A/N: Grrr…this chapter's not up to par either. Don't worry, the climax is only a few chapters away, and that I am looking forward to writing, so it will above par to me.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or BtVS.
Donny: So all these books got spells in 'em? Turn people into frogs, things like that?
Xander: Yeah, we're building a race of frog-people. It's a good time.
Donny: So all these books got spells in 'em? Turn people into frogs, things like that?
Chapter 8: The Witch
The Hinamori double fumed as it attempted to convince Aizen. "You need to capture her again."
Aizen replied calmly, "She was becoming a liability. Now she's no longer an issue."
It leaned over Aizen's throne; it's eyes hard and icy. "She's even more of an issue now. She's powerful, and the Soul Society may use her power. If they do, our defeat is assured."
Aizen studied the creature that used Hinamori's face. "Is there a way we can control her once we have her?"
Hinamori smirked. "You find her, then I'll break her."
In Karakura, Orihime hummed happily as she walked to the grocery. The streets were filled with friendly people, the sun was shining, and the sky was clear. It seemed as though nothing could go wrong.
Orihime turned around and greeted her friends in a chipper manner. "Hi, Kurosaki-kun! Kuchiki-san!"
"Inoue," Rukia said, catching up to her bubbly friend. "We wanted to talk to you about the other night."
"The other night?" Orihime asked confusedly.
"Yeah," Ichigo agreed. "You shouldn't be out so late, Inoue. It's not safe."
"Oh!" Orihime exclaimed, understanding dawning over her features. "You mean two nights ago when I ran into you after dusting a vampire."
"Inoue," Rukia sighed exasperatedly. "You need to stop these wild fantasies."
"Fantasies – "
Orihime's sentence was cut off as Rukia and Ichigo tensed. Orihime felt it too. An arrancar was in the area, and he was close.
"Stay here, Inoue," Ichigo ordered as he and Rukia followed the powerful reiatsu to its source.
Indignantly, Orihime stomped her foot. "I can help, too!" she argued before following her friends.
Ichigo and Rukia found themselves in an alley occupied by the Octava Espada, Szayel Aporro Granz. Orihime arrived just in time to catch Ichigo's and Rukia's lifeless bodies as her friends readied to fight in their shinigami forms. Orihime gently laid her friends' bodies on the ground.
"Well," the pink-haired espada said, assuming his usual cocky stance. "It seems you can't walk two steps in this town without encountering a shinigami."
That's better than encountering a daemon, Orihime thought bemusedly.
"And if it isn't La Princesa del Mundo Hueco," Szayel said, his words ripping Orihime from her thoughts. Orihime didn't know what to do. She had been preparing for this moment. This was the culmination of those hours of studying spells. But this wasn't like dusting a vampire. This didn't seem as natural to Orihime. At that moment all spells and magick flew from Orihime's mind. All she could see was her possible impending recapture. Orihime stood at the mouth of the alley, stunned, her hands clasped nervously before her. "What's the matter, Princesa? Aren't you ready to go home?" Szayel smirked as his mocking words visibly angered Ichigo and frightened Orihime.
"You bastard!" Ichigo yelled before charging at Szayel bearing his zanpakutou.
"Ichigo!" Rukia exclaimed as Szayel dodged Ichigo easily and smashed his fist into the substitute shinigami's stomach with a great amount of force. Rukia and Orihime watched with horror as Ichigo coughed up blood.
Orihime's nerves were tingling. Ichigo couldn't win this! He was too rash, Szayel too calculated. Ichigo would become more reckless as Szayel deliberately provoked him.
Rukia ran to her fallen boyfriend, but the Octava Espada was expecting that. With a swift kick, Rukia too was lying on the ground nursing bruised ribs.
Orihime was panicking. Szayel was prepared for their every move. They needed Uryuu or Chad, the ones with level heads.
Orihime briefly decided that Ichigo would be horrible at chess before she saw Szayel approach her wounded friends. Ichigo was getting to his feet, but the woundless arrancar was much faster.
Without thinking, Orihime charged at the arrancar. She wasn't quite sure what she was doing. The best she could hope for was to knock him off balance, but she charged anyway. Too quick to be seen, the espada grabbed the girl by the neck and lifted her off the ground. Orihime gasped and clawed at Szayel's hand as it gradually cut off her air supply.
