Finally another chapter! Sorry for the long wait...
P.S. As a quick note when Tomohiro refers to Kizamaru as Tanzei-ouji he's basically saying "Prince Tanzei" as a sort of insult referring to Kiza's pompous attitude (Tanzei is Kizamaru's family name). Oh and a kosode (which is mentioned later) is basically the black jacket the shinigami wear.
Honour for Honour's Sake
The sun shone brightly in the azure sky illuminating everything with its golden glow. It had already begun its gradual descent down from its peak height, slowly increasing the amount of shade offered by the trees that bordered the southernmost training grounds of Seireitei. During any other time of the year the shinigami that were training on the barren field would have taken refuge from the sunshine in the shadows of the nearby woodland, however the Soul Society was in the middle of its winter and so heatstroke was far from the minds of those currently sparring. There were relatively few clouds in the sky allowing the sun to warm the air so it seemed more like spring than winter. Many had taken advantage of the mild weather, making the training grounds relatively crowded much to the annoyance of a dark-haired shinigami resting by the sidelines on a tree stump.
Kizamaru had decided to arrive early; half hoping that Tomohiro would do the same despite knowing of his opponent's tardiness. He had spent the last twenty minutes surveying the multitude of mock-battles and kidō instruction sessions that were taking place whilst involuntarily tapping his right foot in impatience, sending particles of the red earth into the air with every tap. Eventually his tapping had become so fierce that the dust he was kicking up began to cover the majority of his right leg. He cursed after seeing the mess he had made of his otherwise immaculate appearance, brushing away the debris that had accumulated vigorously with both hands. Kizamaru was very much a perfectionist. Everything he did had to be perfect, whether it was eating a balanced and nutritious meal or filing and approving paperwork, it had to be done flawlessly otherwise it wasn't worth doing. This, of course, included his appearance. Every day he woke up early to give himself time to ensure he shihakushō was free of any imperfections, that his hair was free from knots and that his face was free from blemishes. Any day that he found a miniscule spot on his cheek or a stray nose hair protruding from a nostril was the worst day of his life, and he ensured that it was the same for anyone who had the misfortune of bumping into him.
Today had been a good day for Kizamaru, however. After learning of Tomohiro's graduation he quickly sought out his location with the single intent of challenging him to a duel. The two of them had not fought one another in a while; their last contest was over a year ago in the academy. That time Tomohiro had come out on top, disarming Kizamaru after only a minute. Kizamaru clenched his fists in anger at the thought of his failure against his sworn rival, he had been unable to obtain revenge after his defeat as he had graduated shortly after, but he was determined to prove himself better than Tomohiro. Kizamaru had worked tirelessly to improve his swordplay, even managing to share a few sparring matches against the Sotaicho, knowing that one day Tomohiro would graduate and he could set the record straight.
His thoughts of revenge were disturbed by the sudden appearance of an all too familiar reiatsu approaching him. Turning his head to the left, Kizamaru immediately met the distance gaze of his opponent. As he had expected Tomohiro had adjusted his shihakushō's sleeves, bringing them up to his shoulders and tying them in place to allow his arms to move more easily. Similarly he had tied back his mess of brown hair behind a strip of orange cloth acting as a bandana to stop it from blocking his vision. Unable to contain his anticipation for the impending duel he leapt to his feet resting his left hand on the hilt of his zanpakuto. As Tomohiro's face came into view Kizamaru noticed the hint of a smile on the edge of his rival's mouth, making it clear that he was just as eager to commence the duel as Kizamaru was.
"I see you still roll up your sleeves like a barbarian," Kizamaru sneered as Tomohiro stopped a few yards away from him, folding his arms across his chest as if expecting the comment.
"So, what are the rules of our contest, Tanzei-ouji?" Tomohiro replied, ignoring the long-haired man's remark.
"My my, are you that eager to be-"
"Just tell me the damn rules so we can get it over with," Tomohiro interrupted clearly not interested in hearing whatever insults Kizamaru had planned.
