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Unconventional Training: To Master the SoulEdit

Yoshiro Kazuki could do nothing but stare down the ceiling of the room above him. He almost felt that the walls were taunting him, and the freedom he could see out the single window was as agonizing as the wound running from shoulder to hip. He had been lucky that time, heck, it should've killed him. Ryouta Hachirou wasn't one bit pleased with him running off to fight hollows, saying he was being foolhardy and reckless, but understood why he did what he did. That was one of the good things about Ryouta. He was understanding, and wasn't as strict as someone people made him out.

It had been three days since the battle with the hollow, and Kenji still hadn't awoke, even after extensive healing from the likes of Captain Unohana. She said he'd waken in his own time and that he was incredibly weary from his continual training without allowing his body time to recuperate. Maki Zhijun had simply smiled when she said that though, and said something about it bein' Kenji's idea to train until he dropped. Which is just what he did on some occasions.

The door to his room opened, and a young woman with blond hair swept the floor clean, smiled beautifully and then departed, bowing her head as the door closed behind her. And she didn't even stop to talk... Yoshiro though angrily. If I don't get out of this bloody room, I'm gonna kill someone! He hated sitting on his backside doin' nothing, preferring to be outside either chatting with his friends and creating a good ruckus, or training with Ryouta.

A dinner plate sat before him, but he couldn't bring himself to eat the drool this place considered food. And it didn't help matters when they probed him with questions continually about why he was there and on who's oders. They apparently couldn't understand why he'd charge through their lines just to see his friend. Another Shinigami had even propossed he was working with the hollow. That one received little to no attention.

Yoshiro looked towards the door as a person he recognized walked in, looking around carefully before heading straight to the window. It was Kusaka Kori, and by the look of him, he was as ready to be out of here as Yoshiro was. "Cover for me, Yoshi. I'm about ready to go mad, here bro. See ya later, 'kay? Later!" He leapt from the window and was gone as quickly as he arrived.

Oh great, just leave me alone, why dontcha? Sighing, and remembering how much hospital time sucked, he tried to keep his mind occupied by doing some exercises. Nothing worked. The wind that blew through the window was warm and pleasant, and it called to him. Ignoring it, he created a very tiny flame of Kidō in his hand and began to toss it from one hand to another like a ball.

"Good to see you're having fun, Yoshiro." The voice was clam and kinda happy-go-lucky. Ryouta stepped through the door and closed it quietly before sitting at the foot of his student's bed. "How you holdin' up?"

Crossing his arms, Yoshiro answered with a growl. "I'm gonna lose my mind, Sensei! There's nothin' to do in here!"

"Maybe that's why they call it R&R? But forget about that," The older man said with a lazy hand wave. "Kenji's awake, and boy is he pissed!"

"Strange, he won didn't he? What the hell is there to be pissed about? He defeated the...thing we fought and won. Sure, he had a little help from all of us, but he dealt the death blow and was the only one who could follow him when he transformed."

Ryouta nodded his head slowly, "And that's exactly why he's pissed. He doesn't like relying on his friends, especially when they could get in danger and he can do nothing about it. He told me what happened to you, Kusaka and Sojiro were playin' tight lip with me, so I asked him instead. That, Yoshiro, is why he is pissed."

"Because I near got my head blown off?" He replied casually, although even Yoshiro had to admit that very moment was a close one.

"Yes, my dear student. Now, as soon as you are out of that bed, which will be in another four days, we're gettin' back to trainin'. Captain Unohana wants to keep you here encase their's any sudden changes. In the mean time, we're gonna have ourselves some fun." It wasn't often Ryouta did anything "fun" but Yoshiro wasn't complaining when he removed a pack of playing cards from his pocket. "We're playin' poker, and I'm dealin'."

Meanwhile, in a room not far away...

The room had only been cleared of people when Kenji dropped from his bed, almost his entire body wrapped in bandages and began doing push-ups. Every movement was agony, but he pushed himself up and then lowered his body before raising it again. It only took around ten before sweat glistened on his forehead and his arms slumped. Landing on the floor in a mess, Kenji became aware of someone tutting from the window. "Boy," the voice rang out, "This is ridiculous."

Rolling onto his back, Kenji regarded his teacher with a weak smile. "You are truly stubborn." Maki said quietly. "Chi no Gisei." Making a small cut in his arm, Maki knealt beside the youngster and made a small cut on Kenji's chest. "Brace yourself, boy. This will hurt." Maki tasted Kenji's blood before pumping his own through the small incision he created. Clenching his fist's in pain, Kenji thrashed and kicked, but as time went by his injuries, both exterior and internal were healed completely. Taking a breathe and a seat, Maki shook his head. "The things I do for you."

Rising to his feet, Kenji took a seat to his master's side and sat. "Thanks for that."

