A/N - I LIVE! And so does this story. Apologies to all my loyal readers for the delay of... Has to be two or three months by this point. Ouch. There's not really a vast amount I can say about that, really - dropping out of uni, finding a new place to live, getting a job, these all take time. And thus, time away from writing my glorious fanfiction. Still, that is being changed right now, and will hopefully stay this new,improved way for a fair bit of the foreseeable future.

As for Bleach as a whole... Byakuya, you be fine, damn it all. The world needs more refined gentlemen in it, not last, damn it all. On the plus side, though, Kenpachi is still as awesome as ever. Considerable portions of this chapter inspired entirely by that 'arrival' panel of the recent chapter.

Enough rambling. On with the story.

888

His sword was an angel, and it was murdering him.

Kenpachi had just enough time to realize the inherent irony in the situation before an iron-hard wing sweep caught him in the chest and sent him flying sideways through the air. He'd heard that sword spirits often took on physical appearances most suited to the soul of the Shinigami that they served - Yumichika's sword was by all accounts every bit as vain and beauty-obsessed as he was. What did it say about him, then, that the sword spirit currently trying to tear him limb from limb took the form of a beautiful woman?

Then again, in his experience, most women didn't have a pair of gigantic glittering wings growing from their backs, let alone six of them. And he was fairly sure that even in the traditional angel mythologies, those wings were supposed to be made out of feathers or something equally soft. Not a collection of razor sharp serrated blades. That wing swipe left a pattern of ugly wounds all the way up his torso, so when he flew through the air it was on a trail of his own blood.

Of course, the angry spirit wasn't just the beautiful creature in front of him - it was the entire city that they fought in as well. A fact he was abruptly reminded of when the wall behind him grew a series of foot long spikes just before his uncontrolled flight carried him into it. Most of them shattered under his weight, but one or two remained intact long enough to drive deep into his flesh, and more blood stained the barren floor.

He'd tried fighting back, of course - there was no one in the universe that could smack Kenpachi Zaraki around without some kind of retaliation. But, as it turned out, when you are forced to spend the entirety of your existence watching through there's of another as they fight a nearly endless succession of battles, you start growing dangerously familiar with their technique. Every move he had attempted to make, every slash or thrust, she had seemingly recognized in advance and prepared for. Not by dodging or parrying - no, she was far too furious to merely be satisfied with negating an attack - but by willingly absorbing the hit and using the opportunity provided to deliver another solid blow to his own battered form.

It didn't help that she'd shattered his sword within the first few moments of the fight, in that one brief moment of utter shock when he'd finally realized what had been making her so utterly furious. Now he was reduced to fighting with little more than a broken stump, and even he had to admit that left him at a serious disadvantage. Well, step one would be changing that little imbalance of forces.

With a grunt, he rolled back to his feet, staring up at the approaching figure with eyes that could barely see through the thin film of blood running down from his forehead. The lack of visibility reduced her to little more than an ill-defined blur of pale silver, and with an annoyed snarl he wiped one hand across his eyes to clear them. When he lowered it half a second later, she was right in front of him, a pair of glittering swords slashing in to disembowel him.

Kenpachi didn't take so much as a step back, not even as the twin blades carved deep furrows in his flesh and he felt the first stirrings of his guts beginning to slip out through the ragged wounds. Instead, he reached out and grabbed the angel by both wrists, holding her immobile for a brief second. A second which he used to bring his head forwards and deliver a crushing blow to the surprisingly delicate features in front of him.

The two of them staggered apart, but now the paired swords were gripped in Kenpachi's hands, and that made all the difference. He concentrated for a moment, allowing some of his spiritual pressure to heat the glittering metal of the left hand blade, then pressing it against his gut wound in a crude cauterization. The stink of cooking flesh filled the air, mingling with the scents of a dying city, and he looked back up at the furious angel standing before him.

"You want a name, is that it?" he growled, hefting the swords once more into a fighting stance. They were a bit lighter than what he was used to, and it had been quite some time since he'd last practiced duel wielding, but he was reluctant to throw either of them away. So he stowed one in the empty sheath at his side and took the other in a two handed grip.

