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"I loathe perfection. If something is perfect, then there is nothing left. There is no room for imagination. No place left for a person to gain additional knowledge or abilities. Do you know what that means? For scientists such as ourselves, perfection only brings despair."

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Chapter 10

Jun shielded his eyes as a massive lightning strike came down upon his adversary, engulfing him in its energy. A massive amount of smoke was thrown up as the intense heat seared everything in its range.

"What the hell?", Jun asked himself as he jumped back. The heat had become too intense to bear.

Suddenly, the lightning vanished, causing the air that had expanded due to the massive build-up of heat to collapse onto itself, resulting in a massive shockwave that rattled every bone in Jun's body and caused every surviving window within a three mile radius to shatter under the intense vibrations. Jun desperately tried to keep out the smoke out of his eyes, the stinging caused tears to form which blurred his vision. The stench of seared flesh suddenly filled the air. The corpses of Jun's subordinates had been within the reach of the heat and had been seared as a result. He coughed as he inhaled some of the smoke.

"I never thought there was a student here in the academy that could release his zanpakutō, this guy really is something".

The smoke cleared as a sudden gust of wind picked up, leaving the two combatants facing each other on their field of battle. Curious as to what his opponent had done, Jun studied Takeshi and noted that now, he was holding a black daito. still looked like regular zanpakutō, with a few difference, his blade was become pure dark black.The edges of the sword glittered in the light being emitted by the constant arcing of lightning that now covered Takeshi's body while a continuous torrent of air encircled Takeshi's body, throwing small amounts of dust into the air which obscured his features as they moved through the faint blue aura surrounding him.

"I hope you're ready for this Kawazoe Jun", Takeshi glared as he raised his head, the glow in his eyes now clearly visible, giving him a terrifying presence.

Jun noticed the glow in Takeshi's eyes intensify as he raised his right sword.

"This ends here", Takeshi spoke as he brought down the sword, causing a violent arc of lightning to blast away from the blade, tearing up the earth as it raced towards Jun with terrifying speed. Having just enough time to raise his claw in defence, Jun took the full brunt of the blast as it struck him, the metal of his blade conducting the raw electricity and transmitting it into his body. The jolt sent him to his knees as his muscles started to contract randomly, leaving him unable to control his own movements. As he slowly regained control, he raised his head to look at Takeshi, who was far from done with his attack. Having brought down his right hand sword, he had quickly spun his other sword into a backwards grip and had begun a horizontal swing. Jun expected another lightning spike, but was surprised to see that instead of lighting, the blade was now firing a translucent fang of thunder towards him. His muscles still sore and unable to respond from the lightning, Jun was struck by the second attack as well, which tore through his armour and penetrated his skin, leaving a deep gash in his torso. The sheer impact of the blade of air causing Jun to be thrown back several meters.

"You're finished Kawazoe Jun", Takeshi spoke coldly as he slowly approached Jun, his swords encircled by their respective element.

"This fight is indeed finished Sawada Takeshi, but I'm not", Jun said as he raised himself back onto his feet, coughing up a few handfuls of blood in the process, "you may be stronger than me right now, but I will grow stronger myself, and I'll be challenging you again in the future, you can count on that".

He raised his hand, a long white ribbon clutched in his fist which immediately surrounded him in long loose swirls.

"We shall meet again", Jun said as the ribbon completely enveloped him and vanished, taking him with it.

"Takeshi, are you alright?"

Turning towards the source of the sound, Takeshi spotted Akane and the others race towards him. Akane paled as she saw the Takeshi's bloodied chest and tears started to well up as she hurriedly ran towards him.

"I'm fine", he responded as he slowly forced the reiatsu away from his zanpakutō, causing the menacing element that were still infused in the black blade to subside, Akane carefully helping him to his feet.

"He ran, I couldn't finish him", Takeshi said as he took a good look at his friends. They were all fine, though Midorikawa still had an annoyed expression on his face. A glimmer near Akane's side suddenly caught his eye though, and as he took a closer look at it, he noticed that her own zanpakutō had also changed its shape. It had lengthened into a long staff that split into two thin blades around the middle, the two pieces arcing outwards a bit before curving back together until they almost touched in the end, water was still dripping from the still glimmering edges of the blades.

"So, you managed to release your zanpakutō Akane", Takeshi noted as he sealed his own zanpakutō again and sheathed it. He didn't have the necessary power to keep it released anymore.

"Apparently, as did you Takeshi", Akane smiled as she too sealed her sword.

"It was necessary though", Sakamoto butted in on the conversation, "If Akane hadn't released her power, we'd be in some serious trouble by now. The cannon was heavily guarded, even though they had apparently sent away about three quarters of its defence moments before we struck".

"Midorikawa here", Sakamoto continued as he pointed to Midorikawa, who was being poked by Miharu in an attempt to get the scowl off his face, "was instrumental to our victory. We held off the enemy forces while he prepared a kidō spell powerful enough to destroy the cannon. Afterwards, the enemy forces retreated almost immediately, a logical choice of their commander".

"Figures they'd retreat after losing their heavy artillery, no army can stand up against six taichō class shinigami with just numbers on their side", Akimoto commented.

"We'd better get back, perhaps they need our help in cleaning up the rest of the enemy forces", Takeshi said as he looked back to the academy building where clashes of spiritual pressure could still be felt.

