“Hang on,” Renji broke in, red eyes wide. “We talkin’ about Ichigo?”
“You fought beside him, and you’re surprised,” Ukitake murmured. Turned an intrigued gaze on Rukia. “Yet you aren’t, quite.”
If it had just been her brother, she could have bluffed with perfect calm. But even all these decades later, this was Kaien’s captain. “He visited my inner world,” Rukia said hesitantly. “This morning. Zangetsu didn’t seem to think it was strange; just that they couldn’t stay long, because we were so far apart….” She let her words trail off, as her brother stared, Renji swore under his breath, and her captain all but buried his head in his hands.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Rukia had to smirk. “Now you know what I’ve had to deal with.”
“It would seem a reevaluation of your abilities would be in order,” her brother noted.
Rukia tried not to stare. Does he mean-?
“Getting soft, Kuchiki,” Renji said dryly. “Keep that up, somebody might get the idea you were proud of her.”
Ukitake cleared his throat before the silence could become too awkward. “If a retest merited it, a seated position would make a certain assignment in the Thirteenth more convenient. Given that I believe the ongoing situation in Karakura may ultimately require officers from more than one division to carry out, and someone with connections to the Sixth and Thirteenth – and no little support in the Eleventh as well, it seems – would stand a better chance of being able to mediate the various differences in institutional approach.”
Which was a polite way of saying any shinigami responsible was going to need the lungs of a dragon, nerves of adamantine, and more than a little insanity. Because the poor bastard who took the job would be caught between the Thirteenth’s “Hollows are our duty”, the Sixth’s “retrieve and execute – not necessarily in that order”, and the Eleventh’s “who cares what we’re fighting, as long as something dies!”
And that didn’t even begin to consider Ichigo’s ryoka.