Title: In the Line of Duty- 20 Ways Eleventh Division Members Lived and Died
Universe: Bleach
Rating: R for blood and violence.
Pairing/Character/s: Eleventh Division (OMCS to the max), Yamamoto
Word Count: 6,916
Warning/s: Spoilers for the SS arc and speculations on the past and the future. Also, death. So yeah.
Summary: Remembering those who died and who will die—past, present, and future.
Dedication: For sophiap—thanks for all the encouragement, lovely.
A/N: Once again, done completely unofficially and for my own amusement. Though this is one of those stories I don't know whether I like or hate. It's kind of a mixture, I guess. Like, I finished it and seriously thought to myself "I don't know if this is worth posting." Well, as long as it's finally out of my system I suppose that's all that matters. Apologies for the suckage and the melodrama. XD
Disclaimer: Not mine- I'm not that creative.
Distribution: Just lemme know.

1. Amano Shouji

Amano Shouji bled to death.

He'd been around for a long time—not great as a shinigami but not bad either, unseated and hard working. He'd seen the fall of his last captain and the rise of his new one, remembered that he was a fighter and not a thinker and knew that as long as he fought—didn't matter for who— he'd be okay, even if he died.

He died in Rukongai during a bar brawl with some of his fellow division members. Took a glass bottle to the side of the neck that sent blood in a magnificent spray everywhere, all over.

Kept that same bottle from getting into Shido's head though, and the coward that'd tried getting his pal from behind learned his fuckin' lesson when Amano clasped his palm tight as he could over his gushing wound, and as his vision was fadin' out around the edges, reached out and snapped the asshole's neck one-handed.

He died grinning at the rest of his buddies—victorious—and even managed to flash a thumbs up before he faded out, asking them to tell taichou he went down fighting.

He didn't have any regrets, and knew Shido would pay off his tab for him after he was gone.

2. Kaneyasu Shido

Kaneyasu Shido was eaten by Hollows.

The eleventh had stranded itself deep inside enemy territory during a particularly vicious multi-division battle formation and many members had been badly injured, were on the brink of death. Shido and Hayashimizu had volunteered to meet the fourth division members who were willing to chance taking the field with them so that they could reach the eleventh and treat its wounded.

Many lives were on the line.

On the way back the group ran into an ambush and all but one fourth division member ended up being slaughtered. The pansies.

Shido and Hayashimizu fought as hard as they could, and when it got almost hopeless, Shido pushed them onward and ordered his junior officer to no matter what, make it back to base camp with that little fourth division weenie alive.

Shido didn't like the fourth, never would, but it was okay to die for one so long as he made it back to do his goddamned job.

Shido—vomiting blood— poured all his remaining reiatsu into summoning his sword, and called out his shikai in a brilliant flash of light before he was eventually overwhelmed and devoured.

Hayashimizu swore he saw at least twenty of the bastards go down from that bright light before his senpai was ripped apart.

The rest of the regiment got its medical treatment.

Shido had no regrets.

3. Hayashimizu Ryo

Hayashimizu Ryo was cut in half.

Mission accomplished and he'd insisted on going back for what he could find of Shido-senpai's body, exhausted and bloody himself but with enough fire in his eyes that Madarame-sanseki had allowed them to go—in the dead of night with a time limit of two hours, "or I'll kill you bastards myself," Ikkaku had said.

Ryo and classmate Shindo Harukaze made it out to the field, to the burned out area Ryo had last seen Shido-senpai alive.

They found a nest of sleeping Hollows, full maybe, from feasting on a shinigami's flesh.

Ryo had never been someone great in the division, but he'd also never been afraid of anything his whole damned life. He saw the mask of the one he'd seen strike his senpai for the last time amongst the throng and went forward, charged the fucker screaming and gutted it in one fell swoop. Then he stepped inside and pulled out his senpai's arm and torn bits of hakama, right from inside its stomach. The creature screamed and writhed and then Ryo—covered in gore—stabbed the bastard in the eye.

He'd tossed that arm to Harukaze right before he was split in two by the enormous claws of a monster Hollow that'd woken up from the noise of its dying comrade.

Ryo died right in front of Harukaze's eyes, and his panicked classmate had only been able to get half of that body to carry back to camp as he'd run, tears in his eyes.

