Preparation for the FightEdit
Zero hadn’t been joking either. When the angle-faced veteran said they would be a few hours tending the wounded and carrying them to tents farther back in the Rukon District, Kentaro hadn’t quite expected for them to remain so long. They were into their fifth hour since he had killed the Adjuchas, though he still felt tired down to his bones.
A woman of the 4th Division, with the usual medical pack over her back which marked her as such carried not only bandages and other medical supplies such as salves and cream, but steaming hot food in a tray carried from the hastily prepared fires the older Shinigami had prepared. The scent of the food – probably leathery meat – made his stomach rumble, and that made him aware for the first time that day that he hadn’t eaten since early that morning.
“Eat up,” Kenji said, tossing him a length of crusty bread and some cheese. “It ain’t great, but it’ll keep your strength up.” Sitting down beside his son, the hero of the Shinigami scanned the crowd quickly, seeming to weigh everyone before returning that calm gaze to his son. “Half of them are only children,” His voice was quiet, distant, “Your different.” He added when Kentaro looked at his with a slight amount of anger. “You’ve been trained your entire life, enjoyed it and took pride in it. These ones are different, son,” And he meant it. Placing a firm and strong hand on his sons shoulder, Kenji squeezed tightly and smiled. “Zero told you to get some rest, right? See those wounds healed when you can, and don’t give me the crap about others going first. You’re my son, and my concern lies with you. Besides,” he added, almost as an afterthought, “your mother, bless her, would skin my hide and yours to boot.”
There was no arguing that point. Ino was always asking after them, sending subtle reminders with the messengers that she expected to be told everything. She was too. If anything, his mother was… commanding. “Father,” Kentaro asked as Kenji stood to leave, “Thanks for leaving out the comparison.” Kenji knew what he meant and smiled as he departed. Out of everyone, it was only his father, Zero and Kusaka who made the conscious attempt not to compare him to his father. Kenji never did in fact, and that alone gave the youngster cause to smile.
“Thought I’d find you here,” Kusaka dropped beside him and put him in a tight head-lock, a smile plastered across his face. “Say uncle!” And he released as Kentaro voiced the words. “Damn kid, you look like hell,” A compliment from Kusaka if there ever was one, “and smell like it to boot. How you expect to get anywhere with Harumi if you smell like a wet dog?” There was nothing malicious in it, it was just Kusaka’s way. It was good to know he was there, though.
“Is it always so difficult,” Kentaro began, shifting on the stone he sat on. “Watching an ally die, I mean. I thought I could do it without blinking, but I guess I’m still weak...” His tone was distant, his gaze looking out across the battlefield as though searching out the pale-faced Shinigami, and shame settled in for not remembering his name. He'd forgotten one of the people he'd trained with.
Kusaka rose and after some shuffling, kneed him hard between the shoulders, driving out whatever air was in his lungs and knocking him forward. “That’s your punishment,” Kusaka said, and Kentaro felt he really should learn to hide his emotions better, “for saying something so stupid! We all mourn, Kentaro, its only natural that we do.” Then he remembered his father’s face at seeing the young dead Shinigami before their last skirmish. “War isn’t pleasant and never will be either. The best we can do is say your farewells and move on. Say them, and move on.” He repeated, before his smile returned. “I’m not sorry for the knee, though,” and with that, he glided away towards Kenji, speaking a few words to those he passed, which brought laughter.
Another two hours passed and in the sun was beginning to set, giving way to a full moon which dominated the stars twinkling brightly around it. The smoke had moved on, seemingly blown away by some Kidō spell, so for now, Kentaro enjoyed the view which actually managed to ease his feelings of dread. Footsteps announced a figure approaching but the youngster didn’t need to turn to know the man was his angle-faced mentor, Zero. “Sensei,” He greeted, using the title only when they were alone or in the company of Kenji. “How’s the planning going?” They spoke of war often, but Zero was a well of knowledge and its depths were deep.
“I spoke with Kusaka,” he began, voice somewhat sympathetic, “and he is right, son.” Something of a fatherly affection entered his tone. “Don’t dwell on past mistakes, or you’ll never move forward. The plans been agreed on and we leave within the hour. Hoist your belongings and prepare well, because we’ve got a long night ahead of us, lad. Harumi’s close to being exhausted, with the fighting and the healing, so she’ll need you out there. Look after her well,” He turned and walked away, his cloak seemingly causing parts of his body to disappear into the creeping darkness of night.
That hour came and went all too quickly, and when Kentaro felt the wind cut through his clothing, mocking the extra woolen cloak he wore, he ground his teeth irritably. He didn’t remember the last time he’d been so bone weary and sought only the comforts of a warm fire and his mothers cooking. “Life with what you cannot change, and focus on changing what you can.” His mother often said, and he found it fitting to the situation. He could make a difference, no matter how small.
