A/N: I originally had this idea come to me... one morning after a dream, I know it's cliche but if I don't pull it out of my head I fear I may never post it so it has to come out. Let's see if I managed to break few cliches or hit every single one of them, hopefully I am aiming for the former. Let me know if you like how this story started. Story itself is slightly AU after Lost Agent arc so expect slight inconsistencies but nothing that breaks the story itself. Enjoy.
Karakura town would be perfect place for your average vacation. Place is nice, located in the peaceful area of the country and populated with kind people, a little weird but kind nonetheless. Of course all that would be alluring if it wasn't a hotspot for hollows to appear and they did so frequently. For those of you unfamiliar with these beasts, they are the very essence of anger and rage, despair and constant hunger, they are those who never crossed, who never went to Soul Society or Hell… And they constantly hunt for more souls to feed on. Does that sound terrifying? It shouldn't for there are no better protectors of this town than two shinigami watchers, always vigilant, always ready… Countless perils they encountered and survived, starting from the traitorous Captain and his army of hollows led by the elite Espada and unexpected treason of zanpakuto spirits. Things were for once ready to return to normal, less hectic routine but that was just a mere illusion, appearance to deceive this pair of watchers… for they are yet to fight in the most difficult of battle.
This night, was no exception. A loud beep on Rukia's phone in the middle of the night alerted them of hollow presence in the town and they immediately responded. They worked well together, it was beyond doubt and one after another hollows fell, counting four so far and one last remained.
"Slippery bastard!" Ichigo yelled as he charged again at the oddly shaped hollow that resembled spider with horned mask, it wasn't strong but it was very fast and every attack Ichigo sent his way missed its mark.
"Hold on, I'll flank him!" Rukia quickly responded and charged from the back the very moment he again rushed forth. The attack yet again missed and two shinigami clashed their swords. Their skin rippled slightly, sending odd shiver similar to small electrical charge right up on their muscles.
"What was that?" she asked, switching her zanpakuto into left hand as she shook right, it grew numb from this contact but that is not what was odd… what in fact was odd was what happened the very moment blades collided and in that split second she saw a vivid image before her eyes, image of Ichigo but he was completely white with eyes black as the night and yellow irises. He was grinning.
"I probably used too much strength" Ichigo shook his right hand and grasped his sword again "This is becoming annoying…" he rushed again but all he did was miss again however this time instead of looking for the hollow he turned and shouted Getsuga Tensho! A second later hollow was slashed in half and disappeared. How did he know where to aim? He really didn't… it was simply an instinct.
"That seems to be last one." Rukia said as she came closer to him, trying to make sense of what she saw but he didn't seem to be one bit phased by it. Perhaps he didn't see it.
"Yeah, let's head back, I still got work tomorrow and Ikumi is going to have my ass if I am late…"
One minute later they entered through the open window of his house. Ichigo carefully moved on bed where his body was. Rukia however took few extra seconds to look at him, still haunted by that image. It was Ichigo but he just didn't look right. It could be his hollow side. Come to think of it she never actually had a proper chance to see his spirit and that image sent shivers down her spine. She entered the closet and her body that was inside. With some luck, she might catch few hours of sleep.
Thirty minutes into her 'sleep' she opened her eyes as noise came from the room. She wasn't sure what it was at first but it sounded like a groaning, painful one even. Her hands slid doors open and she peeked out. There was indeed a reason for the sound. Ichigo on bed seemed to be struggling in his sleep, painful expression showing on his face as he gasped.
"Ichigo?" She quickly went over to him. He appeared to be in fever but his skin was dry… her palm pressed against his forehead and in that instant his eyes opened… light of the moon revealed same image… those same eyes of black and gold that sent her shivers earlier.
"Gotcha!" He spoke and his hand quickly grabbed Rukia's face. Her vision darkened and she felt as if her entire world began spinning, twisting around some invisible axis… she was losing her balance and vision and her consciousness was fading. It hasn't been longer than a moment since she began feeling this and she regained her balance again, looking around. She was no longer in Ichigo's room but rather it looked like it was she was on some open field. Green hills and lush grass as far as eye can see with village houses that were placed around. It was a rather serene image and feeling quickly enveloped her.
"Where am I?" She asked quietly as she looked around but her head quickly snapped and she drew a sword as she heard a voice.
"Where you ask? We are in the inner world of course!" He was slowly walking toward her, hands behind his back. Rukia's eyes widened as she gazed at him… he was exactly like Ichigo in his shinigami uniform only he was completely white.