They laid to rest the parts they'd managed to get with full honors and Ikkaku said that both had died well.

They went back to war an hour later.

None of them had any regrets.

4. Shindo Harukaze

Shindo Harukaze was crushed to death.

They'd been sent out to forage for food near the river at the edge of the cliff face in that same goddamned war, and he'd been put in charge since Ryo had died the night before. As they'd been finishing with the fish they'd managed to catch, some falling debris alerted him to an enemy presence, and Harukaze ordered those with the goods to immediately retreat back to base camp. He and the Kurokawa twins remained to stave off any attacks from behind.

Three enormous winged hollows had swooped down on them then, had carried off Kurokawa Sanada before they'd known what hit them. Shindo had had to force Ranmaru back from going after his older brother because there was just no chance.

He managed to fire off his shikai at one of the bastards on its second pass above the canyon but his shot clipped one of its wings and sent it barreling into the rock face directly above them. Thousands of pounds of debris rained down then, and he managed to strong arm Ranmaru out of a boulder's path—fucker looked like he wanted it— and sent the dumbass into the rapid current of the river instead.

"GET BACK TO CAMP AND EAT SOME GODDAMNED FISH, YOU STUPID FUCK!" were the last words out of his mouth before he was buried under the debris.

When he got back to camp after pulling himself out of the current, Ranmaru was given a roasted fish on a stick and told everyone what had happened.

He ate his fish and it was delicious.

He knew Shindo-san had died with no regrets.

5. Kurokawa Ranmaru

Kurokawa Ranmaru was blown apart.

He survived the battle his brother hadn't and from that day forward fought like every day was his last. He lived many years afterwards and got stronger than he'd been, learned to make himself a real eleventh division member.

When the ryoka invaded he wasn't scared.

He'd seen and heard a thousand worse things already—blood gurgling from a senpai's mouth as he was bombarded to death with stones, his brother's pained cries as his head was crunched between a hollow's massive jaws.

Compared to all those things, the kid with the smoking arm he'd approached—sword at the ready—hadn't scared him a bit.

The kid had looked at him, equally unafraid, and for a moment, they'd both understood one another.

If they lived they lived victorious, if they died, they died well.

When he felt the blast of energy explode into his face, the force tearing him apart, Ranmaru grinned and whooped and couldn't wait to see Sanada-aniki again in the afterlife.

He wasn't scared, and like all those who lived and died by the sword of the eleventh before him, he had no regrets.

6. Minamino Ryu

Minamino Ryu died on the operating table.

Clipped in the blast of ferocious energy that had torn Kurokawa apart, Ryu lost both legs and slammed back into one of the perfect white walls that lined seireitei, rupturing organs, breaking ribs, tearing muscle. He'd hit the ground and tried to crawl forward anyway, still had his arms and his zanpakutou and so long as there was breath alongside the blood in his lungs he'd fight.

But the tall ryoka was gone then, and Ryu faded to black after he'd managed to crawl five feet forward.

Fourth division members dispatched to the scene just a few minutes later—called by Kyouraku-taichou—managed to transport him to their hospice for emergency surgery.

They worked on him from there and he fought for just as long as he could, but in the end no one had been able to save him but Unohana-taichou, who had not been present.

The reluctant surgeon gave the news to a room full of eleventh division shinigami, all in various states of injury themselves.

Since Ryu wasn't able to do it for himself, they all promptly began harassing the stupid-ass failure of a fourth division doctor who'd worked on him.

For weeks.

It was all old Ryu ever would have asked for.

7. Minamino Kazuma

Minamino Kazuma was run through by a member of the ninth division.

He was given his cousin's good-luck necklace after Ryu was pronounced dead—it was covered in blood and chipped from the force of whatever it had been that had killed the older man—and despite a bleeding head-wound and a broken arm, Kazuma went back on the front lines hunting the ryoka the very same day.

He and his division mates scoured the area looking for the offenders, right up until the moment that they felt their taichou's reiatsu blast full power up into the sky, an angry, fearsome explosion of yellow light in the distance.

They ran to his side then, and when they found him bloody and beaten and being lectured by Yachiru, it with was immense relief that they helped him up and carried him to the fourth division headquarters for treatment.

