Disclaimer: Bleach belongs to Kubo.
Important Note: This is a sequel. Please read "Searching" first or you'll be lost. While it's probably not absolutely necessary to read "Glimpses", you will get a better feel for character relationships and learn various details if you read that one as well. And if you're already up to speed, then let's get started. XD
A jagged portal opened in the night sky above Karakura. Standing at the edge of the opening, a one-eyed arrancar sneered down at the quiet town. With one swift motion, he tossed a bundle of ragged cloths into the living world and watched as it fell to the streets below, an unreadable expression on his features. "Don't go getting yourself killed now. After all…that pleasure is reserved for me."
A grin spread across Nnoitora's face as Garganta began to close, his eye still on the falling bundle. "I look forward to seeing you again…Neliel."
As the sky mended itself, the bundle hit the pavement, revealing the face of an unconscious child. When she came to, she pulled herself up into a sitting position despite the pounding in her head as a stream of fresh blood rolled down the side of her face from somewhere under the broken mask atop her head.
She scanned her unfamiliar surroundings with dull and unfocused eyes, unable to recall how she got here. However, as her eyes caught sight of something, her senses suddenly became alert. All around her, white masks with glowing eyes slowly emerged from the shadows. Finding herself surrounded by hollows, the child began to panic.
Popping another piece of candy into his mouth, Ginjo strolled leisurely along the street as he cast his senses out for hollows, hoping for another workout. Truth was, they had been appearing more and more as of late, often in groups. It was undoubtedly strange, but since it made for a more interesting pastime, he didn't really care to question why.
Just then, the eerie sound of hollows' cries echoed through the crisp night air, and the blue-haired youth grinned in response. But before he could spring into action, his cell phone rang. With a slightly annoyed grumble, he answered.
"Did you feel that?" It was his father.
"Who do you think I am?" Ginjo retorted. "You? I'm already on it."
"I'm tied up in the ER," Ichigo explained.
"Good. Stay there. I don't need you spoiling my fun."
It was Ichigo's turn to grumble. "Keep talking like that and I'll be there in a flash!"
Ginjo snorted, calling his bluff. "What, and kill the poor bastard you're supposed to be operating on?"
"I'll send your mom!" She was still in Soul Society at the moment, due to return sometime that evening, but the boy didn't need to know that she hadn't actually arrived just yet.
Ginjo pulled the phone away from his ear so he could glare at it. "I said don't come, damn it! This fight's mine!" With that said, he simply hung up.
Unzipping the backpack he had slung over one shoulder, he spoke into it instead. "Oi, Kon."
A yellow stuffed lion popped its head out of the bag and pointed accusingly at the boy. "Ginjo, you're just like another Ichigo! What's wrong with you Kurosakis?! Always stuffing poor little ol' me in cramped spaces!"
"Shut up and be grateful I even bothered taking your cotton ass with me," Ginjo said with only mild agitation. "I could have just as easily brought you in pill form."
Kon folded his arms and turned his head. "Hn!"
"I didn't bring you so I could listen to your yapping," Ginjo said as he pointed a finger down towards the cement. "On the ground," he ordered.
"Now," the boy said firmly, his tone allowing no room for protest.
With a sad whimper, Kon unwillingly complied, hopping out of the bag to lie on the ground face up.
Without ceremony, Ginjo raised his foot and drove his heel down on Kon's stomach. The stuffed lion made a gagging sound and a little green pill shot up into the air, straight into Ginjo's hand. Swallowing the pill, he forced his soul out of his body, immediately running off as he instructed the mod soul to return home.
Kon, now in Ginjo's body, dropped to his knees and picked up his stuffed animal body, cuddling it in his arms as he sniffled. "It's OK, me. Nobody appreciates you, but…I still love you."
The child ran frantically down the deserted neighborhood street with a group of hungry predators in tow. Her body was hurting with scrapes, claw marks, and cuts, but she didn't dare stop running. Eventually, fear caused her to take a misstep, and she tripped over her own feet, crashing to the ground. One look behind her, and she knew it was over. All she could do at this point was curl up, close her eyes, put her hands over her head, and hope that the end wouldn't hurt as much as she thought it would.
However, instead of falling into the grips of razor sharp teeth to be torn to pieces, she was swooped up into the protective hold of something strong. Still shaking with terror, she couldn't quite comprehend what was going on. All she could see was the black fabric she was being held closely against, and she clung to it with her little fists as though her life depended on it, burying her face into it, hoping that the horror would end soon.
