Greetings, my loyal readers! That's right! Work on Shinigami Ninja has begun again! (fanfare sounds) I figured I should make my final update of 2011 one that I know people have been waiting for. This isn't the mega chapter I was hoping it would be, but it's still pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.
LET THE READING COMMENCE!
Kenpachi frowned as they came to yet another dead end. After losing to Ichigo, he had been tended to by the 4th division. Now fully recovered, he found himself aiding the Ryoka, rather than attempting to kill them. He wanted a rematch with Ichigo, and he knew that helping them would get him closer to that goal.
His frown deepened as he felt powerful reiatsu around them. Only faintly noticing the spectacle of Yachiru doing something to Ikkaku, he focused on the reiatsu, soon enough recognizing who it belonged to. Of the group, only Yumichika seemed to notice the reiatsu.
"Taicho…" he began.
"I know." Kenpachi's frown deepened. "Why don't you come out?" he said. "Sneaking around like a weakling… And you call yourselves taichos?"
"You're one to talk. Aiding the Ryoka…" the captains and assistant captains of the 7th and 9th divisions appeared in front of them. "Have you no pride as a taicho?" Tosen finished.
"Tosen-taicho, Komamura-taicho, Iba-fukutaicho, Hisagi-fukutaicho…" Makizo Aramaki, an 11th division Shinigami who had aided the Ryoka, stepped back in fear.
"Don't be afraid, Aramaki." Yumichika ordered. "We have the numerical advantage. We can win!"
"Stop whimpering, Aramaki." Kenpachi said, making the man go silent. "What makes you think any of you will get to fight?" the captains narrowed their eyes. "Four against one… that's not enough to test my sword against!" he grinned psychotically.
"You mean to take us on by yourself?" Komamura asked. "You think too highly of yourself, Kenpachi. Even as strong as you are-"
"Blah, blah, blah!" Kenpachi drew his sword, spiking his reiatsu. "You all talk too much! Just come at me!" his grin widened. "Maybe if you attack me at the same time, you'll manage to wound me."
"K-Kenpachi-taicho…" Aramaki said, "W-What do you want us to do?"
"Shut up and go away." he gruffly responded. Aramaki looked down at the response.
"Don't talk to Ken-chan when he's excited." Yachiru said. "Ken-chan! We'll go after Icchi! Be sure to catch up with us!"
"Yeah, sure. I'll be right there." he responded without turning around.
"Alright!" Yachiru grabbed Orihime's arm, pulling her along. "Let's go! Boobies, Muscles, Monkey, Pencil, mustache guy!" after blinking confusedly for a second, they all followed after the diminutive assistant captain. The two captains and their assistant captains made no attempts to go after them.
"You taunt us?" Tosen questioned. "Or is it that you genuinely think you can defeat us? Regardless, it seems that you have not only lost your pride as a captain, but your very common sense as well!" Kenpachi stifled a mocking laugh.
"Common sense? I don't think I've ever had that!"
With Yachiru & Co.
"Yachiru-chan!" Orihime shouted, running closely behind the speedy pink haired Shinigami. Yachiru turned around, not slowing in the slightest. "Is it really okay? To leave Kenpachi-san alone like we did…"
"Of course!" she cheerfully responded. "Ken-chan will never lose, no matter who he's up against!" Orihime seemed unconvinced. Behind her, Aramaki seemed miffed at her casual tone with Yachiru.
"What do you think of her tone, 3rd seat Madarame?" he turned around, only to find both him and Yumichika missing. "Eh?"
"Taicho, please allow us to go first." Hisagi said as he and Iba stepped forward.
"I told you to come at me all at once." Kenpachi frowned. "Is this a joke?"
"Then we'll go first!" Yumichika exclaimed as he and Ikkaku stepped forward.
"Taicho doesn't need to bother with you guys! We're more than enough!" Ikkaku proudly exclaimed. "Right, Taicho?"
"You wanna fight, eh?" Kenpachi bit back a smirk. Those two belonged in his division. "Fine, you can have the assistant captains. Fight them somewhere else. Get in my way and I'll cut you."
"Got it, Taicho!" Iba stepped forward, reaching into his Shihakusho for his Zanpakuto.
"Doesn't need to bother… more than enough… It's been a while, Ikkaku, and the first thing you do is insult me."
"Bite me, Iba." Ikkaku replied as he pulled his Zanpakuto, sheath and all, out of his obi. "You left 11th division because you couldn't make fukutaicho. Don't bother complaining." he placed the Zanpakuto against his shoulder. "We can talk later. We should get out of here. Kenpachi-taicho might chop me up if we don't."
