I'm sure your all wondering why the time frame is so disorganized, and why I've jumped ahead a few times. Well, would you rather have me recount every single detail of a class that teaches the same subjects and material day in and out? No? Didn't think so.

Sayonara, Halycon Days.

That night, the halls, the classrooms, the very academy itself were filled with music, light and laughter. It was a fitting send off for two of the academy's most prodigous students, Hisagi Shuheii and Kira Izuru, amongst them, as well as being able to accept new students, amongst them, one Toshirou Hitsugaya.

Various attractions were erected in mere hours, all for one final salute to the graduating class.

There was Karaoke, games, punch, and countless other festivities, but alas, the primary focus was...

Alchohol.

Student's of course, were forbidden to drink sake, but that didn't mean the teachers' didn't have any stashed away for their own personal use in the off hours of the evening. It took little effort on Hisagi's part to procure sake from one of the proctors', on the sole condition that they'd only use the cheapsake, not the uber expensive stuff stashed away in the secret wine cooler that supposedly no one knew of.

And of course, this only soared Shuheii's infamy to new heights, guaranteeing him a reputation as: 'The man who got every single soul in the graduating class shit faced drunk.'

With such chaos, it was doubtless that Ichigo would be swept up in the frenzy as well. At some point someone had given him a hat to wear, and now here he was just milling about with the crowd.

And as such, he wasn't watching were he was going, until it was far too late. As he swiveled his gaze forward once, more, chestnut brown eyes widened inexplicably, for at that moment, an unfortunate passerby slammed into him.

"Oof!" The air rushed out of his and the other's lungs as they collided, spraying boxes and curses everywhere.

"Watch were your going, dumbass!" She snapped at him, and he was just about to mutter an apology, when-

"Tatsuki-chaaaan!" A voice called from the crowd, "C'mon, we're gonna miss the karaoke! I wanted to hear Abarai-kun sing!" Now, the memories of Kurosaki Ichigo weren't so far gone that he didn't remember something of his past life, and that name was most certainly a part of it.

'That name...

He'd long since accepted that he'd been alive at some point, something had attacked him, and wham, he'd ended up here. Most likely, a soul reaper had performed a konso on him, before killing the hollow that had attacked him and the woman whom he was strongly beginning to believe to be his mother.

'Wait.'

Ichigo's eyes grew wide as he took a closer look at her, this girl clad in the red white robed hakama that all female students wore. Her spiky ebony black hair hair, slightly longer than he'd remembered, framing her chin, her face, from which defiantly familiar orbs shone.

No way. No friggin way.

This girl....he knew her!

"What did you...say your name was?"

"Ergh...she glared at him, and even before the words left her lips, he'd recognized her. "Tatsuki. Tatsuki Arisawa. There, now are you done ogling me, ecchi?"

"Ta-Tatsuki!" Ichigo croaked, surprised.

"Eh?" She frowned. "How do you know me? You some kinda perv, freak?

"It's me!" He snarled, infuriated by the insult. "Ichigo! Don't you remember?! We went to the dojo when we were kids!"

"Ichigo?" Recognition dawned in her eyes, but something told him it wasn't the kind he was looking for. Silver irises narrowed angrily, and from somewhere in her lower abdomen, came an angry growl. "I-chi-go?"

'Wha-

"Ichigo?! How dare you use that name!" And just like that, the shorter girl had him pinned against the wall by the shoulders. She'd been strong when they were kids, but now, her strength was nothing short of monstrous. "Look punk, I don't know who you think you are, or how you know about that, but if you wanna keep your front teeth and your balls, you're not gonna use that name in front of me again!"

"Ask me something then!" He snarled back. "I'll prove it!"

"Fine," She rolled her eyes angrily. "I'll play your little game. How many times did I beat you pseudo-Ichigo?"

"One hundred times and I cried each time after you beat me!"

"H-How many times did you win then, f-faker?!"

"Once." He replied confidently.

Her eyes widened to the point of extrication.

"You?! You can't be!"

"Damnit! I am, I am, I AM ICHIGO!" He argued vehemently. "See for yourself!" He ripped off the hat, exposing the unruly mess of spiky orange hair. Her grip loosened, then tightened on him once more.

"Ichigo...no, you can't be Ichigo." She shook her head, refusing to believe it, refusing to admit that. "I don't care what color your hair is or who you say you are, Ichigo is dead! Dead, dead, dead ! Do you hear me?! D-E-A-D !"

