A/N: Thanks to Markus Wolfe for giving some constructive criticism about the ending of the chapter. After reading it, I decided to revise the ending to tie up a few loose ends.
Limbs Fly as the Curtain Closes
Kurotsuchi Mayuri was not an idiot. He was psychopathic, he was a queer, he was sadistic, but heaven forbid, Kurotsuchi Mayrui was not an idiot.
And so, besides three other people in the world, Kurotsuchi Mayuri knew that Ryuuken Kenpachi was a hollow. He kept careful inventory of his more… violent devices, and he knew that Kenpachi had stolen some. He also knew exactly where they were- the Captain Commander's office, primed to explode within twelve hours. As long as Kenpachi's reiatsu was still active, the explosive would detonate. There would only be two things that could stop him: he would die, or the Captain Commander would not be in his office when the bomb went off.
Kurotsuchi calculated the odds against the hollow, and winced. They weren't very pretty.
Firstly, Kurotsuchi would not let the Captain Commander die. It was too boring without the old man around, and unless Kenpachi killed him, which was unlikely (Kurotsuchi was very confident in his abilities), he would snitch.
Secondly, the Captain Commander, though decrepit, was not an idiot. He would find some way to protect himself.
And thirdly, Kurotsuchi was privy to the happenings in Zaraki. He knew that Demon was on a manhunt for Kenpachi. Though the outcome of the inevitable battle was anybody's guess, he had a decent chance.
Of course, the point was moot if Kenpachi's plan was not revealed within twelve hours.
And then Kurotsuchi blacked out, hit from behind with Kenpachi's elbow.
Kenpachi chuckled to himself. He hated it when people underestimated him.
"Hey, hey, easy with the ropes…" Ikkaku protested.
Tosen glared down at the trio. "What is the meaning of this?"
Zaraki just smiled. "Just throw us in jail, will you?"
Tosen frowned. "Soul Society's justice is absolute. You will have to be tried first before you can be convicted."
Yumichika snorted. "Trial, my ass." Tosen ignored him, leading them, bound, towards the Central 46 chamber.
As Zaraki walked into the humongous room, he could feel the stares of all the council members boring into his face. Looking up, he smiled maniacally. He could see several of the old men and women break eye contact, muttering nervously.
'The council addressed Ikkaku and Yumichika first.
"Madarame Ikkaku and Ayasegawa Yumichika," one man read out. "You are charged with assisting the Zaraki rebels in combat. You are further charged with assaulting a captain and two vice-captains, and finally, with treason. How do you plead?"
Ikkaku cleared his throat. "Y'know," he began. "If I said 'innocent' you'd probably throw us in jail anyways, right?"
The council just stared at him in contempt.
Ikkaku sighed. "Guilty," he responded.
"Tie them up and throw him in a cell," someone commanded. Two hulking men came out from the shadow and grabbed Ikkaku and Yumichika by the shoulders. Yumichika just mentally sighed. Aside from being so ugly it was almost a crime, Yumichika recognized the two men. Academy dropouts. The Central 46 was certainly getting quite desperate.
The council directed its attention towards Zaraki now. He began to panic. He didn't exactly remember the lines Yumichika had told him to say. Something about article so and so…
"Shit," Zaraki thought. "There's a fucking reason why I'm not a lawyer!"
Zaraki just sighed. "Look, lemme fight the 11th division captain or else I'll kill you all."
The council was silent when Yumichika suddenly burst into the room, followed by two guards who attempted to restrain him. "Wait!" he cried out. He whipped out his book of law.
Zaraki was speechless as Yumichika justified his reasons for being present- he was a witness under some obscure article. As Yumichika began to rant, blank looks overcame most of the councilmember's faces. When Yumichika finished his speech, a vote was called. Assorted muttering and dissatisfied grumbling was heard throughout the room as the council prepared to vote.
As Yumichika left the room, he paused for a moment. Standing up straight, he made eye contact with every single woman (and quite a few men) in the room.
Slowly, deliberately, Yumichika fluttered his eyelashes. Flicking his hair over his shoulder and giggling, he left the room.
Zaraki buried his face in his hands as the council unanimously voted in their favor. "What has this world come to…"
The assorted captains gaped, open-mouthed, and the proclamation that had come in from the Central 46. Mayuri had ignored the summons and was no doubt experimenting in his lab.
