Since this is just an introduction, setting the scene for the story I want to write, I'm sorry to disappoint but there will be no smut. Hopefully we'll be getting somewhere in Chapter 1, and I hope you'll stick with me for that. :)
Ittouryuu: lit. one katana flow, i.e., one sword style.
Nitouryuu: two sword style.
Iai: style of drawing, killing the opponent, and then returning the blade to the sheath as fast as possible.
Santouryuu: three sword style.
"Chire": v. to scatter or flutter, used to describe falling flower petals, esp. blossoms.
Hamon: wavy line of coloration along the shinogi of a sword, resulting from complicated heat treatments. This is one way to judge the quality of a sword.
Shinogi: ridge line of a katana, between the sharp edge and the blunt side.
Sanji lit up, leaning on a fence in what appeared to be Edo-period Japan. "Basically that guy's power was the Over-Over Fruit, which can cross people over from one anime into another. Is that it?"
Zoro's eyebrow twitched as he leaned on the same fence. "Why the hell are you asking me?"
As they stood there, people in ragged, patch-worked kimonos - along with the occasional rickshaw - passed through the narrow, dirt streets, buying and selling and chatting and living their lives, threading in and out of old wooden buildings that all had a very distinct Edo feel about them. There was not a pirate nor indeed a foreigner of any kind in sight. To say nothing of the fact that they were no longer in the middle of the sea.
Sanji glanced around again and then sighed out a smoky breath. "What anime is this, then?"
A vein popped in Zoro's forehead. "Again, what the hell do you expect to find out by asking me?"
"I don't know. You're a sort of pure-hearted young person, with a burgeoning masculine aesthetic. I figured you'd read Shonen Jump or something like that now and again."
"Well I don't. You don't read any manga?"
"Only the dirty ones." As he spoke, a gap-toothed old woman stared at them as she passed. "And this doesn't seem to be one of those." He took in a long drag with his eyes closed in thought, and finally his gaze flicked up again. "Well. At the very least, we know the bad guy escaped."
Zoro aimed a glare his way. "How do we know that?"
"If he'd won, the others would be here with us now, right?" Zoro had to admit that this was true. "And if he'd lost, we'd already be back by now. In other words, we're just going to have to wait until they catch hold of him again, and force him to bring us back somehow."
"Hmph," Zoro grunted. "Nice theory. But I don't think it's going to go quite so smoothly."
"How do you mean?"
Zoro thumbed to his right, where could be seen a small dust cloud. Making it were people in black kimonos running towards them and shouting.
"Damn it," Sanji grunted in annoyance, dropping his cigarette and stubbing it out with his heel. "What do they want?"
"Stop asking me," Zoro growled.
Then suddenly, people started to back away from them, and one voice popped up, "Look, shinigami are coming."
Zoro and Sanji both followed the voice to its speaker, a young boy. Then they exchanged glances.
"Did you hear that?"
"Yeah," Zoro grunted, his hand on Wado's hilt.
"I think we should-"
The two promptly dashed off in the opposite direction.
Lighting his cigarette while running (which required a great deal of skill and concentration), Sanji groaned loudly. "Why do I have to be stuck here with you? Now we're running together. This is so lame."
"Run by yourself then!" Zoro snarled. "Or get yourself stuck here forever! Actually, do that."
"Kiss my ass! If Nami-san finds out I left you here, she'll hate me forever!"
"That's a big conditional for a ship that's already sailed."
"I hate you down to the last hair on your mossy head!"
"Good! Then stop talking to me, and concentrate on running, dumbass!"
Just as Zoro finished this sentence, from high in the sky, a huge stone wall the size of a palace slammed down several hundred feet in front of them, and continued to fall in a line so long it reached the horizon. They stopped in their tracks, both realizing that they had at some point run into an open area, and now there was nowhere to run or hide.
Sanji sighed and breathed out smoke. "I'm sure this is your fault somehow."
"Bite me! Anyway…" They both turned back to see the black-clothed people catching them up. "…let's forget the weirdness that this huge wall just came down here. I get the feeling we shouldn't go near it, but we don't seem to have much choice."
Another sigh from Sanji. "No, I guess not. Okay. So how do you expect to-"
They both looked up towards a gate in the massive wall. In front of it, a man nearly as tall as the enormous wall was high had just landed, seemingly having fallen from the sky as well. He grinned at them like he was actually happy to see them.