He had an incredibly happy look in his eye that day, and Kazuma thought that to see taichou so excited about a fight made everything worth it.

Later, when Zaraki-taichou took the side of the ryoka, the eleventh took the side of the ryoka too—despite how many of them had died at ryoka hands—and fought tooth and nail against former comrades without asking for so much as a word of explanation from Kenpachi.

A bunch of zealots from the ninth sneered at them and called them idiots and traitors, the kind of men who followed a monster like Zaraki blindly.

Kazuma spit at them and killed just as many as he could, because even if he was an idiot and a traitor, he didn't follow Zaraki for no reason.

He believed in his captain and that was all he needed.

And he died for his captain too, on the fourth-seat of the ninth division's sword, but not before he reached up and gouged out one of the fucker's eyes with his hands while he was dying— choking on his own blood.

He left with no regrets, and if he'd lived to see Tousen's betrayal, he would have laughed and said, "Who's blind now, asshole?" to that ninth division bastard, just to rub it in.

8. Kishimoto Tetsuya

Kishimoto Tetsuya was speared through the chest.

Tetsuya survived the wars his best friends had died in, and had managed through the ryoka incident with little more than a broken leg and some cracked ribs, even though he'd been forced to watch—incapacitated—as that bastard in the ninth stabbed Kazuma right through the gut.

He remembered times back in the day, back in the neighborhood, when it was him and Kazu and Ryu as kids scuttling around to survive, the three of them all having big dreams about becoming shinigami one day.

And here he was, the lone survivor of a thousand battles.

When Tetsuya saw that no good, one-eyed ninth division fourth seat in the heat of battle some months after his best friends' deaths, the stupid fuck was standing stone-still in front of a screaming hollow with his eye closed, lookin' like he'd just about had enough with life, with everything.

Those guys in the ninth were real idiots.

Tetsuya jumped forward right as the hollow struck, a giant stinger from inside its mouth piercing him right through the chest. He ignored it and cut off the stupid hollow's stupid face and turned around, pissed as all hell..

"You stupid fuck," he snarled, and though there was blood gushing out of him, advanced on the ninth division wimp and punched him hard in the face.

"W-what…" the bastard looked up at him—all helpless—and Tetsuya couldn't for the life of him believe that this was the fuck who'd been so sure of himself just a few weeks ago, while he was running Kazuma through.

"What the hell are you doing?!" Tetsuya roared, and spat the blood filling his mouth out on the ground.

"I killed your friend!" the wuss protested, and looked like he was gonna cry.

Tetsuya grabbed him by the collar of his stupid ninth-division uniform and even though the edges of his vision were going black, managed to growl, "Then you better fucking live, shithead," before he died.

"Why?" the other shinigami whispered, still as fucking clueless as ever.

Tetsuya would have answered if he could have, would have told the idiot that if you kill a fella in a fight you better live yourself, you better fight as hard as ya can to stay alive from that day on, because it wasn't right if you didn't want to live as much as the guy you'd killed and still killed him in the end anyway.

Maybe the dumbass would figure it out for himself one day, though from the way the asshole was sobbing over Tetsuya's body, he wasn't so sure.

Tetsuya knew there was nothing in this life he regretted that was worth dying over, and it would do those stupid fucks in the ninth division well to figure that out for themselves before they all ended up committing some sort of mass sympathy suicide like the giant crybaby wimps they all apparently were.


And everyone said the eleventh division was dumb.

9. Toudou Kazehaya

Toudou Kazehaya was decapitated.

He transferred from the ninth division to the eleventh division the day Kishimoto Tetsuya died saving his life.

He didn't understand why someone would do that ever, especially when the person in question was someone who had killed your best friend for no other reason than a set of uncertain principles that as of late, had been rocked to their very core.

He wanted to find out why.

So he joined the eleventh division and even as a formerly seated officer in the ninth they made him sweep the alleyways around the eleventh headquarters. He spent the first two months of his new assignment getting and opening beers for Madarame-sanseki, carrying drunk comrades home, getting into bar fights even if he wasn't one of the parties originally involved, and making sure the toilets didn't get blocked up.

It wasn't until months later that he was faced with his first real battle as an eleventh division member, and looking the Arrankar in the eyes when he fought was one of the scariest things in the world.

