AN: Sorry for the delay.

Key:

Thoughts

'Ichigo/Rukia talking in his/her head'

"Shirayuki"

"Zangetsu"


"Roar, Zabimaru!"

Those two words brought a chill to the heart of Uryu Ishida. A massive wave of energy pushed him and Chad back, as a red flash of light blocked any view of Renji. That wasn't what worried him however...Uryu had seen what a released zanpakutō was capable of...Kisuke, Ichigo...and Renji Abarai. A view that was confirmed as a whip-like sword came slicing out of the smoke, and nearly cut his arm off. If it weren't for the Quincy's training with Yoruichi, it would have taken his arm.

"Watch out Chad!" Uryu shouted, as the sword moved to attack the larger teen.

Chad merely grunted in reply, as his arm knocked the zanpakutō away. By now, the smoke had cleared too...showing Renji with a smug grin on his face, despite the various gashes from Uryu's arrows.

"You didn't really think I was fighting at my full strength did you?" he asked mockingly, "I beat you in the World of the Living with most of my power blocked Quincy. Anyone of Lieutenant level or higher has to have our power sealed to avoid adversely effecting the World of the Living...you have no idea what I'm truly capable of!"

With that shout, the blade came back around and nearly lopped Uryu's head off. Flashing away with his unique high-speed movement, Uryu took a deep breath and focused. He could feel spiritual energy better than damn near anyone, and nothing he felt said that Renji was lying. The power he was bleeding off was far in excess of what he had used back home. And that was not a good thing...both Uryu and Chad had seriously increased their own power through the extreme training Yourichi and Kisuke had put them through.

That did not, however, mean they were a match for a Lieutenant.

Damn it, that thing is fast! the Quincy thought, dodging another swing as Chad tried to get in close.

If there was any one flaw to Zabimaru, it was the fact that swinging the blade out could leave Renji exposed to an attack from another direction. This was something Chad took full advantage of, as he swung his fist at the redhead. Renji was barely able to retract his blade in time to take the hit, and it still sent him flying through a wall.

"Okay, I was asking for that one," the Lieutenant muttered as he pulled himself to his feet.

Flashing back out of the building, Renji scanned the area for his enemies. Chad hadn't moved from his position covering Orihime and Ganju, but Uryu was nowhere in sight.

"Looking for me?"

Speak of the devil...and he shall appear above you raining arrows down on you. Renji flashed away again, his hair cut loose by a stray bolt. Shaking it out of his face, the Shinigami growled and swung Zabimaru once more. Uryu easily dodge it...but he wasn't the target. For the whip-like blade was shooting directly at Chad this time.

The large teen caught Zabimaru in his armored fist, but the force of the blow was greater than he had been expecting. Eyes widening ever so slightly, Chad was thrown into a building in much the same way he had sent Renji through a wall. Quickly retracting his blade, Renji spun around and kicked Uryu in the chest as the Quincy tried to mimic Byakuya again.

"I told you already...you can't beat me!" Renji boasted, as the two teens crawled out of the buildings they had been shot into, "I'm five times more powerful than I was the last time I fought you Quincy."

Uryu held his arm close to his side, grimacing as he acknowledged the point. He wasn't as durable as Chad (who seemed unharmed beyond a bit of blood on his head) or a Shinigami, and he couldn't take another hit like that and just shake it off. This fight had to be ended fast if he wanted any hope of getting out of this.

"Chad, are you ready?" the Quincy asked.

He got a nod in return, as the half-Mexican shot forward again, charging up his most powerful energy blast yet. Renji just scowled and brought Zabimaru down on Chad...or at least tried to. For Uryu had appeared in the line of fire, his bow catching the blade. It wouldn't hold out long, not against the force of a Shikai. It wasn't supposed to though, as Chad got closer to the Shinigami.

"Damn it!" Renji shouted, as Chad's energy blast hit him full in the face.

Uryu came to the ground next to his partner, as Renji's smoking body flew into another building. Both of the teens were panting, and warily watching the Lieutenant as Orihime and Ganju came running up to them.

"Is he down for good?" Chad asked.

Uryu shook his head, "I doubt it, but we need to get out of here before he wakes up!"

Orihime almost argued, looking worried that they may have actually killed Renji, "But shouldn't we make sure he doesn't die?"

