon his face. "So, Shrieker? I asked you a question, and it wasn't for your name. What are you?"

"I, young weakling, am an Arrancar! That is all you will learn today, child, because I'm not here to chat."

"Good, then you and me should get along just fine." Kenji shot forward with a shunpo and clashed with both blades! Shrieker blocked swiftly and grinned before repelling him and trying to lash out with Hakuda. Blocking with a kick, Kenji rotated his body and struck the so-called Arrancar - whatever that was - straight in the left temple and watched as he flew into his hollow comrades. But that wasn't all Kenji had in store for his opponent. "Hado 19! Sakugukikō!" Several bluish-black bundles of armor covered in purple Reiryoku, but instead of sending them in a myriad of directions, Kenji controlled them and sent them all hurtling down towards Shrieker, detonating them all at once, resulting a large explosion that Kenji retreated from.

Shrieker rose and snarled, skin burned and clothing tattered. His left sleeve and trouser leg up to his knee were completely blown off and small splotches of blood seeped from wounds. Judging by the look on his face, he apparently, he didn't like gettin' kicked in the head; or gettin' hit with detonating armor. He charged forward with a move very similar to Shunpo and almost took a chunk out of Kenji's shoulder blade before slamming his bloodied foot straight into Kenji's stomach. Skidding to a halt, Kenji looked at the fellow, the beginning's of a smile framing his face. What is this fellow's skin made of? That was a direct shot from a powered Kidō spell. That would've destroyed a hollow no sweat, and yet he's just bloodied and tattered? Interesting... The two shot forward, testing one another's speed levels while avoiding getting stuck like a pig on feast-day.

I would love to know more about these Arrancar, and why they have spiritual energy like a Shinigami. Sure, the hollow part's there, too, but... Woah! Kenji ducked beneath a suddenly powerful and swift strike. "So, you were holding back, eh?" And why do you do the same, boy? The mysterious voice barked impatiently. Hurry up and use my power! All you need to do is give in. Give in? Somehow, Kenji didn't think that would be healthy...or wise. No, not until he knew more about this thing speaking to him.

Taking the initiative again, Shrieker moved to Kenji's right, a large, bloodthirsty grin on his face. With a sigh, Kenji heeded the voice's advice and blocked the attack without even looking, his spiritual energy rising abruptly! "Did you honestly think I was fighting you even remotely serious? Tell me, Arrancar, have you any idea what a Shinigami is capable of? By the dumb look on your face, I'm gonna say no." Turning his head, Kenji continued speaking. "You charge your way into the Soul Society without even checking our strength! You say that you are invincible? Bullshit! I'm keeping up with you in every aspect; speed, strength and spiritual energy! A Captain would tear you limb from limb without even releasing their zanpakuto. You complete, foolhardy idiot! Have you no brain at all?"

"Are you looking down on me!? I won't tolerate this! I won't!" A reddish mass of energy formed in his hand and Kenji leapt back and upwards as the wide energy beam shot forward at a tremendous pace! That was a Cero! The description's the same, the makeup the same. What is goin' on here?

Tell me, boy, why do you fear? Why do you despair? This creature is nothing but a particle of Reishi compared to what you could be capable of. Use me...

Kenji releasing Aoi Inazuma

Kenji releasing Aoi Inazuma.

"Now, let's get this show on the road, eh? I'm gonna release my Shikai. You can either fight me for real, or soil yourself. Whatever suits you best. Oh yeah," He added quickly. "You're an idiot. No one is invincible, and I'm about to prove it to you. Strike Aoi Inazuma!"

Spiritual energy swirled upwards into the heavens before two almighty bolts of lightning struck both of Kenji's blade blades! Morphing quickly to reveal two elegantly curved blades that danced with blue lightning, Kenji leveled them at Shrieker. Unlike his last release, Kenji was using a lot more power this time around. "Now, show me your true power, Arrancar. I'm curious to see what you can do, you glorified hollow. Draw!"

Shrieker laughed lowly before snapping his zanpakuto in two like a twig, "Break and Bleed with me, Garras de Sangre!" (Blood Claws) Kenji watched with widened eyes as Shrieker was enveloped in a powerful blood red aura that shot high into the sky. When it finally settled, and Kenji refocused himself, Shrieker emerged as a completely different person! It was like the heavens had intervened and granted him a completely new level of strength. His appearance, the way he carried himself and his spiritual energy! The entire lot had changed so much, Kenji could scarcely believe that this was the same person he'd crossed swords with a few minutes ago.

Shrieker gained a white, bone-like armor that covered his entire upper body like an insect's carapace, his mask fragments repaired themselves and covered his entire face, save for a T shaped slit for vision, resembling a kind of medieval helmet. His hair was still long and intended from an open slit in the back of his new helmet-like mask. A kind of armored sash formed around his waist that extended down to his knees with intricate designs that Kenji couldn't begin to fathom let alone recognize; and sharpened, blood red claws formed on his hands that looked like they were meant to rend and hook flesh.

