I think the thing that’s getting me most about this chapter is how humble Byakuya is.
He’s quiet. He’s not sassing his enemy to the ends of the earth, or showing off the superiority of his powers. After everything that happened I honestly expected that he would need the chance to prove himself again, but he doesn’t - it’s As Nodt who’s trying to make the fight all about Byakuya. Mocking him, threatening him, goading him with insults designed to trigger his temper. But Byakuya doesn’t want a bar of it. He’s not taking the bait and that’s so unlike the person he used to be.
"Fear isn’t born from nothing," he said to Rukia. His fear for her life was what made him helpless against As Nodt the first time. But now she’s strong, strong enough that he doesn’t have to worry - she has literally overcome his worst fear for him. And I suppose that next to that, stepping back from the fight against As Nodt barely matters any more.
It’s more important that she take her chance to shine.
What happened to Byakuya has changed him. He states that he’s been forced to re-examine his relationship with Senbonzakura, but it’s more than that: he has reevaluated his priorities completely, and the answer he’s come back with is ‘Rukia’. Not pride. Not vengeance. Not personal redemption.
Just Rukia, who he no longer sees as a frail little girl in need of protection, but as a powerful warrior able to hold her own against an enemy who crushed him the first time they came face to face.
In other words, strip away all of Byakuya’s pride and all of his confidence, and the only thing that’s left of him is love for his little sister.
And I just don’t know how to deal with that.