"I concur. Shall we move?" Yumichika asked Hisagi.
"Fine with me. It doesn't matter. You'll lose regardless." they all dashed away, leaving their captains to their own battle.
"Now we can fight in peace." Kenpachi grinned. "This might not be as big of a workout as I was hoping, though. The number got cut in half." he shrugged. "It was a request from my men, so I honored it. I guess this should be a decent warm up. Maybe I'll hunt down Naruto for our rematch after this."
"You still insult us?" Komamura grabbed the hilt of his Zanpakuto. "You think far too highly of yourself, Kenpachi Zaraki!" he swiftly drew his blade, shattering the ground beneath him with his reiatsu.
"Not bad. You've got some powerful reiatsu." Kenpachi grinned as a large disembodied arm wielding an equally proportioned sword swung down at him. The ground around him erupted in a large explosion, shrouding him in a cloud of smoke. Tosen, not giving him the chance to recover, jumped over the cloud, sword drawn.
"Suzumushi Nishiki: Benihiko!" he swung his sword, a large group of blades materializing in the arc. They rained down on the cloud, shattering more of the already broken ground.
"It's over." Komamura proclaimed. "Even he could not have survived that." Soon enough, the dust cleared, revealing a still standing Kenpachi. Punctured by several blades, the large man actually seemed bored.
"It's over? The fun hasn't even begun yet!" he proclaimed, shocking them both.
'How did he survive that?' Komamura thought. 'He survived a blow from my Tenken and Tosen's Benihiko… How can he be just standing there as if we didn't even hit him? He truly is a monster…'
Kenpachi pulled a few of the blades out of his shoulders, frowning. "I have to take back what I said. This won't even be a workout." he glared darkly at them. "Let's just get this over with so that I can go after some real warriors."
Renji grimaced as he ran past his fallen allies. He hated striking down fellow Shinigami, but he knew he had to save Rukia. Naruto's words echoed in his head. 'Those who break the rules are scum, but those who abandon their comrades are worse than scum.' He bolted through the streets, heading for Rukia's cell. As he approached the building, he froze. 'That reiatsu…' he looked up and immediately felt his heartbeat quicken. "Kuchiki-taicho…"
"Just what do you think you're doing, Renji?" Renji felt a bead of sweat drip down the side of his face. He clenched his fist, steeling his resolve.
"I'm going to save Rukia." he stated firmly.
"No you aren't." Byakuya responded evenly. Renji narrowed his gaze into a glare.
"Yes I am." he widened his stance, preparing himself for the impending battle.
"I'm not saying it again." Byakuya vanished. Renji nearly froze, knowing exactly which move this was. He quickly spun around, intercepting his captain's blade with his own, preventing it from piercing him. Byakuya seemed surprised for only a moment, quickly returning to an impassive stare. He jumped back.
"That was Senka…" Renji said. "a Shunpo to your opponent's back, followed by powerful thrust. It can destroy an enemy's saketsu and hakusui in one strike. It's your signature." he tightened his grip on his Zanpakuto. "I've visualized it while I trained. I analyzed it and predicted how to counter it. I can finally track you." Renji stared down his captain. He was surprised how much his Bankai training had improved his reflexes. Only three days ago, he would have deemed blocking his taicho's blade an impossible feat. Now, though, he felt more and more confident that he could defeat his captain and save Rukia. "I know now, Taicho. You can't kill me!" Byakuya remained perfectly impassive.
"What makes you so certain of that?" he coldly questioned. "Do you seriously think that you've surpassed me with only that?" he hefted his Zanpakuto, holding the blade parallel to his face. "Scatter…" Renji sprung into action, hearing him begin to utter the command phrase of his Zanpakuto. He swung his blade, immediately switching it to its Shikai form without the command phrase. It impacted the captain's blade, rendering it impossible for him to release it without losing his head.
"I told you, you can't kill me." Renji said. "Long before I became a fukutaicho, before I even joined the Gotei 13, I dreamed of surpassing you, Kuchiki-taicho."
"You released your Zanpakuto without calling its name." Byakuya's voice was unusually calm. "You've…" Renji recalled his blade.
"Today I surpass you, Kuchiki-taicho. Bankai!"