"Where the hell did he come from?"
"Stop asking me."
"What have we here?" boomed the enormous man. "Not much reiryoku considering you're brave enough to face me head-on."
"Here we go again. First 'shinigami' and now 'reiryoku'. What sort of anime is this?" Sanji muttered.
"The kind where you should shut the hell up and stop thinking aloud. If you ask me one more goddamn rhetorical question, I swear-"
"Oh? When did you learn the word 'rhetorical'?"
"Hey…" muttered the enormous man, somewhat awkwardly.
"You are asking for it, cook, I've been laying off until we figure out what's going on here-"
"I'm not shitting you, I'm actually impressed. It's got three whole syllables. That's got to be a headache for you."
"Hello…?" said the man again.
Zoro drew Shuusui and Kitetsu with a deadly grin. "That's it! You brought this on yourself, cook. Now die peacefully."
Sanji snarled. "Fair enough. I've been dying for a chance to try my new skills on you from that terrifying okama island." He stamped once on the ground and set his right leg ablaze, so now both it and the end of his cigarette were burning in anger. "Come and get it, muscle head."
"Enough!" cried the huge man. "If you're not attacking, then I will! Take-"
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" chorused Sanji and Zoro, simultaneously blasting the man backwards with a Diable Jambe Mouton Shot and a 72-Pound Cannon.
The man's face at that moment was quite something, caught between total misunderstanding and stunned pain, as he was rapidly losing consciousness. Which he did do, right after he crashed in the gate behind him head-first. The gate remained intact until Sanji's and Zoro's attacks carried through past their target, blasting twin holes in the several-feet-thick wood.
"Well that was easy," Sanji grumbled, almost disappointed. He had smoked down his cigarette all the way in his anger, so he flicked it away in annoyance and lit up another. "Although, it's just occurred to me that going inside there might actually make things wo-"
Zoro suddenly grabbed Sanji by the scruff and dragged him through the gate, just as some weird projectiles came their way. Once inside, they started running again, though half looking over their shoulders.
"What the hell was that? And you've got a lot of nerve messing up my collar," Sanji grunted, adjusting it.
Zoro shook his head, looking unusually shaken. "I don't get it. I was watching the whole time. One of those guys after us said some words, and suddenly his sword turned into those flying things. I don't think it was a devil fruit ability either."
Sanji considered for a moment, then he indicated a quiet-looking alley and they ducked into it, crouching down behind some shrubs as their pursuers ran past them. "I guess it's only natural there will be some differences," Sanji muttered. "This is technically something like a parallel world for us. We'll have to watch out for guys talking to their swords I guess."
Sanji had tried very hard not to smile at the end of that sentence. He even covered it by taking a drag with his hand over his mouth while looking at the ground. But his grin got the better of him.
Zoro's cheeks actually went red. "Jackass, I'm telling you, that's what I saw. And I didn't say he was talking to his sword, he was just talking, didn't seem like he was addressing anyone."
"We'll watch out for schizophrenics too, then."
"I'm this close, you fucking cook, I swear to god."
But Sanji was distracted from his retort as someone stopped nearby where they were hiding.
"They took down Jidanbou with one blow?" said an incredulous woman's voice.
"See for yourself, if you get a chance. It's hard to believe," answered a man. "More importantly, they both seem to be human, and neither one has any reiatsu to speak of."
"Is that even possible?"
"I guess we're here because it is. Anyway, Muguruma Taichou's been notified, and I think Hisagi Fukutaichou at least will be here soon. In the meantime, I think we should stay in this area in case they come back."
The woman scoffed. "They should, if they know what's good for them. I wonder if they realize they've walked into the rat's nest, so to speak."
Sanji aimed a glare at Zoro, though of course he couldn't say anything with the people standing so close by. Zoro closed his eyes in annoyed acceptance of the blame.
"I'd really like to see the humans who blasted their way into Seireitei. Do they know they're in a military institution for shinigami?"
Sanji ground the heels of his hands into his eye sockets in anguish, though to his credit he did so silently.
"Hey, let's check over there, I think I saw something." And presently the speakers left.
Sanji rounded on Zoro. "What did I say?" he growled.
Zoro scratched the back of his neck. "I got it. I was wrong. So? Now what?"
"Tch," Sanji grunted. "Hell if I know. They were saying something about captains and lieutenants, and now it's a shinigami fucking war base?! What the hell is a shinigami?!"
