Prologue

It all started at the end of the first school year, when it was announced that two of the biggest rivals in the history of Karakura town were merging together. Two prestigious schools were about to become one huge academy, leaving two of their principles in charge of the new war zone. The senior year has just begun, but the new campus was not filled with anticipation and excitement. The air was heavy with anxiety.

While the students showed astonishment, confusion, and resentment, that they were thrown in together with the enemy, the two new headmasters were quietly sipping sake in their shinny office. No, it wasn't the beginning of a life-long friendship; it was a truce to see whose group would crack first. Aizen Sosuke and Urahara Kisuke looked at each other smiling slyly. Let the games begin.

Chapter 1

"Just look at them! Those cocky bastards." Ichigo stormed, looking at the group sitting on the other end of the cafeteria. "What kind of name is it anyway? Blades. Sounds like a failed title for a kung fu movie." He and Renji let out loud chuckles that caught attention of everyone around them.

Blades, that's what the rivals called themselves, finally heard the ruckus and looked around, in the midst of it noticing Orange Hair and Tattoos talking loudly and periodically turning their heads into their direction. There were two girls with them. The busty redhead just stood quietly and listened, while the skinny brunette enthusiastically joined in the conversation.

"It's been a while and you're finally noticing?" Rukia laughed. "It's no less retarded than Reapers. I can't believe you actually talked me into joining you."

Before Ichigo could retaliate with a brilliant comeback, Renji interrupted him.

"C'mon, cuz, it's not so bad. Rivalry cannot be fun without a badass introduction…"

"And it's that badass introduction that always gets you in trouble!" she teased.

"Hey, it's not my fault they always pick fights with us…"

"They? What about the time when the two of you snuck out in the middle of the lunch break and ran off to their school to supposedly defend my honor?"

"Nnoitra was acting like a douche bag. I didn't like the way he was talking about you." Ichigo said. "You can kick as much ass as any girl in their group."

"I bet you really made them change their minds."

"Maybe not, but at least we did some serious ass kicking."

"Evidenced by your cuts and bruises…" Rukia laughed, a hint of sarcasm in her voice.

"What a pain in the ass…" Ichigo said half-seriously, grabbing her by the shoulders and bringing her into a bear hug.

Orihime turned away to let them have their moment of intimacy, letting her thoughts trail off to the group four tables away from them. Big teeth with an eye patch was saying something to Glasses with bleached pink hair. A beautiful girl with a big chest and long wavy locks stood next to Eye Patch, eyeing him wearily. Nnoitra, Nel, Szayel. She's seen them many times before, but they haven't so much as exchanged two words with each other. The only thing she knew about them was that Nnoitra tended to act like a chauvinistic pig, Nel was his girlfriend, and Szayel was the president of the science club. Other than that, the past five years were nothing but a never ending struggle in academics, sports, ego trips, and stares. Guys in both groups were the best students in their respective Kendo clubs, and constantly competed with each other. As a result, out-of-school fights were inevitable. What was worse, fights were escalating, and they were nothing like the "friendly" Kendo competitions. Everyone used real swords and often got hurt, which made her worry even more.

Orihime was so deeply lost in thought that she didn't notice the punk with bleached blue hair, another member of their group, turning around to glace into her direction, then swiftly elbowing the guy next to him. She was finally brought out of her trance by a pair of green eyes meeting hers. The boy kept looking at her without turning away. He was pale and slender, with jet black hair barely going past his shoulders, standing completely straight, with hands in his pockets and an expression of absolute indifference. Despite being the smallest in the group, he still managed to have an air of authority about him. Ulquiorra. Orihime blinked twice, and turned away in embarrassment. He never changed. Always so disinterested, always hands in his pockets.

"Looks like they've finally noticed us." she heard Ishida approaching from behind.

"Yeah," Renji said, turning to Orihime. "Your boyfriend seems to be finally paying attention."

Her blush deepened, "He is not my boyfriend!" she giggled nervously.

He is not my boyfriend. Even as a joke it isn't funny. How could I ever date someone like him? He is as cold as ice.

