Invisible Writing, Part Nine
Warnings: This chapter contains more violence and sexual description than previous chapters.
Disclaimer: Kubo Tite owns Bleach, and Incandescens owns the imagination that gave me the scenario for this particular fanfic.
Description: This A/U begins from the time Orihime was kidnapped and taken to Hueco Mundo, only the events preceding the immediate kidnapping are slightly different (as revealed in this story) This fic is an adventure romance featuring Ishida and Orihime, but there is also implied Ichigo/Rukia and Aizen/Gin.
Warnings: This chapter contains more violence and sexual description than previous chapters. Hard R. Character death.
Special thanks to Incandescens and Finnigan Geist
Because Inoue had not shown up to heal the fallen that day, the Hollow killed Luppi.
As soon as Aizen announced that fighters should be careful during battle trials because their princess-healer would be absent, the Espada had exchanged hungry glances and looked determined to kill one another. Shikai were drawn and explosions of energy had rocked the hills outside Las Noches. No Espada was even scratched, but the bodies of unfortunate Hollow covered the tortured landscape.
After the Espada sheathed their zanpakutou and withdrew to the palace, the scavenger Hollow came to eat the bodies of the dead.
The Other had watched. The inner spirit that had once been Kurosaki Ichigo dreaded the day when his Hollow would consume spirits, but his Hollow had merely flown over the carnage, watching limbs and entrails being dragged under the earth.
Where do Hollow go when they die?
Where is Rukia?
At the threshold of an even more hidden world, the Other told himself that these questions did not matter because of the pact with his Hollow: nothing mattered but Aizen’s death. Nothing else could possibly appease this new yearning for vengeance. Sand blew in the Inner World. Sand filled his mouth, and he could not shout to the Hollow.
As sand stung his eyes, the Other saw his Hollow drew his zanpakutou.
The Other watched as his Hollow flash-stepped into Luppi’s room and cut the girl-faced Arrancar’s head off with a stroke faster than backwards time.
“There, you ugly hybrid. I bet you taste like chicken.”
And the Hollow threw Luppi’s body to scavengers on the battle field.
“One half-hour!” Aizen called to the princess as she ran out of the breakfast alcove. Then he turned to Gin. “I suppose I can keep the Espada waiting until she shows up for the assembly. I’ll have tea served.”
“Where do you suppose she’s run off to?” Gin was chewing a pickled radishes. He looked at the servant. “Poor man, I always seem to clean off his plate. More, please? For Aizen-sama?”
“It’s the boy, no doubt,” said Aizen as the servant left. “They were friends in the Living World. He’s probably in emotional torture seeing her among the enemy. Orihime is trying to temper the trauma, I suppose. She’s kind like that.”
“I don’t know, Sousuke.” Gin shook his head. “Before you know it, they’ll be banging one another, and the kid might have some negative influence on your precious.”
Aizen smiled. “Actually, I have been hoping that they would become intimate.”
Gin stopped chewing.
“I observed,” Aizen said, “from my own interactions with the hougyoku, that it is particularly sensitive to sexual energy. Along with a strong reiatsu, a certain erotic awareness feeds its functionality.” Aizen cast Gin a sidelong look and was answered with a little laugh. “When Orihime first came here,” Aizen continued, ignoring Gin’s giggles. “I was struck by her naivete and wondered if a more sexual maturity on her part wasn’t required before she could interact properly with the hougyoku.”
“Really, now? So you did arrange for that pretty human boy to be brought to her after all.”
“Oh no,” said Aizen. “His arrival was a perfect coincidence. I had been waiting for the right time to deflower Orihime myself.”
When Orihime returned to her room, Ishida-kun was lying, arms above his head, fast asleep on her bed.
He sat up--eyes wild. “I was asleep.”
“It’s okay to sleep,” she said, sitting next to him. “You’re human. You can’t stay awake one-hundred-percent of the time to watch over me. That’s what I’ve got Almatriste and Lastimada for.”
Ishida rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. “No, I should’ve--”
“No, it’s okay. I know you didn’t sleep at all last night.”
They had spent most of the night in one another’s arms. After kissing on the floor until their lips were puffy, Ishida had carried Orihime to the bed. They had touched one another the way they believed people their age were supposed to--hands holding onto upper body parts while their tongues met. Then Orihime’s hand had accidentally swept against Ishida’s front. This single touch near his kimono sash had elicited a gasp that inspired Orihime to touch there more.
Ishida had tucked his head against Orihime’s shoulder and shuddered. He had apologized for it. Later, when Orihime had experienced the same shuddering, she wondered why anyone should apologize for feeling the loveliest thrill in the world.
“Aizen-sama--oops, I mean--” Orihime covered her mouth with her hand and then uncovered it again. “I suppose I should still call him Aizen-sama to keep up appearances, even though I don’t see him that way anymore.”
