DISCLAIMER: 'Bleach' and all related characters, locations, scenarios, etc. are the property of Mr. Kubo and his publishers. I make no profit from the following, which was done solely for my own entertainment purposes.

Title: Requiem for the Living
Rating: T for language
Genre: Angst
Character(s): Ichigo K.
Pairing(s): implied Ichigo/Rukia, Ichigo/OC, minor Renji/Rukia
Warning(s): Contains OC. Spoilers for chapter 423.
Summary: Life is good, as he reminds himself every morning when he gets up. Life is good; and most of the time, he's almost convinced himself it's true.

Requiem for the Living


Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.


Ichigo watches dully as the last of Aizen Sousuke – his eyes are still wide in disbelief, horror, confusion – the 'I lost?' is far from hidden – vanishes into Urahara's seal. He feels… He doesn't know what he feels. He should be relieved – his town, his home, his friends, his family, they're all safe now – but instead he feels… Numb. He thinks briefly that he's in shock. He hadn't really been expecting…

Something clunks to the ground in the wake of Aizen's screams, and rolls across the dusty earth to thump gently against the sole of his shoe. It glitters brightly in the sunlight, the purples and greens and blues and reds and golds and blacks swirling endlessly in its core.

The Hougyoku, Urahara says quietly as Ichigo picks it up and rolls it around between his fingers. It's tiny, barely the size of a marble, and he wonders vaguely how it could be that something so small – something so innocent-looking, really – could have started it all.

It abandoned him, in the end, Urahara continues. That's why the seal worked. The only way it could have worked. It could never have happened if it still saw him as its master.

Ichigo nods absently, but still doesn't speak.

He hears the clack of geta on stone and Urahara takes the little marble from him, whispers a low kidou chant, and reseals it. The colors drain away, and it looks black inside. Dead. Lifeless inside its glass prison. Urahara frowns at the little marble resting on his palm.

Hard to believe it's over, he says. One hundred years I've waited for this day, and here it is.

Ichigo grunts in acknowledgement.

Urahara tears his gaze away from the sleeping Hougyoku and looks at him with something like concern. Are you alright?

Ichigo shrugs. …What happens now? he asks.

Urahara sighs, and suddenly he seems much older than he appears. We go home, he says after a while. Everything goes back to how it was before.

Ichigo nods absently. And Inoue, Chad, Ishida? What will happen to them?

Urahara's eyes are shaded. …Everything goes back to how it was before.

Ichigo isn't surprised by this. That is how Soul Society works – how it has always worked.

They are human after all. They were never meant to know.

So they would not.

I'll forget too, won't I, he says, and it is not a question.

The way Urahara lowers his head is answer enough.


Lacrimosa dies illa! Huic ergo parce, Domine.


He steps out onto the pavement, breathing in the first lungful of Karakura's air he has had in – it seems like forever and a day since he and Chad and Ishida left for Hueco Mundo; a lifetime away. The air is humid, and he picks up the scent of garbage and car exhaust and people. It is a city smell, very much unlike the pristine air of Soul Society, and he realizes he has missed it.

He is in front of the clinic now, and it is whole and undamaged and he can hear the sound of the neighbor's television playing reruns of Ghost Bust; he can't help but shake his head at the irony. Karin and Yuzu are inside, Unohana told him – he has to look after them for now, as Isshin is still recovering from massive reiatsu depletion caused by suspending the Dangai for three months straight.

They will want an explanation, says a voice, and he turns his head to look at the petite Shinigami who has exited the Senkaimon with him. He doesn't understand why she chose to accompany him back – she is the only one running their division right now, because Ukitake-san is still recovering from Wonderweiss' attack and neither Kotetsu nor Kotsubaki are capable of organizing themselves out of a paper bag.

I know.

She nods, and looks almost longingly at the house, and the smell of curry wafts through the air from the kitchen window. Dinner smells good.

Yeah, it does, he acknowledges. Yuzu's always been a fantastic cook.