"You've got something to ask me, haven't you?" Maki said slowly.

"During my battle with Shrieker, Aoi Inazuma appeared to me. And i don't mean in my mind. She was with me, lending me power and guidance."

Maki remained silent for a time, but when he spoke, he sounded proud. "There's at least three explanations for something like that, that I can think of. Aoi Inazuma was there, and she wasn't there, if you catch my drift. You were aware of her existence because she is your zanpakuto, but another wouldn't have been able to see her. Number 1: She either appeared due to your desperation. Number 2: You have an exceptional relationship with your sword. Number 3: Something summoned her, and that's as unlikely as the sun falling tomorrow."

"What, so I ignore it?" Kenji asked, voice low.

"Don't be a fool. No, what you need to do is completely master your zanpakuto's Shikai release. You still haven't learned everything Aoi Inazuma has to teach yet, have you?"

Okay! Things are looking up! "Wanna elaborate, Maki-Sensei? I'm curious."

"It comes down to time, and how little of it we have. We won't know when The Trickster will show up again, or more of these hollow and Arrancar things for that matter. I'm hoping for another eight months, at the least. Give me that time, and I'll make you as strong as he is."

"Eight months, eh?" Kenji pondered his future. Sure, he could kill The Trickster, but what would he do after that? Join the Gotei Thirteen and work his way through the ranks until he became a Captain? Or do something else entirely? He had no idea, but the future was that; the future. This was the present and right now, he needed to train. "Maki, there must be someway we can train faster than eight months. C'mon, I'll do anything! The most brutal training you've got! I can handle it!"

Allowing his smile to show, Maki spoke slowly. "That's what I like about you kid. You've got a fire in your belly. There is one place, but we'd be breaking nearly every rule in the book."

"We're only breakin' rules if we're caught, Maki-Sensei. Stuff the rules!" Kenji said confidently. "Now, what did ya have in mind? The waterfall? The Rukon District?"

"None of 'em," Maki said quietly. A little too quietly. Kenji had to strain his ears just to hear. "The Dangai Precipice World."

"The Dangai!?" Kenji exclaimed loudly, but was silenced by a thump to the top of the head from Maki.

"Tell the whole world, why don't ya!?" Maki said in a fierce whisper. "I don't believe the Central 46 heard you right."

"Sarcasm? Looks like I've finally taught you something, eh Sensei? But that place is dangerous if i remember my studies. The Ko...something field that passes through it." Kenji replied slowly.

"Kōryū. And it makes escape, unless you're smart, next to impossible. If I'm to do this, you mustn't tell a soul and we need help from someone with extremely high levels of spiritual energy. Time in the Dangai passes differently. We'll need Rikimaru's help as well, otherwise, we won't be in for very long at all."

Kenji, trying to remember his studies, finally clicked. "But what about that Kōtotsu thing? Isn't it impossible to destroy, or have you found a way around it as well?"

A broad grin spread across Maki's face as he tapped his zanpakuto. "The answer lies with Chi no Gisei. Don't underestimate the power of blood, boy." And that was all the explanation Maki gave as he caught Kenji by the front of his kimono and threw him out the fully open window. "Now, I need to speak to your father."

Time skip...

Kenji stepped into the Dangai, a dank and desolate area that was in almost complete darkness. Maki followed suit along with both Koichi and Rikimaru. Feeling goosebumps rise on his arms, Kenji recalled the talk Maki had had with his father Koichi...

Flash Back...

Koichi was speechless for a time, and then he practically exploded. "The Dangai!? Maki, you've been livin' alone to long, you old goat! That place is dangerous, even if you are prepared, so put the damn fixation knives away Rikimaru!"

Maki, however, was expecting this and began speaking calmly. "Koichi, we don't know when The Trickster will attack again, and the easiest way for us to protect Kenji is for him to do is himself. We can't always be there to pull his ass from the fire, now can we?"

Koichi relaxed a little, but his shoulders were still tense. Kenji stood without speaking. "You still want to take him to the Dangai, though. If we were caught..." That was when Koichi glanced at his son, who met his eye. The two stood staring the other down for what felt like a lifetime, but it was Koichi who sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "...Okay, okay. I already broke the rules when i adopted you, Kenji. Besides, rules were made to be broken. Okay, what do you need me to do, Maki?"

"Sit down and fixate the Kōryū current after Rikimaru becomes tired. I'll take care of the Kōtotsu." Maki sounded proud at that.

"Hmm, let me guess, you mean to use blood, eh? I'm curious to see this..." Koichi said in a whisper. "Okay, let's get goin' now, instead of standing flapping our lips at each other."

Flash Back ended...

Rikimari fixated the current as soon as he was through, using the Kaikyō Kotei embedded in various locations around the wall and floor. "I don't know about Koichi-san, but with my spiritual energy, I should be okay for two and a half-months...maybe a little longer."