Kenji swallowed a lump in his throat. Be calm, you moron. Stop felling his Reiatsu if you can't believe it. How pathetic you are, boy. If you used me, then this would be over in an instant...The mysterious voice barked before falling silent again.

"This is what you wanted to see, I believe, young weakling." He completely vanished from Kenji's vision, and it would've been over there and then had it not been for the ice shield Yoshiro summoned at the last second. The Arrancar tutted, but was sent hurtling backwards when Kusaka, spinning his Shikai's scythe like a lasso appeared. "Hah! I don't think so!" But Shrieker wasn't even damaged when he slowed himself and batted Kusaka's scythe aside with his bare hand! With his bare hand, eh? His skin's gotten tougher...Kenji pondered as he raised his spiritual energy in response.

But suddenly, a wave of spiritual energy shot from the sky to collide with the Arrancar below, and Sojiro touched down lightly, sealed zanpakuto in hand. "That didn't even phase him. Kenji, Yoshiro, this guy's got some defenses. And Kusaka can't use his Shikai's full power here."

"What you mean "can't use it?" Kenji asked as lightning swirled around his ankles and feet. He's fast, but I can match him; I know it!

Kusaka brought his blackened scythe back and began spinning the smaller crescent blade instead. "I need the moon to be in the sky to use my full power. The sun doesn't count. Don't worry, you two will manage. See ya, thank me for savin' your ass later!"

The two bounded away to confront the hollow, leaving Kenji and Yoshiro looking at each other all stupid. "...Go with 'em, Yoshiro. I can follow this guy's speed, I know it. Besides, Momoko would be pretty pissed if I let anything happen to you. Now get goin'. I'm an itchin' to get that bastard back for near beheadin' me!" Kenji shot forward with his lightning enhanced speed and sheathed his wakizashi as he closed the distance.

Shrieker burst from the rubble without so much as a scratch just as Kenji had expected. Kusaka and Sojiro probably pumped some power into their attacks too, and yet this guy was completely unphased. Even the damage from Kenji's Kidō attack earlier was gone. "Good to see you too!" Kenji yelled, hardening the spiritual energy around his left hand. He caught Shrieker's head in his palm and trailed him through the ground as the lightning propelled him forward until he finally turned, leapt, and hurled him straight into the ground.

As he struck the ground, the impact kicked up dirt that only made him that much harder to see. Kenji scanned the area carefully, posture wary, swords ready. "I won't be looked down upon! Blood, my blood! Now you die, Shinigami scum!" A large, blood colored wave of energy burst from the dirt cloud and Kenji could do little but cross his arms in an X shape and block! As he struggled to hold the blast off, Shrieker laughed loudly, twin red spheres of energy springing into being in his palm. "Now, you'll taste my twin Cero!"

Kenji forced his arms apart through sheer willpower, releasing a concentrated arc of lightning energy that canceled the first blast out. But the Cero's, he could do little about, except...Raising his hands, he concentrated. To hell with the incantation! Bakudo 40! Boido! A small barrier, similar in function to the much higher leveled Danku spell formed before Kenji. It was clear, almost like a sheet of glass. The twin Cero struck it's surface and overwhelmed it, but it cushioned the blast's power. An explosion rang out, and the three other Academy students turned to look with horrified expressions as they frantically searched for their friend in the rubble...

Yoshiro looked on, not really sure what to think. I can't sense him..! Not even a particle! Kenji...that guy there is going down! Yoshiro slammed his right fist into his open palm and concentrated his spiritual energy. Rage filled him, and he allowed it to consume him. This thing, this Arrancar had taken his best friend, the person who'd been like a brother to him since the day they met. A chilled aura emanated from Yoshiro's body as though someone had left the door to an incredibly cold freezer open. Kusaka and Sojiro were speechless! They both knew Yoshiro was strong, but they weren't expecting this!

Yoshiro 2nd Shikai ability

Aisumeka: Ruiheki.

Sojiro could scarcely believe what his senses were telling him. Sure, it was nothing compared to a Captain, or maybe even a Lieutenant, but Yoshiro was stronger than either him or Kusaka at this moment, and would probably be even if Kusaka could use the moon's light to activate his true power. "I'm goin' to break you! Arrancar! Aisumēkā: Ruiheki (Ice Maker: Rampart)

A large amount of spiritual energy gushed out of Yoshiro's body and immediately turned to a fantastic glacier-like structure of ice that formed in a straight line, engulfing the Arrancar Shrieker and several hollow within. Panting from the exertion, Yoshiro was about to shunpo to where his friend lay either unconscious...or worse.

