A/N: 'TIS IS A Histu/Karin story. Hopefully you shall find it appropriate to your tastes. I do not claim ownership of BLEACH, though I will claim being a novice to its source material. If you wish to help me with insightful reviews. I hope you enjoy. Timeline occurs around the period which Abarai and Kuchiki are sent to retrieve Rukia, though as it will become apparent, I've made some changes to the canon. I'm not sure of the date exactly, however. I hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach, though some characters are of my ownership.

Chapter 1: The Looking-Glass

July 30th

The rain seemed to be endless, The white-crowned boy thought to himself, aware of the infinite torrent, striking his head, lacking purpose of that its mere existence. Even in shimigami form, the rain grazed him, pelted him, urged him to find shelter. It was a weak bellow, weak despite its unceasing curtain of chilling drops. It lacked the strength of semantics, more doing its task of raining because it was supposed to do it, as if dictated by some plebian god. His blade, the draconic Hyoninmaru, chimed such a chorus, bleating with a nobility akin to Byakuga Kuchiki, imploring the young reaper to seek safety else ware.

Duty and an enigmatic, uninteresting compulsion kept Toshiro Hitsugaya rooted to his spot, perched effortlessly on an equally drenched rooftop. His obsidian kimono absorbed more and more rain, and yet he sat, watching with an icy brilliance.

The object of his observations, and further still his thoughts, was the Kurosaki household, which he watched undetected from the home across the street. He did not understand why he simply didn't apply the most direct approach (I.e. knocking on the door, rushing in when it was opened, and carrying Rukia Kuchiki away), but he was more pragmatic than his outward appearance would predict. For the house itself, it was massive, he vaguely noted, aware of damages that had a good reason, but no evidence so far. He had remained in this spot, his legs dangling over the edge of the pleated roof for hours, before the rain began and the darkness commenced. Of course, although the 10th division captain did find his fingers probing the monitor he used for hollows-as per was his duty-his teal eyes remained riveted on the house.

He knew what he was looking for, what he was looking at, though his persistence actually disturbed him. The Kurosaki household was akin to a bonfire in a wooded area. The sheer reiatsu emitting from the depths of that house shocked him. Initially he did not believe that such reiatsu could burgeon from this place. However, he had been commissioned here (A lie: He was actually quite curious, and bored as heck in Soul Society), and now he was dutifully standing by, observing the household like a hawk.

It was beginning to exasperate him however, as he watched. He didn't mind the silence, but he was wondering if it would be prudent for him to remain watching from here. From what he had gathered, the home had four individuals; A father, a son, and two daughters. The father looked familiar for a reason that escaped him; However, the father (whose name he learned was Isshin) had minimal spiritual pressure, as so not worth his notice. One of the daughters, whose name was Yuzu, mimicked this minimal spiritual pressure, and again lacked the earning of his interest. It was the boy that he had been initially warned about, possessing humongous spiritual pressure that seemed to be the source of his massive reiatsu. It had not escaped his notice that the boy, Ichigo, had observed him in an concealed attempt, looking right at him as he passed.

The other daughter, Karin, was not worth his interest.

Of course, he made a mental analogy of this other daughter, with her tomboyish looks and raven-hair, in her spiritual pressure. It was the reason why he was here, and the reason why he discarded his interest. The girl's spiritual pressure was too much like the aggressive, maniacal Kenpachi Zaraki back in Soul Society. It leaked continuously, but it did had finer control under it. The girl, Karin, had a potent mark on the area, but it was dwarfed by the boy's. Perhaps this was a good thing. If both their spiritual pressures were 'turned on' at full blast…it would attract every hollow perhaps within a five-mile radius.

His face breathed out in exasperation.

"Why couldn't Kuchiki-taicho do this himself? Its his damn sister…I'm 10th company captain, for crying out loud! What's the point of having subordinates if I got to do this?"

He could only hope that Matsumoto was doing the paperwork back at the office. He only had one other subordinate under him: Renji Abarai, the assistant captain of the 6th company. He had also beenn offered Tosen's lieutenant, but he politely declined, aware that he was already annoyed by going at all.

Not to mention, he also missed Momo…but duty came first.

His eyes of blue-green traced briefly up to the second-floor window, seeing that a light was still on, in spite of the late hours. Rukia Kuchiki was still around, and so to avoid being detected, subtly was necessary. His pressure was lowered to evade detection, and even so, perhaps the blunt typhoon of the orange-haired boy and the raven-haired girl's more demure potency would cover his own power nearby.

His eyes remained trained on the lit window. He spotted a figure looking outside. His concern made him want to flee suddenly, for he saw a hint of sable-black locks…but then he realized the boy that Kuchiki was constantly with was on the other side of the house…what would be his left. The lit window came on the right side, and Hitsugaya's intuition told him it was that other daughter Karin.

Nothing important, he guessed.

"Why couldn't Kuchiki do this himself?" He found himself asking again. Holding his position was tiresome, despite his lack of a gigai.

He could feel the girl's eyes upon him for some time.