A groan from the redhead made it clear he was still alive, if out-cold from the last hit.

"I don't think we need to worry about that," Uryu deadpanned, grabbing Orihime and pushing her along in front of him.

While she still looked worried, Orihime didn't struggle this time and just let Uryu push her forward. They left Renji behind, out-cold and unable to fight anymore. When he woke up, the Lieutenant would be quite angry, to put things mildly. But Uryu was hoping he got his group far enough away that they didn't have to worry about that.

Of course, he had yet to notice the fact that a certain cat was missing from the group...


Meanwhile


For their part, Ichigo and Rukia continued to run through the sewers, though neither of them really knew where they were running. Everything looked the same down there, and the amount of side paths was faintly ridiculous. It was like an underground city, complete with side rooms...not a sewer. Ichigo, naturally, was getting frustrated by that fact.

"Who the hell designed this place?!" he yelled, punching a wall as they hit yet another turn.

"No idea," Rukia replied, "only Squad Four is ever down here..."

One could understand his frustration though. They had no real idea if they were near a gate, or if they weren't. Nor did they have any idea where the group sent to rescue Rukia was, since the dampening of reiatsu worked both ways. For all they knew, they could be right underneath the Captains meeting room.

"We need to get back on the surface Rukia," Ichigo said, looking at the nearest ladder.

"That will make it easier for someone to find us," the Shinigami warned her friend.

Ichigo just scowled, "I don't care at this point. We aren't getting anywhere down here are we?"

Rukia sighed...she should really know better than to argue with Ichigo at this point. So she just walked up to the ladder, though Ichigo pushed her aside and went first. The shorter Shinigami glared at that, but didn't stop him. It was probably more of his determination to 'protect' her. Not that the Kuchiki woman needed protecting, in her opinion.

"For what its worth I agree with you Rukia," Shirayuki commented, feeling her wielders frustration, "still, he just does it because he cares for you."

Rukia didn't argue the point...she knew Ichigo better than just about anyone after all.

"Hey, Rukia! Get up here!" Ichigo called down from the street, shaking Rukia from her thoughts. Cursing at herself for her inattentiveness, the Shinigami climbed up the ladder and stood next to her friend.

The street they were in was deserted, and it appeared to be nighttime. With only starlight and moonlight to work with, it was hard to tell exactly where the pair had come up in the Sereitai. They could make out the looming shape of the Repentance Cell at the center of the Sereitai, but nothing beyond that. It was going to make finding their way around rather difficult, that was for sure.

"So, any idea where we are Rukia?"

"None. I haven't explored all the Sereitai, and it being dark isn't helping. We might be better off just finding a building to hold up in," the older Shinigami said with a sigh, "maybe figure out more about our powers?"

Ichigo sighed in frustration. He didn't like sitting around, but there wasn't a real way to argue the point. If neither of them knew where they were going, it would just be a waste of time and energy to try running through the Sereitai at night. Not that he was happy about acknowledging the point by any means.

"Man, I don't disagree with you here King," Zangetsu added, "but we do need to figure out this connection better."

"I know. Doesn't mean I'm happy about it," Ichigo replied.

With that said, the pair of Shinigami set about finding a building to camp out in. There were plenty around, but they needed one that was empty and not likely to be searched. It wouldn't do to be captured while they were sleeping now would it? Eventually, they settled on an old warehouse, that seemed to have been out of use for some time. Sitting down, Ichigo and Rukia both removed their respective zanpakutō and set them next to each other.

At first glance, there seemed to be little difference between Ichigo's blades and Rukia's. The only notable distinction was size...Ichigo's swords were bigger than Rukia's, but that was likely just the blades adjusting to the stature of their wielders. All 'midget' jokes aside, the fact was that Rukia was significantly smaller than Ichigo, so it wasn't surprising that her swords would adjust accordingly.

"Okay, other than the size I can't see anything different here," Ichigo said.

"Nor can I," Rukia concurred, tiredly rubbing her eyes, "is there any difference in our powers though?"

"Only one way to find out," Ichigo replied, picking up his version of Zangetsu.

Rukia's eyes widened, and she quickly grabbed Ichigo's hand. The teens face went slightly red at that, but he was quickly distracted by Rukia's surprisingly strong hands pulling Zangetsu away from him. He was about to protest, before angry violet eyes told him, in no uncertain terms, don't argue!

