I've had these parts written up for a while, and they're short so I'm posting the last three parts. If the current spoiler for the manga is true, the manga may be outrunning this fic, so I decided to beat it to the punch.
The final confrontations between our heroes, Gin, Aizen, and Hollow Ichigo
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: References to character death, teenage sexuality, homosexuality, and magical crystal objects. If any of these things bother you, you have been warned.
Special thanks to Incandescens and Finnigan Geist
Gin folded his arms and smiled at them.
Orihime’s chest filled with fear. She saw the six spokes of Ishida’s bow materialize and was certain he was going to shoot, but he didn’t.
“NOW,” he hissed at her.
She grabbed his arm pulled him backwards. They fell into another white-walled room. Ishida rose to his feet, took Orihime’s arm, and yanked her to a standing position.
“We’re still in Las Noches,” Ishida said. “I meant home. I meant take us back now.”
She couldn’t do that. Not while there was still a chance to save Kurosaki-kun. Not while there was still a chance to get her hands on the hougyoku. And she wouldn’t let anything happen to Uryuu--no, she wouldn’t. She threw herself against his chest, and the two of them fell into another part of the palace.
This time they were alone in a long, empty corridor.
Ishida lay on the floor with Orihime on top of him. “You can’t keep doing this,” he said. “It’s over. Time to abort the whole hougyoku search.”
She put her hands on his face and planted a brief, hard kiss on his mouth. “I’m sorry, Uryuu,” she said and pushed her palms against his chest with all her might.
Ishida fell away, by himself, into another place, and Orihime was left, lying on her stomach on the cold palace floor.
I had to.
Orihime squeezed her eyes shut and tried to fight tears as she rose to her knees.
Aizen won’t hurt me. He won’t. He won’t believe Gin. He trusts me more than he trusts Gin. I know that.
She unfastened the top of her cloak and let it fall to the floor. There was no need to hide anymore. She stared at the puddle of white material and prayed for Ishida to be safe. Then standing up and holding her fingers out before her, she pulled the barrier apart as if it were a curtain. She walked right into the library where she and Ishida had been seconds before.
Scarcely a minute had passed when Lastimada and Almatriste rounded the corner and saw Orihime’s cloak on the floor.
“She’s in trouble,” Almatriste said in a flat voice.
“It’s not our concern,” said Lastimada. “Aizen-sama will protect her.”
“Aizen-sama put us in charge of her,” said Almatriste. She put her hand on the pommel of her weapon. “We’ve been allowing her to run around the palace with Uryuu, and that boy is too lovesick to be a proper guard for her. Every night she goes wandering with him behind her, and we’ve allowed it.”
“They’re somewhere playing some romantic game,” said Lastimada. She knelt and picked up a sleeve of the robe. “They’re indulging their young appetites.”
“No,” said Almatriste. “Then where’s the boy’s robe? They always come to her room to do that lover stuff. Querida doesn’t want to put her Uryuu in any danger. She wouldn’t be affectionate with him in public.”
The two handmaidens looked at one another.
How could they know what other beings were like? The handmaidens only understood Hollow and their longing, Arrancar and their ferocity for battle. They could not understand Shinigami like Aizen, humans like the boy, and especially not their own princess with her odd, unpredictable demonstrations of emotion.
But once upon a time, layers away, behind the barriers of Las Noches and Hueco Mundo, in a past so faint it was like white writing on white paper in a forgotten language, the handmaidens had been human too.
Gin was still standing, arms folded, and he looked perfectly unperturbed when Orihime re-entered the library.
“I didn’t think you would run away from your Gin-sama. I’m so glad you’re back.” A toss of the head. “So, where’s the boyfriend?”
“He’s gone,” Orihime snapped. “You can’t hurt him.”
“You opened a barrier and dropped him right out of Hueco Mundo, didn’t you? That was quite selfless of you. I bet you’re going to miss him.”
Orihime hesitated. She felt her hands cup her ears. Her fingers were touching her hairpins. “That’s right. I pushed him out of here. He’s safe and you can’t--”
“Oh, we wouldn’t have killed him, Orihime,” said Gin. “Despite the low-down conniving bad influence that he was on you, he was an attractive young man with some fairly useful powers, and well….”
Gin hadn’t unfolded his arms yet, so Orihime could not make a move in self-defense. She wondered when he would pull his zanpakutou… or if he would try to grab her to take to Aizen.
“He might have made a nice parlor pet for Sousuke,” Gin went on. His smile withered slightly, and his voice dropped to a grumble. “Given how taken Sousuke is with that bonehead Ulquiorra, I would say he likes the type. Skinny, white… all sharp edges and narrow hips.”
