Chapter 3

Four Years Latter

Rukia, now twenty-two, sat on one of the park benches, at the local park in Nagano, Japan, watching a little girl, with long black hair and orange tips pulled back in a ponytail, playing in the sandbox. Rukia smiled to herself thinking, that even at the age of three Ran are exactly like Ichigo. She's stubborn, smart, and she has to protect others. God sometimes she wished she had just told Ichigo the truth and not faked her death. Every day now she lived in fear that Orihime, Ishida, Chad, Renji, Ichigo, or anyone else, she had known when she lived in Tokyo, would turn up here in Nagano.

"Mommy? Look at the castle I made!" Ran yelled excitedly as she pulled on her mother's arm.

"It's very nice Ran. Do you want to swing now?"

"Yes!" Ran yelled running over to the swings. Smiling Rukia stood and followed her daughter.

"Are you ready," she asked a few minutes later, after she had settled Ran into the swing.

"Yes, Mommy. Swing now." The three year old demanded of her mother.

"Here we go," Rukia said as she began to push the swing.

On the other side of the playground Ichigo Kurosaki sat in the bleachers with Orihime and Ishida, who were holding hands, watching Renji trying to score a basket against Chad. It was days like this that he missed Rukia most. It didn't seem fair that she had been killed saving his life.

Unknown to any of them Kon slipped into the dipper bag that belonged to Ran Kuchiki Kurosaki.

"I'm going to walk around for a bit," Orihime said as she stood leaving the two men watching Renji and Chad.

She found herself walking over to where she could see a young woman, about her age pushing her daughter on the swings. Standing there she watched the young woman.

Could that have been Rukia if she had lived? Why had she let the hallow kill her? She knew how to fight. After all she had been fighting hallows long before the rest of them, well apart from Renji. Oh Rukia you died just when we needed you the most; when Ichigo needed you. Why did you have to die?

Orihime sighed and watched as the young woman gently stopped the swing and lifted her laughing daughter back down to the ground. Smiling Orihime touched her tummy. She couldn't wait in till this coming spring when she an Ishida would become parents.

Rukia unpacked Ran's dipper bag, taking out Ran's bucket and shovel and the other toys she had taken to the park that morning. Stopping Rukia glanced into the bag to make sure she had gotten everything out, she froze. For in the bottom of the bag there was a stuffed lion that looked exactly like Kon, but that wasn't possible. Kon was in Tokyo, but where had this stuffed animal come form? Taking it out she looked it over to check for any rips; there where none. Sighing she walked out of Ran's room leaving the lion laying on the dresser.

Standing up Kon looked around him. Eyeing the slightly open closet he jumped down from the dresser and walked over to the closet. He quickly climbed in and then up to the top shelf and hid in the back. That woman looked a lot like Rukia to me, he thought to himself.

Five Years Latter

Ran Kuchiki Kurosaki looked one last time around the now empty room that had been hers since birth. It didn't seem fair that her mom's job was making them move. With a little sigh Ran checked the room one last time, not really looking for anything. Opening her closet something soft fell off the top shelf hitting her on the top of her head. Looking down at the floor she saw an old stuffed lion, lying at her feet.

"Now where did you come from?" She asked and then laughed at herself. "As if you could answer me."

"Ran," Her mother called up the stairs, "it's time to go. Come on."

"I'm coming mom," she called as she left her old bedroom shutting the door behind her. The lion in her hand still.

Rukia stood in the front doorway of the house she had known for almost nine years. Her highlander was packed and ready to go, the only thing that was missing from it was Ran. She smiled at her daughter as she descended the stairs for one last time.

"Where did you get him?" She asked meaning the lion in her daughter's hands.

"He fell out of my closet when I opened the door. Do you know where he came from?"

"He looks like the lion I found in your dipper bag five years ago, but I don't know how he would have gotten into your closet. Oh well come on it's time to go."

Ran stared out the window of the car as her mother drove farter and farter away from Nagano. She hated that she had to leave all her friends behind, her school, and most of all her home. Looking over at her daughter Rukia saw the look on her face and sighed. Sometimes Ran is so much like Ichigo.

"What's wrong sweetie?"

"I don't see why we had to leave."

"My job made us, you know that."

"Couldn't you just get another job in Nagano instead of moving us to Tokyo?"

"No sweetie, I couldn't. You'll love Tokyo I promise."

"I don't have any friends there."

"Neither did I when I first moved there when I was fifthteen, but I made friends and so will you."

"But what if I don't'?"

"You will."

Ran stared up at their new house, holding the lion she had diced to call Kon close to her chest. Well at least they were right next door to a clinic. That would help her, since she always seemed to get hurt.

Rubbing her temples Rukia watched her daughter. She couldn't believe it they were living right next door to Isshin Kurosaki, Ichigo's father and an ex-shinigami not to mention Ran's grandfather. Sighing Rukia followed Ran into their new house. Maybe Ran was right and she should have just gotten another job in Nagano.