Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to these BLEACH characters, even their reflections.
Hollow Ichigo stuck out his bottom lip in a pout.
Five minutes of vigorous rubbing and all he got was a sore hand. Worthless. He glared balefully at the window beneath him, massaging his pained extremity. The sun glinted off it cheerfully, mockingly, completely lacking the desired effect. A waste of effort.
"Are ya sure ya won't let meh borrow that shiny blade of yers?" he implored of the man perched not seven yards in front of him.
Zangetsu did not waver in his eternal wind-blown demeanor, his eyes brooding under dark sunglasses.
"No," he stated bluntly.
The Hollow furrowed his brow. "Why not?" he whined, "Ya know mine doesn't work; I tried. And I was thinkin' that, well, ya bein' the King's Zanpaktou and all, that yer sparkly sword would be able tuh —"
"The answer remains 'no'," Zangetsu cut in. "But may I inquire as to why you are so eager to see your reflection?"
Hichigo wiped at the window pane one more time and peered down at it: still nothing. It reflected not his face, not the clear blue sky, but light. Just light.
It and all the others, he thought pushing to his feet, turning to look across the rows and rows of identical windows. He yawned and faced the Zanpaktou.
"Well, ya see..." he drawled, "I'm always hearin' how I'm the King's other half. His dark side. Just a reflection. And I was thinkin'..." He placed his white palm against his equally white cheek and leaned his head against it. "I'm probably a lot prettier than he is!"
Zangetsu turned to study him. After a moment, he looked back to the sky, ever comfortable in his position on the side of a skyscraper. "Oh?" he asked calmly, "And why do you say that?"
Hichigo inched closer to him, stepping on the concrete structure of the building rather than the windows. He had not thought he would have to put his reasoning into words.
"Uh... well, the King... he doesn't know what he wants," he began, "Not really." He poked a glass pane with his toe before continuing. "Fer all those things he does, he can't find his true goal, the word that sums it all up. I have." The Hollow grinned wickedly and splayed his arms wide. "Domination."
Zangetsu remained unmoved. "You said that makes you 'prettier'. How?"
Hichigo paused in his progress towards the Zanpaktou, noting how he was now only four to five yards away. Good. Very good.
He tapped his chin in thought with a long, slender finger. "Hmmm... let meh think. Well, fer starters anythin' is prettier than a Soul Reaper! But," he smirked, "Ya probably won't be satisfied with that."
He arched his back and yawned again. All of that sun was making him sleepy. Smacking his lips, he held up two fingers and continued. "Reason number two, I'm always grinnin', he's always scowlin'. A happily conniving face makes fer a happy countenance, so ya can only imagine what scowlin' does fer the King! Reason number three..." he cocked his head. "Ya remember what I said about him not knowin' what he wants?" He leveled his gaze. "This indecision of the King's," he resumed carefully, "is what makes him incomplete. Lack of goal equals lack of completion, and ya can only have true beauty in wholeness. I'm prettier 'cause I've got a goal!"
Zangetsu studied a silver-lined cloud as it ambled by. It was a good sign: Ichigo must be in a favorable mood. He kept his eyes on it and shifted his position slightly. "Would not an unaccomplished goal bring incompleteness rather than abolish it?"
The Hollow rolled his strange eyes. "Oh, who cares? I just told ya all of that florally stuff so ya'd get off my back." Three yards away... Two yards... "The basic fact is, I just am. There's no way he's prettier than me!"
He stopped walking.
Suddenly, he slid his tongue across his teeth. His gaze became intent as he focused on the calm man before him. "Hey," he said, "Smile."
Zangetsu blinked and looked at him. "What?"
The Zanpaktou stared at him. "Why?"
Hichigo sighed in exasperation. "Cause ya wouldn't let meh see your shiny sword, so ya hafta let meh see yer shiny teeth!"
Zangetsu adjusted his sunglasses and gazed back up at the sky. " I don't... want to smile."
"Come on!" the Hollow whined, "I just wanna see my reflection!"
Hichigo was turning away when he noticed something. "Hey!" he said excitedly, "yer glasses! They're almost as shiny! I'll even say that Pretty 'P' word fer ya, and I won't even hafta touch 'em!"
Zangetsu touched them protectively. "My sunglasses."
"GAAH! Just two seconds?!"
"But, Hollow Ichigo..." Zangetsu paused. "They don't work."
Hichigo crossed his arms, eyes narrowed. "Oh, right. Just like the teeth, huh? And the Sword?"
"They don't work. I know because I've tried."
The Hollow faltered in his stance. His eyes widened with wild curiosity as he stared at the man before him. "Ya've actually tried? I... I don't believe this!" He placed a hand on his mouth and snickered. "The Mighty Stoic Zangetsu wants tuh see his reflection. How cute."
"Not any cuter than a Hollow with no heart who thinks he's better-looking than his host."
Hichigo gasped. "Yer pretty brutal!"
"No, just truthful." He sighed and gazed down at the windows at his feet. After a moment, he looked back at Hichigo again. "Yes, I have attempted to see my reflection —"
" — but only partly for the reasons you think. You see, I have a theory."
