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This article, The Rat that Devours the Snake: Kitsui vs. Screamer, is property of Kenji-Taichō. Permission is required to alter its content.

Like Father and SonEdit

A day passed in the blink of an eye. A week soon after and even a month passed Kitsui by without him really being aware of it. Days melded together and the weeks seemed to wiz past and join together in one long blur. Yoshiaki Hiroshi was a tough man, but fair and his training and various chores filled Kitsui's hours until the sun set to signal night.

The two sat around a small wooden table in Yoshiaki's home nestled in the mountains some distance away from the town he had met the grizzled Shinigami in when he randomly entered The Nest Bar. They watched the television while eating a bowl of warm soup and a few crusty rolls. The rugby was on, and right now, the team in black where hammering the team in blue. Yoshiaki cursed and crumpled up his betting slip, cursing about "stupid odds" before rising and tossing more wood onto the fire blazing in at the end of the room, turning off the television with a muffled curse.

The living area was spacious and unadorned, save for a picture of a beautiful young woman with flowing blond hair and a slim figure. She wore a dress that exposed her neck and the top of her breasts, though her smile was radiant. It was Yoshiaki's departed wive, who died from a hollow attack some ten years back. "Come on lad," The elder said, ducking out into the night, "we need some more firewood."

Very much a humble man with a passion for farming, Kitsui was beginning to enjoy the warmth of a fire just as much as Yoshiaki had his entire life. He'd heard tell of this new oil heating system, but he'd felt the heat in The Nest when Yoshiaki took him back three weeks ago and a few nights besides, and nothing beat aside the chill like a good log fire. Besides, it wasn't as if Yoshiaki was backward or anything. He just had his preferences like any man had.

Ducking out the door after his mentor, Kitsui lifted the chopping axe resting against the front door and removed the sleeve that guarded the blade against the elements. Their work was done quickly but carefully, the night of the moon and from the hanging lamp offering enough light for them to work. Their axes made a rhythmical cutting sound as they set aside their cut logs and set up another and then another. Always the same repetition over and over. Kitsui still remembered how Yoshiaki had first taught him how to chop wood properly, and his stance showed how he used what he had been taught.

Kitsui found the whole process rather enjoyable. Maybe it was the knowledge that he was doing something productive that made a simple task like cutting wood so enjoyable, though there was more to it than that. His mind seemed to empty of all troubles when he set his mind on the task at hand, whether that be herding the various sheep Yoshiaki owned, tiling the soul of his humble farm house, or cutting wood as he was now. He was one with the axe in his hand and he moved with a purpose he'd never felt in his entire life.

"That should be enough," Yoshiaki said, snapping Kitsui out of his trance. The sky had darkened and the stars were out. Had it been that long? There was a massive pile of wooden logs leaning against the wall of the house and Yoshiaki wore a smile that said he was pleased. "That should keep me in timber all winter," He joked, hustling the youngster back to the warmth of the fire.

"... I lost all track of time," Kitsui breathed, hands shaking from the quickness of his exertion. The older man only laughed as he lowered himself to sit cross-legged in front of the fire. Throwing in the timbers and poking it with the metal poker, he simply shook his head. "Work boy," He said, laughing a little, "when you work and enjoy work, you do it all the better. Its the same with your training," His eyes reflected the embers, "when you enjoy a task and take pleasure in it, times becomes meaningless as long as your doing it. I knew I;d find a use for you."

The two sat in front of the fire, talking about meaningless things all through the night. It was strange, Kitsui thought as he climbed the stairs to hit his bed. "What is this I'm feeling?" The only person he'd ever been close to before was Shagetsu, and that was because he was a constant companion; a voice of reason, a shoulder to cry on and quick with advice in a difficult situation.

"Its called friendship," Shagetsu answered, sounding pleased, "it means your opening up and learning to trust in others aside from me. Remember the bond you have created Kitsui... because one day, you may have to fight with every fiber of your being to preserve it." Friendship? Kitsui liked that idea. Yoshiaki was like the father he'd never had. He stopped and turned to see the older man walking past the bottom of the stairs.

