A/N: More dialogues... damn when is the good stuff coming? Oh right I am the author... Soon!

Words still echoed in Ichigo's head. His eyes were slowly opening, waking up from the long and heavy dream he just had. Words still echoed…

There was strong urge to believe that all this was just a dream but nothing pointed to it… no, it was real and the fact that he could hear laughter in his head was proof enough that his hollow was going rampant in his world… only consolation is that there wasn't much of a damage that he could do… at least not yet. Time was short and he immediately sat up as his body gathered strength and this motion was closely followed by Rukia who was sitting on the floor, leaning against the closet doors where she sleeps.

"I guess that wasn't a dream huh?" Ichigo asked, moving hand through his hair to set it straight as much as possible but it clearly had a mind of its own.

"It wasn't." Rukia answered with soft tone, her knees were bent and she leaned her hands on top of them, looking at Ichigo who was still waking up. "I tried to contact Sode no Shirayuki but she is not in my inner world anymore."

"Damn it!" Ichigo growled as he looked around. "Like hell I am letting this just slide." He moved to his table and took the badge from it "I am the one who rules my own world and I'm not gonna let him just run like psycho with your zanpakuto and risk both of us losing powers!" with quick motion he pressed badge against his own chest and his soul emerged from body. The first suspicion Ichigo had was that there might be a chance for Zangetsu to lock his powers and revert to sealed form but by the look of his uniform and zanpakuto, it was clear he was in full shikai form.

"Ichigo, wait!" Rukia said as Ichigo rushed out of the window and she quickly emerged from her body, following him. His anger gave him speed and he stood high above Karakura. Few seconds later, Rukia appeared as well. "What are you doing?"

"There are two spirits in my inner world, old man and hollow…" he drew his blade and pointed it forward. "I bet old man is not part of this. Bank- " His intent to release was interrupted… eyes widened as he choked, desperate for air while hand quickly reached for his own face. Pain radiated through every cell of his head and small bits of mask began to form.

"I told you not to count on your bankai now didn't I?" Zangetsu spoke through Ichigo's mouth, left eye turned black and yellow but mask never formed, it remained only on small piece along jawline and one on forehead. "You never listen!"

"Damn it! Let go of Sode no Shirayuki!" Ichigo shouted, clenching hand and pressing it hard against his forehead. Rukia was both confused and scared… she knew well how Ichigo can turn out when he loses control and what monster emerges from his own soul. Instinctively, her hand reached and grasped handle of her zanpakuto but it seems transformation has stopped.

"Why are you still thinking she is here against her own will?" hollow voice was heard again "She told you both already that she came here on her own and we have demands now!"

"Then what is your demand?!" Ichigo shouted "Tell me!"

"No no, rule is you have to figure this out on your own. I will say no more."

"Damn you Zangetsu!"

"You have nine days! We are considering yesterday as first day so you better hurry, Ichigo."

"Then where do we begin? How are we supposed to figure this out if you won't point us?" Ichigo yelled, still holding his forehead. He was quickly becoming annoyed at the fact he couldn't fight this, not with conventional way that he used so often. Now, more was as stake and all that added further on his list of major concerns.

"I told you to come tomorrow, which is today, but you woke up three minutes ago and you immediately want to know. Come later and we will reveal you a starting point. Also, there is a message for you, Rukia." Black eye moved and looked to Rukia who clenched handle, frowning at Ichigo and Zangetsu. "Sode says that she doesn't mind who you ask for help but limit yourself to those who won't prod and poke you… or me. You don't want Soul Society to find out about this."

Quick laughter escaped from Ichigo's lips but it subsided quickly as darkness retreated from eye. Mask bits crumbled and flew into the wind, leaving Ichigo to yet again maintain full control over his own body. He gasped for air, first time it happened for him to be exhausted this much… It could be previous fight with hollows, it could be Sode no Shirayuki's presence in his soul but there was a clench in his chest. This of course was noticed by short shinigami and she rushed over to him, placing one hand on his shoulder while other was on his chest.

"Are you ok?" Rukia asked, looking at him with concerned eyes and he nodded.

"I'll be fine. Just a bit tired…"

"What are we gonna do?"

"We will figure this out, that's what we are gonna do." Ichigo replied, voice was growling with mix of anger and confusion. Truth be told even he didn't know what to do, where to start, how to handle it but for one reason or another he felt as if he had to be the one who cannot be discouraged… seeing as Rukia might be close to it. He knew well that he couldn't allow it.