"Why, Princesa! You mustn't endanger yourself so. Aizen-sama wouldn't appreciate that." Orihime eyes were wide with fear. "Be a good girl and sit still." Szayel then threw her to the ground, her side hitting the asphalt painfully.
"Inoue!" Rukia yelled as Orihime fell. The girl tentatively felt her side, which was now bloody due to her skin being scraped by the asphalt.
The pain mingled with something else within Orihime, making her mind fuzzy. Anger was building within the normally passive girl. She missed Grimmjow and Ulquiorra terribly but didn't particularly want to go back to Hueco Mundo even to see them, and she'd be damned if she was going to let this insane arrancar kidnap her.
In the revel of her anger, a spell came unbidden to her mind. It was unfamiliar, unlike the ones she'd practiced. She didn't think she'd performed this spell before in either life. It took her a moment to transfer the thoughts into words, but when she spoke, magick was palpable in the air.
"Goddess Hecate, work thy will," the arrancar and shinigami turned to Orihime as the air became charged with energy. The witch's face was hidden beneath a fringe of hair. (1)
"I-Inoue?" Rukia said tentatively.
Orihime looked up, causing Ichigo and Rukia to gasp. Their bubbly friend's eyes were now completely black, two ebony pools reflecting the raw power within the girl. Lights began to swirl in the air before her as she stood. Extending her hand out to a very confused arrancar, Orihime finished her incantation. "Before thee let the unclean thing crawl!" The lights built and swirled around Orihime's outstretched arm before they unleashed their energy on Szayel. A look of panic crossed his face before the brilliant flames engulfed him.
In a moment, the flames were gone, and Szayel's empty arrancar uniform fell to the ground. Orihime's eyes cleared and she blinked a few times before directing her sight to the pile of clothes.
"Inoue," Ichigo began, "w-what did you do?"
A tiny, pink, whiskered nose poked out from beneath the white cloth. The nose was followed by a pink rat's head with tiny white marks resembling glasses surrounding its eyes. The plump pink rat sniffed and twitched its nose in a very rat-like manner.
"Inoue, is that – "
"He's so cute!" Orihime exclaimed, rushing over the bright rodent. The happy girl attempted to stroke the rat's fur with a finger, but either the rat disliked people or he recognized the culprit of his current predicament, because he used his large rat teeth to bite Orihime's finger painfully.
"Ahhh!" Orihime screamed, flinging her arm around while trying to dislodge the rat which was holding on to her finger with his teeth for dear life.
Rukia, turning away from the odd sight of her friend unsuccessfully battling an arrancar rat, said, "Did Inoue just turn that espada into a rat, or am I just having a very disturbing dream?"
Ichigo, his eyes fixed on the peculiar sight before him, replied, "I think Inoue just turned that espada into a rat." Turning to Rukia, he asked, "How is that possible?"
Rukia shook her head. "I don't know, but I think we should get this rat to Urahara." Ichigo nodded in confirmation. Rukia searched the ground for a moment before picking up a tattered purse from a pile of trash. "Inoue!" Rukia called, gathering the other girl's attention.
"Yes," Orihime said, the helpless rat still dangling from her finger in what must have been a painful grip.
"Put the rat in here," Rukia ordered while opening the purse.
The young witch nodded and held the pink rat over the bag. Recognizing a safe haven, the rat released Orihime's finger and plopped into the bag. Rukia quickly clasped the purse shut.
"What are you going to do with him?" Orihime asked, before popping her sore and slightly bleeding finger into her mouth.
"We're going to take him to Urahara."
Orihime nodded as she pulled her finger from her mouth to make sure the bleeding had stopped before calling on her souten kisshun to heal her finger and her scraped side. "Well, if the two of you are going to take care of Pinky, I'm going to finish my shopping."
"Pinky?" Ichigo asked.
Orihime gazed at the shinigami with wide eyes. "Yeah. Pinky the rat. As in Pinky and the Brain." Orihime obviously took their incredulous countenances for looks of understanding because she quickly bid her friends goodbye, leaving them stunned in the alley with a purse containing a pink rat who had not moments ago been named 'Pinky' and who had not minutes ago not even been a rat at all.
Ichigo and Rukia barged into Urahara Souten. "Ah, Kurosaki-san, Kuchiki-san! What brings you here?" Urahara greeted them in his usual smiling manner.
"We caught an espada," Ichigo replied in his usual blunt manner.
