(Note:This is Chapter 2 of the Return From Exile story arc.)
Several playing cards with scarlet colored backs and intricate gold markings and black edges, fall down around Renji and Akashi. Renji caught one. “Isn’t it beautiful? It is raining cards!” Akashi said slightly bemused still holding the hilt of the sword in his hand. “You see I have found that each battle is like a game of cards, how we behave during a hand depends on the cards we’re dealt, but we must always keep in mind the cards of our opponents. That is what you had forgotten earlier, you didn’t assess my possible cards. Why don’t you take the time now? 52 Pick Up!” suddenly the cards immediately around Renji began to glow red. Renji almost immediately found himself surrounded by explosions. “As I said the cards that are dealt to us are quite decisive.”
“Fate or chance or whatever you want to call it has nothing to do with it!” Renji yelled indignantly, “It is about one’s skill and ability!”
“Ah, but that’s the beauty of it, its both.” Akashi said excitedly, “Is it not mere chance that pairs together opponents, as it has us? Is it not fate which dictates the cards we begin with?” He held up his hilt directing it at Renji, revealing that it had a face card on it, the King of Hearts, “Yes it is, but, as you’ve said, it is so much more than that. It is fate which carries us into a battle, but only skill can carry us out again,” he smirked as he held the sword above his head. “Cut.”
Suddenly all of the cards that now littered the ground raced to the base of the hilt and as the last of them fell into place, Renji could see that they had reformed the blade. It was not an ordinary looking blade, its shape seemed normal its size, too, but it was its composition and color that bothered the eye. Instead of a traditional metallic blade there was, or so it seemed, a collage of playing cards some facing up some down all appearing to have been folded into a blade.
“I assure you it is quite sharp,” Akashi said amused at the confused look on Renji’s face. He swiped at that red hair; a few strands fell to the ground.
“Why you!” Renji leapt backwards, “Zabimaru!” The snake like blade flew at his enemy. Akashi caught it in his left hand.
“Its an interesting skill you have,” he said mockingly, “but you don’t think you are the only one who can lengthen his blade at will, do you?” Akashi pointed his blade at Renji, “Waterfall.” suddenly the blade began to extend as if each playing card was attached lengthwise to the card in front of it. The whip-like cards began to wrap around Renji’s blade, then up his arm, across his back and down the other arm. The ribbons of cards began to constrict around him.
“Aaaarrgh!” Renji cried out in pain. His bones felt like they would break at any minute, as the cards pulled each arm behind him. Suddenly a flash of blue light flew toward Akashi from across the courtyard in which they were standing.
“Shuffle,” the ribbon of cards broke away from Renji, and he fell weakly to the ground. They gathered together to form a wall and took the full force of the attack. “That was a clever move Quincy,” Akashi said smiling and looking towards the ground, while cards swirled around him as the wall of cards pulled apart, “but you should know that I’ve been aware of your reiatsu this entire time. Though I must say I didn’t realize it was a Quincy’s spiritual pressure until you attacked, very impressive control. So you are one of the last of the proud Quincy race, but I would think that such pride would have kept you from interfering here.”
“Shinigami or not,” Uryu snapped at him, “My friends are my friends.”
“Don’t be so dense,” Akashi said quickly, “I’m not referring to any foolish racial barrier. I’m referring to your pride as a Quincy. I would have thought that you of all people would understand the pride of the shinigami. Two warriors, one battle. That is how things are done amongst respectable shinigami, and to interfere is to insult both warriors!”
“What do I care for your traditions!” cried Uryu, “I will not stand idly by and let my friend die!”
“You won’t have to,” groaned a now standing Renji, “you were right Akashi it was foolish of me to underestimate my opponent. I should have assumed that anyone who could make there way into the Seireitei without permission was a worthy opponent. Now,” he turned to Uryu, “I understand that you might become concerned Uryu but no more interfering.” Renji turned to face Akashi once more, “Shall we?”
“Hm,” Akashi nodded.
“Zabimaru!” the blade shot high into the air, and then Renji swung it downwards toward his opponent.
“Two of a Kind,” Akashi flash-stepped away and appeared on either side of the blade!
“Huh he split into two?” Renji said dumfounded.
“Waterfall,” they said in unison, a ribbon of cards shot out from each blade and tangled them around him. One traveled up his blade the other caught him at his other hand, as they reached his shoulders they wrapped themselves around his throat.
“Gah-” Renji was being strangled by the tentacle-like cards.
“Renji!” Uryu couldn’t sit by any longer. He called on his bow and fired a wave of shots at Akashi.
Before Uryu had even fired his shots Akashi called out, “Two Pair!” and instantly two more copies were standing before him each gave the command, “Shuffle,” and their blades scattered into countless cards which quickly formed a wall. Once again Uryu’s attack was stopped. “Full House,” he said as a fifth Akashi appeared in front of the wall. “Shuffle,” he said, and cards began to whirl around him. “You simply don’t understand do you? I can assure you that despite your objections, any shinigami would rather die than have, their death continually taunting them like this. Five of a Kind!” The wall behind him fell away as each of the two that had created it now reassembled their blades with the command, “Cut!” and then seconds later, “Waterfall,” two ribbons shot out and restrained Uryu’s arms. “It is interesting the way my copying skills work, either all the copies use the same skill or it becomes a two-two or two-three ratio.” The two constraining him tossed him away. “Since you can’t be trusted that will have to do. Now,” he turned to face Renji, “it’s too bad for you he has ruined this technique for me now.” The copies disappear and Renji fell limp to the ground. Akashi looked over his shoulder at Uryu, “Can I trust you’ll be a good boy now?”
“No promises,” Uryu said begrudgingly.
“Promise me,” Renji was back on his feet, “Uryu, this guy may be a bastard, but he is definitely a shinigami, and he understands that our system of honor is a code that we not only live by, but it is one that we are willing to die under, too. If I can‘t defeat this guy, then I deserve to die by his sword.” Renji’s eyes were piercing, “So, for me, don’t interfere anymore. Promise?”
Uryu nodded, “I promise.”
“Good,” Akashi said. “Now let us continue.”
“Right,” Renji held his blade in front of him, “Ban- Kai!” A cloud of dust erupted around him and an enormous snake skeleton loomed above them. “Hihio Zabimaru!” Renji’s bankai charged at Akashi.
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Next Chapter: Straight and Flush, Akashi’s Strategic Attacks!