"Ichigo?" She asked, still holding her zanpakuto pointed at him, it may have looked like him but his voice was that of a hollow… Perhaps he is his hollow side that she often saw, one that stood behind the mask that Ichigo called for when he needed power.
"You must be asking yourself right now if I am the hollow side of Ichigo. Well you are fucking right!" he chuckled "But I am more than that."
"What do you mean?"
"You know that feeling you have here?" his right hand moved forward and pointed at his own stomach "That feeling when you want something but you shouldn't have it? Feeling when every fiber of your being is screaming to you, that feeling when you are about to touch something but you knows it is not good for you? Well I am that!" he laughed maniacally "I am everything Ichigo is not but should be! I am his source of power! I am his survival instinct that keeps screaming for him to fucking do something, and yet…" his brows furrowed as he continued, he was no longer laughing or smiling but rather his expression was angry "I am the one he ignores. You can call me whatever you like, I think I heard Ichigo sometimes call me Shiro but I prefer… Zangetsu!"
"No, I have seen Zangetsu." Rukia was now frowning, trying her hardest to not believe one word that came out of his mouth.
"Ah yes, old man. Let me tell something. We are nothing alike and yet we live here in our perfectly little harmony. I am THE hollow, don't you dare think otherwise but I am also the source of his shinigami powers! It is because of me he survived all this time. But you have more questions, do you?"
Rukia nodded, slowly lowering her sword.
"Why am I here?" she asked and he grinned again, showing his teeth as he pointed to his side, saying nothing. Several seconds later Ichigo appeared.
"What the hell? I don't have time to play hide and seek with y- Rukia?" Ichigo, the right one with ridiculous orange hair, asked as he gazed at her. His eyes widened in surprise "How did you got here?"
"I brought her here, of course!" Zangetsu chuckled and rushed toward Rukia. His speed was beyond her comprehension and he pressed hand on her face. She thought he would gonna slam her against the ground but his hand simply passed through her, like ghost through the wall, seemingly doing no damage other than making her gasp for air.
"Hey! What is the meaning of this?" Ichigo drew his sword, ready to attack but Zangetsu simply turned to face Ichigo and raised his other hand, palm open as a sign for him to stop. "Answer me!"
"You'll know soon enough, my king" he said in mocking voice as his hand lowered and returned to his back. Rukia gasped few more times and went over to Ichigo's side, raising her sword again.
"Tell me Ichigo… Do you notice something different in here? Other than having another shinigami invading our little private part of the world, is there something different?"
Ichigo looked around. Indeed there were quite a few things to notice. He didn't pay attention at first, perhaps it was something that was to be expected or something that he simply knew should be like and he didn't question it. Ichigo's eyes wandered, moving from house to house and them up, noticing clear blue sky "Skyscrapers… they are gone."
"Indeed they are gone!" Zangetsu cheered "I always hated them… do you know why? Because I couldn't see the world from them! All I saw was a forest of those abominations and a fraction of sky, no matter how far I ascended they kept rising up. Everything was vertical I mean come on that is just ridiculous for a world… But now, look at this place!" He spread his arms, as if entertainer would present his trick, showing around the fields and houses.
"I can see the end of your world, well not literally, but I can see horizon! And I see the fucking sky! All of it!"
"What's your point?" Ichigo asked in loud, growling voice.
"My point is that you grew, and in same effort, so did your world. But you see… I grew tired of this… You shinigami, you are arrogant assholes, believing yourselves to be superior to every other race even though you practically are humans without the fleshy shells. You kill hollows because you think it is in your right but that's not the issue… the issue is, you think yourselves to be superior to us… your source of power! To you, we are nothing more than tools!"
"That is not true!" Rukia interjected quickly, finally calming herself "Shinigami and zapnakuto work in harmony, one cannot fight without another. Our feelings coexist."
"Oh? When was the last time you asked your zanpakuto about her feelings? Have you ever asked her what she wants or do you just meditate to ask her for advice?"
Rukia had no words to say, in a sense he had a point. She often visited Sode no Shirayuki to train, to be stronger and in better sync with her sword but so very rarely she asked about her. Her eyes slowly returned to their original shape, less frowning but more confused and her gaze was fixed on Zangetsu.
"You don't even consider what we want!" he was angry, very angry but he bowed his head taking few long breaths before looking at them, having small smirk on face. "Tell me Ichigo… have you ever asked yourself why I am the way I am?"