Orihime felt her hands starting to tremble. Damn her trembling--why did she always do that?
Gin’s smile returned. “I myself prefer a more meaty body.” His gaze dropped intentionally to Orihime’s chest.
“What are you going to tell Aizen?” Orihime’s voice steadied itself and grew louder. “I was in the library reading about my destiny. What is wrong with that?”
“I’m Sousuke’s right hand man,” said Gin. “You are, apparently, his very bad little girl. If I told him his little daughter was plotting against him and that she was an experiment gone bad, I don’t see why he wouldn’t listen to me and then slap your little bottom until you turned to dust.”
“He wouldn’t,” said Orihime. Although by this point she had started to believe that Aizen might kill her. She had to believe that--or else how else could she aim to kill Gin? She was going to have to aim to kill Gin. Gin was the only one who knew the truth about her plotting, and his death could be explained as … an accident?
Murder? Was Inoue Orihime considering murder here? She didn’t have time to think about it.
“You know,” continued Gin in his airy tone, “who’s to say that I have to say anything to your father?”
“I mean, the last thing in the world I would want to see is a pretty girl like you being obliterated from Las Noches. I really like you, you see.” Gin unfolded his arms here and began to walk towards Orihime. “Maybe we can make a little deal.”
He did not seem to have a violent intent. Shoot Tsubaki, thought Orihime. Do it now before it’s too late.
“I once knew a little girl who looked a lot like you,” said Gin. He was standing at arm’s length away from Orihime now. “A soft, full-figured beauty with a lovely laugh.” He held out his hand. “You can trust me, you see. I have a soft spot for pretty girls.”
Orihime frowned. She wasn’t going anywhere with Gin.
“I tell you what,” he said. “You give me those hairpins, and I won’t say a word about you and your boyfriend to your father.” A shake of the head. “Nada.”
The hairpins were useless to a power like Gin’s. Why would he want them?
Gin’s hand was a centimeter’s length away from touching Orihime’s hair. “Such pretty little pins and such terrible things they can do. Sending out little mean fairies out to chop up an opponent.”
Orihime didn’t know why she was allowing it. She knew she couldn’t trust him, but Gin was now touching her hair.
One of his long, bony hands swept down the strands, and his thumb patted her cheek. It surprised her, in a sickening sort of way, how much his fingers felt like Uryuu’s.
“May I take the hairpins off myself, my dear? Look at your little hands trembling. You’re too gentle a flower to handle these powerful things.” Gin’s face leaned forward.
“Too gentle and lovely a flower.”
“TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF HER,” came a hard, female voice.
Orihime looked over Gin’s shoulder to see Almatriste there, pointing her zanpakutou at Gin. Lastimada was behind her, weapon drawn too.
Gin merely cocked his chin forward and, without turning around, flared his reiatsu so that both the handmaidens were thrown against the far wall of the corridor. Through the open library door, Orihime could see them struggle to regain footing.
“Excuse me,” Gin whispered into Orihime’s ear. He turned and walked to the library door. “Good job protecting the princess, ladies, but you must be running along now. I have business with her.”
Almatriste raised her zanpakutou again. “Fight like a man, Ichimaru. Everyone knows you wield that little blade from a great distance. Fight me now, up close.”
Orihime had run to the door and was shouting for everyone to stop, but it was too late. Gin had already drawn Shinsou.
“Ikorose,” said Gin, and his blade speared Almatriste before she could even lunge one step towards him.
Almatriste fell to her knees, bleeding from her abdomen, mouth open and bloody. Orihime felt that her own mouth was open, but she could not shriek. She could not do anything.
Gin turned to the other handmaiden. “You both die here,” he said in a voice as casual as ever. “I can’t believe so many of Aizen’s experiments have gone wrong. Still, we have a fair success record here with our Arrancar. Your princess may make a fine one yet.” He made a little snorting sound, as if amused with himself for talking to such a poor subordinate.
“You squinty-eyed, perverted bastard,” said Lastimada and she raised her blade over her head. “You lied to us.”
“Ikorose,” said Gin.
The word was no sooner spoken when a silver ray of light knocked Shinsou out of Gin’s hand.
Ishida, bow drawn, stood at the end of the corridor. “Coward,” he said in an imperious voice. “There is no victory in slaying those who trusted you.”
Uryuu, you were supposed to wait for me! Orihime didn’t regret not pushing Ishida out of Hueco Mundo for real, but she could not see how he could survive an opponent like Gin--even though Gin’s zanpakutou lay on the floor for the time being. Her pushing Ishida into another part of the palace had only bought them time.
Time, thought Orihime. I need the hougyoku if I’m going to do anything with time.