Unohana was the first to speak up. She smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. "This," she declared. "Is madness."
Shunsui and Juushiro simultaneously gulped. They chose not to speak for the remainder of the meeting. The chance that they just might offend Unohana was far too great.
Unfortunately for Gin, he did not have that experience.
"Why?" he asked.
Unohana just smiled at him, though her eyes said that she was planning something painful for him the next time he visited to 4th Division for medical treatment. "This man," she said. "Was our enemy. He has fought against us with the intention to kill us. He has, indeed, killed our own men. He was friends with monsters, and , indeed, he may be a monster himself. That is why."
Soifon nodded in agreement. Several heads turned. Soifon was never one to question orders, but here she was.
"We cannot allow this man to become a captain," Soifon said.
Kenpachi uneasily cleared his throat. "Are you doubting my abilities?" he asked.
"No, Kenpachi, but we can't let this man the slightest chance," Unohana said.
Kuchiki Byakuya spoke up. "While Unohana-taicho and Soifon-taicho both have excellent points," he began. "The Central 46 has ordered us to let this man duel Kenpachi-taicho. As such-"
Soifon cut Kuchiki off, standing up angrily. "This transcends you and your idiotic rules, Kuchiki!" she shouted.
Yamamoto let a fraction of his immense reiatsu wash over Soifon, freezing her in her tracks. "Sit down, Soifon-taicho," he commanded.
Soifon reluctantly sat down, eyes still glaring daggers at Kuchiki.
"Kuchiki-taicho is correct," Yamamoto said. "The Central 46's command is law. We will allow this man to take the captain exam."
"Yamamoto soutai-" Tosen began.
Gin cut Tosen off, chuckling to himself as he did so. It was always amusing to see old Kaname, whose true colors Gin knew, act like the peace-loving wuss that Aizen had ordered him to portray. Of course, in Aizen's grand scheme Gin would be the bait that the foolish Shinigami would no doubt take, and as such, he could afford to act like himself. "C'mon, Tosen," he chided, grinning. "It'll be fun!"
Tosen glared at Gin with unseeing eyes. "Ichimaru-taicho," he said. "Do not mock death."
Gin just laughed. "Need help getting that stick out of your ass?" he asked.
"Ichimaru-taciho," Yamamoto warned.
Gin shut up, but kept smiling.
"The duel between Kenpachi-taicho and the intruder will occur in two hours, unless Kenpachi-taicho has any objections," Yamamoto said, turning to Kenpachi for a response.
The hollow shook his head. "None, Yamamoto-soutaicho," he responded. The boy was a nuisance, and he had been unable to dispose of him in Zaraki. Now he had come to him to die. How convenient.
"Then the Captain's meeting is adjourned."
"Just remember, if you fuck up, we all die," Ikkaku said. Yumichika nodded his head in agreement.
"Shut up," Zaraki muttered. Yachiru was chewing on something strange. It had a colorful head, attached to a stick. Very, very, peculiar.
The strange item grabbed Zaraki's attention. "Yachiru, what the hell are you chewing?"
Yachiru giggled. "Sweet stuff!"
"Where did you find it?" Yumichika asked.
Yachiru shrugged. "I walked into this building and found them! There was a guy with white hair coughing up blood in the room, though…"
"Um… how did you get out of this cell?" Zaraki asked.
Yachiru pointed to a small hole in the wall. Zaraki stared. "How the hell did you do that? Our weapons were taken away from us?"
Yachiru smiled, revealing her fangs. Ikkaku and Yumichika backed up in a hurry. Zaraki smiled at her, and ruffled her hair. "Atta girl," he proudly said.
The twelve captains stared down at the man before them. Juushiro and Shunsui sat next to HItsugaya. "So, Toshiro-kun," Juushiro said. "You've fought this man, correct?"
Hitsugaya nodded. "Does he have a chance?" Shunsui asked.
Hitsugaya shook his head. "I don't think so. He's fairly strong, but I defeated him, and Kenpachi is stronger than me."
As Zaraki drew his sword, the two senior captains studied it with a critical eye. "What's his Zanpakuto's effect?" Juushiro asked.