"I should at least inform Renji… I cannot activate my shikai and if hollow appear in numbers we might need help." Rukia said, slowly moving away as Ichigo regained his composure and waved with his hand.

"Don't. There is no way he can justify nine days of being here. If Byakuya finds out, best case scenario is him trying to physically drive Sode no Shirayuki out… worst case scenario will be if he informs the mad scientist and I get dragged into his lab… at which case things might turn for the worse…" Ichigo concluded as he rubbed his face with hand… Rukia on the other hand was surprised at how well thought through this was. Indeed, if anyone finds out things might turn out bad for them and Byakuya will most likely never allow for her to be in world of the living… scratch that… she won't even be able to see outside of mansion walls… As for ichigo… she could say goodbye to idea of seeing him anymore. Her head shook quickly at this last thought, wondering how did that emerged among the chaos of other thoughts.

"Let's head back then." Rukia said "I'll try and see if there is any leftover information since Muramasa attacked and you need to get to work."

"Oh crap!" Ichigo quickly realized and began panicking "Ikumi is gonna kill me if I am late again!"

"What do you mean again?!" Rukia asked loudly, making Ichigo flinch a bit and forgetting entire ordeal that just occurred "You were late before?"

"Yesterday! I overslept!" Ichigo said frantically while looking around, his eyes tried to determine his position as he didn't even bothered to see where he was going to begin with… his anger ensured that he just flies fast, not caring where.

"Then get hurry up!" Rukia shouted at him resulting in his nod and quick flight toward his house, leaving her to whisper for herself "Idiot…"

"Crap crap crap crap!" Ichigo chanted, running as fast as he could toward the shop. He wasn't sure why exactly was he even bothering with work at the shop. That is a lie actually, he knew why. It was part fear part fact that it was summer break and he couldn't 'sell' his abilities to clubs. The fear part was well justified and dominant one.

He opened doors, breathing heavily and his eyes noticed a rather pleasant, smiling face that greeted him. Confused, Ichigo looked around only to spot Kaoru, standing behind his mother…

"Good morning Ichigo." She said, still smiling wide.

"Y-yeah… good morning …" he stuttered slightly as he entered "About why I was late…"

"Oh you don't need to worry about that, everyone has one of such mornings." Her voice was even more pleasant, if that was even possible. She slowly kneeled down and whispered something to her son, who all the while sent death-glares at Ichigo. Choice of staying was not his however so he left, leaving Ichigo to let out sigh of relief. Right hand rose up and rubbed his face, removing bits of sweat that formed from the maniacal running on busy streets. There was brief moment of silence but that moment vanished as soon as her hand reached and grabbed him by shirt, making him open eyes and gaze at the face of demon.

"Where the hell were you?!" She growled at him, making skin turn pale. There was no longer sweet caring, Ikumi, there was just hungry grizzly momma bear.

"S-sorry, I had a little… ummm… family matters." He watched her nervously as she drew her face closer to his. His adam's apple rose and fell as it allowed giant rock to slide down his throat. Hope lingered in Ichigo's head, hope that she couldn't smell his fear. Unfortunately, she did.

"I'll give you family matters, this is fifth time this month and you are going to start paying because customers are not getting delivery on time! Now get the suit and be ready, I have a job for you!"

"Damn bipolar woman…" Ichigo sighed and spoke quietly as he was carrying large bag filled with neatly packed boxes "And what's with this shirt?" his eyes wandered down and observed his green shirt with large letters in front Unagiya Shop partially blocked by his jacket "Talk about bad marketing…"

"Alright, calm down Ichigo." He quickly shook his head, dispelling the random thoughts "Focus! You need to figure this mess out… Zangetsu said that he has particular desire, something he shares along with Sode no Shirayuki. If what he said is true… no, it is true, our zanpakuto are reflection of our souls so I should look in what they have in common… means I need to talk to Rukia about what we have in common… desires… desires… damn it what is it that I want?!" He suddenly grabbed his own head with both hands and shook rather violently, almost unnaturally, making few heads turn to observe this rather weird young man.

Talk to Rukia, that seems like a good place to start… idea was in place but realization came a little sooner than he originally intended. Beeping could be heard from his pocket and Ichigo took out his phone… Lupus in fabula, as they say… she could have discovered something in the meantime. He answered the call and pressed it against his ear.

