Characters: Yachiru, Kenpachi
Yachiru doesn't remember anything before Ken-chan.
Before Ken-chan it was nothing but darkness and red- lots and lots of angry splatters of red.
If she thinks hard, she can remember a crying woman with pretty long hair and really sad eyes. For days the woman would seclude herself in a dark room, humming softly or else sobbing for her husband. Sometimes she would rock her baby and whisper wild stories of a great bear befriending a tiny rabbit
"They lived happily ever after," the woman happily recanted. Her dark eyes were missing that tiny light that glimmered of hope, so when the baby stared at her eyes she saw nothing but two endless dark pools. "Always seeking new adventures and making new friends!"
The baby smiled and suddenly a tear fell from the woman's empty eyes. "Because of you he's gone!" she shrieked and a servant had to run in to take the baby away, slamming the door behind and leaving the woman to howl in pain, weeping for hours at a time.
Something was broken inside this deplorable woman but the adults were too busy hiding her from the world to offer any help.
The baby was left in her crib, picked up to be changed or fed and then forgotten. Many times the woman would wander into the baby's nursery and smile, counting the baby's tiny little finger and toes before some tiny thing sent her to madness. Indeed that's how the tiny babe spent her early life, listening to the woman's wails at night and hearing stories at day. It continued repeatedly until finally the woman didn't cry anymore and there were no more stories.
The woman had ended her own suffering and was finally reunited with her dead husband.
Soon the cries and stories were replaced by angry shouts. The baby's caretaker were busy arguing over who would take care of her. She had become a burden- now that she was alone without any money or power- and no one wanted to take care of her.
Someone suggested that the baby should be sent to the country where an old aunt would raise her. It was unanimous and soon the baby's modest belongings were packed and a carriage was called for. A wet nurse and a young man would accompany the baby until they reached the country; there a letter would be delivered- no a family ruling- that this baby would be raised far away, never to be seen.
However, no one mentioned how dangerous the journey would be- otherwise a guard would be hired. But the selfish adults did not care for the safety of the baby, now that she had nothing.
They left silently on an early Sunday morning, not one of the adults seeing her off.
Along the journey the wet nurse covered the baby's eyes from the harsh sun. It seemed that the baby would always be shrouded in darkness, never experiencing the joy of seeing colours but always black and gray. But then something unexpected happened.
The baby finally saw colour, she saw red for the first time, lots and lots of red.
They had gotten lost after a fiercest thunderstorm, without realizing they were going deeper into Roukongai. No sooner had the carriage reached Kusajishi that it was attacked by thieves, and there were screams and tears. The carriage was turned over and the baby tumbled onto the floor, her many blankets cushioning her fall.
Men barged into the carriage, cursing and shouting for money before running off and stealing their horses. The baby poked her head from within the blankets and she saw, finally saw colour for the first time. On the floor was her wet nurse, her eyes lifeless, red trickling from her head. Her neck had been sliced wide open and more red continued to ooze, covering her breast. The young man was on the floor, his stomach gutted by a knife.
For days the baby laid trapped in the broken down carriage, staring at the red and breathing in the coppery stench. Occasionally a footstep would startle her but whoever it was, they would never enter the carriage.
She probably would have died- no she would have died- if it weren't for that great laugh in the air. Such a sound! It broke through the still forest, echoing against the trees, causing the birds to fly away.
Indeed it was such a great shout, such a great sound that it seemed as though the very ground was shaking. Her tiny heart began to race and she found she wanted to hear more of it.
All the sounds she had heard were cries and screams and shouts. This sudden new sound excited her. It was so unusual and happy- something she hadn't experienced in her short life. Suddenly she needed to hear it more.
Somehow she crawled out of the overturned carriage, hitting the ground with a painful thump but the pain was forgotten in her determination to pursue that great laughter.
Her fingernails became covered in mud, her tiny palms redden, and her pretty kimono became torn and dirty but still she did not stop following that sound. Faster and faster she crawled wanting to hear more of that sound, understanding that this was happiness. For the first time she was hearing happiness, no more sadness, no more anger.
The trees themselves seemed to make way, becoming lesser and lesser as she reached this laughter, as if encouraging her to continue forward despite her tiny body's protest.
But then the sound stopped. She had reached a small clearing that created a circle and like the carriage, it too was covered in red and smelled of copper.
There was a cry in the back of her throat, as the baby realized that all these men were lifeless just as her wet nurse. Certainly they couldn't have made the noise. Was the noise forever gone? Would she never hear it again?
"Where did you come from kid?"
