The Will To Protect
I do not own BLEACH. It belongs to Kubo Tite. This story contains spoilers of the manga chapters 195 and up. If you have not read thus far in the manga or you only watch the anime and do not wish to be spoiled, feel free to click the back button. To fit this plot, the timeline has been tweaked. Also, do not sue if you do not like the pairing. Feel free to hit the back button at any point. I only own this plot. Thank you.
He didn't waste a second. As soon as Urahara and Yoruichi took over, he made a dash over to her house. If what the exiled shinigami said was true, it meant that she was in danger too… He had to protect her from them. And it wasn't just because of his duty…
As soon as he sensed the arrival of the Allankar, his first concern wasn't about reverting to his shinigami form. In fact, it was far from the simple task of popping a Soul Candy into his mouth to expel his soul from his gigai.
His mind was on her.
He was worried about her.
'Her' being one of Ichigo's high school friends.
'Her' being Arisawa Tatsuki.
If the situation wasn't already so tense, Renji could've smacked himself. Why in the world was he worrying about that human girl, albeit one with some amount of spiritual power, when there was also an Allankar heading for him? Besides, she didn't have enough spiritual power to pose a threat to the Allankars. He had pressing concerns himself too, considering the Allankar had just appeared before him. Well, he had no time to think about her anymore. If he wanted to live, he had to fight this Allankar… and win.
His opposition charged at him, zanpakutou drawn. Renji drew out his Zabimaru and blocked the attack. The surging amount of spirit power through both zanpakutous caused a small explosion and both spiritual beings jumped apart to avoid the aftershocks. Renji was preparing a second attack when he heard someone call him.
"Abarai-san! Leave this to us!"
Despite knowing it was a stupid move, Renji spared a quick glance behind him to see Urahara and Yoruichi. Urahara had his zanpakutou out and Yoruichi was in her ninja battle outfit. Then in a flash, Yoruichi was beside him and Urahara had gone ahead to engage the Allankar in combat.
"Yoruichi-san! Are y-"
"We can take him, Renji. The Allankars aren't just aiming for you shinigamis and Ichigo."
"What?" At Yoruichi's words, which held grim undercurrents, he felt a chill run down his spine and his grip on Zabimaru tightened. If they weren't going to target just the shinigamis, it meant that they were no doubt going to attack…
"That's right. They're going to kill anyone who has even half a speck of spiritual power," Urahara added, as he gracefully – almost leisurely – jumped away from an impending strike. "I suggest that you should go and protect the weaker ones." He turned back to send a powerful blast towards his opponent.
Renji couldn't help it. His mind reverted automatically back to her and his initial worry sprang back, and attacked him with ten times the original power. Shit. This was bad. Very bad. Knowing Tatsuki's nature from what he had seen so far, she would never run away from a fight, especially one who could give her a good contest. At least not until she had tried to defeat them and realized that she really couldn't. Even then, Renji wasn't very sure the female spitfire would have the sense to just put down her pride and run far, far away.
"Then I'll leave it to you two," he said to Yoruichi and Urahara as he bounded up to the rooftop. He barely heard the duo's reply as he had broke off into a run towards the general direction of Tatsuki's house.
As he ran and leapt over dozens of rooftops, Renji couldn't help but pray and hope fervently that the Allankar had not arrived yet. Or if it had… well, he just hoped that Tatsuki would run… and run at breakneck speed. But somehow he couldn't fathom the black-haired tomboy escaping just because of an Allankar's appearance; something that she didn't know actually existed.
Renji had first noticed Tatsuki as she was constantly around Orihime. He soon found out that they were best friends and that due to Orihime being the number one target of the class' sex-crazed lesbian, Chizuru, Tatsuki was constantly putting the redhead female in her place. Which was, of course, in the form of harsh punches or kicks. He also knew firsthand that she rarely backed down from anything that threatened (or seemed to threaten in his case) her and her friends' safety no matter how large the odds were against her.