She is. Even Nii-sama says he likes the recipes she gave me.

He cannot help but smirk at this. Byakuya ate your cooking and he's still alive? No wonder I couldn't kill him back then.

She glares and punches him in the arm, shiny new bronze lieutenant's badge gleaming in the dying sun. Shut it, you! I'd like to see you do any better!

He gives her a half-hearted scowl, but allows her the point.

She is blurred at the edges now, like a badly-developed photograph, and he knows that soon she will fade from his eyes entirely.

This is good bye, isn't it, she says quietly as the first of the stars appear overhead.

Yeah, it is, he agrees. …Give the others my best, will you?

She opens her mouth – probably to say something along the lines of 'tell them yourself when you get back, fool' – but seems to think better of it and nods sadly. …I will.

She is practically transparent now, and he can see the glow of the streetlamp through the back of her head.

Don't make that sad face, she says abruptly. Your sisters would hate to see you upset.

I'm not upset, he says immediately, and it is not a lie.

She gives him a sad smile. I know.

She is nearly gone now, little more than a blur on the edge of his vision, and he knows that if he so much as blinks he will miss it and never have another chance to say it again. Rukia, he says, and the haze shifts, and he knows she is looking at him. He smiles, and for once it is genuine. Thank you. For everything.

And then she is gone.



Quaerens me, sedisti lassus; redemisti crucem passus, tantus labor no sit cassus.


He hasn't spoken a word to anyone in months. Inoue is back to her bubbly, hyper-active self that he remembers from long ago, and a part of him is glad she has forgotten her ordeal in Hueco Mundo. Chad is quiet as always, but he is distant now; or perhaps Ichigo is the one who put the distance between them. He doesn't know anymore, and he finds he doesn't really care, either.

His father no longer attacks him in the morning. They hardly exchange words anymore, and even their ritual fights lack their usual energy. Yuzu is happy for this, but Karin laments the loss of her usual source of entertainment.

More than once he has caught Isshin looking at him with something like sorrow in his eyes.

Ishida still remembers, and when he gets up in the middle of the lesson, Ichigo pretends not to know that the Quincy is going after a Hollow that has appeared somewhere in the town. His town – and he wonders for a moment if he can still call it that, now that he lacks the strength to protect it. He stays in his seat and takes notes on Ochi-sensei's lesson, as Ishida once did for him. He doesn't know who the Shinigami in charge of Karakura is now, and if Ishida knows – and he probably does – he hasn't told him.

Ichigo finds that he really doesn't mind not knowing.

He and the Quincy are closer now; he isn't quite sure why, and he doesn't really care, either. Their – friendship is not the right word, because that would imply that they are somehow close – is a silent one, with neither one really willing to broach the subject with the other. The few times Ishida opens his mouth to speak, he closes it just as quickly; Ichigo simply does not speak at all.

He wonders, sometimes, if the other thinks he can relate.

He wonders, sometimes, if it's just pity.


Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus, cum vix iustis sit secures?


Onii-chan, when is Rukia-nee coming home?

Ichigo freezes, food halfway to his mouth. The kitchen table goes very silent. Karin is looking between her sister and brother with something akin to sadness on her face. Isshin's expression is unreadable, and he quietly tells Yuzu that Rukia isn't coming back, because Ichigo isn't sure his voice will work if he tries to speak.

He gets to his feet and silently makes his way back to his room. He isn't that hungry anymore.


Oro supplex et acclinus, cor contritum quasi cinis: gere curam mei finis.


The next three years pass quietly. He graduates fifth in his class – his father is proud, as he enthusiastically tells the portrait of Masaki that still hangs on the dining room wall – and he's been accepted into Tokyo University. Ishida will be going there too – he'll be studying medicine, in the hopes of one day taking over directorship of Karakura General from Ryuuken.

Ichigo doesn't know what he wants to do. He doesn't think he can take medical school; he's seen enough blood – some of it his, some of it not – to last a lifetime.