When he looked to his captain and his other leaders for comfort, Zaraki just sighed, cracked his neck, and got to work.

"Do your job," was all Ayasegawa-goseki told him before they all bounded away to do just that.

He'd been at a loss, and tried to find something inside of himself that made him less afraid. Tousen-taichou had told them all that fear was ignominious and ugly, and that those with dignity ignored it in the face of a greater sacrifice. These were the things that drove honorable men.

In the eleventh division, Zaraki-taichou scared the piss out of his subordinates everyday and laughed at them, looked at them with his one crazy eye and told them to stay sharp, he might actually land the hit next time.

In the eleventh division, it was believed that fear kept you sharp.

When he heard the cries of pain of his division mates it scared the hell out of him.

But he felt something else as well, beyond the fear. He recognized the voices behind those cries. It wasn't just a division mate after all, not just another shinigami who he happened to work with. It was Kurita-kun, who had watched his back during one of those bar brawls where he hadn't been one of the original participants but ended up getting attacked anyway. More shouts, more cries, and he knew them all—every single one.

Youichi-san, who he cleaned the bathrooms with every Sunday morning promptly at seven am.

Shizuka-san, who told dirty jokes while Kazehaya and Jun were helping to carry him home after a hard night's drinking, a man who liked talking about his wife and his kid and how the boy was going to grow up to be a real fighter one day, just like his old man.

Fear kept Kazehaya sharp, but those cries also made him angry.

He forgot about the things that were supposed to drive him, forgot about dignity and honor and everything Tousen-taichou had ever spouted. He charged forward without a second thought because if he didn't, Shizuka-san was never going to see that kid of his grow up and Youichi-san wouldn't be there the help him clean on Sundays, and if Kurita-kun died, who was going to watch his back in the bars from now on?

He managed to ambush a hollow sneaking up on Youichi and take him out before something faster and stronger than that—an arrankar—swiped past him and took his head right off his shoulders.

The last thing he thought before he died was that he got it now.

The answers to all the questions Kishimoto Tetsuya had left him with.

He smiled and left with no regrets—glad to finally understand.

10. Kannagi Youichi

Kannagi Youichi was gutted.

No one had liked Kazehaya when he'd switched from the ninth to the eleventh, but taichou said another fighter to fight was another fighter to fight, and in the end, they all knew it didn't matter who you killed or who you got killed, because the past wasn't something to be concerned about.

You know a man from the moment you meet him and not a moment before.

So they'd accepted him and they'd treated him just the same as they treated any newbie—made him get Madarame-sanseki his beers and clean the bathrooms and sweep the yard, made him back them up in fights and see to it that those with a family and a home to go back to got back to them after the wilder nights of partying.

And Kazehaya had done all that, and as far as any of them were concerned, that made him eleventh and not ninth. Once you were eleventh you were always eleventh.

Kazehaya died a fighter, and when Youichi saw him fall, he took it on himself to make sure that the body wasn't desecrated, that a man who'd gone from enemy to brother understood that to Youichi—to everyone—they'd known him the moment they'd met him and not a moment before.

When Youichi was trying to retrieve his friend's head, a spear with a hooked end was launched from an arrankar's palm and slit him open.

He managed to hold his intestines in until he had Kazehaya's head, and tucking it under his arm, he died curled around it. He hoped that when they were buried, everyone would know how proud they'd been—the both of them— to fight in this division.

He faded with no regrets, and knew that someone would come for them when they could. His last thought on this earth was that he was sorry to whoever was going to have to pull double bathroom cleaning duty on Sundays now that he and Kazehaya were both gone.

11. Kurita Yuusuke

Kurita Yuusuke was poisoned.

He found Youichi and Kazehaya's bodies after the battle was over. They found tons of other bodies too, but those were the ones he found that he'd been specifically looking for, and when he took Kazehaya's head out of Youichi's arms all he could do was grin and tell them both that taichou had gotten the fuckers who'd killed them, made them pay and those arrankar, they all died the same no matter how strong they seemed— they all whimpered out of this world like a bunch of cowardly dogs. He told them that they still couldn't find Shizuka, but there were no more bodies, and hopefully the fucker had gotten away alright, on account of that kid he had who he needed to watch grow up.

