No one truly understood him, Kira Izuru noted. No one had, not since he had outgrown both his nanny and the simple childish habits that had characterized him since his Academy days.

The person who might have come closest, might have been Ichimaru-taicho.

Possibly Ichimaru-taicho.

It could have been him.

But then, Izuru had never been quite able to tell exactly what Ichimaru Gin thought of him.

That should have made things more difficult, to be honest, but it was Ichimaru-taicho.

No matter how much Ichimaru-taicho tried to hide his thoughts from the world, there was only so much one could shield when fighting. Battle tore all masks from people's faces, and enigmatic taicho was no exception to this rule.

Ichimaru-taicho did not adhere to any form of pride in battle. No actions fazed him and no tricks were too dirty. He used to smirk and sweep on past Kira, calmly shaking the drops of blood off his wakizashi, speaking not a word to explain whatever he had done during the battle.

Ichimaru-taicho's sole mantra in battle had been 'victory'.

'Victory' and heck the costs.

Kira knew that no matter how much Ichimaru-taicho might have known about him, neither would have truly been able to understand each other.

Yes, 'victory' was Ichimaru-taicho's personal mantra, perhaps not the division's related though it was to the idea of despair.

It was a Third Division thing, the idea of absolute 'victory' accompanied by the absolute lack of fulfillment.

No one else seemed to understand it. No one else seemed to want to even begin to. They merely patted Izuru on the back and gently reminded him that it was really okay, because Ichimaru was a traitor now, and like Hisagi-san, he was much better off trying to forget all the nonsense that Ichimaru might have fed him.

Including the mantra.

Easier said than done; the mantra just so happened to be Izuru's as well.

But Izuru's postscript was a little different from Ichimaru-taicho's, and for the life of him, Izuru could not find someone else who was even remotely similar. Sure, it had been the Division motto, but none of the other seated officers had taken away quite the same idea as he had.

Not that the subtle difference would have mattered to all those people who didn't seem to get anything or want to.

Heck, even the Eleventh Division members looked at him funny when he explained it.

In fact, they were the group that had seemed most affronted during that combined exercise, something about unfairness and him not having given his opponent a chance. Something about ruthlessness and the lack of consideration for the opponent's feelings.

Kira had brushed that away easily. Given his opponent a chance? Given his opponent a chance to do what? To kill him? To maul his surrounding subordinates? To give him a good fight?


They just didn't get it.

No one did. They just didn't think the same way.

So after a while, Kira just stopped mentioning it.

The day of reckoning had come, and Yamamoto-soutaicho had ordered him to secure the pillars, to prevent all attempts at displacing both the fake world within Soul Society as well as the real Karakura town.

His first opponent had been nothing special, to be brutally honest, as Izuru often was.

Just like opponents in a battle for lieutenant-ship, there were always new, different and dangerous releases, albeit this one a little more different and dangerous than the other weak ones that had come his way over the years.

It had not been an easy fight; the fights Izuru had were never easy but planned, strategized and executed without a fault.

Swiftly, efficiently, ruthlessly, that was how Kira Izuru fought.

And there had been no one there to witness it.

Then the next opponent who had so suddenly taken out both Rangiku-san and Hinamori-kun had been overwhelmingly powerful, a lump of mindless flesh that served no further purpose than to injure, to crush and to defeat others.

If he felt anything during battle, Izuru would have felt hatred and pity for such a creature. As it was though, he never saw the opponent as anything further than a tactical problem he had to overcome.

It worked, most of the time.

He considered briefly, as he saw Hisagi-san wrap the chains of Kazeshini around the creature's head and arms, that he could possibly take this one down as well.

Then it all went horribly, horribly wrong from there, and Izuru inwardly cursed his short stint in Fourth. He watched Iba-san fall, watched Hisagi-san smashed against the concrete buildings.

He so desperately wanted to rush out there, to engage that monstrous being in combat, to crush that helmet shaped skull and shatter those creepy, creepy eyes into the ground.

And he did not want to anymore, watching with horror-filled eyes as the monster pounded its own chest, as it stood again and again to fight in a grotesque imitation of the determination that characterized some of Izuru's friends.

It was a swift put down by the soutaicho, but still it was horrific, still it had shaken him to the core, and his heart was still trembling. What a monstrosity!

Healing Rangiku-san was a Herculean task in itself, but having to focus on healing her, stabilizing Hinamori-kun as well as ignoring the flares of reiatsu and the sounds of clashing metal at the same time was something that was drawing very deeply on Izuru's already limited capabilities as a healer.

Sometime ago, though, Komamura-taicho had appeared, his presence calming not only Izuru but also the numerous patients he had.

Izuru refused to look up, refused to turn away from the two patients who needed him the most, but his heart was shaking, it was trembling not with fear but with a morbid dread of what was sure to come.

Then it happened.

A Garganta tore open, and a split second later had Ukitake-taicho plummeting like a shooting star right out of the sky.

Kyouraku-taicho joined him, crashing unceremoniously to the ground mere seconds later.

The female Espada was ripped out of the ice prison Hitsugaya-taicho had earlier erected.

The skeleton was unharmed by the blinding flash that had felt like Soifon-taicho's reiatsu.

Komamura-taicho was still standing guard over them.

And Izuru could take it no longer, not when Ichimaru himself emerged from the Yamamoto-soutaicho's flames.

Not when Aizen stepped forward and threw down the gauntlet.

Not when the mysterious allies with their even more mysterious reiatsu appeared.

He stared and listened, stunned and in horror as the events unfolded around him, hands never ceasing, reiatsu never stopping as he mechanically performed his duty.

As luck went, he saw nothing (dared not look up), saw nothing until the sky trembled, until the ground shook, until he felt Kyouraku-taicho's reiatsu again, until he felt the very air tense with that Espada's reiatsu.

Then Izuru looked up, hands still pushing reiatsu into Rangiku-san and Hinamori-kun, eyes watching in rapture at the fight that was just like something he would do.

Take the chance, and never let it go.

Izuru believed in 'victory' at all costs. In a way, he was exceedingly similar to Ichimaru, and yet, in another way, they were as dissimilar as night and day.

Izuru believed deeply in costs, and always paid them out in full.

And he regretted many things, wished to take back many things, wanted to change many things, but of them all, not a single one involved battle. He regretted nothing about battle, wished to take back not a single one of his strikes, and wanted to change not any of the outcomes.

Battle was just battle. It fell under the category of duty, and duty needed to be fulfilled. Battles needed to be carried out, and so they were.

That was all it was.

Izuru watched Kyouraku-taicho fight the Primera Espada, watched Kyouraku-taicho come away with minor injuries, and listened to the very few words that he spoke.

"You're in the wrong either way."

This was a person he could understand.