Behind the Mask

Quetzal - this story parallels my other story 'in the darkness' in a lot of ways, only it starts at the shattershaft and goes forward from there. 'in the darkness' being from the old man's point of view and this being from the hollows. Takes up to chapter 545 into account. This is a series of one shots, be warned they are short and in many case's will make you want to cry.

Memento

the shattershaft, a desperate zanpakotou tries to save its wielder from becoming more hollow then he already is, but while he protects his masters heart a thief steals his name and his master from him.

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It's cold and dark, I think I'm going insane
The end is coming, it's true
I'm all alone and I am screaming your name
It seems that's all I can do

But it's too late to turn back now
It's too loud to hear the sound
I'm so lost, I can't be found
It's too late to turn back now

To late - dead by sunrise

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Zangetsu lay gasping on the side of one of the many sky scrapers that littered his masters soul. Pain, so much pain, but thanks to the old man they had done it. He smiled, his eyes closed as he felt the last remnants of the aborted hollowification falling away, leaving only his mask. His moment of triumph was to be short lived though. Agony cut through him once more, he snapped his eyes open in shock only to find the old man kneeling over him, his hand buried in zangetsu's chest.

A moment of stark clarity cut through the zanpakotou's mind, along with it numb horror, as he realized what the old man was going to do. no. NO! He tried to twist away, to escape, to do anything against this betrayal, but his leadened limbs refused to move. He could only stare at those cold blue eyes and silently beg the old man not to do this.

There was no malice in those eyes, but nor was there any apology, only grim determination. The old man pulled. Slowly, agonizingly, a katana was drawn from Zangetsu's chest. With it, he could feel his power leaving him, all his strength going with the blade.

Why?

Why was he doing this?

Just as the final inch of blade was being pulled free he was finally able to scream, the wordless howl of agony, desperately pleading for his master to save him. If the old man took the blade, he would die, fade away like he was nothing. The old man flinched his resolve to follow this course wavering for a moment.

Outside, Ichigo stared at the broken blade in his hand. Golden eyes blank and confused behind his mask. Something was wrong, and getting wronger by the second. But even with what was happening in his soul he was unable to consciously hear his zanpakotou desperate scream, but the instincts that currently held sway in his mind understood what was wrong.

Without really understanding why he turned the blade and rammed the hilt it into the mask. In that instant the blade had still, although barley, been Zangetsu's. As far as it counted Zangetsu had essentially broken his own mask even if Ichigo had helped. Zangetsu's soul altered even as the blade was torn from him finally, a blinding flash of white obscured the old man's, now Zangetsu's, sight. When the light cleared the hollow zanpakotou was nowhere to be seen, the old man frowned, confused. He looked down at the blade in his hand, it didn't matter he supposed, he had made his decision. Ichigo couldn't become a shinigami, Ichigo would die if he allowed it. He would hinder his master as much as he could, try to turn him away from that path, or, he shuddered slightly, he would kill Ichigo himself, at least that end would be quick and painless for the child.

Ichigo pushed the mask fragment up as the bottom fell away, and frowned down at his hand, something felt, off somehow.

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The now nameless zanpakotou stared at the sky, smiling faintly, the white blade in his hands glinted. He looked down at it and chuckled. Ichigo may not have been able to hear him, but it would seem his wielder had still instinctively known something was wrong and corrected it in the only way his instincts could tell him how, by breaking his mask. "An Arrancar zanpakotou, that must be a first." he mused before snorting, "Like a vasto lorde zanpakotou was any more normal.." shaking his head he looked back up at the red sky of his current hiding place, the reverse of his world.

"Thank you Ichigo." he added quietly closing his eyes, a grin on his face, he didn't care how or what he had to do. Name or not, he was going to do whatever he had to, to keep Ichigo safe.

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Quetzal - review!