A/N: Okay, so this is my first Bleach story. Kind of unlike me, but there's no romance in this little snippet. I was actually thinking of writing something like this, but a story just solidified it in my mind. Well, in the story, Ichigo had been fighting this Hollow, and I thought it would be totally awesome if he said this one thing. Well, of course he didn't, and that's how this story officially came into being.

If you all are wondering, the story is called Promises Unkept, and it's by KatLady13. Honestly, it's really good. You should read it.

Anyway, so I'm a little unsure of this one-shot, just like I was unsure about The Price of Memories, my first Naruto story. I hope this one's okay, and it'll probably be short, maybe around 3000 words, if that. It seems that the more I get comfortable with the characters, the better I write about them, and the longer my ideas become. So, please enjoy this little one-shot of mine as I start to traverse the world of Bleach!

(This story starts when Aizen and the Arrancar have infiltrated Karakura Town, and this is just a random Arrancar. No one in particular)

Summary: "You want my power? I'll give it to you…" Sweat beaded down his forehead as he struggled to block out the soft, persuasive voice in his head. "Just let me out… Set me free… I'll give you the power that you crave… I'll make you strong."

The King and His Horse

The silence thickened, the tension broken only by loud pants. Kurosaki Ichigo's eyes narrowed, attempting to see through his shock of orange hair that was matted with sweat. With a cry he forced himself to his feet, swinging his large sword at the arrancar. This arrancar was powerful, even though he was considered one of the lower class Espada. Ichigo cursed his previous fight against a higher ranked Espada. He was too worn out; this wasn't a good sign.

"Ha!" the arrancar laughed, lifting his intricately crafted weapons to block Ichigo's attack. Zangetsu clattered against the metal before the arrancar thrust his arms forward, shoving Ichigo back. The shinigami lost his balance and crashed to the ground near Karakura Town.

Ichigo grunted, his jaw clenched tightly as he fought to protect his village. The arrancar had come to fulfill the orders of Aizen Sousuke, a man that Ichigo despised with his entire being. Now he was stuck fighting Aizen's forces, and this fight was not going according to his plan. Ichigo grunted.

Take me… Take my power, Ichigo-teme… You know you want it… It'll help you protect your home… King…

The shinigami's eyes widened, and his hands grasped his head as that persuasive yet eerie voice tugged at his pride. It was his hollow… his hollow. Just simply his hollow. Nothing else. His Hollow couldn't give him power. It couldn't…

King… You know the things I am capable of. It was I that taught you how to use Zangetsu…

"That all you got, shinigami?" the arrancar mocked, his two spears slicing through the air. Ichigo tumbled away, hurrying to his feet and holding Zangetsu in front of him. He trained his eyes on the dark haired arrancar, hoping that the concentration would keep him from hearing his demon.

"Cheh, you're a joke," the arrancar laughed, holding one spear out while he tapped the other on his shoulder.

Ichigo narrowed his eyes, fighting to keep his mind on the fight and not on the enticing power his hollow was throwing at him. "If I'm a joke, then you're a disgrace to your kind. I've faced tougher arrancar than you before."

A wicked grin split the arrancar's obnoxious face. His beady eyes narrowed even further, and a formidable gleam glinted in the black. "And yet you cannot defeat me."

Anger spiked in Ichigo's chest. How had this arrancar known what to say? It was bad enough that his hollow was tormenting him about his strength, and it seemed as if this arrancar had seen through everything. Ichigo's grip tightened on Zangetsu's hilt, and he felt his spirit energy rise. He was ready to pump it out, to break the invisible seal that was holding in his reiatsu.

The discovery of his massive power had been an accident the day the menos had shown up in Karakura Town so long ago. He had rushed in without thinking, and as a result, he had been forced to block a powerful cero. Ichigo had only been able to release all of his potential reiatsu when he had felt his desperation and determination set in. He had forced the seal open, giving the menos quite a damaging blow.

You might have stopped it that time, King, but what about this time? Remember? Remember what I said? I will take over… I will become the King should your weaknesses prevail… I will not hesitate to do so, and you know I will.

What do you want? Ichigo grunted as he dodged one of the arrancar's spears. It crashed to the ground, loosening rocks and grass from the point where it hit. But he was still tapping that other spear on his shoulder…

Let me out, his hollow demanded, voice shaking with uncontrolled anticipation. If you occasionally let me be free, you wouldn't have this problem…

Ichigo evaded another attack, blocking the spear's sharp tip with Zangetsu. Ichigo gritted his teeth, pushing back with all his might and successfully shoving the arrancar away from him. The anger in his blood was boiling; leave it to his hollow to get him into such an agitated state. He hated the demon that was a part of him. He hated the thoughts that ran through his head even now. He fought the urge to rip off a finger, a hand, or an arm just so he could see the blood, just so he could marvel in the carnage of it all.

