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This article, Decision Making, is property of Kenji-Taichō. Permission is required to alter its content.

Three days now, since Akiye had returned, and strangely... Kentaro was actually enjoying her company.

While his friends enjoyed the sights and sounds of Akabira City, Kentaro sat cross-legged in the hotel room Naibu had rented for them to stay in. The window was open he realized after a time, the curtains blowing gently in the breeze that caressed his body and actually caused his stern expression to show the beginnings of a smile. His eyes were shut and his breathing was slow, almost shallow. In out. In out. In, hold and release. In out. In out. The repetition was calming and soothing for him, and right now, he was in need of it. The youngster stood atop a precipice of change as large as any he'd ever experienced in his life to date. "Kenji..." The youngster with the silver-tinged black hair thought after a time. His warring emotions made thinking of anything else difficult, despite his best efforts; but yet everything always came back to his father - the man who raised him, protected him, tutored him, loved him. The man Kentaro despised, yet he loved him more than anyone else. The person who he wanted to see dead more than any other, yet wished to protect from harm. The precipice loomed before him with a sheer drop, all blackness below. A place no light would reach. In his minds eye, the blackness moved towards him, enveloped him, caressed his senses; yet it never truly touched him. Which he was grateful for in a way. Seeing that darkness, moving and slithering, twining and circling made him think of a snake. No, he'd blacken his very soul if he touched that.

Opening his eyes finally, he was surprised by the height of the sun in the sky. Glancing at the clock at his bedside table, he soon discovered that close to three hours had passed since he began his meditation - though how he'd failed to notice the passing of the hours was beyond him. Looking around he took notice of the darker feel of the air within the room, wondering briefly if the darkness he had seen was as internal as he originally thought. "No matter," Discarding the thought with a wave of his hand and a look at the heavens, the youngster entered his spirit form, allowing his Gigai to fall onto the bed, appearing very much to anyone who may come in that it was sleeping peacefully and without a care in the world. "Without a care, eh?" What he would give to be like that. Ducking out the window and closing it deftly behind him, he began his wandering around the city; the smell of cooking reaching his nostrils piled atop the smell of petrol, diesel and something foreign to him.

"The way you sneak about," A voice sounded from behind, "would make you a sought after member of any criminal group." He didn't need to turn to know who she was, nor would he have needed the sound of her voice to discern her identity, either. He had become used to Akiye's energy signature despite the fact they had known each other only a short amount of time. Her arm was healed from earlier and she bobbed towards him in a pair of tight fitting trousers and a black top that emphasized her curves well. "I sensed something... wrong," Noting the hesitation, Kentaro realized what it had been and sighed. "I didn't sense anything," She only nodded dismissively, knowing full well he was lying. "I'll accept that answer... for now. Oh!" Excitement took hold and she grabbed his hand in hers and dragged him off towards a small jewelry shop along the high street. "Buy me this, will you?" Her eyes sparkled in time with the earrings she picked out. They were shaped like teardrops and colored a light blue hue, and when his eyes fell upon the price of the darned things, his mouth near struck the floor!

To everyone else's eyes, the earrings would have appeared to be floating in mid-air, but Kentaro still removed the money he had in his pockets - barely covering the price, at that - and laid it atop the counter much to the owners growing confusion. "Didn't stop you pocketing it, you round-bellied pig!" Accepting them with a small bow and a flourish, Akiye pierced her ear and put them on, tilting her head slightly to show them off. "Well? How do I look?" His mouth was faster than his brain, for once. "Beautiful," Was what he said and the two stood staring at one another in dis-belief for a time before he turned quickly to hide his blush and clear his throat. "T-they look... uh... good on you! Yeah, that's it. Good on you." Following him out the door with a smile and quick steps, the two took to the skies and stood floating in mid-air, looking down on the citizens below them. Children tugged at their parents hands, probably wanting to head to the nearest toy store, Kentaro thought with a grin. The birds chirped around them happily, some showing the sense to fly around them, he noted.

"Thanks for this," Akiye said as they lowered themselves into a mostly deserted area near a small river. It flowed with a gentle current and was remarkably clean, with only a few fallen leaves disturbing its clear surface. "Your welcome," Squinting from the sunlight reflected on the mostly still surface, Akiye edged closer to Kentaro so he blocked the majority of the sunlight. "There... much better." Watching her with a lifting of his eyebrow, the young Shinigami finally sighed and moved forward to give her a little more shade. "The things I do for my friends," He whispered, but the words struck Akiye speechless! "He just called me... his friend?" This had never happened before and before she was really aware of it, her hand had closed around his. For a time, the two sat chatting about nothing in particular. Their dreams, passions, hobbies and annoyances were discussed in detail, with the moon beginning to replace the sun when they finally sat up and returned to the room Naibu had rented previously...

Horiwari Village...