"Erm...so are you." He pointed out, sweatdropping at her logic. "That's why you're here. I'm dead, and apparently so are you."

"Ah!" She choked back a sob at his bland remark, tried, but failed miserably. Tears filled those wide eyes, hands flying to cover the small, tiny gasp that escaped her lips. Only Ichigo would say something like that, only he would give so blunt and obvious an answer, instead of vehemently insisting that he was indeed real.

"Tell me I'm not dreaming." She looked him over carefully, very carefully, daring him to break out into a grin, say she was just hallucinating, and in doing so, rouse her from slumber. You are Ichigo right? Ichigo, not a ghost? Not some wacked up dream?!"

"Um...no?" He managed, slightly unnerved by her behavior. "Like I said, I'm dead, not a ghost."

Relief, sadness, and joy flooded her all at once.

"Ichigo!"

"Gagh!" He choked out a breath as Tatsuki abruptly released her hold, only to seize him in a bone crushing embrace seconds later, her arms squeezing him with such force that for a moment, he nearly passed out.

"C-Can't...breathe...!!"

"Baka!" She wailed suddenly, releasing him a third time, now beating at his chest with her fists, sobbing quietly, softly, hoping that no one would hear, that no one would stop and stare. "Baka baka baka! Ichigo no bakaaaa!" Ichigo wasn't able to move, he was still trying to get his breath back.

"H-Hey, take it easy! You're making a scene!"

"You're the idiot! You stupid idiot!"

But when he noticed the stares, he recovered but on his best scary face and yelled:

"OI! What're ya deadbeats lookin' at?! I'll kill you!"

Renji and Kira happened to round the corner just then. Renji saw the ruckus, paused, froze, and dragged Izuru back around the corner with him. Together, they peeked back around to watch the action.

Everyone performed an about face and either scurried away, or realized that they had something very important to do elsewhere. Renji watched the scene unfold quietly, then decided it was time to get a particularly hammered Kira to bed before he ended up sleeping with someone.

Such was the final night of Kira Izuru, top of his graduating class, and Hisagi Shuheii.

A night of remembrance, a night of infamy.

--

With Kira and Hisagi-san gone, the remaining month of November passed by as little more than a blur to Kurosaki Ichigo. It was the same, basic routine. School, talk with Tatsuki, sleep, school, talk with Momo, sleep, school, hang with Renji, sleep.

Throwing in the basic patterns of eating and breathing, and you had one bored shinigami in training. His grades were up there in the A and B range, but he had no desire to make them perfect, unless it resulted in him getting out sooner, which he'd already realized wasn't going to happen until he graduated with everyone else. It was only as the leaves faded away, replaced by lifeless, barren trees, that he began to take notice of his surroundings again.

And then, on December twentieth, it happened.

"Um...Ichigo?"

"Eh?" He looked up from his window perch, his gaze swiveling to the right to finally notice Momo. He'd been thinking about her again, he realized. Thinking about Rukia, and the pain she must be in right now. It'd only been a year since he'd been given the grim news, but even so, Rukia wasn't the kind of person to let a traumatic event like that go.

Maybe that's why he wanted to graduate so badly, just as Hisagii and Kira had. Once he did, he'd Ukitake's lieutenant yes, but more importantly, he'd be by Rukia again, and though he didn't know what to do from there, but something told him, something just told him it'd work out in the end.

As such, he only caught the tail end of what Hinamori was saying.

"Christmas ball?" He made a face at the term, as if he didn't understand it. "The hell is that? Some lame after school activity?"

"N-No! It's nothing like that!" It came out forceful, surprising him.

"Then...what is it?"

"Well, um," Momo nervously tented her fingers as a flash of irritation gleamed through his amber orbs. "You see... A Christmas ball is something that's usually held before Christmas, and it only comes once a year. You get dressed up, ask someone out, and dance all night."

"Huh." Ichigo remarked blandly. "And you're telling me this because...?"

Now it was Hinamori's turn to be confused.

"Well....aren't you going?"

"Nah," Ichigo shook his head, turned back to the window, and for a moment, all seemed lost. "I didn't even know about it until now. Besides, it sounds lame, if you ask me" But then he continued to speak, his words taking on a slightly optimistic, intrigued tone. "Hey, is Renji going?"

