Aizen hits realization as the battle draws to a close. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. If I did, I would probably be busy drawing instead of writing fanfictions.


42: And the Wheels Stopped Turning

"Getsuga…"

How? How is he able to keep fighting? I've blasted him, slashed him, destroyed his mind, brought up painful memories that should have shattered his will, yet still he fights.

Aizen stood rooted to his spot, unnerved by the sight of Ichigo barreling towards him.

Is it his hollow helping him? No, it can't be; they live to destroy each other. Then what is it? I have mastered everything, kido, zanjutsu, shunpo, hakuda, and even broken the barriers between a hollow and shinigami. So what am I lacking? I'm lacking nothing! I am a perfect being, a god! I tricked all of Soul Society and led an all-out war against them. I am the master of the shinigami and hollows!

"THERE'S NO WAY YOU CAN BEAT ME!" Aizen suddenly roared from behind his cracking mask. "YOU HAVE NO PLANS, NO AMBITIONS, AND NO POWER! I AM THE ULTIMATE, THE ULTIMATE, THE ULTIMATE BEING IN ALL OF EXISTANCE! YOU ARE JUST A LOW-LIFE SHINIGAMI! I WON'T LET YOU BEAT ME!"

"…TENSHO!"

The strike hit hard, and it hit fast. The tip of Ichigo's sword collided directly with Aizen's chest, ripping through his flesh and sending fresh bouts of blood shooting out. As soon as the slash left his body, a large pillar of black shot up, completely enveloping Aizen and shattering his mask.

Ichigo hit the ground with a dull thud. Pain shot through every part of his body. "That was it," he thought, lying on the floor, "I used up all my spiritual energy with that one strike. Where did it come from? I suppose it doesn't matter anyway. I just hope he's down for the count."

The sudden feeling of spiritual energy through the smoke made Ichigo think otherwise. As fast as he could, he scrambled to his feet, ignoring the pain and raised his sword in a feeble manner.

Through the smoke Ichigo saw Aizen, but in a way he wasn't sure it was him. His hair was matted to his forehead with sweat as two massive scars appeared on his chest. Blood was flowing out of his mouth and every sword wound he inflicted. Yet against all of what Ichigo believed, his eyes were surprisingly calm. He was breathing heavy, yet had some inner-peace inside of him. Is it because he knew he won? That couldn't be; he was in worse shape than Ichigo. Surprisingly, Aizen smiled at his enemy.

"I finally see why," he said with a small chuckle. "You had no great plans or any real ambition. All you had was the determination to fight, and the strength never to give up. You never made any plans, yet you never really needed any. You always had this ability to rush into battle and make up things as they went along; I suppose I envy that a little."

Aizen raised his sword in front of him and stared at hit for a while.

"I believed this sword made me a god, but in hindsight, all it did was boost my ego. I believed I could beat anyone, but you've clearly proven that wrong today. I guess in the end, I deserved this, for thinking so highly of myself and having such ruthless ambition that I never felt the need to fight for my friends. Your friends were the one that gave you strength, and that is why you won Kurosaki, and that is why you truly are stronger than me."

He finally dropped his sword, as it hit the ground with a metallic clang. Smiling again, Aizen looked up at the sky through his bloodshot vision.

"So it comes to this," he finally said. "I wonder what's going to be next for me…"

With that, his body finally gave out and he collapsed to the floor, letting loose his final breath and finally closing his eyes. Thus passed Sosuke Aizen, man who sought to conquer the world, and failed.

Ichigo was speechless at what just happened. Did he finally win? Did Aizen say he was truly stronger than him? He found that hard to believe, Aizen had, after all, defeated the Captain-General.

Regardless, Aizen lay dead before him, and Ichigo finally uttered a smile. Dropping his sword and letting out a giant yell of triumph. Doing that, however, made his body hurt even more as the pain shot through all of him.

"Shit…" he said. "Guess he did more damage than I thought…"

Reality then shot back to Ichigo as he collapsed face-down on the floor. He looked around and saw no one around. All of his friends were still on the floor, dying. He then realized that he was the only conscious one left, and if they didn't get any help soon, they would certainly die.

Knowing this truth, Ichigo painfully tried to stand up, but found it wouldn't work. His body was in too much pain and too worn out to do anything. "This can't be the end…" he thought. "I should be the only one dying, not them. Why won't my body move?!"

Ichigo painfully pulled his body one inch forward, but the pain caused him to stop. Breathing helplessly, tears began to spring from Ichigo's eyes. "Move damn it! Move!"

