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Ahatake and Asami were having a sparring match. It wasn't going in Ahatake's favor.
Asami stared coldly at the figure of Ahatake on the ground. Her foot collided with his gut. "You're Kaemon's boy and this is the best you can do? You disappoint me."
Ahatake glared up at her and he forced himself to his feet. He swung his blade at her hand and she dodged it gracefully, and grabbed his exposed arm and flung him down onto the ground again.
They weren't alone, of course.
"You're letting yourself stick out too quickly!" Tereya called out, arms folded across her chest, and her figure leaning against one of the nearby trees. "You have to move quickly to keep her from grabbing you!"
The only thing that disrupted her mood into a more annoyed one was the smug voice of her inner Hollow, who had taken a liking to communicating with the woman more often.
"That's what she said..."
Ahatake growled and launched a cero at Asami. She pressed her arm into the ground and used it to propel herself into the air, effectively dodging the cero and it hit a tree, disintegrating it.
"You're emotions rule you too much." Asami called from above. "No matter how much power you have, if you go into a fight without thinking, you're going to get royally screwed."
Ahatake gave her a very ugly look, and vanished with a crack like a whip, reappearing in front of her and swinging his blade down with a buzzing sound. She blocked it and forced him back.
"Damn..." At the display of power Asami was giving up, Tereya couldn't help but whistle. She had expected Asami to be much weaker, but the sight of pushing back her husband had immediately dispersed any thought of that. No wonder Kaemon had a reason to fear her so much.
Ahatake quickly ripped on his mask. He growled and Asami stared at him for a moment. "Seems that runs in your father's side of the family." She said, eying him oddly, as though she'd love to crush his skull. She merely contented herself with raising a finger and performing her daughter's favorite spell. "Bakudo 61, Rikujōkōrō!" The six binding rods collided with Ahatake's midsection, rooting him to the spot and preventing further movement.
Tereya's assurance wasn't deterred. "That's not going to keep him forever... especially with that Hollow Mask on..." She thought, putting on a little smile.
She slowly walked up to Ahatake and her hand glowed yellow. She tapped his forehead with her index finger once, and Ahatake's mask cracked and shattered, She sealed his Hollow the same way Seireitou had so many years ago.
"Ba..bastard!" Ahatake growled.
Tereya blinked several times, face contorting to one of surprise. "Then again, I could be wrong..." Ignoring the chuckles coming from the depths of her mind, she added her own remark: "That's bitch, dear!"
Asami clicked her finger's, shattering the Kido as she walked away. "We're done for today." She said as she entered the building.
Ahatake threw a look a deepest loathing after her. What the hell was that woman?
"I see you're still standing..."
The female that was still with him took it upon herself to stand before him, one hand on her hip, and the other slung at her side. Her eyes held a serene and apathetic look, almost as if the fact that he had just been overpowered held no meaning.
Ahatake sighed. "I hate that woman." He put a hand to his face, making sure he could still feel his inner hollow. "She reminds me annoyingly of Seireitou."
A light scoff escaped Tereya's lips. "You sayin' that only because she just sealed your Hollow?" She asked skeptically.
"And I couldn't land a hit at all." He added grimly.
"Well, you survived, didn't you? Had she gotten serious, at least from your point of view, you would be taking a dirt nap right now.." The black-haired woman placed a hand on his shoulder for encouragement. "So don't worry about it."
Ahatake smiled for a moment. "Alright. Well I'm getting hungry so I'm going to see what I can whip up within' the next 10 or so minutes!" And he walked into the house, his spirits slightly higher.
"Hmph...glad you're happy..."
Closing her eyes, Tereya followed in a calm manner. But mentally, her mind was swirling with constant thoughts of her encounter with the peddler... more importantly, how she had been so easily beaten in a simple game of fisticuffs. "...cause I'm not." She finished her thought, her scowl deepening ever so slightly.
Ahatake began to feel her discontent before he opened the door and turned around. "Is something wrong Tereya?" He asked.
"Nah, I'm fine." She replied, a deadpan pointed look on her face once more.
Ahatake knew she was lying but decided not to press it. "Alright. If you need to discuss anything though, I'm all ears." And he walked inside the house.
"..." Although she continued to follow him, Tereya's face lightened a small bit. She switched her arms to a folded arms position and kept walking, where they would eventually reach their destination.
Ahatake began pulling out pots and pans, and opening the fridge to get eggs and rice. "I'm starving." He would mutter whenever he pulled out a foodpiece.
When she herself saw what was happening, Tereya turned away and walked in another direction, towards the living room. She waved a hand behind us. "I'll be sittin' in the den, if you need me..." She stated lazily.
"Alright." Ahatake called as he cracked open eggs into a bowl.
In the den, Aoi and Kyuui were immersed in a conversation.
"-and he said your name first?" Aoi asked, sounding impressed.
"Yes!" Kyuui replied eagerly, raising her fists up in front of her to emphasize. "Maybe once he knows a bit more, he'll learn to like me a bit more!"
"Lucky!" Aoi hissed, looking at the baby Chunori, who has on his mother's lap. "He never says anything intelligible to me..." She sighed looking downcast.
"'Course it's intelligible..."
It was at that point Tereya had allowed herself to come in, wearing her usual casual look on her face as she studied the tree. "But only to other babies." She stated.
"Yea, but I mean like my name Grandma." Aoi replied laughing.
"Tereya." Chunori said upon the woman's entrance into the room.
The said woman couldn't help but smirk a bit. "Heh... Chunori." She retorted, in a similar manner to the way Chunori himself had said her name. "Ahatake'll be cooking for today." She added in a reporting manner.
"Really?" Aoi asked. "Sounds interesting."
Chunori placed a hand to his mother's face, as if trying to tell her something. Whatever it was, nobody knew.
Aoi sighed and placed her head on Kyuui's shoulders. "Today has been slow!"