"Fine, but there's no need to get riled up," Kizamaru said with mock annoyance. "We will fight with only our unreleased zanpakuto, using no kidō or hohō. The winner will be the first person to successfully disarm their opponent or force them to concede defeat." It was essentially just like one of their sparring sessions in the academy and Tomohiro recognised this almost immediately cocking his eyebrow up at this realisation.
"You've had this planned for a while now haven't you? Ever since I beat you in that first sparring match you've hated me, constantly looking for the next opportunity to one-up me whatever way you can."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Kizamaru lied as his mind searched desperately for a snarky response, "I just wanted to give you a chance to face an opponent of real calibre since that division of yours is filled with everyone else's rejects. And besides fighting you is the closest one can get to facing a Hollow, what with all your mindless slashing and lack of finesse."
"Sure that makes complete sense. I mean you came out of the blue, probably travelling across the whole of Seireitei, just to insult me and Kumakichi. And then, after seeing that I wasn't in the best of moods after your constant taunting, you decided to offer me the chance to settle my grievances with a duel," Tomohiro said with more than a hint of sarcasm.
"I wouldn't have chosen those exact words, but yes I suppose that sums it up," Kizamaru replied none too surely. Tomohiro hadn't finished his attack on his rival's motive for instigating the duel however.
"Not only that, but you also happened to have the papers that proved you were a sixth seat with you, perhaps on the off chance that I might ask for some sort of proof of your rank, or do people often challenge the fact that you're an officer," Tomohiro said the last words with great satisfaction knowing that he had revealed Kizamaru's true intentions.
"Oh come now, you don't really think, I'd be so vain to…," Kizamaru trailed off after seeing the shrewd smile on Tomohiro's face. "Don't look so smug, you annoying little brat, you're just as desperate to prove yourself against me! I didn't exactly have to twist your arm to get you to accept my offer of a duel, did I?" Kizamaru's face was now bright red with rage.
"You're right," Tomohiro said calmly, "I do want to fight you. So let's settle this right here, right now." Tomohiro slowly drew his zanpakuto, letting its blade slide smoothly out of its orange and black sheath. Kizamaru similarly drew his own sword adopting his familiar battle stance placing one foot in front of the other and gripping his zanpakuto's hilt tightly with both hands. The two men nodded to one another, signalling they were ready.
"Begin!" Kizamaru shouted as he moved rapidly towards Tomohiro bringing his sword down in a swift diagonal cut. It was nothing more than an initial strike to test his opponent's reflexes, Tomohiro easily deflecting the blow and shifting his body away to the right, holding his katana in his left hand and supporting its blade with his right. Continuing with the momentum of his parry, Tomohiro spun around on his left foot, trailing out his right leg, aiming to trip Kizamaru with a sweeping kick. Before the attack could connect Kizamaru leapt, letting Tomohiro's leg brush harmlessly beneath his feet. The sweeping kick was only a decoy, however, as Tomohiro continued to rotate on the spot, this time leading with his zanpakuto in his left hand, slashing wildly at Kizamaru chest as he descended from his leap. Unable to fully block, Kizamaru only managed to deflect the strike upwards, sending it away from his body but along the length of his sword and towards his right arm, Tomohiro's blade tearing into the sleeve of his kosode and grazing his skin.
"You cut me!" screamed Kizamaru half in fury and half in surprise as he leapt several paces backwards from his opponent, clutching at his wounded arm. Tomohiro flicked his katana sending the shreds of black cloth dotted with specks of blood that clung on to its blade to the dusty ground.
"That's what happens when you fight with real swords and you don't take your opponent seriously," Tomohiro stated calmly. "Try hitting me for real this time and don't leave yourself so open."
"You petulant little twerp!" growled Kizamaru unable to hide his rage. "I'll show you how a real man fights!" Within a flash he charged within inches of Tomohiro, the point of his zanpakuto aimed at the gut of his sworn rival. Tomohiro had little time to react, just shifting his own sword in time to send the blade away from him and propelling himself to Kizamaru's left. His opponent didn't allow him any respite however, Kizamaru quickly charging back towards Tomohiro swinging his sword down in a vicious two-handed slash. This time Tomohiro dived out of the way, rolling to the right as Kizamaru's zanpakuto cracked the ground with its fierce impact sending shards of the hard red earth into the air. Before Tomohiro could even get to his feet, his raven haired opponent was already rapidly approaching him; his arms arced back for another vicious assault. Tomohiro was once again able to dodge by the skin of his teeth, Kizamaru's zanpakuto only managing to slice a few strands of orange thread from his opponent's makeshift bandana.
