A/N: This is it, the epilogue to the story Darkness. I began writing this story just before entering my first year of college, and now I post the final piece of it on the day I go home. Today is a pretty good day for me; it's both my birthday, the day I come home from college, and the day I finish this story that I've worked on for so long. Thank you to everyone who reviewed and favorited the story, I couldn't have made it this far without your support.
"Captain! We're running out of funding again, we're going to need to take out another loan!"
"What? But I just balanced the budget two weeks ago! We should have plenty of money!"
"Yeah, well there were unforeseen expenses."
"You just used the money to buy snacks and sake didn't you?"
Eight months had passed since Aizen had been defeated, and things were more or less returning to normal. Divisions were reorganized and the infrastructure of Seireitei had to be completely redone, but day to day life was beginning to return to the way it had been before the war with Aizen. Divisions were going about their regular business again, standard operations had resumed, and the Shinigami had begun returning to their typical daily lives.
Due to the destruction of the Gotei 13's infrastructure, divisions were reorganized, and every available resource was being used to rebuild. The Third, Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth. Divisions were dissolved, and their remaining members transferred to other divisions. Ukitake became the Captain-commander of the Gotei 13, and Yoruichi had been allowed to assume leadership of second division, and Ikakku became captain of the Eleventh Division, having revealed his knowledge of bankai. Recently, Hisagi, who had been discovered imprisoned, had become captain of the Ninth Division. The shattered forces of Seireitei were beginning to reform.
After Aizen was defeated, the only major remaining member of Aizen's army was Stark, who almost immediately agreed to withdraw all occupying arrancar forces from Seireitei. Through negotiations with Stark, the number of hollow attacks coming from Hueco Mundo dramatically shrank. Stark was now the leader of the most advanced hollows, and he had ordered them to avoid any further conflict. This proved to be very useful as Seireitei rebuilt.
"C'mon Captain, cut me some slack! We don't need that much more money, just ask Captain-commander Ukitake for the transfer of new funds," Matsumoto said.
"Fine, I'll go ask for more funds, but no more frivolous spending," Hitsugaya said sternly.
"Aye-aye Captain!" Matsumoto said energetically.
"You're drunk right now, aren't you?" Hitsugaya said irritably.
"Uhhhhhhh…yes, yes I am," Matsumoto said. Hitsugaya rolled his eyes and left.
Hitsugaya walked down the street towards the First Division headquarters, brooding even as other Shinigami greeted and bowed to him. He had been like this ever since the war had ended. As others looked forward to the future, he could not help but look back to the past. Every day he wondered if there was something he could have done to save Hinamori, if there was some way he could have stopped her before it was too late. He knew it was unhealthy to obsess over such things, but he could not help it. Hinamori was his best friend in the world, the one person who he truly felt any strong emotions for. Now that he had lost her he had become detached from reality, doing nothing but focusing on his work.
Before he knew it, he was already at First Division headquarters. He walked in and immediately went to Ukitake's office. He knocked on the door, coming in moments later. Ukitake looked up from paperwork, the uniform of the Captain Commander draped over his shoulders.
"Ah, Captain Hitsugaya! What can I do for you?" he said in a friendly tone.
"I'd like to request a transfer in division funding. We've had a bit of…difficulty maintaining our budget," Hitsugaya said. Ukitake gave him a knowing smile and nodded.
"Very well, I'll transfer funds to your division as soon as I can. By the way, are you okay?" Ukitake asked.
"Of course Captain-commander," Hitsugaya said.
"Are you sure? You've become colder and colder lately," Ukitake said, "You seem to be brooding over something."
"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about," Hitsugaya said quietly.
"Would you like to visit her?" Ukitake said abruptly, "I can arrange for a leave of absence so you can go to Rukongai."
"Thank you for the offer, but I can't ask something like that from you. I am needed at my division."
"I insist," Ukitake said, "I can tell that you've been thinking of nothing else for these past eight months. I'll cover for you so you won't be behind on your work."
"Very well, if you wish for me to go, then I will do so Captain-commander," Hitsugaya said. He paused for a moment before quietly adding, "Thank you, sir."
Hitsugaya walked through the streets of Rukongai. The local residents gave him curious looks but did not stop him. Children ran by, not paying attention to the shinigami captain who was no older than they were. They probably thought he was just a kid playing Shinigami, not a real one. The place brought back memories of his time in Rukongai as a child. Back then it was always Hinamori who would look out for him and accompany him everywhere. The dirt streets and wooden houses brought back many memories of them playing on these very same streets. He recalled playing hide and seek with Hinamori in the old houses and scrubby bushes and trees scattered around the place.
