A/N: This is the edited version. Phew, deleted, edited and uploaded. Technology hates me. Anyway, googled up and I've schooled myself about Japanese suffixes and I feel so much more educated now. Thank you, Chaos :D I'm still not so sure about the usage of every term, but do holler if I make any mistake, aight:D
About the other Japanese Karate term, I'm not trying to appear smart by using them. Spazzes out. We generally and loosely apply the term in everyday karate class, regardless if you're in Japan or Timbuktu or wherever. Honestly, when reading a book/article, I don't think the writer is going to elaborate about the terms they use in the story. Goes something like this: "The guerilla lifted his AK-47 (AK-47 is a gun geniusly whipped up by the prodigal Russian scientist, Avtomat Klashnikov bla bla bla) and gunned down every single living soul in sight."
However, I contest guilty for not putting up a terminology. So here goes:
Karateka – karate scholar
Shihan – master
Now on with the story. :D Thank you for reading! And I do take forever to get my point across.
"Class, we have a new karateka. In fact, he is a senpai and will be tutoring you together with Kuchiki san and Hitsugaya kun," the white-haired shihan announced as he clapped his hands together to calm the commotion down. Instantaneously, the 20 something crowd quieted and fell into synchronous lines.
Ukitake shihan gestured at somebody who stood at the corner of the dojo, and the orange-coloured hair guy jogged wordlessly towards the crowd. "This is Kurosaki Ichigo. Please give your best to help him out."
Ichigo nodded as he took a slight bow. His eyes scanned the faces of the curious middle-schoolers and finally his gaze settled on one of the senpais lining the front row. Petite, slender, with a determined gaze.
That was when those pair of violet eyes decided to leave the shihan's face and shifted onto his instead.
"Please don't hesitate to lend him your knowledge, Kuchiki san."
The raven-haired, violet-eyed lady nodded, her eyes still locked on the orange-haired stranger. "Yes, sir."
"This is your locker."
Ichigo lifted his eyes off the petite figure and turned to face the assigned locker. At least this one is near the water cooler.
"Here's the combination number," Rukia continued, handing him a Stick-It yellow memo with a series of number scribbled on it.
Ichigo took it swiftly, eyeing the code. He then lifted his gaze towards the small lady again, this time a half smirk playing at the corner of his lips. "So which grade are you in middle school?"
Rukia raised a perfectly-arched eyebrow, radiating the 'are-you-messing-with-me?' aura.
"It was just an innocent question," Ichigo continued, obviously defending his slip of tongue.
Rukia shrugged. She grabbed the lock and began working on the locker. After turning the combination, she proceeded with a slight bang on the metal, and the door gave way. "Obviously higher than the one you're in, Strawberry Head," she replied coolly before disappearing into the dojo.
Rukia dashed for the entrance. She was already late for her first day of campus life. Upon entering the main building, her eyes scanned the hallway, trying to get a hang of the buzz around her. The hall was packed with students with bookbags. Some were equally lost like her, some had the familiarity look painted on their faces. A wave of excitement washed over her.
She made a beeline for the notice board. She really needed to get acquainted with the university geographical setting fast. She didn't even know where her next class is located.
"Lady, I think you're stepping on my shoe."
Rukia withdrew a foot up, apologizing profusely. "Sorry, I wasn't looking." She raised her face to greet the victim of her unintended assault, only to end up with her mouth slightly ajar.
"You?" Funnily after only one karate do session, and they were already sharing a dictionary.
"What are you doing here?" Ichigo inquired, raising a questioning brow her way. He gave her a once-over, then chuckled. She looked even hotter without the bulky karate uniform, he concluded. Dark blue sweater with a pair of faded jeans. The girl could dress up in a battered rag and she would still look hot off the oven, he added to his thoughts.
"Oh, didn't I tell you? My Home Science class is here," she replied sarcastically, immediately regretting her earlier apology. She should have just stomped harder on those expensive-looking Nikes.