Hitsugaya sighed. "That's what's so peculiar about him. He's almost captain level, but he doesn't even know his sword's name."
Shunsui narrowed his eyes. "Are you telling me that he doesn't even know shikai?"
Juushiro shook his head. "Can't you feel that reiatsu?" he said. "That kind of reiatsu is only felt when a Shinigami releases his Zanpakuto. He's in constant shikai and he doesn't even know it."
Down at the arena, Kenpachi rubbed his hands together. He released his Zanpakuto. The hollow wanted to get things done quickly. He could detonate the charges in Yamamoto's room at will, as they were tied to his reiatsu. However, the bond between the explosives and his soul would deteriorate within a couple of hours at most. He had to get Yamamoto back into his quarters within that time.
"Bankai: Bloody Flame's Annihilation!"
Hitsugaya visibly winced. He had dueled Kenpachi, bankai on bankai, during a training session. The man's bankai could not melt Hitsugaya' ice. Nothing except Yamamoto- soutaicho's flames or a full year of sun could do that.
Hitsugaya had still lost the battle though. He rubbed his temples, pondering how the medic squad would haul his large body out of the arena.
Kenpachi's clothes melted away, revealing a sculpted upper torso. All that remained was his haori, fluttering in the powerful current his reiatsu generated.
Zaraki gripped his sword tighter than he had ever before. This man had killed Yachiru for money and out of greed. Now, Zaraki would kill him, not on a whim, but for revenge.
And of course, for pride. Zaraki sure as hell wasn't going to stand by as some kido pansy took the title Kenpachi.
A sai appeared in Kenpachi's hand, replacing his knife. The sai was crimson, with an ornate yellow sash tied around its hilt.
Kenpachi did not waste any time. "Armageddon's Breeze!" he shouted, swinging his sai downwards.
An invisible shockwave enveloped Zaraki, pushing him backwards several feet. Zaraki could feel his flesh burn as a pungent smell filled the air. He looked down at his arm, burnt black as coal.
Hitsugaya shook his head. "By the looks of it, the guy doesn't know Kido or Shunpo either," he commented.
Zaraki growled, trying to fight Kenpachi's attack. Finally mustering enough reiatsu to dispel it, he rolled to the side, recovering his composure. Horrid burns dotted his body.
Roaring, Zaraki raised his sword and charged forward. Kenpachi raised his hand, and his lips began to move.
Shunsui shook his head. "Game over."
"Hado Number 4: White Lightning (Byakurai)!"
A bolt of lightning shot out from Kenpachi's extended finger, impaling Kenpachi in the right shoulder. He collapsed to the ground, blood spurting from his wound.
Hitsugaya sighed. "Well," he said. "That's that."
Ukitake held him down, preventing him from leaving the stadium. "Toshiro-kun!" he exclaimed, surprised. "I thought young men of your age read shonen manga!"
Hitsugaya raised his eyebrows. "Shonen?"
Shunsui nodded sagely. "Love lent us a few. This would be the part where the hero, gravely injured, rises up from the ground by sheer force of will and beats the living tar out of the evil enemy!"
Ukitake suddenly raised a finger. "Wait a second, Shunsui," he said. "What makes that guy the hero?"
Shunsui grunted. "It would be much more interesting if he was, you know."
Hitsugaya shook his head. Why the hell was he the one who was treated like a child?
Zaraki's reiatsu boomed, washing over the spectators. Shunsui wagged a finger at Ukitake. "See," he admonished. "Told you so."
Zaraki was enraged. He had never been enraged in his entire life before this moment. He would rip this coward apart from limb to limb.
Zaraki swung his sword downwards, aiming to decapitate the captain. Kenpachi lazily sidestepped, and fired off another Byakurai.
Snarling, Zaraki extended his arm and swatted the Kido spell out of the sky. He growled in frustration. "I…HATE…Kido!" he roared, swinging his sword towards
"Ragnarok's Wrath!" Kenpachi shouted, thrusting out his sai to intercept Zaraki's sword. When the two weapons collided, the sai exploded.
Zaraki was hurled backwards, and hit the ground hard. Quickly regaining his senses, he nimbly rolled out of Kenpachi's next strike, but he couldn't dodge the resulting explosion.
