A story that documents Kenji's meeting with his older brother, Rosuto Shiba, in Kenji's Inner World. Set three years after the Defense of Horiwari Village, Kenji learns a great deal about himself and a family he thought he'd never truly know...
A Drink in Peace... Edit
"Do they ever shut up...?" A black-haired man, leaning lazily against a nearby wall thought with a sour expression. His shoulder-length brown hair cast his eyes in shadow, and covered the majority of the silver shoulder guards his black jacket sported safe for a few gaps see-able through gaps in his hair that reflected the light shining down through an open roof-light.
Guessing Kusaka's thoughts, Tyrell Nishiki sighed in response before speaking in a low voice so he wouldn't be heard by those arguing not ten meters away. "I don't think they do," He was a muscular young man and tall, being of a height with Kusaka himself and sported a hair cut thats messiness and number of spikes put even Zieg Yoso to shame. "You'd think no one had ever knocked over a pint before..." He took a slug of his own tankard then and breathed relieve as he set it down on the circular table the two Shinigami were sharing.
Nodding and dropping down to his seat again, Kusaka emptied his half-full tankard and sighed before getting back to his feet and walking over to the argument. A fellow in a dusty kimono - obviously up from the docks - was arguing profusely with a well-dressed, middle-aged man with a silk handkerchief covering his nose as though a bad smell lingered. One… two. He counted mentally, vowing to boot both men out on their heads when the count reached five.
Ino Choyo walked in and silence descended as if every single one of the people in the bar had had their voice boxes removed and tongues cut out besides. She walked straight over to Tyrell and shook her head when her amber eyes took in Kusaka. He made a gesture as if to say "they need it" and the nod she gave in return only caused him to count all the faster.
"Five!" He moved forward quickly, grabbing both men by the scruff of the neck and marching them towards the door. They were like children in his grasp, and their complaints at their handling only made him move faster. In two fluid motions both men landed on their heads outside the bars door, the well-dressed man swearing about how he'd pay and all that nonsense. "Oh, can it, already! First, you piss me off which is annoying in itself, and then you threaten a Captain? Take a look at my face and see if you recognize it."
The man's face drained completely of all color and when he ran off, alongside the man from the docks, apologies spewed from his mouth like blood from a new wound. "Idiots," He muttered, returning to the comfort and quietness of his table. Taking his position at the wall once again, he sighed and reached for his re-filled tankard with a broad grin. "What?" He asked to the faces looking at him as though he had three heads and all funny looking for by. "I like a quiet drink, and arguing in annoying when I'm not the one doing it. Barkeep! One round for everyone on me." Cheers rose as he finished and the looks quickly changed to gratefulness.
"... Some things never change," Ino remarked with a laugh stifled with the back of her hand. To Kusaka she was gorgeous, with flowing blond hair, an outfit that highlighted her generous curves and a smile that made him want to smile in return. She was everything he looked for in a girl, but he always held his tongue because she was his best friend’s girl. "Why would I ever change?" he said in reply, taking a quick slug from his tankard. "Honeyed whiskey? In a tankard? Ino, you truly are a gift from on high, whose beauty is matched only by the stars of the night." The two looked at one another for a time before laughing, holding sides as they caught up.
The two spoke a good while before Ino wiped a tear from the corner of her eye and looked serious for a moment. "Kenji's made a discovery." Sighing at their fun being cut short, Kusaka shared a look with Tyrell. "I could've gone the rest of the day without hearing that."
"I could've gone the whole week," Tyrell added, meeting Ino's soft amber gaze. "Apparently, he has a brother." Whiskey spewed from Kusaka's mouth in a spray, soaking Tyrell whose face slowly began to show his growing anger.
Sanzunokawa Invoked Edit
A black-haired man with his alternate black-colored Shihakushō looked out over the endless oceans of his Inner World, the sky painted beautifully in the colors of a perpetual twilight. He sat in the shade of a palm tree, the sand soft beneath him as he simply allowed the wind blowing from the ocean to lull him into a state of calmness. He often visited his Inner World for the stunning view and peaceful lapping of the waves against the shore because of the sole fact he had quietness to think and work things out.
He still missed Aoi Inazuma though, despite the passing of three years since she was somehow altered into the zanpakutō he now held. Pushing that thought firmly to the side, Kenji leaned back and took a deep breathe. He wasn't here for a social call, not really, nor was he looking for quietness or an escape from the rigors of commanding The Ryu Order. This particular time was to meet a brother he didn't know he had until his father had told him three days ago he had three siblings; one stuck in the Wandering Spirit World, and thus the only one he could speak to at present.
He watched the blade of Sanmiittai with a level of hesitation; not really sure whether he should call his brother or not. "You face down whole armies of Hollow, the fiercest Arrancar the Gotei have found since the Winter War, partook in the fierce battle of fatherhood and now you hesitate?" Sanmiittai appeared in all his sarcastic glory and wore a knowing smile. His eyes reflected a level of age and wisdom Kenji seriously doubted he'd ever achieve and his posture was lazy.