With a triumphant grin, Koichi banged his chest like a gorilla. "Sorry to put ya to shame, Rikimaru-san, but I could probably hold it for three months without slumping. If anything, I've got more spiritual energy than I know what to do with."

"And that's exactly why i brought you both," Maki put in quickly as he took a meditative pose with his already released zanpakuto. He'd released it before entering, saying that the Kōryū would trap him otherwise, and told Kenji to do the same.

Kenji followed his teacher's example and took the pose needed for Jinzen. "...So all I need to do is completely harmonize with Aoi Inazuma, and you say I'll become stronger? How's that work?"

"A zanpakuto," Koichi began, "Is the physical manifestation of a Shinigami's strength. It's not some simple tool that we swing around like a normal sword. As you already know, they have their own unique personality, their own traits. They're alive as surely as you and I. The stronger the relationship between Shinigami and Zanpakuto, the stronger the Shinigami. It's the easiest way to gain strength. Kenji," He said slowly. "Be careful. And i don't mean regarding Aoi Inazuma."

"I promise dad," Kenji replied before closing his eyes. It took only a small amount of time to enter his Inner World...

Kenji's Zanpakuto Spirit

Aoi Inazuma's Spirit Form.

Kenji stood in an open plain with dark skies overhead. Lightning flashed and thunder roared occasionally, but never did it fall near him while he visited. Aoi Inazuma was before him, wearing her usual black school-girl-like uniform. But there was also an individual Kenji didn't recognize. Of what Kenji could see of the fellow, he had spiked black hair and wore an outfit that left a great deal of his back exposed. "Ah, the landlord, eh?" The fellow said calmly.

Although the person was a complete mystery, Kenji recognized the voice, and he gripped the hilt of his zanpakutō tightly. "You...I've heard you're voice before. During my battle with Shrieker..."

The fellow turned his head slightly, casting a look over his shoulder. he had a menacing look to him and smile that added to it. His eyes were crimson - why did they have to be crimson? - and he held a single zanpakuto-like sword slung over his shoulder. His outfit was ragged around the arms and almost sleeveless. "Yes, I encouraged you to use my strength, but you decided against it. Shame that, but I thought I'd allow you to see me, saying as how we share a single body and all."

"...What do you mean?" Kenji asked. Just who is this guy? Is he a part of Aoi Inazuma? A part I've never known existed? Or is he something else entirely?

The individual simply smiled, however. "You're thinking what I am, aren't you? Trust me, when you've been stuck as nothing but a voice because of that lousy seal on your right arm, you begin to experiment a little. It didn't take me long to learn how to read your mind. That was how i was able to communicate with you. Think of it as telepathy."

Kenji nodded and sighed. "So, what do i call you?"

"I have no name." He replied calmly, but sadly. "I abandoned it a long time ago..."

"Then make one," Kenji said back, just as calmly. "I can't call you "Dude who exists inside my head", can I?"

He smiled a little, although the smile was truly terrifying. "...Very well...you may call me Kyo, Kenji-san."

"Nice to meet you, Kyo-san. So...you were saying something about my tattoo? That it was a seal?"

"Indeed. My physical body...died. My spirit form was sealed within you as an infant by an old friend whom I won't speak about before my body passed away. It wasn't him, however, that applied the seal. Who that was, I have no clue, but it weakened when you achieved your Shinigami powers and further still when you achieved your Shikai." He spoke simply, and Kenji couldn't detect any sign of a lie. There was a great sorrow about him, however.

Aoi Inazuma moved to her master's side. "He appeared here a day ago, and we began talking. Ask him about that. I'll come back later, Master." And with that, Aoi Inazuma was gone.

Cervantes general appearance

Kyo.

Kyo took a seat on the ground and motioned Kenji to follow suit. "I heard from the pretty lady that your eyes turn crimson when you exert your spiritual energy?" Kenji nodded, and Kyo continued. "That's because a small portion of my energy always flows in and mixes with your own, resulting in your eyes becoming crimson. If you so wished, Kenji-san, I would allow you to make use of my power."

"But don't you want to be free of me? To return to a body you can call your own?" Because there has to be a catch!

"Of course I do, but that, Kenji-san, is impossible. My body died, and my friend sacrificed himself to seal me within you because you were the only person nearby. However, because the seal has weakened, you can make use of my spiritual power, and by using Jinzen I can offer you my knowledge as well. The catch, however, is that every once in a while, you allow me to take control so I can experience life a little. Don't worry, the seal won't allow me to do that for long."

"...Very well, Kyo-san." Kenji said after a moment to think. "How do I use your power?"

Kyo rose and readied his sword. "This sword is my own blade. But to do what I want to do, I need the assistance from the pretty lady. If you'd be so kind and call her here, we can begin. Because you and I... need to harmonize."