Urahara almost dropped his fan, and his mouth fell open. "Are you serious?" he asked, his eyes wide. Rukia nodded. "Well, where is it?!" Urahara asked, seeming a little too enthused. Though with Urahara, that might've been normal.
Rukia plopped the old purse down on Urahara's table. "He's in there," she said.
Urahara hurriedly opened the bag and gazed inside. He then looked at the shinigami with a confused expression. "That's a rat."
"Yes," said Rukia.
"An espada rat," Ichigo supplied.
Urahara looked back into the bag, then back at the shinigami. "No. That's just a rat. A dead rat, I'll grant you. The soul of a rat, but that's just a rat."
Rukia sighed. "Well, that rat was an espada."
Urahara looked incredulous. "Why is he a rat?"
"Inoue did that," Ichigo said.
"We think it was a spell," Rukia answered. "Like that magick you mentioned."
Urahara's jaw dropped. "I think I've underestimated this magick thing."
"What do you mean?" Ichigo asked.
Rukia looked at Ichigo like he'd grown a second head. "She turned him into a rat!" Rukia exclaimed. "That's not something you see everyday!"
"So," Ichigo replied. "I thought you could do that with kidou, too."
Urahara shook his head. "No, you can't. You can use kidou to make something look like something else or use what you have to shape it the way you want, but you can't change reality. You can't completely change a soul."
"Ichigo," Rukia said. "That arrancar is now a rat in every way, shape, and form. I know you can't sense it, but its reiatsu feels as though it was never human at all."
A few hours later, Ichigo, Rukia, Renji, Orihime, Uryuu, and Chad had congregated in Urahara Souten.
"So why are we here?" Uryuu asked exasperatedly.
"Because of this," Urahara responded, setting on the table a cage containing a fuzzy pink rat.
"Pinky!" Orihime exclaimed.
Uryuu looked slightly lost. "Pinky?"
Urahara sighed. "This rat was formerly the eighth espada."
The uninformed part of the group was dumbfounded. "How is that possible?" Uryuu asked.
"Inoue did a spell," Ichigo explained. Everyone turned to Orihime who nodded emphatically. The others seemed apprehensive, but Orihime smiled widely.
"That's…that's…" Uryuu couldn't quite find the correct words. "Incredible."
A sense of fear rippled over the group. Such a complete transformation was unheard of, thought impossible even. That kind of power was incredible, devastating in its enormity. For such energy to be controlled by such an oblivious young woman was frightening. If Orihime turned an arrancar into a rat unintentionally, the notions of what else she was capable of were staggering.
Urahara nodded solemnly. "Inoue-san. I need you to reverse the spell."
Orihime's smile fell. "I don't think I can, Urahara-san. I don't remember ever doing that spell before. I think I'd just heard it before. Plus, expelling Hecate would take a lot more control than I currently have."
"Hecate?" Ichigo asked, but his comment was interrupted by Urahara.
"You'd heard it before?"
Orihime nodded. "In my past life."
"Past life?" Urahara prodded her to continue.
"Yeah, I started doing spells in my sleep while I was in Hueco Mundo, and that daemon D'Hoffryn told me I was doing spells I had cast when I was a witch in my past life."
"Wait, wait, wait!" Uryuu said, attempting to comprehend the new information. "You're a witch?"
"Apparently!" Orihime exclaimed happily. "My witch-y name was Willow. How cool is that?"
"Willow…" Urahara whispered under his breath. "Willow…"
"What is it, Urahara-san?" Orihime asked.
A distant look was in Urahara's eyes as he slipped into the store room of his shop. "I know that name," his voice drifted out from the back room.
"Really?" Orihime looked skeptical. "It doesn't seem like a very common name."
Urahara returned with a large text in his hands. He flipped through the pages frantically, causing dust to rise in clouds from the pages that had heretofore been dormant.
"What is that book?" Ichigo asked.
"It's from the 46's archives. It's a record of all the witches who've passed through the Soul Society," the elder shinigami answered distractedly. "I had Ukitake-taichou send it to me when we discovered the possibility of magick."
Ichigo's brow furrowed in confusion. "I thought the 46 didn't care about what happened in Rukongai?"
"Normally they don't." Urahara continued his frantic search through the text. "But they view witches as a threat – ah! Here it is!"
"'Willow Rosenburg,'" the shopkeeper read from the record.
"That's me!" Orihime shouted suddenly. Everyone turned to her surprised. "Well," she explained slightly embarrassed, "it sounds familiar. Plus, it sounds Jewish and I think I was Jewish."