He doesn't mind that Tokyo is nearly an hour's ride from Karakura – Yuzu will miss him, no doubt, but he is still close enough he can visit on the weekends. It is far enough away for him, because there he won't have to see the phantoms on every street corner, the ghosts of what was and what could have been.

There are too many memories here.


Preces meae non sunt dignae: sed tu bonus fac benigne, no perenni cremer igne.


He is in the library, studying for the upcoming exam in Western Literature. It is late, and he thinks he is alone, and is therefore surprised when someone plops down in the seat across from him.

Hi, she says, and he recognizes her as one of the girls in his class. Studying late too?

He nods.

I'm Hokawa Suzume, she says brightly, holding out a hand for him to shake. Kurosaki-san, right?

Yeah, he says, taking the proffered hand.

Do you understand this? she asks, opening her textbook and flipping to one of Shakespeare's monologues. I'm totally lost…

He looks over, and sees that is it Hamlet's soliloquy. Yeah.

When he finishes, it is nearly midnight, but Hokawa is nodding in understanding. She gives him a smile – a real, genuine smile – and thanks him.

The library is closing now, and the librarian is coming around and shooing the few stragglers out the door.

We should go, Hokawa says. He nods, and she shoots him a sideways look out of the corner of her eye. Wanna go grab something to eat? I know a nice little coffee shop down a couple blocks.

Ichigo knows he shouldn't. He knows he will have to get up early the next morning – that he has a test tomorrow and he wants to be well-rested for it – but he finds himself agreeing anyway.

He does not regret his decision the next day.


Recordare, Domine, quod sum causa tuae viae: ne me perdas illa die.



He glances down at the girl at his side. The movie credits are still rolling, and Ichigo knows she will have to leave soon; they both have class in the morning and it is already well past midnight. Yeah?

Hokawa – Suzume now, he hasn't called her by her last name in months – cranes her head sideways to look at him. Have you ever been in love?

The question catches him off guard, and he is silent for a very long moment. How do you mean?

She shifts uncomfortably. Was there ever someone… special? Someone you'd do anything for?

Oh, he says softly. Yeah. There was.

She is quiet for a moment. Who was she?

It doesn't matter, he says after a while.


He smiles sadly. Because… she's gone.


Domine, rex gloriae, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu.


The night is cold, the air crisp and clean. Dead leaves rustle with every breeze and crunch beneath their feet as they walk through the park. Suzume sits down on an empty bench, motioning for Ichigo to sit beside her.

I love this time of year, she says. Everything's so… with the leaves and the stars… it's beautiful, you know?

Ichigo nods slowly. She is right, of course – but he isn't sure how he feels about the fall. There are so many memories… of war, of loss, of… of…

I love you.

He blinks several times, and he wonders if he's heard her right. Huh?

She giggles at his cluelessness. I love you, Ichigo.

Ichigo really isn't sure what to say to that. …Oh.

She shifts in her seat, turning to look at him. Do you feel the same?

He wonders, for a moment, if he does. I… Yeah, I guess.

'You guess?' she repeats, disbelieving, then shakes her head. Only you, Ichigo.

He frowns. And what's that supposed to mean?

It's just… she smiles slightly. You. A girl confesses her undying love to you and you just sit there.

Sorry, he says defensively. What am I supposed to say?

You're supposed to say 'I love you too.'

Well then, I love you too. There, happy?

She smiles. I was never upset in the first place, Ichigo.

They are silent for a long while, enjoying the warmth provided by the other's presence. Traffic rumbles past outside the park's borders, and Ichigo thinks for a moment that the noise is oddly peaceful.


Libera eas de ore leonis, ne cadant in obscurum.


Tell me about her, Suzume says.

What're you talking about?

She gives him a small smile. Your friend. The one you were in love with.

He gives her an odd look. I'm in love with you. I thought we'd established that already.

She laughs and punches him lightly in the arm. You know what I mean. The person you would've done anything for.