Without thinking, Kitsui hurled himself down them and threw his arms around the older man. No words were said, and Yoshiaki grinned, with a single tear running down his cheek. "Bah. Off to bed with you now," He whipped his face and nodded, "I'll see you in the morning."

Preparation for the Coming Storm Edit

The next morning, both rose early and walked into the light of the slowly rising sun. The grass was slightly damp beneath their feet and the baying of sheep sounded occasionally at their backs; mixed with the clop clop of horses nestled in the heat of the stable beside the house.

They moved with a purpose Kitsui remembered from his wood chopping, and they flowed through the forms of the Yuengiri with grace and precision. The youngster had no idea how he came to know the moves he were performing with such fluidness, though they seemed familiar to him. Like the memory of a dream, hazy and disjointed, though sometimes legible. The same black-haired man he'd seen during his various battles seemed to be showing him how to perform the skills, and when he'd told Yoshiaki about it, he simply grinned and pointed at his head. "Your memories are showing you the way... though whose memories are another matter" He had said, but who else could the memories belong to if not himself?

He cast everything aside and found the purpose he'd discarded for his break foray into his mind. The light reflected off the types of the blunted practice swords they used, "to avoid killing one another", Yoshiaki claimed, but the weight was similar to that of Shagetsu and when he'd tried with his own zanpakutō, Kitsui found he could adapt the motions without much trouble.

At timed intervals their swords clashed, steel ringing on steel before they parted and struck again. Sparks flashed with every clash and both wore faint smiles, pleased at the company as well of the skill the other demonstrated. This routine had been adopted throughout the five weekdays. Training in the morning, and chores through the day. It was all training, and the two bonded as a result.

Dancing through the forms he'd mastered almost a century ago, Yoshiaki allowed himself a moment to savor the morning breeze. He loved nature. It was the very reason he lived isolated, but he was always in the loop. Kenji saw to that, as did Koichi Hiroshi, though few others knew he was, in fact, alive. That was one secret he had not told his nephew, for it would only sadden him.

At the weekends, they'd travel to the city and rent rooms there well within walking distance of The Nest Bar. Everyone had started calling Kitsui Yoshiaki's kid, and he didn't mind really. "He's got a fire in his belly... and the desire to learn and be taught." The elder thought, sparks flashing twice more as they increased the tempo of their training. "His sword arms improved, as has his speed. He times his strikes better and incorporates the Yuengiri styles as though he'd merely forgotten them and was now remembering."

Kitsui was feeling himself stronger, though. Maybe it was the chores as well as the training. His swing was improving, and the only training they'd been doing was the Yuengiri styles that Yoshiaki imparted with a great deal of knowledge. Again they clashed, the beat of steel-on-steel echoing in his mind. "I think I could life a happy life here," The youngster considered, "In happiness and peace. Find a girl, settle down, have a few kids and life free. That sounds pretty good," He smiled and performed Kumo O Setsudan as Yoshiaki did and both strikes resonated through the hills and left both locked in a stalemate that Yoshiaki broke by leaping backwards.

"Very good Kitsui," Pride entered his tone, "that was well done." Neither had been harmed throughout the exchange, even had they not have been using dulled weapons. "In a month or two, you'll be considered a Yuengiri yourself." He turned his back, and several circle-shaped targets formed around him. "Time to test those original techniques of yours," He flashed away to a relatively safe distance and nodded, "and no holding back, Kitsui. I want them all destroyed."

Nodding, Kitsui grinned and raised his left hand, "Sekkakasai!" He roared, flames springing from his open palm and directing itself towards the targets. Each exploded in a fiery display of spiritual energy that left not a one floating in the sky. He took a breathe and turned to see Yoshiaki nodding in satisfaction. "Nicely done. Now," He turned towards the house, emotion gone from his voice, "we hit the pub!" And happiness rushed in like water through the open floodgates.

Kitsui ran after him, catching the towel his mentor throw over his shoulder and whipped the sweat from his forehead and chest. "You ready?" And both vanished as one...