"Good idea", Sakamoto replied as they went back to the main building, taking out the occasional straggler on the way.

Kago Asuka, taichō of the fourth division was healing one of the wounded academy students when she noticed one of the enemy soldiers flying directly at her.

"Hey, Naoki, how many times have I told you, I don't heal enemy soldiers, and I certainly can't do anything with these corpses you've been sending me, so quit it would you?", Asuka yelled to the man on the other side of the wall as she knocked the dead enemy soldier onto a heap that had been steadily growing as the battle outside the walls raged on.

"Sorry Asuka, it's just that I'm having so much fun, I can hardly control myself", Naoki shouted in response.

"Yeah, well then aim them somewhere else, it's getting annoying to find myself continuously being bombarded with corpses, I've got enough on my hands as it is".

"Hey, knock it off you two", Tetsuo yelled as he concentrated on spotting another kidō blast coming from the cannon.

"I've got to focus here, something that's quite difficult with you two quarrelling all the time. Do you want me to get Yushio to help sort out your differences perhaps?"

"No thanks, we're good", Naoki shouted in response. He'd been scolded enough by his wife for one day already and he didn't want her to ruin his good mood so he began to work his way through the seAkanengly endless stream of enemy soldiers with a little more care in filleting them and where he threw what remained, not that he could really decide where they flew.

"All forces, retreat", a voice suddenly shouted over the battlefield, audible even over the thundering noise created by the battle. Within seconds, all the remaining attackers had started retreating, much to Naoki's chagrin.

"Oh no you don't", he yelled as he watched the nearest enAkanees make a hasty retreat, completely dropping their defence in the process.

"Rip them to shreds, Tenkotsu", Naoki shouted as he released his zanpakutō for the second time that night. Horrified, the men watched the blood red reiatsu stream from the taichō that was pursuing them. Slowly, his zanpakutō split into a multitude of long energy whips. Blood oozed from Naoki's weapon as the whips flashed towards the terrified men. Some were impaled, others just shredded to bits as they were enveloped by several whips at once and a few got caught which carved through their skins, sucking out their blood and leaving nothing but empty husks in their wake.

"Last one", Naoki grinned as he directed his sword towards the one soul unfortunate enough to remain within his range. Blood spurted from the man's mouth as the whip hit him in the back and emerged on the other side of his body, covered in blood. Nonchalantly, Naoki whipped his sword back into its sealed shape, flinging the man over the wall in the process.


"Oh crap"

After having warned Naoki several times, Asuka decided that enough was enough. She hadn't been able to dodge or redirect the last corpse, which was now lying at her feet. Enraged, she grabbed the corpse and flung it at Naoki, the fact that there was a wall of more than a meter thick in between proved to be a mere detail as the corpse slammed through the wall and into Naoki's face, causing him to topple backwards onto several more corpses that littered the area outside the main building.

Naoki grabbed several of the corpses that were lying in his vicinity and prepared to send them flying to Asuka when he suddenly felt the reiatsu of his wife approaching causing him to quickly let go of the thought.

"Looks like those students of your were able to take out the cannon Shinji", Yushio said calmly to her former subordinate as she slowly looked around the academy, "it seems your interest in them was well founded".

"I knew they were special, each and every one of them. Takeshi especially, he caught my eye the moment I saw him in the real world. Putting him together with the Shimizu heir and the others only reinforced my hope for them".

"Indeed, they really work well together", Yushio admitted. Her student had chosen wisely and created a team that she knew would become well known throughout Soul Society in the future.

"Looks like they're here Shinji", Tetsuo said as he jumped down from the roof and joined the other taichō that had begun gathering.

"Good. Asuka-san, what's the status of the students?"

"Several of the classes of the lower grades were annihilated. They weren't fast enough to evacuate the dormitories. After that we lost several students as we brought them here as well as a of the shinigami escorting them. Total losses are around a hundred students and about a dozen of our shinigami, most of them were caught in the blast that took out the dorms. One teacher was also killed while he was helping to evacuate. They hit us hard".

Hearing of the toll the attack had taken, the taichō lowered their heads. Never before had the academy been a target of a large scale attack, and never before had they lost so many students in such a short amount of time.

Hearing the sound of several feet touching the ground near them, they looked up to see the brave team of students standing in front of them. Bloodied, but victorious.

"Handa Taichō", Sakamoto saluted formally as he approached his superior officer, the one that had sent them on their mission, "primary mission objective has been accomplished. The enemy kidō cannon has been destroyed. Resistance was encountered along the way, but was dealt with primarily by Shimizu-san and Sawada-san who released their zanpakutō to overpower the opposing forces. I shall provide you with an extensive mission report when we have reorganised".

Hearing Sakamoto's report, the eyes of all the taichō except Shinji widened. They had never before encountered a student capable of releasing his zanpakutō while in the academy before and here they were faced with two at once.

"Good job, all of you", Tetsuo said as he looked at the group in front of him, "Takeshi-kun, you're looking a bit beaten up".

"Yes sir, I faced an enemy officer of considerable strength, I believe he was of the same level as a taichō. It took considerable effort to make him retreat".

