Title: The Music of the Night
Disclaimer: I own neither Bleach nor The Phantom of the Opera
Dediation: For Sandy, who demanded KaiRuki.
Characters/Pairings: Rukia, Ichigo, Orihime, Shinji, Aaroniro Aluluerie, Aizen, Grimmjow, Ulquiorra, Ukitake, Byakuya; Ichigo/Rukia, Kaien/Rukia
Rating: PG-13 (They could just be playing scrabble, we may never know)
Summary: In this AU, Rukia and Aaroniro make a bargain that will forever change history. There is no such thing as a happy ending.
Notes: I've been a fan of the musical The Phantom of the Opera since I first saw it when I was about nine or ten years old. I fell in love with the concept that in this story it just wasn't possible for there to ever be a happy ending. I realize now that it has influenced me a great deal more than I always suspected.
Don't put me through this ordeal by fire.
He'll take me, I know.
We'll be parted forever: he won't let me go.
What I once used to dream, I now dread.
If he finds me, it won't ever end.
And he'll always be there, singing songs in my head.
And he'll always be there, singing songs in my head.
"Good God. Rukia. What have you done?"
Twin blades were drawn slowly from their sheaths with a hiss of metal as her Captain approached her. She hugged the body that had once held Kaien-dono's spirit tightly to her shivering form. Already he was losing all warmth.
She stared up at her Captain. "I killed him. Just like you told me to." Rain ran down her cheeks attempting to wash away the blood that stained her skin.
The blades were now crossed and pointed at her neck. If they should be drawn together...
"That's no excuse."
"You told me to." The girl murmured, as she stared up into her Captain's unforgiving face - the face of a Death God. "You told me to."
"Kuchiki Rukia, it is my duty as a member of the Gotei-13 to extract the punishment upon you, the murderess of Shiba Kaien, Vice-Captain of Division Thirteen."
"You told me to."
The swords bit into her neck.
Mariposa awoke to the darkness, gasping for breath. A hand reached for her neck.
A cold hand reached out and stroked her bare shoulder.
"Another dream?" Aaroniro asked, his voice sympathetic.
She turned to him and offered a pathetic smile. She reached out and touched his cheek. "I remembered my death."
Aaroniro only offered an "Ah" as he pulled her towards him. He kissed her lips. His lips were even colder than the hands that now ran down her back. His touch burned her skin in a way that fire never could.
Mariposa pulled away. "When the Winter War comes..."
She was interrupted by another kiss as Aaroniro pinned her down to the bed with his body.
She frowned and pushed him away. "Not when I'm talking."
Aaroniro grinned, not looking the least bit apologetic. "This is far more fun, don't you think?"
The frown on her face deepened.
He ignored it and fingered the piece of bone that decorated her hair. It felt cool to the touch. It felt real. Almost as real as her.
He kissed her again, allowing his hand to slide down between her breasts. Ah. There it was. The one thing Aizen-sama had been unable to change. The one piece of evidence that revealed that his Mariposa was not what she seemed.
I love her!
Does that mean nothing?
I love her!
Too many long nights. Too many long days.
It had now been two weeks since that fateful day when he had snatched Rukia's bloody cloak from Grimmjow's claws. More than two weeks since he had last seen Rukia.
And he was still no closer to controlling the beast that lay within him. If anything, he was losing control.
Before Rukia's death, he had been able to hold onto his Hollow for eleven seconds. Eleven glorious seconds of raw power pumping through his veins. He was now down to eight seconds. Or rather, he was now just shy of eight seconds.
The Vizards at first had been confused. Such an event had never happened before.
"Perhaps," Shinji suggested, as he watched the Hollow mask dissolve into pieces from Ichigo's face. "Perhaps, it is because your inner world is crumbling at the seams that you are losing control."
Ichigo wiped his face harshly with a hot towel. His nails attempted to claw out his eyes through the tough material. As always, they failed to reach their intended goal.
"So, what am I supposed to do?" He snapped, flinging the towel away from him.
Shinji shot him a look. "You know what you have to do, Ichigo."
