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Tragedy vs Blessing: Keiji vs Ahatake

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Meeting

Ahatake sighed as he watched his father and apparently soon-to-be mother sitting on the edge of the cliff talking. Not so long ago Kaemon has told the whole family (literally the whole family for even Taiki and Midoriko had been present at the time), the news.

(Flashback)

"Onee-chan! Onee-chan!!" Aoi was running up to her room, calling for Kyuui.

"Huh...?!"

As her door was opened, Kyuui looked up from the position she was in. She was on the bed and on her knees, her pajama robes till having been on. In front of her was a book, and in her hand was an apple - she had stolen it from the fridge when no one was looking. Her expression was a lazy, carefree, and sleepy one.

Dad is back!" Aoi said in an almost urgent manner, as though their life depended on running down to see their father. "He's downstairs!!!!"

In a flash, Kyuui had dropped the apple, she had blatantly pushed past Aoi and almost stumbled running down the steps, her expression alert and heart racing. She hadn't spoken a word, but it was clear she was eager to see him once more.

Aoi quickly followed, feeling slightly upset about being pushed aside, but that emotion completely vanished when she saw her father again by the door.

"Girls...!"

He had spotted them, putting on his trademark fox smile as he slid his hands into his pockets. "About time you made it down! Tou-san had me down here forever!!!"

Ahatake laughed, though it became hysterical laughter as both girls tackled their father to the ground with a simultaneous hugs.

That only made Taiki laugh heartily, pulling himself in order to prop himself on his elbows. He had one eye open and one eye closed as he looked at his daughters, his grin haven't faded. "Good to see you too, Aoi, Kyuui!" He said mirthfully.

"You need to come home more often!!" Aoi complained. "You and mom!" She added as her mother appeared in the doorway, a smile on her face at the sight of her children and husband.

"I know, I know... sorry if I made you wait so long..."

Adela pried her daughter's off Taiki, a difficult feat considering tehy had their arms wrapped tightly around him and wondering for a split second if she'd need a crowbar.

"So how's business?" Ahatake asked.

"Hey, it's rude to start asking questions such as that..." Taiki complained, getting off the ground and dusting himself off. "I was hoping you'd tell me what was going on that made you call me over..."

"Oh yeah." Ahatake said, forcing a laugh. He looked disturbed. "I'll let Dad tell you, since it really isn't my place to tell you. Since he's not down yet, how about answering my question."

"...it's a secret?" The white-haired man suggested, scratching the back of his head.

Ahatake sighed, which turned into a shiver as Midoriko entered the room.

"Father you asked that I come here?" She asked stiffly.

"Yeah, your grandfather has some news." Ahatake said as Aoi and Kyuui attached themselves to Taiki again. "Maybe we should all take a seat...and wear sweaters."

"Speak for yourself, that's my sister you're talking about..." Taiki muttered, attempting to sit down only to find the two sisters blocking his path. "Uhm... dear daughters... if you would...?"

Immediately, Kyuui let go out of embarrassment, swirls appearing in her eyes. "S...sorry, Tou-san!" She blabbered, waving her arms up and down comically.

Aoi let go rather reluctantly and walked over to her mother and attached herself to her instead.

Ahatake laughed. "Where's Tereya?" He asked looking around.

"Right here..."

The abrupt sound of a Flash Step was heard, and the soft peck of his beloved's lips brought awareness to her presence. She pulled back immediately, folding her arms across her chest and allowing a small smile to cross her face.

Ahatake smiled as well. "Now we need...my sister."

"You rang?" She asked, walking into the room with the toddler Chunori walking by her side.

"No, we called a telemarketer." was Tereya's sarcastic comment, her eyes not bothering to look up. "Maybe a pizza guy..."

The group laughed as Kaemon and Asami, both smiling broadly descended the stairs.

"Well?" Ahatake asked as Asami looked bewildered at the sight of Taiki, Midoriko and Adela. "What's the news?"

Kaemon cleared his throat, but Asami spoke first, her voice full of a happiness even Akiko had never heard in it before. "Kaemon and I...are getting married!"

Ahatake's eyes widened, Akiko gave a shout of glee, and Aoi grinned widely.

"Oh, crap..." Tereya thought, closing her eyes in exasperation. "More children running around..."

Ahatake forced himself to smile. He did not like this. Not at all.

Akiko meanwhile put on a genuine smile. "That's great Mom." She said hugging her mother in delight. Chunori looked up curiously.

