The young girl yawned as she awoke. Next to her was a small mass of grey.
"Haiiro's here?" She looked at her cat and got up gently over it. "Might as well let him sleep." She began her long descent down the stairs. Even after living here for twelve years she was still not used to the mansion. It was huge and easy to get lost in. Midoriko walked down the hall.
"I wonder if Father is awake?"
Her brother's voice called out from the far side of the hall. He gave a wide wave over towards her, one of his hands in his pockets.
"Hello Taiki." Midoriko replied. "You are awfully loud for so early in the morning."
Taiki smirked. "And you sure are very quiet. It's the start of a new day, perk up!" He encouraged.
"Yeah Happy Halloween, Onii-san." She said with sarcasm.
"That's better! Now let's get downstairs before Mom and Dad get worried."
Midoriko sighed. "You act too much like Father."
"Thanks..." Taiki replied jokingly, putting an arm on her shoulder as they walked down to the lower levels. "If it helps, you act too much like Mom, too."
"Thank you." She replied, pushing his arm off her, her eyes glowing red.
That caused him to chuckle nervously. "Same temper, too..." He commended, putting both hands in his pockets and taking a few steps away, a sweatdrop coming down from his forehead.
Midoriko walked ahead of him. "I will never understand why Father has a mansion this big."
For a moment, the boy looked around in wonder at the large space that surrounded them. "His dad or someone gave it to 'em when they kicked the bucket..." He said, putting his hands into his pockets. "I'd be glad to have a house like this..."
"Father likes me best, so I'll probably get it. And MAYBE I'll be nice enough to let you live in the cellar."
"Oh... I'm so honored..." Taiki rolled his eyes, the familiar tone of Tereya's own dry tone filling his mouth.
When they entered the dining room, they were chocked at what they saw. The whole room was orange. Pumpkins (real or fake) were hanging from the ceiling, there were orange frills on the table, and the wallpaper was orange.
"What....happened here?" Midori muttered, her eyes slightly wide.
"Happy Halloween kids!" Ahatake called from across the room.
"Dad, you mutilated the dining room!" Taiki complained, eyeing the large mass of decorations surrounding them. "Why is there a pumpkin grinning at me?!"
"That's the idea son." Ahatake replied. "Your mother didn't much care for it either, but since Akiko, Shunsatsu and I liked it, her opinion didn't really matter."
"That's kinda harsh, Dad..."
"Well it's the vote of the Majority that matters. It's called democracy. Don't you pay attention in school?" Ahatake replied.
A wide smile was set across his face, and his eyes squinted shut. "Nope! I was the one that got detention all the time!" He chirped.
Ahatake sighed. "I'll remember that this Christmas."
"Thanks." Taiki's eyes drifted over towards his sister wonderously. "Well? Aren't you gonna say somethin'?"
Midoriko ignored her brother. "Good Morning Father."
"Morning Midori." He looked an twice. "It's odd to see you without Haiiro. Where is he?"
"Haiiro's sleeping Father. Where's mother?"
"I'm not quite sure."
A tap by a slender finger resounded on Ahatake's shoulder. "Oh. I was just getting myself ready." Tereya's lazy voice came to their ears.
Ahatake turned around. "Nice costume Princess." Ahatake said eyeing it.
A long white coat decked nearly her entire torso, some parts of it stained in a reddish color. Her skin was paler, and her hair had been dyed neatly to the color of grey. She wore a white hat to match, a red ribbon tied to it, and black clothing under the white robe. "Thanks, sweetie." She replied, smirking.
"Anyti- WHOA!" Ahatake yelled, falling off of his latter.
With a Flash Step, and an outstretching of the arms, the woman was able to easily catch the falling man. "Jeez..." She grumbled, scowling down at his fallen form. "Don't kill yourself yet!"
"Thank's Princess." Ahatake said getting up.
"So what are you to gonna be for Halloween?" Ahatake asked turning to his kids.
Taiki raised his hand to his chin, putting on a thoughtful look. "Eh.... I'm not sure yet..." He muttered.
"I'm gonna be a cat-girl Father." Midoriko replied, moving to help him up.