Her expression was shared with the white-haired girls, laced with boredom for the events of the day. She looked back up to Tereya. "Baa-san... haven't you anything to entertain us?"
"Do I look like a clown?" Tereya replied dryly. "...or a comedian?" She added, as an afterthought.
"Yes you do." Aoi piped up instantly as Chunori said "Clown."
"Well, fuck you both." Putting her hands on her hips indignantly, Tereya turned away and walked towards the couch, plopping herself down on it carelessly. "This "clown" doesn't do encores."
"Meanie." Aoi muttered, looking angry. "You're our grandma, you're supposed to be entertaining."
"That's your sis's job." Tereya replied dismissively. "She, along with the people who hang out with you most of the time. Someone like me has too much to worry about."
"Onee-chan, can't you do something about her?" Aoi asked hopefully. "Like make her more entertaining and a hella lot nicer?"
Skeptically, Tereya looked over at her granddaughter, who simply hung her head in sheepishness. "S...sorry, Aoi-chan..." She apologized in a slightly flustered manner. "But I really can't do anything about my elder..."
"Aww..." She sighed and whispered in her sister's ear. "We can do something about her while she's asleep. I have just the things." She chuckled evilly.
"Eh?" Both granddaughter and grandmother turned to look over at her; Tereya with bored curiosity, and Kyuui with amazement. "Aoi-chan!" She scolded, a faint blush spreading over her cheeks.
Light breathing was heard among the clatter coming from the kitchen. Chunori had fallen asleep on his mother's lap.
Kyuui was the first to turn to him, Tereya having turned away. "He looks peaceful while he sleeps..." She commented, leaning over a bit to watch him for a brief moment.
"Yes." Akiko said looking down at her son. "Odd thing is, I always thought after Chunori was born, I'd never be able to sleep through the night. I was wrong." She placed a hand to his head, brushing the hair out of his eyes. "He's the most well behaved baby I have ever seen."
"Tch... what kept you silent all this time?" Tereya mocked, though turning her attention to the child. "Bet he's the only well behaved baby you've ever seen..." Then, she turned her attention towards the doorway, her casual look taking over once more. "Ah... you're done already?"
Ahatake was standing there with a rather large cart of food. "Yeah. Everyone get to to the table or I feed this to the dog." Ahatake ordered.
"Really? What happened to the cat?" Tereya joked as she got up from the couch.
Ahatake laughed as he placed the food on the table and Akiko placed Chunori in a high chair. Aoi sat next to Kyuui as the smell of food finally filled the room.
Kyuui took a deep breath in. The intoxicating aroma made her stomach even more excited, along with herself. "This may not be better as last time, but it'll do..." She judged, smiling Taiki-like at her grandfather.
Ahatake smiled back. "I can't cook like your grandmother, Kyuui."
"I know! But it'll still be good, right?"
"Of course." Ahatake replied, reaching for the salmon plate. "Try it."
Gratefully taking it, Kyuui grabbed a utensil, picked out a peace, and took out a tasting bite. After a few moments of tense silence, she nodded. "Mhm! Though, it could use some salt..."
Ahatake pointed next to Aoi, and she handed her sister the salt. "I think it's fine personally." She said, after eating a few bites. "Tastes better than Grandma's cooking."
"Hmph." Was the only reply from the slightly pride-bruised Tereya.
Aoi looked around. "Where's great-grandpa and great-aunt?" She asked, noticing their absence from the table.
"Kaemon and Asami? If anything, the bitch's probably digging a grave for the poor guy right now..." Tereya implied. "Last time I hear, they haven't exactly been on the best of terms..."
Akiko laughed at this. "No, Mom dragged Dad up to her room. Said she needed to talk to him. Poor guy. Probably getting dissected as we speak."
"My only problem is with the bat screeching she did last time..." Tereya muttered, placing a finger in her ear to emphasize her annoyance. "Maybe I should've bought some earmuffs instead of cigarettes..."
"You should have." Ahatake said darkly, as though cigarettes would be the death of them all.
"Oh, don't sound so dramatic...." Tereya chuckled a bit. "Would it make you feel better if I switched to drinking?"
"Hmm..." Ahatake considered the possibilities. "No. Just use those fake cigarettes that only contain the nicotine and not the tar, etc etc--"
The thought of a drunk Tereya had also crossed Kyuui's mind. An angry drunk? The house'd be torn to shreds. A sad drunk? She'd turn emo and constantly cry about 'hard times', even making several attempts to kill herself. A "dead" drunk?
Then again, if the last were to happen, maybe it wouldn't be so bad...
"What? No way. What'd be the point of that?" Tereya protested.
"You wouldn't be in danger of cancer." Ahatake replied.
Aoi was also thinking about a drunk Tereya. Seemed rather tempting actually.
"Oh, please... if I could get cancer, you'd be a fat ass right now." Tereya stated dryly, closing her eyes and frowning slightly.
"Switch to drinking." He and Aoi spoke it at the same time though for very different reasons.
Smiling a bit, she turned back to her food and continued eating.
Aoi grinned at her "success" and went back to eating.
Eventually, being fast eaters, they were near the end of their plates. Tereya was the first to set her utensil down, pick up her plate, and stand up silently. Pushing in her chair behind her, she plopped the plate in the sink and walked away. It was strange - her usual mood had seemed to fade again, and not for a moment either.
Ahatake followed suit, but collected Aoi's and Kyuui's plates as well. After placing them in the sink he followed Tereya. "I'll ask again. Is there something bothering you?"
"No..." Her monotone voice sounded out of her mouth automatically. "I'm fine. But I won't be if you keep pestering me about it..."
"It's kind of annoying when you lie to me." Ahatake sighed sadly.
That made Tereya stop in her tracks. Abruptly.
"Fuck. He knows."
Her eyes shadowed over for a moment, though her curved mouth remained in its skeptical position. She stood there for a moment, before folding her arms across her chest. "I really can't hide anything from you anymore, can't I?" She asked, chuckling humorlessly.
