(Flashback)

The Arrancar took his time descending the steps, observing Ichigo as one would an interesting new species—but his gaze was full of murderous intent, as if he believed the two of them had been enemies all their lives. Ichigo adjusted Zangetsu on his back, the knife-like blade, as always, ready for the challenge. At the back of his mind, Hichigo stirred. The pale man stepped quietly from the staircase, his cold eyes never leaving those of the shinigami. Ichigo stood still as he walked silently past, and came to rest directly in the path that the shinigami had been planning to take.

Ichigo watched him, dumbfounded, for several moments.

"Why do you not draw your blade, shinigami?" the whitewashed Hollow asked silkily, his deep voice casting no echoes in the vast columned room. "I am in the way of your destination." Ichigo looked at him curiously for a moment—why was this Arrancar so obviously baiting him? His eyes saw the green-bound hilt of a zanpakouto resting at the Hollow's side.

He didn't have time for this.

Ichigo brushed past the green-eyed Arrancar, suppressing an involuntary shiver when he sensed the man's icy reiatsu. The Hollow didn't move, but Ichigo could feel his green eyes follow him as he walked near.

"I don't have any reason to fight you again, Ulquiorra," said Ichigo, stopping to meet his gaze. He decided it wouldn't be wise to not answer his question.

"What would you say if Aizen-sama killed all your friends?"

--

(Present Karakura town)

Why am I thinking of that?

My breath is failing.

Time seems to slow, as I swing, one last time.

"Getsuga-

They're all dead.

-Tenshou!"

He killed them.

--

The earth quaked and bodies were nearly blown away in the resulting gale.

The black light thinned a bit to reveal Ichigo, who was straining against the lone appendage with all his considerable strength, cracking and shattering the hard floor beneath their feet, the pressure of his reaitsu disintegrating those shards mere moments later.

"DIE AIZEN!"

The square exploded into dark light...

--

I was dumbstruck as he saw him, amidst my mask crumbling.

He rose from the steam, not a scratch to be seen.

Brown eyes glint calmly in the night.

"What the hell?"

Aside from his tattered clothes...

Aizen was barely even scratched.

"My, my, even with both hands I couldn't completely stop it."

"N-No way...

He rolled his shoulders, to nonchalantly crack his neck, calm as usual.

"I'm a little surprised actually."

Then he noticed the look I was giving him, and how i was barely standing.

"Was that everything you had?"

I didn't answer, I couldn't.

That was it.

I threw everything at Aizen, but he's barely even scratched.

He closed his eyes and dusted himself off.

"It seems that it was."

He raised a hand, and draws his blade.

"How dissapointing."

No!

"Shatter."

It was stabbed through before I could even blink, vomitting blood seconds later.

Agonizingly, he pulls the zanpaktou out of my gut.

"How dull. You no better than the rest."

My eyes harden, and I grasp his blade between my hands.

"T-Teme...You killed them...You killed her...

He shrugs.

"I did what was neccessary. Now there is no one left to stop me."

He shows me his left palm.

Silvery light dances within it, illuminating my face, making his words even more ominous.

"Not even you, Kurosaki Ichigo."

However, just before I am hit-

A blur passes my vision, spreading arms out, guarding me.

My eyes widen, and I scream, terrified to see another friend die, right before my eyes.

"NO! Rukia! Get outta the-

Too late. The blast envelopes her, and slams into me next, ripping me apart with bone chilling reaitsu.

I fall to the ground, miles below, the impact tearing my wounds open, knocking me senseless.

"D-Damn...

--

(Ground)

Ichigo.

I lay in a pool of my own blood.

"Whaddya want....

We still have a chance.

"There's no point... Everyone's dead. Even...

Wake up! Is that how she would want you to think?!

I wince.

He's got a point.

"But what can we-

I feel a hand on my shoulder.

A hand gently rested itself on my shoulder, while another wrenched zangetsu into my hand, and forced me up.

We can start it over. Everything. From the beginning. With the power you have now, we can make a new ending.

"W-What?!"

Heh. He means going back to the start!

Hichigo? He's part of this too?

"Bankai."

Shit! Not again!

He's coming! Do you accept this?!

"I ACCEPT!"

White light suddenly blinds me, and hundreds, no thousands of images flash through my mind.

I hear voices...

--

"Oi! Human!"

My eyes snap open, and I suck in a breath.

"GAH! Rukia, what the-

I notice the sword in my hands, and everything comes together.

I'm...

In the past.

I shiver.

'This...This is where it all began...

No, it will be different. Much different.

Zangetsu.

Pulling the sword forward as I do so-

Zangetsu.

I won't let that happen again.

I'm stronger this time.

Familair power explodes within me, and I howl as I swing at the hollow-

"ZANGETSU!"

Blue light exploded from the blade.

"Getsuga Tenshou!"

The hollow suffers a quick death, as I bring my blade down, its giant silvery black tip gleaming in the night.

I can feel it.

I'm just as strong as before, maybe even more so.

Bankai.

I resist the urge to use it.

Vizard.

No, not yet, I can't put on my mask yet, although my darker half would revel in it.

Instead I smile, turn around, play the part, like reading lines from a script.

"What now?"

Everything.