In her own giving of congratulations, Kyuui walked over and embraced Asami in her own hug. "Glad to hear it!" She said eagerly. "And to not hear you arguing anymore!"

Asami smiled cheerfully and she looked more like her daughter than her normal, cold self. "I haven't felt like this in so long. Not since...not since I met Kaemon so long ago."

Aoi unattached herself from her mother and went to hug Asami as well, offering her congratulations.

"Did you kick the shit out of 'im then?" Taiki couldn't help but bring up his very own joke, having been informed by his sister.

"No as he hadn't left me then." Asami replied. "And who exactly ARE you three?" She gestured to Taiki, Midoriko and Adela.

"This is Midoriko," Ahatake pointed to the black haired woman. "My daughter." He pointed to Taiki. "This is Taiki, my son." And he gestured to Adela. "And my daughter-in-law Adela."

Asami walked up to Adela and stared at her. "But she's a hollow." She said, in an amused sort of way. "Boy that'll be one for the Department of Research and Development. A Hollow that can breed."

"No one said they COULDN'T breed..." Taiki smiled innocently. "And boy, no one said they couldn't squeal, either! In fact--"

WHAM! A blow to the back of his head made him stop in mid-sentence, courtesy of his mother. "I...I was just joking...." He muttered sheepishly.

Adela laughed, though her face was crimson. Asami turned to stare at Ahatake. "You didn't do much of a good job raising this boy did you?"

"Stuff it." Ahatake said coldly to both his son and Asami. With that he walked out of the door and it slammed with a resounding crash..

(end flashback)

Ahatake yawned. Thinking about it was getting him nowhere.

"Jii-san..."

The voice of Kyuui sounded from behind him, as sudden as the gust of wind blowing into his back. Her presence was clearly felt, her body heat and spiritual aura as well as feelings of cheer radiating. To match, a warm smile was on her face, along with squinted eyes.

Ahatake turned around, and the sight that greeted his eyes was two children, both with twin tails and soul-less, pupil-less eyes of blue. Aoi was staring at him with a slightly worried expression on her face.

"Aoi..Kyuui.." Ahatake said as he saw them. "What is it?"

"We should be askin' you that." Kyuui mused. "Why're you so sulking now?"

Ahatake smiled. Her tone sounded so like Taiki. "Nothing you two really need to concern yourselves with."

"Grandpa..." Aoi replied. "I've noticed you've been paying visits to Great-Grandma's grave rather often now. Why is that?"

"Nothing you need to concern yourselves with." He repeated.

"Is it about Asami getting married and being your new mother?"

DANG! Smart like her father too. "How'd you know?" He asked, in a hollow, dead sort of voice.

"It's quite obvious..." Kyuui put on a small smirk. "You've been acting depressed ever since it was mentioned. And, seeing as you and Asami get along so well..." Obviously, the last statement was of sarcastic humor - another trait that she inherited from her father.

Ahatake laughed. Then he got up. "I'm going to head out for a bit." He said sharply. "I just remembered something I've been meaning to do since Tereya told her story."

The sharpness in his voice made Kyuui widen her eyes and step back slowly and in an instinctual manner. "Huh?" She asked, a more concerned expression on her face. "What are you...?"

"Nothing you need to concern yourselves with." Ahatake said. "Let's just say I've gone wolf hunting." He added, knowing this could mean two things to anyone who knew him well. He had either gone looking for Keiji, or for his former sensei. "I'll be back in a bit." He jumped up and rocketed out of sight.

A heavy sigh came from Kyuui's mouth, but she decided not to say anything more. Instead, she turned towards her sister and placed her arms around her, smiling. "C'mon, sis..."

Fangs of Difference

"I'm going to find this...Keiji." Ahatake muttered, ducking trees. "And show him how a real Hollow acts."

Meters away from Ahatake's position, said wandering Vizard was currently trekking the dirt path just outside of the forest where Ahatake was in. From first glance, it would've appeared he was sleep-walking - his eyes were closed, and his path was straight forward. His sword jingled in his obi where it was secured, sheathed and keeping the dangerous blade from view.

Once again, he was wearing his formal attire - the one he had worn when he had faced off against his long-time comrade.

Ahatake ripped off the casual outfit he was in, to reveal a white soul reaper uniform underneath. He decided he should go into battle wearing preferred battle clothing. "Now..where is he?"