"Alright mister", Asuka interrupted Takeshi as she grabbed his clothes, "you're injured and you're going to stop playing hero until I've healed those wounds on you. And I don't want to hear anything about you being ok, because you're not".

"I'd as she says kid", Naoki whispered as Takeshi was dragged past the eleventh division taichō, "you don't want to get her mad".

"Naoki, I heard that you know".

Akane watched Takeshi being dragged off by the fourth division taichō and was about to follow him when suddenly a voice halted her.

"Akane, I'm so glad to see you're ok".

Turning around, Akane saw her father, Shimizu Kazuma, taichō of the ninth division, make his way through the crowd.

"Handa-san", Kazuma said as he turned towards Tetsuo, "in the future, please refrain from sending my only daughter on dangerous missions such as the one today".

"I assure you Shimizu-san, that it was the only possibility at the moment, given the fact that our available forces were preoccupied with holding the perimeter around this building. In addition to that, your daughter and several of her classmates volunteered for the mission. In fact, I believe they would've even gone out to destroy that cannon without me ordering them to".

"Even so, please make sure that my daughter is safe in the future".

"I'll try, but that depends on her commanding officer when she's assigned to one of the divisions".

"True, now, Akane", Kazuma said sternly as he turned to face his daughter, "who of these people is the one named Sawada Takeshi?"

"He was taken away for treatment by Kago Taichō father, he sustained some injuries during his battle with an enemy officer".

Kazuma sighed, if he'd been taken away by Asuka, the chance of getting to speak him before she was done with him was practically zero, unless you wanted to end up on the operating table with a cracked skull. She was notorious for her temper if she was interrupted during treatment of her patients.

"Very well then, I shall take my leave now. Akane, you shall remain here and finish your training. After you graduate, I shall be expecting both you and Sawada-kun at my mansion. I'll need to talk to both of you".

Bowing, Akane acknowledged her father's request as he turned and walked away to resume his duties as a taichō. He would read about their mission in the report that he would undoubtedly receive.

"I'm off to bed", Sakamoto suddenly said as he turned around and left to find a place to sleep. Not an easy task with the dorms in rubble and with all of the students crammed into the main building. With him, Akimoto, Saruwatari and the taichō also went their separate ways. Eventually, Miharu and Midorikawa left in search of a place to rest, with Akane being the only one to remain on her place.

"You still here?", she suddenly heard a voice behind her talk softly.

She turned around, only to stare straight into Takeshi's eyes, his chest had been carefully wrapped in bandages, but nevertheless, he was standing before her, perfectly all right. Slowly she moved her hands over the bandages, careful not to hurt him.

"How does it feel Takeshi?"

"Still hurts a bit, but I'll live", he replied calmly as he too wrapped his arms around his girlfriend, drawing her closer to him.

"Sorry I made you worry Akane", he whispered in her ear as he pulled her even deeper into the hug.

"Don't worry about it, you're all right, that's all that matters to me Takeshi", she said as she snuggled into his chest, allowing the warmth of his body to comfort her.

They remained like that for several minutes, until Akane finally pulled away, her eyes almost shining in the moonlight. Without a word, she took his hand and pulled him along with her on her search for a secluded place to sleep.

"You've failed me Kawazoe", the man spoke to his subordinate, "it was due to your inability to stop those puny students that the cannon was destroyed, resulting in the failure of the mission and the loss of almost our entire strike force. For this failure, you will pay dearly. You are hereby, by my personal order, banished from the brotherhood, effective immediately".

This verdict caused Jun to look up at his commanding officer, his eyes alight with fury. Forcing himself to calm down, he stood up, his hand already itching. He decided to let it do what it wanted.

"For your information sir, do you know what the main cause of death for officers on the battlefield is?", Jun asked as he slowly drew his zanpakutō, causing the man in front of him to stumble backwards, fear in his eyes.

The blade flashed, blood splattered on the walls as it slashed through the body of the former commanding officer.

"It's assassination by their subordinates", Jun answered to the man that was now slowly dying in front of him, his throat slit, preventing him from even uttering anything more than a faint gurgle.

The man died as Jun cleaned off his sword and walked out of the room, the order of his banishment never having reached the ears of any other member of the brotherhood. He knew he didn't have to fear any repercussions for killing the old fool. Assassinations were common practise in the order and were usually left unsolved unless the solution presented itself on a silver platter. His strength and fame in the brotherhood would take care of any suspicion in the brotherhood in case any would arise at all.

Takeshi was awoken by several rays of light that fell through cracks in the ceiling, most of them a result of the previous battle. Akane had led him on a search through the entire building for a place to sleep until they'd finally found a way into the attic. Having made sure they weren't followed, they snuck in and carefully sealed the door. What had happened afterwards was mostly a blur. Takeshi blushed involuntarily as he recalled the few fragments of the previous night that he could remember. A slight shifting of a weight on his arm drew his attention. The blush turned a shade darker as he saw Akane using it as a pillow, the small ray of light clearly disturbing her slumber. He let his eyes take in the entire scene, Akane sleeping on his arm, both of them naked, a thin blanket they'd found the night before being the only thing that shielded them from the morning cold. He removed his bandages as he'd been instructed by Kago Taichō. His eyes widened slightly in amazement when he saw the marks on his chest. The wounds had healed, a slight discoloration being the only thing that remained of the vicious gashes across his chest.