Rain thundered down from the sky.
His Hollow was silent for a moment as he regarded him. "What do you want, Oh most High King?" He called out as the rain beat down on him.
"You know what I want."
The Hollow smiled and nodded. "True. I know what you want. The question is do YOU know what you want?"
Ichigo frowned. "I don't understand."
"Typical." The Hollow sniffed. "As usual, I have to spell out everything for you, you stupid bastard." He swung his sword by the wrapping in a lazy circle, pursing his lips. "You know," He started casually. "I can see your dreams."
He grinned viciously as Ichigo's cheeks reddened. "Shut up!" Ichigo snapped.
"But why?" The Hollow looked most curious. "If I recall correctly, and believe me I do, you had quite the interesting dream about our beloved last night."
Ichigo's sword was at his double's throat before the Hollow even have a change to blink. A look of surprise crossed the Hollow's features for a moment, before his golden eyes found Ichigo's once more.
"What. Did. You. Call. Her?"
A long pale finger pushed the blade away from the Hollow's neck. "What else were we supposed to call her? Bonny?" He looked annoyed. "Come on, King. You may think that you have everyone else in the world convinced that you never had any feelings for her with that trick you pulled with her funeral, you stupid fuck, but me? Do you actually believe that you can lie to me about how we felt about her?!"
Ichigo took a step back. "You loved her?"
The Hollow shook his head. "We loved her." He kicked his foot through the cracked window of one of the buildings. It didn't even scratch him. "Why else do you think our world is falling apart, King? Because she's gone... Gone forever."
Ichigo said nothing as he looked away. This was all his fault, like everything else was. He had no one but himself to blame for the loss of Rukia.
"Why do you want to kill him?" The Hollow's voice was low as he stared at Ichigo with his foreign eyes. "What purpose will it serve?"
"What the hell are you saying? He killed Rukia! He deserves to die."
"No one deserves to die, King." The Hollow looked almost sad now. "He doesn't deserve to die. Rukia didn't deserve to die... She of all people especially did not need to ever die." He sighed, and swung his sword around again. "Do you think that you'll be able to bring her back if you kill the bastard?"
Ichigo opened his mouth to retort, before it snapped shut and his eyes darted away from the intense gaze of his Hollow.
"She's gone, King." The Hollow's voice sounded tired. "She's gone where we can never follow... If you chose to go after this bastard, the only thing that you can expect to get out of it is his blood on our sword. The pain won't ever go away, even if it does dull, it'll always be there: an aching wound in our chest. And she won't come back even with his death, her memory will eventually fade and we'll wonder if she was just a dream. We've lost her forever." He paused and lowered his eyes to the broken glass. "Do you understand?"
There was a brief nod as the man who was King attempted to hold in his tears.
His double stared at him for a moment before raising a hand and snapping his white fingers. One of the mirrors rippled like water as a figure rose up from the depths and stepped onto the gray cement. She wore the black uniform of a Soul Reaper, and she looked exactly as she had when Ichigo had last seen her that day when he had foolishly agreed to split up in order to save Orihime. She took a step towards him. The Hollow watched with glowing eyes.
Ichigo looked confused. "What are you doing? You said we couldn't bring her back." Panic filled him, and at the same time, hope fluttered through his heart.
"We can't." The Hollow watched him with unreadable eyes. "I'm giving you a choice. You can either go out and seek revenge upon the bastard who took her from us, and then live out the rest of our life attempting to cling to dimming memory of her; or you can stay here with "Rukia" and I'll spread his carcass all across Soul Society."
"Ichigo." She smiled at him.
Oh God. How long had it been since he had last heard her voice or seen her smile? To live out the rest of his days with her, even if it wasn't really her, only a memory... He ground his teeth into his lower lip to stop it from quivering.
He reached out a hand to touch her, and she reached out her own hand to grab his. They were within an inch of each other, when Ichigo suddenly pulled his hand back.
"No." He shook his head. "I don't want a memory. I want Rukia."
The sound of clapping filled the air. His head snapped up to see his Hollow with a small grin just clapping his pale hands together.