Naruto tightened his obi, straightening his shihakusho. He let out a sigh as he anticipated his actions. 'This is going to hurt a lot… Good thing I'm sleeping with the best medic in the Seireitei…' he couldn't help but grin at the last thought. He hardened his face, his mirth gone. 'Don't worry, Rukia. We won't let this happen.' he shunpo'd away, heading for the Sokyoku hill.
The countermeasures were in place. Arashi was awake. It was time for his long awaited battle with the oldest Shinigami in the Seireitei, a man truly deserving the title of Shinigami, Yamamoto himself. 'Time to lose my job…'
Renji felt his confidence rising as his Bankai activated. He knew Byakuya was powerful, one of the strongest captains, but his own power made him feel so confident. "Hihio Zabimaru." he stated the name of his Bankai, getting no reaction from Byakuya.
"I didn't know you had achieved your Bankai." he stated after a moment. Renji's eyes narrowed.
"How could you?" he retorted. "You ignore everything beneath you." he tightened his grip on the handle of his Bankai. "I'm going to save Rukia. Let me pass, or I'll be forced to kill you." he said darkly. Byakuya seemed almost dismissive of him.
"Ridiculous. You couldn't even force me to one knee." Renji steped forward, sending the enormous snake that was his Bankai bolting forward. Byakuya used Shunpo to dodge, easily evading the large weapon. He jumped atop one of the towers, only to be forced to dodge again as Renji whipped his Bankai across the towers, breaking them in half. The snake's head zeroed in on the captain, trying to ensnare him in its teeth. He blocked it with his blade, being forced down from the force behind it. "Not bad." he commented, seemingly uncaring that he was plummeting towards the ground. "It indeed deserves to be called Bankai." he narrowed his eyes. "This is as far as it goes. Scatter, Senbonzakura." he sent the blade fragments at the snake, seemingly cutting it apart at the joints. He landed in front of Renji, the scattered remains of the Bankai behind him. He stared silently at the unfazed Renji, sheathing his blade. "It's over."
"Not quite." the remains of Renji's Bankai sprung to life, reconstituting themselves into their former shape. Byakuya's eyes widened. "Senbonzakura changes into a thousand airborne blades too fast to see. The light reflects off of them as they move, making them appear to be sakura petals. I know all about your Shikai." the snake coiled around Renji, its joints separating to revealing pure reishi. "It won't work on Hihio Zabimaru. Its joints are held together by my reiatsu. I can separate them whenever I want, like I just did to evade all of your blades."
"That's right," Renji felt his confidence continue to soar, "I can see each and every one of them." another segment of Hihio Zabimaru erupted from under Byakuya's feet, making him jump back. He was once again taken by surprise as he heard Renji behind him. "You're on one knee." he noted. "I will save Rukia. It's time to put an end to this duel." Byakuya's eyes narrowed as he stood up.
"Time to end this, huh?" he turned around, his hand gripping his sword. "Very well. I'll end it with my blade."
"Were you not listening?" Renji asked, preparing Hihio Zabimaru for attack. "I can see your attacks. It's going to be me who ends it!" he shot the snake forward, screaming towards Byakuya. The captain nonchalantly raised his hand level with the snake.
"Hado 33: Sokatsui." Renji quickly whirled the snake around, shielding him from the unexpected Kido. He grunted as his vision was obscured by a cloud of dust kicked up from the Kido.
'Even without the incantation, it's that strong?' he noticed a silhouette amidst the fog and immediately went after it. He whipped the snake around, clearing the fog around him while sending the snake head after the silhouette. As the smoke cleared, he saw that it was indeed Byakuya's silhouette, but the snake hadn't attacked him. One of its segments had gotten in the way, shattering the segment. 'Dammit! I missed.'
"You are off-balance." Byakuya commented. "That Kido was not to harm you, nor to blind you. It disrupted your Bankai." Renji's eyes widened. "Bankai, because it is so large, takes at least ten years of training to master its movements. You aren't ready yet." Renji grit his teeth.
"So what?" he hefted his Bankai. "A missing segment won't stop me!"
"Bakudo 61: Rikujokoro." Renji cursed inwardly as he was ensnared by Byakuya's signature binding Kido. "You should have retreated when you had the chance. Did you honestly believe you had even the slightest chance of victory?" he held his sword out in front of him, blade pointed to the ground. "Have you forgotten that I have achieved Bankai as well?" he dropped his blade. It phased into the ground, the ground rippling as if it were a pool of water. Behind Byakuya, two rows of large blades materialized at either of his sides, rising up from the ground. "Bankai." the blades continued to emerge, to Renji's shock. "Scatter, Senbonzakura Kageyoshi." every single one of the blades disintegrated into the shards of Senbonzakura. There were far too many for Renji to count. His Bankai shattered, his body nearly doing the same. He collapsed to the ground, his blood already beginning to pool around him.
