So about the way that Hisagi talks to Hitsugaya, I actually made their conversation very informal despite the whole Lieutenant/Captain thing. Rangiku is friends with Hisagi, and it's pretty obvious that she still considers Hitsugaya as a brother that's younger than her. I think it's be very strange if Hisagi actually did address Hitsugaya very formally, since they have been through a lot together throughout the years and Hitsugaya is younger...

But that's just my rationale. If you have any other thoughts, please share! I'd love to hear them!

"Bankai," they said simultaneously.

Wings of fire exploded out of her back, sending several who were too close staggering backwards. Hitsugaya wheeled upwards into the sky, fighting for height, his extra years of experience giving him several dozen feet of an advantage. Then Ayame figured it out too, more by imitation than by skill, clumsily shooting upwards in a wild, erratic ascent.

She held her sword in front of her, arms down far enough to make it a defensive stance, despite charging at him with reckless speed. Hitsugaya strained upwards until the air became chilly and thin. He had just agreed to battle. No, he had been forced into this fight. And he did not like it one bit.

Her wings were unformed and constantly changing, unlike his solid ice ones. They flickered with different colors, and shifted often, but did their job. From the howl that rose from Hyourinmaru's spirit, Hitsugaya could tell that his ice dragon zanpakuto hated this enemy instinctively.

What's the matter, Hyourinmaru?

His only answer was an offended snarl, and the distinct impression that the creature standing before him was wrong, somehow. Like a clone, doomed to live as only a shadow copy of the original, twisted beyond what was natural. Hitsugaya steeled his heart, determined to make Captain Kurotsuchi pay somehow.

Their first clash was so powerful that it blasted each back for several feet. Hitsugaya actually had to use both hands to keep his sword steady. It still stung his hands. Copy or not, she was not holding back at all. A flash of movement caught his eye, and he whirled around to block another attack.

In an instant, he summoned the cover of mist. It was actually a pretty simple matter, to call water molecules nearby and consolidate them into clouds. Within seconds, visibility was gone, and Hitsugaya dropped down into hiding. This was his domain, no matter how you thought about it. There was plenty of water in the air, and it would be more than enough to weaken the fire that made up Ayame's bankai.

The only warning he got was the sizzling of water molecules as something approached. Fast.

Relying on instinct, he dodged to the right. In the next split second, a torrent of fire split apart the cloud. One fireball struck his left wing, nearly knocking him out of the protection of the cloud. The damage created a clean hole, causing him to fall several meters before it repaired itself. If he got hit by another one of those head on...

Now would be a good time to get serious.

But there was no time to retaliate with a strong attack of his own. The temperature was slowly rising. He could see what she was doing now. It would be too dangerous to go in the cloud and seek him out, so she was trying to evaporate the cloud. But she had definitely overlooked, or underestimated his own bankai.

It became a mental battle. Hyourimaru dissipated into a million slivers of ice, darting in and out among the molecules of water, convincing them to resist the heat. And Ayame continued, in her berserker fashion, to blast torrent after torrent of fire in his general direction. Most of the energy spread out, increasing the temperature, urging the water to evaporate to a higher location.

Hitsugaya let Hyourinmaru do what the weapon did best, but that didn't mean that the young captain was helpless. He searched the cloud for a source of heat, where Ayame would be. A single blow from his sword could be lethal, deadly and silent.

He felt it swish through empty air.

A trick, he realized. Bait a hook and cast it, and sooner or later the fish will bite. Classical fisherman's tactic. I'm such an idiot!

His first instinct was to flee, but an iron resolve made him think more clearly. This was actually his chance, for once, to deal an attack. Hitsugaya was getting tired of always being on the receiving end. Plus, it made him look bad in front of his division. Not that anyone in his division could see. But face was important in situations like these.

He let out a loud curse, while silently reforming his bankai with the strongest ice attack he could muster. Now he was the one casting the bait, and now all he needed to do was to get the timing right.

The sound of sizzling raindrops caught his attention once more. Hitsugaya scowled, which was his version of a smile. Only amateurs made the same mistake twice.