Ichigo scowled. "That was a low trick, you asshole."
"It wasn't a trick." The Hollow grinned. "You needed to know what we really wanted, your Majesty." He began walking towards Ichigo at a slow, lazy pace. "You better take all the power that I give you and teach him exactly why he shouldn't have taken her away from us, or I might have to-" The smirk fell off the Hollow's face, and his eyes widened in something that Ichigo could only assume was fear.
Ichigo spun around to see what had alarmed his Hollow.
All he could see was a vision in white.
Pale white skin the colour of snow. Lips that were far too red curved in a familiar smirk. Long white locks of hair that continually moved in a non-existent wind. Dark blue eyes that were almost violet.
It was Rukia, but it wasn't her at the same time.
She let out a light laugh. "Whatever are you up to now, Zangetsu?"
The Hollow made a sharp noise behind him. It sounded like despair.
The figure - Sode no Shirayuki, it had to be - walked towards the Hollow (Zangetsu? He really was Zangetsu?). The Hollow stared down at her, as she reached up a hand to stroke his cheek. Her hand passed right through his face.
"I hate you, King." The Hollow never took his eyes off the woman. He tried to brush a piece of her hair away from her eyes. It didn't move. He took his hand away as if it burned. "I hate you for leaving me in here with her."
Say you'll save me from my solitude.
Anywhere you go, let me go to.
That's all I ask of you.
There was something burning in her chest.
She was an Arrancar; the mate of one of the Espada (the Nine branded on her shoulder let all know this) with a Hollow hole in the crevice of her throat.
She was dead. Not quite as dead as a doornail, but quite dead all the same.
Yet, each night, it was the same. In the dark of the chamber she shared with Aaroniro, she could both hear it and feel it.
Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.
There was something beating underneath her ribs. There wasn't supposed to be anything beating - not since she lost her heart when she became a Hollow.
But there it was.
Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.
It took her awhile to go to Aaroniro Aluluerie for answers. Why? Because of the fear of what would happen when it was revealed that there was something wrong with her. The pounding in her chest speeds up at the thought of losing her position as the Ninth Espada's mate.
Aaroniro laughed when she confessed to him.
"Mariposa, Mariposa, whatever shall I do with you?" He asked with a big grin, as pulled her smaller body onto his lap. He cupped her face, forcing her to look at him. "Don't you remember, Mariposa? My death and what I gave you?"
Her eyes widened. "What?"
He touched her breast with his hand.
Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.
"That's my heart beating under there." He glanced at her, his expression slightly darkened. "The heart I wanted you to possess all for your own."
His hand slid down from her cheek to push aside the material of her uniform. His lips went to her neck. Her hands found their way into his hair, her fingers combing through the dark strands.
The heartbeat in her chest sped up.
Ba.bump. Ba.bump. Ba.bump.
His cold lips left her skin after a moment. She looked up at him with bright eyes. An icy hand reached out and tucked a curl of hair behind her ear. He stared down at her with dark eyes - a predator's eyes.
"Tell me, my Mariposa, do I have your heart?"
Such a silly question did not usually find its way out of Aaroniro's mouth. Didn't he know the answer already? Mariposa shot him a puzzled look as she opened her mouth to speak.
He grabbed her by the shoulders, his hands burning her flesh with the cold.
"Tell me I have your heart." He ordered, almost frantic.
Wondering why her mate was so agitated, Mariposa smiled and reached for him. She opened her mouth once more.
Silence reigned from her mouth. Her hands shook.
"Mariposa? Mariposa? Answer me!" Aaroniro grabbed her before she could collapse onto the floor. He picked up her trembling form. "Mariposa?"
She whimpered and grabbed onto the collar of his open coat. "Make it stop. Make it stop."
Her heart thudded slowly and painfully against the cage of her ribs.
Ka...thump. Ka...thump. Ka...thump.
In sleep, he sang to me.
In dreams, he came.
That voice which calls to me
And speaks my name.
And do I dream again?
For now I find
The Phantom of the Opera is there
Inside my mind.
