Ichigo Kurosaki was tired. Not taking a quick nap in class tired but falling asleep while waiting for your bus tired. He didn't want to admit it but the endless nights of fighting hollows instead of getting his eight hours-or 9 ½ as his health teacher was constantly reminding him- was starting to take its toll. He stared at the ceiling of his bedroom for a couple of seconds before rolling sleepily out of his bed. He was so tired he didn't even notice his father waiting in the hallway to ambush, which was unusual for him. He went through the normal procedures of the morning, eating breakfast, brushing his teeth and showering in a haze of sleep deprivation. When he looked in the mirror of his small bathroom he winced. His eyes were bleary and unfocused, with dark bruise-like bags beneath them and his skin had a slightly unhealthy pallor. Sighing, he turned away from the mirror and tried to ignore the small voice in the back of his head that said he wasn't in any condition to be fighting hollows. He walked down the stairs and grabbed his backpack of the back of a chair before walking out the door. He heard his father call behind him "not even a goodbye?" in a hurt voice but ignored him. He saw Rukia and walked to her side, dragging his feet slowly.

She stood in front of his house, her usual serious look on her face. He wondered briefly how she did it, she kept the same hours as him yet she never betrayed any sign of exhaustion. She never seemed to display any type of emotion except for irritation. Well, at least around him. Around his friends from school she was as sweet as honey, a slightly frightening contrast to her normal self in Ichigo's opinion. He grunted to her as a greeting and she acknowledged him with a slight nod and with that they began the walk to school. He appreciated the silent communication the two shared with each other. As they made their way through the streets of Karakura Ichigo was happy for once that Rukia wasn't an extremely talkative person and the walk was silent. He wasn't sure that he would have been able to handle any conversation. They were about halfway to Karakura High when Rukia stopped him suddenly. Almost sending him inelegantly to the ground, pulling out her soul society 'cellphone'. "Three hollows a couple blocks west of here." She said, in a terse tone. He nodded and then sighed as she pulled on the gekkon tekka-no many how many times they went through this it never got more pleasant- and then forced him out of his body. His real body collapsed in a heap on the pavement with a solid thud. He sighed again, that was going to hurt later on.

He arrived at the scene to find the three hollows making their way slowly and ponderously through Karakura. They were large, but didn't seem particularly smart and Ichigo wasn't worried about dispatching them on his own. Luckily for him they were in a mostly abandoned street, construction having made it almost impassable to the ordinary civilian so he didn't have to worry about protecting any body other then himself. Seeing that they were making their way to the more central part of town he decided to kill them now before they could make any real trouble. Drawing Zangetsu Ichigo leaped up and swinging his sword in a large arc over his head brought it down on the mask of one of the hollows. It sliced through the mask easily like a knife through butter. Dispatching the hollow in one clean blow. The monster didn't even realize what had happened to it until after it was dead. He grinned slightly, the adrenaline coursing through his body made any of his sleepiness disappear. Unfortunately his victory party was cut short, the death of one of their comrades caught the attention of the other two hollows and they turned, hissing in anger when they saw him. One attacked with a long tail and he blocked it easily, pushing it away. Its almost laughable to him that less then a year ago he would have died if he faced off against even one of these things. Now he can take down three with ease. It attacks again, this time with its jaw and again he blocks. It soon becomes a battle of brute strength, who can overpower the other first. Devastating blows being traded as if they were nothing. Slowly but surely he begins to weaken the hollows defenses, pushing it back towards a building. He was so caught up in his battle-and perhaps the lack of sleep aided in this fact- that he didn't notice the other hollow sneaking up behind him. Which in retrospect was unusually clever of this hollow, as they normally just charged their opponent head-on. Just as he kills the hollow he was fighting the other attacks, long razor-sharp tail whistling through the air with the ominous crack of a whip. He realizes to late the danger and knows in his gut he won't have time to block. For some reason, unknown even to him he clenches his eyes shut. Waiting with morbid anticipation for the stinging blow.

It doesn't come. 1 second…2 seconds… 3 and no impact. When he opens his eyes and spins he see's the hollows attack being blocked by… a young girl? His mouth drops open in shock and he simply stands and stares for half a second. She looks to be a little younger then him, though not by much. She has waist-length turquoise hair in a loose, low ponytail. She wears relatively tight fitting hakima with scooping sides revealing bandaged muscular legs, cinched at the bottoms with bands of cloth. Most of her back is concealed by her hair, revealing only a hint of tanned skin. Her sword-Ichigo assumes it's a zanpakuto- is huge. Even larger then Zangetsu, and completely bandaged. It looks to be almost as tall as her. Ichigo numbly wonders how much it weighs- it must weigh a lot- and decides he would not want to get in a fist fight with this girl. About 2/3rds of the way up the blade a black shiny ball is cradled in a scoop in the blade. A silver chain runs from the base of the hilt to a black band around her wrist. He wonders what purpose it serves, maybe to keep her from forgetting it somewhere? It seems like a hard item to lose. His reverie is broken when she turns and gives him a toothy grin before quickly and efficiently and rather gracefully kills the hollow in front of her. Ichigo simply stands there, in a mild state of shock at the turn of events.

She sheaths her sword and brushes her hands off and then faces him. Now he can she that she wears a cropped tank top that shows off a tanned and muscular stomach. Low down on the top two scooping holes have been cut to allow two chains-one on each side- to hang loose. Around her neck is a black band from which hangs another chain which disappears beneath her shirt. On her right upper arm is a tattoo of a snake twining around her arm in black. It gives off an ominous air. It makes Ichigo feel slightly uncomfortable for a reason he can't pin down. She brushes a few hairs from her face and winks and then makes to leave. "Wait!" Ichigo shouts, regaining his voice. She turns again and looks questioningly at him. "Are you a shinigami?" He asks. She laughs, although the laugh has a slightly bitter undertone and replies lightly "Yes and no, it's a long story." Ichigo scowls "What kind of answer is that!" he shouts at her. Starting to be slightly irritated by her flippant tone. Again she laughs. Yeah, she's definitely getting on his nerves. "The only one you're going to get. Now I really gotta go." Ichigo stares at her incredulously"You can't just leave like that!" She smirks at him infuriatingly "Actually, I can. Anyways, you're going to be seeing me again sooner then you think." And with that cryptic message she leaves. Ichigo briefly considers following her then discards the idea. She had a head start, and he was too tired to chase her anyway. Shaking his head he turns and heads back toward Rukia.