Chapter 11 - Defeat

Renji tried to ignore the protests his body was making as black spots danced through his blurred vision. Zabimaru was gripped laxly in his blood-soaked hands, in danger of falling onto the ground.

"I can see it in your eyes," Kurosaki Ichigo had whispered to him, when their swords had clashed.

It was unbelievable, the size of her sword, the way she could easily handle it, carry it, swing it, all in one hand as if it had weighed nothing. But it wasn't true, for every time their swords met, Renji could feel the weight of Zangetsu against Zabimaru, it's power and strength. It could almost rival that of Kuchiki-tachou's Senbonsakura.

"You care for her."

At that, he had faltered, creating an opening for his opponent. But to her credit, she didn't take the chance to hurt him. Not physically anyway. Besides, she didn't need dirty tricks to overcome him. It was quite obvious that she could defeat him.

And she did.

All it took was a slash downwards that he tried to block. The strength behind the strike brought him down to his knees.

"If you really care for her, you would do something about it," this was whispered into his ear, almost cruelly. He could barely stand much less lift his head up to look at the other redhead.

"Actions do speak louder than words, Abarai Renji."

He jerked as his opponent pulled away, her sword making a soft clang as it slid from his bleeding shoulder to the ground carelessly.

"You don't understand," he bit out through clenched teeth, "I'm not... don't deserve-"

"Silly man, let her be the judge of that," she said nonchalantly, her sword disappearing in a swirl of black and red. Obviously, she knew that she had won, almost effortlessly. She also knew that they should retreat as soon as possible. There was several reiatsu heading their way.

She turned to leave but Renji stopped her with a sudden shout and lunge that surprised even her. He grabbed her shoulder and pleaded her:

"Please save her."

Ichigo didn't manage to say anything before the other redhead fell unconscious.

"Idiot," she reprimanded softly, sending the wards around her to quell his bleeding wound, "you should do it yourself... or she won't understand."

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Fifteen seconds later, Kira found his fellow vice-captain, lying on the ground unconscious with a large wound slashing across his shoulder and chest. The court showed signs of a large battle but what was more telling was the bi-coloured wards around his ex-schoolmate's thorax, stopping him from losing too much blood.

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"Go! Don't stop until you reach the tower!" Ichigo shouted behind them as they race up the stairs.

"Yosh!" Ganju shouted in reply enthusiastically. It seemed that the fight between the two redheads had fueled his zeal in this rescue mission.

Ichigo smiled grimly while Karin rolled her eyes. Beside them, the poor little 4th division Hanatarou was panting and gasping, hardpressed to follow their pace.

Ichigo was the last in line, keeping an eye out for the others as they made their way towards the white looming tower that held their friend captive.

It took only seconds before she felt it, nearly making her stumble in her step.

Never before had she felt such a powerful killing intent. The others too felt it, for they really did stumble onto their knees.

"What the hell!?"

"Kuso! Who the hell is emitting this ridiculously high spiritual pressure!?"

Ichigo, the only one standing now, turned around to see a giant of a man whose face was scar-filled grin nastily at them.

"Guys," she said slowly, cautiously, "get up and keep going."

"Ichi-nee," Karin started but was waved away.

"He's too strong," her redheaded sister said, "all of you will only get in the way."

As if understanding her words, Ganju quickly made short work of the passed out Hanatarou and quickly pulled the other dark-haired shinigami along, fearing for their collective lives should those two high-powered shinigami clash when they were still within vicinity.
"So, you're Kurosaki Ichigo," the spiky-haired giant rumbled, his dark eye gleaming with bloodlust. Ichigo nodded, eyes never leaving the 11th division captain. Without any hesitation, she summoned her sword, knowing without a doubt what the large shinigami wanted.

If it was a fight he wanted, a fight was what he would get.

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Seireitei will never recover from this, Yoruichi, still in her cat form, thought to herself. She watched as another building collapse as black figure ploughed through it. Her eyes could easily identify her student, her bright hair like a beacon to those who knew what to look for.

The idiot was still in her Shikai form, even knowing that she couldn't possibly defeat a captain without accessing her full powers.

But then again, it would be easier to spirit Ichigo away without attracting too much attention. With that decided, Yoruichi was about to jump towards the fight when a burst of reiatsu erupted from her student.

Oh, great. It looks like she spoke too soon.

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Ichigo put her entire strength into her attack as she slashed towards the large captain's direction, willing her reiatsu to strike out. A weaker version of her Getsuga Tenshou erupted from Zangetsu's blade, spinning out like a boomerang to hit her intended target. Normally, given the power level she put into the attack, it would be enough to at least amputate a menos grande.

But the 11th captain was only slightly scratched in the chest from the encounter with her attack. As she had expected, she thought grimly, quickly dodging another attack that would have taken her head if she was even a second slower.

Her superior speed gave her the advantage but each swing that the captain made was lethal. If she don't resort to her bankai, which she would prefer not to as it would garner too much attention, she would have to think of something.

Or hope she gets lucky.

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In the end, it wasn't luck that ended the fight.

It was desperation.

Something had distracted her in that instant. The instant Zaraki Kenpachi's sword pierced through the air towards her heart.

LET ME OUT!!! F*CKING B*TCH!!!

In that moment, everything went awry.

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Just a second of carelessness was enough to nearly cause her to forfeit her life. She had only time to shift enough so that the blade would miss her vital organs.

And as Zaraki's zanpaktou made it's way through her chest, she grabbed onto his hand and brought down her sword onto the captain's head.

But she didn't kill him, for he too managed to dodge her strike though not entirely. It was, however, enough to cause him damage to the shoulder of his sword arm.

When they broke apart and surveyed each other, they knew then that the subsequent strike would be the last for either of them.

Predictably, Kenpachi was the first to charge, a goddamned grin stretched wide on his gleeful face. Ichigo braced herself, knowing exactly what she should do to end this now.

In the last instant before their swords collided, Ichigo focused her entire reiatsu into her zanpaktou and feel it flow back into her.

'Come on, Ossan. We're not going to lose to a guy who doesn't even know his partner's name*!'

"BANKAI!"

The power concentration was enough to snap dark-haired shinigami's sword and to disable the captain. Ichigo immediately released her form just as the other shinigami collapsed. She knew she couldn't linger, for surely, others would have felt that burst of reiatsu.

Using the walls to prop herself up, she made her way towards the direction her sister had gone, all the while pressing a hand on her wound. Ichigo gasped in pain as she made her way through the maze that was Seireitei. The jagged blade had pierced too close to her heart and she was losing too much blood.

The strawberry blonde slumped down to the side of a building and tried to quell the blood with her wards but she was already losing hold of her consciousness.

The last thing she saw before darkness engulfed her was a pair of golden eyes framed with black fur.

"Sensei..."

Tsuzuku

* she meant, the name of his zanpaktou, a shinigami's 'partner'

I know I promised to update asap when I return but I haven't been able to get myself into finishing this chapter. I'm currently writing another story which is HP/LOTR, you can find it at my profile (blatant self-promotion ;op)

And I know that the fight between Zaraki and Ichigo is different but seriously, I forgot how it went and I don't have the manga with me ;op Anyway, since this is not the highlight of the story, I hope it will suffice. Again, if there's any glaring mistake, pls inform me. Thank you.