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Of the Worthiness

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First Moves?

"Again!" The lieutenant's loud voice ordered, and the pounding of sticks against one another came once more into his ears.

It was a usual day of the 11th Division. Today, the unit had decided to go on a field trip, in order for training in different environments. Since they had known their way around Soul Society, it was fairly easy to do so, using the simple method of Flash Step to cover distance quickly.

Now, both Lieutenant and Captain stood side by side, watching the other members spar with one another with their usual training swords.

The captain, Masaru Fujibayashi, watched the shinigami train with a casual eye. Well, as casual as one could say with his unemotional gaze, calculating every stroke of each trainee within his field of vision. His haori fluttered slightly in the light breeze, signifying his upper rank. His zanpakuto was strapped to his back: an odachi length blade in its sheath. Despite its fearsome length, it could not be drawn quickly.

When one made an error, the captain's eyes were quick to catch it, but he said nothing of it. There is no definite list of rules on how to fight. There is only a list of ideas that work better than others. Teaching oneself is the best way to fight.

Lieutenant Ryuka had other ideas, apparently.

He was occasionally pointing out mistakes made by the two trainees in front of him. His voice, although relatively non-harsh, was demandingly encouraging.

"C'mon!" He'd turn his head to speak to one of them. "You're holding back too much! This is a duel, not a friendly tapping of swords!"

Then, he'd turn to the other. "You're relying on defensive tactics too much. At this point, if you were actually enemies, and he was a more aggressive opponent, he would've killed you by now!"

"S-sorry, sir!"

"Don't apologize to me, just keep at it!"

Masaru mentally sighed at his direct subordinate's approach to the situation. As a former instructor of zanjutsu, he could easily recognize the faults in the less-than-adequate swordplay being seen before him.

"They are not going to learn much if you keep doing that," he muttered to Ryuka, walking towards the two shinigami before them. The captain held out a hand to the one doing the attacking for the majority of the time, asking for the practice sword.

The other caught onto it quickly, presenting it to Captain Fujibayashi. Taking the hilt end in one hand, Masaru leveled it towards the defender, indicating he is taking over for the moment, and began swinging. Each blow came with great force, angled to force the shinigami to expand on his defensive field. Every slip up was exploited: a hit with the flat of the blade to give the hint with pain. It continued for two minutes before Masaru handed the blade back to its owner.

The defending shinigami has improved slightly, from Masaru's analysis, giving evidence to his own teaching philosophy. Every man has his own way of fighting, which can only be taught through experience than from the words of books or mouth.

"Hm?"

The sudden action surprised Ryuka, eyes widening slightly, and his head raising a bit in affirmation. But in the way that the two shinigami now moved, it was apparent his captain had been the one who's right. Sighing a bit, he remained silent, a newfound consideration of Masaru's teachings now taken.

Another hour passed before the captain gave the order to wrap up and return back to Seireitei for the night. He was satisfied that the shinigami that he and his lieutenant brought along have improved. He did not question Ryuka about what he learned from his own interference in the spar between the two shinigami earlier, expecting the lieutenant to have picked up some indication as to the correct way to teach.

"Captain."

As the last Shinigami went out of sight from the training area, Ryuka decided to put forth his voice once more. His feet stepped slowly towards the heavier-set Shinigami, careful but confident.

"Hm?" Masaru turned his gaze towards his subordinate, stopping in his tracks to hear what the other has to say.

"What you had said and did today..." Ryuka raised one hand to straighten his collar, in order to make sure for less restriction on the throat. "...why did you remain silent, every time they made an error in their fighting?"

Masaru paused for a moment at the question. He pondered on it for a moment before speaking. "There was a human in the material world. He was a war general, among the best of the country he fought for. He once said Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. I found it the ideal philosophy of zanjutsu training; tell the trainee to attack, but do not tell him how to. Let him improvise and fine-tune it to his own way of the blade."

Ryuka remained silent for a moment, closing his eyes. "...and what if they fail?" He asked.

"It just means they have not trained hard enough for the task, and will be replaced by one more competent. The weak need to be located within the division and weeded out. This is the division of the strong, who do not fear blood or death. It's the legacy left by the first Kenpachi, not merely my own philosophy," Masaru replied.

He did not press the question further, though he did not wish for the conversation to end. This is one of the few times that the captain and his lieutenant had the opportunity to know each other better. For the purpose of commanding the 11th better, no doubt, but a purpose, nevertheless.

"Ah...." A smile came across the Injiki's face, and he nodded in acknowledgement, shrugging his shoulders. "Then, I can safely say, you wouldn't mind if you were..."

His eyes opened back up, an unknown intention gleaming behind them. "Test you out?"

Masaru did not fail to note the gleam in his subordinate's eyes. He looked towards the Seireitei for a moment, then shrugged. "Whatever."

He grabbed the hilt of his zanpakuto and began drawing it. As the blade left its sheath, the scabbard slowly disappated into spiritual particles, easing the difficulty of the draw. The captain did not take any worry while drawing it if Ryuka attacked him right there. He was ready from the beginning.

