After almost a month of wandering aimlessly with no real destination in mind, Kenji and his group passed through a village so small and remote, that it barely deserved the right to be called a village. The houses were spaced apart, with each person having a small patch of greenery out front with plenty of room for trade to flow. The tracks indented in the ground showed that carts passed through often.
Looking around with a slight interest in where the closest tavern would be, Kusaka rolled his eyes when he looked back and glimpsed Kenji and Ino whispering sweet nothings in each others ear. They'd been like that since they left to try and lose that damned Arrancar Screamer. "We should've went back and fought him, but whatever."
Kazuma basically slithered up, still a little sore over the beating he'd gotten the other day. Ever since Anna Rosenkrantz helped him acquire his Shikai, he'd been driving everyone half mad with those vines he could control. "How come it's always little villages like this we end up coming to? It's pretty boring. I wanna see a city!"
The thought of Anna, though, made Kusaka think of Van Satonaka. He was strong. Strong enough to make Kenji fight all out. I'd like to fight him...". Kusaka thought with a grin before turning to face Kazuma. "Well, you'll see one eventually, Kazuma. Believe me, kid. Okay, tavern, tavern..." Kusaka replied enthusiastically. "Ah there we go! Yo, lovebirds! Found the tavern! Stop declarin' your undyin' love for one another and get your butts over here!"
"Well aren't you subtle." Kazuma whispered, but made himself look innocent when Kusaka turned to glare at him. "What's wrong? C'mon, you still owe me a drink!" Running to the door, Kazuma edged it open and vanished inside. Muttering a string of curses, Kusaka walked after him, vanishing through the door.Sighing, Kenji turned to face Ino. "You go on ahead. I've still gotta find that hollow we took the contract out on." He kissed her briefly before his human body vanished in a flash of sparks. "I gotta admit, that's handy." With that he was gone, flash stepping over the small villagers oblivious to his presence. His appearance while in Shinigami form had changed in the last month. Instead of the long hair he once sported, Ino had given him a much needed haircut and he'd changed his kimono from black to blue. The back area of his kimono now sported a large symbol of the Ying and Yang. Ino said she liked it, and that was reason enough for him to wear it.
The Human World was a marvelous place. No matter how many places he seen, they always seemed different. The people, their individual cultures and believes, their religion and even their food. No one place was identical to the last. It was breath taking. Kenji could still recall the waterfall gushing over the cliff that had taken his breathe away just looking at it.
It was pretty amazing how these humans lived in complete and utter ignorance to the unseen world. Hollows walked their streets at night, spirits slipped from alley to alley without them being so much as aware of them and Shinigami walked among them in Gigai's. When a hollow was struck down and a small gust of wind accompanied the killing blow, the humans walked on as though it were a freak increase in the wind speed! It was truly laughable.
Landing atop a small telegraph pole, Kenji took a look out across the horizon. Clouds filled the skyline as long as his eye could see and each fluffy shape that resembled a sheep promised rain. "Great, more rain. I'd better wrap this up quickly then. It's only a small hive of hollow, so it shouldn't be a problem." He stopped mid-flash step though, when an energy he recognized appeared silently beside him. "Kazuma?" Kenji asked quietly. "I said I'd handle this one." The kid was too eager for his own good."Sensed me?" He floated in the air using Shunpo, pushing his index fingers against one another, eyes downcast and posture slouched. He now wore a yellow kimono instead of his traveling clothes which now, because of a slight growth spurt, no longer fitted him. The kimono had been hand sown by Ino, and given to Kazuma as a present. His hair was also styled differently, with spikes at the front fringe and a short ponytail at the black; again Ino's influence. Sensing a question, Kenji asked him what was on his mind. "Well, it's been about a month since I learned my Shikai...but I haven't gotten much stronger." Disappointment was evident in his tone.
Kenji suppressed a laugh, but allowed his fool grin to show. He placed his hand on Kazuma's shoulder and shook his head. "Kazuma, someone doesn't just gain strength overnight, you know. It takes hard work, patience and willpower." He looked around for an example and nodded when he spotted a cocoon hanging not two feet from him. "See that cocoon? It needs to spend time in its protective cocoon before it can grow into a butterfly. Gaining strength is the same way. Sometimes, you just gotta sit back and your time will come...but we've never believed in that, have we?"
His entire face lit up, his blue eyes shining. "Nope! You've always said that I should try my hardest, even when the strong guys show up!" And he did just that. After-all, the little Shinigami almost lost his life when Kenji lost control and his Inner Hollow wrestled control from him. Anyone else of the same level would've run for the hills instead.