Ichigo laughed. "I didn't take you have a funny bone in your body, Kuchiki san," he replied, snickering. "You're a freshman too?"
Rukia gave him a dismissive glance and proceeded towards the notice board. The university map was taped neatly at the bottom corner. She quickly drew the direction towards her faculty and about to make an exit when a familiar orange head peeked over her shoulder.
"Tadao Ando House. I think you need to be at least a foot taller to be an architect, shorty," the spiky-haired guy commented. He flashed her a toothy grin. "That way you could at least reach the rooftop while designing it."
"Ha ha," Rukia replied dryly. She shut her notepad and turned to face the offender of her peace of mind. "Move it, Kurosaki. Your big butt's blocking my way."
Ichigo raised his head. Two guys were waving at him from the end of the hallway. Ichigo raised a hand to wave back. He looked down to his side to continue his interrogation, only to find the spot empty. His eyes drifted to the main entrance, where her small frame was already making her way down the corner towards the architectural faculty.
He shrugged, and then smiled. Yeah, he's going to make sure to run into her again.
Rukia dropped on the bench tiredly. She removed the sneakers she was wearing and placed them into the locker. The week had been very demanding; it passed by in a blur. And it was already Thursday, back to the routine of teaching a group of middle schoolers karate do. She still had to pass up her preliminary sketch tomorrow. Her mind was whirling with things needed to be done by the end of the week.
Ichigo entered the changing room wordlessly. Lab was strenuous; he regretted being assigned to dissect the gastrointestinal tract in the first place. As if the foul smell of formalin-treated abdominal content wasn't enough, he had to strip every inch of sinful fat off the muscles and the organs. He was about to drop on the bench when he caught sight of the small body seated at the other end; her face buried between her knees. His eyes strayed for awhile at the sight of her bare shoulder under the tank top, and her toned arms but eventually his focus returned to the hunched girl.
Rukia's head snapped up automatically. She rubbed the sleepiness off her eyes.
"Great Kuchiki-san falling asleep at practice??"
Rukia bit back a growl that was forming. She really didn't feel like granting the satisfaction that Ichigo craved for. She stood up and silently shrugged her uniform on. Slinging her black belt on her shoulder, she closed her locker door with a bang.
"Rukia nee-chan! I can do the backflips already!"
Rukia beamed. She jogged lightly towards the boy who was happily backflipping on his palms. "Excellent, Morio! But be careful, okay?"
After patting the boy lightly on the head, she headed for the main dojo. She was in-charge of teaching the new pattern to the group of high-schoolers. She smiled, glad that most of them had already arrived.
"Rukia nee-chan! Shihan's calling for you!"
Rukia nodded her head lightly as she thanked her junior, Momo. Ukitake Shihan was standing at the corner of the dojo with a record book in hand. He was in deep discussion with the new senpai.
Gathering her energy, she made her way to the corner. The jackass in the form of orange-haired idiot suddenly looked up and their eyes met. He flashed a slight smile, which Rukia pointedly ignored. "Yes, shihan," she greeted.
"Rukia, do you have any idea why Shirou's absent today?"
Rukia frowned. "You mean, he didn't tell you about it?"
Ukitake Shihan wrinkled his forehead. "Is it September already?"
Rukia laughed. "Ano, Shihan. Not a wonder why Unohana San is always fed up with you when it comes to remembering anniversary."
Ukitake Shihan merely grinned. He tapped the end of his ballpoint pen on the record book. "Well, then. I guess it could work, the two of you."
Both Rukia and Ichigo raised an eyebrow at the aging Shihan.
Ukitake turned on his wheel and started walking to the center of the training hall. "I'm feeling robust today. Maybe we could start with free sparring," the elder man suggested. Without waiting for any confirmation, he started clapping his hands to gather his karatekas around. The obedient pupils fell into two parallel lines. Standing with their fists clenched at their sides, the youngsters bowed to their senpais.