On his way back to the main encampment with the bodies of his friends, he stopped to take a break and wash the dirt and blood off of them, because they were gonna be nice'n clean when they got burned tonight at the pyre, just like everyone else was. Greatest honor in the world, to be laid to rest alongside the comrades you'd died in battle with.

At the river, just a couple of hours before the ceremony was set to commence, he was bitten by a snake.

He cleaned himself up too then, and carried the bodies back with a smile on his face. They said you weren't supposed to move too much when snakebites was concerned, but he had a deadline to make and like hell he'd let these two kids miss out on something all heroes deserved. He had no regrets.

Shaking, shivering, and delirious when he arrived, he laid the bodies down at the feet of his division mates and grinned at them, murmuring, "greatest honor in all the world," before expiring himself, right next to the two he'd brought back.

All three of them were lit at the funeral pyres that night, and everyone laughed and told stories about how dumb Yuusuke had always been.

12. Kawamura Shizuka

Kawamura Shizuka committed suicide.

He fought like a wildcat in his last battle, and was captured by an ugly fuck of an arrankar with a ridiculous hat on his head—brought back alongside several others to face that traitor Aizen and his dogs.

"Our numbers are low," the former shinigami informed him, and without so much as a how-do-you-do, set his pet hollows on Shizuka and the others.

He was the only one of the lot that didn't scream, and after their souls were polluted, he felt every second of it as the hole opened up in his heart, as the mask grew over his face.

"Welcome," Aizen told them, when they were done, and he couldn't remember who he was or what he'd been doing the moment that mask closed completely.

The ones he'd been born with simpered and smiled at Aizen as he promised them a world of power, but something niggled at the back of Shizuka's mind when he thought about what all that power was for.

"This one," Ichimaru said eventually, after studying them all for a long time. He pointed at Shizuka—the one who had stood back, the one who had observed. "This one will do."

Aizen smiled. "Very well."

And then he killed all the other newborn hollows with a flick of his goddamned wrist.

"If we get one with potential out of a batch of losers, it's all worth it," Aizen said, and held out something small, something glowing. "Welcome."

When Shizuka woke up again he was filled with a dark power.

And bloodlust. He wanted to kill. He wanted to kill something. Anything.

It was all he felt, even when he tried to remember other things. There were other things still floating around in his head, but they were so far away he couldn't grasp them.

One sounded like "papa!" and one sounded like "fight your own way" and the last sounded like "better not throw up on my shoes again, fucktard."

He couldn't remember.

All he felt was the desire to fight. To kill.

And they let him too, right off the bat they let him loose and he clawed his way through shinigami like paper just a few months after his birth.

All he heard were screams and cries of pain, gasps of horror as he tore them limb from limb. It was beautiful.

And then he heard his name. "Shizuka!"

It was enough to still him for a moment, and all those memories he couldn't grasp suddenly seemed closer when he looked at the person he was facing, the one who had remembered his name when he couldn't. "Jun?" he breathed, and suddenly the voice he couldn't place from before had a face. "I… threw up on your shoes once."

Jun smiled—shakily. "You always were a fucker like that. What the hell do you think you're doin' now?"

"I dunno," he responded, and that urge to kill was still there as much as he didn't want it to be right now.

Jun looked sad. "Well cut it out, asshole, you're a huge fuckin' ass problem right now. Che. All this after we been lookin' for ya fer months."

"Oh," Shizuka breathed, and looked down at the blood in his hands—his claws.

And then he realized.

"Fuck," he cursed, and remembered now, all too well. "Fuck."

"Yeah," Jun agreed, simply.

"Kill me," Shizuka pleaded. "You gotta kill me now before I…"

Jun snorted. "Do it yourself, asshole, I don't owe you shit."

Shizuka stared.

And then smiled.

Once in the eleventh, always in the eleventh.

No matter what.

Without waiting another second he unleashed his zanpakutou and slammed the blade right into his own mask. It shattered on impact.

"I'll look after Makio for you," Jun said, even though he stood by the fact that he didn't owe Shizuka shit.

"Thanks," Shizuka murmured, and faded away.

Jun could only hope he had no regrets.

13. Odagiri Jun

Odagiri Jun was gored by an ox.

