This article, Cutting to the Heart of the Matter: Akiye's Defiance, is one quarter of the second part of the story starting with Cutting to the Heart of the Matter, featuring the battle between Akiye and Ichihara Kōhai.
She didn’t even attempt to stop him. What was the point? Once Kentaro put his mind to something changing it again was nigh on impossible. Even for her. Besides Nakajima had earned whatever punishment Kentaro would dish out. Nakajima had almost killed Kentaro’s younger brother Akira; he’d been hospitalized for weeks! The coward had tortured the younger man knowing full well that he was utterly powerless before the assault.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Akiye drew her Zanpakutō the moment she saw movement! Ichihara’s armour was completely destroyed by her and Kentaro’s earlier attack, but aside from that Ichihara himself didn’t appear any the worse for wear. In fact if Akiye was any judge he looked pissed off! It was the reason she was going for the kill right now. Ichihara was the strongest of the brothers in the physical department; if he caught her she wouldn’t last long, especially since she'd removed her weighted T-shirt in favor of her sleeveless green top. If her speed failed her she had little protection. Thankfully he was a known fool who ran headlong into fights. It helped he was as slow as a carted horse too.
“Annoying little fly, always buzzing!”
He struck out with surprising speed for one so large and the sheer strength of his strike was enough to send Akiye flying back through the air! But then she was faster. It wasn’t hard really. The moment her feet touched the ground she vanished. Form III was her weapon and she wielded it with a master’s skill as Kenji had taught her. Pepper a foe with quick strikes and seize the opening whenever possible to bring down your foe. It was basic in the extreme yet Ichihara never knew what hit him!
“Stay still!” He roared.
Akiye ignored him. She kept striking, always upping the speed and intensity as well as the length of her combinations. The result was the most one-sided of the battles currently being waged. Ichihara’s cutting parries missed Akiye’s blade entirely and when he did manage to force her against a pillar where his superior size and reach could be brought to the fore, Akiye merely stepped around him and denied him his openings. His counters she easily dodged or shunted aside, before then shattering his momentum with another sequence of strikes.
“At this rate…” she thought, “… I’ll have him soon!”
She couldn’t have been farther from the truth. A strike that would’ve sliced his stomach open instead left not even a mark! Ichihara had taken his free hand to his face and summoned his Hollow mask. The surge of spiritual power was deafening! Not that Akiye could hear much anyway. The moment her blade was stalled Ichihara had caught her by the arm. He proceeded to toss her around like a rag doll! As she struck the floor he booted her in the ribs as though she where a football and as expected she flew skywards, only to be elbow-dropped back to earth with such force she had little hope of stopping herself!
“No choice…!” Luckily her twin Zanpakutō was still in-hand. “Bankai, Izaonajibyōki!”
The spiritual power of the release acted as a cushion to her fall, kicking up dirt and debris. Not one to wait patiently Ichihara dove into the encircling orb of light that accompanied Akiye’s release, only to be thrown out bodily by the shockwave that signalled her Bankai’s completion!
Akiye emerged dressed in a black leather top accompanied with a medium-blue haori with reddish-orange lining, a black mini skirt, dark brown tights and a pair of light brown knee-high boots. The orb that had encircled her broke into six blades of dark blue spiritual energy that spun around her likes small moons.
“He’s a true hypocrite you see, my Zanpakutō I mean. The more I experience and learn the more he experiences and learns, and the more he learns the stronger he becomes; all in an attempt to cure his illness. But there is no cure. Izaonajibyōki is a Zanpakutō with one power: the power to evolve its own arsenal of attacks! Against it your powers are meaningless!”
Ichihara, ever the forceful brute, threw himself into a frontal assault. This time Akiye met his mask-enhanced strike with one of her own fuelled by the interactions her own Bankai had had with Kenji’s Raijin. The result was a shockwave of force that tore the ground up around them! But one wasn’t enough. They followed up their strikes with more of greater power until Akiye finally seized an opening and struck! She did so by through a simple strike meant to distract rather than harm, bait which Ichihara took. Her follow-up was instant!
The blades surrounding her suddenly lifted and slammed themselves into Ichihara’s shoulders! Acting as a siphon the blades then began absorbing his spiritual power which Akiye began lapping up like a woman who had just found water after a stint in the desert without any. Her power skyrocketed as Ichihara’s plummeted! He was eventually unable to retain the benefits of his mask and it crumbled to the floor between his knees.
“You pushed me well,” Akiye admitted. She resealed her Bankai with a tired sigh. “But I’m afraid I cannot allow you to life. Farewell, Ichihara. Kiribi,”
Before walking away she slashed the floor around her opponent multiple times. As she walked away she struck her Zanpakutō together to create a spark. The surfaces she just hit erupted in violent plumes of fire, smoke and super-heated ash! Ichihara writhed within that inferno like a beast driven mad by fear, and it was only then Akiye granted him rest.
She directed the torrent of flames and ash with her Zanpakutō. She formed it into a single stream that streaked across the heavens before descending atop Ichihara! The ground was scorched black and when the smoke finally cleared all that remained behind to mark Ichihara’s passing was the smell of badly burnt flesh…