Kenji arched an eyebrow though. "That wasn't what you came here for, was it? If you wanna come with me, Kazuma, all you hafta do is ask." Both vanished, their footfalls echoing slightly on solid Reishi. The hollow they were supposed to eliminate was a large crystal-like creature of the avian family. And it was supposed to have a small number of other hollow following it around.
Kazuma scanned the area intently, eyes moving quickly before stopping at a particular area and then moving on. Even at this pace, he was keeping up without so much as a sign of exhaustion or a word of complaint. He may have moaned about how weak he was physically, but his speed and Kidō prowess more than made up for it. The youngster drew his zanpakuto which had also changed in the last month. Instead of the short, straight-edged sword it was previously whilst sealed, he now instead kept it sealed in the form of a nodachi with a long blade and handle.
The two ground themselves to a halt, eyes looking for a large, crystalline bird. "Kenji? I was wondering If you'd train me harder?"
Ignoring the scanning completely, Kenji turned to Kazuma with an unsure look. "I'll train you harder, but I need to know what your aiming for. What brought all this on, Kazuma? 'Cause we push you in training as it is."
The youngster clenched his fists tightly, knuckles going white. His forehead was furrowed as though thinking a response and his arms were quivering in anger. "...I want to be a help to you and Kusaka! I'm fed up being the one who sits on the sidelines as you two save me."
Kenji nodded before firing a Byakurai from his fingertip to down a flying hollow. "Listen to me, Kazuma. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. Out of the people I know, there's only one who thinks things through more than you do, and that's Sojiro Kori. You've got a brain that you use, exploiting weaknesses and capitalizing on your own strengths. What a warrior needs isn't strength. If they can out think their enemies, then that's half the battle won. Well talk about this later, eh? We've got a hollow to kill."
Kazuma followed Kenji eagerly as they landed lightly on the ground, Kenji kicking up a light amount of dust as his feet skidded on the ground. Directing his senses outward, Kazuma could sense the hollow closely, feel there movements and discern their locations. "There's a pretty powerful one heading our way now, Kenji. A few others to." He said calmly, his heart steady despite his anticipation. The youngster set his sealed zanpakuto on his shoulder and grinned. "Grow Wildly, Chiikioi." He uttered, his sword remaining the same nodachi shape, but an aura of nature energy surrounded him.
Kenji nodded, but elected to keep his own sword sealed, instead calling on Kyo's energy and entering the initial form of the release. His eyes turned crimson and his spiritual power gained strength. "Show me what you've got Kazuma. You can sense them, right? Show 'em hell!"
Kazuma took a deep breathe as he crouched down, hand touching the ground briefly. Since learning more about Chiikio himself, Kazuma was able to feel whatever anything related to nature felt. Trees, plants, the water in the river or the very earth itself. He could feel them all, been those feelings to his will and manipulate them as he seen fit. A large, crystaline bird appeared in the skies, a flock of smaller birds behind it.
At Kazuma command, a multitude of vines shot from the ground, ensnaring the smaller hollows and constricting them so tightly, that they were crushed and simply vanished. With his hand still placed on the ground, the young Shinigami slowly brought it up, a large clod of the earth rising with it. In seconds, the earth was sharpened under his spiritual energy, until it resembled a large, earthen sword roughly twice the size of Kazuma himself.
The first time he'd used this attack was when he fought Anna and then it had been used on pure instinct and spur of the moment. It was as though he'd been born innately with the ability, but hadn't grasped the basics until that one moment of awareness that came when he first released. The images flowed through his mind and did so on occasion...
Kazuma saw everything in a slow blur. Anna's word reached his ears slowly, her sword rose slowly and his heart pounded slowly in his chest. "She's right...what did that voice say? Put your mind together with mine and look forward? How do I do that? I don't know?" Kazauma though. "I can't even move my arm. My sword...where's my zanpakuto?"
"So now you call for me. It is naught but pointless fear and doubt that hold you back. Discard that which you do not need and find that which is necessary! Nothing can be born from fear and doubt! Look forward, Kazuma! Shout it out. My name is...!" Kazuma slowly rose to his knees. When he raised his head, his eyes glowed a fantastic light blue hue as spiritual energy surrounded him. "Grow Wildly, Chiikioi!" His sword remained the same, but vines began to sprout from the ground around him, forcing Anna to leap back. Being lifted and somewhat rejuvenated, Kazuma grinned. "My zanpakuto? Ha. Anna, I owe you thanks. Without you, I wouldn't have gained this. So please dodge this...because I don't think i can hold back!!" A large blade of sharpened stone flew forward at a glaring speed.