The voice whispered her name from the depths of the darkness. Yellow eyes followed her wherever she went. Warm hands wrapped themselves around her shoulders, quickly followed by warm lips on hers. Even though she was blind in that darkness, she knew everything there was to know about this stranger in the way he held her.
It had been so long since she had last felt the rays of the Summer Sun.
"Rukia... wait. Just a little longer. You just need to wait a little longer and I'll be with you."
Her hands ran over his cheeks. "But you're here now."
He laughed. "Don't you know Rukia? You're not in this world or the other anymore. Where are you Rukia? I can't find you." His lips found hers.
There was sunlight and she could see his face. His eyes were brown, not glowing yellow.
And for an instant, she knew him.
"Ichigo." She kissed him again, her fingers digging into his back to confirm that he was real, that he existed, that he was there.
The moment ended, and she was left back in the dark again.
She awoke to Aaroniro's arm around her waist and his nose buried in the crook of her neck. She smiled at him and pressed her lips against his cheek. His cheek was cold to the touch.
In the darkness, her hand reached down to gently stroke her belly.
"Somebody did quite the number on you."
"Just shut up and do your job, hag."
There was the sharp sound of a fist hitting a face, and something cluttered to the floor, leaving behind a trail of blood.
"Oh. Terribly sorry. Was that your jaw?"
Grimmjow glared as his brother's mate picked up his smashed jaw from the ground and dusted it off. Mariposa shot the Sixth Espada an amused grin. She tossed his jaw in her hand.
"To reattach his jaw or not to reattach his jaw. A true dilemma, wouldn't you say?"
Bright blue eyes glared, threatening a long, slow death. Mariposa ignored him, as was her usual way. She began moving her fingers in a number of intricate patterns that would awaken the Kido needed to bring life back to the dead muscles. A moment later, the jaw was back where it should be and there was no evidence that it had ever been ripped off.
"I don't get you at times, dear brother." Mariposa's voice dripped with sarcasm. "It's no secret that you hate me more than anyone, except perhaps our beloved creator, and yet you still come to me for healing." She smiled. "Could it be that you are madly in love with me and can't bare to see me in the arms of another?"
She gave a mocking laugh and turned to leave the room.
His voice stopped her in mid-step. "Do you remember him yet?"
Her laughter faded. "Him?"
Grimmjow watched her with sharp eyes. "Yes. Him."
Mariposa stared at him for a moment before letting out a light laugh. "You're a strange one, brother. Tell me, who am I supposed to remember?"
As for our star, Miss Christine Daae:
No doubt she'll do her best,
It's true her voice is good, she knows
Tho if she wants to excel,
she has much still to learn,
If pride will let her return to me,
Her teacher, her teacher.
Orihime took one last glance at the portrait of her brother.
"Please forgive me Onii-chan. I know that you wouldn't approve of what I have to do, but please. Try to understand. I can't leave Kuchiki-san for dead when I have the power to bring her back."
"We must go." A flat voice spoke from behind her.
Orihime glanced over her shoulder. "Give me a moment, please." She turned back to her brother. "I'm sorry Onii-chan." She took the picture in her hand, and kissed the glass. "I love you." She placed the picture back on the altar and bowed from her kneeling position.
She stood up and took one last glance around her apartment - the home that her brother had made for her. "Goodbye."
"Come. Aizen-sama does not like to be kept waiting." Ulquiorra reached out his hand.
"Sorry," she offered and she took his hand.
The walls that had been her living room separated. She squeezed Ulquiorra's hand and took a deep gulp. How far can I go? How far will I go?
Her eyes widened as she felt the Fourth Espada's hand tighten around her fingers ever so slightly. Her head wiped around to stare at him. He wasn't even looking at her. A smile tugged at the corner of the girl's lips.
I will go as far as I possibly can, and maybe even farther.
"Inoue Orihime has been taken." Shinji told Ichigo, his eyes sharp on his comrade's face to see if there was any reaction.
There was none.
Ichigo took a sip of his water. "Was taken, or went along of her own free will?" The new piercing in his ear glinted (a symbol that he is now one of the Vizard).