But his plans were interrupted when, out of nowhere, he was slashed by claws from his shoulder to his hip! The figure of Shrieker came into his line of sight. Red energy formed in Shrieker's other palm and a wide, mocking grin that was pleased at the same time, covered Yoshiro's face. "Now you die, you worthless little Shinigami bastard! Know that you receive this punishment for forcing me to use my single clone."

Kusaka and Sojiro moved as one, but both were cut off by a wall of hollow. "I said move it!" Spinning his scythe like a flail, Kusaka released his special ability, Rei Furashuu, a special beam-like attack that took Kusaka's own energy and amplified it before fire. Hollows fell in great numbers, "Sojiro! GO!" Sojiro threw caution to the wind and headed straight for the Arrancar, zanpakuto raised above his head, light reflecting off the tip. He suddenly stopped dead when Shrieker moved Yoshiro into the firing line, "If you continue, Shinigami, it won't just be me you injure. Besides, your friend here drained himself with that flashy display of ice and he's bleeding quite a bit. I'm afraid if you attack, he may not live to see my Cero tear through him." He laughed mockingly and with great excitement. "Don't worry. The build up will be slow, but it will be over rather quickly. Goodbye, nameless Shinigami!"

Kusaka was beside his brother in an instant, but like Sojiro, they could only stand and watch. Kusaka trembled visibly with sheer rage and for once, Sojiro, who was normally so good at hiding his emotions, looked incredibly pissed of

Kenji was aware of the sounds, aware of the situation. Move...

Yoshiro attempted to move, but his body screamed in agony all over. Every muscle, every ounce of his being was aching and the wound inflicted upon him pulsated with sheer pain. "D-do it..."

Struggling against his injured body, Kenji began to move, hand tightening on his katana blade. Get up...! Kenji, for the love of all that's holy, get up!!!

"Yoshiro, fight him!" Sojiro called desperately.

"I can't watch this any longer!" Kusaka gripped his scythe tightly and poured his spiritual energy into it as he prepared his Rei Furashuu, and it wasn't a small amount. He was going for it, whether he got the Arrancar or not. "Yoshiro wouldn't want us waiting for that Arrancar to blow his head off. He's taunting us, and I won't have it!"

"Wait Kusaka!" Sojiro pleaded, "Even if you miss Yoshiro, the force alone would likely kill him at present! Stand down!"

Images flashed in Kenji's mind. The day he met Yoshiro and decided to be friends, the way they worked together to snap Ryouta's practice sword, their battle against The Trickster, the times they discussed their training and the night they spoke with Momoko, Kusaka and Sojiro beneath a sea of stars. Kenji was on his knees, somehow moving despite his injuries and the amount of Reiatsu he had at present. Kusaka noticed. Sojiro noticed and both looked like they'd seen a ghost!

"Yoshiro...Brother...!" He said so quietly, Shrieker, who was standing with his back turned, didn't hear. "I won't watch this...ANYMORE!!!!" Whatever was left of his spiritual energy, Kenji called on it and opened himself to the current, allowed it to fill him, body and soul.

Kenji injured

Kenji saves the day!

Shrieker laughed as he prepared to fire, still oblivious to what Kusaka and Sojiro were so surprised about. But he finally turned his head when someone grasped his arm. "Get off him." The figure said quietly, but very forcefully. "NOW!" With a single punch that broke every bone in his hand, Kenji sent the Arrancar flying! The Cero Shrieker was preparing flew out wildly, striking Shrieker's own hollow. Kenji was a complete mess though. The sleeves of his uniform were completely blown off, his arms, head and lip trickeled blood and his body was burned from the Cero's. His right leg was bleeding heavily and his breathing was slow and raspy. Every bone in his left hand was broken; but his eyes burned with an intensity neither Kusaka nor Sojiro had seen in their friend.

Kusaka grinned and hurled his scythe towards the Arrancar, releasing all the energy he had fed his zanpakuto, only amplified many times over! An explosion sounded, and Kusaka dropped to one knee, "That...was for...Yoshiro. Now, someone finish him."

Kenji raised his right hand, Aoi Inazuma awakening with brilliant blue lightning that seemed to sing. When exerting spiritual energy, Kenji's eyes normally turned crimson, but now they shown a light blue. Shrieker emerged from the smoke of Kusaka's Rei Furashuu heavily and critically wounded, but somehow still standing.

"I'll kill all you worthless Shinigami! I am perfect! I am invincible! I am a GOD!" Raising his right arm and opening his palm upwards as though in a stop sign, Shrieker poured everything he had into the Cero that sprang into being. Kenji closed his eyes, however, and he felt a hand touch his shoulder lightly. The spirit of Aoi Inazuma, a beautiful woman with dark green hair and school-girl-like black outfit, spoke calmly and gracefully. You only have enough energy to keep me released a small while longer, Kenji. You will have to finish this in a single blow.