"No you can't." Ahatake replied smiling. "So care to share with me, and the grandkids? They'll probably want to know."
"...you're really putting me on blast here." Tereya muttered, walking down and sitting in the nearest chair. Her legs crossed in a ladylike fashion, her hands clasped over her knees. "You sure they would want to hear it?"
"I'm pretty sure they do." Ahatake chuckled as Aoi was getting out a bag a popcorn. "It's been a slow day and they'll probably think this is just a family story."
The grandmother sighed, placing a hand on her head and rubbing it for a moment. "Remember what I had told you about my past in Hueco Mundo? The peddler that had visited..." She began hesitantly. "...I think I know him."
"What do you mean?" Ahatake asked as Aoi and Kyuui came over with a steaming vat of popcorn and Akiko decided to listen in as well. holding Chunori on her lap. Chunori looked the most attentive of all.
"I mean, he could have been one of the children that were prisoners along with me those years ago... a survivor."
"I thought they were all killed?" Ahatake said.
"That's what I thought, too..."
For a moment, Tereya looked unsure of herself, hand on one side of her face. The other half showed her hesitance. "I thought... that crow's attack... had finished them all off...." She whispered. "How could one have lived through hell like that?"
"Care to start from the beginning?" Akiko asked as Chunori said "Beginning."
"I guess I can humor you..." Taking a deep breath, Tereya prepared herself mentally to tell the story which plagued her for all of her life.
In the time of the Soul Society, it was a day of pouring rain, especially on the small civilization of Kakumei. The raindrops pounded everything, from the house roofs to the umbrella-mounted food stops - one could say it was practically flooding. It had been raining non-stop, from the morning to the evening, and discouraging people from leaving their homes commonly.
However, despite the emptiness in the village, there were several children playing together. Laughter could be heard from within the roars of the furious rain, undeterred by the wind and water.
"At that time, I didn't have the name "Tereya". My parents had dubbed me "Nami", which my closest friends had shortened to as "Na-chan."
The said girl looked up with slight annoyance, as a black-haired child, 8 years of age, came up to her with a cheerful smile on his face. "I told you not to call me that, wolf boy!" She protested. Currently, she was in a crouch on the ground, watching the scene unfold. "And I don't want to play, either!!"
"Oh, come on..."
Behind the "wolf boy" were several other children who were playing an intense game of punting a red ball back and forth between each other. The boy who had addressed her put on a pout, folding his arms across his chest. "You know you want to.." He egged on, grinning slightly.
Nami couldn't help but roll her eyes, but stood up from the ground and walked over. Her feet splashed into puddles along the way. "Oh, all right, fine..." She grumbled, readying herself immediately.
Once the ball started, Nami soon found that it was hard to just leave. Pretty soon, she was caught up in a playful struggle, arms and hands knocking the ball up into the air and towards another player. Her laughter and yells joined the group's in general.
That is, until, the ball unintentionally hit Nami in the head, making her fall on her back. Comical swirls had appeared in her eyes as she lay unmoving, the rain pouring on her face and drenching her.
"Na-chan!! Are you--"
It was unfortunate that the girl had been wearing a skirt at the time. "Wolf boy" had seen all of her glory, which made him stagger back, a huge blush on his cheeks. Shivering out of embarrassment, Nami stood back up, fists clenched."
"Na-chan, let me expla--"
A solid blow was enough to make him go flying away into the forest, with Nami yelling out the word "Pervert!" after him."
Ahatake chuckled and mentally felt sorry for the boy.
As the game slowly came to a close, both Nami and "wolf boy" looked up, as well as the other children to see two figures in the distance. "Come on, girl!" Her dad shouted out. "Your breakfast's gonna get as cold as a damn Popsicle if you stay out here!!"
"The same goes for you, Keiji!" An elder voice called out from the boy, although gentler than Nami's dad's voice. "You'll get sick if you stay out for too long!!"
A reluctant sigh came from both children. "Coming..."
As Nami walked forward, Keiji's hand grasped hers firmly. Surprised, she turned around to see his smiling face once more. "You'll be here tomorrow, right?" He asked hopefully. A blush crawled across her own face, but she nodded slowly and gave a weak smile of her own.
"Perfect!" With that, he let go of the girl's hand and ran off towards his house, where his elderly mother was waiting for him. "See ya, Na-chan!"
Scoffing, she folded her arms in a poutish manner as she went towards her own parents. After a little bit of scolding, the door shut at both of their houses, and the children began to disperse to their own homes, as well."
"You can imagine it was a pretty good place to be. Though the weather was bad, we kids romped and played like the sun was shining out. There were no cares for us, no worries about the Hollows that were sleeping inside us, not even of the Shinigami. We were free as birds flying in the skies." At the pleasant memory, Tereya put on a small smile of her own.
"It does sound like a nice place to be." Ahatake smiled.
The children were once again running rampant on the streets, once again alone on the empty streets. A campfire was burning out of logs found from fallen trees, illuminating the entire village with an orange light. Their parents were also out, watching them all with smiling faces. It was like a festival - only with the children running it all.
There were only two who were sitting down at the campfire.
Keiji and Nami.
On a sitting log, they were close and side-by-side. Their eyes were on the starry sky, its lights twinkling on and off in a slow display of beauty. Keiji let out a content sigh, closing his eyes and letting the heat embrace his skin gently. "Na-chan..." He said softly, looking over towards the girl beside him. "What do you think?"
That prompted Nami to raise an eyebrow out of curiosity. "Hm?" She questioned. "About what?"
"About animal you'd like to be..."
"Oh, gimme a break!!!" Nami snapped, turning her head away. "You can't just become an animal! My parents say that if we're born as Shinigami, we die as Shinigami! No changing that--"
"I know!" Keiji raised his hands up defensively, a sheepish and stunned smile on his face. "But, still, have you wondered about it?"
