Life after Death

By: eternalsailorsolarwind AKA youkai_girl

Disclaimer: Bleach and all of its characters are owned by Tite Kubo, his Japanese publishers, and Viz. I only play with them for grins and giggles.

A/N: Written for the Week# 75 bleach_contest prompt: Aim. Another installment of the Ishida in the Afterlife semi-series. Ishida is very stressed out after meeting his father again after death.

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Taking his time, Ishida settled into his stance. Nocking the arrow, his fingers finding their accustomed places around the fletching, he raised the bow and drew in one smooth, practiced motion. The muscles in his torso grumbled quietly, reminding the former Quincy that he needed to practice more. Grimacing slightly – the bow had a 100-lb. pull – Ishida sighted along the shaft; eyeing his distant target. After a moment, he released the arrow.

Before the arrow even reached the target, he knew his aim was off.

The arrow hit the target with a solid, satisfying sound. Crossing the range, Ishida bent to examine the target, narrowing his eyes behind angular glasses. The arrow had penetrated deeply, but not dead-center.

"A third of an inch off," the former Quincy muttered darkly, adjusting his glasses. "Damn him."

He was the only one – he thought– who used this small range. Once seated in the Sixth Division, Ishida had persuaded his captain to turn this neglected corner in the training grounds into a place to practice Kyudo, traditional Japanese archery. When making his presentation, he'd stressed the traditional aspects of the art, using Kuchiki-taichou's own nobility against him. Permission was granted eventually, and Ishida used the range for relaxation and stress relief. Too bad it wasn't working now.

Since his forced meeting with his father, Ishida's nerves had slowly tightened until they were – ironically – bowstring taut. He'd tried meditation and other relaxation techniques, but nothing worked. Failing that, he'd tried his last resort: drinking with Kurosaki's crowd at their usual bar. That had been a rather… unfortunate choice. The hangover had lasted for days.

Seeing Ryuuken made Ishida feel fifteen again; newly powerless after that first trip to Soul Society. Then again, his father was very good at making him feel about an inch tall. It was part of his somewhat dubious charm.

Still frowning at the target, Ishida absently scratched his chest underneath his shihakusho, feeling the thin scar in the shape of the five-pointed Quincy star. It had stayed with him even in death. It was also an ever-present reminder of Ryuuken's superiority over him in seemingly everything.

Ishida hated knowing that everything he did, made, or became in life he owed to his father for giving him back his powers. Despised it with an unholy passion. Understanding that he never more than the man's equal; could never surpass him. No matter how hard he tried, he was never anything more than second best.

Soul Society was different somehow. For all the stress of the last few weeks, Ishida knew that he earned his Seat well before Ryuuken had earned his first one. Even though his father was currently the lieutenant of the Thirteenth Division, the man did have fifty-year head start on him. As a 14th Seat – and only after a few years – he was catching up quickly.

Returning to the firing line, Ishida stopped before the arrows thrust blade down into the turf before his spot, waiting to be used. A thin smile slipped onto his face as he realized that he was finally relaxing. Wheeling around, he pulled up an arrow, a determined glint in his blue eyes. Nocking the arrow, he pulled it back, and barely taking the time to sight along the shaft, fired. Every cell in his body told him the arrow was flying true.

This time, his aim was perfect.

"Take that, old man," he said aloud, relishing the words. "I'm not going to let you beat me this time."