Invisible Writing, Part Five
Characters: Ishida, Orihime, Ichigo, Aizen, and others
Description: Orihime acquires a slave in Hueco Mundo--Ishida.
Warnings: Although this fic is A/U, there are some mild spoilers for post SS arc. Also, mild sexual innuendo, nudity, violence, references to character deaths.
Wee! First post in my new community! I made it mostly to update this fic. Earlier parts of Invisible Writing may be found here:
(Subsequent chapters will be found in this community, along with drabbles, challenges, contests and general fangurling).
Disclaimer: Kubo Tite owns Bleach, and Incandescens owns the imagination that gave me the scenario for this particular fanfic.
Description: Orihime acquires a slave in Hueco Mundo--Ishida.
Warnings: Mild sexual innuendo, violence, reference to character deaths
Special thanks to Incandescens and Finnigan Geist
When Orihime joined her father for breakfast the next morning, Gin was there.
"I still don’t get the point," Gin was saying in a sleepy drawl. "Why more raids to the Living World? At first you were trying to spook Ichigo out of his hole and lead him here, but the charming fellow just shows up and makes himself at home. It’s not like you to terrorize humans for no good reason, and who cares if Arrancar practice battle in the Living World or here?"
Aizen cleared his throat, and Gin looked up to notice the princess.
"Good morning, my dear," said Aizen. "Your eyes look tired. Did you not sleep well?"
"I stayed awake sewing," Orihime said. She smiled as broadly as her lips could stretch. Her cheeks hurt. Her heart hurt.
"Sewing?" Aizen gestured to the servant. "Bring Orihime’s surprise breakfast."
Gin looked bored and picked vegetables off his former captain’s plate.
"So I gather," said Aizen, "that Living World trifles have been keeping you busy and happy?"
"Oh yes," Orihime said. "I couldn’t stop making pillows and curtains and all sorts of things." She yawned and covered her mouth. "I can’t wait until I’m an Arrancar, though--then I will never get sleepy again."
"Or hungry again," Aizen added. "In the meantime, here’s a treat. Red bean paste on toast. An unusual food combination fancied by very few humans. Tell me what you think of the taste."
"It was awful," said Gin. He stuck his tongue out.
Orihime tried to bring food to her mouth with her usual ravenous enjoyment, but her hand felt heavy. Her chewing motions felt forced.
The instant she had started wailing in the bathroom yesterday, Almatriste and Lastimada had rushed in--zanpakutou drawn. Uryuu (although she remembered him as Ishida-kun now) had been staring at her with solemn eyes. The handmaidens, more fascinated with the princess’ tears than alarmed by them, had not given the new servant boy a second glance. "She’s turning Hollow?" Almatriste had gasped. "I don’t remember hearing weeping like that since...."
"Well?" Aizen asked as she was still chewing. "Do you like the red bean paste?"
Odd that this morning of all mornings, she would be served what had been her favorite breakfast in the Living World. "It’s good," she said without enthusiasm. "Very nice, but I prefer the tarts."
"More strawberry tarts," said Aizen to the servant.
"Child eats like a horse," said Gin.
Trying to steady the swell of feelings inside her, Orihime took a sip of tea. She remembered her life in the Living World, but her days in Hueco Mundo were just as clear and full of meaning. Aizen had never been anything but kind to her, and what if he was right? What if the universe would indeed be a better place because of the changes he envisioned? Yesterday Ishida-kun had been so patient as she faced horrible truth after horrible truth: Aizen had slain everyone in Center 46 in Soul Society, Aizen was responsible for Kurosaki-kun being this hideous Ichigo now, Aizen had ordered her abduction (Orihime was still fuzzy on the details of that day). No, no, it could never be right for a murderer to take the place of God. Aizen was a murderer.
"Boredom will kill the Espada before any Shinigami force can," said Gin. "Is that it, Sousuke? You want to keep the hybrids bloodthirsty? Or is that you’re looking for Urahara?"
"Let’s not talk war in the presence of my daughter." Aizen’s eyes were full of gentle concern. "Such tired eyes, my dear--yet there were no wounds for you to heal yesterday. I know that healing tires you, but sewing pillows? Handicrafts never drained you before."
"I just couldn’t get to sleep." Orihime shrugged. "I guess I was having too much fun."
When Orihime had composed herself and stopped sobbing, the handmaidens realized that their mistress was not turning Hollow ("Oh the wailing of the Change," Lastimada recalled--not without fondness--and seemed disappointed that Orihime was not undergoing some physical transformation). Still clutching Ishida by the upper arms, Orihime, sniffling and trying to smile, insisted that her handmaidens leave her alone with him.
Almatriste and Lastimada had exchanged glances. Frowning, Lastimada said, "Whatever she wants," and Almatriste--her frown even more severe--turned to Orihime: "Alright, Querida. Have fun. He’s all yours."
Whatever had they meant by all that?