"I have good news for everybody," he announced. "We're going to start today's lesson freestyle."
The hall echoed with sudden joyful yells and shots of laughter. The once neat and straight lines became crooked as the youngsters started to chat amiably with each other. Immediately the sparring was launched and Ichigo and Rukia were left as guardians.
The spar was executed with a time gap of 3 minutes for each spar. After the time limit was up, the line moved to swap partners. After about twenty minutes or so of free sparring…
"How come Rukia Nee-san and Ichigo Nii-sama are not sparring?"
Rukia froze from helping a girl correcting her stance. Ichigo raised his head from demonstrating a block.
"Yeah, Nee-san. It's been awhile since we saw you sparred," another girl butted in. Her motion was supported by the others who by then had already stopped their sparring session. "Please, Nee-san?"
"Uh," Rukia stuttered. She flashed an awkward smile. "Guys, I'm supposed to watch over your steps," she tried reasoning. She looked over at Ichigo for support.
"Aww, come on, Nee-san!"
"Ichigo Nii-sama, come on!"
Ukitake rubbed his chin, deep in thoughts. "Well, kids," he started. The crowd hushed down. "Take a break, everybody. Sit in a big circle. The kids are right, Kuchiki-san, Kurosaki-kun."
Ichigo and Rukia exchanged glances.
The kids cheered. They immediately formed a big circle on the tatami mat.
"Kuchiki-san is a very pretty lady," Ukitake started. A couple of catcalls can be heard from the boys section. Rukia merely blushed and smiled. "Let's say she was walking down a very dark alley alone. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an attacker came out of nowhere to assault her," he continued, raising his gaze to Ichigo. "Kurosaki-kun, give your best."
Ichigo grinned. So he was the lucky attacker. He and Rukia reluctantly took their place in the middle of the circle. "Let's see what you've got, pretty lady," he taunted softly.
Rukia rolled her eyes. "Yeah. Don't hold yourself back or anything," she retorted back lowly.
After taking a slight bow, both of them fell into ready stance. Ichigo took his role into action and started attacking first. He tried grabbing the small shoulders, when Rukia resisted by giving a front snap kick. Ichigo retaliated. He tried to maneuver her from behind. Grabbing her neck, he tried to lock her in his embrace. The smell of Rukia's shampoo intoxicated his senses. Ichigo tried to suppress a grin at the intentional close contact. However, he was knocked out of his reverie as Rukia nudged his abdomen harshly with her sharp elbow.
"What was that?" he hissed, rubbing the sore spot on his abdomen. He could hear the crowd cheered at their beloved Nee-san.
"Oh, that hurt?" she asked innocently. Then her eyes narrowed into slits. "Serves you right for headlocking me."
Ichigo flashed another grin despite the gnawing pain. Damn, the girl could nudge, alright. "Yeah, let's see you get locked in another position," he replied, his eyes twinkling with a subtle hint of annoyance.
He planned the subsequent attack in his mind. A kick at the back of her knee would make her fall on her back. He would pin her shoulder to the ground, and then… And then…
"You moron!" Rukia shoved his shoulders angrily as she tried to squirm her way under his grasp. Both of them rolled on the mat, this time, she was on top of him. Pulling her fist behind, she calculated whether to smack him right in the face or…
She was down again. She could feel his hot breath tickling her cheeks. "I think I'm alright with this position," Ichigo murmured, smirking.
Swallowing a groan, Rukia propped up a knee and smack it at the proposed target. Ichigo doubled over in pain while grabbing his abdomen again.
Breathing heavily, Rukia picked herself off the mat. She ran her fingers in her hair to entangle the mess. Some of the kids have left their place on the mat to surround her in a group hug. A couple of boys helped Ichigo to stand up.
Ichigo grinned. Dusting his gi, he walked purposefully towards the center of attention. Their eyes met. "That was a good fight," he said, offering a hand.
Wordlessly, they shook hands.