After a few moments, Aoi Inazuma appeared. "...Yes master?"

Meanwhile, a young Student wanders through the Academy grounds alone...
Kazuma Nishiki full pic

Kazuma Nishiki.

A young-looking fellow walked through the grounds of the Academy, kicking small stones about as he pondered what he was to do. He had spiked blond hair and wore his normal attire now that his classes were finished which consisted of a short-sleeved blue jacket and long-sleeved red shirt wore underneath. He had fingerless leather bracer's and leather boots along with a prominent yellow scarf his father gave him years ago. His name was Kazuma Nishiki, and in the Human World, he'd be no more than fourteen years old. The kid had only been a Shinigami for a single year, but he'd been in the Soul Society for three. An older student he didn't recognize pushed past him, shoving him to the ground before walking on grumbling.

Kazuma simply rose and sighed. No matter how much he done, or how much effort he put forth, he was always looked down upon. His skills in Kendō and Judo from when he was still alive gave him an edge over those students who didn't, but that edge was easily lost and hard to regain. His Kidō skills were mediocre and his physical strength nothing compared to his fellow students. The only thing he had going for him was speed, and even that wasn't by a big degree. So, Kazuma continued kicking stones.

Sometimes, I'd just like to go off into the sunset and see how far I could get. Have my own adventures, see the world maybe. I know so little and want to learn so much i can barely keep awake at night. But that dream was as far away as the setting sun. No matter how far he walked, it would always be the same distance away; unreachable.

Turning back for home, Kazuma ran through his head what he was going to say to the classmates he shared a house with. He'd beaten three of them in a test of speed, so they'd certainly have something planned for him. He sighed, energy drained by his own boredom. I just want a friend, nothing more...Tyrell, Karis, I wish you were here...

Meanwhile, two weeks had already passed in The Dangai...

Time was flowing rather quickly for the three Shinigami overlooking Kenji's training. Rikimaru was still fixating the current and Maki and Koichi were discussing what was going to happen afterwards. "I'll keep him on as my student. He needs to know how to use whatever Aoi Inazuma teaches him in there in a real battle situation. At least with me, he can let loose. Chi no Gisei will allow me to prevent us from killin' each other."

Koichi grinned and crushed out his cigarette. "He's a strong kid, that's for sure." He said as he lit another. "But...I can't help but feeling kinda weird. His spiritual energy...It's changing slightly. You can feel it too, can't you, Maki?"

"Yes, but I don't know why. He'll tell us afterwards, don't worry."

The three Shinigami were suddenly alerted to a sound coming screaming down the tunnel. Maki took his sword and a barrier of blood colored energy fell over them all, and they simply phased through the Kōtotsu. Maki breathed out as it passed and released the technique. Koichi was surprised to say the least. "I can alter blood to create a protective barrier that phases through anything. I was trapped in here years ago, and It was either that, or let the Kōtotsu run me over. It worked, and i lived. Don't know how, or why, but i just did."

"It's a very handy ability. I'm just happy your on our side."

Kenji's inner World...

Kyo's training was exhausting. At present, he wasn't able to integrate very much of Kyo's power, but he was getting better at fusing his energy with Kyo's. Aoi Inazuma was also teaching him how to better control his Shikai and to better harmonize with her during battle. Kyo proved very useful as a sparring partner in that aspect. He was sitting in a meditative stance, Kyo trying to distract him with various tactics. "Concentrate...focus..." His words flowed over Kenji as he channeled his spiritual energy, not only tapping his own, but Aoi Inazuma's and Kyo's as well.

The effort was great, but he could already feel the effects. Kyo had remarked that his energy had become slightly harder and more rough. With a double clap, Kenji snapped himself out and stood up. "That's tiring. How am I supposed to do that in battle?"

Kyo pondered the question, pacing back and forth as though lost. "We need to discover a way to make this easier. Until I think of one, I think it best that you continue receiving tutelage from Aoi Inazuma." Kyo took a seat on the ground and began brainstorming.

Back at the Seireitei...

Kusaka moved to the right to dodge the Shinigami descending down upon him. He was in the 11th Divisions Barracks and currently training with them. He often frequented their Barracks, even though he himself was still an Academy student. He liked fighting and they liked fighting. Simple as that, and Kusaka got to watch how the strongest squad in the Gotei 13 fought.

His current opponent was a large man with black hair. His name was Kentai and he was the 7th Seat of the 11th Division. Although he was holding back, Kusaka wasn't. This fellow was a fully trained melee expert and his sword swings were powerful. Dodging again, Kusaka launched his counter-attack, trying for a piercing strike that Kentai avoided easily. He fell for it! The momentum from the strike carried Kusaka close to Kentai, who raised his sword above his head and to strike. Lashing out with his left hand, Kusaka struck him in the jaw and watched as he fell backwards.