It was something he admired; yet he knew that trait of hers would undoubtedly cost Tatsuki her life in the impending situation…
It had been the shinigamis' fifth day at Karakura High School. They were still getting accustomed to the ways of modern life… and the most infuriating thing they had all encountered so far was still the darned juice pack.
Ichigo had starkly refused to show them how to open the juice pack after the first time. So it was left to just Rukia, who had finally learnt how to open it after having stayed in the human realm for a few months before, and Hitsugaya, who had gotten the hang of it after two tries ("Tensai…" Ikkaku had muttered sulkily), to help the rest who were still struggling with the fiddly things even after five days.
Unfortunately, that Friday, he had been alone when he encountered the tricky pack again. After trying valiantly to open it for about ten minutes, Renji was close to giving up when Orihime appeared. Despite knowing that the orange-haired girl could be quite the airhead, he decided that there was no harm in asking her for help. It would be less embarrassing than asking Hitsugaya or even Rukia. And although he found the object tricky, he was relatively sure that it wouldn't cause as much trouble as a Hollow on a soul-hunting spree.
"Eh, Inoue-san, could you help me with this juice pack?"
"Of course, Renji-kun!" the girl replied cheerily as she took the pack from him. Sometimes Renji wondered where she got all her energy from even after getting injured very badly by the first two Allankars.
As Orihime was removing the straw, she asked, "Renji-kun… Why are you and the other shinigamis here? Is Kurosaki-kun going to be in trouble?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Because Kurosaki-kun wouldn't tell me anything… And I know you all still have a lot to do in Soul Society after the three captains' betrayal…"
Renji noticed that Orihime had poked the straw into the, he presumed, correct place a little harsher than what was required and guessed that it was her nerves working on overdrive that caused the less than gentle ministration on the juice pack. This girl was really worried about Ichigo. Still, he had to reassure her. It'd do no good if she freaked out and placed herself in greater danger.
"Don't worry, Inoue-san. He'll be fine." Renji placed a hand on Orihime's shoulder to comfort her as his other hand reached out for the juice pack Orihime was holding out to him.
Unfortunately for him, at that moment Tatsuki appeared, and took the wrong signal from the fact that his hand was on Orihime's shoulder. In what seemed like less than a second, Tatsuki was in front of him and had pulled Orihime behind her. She had a deep scowl on her face and a death glare that, in his opinion, was fairly reminiscent of Captain Kuchiki's. Well, if he could hold his captain's death glares, hers was nothing to be worried about.
"Look here Abarai, I don't care if you're the new hotshot around here and that the girls are falling flat at your feet. If you try anything funny on Orihime, you'll have to deal with me first. Got it?" she snarled at him and he felt her spiritual power flare.
"You're reading things too deeply Arisawa. I'm not planning on 'trying anything funny' Inoue-san. Stop being so overprotective. It's not like you can always protect her!" The last bit was very true. If whatever was attacking Orihime was a Hollow or some spiritual being, Tatsuki would be more of a hindrance to Orihime. Of course, he couldn't let Tatsuki know that since it would require a lot more of explaining than he would like to do.
"Are you doubting my ability to protect Orihime, Abarai? Want a match right here, right now? I'll prove to you that I'm more than capable!"
"Tatsuki-chan!" Orihime protested. "You don't have to! Renji-kun was-"
Orihime's words were cut short when Tatsuki launched herself at him. Not wanting to attack a female, Renji had stepped out of the way, neatly avoiding the punch. However, he soon realized that Tatsuki was persistent as she had almost immediately turned and aimed a kick at him, which he easily blocked due to his shinigami reflexes. It wasn't a fair fight, and he didn't want to hurt anyone unnecessarily.
Yet Tatsuki continued her pursuit, unrelenting in her attacks. Renji was impressed by her determination, however he wasn't in the mood for dealing with this fight and sought to end it as quickly as possible. With a few deft moves on his part, Tatsuki was panting on the ground, though still glaring up at him.
Walking away from both girls, he called back, "I'll say it again: You're reading too much into it. See you around Arisawa, Inoue-san."
"Ah… Bye, Renji-kun!"
"This is far from over, Abarai!"