Night continued to deepen. The rain continued to swell from the pavement, its lanes becoming temporary waterways with the freezing downpour. Yet he stood outside…waiting…watching…he wanted to see if Rukia was doing her job, as the Council of 46 desired her return. However, it had been taking longer than they expected. She had been sent on a patrol, rudimentary and routine as any day is, but she did not return for sometime. Byakuga had his interest: Kuchiki was his sister, after all. However, Toshiro and the 6th Division captain had little contact with each other outside of their regular captains' meetings. It was due to Jushiro Ukitake of the 13th company that Toshiro (bribed with embarrassment, a mothering Momo, and a sack of sweets) ended up in his current predicament to start. To say he was amused was a poor interpretation. It didn't help his ego anymore with regard that the 'bribe' had been done with his subordinates in plain sight…gossip was rare in Soul Society, and when a newer, juicier piece of intrigue was introduced into the placid landscape…it didn't take long for everyone to pick up on it.

Another exasperated sigh escaped the boy's pallid lips. He respected Captain Ukitake; he really did. But his affections wore on him. Everyone in Soul Society was older than they appeared. It had only been his luck that he had died at a young age.

Young one, this One smells your distaste. Control it.


This One understands the workings of humans better than you, wielder. This one knows that everyman relies on the prestige of deeds than the prestige of appearance. Thou wishes to become great. Thou wishes to become strong. It is This One's obligation to grant thy wish. But be calm. This One is fond of the rain.

Ah. Hyourinmaru. The blade had a consciousness, an id, ego, and overbearing superego to debate with the boy. It was his blade, his extension, his persona manifest upon the material plane. Otherwise, Toshiro would more so be the snobbish little boy that he seemed to be, and not with the morals and responsibilities bestowed by the dragon lurking inside.

When will that girl go to bed already?

This One asked politely for your quiescence. Remember, little frost; This One serves as thy shield, thy sword, and thy consul. This One shalt not sway from thy responsibility. But This One rarely sees the rain again…

The dragon fell silent, and once more Toshiro Hitsugaya was deposited to his lonely vigil.

The light to the raven-haired girl's room still shone, like a watcher's eerie eye.

For how much longer the clock ventured in swift, baby steps or lunges masked in the sonata of rain, the captain of the 10th division had no saying. His phone monitor remained effortlessly silent, as if obeying the requests of the equally silent dragon. This Toshiro found remotely odd, but he never let his eyes venture away from the door of the home.

So when the stranger came walking, perpendicular to that doorway, Hitsugaya's surprise was belated, but genuine.

He had not heard the man coming, nor had he sensed the reiatsu of this dapper man either. Hence, had it not been for the inherent strangeness of this interloper, Toshiro would've simply dismissed him as another mortal wandering the early morning streets, albeit one with a peculiar taste in clothing for a rainstorm. The rain seemed as unrelenting as usual in its deluge, in which an umbrella was utterly pointless to bear. Yet this man walked softly, like piano chords in the moonlight, a white fabric shield dually wedging the rain and obscuring his face.

The coming and going of various mortals did not in the least concern Hitsugaya, who still like a predator observed the household. The light in the right bedroom had finally shut off. Yet the man standing below him, on the street did not seem to be in a hurry. Toshiro bet he could be smiling under that umbrella, though as he moved, the man's pallid countenance remained concealed by his pearl-white, pentagonal shield. He noticed a parcel in his other hand as he drew closer, shaped in a rectangular fashion, wrapped in layers of white plastic. Also, more details drew home with each sloshing step in the rain, each time a careful shoe diving into the swelling, temporary river that was the street. His clothes continued to boggle the youngest captain's logic. Surely, no human would were dress attire for an outing in the rain, but alas, such was the case. Perfectly ironed, a three-piece business suit of the darkest umbra, with a contrasting, innocent white undershirt to coagulate the tones of midnight blackness of coat and pants and gloves…Hitsugaya found his eyes temporarily pulled from his main interest to observe this oddity. Every button was militantly fastened. Each cuff was locked like a bank. Each glove stretched to accommodate thin, long fingers. But even as he neared, and stood at an intersection on the sidewalk, between he and the Kurosaki household, Hitsugaya could not see the face of the pale man. The umbrella obscured most of his face, but he could see the hair…a crow black to match his harmless dress suit. Also, He could just make out the tips of a murky, unbelievably dry wide-brimmed hat, almost akin to what he recalled being called a 'fedora', of Western popularity.

That was all the description the boy genius cared to deliver to the dapper-clothed man. A vagrant mortal was beneath the captain's notice, and he had dilly-dallied on his mission for long enough.

Hyourinmaru…we're going.

Wait, little one-

Stop calling me little!

Observe thy interloper, thy captain. The dragon within the sword pointed out.

Why? He can't see us. His reiatsu's insignificant.

The interloper stares right at thy face, little wielder.

This got his attention, whether he wanted to or not. So he turned, and looked. His face was still masked, concealed by both the enchanting wide-brimmed hat and the innocent umbrella, but even admist the hydrophobic curtain, Hitsugaya could make out a little something that confirmed the ice dragon's perception. A small, saturnine smile, etched upon the lower jaw of a angled face.