"What do you mean?" Zoro murmured in surprise. "It's like the grim reaper, isn't it?"
Sanji narrowed his eyes at him. "Yes, I'm aware of that. But they're obviously human, so it can't mean what we think it does."
Zoro sighed heavily. "Let's just find somewhere to think."
Sanji scoffed. "He can't think and crouch down at the same time."
"You have a problem?!"
"Whatever. Lead the way, gorilla. Wait!" Sanji grabbed Zoro's shoulder as he was about to get up, covering his own eyes in shame. "I can't believe I just said that. Just don't get separated, okay? You directionless bastard."
"When this is over, I'll cut you."
"I can't wait."
Sanji led them very carefully through a maze of alleyways, barely escaping capture at every turn. He was starting to think they were doing okay until, several minutes later, he turned around. He stared for many long moments at the empty space behind him which was noticeably lacking a mossy green-headed bastard. He clenched his fists and then conked his head against a wall in exasperation.
"How could I imagine he could do just one thing right?"
A few blocks away, Zoro was starting to take notice of the fact that he was no longer following anyone, and unfortunately, that it was also getting dark.
He scoffed. "Idiot cook got himself lost again. He's got a nerve, criticizing me."
Trying to find someplace quiet so he could think (or more likely take a nap), Zoro headed toward nicer houses, since that area seemed quieter. He could see, over the high wall of a huge estate, some trees. A garden would be a nice place to nap (think, he amended belatedly), and probably someplace people were unlikely to look. He was well aware of the guards hiding themselves all over that place. He quietly took a few down with Wado's flat edge, then slipped over the wall into the garden.
He had to raise his eyebrows a bit. He was expecting a garden, not a whole damn park. Whoever owned this place obviously had enough land and money to maintain such a place, but didn't grow food or build houses. He never did get rich people.
Then again, at the moment it was quiet a relaxing sight. He wandered around a bit, looking for a good place to stay hidden but also be comfortable. Suddenly, he felt a presence behind him. He stopped.
"What are you doing in my garden?" asked a cold voice, speaking an archaic, highborn dialect.
Zoro partly turned his face minimally to address the speaker, but not enough so that they could see each other. "Uh…" Zoro thought for a moment. "Standing."
He could tell without looking at him that the man was not amused. "Who are you?"
Zoro finally turned to face the speaker, hiding a bit of annoyance. He took him in for a moment; a relatively tall man who looked to be a little under thirty, with long black hair in some sort of complicated clip. He wore a sword at his hip, and an official-looking haori on his back. Most importantly, he was positively brimming with killing intent. The man's sight and presence, since he was obviously so strong and would be a challenge for anyone, actually excited Zoro. But he himself was not aware of that.
Zoro sighed and picked his ear absently. "You know, the way I was brought up, it's polite to introduce yourself first before asking someone else's name."
The man's already cold eyes narrowed. "This is my estate. It is not beyond the realm of imagining that you would know my name."
The man closed his eyes, turning away in proud apathy. "Absurd. Name yourself now."
Zoro didn't like answering to demands, but he figured it could do no harm simply to say his name. "Roronoa Zoro."
That got a pause out of the aristocratic man. He didn't look like the sort of man who showed his feelings a lot, but his eyebrows were raised. At that moment, the conversation was interrupted by a small, dark-haired girl stepping out of the mansion which was attached to this massive garden. She too was dressed in a black kimono.
"Nii-sama?" she said, curiously. "Is…" and then she stopped, staring at Zoro. "This…this must be one of them! Just now, a hell butterfly arrived saying that two humans had defeated Jidanbou and broken into Seireitei."
The aristocrat closed his eyes in thought, though Zoro could sense he was deciding whether or not to attack directly, or to wait for reinforcements. "Very well," he said, to the girl. "Alert the 9th division. I will hold him here in the meantime."
Zoro glanced aside, refusing to acknowledge that sentiment. Sure he would.
But even this small gesture seemed not to go unnoticed by the sharp aristocrat. As the girl ran off, the man addressed him again. "Is there some purpose to your carrying three swords?"
Zoro's gaze flicked up to him. "Funny you should ask." He loosed Wado just an inch from its sheath, and the message was clear.
The man narrowed his eyes again, then turned away, clearly controlling his impulse to take Zoro up on that invitation. "I have no intention to fight you unless you run. So far as I know, you pose no significant threat."
