“You would manifest me.” Lips red as blood on snow curled in distaste. “You. An infant of a mortal. An accidental shinigami, who has not even achieved shikai!”
“Unless there’s some other mortal who’s got you tied to his soul, yeah,” Ichigo griped back. “Look. You’re mad at me. Fine. Take it out on me all you want. Later.” He kept his hand out, open. “Rukia needs you.”
Something softened in ageless eyes. “You will likely fail.”
Ichigo didn’t look away. “Won’t know ‘til we try.”
Delicate as falling snow, pale fingers settled in his.
Okay. Focus. You need to hold onto her, and go up and out-
Snow flew, thickening until the wind wailed and frosted windows shuddered against steel. He was pulling, Sode no Shirayuki wanted to be free….
The trees. It was a chilled, slow thought, as the blizzard howled and tore at their interlaced fingers. The trees are moving!
Branches writhed, punching out window after window as limbs thickened. Skyscrapers groaned in the wind, swaying; Ichigo felt the roots crawling through foundations as if they burrowed under his own skin. Skin that was turning a familiar shade of pale, as cold shifted from biting to familiar….
Youkai forest. Youkai power. Fenris!
This was the heart of his soul. The heart of his power. If he shifted to Fenris here-
Loki! Help me!
No answer. Only the howling storm, raging through the city of his soul.
It’ll tear everything apart. Everything that’s me. I won’t be a shinigami anymore. Not even a human. Just a youkai, who won’t even care about family unless he can change them….
Not gonna happen!
His soul. His power. Ichigo gritted his teeth and ignored the blizzard’s siren call. The skyscrapers would stand. They had to stand. They were him, part of being human, and he was not going to give that up-
A warm hand gripped his shoulder. “Let him go, snow-lady! I have him. Go, and be free!”
Wind screamed; the yuki-onna laughed-
Silence. Ichigo’s ears rang with it.
Groaning, trees retreated. Shards of glass glittered in mangled frames, but steel still soared in its odd, sideways towers. A few last flakes danced on the wind, slowly fading into the distance.
Someone warm was standing behind him.
“Don’t turn around.” That same dark, grimly amused voice. “Our footing needs time to grow steady again.”