Ishida nodded. He looked groggy--hair tousled and eyelids heavy--and Orihime thought he had never looked more beautiful.
“Aizen said that I can witness a demonstration of the hougyoku today! I told him I have some things to do, so the meeting won’t be called for another half-hour. I didn’t want you to wonder where I was--”
“No,” said Ishida. “Your going to one of their assemblies is not a good idea.”
Orihime wondered what it was going to take to convince Ishida that she had to see the hougyoku, that it was the key to changing Kurosaki-kun back, but her mind kept drifting to what had happened last night. Ishida-kun finding that place between her legs and stroking there with his long fingers.
Her breathing slowed down. “Ishida-kun,” she said. “Luppi-san was killed yesterday, and I know I should be sad about it because it was my fault. I wasn’t there to heal him, but….”
He pulled her by the arm, and she fell on top of his chest.
“You’re not going to that assembly,” he said and kissed her neck.
The kiss made her giggle, and then he pulled down her white blouse by the sleeves and kissed her exposed breasts. The air of Las Noches was cold and goose-pimpled her skin, but Ishida-kun’s mouth was warm.
“Uryuu,” she said, loving the soft cooing sound of the vowels in his first name.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said, and he pulled up her skirts with a flourish. In another instant, he was speaking the same words between her thighs. “You’re not….” A kiss. “Going.” Another kiss. “Anywhere….”
Then his warm mouth found her warmest of places.
Yami and Ulquiorra entered the Assembly of Loyalty to find that the room’s usual multi-leveled floor had been replaced with one long rectangular table and high-backed chairs. Slender white mugs were placed at each setting, and a servant was pouring … tea?
“What the fuck is this?” said Yami.
“Be quiet,” said Ulquiorra, “and find your place.”
The nine Espada seated themselves without ceremony, and none but Ulquiorra looked at ease with the arrangement. No one drank, as if waiting for their Aizen-sama to give the order. Minutes ticked by, and at last their leader entered the room.
“You were raucous yesterday, gentleman,” said Aizen, standing at the head of the table. “In the battle trials, you destroyed every single Hollow candidate for Arrancar status, and it does seem that we are short one Espada.”
“Luppi was with us when we left the field,” said the female Espada. She was the only Espada who had tolerated the widely-despised Luppi. She was even rumored to like him; the two joked together and laughed about the ugliness of the others’ clothes.
“Ichigo probably killed him again,” said Yami.
“A reasonable guess,” said Aizen. “Ichigo?” He raised his voice a little and called as one would call a dog. “Ichigo!”
There was a collective groan at the name. “Not him.” “Oh Great Fuck.” And “Not that vile, ridiculous Hollow again.”
A rush of wind and a blur of black and there was the Hollow standing next to Aizen.
“I did what you asked, Aizen,” the Hollow said. “It was a pleasure.”
“Appreciated, Ichigo,” said Aizen, “and now will you please show the Espada what I asked you to retrieve for me?”
The Hollow rolled a spherical object across the table. When it stopped rolling, the Espada saw that it was a desiccated, severed head--the cheeks peeling gray flesh, and the eyes sunken into black holes--but the tooth comb on top of the black hair told who it was.
“I’ll say Luppi’s really chucked it this time,” said Yami. “The princess wasn’t around yesterday, and there’s no way anyone can bring him back from that.”
“It would appear,” said Aizen. “that Luppi missed Orihime’s healing window of opportunity.” He paused for a sip of tea. “But do not underestimate the power of the hougyoku when combined with a powerful reiatsu. At our last demonstration, I was able to show you what the hougyoku could do with my reiatsu, but Orihime’s talents are different from mine. That’s the way I created her.”
Aizen sat in his chair and pressed a button on the arm. “Orihime, my dear, are you coming?”
“Yes,” came a breathless voice. “I’m right outside the hall. I’ll be at your door in seconds.”
“Forgive me for keeping all of you waiting,” Aizen went on. “My daughter is a busy girl. Now, this will be her first assembly, and I expect you to welcome her with propriety. Respect her as you would me.”
A guardsman opened the door and in came Orihime. She was breathing hard, her lips were red and puffy, and her hair was a little messed-up.
“HI EVERYBODY!” She announced.
Every face was turned to hers, including (although she did not notice it) the shriveled face of Luppi.
“Orihime,” said Aizen. “Hold out your hand.”
She did so without hesitation, and a small, many-faceted crystalline object appeared hovering above her palm.
“How did that--?” Orihime’s eyes were wide, and then she realized what the thing was. Her hand attempted to close around the object, but a bluish energy surrounding it repelled her touching.
“Do you feel your power?” asked Aizen.