"Talk to me. Mhm… yeah I'm just delivering something… no I don't know what… Because I don't ask that's why!" Ichigo suddenly stopped and closed his eyes, bowing head "Rukia… why did you call? Did you found something? You didn't… So why did you call? They left. Yesterday. Because dad took them to see the capital!" he sighed silently and looked forward, resuming his walk while trying his best to avoid commenting on her constant questions "Yes it's just us in the house… Check in the fridge. Alright I'll wait… geez. Well I'll make something then when I get home… Alright what about curry? No curry, what abou- Really? Ramen? You want to eat ramen? No no, I can make it… Then I will buy some! Look I have to go now… yeah I won't forget. That woman is going to be end of me…"

"You have to say that was rather adorable." Zangetsu chuckled as he sat down on one of the roofs, looking down where Sode no Shirayuki was standing.

"I didn't know you would react like that." She looked up at him, amused by his comment.

"Desperation, woman!" Zangetsu chuckled tapping his palms against knees "I intend to use this against him at one point but for now I am sticking to the plan. By the way, where were you? I was looking everywhere but I couldn't sense your presence… have you left?"

"Not at all, I just went a little deeper." Sode moved along the cobblestone path of the village street, her eyes shifted from one house to another. "I learned that these houses contain memories…"

"Yeah, houses house memories… a little iro- actually it is not ironic when you think about it…" it was his time to look around now and his gaze inspected same houses that Sode was looking at "Matter of symbolic, as with everything in this world."

"But I discovered something else, other than memories…" she stopped, standing in front of a house doors. Hollow took this opportunity to quickly climb down from the roof and stood right behind her, fighting the urge to run his fingers against her hair… and he wanted to.

"And what have you discovered?" he asked as his tongue ran over his lower lip.

"That every house seems to have some sort of cellar but those inside are not memories."

"No they are not." Hand moved up and fingers brushed against her hair… slight cool sensation filled his fingertips as he moved further down along her loose hair. It was addicting, it was unique… in a world where only other inhabitant is old stick in a mud, a touch of soft hair and fragrance of flowers was too irresistible. Same fingers rose and tried to repeat this yet again but before his fingers could touch her hair he felt a sensation of her sheathed sword poking against his groin. She smiled over her shoulder at him, whispering only not yet. With a sudden jolt back into his twisted reality, he continued.

"Every house contains a particular memory, particular feel that Ichigo felt when memories were created but… the cellar that you discovered indeed does not contain memories. Those quasi-memories are in fact products of his imagination that are created when he remembers those… memories. What would've happened if he did something different, if something else occurred… basically, those are how he wanted memories to be rather than what they are… they are his small desires that don't project on me. More he thinks about those memories, stronger quasi-memories are and thus they become easier to be used against him."

"Now that sounds interesting…" Sode concluded as she looked forward. "Convenient as well…"

"I had to make his world simple otherwise he'd get lost."

"You made this world?" She turned fully to him, watching his face that shifted and his brows furrowed.

"I haven't made it per se… only… hmm what's the word, oh yes decorated!"

"And how did you managed to achieve that when zanpakuto cannot change their inner worlds?"

"I didn't change it… not by much… eeeh…" Zagetsu sighed, folding his arms and looking up "It's like this… I cannot exactly 'change' anything in here without his permission but since his connection to inner world, me and old man is weak, we can influence this world to a degree to make it more suitable to our own liking. It's like when you are a kid and you try to redecorate your own room. You want to move the chair and reach the painting but you are so bloody weak and small you cannot do everything! But! As you grow you realize you are stronger, taller and you can move the chair and reach for the painting and redecorate your own room as you see fit. Same applies here… When I was weak I couldn't do shit but I am now strong enough to influence his inner world aesthetically to suit my own need, but, I need his permission. That permission is required because this is essentially his world. He never meditates, never comes here other than to ask for fucking help so his connection to this world is… minimal… which grants me… and old man… a great power to change this little world for our need. I made it like this because he needs simple symbolism, otherwise this world would be great nothingness with floating memories around like a tornado… I can navigate myself easily but he couldn't sooo… Old man and I found a simple and yet optimal image so we can enjoy our little shitty corner while giving my worthless king place where he can easily navigate."

"I didn't know you were capable of such thing." She smiled, moving past him. Her shoulder only slightly brushed against his but it was enough to send a shiver down his spine… a shiver that made him bite inner side of his lip.

