Byakuya vs. Renji: Part I
Above the dunes of Hueco Mundo, silence ruled the eternal night. There wasn't even the slightest hint of life, as most Hollows lived beneath its cold sands. Off in the distance, the outline of Las Noches could be seen with the half-moon of the Hollow dimension hanging just above it. In an instant, however, this relative peace was thrown into turmoil. The sand erupted violently and two figures leaped out from both ends, landing on opposite sides as the sand rained back down. These figures were Byakuya Kuchiki, former captain of the Sixth Division, and Renji Abarai, the current captain of the Sixth Division and the Short-Range Division of the Spiritual World Army.
"Renji..." Byakuya muttered, "I never expected to fight you here."
"Captain..." Renji replied, "What kind of technique is this? I've never heard of something that revives the dead in this state. Even Yamamoto-dono's Bankai is not this efficient."
Byakuya observed his arms and his body, "It's the enemy's technique. They call it Naigai. Beyond that, I'm not knowledgeable in its mechanics." he explained. "I advise you prepare yourself, though. I cannot control myself. I have to fight you."
"Don't worry, captain. I will most certainly.. defeat you!" Renji replied angrily.
"Don't use your Bankai." Byakuya warned. "They have given me one of those medallions and will make me steal it the second you unleash it."
"Headquarters warned us of such." Renji replied, "Raian-san is on top of this war for sure!"
"Raian?" Byakuya rebuffed, confused. "Why is that man leading this war?"
Byakuya flashed away, slamming his Zanpakutō into Renji's own weapon, blasting a large amount of sand into the air. The two traded blows for a few seconds before slamming their blades together one final time before separating.
"You've gotten good, Renji." Byakuya said, a nostalgic smile on his face.
Renji merely looked at his former captain, the pain of having to fight the man he had, for so long, admired, was apparent in his eyes.
"Prepare yourself," Byakuya continued, "I'm beginning now. Scatter.... Senbonzakura!"
In Route to the Battlefield
Raian Getsueikirite charged at top speed towards the battlefield in the mountainous Rukongai district west of the army's headquarters. The appearance of the dead on the battlefield hadn't been something Raian had planned for. Thoughts were swirling in his head. To face the previous Gotei 13 members and possibly other powerful enemies while his men couldn't use Bankai was a great disadvantage. Breaking through the trees at last, Raian reached a clearing in the woods, but stopped immediately. There, in his path, was a cloaked masked man, along with a revived Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tōsen.
"So, the enemy finally appears before me." Raian stated, dropping down to ground level to face them.
"Lil' Raian-san?" Gin questioned, his trademark grin on his face. "That brings back memories of the ol' days."
"Indeed." Kaname agreed. "This guy preceded Hitsugaya. It seems though, according to his haori, that he is now Shunsui's replacement."
"Enough of the idle chit-chat." the masked man barked, "Our orders are to prevent Raian from reaching the front lines."
"Looks like we gotta fight ya." Gin repeated. "Get prepared, lil' Raian."
"I don't think so..." a voice said from afar, snapping all out of the daze of battle.
The masked man turned his head to bring the source of the voice into view. Through the eye crevice in his spiral mask, the man could make out a much shorter figure standing in the skies. He could tell, from the garb the teenager was wearing, that he was a Quincy. The resurrected Gin and Kaname also turned to see who the newcomer was, but neither recognized him, so they remained quiet.
"Oh, its you." the mask man snarled, "If you're here than that means..."
"Nah," the teenage boy replied, walking across the sky to approach the battlefield, "He is not here yet. I'm here to relay orders from Akujin.... You're not supposed to be here. Akujin wants you to lead the battles in the Rukongai mountainous district, north of here."
"And miss this opportunity?" the masked man spat.
"Don't look at me like that. I'm not the boss man." the Quincy replied, shooting the masked man a devilish glare. "Besides, I'll be dealing with our special guest from here on out."
Letting out a grunt of disgust, the masked man took to the skies, followed by the reanimated Gin and Kaname. Their lack of words showed their anger at the fact that they were unable to finish Raian themselves. The Quincy boy, on the other hand, allowed a small malicious grin to spread across his face. Raian swung his Shikai over his shoulder, analyzing the enemy that had now appeared before him.
"I've fought many Quincy since this war began." Raian snarled menacingly, "Your fate will be no different."
"Back those words up then!" the Quincy roared, charging in on Raian.