Realizing the futility of it, Ichigo finally gave up, gasping for precious air, his head face-down in the rubble. "So this is how it ends, huh? I guess I knew it always would. With luck, I may be reincarnated in Karakura Town and be able to meet everyone again. Inoue, Chad, Ishida, Karin, Yuzu, Dad…but I should be the only one going through this, not Rukia, not Renji, not anyone else. It's not fair…it's just not fair!"

With that, a foot forcefully came stomping by his face and Ichigo saw an all too familiar shoe.

"Look at you; you look pathetic!"

Ichigo looked up and saw Grimmjow Jeagerjaques standing there, looking down on him with pity. He was in his unreleased mode, as his sword was put in its sheath.

Despite being able to stand, Grimmjow looked like he had seen better days as well. Wounds from their battle were still visible and even though the bleeding stopped, Grimmjow was looking fatigued. Despite his obvious pain, however, a smile was till present on his face.

Ichigo didn't speak out of shock as Grimmjow looked around. The arrancar's eyes finally rested on the dead Aizen just a few feet away. "So he finally died, eh?" he asked with a smirk. He looked around even more and finished, "Guess he took a few of 'em with him."

"Grimmjow, why are you here…?" Ichigo finally muttered.

Grimmjow turned back to him and smiled. "What the fuck do you mean? Isn't it obvious? You beat me by cheating and yet let me live. Then you go on and beat Aizen. How'd you do that? Did you cheat as well? Huh?"

"I didn't mean to cheat in our fight," Ichigo said wearily. "My hollow just took over and finished the fight."

"Convenient fucking excuse," Grimmjow replied, kneeling down so he could see Ichigo better. "I still wanna know why you didn't kill me."

"Because it wasn't fair, that's why," Ichigo responded. "It wouldn't be fair to do that after my hollow finished the fight. Just know that I'm sorry Grimmjow."

"Sorry? Fucking sorry?!" Grimmjow stood up and kicked Ichigo in the ribs, pushing him on his back so Ichigo could see the sky. "Look at you now!" he continued. "You cheat me out of a fight, kill my leader, and say you're fucking sorry? Bullshit Kurosaki! You're pathetic and you know it!"

"I don't have fucking time for this!" Ichigo suddenly yelled, surprising Grimmjow. "My friends are dying and here you are wanting to know the reason behind a stupid fight! If you really wanna know why, go get the 4th Division and get my friends saved, then I'll tell you why!"

Grimmjow nearly laughed at this. "What are you fucking kidding me? Why the hell would I go outta my way to do that? You're wrong about one thing Kurosaki. I'm not really here to find out why; I'm here just to laugh at how weak you are. You weren't even able to save your friends. I still don't know how I lost to a fucking weakling like you."

"SHUT UP!" Ichigo roared, causing more pain in his body. He didn't care; he was far too angry at this arrancar to care.

"Who the fuck do you think you're talking to?" asked Grimmjow. He unsheathed his sword and showed it to Ichigo. "I could kill you right fucking now if I wanted to."

"Then do it," he replied. "I don't deserve to live anyway, not after what happened to my friends."

"I should kill you," Grimmjow started, staring at his enemy. Finally he sheathed his sword and finished, "But I'm not going to."

"What?"

"You deserve to live through this Kurosaki, to live through the pain you have caused. Living with it will make you stronger, make your heart harder. Only then, after years of that, will you be able to beat me without cheating. So I'm not going to kill you. I'm going to bide my time and train. I suggest you do the same Kurosaki, for one day, when I think enough time has passed, I'll come back and want a rematch. Only if you're truly strong enough you'll be a match for me, and don't think I'll hold back."

He suddenly created a garganta and stepped through it. While it was closing, he gave his final words to Ichigo. "Train well Kurosaki, for the next time you hear from me, it will be the last fight you'll ever have."

The garganta slammed shut, leaving Ichigo with a mix of bitterness and pain.

Then as if by luck, just as Ichigo was about to black out, he saw someone running towards him. It was none other than Hanataro Yamada, leading his Advance Team back to the battlefield. He quickly saw Ichigo and ran towards him.

"Ichigo!" he yelled, running towards him. "Don't worry, we'll get you healed up real fast!"

"Hanataro…friends…heal friends…first…please…"

Hanataro understood as he ran towards some healers close to him. "Go get as many healers as you can from the Fourth Division! Hurry, there are people dying here!"

Hearing that seemed to make Ichigo feel a little better, not only a little. Still unsure of the fate of his friends and with his conscience weighing heavily down upon him, Ichigo blacked out.


The end is coming next chapter!

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