"Are you crazy," Rukia hissed, "if you try and test out a zanpakutō here you'll just draw attention to us!"

"She is correct Ichigo," Shirayuki chimed in, "using your powers will let anyone who is looking for us know exactly where we are. And all the Captains are at least somewhat familiar with your reiatsu signature by now."

"I know, I know," Ichigo complained.

"Good. We'll just have to figure this out a different way...I wonder if we could enter each other's Inner Worlds?"

That was a good question. Both of them knew their zanpakutō were capable of switching worlds at will, so was there anything stopping Rukia from going to Ichigo's, or vice-versa? It would be...odd...to put it mildly, but it should be possible. The question then became, how would they do so? Well, only one way to find out.

Rukia showed Ichigo how to get in a Jinzen position, with the exception of, instead of holding his zanpakutō, he held Rukia's hand. Embarrassing, maybe, but it was the only way Rukia figured this could work. There was a reason Shinigami held their blades in their lap while performing Jinzen, and it wasn't to look cool. Having physical contact with the blade allowed a deeper connection, and made it easier to dive into the Inner World. So, logically, holding hands would serve the same purpose. Or at least Rukia assumed it would at any rate.

"Okay, this is new," Ichigo said, as he opened his eyes.

"Is this your inner world?" Rukia asked herself, looking out over an endless city-scape.

"Yes, but it isn't usually this...naturey," Ichigo replied.

"...that isn't a word Ichigo."

"..."

Ichigo's questionable grammar aside, he had a point. The skyscrapers were still there, along with the ever-present (at least since Shirayuki arrived) snow. But now, there were snow-covered trees and frozen ponds littering the area around the skyscrapers, instead of a normal city street grid. If anything, it looked like someone had taken a typical 'winter wonderland' and planted a modern city in the middle of it.

In other words, it was like the two Shinigami had merged their Inner Worlds. Which made a certain amount of sense, considering they were currently in one World, not two. And it wasn't just them either, as Zangetsu and Shirayuki popped up soon after.

"Gah!" Rukia shouted, jumping closer to Ichigo when she saw his albino clone.

"...am I really that scary looking?" the Hollowfied zanpakutō asked.

"Yes," everyone answered in unison.

Zangestu frowned, but didn't say anything. They had more important issues to deal with anyway. Such as figuring out how many powers transferred over between the two blades. It was certainly possible there might have been some bleed-through of the powers after all.

"Okay, lets try something out," Shirayuki started, "Ichigo, you know my First Dance, correct?"

"Haven't used it yet, but yeah," Ichigo replied, catching the blade Shirayuki tossed at him...and realizing it was Zangetsu, not her.

He just as quickly realized what she was asking him to do. Test the Dance, to see if it would work with Zangetsu. It was doubtful, but testing was the entire reason they were in here.

"Some no Mai, Tsukishiro," the teen said, spinning his zanpakutō...and nothing happened.

Shirayuki sighed, "I expected that. Zangetsu?"

"On it," the Hollow-zanpakutō said, tossing Rukia a copy of Shirayuki, "try 'Getsuga Tensho'. When you say that, pump reiatsu into the blade, and swing it down...like a Kido attack."

Neither Ichigo nor Rukia knew that just giving away the name of the attack irked Zangetsu, as it was something Ichigo should have learned on his own. It felt like...cheating, somehow. But the fact remained, he didn't have any other attacks like Shirayuki (or at least any he was willing to share yet), so he had to use the Getsuga. At least it was something that they could test at any rate.

In any case, Rukia nodded, "Getsuga Tensho!"

A small crescent of ice came flying out of Shirayuki, unlike her Dances, but unlike Zangetsu's attack either.

"Hmm...there is some crossover, but it is still different," Shirayuki muttered, quite interested by this development.

"Interesting maybe, but those two need sleep," Zangetsu said, "we can play test dummy later."

Oddly caring for a part-Hollow it may be, he had a point. Both Ichigo and Rukia needed to get some rest so they could be ready if someone attacked them. Or, at least so they had the energy to find whoever had been sent to rescue them. So they left the Inner World behind, and got as comfortable as they could in the old warehouse...in the morning, they would return to looking for the Rescue Team.


AN: Yeah, the block is still there. I'm trying to break it, but...eh, at least I can still write! See you all next time!