Orihime made herself a promise that when the time came around, she was not going to be protected by Kurosaki-kun again. She is capable of protection. She turns Sora back to sanity, she protects Tatsuki - they protect and cherish her all her life, and she returns these precious people the favor. To Ichigo, the boy she has declared that she would want to fall in love with five separate lifetimes, this should be the most important person of all that she should want to protect. Who, after all, is more important to protect than the person you love? No one in the world. And yet, in the end, she wanted him to protect her. She's horrified and shocked by this, but there you go. This is what Ichihime comes down to, in the end. This is what this arc amounts to, this is what Kubo is driving home, and this is how her feelings will be resolved - not in requited love. In fact, not even in unrequited love. Orihime is not in love with Ichigo. When someone is truly the person you love, the love of your life, the person you think is the half of your soul, your most important person, there had better be nothing you won't sacrifice of yourself for that person's sake. Your powers, your strength, your life - for what purpose are they if you don't give them for the one you love? For all that shippers were saying Ichigo sacrificed his humanity to protect Orihime, they missed the point that Orihime sacrificed nothing of herself for him. It is the only character in this series who has openly expressed romantic feelings that cannot give of herself to save the man she says she loves. Who is not there to protect him, but to be protected. Who left only because she thought he could win and discovered to her horror otherwise. The fact that she is the only one with open feelings has often been cited as proof that her love is the only real one, that her love will definitely be reciprocated: and in fact, the opposite is true. Hers is the one that's not real.