His demon… It caused all sorts of unwanted things to run through his head.

The orange haired shinigami could almost smell the blood, could almost sense the thrill he would feel at seeing blood spattered at his expense. It would be breathtaking, especially when he would be able to feel the intricate pulse of the spirit energy that was vulnerable as it writhed and panicked, attempting to close the wound for fear of worse exposure. He would be able to taste the reiatsu in the air, to breathe it in and satisfy his thirst for the power of another soul.

Ichigo gasped, slanting his head to the left just as the spear clipped off a bit of his spiky orange hair. The sloping tip of the spear lodged into his shoulder, and Ichigo was brought to his knees as pain flashed through his entire right side. He could feel the warm, sticky liquid seep into his black shihakusho and adhere to his skin.

Suddenly, Ichigo heard it. He felt it.

Tap, tap, tap. The arrancar was still moving his free spear against his shoulder.

Pulse, pulse, pulse.

Ichigo's eyes widened, and the arrancar's deadly smile grew.

Tap, tap, tap.

"No…" Ichigo said in a broken whisper.

Pulse, pulse, pulse.

"It can't…"

Tap, tap, tap.

The reiatsu suddenly rose to fever pitch. There was no stopping it. A tiny, whirling ball of red spirit energy rotated at the end of the arrancar's spear. Cero. The word popped into Ichigo's head, and his mind frantically searched for an escape route. The arrancar's second spear was holding him in place, but there was one thing…

A squeal of reiatsu resounded in Ichigo's ears before the spear was hurled to the ground. Chunks of earth flew up in his face as he was blown back away from the eye of the explosion. He grunted as he landed on broken pieces of rocks, and his hands shook as he fought to keep the strength to stand.

The arrancar's eyes narrowed. He had been sure that cero would have destroyed this pestilence. He had never really had patience for shinigami, especially for ones as troublesome as this one. The damn kid just refused to give up or die.

Not that the arrancar didn't honor a sense of persistence and determination. This kid just didn't have the power to back up his claims. He was another pathetic shinigami that thought they would be a hero and defeat something more powerful than themselves. The arrancar sighed, his lips twisting into a frown. One way or another, he would defeat this shinigami and make an example out of him. He would show the others that boasting only got you killed.

The arrancar snorted as he saw Ichigo's shaking legs, and the tremble in his hand as he held his sword. Broken white pieces of something durable clattered to the dirt next to the sword. The transformed hollow had to admit that he had never seen a shinigami with a sword such as the one that he was facing. Most swords were of an average length, and they all were very close in size, except when they transformed to shinkai. But this shinigami's sword had been in shinkai the whole time they had fought.

"Bankai," Ichigo whispered shakily, and the arrancar's eyebrows rose.

"Bankai?" he scoffed. "I'm surprised your sword's still in shinkai, but your bankai won't last." The arrancar tilted his head, appraising Ichigo with a scornful look. "Can a pitiful shinigami like you actually do bankai?"

The reiatsu around Ichigo suddenly skyrocketed, and a large column of blue energy shot into the sky. As the smoke cleared, the arrancar's eyes widened before he suddenly let out a laugh.

"That's your bankai? That's no bankai…"

Ichigo remained quiet. He felt the power racing through his blood, and he allowed himself a small smirk. Within a millisecond he was gone, suddenly appearing next to his enemy. The arrancar's eyes widened, and he was forced to move the second spear off of his shoulder to block Ichigo's attack. He grunted at the new force of the shinigami's attack. But somehow, the sword was longer, even smaller than it had been before. Yet it was much stronger…

A black blur was all that was left in Ichigo's wake as he fluttered around the arrancar, confusing the half hollow and driving him mad. The arrancar growled in frustration, gathering his reiatsu in his right hand for another Cero. It wouldn't be as powerful as the one gathered at the end of his spear, but it was powerful enough to get rid of this annoyingly persistent shinigami.

The sound of the explosion brought a smile to the arrancar's face until the smoke cleared. He frowned as a snarl rippled from his throat. That damn shinigami was still standing, acting as if nothing had bothered him. His skinny sword was positioned in front of his face, and had somehow successfully blocked the cero. The arrancar slammed both spear tips into the ground, hands ready to glide over the wood of his spears when…

"Hey, arrancar," Ichigo called, lowering his sword until his arm was hanging loosely by his side and Zangetsu was parallel to the ground.