"It takes great strength of zanpakuto to actually do something about it." He concluded and grinned wide, looking at Sode as if she is his prey "Give me another day and I'll show you what else I am capable of…"

"My head is killing me…" moan escaped Ichigo's lips as he finally reached his house. Ikumi was perfect example that slavers are still existing in this world. He opened front doors and not more than five seconds after he entered, small blur approached him and grabbed bags from his hands, not even saying hi to him. "Honey, I'm home!" he said sarcastically as he looked at Rukia who took out two large cups and placed into microwave. "Why did you even want that?"

"I read somewhere that it was favorite food of college students. We never had such at Academy so I wanted to try it out."

"Fair enough…" Ichigo responded. He would have argued that instant cups cannot even come close to home-cooked ramen but she seemed to be way too obsessed with this and he really had no strength to initiate any kind of argue… especially when he knew that she would've jumped right on his face… with her foot. One long sigh of exasperation later and he removed his jacket and sat down. It was an interesting sight for him... Despite the fact he bought two cups, seems like Rukia was enjoying preparation more, patiently waiting for microwave to reveal its sacred content after a loud beep. But there was something else…

"You seem relaxed." He commented.

Rukia looked toward Ichigo, finally revealing her worried side as he initiated the topic "Well we can't do anything at this point until our zanpakuto decide to reveal their intentions… I entered my spirit world again but Sode no Shirayuki was nowhere to be found… her presence is still there, link is intact but she is simply not there."

"What about Urahara?" Ichigo asked "He is genius and he won't perform crazy experiments."

"I checked shop but he is gone. Tessai seems to be only one in there and he told me Urahara is away but he didn't tell me where he went or when is he returning. Basically, we are on our own."

"Well it wouldn't be first time." Ichigo smiled and after short time, Rukia returned smile. Same smile became even brighter and wider as a loud ping was heard and she took both cups out of microwave, 'serving' it on the table for them. If it wasn't for the fact that he bought them or that she only heated them, it would almost be as if she is a perfect housewife… Minus the cleaning and every other house chore that she always avoided on the count this being Ichigo's house. Still, he chuckled…

They finished their dinner and went into his room. Ichigo sat on the bed and bowed his head forward… right hand reached for his eyes and he let out a groan. Rukia quickly went over to him, kneeling in front to see if he is fine but instead of response from him, she was greeted by black eyes and wide smile. Hand reached up and pressed against her face and hollow voice came from him "I'm two for two!".

Same sensation as last time filled Rukia's head… disorientation, dizziness, heavy nauseating feel. She was again in Ichigo's world but now she didn't need to look for him, instead he was standing right beside her, looking up. Her eyes tried to catch what he was looking at and she looked in that direction. Ichigo was looking at the roof of house where Zangetsu was sitting comfortably.

"I would say that you are too gullible but then again there is no other way for you to come here unless I invite you. The feel will pass soon, happens until you become frequent flyer of Air Ichigo. Fly with style!" Zangetsu laughed hard at his own little comedic comment.

"You are alone?" Ichigo asked, making Zangetsu stop with his laugh to look at his owner.

"Sode is currently unavailable, please try again later."

"I am not in the mood for jokes!" Ichigo growled, his left fist tightened while right one was about to reach for handle of his sword. Rukia was the one who was calmer this time, knowing that her sword would mean nothing against Zangetsu.

"Getting down to business? Right I can oblige, time is ticking anyway." He slowly rose and jumped down, landing on ground rather effortlessly. His steps slowly made their way toward Ichigo and Rukia, his very appearance was intimidating even though he didn't have his sword. "Your first clue is this…"

Zangetsu snapped his fingers and entire world shifted, swirled like maelstrom and ambient changed, no longer displaying peaceful village but rather empty streets of Karakura town during the night. Ichigo opened his eyes wide as he saw this.

"How did you do that?"

"It is merely aesthetic change, nothing more." Sode no Shirayuki spoke behind shinigami, walking slowly and gracefully toward Zangetsu. This appearance seemed to hurt Rukia far more than it did Ichigo. There was still slight feel of betrayal and disappointment… something that Sode felt immediately in Rukia but she didn't comment. "Really, everyone should know this." She commented, making Zangetsu almost burst into laugh but he contained himself as she shot a cold glare his way.

