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This article, Fates First Trial, is property of Kenji-Taichō. Permission is required to alter its content.

A New Goal: Kenji's DecisionEdit

Kenji and every single one of his close friends and teachers were gathered 'round a large table in Koichi's house. The room was long, the walls decorated with superb paintings of the Seireitei, isolated areas in the Rukon Districts and even paintings that showed detailed areas that Kenji's adoptive mother, Anora, said were from the Human World.

"Kick back, eat, drink and be merry!" Koichi declared loudly as he downed what remained of his Saki bottle. "Tonight, we celebrate my boy, Kenji, mastering his Shikai and becoming a man!"

Kusaka and Sojiro were there as well and Yoshiro was allowed out for the night as long as he didn't strain himself too much. Momoko spoke with Sojiro, again discussing the latest book they'd read and studied. Anora was even correcting them on parts and joining in whenever she passed. Yoshiro walked towards Kenji and grasped his shoulder. "I can't help but feel that your flying too far ahead for me to catch up with ya." Yoshiro said as he swallowed a pastry pie.

"Hey, you're my rival, Yoshiro. I'm here to keep you sharp and vice versa. But enough about my training for tonight. I want you all to enjoy this, okay? Now, c'mon," He shouted, "Give me that bottle ol' man! I'll drink ya under the table!"

The door opened to reveal Ryouta, but he wasn't alone. A young boy, with spiked blond hair and a blue jerkin with a red undershirt beneath it, walked in behind the older Shinigami with his head lowered. "Uhmm...H-hello. I-I'm Kazuma Nishiki." Koichi, although wondering who the lad was, paid it no mind and waved the two in. Rikimaru roused himself from the wall he was leaning on and looked the youngster up and down before grinning and lowering his head in greeting. Hmm, impressive spiritual energy...

Setting the bottle of Saki aside, Kenji walked to the newcomer and smiled kindly and outstretched his hand in greeting. "Kazuma Nishiki? Your in the lower class of the Academy, ain't you? I'm Kenji Hiroshi, that's my friend Yoshiro. C'mon in and have yourself somethin' to eat!"

"Nice to metcha, Kazuma!" Yoshiro outstretched his own hand and slapped Kenji on the back as he passed.

"Nice to meet you all," Kazuma shook their hands in turn and then followed Ryouta in when Kenji motioned him to do so. He looked nervously at Momoko and flushed almost immediately. That, however, just made her giggle like a school girl.

"You're at the Academy as well, Kazuma?" Anora asked quietly. She was a beautiful woman with flowing red hair. Tonight, she wore a pink kimono with floral designs running up the side. She spoke gracefully, befitting the noble-woman she was.

"Yes ma'am," Kazuma said a little nervous. "I've only had my powers for a year, so I'm still learning everything."

"And yet, you've got impressive levels of spiritual energy." Kenji said with a smile as he scoffed food down his throat.

Yoshiro nodded agreement, "That's for sure. Ryouta-Sensei told me about you earlier, Kazuma. You ever need help, come ask me. If anything, I'm good at cracking heads."

"Oh, leave him alone!" Momoko replied fiercely, casting the young student a charming smile. "Pay him no mind, Kazuma."

Kazuma smiled though. "Thank you all. Do you really think I've got high spiritual energy?"

Kenji rose and motioned Kazuma to follow him. "C'mon, and I'll show ya."

"Kenji, leave him alone." Koichi called, but Kenji simply turned his head and smiled. "I won't hurt him or anything. We're just gonna spar a little."

The two stepped into the yard out front, Kenji tossing him a wooden practice blade. "What's your preferred method of swordplay?"

Kazuma looked at the sword and graped it tightly in both hands. "Kendō." He said forcefully.

"Okay, Kendō it is. Show me what you've got, Kazuma." Kazuma moved forward quickly, and Kenji was actually surprised by how quick the young student moved. He raised his wooden sword to block, consciously holding his full power back and then some. "That's it! You move pretty well. And you're fast."

"Thank you, Senpai." Kazuma said excitedly as they exchanged more blows.

"Ah, Kenji 'ill do! I'm in the same year as you after-all." The two entered into another exchange, and this time Kazuma managed to hit Kenji on the arm. "That's it! Now, let's see your shunpo. We're gonna start movin' around a bit."

Kazuma followed rather well. "Don't focus so much on actually catching me," Kenji said quickly. "Let your shunpo be instinctual, that way you won't need to consciously think about it."

"I'll try." Over the course of the exchange, Kazuma grinned like a puppy and happily chased Kenji around the yard. Their wooden swords clunked continually and the ones in the house cheered and whistled, with Momoko cheering for Kazuma.

Stopping in his tracks, Kenji patted the youngster on the shoulder and led him back to the house. "You've got some skills, Kazuma. Don't get lax in your training and you'll be a fine Shinigami!"

"You really think so?" His eyes lit up, and Kenji couldn't help but smile. "I guess he doubts his own power. The sad thing is that I'm not even lying when I say he's skilled."

Taking up a seat beside Kazuma, Kenji laid into the food, Kazuma following suit. Anora simply smiled warmly and set another plate down before each and ruffled their hair before walking on to talk to Momoko and Sojiro about history once again.

The night continued with fun and chat as old friends caught up and a new friend was made.

As the night ebbed away, Kenji took to the yard outside. The wind was pleasant, the stars dotted the sky and laughter erupted from the house behind. But Kenji was miles away, his gaze fixed firmly on the horizon. How many times had he looked at a sky identical to this one? Beyond count because he'd done it his whole life. His thoughts were filled by one thing and one thing alone; Crushing The Trickster with all the strength he'd gained in the last eight months. Turning to look at the house, his friends all speaking and laughing heartily, Kenji made his choice. "And I'm sorry..." He said in a quiet, pained voice as he shunpo'd from sight.

Maki, turning to look at where Kenji once stood sighed and downed his entire Saki bottle out of anger more than anything else. The kid was going to get himself bloody well killed! And this time... there wouldn't be anyone to pull him from the fire. Sure, his strength had increased by leaps and bounds, but Kenji's own strength was only at that of a Lieutenant. Unless...! Maki was out of his seat in an instant, making his way over to Rikimaru, he spoke. "Did you see that?"

