Author's Note: This is not my first fanfic but my first posted online for others to read, so I would love critique. This story is divided into five parts, one part for each of the five senses. This part is hearing/sound.



He felt tired, so tired.

He heard the metallic clash and clang of zanpakutou off in the distance, ringing perpetually in his ears and scattering any thoughts – or any words, for that matter – in his disheveled mind. The valiant and sometimes desperate screams of the shinigami no longer disconcerted him; those screams had collectively become a mundane, ordinary sound. And the blood – he could not so much smell it (the odor had pervaded the air so thoroughly for so long that he was having trouble remembering air was not supposed to smell like blood) as much as he could hear it: the bubbling of blood filling fast-failing lungs, spurting out of slit throats; the gurgling of rivers of the crimson liquid surging forward, staining the ground that rain would not be able to wash away for days; the oozing of blood dripping down his face, welling up in the pockets between his mask and his face. The blood blurred his vision.

There was not an ounce of strength left in his body; everything was a dead weight and his zanpakutou was dragging him down even as he leaned heavily on it for support. His breathing was labored; he had to concentrate just to focus on urgently sucking in the blood-infused air and let it out again to greedily suck in another mouthful.

Standing amidst the terrible cacophony of the battlefield – drowning in the sounds and the screams and the slashes assaulting him in wave after wave, relentlessly – hunched over his zanpakutou, being rapidly drained of his strength and will, he was ready to give up. His weakness frustrated to him yet he could not find the will to raise his zanpakutou.

I will never be strong enough, he thought in crashing despair. He was useless, useless, useless! And now he heard clearly within him the cackling of the hollow inside nearing his triumph.

But then – piercing through the cacophony that was the battle (that was life, his life, since he could remember) like a ray of pure white light stabbing the center of his chest where a hole would have appeared, jolting him awake as if from a deep coma: a voice.

"Ichigo!" he heard. And he instantly knew that it was her voice, because it was that very same beautiful and true voice that accompanied him in any and every battle, whether she was physically there or not. For a second, a wave of something like relief washed over him; the voice had come back to him.

"You moron!!" Rukia yelled, her shrill voice shattering all doubt that was wreaking havoc in his mind. Her voice rang true, dominating all the rest of the noises of the battlefield. "Stand up and face your enemy in the eye like a true shinigami, idiot!"

Ichigo immediately straightened up, yanking his zanpakutou's blade out of the ground, swinging it in a wide arc and hearing the blade hum as it sliced the heavy air, resting it on one shoulder. He heard her zanpakutou hum (a light, pure hum) as if in response to his. Inside, in his ears, the cackling was strangled.

His mouth twisted into a lopsided grin. "No need to tell me, midget. I already know. Or do you need me to save you again?"

Laughing out loud (an abnormal sound that turned several heads) at Rukia's you're the one who needs saving you just wait you're going to get it once this is over Kurosaki Ichigo, he raised his zanpakutou and charged into the fray to fight alongside her. Her face was warped in irritation at him, but she thought he couldn't see the corner of her lips curve slightly upwards. This – fighting together, yelling at each other, being together – was normal.

The cacophony melted away silently; all he could hear was her voice.


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