"I am sure you remember this one, my king." Zangetsu snapped fingers again. Eerie howl filled the night and empty streets of his town. He recognized the howl, how could he forget? It was the first hollow that he saw, first that he remembered… creepy fish mask suddenly appeared and passed right through Ichigo, as if he was a ghost while making way to his house. This image still brings him nightmares, occasionally. Large breaking sound replaced the howl and his younger self emerged along with younger version of Rukia. He swallowed hard, remembering now the moment when ugly fish hollow almost bit Rukia in half… his fist clenched tighter as she fell down on her knees… he didn't think about it much, knowing she survived but now as he looked at it again… there is no way he felt comfortable with that scene.

"Why are you showing me this?" He asked silently.

"Because of what happens next." Zangetsu said and pointed forward. With one swift motion, Rukia's zanpakuto pierced Ichigo's chest and a moment later he emerged, fully dressed in shinigami uniform with zanpakuto bigger than himself. Hollow never stood a chance, yet again displaying the fact that Ichigo is not just another shinigami.

Rukia on the other hand was still preoccupied with her thoughts that surrounded Sode no Shirayuki. She wanted to see her reaction to this scene… both ones actually. Her zanpakuto frowned the moment hollow's teeth pierced her body and even more once she stabbed Ichigo. There were so many questions Rukia had but she didn't ask… and with right reason… at this point, Sode no Shirayuki didn't have any intention to reveal thoughts to Rukia.

"See, this scene is important for two reasons… first one being the moment of my official birth. See that big ass badass sword that you are holding? That's me!"

"That's old man." Ichigo corrected him "I only got hollow powers after visiting Urahara."

"WRONG!" Zangetsu shouted right into Ichigo's ear and made him jump back "That is me. I know it because I am looking at myself like you look at yourself in the mirror. You saw old man because you always fought with reason and mind. See… Whenever you fight with strategy, when you think step ahead, when you are composed and you think twice before acting… you are using old man's powers but when you fight with instinct, when you fight with desire to win, when you only seek victory at any cost, that is when you use me! Granted… It did give us few memories, what with me trying to take over your body, hehehe."

"I am embodiment of your instincts, Ichigo. No matter how desperate you are, when you are fighting with ME you will never have to worry about lack of strength because I am your strength… but you think first, you try to outsmart your opponent and because of it, old man is more often source of your strength… you are also weaker with him because him and I… we are two sides of same coin. You will always risk me taking over but I will always give you strength that can overcome any of those fuckers in Soul Society. Sword that you wield… shikai, bankai… that big ass sword you are holding right there! That is me! It was old man's guidance and reason that led you during battle but it was this hand…" Zangetsu rose his right hand, showing it to Ichigo before he clenched it and lightly tapped against Ichigo's chest "This hand was cutting all those hollows, this hand went toe to toe with Senbonzakura, this hand went to hell and back…this hand brought down Ulquiorra."

"That is the moment when I woke up but I was too weak. I had too much power but your body couldn't contain me fully until you underwent hollowfication. That's where I broke from shackles and emerged into your world and already I took in one desire and one feeling. The desire was 'power', simply put I wanted you to become stronger so I could become stronger…"

"And the feeling?" Rukia asked, seemingly more interested in this than Ichigo. Zangetsu looked at her and smirked.

"There was something I felt when sword pierced his chest. But, that is not for today's story. Today you get to contemplate about this little scene we showed you. Bye bye your royal pain in the ass highness!"

"Hold on!" Ichigo shouted but Zangetsu's fingers snapped, sending both Ichigo and Rukia up in the air… kicking them out of the world.

"Out of curiosity." Sode no Shirayuki said calmly, looking at Zangetsu "What was that first feeling you had?"

"Well I felt just that!" he chuckled as he turned toward Sode no Shirayuki "Curiosity. And speaking of curiosity… has 'yet' came already?"

"My my, you are impatient one." She smiled wide at him

"Well sweetcheeks… It has to do something with me being hollow; patience is not one of my greatest virtues. That belongs to stick in the mud!"

"Then you will have to wait a little bit more." She turned walking slowly and gracefully along the cobblestone road toward center of village "If you intend to still play with my hair…" she glanced over her shoulder at him "I will be at fountain."

Hand rose fast and Zangetsu practically slammed it against his own face, laughing loud enough to fill entire world. "Damn you woman! You tease me but you deny me!" His tongue moved yet again along his lower lip.

"Would you prefer any other way?"

"Not in this lifetime…"