Rikimaru nodded his agreement but grasped Maki's arm firmly when the older man made shape to chase after him. "Don't you do it, Maki. This is what Kenji trained for. Besides, it's the job of the young to make their elders worry."

Kenji walked quickly through the regions of the Rukon District. If it was true, and The Trickster was after him since he was a child, then he wouldn't pass up the opportunity of attacking him when he was alone and seemingly defenseless. He made a conscious effort to disguise his new katana. That would be his fail safe if himself and Aoi Inazuma wouldn't be enough. "Good plan, but remember that this man is dangerous. Keep your head about you and don't let him bait you." Kyo remarked via telepathy.

"I know. Thanks for the reminder, Kyo-san. Don't reveal your energy, okay? I want our teamwork to be the last surprise this guy sees before I blow him into oblivion." He continued walking until he came to the secluded area where he and his friends were attacked the first time. Taking a deep breathe, he scanned the area. "Trickster! Get your ass out here. NOW!" He bellowed into the wind, voice angry. "I'm ready to end this... and you!"

A Kidō spell faded away, and from the space of extreme light, stepped the Trickster. The fold of light faded and he grinned evilly. "Now this is a welcome surprise indeed. Tell me, where are your protectors? I don't see them or sense them anywhere nearby." That curved his lip into a gruesome looking grin. He eased his dual blades into both his hands and leveled them at Kenji's head.

"It's only me, Trickster. Now, you're gonna tell me who you really are, because I've had enough of calling you the Trickster."

"Trickster will suffice. Now young Kenji... you will die." He shot forward quickly, using a level of speed he used in their previous battle which Kenji now recognized as that of a seated officer. Kenji feigned surprise and fear, but he seen every strike as clearly as young Kazuma's earlier. In truth, that battle had been a warm up to get rid of the cramps in his muscles from sitting for four months in the same pose. Kenji struck out wildly, blocking blows and dodging strikes while The Trickster looked happy at his seemingly desperate parries.

"Now." Kenji's form changed, his expression going from frightened to calm and collected. He was more than just an expert swordsman now. Kyo was a swordsmanship master on par with Maki himself and he'd put Kenji through his paces in swordsmanship during their four months together, teaching him new forms and techniques. Kenji focused his stance on offense, favoring his right hand more than his left. Pivoting around The Trickster's next strike, Kenji struck out three times with blurred speed, the first strike knocking aside The Trickster's first blade to prevent him using it to hit his blindside, the second strike knocking aside the Trickster's other sword and the third slash knocking him backwards with hardened spiritual energy wrapped around the blade. "That was Kaze no appuru no hana." Kenji said casually. "I've been training, Trickster."

Kenji shot forward again, focusing on offense once again. "Kumo o Setsudan", he thought calmly. Striking out extremely quickly with his katana blade and with great force, Kenji aimed the strike for his opponent's head, attempting to lob The Trickster's skull from his shoulders. He dodged it barely, escaping with a shallow cut across his chest as he leapt back and then upwards. "That was...! Who taught you those moves!?"

Kenji remained silent, using shunpo to move to the Trickster's back as he struck! Sparks flew as his opponent turned and blocked with both blades. "You fell for it. Furaito o torimasu davu." The Trickster could do next to nothing as Kenji cut his side with his wakizashi. Kenji leapt back, his stance now favoring defense. "Allow me to explain, because you look rather confused." Kenji said slowly. "My teacher, Maki Zhijun, is a Grandmaster when it comes to the sword. He taught me everything." It was a lie that would throw him off Kyo for a little while longer. "Furaito o torimasu davu is a feint attack for a dual-swordsman fighting a dual-swordsman. The user attacks an enemy to try and make them block with both blades while the user only uses one strike. They then spring the trap and attack with their true weapon, their secondary sword."

The Trickster looked at the wounds on his chest and side before smiling genuinely. "You have improved, but if you wish to defeat me, you are going to need-"

"More than petty sword skills, right? Do you honestly think I've spent my time twiddling my thumbs?" Kenji laughed at the thought. "I've been training my backside off since our last meeting. Now," Kenji hardened spiritual energy at the point of the middle finger on his right hand and flicked. The projectile struck The Trickster in the jaw and he snarled as he turned his head to regard Kenji with hatred.

The Trickster ran forward, but Kenji kept his stance strong, feet planted firmly on the floor. The Trickster was favoring his right hand and would probably hit with more strength in that particular arm. His form, however, was one that Kenji recognized as quick and powerful. He couldn't recall the name, but he was definitely going to come in from the right. "Don't be misled." Kyo warned. "This man is dangerous, a skilled swordsman himself. Guard your left side."

Taking the spirit's advice, Kenji shifted his stance so he could easily guard from either direction. Using his katana blade, he blocked the Trickster's strike and watched as he shunpo'd to the other side. Pivoting, Kenji avoided the piercing strike and changed his wakizashi to a reverse grip. Lightning gathered around the blade without him even using his Shikai and he released it upwards as he struck, forcing the Trickster into the sky. "Sprinkled on the bones of the beast! Sharp tower, red crystal, steel ring. Move and become the wind, stop and become the calm. The sound of warring spears fills the empty castle! Hado 63! Raikōhō!"

With a downward strike and a sudden increase in spiritual energy that made the air shimmer around him, The Trickster discarded his cloak and cut the Kidō spell clean in two before he shunpo'd to Kenji's back. Being vaguely aware of the fellow's speed, Kenji ducked instinctively and lashed out with a backwards kick and met his opponent's open palm! "Don't be foolish, boy." he said quickly. "You've forced me to discard my cloak and my disguise. Not even your mentor could do that because he was busy keeping an eye out encase I went after you three. Now... is different!"

Dastan full body

Dastan without his white robes.

Kenji leapt forward and turned, a grin on his face. The fellow standing before him had combed down, shoulder length brown hair and no longer wore the robes of the Shinigami. Instead he wore a suit of leather-like armor with a circular medallion placed in its center with a thin, but long piece of red cloth wrapped multiple times around his waist with the loose bits hanging down behind him. He also had a tattoo displayed on his right shoulder and bicep. "I guess there's no hiding my identity now, is there? My name...is Dastan! And now we fight for real!"

