“Find the center of yourself, and sink into it.”
Ichigo let Loki’s words roll through the back of his mind, trying not to sweat. He’d meditated before. Lots of times. But his brother – and later Tessai, with glares for Yoruichi and Urahara alike – had always warned him about going too deep.
“You’re supposed to be human,” Loki had said bluntly. “Half-human, at the very least. Your magic is supposed to be the magic of Midgard. Fixed. Stable. Predictable.
“Only between my influence and Momiji’s, your power is about as stable as a subcritical mass of plutonium.
“No, no; no arguments, brother! Not about this. You have ice and a wolf and a youkai forest in your soul. So far, it hasn’t done you – or your friends – any harm. But it has changed them. You know it has.
“The core of your soul is the core of your power. Don’t touch it. Not yet. Grow older, first. Give it time to grow into some sort of balance. Give Fenris time to earn Karakura’s loyalty. The more the powers here accept him, the more they accept you as you are. And the more likely all your nakama are to get clear of high school without turning youkai themselves.”
Well. Now he was older. A little.
And there wasn’t any choice. Sode no Shirayuki was in his soul. They had to get her out, or Rukia would never get her full powers back.
I don’t want to do this.
Which was true; he’d learned from watching Loki what lying to yourself did to your head, so Ichigo tried not to. Ever. But it was also just plain old goddamn selfish.
She gave you her powers to save your family, Ichigo reminded himself. And you did.
His family, and a lot of other spirits. For the first time in his life, he hadn’t been just soothing lost souls, or distracting things that howled in the night before he ran for his own life. He’d finally been able to do something about the monsters that haunted Karakura. Being a shinigami was scary and responsible-
-And like Dad. He’d never thought he would be anything like Isshin; everyone told him he looked like Mom, and he knew he wasn’t as crazy as Goat-Chin, wouldn’t ever be, couldn’t ever make Karin roll her eyes and think everything was under control, or make Yuzu laugh at how her crazy family stayed together-
-And he didn’t want to give it up.
But you know that sword isn’t yours, Ichigo told himself fiercely. Rukia let you hold it, and trusted you to do the right thing. So do it.
Deep breath, and dive-