Sojiro was watching the exchange avidly. Wrong move, brother. He thought calmly. Sojiro was extremely skilled in analyzing his opponents and forming detailed counter-plans and back-ups during battle. Even though he wasn't the strongest physically, his brain power made him a dangerous combatant. You've managed to knock him over, but you overstepped, and now you are as open as a barn door.

And Sojiro was right. Kentai leapt back up and slammed the hilt of his practice sword into Kusaka's ribcage! Sojiro shook his head and sighed. "Kusaka, we should get goin' before the Captain gets back. You know he doesn't like us being here."

"I hear ya, Sojiro." He replied as he thanked Kentai for the match.

Leaving the doju, the two headed back to their home. Their father wouldn't be home currently because he was on an expedition in the Human World. The two took little time getting home, and when they did, they went straight to the room they shared.

Lounging on his bed, Kusaka looked across at his zanpakuto and sighed. "Ya know, I'm surprised they haven't sent a search party out for me."

"You mean for ditching the hospital? They don't have the manpower currently to waste on a single student." Sojiro replied casually.

"Oh, looks who's funny!" But he was right. "I fell bad for Yoshi, though. The guy doesn't get out of there for another four days."

"They'll want to assess his condition, make sure nothings wrong."

"Uh huh, wanna play a game of cards?"

Sojiro nodded eagerly. He liked poker, mainly because Kusaka rarely beat him. "Those the one's dad gave you?"

"Yup, these are the one's. Now, you wanna deal?"

The Dangai...

Koichi couldn't help but be impressed by the way Kenji was improving. His spiritual energy was getting harder and rougher the longer he sat there. But that doesn't happen just because a Shinigami completely master's their Shikai. What does this mean?

Time passed differently in the Dangai, and two months had already passed in here while very little time would have passed in the Seireitei. Rikimaru's breathing was haggard, however, when Koichi rose. "Okay, Rikimaru-san, time to switch." Koichi used his own Kaikyō Kotei and poured his spiritual energy through it as Rikimaru pulled his free from the walls. "Thanks...I think I'll rest a little." he reached into the pack on his back and removed some food.

Maki nodded his agreement. "Rikimaru, can you feel the kid's energy? How different it is already?"

"Yes, and I don't like it, to be honest." He said as he ate. "That shouldn't happen with just a Shikai. Mastering your bankai, maybe, but not Shikai."

Koichi sighed and looked them both in the eye. "There's something you both should know about Kenji. See the tattoo on his right arm? It ain't a tattoo."

Maki nodded as though he'd already suspected as much. "Its a seal, isn't it Koichi?"

"Yes, but how it got there is beyond me. I found him with it, but the seal has been weakening over time. Ryouta and I have been studying it since Kenji was a child. It's incredibly detailed in it's make-up. Definitely forbidden Kidō, but what type I have no clue."

Maki nodded. "But what is it sealing exactly?"

"A spirit. Apart from that, we don't know. But Kenji's energy mixes with his. You've seen his crimson eyes. I'm guessing that's the cause." Koichi shook his head as he spoke. "I think Kenji may have found this spirit."

"Is it hostile?" Rikimaru asked. "Will Kenji be in any danger?"

The three were suddenly silenced when blood spurted from Kenji's shoulder as he coughed blood. Maki turned and sighed. "Aoi Inazuma must be really putting him through his paces. Chi no Gisei was the same when I got him to teach me everything he knew. To say it got bloody would be the understatement of the century."

Kenji's Inner World...

Rising from the small crater he was thrown into, Kenji looked up at Kyo. The entire point of this exercise was to see how much of the fellow's energy he could draw while battling. Apparently, Aoi Inazuma had already taught him everything there was to know about his Shikai release and encouraged him to master the abilities he'd just learned through training outside. But he couldn't leave yet. Not until he could fuse his own energy with Kyo's. That may just be enough for him to stand against The Trickster.

"Aoi Inazuma, please don't stop. I know I can use his power. I've already fused a little of his power with my own. You felt the difference it made, so please. Don't hold back." Kenji pleaded.

She regarded him calmly before sighing deeply. "I hate fighting you. But you leave me no choice. Very well, master, you will feel my true power." Her Shikai form appeared in her hands and she shot forward using the lightning enhanced speed it provided her with and almost lobbed Kenji's head off there and then! He duked barely, dodged a downward strike barely and rolled out of the way just in time to avoid a bolt of lightning that would've reduced him to ash.

Aoi Inazuma's eyes flashed light blue as she exerted spiritual energy. Kenji held his own blades up and concentrated lightning onto their edges and then some around his ankles and feet. "No holding back, Aoi Inazuma. Here I come!"