Kenji barely dodged this fellow's sudden increase in speed! Dastan's swords moved in a blur, flashing in the moonlight as they came down for continued strikes. But Kenji's stance and defense held firm under that torrent of blows. "Use Shōshitsu merodī!" Kyo barked.

Shōshitsu merodī involved luring the enemy into a strike that would leave Kenji defenseless. It was a dangerous move. One that could spell the end of any battle, but against Dastan's torrent of strikes, it was the only way Kenji could free himself. Sure, he could leap backwards and gain a few seconds before the torrent would renew itself anew. He could shunpo, breaking his balance and leaving himself open to a far more dangerous attack. No, Shōshitsu merodī was his only chance.

Flowing through the necessary movements to set it up, Kenji moved to the right and hardened the spiritual energy around his left side as much as he possibly could before Dastan hit him with a glancing strike that drew blood. But it pulled him closer and allowed Kenji to launch his own offensive. As the name suggested, Kenji vanished using shunpo and delivered a strike that The Trickster blocked quickly, a look of surprise on his face. "I don't care what you claim, Kenji, but Maki did not teach you those moves. Those moves belong to a long-dead clan of swordsmen that were destroyed by Vasto Lord's years ago. So, the question I would like answered is where you learned techniques not seen in centuries?"

"That's for me to know," Kenji said quietly, "And for you to never find out." The two moved closer, exchanging quick precise blows all the while testing one another and their abilities. Kenji had seen Dastan's skills before, but how much was still below the surface? How much was he hiding? He had no clue at all. He could have enough Reiatsu to level a mountain for all he knew.

Their blades resounded as they struck, Kenji's blade repelling Dastan's own blade, and Dastan's other repelling Kenji's other. They were even currently, but either could tip the balance, but none wanted to. Better to wait for an opportunity than force one. That showed your opponent a little more of your skills and gave them more time on how to counter. Better to fight evenly and wait. Wait until you could crush your opponent with a single, destructive attack.

Backing up, Dastan watched Kenji carefully. "This child is using techniques none have lived to tell the tale of in years. Just where did he learn those skills? And he isn't even using his Shikai and he's keeping up with me. And there's the matter of that second katana blade he's trying to hide. Just where did he get that?"

But Dastan had little time to think as a red Kidō blast flew toward him as Kenji thought "Hado 34: Kongōbaku." Countering with Sōkatsui, Dastan moved into the smoke caused by the collision to bide his time. Time, however, wasn't on his side. Crashing through the smoke, Kenji struck out swiftly with his wakizashi! His katana however was sheathed at his side. Dodging to the right, Dastan grinned. For Kenji, there was no time to think. Instinct brought his katana out of its sheath in a flashing arc. Mūn wa mizuumi no ue ni noboru. Mūn wa mizuumi no ue ni noboru turned into a quick display of piercing strikes, leaving Dastan at the mercy of Kenji's speed. However, Dastan wasn't trapped easily. A Kidō barrier formed before him and held firm long enough for him to leap back. "Lord of the Heavens, inhabit my body so I may enact my final revenge upon all those who dared to cross my destined path! Hado 82: Kyokukōme!" Two circles of soul energy formed, appearing almost like two large, red eye-like symbols. Two beams of energy shot forward at an alarming rate across the ground, tearing up the earth as they closed in.

Left with no choice, Kenji channeled his spiritual energy. The purest blue lightning coated both his blades as he set them together. "Souryou." He said calmly, and a thin serpentine dragon made from electricity shot from Kenji's blade, the force of the impact canceling out the first of those Kidō blasts and kicking up smoke. For the second, Kenji sheathed his wakizashi in a fast manner and gripped his katana tightly in both hands. Lightning awoke upon the blade again as Kenji struck the point of the blast with all his might! He skidded backwards, feet entrenched in the earth as the Kidō spell threatened to overwhelm him. Appearing above, Dastan forced the spell to collapse by hitting its surface with another Sōkatsui. An explosion sounded, with Kenji at the center.

Dastan touched down in his original place and scanned the smoke-filled area intently. Not many people would survive a level 82 Hado spell fired from him, but this child had a habit of surprising people. Falling forward, Dastan suddenly felt a great pain in his back. "Thought I was dead, eh?" Kenji asked casually as he slashed his opponent. "I thought so too, but you know how things go. You look confused, and not for the first time."

Putting distance between them, Dastan looked completely and utterly confused. "You know, I am curious. How did you survive?"

Pointing to where he once stood, Kenji grinned broadly. "I've mastered Aoi Inazuma's Shikai inside and out. What you hit, was a lightning clone created just after I canceled out your first beam with Souryou. That created a smoke cloud momentarily that I used to dig a hole and make the exchange. Lightning does that surprisingly quickly."

"So your clone was the one I destroyed then? Certainly an interesting move. Just how many times can you pull that off?"

"It's made using lightning, Dastan. My zanpakuto can create it indefinitely as long as I have the energy needed to form and shape it. But you're welcome to believe what you will."

"But that was close." Kenji voiced to Kyo. "If I hadn't of thought to use the clone, we'd be ash by now.'" Easing his stance, Kenji made himself look inviting, but Dastan wasn't budging. He must've had enough of attacking, so Kenji decided he'd do some. With Kidō this time. "Hado 19: Sakugukikō!" Several bluish-black armor bundles covered in purple Reiryoku formed around Kenji, but he didn't stop at that. Touching the purple Reiryoku that joined them, Kenji charged them with electricity, "Hado 11: Tsuzuri Raiden!" The now electrified armor bundles flew out toward Dastan who began dodging them with flash steps.

Watching the display for an opening, Kenji eased his mind and body. To use the sword skills Kyo taught him, he needed to be calm or he knew he'd get them wrong. Opening his eyes, Kenji seen the final bundle of armour being cut in two before Dastan fled the explosion. "Combining Kidō attacks? Nice move, Kenji."