"Do you know why you lost, Renji?" Renji angled his head to see Byakuya. "Class." he stepped away from Renji. "Have you heard the tale of the monkey and the moon? However close the monkey thinks he is to the moon, all it is, is the moon reflected in the lake. No matter how hard he tries to capture that moon, he will inevitably sink to the bottom, never reaching the moon." he turned away from him. "Your fangs will never reach me…" he began walking away. "ever."
Naruto froze mid-Shunpo as he felt Renji's reiatsu begin to rapidly diminish. 'Renji… I guess it all depends on Ichigo now…' he bit his cheek. He hadn't expected Renji to best Byakuya, but he knew that Renji at least stood a fair chance of inflicting a wound. He knew of his feelings towards Byakuya, and he knew that this duel would better the camaraderie between the two Shinigami. He turned to the other direction as he felt a different reiatsu. 'That's Kenpachi-taicho… Tosen-taicho? Komamura-taicho? What's going on? Why are they fighting?' after a moment, he shrugged. 'Well, I guess that's just two less captains to deal with.' he took off again, racing towards the Sokyoku.
It was a truly wondrous sight. Thousands of razor-sharp blade shards danced like petals in the air, their beauty hiding their lethality. The scene they created, however, was much less majestic. Renji laid in a pool of his blood, the shattered remnants of his Bankai scattered around him. He futilely held onto the hilt, barely conscious. "Be proud." Byakuya commented, "In spite of the strength of my attack, you've kept your human form." he noticed Renji's hand twitch, his grip on the hilt of his Bankai tightening. "Still alive, I see." he shakily dug his hands into the ground, trying to stand. "Don't get up. You'll only die faster." Renji's Bankai fragments dissipated, funneling back into the handle. The Zanpakuto returned to its sealed state as he began to get back up, his hair hanging over half of his face.
"We're not… done yet." he grit his teeth, ignoring the searing pain his wounds gave him. "I can still fight!" he tightly gripped his blade, rushing towards Byakuya. The captain turned around, his expression not changing in the slightest. He waved his hand, several of the blade petals coalescing into complete swords. He sent several of them forward, piercing the ground around Renji. Two of them went through his right arm, piercing his forearm and his hand, going through the handle of his Zanpakuto as well. He howled in pain as they dug into his bone.
"It is commendable that you are able to draw breath after enduring my Bankai." Byakuya reached down, pulling the sword from his forearm. "Regardless, if you persist, I will not hesitate." he held the blade to Renji's cheek. "I will reduce you to dust." the blades began to dissipate to their previous form. "Your Bankai is gone. The deactivation of your Bankai against your will means that you are near death. Your death is imminent. Should you attempt to continue this pointless crusade, I will kill you. So, I ask you again," the petals flowed around Byakuya, coalescing into sword tips surrounding Renji's head, "will you still persist on rescuing Rukia?"
Renji now truly realized how hopeless fighting Byakuya was. He could barely breathe, his body was numb from blood loss, and it felt like Byakuya's reiatsu was crushing him. 'Dammit! I never realized he was so far above me…' he tightly shut his eyes. 'I could never beat him…' he could hear Naruto's words echoing in his head again. He frowned. 'I can't beat him, Naruto. It's pointless.' the words continued to echo. 'Even imaginary, he won't leave me alone…' he grinned. "Of course I will." he began to stand up, grabbing one of the blades floating inches from his neck.
"Rukia is… my friend!" he tightened his grip around the blade. "I would rather die trying to save her… than turn my back on her!" he shattered the blade, tossing it aside. Byakuya stared wide eyed at him, stunned at the sudden display of strength. He sent his Zanpakuto forward, aiming to stab Byakuya in the heart. Unfortunately, his resolve was not enough to win him the battle. Zabimaru snapped in half, falling to the ground. Renji grit his teeth, his wounds erupting in a violent spurt from the strain of his last attack. He watched as his Zanpakuto continued to shatter, quickly becoming nothing more than a handle. He sank to the floor, snarling. "Dammit…"
Byakuya stared down at his fallen fukutaicho, a small spatter of blood decorating his face. He grabbed his scarf, Renji's blood decorating it as well, and tossed it over the fallen Shinigami. "Well done, Renji." he complimented. "Your fangs were able to reach me after all." he turned around walking away without another word.