Hitugaya stared back, hoping that if he denied the cosmopolitan man his attention, his existence and purpose would be denied as well. However, even with the continued torrent smashing down upon their respective brows, the man stood unkempt and unbothered, his smile never shrinking and his head stagnant in angle.

It was a few more minutes before the man spoke.

"Good evening, little dragon. Or would Buenos noches be more mannerly?" It was a quiet voice, an appropriate accompaniment to the man's strange silence. It was also disturbingly deadpan, and lacking of emotion…as if the man was deliberately forgoing the human attributes to be polite.

Hitsugaya chose not to respond. His eyes moved past the man's slim shoulders, focusing back on the house, and particularly, the upstairs windows.

"Please, do not ignore me. That would incur a spanking upon you, little dragon."

"Are you dead?" Toshiro relented, acknowledging the troublemaker. Duty was still his, even if there were no hollows. If this man were counted among the deceased, a proper soul burial would eradicate this nuisance and let hi return to his job.

"Dead? If I were dead, would you kindly explain how I can hold these materialistic items? An amusing joke." He responded, though the lack of fluctuating tones in his deadpan voice suggested amusement was an impossibility. Toshrio rolled his eyes, aware of this fact. The umbrella was holding off the rain, and the plastic-wrap parcel was as well. Apparently, this fashionably dressed shrew was among the flesh and blood.

"Would you kindly recognize me, instead of turning your eyes, little dragon? That can be interpreted as rude, if you don't have the courtesy to pay attention when someone speaks to you. " The pale man continued.

"Its just as rude to interrupt a man when he's doing his job." Toshiro countered.

"Then it is fortunate I speak to a grade schooler. Isn't past your bedtime?"

Toshiro's scowl deepened. The man's smile actually widened.

"Get lost. I'm busy."

"…that simply can't happen. I find it a discourtesy to my guests, and a discourtesy to myself, to ignore an action when committed to it. Please, would you kindly here me out?"

"You don't know me."

"Then indulge me, dragon pequeno."

Toshiro let out another exasperated sigh. Of all the luck…he ends up with a nutcase that can see ghosts. The Hollows, he reasoned internally, would be breaking down the door by now. "Fine. I'm Captain Toshiro Hitsugaya, Captain of the 10th Company. Now scram."

The man did not budge from his place in the ankle-high waters. He only looked up highly, smiling all the while a beguiling complexion while revealing more of the lower half of his pallid face. A straight, triangular chin, defined as his own, shone in a pasty glory from the blanket of his opaque fedora, and his smile seemed quite content in conversation.

The man did not move even as Toshiro lost his cool, the water near him threatening to freeze and shatter. "Hey! I told you to scram. I'm busy in one of my duties. Leave and forget my face."

The man only beamed serenely at the boy genius, deaf to his retort and immune or ignorant to the steadily dropping temperature. After a few more minutes of study, he turned and walked in the opposite direction, towards the Kurosaki household, his feet now making muted splashes among the melodious rain.

This didn't sit well with Toshiro. His intuition told him something was up, and he beckoned with a voice befitting his position.

"Hey! What're you doing?"

The fashionable man's voice remained somewhat lackadaisical in emotional quantity, revealing still only his deadpan timbre. "I can see you are distracted, little dragon. So distracted, that your boorishness cannot be blamed on you, but the situation? Would you kindly excuse me? I must rid you of that distraction before I can harpoon the meat of my arrival."

"Huh? What the blasted are you-"

"This house," The pallid man responded, pointing with the rectangular, plastic-wrapped parcel still in gloved hand, "is the source of your unpleasant distractions. Do not worry your little head, dragon pequeno, I shall relieve you of that distraction. I shall simply slit the throats of the patriarch, the matriarch, and the male siblings, and then I'll have some fun with the daughters, if there are-"

His babbling, the emotional quality and casualness which he carried reflecting a detachedness even the icy Hitsugaya would describe as inhuman, was shut off by the suddenness of the 10th company captain. No sooner had the man finished describing how he would eliminate the father of the household, Toshiro lept from his place on the waterlogged rooftop to in-between the trim-dressed man and the Kurosaki household. His blade was out, pointing at the obviously psychotic mortal, and inside his consciousness, the noble Hyourinmaru roared to be unleashed.

Though not one for heroics, Toshiro would simply not stand by and watch people be slaughtered, especially when the act was broadcasted to his face. Duty demanded more of him.

"I'm not distracted anymore."

The man said nothing. His response at the sudden act was to continue smiling an eerie, beguiling smile, succeeding at irritating the child genius.

"Are you a Vasto Lorde?" Toshiro questioned. The man did fit the description, but it bother him that it was unlikely. Cryptic as his smile was and crazy as his tongue was, he had no spiritual pressure. Was he suppressing it? Or was he bluffing under that blank tone?

"A Vasto Lorde? No. Amusing joke, though, to confuse un hombre of flesh and bone as a simple hollow. I'm so entertained, and the real fun hasn't even begun."

Toshiro raised his eyebrow. "Stop talking nonsense, you nutcase. What's your business here?"

