Hello, Gin.

It's been a long time since we last spoke. It's strange now...ever since the day I claimed my bankai, you no longer seem alive. Just a ghost, if anything. It was inevitable, and unimaginably freeing, but sometimes I can't help but feel that it is also a little sad...

Sometimes it's hard to think back on all that has happened. So much has changed since the Great War, it seems it all took place a lifetime ago, though it was barely over a decade. The scars of what was done can still be seen; so many people were lost, captains and seats alike, and filling those voids has taken many, many years. Shinigami who have found their bankais are few and far between, and even those that have it were reluctant to step into positions that held such memories, be they good or bad.

The Fifth division suffered terribly from both the betrayal of their captain and the execution of their vice. Further upheaval was imminent, as the replacement they found for them was none other than Madarame Ikkaku. That position was the first to be filled, surprisingly enough; despite his bone-deep determination to spend his entire existence following Kenpachi-taicho, word got around to his beloved captain that he was deliberately refusing a position of power in order to remain subordinate. I don't know everything that happened, although the rumors are thick and varied; I just know that the day I saw Ikka-kun storming away from the First with a white haori slung over his shoulder and muttering something along the lines of: "...pathetic puppy-dog, my ass...I'll show you who'll be begging at who's heels..." is a day I will always treasure. Since then, the Fifth has been mercilessly trained into fighting machines, and the ego-inspired brawls between them and Eleventh have become legendary and expensive, all but driving Unohana-taicho to distraction. I won't even tell you about the numerous duels that Ikkaku-taicho has called Kenpachi-taicho into, nor how often Ikkaku loses, but suffice to say that even banned as they are to fighting in the most distant and desolate quarters their battles still shake the earth and even Kenpachi-san is starting to get bored with them.

The smoothest transition by far was in Ninth division. Although he had to go through a more stringent testing process than usual, to ensure he had not experienced similar tainting by his former superior as Hinamori Momo did, Hisagi Shuuhei was a strong sucessor and well-liked among shinigami, not to mention nearly revered by his own squad. I still think he tries too hard to honor the ideals Tousen so blindly (pardon the phrase) adhered to, but it is not really my place to say. He is a capable leader, a popular captain, and has proven himself to be an incredible asset in the rebuilding of the squads after the war.

The loss of Komamura was great and he was deeply mourned throughout Sereitei, no less by my own Toushirou. It is my understanding that Komamura was a great leader and inspiration to Toshi when he was climbing the ranks through the squads. The Seventh squad was a little unsettled to receive brazen Abarai Renji as their new captain, but after a rocky start they seemed to settle into each other. He's young yet, but slowly getting his feet under him, and his future as a leader looks promising. The greatest challenges that still face him will be matters of the heart; he must learn to emerge from the shadow of his former captain, and some day he'll to stop pining after the woman he loves, whose heart belongs to another. After all, if I can do it anyone can, and the many nights I've sat with him and encouraged him have helped forge a deep friendship and affection between us. He's going to be an exemplary leader one day.

The Thirteenth has also had its fair share of troubles; while Ukitake thankfully still lives, he rarely ever leaves Fourth squad anymore, leaving his duties to fall to an extremely capable Kuchiki Rukia who finally received the promotion she has deserved for decades. She was somewhat reluctant at first to accept the vice captaincy, since her heart was elsewhere and she preferred to be free to visit the real world as often as possible. However, once I pointed out the pride in her brother's eyes, there was no question as to whether or not she would accept her duty. And of course, Ukitake is about as sympathetic a leader as one could possibly have, and while her free time is limited she is unfettered as to where to spend it. Though she only recently released her bankai and is decidedly attached to a human, once Ukitake does finally fade there is no question as to whom that squad will fall.

As for me...

Well, things have changed there, too. I have finally settled within myself exactly who I am. With you gone, it was actually pretty easy to figure out. Toushirou has been an incalculable asset, somehow managing to help me find my true self without moulding or influencing me the way you used to. For the first time ever, I have found myself fully and truly loved, and it took me a very long time to get used to it.

In fact, a lot of things with us took a great deal of time. Despite our feelings, Toshi was adamant about not publicly displaying a romantic relationship. It hurt at first, but when I realized that his shyness was more in protection of my already-tainted reputation and less about being afraid to be seen with me, it helped a great deal. On top of that, he was even more reserved on the physical front; he absolutely refused to consummate anything until he was taller than me, which took considerably longer than either of us would have liked. In the end, though, it worked out for the best. After all, I'd spent most of my life afraid that nothing would be able to eclipse the stolen month you and I spent together in our youth; as it turns out, nearly a decade of foreplay with Toushirou did the trick VERY nicely.

Only one thing remains before we can make our relationship public. Which brings us to why I felt the need to speak with you today.

The fate of the Third squad. It still does not have a captain.

Although an incredibly capable fukutaicho was assigned and has run the squad admirably in the interim, the commanding seat remains unfulfilled. Frankly, I've avoided them for as long as I can. But the fact remains that all capable of bankai must step up, and that is one seat that can go to no one but me unless I officially refuse it.

After all, there are three ways to receive a captaincy: gain the recommendation of a majority of standing captains, pass a test of skill and bankai before all captains as well as the captain commander...

...or kill the previous captain.

Now, clearly, in light of your betrayal your captaincy is certainly debatable. It's a techincality, really, but Nanao-chan has always maintained that it would hold up in Court. I didn't believe her for a long time, but as year after year passed without Yamamoto-sutaicho assigning someone to the position, I started to wonder. He never offered it to me, but I never actually refused it either, and I've slowly come to realize that he was respectfully leaving the decision to me.

I'll be honest and admit that I'm scared out of my wits and it is awfully hard to believe that I would be up to the task. But I have an excellent example in my Toushirou, and his quiet patience has subtly encouraged me, finally, to accept my duty.

So, dear Gin, this truly is good-bye.

I'm not going to fill your place, I'm going to claim it as my own. From here on out, I will be living my life by my own choices and no one else's. In a few brief moments, Toushirou and I will be meeting with Yamamoto-dono and I will officially petition for the position that I have rightfully won.

I'm stepping forward into my life, on my own terms. And this time, I won't be following behind the man I love.

I'll be standing right next to him.

I hope you found peace, or rest, or whatever it is you were looking for, wherever you are now. I hope that, if you are able to see me, you would find joy in who I've become. There are many things you did that were wrong, but I will always be grateful to you for playing a part in the woman I've become.

And know always, no matter what was or is...that you were loved.

I have to go now. I have a long-overdue meeting with Yamamoto-sutaicho.

It's time, and Toushirou is waiting for me.