Don't Call Me Nina
I must get to Orihime…
When she awoke, her body was lying against something bitterly cold. She did not mind. The cold was something inextricably entwined with her soul. It was the perfect setting as her body was growing cold in the only way it finally could.
Her lips, smeared with her own caked blood, cracked harshly as she smiled, memories of her life rising unbidden.
Her first memories were of winter. Of a blanket too thin. Of a snow storm so harsh, a hunger so strong, of a cold so permeating. A sense of loneliness so great that though she was an infant, here in her dying hour she could still tangibly remember it.
It was then that she first heard her sword.
It was a time that she barely even knew her own name, but she knew that name.
Sode no Shirayuki.
And she clung to it with all of her life force.
That beautiful woman, that most beautiful woman who would cocoon her in ice and sing her lullabies in her severe and austere way.
Renji had always said that even in the slums of Rukongai she had seemed leagues above everyone else.
She supposed it must have seemed so, but really she could take no credit.
Soon came Byakuya Kuchiki's adoption, and though it was immensely gratifying it came as no real surprise. By this time, she had almost two decades of living with her sword and knew it to be just another power play.
"Now that you are nobility, we can assume our true positions in this world. Accomplish what it is that we desire to achieve."
Rukia, now Kuchiki-sama, could not identify with this notion for she really had no desires. Shirayuki had quite enough for the both of them.
It was with this outlook that she slowly and mechanically moved through her world wordlessly obeying her brother and her sword. The only real bright star in her sky was Kaien Shiba. He helped rationalize her thoughts, develop a sense of personality. He began the development of Rukia. He taught her a perspective much different than her own.
Even if some of his teachings…
"You know, Kuchiki, swords are an extension of ourselves. They are entwined with our innermost natures. Oi, are you listening to me Kuchiki?..."
…she didn't quite want to believe.
After all, how could such a cold, ruthless winter be a part of her?
Regardless, Rukia loved Kaien.
Shirayuki, naturally, didn't.
Her voice had cut like shards of ice. "I do not like him. He is not your mate. And his sword is completely uncouth."
Rukia Kuchiki never knew who to blame for his death. Shirayuki who jumped at the chance to kill this fool of a man with his idealistic notions of feelings and heart, or Rukia for giving into her insecurities and acting once again with her will to survive.
After Kaien left, her spring retrograded back to her solemn winter.
Then came Karakura Town. That place with its many interesting spirits. It was where she met Ichigo Kurosaki. That boy who changed her world as much as she changed his. He was her first knowledge of happiness, of normality, a first love of sorts. It was here where she experienced her first summer. Her pupil, roommate, and best friend brightened up her sky completely eclipsing all other stars. Ichigo was the one who had completed Rukia's development.
And it was he who had broken Shirayuki.
He was her belated childhood as well as her youth and for those two months, things were wonderful.
Or at least she liked to pretend it so.
But, in reality, it had been another... a man like a meteor who had shot through her sky and managed out shine the sun, who had made the moon disappear in his blinding rays of magic. The same man who had been quietly, covertly flitting in and out of her life and entangling her in his web. The man who was so much like Shirayuki in using Rukia for his own ends, and so akin to Rukia in hating himself for his own inability to stop his ruthlessness.
She didn't like to think about him.
In due course, Shirayuki had come back. But, with Rukia's newfound knowledge she had managed to keep control of them both. Surprisingly, Shirayuki had offered no resistance, just coolly retreating into a newly formed crater on Rukia's surface. Rukia used this advantage to follow her sun to what she hoped were greener pastures and ignored the meteor and his stupid craters as much as possible. And this is where she had ended up.
Shirayuki had been furious throughout the battle with the ninth espada. Furious at Rukia and her inability to survive.
"For your inaction! For your persistent foolery with a child when you have a completely wonderful suitor right in front of you! I don't even know why I have lingered so long!"
It was with this notion, that at the end of the fight, Shirayuki had left and Rukia's spirit energy had collapsed.
But none of them were here. Ishida fighting. Chad most likely on the brink of death, as well. Byakuya waiting for her return. Renji fighting. Orihime still trapped in this horrid place. Kaien finally at rest. And Ichigo… was preoccupied with fighting.
So here at the end of all things, Rukia the Street Rat, Rukia Kuchiki, Rukia Kuchiki of the 13th Division, Rukia the Changer of Worlds and the Dancing Wielder of Ice, Rukia destiny's pawn… was alone again.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see another espada calmly appraising her broken body lying on the cold floor of the deceased ninth espada's quarters.
She could distantly hear him saying something about finishing the job. But Rukia's will to survive had deserted her, and thus she chose to close her eyes and remain in her state of semi-conscience waiting for the inevitable.
There was a noise, but at this point the pain was paramount and she could hardly bring herself to care.
But, death did not come.
Slowly, using all of the willpower she had left, Rukia's eyes fluttered half-way open. She was cast in a shadow. Slowly, she angled her head to see…
The man who her sword regarded as her equal. Her suitor.
Slowly his body fell, landing hard on his knees. A hand came out to grasp at the nape of her neck. His head bowed against her chest. She could hear the broken chant of the healing kidou, intermixed with his sobs. "Rukia, please don't die."
Her eyes fixed on the distant shadowed wall. Inside her, she could feel a determination, a courage that she had really never associated with herself. A desire to live.
"Please don't die." He whispered fervently.
Against the far wall she could see that beautiful, beautiful woman. She was smiling. It was the first time Rukia had ever seen Shirayuki smile. Her blue eyes, identical to Rukia's own, sparkled at her from the depths of the shadows.
Warmth slowly began to seep into her body.