Hey, I'm back! Just a couple of notes about this chapter.
I'm kind of doing a parody on eighteenth century and before character stereotypes for this chapter, so some of characters will act very out of character. All I can do is claim artistic license in a re-interpretation of Bleach characters. I apologize profusely to readers who do not enjoy this interpretation or who do not get the joke (though I think most readers should be able to).
On that note, Bleach does not belong to me.
Of Heroes, Villains and DIDs
Kurosaki Ichigo, by most standards, was pretty much the standard hero. He was, first and foremost, extremely good-looking, with none of the adolescent awkwardness his age indicated he should have. No inconvenient outbreaks of pimples or long, gangly adolescent limbs were to be found on one Kurosaki Ichigo. Incomprehensively enough, his arms and legs bulged with muscles, and indeed, his torso looked like it was built to withstand natural disasters.
Following that, of course, was the presence of a tragic backdrop to one Kurosaki Ichigo. The death of his dearly beloved mother while protecting him had given him the urge to do the same to the various little girls surrounding him without giving him the image of a hormonal pedophile. Not to mention the forbidding frown and general aura of tragedy and darkness that followed him no matter where he went.
Added to such qualities the presence of hilarious sidekicks (i.e. Kon, Ishida, Chad etc), the presence of numerous potential love interests (i.e. Orihime, Rukia etc) and one very large sword (no hero in his right mind would ever walk around with a puny sword) and you have Kurosaki Ichigo, the Hero.
Of course, if asked, Kurosaki Ichigo would deny violently that he was a hero of any sort. That was part of the hero-ness that surrounds Kurosaki Ichigo. How much less a hero he would be if he were to admit that he had a rather strong hero-complex!
However, given the circumstances, Kurosaki Ichigo was strongly inclined to admit the presence of said hero-complex, just so he had something to blame for his current predicament.
"Faster! Faster! He's coming! Faster! Faster! Ohmygodwearegoingtodie! Faster! Faster!"
"Nell, stop pulling my hair…"
"He's coming! Run! Run! Hurry! Faster! Faster! Faster!"
Kurosaki Ichigo growled, pulled his infamously heroic frown and continued running.
The reason for said infamously heroic frown was that Nell, the infamously perverted arrancar was currently pulling his hair. The reason for said arrancar to pull said Kurosaki Ichigo's hair had to do with said arrancar sitting on said Kurosaki Ichigo's shoulders. And the reason for said arrancar's desire for said Kurosaki Ichigo to run faster was due to the presence of various hostile Hollows behind said Kurosaki Ichigo.
It is, of course, true that heroes when encountering enemies do not run. No, heroes would pull out their huge swords (never tiny swords I say) and proceed to hack their enemies to death, regardless of the size, strength and numbers of the enemies encountered, following which they would emerge victorious and unscathed except, perhaps, for a strategically-located cut on the face that does nothing more than add to the menacing masculinity of the hero.
However, since Kurosaki Ichigo was still in the stages of denying his hero-hood, he felt justified in fleeing from his enemies.
Also, it is rather difficult to fight when a tiny arrancar is sitting on your shoulders and pulling your hair.
That being said, most heroes often encounter situations where damsel-in-distresses (DIDs) become a sort of handicap, if only because their sole purposes in life is to be either taken hostage by the evil villain or stand around and cry for help. Sometimes they burst into tragic tears or faint from shock, but those are really extensions of the second stated purpose in life of a DID. Nonetheless, despite the handicaps provided unwittingly by various types of DIDs, the hero will always emerge victorious in the end.
However, in this case, said DID was busy trying to pluck out said hero's hair. While bald men do hold a certain charm to some women, patches of baldness do not fit into any sort of beauty category in any society in any time or dimension.
So Kurosaki Ichigo ran – and cursed violently (and silently – heroes do not foul the ears of young ones, even if they are monsters).
