Soft winds flowed through the large town, shuffling the fallen colorful leaves about. Shaved ice stands had shut their doors and every coffee shop was pushing their seasonal drinks. Trees were decorated with orange and red leaves, while some sat without a leaf at all. Warm fluffy coats were now being pulled out of hiding, and thin attire was being packed away. Fall was here in Karakura town, and it was as beautiful as ever. Standing quietly outside an old memorial place, Ichigo couldn’t help but watch as others began the journey he had just completed. Countless new students shuffled into the high school, each with excitement and nervousness shining in their young eyes. He remembered every bit of that, and while it was a lovely memory, he didn’t miss an ounce of it. His life was finally going to go somewhere; there was no need to hold onto any of the past. The Blood War was finally over, and there was nowhere to go but up from it. The Soul Society was slowly building itself back up, despite them losing such great captains. Ichigo still felt a pang of sorrow when he thought back to that dreadful moment. Shaking his head, he tried to put those memories aside. Holding onto those images would help nothing. It was time to step forward now. With that thought in mind now, Ichigo left his seat by the edge of the school grounds.
“Kurosaki-kun!” a familiar voice called.
Turning to look over his shoulder, Ichigo spotted an old face. Quickly bounding toward him was a well wrapped Orihime. Though the temperature had just barely dipped down to the 50’s, she was bundled up in her thickest coat. Now beside him, she quickly rambled to him how she was looking for him and wanted to see if he’d join her and the others for dinner. With a small shrug, he agreed to it, and at that the bouncy girl was gone. It’ll be nice seeing everyone again, he thought with a small smile. Despite them all being friends, Ichigo hadn’t seen any of his old pals in quite some time. He wasn’t sure why that was, and somehow never thought about remedying it. People grew apart as time went on; who was he to try to stop it? As night fall came, and the temperature lowering by the hour, Ichigo headed to meet with his old friends. He finally listened to his nagging younger sister and wore the overly warm coat she’d bought him. It was as thick as a mattress and felt as if you were trapped in eternal summer. But while he hated it the first ten times he tried it, somehow he liked it this time. Something about it seemed nice in some unexplainable way and with every cold wind that it buffered, it began to feel even better. Now at the restaurant, he began wondering why he was even here. A large wave of dizziness had hit Ichigo, but rather than try to remedy it, he ignored the sickening feeling, and went on to meet the others.
“And so then I told him that not only was I not going to-” Tatsuki stopped in mid sentence when she spotted Ichigo, and began flagging him toward their overly large table. “Long time no see Kurosaki!”
“Ichigo!” Keigo called out as he jumped toward his friend.
In the typical, old way, Ichigo shoved the clingy man back and only huffed at him. To his surprise though, his shove did no good, and instead he was stuck in an awkward hug, I thought I shoved him pretty hard, he began questioning to himself. Pushing the thought to the back of his mind, he sat down with his friends. Since he’d walked in on a conversation, he stayed out of it and just listened, which somehow continued for the rest of the night. Ichigo didn’t even say so much as a word to anyone, but it wasn’t out of rudeness. No, he just never heard them. A buzzing sound kept their words from reaching him, and a growing amount of dizziness distorted his perception of things. It was taking everything out of him just to stay alert, let alone carry on a cheery conversation. But while he never spoke, he wasn’t exactly quiet. Every ten minutes or so, Ichigo began coughing terribly. No one at first noticed it, or at least didn’t ask about it, but when it grew worse by the minute, a comment had to be made.
“Are you alright there Kurosaki?” Uryu asked, a slight look of concern in his eyes.
Letting out another cough, Ichigo replied, “Yeah I’m fine.”
“You don’t sound it,” Tatsuki commented.
“I’m,” he began, stopping for yet another cough, “fine.”
They all showed in their expressions that they didn’t believe him, but no one wanted to argue with him. For his closer friends, such as Chad, Uryu and Orihime, they just knew to deal with this problem later. For the other, more distant ones, they were slightly worried that he might pull his sword on them and attack them for arguing. As the night continued on, Ichigo didn’t even appear to be with them. He vaguely stared off at the wall, his eyes glazed over and his head bobbing from time to time. With all of them growing concerned, they called it night rather early, and suggested heavily to him that he needed to go home. Ichigo only managed to nod in response to them, but couldn’t manage anything else. On an attempt to stand up, he collapsed back into his seat. From then on, everything was a blur to him. He could faintly hear his friends asking if he was alright and panicking over what to do, and could vaguely feel them lifting him and helping him to a hospital. Upon arriving to said hospital, Ichigo could barely keep his eyes open. He glanced around at the unknown place, but that was the extend of what he could do. Everything felt as though it were failing on him, and while in his mind he was frantically searching and yelling for an answer, he couldn’t get so much as a word out. Breathing grew harder by the second, and everything began spinning around until it swirled into a blurred mess. And then, it went black.