Renji's mind, foggy from blood loss, began playing through all of his encounters with his friends, his talks with Izuru, his training with Ikkaku and Naruto, and most importantly, his interactions with Rukia. He saw their first meeting, their agreeing to become Shinigami, and their parting of ways when she was adopted into the Kuchiki clan. That sad memory was the last one that went through his mind before he lost consciousness, lying in an ocean of his own blood.
Rukia froze as she was being escorted to the execution platform. There was a lot of different reiatsus flaring up today, but the one that just disappeared was one she knew well. "R-Renji?" she turned in the direction of the disappearance. He had been battling her brother. She felt so left out of the loop. Kenpachi Zaraki, taicho of 11th division, was battling the taichos of 7th and 9th divisions. Renji just lost a battle with Byakuya, and she didn't even know what possessed Renji to fight him. She couldn't sense Ichigo, Chad, or Orihime, and it was beginning to frighten her. Were they dead? Were they captured? 'All of this…' she swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat, the guilt piling onto her, 'it's because of me. Renji's dying, Ichigo and the others are missing, and the captains are fighting amongst each other. Why? Why all of this, just for me?' her head hanging limply, the escorts dragged her towards the execution platform as ordered.
Kenpachi couldn't help but grin as he found himself against two captains. He hadn't thought helping out the Ryoka would get him such a satisfying battle. Kaname Tosen and Sajin Komamura, two powerful captains, were his opponents.
"Come on!" he roared, easily blocking their blades. "Stop cowering in fear of my attacks!" he grabbed Komamura's wrist and effortlessly flipped him over as he kicked Tosen in the gut, sending him flying into the wall. "You're supposed to be taichos! This is just pathetic! You really want to beat me, use your Bankai!" Komamura sat himself up, staring at Kenpachi from behind his helmet.
"Bankai? Against someone like you?" he mocked. Tosen walked back up next to his ally.
"Very well." he spun his blade deftly as it glowed with his spiritual energy. "I've always known you would eventually bring needless bloodshed to the Gotei 13. Ever since you became the new taicho of 11th division, I could see your taste for blood. You are like an animal, no sense for peace, only craving your battles." Kenpachi scoffed uncaringly.
"Preach to someone who cares." he said. "I get it, I'm the bad guy, you're the good guys. Don't use that flowery speech, just say it. You hate me." Kenpachi grinned sadistically. "If you hate me so much, just kill me and be done with me. Use your Bankai to strike down your hated enemy." he goaded the blind Shinigami. Tosen frowned.
"I'm not saying I hate you." the grip on his Zanpakuto tightened. "I'm saying there's no hope for you!" he swung his sword behind him, flaring his reiatsu. "By your word and your actions, you have broken the peace! This isn't personal, but you must die to restore order!" Komamura, seeing his friend's seriousness, jumped away from the immediate area. He watched intently as his friend's reiatsu continued to spike.
"Tosen…" Tosen held his blade parallel to his body, holding his left hand up to the ring connected to the hand guard. The ring began to spin rapidly. Tosen spread his arms, the ring growing as the span between his hands increased. The ring was nearly as large as he was.
"Bankai." he declared, the ring multiplying into nine. They shot away from Tosen, surrounding them both in a large circle. They began to glow with Tosen's reishi, a dense black void bursting from them. It enveloped the area they were standing in, centered on Tosen himself. "Suzumushi Tsuishiki: Enma Korogi." he declared. "This is my Bankai. This dome is my Bankai. What do you think, Zaraki? I doubt that you ever would have expected such a sight." he walked up to the battle crazed Shinigami, who currently had a blank look on his face. "Though, I suppose you can't see it, can you?"
Kenpachi didn't know what was going on. He couldn't see. He couldn't hear. He couldn't even feel reiatsu. He did feel when Tosen sunk his blade into his shoulder, though. He staggered forward, not expecting the blow. "How does it feel, Zaraki? How does it feel being in a world without light or sound?" Kenpachi turned around, knowing from the feel of the wound where Tosen currently was. "Terrifying, isn't it? Enma Korogi takes away all senses, leaving the victims in a real of absolute nothingness. Your only remaining sense is touch, so you can feel how close you are to death. Only one person can escape this torment. Only the one holding Suzumushi." Kenpachi reached for where he thought Tosen was, only for the blind Shinigami to dodge his hand, slashing him in the side. "It's pointless. You won't capture me by guessing where my next blow will be. Even the most skilled warrior feels even a small amount of fear in absolute darkness. That fear slows your reflexes. I am exempt from that fear. I was born in a world of darkness. I-" he stopped talking as Kenpachi brought his blade down right next to him, shattering the ground. "What the-" he could feel the bloodthirsty grin forming on Kenpachi's face. "I should have anticipated this." he readied his blade. "A monster like you wouldn't feel fear in this black hell. You're right at home in it." he stepped forward. "Alright then. I won't waste any more time. Prepare to die, Kenpachi Zaraki!"