With one arm around the rescued child, Ginjo had to make do with just one free hand. While nothing had been able to get past him so far, with this many hollows and him fighting while trying to protect…it was getting to be a bit of a handful. To be precise, it was the 'him fighting while trying to protect' part that was the problem. After all, he was known to be reckless. He didn't even bother protecting himself properly in battle, so having to protect someone else who was so fragile and obviously helpless was a bit of an awkward challenge. It was definitely something he was not used to.
Just as he was beginning to slow down with fatigue, a glowing white arrow came flying from out of nowhere, claiming three hollows with that single shot. Uriya and Himeko had arrived to join the fight.
Agitated, Ginjo turned to face the young Quincy. "Stop cutting in, you bastard! This is my fight!"
"Looks to me like you could use the help," Uriya replied, unperturbed.
"Well, you looked wrong!"
At that moment, a hollow attacked, launching bullet-like projectiles at Ginjo from behind, only to be blocked by Himeko's shield. "Maybe you should save the complaints for later, Gin-chan," she admonished from her position atop a wall that separated someone's yard from the streets.
"It's Ginjo, damn it!" the blue-haired teen shouted, sparing a second to glare up at his sister before slashing through a hollow.
"Later," Uriya reiterated as he fired off another arrow.
Ginjo grumbled. "Are you two tag-teaming me now?!"
Despite his gripes, Ginjo complied and concentrated on the matter at hand. Fighting back to back with Uriya, with Himeko watching over them as well as using Tsubaki from time to time, they had things wrapped up before long.
"That went pretty well!" Himeko exclaimed with a bright smile. As she prepared to leap off the wall to join the others, she somehow managed to trip, falling with a yelp. Lucky for her, Uriya caught her neatly in his arms before her bottom hit the ground. "Thanks, Uriya!" she said, her arms hanging loosely around his neck, another bright smile in place.
The raven-haired boy considered her for a moment. "Hime…you are a member of our school's track team, are you not?" he inquired in typical impassive fashion.
"Yeah," she replied innocently.
"Hurdles is one of your events, correct?"
She nodded. "Mm-hmm."
"Yet, you seem to trip and fall at least once every other night," he pointed out with a soft sigh. "I can't help but think that your falls are more calculated than accidental."
The orange-haired girl tilted her head, studying him curiously. "Are you angry?"
Uriya closed his eyes. "Not particularly. Merely perplexed."
"Hee, hee…" Himeko swung her legs back and forth a few times before holding up a finger. "It's a test!"
"I see," Uriya replied, even though he didn't really see. He had no idea what she was testing, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to find out. "It would seem Himeko is more…devious than Orihime and Akari Hime ever were."
To that, Himeko chuckled lightly. "People change, Uriya."
The boy looked away with a contemplative expression. "Is that so?"
She laughed again in delight. "But don't worry. Not by that much." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and hopped off.
Uriya turned his attention back to Ginjo, only to find the other boy glaring at him.
"I really didn't need to see that," Ginjo deadpanned. "What the heck are you two doing here anyway? Aren't you supposed to be doing…" He paused as he tried to find the right words. When he came up with nothing, he compensated with a shrug and a shake of his head. "…whatever crap couples do?"
"It seems no matter what we do, the evenings tend to end in this manner as of late." Then Uriya remembered something. "Your fighting…it was sloppy, even for you. What's wrong?"
Ginjo scowled. "Well, excuse me for not being able to kick ass properly when my hands are full!"
It wasn't until now that Uriya really paid attention to the bundle Ginjo was holding in his arm. "What is that?"
Moving a layer of ragged cloth out of the way, Ginjo revealed the face of the frightened child. "The hollows…they were after her."
Uriya came closer, Himeko following with curiosity. When he finally got close enough to see the broken mask on top of the girl's head, the young Quincy's brows came together slightly with confusion. "Arrancar?"
The trio gathered in Ginjo's room, waiting while Nel was in the bath. Uriya leaning against the desk with his hands in his pockets, Ginjo straddling his chair with his folded arms draped over the seat's back, and Himeko sitting comfortably on the bed.
"Were you able to get any information from the child?" Uriya inquired.
Himeko looked up. "Beyond her name? No. Nel-chan didn't seem too comfortable having me in the bathroom with her." To say that the girl was 'not too comfortable' was putting it lightly. When Himeko tried to help her undress, she practically screamed bloody murder:
"No! No! No! No! No!" the child arrancar protested as she backed herself into a corner of the bathroom and wrapped her arms around herself protectively.