Shunsui shook his head. "Ryuuken's Bankai isn't particularly strong," he commented. "But he usually augments it with kido. And the only way to defend yourself against it is with kido, and that man doesn't know any."
Zaraki had been stunned by the explosion, and when he looked up, he saw fire falling from the sky. "No, no! I have to kill him! I have to kill him!"
The molten liquid pulverized Zaraki's tearing holes through his flesh and burning his body horribly. He collapsed to the ground, unconscious.
Kenpachi sealed his Bankai. "Well," he said. "He's dead."
"Where… am I?"
A javelin flew out of nowhere and embedded itself at the ground by Zaraki's feet. Whipping himself around, Zaraki spotted a strange man charging him. His shield seemed to be woven out of some sort of bark, and he wore minimal armor. Raising his sword, he charged, but not at Zaraki. He ran through Zaraki like he was made of nothingness, and continued his attack on some unforeseen enemy.
Arrows blotted out the sun as they raced towards Zaraki, or whatever was behind him. One of them hit him in his torso, but it simply passed through him.
Two armies clashed, and Zaraki could finally see the other side. They were heavily armored, with horsehair plumes on their helmets. They carried ridiculously large shields with some sort of mark painted on them, like a v.
Someone stood up behind him. "Wonderful, isn't it?"
Zaraki turned his head, and beheld what abomination had approached him. It was humanoid, but had red skin and glowing eyes. It had long black hair, and it held Zaraki's sword in its hand. Instead of nails, it had claws that glinted in the sunlight. Battle scars adorned its sculpted torso."Who are you?" Zaraki asked.
The thing cackled. "Figure it out for yourself!" it shouted. It snapped its fingers, and the scene changed.
A man, dressed in blue, shouted a battle cry and charged forward, a strange object in his hand. It looked like a spear, but the blade was attached to the bottom of a peculiar hollow wooden tube. He raised the tube and clenched his left hand, and the strange item kicked backwards, spewing fire from its tip. Another man, dressed in gray, fell to the ground.
The thing, still behind Zaraki, licked its lips. "War is wonderful, isn't it?"
"You're my Zanpakuto, aren't you?" Zaraki asked.
The thing frowned. "Yes I am. I don't like you very much at all," it said. "You trapped me here, with nothing to do. Every great battle that was and every great battle that will be plays out in this world. But I can't do anything. I can only watch as men kill each other. It gets boring after a while."
A large boom sounded, and something streaked over Zaraki's head. It crashed into the ground and exploded, sending grey men flying everywhere.
"What do you want?" Zaraki asked.
"Ah, about that. In about five minutes you will die, and because of your weakness, so will I. I have no wish to die, yet I would rather cease to exist than serve a weakling."
Zaraki snarled. "Serve me? I need no sword to serve me!" he shouted. "I use my own strength alone!"
The thing's eyes narrowed. "Then what do I do? Languish around here all day? I have never tasted blood in my fifty years of existence, fool. What do you think swords are made to do?"
"Swords are meant to cut," Zaraki retorted. "They are not made to house souls."
"Well then" the sword said. "Right now, your body is almost dead. Is this how you want to die? The captains will look at you and shake their heads. 'Just another challenger,' they'll say. 'They're always so weak.' Is that how you want to be spoken of?"
Zaraki fell silent. He did not have many morals, but he had pride.
"Give me blood once a decade," Zaraki's sword said. "And I'll never bother you again."
"So how do I get out of here?"
The sword raised its eyebrows. "What do you mean? You just walk out."
"No test? No trial?"
The sword shook its head. "Actually, no. It's getting in that's the challenge for most Shinigami. When you were knocked unconscious, you were probably struck by some sort of great desire, which amplified your concentration, which got you in here."
"Wait, seriously? There's no test?"
"No, damnit. Get out of here. You'll learn my name once you're out."
When Zaraki woke up, he found his body in a very sorry state. When he stood up, he could imagine the shock of the captains assembled.
"Shock" was an understatement. The Captain Commander himself stood up in surprise.
Zaraki chuckled. "Y'know," he said. "It's considered rude to turn your back on an opponent in the middle of a fight."
"My name," a voice inside Zaraki's head boomed.
Zaraki's sword blasted away the heat wave that Kenpachi's sai generated. He chuckled. "Is that all you have?"