But I can't use Sandādoragon o Utsu. I haven't the energy, and I'd rather not die from exhaustion. He though back to Aoi Inazuma. Unless...we use it in a smaller form. Is that possible? Can i do that?

I would rather teach you techniques when you are ready for them, not by forced means, but...I see little choice in the matter. We will finish him with Souryou! (Azure Dragon)

Kenji received the image of a blue colored dragon, and with Aoi Inazuma aiding him, released the last of his spiritual energy. He was way too tired to use natural lightning, so he simply created his own with substantial aid from Aoi Inazuma herself. Blue lightning crackled up Aoi Inazuma's blade and Kenji pointed the blade at Shrieker, just as the Arrancar released his Cero blast! The lightning energy burst from Kenji's sword in the shape of a small, slim, serpentine dragon. The attacks collided in a powerful clash, and the two fighters pushed with all their might! At this rate...!

A trail of ice shot from the ground and cut off Shrieker's Cero at the source! Yoshiro lay at Kenji's feet, a broad grin on his face, "Finish him," Obliging his friend, Kenji pushed with whatever he had left and Souryou struck Shrieker head on, before causing a descent sized explosion. As the remnants of the blast and smoke cleared, Kenji looked on as Shrieker faded into the wind...

...Falling forward, Kenji was caught by Sojiro, who laid him gently on the floor. "Kusaka, I need you to hold those hollow off as long as you can, okay? I'm gonna start healin' Yoshiro."

But the hollow were too many for Kusaka to buy any more than a minute, maybe two at best. Feeling the reality of their situation, the four were ready to accept their fate, when suddenly the area was filled with a spiritual energy so large and expansive, that Sojiro though it was going to wipe him out with a single glance. But there was one thing that made him smile. It wasn't a hollow who that immense strength belonged to. It belonged to two Shinigami who showed up with a few hundred Gotei 13 officers.

The first of the immensely powerful Shinigami was a tall, muscular man with sharp features, short light-gray/silver hair and golden eyes. He had the number 69 tattooed on his chest, but what it symbolized Sojiro had no clue. The fellow wore a standard, but customized Shihakushō, that exposed his chest with a rope belt and a sleeveless haori with fingerless black gloves that extend up his forearm. He had drawn his zanpakuto, a short katana with a rectangular guard in an 'H' shape with white hilt weaving.

The other powerful Shinigami had long, blond hair that reached down to his lower back, and wore a smile that revealed his upper teeth. He wore the standard Shihakushō with a standard captain's haori in the Gotei 13. Upon their order, the Gotei 13 officers struck out at the hollow, and several appeared beside Kenji, Yoshiro and Sojiro. Others had to practically drag Kusaka away from the battle while he kicked and punched, shouting about wanting to fight.

The blond-haired Shinigami was approached by a figure Kenji recognized as Maki. "Shinji Hirako and Kensei Muguruma? It's good to see you two again."

Kensei had released his zanpakuto and his wind abilities had cleared the way for the Gotei to get Kenji and Co. out without much problem. Shinji was the one who answered Maki, however. "Maki Zhijun? Why am I not surprised? Only you could cause this damage. Can't ya hold back a little while you're fighting?" As childish and sarcastic as ever.

"Wasn't me." Maki replied curtly. "The main culprit was my student, Kenji Hiroshi. I played a minor part, but that was it."

"Well, leave this to us." Shinji dismissed him with a wave of his hand and went to join the fray himself, displaying calm swordsmanship as he killed one hollow after another. Kensei, however, wasn't as calm. He just laid into them with his Shikai, crushing them with continuous attacks from Tachikaze and his own body. Elbows strikes, punches, swift kicks. Kensei and Shinji both were death personified and given flesh. Maki watched with a sense of awe. He was told many times that he would make a superb Captain, but his overall level of skill lagged behind the likes of Shinji Hirako and Kensei Muguruma.

Leaving the battle like he was told, Maki made his way towards the Shinigami heading towards the Seireitei with Kenji. Rikimaru appeared beside him and grinned, "Shinji and Kensei, eh? Never thought I'd see those guys again. Anyway, how's Kenji? Did you get talking to him?" He sound worried, what for the kid? Kenji's head's as hard as granite. It'll take more than that to take him out, that Yoshiro kid as well.

Maki and Rikimaru continued on in relative silence. It didn't take them long to get back to the Seireitei, and when they reached the 4th Division Barracks, both Kenji and Yoshiro were sleeping soundly, their injuries healed and their team mates receiving theirs now. It was with great reluctance, however, when a squad member took both Maki and Rikimaru to the side for treatment...

Next Story > The Strength Which Lies Within

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