The Snake and the Rat Edit

The Nest was quiet as usual, with the same regulars who frequented it on most nights. The barkeepers wive, Alice, smiled when she saw Kitsui and moved to welcome him, asking after his progress and his health. Yoshiaki sat at the bar for a change and regarded the barkeeper with a hearty smile and a few coins. "The usual," He said, receiving a large pint glass of tenants. "Don't know why I drink this stuff," He muttered, taking a long slug. "It tastes like piss water. Looks like it, too."

The barkeeper laughed, thinking it was a joke no doubt. "It is good to see you well," The barkeeper said, his chin rippling as he moved his head from side-to-side, "too many odd things happening lately." That caught Yoshiaki's attention, though he looked as though it were old news. "Troubles always been around," He replied, delving for information.

"Not like this, though. People - kids mostly - disappearing in the night, with no clue to where they went. Best be lookin' after that boy of yours, friend." That put a not in the old Shinigami's middle. "Just our luck... They cant find Kitsui, so those Arrancar are gonna be content enough to kill anyone who may have seen him..." Rising, he apologized hastily and grabbed Kitsui by the arm and dragged him off to the side.

"They're looking for you," And Kitsui only nodded slowly in reply... He knew. "Alice told me... about the disappearances. Seems you've drawn the same conclusion as I have. Yoshiaki... its Screamer. He hated - hates - me with a passion and won't rest until I'm dead." The elder knew where this conversation was going and decided to cut around the bush completely.

"I'm going with you. I didn't train you all that time just for you to up and get yourself killed. If he proves too much for you, then I'll step in and show him what it means to fight an Hiroshi." And go together they did, leaping across the sky at their leisure as their Gigai's vanished in a display of spiritual energy; bringing both into their spirit forms.

Kitsui grasped Shagetsu's sealed blade tightly, not really sure whether he should confront Screamer or not. "It had been going so well," He though sadly, eyes taking in the beautiful scenes all around him. The town was just coming to life, with children outside playing, laughing and having fun, birds chirping, cars driving along with their drivers without a worry and the women all herding the children somewhere else.

He only snapped back to reality when a snide laugh cut through his thoughts like a hot knife cut through butter. Yoshiaki had drawn already, and he stared down both Saburo Ryuu and Lyon Ryuu with an expression that was entirely sure of his own ability to repel both Arrancar. That left the owner of the laugh, a man whose mere presence boiled his blood in his veins and annoyed him to no end. "... Screamer." His tone was hate given voice and his shoulders shook through sheer uncontrolled rage.

They only stopped shaking when Yoshiaki grasped his right shoulder and smiled with all the care a father might show for their own son. "I won't let them take you back to Hueco Mundo," His voice was strength, and he slowly withdrew his hand and walked towards Saburo and Lyon. "If you two so much as harm a hair on this lads head, your judgment will not be carried out upon your death. I'll see to it that all of you are torn asunder, piece by piece, and that, my Arrancar friends, is the truth. I'm a truthful man, after all." Turning, he regarded Screamer coldly, gaze as frosty as a mountains peak. "And you!" Frostiness turned to anger, "If Kitsui is hurt in any shape or fashion, either verbally or physically, I'll chop your bloody head from your shoulders and go to Hueco Mundo personally, grasp that other Arrancar bastard by the shoulders, boot him in the back and ram your head on a spear pointy end first right up his jacksy!" And the older Shinigami drew both his zanpakutō's and launched himself forward, clashing a resounding clash between himself and his two foes, leaving Screamer with a shocked expression that lasted a good minute before he regained himself.

Kitsui could barely believe it! Yoshiaki only ever swore when he lost a bet, and that wasn't often even then. The youngster turned and found Screamer's insufferable full-faced grin to meet him. His eyes shone with a hatred not of this world and he whetted his lips with anticipation of the battle to come. "So we meet again... Rat." He put extra emphasis on the nickname he'd given Kitsui and his grin only deepened, if that was at all possible. "Will you scurry away, like last time? Or do rats have a bigger backbone than the one you've shown so recently?"

The images of the black-haired man surfaced and filled Kitsui's vision. He didn't know what to think, do or attempt to do. It was the first time it had ever happened, but when the image faded, he wasn't quite in control of his own body. His limbs moved of their own accord; Shagetsu's sealed blade leveling at Screamer's head. "I never did like you, Screamer." He hadn't spoken the words, and yet he believed every word of it. "And now... I'll show just how much."