Kenji stood among the light amount of structural damage recently inflicted between the meeting of The Ryu Order and Averian's Army. Small in number and relatively easily dealt with by him and the few others who had accompanied him, he still felt a level of annoyance though. The Hollow and Arrancar sent had pushed to the mouth of the docks before they had been dealt with, and that in itself was worrying. "They're getting bolder," He thought with a grimace. The change in the strength of spiritual particles in the air alerted Kenji to the presence of another long before the blade even moved towards his skull. Turning, he caught the blade and held his ground firmly as he regarded the masked individual with intense crimson-colored eyes. "An ordinary Shinigami?" He asked, somewhat confused and obviously amused. "Which faction are you, then?" The fellow tried to move, but Kenji's spiritual energy held him as surely as his gaze did. "Now that's just rude," He went on in a fun-loving tone, "Trying to strike a man, I mean and then trying to run away without receiving your just deserts? Really rude," The fellow buckled under a blow to the ribs, but consciousness still remained. "Oh? That's surprising," Kenji remarked casually as he discarded the mans sword - noting it to be a Bakkōtō upon closer inspection. The nucleus was clearly visible in the moonlight. "Not Averian, then." The Arrancar would never resort to using a weapon crafted by the hand of a Shinigami unless desperate, and desperation was something the Arrancar in question did not know. "The Imawashī, perhaps?" No surprise or anything outward to suggest his affiliation lay in his expression at the groups name, so Kenji tried a different one. "... How about the Collective Vices, as I hear them called now?" That got the reaction Kenji was looking for, though the man revealed no more as his eyes glazed over as an arrow pierced the back of his neck and came out through the front a hairsbreadth from Kenji's own chest.

Dropping the fellow and breaking one of the small, black orbs procured from his pocket, a shield formed from pure souls surrounded him in time to prevent the hail of arrows turning him into a spiritual pin cushion. "Not a good idea," He stated calmly as the barrier-like spell began to shake as though elastic and with a silent movement the arrows were repulsed back towards their firers. Looking at the body lying at his feet filled with arrows, Kenji felt nothing. Not even a shred of sympathy for the poor fellow. In fact, the only emotion was annoyance in that he hadn't gained a single shred of intelligence regarding the Collective Vices and how they operated. To him, they were as much a shadow as Dastan had been when he still wore the guise of The Trickster. "Still, things are too coordinated for my liking," The black-haired Shinigami concluded with a shrug of his shoulders. His blue kimono rustled in the wind as he turned and flash stepped back towards Horiwari Village proper, his thoughts slipping to how much a good pint would taste right about now... and a cheer rose from those lining the decking positioned above the lapping waterways and Kenji felt his smile return. His people. His friends. His allies greeted him with warm arms and laughing voices as one handed him a glass of what appeared to be freshly poured cider. "For the Head-Captain," The man said with a grin. "On the house, of course." Downing it there and then in a single breathe, and internally thanking the fellow, Kenji handed it back and a few coins besides. "I'm a customer, just like the others." He assured him. "And I challenge all the tavern masters here to try and get me drunk!" A hand closed on his shoulder and Kusaka smiled as he shook his friends hand. "I'll take that challenge!" And the two sat down for another of their "battles".

Akabira City...

The darkness of the room in which Kentaro currently lay was as encompassing as it was surrounding, though even that was nothing to what he had felt around him earlier during his period of meditation. For now, all he did was stare at the ceiling as the soft sound of breathing came from his friends and the occasional snore from Jinta. Grunting quietly, Kentaro rolled silently from his bed and left through the window he closed a little behind him. Naibu sat on the roof nearby, watching the stars by the look of things. "I thought you were still awake," Kentaro whispered as he made his way towards the older member of the group. "I don't need as much sleep as you five do," He replied somewhat sarcastically, and the smile he wore only served to highlight that he meant it as such. "Sit, and tell me whats troubling you." Taking the offered seat quietly, Kentaro started with the odd feeling he had earlier and finally ending by how much it had frightened him afterward. Silence dragged on for a time as Naibu considered, a bad sign, as Kentaro recalled; but yet the elders reply came quicker than he thought. "It isn't my place to tell you this," He began, bringing his yellow eyes - Hollow-like in appearance, in the middle of the night - the youngster noted before he continued, "but what you felt is more than likely the Hollow powers coursing through your body. You know that Hollows are naturally darker in their feel than Shinigami are, yes? While I do not know the circumstances behind your Hollow powers - I doubt even your parents do," Parents and not "Kenji" Kentaro was glad for, "though it is more than likely the cause. Concentrate on keeping your emotions in check, lad, and do not accept them. Do that, and you will not be ruled by them. Now off to bed with you, Kentaro. We leave in the morning." And funny enough, the conversation eased his mind more than he could have wished. Earlier, he stood upon a precipice with a large blackness... but now, it didn't seem as threatening. His decision this time, he resolved, was to fight it and not give in.

Next Story > The Strength of Bonds!

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