Kyo watched the fight carefully from the sidelines. They vanished from sight and re-appeared with their blades locked in a fierce deadlock! The kid moves well for one so young. The training with Maki must've paid off, or perhaps it's his zanpakuto that allows him this level of speed. His physical strength, although impressive, lags behind his speed, but that same speed allows him to use his natural strength to its limit. Aoi Inazuma's Shikai is a perfect balance of strength and speed. The lightning increases cutting power and the owner's speed. That same lightning numbs those it hits. A truly frightening ability...

Kenji's spiritual energy was rising with Aoi Inazuma's however and the two raised their blades to the heavens. The two formed the lightning energy into the shape of a large, violet serpentine dragon with crimson red eyes. "Sandādoragon o Utsu!" They called in unison and the two dragons flew toward one another, creating a truly devastating explosion that forced Kyo to move from his position to avoid getting caught in it. The blast left a large, mushroom-like smoke cloud afterwards and both Shinigami and Zanpakuto spirit were left breathless.

It was then that Kyo had an idea. "Kenji-san. I believe I have come up with an idea to allow you easier access to my powers..."

"...Go on," Kenji said as he descended. "You've got me curious."

Back at a home in the Seireitei...

Kazuma Nishiki, the young Academy student walked through the doors of his home and went straight to his own room, muttering his quiet greetings to his fellow room-mates. Dropping onto the bed, Kazuma stared at the ceiling. I need to get out of here...I need adventure. I need...! The door to his room burst open, and Kazuma shunpo'd to the window and went straight out it as something burst through the wall after him!

It was a tallish looking thing with large hands and slim arms and a white, mask-like covering over it's face. A large hole was visible in it's chest area, where it's heart would have been if it had one. A large, prominent horn stuck out from the top of it's mask and it's feet where webbed. So this is a hollow? Oh boy, I'm in trouble. What I really need, is help! The hollows hand glowed as red energy formed. With a raised fist, the hollow slammed down, Kazuma barely dodging in time! The ground was cracked and upturned, and it would have seriously injured him had it of hit.

His fellow room-mates were already either dead, or unconscious because they lay unmoving on the floor. Looking for his zanpakuto, Kazuma became desperate. His only real skill in hand-to-hand combat was Judo, but he knew he didn't have the physical strength required to defeat the hollow before him with just his bare hands. That leaves Kidō. I need my zanpakuto...!

But, the thing was, he could sense next to nothing off this hollow, meaning it could hide its energy signature. Kazuma dodged away with Shunpo and raised his hand. Taking a deep breathe, he began chanting. "Bakudo 4: Hainawa!" The golden-yellow rope shot forward and entangled the hollows arms tightly. But Kazuma wasn't finished yet. "Disintegrate, you black dog of Rondanini!! Look upon yourself with horror and tear out your own throat! Bakudo 9: Geki!" A red aura sprang around the hollow as it struggled against the bonds that held it.

"Yes!" Kazuma shunpo'd to the wreckage of his room and picked up his zanpakuto. Kazuma's zanpakuto was sealed in the form of a short, straight edged sword with a slim blade. Hefting it, he ran toward the hollow and struck! His blade connected but only cut the hollow slightly. Not good, not good, not good! The bonds holding it shattered under the hollows strength and it opened its mouth wide, red energy forming quickly.

Jumping back, Kazuma formed a hasty shield with Kidō, but the force of the blast impacting the ground was enough to send him flying into the wreckage of his home. Luckily, he landed on his mattress and leapt to his feet just in time to dodge another powered punch! With another punch dodged, Kazuma was beginning to bless his speed. The hollow pulled it's fist from the ground and turned to face the young Academy student. Kazuma leapt skywards with a shunpo and outstretched his hand. This one might be a bit of a stretch...I've never performed Kidō in the twenties during battle... "From thine hand of staggering might, stab all those who block my path! Hado 26: Yariawai!" The blue spear of energy shot from Kazuma's hand and collided against the hollows chest! The beam split upon impact and punctured many small holes along the hollows body.

Kazuma spiritual energy

Kazuma's spiritual energy.

With a very deep breathe, Kazuma readied himself as he channeled his spiritual energy. This will be difficult...! If only been able to perform it during class, and even then it blew up in my face. But, I've got no choice. I haven't enough physical strength to cut it with my zanpakuto, so Kidō's my one and only hope! "Ye lord! Mask of blood and flesh, all creation, flutter of wings, ye who bears the name of Man! Inferno and pandemonium, the sea barrier surges, march on to the south! Hado 31: Shakkahō!" A single sphere of red flame shot from Kazuma's hand and struck the hollow directly, the small wounds created by Yariawai allowing the flames a means to enter the hollows body and destroy it from the inside out. As the hollow began to fade, Kazuma charged forward and slashed it vertically down the middle, cutting its mask in two and cleansing its soul.