"Why thank you, Dastan. There's more where that came from." Kenji replied. He was actually enjoying this is a twisted kind of way. He'd trained solidly for the last eight months. Maybe it was the thrill that it was paying off, or maybe it was just his opponent. But Kenji was definitely enjoying this battle. He was showing his mastery of Aoi Inazuma's Shikai by using it's abilities while sealed, though at reduced power and was holding his own against a foe Maki said was easily Captain Class.

"And now... the gloves come off." Dastan remarked confidently, spiritual energy rising as he spoke. It started off slowly, but grew steadily until a powerful brown Reiatsu encompassed the entire area before shooting high into the sky. He drew a small, blue-hued dagger from below the red cloth tied around his waist and grinned. "Be Unleashed," Kenji took a defensive stance as he raised his own energy to challenge Dastan's, "Sanzu!"

Dastan shikai

Dastan's Shikai revealed!

Dastan was enveloped further in spiritual energy the likes of which Kenji had never sensed before. To hell with sensing. He didn't need to. He could bloody well feel the concentration of it in the very air itself. The clouds that were there previously seemed to move on as though scared and the wind became violent. The dust cloud kicked up by the release of his zanpakuto was cut in several different directions with a long, chained weapon.

The weapon burst from the smoke and wrapped itself around Kenji's mid-section. With a powerful wrench, Dastan lifted him into the air and slammed into the ground before repeating the procedure several times. With a flick of his wrist, the chained weapon moved to the right and trailed Kenji through the ground before Dastan made it rise once again. "How'd ya like this, eh Kenji? Haha! Take this, and this. Oh, and we can't forget THIS!"

Kenji's screams filled the air as he was continually tore through the ground and slammed down mercilessly! Dastan was having the time of his life, however. How long he'd waited for this moment. How long he'd wished to hear this child's bones crack! Dastan raised Kenji as high as the chain would allow, which was pretty high. If his hand was free, Kenji could've moved it through the clouds. But he didn't remain high long as Dastan, with a powerful yank, brought hi down towards the ground. "Kenji! You must use me! Now!" Kyo practically begged, but Kenji refused.

Lightning energy flowed from Kenji's body down the chained weapon, shocking Dastan below. Once free, Kenji hurtled to the ground with an almighty thud! He was unmoving in the rubble of the crater and Dastan was barely injured by the shock. "You put up a good fight, Kenji Hiroshi, but in the end...!" A white blast of pure amplified Reiatsu tore up the ground around Dastan who didn't even see it coming. A black-haired youngster Dastan didn't even recognize landed in front of Kenji's body with a large grin on his face. "You The Trickster? Good. My name's Kusaka, and we're gonna kick your ass."

"We?" Dastan asked suddenly as a large column of white energy erupted from the ground beneath him! Jumping backwards, Dastan regarded the silver-haired youth who landed beside this Kusaka fellow. "My name's Sojiro. Kusaka's brother, and the we he meant wasn't only me."

A grin spread across Kenji's face as he looked up to see his friend Yoshiro and Momoko stand above him. Momoko immediately began healing him while Yoshiro looked completely different. he had no bandages and he wore a face of calm composure. "Momoko, take care of Kenji, okay? Kusaka, Sojiro and me will keep him busy. Join us afterwards, okay?"

"...Yoshi, It's good to see you. Maki take care of ya?"

"Yup. The old fart knew exactly what you were planning. Healed me on the spot and said "This fight belongs to you all." Returning his attention towards Dastan, Yoshiro and Kusaka released their Shikai as one while Sojiro began analyzing.

Dastan's full Power!? Yoshiro makes his Stand!Edit

Kenji could only watch helplessly from the sidelines as his friend jumped in to defend him. They weren't stupid, of that he was certain. None of them, with the exception of Yoshiro, had enough in the way of spiritual energy to even stand against Dastan. He had only been defeated by Shrieker because he was taken by complete surprise by that cloning ability. If there roles were to be reversed, Kenji was certain he'd have ended up the same way as Yoshiro had. But then there was Kusaka and Sojiro. Kusaka was tough as nails, and wouldn't go down without a fight. And Sojiro was quick and lithe. He'd be difficult to hit.

What troubled Kenji was the fact Momoko was here. She hadn't undergone training even half as rough and difficult as the rigors Kenji and Yoshiro pushed themselves through. She would be in danger throughout the entire fight. Sojiro was the same if his speed gave out in the slightest. "Momoko," Kenji said quietly. "Please hurry. They're in more danger than they realize...!"

Yoshiro leapt in first, Ice Sword striking against the chained weapon that was Dastan's shikai. The thing's path was extremely unpredictable, but Kusaka did the best against it because his chained scythe was just as unpredictable and he had plenty of experience with it. Sojiro watched the fight calmly, ready to move at any moment while staying off to the side. Ice sprouted from the ground in sharpened spikes, and Kusaka attacked the jumping Dastan with his Rei Furashuu attack.

Cutting through the wave attack and blasting away the ice with spiritual energy, Dastan wrapped his Shikai around Yoshiro's Ice Sword. But the blade vanished and instead of Dastan doing the trapping, Yoshiro encased the chain in ice the entire way up its length, even catching Dastan's right hand in the process. The swordsman still had those two blades however, and had proven himself extremely skilled in their use in their last battle and not ten minutes ago.

Dastan sheathed the sword in his left hand and pulled his right hand free from the ice. With his now free hand outstretched, he began chanting; "Hado 89: Hyōga Seiran!" A large torrent of frozen water erupted outwards towards Yoshiro and Kusaka. Flashing directly into the spells way, Yoshiro held out both arms and channeled his energy outwards! "You are a fool! I can manipulate Ice you moron!" Even though he himself was incapable of using Kidō in the extreme eighties, Ryouta had taught him how to repel them. Matching the strength and consistency of the ice using his zanpakuto as a medium, Yoshiro turned the torrent right back on him!