Orihime liked Ichigo since the 8th grade, everyone noticed except for Ichigo. Of course he didn't notice. He didn't notice any girls since Rukia transferred to their school with her cousin Renji, and took the Reapers by storm. Rukia, her rival, her friend. After finally realizing, despite her best efforts, that Ichigo will never see her the same way he saw Rukia, Orihime finally decided to give up. She spent an agonizing summer, full of jealousy and regret, hoping, pleading to God, and to herself, to let him go. After three months of tears and self-pity, she finally started to feel relief. And the more frequent encounters with the Blades occupied her mind with other things as well.

It was during those fights when she met Ulquiorra. Unlike Grimmjow and Nnoitra, he didn't fight very often, and preferred to stand on the sidelines and watch with his trademark hands-in-the-pockets look. But the few times when he actually fought, he showed the strength and finesse that only few possessed.

On one particular night, when he fought with Ichigo, the fight lasted for an unusually long time. They were both bleeding and exhausted. Finally, realizing that it won't be over any time soon, they decided to call it a draw until a rematch. As usual, Orihime brought enough First Aid supplies for a small army. As she was bandaging Ichigo's arm, while Rukia read him her usual "safety first" lecture, Orihime noticed Ulquiorra's lonely figure sitting under a tree a short distance away from them. Why isn't anyone helping him? Aren't they friends? Her compassion finally kicked in, and with the newly found enthusiasm she grabbed fresh bandages and medicine, gave Rukia the necessary instructions to take care of Ichigo, and, to their utter shock, strode off to Ulquiorra.

He finally noticed someone standing over him and opened his eyes meeting her gaze.

"What do you want?" he asked dispassionately.

"You are bleeding. Why isn't anyone helping you?"

"That is not any of your concern."

She sighed. "If they aren't helping you, then I will."

"Save that for your friends." he said looking at the bandages in her hand.

"My friends are fine." she responded, sitting down next to him.

To his complete surprise she took his bleeding wrist in her hand and started bandaging it.

"What are you doing?" he asked evenly.

"What do you think I am doing? I am treating your injury."

"Why?"

"You are hurt and I'd like to help you."

Even though her words surprised him, he did not show it. What a strange girl. I made that idiot friend of hers bleed, and here she is helping me. He closed his eyes, leaning his head against the tree. She worked quickly and her touch was very light, it was as if she tried her best not to cause him any more pain.

As if hearing his thoughts, she finally spoke, "When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. So I can help as many people as possible. Maybe I can treat you too some day."

"You are treating me already." he said without looking at her.

"That's true, but I am not a doctor yet. I only learned this because my friends keep getting hurt."

He did not say anything. She was so strange, he still could not comprehend why she would do something like that for an "enemy". Even thought Blades were a group, none of them were truly friends. His injuries were his own problem, as everyone was mostly concerned with themselves. Ulquiorra was always a one man army.

"All done!" she interrupted his thoughts.

He opened his eyes and looked at his neatly bandaged hand. She did a good job.

"You should probably let a professional see it." she said with a hint of worry in her voice.

"I'll be fine. This is more than enough." He stood up preparing to leave.

"Will you be fine by yourself?"

"Indeed I will." He turned around and started walking away from her.

"What's your name?" she called after him.

He stopped, turning his head slightly to the side.

"Ulquiorra."

After that incident they haven't spoken again, but she had a nagging feeling that he was watching her. That nagging feeling became a reality after her friends noticed it too. What's worse, they started teasing her about it, nicknaming him her "boyfriend".

Her friends' loud chatter finally caught her attention. Ichigo was laughing at something Rukia said. Orihime looked at her first love with a pang in her heart, but it wasn't as painful as before. Her love has finally started to dull. She closed her eyes, letting out a long and shaky sigh. Enough.

____________________________________________________________

Ulquiorra sat quietly at his desk looking into space and pretending to listen to Grimmjow's latest bragging attempts. The fool would not shut up. He didn't care about how Grimmjow planned to kick Kurosaki's ass. He's been holding a serious grudge against him since Kurosaki beat him in one of the street brawls, and gave him a scar. The scar, however, did not hurt as much as Grimmjow's damaged ego.

