She does not need any help finding that place. Kira has been helpful, and so have Ikkaku and Yumichika, to an extent. The fact that Matsumoto Rangiku was adored by people other than Ichimaru Gin is common knowledge. But today Rukia only allows the white haired boy to accompany her. Allows is too loose a term, though. He refuses to relinquish the ring without it, the ring that is the only thing Rangiku has left behind. Rukia understands completely why he is loath to give it up. She had not intended to force him to do it. But it seems someone else has been working on him.

They crossed into Rukongai together in the evening, both of them in civilian clothes. He is silent, as usual, and she has no interest in talking, either. When they find the house—what's left of it—they begin to look for the grave and find it more quickly than they anticipated. A simple stone with one word caved into it. "Oba-chan." She turns to him and he is already kneeling, digging in the dry earth with his bare white hands. "It doesn't need to be very deep," he murmurs.

"No," she agrees. His back and shoulders are already those of a man. Rangiku would be proud. He's even letting his hair grow. It is tied back simply with a green ribbon.

He sits back on his haunches, rubbing his forehead. "Will this—will it be okay?"

"If we mark it properly, no one should bother it," she tells him. He nods at her and holds up the box they purchased for the occasion. It is ebony and shiny, with gold characters on the lid spelling out one word: Forever. The engraving was Rukia's idea. Hitsugaya was violently opposed to this at first; she was forced to have Hinamori intercede on her behalf. It seems the occasion of his relenting caused Momo to buy him the gift that currently binds his snowy hair. Not that Rukia has, or ever will, tell anyone that. As it is, he opens the box and searches on his person for the ring. It is just as shiny as it was when Matsumoto wore it around her neck. He stares at it for a moment, then puts it into the box.

Rukia moves forward to help him bury them but he holds a hand up to her. He doesn't want assistance here. So she stands back, silent as he covers them.

"Did you ever hear how he gave it to her?" he asks finally.

"No," Rukia admits.

"She was half drunk when she told me," he says. "I don't know if she was lying or not. She told me that she hated him, and she wore the ring to remind herself why. He gave it to her when she was assigned to the tenth division after finishing the academy. She said he told her it was a consolation gift, that if she'd gone to the third she could have been with him. I don't understand why if she loved him so much, she didn't go into the third." His hands suddenly ball into fists. "I don't understand why she loved him at all."

"I can't tell you why, either," Rukia says. "All I really know for certain is how I feel. He was reaching for something, I think. But Rangiku-san knew what path he was on and refused to travel it with him. If she had. . .things would have been much worse for all of us."

"He would never have fixated on you if he had her."

"Perhaps. But you would never have known her, either." She tilts her head. "Could you imagine that?"

He visibly shudders.

Rukia smiles at him. "What is, is. The past cannot be changed. All the things they did to us are part of who we are now. But we have free will and we can make our own futures. Like right now, at this moment, I am doing this to honor Matsumoto-san's memory, but also to remember Ichimaru-dono's pain. It's a dark spot, but it's a part of me. And I refuse to regret who I am anymore. That's why I can hope he's at peace now."

Hitsugaya shakes his head. "Is that Unohana talking, or is it you?"

"I've been known to channel her lately, but not right now," she laughs.

As he stands, he manages a little smile himself. "Thank you," he says, and doesn't need to say why. He's already been down to the living world to see the little girl Matsumoto has become. The peace is finally spreading, just as Unohana predicted it would.

The circle has been complete for a little over a month. She received a message from Urahara that day, scrawled on parchment. Today, April 17. Born in Nagano this afternoon into a family of four. One older sister, one brother. He is seven pounds, five ounces and nineteen inches long. The family has not named him yet, but it seems he's already got quite a smile.

Rukia decided she might visit the boy in a few years, just to check up on him. But for now, walking back to Sereitei with Hitsugaya, all she can think is she wants to go see Renji and eat with her brother, and later on go and harass Ichigo. She's free to do all these things and even to enjoy doing them. Everything ends and starts again. I'm coming, she thinks.