“Ichi-nii?” one voice called out. “You there? Can you hear me at all?”
“He’s not in a coma is he!” another voice cried, a high volume of panic in it.
“He’s faking it, I know he is. Just faking it!” a third voice commented.
The last statement made him at least open his eyes. Glancing around to find the source of the words, Ichigo found himself in a very new, unknown and somewhat confusing place. Everything around him was a pastel color or white, and numerous beeps came from all around him. He closed his eyes for a minute, trying to remember how exactly he got there. My friends took me to the hospital... this is just a hospital, he calmly tried to tell himself. But while he tried to remain calm, he knew something wasn’t right. His father is a doctor. If something simple was wrong, it could be dealt with at home. Though anytime something was too serious, it was sent to a larger clinic or hospital usually, to be taken care of. This can’t be good.
Reopening his eyes, Ichigo looked toward his sisters and did his best to croak out, “Don’t be worried. I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not,” Uryu snapped quickly. Ichigo turned to face his friend, and then wondered how he never noticed him in the room. “If you were fine you wouldn’t be here.”
Despite there being five people in the room, not another word was spoken after that. It seemed as though no one knew what to say after such a blunt comment. What could they really say back to it? That Ichigo was perfectly fine and just wanted a vacation in a hospital? After an hour or so passed by, and Yuzu and Karin had left back to school, the truth finally surfaced.
“You’ve got pneumonia,” Isshin simply said. While it sounded simple enough, the somber tone in his voice said otherwise.
“Something that simple shouldn’t have me here,” Ichigo argued to his best ability. He found it unbearably hard to talk, but refused to not have a say.
His father let out a very long sigh, and then sat down in the chair beside him. A sorrowful look sat in his dark gray eyes, a look Ichigo hadn’t seen in many years. Silence hung over them for a minute, and when Isshin finally opened his mouth to speak, it was already expected that it wouldn’t be good.
“Some cases of pneumonia are worse than others. Sometimes it’s nothing, and a person gets over it quickly, but sometimes that’s not what happens. You’ve got a severe case, and it’s actually surprising that you didn’t show signs earlier. If you had though, it could have been treated faster... you’d have had a better chance,” he explained, the whole time not making eye contact.
While the words should have shocked him, they didn’t. Ichigo didn’t feel one ounce of surprise by what he was told, or more, what he wasn’t told. While he didn’t know the extent of how bad this case was, or know that any medication given to him would probably be too late, he knew that his chance of getting over it was slim to none. In all the years of his life, he’d only seen such a sad look in his father’s eyes once; in eighteen years, just once. He saw that look on the day his mother died. That lost, terrified, sorrowful look. It was painful to see again, but somehow Ichigo felt no pain in knowing his inevitable fate. What did it matter if he didn’t survive this illness? He didn’t have any plans for a college, didn’t have any significant other, or even a mere job. Sure he had a handful of friends, but they’d get over it in time. In just a few years time, no one would really remember him. That’s when finally it hit him. Now alone in the dull colored room, the true horrors hit him. No one would remember him. He fought against Aizen and his Espada to save his beloved town, only to be forgotten. How many truly knew of his acts? A class of students? A pair of siblings? And how long could they tell others of what he did? A decade at best?
Ichigo pulled the blanket over his head as the thoughts continued to pile up. “So pathetic,” a familiar voice called out. As if someone had breathed a bit of life into him, he quickly turned to look toward this person. Standing in frame of the window was the one friend he somehow had forgotten. The moon’s light shined perfectly on her violet eyes as she continued, “You fight in two wars, come out victorious in both, but let this minor sickness be your down fall? I expected better from you.”
“And I expected you to finally get taller,” he retorted.
The pint sized lieutenant scowled at the comment, and crossed her arms. Turning her back to her companion, Rukia said, “So I guess I won’t let you feel a bit of relief after all.”
“Relief?” Ichigo croaked out, followed quickly by a terrible cough. What in the world did she have up her sleeve this time?
Before he even had time to register what had just happened, Ichigo found himself laying flat on his back on the floor with Rukia’s hand planted firmly on his forehead. She pulled her red glove from her hand, and then turned to face the lifeless body beside her. She unplugged the monitor, and commented, “We don’t need a million doctors rushing in here thinking you flat lined.”