Inglorious maybe, but he died keeping a promise, and he was okay with that. Makio was seven at the time, and boys who were seven did stupid things. Hell, boys in general did stupid things, whether they were seven or they were seven hundred.

He and some of his friends got it in their heads that they would start a little gang in the neighborhood to protect the village, and realized shortly thereafter that any proper gang needed a proper leader. They decided first one who could ride on the ornery bull ox owned by old man Fujii on the next farm over would definitely, definitely be their leader.

Jun was on leave to visit his family—and as promised all those years ago—stopped by to visit Makio and his ma on the way, with some presents and stories and some money that the rest of the boys had gathered up—all won from other shinigami in some nice high stakes poker games—because it was something they'd been doing since the pay had stopped coming in, once the big wigs in seireitei finally felt that they were no longer obligated to take care of Shizuka's family since he was long dead.

As luck would have it he was just in time to see Makio get bucked from that pissed off bull something fierce, and was hopping the fence before he knew what was what. Got that damned bull away from the kid and chased it off with a well timed slash to the thing's nose with his zanpakutou, but that was one damned ornery animal Fujii-san had raised, and it didn't retreat without getting its own hits in too. Thing ripped Jun right open in front of Maki and all his little friends before he managed to scare it off. Traumatic sight that, for any kid.

"Go home to your ma," Jun had said, and told Makio not to cry 'cuz his pa wouldn't have approved the world's up-and-coming strongest fighter bawlin' like a baby as he was.

Makio nodded and ran home and got his ma.

When she got there Jun was well on his way, and he smiled at her and told her the stuff in his bag was for her'n Maki.

Maybe he ought to have killed the ox, but last he checked, old man Fujii was really fond of that stupid thing.

He died with no regrets, and told Makio he better grow up to be a strong shinigami, just like his pa was.

Makio wiped the tears from his eyes and promised he would.

14. Kawamura Makio

Kawamura Makio was killed by Vizords.

As it was Makio graduated top of his shinigami class with honors, and even after being invited to take a seated position over at the sixth division after graduated, passed on it so he could start from the bottom of the eleventh, like any self-respecting man did when he graduated the academy.

The guys who'd known his pa and who were still around to talk about both he and Jun told Makio some crazy stories, and he promised them he was gonna be the world's greatest fighter, just like his dad had said.

They laughed at him and kicked his ass every day for a week after that.

It made him think of his pa and Jun—both of them.

When he finally proved to them he was no slouch—whether in battle or in the sparring dojo—they welcomed him heartily, and said they didn't give a good goddamn who his pa had been—even if he'd been a good man— because they weren't the type of people who coddled anybody no matter who he knew.

That only made him want to fight with them harder, and the first time Zaraki-taichou acknowledged him with a, "You're fuckin' retarded, but I guess you don't fight half bad," he'd been so excited he'd had to go out back and pound his head against the wall a couple of times to contain himself.

Sometime later he'd been deployed with a team to meet the Vizord—seireitei's loose allies—to take an area of land vital for supply shipments into the court back from the encroaching arrankar.

They'd been ambushed on the way and Makio fought well—he knew it, because just like his dad, they'd tried to take him without killing him. Research from the twelfth division over the years had found that shinigami souls who were turned into hollows and then arrankar soon thereafter developed stronger and faster than normal hollows did.

When they grabbed him, he caught one of their Vizord ally's eyes and nodded.

Not that the bastard cared—would have killed him anyway— but Makio wanted him to know he wasn't afraid. That as much as the damned Vizord looked down on the shinigami, Kawamura Makio wasn't afraid of shit.

A second later, maybe less, a long distance blast from the Vizord's zanpakutou disintegrated Makio and the hollows trying to eat him, all in one fell swoop.

He had no regrets when he died going out like that—he wasn't the type of man who wanted to follow in all of his father's footsteps, after all.

15. Odagiri Ichiro

Odagiri Ichiro's spine was snapped.

His big brother Jun had been in the eleventh years before, and Ichiro was only a few years behind his childhood friend Makio in the academy. When he graduated—not long after his friend's death—he rejected a placement offer from the sixth division just like Maki had and plowed right into the eleventh with no regrets.

They gave him a broom and a dustpan and told him to clean up. He did as he was told and knew he was going to make Jun proud.