Kenpachi shunpoed behind Zaraki and stabbed him through the chest as a response. Zaraki collapsed to the ground, blood streaming from his wounds. Then his reiatsu exploded.
"What?" Kenpachi thought. "He's getting stronger?"
Demon sped towards Kenpachi's waist, aiming to cut him in half. Sidestepping just in time, Kenpachi released another Armageddon's Breeze.
Kenpachi timed the amount of time he exposed Zaraki to the attack, and noted the seemingly contradictory steady increase of reiatsu as Zaraki's skin began to melt.
Zaraki's sword sliced across Kenpachi's skin, and his reiatsu, almost imperceptibly, increased a bit more. He laughed, and it continued to climb.
"His reiatsu is tied to how intense the battle is," Kenpachi realized. "I can't let this battle drag on."
"Walls of ironsand, a priestly pagoda, glowing ironclad fireflies. Standing upright, silent to the end. Bakudo Number 75: Quintet of Iron Pillars!"
The five pillars crushed Zaraki, pinning him to the ground. Wasting no time, Kenpachi raised his sai and prepared to stab Zaraki in the back.
The sai glanced off of Zaraki's back. Kenpachi's eyes widened. He had put all his reiatsu into that one strike in order to ensure the boy's death.
Kenpachi's arm flew off, taking a bit of the haori with it. Kenpachi stumbled backwards, dazed with pain. "Shit!" he thought.
Zaraki's reiatsu boomed yet again, throwing Kenpachi backwards. Howling with glee, Zaraki leapt forward and sliced the other arm off. Kenpachi's sai melted away.
"You killed Yachiru," Zaraki hissed. "I'll kill you."
Zaraki's sword strike pulverized the hollow's body. Pieces of flesh scattered everywhere, and Kenpachi Ryuuken, and the hollow that resided in his body, died. The explosive device in Yamamoto's room deactivated.
With the battle over, Zaraki's reiatsu dissipated, the effect of his Zanpakuto gone.
Kurotsuchi was found the next day unconscious in his lab. When told that Ryuuken had been killed, he just nodded and smiled, scaring the messengers away.
Zaraki chose Yachiru as his lieutenant. Ikkaku and Yumichika were flummoxed by this decision. Yachiru just smiled, and challenged both of them to a two on one battle.
The two men tried going easy on the little girl for the first five seconds of the battle. After it was over, neither of the two men were ever the same.
Renji avoided Ikkaku and Yumichika for a couple months. Then Ikkaku tied him up and dragged him to the Seireitei bar for a couple of drinks between old friends. After the third sake jug, both men were singing along to a crappy bar song like nothing had ever happened between them.
Kurotsuchi never told anyone that Ryuuken had been a hollow. To him, it looked like Zaraki was just fine having half the captains hate his guts. He didn't want to spoil it for everyone.
As for Zaraki himself, he was rather disappointed with captaincy. The sparring matches with the fellow captains were fine, but you always had to go easy on them. He couldn't release Demon. The sword had warned him that he was to be used in emergencies only. Zaraki was just fine with that. He wanted to live, but he preferred relying, as always, on his own strength. The captains themselves rarely released their Bankais, either. It made for poor fights.
When the ryoka broke into Seireitei, and Kurosaki Ichigo landed himself in the 11th division's patrol section, Zaraki was just ecstatic.
Ichigo preached about bonds with their Zanpakutos to Zaraki. Zaraki didn't really listen. He could use Shikai, and had no interest in Bankai.
When Aizen betrayed Soul Society, Zaraki knew that he could not defeat the man with his Shikai. He was simply too powerful. He was out of Zaraki's league.
"What was my sword's name again?" Zaraki thought. "Demon. Yes, that's right. His name is Demon. I haven't released him in such a long time."
Kenpachi Zaraki began to train for Bankai.
Review, please. I tied up the Renji-Ikkaku relationship, Kurotsuchi getting knocked out, and Yachiru becoming lieutenant. I think that's it. If there's any other glaringly obvious plot holes that I've missed, please tell me. I describe my version of a Zaraki Bankai in another story. I'm going to use Demon as his Zanpakuto in all my other stories, but Zaraki will have more of a back row seat. Unless he's in a battle, that is.