"I guess I am a little hesitant." He admitted after a brief silence. His zanpakutō took a seat beside him, studying the sand beneath him with a keen eye. "I once pledged that I would come when you had need of me, to answer when you had need of knowledge and provide a foundation on which you could stand whenever you fell down. My pledge still holds, Kenji, so invoke my power and meet your family, or I will do it for you as part of that pledge."
A brief smile flashed across Kenji's face before he sighed in defeat. "... You win, Sanmiittai. I should know better than to try and put anything off when your around. Thanks for the words, though, but this is something I need to do myself." Rising to his feet slowly, the black-haired Shinigami initiated his Shikai and took a deep breathe. Fixing the image of his brother firmly in his mind from a picture his father had given him, Kenji utilized Sanzunokawa and focused on his brothers figure as he drew him into his Inner Realm...
Rosuto: The Lost Shiba Edit
A man with a white Shihakushō and blond-colored hair appeared on the shore of an unfamiliar landscape; though he didn't look the least bit surprised as he surveyed his surroundings. He didn't appear to notice either the black-haired man standing in the shade of a palm tree, or the man dressed in ceremonial clothing standing beside him. "I see you've decorated since our last meeting, Meian. I like the beach look. Very colorful." He turned, finally taking in the two other individuals and his yellow eyes narrowed.
"Who do we have here, then? An ocean wash-up and a samurai-wannabe? Just my luck... I just had to be thrown out here. If it sits well with you two questionable individuals, I'll be leaving now." He turned to walk away but a voice stopped him in his tracks. "Rosuto Shiba, son of Dastan Shiba and brother to Meian. Welcome to my master's Inner World." It had been the samurai-wannabe who had spoken, and when Rosuto turned his eyes were aflame.
"... Could it be you too possess the Sanzunokawa?" he asked, directing the question towards the black-haired man. "Hurry up and speak, because that ability belongs to Meian. And when we're on the subject of Meian, how the hell do you know his name, my name and the name of my old man?" Anger, just barely reigned it, creped through his tone.
The black-haired man with the equally black Shihakushō and crimson eyes stepped forward and nodded. "My birth name is Kenji Shiba, third son of Dastan and your youngest sibling." The color drained from Rosuto's face at the fellows words.
Silence drifted between the two with nothing but the wind blowing from the ocean filling their eardrums. Finally, with a shaky voice, Rosuto spoke. "Fight with me then. If you are who you say you are, our zanpakutō's will resonate if you let them do so. Know this, however. If you tell lies, you will die here today. Death in a Shinigami's Inner World is no different that death in the waking world."
The man named Kenji nodded slowly and took a few steps towards the ocean until the water lapped his ankles. "Not a bad idea, Rosuto. But believe me, you won't kill me." That brought a grin to Rosuto's face and a quickening to his heart. "Is that so, Kenji? It certainly sounds like something a brother of mine would say, but you can understand my doubts. I had a younger brother, true, but he was lost when his nursemaid was found dead."
"I was raised by Koichi and Annora Hiroshi, away from the Noble Houses." Kenji replied after a brief pause. "The only member of the Shiba Family I met with during my childhood was Kaien Shiba and now he's dead too." Anger and pain laced his tone to Rosuto's ears and Rosuto found his own anger rising. He'd played more than a few games with Kaien when they were still children and this was the first time he'd heard of his death. "We all mourn him," He said, with a thankful nod to Kenji for the news. "Enough chit-chat, though. It is time... to see whether your words hold truth or not."
The two moved forward, blades clashing fiercely! Sparks flew as the images flowed through each others minds, their zanpakutō laying their pasts to bare for the other to see. One was Kenji holding a child and playing a harmonica poorly, while another showed him locked in vicious conflict with a brown-haired man with a scythe. The same was true for Kenji, only Rosuto's memories for the last number of countless years reflected him staring out at complete darkness with nothing but the comforts of his zanpakutō and those of Meian to ease his existence in that expansive mass of blackness.
The two moved apart, Kenji's expression horrified despite his usual calmness. "Your memories... All I saw was a large space of complete blackness, with no life or movement to be seen. There wasn't even any wind."
"The Wandering Spirit World... or the in-between place that's a royal pain in my ass, if you prefer. As far as I've been able to discern, it is a realm without time, meaning I haven't aged since I entered it, which, judging by your expression has been more years than I care to remember." Rosuto flexed his neck muscles and grinned. "You are strong, though. More so than I originally thought. Your parry was as swift as it was forceful and right now your spiritual energy is nothing to laugh at either..."