After a moment of silence, Nami considered it. "Well..." She relented, looking at the ground for a bit. "I'd say a bird. They get to fly high all day and not worry about a thing. You?"
That made Nami's eyes widen of surprise and mild fear. "What?! They eat people!!" She protested, recoiling as if she had just been slapped. "Why would you--"
Keiji turned to smile at her warmly. "They do that to survive, just like we built this place around us to survive." He explained. "They work together and live together, like us village kids. With their teamwork, they can topple anything, including ones that a single one couldn't handle on their own."
Nami had nothing to say after that, but looked down at the ground. Keiji scooted a bit closer to her, eyes squinting shut. "Can we be like that? To help each other when we most need it?"
His words touched her. "Kei-kun..."
Ahatake laughed. "I'd bet money I'd be a snake."
"Same." Aoi said, handing the vat of popcorn, which Chunori had turned his attention to, to Kyuui.
Kyuui herself had been touched by the story so far, her eyes wavering with emotion. Her hand was to her fingers, as if she herself had been in the very same predicament. She could never handle emotionless moments for very long, and such words brought it all out of her.
Aoi handed Kyuui a handkerchief. "In case you burst into tears, Onee-chan."
"Thank you, Aoi-chan..."
Their eyes were shining brightly under the color of the flames, their faces inches away from each other.
Then, all hell broke loose.
The next thing Nami knew, she was slammed onto the ground by a loud explosion from one of the houses nearby. In her widened eye vision, she saw Keiji go flying back into the treeline, before passing out...
"I couldn't even begin to describe it. When I woke up, the entire world seemed ablaze. The sky had seemed to turn a blood red all of a sudden, furious flames all around me. I heard the cries of the panicked and the alerted..."
"Contact, right side! Open fire!!!"
Her breathing was hard, her heart was beating, and her body was still. Looking around in a daze, she could see several of the civilian militia move past her, Kido guns in their hands. She could hear the sound of gunfire erupt all around her, bullets whizzing, and yells of pain and triumph ringing in her ears. It filled her with dread and apprehension, her peaceful life having just freshly exploded into a battle to the death.
Her eyes finally came to vision. But she regretted what she saw.
Blank eyes stared into her fearful ones. The person's chest didn't rise or fall at all, and she could see trickles of blood coming down from the corners of his mouth. He held a eternal neutral expression as he lie there, his pool of blood biting at her skin with his heat. That was all that was needed to make her scream and jump up on her hands and knees, the color red staining her side.
Then, she got up, and looked around frantically. "Mom?!" She screamed, running blindly into a panicking crowd. "Dad?! Kei-kun?! Where are you?! Please...!!"
Her dad's voice.
She spun around to see her father wielding what looked like a revolver, his eyes narrowed in concentration. With two shots, he easily took down the enemy figures in black rushing at him in an attempt to cut him down. Quickly, she ran over to his side, her body shivering, and her expression nothing short of sheer terror."
"M-mom!!! Where is she?! Whe--"
"Get a grip!!!" Her father scolded, looking around through the gunfire and swords shining. "Your mother's in a safe place, not far from here. The militia evacuated the remaining survivors to a hidden place from the main square. Come on!" Quickly, he grabbed her with one arm, picked her up, and started running in a directed manner. All around them were bodies of the dead, both ones of the black figures, and the ones of the brave soldiers that defended the village to their last breath.
He didn't stop for a second to look. But every one that Nami saw would be forever engraved in her mind for the rest of her days. She shut her eyes, tears brimming from them as she thought of her friend who could've been trapped in the slaughter.
"Please be OK, Kei-kun... I don't want to loose you too..."
"Hang on..." Her father soothed gently. "Just a couple more blocks..."
Chunori was paying the closest attention out of anyone, while Ahatake's expression had become stony.
"Look! There she is!"
Huddled in the corner were several of the villagers, a look of apprehension and fear on their faces. Peering her teary eyes, she could see her mother standing in front, a makeshift weapon stick which shuddered in her hands, and her eyes darting around for any enemies. However, once the mother looked at her husband and Nami, her expression turned to one of relief, and she threw the stick away. "Kyona! Nami!"
"Mom!!!" Nami shouted, an expression of relief on her face as well. "You're all right!!!"
"Thank God..." Even as he ran, Kyona breathed a sigh of relief. "Now we can get the hell out of--"
He never got to finish his sentence.
So close, and another explosion rocked the ground right in front of them. Once again, Nami was blown out of her father's arms and onto the ground, her vision hitting black upon impact. Her ears picked up the sound of the roars of flames before they ultimately shut down.
When she opened her eyes again, she could barely contain herself.
All around her were charred bodies, having been burned to nearly ash. Flames dominated the area, singing her skin and numbing her body. Weakened by the second explosion, she was unable to move anything but her head. She was on her stomach, struggling to recover her hazy vision.
Then, she heard a pained and weakened voice. "God save us all... God have mercy on our souls..."
It was her mother, crawling also on her stomach in an attempt to escape the area. Her legs seemed immobile, as she wasn't attempting to get up on her feet again. A crimson blood trailed behind her crawl path, meaning she had been heavily wounded by something in the blast. Her expression was contorted to one of sheer agony, looking for some sort of salvation...
However, a figure impended her path, dressed in back, and draped long, flowing, and black hair over his shoulders. His scimitar blade gleamed in the flaming light, and he raised it over his head slowly for what seemed like a final blow. As the mother closed her eyes, Nami desperately let out a shout.
But it was too late. The blade had fallen, and new blood had spilled across the burning ground to fuel the flames of the murdered. Her slayer walked over towards the fallen figure of Kyona, who had his pistol out and pointed. His expression was nothing but pain and rage, himself having been wounded in the blast.
He pulled the trigger.
But it responded with a click. No bullet, no sound of the Shinigami falling. He pulled it again, and again, desperate to kill the man approaching him. But his attempts were in vain, and soon the dark figure was leaming over him as well. With gritted teeth and narrowed eyes, he spat out the last words to his killer.