"What do you mean?" Ichigo asked, still trying to wrap his mind around this. It was nothing like Zangetsu, at least not this side. He always wanted to fight, to prove his dominance but now he wasn't even holding his sword, instead he insisted on talking.
"I mean why I am like this!? Was I born like this? Have I always wanted more power, did I always liked green fields over skyscrapers? Have I always wanted to see you down in the dirt with my sword over your head? Are we born like this or do we learn to have our personalities?" None of them had answer to this, instead they merely exchanged glances but more explanation came
"Every time you clash a sword with someone I get a glimpse of their zanpakuto… we talk, in our own way but… we talk. I met a very interesting one named Hozukimaru when you fought a bald shinigami and you know what I saw? Laziness! For fuck's sake I have never seen lazier zanpakuto that was wielded by shinigami who, never stops working out! But I also met another, more interesting one and I am sure you know this one. Does the name Senbonzakura ring any bells?"
Ichigo lowered his sword and so did Rukia, they were confused… Was he always this knowledgeable about other zanpakuto? Was it when Muramasa took them out?
"I met him when you were trying to save her…" Zangetsu pointed at Rukia "And you know what I saw? Loyalty, fucking shitload of loyalty to a point it was sickening but that got me wondering… Are we born this way? Are we destined to be lazy or loyal, do we even have a saying in this but then it hit me! We are not… we learn those traits from you worthless idiots. We are reflection of your souls, we are your inner desires. Whenever you feel happy, sky is bright, when you are in lowest pits of despair, it is raining. When you fight hard with all your might it is thundering in here and your world changes! Don't you get it? Neither I nor old man ever liked your world before but you grew stronger, you matured… Your world became better for us and in turn we changed and matured to match your personality. We are individuals but we are not, we are free but we are slaves. When you are happy I am happy, when you are sad I am sad and whenever you miss the fucking hint I am the one screaming from the bottom of my lungs for you to listen but you do not! And it got me fucking annoyed at your ignorance! Why? I will tell you why Ichigo! Because you always want something but often you simply deny it and push it in the back of your head! But I cannot do that! I cannot because I am reflection of your desires that you never fulfilled and I am left here to suffer, to crave for it without any possibility of satisfaction! But guess what!" he laughed maniacally "I am putting an end to it! We are putting end to it!"
Ichigo was starting to get more nervous, the talk seemed oddly familiar and he feared a particular scenario might repeat itself…
"Ichigo, we have to warn Captains… other zanpakuto may still have some residual effects of Muramasa's influence." Rukia said and was about to rush upward but Zangetsu merely waved his head "I am not gonna have my ass controlled by a pathetic zanpakuto and this is nothing on global level. This is strictly between us… and you. This thing is personal."
"Who is us?" Ichigo asked, narrowing his eyes. Zangetsu merely smirked but said nothing and a moment later another person emerged from behind him. Tall woman with pale skin and soft lavender hair, cladded in white kimono walked and stood by Zangetsu, almost as tall as him.
"N… no way…" Rukia quickly lowered her sword, her bright amethyst eyes widened at the sight, impossible to believe what her eyes gazed upon "Sode no Shirayuki? What are you doing here?"
"I was brought here by Zangetsu." She responded calmly, looking straight at Rukia.
"This is no longer funny, let her go!" Ichigo quickly interjected but Zangetsu just laughed.
"What makes you think I am holding her here as prisoner?"
"I wanted to come on my own free will." She said.
"But why?" Rukia asked, feeling more and more discouraged by the second as the flashes of her last encounter appeared before her eyes… it wasn't pleasant last time either.
"Because of what Zangetsu said. I simply grew tired of you asking yourself should you or should you not do it. This time, there is something I want and since I am giving you my power, you can at very least oblige me with at least one satisfaction."
"Which is?" Rukia asked.
"For you two to find out!" Zangetsu finished and smiled wide, showing his teeth "Here is where things get fucking interesting! You have ten days to figure out what we want before your reiatsu is completely drained by her presence here. Even I cannot accommodate two zanpaktou in one world and I am fucking stronger than most of Captains you met."
"Ten days? Hold on, there are zanpakuto that come as two spirit-"
"That's because they naturally come in pair." Zangetsu quickly interjected "They are set like old man and I but Sode no Shirayuki is not part of this little shitty world and her presence here is costing me greatly. You have ten days until I run out completely and once that comes, you will lose your shinigami powers, Ichigo… and if Sode no Shirayuki is here when I disappear… your precious partner will lose her shinigami powers as well."