"Nel-chan, I just need to help you clean up and make sure you're not hurt," Himeko tried to persuade.
"No!" the girl repeated vehemently. "Nel can't let anyone see!"
"I promise I won't hurt you."
Himeko frowned, feeling somewhat helpless. "But why?"
Nel faltered at the question, a look of uncertainty in her eyes. "Nel…Nel doesn't know…" she voiced quietly. Why wasn't she allowed to let anyone see her back? And who was it that used to drill that rule into her head? She couldn't recall. "Nel just knows…she's not supposed to…"
After seeing that lost and confused look on the child's face, Himeko didn't want to push any further. Foregoing the visual check, she healed Nel's cuts and scrapes, drew the bath, and left her alone.
"She knows she's an arrancar and that she's from Hueco Mundo," Himeko said, providing what little information she did manage to get. "But beyond those basics, she doesn't seem to remember anything else. Why she's here, how she got here…all that's a blank. She doesn't even know how to go back or where exactly her home is."
"So, what do we do?" Ginjo asked nobody in particular. "Not like we can just keep her here." Even though the kid was young, she was still a hollow. He probably should have just purified her along with the rest of them and called it a day. But even though he wasn't what one would label as the caring and considerate type, there was something about slashing his zanpakutou through a toddler that just didn't sit well with him. Even Pantera would agree that doing so would leave a bad taste in his mouth.
"But we can't just dump her back in Hueco Mundo," Himeko said. "She's helpless!"
At this point, Nel peeked into the room from the doorway, uncertainty written on her face.
Himeko greeted her with a warm smile. "Nel-chan, are you finished?"
The child nodded timidly.
The orange-haired girl beckoned with a wave of her hand. "Come in. You can sit by me."
As Nel made her way across the room, Uriya watched her with an unreadable expression. However, the girl hadn't even made it half way across the room when a booming voice from behind her made her take cover behind Ginjo's leg.
"How did it go?!" It was Ichigo. He had rushed home as soon as he was able to leave the hospital.
"You talk like I've never done this before," Ginjo said with a hint of irritation. "What do you think? They're just small fries. Nothing I can't handle."
"I'm more concerned about you destroying the town," Ichigo retorted flatly. His son was like a loose canon.
Ginjo frowned. That was definitely the cue for another round of Kurosaki style fistfight. As he stood, he felt something latched onto his leg and belatedly noticed Nel hanging onto him. "Oi. Let go, squirt."
At this point, Ichigo also noticed the arrancar girl and his expression turned to one of surprise. "Ne…Nel?"
Nel's eyes, however, did not reflect recognition as she scooted further behind Ginjo's leg.
The three teens shared a glance before Uriya spoke up. "You know this child, Kurosaki Ichigo?"
Ichigo had to take a moment to absorb the awkwardness that was Ishida Uriya. The boy just showed up one day a few months ago and became an immediate constant in his children's, and therefore his own, lives. Of course, there wasn't anything terribly wrong about that. He could tolerate the boy, as long as he didn't try anything funny with his daughter. But truth be told, Ichigo wasn't really too worried about that…despite the initial "greeting" he had seen the two of them exchange that first day. Uriya seemed like the responsible and respectable type. Ichigo had to admit that, annoying personality aside, Himeko was probably safer with him than anyone else. But despite all that, the way Uriya insisted on addressing him by his full name was just plain…weird. It was the thing that reminded him every time that the boy was in fact Ulquiorra, the former cuarta Espada.
After clearing his head of these thoughts, Ichigo nodded. "Ah. She and her brothers helped us get to Las Noches when we went to Hueco Mundo to save…" He looked to Himeko, and then averted his eyes without finishing. "Anyway…when we came out of Garganta, we were pretty far away from Las Noches. It would have taken us much longer to get there if it weren't for Nel. And we even ran into that giant sand guy who tried to block our way."
"Lunuganga," Uriya corrected.
Ichigo scowled. That was the other trait that always reminded him the boy was Ulquiorra. "Like I said…the giant sand guy."
Ginjo snorted as he sat back into his chair. "Are you telling me that the bunch of you supposedly badass shinigami and vizards needed a toddler's help to get to Las Noches? That's rich."
Ichigo glared but ignored the comment, electing to crouch down and speak with the child instead. "Nel, what happened?" he asked gently. "Where are your brothers?" They had strange names, and he couldn't remember what they were.