"Nell… I swear, you've better stop pulling my hair or…"
"Itsygo's threatening me? Nell's such a poor thing! Not only must Nell run from scary rapacious monsters, Nell has to sit on a scary, crazy Shinigami who wants to cut Nell into little pieces! Nell is… Nell is…"
"Fine, fine. Sorry. Shut up will you?"
"What kind of an apology is that, Itsygo? That's a lousy apology. Hasn't your mother ever taught you any manners?"
In hindsight, the mention of one Kurosaki Ichigo's mother should have provided ample opportunities for a heart-wrenching flashback and much development of the hero's character. However, at present, said hero was too busy worrying about bald patches to have any sort of flashback.
The truth, Kurosaki Ichigo decided, was that this whole thing could be blamed on one Inoue Orihime. It is true that given her pleasant looks, ample bosom and self-sacrificial personality, there was no other road for her to take but that of the standard DID (and thus explaining her current imprisonment in Hueco Mundo). However, it could not be denied that the rescue of said DID was taking a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people.
First, there was the encounter with the weird sand monster. Then there was the humiliation of being saved by a girl (and a little girl at that). Following which was a weird, dancing arrancar (during which, fortunately, he had ample opportunity to protect the little girl-arrancar).
And now this – being chased by a huge group of Hollows as a little girl arrancar sat on his shoulders, pulled his hair, and accused him of various things unjustly.
And it was all Inoue Orihime's fault.
"Nell! I mean it! Stop pulling my hair!"
"If Itsygo would just run faster, Nell wouldn't have to pull on his hair at all. Faster! Faster!"
"Nell! Ow! Stop it d- you!"
"D-? What's that?"
"Children-friendly cursing. Now stop it or I swear I'll… I'll… spank you!"
"Wah! Itsygo wants to spank me! Itsygo's a rapacious monster!"
"I am not a r… r… monster!"
"Itsygo's got a stutter. Heh, that's funny."
And thus such friendly batter between Kurosaki Ichigo and his current DID/comic sidekick might have continued for a while had not, upon rounding a corner, Kurosaki Ichigo ran into someone.
As in the case of most encounters by heroes of people within enemy territory, it was not a pleasant one.
Ichimaru Gin blinked and stared at his now half-empty (or half-full) cup of tea.
Kurosaki Ichigo stared at the tea-soaked front of his shihakusho and thought about laundry days (or rather, the lack of laundry days).
Nell Tu stared at said tea-soaked shikakusho and laughed wildly.
And that, Kurosaki Ichigo decided grumpily, was also Inoue Orihime's fault.
Ichimaru Gin blinked.
Nell Tu blinked.
Kurosaki Ichigo drew his sword and glared menacingly at said Ichimaru Gin.
"Well now," Ichimaru Gin said cheerfully. "This is most unusual. Fancy meeting you here, Kurosaki-kun!"
"Ichimaru Gin!" Kurosaki Ichigo growled heroically. "Where is Inoue? I know you have her!"
"Orihime-chan? In her room the last I heard of her," Ichimaru Gin replied in a tone reminiscent of the anti-thesis of hero-hood. "It's a good thing I was drinking my tea without sugar or milk. I heard that tea has plenty of anti-oxidants, so it should be good for your skin, which is a good thing given that you are currently soused with it. Think of it as free skin therapy, courtesy of Hueco Mundo. Don't say we only eat you!"
Kurosaki Ichigo blinked. "Huh?" he questioned eloquently.
"It's our new tag-line," Ichimaru Gin said proudly. "Hueco Mundo, being sadly deficient of most natural resources needed to bolster a growing economy has decided to turn to tourism as the means of financing Aizen-sama's world conquest."
Kurosaki Ichigo blinked again. Then for good measure, he let his jaw hang open as he uttered a second eloquent, "Huh?"
"There was a period of time Szayel was kind of certain he had struck oil about twenty miles from growl grunt howl howl howl, which would be The Tree Shaped like a Goblin's Nose," Ichimaru Gin went on conversationally as he leaned against the wall of the corridor. "But it turned out it wasn't quite oil. It was a Hollow that had taken the form of a large puddle of black liquid. Kaname had to go out and get rid of it. You should have seen him when he came back. He looked like he had just waded through giggle, smothered laughter, obscene gesture, which would be the Swamp as Stinky as Yami's shoes."
