“It’s cruel,” Loki said soberly. “But we are trying to evade the entire Gotei Thirteen, brother. We need the element of surprise.”
Ichigo clenched white-knuckled fists. “It won’t do any good if she’s already dead!”
“Pfft. Don’t be melodramatic,” Yoruichi chided, leaping off Loki’s shoulder to the tiles. “She raised herself in Rukongai. It’ll take more than a little prison to kill her.”
“You weren’t there.” Ichigo glared at the not-a-cat, tempted to shift to Fenris then and there just to bite her. “When she made sure that Hollow grabbed her instead of me – you weren’t there, Yoruichi. You didn’t see her face.” He swallowed, heartsick. “Part of her wants to die.”
“Rukongai brats don’t suicide. The streets are just waiting for a chance to kill you. She’s one of those who made it out.” But the cat sounded less certain. “Captain Unohana’s very good at checking recruits for their health. No one leaves the Academy wanting to die.”
“And how long has it been since she left the Academy?” Loki asked, almost pleasantly. “I assure you, ninja-lady, the most surprising things can mend your love of life in an instant. Or break it.”
“She’s sad,” Orihime offered, fairies retreating to her hair. “She doesn’t act like it, but… she’s kind of like you, Ichigo. You scowl, and she’s always playing along with people, but.. it’s the same.”
Chad nodded once. “Rukia can be reckless.”
“She stayed in Karakura after committing a capital crime, without even trying to hide her trail,” Ishida commented. “Logically, the two of you are right. We should keep the element of surprise.” He nudged up his glasses. “But as much as I hate to say it, we can’t allow logic to get in the way of our ultimate goal. Rukia Kuchiki. Free, and alive.” He glanced at Ichigo. “Still. We have no way to get a message to her.”
“Yes, we do.” Ichigo hadn’t practiced this as much as he would have liked. Not in shinigami form. Fenris was flesh and bone, not just magic, and shifting this way as a spirit always felt weird.
:It is odd,: Zangetsu agreed. :But it is yours.: A quiet, grim laugh. :And I believe I may find it to my advantage.:
…Yeah. He could feel what Zangetsu had in mind. That should work out just right.
Shinigami are the most powerful guys in Soul Society. They know stealth, sure – the Kido Corps does all that. But they’re not used to sneaky. They don’t have to be.
And they definitely weren’t used to the kind of mind-games Hollows and youkai played on ordinary people. Or sometimes, people they thought were ordinary. Until it was too late.