Raian replied by lowering his weapon back down to his side and then leaping into the air to meet his new foe dead on. An earsplitting explosion tore through the earth as their weapon's connected, thus beginning their heated battle.
Meanwhile, in the Human World, Seireitou Kawahiru continued his journey towards Karakura Town, carrying an unconscious Kamui over his shoulders as he went. He hadn't been blind to the happenings in the world after his last confrontation with Akujin. Huge amounts of reiatsu were emerging everywhere, acting as trumpets to warn everyone capable of sensing such things that war was finally here. Beads of sweat began to trickle down Seireitou's brow and his eyebrows furrowed.
"Things are already going in Akujin's favor. There's got to be a way to stop him from going any further with his plans." the silver-haired man thought furiously, "Is this Shukai, that Kamui mentioned, really our best hope? And if so, I have to find out what's happened to Raian."
"Sei..." a weak voice from behind him said, causing him to stop in his track. The voice was Kamui's.
"So you're finally awake." Seireitou snapped.
"You... no.. we. We cannot beat him in the state we're in. We must get Raian to Majo Hisakata." Kamui stuttered, still weak from his defeat earlier.
"I'm not willing to bet my fate and future on a legend, Kamui. Up until now, I've won all my battles through my sheer determination and through relying on my comrades. I will win this one no differently." Seireitou declared.
Kamui stirred, freeing himself from Seireitou's embrace and taking a step into the air, "You are a fool, younger brother." he rebutted, "Heed my warning. If Akujin is not killed by a Shukai user, your comrades, your will, your determination... all of that will be broken."
Seireitou's eyes flared, "No, you're the fool!" he shouted, venom in his voice, "You who use to have human feeling, a sense of friendship, praised as the genius of all time, have, over the centuries, degraded into a man who only listens to what's up here." he snapped, gesturing at his head, indicating the brain. "Cold and callous, you don't even know how to rely on comrades. That's why you lost to Akujin! You went charging in when it would've been far more likely for us to win if you, Raian, and I had all gone in together! That's why I know... I know we don't need a legend to beat Akujin! Do you hear me, Madara?!"
Kamui was visibly taken aback, his eyes widening to show a rare form of shock on his face. It had been centuries since his younger brother had called him by his given name.
"I'm going to Soul Society." Seireitou declared, his hair falling over his eyes so that Kamui couldn't see his expression. "I have a plan of my own.... And, if you feel the need to aid me, then by all means, join me. Otherwise, I'll catch you some other time... brother."
With that, a portal opened up in front of the two men, causing their naturally long hair to flap violently with the wind being generated. Kamui, for the first time in a long while, felt a sense of guilt and resentment flood his emotions. The venom in Seireitou's voice was apparent. The violet-haired man watched as his younger brother flashed a goodbye wave without even turning around before racing into the portal to Soul Society, leaving him alone once again. As the portal closed, Kamui let his head dangle, thoughts racing through his mind.
Finally, a small smile crossed his face, "...Foolish younger brother." he murmured. "Always running off to your friends' rescue."
On the Other End of Protection...
Out of the smoldering ruins of another attack, the teenage Quincy flew backwards. Blood was pouring from his forehead and his left shoulder. An angry, confused, and almost scared look was plastered on his face as he stared down his assailant. He was barely holding his own against Raian, who was standing casually in the distance; his blade held at his side.
"Damn... this guy is a monster...!" the Quincy spat to himself.
Raian slowly began to take measured steps towards his foe, causing the Quincy boy to take steps back. Raian couldn't ignore this; it was a standard sign of fear. His eyes narrowed. This Quincy was still just a boy. He couldn't just kill him as he had done the others. Raian still had a soft side to him. He couldn't allow himself to kill a child, no matter if this one was nearing the end of his adolescence. He'd just knock him out. Raian suddenly lunged forward, drawing a fearful gasp from the Quincy, who took a large leap backwards as Raian closed the distance between them, swinging his blade for the decisive blow.
Something hit Raian. HARD. He suddenly felt his body flying through the sky, the wind pressure making it far too hard to regain his balance. With a large explosion, he crashed into the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust and rock. The beaten and bloodied Quincy teen looked up to see his savior and smiled softly, letting his hair slide over his eyes.
"Just in time as usual," he started, "Vladik."