Feeling like his feelings weren't getting through to the traitor before him, Kurosaki Ichigo decided to go for a far more exaggerated version of his previous expression and a much louder, "Huh?" Behind him, the forgotten Hollows scratched their heads (or what passed for their heads) and shrugged in puzzlement.
Ichimaru Gin pulled a look of surprise on his face. "Did you not know?" he asked, transferring the look of surprise to the sound of surprise.
"Know what?" Kurosaki Ichigo snapped, fearing that he was being demoted to the Fool.
"Well, that Hueco Mundo is going commercial of course!" Ichimaru Gin exclaimed.
"Commercial?" Kurosaki Ichigo yelped.
"Commercial?" Nell pondered.
"Of course," Ichimaru Gin said patiently. "Hueco Mundo has always prided itself on being rather… well… counter-culture to say the least. You know… Soul Society and the Real World always work hand in hand. Shinigami go to the Real World, convert all the souls there to Soul Society citizens and so on. Hueco Mundo has always been the big bad one, the one where all the nasties go to live in. But, Aizen-sama decided to change that."
"Change that?" Kurosaki Ichigo asked, shocked.
"Sure. It's all great being counter-culture and everything, but Hueco Mundo's population was getting too big. All the big Hollow and Arrancar breathe in too much of the spirit particles in the air causing the Spirit Particle Level or SPL to drop far below the recommended level provided by the Hueco Mundo Healthcare Authorities (HMHA). That caused the death of many of the tiny Hollows that survive on those spirit particles," Ichimaru Gin explained, sipping at his rapidly cooling cup of tea. "So, we needed to find new places to search for food and living quarters for our Arrancar."
"What's that got to do with tourism?" Nell asked curiously. "Are you going to lure the tourists here and eat them up after you torture them?"
"Ha!" Kurosaki Ichigo exclaimed, grabbing on to the first piece of solid ground presented. "Like I will let you do that! I'll kill you before you eat any of those poor souls up!"
Ichimaru Gin blinked at them over the rim of his cup. "Of course we're not doing that," he said cheerfully. "We are still planning on taking over the world of course. It's just that it's far more urgent now, so we need to speed things up a little. To do that, we need money. On that note, I have to say I never thought clothing cost so much. Anyway, once our tourist industry gets going, we hope to boost our economy until it is strong enough for us to create a much larger army than we have now. Then we go out and do all the killing and conquering and genocides and everything."
Kurosaki Ichigo pressed the bridge of his nose between his fingers. "Whatever!" he shouted. "It just means you're still the enemy, right? So I'll just have to kill you and that's that, so… so in your face!"
"Well now, Kurosaki-kun! You can't kill us for building spas."
"Spas?" Kurosaki Ichigo's lower lip was threatening to quaver. He stomped out that impulse violently.
"Spas, theme parks, luxury hotels," Ichimaru Gin went on, ticking off his fingers. "Family-friendly entertainment, that is. Uh… for all the bachelors or spinsters, well, no worries! We provide gentlemen and ladies of negotiable affections."
Kurosaki Ichigo's jaw had by then hit the floor. "You can't be serious!" he snapped. "Where are you going to find your so-called "gentlemen and ladies of negotiable affections"? Oh wait… don't tell me… Inoue? You monster! She's only fifteen! How could you…"
"Whoa! Whoa! Hold it kid! We didn't do that to Orihime-chan! Geez, we aren't dumb you know? I mean, she thinks a hand-job involves nail-polish." The Hollows behind Kurosaki Ichigo leered and chuckled obligingly.
"Whatever!" Kurosaki Ichigo shrieked. "I don't care! I'm just here for Inoue! Hand her over and I'll get out of her! D- it!"
"Child-friendly cursing!" Ichimaru Gin cried cheerfully. "My, what a thoughtful young man! We could use you in our Family-Entertainment Development Committee! What say you?"