Footsteps sounded, and the man walked calmly past him, not suspecting a thing.

Ahatake turned around, nearly creating a burn with the speed of his halt. "Hey!!" He called out. "Peddler!"

"Oi?" At first, the peddler was surprised to hear himself being called out, turning on his own heel to look over at the man who called him. His voice now held an obvious accent of Scottish nationality. "You mentioned me--"

Then, his eyes half-lidded at the recognition of the husband of his friend, and the politeness in his voice faded to a dry, but still non-hostile one. "Oh, it's you, is it?" He asked rhetorically. "To what do I owe the honor, sir?"

Ahatake sighed. "Nothing much, wolf-boy." He said. "Just a little sparring match. You seem strong considering you survived my cero unscathed."

His eyebrows furrowed, and a slight frown came over his face. "Maybe later..." He muttered, closing his eyes again and beginning to walk away. "I'm on the clock today."

"Ever heard of taking a break?" Ahatake asked. annoyed.

"Nope. Only take those when I need to." He raised a hand to wave behind him. "Maybe some other time?"

Ahatake vanished with the familiar CRACK! and reappeared in front of Keiji. "How long are your round, peddler?"

"...you're just not going to leave me be, will you?" Annoyed and frustrated, Keiji let out a sigh and stepped back. "Fine. If we spar a little bit, then will ya let me be?" He asked gruffly. "I'm almost done, and I'd like to get it over with as soon as possible."

"That's why I made the trip here, I believe." Ahatake replied.

"But, may I ask why you came all the way out here for a bloody sparrin' match?" Keiji asked patiently, folding his arms across his chest. "You're not still pissed about what I did to your wife, now are you?"

"Maybe, maybe not." Ahatake said, drawing his sword. "Maybe I'd like a new wolf pelt to wear around my waist."

Seems Nami's been talkin' about me... thought Keiji, frowning even more as he drew his own blade. "A wolf pelt, you say? That sounds like an intent to kill rather than a sparrin' match..." He probed, leveling his eyes with Ahatake's as he settled into a stance.

KeijiSwordStance

Keiji's sword stance.

"Maybe, maybe not." Ahatake replied again. "But I intend to show you how a real Hollow acts."

That made Keiji chuckle a bit. "Oh, sure. You gonna eat my soul for food afterwards?" He asked in an amused manner. "I donno about you, but I prefer to act like a Shinigami rather than a full-blown Hollow."

Ahatake looked as if Keiji had said something offensive. "Then I'll force your Hollow side out." He said, a scowl on his face. "I'd like to see it."

"If you're true to your words, then have at it." This time, Keiji's voice became more challenging. "Let's see who's the master and who's the tosser when it comes to swingin' blades!"

Ahatake grinned. "I could grow to like you." He launched himself at Keiji, blade raised and poised to slice.

A low growl escaped Keiji's lips, stirred on by the adrenaline just starting to pump in his body. He broke his stance for a second, careful not to move his arms too much as he evaded. In moments, he had dodged the blade as it crashed down to the ground beside him, returning a lunge-counterstrike at Ahatake's exposed chest.

Ahatake pushed off in mid-air, effectively dodging being speared on the end of the Katana, and fired a moderately sized cero at Keiji.

"No mask or anything...?!"

Keiji's eyes widened, but he quickly changed the purprose of his attack with a flick of his wrist. The sharp blade gleamed and sharpened with his own reiatsu, cutting apart the Cero in two dispelling parts. Then, he leaped right after his opponent, sword once again poised in a ferocious lunge attack.

Ahatake moved back, knowing he wouldn't be able to block the point of a blade without his release. He once again fired a cero, this time larger and faster.

Curse his lack of Flash Step.

His mid-air jump prevented him from moving away, and his eyes were wincing. "This is gonna hurt..." Instantly, he was hit hard and sent back to the ground on his back, the ground being annihilated around him. All he could see was bright light, and all he could feel was intense heat of the blast...

Ahatake stared at him. How could that one have hurt when his point blank, high power blast previously had done nothing?

When the blast cleared, Keiji was lying half-heartedly on the ground, most of his body stained with blackened scorch marks. Slowly, he stood up, shaking his head to clear his dizzied vision. "Ow..." He muttered, coughing out a bit of smoke. "Really got me there..."

In truth, he didn't look very injured - his sword was still clutched in a hand as before, and he still looked ready to continue.