And it really wasn't over. He had a few more brushes with the girl, sometimes in the classroom and sometimes out of it. During all their encounters, be it in or out of the classroom of Class 1-3, it had never ended amicably. Apparently, Tatsuki prided herself as being the best fighter in Karakura High and therefore took her defeat to him as a blow to her pride. Thus most of their encounters out of class always had something to do with their first fight.
Strangely, with each of their encounters, he began to respect and like the girl even more. She was not only quick with her movements during combat, she had a sharp tongue too and Renji soon decided that even verbal sparring with Tatsuki was an interesting challenge that he derived much amusement from. It also helped him work on his responses to her jibes, which he decided that it could be rather useful when he returned to Soul Society. Through all their run-ins, Renji was starting to see why Rukia had changed after staying in the human world. If Rukia had been associating with the bunch of people from Ichigo's class, it was extremely easy to see the reason. Not to mention she had to act 'normal' to prevent anyone from suspecting of her origins.
He paused on a rooftop to detect the spiritual auras in his surroundings. He wasn't exactly sure of where Tatsuki's house was; he just knew the general direction. A few moments later, Renji had successfully picked up and zoned in on her spirit pressure and was very relieved to know that no Allankar had arrived yet. However, there was a foreign and sinister aura heading rapidly towards the vicinity of Tatsuki's home. Renji picked up his pace, putting his developing shunpo to good use.
Renji just hoped that Tatsuki wouldn't be so damned stubborn when he told her to run.
Tatsuki lay back on her bed, her hands pillowing her head as she stared up at the ceiling. The past week or so had been somewhat interesting and rather infuriating at the same time. Her class had five new students, four males and one female. And all five were strange in their own way… and that was when she disregarded the fact that they all knew Ichigo and Rukia, who had mysteriously reappeared after disappearing without a trace and disappearing from everyone's memory except hers, Orihime's and most likely Ichigo's. She momentarily wondered why it was her class that was getting new transfer students. The classroom had barely enough space to accommodate any more tables!
Anyway, back to the new students.
Firstly, the female student – Matsumoto Rangiku. For one thing, her top was way too small for her… and she had already unbuttoned the top button of her blouse. Despite knowing that whoever became the next target of Chizuru would be, undeniably, very unlucky, when Matsumoto walked in, Tatsuki couldn't help but hope that Chizuru would stop trying to 'seduce' Orihime and pursue the new girl instead. After seeing how Matsumoto handled Keigo, Tatsuki decided that Matsumoto was more than capable of fending off Chizuru. Her unexpected punch had sent Keigo sprawling on the floor in an unsightly heap. He was then unable to move for a very, very long time.
Next, Madarame Ikkaku. The guy was bald for heaven's sake. Who was bald at the age of fifteen? Well, she wasn't that stupid to point it out, especially after seeing what he did to the unfortunate classmate who had mentioned it – twice. It was obvious from that incident he was well versed in martial arts and could handle a real sword despite the one he had then was a wooden one. Madarame was definitely a rough sort of person, which made the next thing about him extremely weird.
He was a buddy of Ayasegawa Yumichika.
Tatsuki wouldn't go as far as to say that Ayasegawa was a sissy. But the guy could definitely be described as beautiful without one feeling odd at the description. He was almost feminine… what with that strange feather-like object from his eyelash… In her opinion, Ayasegawa seemed like the type who would fret over a broken fingernail. Thus she couldn't see how Madarame and Ayasegawa could be such good friends when they seemed to be on the opposite ends of the electromagnetic spectrum. But she wasn't about to analyze them to figure it out.
Then there was the short, white-haired student, Hitsugaya Toushirou. He looked much too young to be in high school (she thought he was a primary school kid who had wandered into the wrong school at first until she noticed that he was wearing their school uniform) and had some sort of an attitude problem too. He barely listened in class, but she soon found out that it was perfectly fine and very much justified for him. He was a genius, and extremely quick-witted. Ochi-sensei, as strange and ditzy as she could be, had actually noticed his inattentiveness and had called him up several times in hopes of catching him off guard with a question.