Dazed and confused, Ichigo slowly sat up and looked at the familiar black shihakusho he now wore. Taking in a deep breath, he was amazed to find that he actually could breathe. The illness had stolen his ability to breathe easily, and so with each passing day it became harder and harder to even speak a word. With this new realization, another came to him; the pain was gone. Setting his hand on his chest, Ichigo was again amazed by this. The horrible pain in his chest was now a thing of the past, along with the horrible dizziness. He got to his feet, gave his arms a stretch, and turned to face his short companion. A small smirk sat on her face at the sight of her healthy looking friend. I missed seeing a smile. For the past few days, all Ichigo had seen was somber faces and tear stained cheeks; seeing Rukia’s smile took the pain of that away. One last realization hit him in this moment. With her now being a lieutenant, she doesn’t have the freedom to traipse back and forth between the Soul Society and the living world, or at least, not without reason to.
“I’m guessing you’re here to take me with you?” he asked, a tinge of sadness in his clear voice.
Rukia rolled her eyes in response, and replied, “Do you really think they send lieutenants out to do that kind of work? I’m just here to ensure the rumors I hear were true, nothing more.”
“Wouldn’t checking on a sick person be on the same level as sending a soul on?” Ichigo retorted.
“Not when that sick person played a large role in two wars. Now instead of arguing with me, I suggest you enjoy this last remaining minute you have. You can only stay out of your body for a maximum of ten minutes while it’s in this condition. Any longer and you won’t be able to return,” she explained.
A sad sigh escaped him after hearing that. Taking one last, pain free breath, he returned to his body. Immediately the aches and pains resumed, and the ability to breathe was lost. With a tired look in his eyes, Ichigo stared up at the tiled ceiling. He had wanted to face his companion, but knew better than to attempt to move. As if she had read his mind, Rukia came up to his side. While her eyes kept their same masked appearance, he noticed a tinge of sadness in them. It confused him, though, as to why she would be sad. What was she sad for? Ichigo wasn’t going to survive this; he’d return to the Soul Society with her, so what was there to be sad for?
Setting her hand on the edge of his bed, Rukia kindly said, “I’ll be back here for the end, ok? You’re not going to travel alone.”
At that, she left through the window she had earlier entered from. Now outside the cold hospital room, she felt a strong mix of emotions hit her. While it was great to know that soon Ichigo would be in the Soul Society with her and the others, it killed her seeing him like this. She knew him as the strong savior that could defeat anything, not the sick, bed ridden patient. Pushing all of those thoughts to the back of her mind, Rukia returned to the Seireitei with a focused mind. For what would be happening in these next few days, she didn’t have the luxury of getting to laze around and think on those somber thoughts. There was work to be done, and for the first time, she was the overseer of it. Now back in her squad barracks, Rukia quickly located her captain. Captain Ukitake sat in his spot by the window, staring out it. She often wondered what it was he was looking at, but never once asked. Kneeling down in front of his desk, she said his name to grab his attention.
“Ah, I was wondering when you would return. How is Kurosaki?” Captain Ukitake asked.
“As we had heard, he’s doing terribly. By my guess, I would say he only has a few days left,” Rukia replied, her eyes staring toward the floor.
A small sigh came from the white haired captain. “We haven’t much time then... go inform squad six and ten of this immediately; we can’t afford to waste any time.”
“Yes sir!” she replied.
At that, Rukia sprang to her feet and rushed out toward the nearest of the squads. Before she could reach squad ten’s captain, she ran in its lieutenant. She quickly informed Rangiku of the current situation, and after spending a minute smoothing out a few ideas, the two parted ways. As Rukia passed others in her travel, she informed them of the upcoming events. They needed all hands on deck for what they were putting together. Every squad had a part to play in this, but it was squads six, ten and thirteen that held the greatest amount of responsibility. Now approaching squad six, a familiar person greeted her with the same question everyone else had today.
“How’s Ichigo?” Renji asked, a concerned look in his eyes.
Walking past her friend, she opened the door and simply said, “If you’ll follow me and you both can hear.”
He only nodded to her, and followed her into Byakuya’s office. As usual, Rukia’s brother sat with his cup of tea, and stack of paperwork. After becoming a lieutenant, she had hoped that it would be a stepping stone to becoming a captain, but after see the amount of paperwork, she now hopes otherwise. Byakuya set his pen down as the two entered, and turned his attention to them. He had heard the rumors circulating around the Seireitei, and what it would mean if they were in fact true.