"Cat-girl?" Taiki repeated disbelievingly. "With your looks, you'd be most suited for something goth."
Midori decided to ignore that hand helped her father back onto the latter.
"Hey, Black." Tereya called up, folding her arms across her chest and looking back up at her husband. "What're you gonna dress up as? And don't say yourself..." She rolled her eyes and shook her head slightly.
"I'm not quite sure. Maybe an Akatsuki."
"Ah!" Taiki snapped his fingers immediately. "That's it! I'll dress up as an Arrancar-Shinigami!"
"And how would you do that?" Cam a voice. Everyone turned to see Akiko dressed in a black and purple flowing coat with a pointed hat on her head.
"I've got ideas..." Taiki retorted, looking over at his aunt and eyeing her costume. "I just...have to plan them out somehow..."
Tereya cocked an eyebrow. "What're you supposed to be?" She asked skeptically.
"What I am everyday...a witch." Akiko replied.
"You look pretty good for a witch, Auntie!" Taiki complemented.
"Thank you." Akiko replied, slightly red. "Echo should be dropping by soon."
"Will he be wearing a costume?" Midori asked.
"Knowing him... probably not." Akiko replied.
"He doesn't need one!" Tereya added, shrugging her shoulders. "Already intimidating to look at..."
"True." Akiko replied. "And if he doesn't have one, I'll make him wear this." She formed a Hollow mask in her hand.
A skeptical eye was raised in return, and Tereya stared at it for a minute. "You sure he'd like that he's being made to wear something?" She asked.
"Probably not." Akiko replied. "Which is the main reason I'm gonna do it."
"I'm getting bored." Midoriko replied. "And hungry."
Taiki sighed heavily, but he put on a mock hurt expression. "We're too boring for Mido-chan?" He teased.
"Yes." Midoriko replied, her eyes glowing red, telling him to back off.
He raised his hands up in defense, grinning widely but a clearly panicked expression on his face. "Hey, hey, no need to get mad! I was just kidding!"
"I wish I had a sister, not a brother." Midoriko muttered, walking off. "Aunt Akiko, when's Kyashi coming to visit?"
Taiki could only stare through his squinted eyes at her retreating form, putting his hands in his pockets once more and frowning. "Jeez... everyone's out to get me today..." He muttered, taking a seat at one of the nearby chairs.
"I'm not sure." Akiko replied. "She said she'd drop by today, but not guarantees. There's someone she wants to meet today, so I don't know."
"O.K." Midoriko replied. "I'm going to change into my costume."
Just at that moment the air chilled, and in walked a careless looking, muscular, black haired man. The bright orange room almost became oblivious compared to the calm glow of his blue eyes. "Hey." He said, not hiding his lack of amusement.
"Pleased to see you here..." Tereya muttered, looking up from her leaning position she had taken on the wall.
"Heya Echo!" Akiko greeted him with a kiss. "Like my costume?"
"Oh yes." said Echo, looking at her. "Please hex me." Said Echo, a tinge of amusement in his dry tone.
Akiko laughed a fake laugh. "I'm surprised you got her without getting lost."
"I trailed a suspicious looking man in a tux here and when he didn't answer my questions immediately I killed him...Then I noticed he was butler." said Echo, slightly embarassed.
"Oh my God, you didn't!" Akiko gasped. "Why?"
Echo shrugged. "Could've been an assassin I suppose." He sighed. "I guess it doesn't matter, the Soul king will sort it out in his next life."
"I was wondering why Gustav wasn't here." Ahatake muttered.
"Who the hell is Gustav?" Tereya piped up, pushing herself off of the wall and looking over at him quizically.
"The eldest butler." Ahatake replied.
If you'd like I could raise him from the dead." commented Echo, meaning it.
"No." Ahatake replied. "He was getting on in years and he smoked like a chimney."
"Alright, what are your children dressing up as?" he suggested, making conversation.
"Midori is going to be a cat-girl, and Taiki is going to be an Arrancar-Shinigami. Don't ask me how he intends to pull it off."