“My--mine?” Orihime was wincing because the light from the object was getting brighter. “It’s the hougyoku’s power.”
“Look to the center of the table, my dear, and please do not be alarmed. This is all that’s left of--”
Orihime gasped. “Luppi-san!”
“Yes, poor Luppi, who you were not able to heal yesterday. My fault entirely. I let the battle trials go on--knowing full well that you could not attend. We had serious matters to discuss, after all.”
“I can’t--” The light in Orihime’s palm was expanding. It shone against her coppery hair, cast a blinding glow on her reflective white clothes. The seated Espada could no longer see her face. “I can’t heal Luppi-san anymore,” she said.
“Yes you can,” said Aizen in a mild voice. “Do it.”
The tiny spirits flew from Orihime’s head and threw their golden shield over the table. “I reject,” said Orihime, and there, right before everyone’s eyes, the shriveled head began to puff up and pinken.
From a dark bloody hole it grew a torso, then long nude arms and legs. Its eyes opened, and the shield fell away. The spirits flew back to Orihime’s hairpins, and the hougyoku lost its blazing light. Everyone was too busy staring at Luppi’s naked form lying on the table to notice the hougyoku drop into Orihime’s palm.
The Espada were speechless.
Luppi sat up, blinking, and his lower lip trembled. “This only makes me stronger, you know,” he said. “You can all stop looking at me like I’m dessert.”
“The hougyoku,” said Aizen, “is Orihime’s parent in a way. Just as I am her parent. We are both nurturing and liberating, and none of the wonders you see would be possible without it and myself. We are the foundation of Orihime’s amazing abilities. None of you possess her powers, but you are all, as my creations, beneficiaries of her healing powers. Remember that. Without me, without her, without the hougyoku that made you Arrancar, you would be lost and purposeless as all the Hollow are.”
The Hollow, whose lean, black-clothed form had been standing behind Aizen, crossed his arms and asked, “Now?”
“Not yet, Ichigo.” Aizen turned to Orihime. “My princess, you may leave. Your part is done.”
Orihime looked somewhat confused, as if she had expected more of a ceremony, but then she bowed deeply then rose and waved her hand. “Bye, Luppi-san. It’s wonderful to see you again.”
The room seemed to relax with the princess’ departure. The Espada began to talk amongst themselves, and Luppi pulled his knees to his chin and still sat at the center of the table, looking un-self-conscious and even bored.
“These gentleman,” Aizen said with a wide gesture across the table, “do not know of longing or regret. Their Hollow selves are gone. They have taken off their masks.”
“Quit it with the Hollow-bashing,” the Hollow said. “I’m not going to stand here and be insulted.”
“I’m not meaning to insult you, Ichigo,” Aizen said. “You are a cherished guest of Las Noches, and your strength and prowess are respected here. I am merely pointing out that you are a Hollow. That is who you are.”
“I don’t need to be transformed to defeat you or anyone,” the Hollow said. “You and I both know that I am waiting for the great war, for the moment you promised when Hollow, Arrancar, humans and spirits would face off for control of All There Is.”
“Did I say anything about transformation?” Aizen’s expression turned soft. His voice was like the one he used to address Orihime. “Tell me, Ichigo, who is that you long for?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“You are a Hollow. You miss your human life, your human friends and family. Tell me, where are they? Are they in the Realm of the Living? Are they in Soul Society? Who do you want returned to you?”
The question hung in the cold air for a moment, and then the Hollow threw his head back and laughed. The bizarre sound made the Espada pay attention.
“No, Aizen,” said the Hollow. “This is not going to work on me. There is no going back for me. None whatsoever. He who was Kurosaki Ichigo is defeated. Buried in the sand. There is no way you can bargain with me. Not with any of your resurrection tricks.”
“I didn’t want to bargain with you,” said Aizen. “I wanted to show the Espada something you already know. Please, Ichigo, you may now demonstrate how to make sure that an enemy is beyond the power of Orihime’s healing.”
The Hollow drew his zanpakutou. It was a sleek black blade, and the Espada had seen what it could do. Each Arrancar drew back in his chair.
“Aizen,” the Hollow grumbled, “you talk too much.” He threw the blade and impaled it into Luppi’s forehead, but the movement happened so fast that no one saw the Hollow draw back his hand.
The Arrancar fell backwards, newly dead.
“Destroy the head,” Aizen said. “If the deathblow is to the head, the enemy can not and will not be revived.”
Orihime could not believe it. The hougyoku had fallen right into her fist. Believing that she could still feel its hot glow against her palm, she ran all the way to the end of corridor, away from all security check-posts and guards, and leaned, panting, against a cold white wall.
If I can bring back Luppi-san, what else can I do?
She opened her hand.
The hougyoku was not there.