During that battle, everything seemed to happen as though he himself was an outsider looking in. He had been aware to a degree of what his body was doing, but it was as though his zanpakuto had taken control momentarily to show him the way. With his mind still focused on the past, Kazuma recalled the very first time he'd initiated Jinzen with the stalwart presence of his mentor Kenji overlooking his progress...
Kazuma stood alone in a large, overgrown forest. His Inner World, a place where the trees pierced the heavens and rivers flowed loudly through the trees. Birds chirped happily as they flew, one landing briefly on Kazuma's hand before flying off to join its mate. And there, dressed in nothing but the forests vines, stood the spirit form of Chiikioi. Kazuma once thought of his zanpakuto as "he" but it wasn't a "she" either. Chiikioi was whatever form it wished, whether that be male or female. Now, she stood in her female form.
"Young Master?" Her voice boomed throughout the trees, kicking up leaves and providing a descent wind. "You have come. Why?"
"I want to learn more about you, about my abilities...and about myself." He said the last with a slight hint of hesitation.
Chiikioi smiled warmly and walked down towards Kazuma. "So it is knowledge you seek...Knowledge is power, Young Master. With it, one can shape not only their own future, but those of others. Knowledge can also be dangerous to those who would misuse it. Tell me, why do you seek knowledge?"
Kazuma looked her straight in the eye. "I want to be able to help my friends. When Kenji was overcome by his Inner Hollow I was almost killed because I wasn't ready. Because i wasn't strong enough. Every-time a major event occurs, I stand aside like a frightened child! Only by learning from you and about my power, can I be a help to anyone."
Seemingly pleased, Chiikioi turned her back and vanished into the form of a bird before re-appearing atop a tree. "Then engrave my image in your mind and look forward. Only then, will the understanding of your powers come to you. Go Kazuma, never look back. Look to the future and never stop. Heed my words, and grow strong!"
His eyes sprang open, revealing Kenji's smiling face and welcoming hand as he pulled the youngster to his feet. "You did well, Kazuma. Come on, time to put what you learned into practice."
Kazuma opened his eyes and slashed his zanpakuto down vertically, the earthen sword flying towards the crystalline hollow and striking it clean in two with a single strike! The others who weren't killed by his vines, were sliced to ribbons as the sword suddenly crumbled, the individual shards piercing them together. With a single wave of his sword, Kazuma sheathed it and looked towards Kenji who nodded his head at a job well done. "Let's head back. We'll get our payment later." And with that, both vanished back towards the village...
Kusaka's Encounter!EditIt wasn't just Kenji and Kazuma who'd change their look in the last month. Kusaka now had longer hair and wore it with more spikes than he had previously. And instead of Shinigami robes, he wore a black outfit with long sleeves and a large, white collar.
After Kenji and Kazuma returned to the tavern and their new rented rooms, Kusaka decided to take off for a bit. For a while now, his senses were all over the place and his mind along with it. Every-time he looked in any kind of reflective surface, it was as though he had no reflection, no dreams and no future to look forward to. He'd felt this way ever since his last skirmish with that Arrancar Screamer. There was something about him, and not just his goal of killing them off because Kenji killed his younger brother, but something else that made him stand apart. "I can sympathize with him, I suppose. If anyone harmed Sojiro, I'd do the same..."
"Tell me, why do you ponder on this?" The deep voice of his zanpakuto rang in his skull as clear as the thundering of a waterfall. "I don't really know." He replied with all the enthusiasm of a man who hadn't seen sleep in days. "Well, you're starting to bring me down. So cheer up and be happy for once!" Shagetsu sounded angry to boot. "That's you answer for everything." Kusaka barked. "Don't be sad, be happy! I'm a sentient being, you moron! I've got feelings and shit that just can't be turned on and off like a damn light switch! Geez...!" He was suddenly aware of two very powerful presences, one directly in front, and the other just behind. "And I recognize one...!"
"We meet again...Shinigami." Kusaka raised his head, eyes falling on the figure of the Arrancar Screamer. "And it would appear you and you're friends are in a hurry for some reason.""I ain't in the mood to play with you...or your friend." Kusaka looked over his shoulder, his gaze firm and threatening. The newcomer wore a green kimono with a black undershirt and a long, black cape that flared out behind him in the wind. "So, why don't you piss off and quit making my day worse...before I get in the mood." He waved his hand dismissively and walked away.
