“So,” Tatsuki said into one of the hiccupping silences, her tone dry and surprised. “Ichigo and the shinigami? I thought the idiot was girl-blind. Or maybe gay.”
“Certainly not that,” Loki said wryly. “Tatsuki. What shapes can you take?”
“Dragon.” Duh, said her tone. Though there was just a little frown along with it. Tatsuki might not have much of a feel for magic besides levin-bolts and an incredible flair for hearing youkai whispers, but she sat in on magic lessons with the rest of them. In part because her dragon was one of the few forms sure to be still standing after Ichigo tried a levin-bolt. She knew this must be important.
“And you, deshi?” Loki raised an eyebrow.
“Nothing really big or small yet,” Orihime managed, wiping away tears. “But… whatever I need to be.”
“Almost,” Loki murmured. “And what is Ichigo?”
“He’s a… a wolf….” Orihime paled.
Tatsuki glanced between the two of them. Fixed on him. “Wait a minute. We take youkai forms. We don’t-” She cut herself off, as Orihime shook her head, fresh tears running down her face. “Orihime?”
“It’s not fair!” the sorceress wailed.
“No. And part of that is my fault,” Loki admitted. Glanced at Tatsuki, who looked very much as if she wished to punch someone. Who knows? By the end of the day, it may be me. “Has Ichigo ever told you how he became Fenris?”
Tatsuki was gaping at him. “You’re serious. Ichigo – he doesn’t just take a form, he….”
“Yes,” Loki nodded. “Ichigo is not good at shapeshifting. Not at all.” He sighed. “But when he was thirteen, he did manage it. And I, thinking only how to ensure that he would finally learn this, locked him in that form. Until the first rays of dawn.” He winced. “And then Ichigo spent the next week in the Otherworld, hiding from every sunrise.”
“Um. Why?” Tatsuki looked the question at them both.
Wincing, Orihime looked away.
“A youkai is safe in the Otherworld,” Loki informed her. “They are part of its power. They can drink its waters, eat its food, and still enter our world untouched. A human? One bite, and they are bound. Never eat or drink in the Otherworld.” He paused. “Unless, and only unless, you take it from the hand of a youkai you are already bound to. The power will still bind you to them. But you will remain human.” He laughed once, not at all cheerful. “I assure you, Yuzu and Karin are very human.”