"Heh, I usally dress up as myself, but I've gotten a bit more festive this year." Echo said poudly.
"What do you mean?" Akiko asked. "You look the same as ever."
"Oh really?" Echo asked, opening his already unbuttoned overcoat to show that his under tank top had spelled across it in orange letters the word: 'costume'. He let a smirk slip out at his own lack of creativity.
Akiko laughed and the pushed a mask onto Echo's face. "There we go." She giggled. "I told everyone if you didn't have a costume I'd make you wear a Hollow mask."
A muffled sigh could be heard from under the mask. "You'd better enjoy this while it lasts." Echo's eyes could be seen rolling in the mask's eye holes.
"I figured he'd be mad about that." Tereya muttered.
"He'll do about anything for Akiko." Ahatake replied.
"You don't have to wear it now." Akiko replied removing it. "Just when we go trick or treating with the kids. THEN you have to wear it."
"Fine, but I am not being Santa for Christmas again." Echo stated, folding his arms sternly.
"Yes you will." Akiko replied, looking sad.
Echo's lip quivered pathetically. "...Alright, okay, but you're Mrs. Santa." he cracked. "And no sending the fat kids to sit on my lap last again."
Akiko giggled. "It's so easy to manipulate you."
"Only for you." said Echo as he shook his head, knowing she was right.
Akiko laughed again. "I'd say it's about time to eat no?"
"Just about." Ahatake replied folding up the latter he was sitting on and throwing it out of the dining room. Everyone began to sit down at the table.
Midoriko entered wearing her costume.
Echo sighed. "You realize it's outfits like that that inspire pedophilism."
"Stuff it Uncle Echo." Midori replied.
Taiki stared. "Fine, I guess things OTHER than Goth suit you."
"I still don't see why I can't just kill her and you two can create a less spoiled child, if needed it would be painless." Echo was still getting used to the fact that in a family you didn't kill one another.
Ahatake was behind him in an instant, a butcher knife at his throat. "Say that again, and I'll kill you."
"You would have this house and anyone in the way destroyed simply to prove a point?" he glanced at Akiko. "If we have a child, you can be sure it will know the meaning of respect."
Echo pushed the knife away. "Save it for the food."
Ahatake resumed his seat.
"Uncle Echo, I take it you don't like me?" Midoriko asked.
"I don't like a lot of things." Echo responded cooly, sliding Akiko's chair out for her to sit as everyone had began to.
"I'm not your biggest fan either." Midoriko replied.
"Out of all the people's opinions I couldn't care less for, why on Earth would a simple child's matter?" retaliated Echo.
"Burn in hell."
That caused Taiki to laugh heartily. "Oh geezus, this is too good!" He stammered, snickering and trying his best to stifle his laughter.
"Then you can burn in the flames of my Zanpakuto."
Echo sighed in boredom, fiddling with the Hollow Mask "Your lack of discipline makes it worthless."
Midoriko's eyes glew crimson. "You have a death wish?"
"Do you have pink eye?" He was now yawning.
Taiki, in pure laziness, decided to sit a bit on the table to watch the amusing argument between his sister and uncle. "My only regret is that I didn't bring popcorn..."
"Her eyes glow when she vows to kill someone." Ahatake told him.
Echo nodded to Ahatake. "The first step to power is acceptance, thus you have no power." He glanced at Taiki. "The first of you two to realize this will be more powerful in the end, and the other will regret the day they didn't listen to my words."
"You'll regret opening your mouth." Midoriko replied as the maids came with plates of food.
Taiki, however, cocked an eyebrow as he considered Echo's words. He pushed himself off of the table to allow the maids to pass by, and his mother walked off towards the door. "Sweetie, there's someone at the door!" She called out.
Echo didn't say anything, noticing Taiki lsitening to him and nodded to himself.
"Alright Princess I'll get it!" Ahatake replied, going to the door and opening it. Outside was a man and a woman.
"Shunsatsu! Happy Halloween buddy."
"Same to you, too..." Shunsatsu nodded, grinning from ear to ear. "May we come in?"
"Of course. You're family." Ahatake replied opening the door. "Everyone! The Kuroda's are here!"