"It looks like she was kidnapped." Shinji's eyes glowed in the dark.
Ichigo tossed the empty water bottle over his shoulder. He reached up a hand and his Hollow mask of bone gathered in his hand. He went to pull it over his face.
"What's this?" Shinji looked amused as he pulled out his own mask and placed it over his face. "Prince Charming isn't going to go after her and save her from the dragon's mouth?"
The Hollow mask snapped over Ichigo's face and yellow eyes glared. "I have no interest in traitors and cut-throats."
Dressed once more in the robes of the Arrancar, Orihime stood in the center of the room and stared up at Aizen's high throne.
Most of the Espada were there, watching her with hungry eyes. Most, but not all.
The Espada, Aaroniro Aluluerie, the one who had killed Kuchiki-san was not there. She needed him here. Here, right now, so she could perform her one miracle. She couldn't perform a miracle if some aspect of Kuchiki-san did not remain in this world. And who else should carry a part of her dead friend, other then the Ninth Espada, the one who had devoured Kuchiki-san's corpse?
"Things have changed quite a bit since you were last with us, Orihime." Aizen's voice echoed throughout the chamber. "You'll be quite interested to know, I'm sure, that a mate of one of my Espada is now with child."
"W-with child?" His words barely registered with her. Where was he?
Aizen smiled. "Ah, yes. Quite the miracle. Until now, it was believed that it was impossible for a female Arrancar to carry an embryo in her body. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that there is to be a mother among us. The first woman to bear an Arrancar into the world."
Dread filled her. What had he done?
"I'd like you to meet her." Aizen continued to smile, reminding Orihime of a dog that was just about to close its jaws around the thin body of a squirrel.
The doors to Aizen's throne room opened. Orihime's eyes widened as she starred at the figure that stood beside Aaroniro Aluluerie.
"Kuchiki-san..." The name came out in a whimper. Bile rose in her throat. To save Kuchiki-san would be to kill her child...
The First Mother held her head high as she walked into the room.
Your chains are still mine,
You belong to me.
At one point, Rukia had belonged completely to him.
Her heart. Her soul. Everything that made her: Rukia.
It had all been his.
Looking through the memories that belonged to Shiba Kaien, it was obvious to Aaroniro that she had belonged to him and only him. Just as Shiba Kaien had belonged to her, even if it wasn't until the very end that Shiba Kaien realized the truth.
Now, he could barely hold onto a single strand of her fine black hair.
The number Nine etched into her skin told all, of his claim: that this beautiful creature, Mariposa, belonged to him and only him.
The supposed child that was growing in her belly created another chain around her.
She belonged to him and only to him.
This was his happy ending. She was the reward he had for being a creature made of thousands of devoured souls. She was the reward he deserved for his continual madness.
So, why was it that no matter how many chains he placed upon her that Mariposa was still as free as she had always been?
His silver chains meant nothing to her.
It was the thick gold chain around her pulsing heart that Mariposa cherished.
He knew that Mariposa still remembered the boy on some small level.
He saw it in her eyes.
He saw it in her smile.
Rukia had loved him, once upon a time. Then, the boy had come and he had been forgotten. Rukia had loved the boy and this time her feelings had been returned (unfortunately, this boy was not an idiot like Shiba Kaien had been). Rukia had loved Shiba Kaien, and that love still lived within Mariposa. Mariposa loved Aaroniro Aluluerie and she welcomed him into her empty chest. But Mariposa also loved the boy - this Kurosaki Ichigo.
Rukia had never been one to ever stop loving anyone she let into her heart.
Not that red headed brat, who had left her.
Not her adopted brother, who denied her his love and who had sought her death.
Not her Captain, who had forced her to do what he could not.
Mariposa would not stop loving the boy either.
And she would never belong completely to him until her heart had been returned to her.
The boy would die.
Mariposa would have her heart back.
Aaroniro would finally posses the woman who no one could ever capture.
Kurosaki Ichigo would die on Nejibana before the end of the Winter War.