A giant— a giant it must have been for his fingers alone were as long as her body— sat on a polished stone, covered in red. His hair was jet black, dirty and sweaty, sticking to his forehead. A long scar ran from his left eye to his jaw, the deep scar making a contrast to his tanned skin.
He stared at her oddly, following her clumsy movement before she accidentally cut her pink palm on his sword.
For a moment she stared at the oozing blood in wonder, surprised that she too could make the colour red. If she could make the colour red in a black and gray world, then certain she could create such a great sound. Certainly she could be happy.
Unable to hold her excitement she shoved her tiny fist at the giant, pleased with the pretty colour. The giant stared at her, surprised at her lack of tears. "Kid, what's your name?"
Name? She didn't have one. The woman had played with her as though she was a doll and her caretakers had treated her as a burden. For so long she had been ignored, left to the darkness and the woman's madness.
The giant stood then and she arched her head up as he stood- as tall as any tree, as strong as the grizzly bears as wild as the wolves.
"Yachiru the name of the only person I've ever cared about. I'll give it to you," he said his voice sturdy watching her closely for any sign of fear. But she was not afraid; she had only known sadness and anger, and for the first time she was witnessing something else. For the first time she dared to hope that maybe she would find happiness.
"I will be Kenpachi."
Yachiru doesn't remember anything before Ken-chan but she thinks that's okay.
Before Ken-chan was nothing but misery and neglect, nothing but sadness and anger.
She enjoyed each moment with Ken-chan as he moved though Roukongai in search of a good fight. She enjoyed seeing all these bright vivid colours, hearing new sounds, smelling new things. It was such a sharp contrast to the black and gray world, to the tears and the shouts of anger that Yachiru soon forgot that world even existed.
With Ken-chan she got to hear more of his great barks of laughter, especially if he found himself a good fight. He would let out a great bark of laughter, so great that it ruffled the trees and shook his opponents. That great laughter, she soon realized, meant that Ken-chan was happy and as long as he was happy, she was happy too.
He would set her on the ground before he fought and order her to stay put, and when he would return- tired and bloody, sporting nasty bruises and cuts- he would laugh that great laugh that meant he was satisfied in the fight. Then he would put her on his back and once again they would continue into Roukongai in search of another fight. Of course Ken-chan had a lousy sense of directions and so they ended up wandering through the wilderness most of the time.
Still Ken-chan did his best to take care of her.
He would change her diapers, burp her, feed her and always set her down for her afternoon nap. Of course he would complain, hollering that babies were disgusting and too fussy and simply too much work, but he never abandoned her in one of the many towns they traveled to.
Years went by in the same fashion and as Yachiru got older, his fights became harder. It was no longer the simple brawls where Ken-chan would return complaining and sporting a new bruise or cut. These fights were beginning to get dangerous. Several times he had broken a bone and gotten stitches from a local doctor. Suddenly Yachiru thought of something.
What if Ken-chan lost? Each new opponent was becoming wilder and stronger; and there had been many times when Ken-chan had a hard time winning. His injuries were becoming deeper and bloody- once his bicep was split open to see the tissue and vessels inside. He had gotten too many bruises and scars on his face, so that he looked different from their first encounter.
Then she thought of something. What if Ken-chan died?
Yachiru knew from experience that if there was too much blood, then the person would become motionless and die.
If Ken-chan died the world would go back to being black and gray, with tears and shouts of anger. There would be no more happiness anymore. She remembers crying about this one night, thinking that dying would certainly not suit Ken-chan. He was impatient and animated, never still and silent.
"Oi Yachiru if ya don' get here ya ain't eating."
He paused slightly, frowning when he didn't hear a response. "Oi!" He rose from the stone he was sitting at, grumbling in annoyance. "What the hell ya cryin' for?"
She sniffed, breaking down into new tears.
"Well what the hell is it?"
"I-I don' want Ken-chan to die!" she hiccuped, rubbing her red eyes. It took him a while to understand.
"That's it?" he questioned rolling his eyes. "I ain't sick. I ain't gonna die."
"No," she continued. "What if Ken-chan loses? What if Ken-chan dies?"
"So what? That's the price ya get for a good fight!" he reasoned but the waterworks wouldn't stop. "Listen you, no one lives forever. We all gonna die someday!"
This time she broke into more tears. He sighed, easily picking her up using her oobi before putting her on his shoulder. "Ya know when ya have a hard fight and fall asleep?"
Yachiru blinked. "Yeah."
"Well that's all it is. So quit bawling over nothing!" She sniffed, her eyes becoming glossy once again.