Dastan moved away with a confused glare, before he shunpo'd 'round behind Yoshiro. Without even turning a wall of ice shot up between Dastan and Yoshiro, with the latter muttering words silently as he turned "Bakudo 63: Sajo Sabaku!" The yellow chains formed and closed shut tightly around Dastan's body as Yoshiro glared at him. Even a Captain would have some difficulty destroying a level 63 Bakudo with incantation. "I'm not finished," He said, cutting off Dastan's attempt at speech. "Hado 48: Bakuyakunami!" The spell disrupted the reishi in the air above Dastan and caused it to begin com-busting with the oxygen, creating some very real bombs. Several explosions sounded out as Kusaka appeared in the sky above. With a single downward strike of his scythe, he released a concentrated Rei Furashuu down into the smoke and watched eagerly but carefully to see what state their enemy would be in.

"I suppose I should congratulate you for using what little brain power you all have." Dastan's voice rang out of the smoke in its ever mocking tone and he soon followed the sound. When he did appear though he was pretty well injured. His left arm was bloodied from his shoulder to his fingertips and half the clothing on his upper body was blown to kingdom come. "But I will pay you back for harming me." His spiritual energy rose and became a type of pressure weighing them down! Kusaka and Sojiro could barely move under that level of power. Only Yoshiro was able to stand firm before it and if not for him erecting ice shields around the Kori brothers, both would've been killed when Dastan broke his ensnared Shikai chain free and tore it through the air towards them.

"You two back up!" Yoshiro called loudly. "Protect Momoko and Kenji." Turning his attention towards Dastan, Yoshiro breathed out as he sought calmness. Ryouta had taught him a form which helped with that. It was called Floating in Emptiness and involved the user cutting off their emotions so they wouldn't interfere with a battle. Under no circumstances would he use it in a team battle because it removed the will to help your friends and allies, but his swordsmanship improved when he used it because there was no fear reflected in his sword and no hesitation to ebe away at his resolve.

It also sharpened focus. Right now, Yoshiro could feel Dastan's spiritual energy as though he were right beside him. "Hado 4: Byakurai." He said, voice becoming cold and distant as he spoke. Dastan took to the sky, and Yoshiro followed him. They exchanged blows for an extended period before Yoshiro was sent towards the ground when Dastan began spinning his Shikai around above his head. Reiatsu began forming visibly on the weapon and then the ground beneath Yoshiro began trembling and shifting as though an earthquake was tearing through the region. Taking to the air, the emotionless state helping to clear his thoughts as he avoided the attack. But Dastan had other plans and the bladed chain wrapped itself around Yoshiro's body multiple times. "Now you are finished, boy!"

As he was thrown towards the ground, Yoshiro remained calm. Ice shot from his body, forcing the chains to expand so Yoshiro could slip out unharmed. Looking upwards Yoshiro cupped his hands at his waist, a sphere of semi-frozen shimmering ice forming. "Aisumēkā: Happa." A massive amount of ice flowed from Yoshiro's hands as he threw them forward. Dastan retaliated with a very hasty Hyōga Seiran.

Yoshiro allowed his emotions to return as he watched what Dastan would do next. So far they were pretty much even, but Dastan still had power hidden below the surface just waiting to be unleashed. The ex-Shinigami walked forward, a grin on his face. "You know, if my old allies could see me like this, I would never hear the end of it. Have you any idea who I am, boy?"

Shaking his head, Yoshiro gave his answer. "I don't care if your the God-damned Soul King himself. We'll defeat you one way or another."

Kenji listened to those words with a smile. "He's actually doing pretty well. He didn't let himself be beaten by his Shikai. This is the chance we needed Kyo." Kenji remarked to the being he shared a body with. "Yes, follow his movements and when your injuries are healed, we will crush him together!"

As she healed his wounds, Momoko was astonished at how much these two had grown. Kenji's spiritual energy didn't even fell the same anymore; it was so expansive when compared to what he was before his training. Right now, it's like comparing an ocean to a lake. That's how much he's grown. And Yoshiro was fighting at a completely new level. He's battling The Trickster. The one who almost killed him four months ago. She couldn't help but feel a little envious...

Yoshiro avoided another whip-like strike from Dastan's Shikai as he worked on moving farther away. One thing about Yoshiro's Ice skills were that they allowed him to just easily attack from close or long range and his ability to make shields and obstacles from ice proved effective in a team battle. He batted the Shikai of Dastan aside with solidified ice and then fired a steady stream of arrows from a standing position before taking to the air and throwing a large, pointed javelin that Dastan split in two as it reached him. The ice, however, acted like it had a will of its own. As it split, the ice changed form from that of a javelin to that of a wall closing in on both sides. Dastan, however, blew it away with sheer spiritual energy.

But Kenji could feel his strength returning. Right now, he was roughly seventy percent. It wouldn't be long now...Wouldn't be long until he and Kyo crushed Dastan like an insect beneath their boot.

Lashing out twice with iced over hands, Yoshiro repelled Dastan's Shikai once again and grinned. "Sprinkled on the bones of the beast! Rise now and stab my enemy!" Hado 42: Yariame (Spear Rain)!" Reiatsu flowed from Yoshiro's hands and flew straight into the air where it split into sharpened spear-like shapes that fell at great speed. Dastan cut them aside with a single overhead rotation of his zanpakuto Sanzu before he shunpo'd towards Yoshiro directly. "I can see you!" Ice formed in the shape of a sword, and the two struck fiercely, gusts of wind rising!

As they stood in a stalemate, Dastan grinned evilly. "May the spiraling flames of hell rise now and become my weapon, striking those who stand upon my path. Disappear in the raging flames of Purgatory! Hado 68: Unsō-hi!" A large cage made of red fire ensnared Yoshiro and moved him backwards before collapsing inwards, resulting in a destructive explosion. Kenji looked on horrified! He was almost ready. He was so close. "I'll buy you time," Kusaka said as he hefted his scythe. "Momoko, how long do you need?"

"I'm restoring his Reiatsu now, so only a few minutes."

"Then you'll get them." Kusaka flashed away and appeared to Dastan's right as the carriage of searing flame crashed into the ground. "Hey asshole! Over here!" With a backward kick, Kusaka was sent sprawling, but he remained as true as his word and got up again. Smiling happily over at Momoko, he ran forward again. Dastan seemed to like the idea of another fly to swat and took his time, torturing the Shinigami. First a cut across the chest, then another across the back. But Kusaka kept looking to the sky for some reason. The moon was hidden behind clouds.