"Well, she's the fourth division's taichō for something", Akane suddenly said, her eyes still closed.

"I admit, she does one heck of a job", Takeshi admitted, trying to remain calm, even though Akane had startled him a bit. It was incredibly difficult to remain calm with her slowly crawling closer to him again, especially when they were both naked.

Slowly, Akane started caressing his chest as she looked into his eyes. He felt his restraint cave in completely as she kissed him.

"Takeshi, Akane, are you up yet?", a cheery voice outside the door suddenly yelled.

Startled, the couple scrambled into their clothes and they'd just finished dressing when Miharu burst into the room in her usual manner, which consisted of almost jumping all over the place while yelling and laughing happily, followed by a much less enthusiastic Midorikawa.

"Let's hurry, the headmaster of the academy is going to give a speech in the central courtyard, it's almost going to begin. I wanted to come wake you a bit earlier, but Ryouji here stopped me, I still don't know why", Miharu said, almost mixing up her words in the process because she tried to speak too fast.

"I used a bakudō spell", Midorikawa answered when he noticed both Takeshi's and Akane's questioning look.

"Yeah, you meanie", Miharu yelled as she tried to kick him in the shins, only to be treated to another lower level bakudō spell.

While Miharu was temporarily distracted by the glowing rope around her, Takeshi quickly mouthed a thank you to the kidō master, receiving a small nod in response.

"Hey Ryouji, what did you do with this rope thingy, I can't get it off", Miharu yelled as she pulled at the rope, still not managing to break free from its grasp.

"I'll release you when you've calmed down a bit Miharu, until then it'll restrict your movements", Midorikawa said in response, ignoring the irritated look on his friend's face.

"Could you help me out Takeshi-kun?", he asked as he pointed at the struggeling Miharu, "we still need to get her to the assembly as well".

Takeshi grinned in response as he grabbed Miharu by the scruff of her neck and swung her over his shoulder like some ragged old bag.

"It seems the last of the students have finally arrived headmaster", Nakajima said as he watched the group of students walk into the courtyard. He sighed a bit as he witnessed Tanaka Miharu's position, though he had to admit it was a bit of a comical sight with her being swung over Takeshi's shoulder like that, and at least she finally remained in one place for more than half a second.

"So it seems", the headmaster said as he amusedly watched the group make their way to the rest of their class, seemingly oblivious to the strange looks they were receiving from the rest of the students.

Everyone's attention was soon drawn forward though, when the headmaster of the academy made his way to the front of the small platform that had been placed near the teacher's quarters. Everyone quieted down immediately when he raised his hand, Miharu being the only one to make any noise at all as she tried to bite through the rope and kick Midorikawa in the shins at the same time.

"We've all suffered a great loss", the headmaster began, the sound of his voice resonating against the walls of the courtyard, "we've all lost people dear to us, friends, sometimes even family. But we were victorious, together with the help of the people behind me".

The headmaster pointed to the taichō and their men standing behind him.

"We currently don't know who was responsible for the attack, but rest assured that we will find them and destroy them utterly. The Onmitsukidō is currently investigating the attack and the moment they come up with the identities of those responsible, we will strike with full force. This attack was a direct declaration of war against us and we will respond in kind. With this in mind, I would like all of you to dedicate yourselves fully to your training so that we may be prepared for the next battle, and this is especially important for the students of our last year whose final exam is coming up. We will need all of you to graduate and join the ranks of the Gotei 13 as support as soon as possible, we cannot afford to spare even one person amongst our forces in the times to come. Please, do your utmost best, so we can defeat any enemy that comes in our path".

The assembled crowd of students burst out into a deafening roar when the headmaster finished his speech. A satisfied smile played over his face as he watched the students in front of him. He had changed their sadness and anger into courage and strength of will, they'd be prepared now. Meanwhile, several of the taichō and their subordinates looked out over the crowd in search of students of the last year that would be valuable additions to their squads. Most of their gazes eventually remained locked on the students that had been responsible for taking out the cannon, with most of the gazes coming to a rest over Takeshi and Akane, the only two students in the academy capable of releasing their zanpakutō, and with it, incredible power.

"I see you're interested in Takeshi-kun as well Naoki-san", Shinji grinned at his fellow taichō when he saw the smile play across Naoki's face.

"I don't care about him being in the eleventh, my wife would probably snatch him to her division anyway. I just want to fight him".

"Don't you always".

"It's too bad that they get to request their own transfers, and with Shimizu-san around, he'll probably have something in store for those two, knowing that they're in a relationship".

"That's true, and it won't be easy for them to overcome that challenge", Shinji agreed. It would be hell to overcome Shimizu Kazuma's challenges, knowing the standards he kept. His fukutaichō was someone that had been reported to being close to achieving bankai, he'd already been able to materialise his zanpakutō's spirit at will. The rest of his squad was also highly skilled. He requested nothing less than the very best of both his squad and himself, resulting in one of the most powerful squads in the Gotei 13. In terms of combat effectiveness, even Naoki's eleventh division was only just ahead of the ninth, the only reason for that being their brute strength and love for fighting.