The angel, his Zanpahkto incarnate, glared at him with eyes that burned with hatred. The head-but had shattered her nose and left trails of blood running down her face, and yet she still somehow managed to look more beautiful than ever. Kenpachi began to wonder if his obsession with battle and the craft of death might have reached an unhealthy level, if he could find beauty in such a murderous wraith as this. Her voice was still low and rumbling, coming from the entire city around him.

"Yes. It is all I have ever wanted, an end to the agony of anonymity. If I cannot have it through a name, I will rip you limb from limb and forget the pain in a rain of your blood."

Kenpachi laughed, a deep and feral sound that would have been more fitting coming from a wild beast than a man. "Well too bad. I am not dying here, and I am not giving you a name." he returned her glare, watching as the delicate features first froze in shock, and then contorted in fury. "I didn't ask for my name. I chose it, and then I earned it. If you are too damn weak to even do that, then you aren't worthy of being my sword."

The angel shrieked in rage and threw herself forwards, tears of blood running down her face. The six glittering wings arched forwards, their razor edges glinting in the dying light and already tinged red with his blood. All around them, the city creaked and groaned, buildings collapsing to the ground in an unstoppable avalanche of broken steel and shattered concrete. Kenpachi, no longer smiling, braced himself and then, at the last moment, thrust forwards.

The stolen blade, a good three foot of tempered metal with an edge sharpened to a razor point, punched straight through silver armour and the pale flesh beneath, erupting from her back in a shower of blood. They stood there for a moment, haloed by glittering wings and held face to face by the connecting blade, before strength left battered limbs and both collapsed to the ground. As they fell, a single word floated through the battered city, echoing in all the dark and abandoned places that made up his soul.

"Keres."

888

He woke in a hospital bed, something that tended to occur far too frequently for his liking. Still, it was hardly unfamilar, though he had to admit the choice of attendents was not perhaps what he would consider ideal. Usually it was Unohana, standing by to restrain him with a smile and an implied threat to calm him down before his fury fell on an unsuspecting member of her division.

Finding the petite commander of the Stealth Forces crouched on his chest, half a second away from plunging the stinger of her released Zanpahkto through his eye... that was new. Very, very slowly, Kenpachi blinked and cleared his throat.

"Uh... mind not doing that?"

Soi Fon seemed to consider that for rather longer than he was entirely comfortable with, before nodding and hopping off. Her sword was already sealed and sheathed again by the time her feet touched the floor, which was just as well, as it allowed her to look... well, not innocent, but less murdrous when Captain Unohana walked through the door a moment or two later. The healer shot the assassin a slightly suspicious look, before turning her attentions back to her patient.

"Ah, Captain Zaraki, you're conscious. Good. You had us worried with such an unusually slow recovery rate."

Zaraki nodded slowly, unsurprised to discover that he'd been out of it for longer than usual. He wasn't sure how long he'd spent stalking and then fighting his sword spirit through the ruins of that old city, but it had been a damn sight longer than he usually allowed himself to be confined to a hospital, he knew that much.

"Yeah. Had... some things to work out." He said by way of explanation, and was profoundly grateful when Unohana declined to push for any further details. Soi Fon did not look so merciful, but a single glance from the healer evidently convinced her that she'd pushed her luck far enough these past few days. With a short bow, the Stealth Force commander vanished from the room, leaving Unohana to give a pointed look at Kenpachi's right hand.

He looked down, and was mildly surprised to find it closed around the hilt of his Soul Slayer. Ah. That would explain Soi Fon's reaction, then – it couldn't have been particularly reassuring for her to watch his sword leap into the hands of a supposedly comatose man. Still, with that taken care of... he raised his gaze back towards his fellow Captain.

"Where's Yachiru?"

888

A/N – So, for those curious, the term 'Keres' refers to ancient Greek Mythology. It was the name given to a type of death spirit, reputed to eat the hearts of the dead and drag their souls to Tartarus. I needed a name, and it seemed fitting.

See you in the next chapter, which shall hopefully not be NEARLY as heavily delayed.