They had left the room muttering about hormones and how maybe Aizen-sama’s creations, unlike Arrancar, needed to make use of them.
Then Ishida-kun had asked Orihime to please cover herself with the towel, and when she did, he had looked at her with a stern, resolute expression.
"Do you know how to get out of here?"
"What? Of course. My specialty is barriers. Hollow have to tear through the sky to reach the Living World, but I can just step into it if I want."
"Perfect." Ishida-kun gripped her wrist with sudden urgency. "Let’s go. Now."
"No, no, no, I’ll open a passage for you, but I can’t leave here. Aizen-sama will--"
"What? You’re in danger!"
"I might be putting the whole world in danger if I leave. He’ll just send someone to get me again and--"
A fierce whisper: "I’m not going without you!"
At that point, Orihime had collapsed, crying, into Ishida’s arms.
"Ohhh Sousuke," Gin breathed the name over his cup of steaming tea. "It’s obvious that the girl is bored, bored, bored. You should invite her to our meetings. You should let her play with the hougyoku. Sewing pillows and doing a little healing every time Luppi gets one of his many arm thingies lopped off--these are not proper pastimes for a princess. Don’t you have biiiig things planned for her? Eh?" Gin’s smile widened. "Don’t you think it’s time we test her mettle?"
Orihime looked from Gin to Aizen. Here was an opportunity. She could tell that Aizen saw the spark in her eyes because he responded with instant curiosity. "Is that so, my dear? Have you been bored?"
"Not really," said Orihime. "But I would like to know more about the hougyoku. It matures soon enough, and I still have no clue what you expect me to do with it. I’m--I’m a little anxious, I suppose. I want to be prepared."
"I’m curious," said Orihime. "You’ve shown demonstrations of the hougyoku’s power to the Espada but not to me. You’ve always said that I stand above the Espada--I mean, I trust what you’re doing, but--I am curious, Aizen-sama."
Ishida had said that the hougyoku was the key to the whole war. He had said that Urahara would know what to do with the hougyoku. Ishida had also said that yes, it would be great if Orihime could find it and take it, but that was impossible so Orihime needed to leave Las Noches now.
Orihime’s palms cradled her teacup. Maybe Aizen trusted his daughter enough to put the hougyoku in her hands?
Ishida had said he wouldn’t leave Las Noches without Orihime, and he hadn’t. Yesterday in the bathroom it had taken another long crying spell and a good measure of Ishida-kun’s patience ("What did you say? I’m just hearing garbled sobs, Inoue-san!") before he understood that she didn’t want to leave. She couldn’t leave. Not without Kurosaki-kun.
How long had Ishida held her?
There had been so many to cry for. Human and Hollow alike. All those tormented by war and taken to Hueco Mundo without a soul burial. Kurosaki-kun, Kurosaki-kun--was he even alive behind that ugly mask? And Aizen-sama… her strong, protective father was lost to her forever.
"Well, then. Perhaps you are ready for a little more information," said Aizen. He was looking at her with fond indulgence. "After I meet with the Espada, you can show me the pretty things you sewed, and we’ll talk about the hougyoku, yes?"
Orihime smiled and rose from the table. "That’s wonderful. I’m so excited, Aizen-sama."
Turning to the servant, she said, "I’ll have more tarts to take back with me to my rooms." She was going to bring them to Ishida-kun. No one knew that as a living soul, he actually required food.
"I suppose," said Gin. "that we’ll be sending Luppi to lead an attack on a pastry shop tomorrow."
Is it possible, thought Orihime as she watched the servant clear the table, that I can convince Ishida-kun to go home? Anything is possible. Isn’t that what Aizen-sama always taught me? With my special powers, anything is possible.
After the princess had scampered away with her tarts, Gin leaned closer to Aizen.
"Really, now," said Gin. "The bit with the red bean paste? You’re testing her."
Aizen lifted his eyebrows.
"All the raids to the Living World," said Gin, "have been about gathering things that might restore her memory. Are you playing a game, Sousuke, or is the little girl really worth all this bother?"
"Open," said Aizen, and his chopsticks lifted a pickled plum from his plate and brought it to Gin’s mouth. "You’re smart, Ichimaru Gin, but don’t ever believe that you can keep up with me."
Ishida knew that he had to convince Inoue-san to return to the Living World.
The Hollow guards at each doorway paid no attention to him as he walked through the corridors of Las Noches. Why should they? His head was bowed in submission and he wore the collar of a fresh slave. The collar was disabled, of course. Inoue-san had turned it off, but Ishida had not told her that he was going to shadow her this morning.
Was Inoue-san shattered? Her grief and confusion had been so intense yesterday. She had finally cried herself to sleep in his lap, right there on the bathroom floor, still in her embroidered towel, and Ishida--careful not to touch her anywhere indecent--had carried her to bed.