Echo nodded slightly in their direction, deep in thought.
"Ahatake-san why was there a dead body out there?"
"Echo, the lady wants to know why there was a dead body out there. Care to tell them?"
Shunsatsu's own costume could be clearly seen as he stepped in sighing, Asuka in tow. Like Tereya, he wore a top hat, but also sported a black tuxedo, and a red tie. There was a white towel draped around his shoulders, and even what looked like a Thompson machine gun in one hand. "Like my costume?" He asked. "Took me a while to get the look right..."
"What are you?"
"A Russian mobster."
Ignoring the interruption, Echo answered the question. "His lack of responsibility was his demise, it was merely delivered by my hands." said with his usual absence of care.
"Ignore him." Ahatake replied. "I like you costume." He turned to Asuka, who was in a frilly dress with a crown.
"And you are?"
"I'm a queen."
"Lack of responsibility?" Tereya turned her eye towards him, cocking an eyebrow. "A minute ago, you said you killed him because you mistook him for something else."
"If he would've properly answered my questions without shrieking in fear, his life would've been spared." noted Echo. He shook his head, he did some annoying things to make Akiko happy.
"That's 'cuz you're so intimidating." Akiko replied, starting on her food, as the Kuroda couple entered the kitchen followed by Ahatake.
"Who's the dark guy?" Shunsatsu asked, looking over at Echo with an arched eyebrow. "Friend o' yours?
"Akiko's husband." Ahatake replied.
"Greetings." said Echo, hoping these were the last to arrive.
"I'll be back." Ahatake said. "I have to change into my costume."
As the man ran off, Shunsatsu frowned at Echo's expression. "....Don't worry. There won't be anyone else comin' for a long time." He assured.
"Unless Uncle Smirnov decides to show." Midori replied, swallowing lady-like bites of food.
Echo raised an eyebrow to the man. "I'm not fine tuned for unconditional love, sorry."
"Oh, ha ha..." Shunsatsu replied in a bout of mild sarcasm, his frown becoming more lopsided.
"Alright!" Ahatake was back. He was wearing a long black with red clouds that covered almost his entire body, a strange straw hate with white ribbons dangling from it, and a ring on his finger.
"..." Echo put his Hollow Mask on to hide his expression.
"It's nice father." Midoriko replied.
Akiko removed her hat. "I like it."
Echo immediately removed his mask. "Me too."
"You almost look like that Itachi guy, Dad!" Taiki complemented.
Shunsatsu shrugged. "Eh... looks kinda wierd on you, Ahatake...."
"I'll take that as a compliment." Ahatake said. "And thanks son."
"Alright, so what next?" said Echo, popping his neck.
"We wait for night." Ahatake said. "We're taking the kids trick-or-treating."
"Okay." said Echo in boredom. "You know what, Mrs. Santa is too easy, you're so going to be Rudolph." he whispered to his wife.
"You wish!" Akiko retorted.
"Mhm, and you're wearing a big red nose." smiled Echo. "And when all the toys are delivered you're going kiss Santa, beard and all." he whispered.
"I'll kiss you, but I am NOT gonna be Rudolph."
"Oh yes you will, for everything I've done for you, you owe me." He gave her a sinister wink.
"No." Akiko replied and that was it.
All "Hollow's" Eve
Ahatake sighed. "C'mon guys the sun has set. It is time!"
Echo stretched and got up. "Come on, we can't have Trick or Treat without my favorite red nosed reindeer."
Ahatake's wife walked beside him, almost leaning on him as she folded her arms across her chest. The two children in their own costumes scurried out of the door, each carrying their own empty bags.
"Echo I told you no!" The witch replied. "Pressure me again and I will file for divorce."
Echo couldn't help a smirk. "Sure Akiko, you say that everyday. But have it your way, we'll just have Christmas without Santa." said Echo sadly. "Poor kids, no dreams to come true all because of my stubborn wife."
"I'll just pay someone else. Onii-san and I have enough money now." She replied.
"Sometimes I wonder which one of is the boring one." he sighed.