"Are you insane?" Ichigo quickly ran over and grabbed Zangetsu by his collar "You are going so far as to kill yourself and another zanpakuto just to fulfill your wish?!"
"You don't know how it's like to be constantly denied! All you do is refuse to act when you have the power but I cannot! I remain here taking in your desires, your inner conflicts and whenever you feel relieved or you give up on something it's because I take those from you! You move on, I suffer! I don't give a fuck anymore if I die!"
"Is that how you feel too?" Rukia asked her spirit and in return she nodded politely.
"You are gonna have to figure this one for yourself, Ichigo." Zangetsu chuckled
Ichigo hissed, releasing his spirit and began pacing around. Annoyed was just one of the feelings he had but he had no way of winning this his way. He knew well that if there would be any way of keeping his powers, he would have to cooperate, play his game and fact was… every step he makes, Zangetsu will know.
"Just to show you how fucking serious we are, I am gonna limit the power you can take from me!" He laughed yet again, it was beyond doubt that he was looking more and more like madman than zanpakuto. "But it's gonna be a bother if you can't defend yourself. So I am going to allow you to use full extent of your powers in shikai form. Hell I am feeling generous today, I'll even allow you to use getsuga tensho, just enough so you don't die from some hollow trash while you are figuring out our demands. Don't count on bankai or the mask because if you do… I'm just gonna take over! We both know how that little scenario goes."
"Fine we'll play along." Ichigo said. There was nowhere to run and he felt pushed against the corner. "Where do we start?"
"Come tomorrow and you will be given few hints. Until then, think about this whole thing."
"In the meantime, I will remain in your world, Kurosaki Ichigo." Sode no Shirayuki said calmly "But you will not be able to use me and neither will you, Rukia."
"Bye bye worthless king!" Zangetsu waved and both Ichigo and Rukia were sent flying up, almost breaking the speed of sound as they were forced out of the world. His smirk faded away as he watched the skies and only when they were gone, when their spiritual pressure was completely gone did one of them broke the silence.
"You lied." She said as her lips curved into soft, gentle smile.
"Even if there were three of me here, ten days is too soon for him to run out of reiatsu. It would take years."
"Alright I lied, but that's just because I am not patient enough to wait for him forever to realize his own feelings." Zangetsu smiled at her.
"You care about him, do you?"
"He is my idiotic king. Recently he got better and better at controlling his urges and in turn I have started to like this world… But he is not bright when it comes to these things. Left to his own accord, he would do nothing about our situation. Fuck that, I am stepping in and I wanna change that!"
"My my, aren't you sly one" She smiled wider as she slowly moved forward, step by step and he followed. They moved passed the houses and her eyes wandered from one to another, seemingly admiring the scenery while his eyes were fixed on her.
"You are thinking about something, Sode?"
"Maybe…" she responded but didn't look at him and that annoyed him greatly.
"Don't give me that crap now!" He placed hand on her shoulder, in one quick motion he turned her to face him and pulled, hard and fast. They were close, too close and only her finger separated her lips from his. "What are you thinking exactly?"
"That is for you to find out as well. You have to be patient, or you might ruin our little plan."
"You mean your little plan."
"On which you agreed quite easily and eagerly… Are you sure you are doing this just for Ichigo?
"Well let's go with I am selfish bastard line and see where it leads." He grinned, still not moving from his position. Sode no Shirayuki however took a step back and her finger that previously separated their lips has trailed down on his chin and further down on his neck to the collar before moving up, brushing against his lips once more.
"Good. In the meantime, you won't mind if I take a little look around. Would you?" She asked but expected no answer and instead she simply winked at him and disappeared, leaving him deprived right there on the spot. He chuckled, softly, silently but it turned louder and louder until it was nothing short of that of a madman whose voice echoed throughout this world.
"Do you hear that my idiotic king?!" he shouted looking up at the skies "You better hurry up because I don't know how much longer I can hold myself!"
A/N: I really don't know why I made this pairing. At first I thought, what if I make it with Dark Rukia but I didn't. Please bear with me I have a good, legitimate reason why I chose Sode no Shirayuki and that reason is... it's more fun this way! I really wanna see how far I can make them go with clashing personalities and very heavy (and hot) atmosphere between them. I have high hope for this story I am writing.