There, she had woken up and clung to him again. "Don’t go" spoken in a frantic voice. He had wanted to say the right thing, to question her about what she did or did not remember, to comfort her … but what could he have done? Her world was collapsing, and his presence was the only berth in the confusion. Each time he suggested leaving Hueco Mundo, she sobbed and said she had to restore Kurosaki. "I can do it. I have to figure out a way."
At one point late in the day, Almatriste had walked into to the room to discover Ishida and Inoue, now huddled under the covers and Inoue fast asleep. Almatriste had lain a basket of bread at the foot of the bed and winked at Lastimada, who was peeking behind the door.
They assume we’re lovers, thought Ishida and blushed at the memory of the handmaidens’ faces.
A whole day spent holding a beautiful girl in a towel. Ishida had begun to believe that maybe he didn’t want to leave Las Noches after all.
Orihime had calmed down by nightfall, and even as she insisted that she wasn’t going to challenge Aizen with her new-found memory, Ishida had fingered the five-pointed Quincy emblem at his wrist.
Until she snaps out of this delusion that she can help Kurosaki, I have to protect her.
"That’s the Assembly, boy," snapped a guard. "You can’t go there."
Ishida bowed. "Pardon me, I wasn’t looking for the Assembly. I serve Orihime-sama, and she was at breakfast with Aizen-sama. I was supposed to meet her outside his door."
"You can’t go near Aizen-sama’s rooms neither. Only Arrancar pass this point."
"Salchicha, you ugly bastard," came a hard but oddly sibilant voice from down the hall. "Who are you chatting with?"
It was an Arrancar. It wore a long white robe with two cut-out holes at the torso, and Ishida could see the tattoo of a number six displayed on the left side. A comb of what appeared to be Hollow teeth rested atop a small feminine-looking head. Ishida wasn’t sure if this Arrancar was male or female. Its voice had sounded male.
"You’re new," it said as it approached Ishida. It held up one arm, and Ishida noted that its sleeves, like his sewn by Inoue-san, were long enough to obscure its hands. "Ho, muchacho, what a beautiful servant in beautiful clothes. You’ve got some nerve wandering around where Espada live. Or do you want to be noticed?"
Ishida bowed. "I serve Orihime-sama."
"Nonsense," said the strange Arrancar. "Only Arrancar serve that little bitch."
Hostility towards Inoue-san? Why?
"I’m new," Ishida repeated. "I came to the palace only days ago. I’m looking for where the princess asked me to meet her after her breakfast with Aizen-sama."
"Can you say anything else? Have you been trained in conversation at all?" The Arrancar was standing directly over Ishida. It was not tall, but it was an imposing creature. It wore its zanpakutou through a spirit chain hole in its ribs. "Pretty little eyepieces," it said of Ishida’s glasses. "They draw attention to your blue eyes."
"Luppi, Sexta Espada," said the Arrancar. "What’s your name?"
"Uryuu? You even smell like a courtesan. Like flowers from the Living World. What are you doing here?"
Flowers? Maybe the Arrancar could detect the bath oils Inoue-san had seeped onto his clothing all yesterday.
Luppi’s long sleeve touched Ishida on the side of his face and feathered slowly to the center of his chest. "You will go with my décor, I think. I will have to take you to my room myself, however, since you seem to lose your way around here."
Ishida could not summon the bow over something like this; he did not want to reveal himself and draw attention to Inoue-san.
"I told you," he said. "I belong to Orihime-sama. Aizen-sama would not be pleased if--"
"Ha! I wouldn’t put it past that dotty little girl to acquire a slave and then forget where she wanted to send him. Oh my, she annoys me. I’m going to have to rip her head off one of these days."
Ishida narrowed his eyes.
The white sleeve continued down the length of Ishida’s body and paused right above his crotch. Ishida glared at Luppi’s face as if the glare alone could stop him. Maybe it could?
"First," said Luppi, "I have a very boring assembly that I need to miss. Follow me, muchacho--if you are a male that is. I want to find out for certain."
Almost everyone in Las Noches despised Luppi but no one more than the Hollow. After his birth, the Hollow had turned his face to the skies in time to see the Arrancar ascending in columns of Negacion. One of them, this Luppi creature, the ugliest by far, dripping blood and icy water over the battle scene, had noticed the Other’s transformation to Hollow. Luppi had lowered his heavy-lidded, feminine eyes towards earth and cackled some remark about the ugliness of common Hollow.
The Hollow had sworn to kill him then and there. Arriving at Aizen’s palace, he certainly tried, but every time he ripped Luppi apart in battle trials there was always that princess girl to heal him.
And now there was Luppi, toying with some servant.
"Heeeeeeeeeee!" The Hollow flash-stepped next to the Arrancar. "Stop tentacling the trash and use your arms to fight me. I will rip them off even faster this time."
The Arrancar shot the Hollow a bored look. "Go away. Go haunt the Hall of Justice."
The servant who Luppi had been harassing stepped away with a loud intake of breath.
The Hollow turned to look upon the sorry creature, and his eyes met the dark blue eyes of a human-looking thing.
"Oh shit," the thing said.