“Hopefully you’ll be able to tell me if these rumors about Kurosaki being sick are true,” Byakuya said.
Rukia nodded, and then replied, “They are true. Ichigo is extremely sick, and by my guess, doesn’t have much longer.”
He gave a small nod to her, and then turned to one of the drawers of his desk. He pulled out a sheet of paper, and asked, “I assume you need my permission for what you’re planning then?”
“I, no, squad thirteen is going to need more than that. We need the help of all the squads for this, but especially this one and my own. This is Ichigo; we can’t have this plan not happen,” she explained.
“Very well then. Abarai, see to anything she needs and have this be your top priority. If anymore help is needed, you know where to find me,” Byakuya replied.
Rukia smiled lightly, and said, “Hopefully we can handle this. I’ll return to inform on the progress of it.”
With her brother’s help received, Rukia left the office with Renji at her side. In just the small amount of time of being in squad six, word had traveled around to the other lieutenants. When the two began heading back toward squad thirteen, many lieutenants were there to offer their help in the matter. The ten of them congregated together to go over the plans, and even to give new ideas. The new ideas were mulled over, and once it was decided what would and what wouldn’t be used, the tasks were divided between them all. Each had a lot to do in a short amount of time. There were still other captains that needed to approve this, and quite a bit of traveling about, but they knew it could be done. In fact, it had to be done. The nine of them knew that Rukia wouldn’t allow even a grade below perfection for this, and that was to be expected. With their tasks figured and plans laid out, the nine scattered to begin work, leaving the squad thirteen lieutenant to return to the most important job out of them all.
Warm, bright sun light poured into the gloomy hospital room. As the light moved further into the room, it finally made its way into the eyes of a rather tired Ichigo. He didn’t want to wake up just yet. The pain and thoughts were gone while he slept. With a pathetic huff, he pried open his eyes, and to his surprise, he was thankful that he had. Ichigo slowly sat up, and tried his best to turn to see this sight a bit better. Sitting in the guest chair beside his bed was Rukia, who was flipping through an old magazine. Unlike the night before, she was in her gigai, which at least told him that she hadn’t come here just to claim his soul.
“What are you doing here?” Ichigo asked, his voice sounding worse than it did the night before.
Rukia glanced up from her wore out magazine, and merely asked, “Why wouldn’t I be? I hear it’s common for friends to stay by their friends when they’re sick.”
Before he could question her anymore, his sisters came into the room. They greeted Rukia happily, and spoke to her as if she’d been there all night long, telling her that she should get some sleep finally or eat at least. Again, Yuzu brought a thing of flowers, which confused Ichigo still. Why in the world did everyone think he wanted flowers? He’s sick and can’t even breathe; why would he want a truck load of flowers that are probably worsening that problem?! But, what could he do to stop the income of them? Shoving another vase aside, Yuzu set the colorful tulips beside another set of tulips. She’d been organizing them since they had so many. After arranging them how she wanted, she tilted her head slightly.
“Weird... I guess Inoue never sent any,” she muttered lightly.
“I think I’ll take the advice from the two of you and go something to eat. I doubt he’ll run off if I take my eyes off of him for a few minutes,” Rukia said, hoping her comment lighted the dark mood that hung in the room.
When the two sisters didn’t say much in response to her, she knew it didn’t. Giving Ichigo a light wave, she headed off on a quest for food. Once out of the hospital, where she knew no decent food resided, Rukia looked down both ways of the street, hoping to find some sort of restaurant. When nothing was found, she used her phone to search for something. To her luck, there was a ramen shack only two blocks away. Turning that application off, she started off in the direction of the shack. Along her way, Rukia called in to make sure that the preparations in the Seireitei were going according to plan, which surprisingly, they were. Renji was the overseer of the event any time she was absent, and so she had expected to have something go wrong, or catch fire like the last time. With that worry gone, Rukia turned her phone off and placed it in her pocket. Now in front of the ramen shack, a light grumble from her stomach reminded her why she’d come. As she opened the door, a face at one of the tables caught her eye. A blur of tangled orange hair sat in a back corner, sobs faintly coming from them.
Sitting down at the table, Rukia said, “I know it’s hard, but not going to see him appears heartless.”
“I don’t care... I don’t care... I can’t. I can’t see him like this. I don’t want to say goodbye to Kurosaki-kun,” Orihime cried, her words muffled lightly.