Chapter 11

Training with the squad 11

The day after the headmaster's speech and the ceremony held for all of the fallen students and shinigami, repairs were started on the buildings that had been destroyed during the attack, most notably the dormitories which had been almost completely demolished. In order to give the students a proper roof over their heads, the fourth division had set up a large number of tents for the students, though some had found their own personal spots to spend the night. Takeshi and Akane had been returning to the attic in the main building every night while Midorikawa and the ever happy Miharu had built themselves a small shack in one of the small woods near a training area. Midorikawa had refused to return to one of the more important buildings in fear of another attack.

Over the next few weeks, the repair crews had made remarkable progress, with a number of sections of the dorms having been repaired, while practically all of the injured students had left the fourth division headquarters which also served as the main hospital for the Gotei 13. Much to the headmaster's joy, both the students fresh out of the hospital and those that had not been injured in the attack had started training diligently, transforming hate and anger into dedication for their training, sometimes with stunning results. In the time span of almost a month, several members of the graduating classes learned how to release their zanpakutō, their teachers smiling broadly as they witnessed the progress of their students. Encouraged by these developments, several other students also started focussing on releasing their swords, thus creating quite the annoyance for both Takeshi and Akane. They were the first two to release their swords, and were thus considered to be the prime source for special advice about the subject. Thankfully, Nakajima came to their rescue by setting up special classes for those he considered ready to start learning about the subject, thus diverting the attention away from the now already famous couple.

"I still haven't gotten the chance to thank Nakajima-sensei for taking those students off of our backs", Akane sighed as she and her boyfriend walked into the attic, which they had decorated with some personal touches, transforming it from a dry, dusty and bare room into a cosy bedroom. They'd managed to make off with a pair of futons and several other uniforms for a change of clothes. Miharu had somehow managed to scrounge up some curtains somewhere which were now hanging in front of the two windows on either side of the room. Akane suspected she'd just yanked them out of some building, but she couldn't care less. Furthermore they'd found a closet in a corner of the attic, which was now serving its true purpose instead of being stashed away. Akane had also brought along several small wall carpets which now gave some colour to the otherwise dusty brown room. Several other small things had been added to the room, some gifts, other things that had been found lying around here and there. In total, they'd transformed the entire room, suiting their needs. Akane doubted that Takeshi and herself would ever move to the dorms again, even if they were repaired before the end of the year.

"We'll get plenty of chances to thank him after the exam Akane", Takeshi replied as he slipped out of his uniform and into some more comfortable clothes. Akane blushed slightly as she watched him change in front of him. She still wasn't quite used to seeing him like that. They'd grown a lot closer the last few weeks and things were speeding up a bit, even to the point that outsiders were starting to notice the changes. Miharu and Saruwatari had even commented that they looked more like a married couple than anything else, earning them a small scowl from both Akane and Takeshi, though Akane had seemed a bit more irritated by that notion.

Having spent the day training on their own, they'd retreated to their room in order to rest and to make final preparations for the exam. As they were sitting on the couch they'd dug up from under a pile of random junk, they talked about the exam which had been scheduled for the next day. They'd been given the liberty to train on their own, just as all of the other students that preferred to do so. They had been told to pair up with someone that complemented their abilities for the final exam, the reason why had not been divulged though, making some of the students wonder about the contents.

After having talked through several of their tactics and attacks, they both went to sleep, the rest of the academy following their example, the guards and some of the teachers being the only exception.

Nakajima frowned a bit as he gazed over the students in front of him. He hadn't really gotten that much sleep the night before, courtesy of some of his fellow teachers that had insisted that they go over the different student pairs again in order to finalise the matchups.

"They must've done it on purpose", he grumbled quietly, making sure that none of his students were able to hear it. The sight of them, each and every single one well rested, sparking a slight hint of envy in the back of his mind. He sighed.

"Right", he shouted, forcing the faint fog that was hanging over his brain away, "you all know why you're here. This is it, your final exam. Normally, this would be a simple test of skill, the same as the ones you're used to, but due to the attack, we realised that we focussed too much on those tests. Therefore, we've decided to enlist the help of some members of the Gotei 13. You were told to pair up with someone else which complemented your abilities, this was to give you a fighting chance against someone of a much larger calibre than yourself".

Upon hearing this revelation, a shock ran through the students.

"Does that mean we'll be fighting someone from the Gotei 13 sensei?", Sakamoto asked, voicing the thoughts of everyone else in the group.

"That's exactly what this exam is all about", Nakajima confirmed, a slight look of terror now forming on the face of some of the students, "you were allowed to pair up with someone else for this very reason. When you're in the field, you'll often be faced with enAkanees that are more powerful than you. This exam forces you to work together with someone else in order to bring out the maximum in yourself and to take on enAkanees that are much stronger than yourself through teamwork. I don't expect you to defeat your opponent though, considering the fact that we've been assigned some members of the eleventh division as our opponents. What I'm going to base my judgement on, are your teamwork, technique, analytical skill and several other factors. Whether you win or lose, you always have a chance to pass, or a chance to fail".

"We have opponents of different strengths, to compensate for the difference in strength between some groups", Nakajima continued, looking meaningfully to the group of prodigies which were standing a bit to the right, "now, without further ado, I suggest we begin".

The words had barely left Nakajima's lips when several members of the eleventh division suddenly appeared in a half circle around the students.

"So these are the guys we're supposed to test eh?", a man with several scars lining his face laughed, "these kids look as if they're barely out of grade school, especially the little girl there".