He was paired up with Aramaki-senpai for cleaning duty, and when they swept the porches and the hallways together, Ichiro couldn't help but ask, "How long have you been here?"

Aramaki-senpai hunched over a bit at that and sighed. "A long time."

"How come you ain't placed higher then?" Ichiro asked again, and Aramaki looked like he'd been punched right in the gut.

The older shinigami turned his eyes downward—ashamed. "Because I'm a coward."

Ichiro blinked. "No you're not."

Aramaki stared. "I'm not?"

Ichiro grinned. "Can't be if you're in the eleventh." To him, it had always been that simple.

Aramaki laughed—sheepishly. "No, guess not."

When the arrankar took the battle to the gates of seireitei some months later, the doors safeguarding the eleventh division were some of the first blown open. Ichiro had been sweeping with Aramaki when it happened.

Aramaki froze—shaking—and Ichiro had to pull the older shinigami out of the way of a second Cero blast, this one demolishing the eleventh division headquarters' main building just like that.

Then the enemy advanced and eleventh division shinigami came pouring out of the buildings to answer, some half-naked from being asleep in their rooms and others still wet from being roused during the middle of their morning showers.

Ichiro's two jobs were to clean and defend the gate with Aramaki-senpai. And he did just that, dropped his broom and drew his zanpakutou—charged the first arrankar he saw without hesitating a moment. He called his sword's name and barely had time to graze the fucker's arm before it grabbed him with a smirk and snapped him in half. But he was enough of a distraction to give Kusajishi-fukutaichou time to land on the monster's head, the little vice-captain leaning over and blinking curiously down into the creature's face before grabbing its mask by the eye sockets and ripping it right off. It screamed as she beat it to death with first its own mask, and then its own arm. "Ichi used to give me candy!" she complained vocally, and hit it even after the creature was long deceased.

Likewise, Ichiro was dead when he hit the ground, but was glad to have been able to help in whatever way he could, if only for just a little bit.

Later, Zaraki-taichou absently made a note about how clean what was left of the gate looked, and after taking care of the dead bodies, everyone went back to their own work—however small—with renewed vigor.

16. Aramaki Makizou

Aramaki Makizou died trying.

He'd watched Ichiro die—the one and only person who couldn't be persuaded that he was a coward—and after a while Aramaki realized he was sick of it. There were plenty of things in this world to be scared of, but now he knew that watching some naïve kid who was too nice for his own good die just like that was probably the scariest of them all.

When he asked Zaraki-taichou if he could challenge for a higher ranking, the fearsome captain just scoffed and said, "do what ya want, asshole."

To Aramaki—who had known Zaraki for so long—it sounded more like, "it's about damned time."

So he trained for his challenge with Ichiro in mind and for the first time in a long time, was outside working long after sunset. His hands were bleeding when he finished.

He fought the challenge match and lost. Asked for another one a month later and trained for that as hard as he could too, because he didn't want to be a coward anymore. He didn't want to die with any regrets.

He lost, and he lost, and he lost, and just when he was about ready to give up, Madarame-sanseki called him a stupid-ass fool and granted him a position in one of his platoons because even if he was an idiot, it at least looked like he had some grit after all.

Their first deployment was to back up a contingency of second division members sent into enemy territory for recon.

He couldn't keep up as well as the others and he was scared out of his mind the entire way there, but when Madarame-sanseki ordered the group to block the escape of Soi Fon-taichou's forces after they'd gotten what they were after, Aramaki's hand didn't shake when he held his sword up to the monster menos trying to cut off their escape.

He managed to stab its toe.

The thing squashed him like a bug.

Madarame picked him up and tossed him over his shoulder as the third chair ran, cursing and furious and full of, "What the hell is wrong with you, asshole?!"

Both of them knew he wasn't going to make it back to base camp.

Aramaki—strangely enough—was okay with that.

As he died he told himself he was no coward, because it was just like Ichiro had said. There were no cowards in the eleventh division.

Simple as that.

17. Madarame Ikkaku

Madarame Ikkaku thought about death.

As they held the final memorial service for all those who had died protecting seireitei from the arrankar during Soul Society's brutal hundred years' war, third division captain Madarame Ikkaku meditated on death for the first time in his life.