“Ignoring this and not going isn’t going to make him get better. You’ll regret not getting to say your goodbyes,” she pointed out to her.
Parting her hair so that she could see, Orihime glared at the violet eyed woman. “What’s it matter to you? You get him... you get him forever. Kurosaki-kun will be in the Seireitei with you... it’s not fair... it’s just not fair.”
A sigh escaped Rukia’s mouth in that moment. She stood up from her seat beside Orihime, and merely said, “Just consider going for your sake.”
While Rukia wanted to find something more to say, she knew that nothing would convince Orihime any different. What she said was true though; it wasn’t exactly fair. In the two years the women had known each other, Rukia was fully aware of Orihime’s deep attraction to Ichigo. She always sensed the resentment the auburn haired girl had, and knew that right now it was at its highest. With a sigh of defeat, Rukia left Orihime’s table. She fetched herself a bowl of food, and took it with her back to the hospital. It saddened her that her friend’s resentment toward her was one of the reasons she didn’t go to visit Ichigo, but she also knew that that wasn’t something she needed to be concerned with. There were still many, many things that needed doing.
Her phone crying out to her in a catchy tune snapped her back into reality. Quickly she answered, and the first line terrified her already. “You said blue paint, right?” Renji asked, a slightly unsure tone in his voice.
“Do you remember the theme of this?” she asked, a headache setting in. When the answer she received was no, she snapped back the reply, and shoved her phone back into her pocket. “Ichigo, you better stay alive a bit longer; this is going to take a while.”
As day turned to night, Rukia was forced to go back and forth between the Seireitei and the living world multiple times. Renji, after already getting one thing wrong, had gotten confused on her other written instructions, and put things together entirely wrong, causing her to have to do it herself. Now back in the living world she trudged back up to Ichigo’s hospital room. To her surprise, a very large number of people were there to visit him. A small wave of panic rushed over her at the sight. Not many had seen him in the days he had been there, so why would they appear now?
Catching a passing doctor, Rukia asked, “What’s Kurosaki’s condition? Why are so many people here?”
“He’s gotten a lot worse in the past couple of hours, so we informed his family. After that, everyone showed up. We’re not sure how much longer he has, or if he’ll even survive the night,” the doctor explained.
Rukia nodded lightly, and then watched the doctor continue on his way. She pulled her phone from her pocket, and ordered all the lieutenants to work double time on the project. Placing her overused phone back into her pocket, she took a look at the full room and let out a sigh. This part wasn’t going to be easy, and she knew it. Rukia went into the hospital room, and nodded to each of Ichigo’s friends and to his family. All of them had somber looks on their faces, and a few had tear stained cheeks. They all knew this would be it for him, they knew that this was their chance to say good bye. To her surprise, Rukia found the chair beside his bed empty. She had expected to find one of his sisters there, or at least somebody!
A tug on her shirt caught her attention. “He asked us to hold the seat for you,” Orihime said, her voice emotionless and her eyes cold.
She only nodded in response to her. Rukia made her way to the chair, and sat beside her companion. A pain hit her as she looked at him, helpless and weak. It won’t be this way for long, she repeated to herself countless times. Silence sat between the two of them for the next two hours. While her saying something would make things appear normal, she wanted the others to have their goodbyes heard. By ten o’clock, everyone had left, family included. Isshin pulled her aside before leaving, asking her to take good care of his son, to which she agreed. Now alone, the two sat close. She could see the fear in his eyes, and it hurt. There was nothing she could do to remove it, despite her wishing she could.
“Rukia...” Ichigo quietly called out. “How... damn long... is this... going... to take?” he choked out.
“Death isn’t an enjoyment moment, but it appears you’re near it. Don’t worry though; I’m here for it with you,” Rukia replied.
Ichigo only closed his eyes in response. While he wanted to give a better reply, he knew he couldn’t. He opened his eyes again, and glanced toward a nearby table. A small, portable radio sat there on the table. “Could you... turn that on... for me?” he asked. The sound of him slowly dying wasn’t what he wanted to continue to hear.
She nodded, and wandered over to the table. Turning the knob, she began to search for a station and stumbled upon an American station. “I didn’t know this thing could pick up something so far away,” she mumbled lightly.
“That... leave it there,” he requested. Rukia left the radio be, and returned back to his side. “I like... that song... Do you... know it?”
Rukia listened for a minute to the words of the song. “We'll carry on. And though you're dead and gone, believe me, your memory will carry on.” “I can’t say I have heard it before,” she replied. Her reply, though, was a blunt lie.