The half hollow turned toward the orange haired shinigami, teeth clenching at the casual tone that had coated the death god's voice. He was still acting as though he had some trick, some hidden power that would be able to defeat the resurreccion of his spears.

In truth, Ichigo wasn't sure if this was a good idea. He had no idea if his hollow would keep to the agreement, but he was almost certain his hollow would have no choice but to agree. It wasn't a bad agreement, either, but Ichigo only hoped that he had found and exploited any loopholes in this new plan of his.

King? You have been ignoring me…

I have a proposition.

Ichigo could feel his hollow's minimal excitement that stirred in his chest.

Oh? his hollow responded.

Yeah, Ichigo agreed lazily, and it had the desired affect on the hollow within him. His demon almost squirmed with excitement, an idea coming to the forefront of his mind, and it wasn't too far off. Ichigo smirked. You want out? I'll let you. But I'll let you out when I want. In turn, heal my wounds and don't let me die. Deal?

His hollow let a corrupted smile twist his lips. Ichigo felt a shudder race down his spine as he looked at the white version of himself, but he forced himself to appear relaxed, bored even.

I can do whatever I want while in your body?

In a flash Ichigo stood in front of his Hollow, the bankai form of Zangetsu pressed firmly against the neck of his inner demon. Ichigo's eyes hardened, crystallizing with determination as he stared his hollow down. If I say your time is up, your time is up. You argue, and as your king I will kill you.

His hollow couldn't have been happier. All right, King. I accept. At least you haven't gone soft, eh?

"Hey… arrancar…" Ichigo said again when his enemy's fingers twitched. "What's your name?"

"You want to know my name?"

Ichigo nodded. The arrancar laughed.

"That is not relevant. You should know you only know your opponent if you mean to defeat them."

"Then the requirement is still not filled," Ichigo challenged. "You don't know my name, either, arrancar. So if you plan to kill me, I suggest you ask my name."

The arrancar grunted. He couldn't believe the blatant audacity of this kid. He definitely gave this shinigami credit for being fearless, and if he wanted to know his name, so be it.

"My name? I am Vespasiano Flavado, decimonoveno (nineteenth) Espada and loyal servant to Aizen." Vespasiano paused to let his smile widen. "What is your name, shinigami? I would like to know so that I can say that you actually put up a fight."

"What?" Ichigo growled.

Vespasiano chuckled. "Not many shinigami have lived this long. My spears are very efficient, and I have not had to release in a long time. You are very lucky to have gotten this far, especially as one so young. So, shinigami… what is your name so that I may tell my comrades you actually gave me a fight?"

Ichigo grunted, his hand tightening infinitesimally around Zangetsu's hilt. "I am Kurosaki Ichigo, substitute shinigami for Soul Society."

The arrancar raised an eyebrow. "Kurosaki Ichigo, eh? Cheh, I've heard of you. Aizen specifically wanted to know how you had grown." Vespasiano appraised his opponent again. "Hmm. Not much. Too bad, you might've been able to see my resurreccion."

"Vespasiano," Ichigo said quietly. The arrancar looked up, narrowing his black eyes when he saw that Ichigo's eyes were now covered with strands of orange hair. Ichigo slowly looked up, amber eyes locking with shocked black.

"Vespasiano… have you ever met my horse?"

"What?" Vespasiano questioned. "Your horse?"

You want this chance? Then go for it.

With pleasure, King, Ichigo's hollow chuckled evilly. Within moments, white materials were appearing in the air, slowly coming together on the left side of Ichigo's face. Its form soon took shape, and half of Ichigo's face was covered in something decorated in red. Vespasiano could feel the rise in reiatsu, and growled.

"What is this? Who are you?"

"Who am I?" the chilling, broken voice of the Hollow said. The Hollow almost laughed at the nostalgia of it all. "I am nobody. Tensa… Zangetsu." The black sword flicked as a wave of red-edged energy soared toward Vespasiano. The arrancar gritted his teeth, barely dodging in time as the black destruction ripped up the ground where he had been standing.

Hollow let out a hysterical laugh. "You're pathetic! A nineteenth Espada! I will enjoy taking your blood!" As another deranged laugh—almost similar to a scream—escaped from Hollow, he charged, moving even faster than Vespasiano had thought he could. Hollow slashed with Zangetsu, ripping shreds in the clothes that Vespasiano wore. The arrancar flipped back, steadying himself as he readied his spears.

"Too late."

Vespasiano gasped, eyes widening as he felt a strange pain in his chest. In a flash, the sword tip slicked out of the wound to create another one. A strangled breath of air rushed out of Vespasiano's lungs as he pitched forward, crashing onto the grass. He glanced back up, noticing the dissipated mask.