Zoro took in this idea thoughtfully. He clicked Wado back into place. "I can't say I hate that thinking." He scratched the back of his neck. "As far as I know I'm not a threat either. Just trying to get out of here. Sort of came in by mistake." Zoro started drifting off as he remembered the events with annoyance, failing to notice the change in the atmosphere of the other man. "There was an argument, so we just sort of…bashed in. I think it was that asshole cook's fault." He sighed. "Guess I have to find him. That dumbass. He's probably in trouble by now too."
Zoro suddenly stopped as he saw the noble's hand touch his sword. In a flash he had drawn it, though he grew still after that. Zoro sighed. "I thought I wasn't a threat."
"As I recall, what I said was that I had no intention to fight you unless you ran. What were you planning on doing after you finished speaking just now?"
Zoro grinned. "You're sharp. But I don't see how my actions are any of your business unless I harm some of your people. Or plan to."
The man raised his eyebrows. "My guards?"
"Ah." He had him there. "Fair enough. I still don't plan to draw unless you're faster than me to that wa-"
Zoro grinned, as he had been forced to half draw Wado from its sheath to block the strike that would have gutted him. It was instantaneous, and the man had been twenty feet away. "You really want to see my fighting style that badly?"
"I have no interest," the man replied coolly, not even out of breath.
Zoro grinned again, and then fully drew Wado to force them apart. They skidded on the grass as they landed about twenty feet apart again. By the end of that movement, Zoro had drawn all three swords and was ready for the next engagement.
The noble observed this. "So you do use all three at once."
"I thought you had no interest," Zoro replied glibly, speaking around Wado's hilt.
"Hmph," grunted the noble, and Zoro thought he saw the barest trace of a smile trying to tug at one corner of the man's lips. "We shall see."
The man attacked again, and just as Zoro had thought the first time, he was frighteningly fast. If Zoro had been using ittouryuu for example, he wasn't sure he would have been able to keep up.
"The flaw with nitouryuu," said the noble, not even pausing in his attacks, "is the loss of balance and the ability to block and move freely with one's non-dominant hand. It requires intense training to master, and is inefficient even in mastery."
Zoro grinned. "Aren't you smart? Ok, then. Have you ever seen nitouryuu iai?"
The noble narrowed his eyes. "Nonsense. There is no such thing." And in that brief moment of distraction, Zoro threw him back again.
Zoro instantly sheathed his blades and rearranged Shuusui and Kitetsu. "Nitouryuu Iai," he said. "Rashoumon!"
In the huge light and blast of wind that grew from the sheer force of Zoro's strike, the other man's hair was blown back and his eyes went wide open. He had dodged by a hair's breadth, and about a millimeter of his bangs was sliced neatly a few inches from his face. The wind faded, and the noble's attention was drawn behind him, where not only his own wall, but also three of his neighbors' walls had been sliced through.
Zoro leisurely drew all three swords again. "I've heard those arguments before. But I've been santouryuu since I was nine. I don't plan on changing."
The noble watched him for a time in restrained disbelief. "I see," he said eventually. Then he brought his sword up so it was pointing to the sky in front of him. "In that case, if only for the sake of my garden, it would seem that killing you quickly will be advantageous."
"Flattered," Zoro muttered with a smirk.
The noble turned his wrist, so now his blade was flat. "Chire," he said softly. Zoro's eyes widened, remembering the man from before. "Senbonzakura."
The blade began to turn pink, and as it did so, scattered like cherry blossoms into the air. There was a moment when he thought, as they floated softly in the air around the noble, that it was beautiful. The next thing Zoro knew, his own blood met his vision. He grunted, gritting his teeth as blood dripped down his whole body. It almost seemed as if every inch of him was cut. He realized the beautiful petals were still just pieces of a sword.
"Senbonzakura," said the noble, approaching him. "One thousand sakura petals. My sword scatters into a thousand pieces, my reiatsu gives them a pink hue, and so it appears to be a thousand sakura petals floating around you as you die."
"I see," said Zoro with a grin. The noble stopped in his tracks, obviously surprised that Zoro was alive. "Pretty cool. But I don't feel dead yet. Why don't you try it again? Maybe you missed me."
The noble's brows furrowed ever so slightly. He raised his free hand, obviously intending to use that attack again, and then Zoro arched his blades around one side of him, brought them back around and said, "Tatsu….maki!"