"Go on and do it, you Shinigami... bitch..."
A swing of the blade was all that it took for Kyona's head to come flying off of his shoulders, tearing away any hope that Nami had left. Her mouth quivering, and her vision wavering, she could only whisper hoarsely one word before passing out once more.
"All of this happened to her..." Akiko thought sadly. "I wonder..."
A second later, she was being dragged on the ground and thrown like a rag doll next to a group of people. Several of them consisted of the children she had played with, and several she had never seen before. Weakly, she got up on her knees, her head raising up to meet a familiar face.
He had seen better days. There was a large bruise on his forehead, and a trickle of blood running down his mouth. But he was alive and kicking, a look of concern and anger. "Are you all right?! What did those bullies do to you?!" He demanded.
But Nami simply ran towards him, embracing him in a tight hug. She shook her head repeatedly like a broken record, as if trying to will the slaughter of her parents out of her mind. "M-mom...D...dad....they...." She hiccuped, tears falling like a waterfall."
Keiji closed his eyes in a grim manner. "I know. So are mine."
There was nothing needed to be said. Nami's sobs got louder as she clung to him for dear life, determined not to let him go even for a moment. His own arms wrapped around her to comfort her, his expression becoming more pained by the second. It hurt him to see her like this... but what else could he do?
A harsh voice stopped her crying. "Shut your mouths!!!"
All children snapped up to attention, including the two sitting on the ground. Nami and Keiji stared at their Shinigami captors with dread and fear, holding onto each other to make sure they were there. Nami's eyes were on the one that had personally slaughtered Kyona and his wife. His blade was now sheathed, and his arms were folded across his chest. He turned to one of the other Shinigami who was standing beside him.
"Report. All clear?"
"Yes, Lieutenant Injiki." The man said, motioning towards the frightened children. "These are the Vizards we found in hiding here. What would be your method of disposal?"
The lieutenant sighed heavily. "We set up camp here for a while. Keep all of these brats in check, I want none of them escaping. If one attempts to do so..." He turned away, waving his hand in a manner of dismissal. "Kill them on sight."
As the man walked off, his subordinate walked towards them, a look of fury on his face. "All right, you shit-eaters! Get off the ground, RIGHT NOW!!!"
Pulled by their hair, dragged by the arm, and carried around by the scruffs of their necks, the children were forced screaming into the destinations of their captors. Nami's own eyes widened as she was forcibly yanked by her hair by another captor into a burned hut. Another one restrained a furious Keiji as he struggled to break out of the caging arms.
"NA-CHAN"!!! He screamed.
Ahatake growled. Hatred for Ryuka was resurfacing. He suppressed it, so as to avoid breaking the table behind him.
"And so, the four-year hell that we spent in the remnants of Kakumei began." Tereya explained, eyes shadowed over so her expression was hidden. "Our Hollow powers saved us from death many times, and at the time, we didn't understand why we could withstand blow after blow done by our tormentors. But, still, when faced with such actions, our will to live was slowly vanishing..."
The intense heat made the working children sweat hard as they struggled to clean up the damaged village.
Two years after the attack, they were now slaves of the Shinigami that imprisoned them within their own homes. Used as carrying dollies, fetchers, and even for their own personal amusement, they were nothing but tools and toys for use. Slacking off or refusal to do work resulting in a ferocious beating, leading to the victim's near-death.
Today, it was no different. Every bone in Nami's body creaked and groaned, and her muscles were on the verge of being torn to pieces. As she raised the hammer and swung it down into a stubborn set of nails, her arms were feeling deader every swing. Her eyes showed no emotion, completely devoid of her life.
The only thing that kept her moving was the fact that Keiji was toiling right beside her.
Something wet trickled down Aoi's face and it took a moment to realize it was a tear. She wiped it away quickly in the hope that no one would notice.
Ahatake was remembering very vividly the night his own parents died, calling out for his mother and finding her bloody, mangled body on the street oozing blood, and his father speared on the ends of the Hollow's long claws. And his terror..his rage...
Not even in the night, the children were safe from harm's wake.
In her makeshift bed, Nami opened one sleepy eye in irritation, letting out a groan of pain. Slowly, she sat up, glaring at the voice who called her. "Listen, damn it. I've been working my ass off, so whoever you are, you can f--"
"Oi!! It's me, Keiji!!!"
Immediately, her voice softened, and the weary figure of Keiji came into play. Despite the casual look on his face, it was obvious that the work affected him as well - his own eyes were dead, and his skin was going pale to say the least. There were lines on either side of his face, marking his lack of sleep for at least a few days.
"Look...." His eyes darted around nervously, checking for any Shinigami guard that would be fortunate enough to see him. "I know this is going to be a hard thing to ask of me, but..." Quickly, he tossed a makeshift gown her way which she caught in surprise. "You're going to have to wear stuff like that."
"W...what?" A mix of fear and confusion dawned on her face. "Why? They're just going to go to rags in a matter of--" But she was promptly interrupted by a "Ssshh!" from Keiji which slightly irritated her further. But she didn't waste any time obeying him when he motioned for her to follow.
Together, they snuck in the shadows and evading any patrols near their position. Fortunately, there was few around - they must've drunk themselves to sleep. However, upon seeing only emptiness, Keiji's heart started to sink lower and lower.
'Eventually, he reached the house he was looking for, and peeked around to see Shinigami grouping around one of the captor children, a teenage, blonde female. "Stop." He said immediately, knowing Nami was close behind him. They both took a peek and observed the scene.
"....you don't understand! I have worked as hard twice as the others!" Obviously, the girl was sobbing hard in the face of mockery and laughter, some closer to her almost to the point of claustrophobia. "Why are you--?!"
"We don't care." One of the males walked out, sneering tauntingly at the girl. "You're nothing but the shit-eating monsters you're supposed to be. Or, would you like to "eat" something else?" Without hesitation, and in arm's reach, he grabbed her shirt and ragged leggings, ripped them away without hesitation, and shoved her to the ground.