Zaraki District was the lowest district in the Rukon and the poorest area by far. The area had long since been evacuated and turned into a base for the Rukon Patrol Teams, as were the majority of the outlying districts, but that didn’t stop the hollow trying to force their way through the districts numerically. “They’re trying to destroy everything and leave nothing left.” It was the only conclusion that made sense, and his father and others often agreed with him on the point. Smoke rose in thicker plumes here than it had further out and almost every sizable building had burn marks or large holes in their body work from continued fighting. Towers for extra vantage had been erected by the civilians before the Shinigami arrived but they were mostly untouched and unused. When you could float in the sky using Shunpo, towers weren’t needed except to mark a target for the hollow.
Looking out across the horizon, Kentaro found that Zero had been right again. There were a lot of hollow simply waiting a fair distance away, yellow eyes flashing in the night even at this distance. “Why are they just waiting?” Someone asked. “Should we attack? Or defend?” Questions piled atop more questions. “We should be quiet and see what comes of this,” Kentaro said atop them, quieting them. “Obviously, there’s something stopping us from attacking, so all we can do is wait and see.” Nodding, Zero took them into the district, heading straight towards a tent set up in the middle of one of the wider streets.
Chat and low murmurs filled the air and anticipation hung like an odor on the wind as those close enough to the tent wondered what they were going to do next. More than a few shifted feat uncomfortably, not liking the hollow standing so close without showing signs of a fight. “Are they some new breed” or “are we going to die” and a hundred other reasons crept up and spread throughout the crowd. To Kentaro the answer was simple as though it were staring him in the face and had just been hit across the cheek with it. "Hollow not acting on instinct?" That meant they were being commanded, either by a good number of Adjuchas... or an Arrancar.
Kentaro watched his father walk through the crowd to stand beside him and Zero. “Idiots,” He whispered fiercely. He’d walked from the tent a few moments ago and neither his expression nor his tone disguised his growing anger. “They won’t let the Rukon Patrol Teams leave the district and fight. They fear being flanked, yet we haven’t seen a hollow force except that one anywhere.”
Zero looked intent and Kentaro settled in to listen. “Head Captain,” Zero said, and Kenji raised his head, “you could lead us. The Ryu Order answers neither to the Soul Society nor the Central 46. Not even Grand Sovereign Council can command us, Head-Captain. Give the order, and we’ll attack when you say strike.” Intensity laced the veterans tone. The Ryu Order had the skill. No one doubted that. The Academy in Horiwari Village was teaching the new recruits on a higher scale than the Shinō Academy was currently, and a great many of those recruits were the ones digging in and getting the job done.
Kenji thought a moment and sighed, letting his smile show. “... Get them ready, Zero. I doubt the Patrol Teams will be fit to help. They seem convinced that there’s gonna be an army of hollow descend on them, and the Central 46 has spoken. Bloody fools, every one of them. Kentaro, you’re with us, son. Stay close to Zero.” His black outfit swished in the wind behind him as he walked away, the crowd opening to allow him past and then closing in behind him when he was passed.
Zero led him and the others of his squad towards the districts outskirts, never stopping all the way until men and women under the leadership of Kenji and Kusaka came into view. “Now that we’re all here,” "This is madness!” Between the three groups, they numbered less than fifty! “Kusaka and I are gonna go in and cause some confusion,” The two smiled, no doubt remembering the days they traveled together, “Zero will led you down when the signal – a Sōkatsui fired into the sky – is given. Kusaka lets go.”
Clearing the Way: Sanmiittai Revealed! Edit
Kenji didn’t really feel anything when he walked out toward the hollow with only Kusaka flanking him. They both wore compressed smiles, hiding their true feelings behind their practiced façade, but the grip that grasped their zanpakuto’s was eager for the fight. "Time to dance the swords again, eh, Kusaka?"
“Well old friend,” Kusaka said, hoisting Shagetsu’s straight-bladed edge and tapping his shoulder slightly, “guess we raise hell together again. Just remember what I said earlier, alright? I think its time we sent Averian a message; One saying to pick themselves up and get the fuck out.”
Kenji smiled and the two shunpo’d, taking them among the hollow horde and within blade-swing of their first killing of the night. Memories of when he’d fought an army of hollow invading some years back with Maki and Rikimaru filled his mind and he smiled in spite of the closeness he’d came with death that day. Raising his hook swords, Kenji and Kusaka began the slaughter.
