Disclaimer: Don't own.
A/N: I was frustrated with waiting for the next installment of Bleach manga, and I created this.
My take on how the series Bleach might finish.
I made it GinxRan, since there's a big scene with them in it. Other pairings are hinted at.
The black-haired girl bowed over and over. "Thank you! I'm so honored! I will do my best to serve you, Ukitake-taichou!"
Ukitake leaned over and ruffled her hair a little. "Stop being so formal. You're a lieutenant now. You can say what's on your mind."
"Yes sir!" She bowed again.
Kiyone turned to her fellow 3rd seat. "At least it was her and not you! I wouldn't be able to stand working under you!"
Sentarou bristled. "You know that taichou would've made me lieutenant before you! Right, taichou? Right?!"
The two continued to bicker at each other while Ukitake turned to Rukia, a smile on his face. "I told Kuchiki-taichou this morning."
"Nii-sama…" Rukia murmured quietly to herself. He was always saving her. He was always telling her not to be a burden. She thought about his gaze, which she interpreted as cold in the beginning, but later learned that it was his way of showing protectiveness. "What did he say?"
"He didn't say anything. But Rukia, I think he's proud of you." Ukitake stood up. "You know, he was the one that offered your name up for officer candidacy."
"Eh!" She was startled. "But Nii-… Nii-sama was the one that didn't want me to be a ranked officer!"
"I think that he finally accepted that you were ready." Ukitake smiled again. "Besides, after what we've been through in the past year, I don't think there's anyone more qualified."
'Maybe that's true…' Rukia thought back. Flashes of battles fluttered through her mind. Escaping her execution… the Bount… Fighting Grimmjow's Arrancar… Joining Ichigo in Hueco Mundo… Fighting the Espada… Coming back to the real world and taking on Aizen… The sweat, the tears… the blood… She lifted her head and looked up at the blue sky. It was such a peaceful shade of blue. Wasn't the sacrifice, all the fighting, just for this?
"So, are you going to tell him?"
Rukia contemplated for a moment before shaking her head. "Nii-sama would just say, 'I heard.', and then dismiss me. It's pointless."
Ukitake turned to her with a twinkle in his eye. "I wasn't talking about Kuchiki-taichou. I meant, are you going to tell him?"
In one fluid motion, he was diving towards her at lightning speed. He pinned her to the ground, his sword going for her neck, with hers just barely stopping it. She tried to force her blade towards his neck instead, but he was strong, so strong… They were locked in that position, a stalemate of steel and emotions.
"Rangiku…" he said, smirking. "Long time no see…"
Her zanpakutuo smashed against his, sparks flying off like fireworks. In the distance, she saw her captain glance back at her with concern, before Aizen caught his attention with another attack.
"Gin…" She managed through gritted teeth.
The teasing tone was too much. Her feet went for his abdomen, but he leapt away from her just in time.
"Aren't we excited today?" The smirk never left his face.
"Growl, Hanieko!" Her zanpakuto dissolved into a cloud of hot ash that flew towards him. With a single swipe of his arm, he blew the ash away. The tips of his fingers were nicked, and he brought them to his tongue mockingly.
"Let's see how your ash fares against a more… tangible weapon?" His grin widened. "Shoot to kill, Shinso."
The silver blade cut through the air. It plunged a path straight through the ash and towards her. She called her zanpakuto back and stopped the tip of Shinso with the blade of her now-materialized sword.
"Oho… Ain't this a nostalgic situation?" His smirk seemed all the more irritating. She realized what he was talking about. Back when she was defending Hinamori from his attack, she had taken up the exact same stance.
She ducked away, narrowly avoiding Shinso as it cut off some strands of her golden hair. Kicking off of the building, she shot like a bullet towards him, meeting his sword once more. She strained with all her might to press the blade closer to him.
"Ran-chan… Ya can't do it, can ya?" Gin said teasingly.
"Shut up!" Her mind flashed back towards her talk with Hitsugaya before the war. His words have been echoing in her head ever since the start of the fight. He had said, "Matsumoto. When the time comes, I hope you won't hesitate."
But she knew. She knew she had already hesitated.
'If I die with him…'
It was the key to her plan. She could catch him off guard, she knew. But it would result in her death.
His face was so close to hers that she could feel his breath on her face. Their swords pressed against each other, each vying for power. Her arm was beginning to strain against the force of his. She stared, stared into the slits that his eyes curved into and made her choice.
The sudden disappearance of her sword into ash and lack of force against his sword caused it to swish down towards her unprotected neck. His smirk disappeared in surprise.
She saw her chance.
Slashing her hilt through the air, she laced his neck with the white-hot ash. It a flash, it slit his throat. 'Let's go together.'
It was when he staggered backwards that she realized that she was uninjured. His blade was pressed against her throat, but it hadn't so much as nicked her skin. "Wh-what…"
He fell forward. "Gin!" She ran, catching him. "Why… how…?"
The blood gurgled in his throat. Despite this, he was still smiling. "You were always an easy one to read."
"Y-you saw through that?!" She was so sure that he wouldn't realize. "Why, then? Why? Why did you stop your blade? Why did you go along with my plan?" Her hands, stained with his blood, were shaking.