"Okay…what does it say about her?" Uryuu asked, returning their attention to the task at hand and away from Orihime's outbursts.
"Nothing much, but…oh."
"What is it?" Anxiousness seized Orihime at Urahara's worried countenance.
Reading from the tome, Urahara said, "'Willow Rosenburg: execute upon entry into Soul Society.'"
Another wave of terror gripped those congregated. What could their friend have done to warrant a death sentence? What crime would've been so horrific to the Souls Society that they had to extinguish the perpetrator the moment she arrived?
Rukia shivered, the written commands eerily similar to Yamamoto-soutaichou's orders before they rescued Orihime from Hueco Mundo. Could he have known?
"There's also a date of execution," Urahara continued, breaking the female shinigami from her thoughts. "May 20, 2003." (2)
Uryuu turned to Orihime, worry, anxiety, and perhaps a hint of fear visible in his eyes. "That's your birthday, isn't it?"
Orihime gulped nervously and nodded.
"That doesn't make any sense," Rukia argued. "To be executed upon arrival in Soul Society she must've done something to anger the 46 during her time in the living world, but what could she have done?"
Urahara shrugged. "There's a note here, though. 'See volume TCX280363, page 189.' Let me contact Ukitake-taichou to get the book." Urahara quickly left the room.
With a blank, glazed look in her eyes, Orihime plopped in a chair.
"Inoue," Rukia said tentatively.
"What could I have done?" Orihime rhetorically asked her friend. "Was I evil?" Tears began falling from her watery gray eyes. "Was I evil?" Her breath hitched as more tears cascaded from her eyes.
Orihime buried her head in her hands as Rukia knelt next to her. "Inoue, I'm sure you did nothing wrong. Despite the Seireitei's views, the Central wasn't always just, and you heard what Urahara said: The 46 was threatened by witches. Maybe you were just powerful, and they feared you."
Orihime raised her tear-stained face to Rukia. "I don't want to be feared."
Rukia hugged her living friend tightly. "I don't fear you, Orihime. I promise. I'll never fear you." Rukia knew she was lying on some level. Of course she feared the girl who contained such raw, uncontrollable, and foreign power. She understood kidou. She knew zanpakutous. Magick was an admittedly new and frightening territory.
"Come in here!" Urahara's voice yelled from the adjacent room. Quickly Orihime wiped her tears from her face. Rukia smiled at the young woman and gave her shoulders a quick squeeze of comfort before both girls followed the boys into the room Urahara had called them to.
On a large screen, the group could see Ukitake-taichou and Kyouraku-taichou looking quite confused. Kyouraku held a book before him as he addressed the group. "TCX is the living world archives series. Why'd you need to look at those?"
"It's complicated," Urahara answered cryptically. "What is volume TCX280363?"
"Uh," Kyouraku examined the cover. "'Warriors for the Powers that Be, Volume 363.' Okay now I'm really confused."
"Turn to page 189," Urahara ordered.
"What's this about?" Ukitake asked, echoing his friend who was currently turning to the indicated page.
"Okay, here it is," Kyouraku said. "Let me see. It says, 'Willow Rosenburg, witch, Sunnydale, CA.' That's odd. That's all it has. The other entries have a lot more details."
"What are 'the Powers that Be'?" Uryuu asked.
"God, Allah, the Goddess, you know, whatever deity you worship," Kyouraku explained.
"So, Willow was a good witch then?" Orihime asked. "Fighting the good fight and all?"
"It seems so," Rukia said, smiling at her friend. Orihime grinned back.
Before Kyouraku or Ukitake could add another comment, Urahara asked them to send him the text then he swiftly cut contact with the Soul Society.
Orihime was elated. She wasn't evil. She was good actually. A warrior for good. Her smile practically consumed her face.
Urahara wasn't so pleased. Orihime was powerful; there was no doubt about that, but power corrupts. What did this bubbly girl do to warrant an execution?
"Szayel has not returned," the Hinamori look-alike commented. Aizen nodded pensively. "She's getting stronger."
"How are you so sure it was her that stopped Szayel?"
The creature that resembled Hinamori grinned wickedly. "Because I know her. Apprehend her soon, or your defeat is inevitable."
(1) Do I even have to say it? The spell's from Buffy!
(2) I know that's not really her birthday, but it is in this fanfic!