Oh. He is silent for a moment. Why do you want to know?

Because. She was important to you, and you're important to me, so I should want to know about her as well, she says simply, and Ichigo realizes that it really is that simple.

He is quiet for a while. We weren't in love, he says after a moment. I don't think so, anyway. We argued a lot… all the time, actually. Hell, we were like an old married couple that way. He smiles a little at the memory, but it is a hollow smile, a sad smile. We were… close. She was like family; at one point Dad said she was his third daughter. She lived with us for a while. She had a bed in Karin and Yuzu's room, but for some reason she always came back to my closet.

Suzume stares. Your closet?

Yep. Never did figure out what she liked so much about it.

She laughs.

She was beautiful, in her own way, he continues after a moment. Graceful and deadly, pure as the driven snow… She was like… she was the moon.

After a moment, she asks, What happened?

Ichigo smiles sadly. She… left. Maybe I left. I don't know anymore… It doesn't matter, anyway.


It's been six years, he says. I… I can't keep dwelling on what was. What could have been. I had to move on.

She looks at him. …Have you?

He doesn't answer. Some days he thinks he has, some days he isn't sure. He doesn't know, anymore, if he wants to remember.

He doesn't know, anymore, if he wants to forget.


Hostias et preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus; tu suscipe pro animabus illis, quarum hodie memoriam facimus.


When he takes Suzume back to Karakura to meet his family, she fits in perfectly. Isshin shows her the portrait of Masaki, and she later confesses to Ichigo that she thinks the woman was beautiful. Dinner has gone off flawlessly, and she and Yuzu and Karin are all in the kitchen, chatting happily and swapping recipes.

He and Isshin are alone now, sitting in the living room. The silence between them is almost palpable and Ichigo finds himself wishing he was in the kitchen helping the girls with the dishes.

She's a nice girl, Isshin says abruptly. She'll be good for you, Ichigo.

I know, he says. I don't need you to tell me that.

The silence drags on again.

Do you… Isshin begins, and then he catches himself and stops.



Oh. Ichigo shifts uncomfortably. What… what about her?

She still comes by sometimes, Isshin says. She and Renji… they've gotten engaged, you know. Kuchiki-taichou gave Abarai-kun permission just last week. They're getting married in December.

Oh, Ichigo says again. He swallows a lump that has suddenly appeared in his throat. …That's… That's good.

Isshin looks at him carefully. You're not upset?

Why would I be? Ichigo asks. Renji is… Renji's a good man. They'll do well together.

I see, Isshin says slowly. Is there anything you'd like me to tell them?

Yeah, Ichigo says after a moment. Tell them I said congratulations, will you?

Isshin nods. The silence falls again.

I'd have thought you'd be more upset, Isshin says. About Rukia-chan, I mean.

Ichigo smiles sadly. It's been years, old man. Someday I've got to get up and move on with my life.

And have you?

Ichigo is quiet for a long moment. It… it doesn't matter. It'd never have worked out anyway.


Ichigo has a faraway look in his eyes. Because… she was the moon, and I was the sun.

Because she was the moon, and he the sun; locked forever in an eternal dance, always moving, never ceasing. The Moon danced with the stars, shining and whirling and beautiful – but the Sun always danced alone in the blue, blue sky.

Because they were the sun and moon, and their paths in the eternal dance were never meant to cross.


Repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam.


He stands before the pale grave marker, Suzume at his side. It is warm, nearly hot outside despite the early hour of the morning, and the sky overhead is a clear and cloudless, infinite blue. It is so unlike the day all those years ago that Ichigo almost wonders if he hasn't got the date mixed up – but he knows he hasn't, because the pain in his chest is settled there like it is every year.

They stand quietly for a long moment, and Suzume mutters something about giving him time alone. He gives her a faint smile as she leaves; he is grateful for her actions.