"Why…" he merely repeated, chuckling slightly. He still smiled, although now it seemed softer, full of sadness. "Gomen ne, Rangiku…"
She shook him, her eyes filling with unwanted tears. "You bastard, you bastard…"
"Rangiku…" He motioned for her to come closer. She did, putting her ear near his lips. He tried to say something, but it was lost in his throat. Instead, he gently brushed his lips against her ear.
Fitting, wasn't it, that his last gesture was a tease.
After sitting up and glancing at his dead body, she buried her face into his chest and screamed.
Matsumoto was startled from her flashback by someone knocking on the door. "Enter."
A yellow haired lieutenant opened the door. "Kira!" she said. "This is a surprise."
"Good morning, Matsumoto-san."
There was a pause. Whenever he visited her, it seemed like he was on both their minds. "You know… he used to leave me at times…" Matsumoto said. "I always wondered where he went. He never told me, but he always came back, smiling with that enigmatic smile…" She ran a hand through her curls. "Sometimes… sometimes I wait, thinking that he's going to come back, he's going to walk through that door, smiling like he always did…" She turned to Kira with a rueful smile. "But he's not coming back this time, is he?"
Kira didn't need to say anything.
'Baka.' she cursed at herself. 'He's left for good. And you left your heart with him.'
"I heard you passed the captain qualification exam," she said, changing the subject. She forced a smile, but halfway it became genuine. Kira had been the only one to achieve bankai spontaneously on the battlefield, pressured to the limit by Aizen's illusions. "Congratulations."
"I… I didn't take the position." Kira said.
She was surprised. "No? Why not? I think you'd make a great captain."
"I don't think I'm ready… to fill his shoes…" Kira finally said. "I know what he turned out to be… but he was a remarkable captain… a remarkable person..."
Outside, a ladybug landed on the windowsill, right into a puddle. It struggled from the watery prison, fanning out its wings. When it tried to fly, the moisture dragged it down, but it managed to take to the sky with a wobbly start. She exhaled, letting her gaze turn to the window. "Yes," she agreed softly. "He was."
"I'm finally on the same level as you, Renji…" Rukia smiled as they assembled into two parallel lines.
"I knew you'd make it. I knew it!" Renji felt like lifting her short form up and swinging it in the air to celebrate. Not now, though. They were in a room full of captains and lieutenants. It wouldn't look professional.
"I see you've made Kuchiki-san into your lieutenant…" Shunsui was saying to Ukitake as he and Nanao joined them. He inclined his straw hat towards her. "Good choice…" He paused. "Though not as good a choice as Nanao-chan here, so don't be jealous Na-nao-chaaan~! I still love you!"
She whacked him with her book. "I'm not jealous. Congratulations, Kuchiki-fukutaichou."
"Yes, congratulations, Kuchiki-san—no, Kuchiki-fukutaichou." Hinamori said timidly.
"Arigato, Hinamori. How are you getting along with your new captain?"
A hand was placed on her head roughly. "We get along just fine, amiright?!" A large, toothy grin made its way into view as Hirako Shinji shook his lieutenant's head back and forth. "So long as she don' plan any illegal hollow experiments or betrayals behind my back or anything."
A leg came out of nowhere and made contact with Shinji's face. Hiyori Sarugaki put her hands on her hips and glared at Hinamori. "Yo, if he bothers you, just put him in his place, all right?! Don't just stand there and take his shit."
"My, my… I'm glad those two are back…" Shunsui murmured to himself as the arguing continued. "It certainly makes things more interesting. Soul society has gotten boring these last 50 years…"
Hisagi lifted Hiyori up by the collar of her Shinigami robe and carried her away. "Oi. Cut that out already."
"Hisagi, you dickhead!" She made a grab for him, but was too short to get him.
"That's taichou to you." After rising in rank of the 9th squad, Hisagi now wore a no-sleeved haori over his no-sleeved robe, exactly like Kensei Muguruma once did. He calmly tossed her down onto the ground, where she bounced on her bottom twice before getting up and taking another swipe at him. He parried away all her attacks without so much as looking at her.
"It's a good thing Hisagi was made captain…" Ukitake noted, watching the one-sided fight. "And that she was put under a calm person. If she were working as Shinji's lieutenant, the whole Sereitei would have collapsed by now."
Hitsugaya rubbed his ears. "It's so loud in here…" He glanced around. "Where's the 11th squad?"
"Probably playing hooky like he always does." Kurotsuchi said; a scornful glance in the missing space between him and the captain of the 10th squad.
"I see…" Hitsugaya looked at him. "And where's your lieutenant, Kurotsuchi?"
"Nemu is in the human world gathering research," Kurotsuchi fixed him with a glare. "It does not concern you."
Renji leaned over to Rukia, whispering. "She's probably visiting a certain Quincy." They shared a sneaked laugh, before swallowing it when Kurotsuchi looked their way.
Several other captains and lieutenants voiced their congratulations to the new lieutenant. Rukia went red with all the attention. "Thank you!"
