In her decades of partnership with Sode no Shirayuki, Kuchiki Rukia had seen many strange things within her own mind. A thundering waterfall, pouring down torrents of diamond ice. The stillness of winter dawn, with the Northern Lights still dancing. A snow-furred fox, red chicken in her jaws, barking laughter as she outran leaping black hounds.
Yet for all its strangeness, her mindscape was usually predictable. Quiet. Cool. Full of hidden secrets.
“Augghhh!” Thump! Did not fit. Not at all.
Sleek beside her in feathery white fur, Sode no Shirayuki closed eyes gold as icicles in the dawn. “Not again.”
“Again?” Rukia scrambled through the snow toward low swearing. Familiar swearing. But it couldn’t be. “Ichigo?”
Rising to his feet from a very large dent in a snowdrift, Ichigo brushed flakes out of orange hair. “Hey.”
Irrational. Impossible. Insane. It had to be Ichigo. “What in the gods’ names do you think you’re doing?”
A too-casual shrug. “What, can’t a guy check up on a friend?”
“Oh. Um. Kinda private, right.” Ichigo scratched his head, shrugged. “Sorry, just wanted to make sure your p- ah, your brother was treating you right-”
“No!” She kicked him in the shins. For an impossibility, he certainly felt real. “I mean, you can’t be here! It’s not possible!”
“Why?” A tall, dark-haired stranger in amber glasses and a familiar tattered coat, striding over snow without leaving a footprint behind. “Where I go, can my shinigami not follow?”