With one firm hand on his own Zanpakuto, he unsheathed it, the blade making the familiar hissing noise of metal scraping the scabbard. But, within the next instant, he used the technique of Flash Step, appearing behind his captain in less than a second.

"I'm counting on you...sir."

With that, his hands pulled the blade up, and he pivoted half-way, aiming to cut through Masaru's side.

His zanpakuto wasn't fully out of its sheath, but Masaru didn't look at all concerned. In one quick motion, he jumped up and stomped down on the blade as it arrived at his body, nullifying its attack while finishing the draw of his own blade.

With one clean motion, he made a vertical strike towards his lieutenant, wasting no movements.

Quick...swift...unhesitant. Just three traits that his captain gave off with those simple movements of fighting. Even as he moved his head accordingly to narrowly dodge his opponent's blade, a teeth-hidden smile was showing across his face, although his eyes were slightly narrowed. They were the little steps of proof as a great warrior, to him at least.

Pulling his sword from under Masaru's feet, Ryuka quickly put one foot behind him and one in front, only slightly seperated from each other. Raising the blade back to point the tip at the Captain, he thrust, with the chilling movements that only his kind was known for.

It was deflected rather easily, with Masaru's retraction of his arm, though the motion did not end there. The captain followed it through, arcing his elbow outward with his blade following for a strike at the other's torso. The swing was controlled: designed to prevent the thrusting blade from being able to quickly take a cheap shot at Masaru's exposed hand with its blade diagonally facing the ground. The feat itself is difficult due to the weight of the zanpakuto matched by its long length making it difficult to wield in close-combat.

Once again, Ryuka dodged.

But his movements were in the position of a sidestep, and now Masaru's side was exposed due to the style of his attack. With one flick of the wrist, he could easily take another shot at the Captain's ribs while it was exposed temporarily... that is, unless Masaru had the reflexes to block it. And clearly, he wasn't Captain for just loud speeches.

But, then again, Ryuka was one to take risks, wasn't he?

Switching his blade position, the Injiki swung an uppercut, attempting to strike and cut into the ribcage while he still could.

A lack of hesitation continued to prevail over Ryuka's attempts to land a blow on the captain. As the lieutenant side-stepped, Masaru was quick to cover his opened flank. Although his blade was too long for him to slam the tip into the ground to produce a sturdy defense, the captain was able to pivot on one foot to bring the front of his body before his opponent in coordination with a solid parry.

"Not bad," he commented.

"That's my line."

After the parry, Ryuka chose the opportunity to initiate a swordlock, not letting the Captain pull away his blade in time to keep Ryuka's from slamming into it again. But it was brief and short; Forcing both of their swords down, Ryuka shifted his body over them for a split second, before pushing off feet-first into the air. Blade twisted back, and hovering over Masaru's head for a split second, the Injiki swung a forwarded blow towards it.

The captain was quick to react. He swung his blade in an over-head arc from his previous position to nail the other in mid air. The slice made by the lieutenant was an expected attack - a very typical aerial maneuver. A slight movement and the blade nicked his haori, the tip digging into the surface of his skin. But the captain did not register the pain.

Immediately after landing on his feet, Ryuka's sword tip pierced itself into the ground. But his hand, gripping it tightly, pulled it back upwards in a forward motion.

This action was not accidental; his swing lacked clumsiness as it performed the action, flinging dust at Masaru's eyes in an attempt to blind him. Then, with his blade in the air, and both hands gripping the hilt, the Injiki swung it down, with all of the force he could muster.

It was a daring maneuver, but the captain was able to counter it. It was the end result of training back in the material world, long before he was captain. Rather than shut both eyes, Masaru closed only his left eye and deflected the approaching sand with his blade using his squinting right eye to judge distances. It allowed him to recognize the follow-up maneuver.

There was a rather large opening left by the attack that Ryuka was about the perform, and one that the captain exploited. He, gripping his zanpakuto with one hand, stepped to the side and made a passing slice at the other's mid-section. It happened quickly - the result of centuries of training.

The Injiki's eyes immediately widened, as he immedately tried to step aside.

But the length of Masaru's Zanpakuto could not be escaped so quickly this time, and the tip caught his side. He winced, feeling the bite of the shallow wound as it tore into him. The force of the attack made him spin around 360 degrees, afterwhich he stopped to look back at the captain. "Nice." He complimented.

"That cut would have been deeper if I was being more serious about fighting you. Perhaps hospitalized if your reaction time was slower," Masaru said, resting his blade on his shoulder. "Is this enough for your taste?"

"Yeah..." The Lieutenant nodded, grinning as he sheathed his own blade in its respective scabbard. "It was all that was needed. You displayed enough traits for me to accept your worthiness of retaining your position."

"Good," Masaru answered, sliding two fingers along the edge of the blade from point to hilt. As he did so, the sheath reappeared to cover the blade's length. Once finished, the captain turned towards the gate and began walking.

"Get that wound dressed. It can get infected," he said over his shoulder as he walked.

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