"...But we can't do that, Kusaka." Screamer appeared before him and attempted to punch him, but Kusaka easily saw through the movement and kicked him hard in the side of the skull with a jumping round-the-house kick! As he dropped, he turned and flash in order to punch the other hard in the gut and send him flying backwards! "I told you, I'm not in the bloody mood for you fucking Arrancars! Guard, Shagetsu!" A large, blackened scythe formed in Kusaka's hand, a crescent, moon-shaped blade dangling from the weapons base by a long, durable chain. "But you asked for it."
He burst forward, ground beneath his feet crumbling under the sheer weight of his fluctuating spiritual energy. His main blade was blocked by Screamer's hasty block, his gauntlet-like zanpakuto cut through slightly and drawing blood, his other arm spinning ths chained crescent moon blade to entangle the sword of Screamer's partner. "I told you both," he said, looking both in the eye monetarily before his eyes took on a dark tone as he channeled his spiritual energy. The energy cloaked his blade before he announced aloud, "Rei Furashuu!"
Energy erupted in a wave-like blast from Kusaka's main weapon and the crescent blade, striking both opponents at once! Standing still, Kusaka looked at the devastation his attack caused. Two craters surrounded him, one to the front and another to his back. "Get up, Screamer! Right now! You picked this fight, so get up and face me!"
Rising from the rubble, Screamer's body was covered in wounds that would most likely scar and his skin was burnt and bloodied. His team-mate was in an even worst state. His clothing, however, was singed and a mask, similar to the one Kenji himself wore, stood prominently on his face. It had a single black line running down the middle, but apart from that, it was Kenji's twin. "So you're a masked one as well? No matter. It's only an hour until the moon comes out anyway.""Amukaz." Screamer said, his Vizard companion leaping to obey. "It is time to kill this foolish Shinigami. Don't hold back." Amukaz was surrounded in an orb of green light, the name and command he uttered lost in the howling wind. As soon as the orb dissipated, Amukaz emerged with green clothing, green combed down hair and large, green colored scythe with a white cutting edge. His spiritual energy took a jump!
"...Is that all?" Kusaka said with a detached expression. "I've already told you both that I've got better things to do with my time." Again he shot forward, but all at once, ropes of hardened steel shot from the ground multiple times around him limbs as Amukaz struck the ground. In an instant, Screamer was upon him, landing brutal body blows, both with his hands and feet. "Never underestimate us, Shinigami!"
Reducing the impact somewhat by hardening the spiritual energy around his body, Kusaka growled and raised his head, feeling alive for the first time in ages. "Rei...Furashuu." Energy surrounded him like a suit of armor instead of blasting out as a wave-like attack. Screamer's punches simply caused a slight vibration as Kusaka smiled. "Bad move." The energy erupted from his body and spread outwards, catching both in the blast and forcing them back. The blast snapped the chains holding him, allowing him to move again.
"You guys are pissing me off. If you do actually dodge this, then you'll be blown to bloody pieces!" Performing the moves needed for Senka, Kusaka moved towards Screamer first, but another set of steel ropes entangled his legs and arms, stopping him from moving. Again, Screamer battered them, this time releasing a potent Cero at point blank that very nearly tore through his chest!
Struggling to stand, Kusaka got to his feet slowly before falling again. "This is insane! Screamer's not even the same person...! His power's went through the roof." The two Arrancar were suddenly stopped from advancing any further as green vines rose out of the ground to ensnare them! Kazuma and Kenji dropped down from the sky to stand guard over Kusaka, with Kenji wearing the fiercest expression the youngster had ever seen.
"Screamer, I presume? It wasn't a good idea attacking my friend with me so close by. In fact, it just wasn't smart!" With a ripping motion over his face, Kenji donned his hollow mask and burst forward, catching Screamer's face and throwing him into the ground before releasing a charge of lightning through Aoi Inazuma.
Amukaz attempted to help, but Kazuma's vines held him tightly and only got tighter the more he struggled. "Oh, stop moving already! Ragnarok!" A large blade of sharpened stone flew towards the Vizard, but it was crushed as a man with flowing black hair, his face hidden by a cloak stopped it and opened a Garganta. Grabbing both Screamer and Amukaz before Kenji could even react, the three left, leaving Kusaka alone with his friends...
Next Story > Desperate Stand: Averian Appears!