Disclaimer: Bleach is not mine. (If it was, Tatsuki would be mine, too.) 300 not mine either. Or anything else I'm going to feature.
13: A Cold Day In Hell (a.k.a. Owl Wars)
Today was just not Enma Ai's day.
Being the Hell Girl was a tough job. Anyone could drag a soul screaming and kicking down to Hell. But Ai set herself above and apart from the rest through presentation.
Her artistic touches were often lost on the unwashed masses. Ito Makoto, for one. Ai was surprised that so many girls gladly sold their eternal souls just to kill him. She soon found out just why. Makoto was not only too stupid to realize he was dead, but he also tried to have an- an H-scene with Ai while they were sailing down the River Styx on her nice boat.
Since Makoto was already dead, Ai couldn't beat the life out of him with her oar. So she settled for simply beating the tar out of him. Yes, human souls were valuable. But you had to break eggs to make omelets.
Hell was but one group vying for souls. Most of Ai's business rivals were collectively termed Shinigami. The most prevalent were Seireitei's Soul Reapers, of whom one particular loathsome example currently ran amok in her front yard.
But at least Soul Reapers didn't really go out of their way to frustrate Ai. (Zaraki was the exception that proved that rule.) No, that offense belonged to the semi-Western, mostly-Judeo-Christian-themed Angels of Death. These celestial beings conveyed souls to mostly-Christian Heaven. As Ai's polar opposites, they didn't like what the Hell Girl did. Poster angel girl Momo certainly disliked her. Even token psychopath An (whom masqueraded as a yangire student of a suicidal teacher on off-days, or so Ai heard) hated Ai on principle. And every single one of these angels was armed with a very sharp scythe.
And then there were the so-called Death Gods. Ai despised Zaraki, but she loathed Ryukk's ilk. At least the Soul Reapers and Angels of Death did more or less the same job as Ai did, even if they sent souls elsewhere. But these eldritch horrors ate souls.
The Hell Girl couldn't have that. She had a quota to fill.
As if being perennial short on souls was not enough, Ai also had a dearth of assistants. Those aides she did possess were useless. Onozuka Komachi was a lazy slacker. Elusia "Elsie" de Lute Ilma could rival Cirno as representing the Platonic ideal of the word 'idiot'. And for the love of Hell, Duo Maxwell was not part of her organization and certainly not her boss.
And the icing of the cake of her woes was the trouble in her very front yard.
Kenpachi Zaraki and Gouki battled it out like the demons they so resembled. Ai would have thrown a party if one of them indeed died. Unfortunately, these two didn't die when they were killed. Instead, they came back even stronger than ever. Ai might as well install a revolving door if the border between life and death was so easily and constantly violated.
The legions of Hell ringed the combatants. But not one demon, devil, or damned soul dared to intervene. Every single spectator had been beaten by the Shinigami or Gouki at one time or another, and often on multiple occasions. Some cheered and picked sides. A few shared Ai's dim hope for a double KO. Others brought popcorn. And there was the obligatory shady Filipino organizing the illegal betting pool.
Some days, Ai just hated Suzumiya Haruhi, Yakumo Yukari, and Sheo Darren, in that order.
Resigned to refereeing the brawl, Ai just happened to look up. "Time out!"
Zaraki and Gouki froze in mid-annihilation.
"What is that?" Ai asked.
"It's a messenger owl," Zaraki explained. "The Soutaichou ordered all of the butterflies to be replaced by owls after he watched the Harry Potter movies."
The Hell Girl frowned. "What's wrong with butterflies?" She used butterfly couriers herself.
"Butterflies are girly."
Ai glared at Zaraki.
"Yeah, I love you, too, darling…" The 11th Division Captain focused on the owl. "Okay, Polly, want a cracker?"
The owl joined its laser glare with Ai's.
"Baby chickens just excavate me," Zaraki snickered.
"You mean 'Chicks dig you'," Gouki corrected. Seeing Ai staring at him, the Ansatsuken Master shrugged. "Just because I've given in to my murderous impulse does not make me culturally backwards," he stated.
"You're full of surprises, Gouki." Zaraki called him by his real name during candid moments; he only used the moniker 'Akuma' when spoiling for a fight.
"I endeavor to please."
"So," Zaraki told the owl, "What's up?"
"Dear Kenpachi Zaraki," the owl drawled in Yamamoto's voice.
Even Ai was impressed. "It can speak?" she asked.
"Yeah, they talk nonstop… ain't it cold?" Zaraki enthused.
"You mean 'cool'," Gouki corrected.
Ai tried to dampen their bloodthirsty enthusiasm by imagining them in a boys' love scenario. It… made her even more nauseous.
Several minutes of blah blah, yada yada later…
"Yours truly," solemnly finished the owl, "Yamamoto-soutaichou."
"He sure talks a lot," Zaraki observed.
"He must be a lot of fun to fight," Gouki thought aloud.
"You got that right."
And then the owl began talking once more… this time in a familiar oily voice.
"P.S. This owl will self-destruct in five seconds after you read its message."
While Hell Girl, 11th Division Captain and Ansatsuken Master stared, the owl began clucking like a chicken.
Younger Toguro sighed at the sight of the mushroom cloud looming over Hell. "I did offer to help…"
Back at Seireitei's 12th Division HQ, in a laboratory where every nook and cranny held a specimen of owl, Mayuri cackled in the manner of a certain red-haired boy genius. "Success! I have created an instrument of mass destruction and annoyance! For I am Kurotsuchi Mayuri! Mad Genius!"
Mayuri whirled. For a moment he'd imagined the horror of Zaraki being back so soon.
Instead, the intruder was a muscular… man? Owl? Man-owl? Owl-man? He had the head, wide tail and clawed feet of a snowy owl, but the rest of his body wouldn't have been out of place in the now oiled-and-tanned 11th Division.
He was the most absurd thing Mayuri had seen, and that included all of the stuff the Captain of the 12th Division had personally grafted into his own body.
"What? Who are you?" Mayuri demanded.
"I am Olcadan! The Disciple of the Owl God Ga'Hoole!" Olcadan swept his arm to gesture at all the imprisoned owls. "Mayuri! Let my people go!"
"O RLY?" Mayuri sneered.
"YA RLY!" Olcadan insisted.
Mayuri stopped in mid-retort. He could practically feel his intellect spiraling down a kitchen drain while he debated this idiot. "Enough!" he snarled. "You and what army?"
Olcadan spread his arms as if they were the wings of an owl stooping down for the kill. "Come forth, Warriors of Ga'Hoole! Strike! With razor claws!"
No flutter of feathers warned Mayuri. Owls are ninja birds, after all. That included warrior owls wearing golden helms.
"Aaaaaaahhhh! This is Zaraki's fault! ZARAKIIIII!"
More LOLZ In The Future…