Every attempt backfired.
And he left the whole class – plus Ochi-sensei – immensely impressed.
Another thing she found strange about Hitsugaya was that he seemed to be the leader of the five new students despite being vertically challenged and how he seemed to be very much younger than the rest. Matsumoto was the one who seemed to respect him the most although she had a flamboyant way around the male, which Tatsuki decided was the strangest thing about Hitsugaya and Matsumoto. But Hitsugaya had a commanding aura surrounding him that demanded respect from everyone. The other four listened to what he said almost indefinitely, though there was the odd command that went unheeded… to usually dire results for the person who didn't listen to him. He had also effectively put Keigo in his place when the latter had teased him about his height. ("If being taller equates to having the maturity of a pre-school kid, I'd gladly stay short. Thank you very much.")
Lastly, there was Abarai Renji. Tatsuki scowled at the mere thought of his name. She personally felt that Abarai was the strangest out of the lot. He had shocking red hair that was tied up (he was as easily noticeable as Ichigo, if not more so), weird black tattoos that seemed to replace his eyebrows and she bet that he had the same kind of tattoos over his body too. Somewhat like those punks out on the streets these days. He was loud, brash and somewhat rude. Grudgingly, she had to admit that he was a skilled fighter, different from how those punks fought in huge numbers, as they didn't have the real skill to hold their own.
Still, she didn't like him.
Who cared if the girls from the other classes were swooning over him whenever he walked down the corridors surrounded by his usual group of friends?
Who cared if he was rather popular with the general population of their class, inclusive of the girls who weren't the type to swoon over any guy who came their way?
She definitely didn't.
That was the end of the relatively interesting part of her week. Now, for the infuriating part:
Tatsuki still could not get over the fact that Abarai Renji had defeated her in a fight.
In all her years in school, be it primary school or high school, she had been the undefeated champion at judo or any sort of fight. She had only lost once, which was at the finals of the Nationals. However, Tatsuki was pretty confident that she was a great fighter. And then in came Abarai and proceeded to humiliate her. She decided that their first encounter wasn't an intentional humiliation, but she was sure that as the days went by, Abarai began to take delight in infuriating and annoying her. Needless to say, she loathed it. However, the source of her real infuriation wasn't exactly the redhead. Of course it concerned him, but it wasn't exactly his fault. In fact, she was angry with herself.
Tatsuki had decided a few days ago that getting worked up just because of Abarai and his ways wasn't good for her health and she should stop jumping for his baits and get angry in the process. So for that point, her anger had cooled somewhat, but that wasn't to say that she found Abarai a neutral party. She still disliked him.
Or so she told herself. Despite how annoyed Abarai could make her, she started finding herself getting used to it and even on the brink of enjoying it. It wasn't everyday that there was someone who she could challenge to a fight – verbal or physical – and could put up a good resistance. Or in Abarai's case, be able to defeat her more than once. He was the first obstacle that she hadn't been able to take down with one or two tries and would subsequently tease her because of her inability to do so. Tatsuki found herself liking to face Abarai's challenge, which inadvertently made her notice a little more about Abarai than she would've liked.
This of course caused a lot of complications. And she did not wish to, or want to, acknowledge that she was starting to like the guy… in perhaps a slightly more than friendly way. Their jibes at each other was like a daily occurrence, and when she analyzed it carefully, it seemed more like friendly banter, or perhaps even – Tatsuki never knew she had an over-imaginative mind – like the heated bantering between a boy and a girl who liked each other but just didn't know how to express it.
Tatsuki was suddenly and roughly jerked out of her thoughts as she heard a crash and then a tinkling sound of glass falling onto her study table. She rapidly sat upright on her bed, ready to attack if it was a person who had caused her window to break.
However, nothing prepared her for whom she saw.
Abarai Renji was crouching on her study table, looking totally unfazed by it.
The prologue is done! Yay! My first multi-chaptered short story for the animanga BLEACH! Well, this is a fairly new pairing, hope all you readers will like it! Thank you!