The pallid man in the onyx, three piece suit did not immediately answer. Instead, in the middle of the street (where the cars were at this late hour Hitsugaya didn't hazard a guess), the peculiar, still-anonymous man walked past the boy, underhandedly throwing the parcel onto the front doorstep of the Kurosaki household (it splashed hard to the ground and shimmered with a metallic clang). Then, he slowly closed and tipped his pearl-white umbrella, leaning it against a streetlight to the 10th company captain's right, before returning to his position, a gloved hand now trained on top of his black fedora, as if afraid the wind would snatch it from him…despite the sheer lack of gusts.

Toshiro stamped his blade on the ground, intent to garner the attention of the clarified mad man.

"Would you kindly duel me, little dragon?"

The request evidently shocked the boy genius. He had stood in the rain, listening to this nutcase, just to have him ask to a duel? He had no spiritual power! He might as well been asking for assisted suicide.

"Sorry. Soul Reapers killing mortals is a little taboo. Besides, if we were to fight for real…lets just say I'd end you."

"Pretty confident. But are you measuring me by appearances alone? Don't you know that surprised is the worse state an opponent can be in? I assure you that I have some surprises, as do you. I willing ask for this duelo. The responsibility, should you slay me, will entirely be mine and mine alone, and whatever superior you have to face will respect that. Killing me will not be your fault. And besides. What can a weak little mortal like me do to you, a powerful captain, in any setting, much less the fearsome rain around you?"

"So you…want to die."

"No. I want to be entertained." The pallid man said finally. He turned to face Toshiro, his complacent gloved hand leaping from the top of his wide-brimmed hat, both arms descending to static attention at his sides. "Summon your espada, little dragon."


"I am a vacant being, and if I must confess to being a pecador, so be it that I am a hedonist. Entertain me, little dragon. Summon your espada."

Logic had fled to the far corners of the universe, entrapped outside of Toshiro's teal-flavored sight and his understanding. He was supposed to be finding Rukia Kuchiki and taking her back to Soul Society, not playing and butchering some tuxedoed miscreant. He wasn't even armed, for goodness sake!

"No. I send souls to Soul Society. I don't send the living to hell."

"……how disappointing. How discouraging. How infuriating." His voice concealed all emotions, so whether or not this stranger was being sarcastic or just a nuisance, Toshiro hadn't a clue. The man removed his onyx gloves with a patronizing air, casting the gloves aside to reveal milky, thin hands. "You must either be arrogant to duel me or too distracted by that house. Perhaps I should burn it down?"

"Shut up! I'm not interested in killing idiots! Go back to your home."

"I'm afraid I can't do that. Oh, what a pity. I was so hoping I wouldn't have to draw first blood. But I can see that will not work. You have your duty, but what holds your heart? Order? Ha. Oh well. I haven't skinned any bunnies recently. If I have to make the first strike…so be it.

"I cannot tell you my name just yet. Forgive me of that discourtesy. But I have an alias, in the roving, Material plane from which I reside. They call me the Seven-Sealed Devil. Get ready."

Then, in an action that took Toshiro off guard, for he was still convinced that the man was more an agitator than an actor, the debonair man slapped the boy genius with his bare hand. He did not see him venture from his spot in the middle of the street, to the sidewalk which Toshiro stood, or the movement back to his starting position. He had only felt the stinging brush upon his cheek, and the tingling sensation that persevered.

"Did you just slap me?"

"Of course. Provocation is one of the oldest tactics to goad a warrior to action. You are not an imbecile, I will assure of that. We just have to remove that pacifistic stance."

Toshiro blinked. The man was spouting some ridiculous sentences befitting of the inmates of an asylum, with his jaunty disposition a clever yet lazily placed fakery. He complimented him for absurdities and an inoffensive smile could not be removed from his face…nor the fedora from his raven-colored crown, even as the rain seized his fabrics.

"Are you ready, little dragon? I have all night."

"…you are one stupid mortal." Hitsugaya coldly remarked, with a tone of a military instructor. "You asked for it."

"Sit upon the Frosted Heavens…Hyourinmaru!"

The release was set, in such a way that Hitsugaya's spiritual pressure skyrocketed. His blade took its true form, that of a larger, more edged shape, and surrounding his little body was a dragon made of part ice and part water.

"Do you get the picture now?" Toshiro responded, levitating from the audible surge of power. The dragon surrounded the little captain, his kimono and haori, despite being drenched immune to the solidifying rain. Currently, the watery, serpentine dragon stared over his shoulder, looking to smite the foolish man who would arouse it from its slumber. "Let me explain this to you, because my patience is utterly shot with you. There is this something we Soul Reapers have called reiatsu. All beings have it. Reiatsu is a measure of one's spiritual might and potency, you could say. The more there is, the brighter it shine. Let me prepare a simple description for you, idiot, so maybe you'll get out of my way. Your reiatsu I can feel: its like a whimpering candle in the cold winds. Mine, on the other hand…mine is a blazing sun…that will burn you alive. Now…will you go now?"

"…ha ha ha. If that is true, than a weakling such as myself should pose no threat. You have the power to freeze my heart: The power of life and death. But we must do something about your chaste reluctance. That espada would certainly kill me, and it is so beautiful…but we must see for ourselves."