Hisashiburi, okaa-san, he says quietly as he sets a bouquet of flowers on the altar, and he pretends she can hear him. Things… things have been going well. I met a girl – you saw her, that was her just now, she'll be back to greet you in a bit. I… I think I love her, okaa-san. Not the little kid crush kind of love, but really… Is… You understand, right? That I have to grow up? That I can't stay that little boy forever? It's just…

He swallows an odd lump that has appeared suddenly in his throat. I'm so worried… that I won't be able to… to keep her safe. I'm not who I was seven years ago, not anymore, I can't take that weight back again… I'll break if I try. I came so close to breaking before, if it happens again… I'll be crushed.

But… but maybe I don't have to take all the weight on my shoulders this time. I won't have to carry the whole world, just enough to keep them safe and happy and whole… Do you think… can I support that much again, okaa-san?

There is no answering voice, but just for a split second he imagines her smile, and he knows that he can do that much.

And that is all he needs.


Agnus Dei, dona eis requiem. Agnus Dei, dona eis requiem sempiternam.


Time marches on. Months and years fly past in what seems like the blink of an eye. He and Suzume are married now – he has graduated from Tokyo University with a degree in English Literature, and she in finance; he works at a local high school, and she for a small insurance company.

It is late, and he is tired, but he is still working; he told his students their tests would be returned the next day, and even after all these years he still hates the feeling he gets when he goes back on his word, even though it has happened far too often than he would like.


He looks up, and in the dim light of his lamp he sees his daughter – Masaki, after his mother. She is only five, but he can tell she will be beautiful when she grows; she is the splitting image of her mother, but the warm amber eyes that gaze sleepily at him are his.

What's wrong? he asks, pulling the child onto his lap. The tests will have to wait. It's very late.

Can' sleep, she mutters, snuggling into his wrinkled shirt.

They are silent for a while. Otou-chan…? she says, and he looks at her. Tell me a story.

What do you want to hear?

Tell me a fairytale.

Which one?

Any of 'em. Just tell me a story, she says sleepily.

He is silent for a long moment. Once upon a time, he begins, there lived a Princess. She was beautiful, as beautiful as the moon, and people said she was an incarnation of the Moon Goddess. But she was a fighter, too, deadly like ice, but those who knew her would never believe she could be as cold as the snow she wielded with such grace, for she was always kind and warm to them.

One day, when she was out travelling the country, she came across a young Knight. He wasn't a very good Knight yet – the fool could barely tell his sword from his behind – and when the Princess saw him, she wondered how on Earth he was supposed to be able to save anything.

That night the Princess was attacked in her sleep by a monster, a terrible ogre that liked to prey on those with good hearts. She nearly died, but as she closed her eyes for the final blow, the monster let out a great scream of pain and fell to the ground; and who should be her savior but the foolish Knight? She thanked him, and agreed to help him learn how to be a proper Knight, so he could protect those who were important to him.

But she shouldn't have done that. The Knight, you see, was from a different kingdom, and by training him she had committed a great crime. The King's advisors told him that she should be killed for her actions, that she had committed treason against the crown – and though he was sad to do so, the King knew they were right, and it was his duty to see it through.

They came in the middle of the night to take her away, and the Princess, who knew the crime she had committed, did not resist. The fool Knight tried to stop them, but those that came for her were far stronger than he, and he nearly died trying to save her.

But he lived, saved from death at the last moment by the Wizard who lived alone on the mountain, and when he asked the Wizard for help to become stronger, so he could save the Princess, the Wizard agreed…

She listens quietly, lulled to sleep by the steady rhythm of his voice, and slowly she slumps against his chest as the last of her wakefulness leaves her.

And the Knight returned to his homeland, together with the Archer and the Giant and the Healer, because that was where the people they wanted to protect lived. And though he wanted her to join them, the Princess stayed in her kingdom, and he understood, because that was where her precious people were, and he knew she would not be his Princess if she did not place their wants and needs above her own. They never saw each other again. And though both were married and very happy with their lives, there would always be a part of them that could never be filled.

The end.