And that was the only word to describe it. This wasn’t a battle. This was butchery in every sense of the word. Flowing gracefully through the steps of the Wan'nesu with lightning cloaking every strike, Kenji cut aside anything fool enough to face him one-on-one. Even those who came in a group died as his steel blurred in flashing arcs. The cruel hooks on the tip of his sword did their task with ease. Flesh tore apart with every slash and strike, every subtle movement and they singed as they did their purpose so well. The hand-guard, with the blade curved in the shape of a crescent moon was every bit as effective as the blade itself and more of the hollow fell to a slicing punch as they did to the swords wickedly sharp edge.
Kusaka was just as effective, only he in a different way. His Wan'nesu was destructive and wide, nowhere near the pinpoint strikes Kenji favored though the hollow died just as easily to a pinpoint slash than they did to a man blasting the ground beneath them with a Rei Furashuu-enhanced strike.
The hollow regained their composure amiss the confusion of suddenly being attacked and began to counter with renewed ferocity. Now standing back-to-back, Kenji tutted and directed a look over his shoulder at Kusaka. “Time to release?” Kusaka’s reply was a grin that basically said yes. Kusaka released instantly, the ever-familiar blackened scythe fitting his hand and the hollow around them died as he spun in wide, cutting arcs via the long chain attached to the scythes base.
Ducking to give him the room, Kenji waited for the scythe to slow before striding confidently towards the hollow encircling them. “If any of you actually survive, tell Averian I’ll be waiting for him to show himself again. Now, tell him this as well. Let the God’s Run Free, Sanmiittai!” The hook swords became a single hand-and-a-half sword with a basic appearance and black hilt wrapping at the base giving way to a silver bottom. Pressurized water escaped the blades tip and the hollow vanished in the torrent.
Loosing the Sōkatsui, Kusaka watched as the other Shinigami still stationed in the Zaraki District moved.
Kenji grinned and leapt back and then upwards, Kusaka following him closely. Kenji’s movements became a blur, as he instantly became a ball of glowing blue light that crackled with electricity. Darting round the battlefield, not really concentrating on anything, a steady cloud of dust and dirt began to fill the air. Stopping again beside Kusaka, the entire movement taking only a minute, Kenji grinned and exerted his spiritual energy, focusing the power into the heavens.
Thunder roared and lightning flashed! “Time to show them what we’re capable of,” Kenji sheathed his zanpakuto and directed his hands, the lightning seemingly obeying him as it directed as he willed. Explosions rose among the hollow ranks, raining death and flashing destruction down on them with every beating of Kenji’s heart. He simply acted as the director, channeling the lightning to his will and loosing it with his spiritual energy.
Kusaka couldn’t help but look on in awe. The Shinigami arriving hung back, adding to the lightning with Kidō blasts and zanpakuto techniques of their own; though few matched Kenji’s display of brilliance when it came to dealing death. “How long has it been? Since I saw him do this...? Since I felt the sheer power emanating from his in blasts? Why, the very heavens storm and rage when he moves his hand.”
Any thoughts of watching further vanished though as Kusaka descended. Kenji ceased the blasts of lightning and stood confidently with a slight amount of electric discharge loosing from his body. Kusaka sighed and flashed to Kenji’s side. Something unexpected had occurred. Something neither had thought to account for. “He’s here.”
There was no need to say who he was. Kenji knew as surely as every other man who happened to sense the hastily hidden spiritual energy that spiked so prominently one second, then was silent the next. It was like watching all the life die within a forest in a single second with only the wind left to blow between the trees. Averian had come in person.
A Hasty Retreat Edit
Kentaro ducked beneath a foul-looking appendage shaped like that of a man’s spine and severed the hollow owner at the waist. He was exhausted. His arms would barely lift his zanpakuto to block the next punch which sent him trailing backwards across the blood-soaked ground.
Harumi, like him, was so bone weary that she couldn’t have aided him even if she were close enough. Two hollow missed as she danced around their strikes, very much a picture of grace and beauty even here on the battlefield and in her tired state. Reaching deep inside for the strength he needed, Kentaro momentarily felt more alert and less weary, though the feeling of heightened awareness lasted no time and departed too quickly as he struck the creature down.
Moving on wooden legs, Kentaro had to hack through three other hollow which seemed to powerful to him before he reached Harumi. Her breathing was even more labored than his and sweat slicked her hair and dirt covered her face. Her clothing was cut and torn, exposing her stomach and her beautiful legs.
His grip pulled her back and he moved forward, the blade of Tenchikaimei stabbing the hollow through the middle of its mask. “Stay behind,” he injected strength into his voice, though he felt drained and scared inside. “I will protect you!” That came out as a fierce battle cry and he hacked at anything that came too close, which to say, was often. He was encircled now, with only himself and Harumi as targets.