And Mariposa would be his and only his.
This mask of death
If he heard one more word about how disappointed Rukia would have been in him, he was going to kill someone.
He was there to fight a war, not to listen to the hushed whispers of former friends who were scared of his new status as a Vizard. He fingered the small gold hoop in his ear.
Would she have been disappointed?
Rukia was a Soul Reaper. The whole purpose of the Soul Reaper was to purify Hollows. Would she have raised her sword against him?
It would have been her duty to.
But she had once pushed aside duty for him. She might have done it again... for him.
And where did that get her?
He scowled down at the grave marker with her name. He reached out a hand and brushed it against the cool stone. Somebody had cleaned it recently. His fingers traced the letters of her name.
"Ah, Kurosaki-san." A warm voice came behind him. "I was hoping I would be able to find you here." The Thirteenth Division Captain smiled as he came to stand next to Ichigo beside the grave. "It's been awhile, hasn't it?"
"Yes." Ichigo forced the words out of his mouth. "It's been a very long time." The last time he had seen Ukitake was when he had learned that Inoue had disappeared... if he had only listened instead of running off after the traitor, Rukia would still be there with him.
Ukitake took a short glance at the man beside him, before his eyes fell to the slab of cold stone. "I hear that you've managed to control your Hollow."
Ichigo clenched his fist. "Yes." He gritted out through clenched teeth.
"She would be proud of you."
Ichigo blinked. "What?"
Ukitake still wasn't looking at him. "I don't know if you know this but my former Vice-Captain Shiba Kaien was once possessed by a Hollow... he looked like you."
Rukia's murderer had had his face. Rukia's murderer was...
"He was Kuchiki-san's mentor and -" Ukitake sighed. "I am a weak man, Kurosaki-san, a very weak man. That night, when Kaien lost to the Hollow I allowed emotion to get in the way and I did not kill him when I should have." He looked down at his feet. "I ordered Kuchiki to kill Kaien because I could not... I will never forget how she looked that night with Kaien's blood on her hands when his blood should have been on mine."
Ichigo tightened his grip on his Zanpaktou's hilt, as he spoke. "I'm sure that she never blamed you for what happened."
"Perhaps that was part of the problem." The Captain of Kuchiki Rukia stated. After a moment, he clasped Ichigo's shoulder. "She would have been very proud of you, simply because you would never have forced her into a position where she would have had to have killed the most important person in her life."
Masquerade! They'll think it's a parade!
Masquerade! Hide you face so the world will never find you.
Aizen's troops attacked with the coming of the night.
There was no warning, and there was no mercy. Only screams and blood.
In only mere moments Seireitei was a battlefield of epic proportions.
"Keep her safe, brother." Was all Aaroniro had said to Grimmjow as he prepared to leave to go and find his prey. The boy will die. The boy will die and she will be mine.
Grimmjow shot him a dark look before stalking off his hands in his pockets. Mariposa shot Aaroniro one last smile before hurrying after the Sixth Espada. The last he saw of her, she was kicking Grimmjow in the knee for starting the hunt for Ukitake without her. (I'm going to kill you wench!")
It did not take very long for Aaroniro to find one of his intended targets.
"It's been a long time, old friend."
Kuchiki Byakuya did not look amused as he drew Senbonzakura. "You are the one who killed Kuchiki Rukia?"
Aaroniro smiled. "Me? Kill Kuchiki Rukia? I'm surprised at you, Byakuya. Did you actually believe that I would harm her? Your precious little sister? Believe me, Byakuya, the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt her in anyway."
He flash-stepped to stand behind his former friend. "Don't you know Byakuya? You should keep precious things close, and little sisters even closer."
The smile on the Espada's face widened as he slipped his memories of his beautiful Mariposa into the Soul Reaper's mind. In a few moments, Kuchiki Byakuya learned the fate of his sister and how it was now impossible to ever save her.
The mask over his face, Ichigo moved through the masses, cutting his way through his enemies.
I can smell his blood. His cold fish blood.
'You know what I plan to do, right... Zangetsu?'