Tereya couldn't help but smirk. "I thought you were supposed to be the kiddish one, Akiko. What's the matter? Lost your touch?"
"No, just annoyed." Akiko replied.
"Let's go guys." Ahatake called out, tipping his hat so his face could not be seen.
Asuka put her arm around Shunsatsu's. "Shall we?"
"Yes, dear..." Shunsatsu replied, tipping his own hat down to cover most of his own expression. "We trick-or-treat in style..."
Echo raised the collar of his coat and followed behind them, mildly offended. "I suppose."
Akiko walked up to Echo and kissed him. Then she pulled his mask over his face. "Let's go Echo."
He wanted to leave in his anger but didn't want to ruin the night for the others with a scene. "Hmph." Echo bit back his words.
Ahatake and Tereya were the next to exit, and they exited rather quietly followed by their two children.
At least, for two seconds.
"Damn it, Mido-chan, you're too slooooooow--"
"Shut up." Midoriko muttered, overtaking him to walk by Ahatake. They made it to the town in about five minutes.
"Looks like my old job." said Echo, noticing all the children running around in demonic costumes reminded him of hell.
"You're not on duty here, Echo." Ahatake reminded him.
"Should we go?" Midoriko suggested. She had a plan to easily get alot of candy.
Echo titled his head, wanting to see what would happen.
"Let's split up." Ahatake commanded and everyone obeyed. Over the next half hour they obtained candy from houses (or in some cases tricked other's out of their's) and met back at a Denny's.
A suspicious-looking Taiki whistled innocently as he heffed a large bag of candy over his shoulder. "So... how'd it go?" He asked.
"I got alot." Midoriko replied. "Men are so easy to manipulate."
"Every man likes a slut, makes the kill easier." Echo dropped a few garbage bags filled with candy on the table. "I cast an illusion on a few punks and tricked them into trading all of their candy for a few rocks. That's what they get for making that pathetic excuse of a haunted house."
Taiki almost burst with laughter at the comment, barely keeping himself in control.
"You fucker..." Tereya muttered, giving a pointed glare in Echo's direction. "My daughter isn't a slut."
"How isn't she?" Echo pointed out.
Ahatake was behind Echo again. "Do you want to lose your head?"
Ignoring her husband, Tereya's eye twitched. "...She doesn't sell her own body in exchange for personal value." She countered.
"I'm sure your daughter would find it." remarked Echo lazily to Ahatake. "And it sounds like that's exactly what she did." he answered Tereya. "And where is my food." he glared at a waitress who then hurried into the kitchen.
"Mother don't waste your breath on this fool." Midoriko suggested.
Tereya sighed heavily, but said nothing in return. Not that she listened to her daughter, but she found it a waste to keep debating in the middle of the street like this. She'd have other times to talk to the man.
Midoriko turned to Echo. "And I advise you to keep your mouth shut. All i did was take advantage of your Gender's stupidity and love of girls with cat ear's."
"I apologize, prostitution is a fine business in these times and I shouldn't smear its name, keep up the good work." Rather than ruin the night by skinning the girl alive, Echo kept his hand in the pocket opposite his sword, and instead turned to Taiki. "So Taiki, how is your training coming along?" inquired Echo, who had taken an interest in the boy after noticing his potential.
The boy raised an eyebrow, but shrugged. "All I can say is that I've gotten by pretty well, uncle." He replied. "The ways of sword techniques is pretty awesome to use and experience, too!"
Ahatake resumed his seat next to his wife.
"He makes good progress. He is extremely powerful, though, he and his sister are about even."
"Interesting." replied Echo. "I'd like to see you in action sometime, maybe even show you a few moves if you'd like."
His words seemed to intrigue the boy, which was characterized by his fox-like smile. "Yeah.... I'd like that." He replied.
"I would love to see that." Mido laughed harshly.
"No." Echo replied bluntly. "These sessions would be private, I will show him certain techniques that will turn him into a living weapon. Though I suppose you know all about private sessions, don't you?" he glanced at the girl, no hostility in his eyes, no compassion, just nothing.