The reiatsu that he had been gathering up tore out of his hand and locked on a source of heat. Even Hitsugaya, the genius captain, felt a little drained after that attack. To think that he'd have to go this far. No wonder Ayame was known as the mod soul of the 9th division.

There was a sudden explosion and a terrible shredding sound. Ayame fell out of the cloud, missing half a wing, plummeting down to the ground below.


Powerless...dammit! Why am I so powerless?

Ayame realized that her thoughts sounded childishly petulant as she fell. Her wing was mending itself, but slowly. She would hit the ground long before she recovered her ability to fly.

And I was so close too. A little more. Just a little more...Is my life really going to end like this?

She fell through the sky so fast that it became blue streaks around her, and the wind tore at her hair and her skin. Distantly, she remembered something about always wanting to see the blue sky. How strange. Until now she had never really looked up at the sky, and now she was forced to do so, staring into the bright clear emptiness where the white-haired Captain and his huge wings of ice stood out like ink on glass.

Try as she might, she couldn't hate him. Not when he was hurtling toward her, eyes tightened with worry, hand outstretched.

For what? She wondered incoherently, before suddenly she was yanked out of free fall.

Hitsugaya spread out his wings of ice as far as they could go, desperately trying to slow down. But Ayame's added weight made it hard to maneuver, and dragged them both off to one side. They both crashed through the wall of a tower in the barracks, as Hitsugaya's wings quickly folded to absorb the impact. With a loud crashing sound, they both finally came to a rest on the other side of the wall, with Hitsugaya's wings shattering into dozens of pieces of ice.

Ayame found herself, to her great surprise, relatively unharmed. The next wave of emotion, after surprise, was indignation.

"Why did you save - "

"What the HELL do you think you're doing?" Hitsugaya thundered. Ayame shrank back. For a shinigami of his size, his voice sure was loud.

"I - "

"Are you out of your MIND? Using a bankai technique is only for shinigami who have trained for YEARS, if not DECADES. They're not easily copied. Even if you are some kind of modified mirror-like research subject from one of Kurotsuchi's twisted operations, there are LIMITS to what you can do!"

He had stood up, leaning on the hilt of his zanpakuto, which was now restored to its shikai state. His ice blue eyes bored into hers, furious.

Ayame, for her part, was struck dumb. He knows?

Hitsugaya did not seem to like taking silence as an answer. "DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" He roared.

She remained silent.

It wasn't that she wanted to infuriate Hitsugaya even further. She just couldn't answer, not with the torrent of protests rising in her heart. It doesn't matter to you, she thought. You have everything. Power, status, recognition. There are legends about the white-haired child genius of the 10th division, who has a zanpakuto spirit of an ice dragon that only appears once every 500 years. I'm no one. I only have this sword, and nothing more.

"My my...is the ice captain Hitsugaya losing his cool? And in front of a girl too." A new voice intruded, high, sarcastic, filled with disdain. Ayame shuddered as the premonition of something terrible washed over her, like a sickness. She knew that if she turned around, something terrible would happen. She turned around anyway.

Standing before her were the four strangest individuals she had ever seen. A large, dark-skinned boy with folded arms and a silent face. A girl with long, braided dark hair. A young boy, absent-minded, staring off into the distance. And a red-haired boy, Ayame noticed with a shiver, that could have been her brother in another life.

The girl had been the one who had spoken.

Hitsugaya recovered first, returning to his professional demeanor. His voice still retained some of its sharpness, though, so that any shinigami would have flinched from his tone. "And who are you?"

"New members of your 10th division, transferred from Captain Kurotsuchi's 12th division." The girl, again, was the one who spoke.

Ayame's eyes widened, and she let out a gasp. Again, the sickness nearly overwhelmed her. There had been more. She had not been the last. As her eyes moved from one person to the next, she felt her horror grow.

As if he had read her thoughts, the redhead boy's face broke out into a cruel, disdainful smile. "It's alright, elder sister," his sinister voice sent shivers of terror down her spine. "We're here to take over for you."

Er...just to make things clear...the redheaded boy only calls Ayame 'elder sister' because she was an earlier creation. So they consider her an older, less advanced prototype. Hence their disdain for her.

I need to give them names...

Anyway, review review review! I'd really love to know what you think!