Abruptly in control again, the images came short and quick, almost as though they were attempting to aid him in his battle. He flowed through the Yuengiri styles, Screamer avoiding them with relative ease. "His strength has increased... So, Averian made him stronger?" The Arrancar back-handed the youngster across the jaw after avoiding a dance-like maneuver, with enough brute force to twist Kitsui's body and drop him to his knees. His back was to his foe, and a boot pushed him firmly down to the ground, crashing him into the hard concrete below!

"How I've longed to crush you... like an insect. Rat... or Insect? I don't quite know which to call you, now. You see, you're slippery and evasive, like a rat, but yet you crush so easily, like an insect." His grin was mocking as he increased the weight of his foot on Kitsui's back. "Hmmm? You have something to say, Rat? Lie in the dirt where you belong!"

"I warned you!" Yoshiaki's huge bulk rammed Screamer aside, his blade barely missing his throat as he slashed his zanpakutō through the air. Both Saburo and Lyon were down, knocked into a row of apartment buildings some distance away. Yoshiaki himself only bore three cuts, one across his ribs that bled a bit and two on his left arm that barely scratched the surface. "Next time I will not miss, Arrancar. My earlier threat still holds true."

Rising slowly on shaky legs, Kitsui staggered forward and only remained upright by leaning on his mentor. "... Thank you," He managed, coughing up dirt, "I should... be alright... now." Yoshiaki looked doubtful, though he squeezed the youngsters shoulder, grinned and departed, launching himself towards the buildings and diving straight through them, roaring "Get out here!" And it was a roar that echoed long after Yoshiaki had said it.

Anger, rage and frustration gripped Kitsui's heart and clouded his mind. And strangely enough he seemed calmer for it. Shagetsu's voice had never been so clear as it was now, even when he'd initiated Jinzen. "Stand and fight. You are not alone." The voice called, and Kitsui activated his Shikai on instinct without even uttering a name or release command. The scythe just appeared in his hand. "I may be a Rat or an Insect in your eyes," He said, walking forward as though on a mission, "but in my eyes, your worse than the snake who sows deceit and dishonesty everywhere you go." His was a calm anger, his words low but forceful. "And I'm going to put an end to you. Once. And. For. All!"

Screamers eyes closed in anger, though the Rei Furashuu caught him head-on, but was knocked aside with some effort. "I've gone beyond the power of a mere Shinigami." He exclaimed, ever the cocky one. Kitsui paid him no heed and continued moving, his Sonído took him atop a building where he hurled his scythe forward, aiming directly for his foes skull!

Turning, Screamer caught the sickle-blade with his sealed, gauntlet-like zanpakutō. "Don't make me repeat-" He was overcome in a pitch black wave of spiritual energy erupting from Shagetsu's blade that tore through the air with such intensity that even Yoshiaki looked around from his battle with a look of pride and happiness plastered across his face. "Kitsui... finish him already."

The youngster watched his foe intently as the smoke cleared. Screamer was soaked in blood from multiple lacerations where mere Reishi discharge had tore open his arms, legs and body in cuts. The main damage was over his right side, where the majority of the attack had been concentrated, though how he was still standing was a wonder in itself. "Gah... you...! I will... avenge this day!"

The darkness of a Garganta swallowed him as Saburo and Lyon retreated, trailing their comrade behind with them. The fight, although short, just proved to Kitsui that he was capable, that he was free to do as he pleased in this life. Turning, he Sonído'd forward and embraced the man he considered a father in a tight embrace, before slumping and falling asleep where Yoshiaki held him.

Suppressing a laugh, the elder Shinigami simply returned home with a series of impressive flash steps before he lay Kitsui down to rest on his bed. "Rest easy... Kitsui." And he lowered himself into the cushioned chair in the room and took an ivory inlaid pipe from his pocket and began puffing idly after stuffing and lighting it.

Their fight for today was over, but fate would always hold other battles for these Gods of Death. And some of those fights, while not necessarily involving them, would prove just as important for Kitsui and Yoshiaki...

Next Arc > Introduction Arc

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