Ichigo stuck his tongue out at her. “I’ve... always... liked it. I like... the idea... to it.” He wanted to tell her that the song was a favorite of his, and it had been a favorite for many years now, but sadly the pain was too much.
“You’ll have to explain it better when you can actually talk,” Rukia scoffed, trying to make the depressing moment a bit lighter. Unlike usual, silence greeted her remark. Gently, she rested her hand on his, and sighed. His hand was slowly lowering in temperature. “Five... four... three... two...”
“Why the hell are you counting?” Ichigo asked as raised an eyebrow to her.
Looking up from the cold hand below hers, Rukia smirked at the sight before her. With his arms crossed, and his typical annoyed looked on his face, Ichigo stood beside her, clothed in his shihakusho. His eyes had their normal glow of life again, and from what she could tell, it didn’t appear that he was gasping for air. He was perfectly healthy again, and would stay that way. While sickness did occur in the Soul Society, Rukia would make sure that he never was stricken with it. Standing from her seat, she turned toward the open window, and noticed the sun beginning to appear in the sky.
“Welcome back,” she said to him.
“Let me guess; are you going to now pull out your zanpakuto and send me on?” he asked.
Rukia chuckled to herself, and then replied, “Not exactly. Come on; I need to return this gigai.”
She extended her hand to him after her comment. Ichigo hesitated for a moment, and then took her hand in his. It felt the same to him as always. As they walked out of the cold hospital, and out into the street, the cool wind felt the same to him. The bright shining sun, the smell of frying food, the feel of her lightly knocking into him; it all felt the same to him. It amazed him a bit, but in the same token didn’t surprise him. This was no different than when he left his body to fight a hollow... just now, he couldn’t return to that body. As Rukia opened the senkaimon, Ichigo began to wonder what exactly would happen here in the living world now. With the wooden doors open before him, he turned his back to them for a moment, and looked out at his old home. There was a chance that he would never see this town and the people in it again. He might never see his sisters again until he found them in the Soul Society, if he was even lucky enough to. Ichigo turned to look back at the doors, and felt a small smile appear on his face. While he did have to lose all of that, he did also gain something in his death. With her hand once again extended toward him, Rukia stood in the doorway. An inviting look sat in her violet eyes, as if she were trying to tell him that it would all be ok. Ichigo turned toward his companion, took her hand again, and followed behind her. The trip to the Soul Society was short, and few words were shared between them. He asked her where he would now stay, and if he would be forced into the academy as the rest were. Both were answered with the same line of, “I don’t know.” He huffed at the reply, and continued to follow behind her. Glancing around, Ichigo noticed that every home in the Rukon district had black streamers on it. Now at the gate, they were allowed in, and the black streamers he saw before were merely a taste of what lay ahead.
Each building had black streamers attached to them, with banners that hung on them. Music played from every direction, but all held the same tune to it. Every lieutenant and captain could be seen and accounted for, all of them just a few feet away, each dressed in their usual black attire. They were all cheering out something, but the music drowned out their words. More black streamers surrounded the area near the large crowd; along with a spread of every food dish he ever claimed his favorite. After taking in the music for a minute, Ichigo recognized the tune. He knew it, and knew it well! It was the song he heard in the hospital with Rukia! Turning to the banners, he read the words on them.
“Welcome to the black parade, Ichigo,” Rukia said to him, her words matching the banners.
“You... you did all this, for me?” he asked, a sense of shock hitting him.
She smiled lightly, and led him into the main area. Everyone greeted him with the same words and kind smiles. They all appeared so happy and excited to have him here with them, but why wouldn’t they? This was their comrade, their friend, and the person who fought so hard to help protect their home. To them, it was an honor to finally have him in their ranks. With so many great things surrounding him, the worries Ichigo once had faded. Did it matter if the people of Karakura remembered him? Did it matter if they even knew him? These people cared for him, and put together a wonderful event, just for him. They were his black parade, here to accept him into the afterlife. Turning toward the small built lieutenant, Ichigo didn’t even know how to thank her for this. One thought came to his mind, and while it was a long shot, it might be enough to repay her for everything she’d done for him. He escaped the clutches of the happy captains, and grabbed Rukia’s shoulder. She looked at him confused for a moment, unsure of what he wanted. Wrapping his arms around the pint sized lieutenant, Ichigo gave her a kiss. A shade of scarlet covered Rukia’s cheeks, and quickly spread to the rest of her pale face.
Ichigo held Rukia in a sweet hug, and said to her, “Thank you for being my black parade.”