Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, the characters, or the song Far Away by Nickelback.

NOTE: —

Normal writing — Current time
Italics with a noted time — Flashbacks
"Normal Italics" — Thinking, or inner speaking


This time, this place,
Misused, Mistakes.
Too long, too late,
Who was I to make you wait?


Far Away — Chapter Twenty-One

Previously ...

"Hello, I'm Urahara Kisuke. I'll be training you, Kurosaki-san."

Though Ichigo's heart was pounding in his chest harder than he ever thought possible, a smile was once again spreading over his lips.

This ... this was it! This was what he'd been waiting for!

— July 1st, 6:00 AM - Underground Training

"I am tyring, damn it! And maybe if someone would let me sleep ... I could try harder!"

Ichigo's voice — annoyed and tired — rang throughout the large, underground room. Urahara simply smiled and glanced at the irritated boy from under his hat. He swung the cane around in his hands as he swiftly jumped from the top of a rock — that could surely be classified as a mountain — and landed noiselessly on the dirt beside a panting, gasping Ichigo.

"Sleep is for the weak. We don't have much time, Kurosaki-san."

Ichigo growled, his eyes dangerous as he moved to stare into his Sensei's eyes.

"We have ... months," he gasped. "You ... said that the wedding won't be ... until ... September."

He tried and failed to regain his breath. In fact, he'd lost it so many hours ago, he had given up the fruitless effort to get it back.

"I did say that," Urahara agreed, poking Ichigo in the back with his cane. "But it will take you at least two weeks on foot to get to Seireitei, and at least two or three weeks after this to heal. That leaves you maybe fourteen days, Ichigo."

His voice was firm now. He continued.

"I will teach you how to use your Shikai adequately and easily. That, at your current rate, will probably take four or five days. Then ... then ... "

He trailed off, and smiled. Ichigo looked tense — curious and excited — as he waited for Urahara to continue once more.

"Then ... I teach you Ban-Kai."

— July 1st, 6:40 AM - Kuchiki Mansion

Rukia sipped her tea slowly, focusing on it more than ever as she tried desperately not to make eye contact with the man sitting across from her. Her fingers were shaking on her cup, but she tried to blame it on left-over shakiness from Unohana-san's news.

But she knew it was because she was afraid.

"Rukia ... "

She winced. He'd finally spoken. All throughout morning tea, he hadn't said a word. She hadn't seen him even so much as twitch; now, though, he was focusing his gaze on her, his eyes piercing. She winced and looked up; how could she not?

"Yes, Byakuya Nii-sama?"

"This is foolishness. You will marry Narita-sama."

She stiffened. He hadn't said a word about that since last night, when he'd talked to her in the Forth Division's headquarters.

"No, I won't," she finally said, softly, slowly. A smile spread across her lips as she became more daring. "And short of throwing me over your shoulder and carrying me there, I'm not even going to the wedding."

Byakuya's lips were set in such a tight line they were barely visible. Rukia could almost feel the waves of frustration, of hidden anger, rolling off of him.

"You are tarnishing this family's pride."

"I don't care."

The words came out more harsh than she'd intended. She hadn't even meant to say them; they'd just sort of slipped out. But now that they were out, she didn't even wish she could take them back.

"Rukia ... "

"No! Don't ... don't speak to me like that," Rukia finally said, standing up, her cup clattering noisily to the ground as she backed up a few steps. "Did you ever think about my pride? Or my happiness? Did you?"

She knew she shouldn't be standing up to him like this. She should sit down now, and ask for his forgiveness.

But she couldn't bring herself to do it.

"Did you think for one second that maybe I don't love Narita-sama? You married my sister because you loved her, and she loved you, too! You married her, even though it was against the laws, because you couldn't stand to be apart! And look what you're doing to me! You're forcing me to marry someone I don't love ... someone I don't even know. You're tearing me away from Ichigo, and you've ruined my life."

Holding back tears, Rukia blinked quickly a few times and then ran out of the room, her words swimming around in her head. The words she'd screamed, yelled, at Kuchiki Byakuya, the noble. The words, so harsh, that she'd shouted in his face.