"How…?"

"You don't need to know," Ichigo grumbled. "I've damaged your soul's properties. You have no more power. It's leaving you as we speak."

"Kurosaki Ichigo," Vespasiano said firmly. "Kill me now."

Ichigo stared at the bleeding arrancar. A pool of red liquid had started to form near the left side of Vespasiano's body. Ichigo's voice was cold. "No."

Vespasiano coughed. "Kill me, shinigami. I have nothing left to live for."

"Cheh," Ichigo scoffed.

"Are you afraid, shinigami? Are you afraid to get near me lest I find some hidden power and come back to fight… Kurosaki Ichigo?"

"I'm not afraid," Ichigo growled.

Yes you are, the soft voice of his hollow purred.

Ichigo shut out his demon's voice as puff of smoke surrounded him for a moment. He was now in his regular shinigami clothes, and he slung Zangetsu over his shoulder.

"I will not kill you."

Yes, kill him, King! It will be by surprise! I can smell his blood! I can almost taste his reiatsu pulsating near his open wounds.

No! Damn demon, get out of my head! We had our deal.

"Damn shinigami! Kill me now! Will you be able to protect anyone if you don't kill me? You are weak! If you cannot kill, then you are weak!"

"No, I'm not." Ichigo's temper was rising.

"You have people close to you, don't you? I can tell. The ones that have feelings are weak, and are unable to fulfill their duties. You are weak. You cannot kill anyone. Have you killed anyone before, Kurosaki Ichigo?"

The orange haired teen was silent, but his anger was raging.

Vespasiano scoffed. "I knew it. You haven't killed anyone. No one that was a true opponent. You are weak."

"No!" Ichigo cried, swinging Zangetsu and slicing the tip of the blade through the arrancar's heart. Blood stained the white outfit crimson as Ichigo pulled Zangetsu out, backing away for a moment. His amber eyes gazed at the small smile on the arrancar's face.

"That's all you got? You're still weak… weaker than me…"

Ichigo's eyes were hard as the arrancar let his last breath slip from his lungs. The shinigami wiped Zangetsu's tip against a clean part of Vespasiano's clothes.

"You're welcome." Ichigo paused for another moment, his eyes never leaving the arrogant smile on Vespasiano's face.

"Damn arrancar," Ichigo muttered, giving one last parting glance at the fallen arrancar before walking off. Ichigo looked around the town. At least there were no civilians to worry about. They were relatively safe within the illusion in Soul Society.

You didn't let me have enough time, King!

Shut up. I'm the one with the body. I make the rules and you follow them. You agreed remember? Even you don't go back on your word.

Your resolve was stronger than I thought… his hollow growled.

I'm stronger than you think. Ichigo turned his thoughts away from his hollow as an explosion sounded to his left.

Hitsugaya, Renji, Matsumoto, Byakuya, and Ukitake were all fighting arrancar, as were a few of the elders of Soul Society. Ichigo breathed deeply, hoping the extra air and minutes of rest would help him to heal relatively well. He was extremely out of breath from letting his hollow take over him, but it was worth it. Not because Ichigo wanted his hollow out—he had just made a deal and the hollow was abiding by the rules Ichigo had made.

Everyone was fighting. Chad and Ishida were fighting, as was Rukia. Ichigo growled. Rukia had better not die. He had gone through enough hassle to get her accepted back into Soul Society. She was also one of his best friends, the one that first introduced him to being a shinigami. If she didn't live, he'd be pissed. He was truthfully more worried about Chad and Ishida. They were not shinigami, though they were extremely strong. A wry smile touched his lips. He shouldn't be concerned about them. He could feel their reiatsu, and it was healthy. He would have to trust that it would stay that way, and worrying about it did nothing to ease his anxiety.

Ichigo took another deep breath as he felt a presence descend behind him. It was another arrancar—the reiatsu was different enough from regular shinigami that even he could sense the enemy. Ichigo turned to him, knowing he had been given an adequate break. A smile spread Ichigo's lips. Everyone else was fighting; it wouldn't be fair if they got all the action and he barely got any. Ichigo held Zangetsu in front of him, daring the arrancar to charge him.

"Come on," Ichigo taunted. After all, this was a battle, one to the death, but he was a fighter and he'd be damned if he were killed. Still, he wouldn't give up his position for anything else in the world.

--

A/N: So, that's my first Bleach story! Let me know how you guys like it! I'm not the best at action, but I hope that it was pretty good! So, please review, cause I'd love to know what you guys think, especially since this Bleach story is my first. Feel free to review or flame or constructively criticize my work; I'm open to tons of suggestions!

Thanks for reading this!

- wolf's paradise