"I say die! I mean… d-!"
"Too late Itsygo, I already heard you."
"No?" Ichimaru Gin asked. "Well pity. I've got to go deliver the weekly SPL readings to Aizen-sama. See you around, Kurosaki-kun. Good luck in rescuing Orihime-chan." With a cheery grin, he disappeared.
Kurosaki Ichigo stared at the empty spot. Then he stared at Nell, who obligingly stared back.
"Let's just go, Nell."
"And you did not hear me say 'd-', alright?"
"Oh alright. You're such a tight-ass, Itsygo."
Aizen Sousuke was currently lounging in a Jacuzzi. Admittedly, it was a rather hastily made one, and consisted mainly of a large hole dug into the floor of his bathroom into which hot water was ejected via a series of newly established pipes. The discovery of hot water in Hueco Mundo and the invention of pipes that were easily maintained in the sands, Aizen Sousuke decided, was the best thing that had happened to him since he had left Soul Society.
After all, armies could only march if they smelt nice. Being clean and smelling of lavender and rose was the way to keep morale up in the army, if Aizen Sousuke had any say in that (and he did because he was the current Evil Dark Lord in Hueco Mundo). On that note, Aizen Sousuke emphatically added yet another two drops of rose essence into his bath and sank deeper into the calming hot water.
"Sorry," Ichimaru Gin chirped unrepentantly.
"I just swallowed my bath water!"
"Sorry again," Ichimaru Gin chirped just as unrepentantly as the last time. "Here's your report on SPL."
"Fine. Why is it so thick? All I need to know is if it is normal or not! Does that merit a twenty thousand word report?"
"It's called bureaucracy, Aizen-sama," Ichimaru Gin chirped again. "On the positive note, at least you're not the one writing the twenty thousand word report."
"Hmpf," Aizen Sousuke snorted in an eloquent display of his opinion on twenty thousand word reports. "Just give me a summary then. I can't be bothered to read everything."
"Can't, Aizen-sama. I haven't read it myself either." Ichimaru Gin grinned in a manner known more commonly as insolent.
"What? How is that possible? What is the use of being an Evil Dark Lord if I don't have people to read this kind of essential information for me? My job should just be to sit on a throne and smirk evilly, and occasionally utter a chilling threat or give a burst of wicked laughter! Evil Dark Lords do not read twenty thousand word reports!"
"Fine by me," Ichimaru Gin said with a nonchalant shrug. "Kaname will do it. He loves paperwork, that man. Makes him feel useful, I suppose. Not a lot of bloodshed to be seen on the path of paperwork anyway, other then paper-cuts. Totally his cup of tea."
"Fine by me," Aizen Sousuke repeated, sinking back into the hot water. "Anything else, Gin?"
"Orihime-chan would like to point out that Yami might not be the best person to run the theme park. He has a tendency to eat… a lot, if you get what I mean."
"Oh? Well, she has a point. We don't want to get sued just because Yami ate a kid. Who does she recommend?"
"Grimmjaw? He doesn't strike me as the kind who is good with kids."
"Aizen-sama… none of your Arrancar was bred to be good with kids. Except maybe in reference to parsley, carrots and green peas."
"Yes, but there are some of a more… motherly inclination. Halibel? She's shaped like a mother if nothing else."
"Yes Aizen-sama, but Halibel is not exactly very friendly and nurturing if you ask me so…"
"Ah, for heaven's sake!" Aizen Sousuke sat up abruptly in his comfortable bath. "I'm enjoying myself, Gin! So stop disturbing me! Let that woman have her way! I care not! All I want in life as an Evil Dark Lord is to smirk evilly, laugh wickedly and just look cool and threatening, okay? Give me a break! It's tough work looking cool and threatening! The hair has to be perfect!"
"Okay," Ichimaru Gin said, shrugging nonchalantly again. "I get you, Aizen-sama. I'll go tell Grimmjaw about his new role."
"Good! Oh, and Gin…?"
"What happened to the cup of tea I told you to fetch?"
