( Disclaimer: Bleach not owned by me, yadda yadda.)

Chapter 7

Rukia could feel the deep-yellow eyes gaze at her behind the mask. Shirayuki lay on the ground several meters away, hopelessly out of reach. Behind her, she could feel the reiatsu's of Hitsugaya and Grimmjow dart from place to place, locked in fierce combat. Ikkaku' and Yumichika's reiatsu levels had dropped- they were unconscious. Desperately, she tried to struggle against the binding spell, but the bars of bright reiatsu wouldn't give.

Nearby footsteps were giving off a tapping sound as the orange-haired espada approached his target. Rukia's gaze darted upwards, yellow eyes staring back at her. The espada chuckled behind the mask, Zangetsu still hoisted over his shoulder.

How pathetic. This is the best the shinigami can muster? Killing these weak fools feels degrading. Why would Aizen-sama send me on a trivial task like this!? Getting angrier by the moment, he grabbed a handful of the shinigami's robe and lifted her petite form in the air.

There is something about this shinigami...I don't know what it is but its pissing me off. "Time to end this, Shinigami." He pulled Zangetsu back and prepared to stab her.

"Time to end this, Shinigami." Her eyes widened in horror as she heard the words. She stared into those yellow orbs in the midst of black void, still refusing to give up on her friend, praying that he would come back to his senses. The only thing she saw staring back at her was cold-hard killing intent. She wondered how Ichigo's familiar scowling face could have ever turned into this mask of death. The bone-white mask had an array of monsterlike teeth, as if waiting to pick her apart.

"Please...Ichigo...come with us...we'll find out what's wrong with you...we'll...get you back to normal!" her words were desperate, pleading.

As her words registered in his mind, something triggered within him. Images flashed in his view. He could see the tearful and hurt expression on the same woman's face as she exited through the Senkai gate following two other robed figures. The scene changed and they were in Soul Society, sunset illuminating their features. He felt a feeling of calm and serenity, as if the only thing that ever mattered to him was to be in the presence of the woman that was now in front of him. As he recalled more events, he felt his consciousness shoved aside, leaving him unconscious in the dark void.

"What's wrong with me? Back to normal?" He let out a howl of manic laughter, his face

forming a maniacal grin behind the mask.

"Rukiaaa-chan! We are finally alright! With Ichigo's memories gone, he's finally embraced his instincts! We are one and the same now!" The hollow's laughter chilled Rukia to the bone.

He said my name? That means...his hollow remembers...even if Ichigo himself doesn't?

"What's that expression for, Ruukia-chaannn? Shocked? When Ichigo becomes emotionally conflicted, our instincts will take over. Since I'm the manifestation of Ichigo's instict, I resurface whenever that happens. Still followin', Ruuukia-Chaan?"

Rukia could see the changes occurring in Ichigo. His hair seemed to become a few shades lighter, and his skin seemed to pale. He pushed his mask aside, revealing an insane grin and the same deep-yellow eyes amidst blackness.

The hollow licked its lips and tightened his grip on Rukia and pulled her face close, close enough to hear him whisper to her: "You understand, don't ya, Rukia-chan? This is why Ichigo must never remember. He's finally driven by his instincts and his will to kill and seek out battles, our goals are the same! I gotta make sure things stay that way. I'm killing you for him, so that he will never remember! I'm doing him a favor, Rukia-Chan!"

His grin was gone, replaced with absolute seriousness. "Sayonara, Rukia-chan."

Rukia felt the cold steel impale her cleanly through the gut. She let out a pained groan from the base of her throat, as her form slumped over the cold harvester of souls. The hollow withdrew the blade from her unceremoniously and threw her to the ground, its expression grim, almost sorrowful.

(Sorry guys, this chapter was really short, but from now on I'm going to be writing much longer chapters. I hope you're enjoying the story, reviews are always appreciated.)