As soon as Kizamaru had finished his last swing he darted once more towards Tomohiro, his face contorted into a wicked grin, knowing that his rival was only able to recoil from his constant barrage of attacks. With one swift movement he brought his zanpakuto across horizontally towards Tomohiro's waist. Knowing he was unable to dodge the strike, Tomohiro just managed to bring his sword to meet Kizamaru's blade, supporting his katana with the reverse of his right arm. Despite his successful block the force behind Kizamaru's attack was so great that it sent Tomohiro flying towards the forest bordering the training grounds, the scruffy haired shinigami crashing into the trunk of a leafless tree.
Tomohiro cursed as he stumbled to his feet, his back searing with pain and his right arm bleeding from the impact of his own zanpakuto recoiling into his arm, its blunt edge managing to pierce his skin due to the ferocity behind Kizamaru's sword. Fully expecting another attack from his opponent, Tomohiro began to move out of the tree line, searching for Kizamaru, with his zanpakuto held firmly with both hands ready to block any incoming attacks. As he stood back out from the shadow of the densely packed trees, Tomohiro became immediately aware that his opponent was no longer standing on the training fields dusty ground. Twisting his head to the right, Tomohiro met the focused gaze of Kizamaru who stood several yards away on top of a reddish-brown boulder, holding his sword horizontally out in front of him. Tomohiro's muddy-green eyes widened as he came to the realisation of what was about to hit him.
"Hadō Number 32: Ōkasen!"
Within an instant Tomohiro was engulfed by a bright yellow light and propelled backwards into a large rock similar in size to the one Kizamaru was standing on. As quickly as the light had surrounded him a cloud of dust and debris erupted around him as he smashed into rocky ground. A satisfied smirk began to play on Kizamaru's lips as he marvelled at the ash cloud that enveloped his defeated adversary. He tilted his zanpakuto down to his side ready to slide it back into his scabbard but stopped halfway, distracted by the unexpected burst of reiatsu that seemed to come from the clouded crated.
Before Kizamaru could focus on the sudden spike of spiritual energy a bloodied Tomohiro leapt into the air from the smokescreen wielding a pitch black halberd with a crescent shaped axe head. With monstrous force Tomohiro slammed his lunar-headed weapon down in a vertical arc, seemingly aiming to slice Kizamaru in two. A surge of rock and dust shot from the ground as his swing made contact with the boulder, Kizamaru just managing to dive away from the lethal attack, skidding to a halt several yards away. Tomohiro turned unsteadily to face his opponent once more, his heart racing uncontrollably as he tried to control the urge to charge back over to Kizamaru and tear him limb from limb.
"Y-you tried to kill me and you released your zanpakuto!" yelled Kizamaru, his face a picture of indignation, shocked at the ferocity of Tomohiro's last attack.
"As if you have a right to complain," Tomohiro barked in response, blood pouring from his forehead, matting with his hair and bandana, "you could have equally killed me with that kidō!" Kizamaru smirked as if having only just remembered blindsiding Tomohiro with a mid-level hadō spell.
"Oh yes, I believe you are right. I suppose I may have momentarily forgotten the rules of our little duel," Kizamaru tailed off, an uncharacteristic look of concern emerging on his face. "A-are you ok Tomo-kun?" he remarked as Tomohiro began to sway a little, steadying himself by leaning onto his halberd shaped zanpakuto.
"I-I'm f-fine… I ju-just feel a bit faint," Tomohiro replied shakily holding a bloody hand to his pale face, his vision beginning to become fuzzy around the edges. "C-come on we can… we can… continue our duel as we are…." And with that he collapsed to the ground.