Ichimaru Gin smiled because he knew.
When Ichimaru knew things, it wasn't through speculation or conversation, or even something he read while passing by, nor was it information retained from life before Soul Society. Call it intuition if you will…
He just knew.
Not everything, though, he certainly wasn't God, but there were little tidbits of information here and there that he managed to retain while others overlooked them like meaningless trash.
A mind like Ichimaru's held this internal knowledge like a fine trap.
He knew he was different from the rest of the Rukongai populace, and it wasn't just his slight eyes or the silver hair or weird name. He knew the knifing hunger in his belly meant something significant. He knew it would eventually lead him to something bigger and better, which was how he knew that this poor existence of scrapping for food and water and miniscule shelter was insignificant and would fade in time to something bigger and better. He knew power awaited on the other side of this bleak, hungry existence.
When he saw the small girl with the honey blond hair and clear blue eyes covered in dust under the unforgiving sun, he knew she was just like him.
And just like everything else, Ichimaru knew. He knew she would stay, a constant figure to his life, something like the stars or sun or the permanent white towers of Sereitei in the distance. He knew she owed him loyalty. He knew she would grow into an extraordinary, powerful woman. He knew his life was no longer one spent alone.
And he knew that every time he left, she would be waiting for him.
He had passed the shinigami academy entrance exams. Shortly thereafter, he knew Rangiku would follow and pass as well. But he was more powerful, he knew, so it only followed that in some way, shape, or form, she would fall into a subordinate position where he would continue to keep an eye on her.
He noticed she was blossoming. He knew others would notice too.
Ichimaru saw Aizen Souske for the first time and immediately knew: the glasses, the flaxen hair, the kind smile, even the white, white jacket of the Fifth Division…
A special, kind design meant to blind to his true intentions.
Only Ichimaru saw the malice beneath the soft smile, the narrow arch of the brow hidden under unruly hair, the nasty glint as the elder captain would focus on the white purity of Sereitei and burn it all with his vivid imagination while silently working towards making that goal a reality.
Ichimaru knew instantly where his destiny took him.
"Something I can help you with, Ichimaru-san?"
"Oi, no need ta speak so politely."
Aizen frowned. "Beg your pardon?"
"In public, sure. But here, now, when it's just us two bad seeds…? C'mon, taicho. Be honest with a soul, wouldja?"
And just like that, the niceness was gone, and the smile Aizen produced was just as twisted as Ichimaru knew it would be when released to its full extent.
"T'ain't hard when ya know what ye're lookin' for."
"I'll kill you where you stand before you spoil the ending of the story."
"Why d'ja do a thing like that? Ah thought we could be friends."
"Friends? Conductors of the end of the world don't have friends."
"What d'they have, then?"
"And ain't I a soldier?"
"Answer me this: where do you see yourself in a few years, Gin?"
Ichimaru's smile grew wider. "Hell."
Ichimaru Gin was appointed lieutenant of the Fifth Division the next day.
He distanced himself from Matsumoto Rangiku. He knew she would be able to read him. He knew she would surmise something was wrong. He knew she would try to talk him out of his present course.
He pulled himself away because he knew that given enough time, she could.
"We're getting close. With the ryoka running wild, Room 46 is our best option for total solace and secrecy."
Ichimaru already knew, of course.
"About your friend, Gin…"
Ichimaru frowned. He knew where the topic was going, and he didn't like it at all, not after they'd already had this discussion before.
"You know once Negacion comes, no one can touch you, no one can attack you, no can stop you from going to heaven like you want before our decent into Hell…"
"Yer point?" Ichimaru demanded, a slight edge to his voice.
Aizen smiled sharply, not meeting his eyes. "Are you certain she'll go with you when the time comes?"
Ichimaru's frown deepened. He was certain: Ran-chan would go. After so many years of her perched by the doorstep when he came into view of their shabby home again and again, she would have to come, desperate to never have to watch his back fade in the distance one more time. Her curiosity to know where he was going, what he was doing would drive her...
"I propose this, Gin: let the girl decide for herself. Instead of playing her like the rest of the cards in our deck, let her be the one wild. Let her make the decision whether she wants to go with you or not."
She had to come with him .He had counted on it his whole life. That was why she had waited for him all those years; that was why she had followed him to Sereitei, joined shinigami ranks; that was why she had fought so hard to join a division, any division, as long as she could keep her eyes on him and hope he didn't disappear again…
"If she holds onto you, Gin, she'll be yours. Just make sure she holds on."
"Going against Hitsugaya is going to be difficult. Though young, he is still a prodigy of power. And Hinamori will be hurt, which will enrage him."
Ichimaru smiled. "Figured as much."
"If he doesn't kill Hinamori with his own hands, you'll have to be the one to deliver the blow. But when you do, be wary. You may find your friend standing in the way."
Ichimaru frowned again, a second time in only a few days. He didn't like the taste it left in his mouth.
"We've already drawn our lines in the sand, Gin. How are you so certain she hasn't drawn hers?"
Aizen was right. He hated it when Aizen was right. At least in the past, when Aizen knew something, Ichimaru had known it, too. But this time, this one time, to have his captain privy to something he himself hadn't grasped…
"Please withdraw your sword, Ichimaru-taichou."
Ran-chan would never go against him. He knew this.
"If you do not, I will be your opponent."
Haineko was shuddering in her hands. Shinsou was relentless, without mercy, cracking her steel.
The frown was an ugly sensation, but he couldn't help it. She had gone against him, drawn her sword, stopped his progress with relentless determination. She stared him down, a wall strong in her blue eyes that told him she would hold or she would break, and there was no other way around it, so please withdraw before we have to fight for real this time…
The frown eased away.
That was Matsumoto Rangiku for you: brazen, loyal, courageous, brave, and strong.
A large smile sipped at his lips.
That was the Rangiku he knew.
"Sorry, Aizen-taicho. I got caught."
The look Aizen sent him was one of unflinching annoyance. Ichimaru knew Aizen had always viewed his connection to Matsumoto Rangiku as a distraction. Ichimaru also knew Aizen was getting tired of repeating himself on the subject matter. So was Ichimaru.
This was the last time. The last time to prove that he was right, that he knew Matsumoto Rangiku, that she would never go against him, never go the other way, not with his back retreating in the distance…
"We've already drawn our lines in the sand, Gin."
The other captains and lieutenants arrived in a quick shunpo flash, speaking, muttering under their breaths about the reprobate, the traitor, Aizen Souske the murderer, their cold eyes never flinching from the sight of the three caught renegade captains of the Gotei 13.
He focused on the warm fingers around his wrist, the cold steel at his neck.
"How are you so certain she hasn't drawn hers?"
Just stay there…
Her breath was at his back. A soft breeze blew hair across his cheek.
"Gin…that's a weird name…"
Just hold on…
"Nee, Ran, when's your birthday?"
After so long, after so many years, don't let me be wrong…
Aizen glanced up at the sky. "Oh, so sorry. It's time."
The heavens ripped wide open. People were screaming. Hollows awaited them, enormous escorts at the bleeding entrance to Hell.
Three streams of golden heavenly light shot down.
"You know once Negacion comes, no one can touch you…"
An instant before the earth shattering light encased him, the warm presence from his back was gone, the steel missing from his neck.
That was the Matsumoto Rangiku he knew.
The realization of her absence was sharp.
"Are you certain she'll go with you when the time comes?"
"…I will be your opponent."
His voice cracked slightly. "This is a little sad…"
"If she holds onto you…."
"If you do not…"
"If only you had held on a little longer…"