Falling to his knees, the young Shinigami took sweet gasps of air as his sweat dropped to the ground. Never before had he performed all those abilities in battle. When doing Kidō in the Academy, you never had to dodge a mad hollow swinging a powered punch at you, or use Shunpo for fear of being blown away. They were performed when you were stationary while aiming at an unmoving object. But that was grueling! I never knew a Shinigami had to do so much...

Getting to his feet, Kazuma looked at the wreckage of his home and went to the side of his room-mates. All three of them were face down, bodies charred as though blasted with intense energy and then simply left. They're clothing was tattered and they were unmoving. Rolling them each over in turn, Kazuma fought back tears. By no means did he like any of them, but yet they looked so much like what he himself could have looked like if their roles had been swapped. It could just have easily been him lying face first on the floor now, dead as a doornail. Saying a short prayer, Kazuma made his way to the nearest Squad Station to report the incident...

It didn't take long to walk through the streets of Seireitei. The closest Squad Station that Kazuma knew was Squad 4's, so he went there. Besides, that played to his advantage. He could make his report and seek shelter there until the morning. Entering the building, he was greeted by a young man wearing Shinigami robes. "Hello sir, can I help you?"

"Y-yes," Kazuma began suddenly nervous. "I'm here to report an incident. A hollow attacked my friends and I at our home. I'm the only survivor."

A large man with an imposing scar on his face and chest walked forward and waved the Shinigami on. "You were attacked? Recently? My name's Ryouta Hachirou and I'm the 4th Seat of the 5th Division."

Kazuma straightened and gave a salute. "Sir! My name is Kazuma Nishiki, current student at the Shinō Academy. Sir!"

"Oh c'mon, drop the sir thing, okay? I'm only a seated officer, it isn't as if I'm a Captain or anything. Now, take me to the spot you were attacked. Just direct me. I'll carry you, because you look a little tired."

Ryouta hoisted Kazuma onto his back and took off with frightening speed! In seconds they were down the road that took Kazuma himself at least two minutes walking up. "Wow! You're fast Mr. Hachirou!"

Ryouta sighed and slowed himself a little. "Plain ol' Ryouta will do fine, Kazuma-san. Now, this hollow that attacked you. What was it like?"

"It could hide its spiritual energy extremely well and was able to upturn the earth with one punch. My room-mates were... killed. I barely got away."

Ryouta grinned and spoke in a reassuring manner. "Don't worry, Kazuma. You kept your head when others did not. You defeated the hollow and sought the appropriate help afterwards and didn't waste any time. You performed admirably. So be proud, stop sulking and hold your head up high!"

"Thank you Ryouta-sama!" Kazuma said excitedly. "Take a right here and then keep heading forward. You will come to an area with a wrecked house and several patches of upturned earth."

Doing just that, Ryouta increased the speed of his Shunpo and touched down near the wreckage of a single-story house. "Hmm, so this is where it happened, then? You did well, Kazuma-san." Running his hand over the damaged ground and the wreckage, Ryouta appeared to be in deep thought.

Kazuma himself took a seat and looked to the sky. It was completely dark now and the moon was hidden behind some clouds. "Um, Ryouta-sama? How did a hollow like that invade the Seireitei?"

"I don't know," Ryouta replied, turning to face the youngster. "But I know that it wasn't by accident. Call it a hunch, but... Naw, I'm over-thinking this. C'mon, we're heading back to the 4th Division Barracks. I'll arrange a bed for you for the night and sort out new accommodation for you tomorrow."

Kazuma followed eagerly. Ryouta-sama is amazing! He's so fast and calm! I wish i could be like that...

The Dangai...

It had been a total of four months since Kenji and the others entered the Dangai. So far, Rikimaru and Koichi were able to stabilize the current and Maki was able to prevent them from being destroyed using his zanpakutō. Kenji's power had grown harder and far stronger since he entered the Jinzen state to converse with Aoi Inazuma. Koichi was beginning to think he was receiving instruction from the spirit sealed within him. Not that that was a bad thing, but what if the spirit had a plan, and Kenji was walking right into it?

Kenji after his time in the Dangai.

Kenji after his time in the Dangai.

Koichi didn't get to finish what he was thinking, because Kenji suddenly opened his eyes and stood up slowly as though his muscles were cramped. "I did it," Was all he said as Maki opened the door that would lead them back to the Soul Society. Kenji had a completely different air about him, it was hard to think of him as the same person. He was stronger, his spiritual energy rougher and heavier. As he stood and moved, Koichi saw just how much the lad had grown.

His hair was longer and the spikes more pronounced and he was slightly taller than before. His eyes were also more mature and serious looking, as though he'd seen horrors he didn't want to experience again. "Well?" Koichi asked slowly. "How'd it go, son?"