Immediately, the captive girl came to the horrible realization, even as the captor settled himself to pin her down with his own body. "N...no... you can't--"
"Oh, I can. Now this'll only hurt for a second..."
What happened next, Nami would never describe. But even as she closed her eyes, she couldn't block out the loud screams of agony coming from that girl's mouth as her innocence was ruthlessly taken away from her... and it was out in the open. She could not do anything, not cry, not scream herself... but she buried her face into the nearest thing she could find - Keiji's shoulder.
He himself turned away from the horrible scene, though what he had saw would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Ahatake did not comment, nor did anyone else. The room had gone deathly quiet.
Tereya sighed, attempting a non-chalant shrug in order to lighten the mood a bit. "The only good news about it was that it had never happened to me. Because of their lack of intuition, the rest of the females would suffer the same fate as that girl, every single night."
Aoi made a retching sound, while Akiko looked furious. Chunori watched his aunt as if she were a mildly interesting television program.
"It was about two years after that, the seeds of rebellion began to take place. At that time, of course, Keiji and I were nearing 12-13 years of age. But, if it wasn't for him, I would've ended up exactly like that blonde..."
One day in the evening, toiling in dirt in pathetic-looking attempts to grow back trees that were burned in the invasion, Nami's eyes suddenly widened in shock and pain as she was abruptly grabbed off of her knees by the roots of her hair. Unconsciously, she screamed aloud, startling the other children.
That's when Keiji turned around, fists clenched and eyes glaring intensely at the Shinigami who handled her so rudely. "She didn't do anything!" He snapped, standing up and staring defiantly at the man. "We're working, just like you said to do!!"
"I know..." The man merely sneered, walking away and dragging a helpless Nami by her hair. Blood appeared to stain the base of the strands a reddish color, and she was screaming even harder, tears falling down from her eyes. "But right now, she's going to take a break. And I'm going to take her."
That abruptly stopped her screaming, and she started to struggle harder out of fury. "N...no!!!" She shouted angrily and fearfully, the pain too great and past her mind. "YOU WON'T... I WON'T LET YOU!!!"
It was obvious her bucking was taking its toll on the man's grip. Gritting his teeth, he attempted to tighten his hold, but it was like trying to subdue a wild horse. "Shit..!! You brat, quit struggling or I--"
That was when his anger turned to shock and pain.
Tereya's head, having loosened itself quite easily, had found its way to the man's arm. Her teeth, acting on instinct alone, crunched down hard on his pinky finger and part of his ring finger, acting like pincers. The sound of bone could be heard crunching, and the man's face was now a mix of panic and fury as he struggled to get her off.
"Damn you, you little bitch!!!"
Finally, raising his other fist, he swung it down upon her head and savagely knocked her to the ground, looming over her with a murderous intent. With his good hand, he gripped the hilt of his sword and yanked the blade out of its scabbard, raising it over his head in order for a killing blow.
He would never get the chance.
Keiji's body slammed into him with full force, knocking him on his back. The sword clattered onto the ground, away from the two. As the man struggled to get back up, Keiji began to engage him in a game of fist-to-fist, but the only thing a pained Nami was concerned about was the sword in front of her, just a few steps away.
On her belly, groaning in pain, she crawled slowly towards the sword, and hopefully, the weapon to kill her captor. As she got closer, she saw much to her horror Keiji being slammed onto the ground on his stomach, wincing at the sudden pain that overcame him. But she kept coming, and her fingers just wrapped around the hilt when...
...the Shinigami, having recovered quickly, kicked it out of her hand. When she looked up, all she could see was a bloodied face of absolute rage, along with a foot that slammed into her temple.
For the next moments, she was blanking in and out of consciousness. In the midst of what she could see, it was a brutal brawl between Keiji and the Shinigami. The Shinigami, having a hold of Keiji's arm with both hands, pulled him closer and rammed the back of his head into his chin to make him stagger back. Then another headbutt forced him back even further, and he readied his fists once more. Keiji swung again, but the Shinigami's fist connected first...
...Charging forward, Keiji swung a punch directly into the man's stomach to make him kneel over. Then a knee connected with his chin, followed up by a right swing which the Shinigami unconsciously dodged...
...letting out a yell, the Shinigami swung his leg into a kneeling Keiji's stomach to make him fall on his back...
...in her last moments, she could see the Shinigami pick up the fallen Keiji halfway by his arm, only to release and punch him again in the jawbone to make his head slam into the dust. Quickly, the man pinned him down in a straddle position, raising both fists and beating Keiji's face repeatedly. He couldn't fight back anymore...
She sank finally into darkness, with her friend's fate unknown...
Again no response. The room seemed to be mulling this over. Then Ahatake spoke. "Go on."
Tereya couldn't help but scoff. "I would've expected a more reactive audience, but..."
After the two children had fallen, the Shinigami that attempted to take Tereya in had burst through the door of the "meeting" house, where most of the Shinigami were gathered - including Ryuka. Ryuka raised his head to stare over at him. "What is it?"
That caused the Lieutenant to frown deeply, eyes narrowed. "No, you are not, Dosuun." He stated firmly. "We were ordered to stay here and contain those Hollows under any circumstance. Backing out now would be disobe--"
"I don't care!!!" Dosuun snapped in fury, pointing towards the open door. "Two of them just tried to rip my hand off and kill me!! And they would've done it, too, if I hadn't kicked their little shit-eating asses!!!"
"So you can handle them. What is the problem--?"
"You never said anything about them being able to fight back! And if that's the case, they could very well kill us all!!! I'm out of here--"
The rest of his voice, however, was cut off by the sound of his own choking. Ryuka's spiritual pressure flared, and Dosuun fell to the ground on his hands and knees. "How dare you..." He spat coldly. "An 11th Division member does NOT let his cowardice get in the way of his mission. You will stay here, or I swear to GOD I will make you... alive, or dead."
