Well this might just be the last chapter! I really hope you liked the fic. Those of you who have stayed with me through the duration of the story, I thank you. For despite the fact that I was on hiatus for more than a month, you stuck with me! There is another character intro here, in this chapter, hope you like!
It was a sudden thing, really. One moment all Ichigo could see was Grimmjow's worried face, and the next everything was black. He panicked for a moment, for he could not feel his body, and he felt like he was nothingness in the darkness of the void. Then he saw white.
When he came to once again, he was lying on the ground in the Gikleurde. He rose slowly to his feet, looking around, noticing that the forest around him was blurry and unfocused. At first he thought it was his own vision. He closed his eyes for a moment, and then opened them again. His seemed to adjust to the brightness, and he could clearly see the leaves on the trees. He felt a presence behind him; he turned and gazed upon the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.
It was an enormous cat. Looking similar to Yoruichi, yet its pelt was white as snow. It looked at him with calculating blue eyes, making Ichigo self-conscious.
I am Pantera. I am Grimmjow's immortality.
Ichigo jumped as he heard the voice, he was still not accustomed to talking animals, despite his meeting with Yoruichi. Pantera spoke gently, her voice soothing Ichigo's frayed nerves;
Grimmjow has given up his immortality for you, dear Ichigo, she said.
"Why?" he asked, surprised. Why would the god of a forest that needed protection be so reckless as to give up the only thing keeping him alive forever to protect it?
Because he cares for you.
She spoke in simple straightforward sentences, it seemed. No elaboration…
Maybe because it was simple; Grimmjow cares for me, so he gave up something to save me.
Pantera approached him slowly, circling around him, analyzing. As he was being subjected to that gaze, Ichigo thought that she was trying to see if he was worthy; worthy for her gift, of Grimmjow's gift. Her saw more than heard the sigh she took, spotting the swell of her ribcage. She came even closer, sniffing at his hands.
"You have given your life for Grimmjow, harming your body for the sake of his life, she let out a husky chuckle. Despite the valiant effort, he didn't need it. He's immortal.
Ichigo grimaced; she was right. Grimmjow would have survived, and the reckless arrow that the archer had shot would not have killed him. But all he could think about was the arrow that might have killed him. The fact that Grimmjow was immortal completely slipped from his mind, to be replaced with thoughts of Grimmjow's spilt blood and lifeless blue eyes. Oh, what he would do to never have to see that.
Pantera seemed to read his very thoughts, for she spoke quickly after;
It was your emotions that led you to your injury. You did not want to see him hurt. I admire that you would put your life on the line for him.
She turned and walked away from him, her gait leisurely. Ichigo followed, thinking about what was to happen to him. He was obviously dead, yet where he was, he did not know. It seemed to be similar to the colored forest. But it was completely empty. Silent. Not even his footfalls made a sound. And it was cold. Despite the sunlight that seeped in through the leaves, he felt no warmth. And everything seemed the same. No notable landmarks were present. The river was gone. He looked in front of him, at Pantera. Her head was held high, and she seemed to know where she was going. He hoped.
It was after nearly an hour of walking that Ichigo started to feel warm, his skin being coated in a thin layer of sweat. Soon they reached a break in the monotonous colored foliage and leaves. Ichigo's eyes widened at what he saw.
Sand, stretched for miles ahead, and on and on to the horizon. The sun was sweltering in the cloudless sky. Ichigo had never seen anything like it. Not in his entire life. It was enormous. He could see nothing but the sand and Ichigo grew nervous. Why was he brought here? Was he to cross this? How could he, with no food or water to sustain him?
You have a perilous path ahead of you. Coming back from the dead is no easy feat. You were already gone when Grimmjow attempted to use the pendant. You need to prove yourself. You need to prove that you can survive. There will be many obstacles to try and hinder your path, but you must remain strong. You need neither food nor water. But I must warn you, you will grow thirsty. You will grow hungry. You have to resist what is presented to you, or you will parish. You have three days to cross this desert. The sun is risen, on the sunset of the third day, if you have not reached the end, you will remain trapped here, forever.
Another pause and Ichigo felt helpless. How was he to do this alone? Alone! He had never been without his brother, and here he was crossing this... this desert… without anyone. He would wander alone for all eternity.
"How do I know which direction to go?" he asked quietly looking at his hands.
You go straight. Never deviate from your path. Once your step into the sand, your time starts. When you reach the end, I will be there.
With that she disappeared back into the forest, leaving Ichigo to stare helplessly as the last bit of white fur was hidden by the trees. The sand was like a golden ocean, spreading onto the horizon, never ending set in undulating, molten waves. He thought about returning and finding Pantera again, but quickly discarded that idea. He would probably get lost, for he could not navigate his way through a place that looked the same no matter how many steps one took in any direction.
Ichigo thought about Grimmjow, and how he gave up his immortality to save him. Ichigo felt like a fool. He hadn't needed to save Grimmjow; but he had given up something precious and if he didn't even try to use that, he wouldn't be worthy of Grimmjow's gift.
He stood up, looking at what he had to cross. It wasn't much to look at really, it just went on all the same.
With a small hesitation in his footfall, Ichigo took his first step into the unknown.
Well this is the end! The sequel will be coming in like a couple days. It's called… To Walk the Earth, and will be posted at exactly ten o'clock pm two days from now. I live in Midwest America, if that helps. Near Chicago, Illinois!
I'm so mean! O_o I know! But I'm no good with writing long stories. It makes me nervous having all that… stuff. Can't explain it, I just like my stories in segments. This is the longest story yet, actually. Hope you liked!
See you in the next story! (hopefully)