A/N- I wanted to add an authors note at the beginning instead of the end because I thought it might ruin the mood of the fic if I posted it at the end. I just wanted to say that I hope you enjoy it and please review to let me know what you thought of it. I personally think it's one of my best fics... the mood of it anyway.

Disclaimer: I do not own bleach

Warning: Character death (LOTS) and it's preetty dark

Despair

Thunder rumbled in the distance, the dark clouds looming imminently overhead. Strong winds swept across the strange world, affecting everything in their path. A sudden flash of lightning illuminated everything in an eerie light. But then it was gone, leaving everything dark and desolate once more.

It had been like this for so long. Storms were constantly brewing in the sky, not even a hint of sunlight to be seen. But for some reason, not a single droplet of water ever fell on the sideways buildings that stretched as far as the eye could see.

In the distance, a figure lay sprawled out on one of these buildings, their limp figure the only thing that seemed out of place. Anyone looking on would have believed the figure to be dead as their body seemed lifeless. But suddenly the figure moved, a slow and staggered movement that hinted at just how much pain this person was in.

The person reached out with one hand as if trying to touch something that was invisible to the naked eye but their hand fell short as the thick chains reached their ends. Steel rings sat uncomfortably on the person's wrists and ankles, each ring attached to strong chains that were securely fastened to the building.

The figure's face seemed gaunt as if they had been like this for quite some time, but was still recognisable as a young man, despite his unusual appearance.

Dried droplets of blood were splattered next to the ground, having obviously been there for a while. But as the person moved the chains ever so slightly, fresh blood dripped down his wrists from the deep gashes that the steel rings had made. The person's fingernails were torn and bloodied; hardly a sliver of their original black colour was left.

The figure tried to stand up but the chains were heavy and gravity pulled at his wrists. He struggled with the forces for a moment but soon it became too much and he fell to the ground, his body eager to rest once again.

He had already given up long ago, no hope left in his eyes but his stubborn personality had often come back to haunt him, not letting him rest unless he attempted to free himself. Ignoring the desire to get back up, he drew his legs in close, trying to maintain as much warmth as possible in the cold climate. But within moments, his breath began to come out in steam as the temperature continued to drop.

Warmth. What a luxury, he thought to himself. Many people took it for granted ...

The ever present winds beat at him, their whispers constantly taunting him and he looked around forlornly, wishing in vain that there would be some shelter from the biting cold. The thin and torn clothes that he wore provided little comfort.

Using his thin and lanky arms, he pushed himself up with great pain as his body was covered in dark bruises and many wounds. But as he sat up, a massive lighting bold flashed across the sky and he felt something sharp pressed against his neck, the cold seeping into him.

His yellow and black eyes filled with fear and his muscles tensed for the worst. But after a few moments, he relaxed slightly and glanced to the left. Standing there was a person dressed in a torn black kimono, a dark grey cloak covering it partially, the hood concealing his face in shadows. But he already knew who this person was and so did not need to see their face to say "Well, well.." He gave a soft hollow laugh that subsided into wracking coughs that shook his whole body.

A while ago he would have laughed at how frail he had become but now... it didn't matter anymore. The outcome would still be the same. Grinning weakly up at the person standing next to him, he wiped his mouth, his hand becoming stained with dark red blood. "Come to finish the job aibou?"

A foot suddenly pressed against his back and the young man's head was smashed into the window beneath him. Pale hands struggled to find something to defend himself with out of reflex but he knew that it wouldn't do any good.

"We were never partners, hollow." A cold voice spoke, filled with disdain and hatred. The hollow lay there, trying to ignore the terrible pounding in his head as the cold glass of the window was pressed against him, making him shiver uncontrollably. "Or did you forget your own little story?" The voice spoke again and this time, the hollow ceased his shivering and looked upwards. His fearful eyes met dark amber ones that spoke of utter despair and sorrow.

"A king and his horse.." The person walked around to stand in front of him, not making a sound as he moved, the long sword never leaving the hollow's neck. He looked down as if expecting the hollow to say something but when he did not speak, the person continued, his face still hidden in the cowled hood. "..A shinigami and his hollow." He tilted his head slightly and his hood fell back revealing a surprisingly young looking face that was contorted in anger. Bangs of shoulder length orange hair partially covered his eyes as they narrowed in disgust, taking in the weak hollow.