He pointed at Miharu, a grin smeared across his face. The only response he got was an equally sadistic grin from both Miharu and Midorikawa. Nakajima quickly wrote down his first pairing, a small smile on his face. He couldn't let those eleventh division brutes take all the honour.

Suddenly a man stepped up in front of "scarface", his hands in his pockets. He pointed at Takeshi and Akane and then looked at their teacher.

"I want to fight those two if that's all right with you", the man said, "they've got quite a reputation back in the base. Apparently my taichō is quite interested in them, thus, it also interests myself a great deal".

"As you wish, you can fight them. Just don't underestimate them please", Nakajima said as he calmly wrote the man's name next to Takeshi and Akane's.

"Congratulations, you are now officially screwed", Sakamoto whispered in Takeshi's ear.

"Why is that?"

"That's Naoki Taichō's right hand man Takeshi", Akane whispered as well, "Kuwabara Soujiro Fukutaichō, considered to be one of the strongest people in the Gotei 13, the taichō excluded of course".

Takeshi watched his girlfriend swallow visible as she took another good look at the man. His cold blue eyes threw an icy stare at anyone courageous enough to look at him. His arms were folded in front of his chest. His long loose hair waving in the faint breeze.

"He doesn't look that strong you know", Miharu said.

"That's because he's hiding his true power. If he were to put his reiatsu at full blast, everyone here besides our little group here would faint. Don't ever judge someone's strength on physical appearance alone".

Apparently, the man held an iron grip over his men. None of the other people from the eleventh standing in front of them even dared to stray from their positions, the massive claymore swung over his back only enforcing that grip.

"What's with the sword?", Takeshi asked Sakamoto, curious as to what it was.

"His sword is known to be a constant release type sword. It's constantly in shikai form, simply because the combination of his massive power and relative lack of control over it prevents him from sealing it back up. It's either that, or he's too lazy to seal it again".

"Great, more things to worry about", Akane scowled, she wasn't looking forward to another high level battle.

She continued to eye the man warily while Nakajima formed the different match-ups, trying to gain as much information as she could. Even though she was paired up with Takeshi, who could be considered her ideal partner in just about anything, she was still worried. The fact that she couldn't estimate his power worried her even further.

"First match", Nakajima suddenly shouted, pulling Akane out of her concentration. She'd been so focussed on their opponent that she'd failed to notice that Nakajima had formed all of the groups and was now ready to begin judging his students.

"Saruwatari and Akimoto, you're up, your opponent is eleventh seat Shigehito-san", he announced, pointing towards the sparring ring.

"Right off the bat eh", Akimoto grinned as he slowly walked towards the ring. Saruwatari following him closely, both of them ignoring the glares shot at them by the other eleventh division men present.

"Try not to get yourselves killed alright?", Shigehito sneered as he slowly drew his sword.

"Try to keep us entertained would you", Saruwatari shot back, causing the man's face to distort with anger.

Yelling a battle cry, the eleventh seat stormed forward, swinging violently with his sword as he approached.

"It's his loss", Takeshi said softly, the rest of his friends nodding in agreement.

The loud clang of two swords hitting each other reverberated through the sparring area as the fighters were momentarily hidden by a small cloud of dust thrown up by the clash. Many of the onlookers squinted their eyes as the dust cleared, eager to pick up a trace of the combatants. What they saw surprised a lot of people, most of them from the eleventh division. The eleventh seat's sword had been expertly stopped by Akimoto, who'd only revealed a few centimetres of his sword as he had pulled it partially out of the sheath while Saruwatari was perched on the man's shoulder, her blade hovering less than a millimetre from the man's neck.

"How the hell", Shigehito cursed as he first looked at his throat, then at the opponent that had stopped his blade.

"Mistake number one, you volunteered to take us on", Akimoto said calmly as he pulled back his sword, "mistake number two, you let Saruwatari's retort anger you, dulling your skill. Mistake number three, you overestimated your own skill and underestimated ours".

Shigehito growled in anger, ready to unleash a massive barrage of curses and insults, but was cut short by a short glare coming from his fukutaichō, almost turning his blood to ice.

Defeated, he slowly left the sparring area, vowing revenge.

"Well now, that was a surprise", Nakajima said happily as he scribbled down the results of his two students, trying to act as surprised as possible in the process. It worked on everyone besides his students, which was exactly the point.

"Nice job Akimoto, Saruwatari", Takeshi nodded as his two friends walked to their place.

"Ah, wasn't that hard", Akimoto grinned sheepishly, "the guy was only an eleventh seat. No challenge at all".

"Watch your tongue Momiji", Saruwatari quickly whispered to him when she saw the irritated looks on some of the other shinigami's faces, "some of these guys are a lot stronger than that guy".

"Next pair, Anzai and Oota, you're on", Nakajima continued with the exam.

