"Keigo?" Mizuiro asked his idiotic friend. "Do you think Tatsuki's acting strange?"
"Yeah! She hasn't hit anyone in a week!"
"Do you think she went back to the weird man with the striped fedora?"
"Why would you say that?"
"Ichigo, Sado, and Ishida-san disappeared into a giant hole in dimensions. It's normal to figure SOMETHING is up."
"But Arisawa hasn't disappeared, she's still here!"
"So is Ichigo. But it's not Ichigo, we saw him leave. And it's not Arisawa, either. It's like someone else is in their bodies."
"Why do you say that?"
"They don't act like Arisawa and Ichigo, and when they're around it doesn't FEEL like Arisawa and Ichigo. It's a little nonsensical but it's like I can feel their presences, and they're not here anymore."
"Yeah, I get that a little too."
"Do you think she went back to the man with the weird hat?"
"I don't know. He was really scary."
"I'm going there after school."
"WHAT? But he's a freak!"
"But I want to know what's going on."
"I guess I'll go with you. I want to know, too."
"It feels so empty up here."
"Yeah. Ichigo eats downstairs, like everyone else. I guess fake Ichigo doesn't know that he's supposed to eat up here."
"And Chad's not here either."
"He went through that hole."
"Along with that nerd that Ichigo brought up here."
"Ishida-kun, yeah. And Inoue-san, when she ate up here."
"Ah, Inoue-san! Why did you disappear!"
"Ha, I fucking did it!" Tatsuki cheered, fist pumping the air. Urahara clapped slowly.
"Now, you may advance to part three of the training." he said. Tatsuki frowned.
"I've made it. I'm a shinigami now. What more is there?"
"Well, you have to knock my hat off." It seemed too easy. This was Urahara, Hat-and-Clogs, there had to be a catch. Tatsuki had never been one to show weakness, though.
"No problem." she said, grinning, but with a growing feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach. Urahara only smiled wider, making the feeling intensify much faster. She already regretted having said her cocky words.
"I'm waiting~" he said, grinning. She took a deep breath, gulped, and charged.
Her sword was headed to a point slightly above his head, so it would only catch his hat. In one fluid and almost invisible motion, the eccentric man drew a thin sword from his cane, deflected her sword, and dodged. Tatsuki fell, her knees and hands dragging across the training room's dirt floor. She stood up and turned around as quickly as she could. Urahara still wore his haunting smile. She remembered the voice in her head, telling her she couldn't lose her will to fight. She wiped her hands on her shikahusho and stood at the ready. Considering the mystery surrounding the man, that was probably just a small sample of his fighting skills.
"Wise move, waiting for the opponent to strike first." Urahara said helpfully. Tatsuki continued to watch his every movement. "But, if you don't try I'll gladly stand around all day." Tatsuki made a feint, trying to see if he would attack her, but he seemed to know that it was a feint and did not even move. She ground her teeth. Infuriating trickster. Tatsuki was pissed now. And when Tatsuki is pissed she can easily break concrete walls and run as fast as a cheetah. Which is, unfortunately, slower than shunpo, and weaker than Urahara.
The battle was really on now. Tatsuki continued to strike, clumsily, but relentlessly. Urahara deflected and dodged every blow with a smile on his face. After closely dodging another stab, at his stomach, it seemed that the girl had forgotten she was trying to knock his hat off and not kill him. Oh well, there was only one remedy for that. It was really surprising how alike Ichigo and this girl were. Urahara attacked, chopping the flimsy spiritless sword in half. Tatsuki looked like she was about to be hit by an electronic train at full speed. Which is actually similar to what was about to happen. Tatsuki was the one dodging now, her blocks did nothing but reduce the length of her sword. There was some kind of red energy shooting from Urahara's sword when he swung. It blew up rocks and ground around her.
He was obviously going easy on her. Otherwise she would have been the target for those red things. She tried to think out her situation. Urahara was obviously not using his full strength, and she did not know what his full strength was. Major disadvantage. He was also astoundingly fast, and if Ichigo's description of shunpo was anything to go by, this was nothing compared to his maximum speed. Another major disadvantage. The man had to be hundreds of years old, more skilled. Yet another major disadvantage. Tatsuki briefly wondered if she had any advantages at all.
Then, she realized grimly, she didn't. But, that wasn't the point. Ichigo didn't either. He was still physically weaker than her. But, what he did have, and what she also did, was an inexplicable fighting spirit. She remembered the dismembered voice in the white space.
Turning around abruptly, she held up her arms in front of her, a defensive stance. She didn't bother raising her sword, knowing her flimsy sword was no use against the other katana. Ichigo had mentioned shinigami swords had names, right? She, for some unknown reason, felt the urge to say something. Maybe, just maybe, it was that same voice in her head again. Everything turned quiet, white, peaceful.
And all of a sudden, she was holding a much more familiar pair of weapons, tonfas. And the eccentric man was right in front of her. And she raised her arm, faster than she could see. It took her a split second to realize she had raised it at all. The man jumped back smoothly, For just a second, she had the upper hand. She jumped, barely missing his hat with her weapon as she came down. But no. Somehow, the green hat was on the floor.
"Congratulations." Urahara said neutrally. Tatsuki allowed herself to relax. "Now to stage four."
"WHAT?" she growled, raising her arms in an attack stance, dark aura surrounding her once again.