"Damn it." Toshiro responded. He had no reason to fight this man. He really didn't. It was a waste of his powers, and it chaffed his mentality. This man was not a hollow, for hunger seemed the last concern of the pallid man. Likewise, he was not a plus, for he was handling objects other than his clothes. Lastly, he certainly was not a soul reaper, for the clothes were incorrect, and he had no zanpakuto. This man was simply a mortal man, who wanted to fight him, and impede his duties, and it irritated him.

"Would you kindly answer one more question for me? Or two?"

"…I'm really losing my patience with you."

"Then, I shall be quick, lest I destroy my good image." The man droned on, taking a brief bow to add some substance to his deadpan voice. "Delighted though I am that you have revealed your dragon , I am curious still: Is this the extent of your powers?"

Toshiro felt an eyebrow raise. The man continued on without notice.

"As I confessed before, I am a hedonist. Its all I can live for, a vacant being seeking the thrill and recognition of mortal combat. Even if I am so much weaker than you, I feel you are holding back. This, though a beautiful display to smite down grunts, is not the extent of your hand. Please indulge me further, I, a decadent and empty soul, with your full potential. I implore you."

The white-haired captain's reply was gruff and as strained as his brain. "I don't waste my bankai on suicidal idiots. Sorry. This is all your getting."

The man said nothing. He tilted his hat up briefly, almost as if to reveal his still absent eyes, but the elongated brim of his hat kept the 10th company captain's teal orbs from perceiving it (that and the vicious rains). He lowered his hat again, and 'tutted' in dismay.

"I guess I have to earn my entertainment today. Be careful, little dragon. Never measure a man by an intangible aura. He may have a few surprises up his sleeves."

Having discarded his gloves some time ago, the pasty hands of the 'Seven-Sealed Devil' extended themselves to his sides, and then jerked them up suddenly, forming a right angle. Hitsugaya only lost his lunch at what he saw. From the palms of his pallid, thin hands, two blades pierced out, as if they were parasites coated in blood, trying to flee the confines of the epidermis. Farther and farther the edges crawled out, like moles from underground, more blood staining the waterlogged streets, until the handles of each sword-each about three feet-fell right into his grasping, open-holed palms. With a rudimentary swing, the man cast aside the blood and meat attached to his blades, and Toshiro could get a good look at the sabers now. They were then blades, like epees, but the edges of the blades were sharper on the sides rather than on the tip. Yamamoto's lieutenant (Hitsugaya had forgotten the name) held a blade similar to these.

Not once did the man flinch. His smile never wavered. His fedora never left.

And then Toshiro lost sight of the fool.

"Over your shoulder."

Toshiro briefly whirled behind him (Hyourinmaru mimicked the action) before the man punched him in the face rather than slap him with his blade. Toshiro flinched slightly, a renewed, nagging sensation cropping back on his cheek, before pulling his dragon back to the attack.

The strong ice zanpakuto dived at where the man stood, but the little captain missed the sound of flesh freezing to ice. When the dragon rematerialized back into his watery majesty, only the water on the sidewalk was frozen over. The man was gone again.

Toshiro had all of two seconds to wonder where the man was, before, in his tuxedoed glory he pounced again, striking his face with his weaker hands rather than with his dangerous sabers. Again there was a tingling on his face, but he ignored it, trying to mobilize his dragon to fight.

The results repeated itself for several times. Hyourinmaru, slowly becoming crabbier and crabbier, would hurl itself into the waters where the man would stand, his angelic smile mocking him. And on each occasion, the man would evade without harm, appear behind the 10th captain, and strike weakly with his fist than his sabers. Eventually, the man stopped, more interested in chatting than pursuing his white-crowned object of interest.

"It is true you are more powerful than me. On a scale of one to fifty, I am a six, and you are currently a nine. However, I can tell you are holding back. This bores me. I hate boredom. I loathe boredom. I-"

"Will you shut up?!" Hitsugaya shouted. "I don't have time to fight you."

"If you don't crank up your power, just yet, I will force it from your blood. Little dragon, I wanted to be killed by a wyrm such as you…not butcher the dragon itself. Don't disappoint me."

Toshiro looked down, and felt the badge under his kimono. He really didn't think it was necessary to fight all out, to activate his genkei kyotai but all this guy was doing was evading his efforts. He was in the darn rain, for crying out loud! This should've been over!

"…if you don't activate your…how do you call it? Bankai? Then I will force it out of you. My blades are sharp enough."

"…whatever. I have no reason to fight a mortal. My job is to reap souls. Not to reap lives. But if you keep pushing me…" Toshiro warned. The water under him froze in supernatural speed, more akin to a plague than to a natural phenomenon. The chair around his arm unraveled, and so he aimed it around his fist. "…this is ridiculous. I can destroy you with my full power; you couldn't even stand it I let it all go. And water is everywhere, devil. Hyourinmaru will regenerate indefintinely as long as there's a downpour."

"Ha. Ha. Just keep barking, little bitsy dragon. My blades are a little deaf."