Ahatake laughed. And he was off again, his blade poised and right as he reached Keiji, he swung his blade down with the whirring sound of a machine at work.

Abruptly, with two hands on the hilt this time, Keiji raised his sword over his head in order to intercept the opposing blade before it could slice him in half. However, the strength that the Kurosaki had applied took him by surprise. His eyes narrowed and his teeth gritted as he stared into Ahatake's eyes once more.

"I'm no novice when it comes to the art of battle." Ahatake grinned, applying pressure as his eyes flashed yellow.

"He's using his Hollow's strength...!"

Keiji's eyes widened, and he immediately pushed his feet off of the ground in order to jump back, the pressure of Ahatake's blade simply amplifying the distance he went back. "Damn right you aren't..." He mused, hair billowing forward.

Ahatake collided straight into the ground at Keiji escaped the stalemate they were in and caused a large smattering of dirt and debris to fly up. He straightened himself up, and launched a small, condensed ball of energy, quite different from a Cero or Bala at Keiji.

The first thing that came to Keiji's mind was slicing it in two. But, seeing as it detoured from the regular Hollow powers, he decided to side-step the attack. Though, he kept his sensual eye on it and his physical eyes on Ahatake - he didn't want to be caught off-guard.

The attack met with a tree behind him and exploded in blinding fury, completely incarnating the tree. "You have good instincts." Ahatake commented.

"Thank you kindly." Keiji replied smoothly, raising his sword up in one hand in a defensive stance. "Though, what made you think I couldn't slice that in two halves?" His voice didn't hold much hostility, only slight curiosity.

"It explodes on contact." Ahatake replied simply. "It can be deflected however, but I'll that for YOU to figure out."

"I see...." Was Keiji's soft reply. "Then I'd like to ask you a question, if you don't mind."

"Shoot." Ahatake replied genially.

"Why did you come all the way out here just to fight me? And why did you seem so insisting on it?"

"I just have a few questions." Ahatake replied. "But I wanted to fight you first."

"Well..." Raising the hand that contained his sword hilt, Keiji pointed his index finger at Ahatake - preferably his sword. "You're going to do better than this if you wanna force me to pull my Hollow out. You haven't even released your Zanpakuto yet!"

"I won't release mine until you release yours." Ahatake replied, smirking.

"....I see."

Closing his eyes, Keiji allowed his free hand to press onto his face, his expression somewhat annoyed. "Though, I must ask: why you're waiting on me to release mine?" He asked evenly. "You said it yourself: I'll force your Hollow side out. I want to see it."

"It's my style." Ahatake replied. "I usually prefer not to release my Zanpakuto until my opponent has released theirs."

"...." Lowering his hand, Keiji balanced the sword blade and shrugged with his free shoulder. "Then I guess this fight won't go anywhere..." He said smoothly, although his tone held a hint of disappointment at his opponent's "style". "Go ahead. Sheathe your blade and get outta here..."

Ahatake sighed. "This is what I hate about opponents like you." He muttered. "No fun at all. Fine I'll release my Zanpakuto and make you regret seeing it." He gripped his blade and the spiritual pressure that whipped around him caused his white Shinigami uniform to ripple. "Force my hand at Hell's beckon and Hollowfy me to crush my enemy... Kuǎnwánguó!" His blade glowed black and red and warped, elongating into a giant white and black cleaver as long as Ahatake was tall. "You wanted it.." He whispered, in a tone of pure venom. And he launched himself at Keiji, cleaver raised and ready to strike.

"Oh, I'm sorry..."

A genuine look of surprise came across Keiji's face. Once again, he raised both hands and put his blade in front of him, the tip pointed up towards the sky. Once the swords connected with each other, his skinnier katana was forcibly pushed away. Knowing that the oversized cleaver would dominate his own blade in a swordlock, he twisted the blade to point at the ground and swung upwards. The two blades slid across each other, sparks flying between the both of them.

"It's not that I don't want to release my Zanpakuto... nor am I arrogant or prideful enough to think that you're not worth it. It's that I can't release my Zanpakuto." His words were low and calm, although he flicked his wrist again and brought the sword back towards Ahatake's ribcage. "At least... not yet."

Ahatake drew back, his blade combusting in a burst of red-orange flame. "I see. Is your Zanpakuto lazy?"

"No. I was simply never taught on how to communicate with it. But it doesn't matter..."

