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You've always been a fighter.

Even way back to those early days as a street rat in Inuzuri, you've always been fighting. Back then, to fight was to run. Run away, with your stolen food that you need to survive. To fight was to be caught, beaten, and refuse to scream or cry. To fight was to survive in the merciless outer districts, to live. Because nothing was ever given to you in Inuzuri--nothing was ever free, even if you weren't paying money for it.

You learned about victory early on, too. Quite literally tasted it, with every scrap that successfully got to your stomach. Small victories; rock candy, fish from the river. The pain of bruises and broken bones that meant you were still alive despite the world.

You keep on fighting, surviving, until one day you find your thin and scrawny frame has become broad-shouldered and strong. And, having conquered Rukongai, you and your closest friend--family--decide to move on to Seireitei, in honor of those boys that fought with you all these years but did not make it this far. Rukongai overpowered them, and you escape its clutches in their memory.

They teach you "how" to fight, at the Academy. Stances. Movements. Techniques. They show you how to hold a sword and how to use it in combat. They teach you how to swing, how to parry. Spells for destruction. Binding. Healing.

They do not teach you how to distract someone by tripping them, or kicking sand in their eyes. The Academy teachers' blades are all shiny with honor you've never known, but you treat it as just another small victory, another triumph over Inuzuri.

You fight your first hollow, and the blood and adrenaline rush through your veins, fear and anticipation mingling into one. You're there with Kira and Hinamori and the three of you are in no way prepared to help Hisagi kill all those hollows (you're only first years, hell) but all that you can think is keep fighting. If you stop fighting, you're dead, and you're going to live, goddamn it. You haven't made it this far only to die.

They start you in the fifth, but you're soon moved to eleventh. You've never felt more at home. Kenpachi Zaraki is like you, a man who learned to fight long before he first picked up a blade. He's lived in the squalor and the filth deep in the mouth of Rukongai, and like you, he forced its jaws open and stepped out.

With him, you don't learn how to fight, how to win, or even how to live because you already knew all these things. And yet in the eleventh you feel like you learned more than ever before, because for the first time he gives you something that Rukongai, that the Academy never did: Passion. Joy in the fight. Unbridled enthusiasm for strength and testing one's limits. For once, for the first time ever, you become strong because and not despite of something. He teaches you to love the strain in your muscles, the hitches in your breath. You have a goal, a person to surpass, and in the eleventh, you feel you finally found the last piece of your identity. You know exactly who you are, where you are, and where you want to go, and you know you can fight for it, and win.

Forty years later and you get your chance. You fight with everything you learned from Kenpachi, Ikkaku, Yumichika, even Yachiru. You fight until you collapse to the ground, and every time you wake up again. They're each a little victory, despite the losses. It's a victory when the Soukyouku is destroyed and Ichigo tosses Rukia down to you from the execution stand and tells you to run the hell away from there. Your heart thrums with success from each bite of pain from still-healing wounds because they mean you're still moving, still fighting. It's a victory when Aizen leaves for Hueco Mundo with the hollows, because even though he played them all for fools, Rukia's still alive. That's all that matters. It's victory enough.

Even in another world, it's the same. Whatever's happened between them, whatever she remembers and has forgotten, it is immaterial when the hollows come. You return to your roots and once again you know exactly who you are. Your goals are different this time, to be sure, but with her at your side, fighting this neverending battle with you, you couldn't be more sure of yourself. Even as you lay on the ground, broken and bleeding, you've never felt more alive.


[Slowly, very slowly, pale eyelids twitch, revealing dazed brown eyes. Renji stares blankly at the sky for some moments, a sky that he should not be able to see again but somehow can due to the ways of this world. He blinks, once, twice, closes them again. Listens. Quiet sounds are picked up--leaves rustling, insects buzzing. Opens his eyes, again. The verdant expanse of Himorogi, calm and pristine once more awaits him. Closes one hand into a fist, and slowly reopens it, stretching out the fingers individually. Carefully, he lifts the arm, and lays it flat against his chest, feeling his restored heartbeat thrum steadily against his fingers. The movement was sluggish, but precise. That's a good sign. He raises the hand again, this time, towards his face, feeling his breath slip around his fingers in the same way.]

Huh.

[Testing his voice, now. It didn't hurt to speak, or to breathe, even deeply. Everything seems to work. His hand goes back down to his side, and now applies pressure against the ground as he pushes himself up, maneuvering into a sitting position. This movement is a bit strenuous, and there's only a moment of vertigo before his vision re-clears. Renji sees the sheathed blade laying beside him now, and, instinctively pulls it onto his lap. He unsheathes it just enough for the steel to glint in the sun, and he can now finally hear Zabimaru's voice in his mind once again and Renji closes his eyes once more and lets out a sigh that soon turns into a laugh, in pure relief. When he opens his eyes again, there's one more surprise for him. Just in reach, there's the damn Hitomi, already recording, beginning with that last dream, the first pleasant one he's had since it first shrieked at them all, last week. It's a good change from the horrific visions in the last days, since his death.

He looks into the Hitomi with something like a tired grin. His eyes are still a little glazed, but there's a spark in them that's definitely Renji.]

There ya are, ya little bastard. My welcome back present, eh? [A faint huff of amusement.]

Dyin' in Kannagara is one hell of a trip, I'll tell ya that. So, anybody wanna tell me what I missed?

[A pause...and his voice gets a little softer, though a small smirk forms.]

Oi, Rukia. I told ya I'd be back, didn't I? Hope I didn't keep ya waitin' too long.

Comments

(Deleted comment)
hangingdogstray
Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:35 am (UTC)
[voice]
[Rin. It's almost funny, how the tables turn. He remembers talking to her last time this happened, after she had watched Rukia die and come back. And there's an irony in the fact that the both of them, two trained shinigami were killed in this mess, and she, a human girl survived both times. But that's how she is--she may not be that strong, but he remembers sparring and training with her, before. It resonates strongly with the dream he just had. She has the will of a fighter, of a survivor. And that's all she needs, really. The rest of it is all finesse, anyway.]

Yeah. Raisato too. Go figure, huh?

Thanks. You doing all right, Rin?
(Deleted comment)
hangingdogstray
Jan. 3rd, 2011 12:01 am (UTC)
[voice]
Glad t'hear it.

Guess shit's on its way to goin' back to normal here, eh? Or, at least as normal as it can get in Kannagara.
(Deleted comment)

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Kannagara - The Way of the Gods

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