"O-Of course!" She hastily supplied the lie, desperate to salvage the situation. Knowing Ichigo, he might just go if Renji was going. "Th-That's why I'm asking you!" Those two were rivals before, but now, now they tried to outdo each other in just about everything.

Ichigo glanced outside, still deep in thought.

She was obviously trying to get him to be social. He'd patched things up with Renji, but aside from his inner circles of friends, Ichigo simply refused to socialize with anyone else, and that included having any sort of relationship. As a matter of fact, he still had a bunch of fangirl letters to burn...

But if it was just something with his friends, then sure, why not?

What could possibly go wrong?

"Fine. You talked me into it." He sighed again. "I'll go."

"Huh?" For a moment, Hinamori couldn't believe her ears. She'd come here expecting to fail, expecting to trudge back to the dorms, dejected, defeated and depressed. Now, she felt her spirits soar, and her heart swell with happiness.

"O-Okay then! See you tommorow then, Ichigo-kun!"

He made a face at the kun suffix, but didn't comment on it as the bell rang, signalling the end of first period.

Momo giggled to hersel, skipped away from him, obviously happy about something, though he remained at a loss for it, even as her pace abruptly slowed

You do realize there's a problem, don't you?

Tobiume was right.

And that only problem was...

Abarai Renji.

Renji wasn't going to the dance, and now she had to convince the stubborn redhead to get off his ass and come too. She also had to doll herself up, pick up a dress and get a new pair of heels, all by tomorrow! And she had to do all this before those two knuckleheads bumped into each other and discovered the truth behind her lie!

Her shoulders slumped for a moment, then she took off in the opposite direction.

This was going to be a looooong Thursday.

--

"You and me? At a dance?" Renji didn't even bother to look at her, he was too engrossed with his zanjutsu practice to take his eyes away from the sword and target. "Why so sudden, huh? I mean, we've been friends for a while, but-

"Nani?" There was confusion in her voice.

"You're asking me as your date, right?" He called back.

"NANI?!" She squeaked, nearly choking on her spit.

"So, is that it then?" Renji bit back on an amused chortle

"N-NO!" Momo sputtered furiously, stamping her feet, her apple cheeks flushing a deep crimson as Renji tried and failed again to stifle another bought of his hysteric laughter. "It's not that I'm asking you to come with me, I just need you to go to the dance!"

"Aha," A wide, knowing grin suddenly split Renji's face, and now he didlook away from his practice. "This is about Ichigo, ain't it? You're trying to drag me to this shindig, so he'll come too, am I right?" He knew the answer immediately, and brown eyes gleamed with amusement as Hinamori tried, and failed to deny it.

"Um...uh...you see....its...complicated."

"Well?" He prodded her gently, determined to drag an answer out of her pursed lips. "This is about Ichigo, right? He didn't wanna go, so is this the reason why you're so bent on dragging me along? Well, is it, is it? Huh?" The blush suddenly turned a deep pink as Momo squeaked out an affirmative and managed a barely perceptible nod.

"Yatta! I knew it!" Renji declared triumphantly, standing tall with a laugh. "You've got the hots for Ichigo!"

"E-Eeep! R-Renji!" Hinamori waved her hands violently, terrified that anyone might overhear them. "Please be quiet!" She glanced about frantically, and even though she didn't pick up on anyone in the nearby vicinity, a terrible sense of dread filled her. "You can't tell Ichigo about this!"

"Oh sure," He snickered behind his hand. "Not a word."

Momo didn't believe him for a second, not by the dark aura she was exuding an aura that said 'tell and die.'

"Renji...if you tell him, I swear....I'll-I'll...

Rumors traveled fast in this school. The students didn't have much to do in their free time, so gossip was an activity that everyone, even the proffessor's, dabbled in from time to time.

She could not let this get out!

Not ever!

"W-Wait, I was just kidding!"

"I'm sorry Renji, but you leave me no choice!"

"Eh?"

"Sajo Sabaku!" Momo declared suddenly, a golden stream of light flowing from her hands and into the air. Renji could only croak out a surprised curse as the chains wound their way around his arms and legs, rendering him motionless.

Deprived of balance, he crashed to the floor, unable to break free, yet thrashing violently as Momo loomed over him menacingly, reaching into the pack she had strapped to her back.

Renji paled as she withdrew an object from it.

"?! Wait, what're you gonna do with that, doing-oi-OI!"

Next time: Dances, Dresses, Party Crashers? An accidental double date?! Ichigo's December dilemna!