Quickly, he jumped back and settled into a defensive stance once more, eyes narrowed slightly. "Steel is only as strong as the flesh who wields it. Just because you hold the point of Shikai means nothing when you're fightin' me."

"True." Ahatake replied, twirling his blade so that the flames whipped over his head. "An expert with a pebble can beat a novice with a gun."

"Although, now I won't have to hold back anymore..."

Keiji's legs kicked off again, but his speed seemed so unnaturally fast. Within seconds, he was upon Ahatake again, face to face. He was in enough proximity with the blade that the sweat was beading down his face. "I can't guarantee your survival if you try to look cool by holding back..." He said amiably. "So give it all you've got, if you're true to your words..."

His blade swung again, up and true.

Ahatake immediately swung his blade down by it's cloth, and luckily for him, the flat side connected with the oncoming blade, functioning as a flaming shield. Ahatake jumped back, pulling his blade with him, and gripped it's hilt. He swung it and sent a massive blast of red-orange flame at Keiji.

"Again with the running away and using projectiles... I guess I can assume who's the better sword master, now..."

Keiji's feet pulled him out of the way of the mobile furnace just as it landed where he once stood, carrying him away from the flames. Due to the light that now came from the fire, the details of Ahatake's figure were nearly invisible to him.

Ahatake's face was contorted into a scowl. "My use of projectiles doesn't make you the better swordsman." Ahatake replied icily. "What's the point of having a blade that can shoot projectiles if you don't use them? And who was the one that wanted me either to leave or release my Zanpakuto? I might as well make the best use out of it now." He finally drew breath.

Keiji chuckled, slightly amused and taken back by the Ahatake's cross reaction. "Sorry. But the last time I heard, projectile attacks were used in long-range combat, not short. Keep it up, and you'll be expending that immense spiritual power of yours very quickly..." He slowly started to pace around Ahatake, raising his blade up in a non-chalant manner. "I do hope it's not because you're scared of me cutting you, is it? That would be very disappointing..."

Ahatake laughed, and began to pace in the opposite direction. "If I ever say I'm scared of being cut, kill me on the spot."

"So far, you're saying it with the way you fight." Keiji countered, stopping half-way. "If you want to actually beat me, then get in my face and swing that sword, rookie." His last words were somewhat teasing of the younger-appearing man, and the way he stood was rather relaxed.

Ahatake growled. "Rookie? Them is fighting words." He launched himself at Keiji yet again, twirling his blade around, the fire whipping up into the air.

Keiji matched his movements, sword poised in a strong lunge strike. His free hand acted as a "scope", his feet rushing at the man in order to bring himself closer. For a moment, his eyes had glazed over with white as he charged, giving him a more intimidating appearance.

Finally, his sword thrust, the bullet that was aimed for no other purpose than to kill.

Ahatake again used the flat side of his blade to block. Keeping his power sharp, he pushed against Keiji forcing him back. His iris's were like molten gold.

As he was forced back, the peddler quickly pulled out the lunge and dived to the ground in a roll, ducking underneath the fiery blade and behind his opponent with the motions of a shinobi. As he pulled his legs back up from his crouch position, his sword swung at the exposed back.

The sword sliced into his flesh easily, and blood spurted out of his shoulder and downward.. Alerted to his opponents location by the pain and feeling of the sword, he turned around and swung his sword down with all his might at Keiji's side.

"Shit."

Keiji's eyes widened in shock, as he attempted to jump back. However, the flaming blade that approached him cut through anyway. Instant pain shot through his chest, along with blood and gray smoke that flung from the wound. Afterwhich, the burning ache in his chest told him how lucky he was - a bit deeper, and his heart would've been cut in two. Sweat fell down his face, and his breathing was heavy.

Blood dripping from both of them, Ahatake decided if he wanted to a good fight, he'd have have to up the ante. Calling on the full power of his Shikai, his mask formed, skull-like and menacing. "You ready?"

The Hollow Mask had been called out. It was clear that the fight had now stepped up to a simple spar to something more intense. Whether or not Ahatake wished to kill was still unknown to the wanderer, even as he closed his eyes and readied himself. However, there was one thing sure:

He wouldn't give up... not until his body was unable to fight anymore.

When he opened his eyes again, they now had the black schlera as well as the yellow irises of the inner Hollow. Although his expression was serene, he seemed to give off a more eerie aura, the Hollow's spiritual energy beginning to take over. "I am." He said, in a voice that sounded like a loud whisper.