Tereya couldn't help but cock an eyebrow at his "living weapon" statement. "By the way ya put it, it sounds extreme." She commented.
Just at that moment they heard a blood chilling roar.
"There will definately be a huge leap in his power, whether it comes easily or hard." answered Echo, glancing towards the origin of the sound.
"Menos Grande." Ahatake muttered. He took out some money and slapped it on the table. "Let's go!"
"I'll hold you to that, uncle." Taiki replied, grabbing the hilt of his own blade and running with his dad.
"Oh, that's just great..." Shunsatsu, haven been slient for the most, stared up to the sky in irritance. "Hollows. What a great time, too!"
A sneer crossed Tereya's face, hand on her own sword. "Speak for yourself. This is just what I needed."
"Hmm.' Echo stepped outside and leaned against the building, his arms folded, obviously he planned on merely observing the fight.
They each ran outside and ditched their Gigai, leaving them in the care of the Soul Candy Counterparts.
There were four Menos.
"Father, can I kill one?" Midoriko asked.
"Then I want the biggest one."
In that case, Taiki decided to take the one nearest to him. Gripping the hilt of his sword, he Flash Stepped in front of the large monster and flicked his thumb under the hilt. However, instead of the usual spark, a brilliant flash illuminated from the blade. This caused the beast to roar out in pain as it was viciously blinded.
Smirking and fully unsheathing his blade, Taiki's next series of attacks and movements were a blur. Then, in seven seconds, he re-sheathed his sword, the Hollow disintegrating as soon as he did so.
Echo nodded, obviously observing the boy's movements for success and errors.
"Go!" Ahatake commanded and off the girl went. "Burn....HINEKO!" She cried her blade transforming into in Shiaki. She jumped up and slashed down cutting the Menos cleanly in two and watched as it disintegrated.
Tereya took the next one. It proved to be a more offensive beast as it charged in, hungry for her soul. But she would not move an inch, poising her sword as soon as it close. Then, sliding her blade quickly on her hand, she unleashed a torrent of her own spiritual energy that severed the monster in two.
"Last one's yours, sweetie!" She called.
"Thanks love!" Ahatake called. His target fired a large cero at Ahatake who deflected it with the flick of a wrist. "That's not a Cero...THIS is a cero." He fired his own, larger cero, destroying the Hollow's head and it faded.
"Your fifth strike was a bit sloppy, a more quick and defensive opponent would've used that mistake to throw you off balance." Echo commented to Taiki. "Make sure you don't swing your sword, but rather guide it."
"Guys we're not out of the woods yet. There's more!" Ahatake called pointing at the new onslaught.
Taiki's gaze drifted upwards towards the army of Hollows approaching them. He prepared himself once more, as did his family.
"Observe." Echo blinked lazily, seemingly not moving, yet a few of the Hollows screamed in terror as they were diced to pieces that would need visual aid to find. "The sword has a heartbeat of its own, a unique feel that only you can read and thus perfect. I can show you all of this, but you have to find it yourself."
Ahatake opened his mouth and a roar came out, similar to the Hollows. Instantly two of them destroyed each other with their own cero.
"Echo, you're not the only one who can manipulate a Hollow."
"Interesting, what exactly endows your Hollow call to command them?" said Echo, finally standing and walking away from the restaurant wall.
"I'm not quiet sure." Ahatake replied. "They just listen. Taiki, it's your turn."
Closing his eyes, Taiki allowed his sword arm to fall to his eyes. Trying to follow Echo's tutelage to the letter, he gripped the hilt of his Zanpakuto carefully, like a doctor listening to a patient's lungs. He focused...focused...
Yeah...I can feel it now...I can hear it...
The demons just kept screaming, charging in like zealots. But it was ignored by the child, as he shifted his weight...
At first glance, it had looked like he had simply passed them by, re-appearing behind them. He had not moved from his former position, but the Menos had stopped their cries of pain and hunger, standing rigid as statues. He calmly sheathed his sword, a small, but apparent smile on his face.
Then, their masks cracked in half, and they started to descend, but they disintegrated into the particles of dust that was their own corruptive energy. Only one statement came from Taiki's mouth, as he looked behind him to see the last one die.