Masaki is snoring now, a gentle, soothing noise that upsets the otherwise complete silence of their flat. He looks down at her, and she is smiling in her sleep.

That was a very good story, someone says, and he looks up to see Suzume standing in the doorway, clad in her nightdress. She takes Masaki from him, smiling gently at the sleeping child. You should write those stories down someday; I think they would be very popular.

He smiles, but shakes his head. No, I don't think so. Not me. What're you doing out of bed?

I noticed Masaki wasn't in her room. I wondered where she had gone, that's all. I'll take her back.


She is almost out of the room when she pauses, and glances back at him with an odd look on her face. Ichigo?


That story. Why didn't they marry each other, in the end?

He raises an eyebrow. Because, they couldn't. They were from different kingdoms.

Yes, but… those sorts of things don't matter in stories. Why didn't you give them a happy ending, after everything they'd been through?

He smiles sadly, and there is a distant look on his face. …Because not every fairytale has a happy ending.


Kyrie Eleison.


Time passes. Masaki is older, and she looks more and more like her mother with each passing day. She is starting high school today, and he waves as he drops Masaki off at her school – she has absolutely refused to attend the high school where he teaches, and he can't say he blames her – and goes to work. Today's topic is one of his favorites; he has always loved the Bard's work.

To be or not to be, he reads, that is the question – whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing them, end them…

He is happy now. He has a family, a loving wife, two beautiful, wonderful children, and a job doing what he loves. Life is good.

To die, to sleep; to sleep, perchance to dream…

He is happy, as he reminds himself every morning when he gets up.

And most days, he's almost convinced it's true.


Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, quia pius es.


He smiles proudly as his daughter hugs him and Suzume good-bye and boards the train to Kyoto. She has enrolled there – she looks to finally be the one who will inherit the old clinic, it seems, for she wants to study medicine. She will be good at it, he knows. She has a warm heart and a love of helping people that eclipses anything he ever had.

He rests his hand on Suzume's waist as he waves his eldest child good-bye. Isamu is already waiting in the car, and he is asleep almost as soon as they pull out of the station and start driving through the streets of Tokyo.

He is still asleep when they arrive home, and Ichigo carefully carries the five year old up the stairs and lays him in his bed. He smiles down at his sleeping son; he looks so peaceful now, a far cry from his usual self. He wonders idly if he was as much of a terror when he was that age; his memories of the time are faded with age and his father doesn't often talk of it.

He goes down to the kitchen; Suzume is there, sorting through the mail. She has already set aside a number of bills, and she smiles when he enters.

There's a letter for you, she says, pointing to the envelope on the counter.

He glances at the signature, and immediately he feels the bottom drop out of his stomach, because he knows that handwriting.

Suzume, he says quietly, already standing from the table and taking the car keys off a hook near the door, and she looks at him curiously. I… I need to take care of something.

Right now?


But it's almost midnight…

I know. Please. This is important.

She nods slowly. Well… alright. When will you be back?

He hesitates. I… I don't know. Please.

It's okay, she tells him. I know you'll come home soon.

He smiles softly at her, and kisses her forehead. You know I'll always love you, right?

She grins. Of course I do, silly. I love you too.


Requiem aeternam, dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.


The shop is much the same as he remembers, and he wonders for a moment if it has ever changed at all. The front is deserted, and no one greets him as he slides open the front door – it's never been locked, in all the years he's known the owner.


He turns around, and is unsurprised to see that the shop's owner has hardly changed himself. Urahara-san.

Urahara smiles sadly. It's been a while.

It has.

Won't you sit down?

Ichigo sits at the low table, just as he had so many years ago, and opposite him the older man sits as well, regarding him cautiously from under that stupid hat, and Ichigo feels for a moment that no time has passed at all.

You look good, Urahara says. The years have been kind to you.

Thanks. Can't say the same to you, he says, and it is true; Urahara looks older and more tired than he ever has in Ichigo's memory; there are dark wrinkles under his eyes, and his whole body seems to sag under some immense weight.