Ahatake lifted his blade and fire swirled around it like a giant tornado. "HAVE THIS!!!" He swung his blade down, sending a massive, spiraling wave of fire at Keiji.

Keiji didn't know how to use Flash Step.

His Hollow knew how to use Sonido.

The familiar static sound kicked his figure away from the fire tornado and crouched once again, directly behind Ahatake. Only this time, he wasn't aiming to cut - his hand was closed so that only his index and middle finger were pointing out, and spiritual energy could be sensed around it. The way it had escaped from his hand could clearly tell what kind of attack it was.

A Bala.

It Ahatake squarely in the chest, and it winded him. He fired a Dàn blast (the Xiāochú equivalent of a Bala) right back at Keiji.

"Gah--"

A sharp gasp came from Keiji's lips as the Dan hit home, forcing him onto his back in the dusty ground. It was enough to make him cough, and gave him a feeling that he was having a heart attack. Yet, a twinge of annoyance came through his mind at the move. This was shown once again by a hand placed to one half of his face, his other half showing a faint scowl and a closed eye.

"Are you...copying me...now?" He managed to say between heavy breaths. "Oh, God..."

Ahatake laughed. "Me?? Copy you???" He laughed. "Not a chance." He extended a finger and fired a Āoshǎn at Keiji.

Propping himself up on his sword arm, Keiji raised the other with his two fingers extended one more. A Cero blast charged at the tips. "If anything, I'd say you're too afraid to take the initative."

It erupted from his control and straight into the Aoshan, but he knew it wouldn't last long. But it did give him enough time to push himself out of the way and back on his feet before the Aoshan could break through completely. "You claim to release your Zanpakuto when I release mine, and just then, you shot a Bala-like blast when I had fired mine. If anything, I'd say you were trying to use my own tactics against me..." He commented observantly, holstering his sword.

"Keep calling me a coward Wolf." Ahatake growled through his mask. He vanished with Wúpiào, causing a loud boom and reappeared behind Keiji. "I'll send you home with your tail between your legs!" He slashed his flaming blade up.

When the presence was felt from behind, Keiji's eyes widened at the immense speed he displayed. But the next movement was almost out of his control; his mind thought, but his body acted on his own accord. He bent his upper body downwards, getting goosebumps from the intense heat as it swung past. Similar to the movements of a ballerina, he spun around in two pivots, his blade twisting wildly in one hand.

Unable to dodge the "Human Top", the blade sliced into Ahatake's chest twice, and it caused blood to spurt out has he hissed slightly from pain. In retaliation, he fired his deadly condensed spiritual energy ball.

"Nnn!"

Switching his movements fluently, Keiji raised his arms, bent the upper body to his left, and pushed off of the ground in another vicious spin. This allowed him to evade the explosive bomb, but only by inches. When he landed on his feet again, he was slightly dizzied and more exhausted, having pulled off two movements that required intense acrobatics.

Still, he had his sword raised defensively in one hand, ready to fend off any more attacks directed towards his person.

The bomb exploded against a boulder with enough light to give anyone a seizure. "Damn reflexes.."

Thoughts came to Keiji's mind. As the light enveloped them, he traced back to the positions that he and Ahatake were in. When the bomb had went off, Keiji was facing away from it. But the last time he had seen, Ahatake himself was facing towards it... which mean a possible chance of temporary disabling of the eye.

And that meant a good opportunity for a final strike.

He settled into his usual stance quickly before leaping, his sword gleaming like the fangs of a hungry wolf. His prey could now be reached, and at least for the moment, the stalemate was broken. Like a hunter closing in on his quarry, he thrust the sword straight towards the kill switch that was Ahatake's neck, his eyes narrowed and his teeth gritted.

"MOVE YOU FOOL!"

Ahatake's eyes widened and as if forced to obey the voice of the Hollow inside him, he jumped up, effectively dodging the blade that would have killed him.

It was a move that Tereya had used to attempt to evade his lunge strike. He knew how to counter it.

In the blink of an eye, he had switched his sword to an anti-air position, the tip once again pointing at Ahatake's flesh. Then, he pounced into the air, letting out an adrenaline-driven scream as he thrust it forward once more. His pupils had glazed over once again, revealing black, soulless eyes.

There would be no surrendering for the lone wolf.

Ahatake, with the speed of a striking serpent, swung the fine point of his blade down at Keiji, his the pupils of his yellow eyes become slits.