"You didn't mean any harm... did ya?"
"Impressive." said Echo, his face giving away no readable expression.
There were only two left.
"Mido, you're next."
Midoriko charged her swinging her flaming blade above her like a baton, and shot a massive fireball at the largest remaining Menos, watching it scream and fade.
"Princess, you can have the last."
"No need to tell me twice..." Tereya calmly replied, the beast roaring above her head furiously. All it took was a swing of her sword upward, and the beast's mask was slashed in half. It collapsed to the ground, vaporizing into ash upon contact.
They waited. There was no more roaring.
"It seems...like we're done." Ahatake muttered, scanning the area.
"The quality of battelworthy Menos keeps declining." said a dissapointed Echo.
"Sis..." Taiki looked over to Midorika, putting on a fake frown of disappointement as he floated down to the ground. "I didn't even have to use my Shikai, and you did? You should know better." He chided.
"It's more fun for me if my opponent burns in my inferno." The girl replied as they walked back towards they're bodies and entered them popping out the Gikongan.
Echo smirked at the exchange, everything was already falling into place.
Mido heaved her bag of candy over her shoulder.
"Father can we go home?"
"Of course, unless everybody else still wants to stay out." He replied
Tereya yawned a bit, covering her hand with her mouth and stretching a bit. "Yeah... it's gettin' late, we should be going home." She agreed.
"Agreed..." Shunsatsu added. "Unless, Asuka, you wish to stay?"
"No, I'm getting tired. And besides we have plans." She replied, grinning slyly.
"I suppose I'm finished with everything as well." said Echo, placing his hands in his pockets."
Taiki, grabbing a large piece of candy from his bag, tossed it into Echo's non-chalantly. "The least I could do for now, since you gave me those tips." He said, grinning.
"Hmph." replied Echo bluntly, but let a small glimmer if appreciation slip out. "Don't mention it, just remember what I said: there is no power without acceptance. Admitting someone outclasses you doesn't make you inferior, it just gives you a reason to be better." He lifted his candy bags and stretched. "Alright, where's my grumpy lady?" he glanced around for Akiko, who had been fairly quiet.
"Over here." She replied. "And I'm NOT grumpy."
"Of course not." Echo walked over to her and wrapped his arm around her gently. "I guess I can find some other person that I'm not completely and hopelessly in love with to argue with about reindeer with. Meanwhile, I just want to spend time with you, who is by the way much more beautiful than Rudolph could dare hope to be." he said softly, letting love be the first emotion in his eyes the entire night.
She sighed, reaching up to kiss him. "Fine I'll be Rudolph."
Ahatake laughed. "Seems he can manipulate you just as easily, Akiko."
Taiki smirked. "Red-nosed aunt..."
"I guess we're all in agreement." Ahatake said in a loud and unnecessarily dramatic voice. "Let's get home. And Taiki...no eating all of your candy tonight."
The boy couldn't help but roll his eyes. "Dad, I ain't the sweet tooth Mido-chan is!" He defended, slinging his own bag over his shoulder.
"Onii-san did you forget last year? You ate all your candy and had to go to the dentist?" Midoriko retorted.
"Yeah, but that's because I thought there was a prize at the bottom. Ain't that stupid now..."
Echo grew bored and leaned over to Akiko's ear. "Come on Akiko, I've been studying up on some massage techniques and I want to try them." whispered Echo enthusiastically, not realizing that he sounded like a dork at a convention.
"Alright." Akiko replied, and she jumped on his back. "But you're carrying me."
"I always do." Echo added before bowing his head to the others. "Thank you for having me, unpleasantries and all." was his way of apologizing for any offense he caused.
"You're Akiko's husband." Ahatake replied. "We have no choice."
Echo's politeness only went so far. "Later, Taiki." was all he said before he began trudging off with Akiko.
"Later, uncle!" Taiki called back, giving a farewell wave at the two's retreating forms. Then, he turned towards Ahatake. "All right Dad, let's get outta here. I'm ready to eat!"
Ahatake laughed and he and his family turned to walk home.