Sojiro was trembling visibly with anger. He was good at keeping his emotions under check, but whenever it came to his brother, he was a different story. Sojiro shot forward with a shunpo and declared loudly as he closed the gap, "Heart of the south, eye of the north, finger of the west, foot of the east, rise now and become my shield! Bakudo 40: Boido!" A shield similar in function to Danku formed and Sojiro used it to crash into Dastan's side, knocking him away from his brother who used the opportunity to unleash a Rei Furashuu at close range!

The two brothers bumped fists as they landed beside one another and decided to stand back-to-back to cover their defenses better. "Be careful, Sojiro." Kusaka warned a little breathlessly. He had cuts all over, but none serious. Sojiro grinned in spite of it. "The same goes to you, Kusaka. We can hurt him, we just gotta find out how."

"Or you could let me back at him!" Yoshiro walked from the rubble of the recently made crater, top layer of clothing completely blown off. Burn marks covered his body and blood flowed from a wound on his forehead, but apart from that he was fine! His Reiatsu was holding firm too. "Trickster! Or whatever your name is! Get out here, now!"

"You would do well not to underestimate me, boy! All of you! I've had enough of you looking down on me, thinking yourselves capable of defeating me. You stand there ignorant of the person you are fighting. Tell me, how would you react if you knew my previous occupation?" That brought little surprise from Kenji and Co. however.

"Yeah, we already know you were a Captain." Yoshiro said casually, scratching his ear for added effect. He adopted a ready position and sighed for even further effect.

"A Captain? Yes, I was in a sense. But I was superior to an average Captain. I was a member of the Royal Guard! And now I will grind you to sand and throw you into the wind! Ban... kai!"

"Oh shit!!" Kenji leapt to his feet, not caring if he was fully healed or not and sheathed his wakizashi on his back. "Yoshiro! Guard Momoko, Kusaka and Sojiro! NOW!"

Dastan was enveloped in a truly monstrous Reiatsu that spread outward in a shock-wave similar to the type Rikimaru created upon every slash of his sword, only these were much more potent. Kenji drew Kyo's sword and held it firmly in his left hand. "Yoshi, he's went and used his bloody Bankai! The final release. You need to get everyone out of here. I'll stay and fight him! Get Maki, Ryouta, Koichi, Rikimaru, heck get everybody!"

"...No." Yoshiro said quickly. "You think I'm gonna leave you to fight that? Sit there and shut it, Kenji. I ain't leavin, and you sure as hell can't make me."

With a suppressed laugh, Kenji slapped his friend on the back as both turned to face the Bankai of Dastan...

Kusaka, however, was having none of it either. "Kenji, run on and pretend your even half-wise! I made ya a promise ya big goof. I'd help when the time came, right? I ain't leavin. Look," He pointed skywards, the massive figure of the moon coming into focus. "Remember what I told ya? I'm stronger when the moon's out!"

The three stood firm under Dastan's spiritual energy. All three turned and spoke as one. "Sojiro, Momoko. Get out of here." And the look the three directed towards their comrades had them running for the Seireitei.

The true fight was about to begin...!

The Strength of Friendship! Kenji, Yoshiro & Kusaka vs. Dastan!Edit

Dastan's Bankai

Dastan's Bankai!

When Dastan emerged, he was completely changed from head to toe. His entire body was covered in a suit of armor that closely resembled a hollow with intricate yellow designs that looked like flowing sand. His eyes were a hollow-like yellow and his hair stood up and became wavy, as though it were suspended in water. The chained weapon was back, but this time possessing a slightly darker tone. The weapon crackled with Reishi discharge and Dastan was grinning like an animal from ear-to-ear.

Allowing themselves to adjust to that immense levels of Reiatsu Dastan was letting loose. Yoshiro was taking it in his stride and Kenji was analyzing his opponent for any sign of a weakness. So far, he came up with zip-all.

Kusaka kept looking to the clouds, and was ecstatic when Dastan's spiritual energy forced them onwards. I'm happy about that...but thing's are bad when his spiritual energy frightens even the clouds. "I'm not as strong as you guy's, but let me tell you that I'll fight with you for as long as I can."

Kenji didn't like this. Realistically, only Yoshiro and he had the power even to stand against Dastan like this. "...I don't mean to doubt you, Kusaka, but I'm worried."

"Ha, about me? I told you before that I need the moon for my full powers. Well, here's why." Pure black energy began surging upwards from Kusaka's zanpakuto which slowly enveloped him completely. Even Dastan, who's own release was something to behold, stopped to watch with a strange look on his face. Kusaka's voice, now much deeper and menacing, sounded. "Bathed in the Moon's Light...!"

Kusaka shikai 2

Kusaka Transforms!?

Kusaka was surrounded in a fantastic white light that seemed to originate from the moon itself that cut through his previous black energy aura with great intensity. When the light vanished, Kusaka was no longer the same person! It was as though he'd released his own mini-Bankai. The form he took completely outclassed his Shikai in every sense of the word! His spiritual energy was enhanced and he actually looked more muscular.

Demon-like wings sprouted from his back and a gloved gauntlet covered his left hand with a black blade jutting out. An eye-patch covered his right eye and the chain of his previous scythed-weapon was now attached to his belt by the chain. His robes turned black and several chain-like accessories now adorned his coat and belt with two falling from the back of his outfit to flutter in the wind. "Still worried, Kenji?" In that voice, so dark and evil, Kenji found himself smiling.

"Kusaka, did i ever tell ya that you are amazing? I really should start!" "His bloody energies as high as my own!" Kenji could've swore he heard Kyo laughing at that. "Well, this is a good thing." Turning to Yoshiro, Kenji grinned. "Hey, any chance you could do somethin' similar? Maybe turn into some massive Ice creature? No? Ah well, only a thought."

"That's an impressive technique, boy." Dastan said suddenly, his own voice just as menacing as Kusaka's was. "Tell me, is that an ability of your zanpakuto? I've heard of swords which transform the user."

"Oh, can it!" Kusaka bit back. "I've had enough of you, your Bankai and your terrible conversation. Because let's face it, dude. You're obsessed with killin' an Academy student! No offense meant Kenji." Kenji waved him off with a gesture. "In my opinion, someone needs a new hobby."