Kenji turned and grinned as he used to, which gladdened Koichi a bit. Good, my bot is still the same on the inside. "It went very well, dad. I need to speak to you all, but not here. Let's head back to Maki's for now. I'll explain everything there." Maki, however, couldn't keep his eyes from the new blade that was now held in Kenji right hand...

"Where did you get the new sword? You've still got the released form of Aoi Inazuma, so it isn't your zanpakuto." Maki asked, genuinely confused. Rikimaru was no better and neither was Koichi. He'd just noticed it when Maki spoke. It wasn't everyday that a Shinigami performed Jinzen and came out with a completely new blade beside their zanpakutō.

"I'll explain everything soon, Maki. I promise." Kenji reassured them. But there faces were grim, and their gazes were confused.

And so, they headed off towards Maki's secluded home in the forest more quickly than they originally intended. They traveled in silence for the most part. Rikimaru and Koichi couldn't keep their eyes off the blade Kenji clutched tightly in his right had. He'd long since re-sealed Aoi Inazuma and those blades now rested in their holders; the katana at his waist and the wakizashi strapped horizontally across his lower back.

Arriving at Maki's they all took a seat outside, because the house really only had enough room for Maki and two others. "...So, you have something to tell us?" Maki asked slowly. He didn't like where this was going. Not one bit. He didn't like the look of that sword...

Kenji's new blade.

Kenji's new blade.

Kenji's Tattoo

The seal on Kenji's arm.

Kenji turned to face them and held out his new sword. It was a normal katana blade with a black sheath and red hilt wrapping. The guard was mostly circular and gold in color. "When I entered my Inner World, it wasn't just Aoi Inazuma I met. There was another individual. He called himself Kyo." Kenji exerted a small amount of spiritual energy, but it wasn't his own as an example. His eyes turned crimson as a result. When he stopped and exerted his own, his eyes glowed with a light blue hue. "Kyo allows me to use his energy, but the seal on my arm," He showed his tattoo. "This is what kept Kyo sealed. As I grew as a Shinigami, the seal weakened and allowed Kyo to appear in my Inner World and speak to me mentally using a type of telepathy. This sword," He said looking at his father. "Has Kyo's power sealed within. If I want to use his power, then I must activate this sword. It has no special powers and will disappear until I stop using his power."

The three Shinigami regarded Kenji for a moment before turning their gazes on each other. Kenji was barely able to hear them whispering as they put their heads together to converse what he had just told them. "I don't like this, Kenji." Koichi said finally. "It seems a little convenient, is all. I mean, you needed power to defeat The Trickster, and then this guy just happened to agree to lend you his power? That sounds very close to a subject that's strictly prohibited. It's a rule even I wouldn't break Kenji."

"What are you talking about, dad? What's it close to?"

"Gaining hollow powers," Maki said in a fierce whisper. "There's been cases where a Shinigami, through unknown means, has obtained hollow-like powers. The hollow formed in their Inner World and needed to be defeated for them to use it's power. Koichi is saying that this is similar; different, but still similar."

Kenji nodded and smiled though. "...I know it wasn't what I stepped in to do, Maki, but I mastered Aoi Inazuma as well, and she ensured that Kyo's reasons were just. She spoke to him for a full day before I did and has been aware of him for a longer time than that. If she sensed anything dangerous or malicious about him, she would've told me. I trust Aoi Inazuma with my life, guys."

"... Then that's good enough for me." Koichi said as he out his arm around his son's shoulder. "Now, we're going home to celebrate the mastery of your Shikai. I bet you're hungry, boy, because I know I am, and all I did was pump Reiatsu into a wall." He spoke with a large hearty grin. "And you two are welcome as well. Always, remember that, okay? Now let's get going."

Koichi and Rikimaru took to the skies with Shunpo, leaving Kenji alone with Maki. The seasoned veteran stopped Kenji by grabbing his arm. "I know you trust Aoi Inazuma, otherwise you wouldn't have mastered your Shikai. But promise me you'll be careful anyway. We know nothing about this fellow. In many ways, he's just as mysterious as The Trickster. Oh yeah, you're spiritual energy has hardened up considerably. I'd compare you to a Lieutenant now, easily." Maybe higher...

Maki's eyes widened as Kenji brushed aside his mentor's hand and pulled him into a tight hug. "Thank you for training me, Maki, but I've got a request..."

"Let me guess, you need to put what Aoi Inazuma taught you to the test? I am right. You've got yourself a sparring partner, but on one condition. I want to see you're full power without relying on Kyo, okay? But that can wait a while. For now, let's eat drink and be merry!" The two caught up to Rikimaru and Koichi and continued towards the Seireitei...

Next Story > Fates First Trial

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