Finally, he arrived at his destination. It was the old house that he and Hinamori used to live in. He walked up to the door and slowly opened it. The door creaked as he entered. The place was rather run down and covered in dust and cobwebs. He looked around the place with a longing sense of nostalgia. He made his way through the house until he was at the other side. He walked out the back door and into the area behind the house.
He looked over the place, covered in weeds and wildflowers. There were a few bushes and shrubs, but the main feature of the place was a large peach tree, which was currently in full bloom. He walked up to the base of the tree, gazing at a small elevated patch of earth. This was where Hinamori was buried. After the war, it was decided not to reveal Hinamori's turn against Aizen, against the protest of Hitsugaya and others. It was felt that there would be more support for the new leadership of Seireitei if it was believed that Aizen was defeated by them rather than someone already hated as a traitor. Thus, Hinamori was buried here in an unmarked grave, doomed to be forever hated by the world at large as a traitor, her final good deed known only to those who witnessed it.
He gazed sadly at the patch of raised earth that served as Hinamori's eternal resting place.
"Momo…was there nothing I could have done to save you?" he whispered.
"Why are you talking to a patch of dirt?" a loud voice of a young girl suddenly said. Hitsugaya looked up, eyes wide, and saw the vague outline of someone hiding in the branches of the tree. Upset that someone had seen him in his time of weakness and furious at the fact that someone was playing at the sight of Hinamori's grave, Hitsugaya yelled up at the person in the tree.
"Hey, get down here!" he yelled.
"No!" the young girl called back. Growling, he grabbed onto one of the lower branches and pulled himself up. The outline of the person in the trees was moving further up the tree. Hitsugaya climbed up after her.
"Get down right now! You have no right to be here!" he yelled.
"Like I'm going to listen to a kid who plays dress-up!" the girl yelled back. As she attempted to climb away, Hitsugaya grabbed her by the ankle.
"Get down!" he yelled, "This is an important place; you can't just climb around it!"
"What, is it your cosplaying tree you little weirdo?" the girl retorted. Hitsugaya pulled at her leg, trying to get her down. Suddenly though, the branch beneath him snapped, causing him to fall, pulling both him and the girl crashing down through the branches and onto the ground below.
"Urgh…" Hitsugaya groaned, rubbing his side and pushing the girl off of him.
"Hey! You smashed my melon!" the girl yelled, throwing the dirty broken bits of a watermelon at him, "You meanie!"
"Forget about that, what the hell were you doing-" Hitsugaya froze when he saw her face. She had soft brown eyes and chocolate brown hair that she wore in pig tails. She was short, just a little taller than him, and was wearing the clothes of an ordinary Rukongai resident.
"M-Momo…" he whispered in shock.
"What? How do you know my name?" the girl asked in surprise, "Are you some kind of stalker?"
Hitsugaya continued to stare in shock at her. It couldn't be…Momo Hinamori was dead. Yet this girl was also named Momo and looked exactly like the Hinamori he knew. What was going on? Was this the same Momo he knew before or somebody else? She was exactly as he remembered her. He overcame his shock and cleared his throat to speak.
"I-I'm Toushiro Hitsugaya," he said.
"Well I'm Momo Miyazaki," she said.
"Nice…nice to meet you…Momo…" Hitsugaya said, unsure exactly how to react. This couldn't be the Momo he knew…could it? It was impossible, yet still...he couldn't help but feel a strong connection to this girl…he didn't know what to think. Despite all of the doubt, something deep in his heart told him that this was the Momo Hinamori he knew. It was her…he had no proof and it went against all logic, but it had to be her, he couldn't believe anything else. A smile crossed his face, and tears began forming in his eyes.
"Well, let's get going," Momo said, grabbing his hand.
"Going? Where?" Hitsugaya asked.
"To get me a new melon. You smashed my other melon, so you've got to get me a new one," Momo said, "It's what a gentleman would do." Hitsugaya smiled at her.
"Okay, I'll get you a new melon on one condition," he said, "You have to let me eat it with you."
"Deal," Momo said with a grin. She held his hand as they walked off to get a new watermelon, both of them smiling.