Toshiro spat, uncharacteristically, then hurled his chain at Olympic speed, intent on entrapment apparent. The pallid man smiled and vanished in the turning, the chain slicing through his shadow. The next sensation the 10th company captain felt was a grazing at his middle, as the pallid man appeared at his front, his twin blades gutting his kimono with a boned-fish clarity. Blood mingled with the ice below him, and for the first time Toshiro, in his shock, caught a glimmer of his pupils. It reminded him of the fox-face Gin Ichimaru, who simpered with each breath.

"Little dragon…I drew your blood. Freeze me while I am stabbing you."

Toshiro grimaced, the pain apparent in his soul-bound body. His chain remained limp at the side, and his blade was inert in the other in. The twin blades did not pierce him fatally, as despite both lancing his torso., but it held him still. Surprise was his mentality, and the debonair man took advantage. His hands let go of the swords, and both pasty-completed hands worked in ballet, slapping and slapping over and over his youthful face. His face volleyed from numbness to prickly euphoria, and he was at the mental end of the dragon.

The fool is in range, wielder. Call This One's glorious name, and let us surprise him for the folly of challenging us!

Alright, here we go…


The little captain had not been jesting, his rage a cold glacier shattering in combination with his dragon and himself. Pride was not an unknown commodity in his psyche. He had reason to hold to his pride, for he took every accomplishment seriously. And yet he was being mocked-anger rather than burn and incinerate, froze over in his world, seeking to devour everything in its icy voraciousness. Not even the inherent quickness of this strange narcissus could evade at least the first wintry blast, as his bankai took effect. He could feel the insignificant 'candle-jack' be thrown from his place, his grip on his sabers lost amidst the sudden surge of power, his body blasting upon a nearby fencepost. His zanpakuto grew in length, sharpened by power Toshiro neither knew he had nor remembered. Wings of the most translucent white sprouted from his shoulder-blades. His legs became strong, reptilian stumps. A tale of considerable length and glassy texture trailed from his hip. And from his body came a glorious, twelve-petal flower, the sigil of his spiritual strength.

"…Diageru Hyourinmaru." Toshiro muttered softly, the rain around him freezing in his diameter before shattering on the ground. The potency of his bankai rippled though the area, cowing those who could sense him (inwardly suspecting that the Kurosaki household was enduring its effect). He knew Soul Society was gonna have his head, but…the mortal man asked for it. If that fool was dead, Toshiro would have a dealing with soul burial soon.

His teal eyes widened in utter surprise as he watched the dandy stand up, apparently hurt, but alive. Ice coagulated upon his hands and pants, and his fedora was frozen in the expanding, cancerous permafrost. Blood spouted as a faucet from his mouth, and he ejected bloody streams with hacking coughs.

The 10th captain almost felt pity for the worm crawling on the ground. "Its over. Get lost. Take your spared life and get lost. I'm no longer holding back, so you know. Everyone with a sixth sense can feel me for six miles. You can't even stand now, I think."

"Ha. Ha. Amusing. Amusing joke. Incorrigible to boot. Ha. Ha." The narcissus muttered, crawling under his breath with blood-stained teeth. "Gracias, Gracias, gracias, little dragon. You have delighted me. Now I can follow through. I guess I am a little candle after all."

"Give it up." Toshiro called, his patience at the breaking point. "You can't even-" He was going to finish with the word 'stand', but the word was swallowed before his larynx could produce it. Instead, he plucked the swords out of his body, exposing his wounds to the draconic cold.

The man stood up, dusting off the icicles forming on his business suit. He acted with such aloofness that he barely seemed aware of his injuries, save the jarring twitching on his body. A hand, now cleanly bruised from the thrusting act, snatched his fedora, and finally Toshiro observed his head uncovered: A normally-rounded head, shallow skinned, but with elegant raven hair in a pony-tail, and squinty eyes that accented his deceptions. His smile continued to be a caricature that the white-crowned reaper detested.

"I'm so delighted I can't stand it, little dragon. At last you are shining brightly. You shine so brightly I must squint in your direction, or risk blindness from your arctic presence. I'm so happy."

He sure as heck does not sound like it. The 10th captain thought to himself, again noting the cardinal trait of that annoying flat affect. The dandy placed his fedora back on his skull after brushing aside the various ice shards decorating it, and looked at where Toshiro had cast aside his sabers.

"Ah. My blades rust easily when not in contact with tissue. A pity." He commented as if stating the affairs at the polls, less with emotion and more with fact. He was right, the white-haired soul reaper realized, as the blades, no sooner in touching the ground, withered to dust, their durability lost to brittleness.

"I warn you again. This exercise is pointless. Give up!"

"I'm afraid I'll have to move forward, though I believe a disk has fragmented into my spinal column with that landing. Adrenaline is keeping me up now. I asked to a duel, and your head now brushes the glass ceiling. Time to transform that pretty little cabeza of yours into a battering ram. Come on."

His hands jerked again to a right angle, and once again two epee-like sabers sprouted from his arms like a pair of weeds. He brandished them, and moved forward. Hitsugaya scowled, observing still the leisurely pace which the pallid, unnamed man approached him, not even resorting to his speed. A bubbling rage began to take hold, and he raised his shining blade. Patience had fled from his kimono into the closet of his righteous mind. Corporal punishment seemed the most savory-not to mention only-option left open to him.