Urahara laughs quietly. An uncomfortable silence falls.

What do you want, Urahara? Ichigo asks at last. It's been years.

Thirty two, to be exact, he says quietly, and for once he looks as serious as Ichigo has ever seen him. I… I never did thank you, for what you did back then.

Ichigo shrugs. …It had to be done. There's no need to thank me.

Still… I wanted to apologize, as well.

Ichigo raises an eyebrow. For what?

Urahara shifts uncomfortably. For what I did… all those years ago. I used you, Ichigo – you were my trump card in the war. I used you, put you through the Shaft, made you a Vaizard, pushed you into using the Saigo no Getsuga Tenshou, because I knew you would. Because you would do anything to save your home. To save those you loved. And no matter how much I've tried to justify it, it never… I'm sorry, Ichigo. I'm so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?

Ichigo is silent for a long time. I already knew all that, he says after a while, and he did; he has had a long time to think over the events of the summer of his sixteenth year, and he has no regrets. I knew you were using me the whole time, I think. I didn't care then and I still don't. You're right; I would have done it anyway. There's nothing to forgive, Kisuke.

It is as though a great burden has been lifted off Urahara's shoulders, and he nods; and Ichigo wonders if that regret is the weight the shopkeeper has been carrying for so many years. Thank you.

The silence falls again, but this time it is a comfortable one.

Ichigo, Urahara says, and he looks at him.


Urahara stares at him for a moment, and Ichigo shifts uncomfortably. Ichigo… If you had a chance to get your powers back, would you take it?

Ichigo is silent. Once, a long time ago, he would have said 'yes' without any hesitation. If he is honest with himself, he misses it – the adrenaline, the weight of the sword in his hands, the heady rush of battle, the power to defend and protect everything he holds dear; he misses the spirit of Zangetsu and his calming presence and hell, there are even days when he misses the goddamn Hollow.

And more than anything, he misses… he regrets

But that was many years ago, and now he isn't so certain what his answer would be; he has grown accustomed to it, his lack of sight, the silence within his own mind – and he has a family now, and his happiness is real…

Isn't it?

I don't know, Ichigo says at last. Why?

As if in answer, Urahara reaches into his sleeve and pulls out something small and shining, and sets it on the table between them.

Ichigo recognizes it. The Hougyoku.

Yes. I've spent the last thirty years trying to destroy it, you know.

Ichigo picks it up and rolls it around in his palm. Something pulses inside, a flash of color in an otherwise swirling orb of endless gray.

I tried so many ways… seals, kidou, even the Soukyoku once they reforged it. Nothing worked.

Ichigo doesn't reply to this. There is nothing to say, really.

When I couldn't destroy it, I tried to deplete it. A substance that grants wishes… It isn't something that should exist. Not in this world. So far, it's worked. It's nearly gone, and once it is it will disappear forever.

Ichigo nods absently. Good.

The Hougyoku is bound the strongest reiatsu it has ever been exposed to, Urahara continues. And Ichigo… that's you.

Ichigo stares, then shakes his head. That's impossible. I can't even see… I'm blind, Urahara.

You weren't, though, he says.

I don't understand.

Ichigo, Urahara says, Back then you were Tsuki no Ma, the Moon Demon. Even if it was just for a moment, you were stronger than even Yamamoto-soutaichou.

But now…

It doesn't matter. The Hougyoku still remembers, and it still sees you as its master.

Huh… Ichigo looks down at the sphere in his hand; he can't imagine what it sees in him that it would chose him over Urahara or even the old man. Why are you telling me this?

Urahara smiles sadly. Because… it still has one wish left.



What started as a drabble (?) mutated into... whatever this is. This has been bouncing around in my head since about chapter 421, and the bloody thing wouldn't leave me alone. I really do not like writing angst... it's just so... depressing.

Also, I don't own 'Hamlet' or the text from the Requiem Mass.

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Much love,