He wondered about when he died, how it would happen. Would he be cut open? Gutted? Poisoned? Crushed? Decapitated? Eaten? Worse? He wondered what those men had felt, knowing they were going to die.

Probably not so bad, if they had any real eleventh division blood in 'em at all.

In an uncharacteristic moment of thoughtfulness, he turned to his best friend—sitting beside him—and asked, "Yumi, you ever think about how yer gonna die?"

"No," Yumichika responded, without hesitation.

"Huh," Ikkaku grunted. Pause. "How about how I'm gonna die?"

"Now that the war's over? Alcohol poisoning," the ninth division captain responded, again without hesitation.

Ikkaku grinned at the prospect. "Yeah. Probably."

Truth be told, going out like that, a man couldn't complain.

Maybe peace wouldn't be so boring after all.

18. Ayasegawa Yumichika

Ayasegawa Yumichika didn't think about death.

He thought about what kind of wine he was going to have with dinner tonight, and about what came after death.

Humanity. From this life to the next.

"I got it," Ikkaku said to him after a moment, interrupting the former fifth seat's thoughts as Yamamoto Genryuusai's voice droned on about sacrifice and honor and justice and all other manner of useless things in the background.

"Got what?" Yumichika asked, and didn't spare his fellow captain a look.

"Hisagi's gonna smother your ass to death. Ha."

From Yumichika's left, Zaraki snorted.

Ayasegawa-taichou elbowed Madarame in the face.

19. Zaraki Kenpachi

Zaraki Kenpachi ignored death.

Instead he looked over at his squabbling underlings (they'd always be his underlings as far as he was concerned), and asked them if any of them had brought something to drink, Yamamoto was boring the piss out of him with all this talk about people who were already long gone.

He said it loud enough to give the ancient commander pause at his podium in the middle of his speech, the old bat turning around and glaring hard at the eleventh division leader. "Silence, Zaraki," he warned, dangerously.

Zaraki grunted. "What the hell for? We ain't the ones who're dead."

Yamamoto's beard quivered angrily. "One day very soon you may be! And hopefully those who choose to remember you will respect your memory at your funeral!"

Zaraki snorted. "Only thing I'm in danger of dyin' from right now is boredom, Yama-jii," he grunted, and stood, stretching. "I'm gonna get a drink."

That done, he ambled out of the hall without another word. And while some complained indignantly at his blatant disrespect, those who had served with him (or served those who had served with him) all knew that to a man like Zaraki, the biggest disrespect of all was for those who lived to waste their precious time lingering, to do something as useless as think about the dead. Those who'd died in the line of duty had originally given their lives in the hope that those left behind might continue to live on, in whatever manner they damn well pleased. That was the whole goddamned point, wasn't it?

"They died so that we might live," Yumichika summed up with a breezy little yawn, and stood himself, to follow after Kenpachi.

"I'll drink to that," Madarame agreed, and stood as well, despite Yamamoto's indignant sputtering.

The two eleventh division members (always, always, always no matter what) both followed Zaraki out, and wondered if their former captain had enough booze to share.

He usually did.

20. Kusajishi Yachiru

Kusajishi Yachiru lived.

She sat in the courtyard of the eleventh division headquarters playing marbles by herself, and when Zaraki Kenpachi padded back from the fancy-pants memorial service he'd told her not to go to, she beamed and waved, asking him if the party had been fun.

"Boring like fuck," he grunted in response, and she waved some more as frilly-brows and shiny-head followed soon after Ken-chan.

"Let's play!" she suggested when they were all gathered, and proffered her marbles to her friends in open invitation.

"I'll get the beers," Yumichika offered, as Zaraki and Madarame sat down and began to shoot marbles at Yachiru's behest. And as the afternoon dragged on, others drifted in to join them as well, such that the entire courtyard was soon filled with the sounds of shouts and laughter—rough curses and excited whoopings as those still alive proceeded to go ahead and live.

Back at the memorial service, Yamamoto-soutaichou droned on to his silent congregation about how brave men such as the ones they remembered here today had died for a greater good— an intangible, perfect ideal.

In the meantime, everyone in the eleventh division headquarters played marbles and drank beer.

They knew that it was this— and only this— that any man ever died for.