"Damn it. Do I have to kill you?"

In arrogance voiced in choice of words more so than emphasis of input, the man bit perhaps his last. "You called yourself a blazing sun. Prove it to me. Burn me to oblivion, as you claim you can. I have little use for the paltry weight of words. All I care about is my own pleasure, and your reservations deny me that. Would you kindly stifle those reservations, and incinerate me?"

Toshiro let out an exasperated sigh. He felt a sweltering power inside him, and he intended to finish his fight. But he was aware of the foolishness of fighting this man.

"No. Forget it. I told you, my job is to reap souls, and kill hollows. You are living. I cannot-"

He had forgotten the pallid man's speed. The man had tried to run him through again, and this time slashed at both thighs. His face was smiling, but his words soon contradicted that smile.

"Why? I only live for battle. Nothing else matters to me. Others' lives do not matter to me," The narcissus slashed at Toshiro, cutting up his kimono, and searing wide his arms with tenacious sabers. "Others' duties do not matter to me," He quickly sliced at his cheek, cutting additional scars as he spoke, his blades showing the emotion he lacked. "All that matters to me is the fight. Must I debase myself to barbarian status for that joy?" He, in all his debonair glory, punched again at the bewildered Toshiro, punctuating his point with another impromptu stabbing into his lower torso. He head butted the child-captain, and hurled him over his body by rolling him up with a leg-based judo throw. "I admonish you for raising up my hopes to only smash them, little dragon. Now…I spank you."

Toshiro recovered instantly, and soared right into the pallid, anonymous man. His mercifulness and his dutiful steadfastness had evaporated with the freezing ice. Instead, he responded with both the same suddenness and inexorability of this stranger, that would impede on his own duties.

His blade struck home, finding a cold niche inside of the man's ribcage just as the man raised his guard once again. Under the bristling power of Captain Toshiro Hitsugaya, the youngest soul to achieve bankai and the youngest ever to attain captaincy, the man could not stop the joust with his meager twin epees. Instead, both blades shattered like branches before the windstorm, broken in half with effortless ease. They clattered upon the frosted streets, curiously alone and forgotten, as their creator succeeded at stopping the zanpakuto with his body alone. Blood shoved out like old burgundy wine, which started to solidify almost instantly under Hitsugaya's entropic spiritual pressure.

His feet amazingly stopped the pushing efforts of the smaller opponent, finding a crevasse to halt on by a fencepost wreathed in ice. His hands shook furiously, the nerve communication fissured beyond repair, and apparently lost their sense of intelligence. They did not find his sword, which might have pulled it out. They found his angled face, scowling with hardened teal eyes, his pasty fingers cupping each side of his countenance with transparent desperation.

"You are dying." Toshiro stated with finality. His hands remained as granite upon the hilt of Hyourinmaru, the priceless katana piercing deep into his visceral and scrawny body. "I shall send you to Soul Society when you pass out."

The man only smiled, his fingers never moving, and Hitsugaya never making an effort to remove them. "Amusing. Ha. To dupe you into believe I have a soul. I am a vacant being of denser flesh and bones. But I've won anyway."

"Humph. You are insane and inane, fool. Even when faced with your own mortality, you refuse to accept your stupidity. I haven't the time for this."

"Can't you feel it? Can't you?" He muttered quietly. Blood continued to pour from his violated mouth. "Does your radiance not surprise you? Never were you this powerful. Never. Your restriction has been bypassed, and I've shattered your glass ceiling. How much…further…"

Toshiro raised an eyebrow. The pallid man noticed.

"How many flower petals do you have, little dragon?" He asked randomly.


"Oh. My number counting must be different than yours. I count twenty-four."

Hitsugaya's eyebrows threatened to traverse his furrowed, disturbed brow, and disappear into his white-forest on top his head. He chanced a glance behind him, and his eyes widened in demolished composure. The dandy of a man, who had berated him and survived despite being run through by his sharpened sword, was correct in the midst of irrational ramblings. When his bankai activated normally, the ice flower erected behind him took on twelve petals, symbolizing his potency. Now, however, though he felt powerful, more powerful than even the Captain-General Yamamoto, he could see his jaw drop as tourmaline eyes darted across chalk-white voids to count in bounces the number of fecund crystal petals now budding from his bankai sigil. Indeed the man spoke with veracity: There were twenty-four petals to his ice flower, double that of what was his standard limit, when he was one-hundred percent. Never, even when emotionally charged, could he voluntarily attain such a feet. And yet, staring at him in the face with outlandish mascara and frozen reality was that feat-a doubling of his power with active logic.

The bleeding fop only grinned, hacked, and laughed in combinations cut akin to his body. "I told you…little dragon…I am the Seven-Sealed Devil. Know why I…am called that? I…I…am weak before you, a blazing sun, but a candle can burn anywhere, and not eradicate those that want its warmth. You, blazing sun…destroy everything in your area with a callousness of the universe. Indifference fits…your icy face…ha. Ha."

"What did you do, darn it?" Toshiro asked, his voice a wrathful lion and an awed salamander.