The street fights were nothing like normal Kendo competitions. There were no safety precautions, adult supervision, or wooden swords. The swords were real and the rules did not exist. It was dangerous and illegal, but none of them ever gave a damn. The fights tested their strength and gave them a healthy dose of adrenaline. To them it was the only way to build character, a warrior's way. And since the last fight, Grimmjow talked of nothing else but how he would beat Kurosaki in the next round. However, unlike Grimmjow, whose desire to fight only continued to grow, Ulquiorra's, in return, continued to dull. A simple test of strength became meaningless to him; he wanted something more than that. Ulquiorra sighed. When is the bell gonna ring?

The door flew open with an explosion of giggles. He turned his eyes towards the noise and saw a flash of red hair and a familiar face. Inoue Orihime. She walked into the classroom smiling and chatting away with her tomboy best friend, the name of whom he did not remember, trailing behind her. He watched as she turned and started down the row towards her desk. As their eyes met, she stopped only for a second realizing that they were in the same class, before coming up to her desk right in front of his. Before she sat down, she looked at him again, slightly nodding in recognition, before turning her back to him and sitting down.

This is unexpected. With so much animosity going on between our groups, she only hesitated for a second. What a strong girl.

"Well, what do you know…" Grimmjow said loudly "Who would've thought we'd end up in the same class with their princess?"

Ulquiorra saw her shoulders slightly tense at Grimmjow's words, other than that she quietly ignored him.

"Hey! I'm talking to you, girl" Grimmjow came up to her and slammed his hands on her desk, making her jump in surprise. "Aren't you lucky to be stuck in the same class with us?"

Orihime swallowed, wondering how far he would go. He had to be bluffing. How could he even think about picking a fight with so many people around? I am not going to let him intimidate me. She turned to him with a brilliant smile.

"Oh, hi Grimmjow, aren't you excited about school? Me too! Summer seemed so long and I've missed my friend Tatsuki, because we didn't get to see each other very often. And now we can study together, and eat our lunches together, and….." she continued on and on until Grimmjow's face started to contort. What the hell is she saying? Is she stupid or something?

"Shut up! Are you trying to play dumb with me?" He inched closer, ignoring the stares around them. "You better be careful, girl. Kurosaki ain't here to…" He came so close that Orihime started to lean backwards.

"Grimmjow..." Both of them turned their heads in surprise at Ulquiorra's voice. "You are drawing too much unwanted attention to yourself." Ulquiorra said quietly.

Grimmjow glared at him. "The hell is your problem, man? I'm just having a little fun."

"You are acting foolish. The last thing we need is to look like we're harassing women."

"Harassing? She is enjoying this, aren't you girl..?" Grimmjow moved close to her again, this time grabbing her shoulder.

Ulquiorra did not like to repeat himself. Before Grimmjow could do anything else, Ulquiorra quietly stood up, grabbed him by the arm that held Orihime, and without a single word dragged him outside. As soon as they were outside of the classroom, Ulquiorra released him.

"Listen to me very carefully, Grimmjow," Ulquiorra spoke with deadly calmness, "We do not pick on girls. You can talk to her, you can even argue with her, but you do not touch her. Is that clear?"

Grimmjow was a bit surprised by his reaction. What the hell was Ulquiorra's problem? It's not like I hurt that chick or anything.

"And who's gonna stop me? As far as I'm concerned, every single one of Kurosaki's friends is up for grabs."

"Not everyone." Ulquiorra said, immediately regretting it.

Grimmjow stared at him, smirking at the sudden realization.

"Oh, I get it," he finally spoke, "You want her all for yourself, don't you, you greedy bastard?"

Ulquiorra's eyes narrowed but he didn't say anything.

"I know what happened after that fight with Kurosaki. The word spreads around fast." Grimmjow's smirk grew even larger. "She didn't just bandage your hand, she 'bandaged' your brain as well."

"What do you mean?" Ulquiorra asked, not betraying a single emotion.

"You still don't get it, do you?" Grimmjow grew serious again, "If you think we didn't notice you staring at her, then you're a fool. Figure out the rest yourself." And with those words he disappeared into the classroom, leaving Ulquiorra alone in the hallway.

Grimmjow's words continued to echo in his head as Ulquiorra cast his eyes to the ground. Even though he didn't have a lot of regard for Grimmjow, Ulquiorra agreed with him on this one. Grimmjow was right, he was a fool.