Ulquiorra, wearing a light sleep kimono that was white but not as white as his slender limbs, stepped out of Aizen’s bedroom and touched a button on the wall.
A large panel dropped into the middle of the room and showed Gin standing over the bleeding handmaiden. The princess stood behind Gin, and at the end of the corridor was the human with his weapon drawn.
“What is it?” asked Aizen, appearing at the door.
“You were right, Aizen-sama,” said Ulquiorra. “The reiatsu we felt was Gin’s.”
Aizen sighed, and the slight frustration in his sigh was uncharacteristic. Ulquiorra cocked his head at the strange sound.
“I knew Gin was in a mood,” Aizen said.
The Hollow felt the swell of huge reiatsu when Gin knocked the handmaidens against the wall, and then he sensed the unmistakable concentration of energy that was a Quincy arrow ripping through the air.
The Hollow threw back his head, and a mighty wind blew through his boredom and frustration.
As if he ever needed a reason to fight. Aizen was all about reason. Restraint, planning, anticipating. The Hollow was born for war. The Hollow was sick of holding back.
No one kills that Quincy before I do!
Gin lost his smiling nonchalance at the sight of Ishida, but he still managed to look unruffled as he stooped to pick up his zanpakutou.
“What’s the matter, boy? Why didn’t you aim for my head? Are you that bad a shot or are you that soft a heart?”
“Silence!” shouted Ishida. “I will kill you if you make another move towards these women again.”
Orihime had rushed to Almatriste’s side and summoned her healing shield. Its golden aura reflected off the palace walls and lit the entire corridor. Even Gin was bathed in its light.
“That’s some power you have there, princess,” said Gin. “What amazes me is how you choose to use it. There’s no good in healing the fallen, you see.” He shrugged and made a gesture of holding his small zanpakutou high, at an unthreatening angle. “Everything falls down and is broken eventually. You can’t stop Death.”
“Please,” said Orihime as she knelt next to Almatriste and held palms high to stabilize the shield. “Don’t hurt anyone anymore. I’ll do whatever you say.”
“Orihime!” Ishida shouted.
“Oh stop with the dramatics, boy,” said Gin. “You’re not going anywhere.”
At those words, Gin flared his reiatsu again and the walls shook. The handmaidens, Orihime, and even Ishida fell. At the far end of the corridor, Ishida’s bow shot a stray arrow into the high ceiling, and the weapon condensed back into his bracelet as his hands struck the floor.
The arc of golden light over Almatriste wobbled.
Almatriste shut her eyes and let out a moan.
“I have to heal her,” said Orihime, and as she was struggling to her knees, Gin grabbed her by the arm.
With the hand that held his zanpakutou, he plucked the hairpins from her head as if they were real flowers.
“I said leave her alone.” Lastimada had managed to rise to her feet and was staggering closer to Gin.
“Lastimada!” Ishida was aiming his bow from a low position, one knee on the floor and one foot balanced before his body. “Get out of the way!”
Orihime bent her head and called to the two fairies who were still within her realm. “I reject, I reject, I reject….”
The golden sphere over Almatriste expanded to twice its size, still trembling from Gin’s reiatsu.
This is all my fault. I’ve made a big mess of everything, and now everyone is going to get hurt.
“Gin, that’s enough,” came a strong, sonorous voice.
Orihime looked up to see Ishida’s eyes widening at the sound of Aizen’s voice. Aizen was standing directly behind him. After a second of terror, Ishida’s face looked as hard and full of cold resolve as she had ever seen it, and she feared for his life as she never had before. Ulquiorra was standing behind Gin. Uryuu must sense the impossible odds. She had to stop this all. She had to stop this now.
Gin lowered his reiatsu and the walls quit trembling. Orihime’s hands, though, were still shaking as she held them against her healing sphere.
“Sorry that you had to wake up for this,” said Gin. “I was going to handle the matter all on my own, but it seems we’ve got a haggle of little traitors in our midst. For starters, these little defective Arrancar tried to attack me.”
Aizen gaze swept placidly across the scene.
“Orihime,” he said “If Gin says your handmaidens are defective, then there’s no use healing them. I know you are fond of them, but I will get you others.” Aizen turned his gaze to Gin and nodded. “Kill them.”
Shinsou struck before the last syllable was out of Gin’s mouth. The zanpakutou crashed through Orihime’s shield and speared Almatriste as she lay there.
The second blow slashed Lastimada’s side and cut her body into two halves. The torso toppled past the bottom half, and then both parts lay on a white Arrancar skirt. Blood seeped through the fabric and pooled on the floor.
“And now, my dear Gin,” said Aizen, “tell me what trouble my daughter and this other servant of hers have caused you.”