"You're filling in some tough shoes…"
Rukia nodded. 'Kaien-dono…'
Yamamoto knocked his cane firmly on the floor twice, and all of them stopped talking. When he summoned the attention of everyone, he said, "There's the issue of replacing the captain of the 3rd squad. So far, in our number, three individuals have passed the exam and are qualified for captaincy."
This caused some whispers to go up. "I wasn't even aware that we were holding exams…"
Yamamoto rapped his cane on the ground again. "The following individuals are qualified. Kira Izuru, Abarai Renji and Madarame Ikkaku."
"Renji, you bastard…" Rukia said out of the corner of her mouth. "Right when I thought we were on the same level… When did you go take the exam?!"
"However…" Yamamoto continued. "All three have refused the position. We therefore find ourselves in a dilemma."
The captains were silent for a moment. "Renji… you refused the position." Byakuya finally asked, although he said it as a statement.
Renji grinned. "Heh. It's been my dream to surpass you, taichou, and I don't think I've done it yet. I can work harder towards that goal if I'm working as your fukutaichou."
Matsumoto nodded silently at Kira. She understood.
No one grilled Madarame for refusing the position, since he didn't even show up at the meeting.
"None of the 'masked ones' want the position?" Now that the exile of the former captains and lieutenants has been lifted, several of them had returned to Soul Society. Most of the Vizards remained in the human world, still bitter about their past afflictions with Seireitei.
"Hiyori and I are just doin' this as a favor to Cap'n Commander here. We owe him one for the war," Shinji said defensively, a hand in his yellow hair. After all, without the Captain Commander, Aizen would not have been slain. "The rest of 'em don't want anything to do with Soul Society. Not surprising, ya know."
"A shame…" Ukitake said quietly. "It'd be nice to have Urahara & co. back on our side."
Renji smirked. "When were they ever not on our side?"
Unohana closed her eyes. "It's a pity. They're all so qualified."
"I can only think of one person just as qualified." Shunsui said lightly.
At this, all of them exchanged glances. Rukia and Renji smirked at one another. Unohana met her lieutenant, Isane's, gaze with a nod. Matsumoto, Kira, and Hisagi smiled. Byakuya and Soifon's gazes turned into one of nostalgic acknowledgement. No matter the time or the place, he was always on everyone's minds.
Meanwhile, lying on the ground in front of his barracks, Zaraki Kenpachi was enjoying his free time. What meeting? It wasn't as if it was important…
He grumbled slightly. The peace was annoying. "Oi, Yachiru…"
"What's up, Ken-chan?" She was lying on her stomach, kicking her legs up into the air.
"I wonder what that brat's doing now…"
Far below, in the real world, an orange haired boy lifted his head up to the sky and remembered. The peace that made up the sky was one forged with blood and tears.
While he wanted to say that he was the one that took down Aizen, one-to-one like a hero, he knew that it wasn't like that at all. Without the help of everyone, everyone, the plan would not be able to succeed.
He remembered. Renji firing a blast from the mouth of his Zabimaru… Matsumoto's bloodied ash as she dealt with Ichimaru… Omaeda's large spiked ball that missed Aizen entirely but caught his attention… Chad sending a blast of energy from his fist… Soifon's missile explosion as she fired her bankai for the 3rd time in that one day… Hachigen's barriers that blocked off the escape routes… Konamura releasing his giant bankai against his friend… Hisagi slashing his Kazeshini though his former captain's head… Yamamoto's enormous ring of fire that surrounded them all… Shinji releasing his zanpakuto, trapping Aizen in an upside-down world… Hinamori sending a fireball his way… Ukitake catching the fireball with his sword and amplifying it, passing it on straight to their opponent… Lisa thrusting her lance forward, forcing him to dodge right… Hitsugaya freezing the traitor's legs, immobilizing him… Rukia joining in, encasing him in ice… Ishida firing continuous arrows, halting his movement…
All working together, hand in hand, Shinigami and human, Vizard and Quincy. It didn't matter. They didn't have any plan in mind, except the one—killing that man.
They all worked together, all to create a chance for him to deliver the killing blow. He would not let himself disappoint them. His heart pounded in his ears as he found it, found his chance. Without a glance backwards, without a second though, he took it, and painted his sword red with Aizen's blood.
"Oi, Ichigo, we're going to be late!" Keigo waved at him from in front.
The war was over. Things were back to the way there were before. He was left with memories, precious memories that allowed him to look back and remember.
Yes… he remembered. The sky… the peaceful sky was merely a line, a fine line between reality and heaven, life and death, and two different worlds that were always merging.
The air was suddenly pierced with a hollow's cry. He automatically reached for the badge tucked safely beneath his shirt. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a black robed individual tear across the sky in search of the creature. He didn't recognize the person, but took his hand off the badge nevertheless. This was someone else's job.
"Ichigo! Hurry up already!"
With another glance towards the sky, he smiled. This is the way it should be. Then, he walked on forward.
A/N: Although this is complete, I might update and make it into a two shot. Or make a spin-off of this. I don't know. I want to put in a scene where Rukia tells him about being promoted to a lieutenant, and maybe even offering him a captaincy. Who knows?
R&R on your opinion.