At this point, over the killer intent, the now meek man could do nothing but nod shakily. Clearing his throat, Ryuka turned to the rest..."
...only for his eyes to widen, as swords were pointed straight at his neck. "W...what?!" He could only manage to say, his expression a mix of shock and fury. "What is the meaning of this?!"
One of them spoke up. "Sorry, sir, but it's for your own good. If they gained enough intelligence and strength to fight back, then another month in this camp would allow them to completely root us out, and the plague to spread. It would be best to retreat in order to reserve the forces we have."
"...." Ryuka could only look around, his face one of quiet rage. "So... you're all against me now?" He asked lowly, being replied to with silence. "Fine, then. You all can leave any time you wish..."
His face darkened, his stare turning towards the speaker who was almost tempted to withdraw his blade and run. "But the Captain will hear a full report about this when you get back. Now, get out of my sight.... you fucking scum."
Without a word, the Shinigami turned and walked off, out of the headquarters. As soon as they were gone, Ryuka raised a hand and slammed it into the wall, leaving a small crater in his wake as he stormed off as well.
"Sounds like me, Ryuka did." Ahatake said, sounding rather amused and disgusted.
The pain on the wounds inflicted upon them would've been easily recovered by a healthier being. But the constant work under intense conditions made both Keiji's and Nami's slumber a very long one. For hours, they were submitted to nothing but darkness, unable to dream, and unable to see. That was what each of their mentality was reduced to - a dark, unforseeable future that would ensure eternal torment in their own hell. Their happiness and dreams were crushed under the feet of their captors, and would never be seen again.
It was an unfortunate time when they finally woke up.
Nami's vision was groggy as her eyes slowly opened, and her entire body felt completely numb. The first thing she saw was a reddish tint covering the sky, the obvious signal of the afternoon. There were several uneven and irregular figures surrounding her, although they seemed to be shaking. She could hear faint voices, unintelligable and out of her understanding...
Finally, her head cleared, and she attempted to stand up from her back and off of the ground. But, her arms were somehow pinned to her sides, along with her legs. Her eyes widened in shock, as she struggled, only to find bindings as the culprits of her immobilization. To the left of her, she could hear a mocking voice, along with several panicked cries.
"Well, the flesh-eating brat's awake, is she?
It was from a Shinigami looming over her figure. While she stared back with fury as she struggled against the bindings, he held a dark smile over his face. "This is where we finally get to finish you guys off..." He relished, gesturing behind him and making her look over. What she saw both shocked and frightened her.
He was struggling even more furiously than her, his arms and bound to the armrests of a metallic chair. Sweat was beading down his face, and it appeared as if he had been beaten several times by a blunt object. His expression was one of fury and fear, like a trapped animal. "F...fuck!!" He grunted.
"K...kei-kun...." She muttered weakly, tears forming in her eyes. Then, out of the corner of one of them, she could see several black birds overhead. It wasn't a surprise that the rest of the prisoners, in the same situation as Keiji and Nami were, looked up, eyes widening in realization.
"No..." Keiji whispered, his angered expression giving in to his fright. The Shinigami chuckled darkly.
"Oh yes... due to that little scuffle you had with my comrade, we're going to leave you all here to pay the price. Those crows up there are hungry customers, too... so I doubt they'll leave anything behind if they're not too full. I hope you like being skinny, because that's what you all are going to be after they're finished..."
The cloud of crows descended ever so slowly, and the Shinigami slowly walked away. A far distance away, his comrades were watching the whole scene with amusement. But the children were even more panicked, struggling to the point where their limbs were bruised and bleeding. They began to scream out for help, begging anyone in the world to save them - a miracle.
They walked away, and that miracle began to dissipate. With the last of the captors gone, the crows were now free to swoop down upon the children and envelop them in what was to be their own dose of black death. Before they reached Keiji, he attempted one last time to yank himself free from the bindings. But as they tore into his wrists, he began to bleed even more profusely...
...he did the only thing he could do. He tilted his head back, shut his eyes tightly, and let out a raw scream straight from the heart, louder than any of the other children's and strong enough to break what was left of Nami's fragile heart. She began to sob, and the screams stopped when the crows closed in on him...
It was as if Ahatake was there. He saw a much younger Tereya and Keiji along with other nameless children, bound and unable to escape as their death swooped down on them. He was on the verge of drawing his blade, when he remembered it was all in his head.
Cries of pain and agony filled his ears, the crows pecking at their bare flesh and swallowing it through their greedy throats. They were like piranhas in the water, burying their beaks into everything and anything - liver, eyes, neck, and even the stomach was not spared in their feast. Blood began to stain the forested area around them, creating a flat pool.
Then, all of them began to close in on Tereya, lifting their beaks and talons towards her. She shut her eyes, the deadness having already returned to her pupils. The only regret she held is of the separation from Keiji - although they would both suffer the same terrifying fate, she knew that he would never see his face again, even in Heaven.
Then, to her shock, she heard her bindings tear. Opening her eyes and widening them, she saw some of those crows ripping apart the thick bindings instead of her flesh. Barely any of those weapons reached her skin - something that she was very thankful for. But she couldn't even comprehend why they were freeing her...
...when all of her friends were lying dead.
That finally clicked in her head. She was being spared, while her friends' souls would be extinguished from their bodies forever. She would be forced to walk among the living, never permitted to re-join her comrades in death. Her eyes shadowed over, and her hair began to billow upwards in a slow manner, a dark energy consuming her. Under her bangs, a yellow light that was her pupils began to shine, her fists clenching...
She was running on all fours through the darkened forest like a wolf, eyes searching for her prey. Her heart was beating rapidly in her chest, her hair billowing in the intense winds. She felt their reiatsu nearby, stationary and in a hold-position place. She could hear their laughter, and the sounds of glasses being clinked together. That increased her rage even more as she ran, knowing that they were celebrating.