Senbonzakura's blades, as well as nearly everything else that wasn't nailed down around them, went flying into the air in a massive whirlwind. The noble's eyes went wide again, as this time he was unable to avoid the strike that sliced several times into his chest. Though like Zoro, this strike was not nearly enough to kill him.
Suddenly, from over the wall, "Son of a bitch!"
Zoro and the noble both turned to look, as Sanji easily vaulted the wall into the garden, dragging behind him a whole mess of those black-clothed guys. Sanji raged as he came to stand by Zoro.
"You son of a bitch! I was following sounds of a commotion to try to find your dumb ass, and you nearly kill me with your goddamn twister thing! Speaking of which, what the fuck happened to you? You look like you went through a meat grinder."
Zoro growled. "You back off. This guy's mine."
Sanji briefly glanced at the opponent. "Oh you can fucking have him. But you know…"
Sanji trailed off as they both observed their situation. All around them, more and more shinigami were showing up, though still giving them a wide birth. Several strong-looking ones showed up to stand at the front, with official-looking arm bands.
"…we may be in trouble here," Sanji concluded.
Zoro closed his eyes and sighed. "I think we can still fight our way out."
Sanji was abnormally silent for a long time, so Zoro turned to look at him. To Zoro's immense annoyance, the cook had a dumb grin on his face and his pupils had turned to hearts. "Maybe you can…" Sanji struggled to speak, his voice suddenly lilting and passionate. "…I'm done for. Leave me. Save yourself." He laughed stupidly. "This ship has found its harbor."
Finally, Zoro followed his gaze.
"Kuchiki Taichou," said a strong-looking woman, with one of those arm bands. "Is everything all right here?"
After seeing her, Zoro really couldn't blame Sanji. He himself was struggling not to blush. The woman in question had long, chestnut-colored hair, which was silky and perfectly coifed all the way down her back, and wore an attractive pink scarf in addition to the black uniform. However, it was hard to notice the scarf, given the almost careless arrangement of the front of the uniform, which barely covered the important bits of her breasts, each nearly the size of Sanji's head. In spite of this, her waist was tiny, and flared out to encompass ample hips. As if that wasn't enough, her pink cheeks, voluminous lips, long eyelashes, small nose and slightly drooping eyes were enough to take down any man. Not to mention, she was holding a sword. That last part was pushing some of Zoro's buttons.
The man called Kuchiki straightened his clothing in annoyance, acting as if he were uninjured, in spite of the blood dripping down his chest. "It is. Convey these ryoka to a cell. Leave them to Yamamoto Soutaichou's judgment."
Zoro gritted his teeth, knowing that, as Sanji said, he still had the option to run. If he was willing to leave Sanji behind. He growled loudly in annoyance. Then he sheathed his blades. "Bastard," Zoro grumbled. "It's about time you fixed that troublesome fucking personality trait. I don't care if you get yourself killed, but don't drag me into it."
However, Sanji was not really listening. He held out his wrists before him, vaguely walking toward the stunning woman. "Take me anywhere…I'll go with you to the ends of the earth…"
Zoro sighed. Very reluctantly, he removed his swords from his belt. He dropped them on the ground in front of him. He glanced at the one called Kuchiki. "Too bad," he said with a smirk. "Things were just getting interesting."
Kuchiki observed him for a moment in what might have been irritation. "Nonsense. Know your place."
Zoro scoffed, still smirking but slightly irked by that attitude. Several shinigami approached them, bound their hands, and led them away. After Zoro was gone, he was not aware that someone picked up Shuusui, and briefly unsheathed it.
Kuchiki Byakuya gazed thoughtfully at the blade. It was a masterpiece. Even down to the hamon, elegantly rippling alongside the shinogi, and the slight heaviness that came from the innate, powerful soul inside it, every inch was beautiful. He could tell without being told that this sword had a name, which gave it further power. However, no matter how excellent the sword, he could not see how that last attack could be physically possible. Least of all, by a human.
He requested permission that afternoon to do his own research on the blades, which, due to his high breeding and therefore strict education on all forms of Japanese art, including sword-making, was granted. He spent many long hours examining the exquisite blades, all the while unable to shake the tingling sensation of crossing swords with one so powerful, without the assistance of reiatsu. He had to know who this man was, and what he meant. And thus ended the first meeting of Roronoa Zoro and Kuchiki Byakuya.