"Yeah, and I'm gonna help ya find it!" Kenji roared, gripping Kyo's katana and the katana of Aoi Inazuma tightly. This was it. The battle that would decide if he lived or died. Looking each of his friends in the eye in turn, Kenji began walking forward. "Guys, there's somethin' I wanna tell you both."

"Save it until later, Kenji." Both Yoshiro and Kusaka said together. With a grin, Kusaka began circling towards Dastan at a near-walk. "We're with ya, Kenji. To hell and back again, if need be. There may come a time when we're not side-by-side, but we'll still support one-another!" Yoshiro said as he looked towards Dastan. "Now...I think it's time we carved him a new one! Let's go!"

Kenji was propelled forward with a combination of Yoshiro's Ice wall forming behind him and his own lightning enhanced shunpo! As he closed on Dastan, the ex-Royal Guard Captain spun that chain, the Reishi particles dancing around it beautifully! Kusaka came in from the right, scythe flying out before him, his wrist-mounted blade drew back as though he were about to deliver a brutal punch.

Dastan took to the air and swung his weapon down on Kusaka who literally flew to the side and then upwards, "Rei Furashuu!" A blackened wave of energy shot from Kusaka's wrist-blade and when Dastan split it with a single hand, Kenji appeared as it split and released a concentrated wave of lightning energy. Turning quickly, he performed a spin-kick and smacked the piece of ice provided by Yoshiro straight towards his foe.

Smacking it aside, Dastan soon found himself trying to avoid the arrows from Yoshiro's Ice Bow. None of the three were strong enough to stand against him alone, but joint was a different matter completely. As a team, they could cover each other's weaknesses, attack in new ways and allow their enemy no chance to counter. They had no idea what Dastan's Bankai was capable of, or what he could do with it. Captain's didn't earn the position on a whim after all. One of the requirements was mastery over their Bankai after all.

As Dastan avoided the Ice and lightning combination, his chained-weapon tore through Yoshiro's arrows as it extended to attack all three at once. He was grinning evilly as they avoided and shunpo'd away to avoid the weapon's path. Kusaka, still under the influence of the moon's energy, was doing best of all. He had plenty of experience with chained-weapons and knew exactly how to avoid and where to move to better dodge the sweeping arcs Dastan seemed to favor. He was also moving faster than Kenji's lightning enhanced shunpo with just his ordinary one. "Arrgh! I've had enough of this!" Kusaka thumped the chain at long range with his scythe.

Taking advantage, Kenji shot forward with a lightning accelerated shunpo. "Kusaka! Pincer!" Kenji's eyes flashed crimson as he tapped the largest amount of Kyo's energy he could without actually releasing the sword and came up on Dastan, who smiled calmly. He seemed to be focusing something. "Oh shit...! Kusaka, pull up! Move! NOW!"

Dastan shook his head. "May the flames of those hearts you've killed in the Lord's slumber, show you retribution in the form of a fiery death! Hado 92: Honōshiki (Death Ablaze)!" The immediate area surrounding Dastan for a good few feet was engulfed in tremendously warm and destructive flames. Yoshiro looked on as the flames threated to consume both Kenji and Kusaka as they fled. Ice sprang around them at his command, but in the face of those flames he might as well have used air. "Run, you guys!"

Kusaka suddenly vanished from sight, re-appearing just before Kenji who he caught and hurled with all his strength! "Don't say I was never there for you!" Kenji landed clear of the flames, but Kusaka was completely consumed! Before he vanished from sight, a moon-colored shield surrounded him and he smiled as though he had no regrets... "Don't let this be a waste... Kenji, Yoshiro..." Then, he was gone, consumed in flames as intense as the fires of hell themselves.

Kenji scanned the flames for his friend, but he seen nothing. Heard nothing. Sensed nothing. With tears falling down his cheeks, he yelled at the top of his lungs. "KUSAKA!!!!!!"

Yoshiro fell to his knees, his eyes too, filled with tears. "Kusaka...? No way... No way...! Not Kusaka, not him! You bastard. Dastan, you bastard!" Yoshiro's view of the flames were blocked as Kenji rose, arms trembling from outright rage. Struggling to keep the tears back, Kenji raised his head. When he opened his eyes, they were crimson. But they were far more intense than they usually were. Leveling Kyo's katana at Dastan, Kenji began speaking. "Now you've done it, Dastan. Now you've pushed me too far. I didn't want to do this, because I didn't think you'd kill my friends. But now, I see how stupid I was for believing that and It won't happen again. Kyo, lend me your strength."

Kenji using Kyo

Kenji's form after releasing Kyo's energy.

A large amount of spiritual energy surrounded Kenji as the sword sealing Kyo's power vanished! Kenji's own spiritual energy was amplified to the point Yoshiro was driven into the ground by its intensity! Watching as he struggled to keep his gaze fixed on his friend, Yoshiro was awestruck. This is the same feeling I got when he grabbed my hand the day we met...! To think that he was holding this much back! Kenji... my friend, you really are the best!

Kenji's energy surrounded him in a white outline that shimmered and moved. Flashing forward, Kenji dove straight into the flames, parting them with spiritual energy alone! In seconds, he was back holding a badly burnt and barely breathing Kusaka. Faint remnants of a shield surrounded his body, but it was mostly eroded. Setting him down, Kenji began walking towards Dastan. "Yoshiro, get yourself and Kusaka to safety. I can't control this form very well."

Kenji flowed his katana blade past his head and then brought itl to rest behind him, releasing a massive surge of energy that upturned the ground behind him in the wake of his slash! Dastan's yellow eyes opened wide as Kenji vanished. It was still Shunpo he was using, but dammit was he fast! His hand ate air, as Dastan barely avoided Kenji's open palmed thrust!

"What the hell's goin' on with this kid!?" Dastan released more energy, hoping to max Kenji's abrupt increase in strength, speed and spiritual energy. "You will die..." Kenji's voice rang out behind Dastan who turned just in time to block Kenji's fist with the chains of his Shikai.