Soifon looked on as Yamamoto walked over to the prisoner. She turned to the captains that were present and let out a disappointed sigh. Omaeda turned to his captain, staring at her confusedly. "Only 2nd, 4th, and 8th divisions showed up. What are the others thinking? And where's Naruto?"
"I don't know about the others, Taicho, but Naruto, according to one of his subordinates, was getting ready for the execution. He needed to change into a new Shihakusho." Soifon nodded.
"He'd better get here soon or-" he stopped talking as he heard footsteps. He turned to see Byakuya Kuchiki walking into the line of the captains, looking at Rukia.
"Nii-sama…" Rukia called gently. Byakuya closed his eyes, turning away from the girl. Rukia's sadness only now reflected in her eyes.
"Rukia Kuchiki," Yamamoto began, drawing Rukia's attention, "have you any last words?" Rukia closed her eyes briefly, reflecting on the recent events. She opened her eyes, a sad, serene smile coming across her features.
"Yes. Just one thing."
With Yumichika and Hisagi
"Tosen-taicho's activated his Bankai." Hisagi noted. "He must be in trouble to activate it." he didn't sound very worried. "Or maybe he just wants to toy with Kenpachi-taicho." he amended. "Either way, I should probably check."
"Wait!" Yumichika called. He was on one knee ,his Zanpakuto keeping him up. A small smatter of blood decorated his face. "You haven't beaten me yet." Hisagi looked at him dismissively.
"Are you serious?" he asked. "You can barely stand. You're defeated." Yumichika let out a breath.
"In the 11th division, losing means death."
"It's not like that in the 9th division." Hisagi replied.
"So I've heard." Yumichika wiped some of the blood off of his face. "But that's why I've been playing at this battle."
"Playing at?" Hisagi raised a brow. What was he getting at? "Sheath your sword, Yumichika. A 5th seat has no hope against a fukutaicho. And…" he adjusted the grip on his sword. "For a division that loves to fight, dying in one would be shameful, right?"
"You don't get it. The 11th division is made of people that believe it's better to go down fighting than to give up." Yumichika pulled his blade from the rooftop. "Wanna know a secret?" Hisagi's eyes narrowed. "The only reason I'm 5th seat is because I don't like the character 4." Hisagi looked at him as if he were crazy. "To me, 3 is the most beautiful character, but that belongs to Ikkaku. I decided to go with 5. It looks more like 3." Hisagi's confused look did not change. "Oh, and one more thing. There's an unspoken rule in the 11th division to only use our Zanpakuto for physical attacks. Kido-type Zanpakuto and their wielders are seen as cowards for not attacking their opponents directly. Now here's the big secret." Yumichika stood up, extending the multiple blades of his Zanpakuto. The blades began to glow a peacock green color, a dense reiatsu emanating from the now smirking Yumichika. "Wanna see my Zanpakuto's real power? Don't tell Ikkaku or Taicho, okay? They'd be mad if they found out."
Tosen huffed as he stared down the grinning Kenpachi. In spite of having nearly every sense taken from him, Kenpachi continued to evade Tosen's blade just enough to prevent a lethal strike. He dashed forward, sinking his blade into the battle crazed captain. Kenpachi moved away as soon as it made contact, preventing yet another lethal blow. Tosen ducked as Kenpachi immediately stabbed for him, nearly sending his blade through the blind captain's head. He jumped away, escaping with only a scratch on the cheek. That simple scratch made Tosen extremely nervous. 'Every time he dodges, he gets closer and closer to hitting me. He really is a monster…'
Kenpachi focused on his sense of touch. He felt meat when he stabbed for Tosen. It was just a nick, but he got him that time. 'This is starting to get annoying… Can't see, can't hear, can't even smell… At least I've got my sense of touch. I can still hold my sword and feel when his blade sinks into my body. I can dodge a lethal blow that way, at least. I'm not going to kill him with nicks, though. He's a taicho, too. I won't win with my reflexes and instincts. This was fun at first, but now I just want it to be over. I need to cut someone. I need a new strategy…' he began thinking of what his subordinates would say. First came Yachiru.