In his head, he could feel the Hollow, that was Zangetsu, shrugging. We'll be with her again. That's all that matters. Just give him a one way ticket to Hell first. Then, then we'll go and find her.
Ichigo smiled grimmly. 'I'm coming Rukia.'
There he is, King. KILL HIM!!!
"He's old." Were the first words out of Grimmjow's mouth. "How is he supposed to be a challenge?"
Ukitake glared. "I think that you'll find me more than a match for you."
Grimmjow raised an eyebrow and turned to view his female companion who had stayed in the shadows. "How long does he usually last?"
The woman stepped out of the shadows, and Ukitake's heart stopped when he saw her. "Long enough."
She drew Shirayuki. "First Dance: Tsukishiro." She smiled at Ukitake. "You shouldn't have killed me."
Hunt down this murder.
He must be found!
Aaroniro turned around to see a tall figure wearing a bone mask with painted blood.
The Ninth Espada drew Nejibana.
"Have you found me? Or have I found you?"
Order your fine horses now!
Raise up your hand to the level of your eyes!
Nothing can save you now!
Except perhaps Christine!
Start a new life with me!
Buy his freedom with your love,
Refuse me and you send your lover to his grave
This is the choice
This is the point of no return.
KILL HIM! Zangetsu roared.
MAKE HIS BLOOD FLOW! Nejibana rang.
HE TOOK HER AWAY FROM US! Zangetsu screamed.
FREE HER FROM HIS TAINT! Nejibana sang.
Blades met with a clang of metal and a shower of sparks. Spiritual power was released in a series of explosions. Metal slid through muscle and organs. Blood painted the ground red.
There would be no coming off this battlefield - this dance of death between two Gods of Death.
"You're fighting a losing battle, boy." Aaroniro's face was smooth as Nejibana bit into the boy's stomach. "What can you expect to gain from this?"
There was laughter from behind the Hollow mask as Ichigo pulled the other Zanpaktou from his body. "What do you think?"
Aaroniro allowed himself a small smirk. "You've lost her forever. You lost her the moment you let her go."
Ichigo's laughter grew, as did his spiritual power. Several people who had stayed too close fell to the ground, shaking. "What can I gain? What can I gain?" Zangetsu sang for blood in his hand.
The Ninth Espada frowned. "You can gain nothing by fighting me."
"Nothing, eh?" There were several short screams as the Vizard's spiritual power crushed bodies with its growing might. "Nothing's good enough for me." His eyes fell to Aaroniro's leg.
Aaroniro barely had time for a look of surprise to cross his face, as his leg became a bloody mass of splintered bone. Nejibana fell to pieces in his hand. He looked back at the boy, who had placed his blade at Aaroniro's throat.
He sneered at the boy. "Am I to get a name for this conquering hero who has vanquished the demon?"
Ichigo lifted the Hollow mask away from his face to glare at his opponent. He grinded his heel into the broken leg and was rewarded by a grunt of pain.
"You want a name? I'll give you a name." He gritted out, his hand going to his side to hold the wound closed. "Kuchiki Rukia."
He raised his blade and swung it down.
Christine, I love you.
He raised his blade of ebony and swung it down, only to have it deflected by a blade of ivory.
Dark blue eyes met with brown.
Aaroniro's eyes widened and he grasped for Mariposa's hand to pull her back, even as he screamed her name.
Dark blue eyes met with brown.
Ichigo stared at the girl he had thought he had lost. She wore the white of the Arrancar and there was a Hollow hole in the base of her throat. Yet, this stranger was still his Rukia.
Dark blue eyes met with brown.
Mariposa stared at the boy she should know and did know. He wore the black of the Soul Reapers, but carried the Hollow mask of the Vizard. This stranger was hers, even if she had no notion of his name.
Dark blue eyes met with brown.
The dark chain of Zangetsu wrapped itself in Shirayuki's light ribbon. It would never let go again.
Dark blue eyes met with brown.
The world still hadn't finished stopping.
Who was that shape in the shadows?
Whose is the face in the mask?
End of Act Two