"Poured it over Kurosaki Ichigo's front."
"Well d- him and his hero complex, spoiling my plans as a dark lord again!"
"Aizen-sama, what does having a cup of tea have to do with being a dark lord?"
"… Mind your own business, minion."
Oblivious to the tragedy (involving purple lizard mascot suits and a lot of helium balloons) in his near future, Grimmjaw stalked down the corridors of Las Noches looking decidedly menacing and anti-heroic.
It wasn't that Grimmjaw was of an anti-heroic complex. Rather, Grimmjaw always felt that he was quite a proper evil villain. There was the presence of his decidedly rebellious clothes that no hero would ever dream of wearing. Not to mention the unconventional tattoos beneath his eyes and his scary mask. Add to all that his aura of wild aggression and his propensity to beat up little girls and you have the standard evil villain
Grimmjaw gave a loud grunt of approval as he surveyed himself in a conveniently placed mirror. There was no villain like Grimmjaw in Hueco Mundo. Not even Ulquiorra managed to pull off an aura of villainy the way Grimmjaw did. Ulquiorra was too well-dressed, too obedient to be a proper villain. Try as he might, not even his general demeanor of a severe lack of emotions and cold-bloodedness could make him as proper a villain as Grimmjaw was.
With another loud grunt of approval, Grimmjaw rounded another corner, bathing in his general villainy – and bumped right into the current DID, Inoue Orihime.
"Grimmjaw-kun!" she cried, and a tiny part of Grimmjaw's soul died.
It wasn't that this girl was unpleasant or dislikable. There was just something about damsels-in-distress that made Grimmjaw twitch violently. Every time he saw a damsel, he felt the horrible temptation to distress her, and once she was distressed, he felt absolutely compelled to take her hostage or make her cry or scream or faint. Every part of his body, mind and soul rebelled when a damsel-in-distress smiled at him, called him "Grimmjaw-kun" and offered him home-baked cookies.
"Home-baked cookies, Grimmjaw-kun? They have spring onions in them!"
And another part of Grimmjaw's soul died.
"No!" Grimmjaw snarled, baring his fangs in proper villain style. "Get those disgusting things out of my face!"
"No?" Large eyes wobbled and started to drip. "You don't want my… cookies?"
The wobbliness spread to the full lips and perfect chin. "Not even a bite?"
The DID's ample bosom started to heave and her eyelashes started to flutter. She made soft moaning sounds and checked the ground behind her for potential hazards as she prepared to faint dramatically onto the floor.
"Oh fine!" Grimmjaw exclaimed irritatedly. After all, she was being so obliging, with her tragic tears and willingness to faint on cue. The least he could do was eat one of her cookies. "Give me a cookie before I change my mind!"
"Oh that's so kind of you, Grimmjaw-kun!" Inoue Orihime chirped happily, getting over her fainting spell miraculously and offering him a cookie. "Here's an extra big one for you!"
"Yeah…" Grimmjaw grumbled, taking a big bite of the cookie. "Whatev…" His eyes bulged dramatically. "What the…"
"Oh dear," Inoue Orihime said distressedly. "I must have put too much natto in it."
"Arg…uh… gawrk…" Grimmjaw choked just as distressedly.
"No worries! I came prepared for this! Here! Take a drink!"
"Thrnjk… What the f- is this?"
"Vanilla essence mixed with grounded black pepper?"
"Are you trying to kill me?"
"Of course not! I was trying to help you! See? You can talk coherently now, right?"
Grimmjaw gaped at her, eyes still bulging dramatically as his sore red lips hung open helplessly. "You stupid damsel in distress!" he screamed hysterically before promptly passing out on the floor.
"Oh dear," the damsel said, feeling truly distressed. "Grimmjaw-kun, are you alright? Oh dear… oh dear! Grimmjaw-kun! You are drooling! That's such a classical expression! Oh… are you still breathing by the way? Please remember to breathe! It's rather essential!"
"…" Grimmjaw didn't answered, because Grimmjaw couldn't speak while unconscious.
