Hazuki leaped over the wall of the Academy and, as quicky as her legs could carry her, rushed down the hill and towards the distant Seireitei. Here, not a single sign of battle could be seen. The stone stairs that led up to the Academy grounds were untouched, pristine, and the Hollow presences that Hazuki and Hildr felt were weaker—no greater than the Hollows that might have been found on Earth.

Above, two Shinigami presences all but raced through the Rukongai sky, over the walls, and into the Academy grounds. The first of, as any remaining souls hoped, many Shinigami to follow.

Hazuki made it two more, great, leaping bounds thanks to the refinement of her Flash Step before pink petals—carried by a sudden explosion in the distance—fluttered down all around them.

Then, Hazuki crashed face-first into something. The impact bloodied her nose and sent her down to the hillside, crashing against the stone stairs. Hildr rolled out of her grip, but remained within reach. In her path: nothing. Open air. As if she had crashed into an unseen wall, or simply a ghost.

In this case, the dead.

Like glass, the air shimmered before her. Stone stairs cracked and gave, crushing into the shape of a three-toed footprint thick enough for either young woman to lay down across it—perhaps a few times. The figured shimmered again and revealed a towering presence no shorter than the Huge Hollows Hazuki first faced, cornered and alone back in the courtyard.

Not a single iota of spiritual pressure to be found, no matter how hard either of them looked.

Steam and a breeze suddenly rolled over Hildr and Hazuki both, before they could even stand. The shimmering figure vanished and, in its place, a silhouette stood. The steam slowly settled, cleared, and revealed a new form: the same height as Hazuki, a thin build, with hair worn long and bangs cut short. Tight, well-defined muscle, a body built for an athlete, a swimmer, or a young woman who simply lived a hard, physical life, devoid of any of the blemishes such a living brought.

As the steam continued to thin, it became obvious: it was Hazuki herself. She stood in an unnatural pose before her, as if it didn’t know how to balance. Its skin was a pallid, unnatural white, and Hollow Holes covered its body; from the exposed skin of its arms, to the matching robes it wore to mimic Hazuki herself, to her legs. Even one of her cheeks had a hole where white, deathly flesh should have been. The eyes, sclera black, were even whited over like a blind man’s. One stared forward, while the other pointed off in another direction—until it snapped forward at Hazuki as well.

From the flesh of one of Hazuki’s arms, a blade emerged, identical in shape, size, and even its details—except white, and without the glimmer of steel.

Yet, the Hollow didn’t move. It simply looked at her, weapon in-hand, and stared with its white-stained gaze.

Around them, both women felt two further events: Hollows all across the Academy began to fade out of the awareness of their sixth sense. Some that prowled about the hill of the Academy did the same—while others, instead, rushed towards them.

Mirror Hollow appears!
Shin'o Academy

That lone word bore on Hildr's mind as she and Hazuki weaved through the seemingly endless alleys of the Academy. She had been completely, utterly, undeniably worthless this entire time. For the all pride and praise she had gained from manifesting her own Zanpakuto despite her age, there was nothing she could do. Though she lead her class in Zanjutsu, and had even become a mentor to the first years, that skill meant nothing.

All she could do was get pulled around by those who were actually competent at their jobs. Follow orders, meekly protest, and pray that a Hollow wouldn't turn its eyes upon her.

She couldn't even save her friends from that weak Hollow that Tachibana had cleaved through with a single swipe of her blade.

During the escape, Hazuki had eventually let Hildr slide off her shoulder -- seemingly convinced that Hildr was thoroughly resigned to her fate of running away like a coward. Even at a sprint, Hildr could keep up with her superior -- yet another supposed talent of the young student that was completely worthless in this situation. Yet, Hildr remained a pace or two behind Hazuki, constantly flicking her eyes over her shoulder to confirm they weren't being pursued.

It was only by sheer chance that Hildr had been looking forward when Hazuki suddenly jerked backwards, and her hand snapped to her face. Trails of blood slipped between her dainty fingers as Hazuki looked forward at nothing.


Hildr barely had enough time to croak out that singular word before the air moved. As if Hildr's vision was blurring, the space in front of them grew hazy and distorted. The features of something vaguely humanoid began to grow from the fog before them. From that form, steam poured out in thick tendrils, bellowing towards the ground before fizzling out at the form's feet.

While Hazuki stood firm, Hildr took a step back. Perhaps it was simply because Hazuki was braver, or maybe because Hildr recognized the face of the creature first:

It was Hazuki.

Both Hazuki and Hildr were frozen, staring at the abomination before them. It was just as unmoving as them, save for the ever so slight twitch of its fingers and the occasional pop of bones shifting into place.

Without thinking much of it, Hildr's hand fell to the hilt of her own Zanpakuto, her grip still and betraying the irratic beating of her heart. Then, when one of the monster's fingers twitched yet again, Hildr jerked back a half step and drew her sword in fearful anticipation.

Hildr peed herself a little!
Fifth Seat,
First Division
It was a very alien feeling, to look into what felt like a mirror and see yourself, but wrong. It was a feeling that reminded Hazuki simultaneously of a dislocated joint and having a gnat fly into one’s eye—that same feeling of something being off, but this time it was as though something had been wrenched sideways in her very soul and left deeply out of place.

The dull throbbing of her smashed nose played a low and steady beat to the sharper tones of the disgust that welled up from within her at the sight of this vile and corrupted reflection of herself. Even her sword seemed to react with an uncharacteristic rage, Hazuki’s fingers still gripping the hilt tightly. She clenched her grip tighter still as her eyes flicked to the gargantuan footprint that had been left in the solid stone, then back to her eerie doppelgänger.

Somewhere, deep within her, a trickle of apprehension leaked out. Pain, exertion, fatigue, these were all things she could feel, compartmentalize, stow away and keep tabs on. But whatever Hildr and Hazuki were looking at, she couldn’t feel at all. Other, more vague spiritual signatures echoed out across the Academy grounds, but ahead of her, there was nothing.

She heard Hildr’s zanpakutō being drawn, and without tearing her eyes from the abomination in front of them, Hazuki gestured for caution with the bloodied fingers of her off hand.

‘I’m trusting you to watch our flanks, Hildr,’ she murmured, turning her head ever so slightly. ‘I’ve had enough bad surprises today, as I’m sure you’d agree.’

She raised the tip of her blade, reaching out for the invisible surface she had careened headlong into, studying her mirror image intently as she probed forward.