This time the hollow did sat something but he said it slowly as if he was having trouble forming the words. "You are not a shinigami, Ichigo"

Ichigo threw back his head and laughed, an eerie sound that echoed in the distance. It was not a cheerful, happy laugh rather it was one that was filled with bitterness. "Then how come I have a zanpakutou?" He sneered, waving his long black sword in front of the hollow's face.

The hollow gazed at the sword sadly, a part of him yearning for it. Yearning to be whole once more. But even if he took the sword that Ichigo now held, he knew that it would not matter. Staring at the slightly curved blade that he knew so well, the hollow could see that it was empty. He was reminded of the assauchi's that the shinigami had, the zanpakutou's without a spirit. But it was different from that. It was a lifeless copy of what it had once been.

A zanpakutou was not just a sword. It held the owner's spirit inside of it as well as the zanpaktou's spirit. Anyone who looked at a shinigami's zanpakutou could see that spirit. But this sword was lifeless, no evidence of such a spirit.

The hollow glanced over to his right, his gaze settling on what seemed to be broken shards of a black and white sword. Turning back to Ichigo, the hollow said sadly "A shinigami does not betray his friends. A shinigami does no lock up a part of his own soul like a freak of nature and .." He drew in a breath, eyes shining with unshed tears "a shinigami does not kill his own zanpakutou."

For a moment, Ichigo looked furious and he slammed his lifeless sword into the window, mere inches from the hollows head. His eyes flashed dangerously and the hollow suddenly felt like he was suffocating, an immense pressure surrounding him. He knew that it was Ichigo's reiatsu, his spirit power but he had never realised just how intense it was before. And he had never felt the darkness that it held.

But before the hollow choked to death, Ichigo's reiatsu suddenly subsided and he smirked down at the hollow. "You are right, hollow" He sat down in front of him, his smirk widening, eyes narrowing to mere slits. "I am not a shinigami. But... oh how everyone wished that I was." His voice was filled with a lust for fighting, something that the hollow had only ever heard in his own voice. He would never have expected the same emotion to be so evident in Ichigo.

Ichigo, noticing the look that the hollow was giving him, gave a sadistic grin , his amber eyes lighting up joyfully. The hollow immediately had a sense of foreboding come over him. "Tonight the soul society is going to burn. They'll pay for trying to kill me."

The hollow's eyes widened and he moved ever so slightly, his muscles screaming in agony at the movement. "But it wasn't even their fault. You were the one that caused them to turn against you.." He paused and spat out bitterly "...king."

"They had already planned to kill me" Ichigo shrugged "I only sped up the process."

Looking at his twin, the hollow frowned, wondering how long Ichigo could keep lying to himself. He knew that the soul society didn't even want to try and kill Ichigo. He had stopped Aizen for them and so they were forever indebted to him. Even after finding out that he was a vizard, they pretended like they didn't know, not wanting to try and harm him. Suddenly, something occurred to the hollow and he looked up at Ichigo. "What about the Rukongai? What's going to happen to them? Without the shinigami to keep order.." He trailed off.

Ichigo's face darkened and he turned away, hiding the emotions that he was feeling "You don't need to worry, hollow. They will die as well." He said in a steely voice.

The hollow sat up suddenly, ignoring just how painful his body felt. "What the hell Ichigo!" He shouted, his eyes filled with fury. The steel rings were cutting into his wrists but he ignored them "They didn't do anything! It was your fault. You were the one who turned them against you."

Ichigo turned back around, his face black with anger "I told you, they had already planned it! Ever since they found out about you they believed that I was evil!" When the hollow stared defiantly back at him, Ichigo's hand curled into a fist and he punched him as hard as he could, letting all of his anger into that blow. His hollow fell back down; blooding running down his face and Ichigo shouted at him "It's your fault! You were the reason that they wanted me dead!"

But the hollow didn't stay down this time, a remnant of his old determination coming back and he struggled into a sitting position, glaring angrily at Ichigo, one eye slightly swollen. "It wasn't my fault Ichigo" He said, his voice laced with venom. "It was your own fault!"

Ichigo seemed enraged by the fact that his hollow was not backing down "Stop lying!"

"It was your own fault!" The hollow repeated again.

"SHUT UP HOLLOW! YOU CAUSED THIS WHOLE THING! YOU MADE THE SOUL SOCEITY HATE ME! IT'S YOUR FAULT!"