"It's okay! It's okay! I'll go look for help! I'm sure Ulquiorra-san will save you! Just stay here like a good boy!" With that, Inoue Orihime turned and fled in search for help for the unconscious villain.
"…" Grimmjaw didn't reply (because Grimmjaw can't reply while he is unconscious), and another part of the villain's soul died.
That was how fate found Kurosaki Ichigo. It came in a distressed bundle of long silky hair, wide tearing eyes, a majestically heaving bosom and a plate of suspicious looking cookies.
"Kurosaki-kun! Kurosaki-kun! Oh I'm so glad I've found you! Would you like a cookie? You have to save Grimmjaw-kun! He's not breathing properly! Don't take the vanilla essence though! I think I put too much black pepper in it!"
Kurosaki Ichigo blinked as his eyes and ears received several conflicting messages. In true hero-style, he decided to focus on the most relevant issue at hand. "Hey! You've gotten free somehow, Inoue!" he commented.
"Oh, that's not important at all!" Inoue Orihime exclaimed distressedly. "You have to save Grimmjaw-kun! He's dying!"
"Grimmjaw?" Kurosaki Ichigo asked suspiciously. "You mean like Grimmjaw Jaggerjack?"
"Oh, you mean you are already friends with Grimmjaw-kun? Great!"
"Why do I have to save him?" Kurosaki Ichigo muttered dourly, feeling the heroic rejection of saving any individual other than one with nice heaving bosoms and other relevant feminine body parts.
"Hurry!" Inoue Orihime cried, already dragging the poor hero by his arm down the corridor. "He's dying!"
Five minutes, many encounters with random arrancar and two corridors later found Kurosaki Ichigo staring down with distaste at the foaming, drooling supine form of one Grimmjaw Jaggerjack.
"Oh man, do I have to do this?" said Kurosaki Ichigo demanded.
"You have to save him!" Inoue Orihime cried. "He really is in a lot of distress!"
At the key word, Kurosaki Ichigo found his body immediately heading towards said supine form of said foaming and drooling Grimmjaw Jaggerjack. Now he had no choice but to save the distressed arrancar. Only his mind kept superimposing blonde curls and pink chiffon ball gowns on said distressed arrancar.
"Well, here goes," he said with a deep sigh of regret. "Nell!"
"Yes, Itsygo? I'm glad you talked to me. Even though your neglect of me has greatly fed my masochistic tendencies, I am very glad to be brought back into the limelight again."
And Inoue Orihime cringed. "Is that really necessary, Kurosaki-kun?" she asked hesitantly.
"Oh don't ask me. Nell is the one who's doing the healing."
"That's right. I'm the one doing the healing."
"Oh okay… it's just that… oh dear…"
"Are you done yet Nell?"
"Just a little more, Itsygo. Brayak!"
"Oh no! Grimmjaw-kun's hair is starting to look very flat!"
"Don't complain. At least he wouldn't suffocate or anything."
"That's right Itsygo. It's better to have flat hair than to suffocate. Unless you are a masochist like me."
"Oh well… oh no! Kurosaki-kun! Grimmjaw-kun is starting to wake up! Quick! You must leave now!"
"What? Aren't you…?"
"Go! Go! Hurry! Hurry!"
"Oh fine… Nell!"
"See you later Kurosaki-kun!"
"Uh… later, Inoue."
Inoue Orihime flopped down on her knees beside a stirring Grimmjaw and sighed happily. Crying in distress, fainting in distress, fleeing into the hero's arms for help and falling to her knees in relief at the conclusion of danger; all in the day's work of a damsel in distress.
"Yeah? What are you looking at me like that for, Ichimaru-sama?"
"Just wondering why your hair is so flat. And why you smell like… gross."
"That woman almost killed me, and she had to grab some random arrancar to cure me. That's what she said at least. Some arrancar with healing abilities in her saliva."
"I see. But why didn't Orihime-chan just cure you herself instead of getting you drenched in drool?"
Tada! I'm done yet again! I hope you enjoyed it! Please leave a review!