Hilt and blade collided, preserving the Kurosaki's life. But immediately after, Keiji swung both of their blades down towards the ground in another attempt to open up Ahatake's defense. This time, he raised his fist and plunged it towards the face.

It collided but Ahatake barely felt it due to his mask, which cracked leaving only the left half over his eye, which, coupled with his outfit, made him look like an Arrancar.

Ahatake retaliated by aiming a very swift kick at Keiji's side.

The blow made Keiji fall back, skidding back to the ground in a rather crouched position. It was obvious the fight was slowly taking its toll; sweat was falling down his face, and he was breathing heavily. He had hoped the attack to the neck would've connected in order to end the fight, but it was apparent such was not happening.

It seemed that where he was distracted, his Hollow was not. That would make it way more difficult to take him off-guard.

Ahatake swiftly moved his hand over his face, returning his mask to it's former glory. "This guy.." He thought. "He seriously knows what he's doing. Looks like I may have my work cut out for me here.."

"Well...have you been teaching Nami a lot over the years?"

The grin Keiji was giving off was relative to a wolf bearing its face. With his eyes squinted shut, and his exhausted appearance, it looked very intimidating to say the least... at least, to a weaker minded individual. "Although she's now reduced to a house-wife, she fights just like you do... whatever did you do to influence her to become so strong?" He questioned curiously.

"I haven't taught Tereya anything." Ahatake replied, breathing slowly. "She's just naturally suited for battle."

"Oh, that's right..." The man seemed to put on a thoughtful look, almost comical in its nature. "Though, I shouldn't be surprised. She was always a crazy bitch, even after she killed all of those Shinigami..."

"Anything else you need to know before we resume?"

Immediately, he resumed seriousness, his Zanpakuto twisting around. "Sorry, mate. But we're done for today." His blade finally rested and pushed into his scabbard, all the way to the hilt. The odd colors in his eyes faded, restoring them to normal. "If I were to fight any further, I would faint."

Ahatake sighed and sheathed his blade as well, his mask cracking as it returned to it's sealed state. "Well, lemme ask you a question then."

"Mhm?" Keiji closed his eyes, but opened one of them to stare over at the Kurosaki. "What is it?"

"When you and Tereya, or as you know here, Nami were children. you two had feelings for each other didn't you?" He said all this very fast.

Unfortunately, the poor wolf didn't even get a chance to raise his ears, and he promptly sweatdropped. "Uh... what was that? I didn't catch it..." He said sheepishly.

"When you and Tereya, or as you know here, Nami were children. you two had feelings for each other didn't you?" he repeated slower.

Instantly, his comical mood faded, and an expression of shock appeared on his face (eyes widened, and mouth agape). A faint flush came across his face, and he knew that made the answer obvious. "I-I...!" He started to protest.

But the blush gave it away. He planted a palm to his face out of exasperation. "Holy fuck..." He complained in a relenting manner. "You got me, Kuro..."

"Well.." Ahatake sighed. "She's mine." He put a great deal of emphasis on the last word. "Try and take her and you'll be missing a few limbs." He smiled. "Just a friendly warning."

That instantly crushed Keiji's casual mood. He took his hand off of his face, his eyes narrowed and a slight frown on his face. "Yours? Such talk reminds me of people trading property..." He said, a tone of disgust filling his voice. He folded his arms across his chest, fixing the man with an intense stare. "And you speak as if you could actually take off my limbs... rookie."

Ahatake glared right back at him, his eyes snake-like slits again. "I'm do not think of Tereya as property," He said, and rudeness rang in every syllable of which he spoke. "But I will not let someone take her from me."

"Well, I already knew you were wife...." Keiji stated calmly, tilting his head to the side in an inquisitive manner. "But thanks to that little 'friendly warning', I'm quite tempted to make my own moves, get myself re-acquainted... who knows? She might ditch you and run straight to me..." He said mockingly.

"And then I'll kill you." Ahatake said, no trace of a smile on his face, and a shadow of the Hollow he was was shown on his face as he glared at Keiji with utmost dislike. He turned and proceeded to leave the way he came. "Good-bye wolf."

"You'd better watch yourself, rookie..." Keiji stated back, giving a half-wave. "For you might not know when this wolf'll steal your prey." Then, shrugging off whatever debris that had fallen on him in the fight, he turned and walked off, hands in his pockets.

The End

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