The hollow struggled to his feet, a pit of fire burning in his eyes. He opened his mouth and shouted loudly "YOU KILLED YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND!" Ichigo fell silent at this, his eyes widening slightly but the hollow didn't stop there. He took a step forward, feeling the restraint of the chains and practically screamed "YOU KILLED RUKIA!"


1 month ago

"What? Are you crazy?" The hollow yelled, his eyes filled with unspeakable rage and pain. He struggled hopelessly with his chains, wishing that they would snap so that he could kill Ichigo and put a stop to this deranged behaviour.

Ichigo looked down at the hollow, a sneer of disdain briefly flickering across his face. "She deserved to die. She was going to hand me over to them."

The hollow sat down with a thump. He was in shock, not wanting to believe what Ichigo had just told him. "But they were your friends." The hollow looked up at Ichigo, confusion written across his face. "Aren't friends meant to be there for each other?"

Ichigo shrugged, not really caring much "I suppose so. But it was only a matter of time before they turned against me. I could see it in their eyes. The thought that I was a freak and so they deserved it." He paused and looked down at the hollow, his eyes narrowing. "They thought that I was a freak because of you."

The hollow glared at him. "It's not my fault that they believed that. You are a freak Ichigo and it's not my fault."

Ichigo gave a short laugh "That's something coming from you."

Choosing to ignore this, the hollow shifted slightly, trying to become more comfortable but he froze suddenly as she saw bloodstains on Ichigo's sword and on his clothes. "Is that..." The hollow seemed to choke on his own words. "Is that Rukia's blood?"

Ichigo looked down with surprise and the hollow hoped for a bleak moment that he had been wrong. Ichigo ran a finger along the edge of the sharp blade, his finger picking up the blood. He was silent for a moment but then he nodded briefly "Yes."

The hollow looked away, not wanting to see the blood of Ichigo's supposed best friend. Although the hollow hadn't known Rukia Kuchiki personally, he had seen her many times in the past by watching the world from Ichigo's eyes. In the small time that the hollow had seen her, he had known that she was a brave shinigami. But more than that, she was a loyal friend. He large purple eyes had filled with determination and undying loyalty even when she was faced with certain death for going against orders. This alone made the hollow respected her greatly and he had seen that she was not someone who would go against Ichigo, no matter what.

But now... the hollow clenched his hands into fists and angrily slammed one fist down, jarring his arm as it hit the extremely solid window. But he ignored the pain. It didn't matter to him anymore. "You really are a monster..." The hollow whispered quietly.

This time, there was no response. No witty remark or apparently 'cheerful' phrase. The hollow turned around after a moment to see that Ichigo was gone. Thinking that it was over for the time being, the hollow slumped to the ground, his energy all spent. His white hair fell over his eyes as he gave a long sigh. But it was not over. In fact, for him, it was far from over.

As soon as the hollow's pale cheek rested on the cool glass, horrifying images came pouring into his mind. His eyes widened and he tried to push the images from his head but it did not work.

"Rukia? Rukia?" He whispered softly, a big rain forming on his face.

Rukia tried to run but it was no use. He had caught her.

She looked up at him with fearful yet sad eyes. "Ichigo?"

He felt the blood splatter onto him as he swung the blade downwards.

The hollow closed his eyes, a single tear trickling down his face. After a moment, he began to sob quietly to himself and he soon cried himself to a deep but troubled sleep.


Present

Ichigo kicked the hollow none too gently and pulled his sword out of the slightly damaged window, the cracks spread out like a spider's web. When the hollow did not move, Ichigo pierced the abnormally white skin and blood began to trickle. "What..?" Ichigo said, his eyes narrowing. "Do you not want to live?"

The hollow still did not move. Live? He thought miserably. This was not living. This was too terrible and painful of an existence to truly be called living. But it had been like that all his life. Ever since he was born, he had been hated and shunned even by the one person that he wanted to accept him the most.

Ichigo frowned and poked him with the sharp end of the sword that he carried, creating fresh wounds. Finally, the hollow grumbled and sat up, the chains clinking against each other, filling the almost unbearable silence. "What do you want?" His yellow and black eyes were empty, as if someone had extinguished all the hope that this hollow had.

Ichigo sighed "You are the last. My revenge will be complete when you are dead"

The hollow looked up, surprise flickering across his face, eyes filled with pain. But he did not say anything.