Moving forward again, their blades touched - nothing more than a glancing interaction that brought a fresh showing of Kenji's past. This one showed the moment he lost his Hollow Powers and fought off a powerful Arrancar single-handedly. "Not bad," Rosuto muttered, spinning around Kenji's slash and impacting his ribs with a kick. "You move well, but you focus too much on swordsmanship." He lectured. "Kenji... I'm actually hoping you are who you say you are."
Surprisingly, Kenji turned and swept his foot through the air towards Rosuto's face, all the while following up with a deadly punch from his crescent moon-shaped hilt aimed for Rosuto's skull.
Ducking and rolling to the side, Rosuto came up and raised an eyebrow to show his surprise. "He brushed off the effects of my kick like it was nothing more than an ant bite, and countered accordingly." He was torn from his thoughts as the hook swords Kenji wielded with such deadly grace came down upon him. Clashing the crook of both blades, Rosuto glimpsed more of Kenji's past. This time, Rosuto saw a young, blond-haired youth struggling against the effects of a red brand, with Kenji voicing encouragement to him.
"He's very young to have the Shirushi branded on him, and the Stage III no less. What has this Kenji fellow and that young boy been tangling themselves in if they're encountering forbidden arts like the Shirushi?" He wanted to know, but the next series of slashes came quick and fast! The images shown melded together, but Rosuto did catch glimpse of a grizzled old veteran he recognized as Maki Zhijun and when he did, he pushed Kenji back so he could speak in peace. "I should have realized Maki was your teacher. That old fools as stubborn as a bear with a sore tooth, and judging from what happened with his first student, I'm surprised he took another. But that's ground he hasn't yet touched with you, is it? I'll remain quiet then."
Stopping, Kenji regarded Rosuto with a clam eye. "... You know Maki-Sensei? He's never mentioned training you. Only Dastan." Rosuto took note that he didn't call him "father". "You don't much like the man you claimed to be your old man, do you?" Rosuto asked, probing for more information.
Grunting, Kenji shook his head and laughed. "How long do you have? To put it simply, Dastan lost his memory to such a level that he didn't even recognize me as his son. The old fool tried to kill me three times, failing the first and second only because Koichi and Ryouta stopped him. The second he failed because he failed to predict I had a baby sitter in the form of a Royal Guardsmen. I don't hate him, its just that our relationship is a little strained."
The Archon of Storms and The Red Eagle Clash! Edit
That account fit with the news Meian had revealed in a previous meeting; that their father - Dastan - had lost his memory and went on a killing spree, killing one of the Shiba Families nurses in the process and supposedly their youngest sibling as well. "If he survived...! Well, he does resemble Kaien greatly..." "I guess I'll see if you are who you say you are soon enough. But I'm kicking things up a notch because right now, I'm actually pretty excited. The Red Eagle Flies! Forward, Nichiyō Rōzuobu!"
Kenji watched with utter surprise as flames, beautiful in their appearance and movements surrounded Rosuto's person. The very ground seemed to be aflame and the ocean near the sand began to give off steam. "... That's your Shikai? On normal Shikai levels, that one blows the majority of releases I've seen out of the water completely!"
Grinning and nodding his head, Rosuto parted the flames so he could see Kenji's face as he spoke. "Nichiyō Rōzuobu is second only in destructive power to Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto's Ryūjin Jakka; only Nichiyō Rōzuobu is by far more beautiful. It was the zanpakutō once wielded by an ancestor of the Shiba Family called Sousetsu Shiba, and that is why I carry the name of The Red Eagle. Are you going to show me your Shikai, or sit and gawk at mine all day long?"
Obliging his brother with a smile, Kenji's hook swords began to meld together as spiritual energy overflowed from his body. Lightning flashed around him, seemingly drawn from the heavens themselves and thunder roared to announce their coming. Kenji's eyes shown with an unnatural light and his grin only deepened. "Let the God's Run Free, Sanmiittai!" A trident with an aqua-marine shaft and a steel weight at the end, with three sharp prongs formed in Kenji's hand, with water seemingly falling from his body to form a pool beneath him. "Don't misjudge based on what you see," Kenji said finally. "Sanmiittai is a tricky zanpakutō. Here I come, Rosuto!"
Their weapons clashed, the elemental forces they controlled crashing against one another violently. Fire met a joint force of water and lightning as Rosuto's blade met Kenji's trident. They exchanged powerful blows, swift glancing strikes and tactical maneuvers but neither found an opening. "We're pretty much even," Rosuto though before the flames he had summoned intensified and threw back the elemental forces at Kenji's control. "I wasn't lying when I said Nichiyō Rōzuobu was second only to Ryūjin Jakka."