“Don’t gawk, boy! Stand and fight!” Zero’s deep, booming voice snapped him into awareness and his next wave-like energy attack cleared a space for Kentaro and Harumi to retreat through. “Zero,” The youngster called, though his call was lost in a hollows roar. “Zero!”
A hand pulled him back and Kusaka stood tall with six other Shinigami beside him. “I’ll go. You stay here and guard Harumi,” Ruffling Kentaro’s head as he moved, the scythed blade of Shagetsu hut home and before long, Zero sprinted across to them with a gash across the chest and one across his angular face. “Those reinforcements are going to overrun us,” Zero confided in Kusaka’s ear. “They’ve split our forces and word has it that Kenji’s fighting Averian. Fiercely at that,” He moved away and spoke in quieter tones, “I’ll cover the retreat and get everyone out, Kusaka-Taichō. You do what needs to be done.”
Not hearing so much as a word of what they spoke about, Kentaro allowed himself to be led away by Zero’s strong hand. He didn’t know what else they could have done, but right now all he could think of was getting back to camp and sleeping; maybe with a hot bath as well to help wash his pains away.
Harumi was so tired, she couldn’t even move her legs beyond dragging them. Hoisting her onto his back and kissing her cheek as her head rested on his shoulder, Kentaro tried not to let his tiredness show. “We’ll be back in no time,” He whispered, “Think of the food and the rest.” She murmured about honey-cakes her mother would make as they followed Zero back to the half-ruined district of Zaraki.
Their battle was done, but another still raged... One that was more deadly and more dangerous than any fought until that point.
Their strikes collided with the force of a meteor crashing from the heavens! Every strike was enough to leave a trail of Reiatsu that tore up the ground in their wake. Kenji’s hand-and-a-half-sword, blade long and slender cut into Averian’s ribcage and Averian’s zanpakuto cut into Kenji’s before the two separated themselves, both smiling widely in enjoyment of the others skill.
“Everywhere I seem to turn these days,” Averian snarled, “I find you and that damn Ryu Order standing in my way! Without you, the Soul Society would be broken by now!” His tone was hatred and filled with spite, his blade no less so. It sought blood with every strike and often time found what it sought; though Kenji's found it just as often.
Correcting himself and kicking the Arrancar square in the center of his chest, Kenji twisted and landed lightly on his knees before blasting forward to tackle him to the floor! “You honestly believe that,” Kenji goaded as his closed fist struck his foe in the mouth, “the Soul Society would fall to you?” He knew differently of course, but that was something Averian would never find out. Or achieve. “As for me,” He leapt up and spun, a bolt of lightning trailing in the skies above him, “I stand opposed to you because I simply like ruining your day.”
It was annoying though. Already, this time-lines Averian was stronger than the one Kenji killed in the future he was forced to visit because of his old man. Averian fought in his released state, and Kenji’s ankles swirled with lightning, allowing him to match the Arrancar’s speed.
“You slow,” Averian mocked. “What happened to all that raw speed you once had?” A look of understanding finally crossed his face. “Ah, so that’s what occurred. You lost Aoi Inazuma and now use another zanpakuto. Too bad it lacks the speed that your old one possees-”
Kenji’s body gave off a lightning aura, and the bolt of lightning which flashed across the sky was directed to his hand and then slammed into Averian’s midsection! “You will not mention my partner’s name, Averian. Aoi Inazuma was kind, strong and beautiful. Maybe I’ll give you a taste of what yet remains of her... Amatsusashijou.” Lightning wrapped around Kenji’s hand and formed into a slim javelin-like projectile that spun like a drill and straight through Averian’s shoulder when he threw it. “Get up.” Kenji called. “Get. Up.” Anger edged his tone. “And get out."
A Cero, fired at point blank, struck Kenji’s back and engulfed him completely! Pain wracked every cell of his being and he fought just to stay awake. “I guess that’s a lesson you never learned, Shinigami. Only expose your back to a corpse.” Laughing as the feathers of his crow-based illusions wore off, Averian moved in for the kill.
“You are the corpse!” Kusaka slammed down on top of the Arrancar with a Rei Furashuu charged strike that formed a large crater that expanded outwards! “To get to Kenji,” Kusaka said firmly, leaping to stand above his friend, “you go through me.” His voice never wavered. "Take your pick, Averian."
Luckily Averian read his bluff and vanished through a Garganta, not wanting to fight against a seemingly fresh Kusaka. “Don’t think you’ve wo-” A lightning bolt hurled through the closing void silenced the rest as Kenji walked forward, blood dripping from his back and arms. “Looks like I got careless. He’s stronger, Kusaka. A lot stronger,” His tone said he wasn’t lying.
The two friends returned to their retreating allies, saying nothing at all along the way...
Next Story > The Footsteps of Fate