Vladik stood up to his full height. He was only slightly shorter than Raian himself, with a battle-hardened look on his face. He also didn't look much older than the other Quincy, though there was a certain maturity to his appearance. His trench coat blew in the wind, which also blew the dust cloud away from Raian.
"Abram..." Vladik said, his deep voice thundering across the battlefield, "Why do I get the feeling you're going to be the death of me?"
Vladik slowly swiveled his head to view his younger friend, still crouched on the ground behind him. Abram only offered a pout and looked away, as if he were a child being scolded.
"Sorry, Vladik." he offered.
Vladik sighed, "It couldn't be helped. Just stay behind me now, understood?" he asked.
"Hey!" Abram snapped, "I'm not a child! You're only a year older than me. I can fight too!"
Vladik didn't look back this time, "Absolutely not. I won't allow you to get harmed any further. I will deal with this disgusting Shinigami." he snapped. "I'm asking you to stay behind me, not as your commanding officer, but as your friend. Please Abram. I can't protect you if you fight alongside me."
Abram said nothing but silently took a step back, conceding to his friend's will. Raian watched and listened to the bizarre scene unfolding in front of him from a distance. Unlike the soldiers he had fought up until this point, these two actually seem to be comrades. The tall one was even talking about protecting the teenaged Quincy. It almost reminded him of himself and his brother, a thought that suddenly slammed Raian with anxiety and pain.
"They're just like..." Raian began to think, but had no time to think any further.
"Let's end this, Shinigami!" Vladik barked, charging.
Raian positioned his blade, preparing for attack. Vladik used his Quincy powers to manifest his Spirit Weapon; a pair of wakizashi. With a slam, Vladik crashed his blades into Raian's own weapon and the two men began fighting. It was quickly apparent who had the upper hand. Vladik had more speed, his weapons being much less bulky than Raian's own. They were also smaller, allowing him to avoid more of Raian's strikes. Within seconds, Vladik was completely dominating the combat. Taking a large step back, Raian raised and swung his Zanpakutō;
"Jōchaku Kaijin!" he declared, releasing a crescent of ash in Vladik's direction.
Vladik was quick on his feet, however, and utilized his Hirenkyaku to flash above the wave. His response was almost just as quick, retaliating with a barrage of Heilig Pfeil, one of which caught Raian's shoulder, incinerating part of his shihakushō and sending him into the ground. Raian wasn't down long, however, and ripped his seared sleeve off as he picked himself off the ground.
"What is..." Raian began to think as Vladik renewed his assault.
The two clashed blades again, going toe to toe. The results were the same. Vladik's unorthodox methods of fighting, combined with his speed and dexterity quickly allowed him to dominate the battle, placing Raian completely on the defense.
"What is this feeling I have...?" Raian continued to think as he furiously fought back against his Quincy assailant.
Vladik demonstrated the versatility of his fighting style, switching to Hakuda immediately. Raian felt Vladik's boot-clad foot connect with the side of his head, sending him spiraling into the dust for the second time. Now it was pure anger flooding Raian's emotions.
"His soul... his soul is speaking to me..." Raian was thinking as he returned to his feet, "Why do I feel so condemned?!"
As he got up, he held his blade in front of him with defiance. Anger and hatred began to glow in his eyes. So far, no one had been able to humiliate him to this degree. His pride was now being hurt almost as much as his body was. Sweat mixed with blood began to drip down from his head injury.
"Its as if..." Raian finished his thought, "Its as if he's protecting that other Quincy from me. His blade feels like how Kōsaken Jakka felt when I protected Mashū."
Vladik leaped into the air, pure determination glowing in his eyes, as if nothing in the world could distract him from his goal. It was then that Raian realized he was defeated. Vladik was fighting to protect something precious to him. Raian was fighting for pride, something he rarely ever did. And it was his undoing. One clean slash cut Raian from shoulder to waist. He barely felt the blade tearing flesh and bone to achieve this feat. His blood spewed across Vladik's face, giving it all the more fierce of an appearance.
"So this is what it feels like..." Raian thought as his vision began to go black and he felt himself falling, "....to be on the other end of protection..."
Vladik raised his blades one final time for the killing blow, however, he was unable to deliver. From the skies above, a sword as bright and golden as the sun itself flew down, slamming into the ground between Raian and Vladik, causing the Quincy to leap back with surprise. Moments later, none other than Seireitou Kawahiru landed between them, wrenching his weapon from the earth to face Vladik eye to eye...