"Well, I suppose ya havin' nothin' tuh do and all, ya'd have time for that..."
"It's rather difficult to explain. I'm not sure you're capable of understanding it, either."
The Hollow glared.
The Zanpaktou hid his smile before continuing. "Normally, we should be able to see at least the barest of reflections, but we are in Ichigo's inner world. The rules have changed. If there are thousands upon thousands of reflections within a single reflection, confusion reigns."
Hichigo squinted and rubbed his head. "Uhhh... I don't get it."
Zangetsu sighed and opened his mouth to explain —
"No, wait a second! So yer sayin'... there can only be one reflection, one in and one out?"
"In a way. You see, in Ichigo's world, the human world, there are reflective surfaces. I will give the examples of a window and a mirror."
"A mirror? I've heard of those."
"A window will reflect images to a certain degree. However, these reflections are not pure; a haze obstructs the view. If Ichigo views his inner self through the window of other's perceptions, he allows the haze to obstruct the truth. This haze cannot show him who he is, only what his world wants him to be. Or what you want him to be," he added, leveling his stare at the Hollow. Hichigo attempted to look innocent.
Zangetsu turned from him and sought to catch a glimpse of that single, silver-lined cloud again.
"Mirrors, however," he continued, watching it wander across the sky, "though they reflect many images, are rarely hazy when pure, without dirt coating the surface. This clean reflection could represent the straight-forwardness a person has with themselves, ignoring the grime and sugar-coating of others."
Hichigo glowered. "Yer a jerk, ya know that?"
Zangetsu sighed and rubbed under his sunglasses. "I don't know how else to explain..."
"Well, ya could say somethin' like: 'There's a piece of glass, and it's all dusty. If ya, uh, try tuh look through it under moonlight, ya can't. 'Cause the dust and stuff. But if ya clean it, ya can see right through it'. Then ya could relate it tuh the King's view of hisself." He licked his lips and glanced imploringly at Zangetsu.
The Zanpaktou inclined his head. "Nicely done."
Hichigo yawned again and folded his tawny white arms behind his head. "Yee-ah, so what's the point? I don't even remember what ya were tryin' tuh explain in the first place!"
"Why you could not see your reflection in the windows," Zangetsu reminded him quietly.
"And?!" The Hollow was frustrated.
Zangetsu took a deep breath and looked at him. "Ichigo's inner world is within himself. In order to see into here, to enter this place, he must be straight forward. Like a mirror. The only reflection you will find of yourself will be in a mirror."
Hichigo stared at him. His right eye twitched.
Zangetsu adjusted his sunglasses. Uh oh.
The Hollow clenched his teeth and lashed out. "Ya gave meh that whole confusin' speech just tuh tell meh I need a mirror?! That's one of the biggest wastes time I've ever experienced! And I don't even know what a mirror looks like!"
"A glass pane that reverses the image reflected on it."
The Hollow tightened his fists. "Just like a window, huh?!"
Zangetsu remained silent.
"Just... just..." Hichigo took a deep breath. "Find yer happy place, will ya?! Smile so I can see my blasted reflection!"
The air went still.
Hichigo stood there a moment, fuming. Then with a huff, he whirled around and stomped over to a window, plopping himself down and drawing his knees to his chest. "I don't need some stinkin' mirror," he muttered, "Can't tell meh more than I already know. Meh beauty just shines out like a beacon..."
Zangetsu observed him thoughtfully from a distance. A breeze stirred the air, a faithful shiver to that eternal, wind-blown demeanor. Yet he was still, his eyes ever brooding.
Then he shifted.
Hichigo heard a clink. He leapt to his feet and whirled around. Zangetsu was in his normal perch, but there was something else. There, laying on the concrete next to a window — a perfect square of blue, as if a piece of the sky had fallen. He glanced up. A solid wall of blue despite one fluffy, silver-lined cloud. He cocked his head at an angle. Perhaps the hole was behind it...
"The sky remains intact, if you're wondering," the Zanpaktou spoke up.
The Hollow blinked with wary curiosity. "Yeah, so what is it?"
The Hollow did a double-take. " A mirror?! Hey — this better not be another one of yer symbolisms — "
"It's genuine. Go ahead. Pick it up. Find out just how pretty you are."
Hichigo began inching toward it. "So does it work?"
Zangetsu was silent a moment. "Yes."
It was now in grabbing distance. He leaned down and grasped the edges. It was cool to the touch, but his hands seemed a darker shade in the reflection. Must be a trick of the light, he mused, Shadows or somethin'.
"Have ya ever looked in it?" he asked, drawing it close to his chest. He didn't want to look. Not yet.
Another pause. "Once," Zangetsu murmured.
Hichigo barely heard him. He held his breath and closed his eyes, slipping the mirror up before his face. On three. One... two... His eyes flashed open.
His reflection stared him boldly back in the face. He froze, almost forgetting how to breathe.
Intense brown eyes, bright orange hair... tan skin and a smirk on his lips. The Hollow felt his throat go dry.
His reflection... the King.