Prologue

Ichigo panted. He was in the middle of the battle with Grimmjow. He cursed. His hollow transformation was what worried him, as well as the fact that his hollow self may decide to manifest himself when he was weakened.

"Fuck," Ichigo cursed again. His transformation would only last about ten seconds, and Grimmjow already released his sword. The last time he had shown his hollow mask to Grimmjow, he still couldn't defeat him in the allotted ten seconds. Back then Grimmjow didn't even release his Zanpakto yet.

Ichigo wasn't winning—his bankai form was only barely keeping him faster than Grimmjow, but he wasn't losing.

"Getsuga Tenshou!" Ichigo shouted, desperate. He didn't really put in a lot of reiatsu, so it barely made a scratch on Grimmjow.

Grimmjow fell back, his arms in an "X". He laughed. "Is this all the power you have? Even with your hollow transformation, this is all you can muster? Ha ha ha!"

"Sh—Shut up!" Ichigo grit his teeth, knowing what he had to do. "Inoue, get away from here, and take Nell, the small hollow, with you! It would really suck, Inoue," he shouted, "If you get affected by this. I can't quite control this scale of attack yet."

Ichigo's reiatsu suddenly spiked. Grimmjow's face froze, realizing what may happen. He took a few steps back and assumed a defensive stance. Ichigo's reiatsu was swirling around him, a mini tornado, with Ichigo as the eye.

Ichigo leapt up into the air, and in the excitement, didn't realize his mask has now been on for a full five minutes, and counting. He put both hands on the hilt, and inputted all of the reiatsu he built up. It was an all or none shot.

"GETSUGA TENSHOU!" he roared. The black light didn't just fill the room—it annihilated it. Good thing Inoue was out of the room. Seriously.

It hit its target, but with the dust in the air from the impact, he couldn't see how Grimmjow fared from the attack.

"Sh—Shit, you bastard," Grimmjow groaned before disappearing.

Ichigo panted. He used up the last of his reiatsu with the last attack.

"Inoue? Nell? It's alright to come out now." Ichigo forcibly had his mask disappear. It had been over an hour since he had first activated the mask (yeah, I know, the times don't match up). He had his bankai disappear too.

"Bwuaaaaa! Ithigo! Nell wath tho worried! I thought I told you noth to uth that power anymore!" Nell cried as she jumped onto him.

"Ow… Nell, I just came back from a battle. I'm injured. Please get off, it hurts," Ichigo groaned as he grimaced.

"Yes Nell, please get off Kurosaki-kun. I need to heal him," Inoue said, a pained smile on her face.

"Ugh. Sorry, Inoue. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but could you make this quick? Rukia's reiatsu is fading fast."

"Hmm? Kuchiki-san? Oh, of course then!" Another pained smile.

Suddenly, a portal opened up in a flash of light. Ulquiorra.

"SHIT!" Ichigo scrambled up, with the help of Inoue.

"Inoue. Take Nell and run towards Rukia. I'll catch up."

"No…"

"RUN!"

Ulquiorra turned towards Inoue. "You won't be going anywhere."

"Did I say you could interfere? Your opponent is me."

But unfortunately, after his battle with Grimmjow, it took all of his energy just to stand up.

"Fuck. Not good." Ichigo thought. Ulquiorra smiled a grim smile.

"You don't even have the energy to activate bankai, let alone your mask. Do not play with me, brat," Ulquiorra said, his face almost actually expressing emotion—contempt. He swiped at Ichigo with his sword, making a large slash across his chest.

"F—Fuck," Ichigo groaned, dropping to his knees, struggling to stay conscious.

All of a sudden, Ulquiorra froze. A single voice echoed out of the sudden silence.

"Tsubaki! Koten Zanshun! (A/N: I forget. Which one did she not have to say? The name or the incantation? Oh, and like I said, you should've read all the manga available by now, so you should at least know who Tsubaki is.)

Ulquiorra collapsed, his body split clean in two. The fourth espada was no more, along with the sixth.

"In—Inoue…" Ichigo said weakly (but mostly astonished), "Thanks." Ichigo struggled to his feet, and looked down at himself. "Heh heh. Sorry, Inoue. I think I need you to heal me again."

"Ah. Sure, Kurosaki-kun."

"Ah, but that was amazing, Inoue!" Ichigo said, relaxing in the soft, golden glow, "You took out the fourth Espada! Who knew that you were so powerful?"

"Ah ha ha ha… Please, Kurosaki-kun, don't talk so much. Your excitement will only end with you opening your wounds again. Besides, it's not that big of a deal."

"NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL? Ow… Arg… E-tai…" he groaned, "Inoue, the fourth Espada had power rivaling a taichou! And you say it's not a big deal…" Ichigo started grumbling incoherently to himself as Inoue smiled.

Flashback—Inoue's training

"Inoue, you're powerful, but you have no resolve for battle."

Inoue raised an eyebrow. "Kuchiki-san…?"

"Ah, no no no, that's not it," Rukia said, waving her hands around, clearly flustered, "You have resolve, but not enough. Yeah, that's it," Rukia said, forcing a smile. But then her face turned serious. "Look," she said as she pointed to the two trees split down the middle, "Compare the tree you split to the one I split. The one I split is a clean cut, while the one you split is clearly in two, but the edges are jagged. Like you were hesitant to even cut down a tree. Inoue, just find what you want to protect and don't hold back, alright?"

End

"No, no, Kurosaki-kun!" Inoue said, shaking her head, "That's not pooh bear, it's p-tan… they look similar, but they're different… You can't win the soccer finals with p-tan… You can't… It's impossible… (A/N: taken from manga chap 44)"

"Ah… Inoue?"

"Haaai?" she yelled, startled.

"What are you talking about?"

"O—Oh!" she stammered, embarrassed, "No—Nothing."

"'Kay…"

"No wait, I remember now! I wanted to tell you that that wasn't my real power. I just got excited when I saw that look on your face when you fell…"

"Hmm? Oh… Okay, I guess. This is good enough, Inoue. Arigato. Could you come with me? I think Rukia would probably need healing."

"Sure. Of course. Hah hah… Kurosaki-kun? What are you doing?"

Ichigo had just picked Inoue up, not bridal style, nor piggyback. Rather, he had just wrapped an arm around her waist and picked her up, Inoue's feet and arms dangling out from Ichigo's side (In my opinion the most casual and least romantic way a guy can pick up a girl). He didn't notice the light blush in Inoue's cheeks, but rather just looked forward, searching for Rukia's reiatsu. When he found it, he finally answered Inoue's question.

"Inoue, I need to get to Rukia as fast as I can. I don't think you would be able to keep up with me. Or Nell, for that matter. Oi, Nell! Hop on my back."

"Thure, Ithigo. You're all better now, right?"

"Yup. No worries, all thanks to Inoue."

"Great!"

"Okay, hold on tight guys, alright?" Ichigo said, excitement building once again, grinning.

Ichigo took off, unable to be seen by anyone in Las Noches, save his nakama, the Espada, and the traitors—but they weren't around to see him. When they finally reached the area where Rukia's reiatsu had been coming from, she was nowhere to be found.

"Shit. Where'd she go?"

"—Cough— I—Ichigo?" a weak voice strained.

"Shit." Ichigo cursed under his breath, finally seeing her buried under some rubble, "Rukia, are you alright?"

"No. What does it look like, you idiot?"

"Inoue! I've found her!" Ichigo shouted, frantically lifting the rubble that covered Rukia.

Rukia shook her head, "No. It's too late. Ichigo, don't worry about me. I just want to tell you something very important—"

"Don't talk! It's straining your body."

"But it's very—"

"Don't talk."

"It's im—"

"Shut up!"

"Why don't you shut up, bastard?" she shouted, finally losing it, "I tell you that me, a dying person has something important to tell you, and all you can say is 'Shut up'?" she panted. The slight outburst already took a lot out of her. "I just want to say that I'm passing on my heart on to you."

"Eh?" Ichigo said, a blank expression on his face.

"Not 'Eh' bastard! You say thank you!"

"Th—Thank you."

"Good." Rukia smiled a pained smile.

"Ru—Rukia? Hey! Don't close your eyes, alright? Look at me!" Ichigo was starting to worry. "Inoue!" Inoue has been running since he started yelling, but she was too far away. She was looking for Rukia on the other side of the large room when he started yelling.

"Rukia!" frantic, he grabbed her hand and started shaking it as he yelled.

"Will you just shut up?" Rukia groaned, opening a single eye.

"Oh… Uh, yeah, I just thought, you know…" he said, a relieved smile on his face, eyebrows knit.

"Whatever. I just want you to know… I'm passing my heart on to you, alright? And never die alone. I was worried that I would have to do just that—die alone. But then you came, Ichigo. So just know, don't ever die alone. Ever. You must always have your nakama nearby so you can pass on your heart to them."

Inoue never reached the pair in time. Rukia was dead.

A/N: Ha ha. You ever notice how anime always says, "Don't talk" when somebody is dying? It's like "Shut up. I don't want to hear your dying wish." Lol. I mean, sure, they say "It's straining your body" but still! Ya know?