The words ... that were true.

Finally letting the tears fall, Rukia shoved open the doors to the mansion and ran as fast as she could.

She knew she couldn't escape from here, from Seireitei, from the family she'd been forced into. But she could, for a few precious seconds ...

... escape from reality.

7:10 AM

"Stand up! Stand to your feet! Now!"

"I can't!"

"You can! Now stand!"

Ichigo coughed and fisted his hands against the dirt. He knew he had the power. He could feel it inside of him. He could feel it coursing through his veins ... like he had only once before. He knew he could call it out ... he just didn't know how.

"Help me," he silently begged. "Help me ... Zangetsu!"

"I cannot help you. You must help yourself. Call out the power within yourself, and release it."

"I don't know how."

"We've been over this before. You do. The amount of power in a single attack will be doubled — or even tripled — if you know the name of your power. Now, call it out!"

"I don't —"

"You do! Now call it out, and win!"

He knew Zangetsu was right. He knew he had the power. He knew he could use it. He just didn't know how. So, instead of trying, he closed his eyes and let his instincts take over. He let the power inside of himself explode outward as he screamed the words he'd always known ... the words that, at the same time, he'd never even heard.

"Getsuga Tenshō!"

7:45 AM

Rukia tensed noticeably, and she gripped the flower in her hand so hard that the stem snapped. Byakuya walked closer.

"You were right."

The surprise of hearing his words was so much more powerful than the fact that he was outside, searching for her in the middle of the morning. Without turning around, Rukia stiffened and spoke softly.

"What do you mean?"

Her words were cautious. She didn't want to allow hope to take over her.

"I mean you were right. I never thought about your happiness."

"Then ... "

Without sparing her a second glance, Byakuya turned and walked back inside. His words echoed through the small garden, and Rukia felt the tears returning with a vengeance.

"It changes nothing."

She broke down and cried.

9:00 AM

"You killed my hat."

Ichigo just grinned at Urahara, who was holding up his hat ... er ... half of his hat. The other half was on the ground beside him, next to the broken remnants of Urahara's blood shield.

They'd been fighting — which, loosely translated, meant that Ichigo had been hitting instead of being hit — for over an hour now, and Ichigo had nearly mastered the Getsuga Tenshō. He was able to fire it at will, for the most part, but firing it when under intense pressure was when he managed the most power.

"Sorry 'bout that," Ichigo murmured, his grin never wavering. Urahara shook his head in amusmenet.

"Sure you are."

He paused and stuffed the remainder of his hat on his head. His shaggy, blond hair stuck out, and he smirked, a smile coming to his lips.

"Again?"

"Hell yeah."

— July 13th - Underground Training

– Deadline to Wedding: 18 Days

The days passed by in a blur. There was no time to talk, laze around, or even spare a thought for anything that wasn't absolutely necessary. There was barely time to sleep, and even less time to eat. But eventually, Ichigo's hard work paid off — Urahara dubbed him competent enough to stop their current training ... and move on to Bankai training.

Ichigo was insane with excitement. Urahara was deep in thought, sitting on top of one of the outrageously huge rocks that had remained unshattered. His hat — sewn sloppily together by lose, white threads — sat upon his head as he contemplated.

His words rarely made sense.

"Well, I could ... but no, it's not safe ... or I could ... "

Ichigo rolled his eyes so hard it hurt.

"What are you talking about?" he asked, shoving away from the rock he was leaning against. He quickly took up pacing as Urahara slowly, lazily, shifted his gaze.

"I'm thinking of a way to go about this without killing you."

Ichigo swallowed, and didn't say another word. Urahara decided, however, to share his thoughts.

"There are several ways. I could teach you in as little as three days, but it is extremely dangerous, and is not to be undertaken lightly. I don't think you'd last three hours. Another way — though less dangerous — would take more than a month —"

"We don't have that long!"

Only two days previous had Urahara managed to get a concrete date on the wedding. It was going to be held on August second. Among the information he'd received, Urahara had revealed that it had been moved up almost a month and a half for ... various and unspecified reasons.