But Kenji only grinned, his self-assured demeanor refreshing to Rosuto when he looked in his direction. "They may call you The Red Eagle, but do you have any idea what they call me. I'm The Archon of Storms!" As though to lend credit to his title, Kenji simply waved his hands and dragged lightning from the heavens to strike towards Rosuto. The ground where the blond-haired Shiba had been standing was upturned in a display of dirt and electricity as he barely dodged the bolt. A second, formed from the spiritual energy circling Kenji's body caught him in the chest and sent Rosuto hurtling out to sea where he crashed into the rolling waves!
"Ouch! Please oh please, let the little blighter be my brother!" Excitement filled him body and soul, an excitement which reflected the strength of his flames. The water surrounding him parted as he slowly rose, steam rising both from himself and the nearby liquid. "Kenji... you are powerful, but I have yet to determine that which needs determining. Come, and I will see your past unclouded."
They blasted forward, blade and trident ringing with the din of battle. Rosuto's eyes went wide and a smile crossed his face as the images of his own father - Dastan - speaking to Kenji about his siblings and how Rosuto was probably his best lead to learn more about his family. Letting their weapons drop to their sides, Rosuto pulled his brother into a tight embrace. "So you did survive, just like mother and Meian always said you had."
Brothers Reunite Edit
Returning the gesture with a tear rolling down his cheek, Kenji reluctantly broke away as Rosuto did. "Mother... what was she like? I was only an infant and don't remember her at all."
"Where to begin?" Rosuto said, dropping to a seat on the sand beneath him. He re-sealed his zanpakutō and gestured for Kenji to follow. "She was fiery, for one. Kind, gentle and everything a boy asks for in a parent. Their was something about her... you always felt like everything would be alright." He arched his eyebrow as Kenji sighed and looked far off into the distance.
Another sighed accompanied the first and second. "You remember her, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I don't hold that against you... I guess I'm just a little jealous. I knew what it was like to have a mother, because Annora filled the role so well there were times when I thought of her as my real mother..."
He was pulled into a friendly headlock and a noggie was received for his previous words. "That's for talking like an idiot. Our mother loved you... more than you could possibly know." Looking confused, Rosuto got to his feet and began to explain. "In her last five years of live, mother came down with an illness not even Captain Unohana could heal. Her condition grew steadily worse and when she discovered she was pregnant... well, she could have aborted you like the medics asked her to. Instead, she kept you. I've never seen a woman with as much will as her. Every day was a battle just to stay alive... and then you were born, healthy as a horse. Mother held you until she passed away. Be proud, not sad, that our mother was the type of woman who would happily give up her own life so one of her children - you Kenji, would have a chance in life."
Silence stretched and when the silence was finally broken, it was by Kenji's tears. "I... had no idea. Mother..." A strong hand grasped his shoulder and Rosuto's voice reached his ears. "Now stand up and stop looking sad. Mother wouldn't want you to mourn her, but rather she'd want you to live your own life to the fullest; though you've been doing a fine job of that so far, what with your son and all. Tell me about my nephew, 'cause I refuse to believe the child I saw you holding and playing a very bad harmonica tune to isn't your own flesh and blood."
Kenji's smile was swift in returning. "Kentaro is his name and he's a little ball of energy. He'd climb up the walls if you didn't grab hold of him. He's happy, cheerful and loves stars; but that I blame on Kusaka."
"The guy with the brown hair and big scythe, right?" Rosuto added.
Nodding, Kenji continued. "Kentaro looks a lot like I did at his age, according to old Ryouta. Maki reckons he'll make one hell of a Shinigami some day, and I find myself agreeing with him, but its complicated." Rosuto leaned forward, interest caught. "He's got hollow powers, though he doesn't have an Inner Hollow to warrant him having them. And as far as I know, becoming a Vizard isn't passed on through the blood."
"The actual process of Hollowfication, no. Aptitude for those Hollow powers, yes. If either you, or his mother had Hollow Powers, it wouldn't matter either way. Hmmm, I thought you were interesting, but it appears little Kentaro's gonna have some problems. Keep him away from the Soul Society, brother. The Central 46 take a dim view on Vizards like myself, and they don't draw much distinction on the matter. To them, he'll have broken the law and be executed or have his powers stripped for "illegally acquiring hollow powers". Believe me, those pompous bastards get my blood boiled."
"If they try to harm my son in any shape or form, physically or mentally, then heads will roll. That's a promise, brother." They bumped fists to seal the deal. "Then you'll have to help me find a way out of this bloody world I'm stuck in. Look for either Bansui Amatsuki or another intelligent asshole who spends more time fiddling with their research material than anything else, and you might get a few answers. But for now, I'll leave you, Kenji. Extended periods in another's Inner World drains me, and you, so we'll continue this conversation at a later date."
"I'll be sure to make this a regular thing... brother. And I'll find a way to get you out, too." The two brothers regarded one another with an appraising eye before Rosuto vanished... He'd made the second link with his family. He'd met a brother he never knew he had and right then, nothing would've removed the smile from his face.