"Try taking a wild swing!" he grimaced. 'I've been doing that.' Next was Ikkaku.
"Use your mind's eye!" he rolled his eyes. 'If I could do that, he'd be dead already.' he immediately dismissed Yumichika. He then came to his old subordinate, Naruto…
"Surprise him. Do something he wouldn't expect!" he stopped for a moment before grinning evilly. 'Leave it to the ninja to give me an idea…'
Tosen could feel Kenpachi smiling once more. Hating the thought of him enjoying this battle, he ran forward, intent on ending the battle crazed captain's life. "You are a threat to the Seireitei, Kenpachi Zaraki! Too much of a threat to be allowed to live!" he thrust his blade forward, piercing Kenpachi's lower torso. 'He didn't even try to dodge it.' Tosen immediately noticed. 'Was it too fast for him?' He paused as Kenpachi grabbed his hand, touching the handle of Suzumushi. Kenpachi grinned at the blind captain.
"Good to see you again." he swung down, slashing across Tosen's chest. "I've got my senses back. Is it because I'm touching you? Or is it because I'm touching your sword?" he pulled Tosen's blade out of him, still holding onto the handle. "I guess it doesn't matter. Let's do it again. I think I've got it. Next time, I'll catch your blade before it even hits me." he released the handle of Suzumushi, returning him to the silent, dark expanse of Enma Korogi's sensory deprivation.
Tosen huffed breathlessly, shocked at Kenpachi's desire to win. 'This shouldn't be possible!' he thought. 'I am enacting justice! He should be losing!' His mind returned to his first friend, and how she was killed by her husband. What justice was there in that? That day, he had sworn to enact justice no matter the cost. He would bring peace, no matter what. He swung his sword, intent on taking off Kenpachi's head. As promised, however, Kenpachi seized his hand, stopping the blow. Without another word, Kenpachi slashed Tosen's torso again, breaking his concentration enough to shatter his Bankai.
"Tosen!" Komamura shouted, seeing his friend heavily wounded. Tosen shakily hefted his Zanpakuto.
"T-This isn't over yet! I can… still fight!"
"This isn't fun anymore." Kenpachi said, hefting his blade onto his shoulder. "I'm not going to fight a walking corpse. You're almost dead. Go get healed up. If you die, you won't be able to fight anymore." Tosen charged forward, his blade digging into Kenpachi's back.
"I will stop you, Kenpachi Zaraki!" Tosen adamantly stated. "In the name of justice, I must stop you!" Kenpachi sighed.
"Shut up." Kenpachi had had enough of the blind captain's rants about justice. He raised his sword. "If you're that eager to die, then I'll oblige." he swung down, aiming to bisect Tosen. Much to his surprise, Komamura jumped in between them, Kenpachi's blade impacting his helmet.
"Komamura!" Tosen shouted, surprised at the intervention.
"That's enough. Zaraki won't understand, Tosen. You've done enough."
"Komamura…" Tosen sunk to the ground, succumbing to his wounds.
"I know, old friend." Komamura's helmet began to crack, Kenpachi's blade having created a large crack. It shattered completely, revealing his canine features. He glared at Kenpachi, who seemed unfazed at the revelation of Komamura's true face. "You don't seem very shocked."
"What do looks matter in a fight? It doesn't matter if you look like a beast, but if you can fight like one."
"My appearance blinds you to my true power, Kenpachi. I'm not as nice as Tosen." he turned his head towards the crazed captain. "Bankai." Kenpachi blinked at the sudden activation.
"Whoa…" he looked at the black and grey armored samurai giant created by Komamura's Bankai with an almost psychotic grin. It's posture was an exact copy of Komamura's. It's sword guard was identical to Komamura's, the blade curving back a bit more, resembling a scimitar slightly. A string hung from the end of the handle.
"Come, Kenpachi Zaraki!" he roared. "Time for the killing you love so much!" Kenpachi laughed wickedly.
"Oh, I love it, alright!" he hefted his sword, grinning maniacally. "If that's what you want, I won't hold back any! A fight to the death with a powerful opponent! This is exactly what I've been waiting for!" just as he was about to charge, the Sokyoku, in the distance, began to emit a bright blue glow that could be seen from anywhere in the Seireitei.
