(Note: This is Chapter 3 of the Return From Exile story arc.)
As Renji Abarai and his Bankai charged him, Akashi calmly spoke the command, “Straight” and swung his blade as the beast opened its mouth. CRASH! Akashi slid backward on his feet. “Impressive, quite impressive, Renji Abari. It is a shame that is the best you can do.”
“I’ll show you!” Renji’s bankai prepared for a second attack. As it came down on Akashi he swung his blade, as it met with Zabimaru, it didn’t knock him back this time, in fact he managed to hold the entire attack at bay, without sliding backwards at all.
“Interesting…” Uryu said to himself. “Renji attacked with the same amount of power; Akashi released the same amount of reiatsu with his attack, and yet the outcome varied. But how?”
“Its not that interesting,” said Renji as Zabimaru wrapped around him. “Hihio Zabimaru! Strike again!” Once again the enormous skeletal snake charged toward Akashi, and (just as before) he swung his sword.
The effect however was profoundly different. Renji’s bankai was sent flying backwards and crumpled on the ground behind him.
“What the hell?” Renji grunted. “How? There has been no change in anything about your attack, or reiatsu and yet each time I attack you, you seem to get stronger!”
“Renji!” Uryu called out, “He called out the name of a technique! That must be why!”
“Of course,” Renji said to himself, “What did he say the other names were related to the type of technique, what was this on called?”
“It's name was Straight,” Akashi said calmly, “and bravo on figuring out the pattern of their names, and I’ll go ahead and let you in on this technique’s secret. As with the poker hand of same name each successor is greater.”
“I see,” Uryu contemplates, “just as each card in a straight is higher, like a 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, are each higher than its predecessor, the same is true of his attacks, and the initial attack acts as the base.”
“Well we’ll see how he does when I send a full attack at him,” Renji growled. “Hihio Zabimaru Charge!” This time the large snake charged full speed at Akashi. “Crush him!” Renji yelled.
This time as the skull approached Akashi leapt and came down with his blade on its head. The great snake ground to a halt as it fell into the earth beneath. It is entire body lay still.
“Changing tactics eh?” Renji said smugly, as the snake gathered back to him. “I guess that means I’ve scared you.”
“Or more likely,” Akashi said grinning. “It means I’m bored with this part of the game.”
“What are you talking about?” Renji asked forcefully, “I’ve had you playing defense from the start!”
“Not quite,” Akashi said, “All you’ve done is confused my countering your offense, with me being forced into defense. You see the difference?”
“All I know is that you’ve been receiving my attacks so far!” Renji said angrily.
“Fair enough let me show you what my offense looks like,” he flash stepped and stood just in front of the skull of Renji’s bankai. He held out his sword and tapped the beast’s skull, and suddenly Renji found himself buried under the immense force of his Zanpakto collapsing on him under an immense force. “That is the true power and beauty of my Straight. Its power grows with each attack and no matter how hard I make contact it delivers the attacks full force.”
“Incredible,” Uryu said to himself. “Simply incredible such a unique attack, it allows him to conserve his movements and to confuse an enemy’s sense of what to expect from an attack.”
“I’m glad to hear that you appreciate it Quincy,” Akashi laughed. “Too bad you won’t see much more of it. I’ve decided to finish this fight. Are you ready Renji?”
Renji was back on his feet and the large snake encircled him, each bone section connected by a stream of reiatsu. He said nothing. “Finish me?” he thought, “This guy has no idea what is coming.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ then shall I?” Akashi said, “Now then one last hand, you show first.”
“Hihio Zabimaru, Baboon Bone Cannon!” Renji called out strongly. A sphere of reddish-orange energy formed in the mouth of the snake skull. “Fire!” The skull recoiled as the volley was sent flying toward Akashi.
“Shuffle” he said as he pointed the blade at the approaching attack. The blade fired cards at the volley until the blade disappeared. The cards pushed toward the center of the sphere, and it buckled and exploded in the air between the two combatants. Cards swirled and spun as the made their way to the ground.
“You bastard!” Renji cried out. “You stand there so smug, all these little tricks and all it shows it that you’re a coward!”
“You call me a coward?” Akashi said, a twinge of anger in his calm voice. “No one has the right to call me that, especially not some insignificant rat from the Rukongai. I’ll show you the meaning of fear.” He held out the hilt of his blade. “Flush,” he spoke calmly and the cards began to glow a deep crimson as they floated into the air. “Go,” he said again in the same cool voice.
Akashi’s cold voice seemed almost familiar to Renji, but he had no time to muse over it. The now glowing cards hurtled toward him and if he wasn’t mistaken it seemed as if each was followed by a streak of 4 identical cards. He called his bankai to him encasing him in a barrier of bone and energy. The sound of the pounding cards finally stopped. As he released the barrier Renji saw Akashi standing there, that same stupid grin on his face.
“Why so happy Akashi?” he said, “your attack failed! Let me show you a successful one. Baboon Bone Cannon!” This time several blasts were hurled toward Akashi, and his smile broadened. The blasts slowed in the air, each one finally coming to a halt. Confused Renji said “What the hell?” Then suddenly the blast began to implode as if it were being sucked into itself. The spheres disappeared and all that remained of each were three cards glowing with energy of the same color as the attack. The cards floated down toward Akashi gathering together into a single card.
“What the? How did you do that!” Renji yelled.
“What did you call it? Oh yes, a successful attack,” Akashi said calmly. “You see the key to executing a truly great technique is to first let the enemy think it has failed, it’s called a bluff, and when done correctly it can allow you quite the advantage in a battle. Now,” he raised the hilt of his blade, “you didn’t even notice the absence of my blade, which is why this is so clever.” Akashi looked at the brightly glowing card and threw it at Renji. As the card flew toward him Renji was able to make out its face. It was the Baboon Bone Cannon! “Wha-” suddenly the attack flew from the card and hurtled towards him.
An explosion engulfed Renji.
“How much longer will you allow your lieutenant to fight, Captain?” Captain Yamamoto said sharply. “How much longer will he have to face an enemy that we both know he cannot defeat? An enemy we both know is your responsibility to take care of!”
“Sir,” Byakuya began cautiously, “Renji agreed with his part in this he knows that he is at a disadvantage, but he agrees with me that we should not go blindly into this fight. He and I both know that we must do all we can to assess Akashi’s-”
“Why do you say this to me Byakuya?” Captain Yamamoto interrupted, “Do you think that with all my age I am no longer able to see the fear in your eyes? Your grandfather, Genrei Kuchiki, would never have stood for this from his grandson; I can’t believe you would allow it. Tell me Byakuya why? Why do you fear him?”
Previous Chapter: The Battle Begins: Renji versus Akashi!
Next Chapter: Renji Falls in Battle, Can Uryu Defeat Akashi?