"I know we don't. We have twenty-four days, Ichigo, and you're going to need at least seven of those days to recover. I cannot send you into battle in the shape you're going to be in after this training."

"Who says I'll be in bad shape?" Ichigo questioned, frowning. How could anything be worse than what he'd endured over the past few weeks? He'd been in his own personal hell for over thirteen days.

"You will."

He said it with such assurance that Ichigo just said "oh" and left it at that.

He resumsed pacing; Urahara continued thinking and talking.

"Usually, it can take up to ten years to achieve Bankai."

Ichigo's eyes grew so wide that they were in danger of falling out.

"What!?"

Urahara couldn't help ut chuckle at his pupil's expression.

"Relax, Kurosaki-san. We will have you ready in time ... even if we have to use that method."

Ichigo didn't question him further. His curiosity was raging — he wanted nothing more than to know what 'that' was, but he knew he wouldn't get a straight answer from his teacher. So, instead, he continued his pacing, though his curiosity was growing with each passing second.

Finally, he couldn't stand it.

"Are there really that many ways to train one person?"

Urahara laughed.

"No. And I've decided how we're going to go about it."

Ichigo's head snapped up, and he immediately focused his eyes on Urahara. The older man smiled, and then, in a quick flash, Urahara pulled the sheath off of the cane beside him. Ichigo's eyes grew wide once more as he realized what it was.

It was a sword ... a Zanpaktou.

"You are going to fight."

"What the hell do you think I've been doing for the past two weeks?" Ichigo roared, more surprised and angry, or outraged. Urahara laughed.

"You know the name of your Zanpaktou. That's a start. Now, you only need to call out your final release. To do that, you need to materialize your Zanpaktou's form. Have you seen Zangetsu?"

"Um ... no ... " Ichigo replied, shrugging. "He has a ... form?"

"Of course he does," Urahara said, sighing dramatically. He smiled, though, and said, "If you can't call him out soon, I have ... a way that can help."

Ichigo smirked.

"Then let's get on with it!"

July 20th

– Deadline to Wedding: 10 Days

Ichigo sighed and wiped blood from his mouth as he jumped out of the way of his Zapaktou's soul — Zangetsu. He'd materialized Zangetsu once, but couldn't do it on demand, so Urahara had helped him out a little. Since then, it had been non-stop fighting.

"Aaaarrrrrgggghhh!"

With a scream that could split ears, Ichigo lunged forward, only to be struck down by Zangetsu.

"Stand, boy. We don't have the time for games. Hit me!"

"I'm trying!"

He ran forward again, and again, he was struck down. After spitting out a mouthful of blood, he staggered to his feet and grabbed is Zanpaktou once more. He would win. He had to. He had to do this ...

... for Rukia!

July 27th

– Deadline to Wedding: 6 Days

"Getsuga Tenshō!"

As the power drained out of him, the energy, the resolve, drained out, too. The blood slowly seeped down his forehead, and across his skin. His breathing came in ragged gasps, and his hands were shaking on his Zanpaktpo.

But the knife-like shape of his Zanpaktou was a thing of the past.

In his hands ... he held Zangetsu as a thin, black sword. The chain falling from the end was rattling softly in the swirling dust, and the beauty of his accomplishment rang through the air.

Urahara offered him a small smile as he sank to the ground, unable to keep his eyes open.

But, as they fluttered closed ... he swore that he could see her standing in front of him.

And it was worth it. The thought of having her in his arms again made every single pain, every single drop of blood shed, worth it.

August 2nd

– Deadline to Wedding: 0 Days


Consider yourselves MUCH LOVED. Although my review count didn't go up (Still cut in half) people did explain to me why it went down. Because there was no IchiRuki. I know this was shorter, but hey! IchiRuki reunion coming! That makes up for it, right?

NOTE: My sister's story here (Twilight Story) is simply amazing. If you read Twilight, and haven't looked at it ... Please do! She's on my favs. She's l'heure bleue. I never knew my sis could write like that ... and she refuses to tell me what's gonna happen. (Pouts)

Please Review! ( I gave you fast update, you give me review. Understand? )