"The Sokyoku!" Komamura said.
"Yeah." Kenpachi nodded. "Looks like it's started."
13th division barracks
Ukitake let out a breath as he continued to work on unsealing the Shihoin shield. Central 46 had ignored his warning not to execute Rukia, and he had discussed with Shunsui and Unohana about whether or not it was right. Shunsui agreed with him, and Unohana had voiced her own and Naruto's suspicions about the execution. The old friends had agreed that the execution had to be stopped. He was momentarily distracted by his 3rd seats calling for him, alerting him that the Sokyoku was activating. No sooner had Kiyone began warning him had he finally broken the seal. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Kiyone. I had trouble with the seal. I'm ready now, though. The Central 46 ignored our warning, so this is our only option. We need to destroy the Sokyoku." he pulled out the shield. His 3rd seats nodded.
With Yachiru & Co.
"What was that?" Orihime asked, feeling a large reiatsu forming.
"That's the Sokyoku!" Yachiru explained. "The execution's starting."
"What?" Uryu shouted in shock. "Then we need to move faster!"
"I'll met you there." Yachiru said. At their surprised exclamations, she replied, "I don't really care about the execution, but Icchi and Whiskers want to stop it. They're Ken-chan's friends, so I have to help them." Orihime smiled at the tiny pink haired Shinigami. "I'll deal with the tough guys! You can have the weak ones!" she exclaimed before dashing forward, leaving them all in the dust.
Renji groggily opened his eyes to see Hanataro Yamada, the Shinigami from 4th division who helped Ichigo, healing him. "What the…"
"You're that guy who helped Ichigo. I heard you got captured. Why are you healing me?"
"I brought him." he turned to see a Shinigami from the 6th division staring at him.
"You're… Rikichi! Why?" Rikichi bowed his head.
"He got thrown in jail for trying to help Kuchiki-sama. I thought he'd heal someone who got hurt doing the same thing." Rikichi explained. "I couldn't believe that you lost to the Ryoka. Then I heard that you escaped and started to help the Ryoka. You pointed your sword at us!" Renji stared impassively at the unseated officer. The Shinigami had every right to be mad at him. "Then I remembered that I joined the Gotei 13 because of you!" he smiled at Renji, pointing to the tattoo above his eyebrow that was reminiscent of Renji's own tattoos. "So you need to fight for what you think is right!" he pulled a new Shihakusho out of his backpack, presenting it to Renji. "Here's a new Shihakusho and headband! Please wear them!"
"I didn't want to get anyone else involved." Hanataro began, standing up. "I was hoping to figure out a way to save Rukia-san myself, but I'm too weak to do anything." he bowed before Renji. "Please, succeed where I failed. Save Rukia-san!" Renji nodded, now fully clad in his usual attire.
"Very well, Rukia Kuchiki." Yamamoto said. "After your execution, we will allow the Ryoka to leave unharmed." Rukia smiled gratefully at the aged captain-commander.
"How cruel." Isane said. "He intends to kill them all."
"Is it cruelty, Isane?" Unohana asked. "Now she may die with a little peace of mind. It is compassion, not cruelty." she shut her eyes. 'It looks like Naruto-kun was too late…'
"Let the Sokyoku fall." Yamamoto commanded as Rukia was hoisted up onto the execution platform.
Naruto rapidly approached the Sokyoku hill, sensing Ichigo speeding towards the hill as well. 'Looks like Strawberry is going to make it there before I do. Dammit, I wish I had the Hiraishin right now!' he upped his speed, willing to risk using some of his reishi to increase his speed. It may weaken him, but time was of the essence. He had to risk it.
'Hang on, Rukia-chan! We're coming!'
And DONE! Dear lord, this was way longer than I thought it was going to be! I actually had to cut it in half. I was intending to have the entire arc, up to Aizen's reveal, in this chapter, but I didn't have enough time. The ending's a bit lackluster, but it's the best I can do right now.
On another note, I'll be stopping my work entirely for the rest of the year. Yeah, an entire day without an update! So sad, isn't it? Once January begins, however, all of my stories will be placed on hiatus except for Maelstrom of the Gods. The reason, you ask? I will be finishing it. Once I complete it, which hopefully won't take too long, I'll be working on Shinigami Ninja and Kitsune Vampire as my main projects, with the occasional Heart of a Devil chapter thrown in. As I've explained many times, Heart of a Devil is much more difficult to write than the others. I hope you understand.
Forever in the Sky,
The Red Star