Interlude: Entering Seireitei

"Flower-Crane Cannon Launch Method Two! Secondary Spell! Fate of three sparrows, fate of four dragons, blocked in from five directions, unable to return six miles, wind of the heavens, orangutan, spoons, cane of elm..."

The human teens (and cats) huddled around the reishukaku in strained silence; focusing on moderating their reiatsu levels and listening to Ganju recite the first part of the spell to get them into Seireitei. Their dæmons stayed close, trying not to lose contact and fall. All of them were completely still save for Hikari; she was draped over Ichigo's shoulders and her tail twitched against his arm in time with Ganju's words, gaining strength with each lash.

It was Nobu who realized the problem first and he stared with small, wide eyes from his position in Orihime's pocket as a field mouse

"I-Ichigo…" Orihime whispered urgently. "That's a little too much power."

"O-okay…I'll pull back." He tried, but against his will, more power flowed in rather than out. Hikari hissed.

"A thousand sprinkles of ash, a thousand bits of wisdom. The measure of white clouds…"

"Ichigo, pull back!" Uryu hissed. The kestrel on his shoulder didn't move. Well, she dug her talons in a bit more forcefully, but she didn't say anything.

"Approaching the great darkness..."

"I know!" Ichigo tried. He strained. But no matter what he did, the power went in rather than out!

"Ichigo…" Even CHAD was getting worried. Sonia was draped over his shoulders in a pose that was odd and uncomfortable for a canine but possible due to her human's size and broad shoulders.

"He's trying!" Hikari growled, shifting restlessly.

"All of you, shut up!" Kiah snarled, barely taking note through her intense focus on the orb and the chant. Her forepaws were resting on the glowing sphere but her hind legs were planted firmly on each of Ganju's arms, leaving her in an awkward splayed position.

"Not stepping on scarlet shadows..."


"I'm trying!"

"…A thousand sprinkles of ashes, a thousand bits of wisdom…?!"

"Idiot!" Ganju shouted, breaking his own chant. "You made me recite that line twice!"

"It's not my fault!"

"Yes it is!" Kiah chattered, bristling angrily. "Keeping your reiatsu in check is child's play. You morons!" Her voice got steadily higher pitched and barking the longer she spoke.

"Shut up." Hikari looked like she wanted to bat the porcupine into silence, if she could reach past the spines.

As all four took deep breaths to continue fighting, focus completely shot, there was a lurch and a heart stopping thud.

The impact of the reishukaku against the shield of Seireitei did not go undetected, from above or below.

The sound of an alarm broke through the heavy silence of the captain's meeting, immediately dropping Gin's insubordinate actions and punishment to a lower priority.

All heads, human and dæmon, raised to the alarm then turned as one to the head captain where he stood expressionless at the head of the congregation. At his side, Kana rose, lips rising off teeth in a snarl that more resembled a rictus grin, stretching far back and revealing her teeth as only a marsupial predator could. A few of the other captains' dæmons reacted, but most waited calmly for orders.


Kenpachi tore out of the hall in a swirl of tattered haori, Nergui alternately running at his side and swinging forward on the hem of his robe as they traded rough laughter and enthusiasm.

The others filed out more sedately after Yamamoto's curt 'Dismissed!', barely noticing that some of their number were lagging. It was only by chance and proximity that Hitsugaya was held up behind his taller compatriots and accidentally bore witness to the confrontation between Gin and Aizen.

"The warning certainly came at a good time for you."

Toshiro's eyes narrowed and Tmira's (currently) large ear twitched against his cheek at Aizen's statement, beady eyes turning towards the dæmons of the older men.

"I'm sure I don't understand what you're trying to say."

Aimi looked as unflappable as ever perched on Aizen's shoulder and staring out the door. Tmira respected her ability to stay calm under such circumstances, and her refusal to rise to Gin's baiting.

Mai, on the other hand, looked positively vicious. Her luminous eyes fixed on Aizen's owl with an expression that could not be mistaken for anything friendly or playful, not even with Ichimaru's dubious sense of humor.

"I'd thank you not to take me too lightly."

Toshiro and Tmira were the only ones that saw the lips curl back from the silver fox's teeth and the murder in her eyes as the captain of the fifth division walked away with quiet confidence.

No one noticed the wild owl circling lazily beneath the ryokas' point of impact on the shield. Her bright red eyes, far too intelligent and guarded for a real animal, zeroed in on where the intruders landed, paying particular attention to a shockingly bright head of orange hair.

The pawns had arrived.

It was finally time to start to game.

Ganju's Dæmon
Species: North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
Name: Kiah (Person of Earth)

Ichigo's Dæmon
Species: Asian Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)
Name: Hikari (Radiance/Light)

Chad's Dæmon
Species: Coyote (Canis latrans)
Name: Sonia (Wisdom)

Uryu's Dæmon
Species: Rock Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus rupicolus)
Name: Mitzi (Rebelliousness/Obstinacy)

Orihime's Dæmon
Species: Unsettled
Name: Nobu (Faith/To Extend or Prolong)

Yoruichi's Dæmon
Species: Black Domestic Cat (Felis catus)
Name: Ryo (Exceed/Survive/Excel)

Yamamoto's Dæmon
Species: Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus)
Name: Kana (Powerful)

Zaraki's Dæmon
Species: Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis)
Name: Nergui (No Name)

Gin's Dæmon
Species: Silver Fox (Vulpes vulpes) [melanistic form of red fox]
Name: Mai (Dance), short for Maizah (Discerning)

Aizen's Dæmon
Species: Northern White-faced Owl [aka 'Transformer Owl'] (Ptilopsis leucotis)
Name: Aimi (Love), short for Amaterasu (Shining Over Heaven)

Toshiro's Dæmon
Species: Unsettled
Name: Tmira (Upstanding/Upright)

A/N: All of the italicized dialogue (Ganju's spell, Gin and Aizen's play acting) was taken from the subbed version of the Bleach anime available on hulu.

Hey Everyone! As of today, 'Souls Without' has been online for one full year with a chapter (nearly) every week! As a special occasion, here's an extra-long chapter! I hope you enjoy it. :)

Also…This is a big transition point for the story. All but four of the shinigami and human dæmons have been revealed and most of the others are planned so I'd like to merge the story lines. The possible new formats are listed below and I'll have a poll open on my profile, so please vote if you'd like me to take your opinion into account.

Choices for the new chapter structure as follows (I will NOT be having a continuous narrative):
A. Continue alternating human/shinigami, focusing on past occurrences with the shinigami and the 'present' plotline with the humans
B. Merge the human/shinigami into a single plotline and alternate with the past of the vizards (think pre-TBtP)
C. Stall the split until Aizen leaves for Hueco Mundo, then split between the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys'

One more thing: I might have to change the update schedule. I'm still trying for once a week, but it's getting stressful and I'm not sure I can afford to split my focus at the moment.