"I'll try not to die any time soon, got it?"
Yachiru smiled happily, clapping her hands and cheering out loud.
"But when I die you better not be bawling, got that?"
"Hai!" she said cheerily, sitting down on his shoulder.
And so Yachiru watched as another sword struck Ken-chan's body.
He let out that familiar bark of a laughter that meant he was happy, that this turned out to be a good fight after all. Kenpachi rips off the black eye patch, grinning manically at the approaching opponents. His lips pull back in a sinister smile, his eyes glinted darkly, lusting for blood.
With another yell, he charges at the armies, swiping his rusted sword at the throngs. They keep coming at him, these monsters that do not fear death but live only for Aizen's cause.
There is a harsh crack then as he brutally stabs his sword on the skull of a monster. It cries out in pain before another soldier takes its place and just as easily Kenpachi beheads him too. He cuts off limps and heads, punches and breaks bones. He fights as hard as he can, enjoying each minute. His mind is running solely on basic instincts, the wild instincts that separated humans from animals.
The adrenaline keeps him focused and fighting, stronger than any drug. This feeling, this excitement. It makes him feel alive. For too long he has missed this familiar sense of battle. For too long he has been living a mundane life as the Eleventh Division captain. Now after so long he is finally getting the battle he's craved.
Again he lets out another bark of laughter.
"Keep them comin'!"
Another wave of soldiers come rushing, this time bringing cannons to try and stop this great beast. But Kenpachi does not waver for a moment, he continues to take out as many soldier, and when one of them gets lucky and strikes his body, he does not pause. In an instance he brings down the culprit.
He is fighting an entire army and is destroying over three-quarters of it; and as much as the soldiers are increasing and coming up with new strategies, Kenpachi just as easily takes them down. He pauses for a second as another sword stabs his body, more blood pouring out. Again they stab him but Kenpachi merely laughs, exclaiming what type of weak move that was.
The last move had been quick, too quick and for a moment he cannot help but wonder why he hadn't seen it sooner. It was some sort of illusion, that's why he hadn't seen it. The illusion somehow dulled his senses, like his battle with Tousen over twenty years ago.
Well that was a pretty cheap trick, he thinks. He had finally gotten the fight that he craved for, and all of a sudden it has ended too soon.
Kenpachi yanks away the sword that came crashing at his lungs. The soldiers are hesitant for a moment, wondering how someone can survive a crushing blow before they are easily swept. He fights and he fights until finally he cannot breathe anymore.
In the end it was his fragile body that prevented him from finishing that great battle he craved for.
It takes him a long time to come down, perhaps because of his large size and when he does he looks up to see a very still Yachiru. He wants to say something but he can't think of anything to say, words had never been his forte. So he just stares at her before everything becomes dark and he can no longer hear the cries and shouts of the enemy, he can no longer taste the blood in his mouth, or feel the dull pain in his chest.
For a moment his mind forms a vague outline of the previous Yachiru, and he smiles thinking that this Yachiru, the one he has raised and trained by himself, is more than strong enough to beat his old teacher.
Slowly she approaches him, her eyes examining his large bloody body. This is the first time she had ever seen Ken-chan so quiet.
"You can rest now, Ken-chan, I'll finish these guys off for you," she says, pulling out the rusty sword from his strong grip.
When Ikkaku finally comes, he finds Yachiru sitting unusually quiet, watching the remains of the bloody battlefield. She is covered in blood, her uniform is torn, and she is clutching the rusted sword of Zaraki Kenpachi.
He's more startled at the lack of her stupid nicknames. Despite her age, she had yet to stop using the nicknames from her childhood.
"Take taichou back to the camp grounds, count how many survivors we have left, and get me a count on how many are capable of fighting."
"Um fukutaichou?" Ikkaku begins hesitantly approaching. He is afraid of the tears he will find her in, but he is surprised to see her eyes unusually dry, a small smile on her face.
"What is it baldie?" she asks in her usual chirpy voice. "Didn't I give you an order?"
"A-are you alright?"
"Why wouldn't I be? Ken-chan had lots of fun!"
Eventually Ikkaku leaves to bring back more shinigami to carry the large size of Zaraki and leaves Yachiru alone.
She would have broken into tears, perhaps even scummed to the darkness, like her poor mother had. But Yachiru does not want to remember anything before Ken-chan. She does not want to remember the black and gray, the tears and shouts. She wants to remember Ken-chan's great laugh. She wants to be be happy.
So when they ask her, the new captain of the Eleveth Division, what shall be carved in his epitaph, Yachiru eagerly says, "The price for a good fight!"