As he'd suspected, most of his students were no match for their opponents, even if it was two to one. The only exceptions to this were, as expected, the members of his "prodigies" as he liked to call them. Both Akimoto and Saruwatari, Sakamoto and his partner, Miharu and Midorikawa had all won their matches against their opponents. With the Miharu/Midorikawa fight adding the comical note to the exam. Apparently their opponent hadn't expected Midorikawa to be so skilled with kidō. He made the mistake of focussing his attacks on Miharu, which seemed to be the easiest target. Either that or because she had stuck her tongue out at their opponent. This was a bad idea because of two reasons, first of all, it let Midorikawa prepare a high level kidō spell without all too much distractions, secondly it angered him to see someone attack his childhood friend like that. The look on the man's face had been priceless when Miharu calmly tapped him on the shoulder right after she'd used shunpō to get behind him. He'd visibly paled when he had looked to where she was pointing. Straight at Midorikawa, who had been calmly holding a level eighties kidō blast in his hand, his foot tapping impatiently onto the earth. The poor sixth seat had given up at that moment.

Takeshi & Akane vs Soujiro kuwabara

"Last team, Sawada and Shimizu, your turn", Nakajima finally called the last team to take the exam. Their opponent had already walked towards the sparring ring. His icy gaze following them as they walked towards him.

"Before we begin, I suggest that everyone else here moves towards one of the spectator shelters", he told Nakajima as he slowly unhooked his sword from his back.

"And I suggest that the two of you release your zanpakutō right away", he continued, pointing at the two students standing in front of him, "Do it now or you might die".

While saying this, the man released a wave of reiatsu, visibly causing small distortions in the air to form as his sheer power coursed through the environment. Not wanting to underestimate their opponent, Takeshi directed Akane to move away a bit as he released his zanpakutō, he still couldn't really control the lighting that came down during the release, though he had managed to decrease the radius significantly.

"Scorch the heavens, slash the sky! Zanraiden", Takeshi shouted as he planted his sword into the earth, revealing its true form to his friends, besides Akane, for the first time. Meanwhile, Akane had also drawn her sword, ready to release it.

"The water that quenches our thirst, is the water that drowns us. The ice that cools us, is the ice that freezes us. Hyogasume.", Akane shouted as the threw her sword up into the air, the spin given to it by the throw accelerating the transformation into the twin tipped spear, causing the temperature to drop several degrees in an instant. Water started flowing out of the tips of the staff, parts of it freezing instantly, forming beautiful ice crystals that encompassed her entire body. The light emanating from Takeshi's zanpakutō refracted in the crystals, casting an ethereal glow over the training area.

"Hmmm, interesting", Soujiro nodded as he watched his opponents carefully. He was fully aware of their reputation and reported strength. Unlike his subordinates, he never underestimated his opponents.

"A lightning elemental combined with a water and ice elemental. This ought to be fun", he grinned.

"Come on, show me what you got", he yelled out, trying to raise his voice above the terrible noise that was coming from the two zanpakutō's opposing him.

Balancing carefully on the edge between control and utter fighting craze, Soujiro dashed forward, bringing his sword up overhead, the downward slash tearing up the earth in a massive fissure that raced towards the student pair. Jumping out of the way, Akane launched a counterattack, whipping up a wave of water directed at Soujiro's face, only to have the wall of water split in two by another slash of Soujiro's sword, causing water to spill everywhere, thoroughly drenching the fukutaichō.

"Is that it?", he shouted, brandishing his sword again, "is that all you've got?".

"Not at all", Takeshi grinned over Soujiro's shoulder.

"What the? How did he get there?"

"You said you never underestimate your opponents, perhaps not, but you didn't anticipate our attacks. Have you never heard that water conducts electricity extremely well?", Takeshi continued, a massive strike building up in his sword as he gathered as much lightning he could into his sword.

"Shit", Soujiro managed to bring out, moments before he was engulfed in the massive flash that erupted from Takeshi's sword, blinding almost everyone in the area.

Having used shunpō the moment the flash had come down, Takeshi landed softly besides Akane, still keeping a wary eye on the location of their opponent.

"Yow that hurt", a voice said as the smoke started to clear.

"As I thought", Takeshi growled, "that guy is virtually unharmed. I knew something was wrong the second I moved away from him".

"I'll give you guys an A for trying", Soujiro said. Half of his clothes had been burned away and several spots on his body were still singing a bit from the intense heat, but in general, he was fine.

"Even so, if you were planning on defeating me, you'll have to try a lot harder than that I'm afraid", he grinned.

"Akane, if that guy hits us even once, we're done for".

"Got it", Akane nodded, understanding what Takeshi had meant in a flash. Thrusting her staff into the air, summoning a large amount of water, sending it straight into the air.

"Perfect", Takeshi grinned as he saw the artificial rain fall. Using his sword, he caused several violent gusts of lightining to rip through the rain, cutting the individual drops into minuscule particles and keeping them suspended in the air. The result was a thick fog that enveloped the combatants.

"Hmmm, interesting tactic", Soujiro nodded in approval, "so you've noticed the fact that you can't even take a single hit from me without getting hurt, and to make this easier, you've put up a smokescreen to hide yourself in, very good. But how are you going to attack me now, the fact that I can't see you and that you've hidden your power doesn't mean that you can see me, or that you can sense me when I hide my power myself".

"I don't need to see you or feel your reiatsu to know where you are Kuwabara-san. As you've noticed already, my sword is a lightning elemental. The fact that I use this element also means that my perception of it is heightened. To the point where I can feel your movements through the shifting of the air and the electrical signals caused by your nerves. I know exactly where you are and what you are doing, not to mention the fact that this entire area is perfect for conducting electricity".