Holding out his free hand, Ichigo concentrated visibly for a moment and a white replica of the sword that he was holding appeared. "Here." Ichigo let the new sword drop out of his hand and it clattered to the ground, the sound echoing in the distance. "I thought that you would like to at least attempt to defend yourself."

The hollow did nothing for a moment before shuffling forwards, chained hands reaching out in desperation to hold the sword that he longed for. It had been so long since he had held that pure white sword in his hand, feeling the joy as he fought with it, the sword a part of him. But as the hollow reached out, the chains reached their limit and he was left grasping at air.

Ichigo spat on the ground "Weak." He said and suddenly the chains disappeared. Anyone else might have believed that this was an act of compassion from Ichigo but it was not adn the hollow knew this. Looking up at the tall orange-haired man, the hollow knew that Ichigo just wanted a fight.

His gaze returned to the white sword and the hollow reached out, longing etched across his features, desolate eyes lighting up in the hope that he could feel complete once more. But as soon as his hand closed around the hilt, a terrible feeling of loss filled him and he dropped it quickly as if it had burnt him. It was empty. Lifeless. Just like the sword that Ichigo was holding. The hollow knew that he would never pick up that sword again. The pain was too much to bear.

Instead, the hollow silently got to his feet, muscles tired and weary. It had been quite some time since he had been able to stand on his own two feet, free of chains that had bound him moments ago. Even though the cold steel was gone, he could still feel the marks that the chains had left on him, his wrists encircled with painful cuts and bruises.

Ichigo realised that he wasn't going to pick up the sword again and shrugged. It didn't really matter to him. He turned around and walked back a few feet. "You should be glad hollow. I let you, out of everyone, stay alive the longest." He turned back around, a grim look on his face.

The hollow tilted his head. "I don't blame you Ichigo."

Ichigo frowned, confused. He didn't know what the hollow was talking about but figured that he had finally lost his sanity. The hollow continued to speak, his voice wavering slightly as if it was upset "I don't blame you. You were hurt deeply and so naturally, you wanted to harm the ones that had hurt you." He paused for a moment and took in a deep breath. "I really don't blame you, aibou." He said softly, a small smile gracing his face.

It was in that moment that Ichigo felt a stab of guilt. The hollow had always only known negative emotions for as long as he had been alive. He hadn't known otherwise. Rage, anger, lust, greed, envy and wrath had once filled the hollow but never had he done something this terrible to his king. To his aibou. And now, the hollow had changed. New emotions filled him. Hope, friendship and happiness. Ichigo had been the one to give him these emotions and now he would be the one to take them away.

But that moment of guilt was soon gone and Ichigo placed both of his hands on his sword, preparing for the fatal strike. "Any last words, hollow?"He asked suddenly, his amber eyes watching his pale twin carefully.

The hollow thought for a moment and then said something, his voice filled with something akin to happiness. "Not hollow," He said, his smile widening "Shiro."

Ichigo's eyes widened slightly. Not once had the hollow ever told him his name and Ichigo had never even thought to ask. So why was the hollow telling him now? Ichigo shook off the guilty feeling that had come over him once again. "Well then. This is the end, Shiro."

The hollow gave a contented sigh at hearing his name and the whole world seemed to go in slow motion. Ichigo's hands raised and Shiro wondered briefly how different everything seemed. It was like the king and his horse had switched places. Now Ichigo was the one who lusted for blood and Shiro was the one who had tried and failed to stop him. How strange things work out sometimes, Shiro thought.

And as the blade came slowly swinging down, the hollow was surprised to find that he didn't feel any fear. No. Instead, he felt happy. He knew that although his life was about to end, there would be more opportunities for him to feel this way in the future. His soul would re-enter the timeless stream and he would eventually be reborn as a human with no memories of his past. But this didn't matter to him now because he knew that he would never be alone.

He would have a normal life filled with happiness. A profound wave peace washed over Shiro as his world went black, his soul gone. Little did he know that his soul had not gone back into the endless cycle but like everyone else, his soul had disappeared. He could never be reborn and he could never have that happy life that he dreamed of.

It was over. No one was left. The once great and powerful race known as the shinigami, the death gods had fallen defeated by one that they had created.

But in the darkness, a remnant of what had once been could still be heard.

"I never blamed you aibou"