For some reason, this needed to be written. I thought Hitsugaya and Rukia would make an interesting combination to meddle with.

Leave a review, perhaps, and spare me a thought?

...And don't ask about the random dashes as page breaks. They just 'needed' to be in there.


Freestyler

Prologue: Silent Witness


Somewhere, in the outskirts of Sereitei, there is a field.

Since last week it's been long frozen over by frost and snow, haunted day and night by a group of howling, wailing winds.

Since last week, it's been devoid of all life.

Anything once living is now either dead or asleep, hibernating until spring. Both the birds and the plants and the leaves of the surrounding forest trees are gone. The color green is gone.

The color green is forgotten.

And for one season of the year it transforms into a crystalline wonderland whose only defining features are of the sheer white of the ground below, the stark black of the circling barren trees and the frigid powder blues of the sky above.

Since last week the field's made it pretty clear that it's no longer autumn.

(Hitsugaya Toshiro is pretty sure he'll be alone in finding it)

.

It's just a simple forest clearing but it's far away enough from everything to make it secluded, yet close enough to everything to make it accessible to the likes of him.

He doesn't come here often, or as often as he did, because in between becoming a Captain of the 10th Division and all the extra responsibilities involved, there's very little time for anything other than doing paperwork, slaying Hollows, keeping Matsumoto under control and doing more paperwork.

He's hoping to fit in a few hours here by himself before he has to go and meet that Kuchiki shinigami from the 13th division that Ukitake wants so badly to have mentored- the shinigami who was nearly executed, who was saved by ryoka of all people… the shinigami who's been the focus of all the drama from both the past few days and months.

Frankly, he's not looking forward to it.

But it doesn't matter now because he's just about there and going to be free from everyone and everything for a few precious moments, if not more. He's tramping through the last straggling bunch of trees when he reaches the clearing and sees something, someone, that catches him totally by surprise (and at that, slightly ticks him off).

(He's just realized that his favorite training ground is not just his and his alone anymore)

.

There's another shinigami (an intruder almost) standing in his place in the middle of his field. She's slender, short and pale skinned. She's clad only in her uniform: a black hakama and kosode and nothing else- surprising, especially in this freezing cold weather. Her reiatsu levels are so low that he can hardly sense her even at this distance- which to an extent, is even more surprising than the former.

She's down on one knee, her back towards him, hands pressed onto her upright leg, head bowed as if meditating. She stays like this: unmoving, unchanging- looking almost like a marble statue swathed in a bit of black cloth. She looks oddly familiar yet he can't place his finger on where he knows her from.

(And then, her reiatsu starts to spike)

.

The slight, tingling sense of only moments before is replaced by a thunder clap, a burst of energy that blasts out through the clearing and shakes him to the very core. At this, Hyorinmaru starts to stir within him and he's about to take a step forward, open his mouth to speak, do something-

When she's suddenly standing and then in less than a blink of an eye is MovingSpinningSlidingGliding and is wonderfully, fearfully, alive.

Her feet start to tap to some unknown rhythm and there's no sun in the sky, or cloud, or anything and yet her hands still raise high above her head as if reaching for something or someone.

There's no music he can hear, no sound except the wind and the swing of her hair and the flap of her black crow-like, wing-like robes.

(He vaguely begins to feels that he, not she is the intruder in this forsaken place.)

.

After a few moments he slowly realizes that a sword has been added to the mix, but he cannot remember when or how it happened.

(…But It's almost as if it had been there all along, hasn't it?)

.

It's pure white, like the color of snow when it first falls and attached is a magnificently long ivory ribbon that billows out and accentuates every step, every twirl and every leap she does. There's a breathtaking sense of reckless abandon in how she moves, a type of wild passion that seems defy her very being of a shinigami- a life which seems to revolve around and hide behind codes and rules and regulations and honor binding oaths.

(He can't move, he can't speak, he can barely even breathe)

.

Snow and sleet are beginning to spray out from under her, coaxed on by her relentless feet, and he's almost certain that with every pirouette she makes and every twist of her blade, ice is forming in a circle around her and shards are being sent flying everywhere.

She pauses momentarily, turning to face him, spreading her arms wide-

And his blood runs cold.

It's Kuchiki.

Kuchiki Rukia.

.

All of a sudden, (as if she sensed him) the spell is broken- sword gone, feet stopped, eyes abruptly opened.

Wide violet eyes meet wide turquoise eyes for one, brief moment.

And then she drops back down to one knee, her right hand on the ground in an effort to support herself. She's breathing hard now- exhaling, inhaling.

But then, her head bows (ironically, towards him) and her eyes close shut.

It's almost, as if nothing has happened.

(But he knows better)

.

Half of him feels very intent on getting the hell out of there, because somehow the intimacy of just even knowing her name seems so very wrong and disconcerting. The air is thick with something he can't define and he feels slightly guilty, as if he had just watched something forbidden. Sacred. Taboo.

(It's as if he's just seen into the very depths of her soul)

.

From the little that he's seen of the shinigami, he's seen nothing like this. She's meant to be demure and polite, with a manner that seems to suggest that she perpetually feels the need to apologize to you for just the simple act of existing.

(… yet he's the opposite, and he's never even done anything like what he's just seen her do)

.

Whether it's simply the attraction of his zanpakuto to another ice blade or just the bizarreness of the situation, he doesn't know… But something is drawing him to her.

Taking a deep breath, he takes the first shaky step forward into the clearing.

(…and decides to take a chance)