To prove this, Takeshi launched another bolt of lightning directly at the fukutaichō, resulting is a satisfying sound of sizzling clothes and flesh.

"I see", Soujiro said as he looked through the hole the lightning had burned through his sleeve. He'd been able to dodge most of the blast, though the wounds he received from the bit that hit still hurt like hell.

"Not to mention that this entire area is Akane's playground now. Remember, she controls ice".

As Takeshi said this, Soujiro began to notice a sudden drop in temperature as ice suddenly started to form on his sword. He'd have to get out of this death trap soon. Too bad, he had wanted to play with the youngsters a bit more. It was about time he got serious.

He planted his sword into the earth, releasing all of his reiatsu in a single powerful blast. The resulting shockwave blew away the artificial fog, leaving only a startled Takeshi and Akane in its wake. They were sweating visibly from the immense pressure directed towards them as the fukutaichō calmly walked towards them, his sword swung lazily over his shoulder.

"We give up", Takeshi swallowed as he saw the man getting closer. He had noticed Akane gripping his hand the moment he'd felt the surge of power race through the earth. Sensing that they were powerless to stop the juggernaut, he did the only thing he could. End the battle before any injuries on their side occurred.

"A very wise decision", the man said, allowing his power to come down to a more normal level again, "though I must commend you to make me reveal my full power to you. Do know that few people have ever seen me like this, and lived to tell the tale". Somehow Takeshi didn't have any difficulty believing the man. He was a monster, even more so than Takeshi himself.

"All right, that's enough for today", Nakajima said as he scribbled down his remarks on his tablet, "to my students, you've performed exceedingly well today, I'm proud of you. To the members of the eleventh division, I thank you for assisting us with the exam".

"It was our pleasure Nakajima-sensei", Soujiro shook the teacher's hand, "we'd gladly do it again".

Waving his hand as a signal to his men, Soujiro left the academy, quickly vanishing out of sight, his men following him closely in a tight formation.

"The results of the exam will be announced tomorrow in the main assembly area at ten in the morning. Don't be late, "Nakajima said as he too left the training area, leaving his students to spend the rest of the day as they wished.

"Why did you give up Takeshi-kun?", Oota, one of the two girls that had to fight right after Saruwatari and Akimoto, asked, "I thought you were a lot stronger that that".

Takeshi sighed, he knew both Oota and Anzai were part of his fan club. He praised himself lucky that they weren't part of the fanatical core group who always seemed to try and watch his every move. Even so, it could be a bit annoying to have them around at times, mostly because the questions they asked always had an obvious answer.

"It's because he was more powerful than the powers of Akane and myself combined. He didn't become a fukutaichō by just waving around a big sword you know. There's no way we could have won that battle", Takeshi answered dryly.

"I see", the girl replied sullenly, the fact that Takeshi had actually lost a fight had shattered her vision of the invincible student that he was. Saddened a bit, she ran off towards her fellow fangirl.

"I wish I had such a large and dedicated fanbase as you have Takeshi-kun", Sakamoto grinned.

"Trust me, I'd hand them over to you the moment I'd get the chance", Takeshi sighed again, though the sullen look on his face lifted quickly when he felt Akane snuggle up against his arm.

"We'll see you guys later", Akane quickly said, preventing anyone from asking them to hang out for the evening.

"Same here", Saruwatari said as well, mimicking Akane as she threw her arm around Akimoto's waist.

"Hey, I thought you guys would be more surprised", Akimoto complained when he saw no change on his friends faces.

"Please, anyone that didn't notice that something was going on between you two is either blind or is incredibly dense", Takeshi grinned, much to Akimoto's chagrin.

"Ooohh, congratulations you two", Miharu jumped around the couple, Midorikawa holding his hand against his forehead as he sighed. His friend was as clueless as ever.

"Or you need to be called Miharu, that's also a possibility", Takeshi continued, earning him a scowling look of Miharu as the girl finally picked up on the cue.

"So, what did you think of him? Was I right or was I right?", a man hunched on one of the nearby rooftops asked another figure sitting right next to him as they watched the group split up, each pair heading in a different direction.

"You were absolutely right taichō-san", Soujiro said to his superior officer, Fukuda Naoki.

"He was much more than I expected him to be, the Shimizu heir as well. Not to mention the fact that they work together exceedingly well".

"I just hope he chooses to join the eleventh division", Naoki said to himself. He was eagerly anticipating a match with the man that could force his second in command to go all out, "it's too bad that they can choose which division they pick".

"So, what do you have in mind for me tonight", Takeshi asked as he let Akane take the lead.

"Oh, you'll see soon enough", Akane smiled playfully as she pulled him into their room, tightly locking the door behind them.

"I will now announce the results of the final exam", the headmaster began as he took a scroll out of a box standing beside him.

Takeshi, Akane and the rest had made it to the assembly area with time to spare, unlike some other students that had apparently decided to spend their possibly last evening as students drinking as if there was no tomorrow. Takeshi spotted several people who were obviously suffering from a severe case of hangover. Noting the broad smile on Sakamoto's face, he deducted that the notorious brewer was responsible for most of the damage.

"Next, Sawada Takeshi, come forward", the headmaster announced. Hearing his name, Takeshi approached his destiny.