They wouldn't be for long.
Her hands and feet ripped through and out of the forest, hitting open area. A distance away, she could see the Shinigami sitting around a makeshift campfire, laughing and talking about things she didn't understand... but she didn't care.
Her hand flew up into the nearest Shinigami's neck before he could react, ripping the head off and sending it flying into the trees. His comrades's eyes widened in horror as they stood to their feet quickly, attempting to draw their Zanpakuto.
"She's still alive!!"
"KILL THAT SHIT-EATING BI--"
But before they could move, Nami had already made the action. Her hands were like knives, tearing through several masses of flesh and organic material. The blood spilled into the ground, leaving an eternal stain to the earth's skin as well as the screams of agony and shock coming from the falling Shinigami. Frantically, the one named Dosuun attempted to flee, desperate to escape back to his Lieutenant.
Raising on her two legs, she reached up and grabbed the back of his collar, threw him on his back, and raised her fist to bring it down upon his face.
His head was smashed like a watermelon, and the crimson liquid spilled all over her rags of clothing and skin. In the moonlight, a feral grin that showed her canine teeth was visible and gleaming.
Keiji would've been proud to call her a wolf that night.
Ahatake had to fight back a grin. Tereya really cut loose then. Aoi however looked liked she was going to vomit and it couldn't have been clearer she was imagining the scene Tereya had described.
If she had looked up, Tereya would've been wearing the same grin that she had wore at that memory moment. It was enough to intimidate Kyuui into hiding behind her sister again. "Upon the final spill of blood, my days as a prisoner of war was over. It was like waking up from a nightmare and straight into my favorite dream. Those bastards had been crushed under my feet, and my friends were avenged. Injiki never suspected a thing until several days later."
Aoi smiled at her sister and patted her shoulder in what she hoped was a comforting way. The story had gotten to a point where she couldn't eat anymore. Chunori now had the vat of popcorn.
"What happened when he got on to you?" Akiko asked.
"Hell, I donno... but he sure wasn't able to find me. I had already hauled ass way before he came to the scene." Tereya allowed a dark chuckle to escape her lips. "Guess his 'mates pissed him off enough to ignore their safety."
"So is that the end of your little tale?" Akiko asked, taking teh vat of popcorn from Chunori, who made no noise but looked slightly disgruntled.
"Mhm." Non-chalantly, Tereya squinted her eyes shut and put her hands behind her head. "Hope you've got some good images, because that took a hell of a lot out of me. I don't think I'll be tellin' it again any time soon..."
Ahatake had gotten to his feet and was standing by a dresser, where there stood a photo of his and Tereya's wedding. "Not to sound to mean or anything, but I'm slightly grateful those things happened. Otherwise I may never have met you." He said to Tereya.
This prompted Tereya to close her eyes and scoff. "If you hadn't met me, I'd still be out there causing heads to roll, though I can't really say that's a good thing or bad thing..." She retorted.
"If you think about it that way," Ahatake said, "I just might have met you, if you'd be causing that much trouble. Don't know whether I would have had to kill you or not."
"You're saying that now... but say I returned to my killin' ways. Would you consider killing me then?" By this time, Tereya had stood up to her own feet and walked over towards the doorway leading to the living room. She didn't exit, however.
"If I had to make a choice, now whether I could kill you or not," Ahatake replied. "I wouldn't be able to do it."
Tereya leaned against the doorway, putting on a poutish frown. Her eyes were still squinted shut. "Tch... you're no fun." She complained.
"No, you just mean too much to me now." Ahatake replied, sighing. "If I had to kill you, I'd probably become a vegetable."
"Oh, that's right. You're too nice..." Tereya had her eyes half-lidded at this point. "There may be a point in time, though. This little path on Memory Lane has got my mind whirring again... if there's a time we do cross swords, you'd better be prepared to kill yourself."
"Not happening." Ahatake replied sharply. "I'd kill myself before I kill you."
"I didn't say it would happen..." Tereya assured. "But don't think my past with you has been forgotten by me just yet. Every single time you had humiliated me in combat made me a bit more excited. Even though you won't be pleased, if we do end up fighting on opposite sides..."
She turned her back and looked over her shoulder, a falsely warm smile and half-lidded eyes directed towards her husband. "I'll look forward to both the fight... and killing you." She finished. With that, she walked out and disappeared into the hallway.
Aoi and Akiko both looked nervously at Ahatake, but he brushed it off. "She can't kill me, even if she wanted too." Ahatake sighed. "Besides I get remarks like that every other day."
Aoi forced a smile. "Be that as it may, perhaps you should...steer clear of Grandma at the moment." Aoi looked genuinely worried.
Her expression was matched by a still hiding Kyuui, her gaze having turned towards her grandfather. She meekly nodded, obviously having been intimidated by both Tereya's gaze and words. For someone dedicated to their husband, it sounded as if she was once again treating him as an enemy...
No... maybe not an enemy.
Maybe something in between... an obstacle... a rival... anything that stood on the line of friend and foe....
Ahatake sighed. "Actually, you two need to steer clear of Tereya. At least in light of Aoi's recent plans."
Aoi blushed deep crimson.
In a mixture of anger and embarrassment, Kyuui blushed and raised her arms up in the air. "W...what are you saying?!" She shouted. "I'm innocent!!"
"Aoi would gave dragged you along with her, and you wouldn't have been so innocent then." Ahatake laughed. "Just keep away from your plan Aoi until Tereya calms down enough not to go hunting the first person who offends her in some way."
Unbeknownst to the three, Tereya was in fact leaning against the wall outside of the doorway with her arms crossed, and the smile still on her face. She couldn't help but shake her head in humor at the fact they believed she was furious - she had in fact enjoyed herself in telling the story ending and her words to Ahatake. Slowly, she began to walk away to the upper levels.
The new day was going to be a good one, it seemed.