"Such raw power! It just doesn't equal my Bankai...it bloody well exceeds it! What kind of training did this kid go through?" Kenji was mad with rage though. Every strike of his blade upturned the ground and he wasn't even using his wakizashi! It was as if a dam existed within Kenji's body, and that sword he released was the key that opened the flood gates.

Avoiding his attacks, Dastan tried to concentrate, but found himself unable to. He could sense several large spiritual energies approaching and one of 'em was Maki Zhijun. But who were the others? That red-clad fellow? Rikimaru? Or was it Ryouta Hachirou and Koichi Hiroshi? Dastan was just praying that it wasn't Jiro Kazuki or Garian Shinjo. Those names still gave him shivers.

"You should really stop daydreaming!" Kenji struck Dastan in the chest with bone-wrenching power! His fist was surrounded in an extension of the aura that surrounded his entire body, only it was as hard and as solid as steel. With a quick turn, Kenji sent his foe flying from the sky into the ground below with a very powerful spin kick. "You made one mistake, Dastan. You harmed my friends. And that, will be your downfall."

Dastan decided he'd allow his spiritual energy to do the talking and released his full strength. He needed to end this quickly, otherwise he'd be destroyed by the arrival of the others heading towards their battle. As he shot upwards from the rubble, Dastan delivered a devastating punch to Kenji's stomach before wrapping his chain around his body liked he'd done previously in their battle. With great strength, Dastan began twirling and twirling him 'round continually by the chain before releasing him to fly towards the ground.

Smoke suddenly obscured the area, but Dastan couldn't quite understand where the hell it had came from. Backing up, he was set upon by Kenji's twin blades, both cloaked in vicious lightning that crackled loudly as he swung it through the air. Abandoning his chained weapon, Dastan drew his dual blades and blocked! Sparks flew as they clashed.

"Kenji!" The voice belonged to Maki Zhijun and it wasn't only him who appeared. Koichi Hiroshi, Ryouta Hachirou, Rikimaru Ichinose carrying Kusaka and Momoko who was currently undergoing emergency treatment on him. Sojiro was there as well, standing guard over his brother's burnt body.

"Don't any of you interfere!" Kenji barked as he repelled Dastan with sheer brute force. "This is my fight! He's gonna pay...!" The last was said in a dual voice. Dastan attempted to put distance between himself and Kenji, but nothing worked. He was hounded at every turn, and right now he was getting his backside kicked up and down the street. And he'd even released his Bankai! "This can't be happening! It can't!"

"It is!" Kenji yelled as he struck again, adopting and flowing through the swordsmanship forms Kyo taught him. He struck out three times with Kaze no appuru no hana and cut a deep wound across Dastan's chest and then turned that into Kumo o setsudan. His blade glanced past Dastan's throat, just missing it. Kenji then turned, sheathing his wakizashi and spin-kicking Dastan in the chest before flashing above him as he flew and kicking him directly into the ground below.

"And now to finish you...!" Lightning cloaked Kenji's katana as he descended at a startling rate.

Rising from the rubble, Dastan made eye contact with his chained weapon and waved his hand, "Split and Mutilate!" The entire weapon broke apart and the blades descended towards Kenji as one. Millions of little blades surrounded him and cut him from every angle possible. Dropping from the sky and landing face-first on the ground, Kenji attempted to rise, though he found it very difficult. Great...It was going so well, and then he breaks that out on me. Aoi Inazuma... A gentle hand touched his shoulder and the ever supportive spirit of Aoi Inazuma appeared. "Kenji...do you trust me?"

"With my life." Kenji answered truthfully. There wasn't a being Kenji trusted more, because, no matter what, he always had Aoi Inazuma to back him.

"I told you that you're power would increase if you used me. Now, we will finish this in a single blow. Don't hold back a drop of power, Kenji. Go for it. With myself and Kyo aiding you, there is nothing to fear."

"Exactly," Another hand grasped his shoulder, this one the hand of Kyo. "But blind anger and rage is not the answer you ought to be seeking, Kenji. Calm yourself, and feel our energy. You're coming very dangerously close to the threshold of energy you're body can currently handle without giving out. This fight alone will cost you a week or two of recuperation. So you need to finish it now. Use that technique."

Kenji Dastan clash

The final strike! Kenji vs. Dastan!

The spirit's faded and Kenji's body awoke anew with energy as he channeled it and then condensed it all into his sword. Dastan seemed to do the same, only he used one of his dual-swords. "Fainaruchāji (The Final Charge)." White energy erupted from Kenji's body and black energy from Dastan's. The two opposing forces collided, their blades running alongside the other.

Momoko and the others watched the display eagerly and with great fear. The energy shot outwards and Momoko found herself shielded by Sojiro's body as Maki, Koichi, Ryouta and Rikimaru erected Kidō barriers apiece that shook under the magnitude of the clash. The energy from that clash soon dissipated, revealing both fighters. The white aura that had surrounded Kenji's body throughout his time using Kyo's energy was gone and his eyes were reverted to their normal color. Blood exploded from his shoulder. "No, I won't fall!" Kyo's katana re-formed and Kenji used it as a brace to prevent himself toppling. Somehow, he managed to turn to look at Dastan.

Blood exploded from his shoulder also, but he held his footing and simply stared into the horizon, taking small, pained steps forward. "Kenji Hiroshi..." Coughing blood interrupted him, but afterwards he continued. "You're reckless abandon has broken me and my sword." He dropped his right hand to his side, revealing nothing but the handle in his hand. "I shall pursue you no further...but be wary. I, dear boy, am the least of your worries." He vanished with one of the most impressive shunpo's Kenji had ever seen.

"I-I...did it..." The world went blurry and the ground came up fast as Kenji fell forward. But it wasn't the ground he hit, but the arms of his father, Koichi. "Son, I do believe you are mad." Unshed tears filled his eyes as he spoke. "And you did very good. You beat back Dastan, an ex-Royal Guardsman. Now rest boy. We'll get you home..." The rest washed over him and became illegible and he closed his eyes and allowed the overbearing pain coursing through his body to claim him...His battle was won, his war fought, but this was only the beginning... of Kenji's own personal war.

Next Arc > Exploring the Human World Arc: Seeking a Purpose

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