"Ha. Ha. The best are those that fiiiiight…for something. That die….for something. You cannot die, and so there is no meaning…A star does not fret and worry that it will burn…the people who languid in its brightness, or the plants that harvest its luster. Noooo…it only burns, until one of two things happens. How…how fitting, that you'd have the gaucheness to name yourself a sun. There are only dos fates for a sun, little dragon. Expand and explode, or shrink and collapse. Ha. Ha. Amusing, is your perplexity, that you can think to reap a vacant being. Ha. Ha." The man began to slump, his legs that once moved so fast now having their vigor siphoned out to supply his chaste tongue. His hands never left Toshiro's face, now clutching with such feeble intensity that his vainly-consummated fingernails creased the child captain's lithe cheeks.

And yet he never stopped smiling, a fact which simultaneously perturbed and infuriated the little captain. Hyourinmaru had interesting fell silent, and now the wintry aura became a typhoon in his mind.

"One of my skills, as I will soon-tch!" The man grunted in agony, as he shifted. Toshiro kept his hold on the blade, and he jerked it suddenly. "…soon, have no importance in this Material Plane…is positive energy amplification. With every touch of my bare epidermis, I inject a little or a lot of positive energy-what you…you can call spiritual pressure-into whomever I touch. Friend or foe. You reached your glass ceiling sometime ago, little dragon. Now, you are overstraining. Like a super giant, crimson as my blood…your power is beyond your grasp. In a few seconds…since my hands are still on your face…that power will burn out, and you will have nothing. So…let me bring you down to the rat's level. Let me bring you down to the surface."

A hand released its death grip on Hitsugaya's face. A jerk, simply and supple, produced another blade, and the debonair man, even in the will of his death throes, plunged the epee into the child captain. Hitsugaya tensed, but not screamed.

That came when the petal count reached twenty-five.

It was like he mentally was thrown from a cliff, and struck hard earth in seconds. The bankai, with its majestic armor, and reptilian additives, broke like wine-glasses chucked in a drunkard's rage. Ethereal wings fell to pieces, aura plummeted from the enormous, sustained explosion which it had once been, and the massive flower with its multiple petals, crumbled behind him, as a sand castle before the unforgiving waves. He let out a howl of pain, for his insides reeled from the soul-slashing shrapnel of his deactivated bankai. Exhaustion surmounted his vision and his mentality. Hyourinmaru, his loyal, mental dragon, became deafened upon the sonorous piano madness that was the formerly quiet rainfall. His arms turned to lead, and rusted from the sudden, empowering energy which he just had, but lost without preamble. The ice sheet so prominently made in his presence, bolstered to an unbelievable maximum of seventy-five yards, receded and melted back into the primordial run-off that seeped into detestable sewer drains. His zanpakuto lost its edge, and with that, Toshiro finally found the where-with-all to remove it, as if to crudely slap the trickster that caused him this foreign torment.

"What use…is pride…if you cannot share it? If it stands alone? Ha. I win. Even if I die. You have eternity, little dragon, and yet you have nothing to exist for except perverted order. Ha. Ha. I only live to be entertained, for I haven't a soul to sell for dinero. Ha. Ha. Amusing jest."

Toshiro's eyes became foggier, the words of the pallid man barely registering over the cacophony that was the whining raindrops. Vague was the feeling of blood dribbling out of his wounds, lacerations cut by a trim assassin. Vague was the realization that his knees and skull were transcending into deviant weights, rebelling against their master to shove his ego to the humbling concrete. Vague was the reality that the pallid man, who had been clearly eviscerated by his saber and was now unleashing a staining crimson deluge upon to heavenly river underneath, stood up, his hand on the blade still penetrating Hitsugaya, and plucking it from his shoulder.

"Ha. Ha. Well done. You've sufficiently entertained me. I've wondered what it would look like…for a warrior to surpass his limits and plummet back into his flesh with realization. I cannot deny loving this show. But…perhaps it would be gauche of me to let you die. Yes…that would be inexcu…sable."

Toshiro didn't hear him, nor felt the hand grabbing his collar on his black kimono. Vaguely, embarrassment interloped in his subconscious, and he was dragged the short distance by a dying assassin, his alien blood mixing with his young life fluids. He heard a doorbell ring, and the weight on his collar let off.

"I think…I will leave you here. There are doctors there I believe. You will be in flesh and bone now, so…you will be treated. The flesh is the cabin of the spirit, and within that spirit is a heart. Where…is…yours…? Bur…n,t…out…like…a…st..a..r? H…a…H..a…amus…zing…"

Toshiro's eyes began to close, but he could see the man still, walking away from him, still in that drenched, dapper suit, still holding to an air of aloofness. His steps did not reflect this, however, and it was obvious to see. He walked all of three steps, zigzagging grandiosely, before he collapsed, his anonymous face cracking into the middle of the street. He did not move again, and more blood tainted the pure rain.

He was aware of two more things, before a vengeful, spiteful unconsciousness claimed him. The opening of a door, and a girl's voice shouting "DADDY!! COME QUICK!! THERE'S A GUY-"

Everything collapsed.


End Chapter.

A/N: A bit dramatic, but I confess to being a novice. Reviews, as per is the tact thing to do, would be most appreciated.