Nel simply shook her head, still holding on to Ginjo's leg for security. Brothers? She didn't know what this man was talking about.
"She seems to have lost her memory," Himeko supplied.
"Those hollows earlier were after her," Ginjo threw in.
Ichigo frowned as he studied the scared little girl. Things weren't really making sense, and he was concerned for the child.
With all the fuss going on, Ginjo had lost sight of Uriya and was currently in the process of trying to find the guy.
His mother had finally returned home and, after giving her the download, the final decision was to let Nel stay with them at least for now. Being the kind of woman that she was, Rukia got excited about making Himeko's closet into Nel's room, saying something about it reminding her of old times. She started digging through old boxes to pull out all kinds of Chappy-related bed sheets and what not that he and his sister had been forced to use back when they were still unsuspecting children. Ginjo knew full well how Rukia could get overly motherly sometimes. Just the thought of her trying to read Nel her particular brand of bedtime stories was enough to make him feel sorry for the poor girl.
Eventually, Ginjo found Uriya standing alone out in their front yard staring into the glowing screen of his cell phone. "Ya taking off?" he asked as he sat on the porch steps.
Uriya flipped his phone shut. "He left me thirty-seven voice messages and forty-three text messages," he said, a slight edge to his trademark impassive tone. "You think he's worried about something?"
Ginjo grinned, knowing exactly who 'he' was. "Can't say I'm surprised. Your old man probably thinks you're getting it on with Himeko, especially since you started—"
The ringing of Uriya's phone cut Ginjo off. The young Quincy answered. "Hello… Kurosaki residence… Nothing in particular. Just spending time in Hime's room… Of course, she's here. I wouldn't be sitting on her bed otherwise… Nothing. I am merely sitting. She, however, is undressing. Shall I give you a comprehensive verbal description?"
The raven-haired boy held the phone away from his ear, unperturbed, as the voice on the other end went up a few pitches, followed by a click as the line went dead. Giving his phone a final look, he flipped it shut again and slipped it into his pocket.
Ginjo chuckled as he finished his thought from before. "…since you started doing that." He would never be able to understand how Uriya could say all those things so dryly, without so much as a twitch in his facial muscles, as though he were merely giving a weather report.
With his hands in his pockets, Uriya heaved a small sigh. "I should go before he starts hyperventilating."
Ginjo gave him a questioning look. "If that's how it is, then why keep pulling his leg?" Though he had to admit, it was great entertainment.
"He doesn't seem satisfied when I tell him the truth," Uriya stated simply.
The blue-haired teen quirked a brow. "Riiiiight. And making up random shit's supposed to help?"
"No. That is merely for my own amusement," Uriya replied, dispassionately matter of fact.
Ginjo couldn't help but laugh.
Uriya smirked almost unnoticeably in response before moving on to a more serious subject. "Ginjo. Keep an eye on the girl."
"Why?" the vizard asked with a raised brow. "You think something's going on?"
Uriya paused to give that some thought. Group hunts were rare among hollows, but that seemed to be happening often in recent days. Did that mean anything? "I'm not sure," he finally said, "but her existence is an anomaly."
"How old does she look to you? Three? Four at the most? In all the years I've spent in Hueco Mundo, I have never seen a hollow that young. The spirit of an innocent child at that age should not have the kind of regrets that would prevent them from passing on, nor the will and strength to resist a shinigami's konsou. Not to mention, she isn't just any hollow, but an arrancar…in perfect human form." There was something else about Nel, but Uriya couldn't put his finger on it. "Whatever the case may be, it would be unwise to simply disregard these things."
Just as he finished speaking, Uriya's phone rang yet again. With closed eyes, he heaved an inward sigh and turned the device off. "I will see you tomorrow."
As Uriya headed down the street, Ginjo mused to himself. "Anomaly, huh?"
"Dondochakka!!" she screamed, wide-eyed with horror as a crescent shaped blade planted itself into his abdomen.
"Pesche! Take Nel and go!" Dondochakka yelled as he held the blade within him with every last ounce of strength he had to offer in hopes of delaying his attacker.
Pesche faltered. "But—"
"There's no time!" Dondochakka pleaded. "Just go!"
After another moment of indecision, Pesche swept Nel up into his arms and bolted.
Though she was unable to see what was going on as they ran, her blood froze when she heard Dondochakka's scream of pain pierce through the otherwise quiet desert night.
Shortly after, the crescent blade wielder's laughter could be heard. "Oi, Neliel! Don't think that you can get away from me!" The sound of his laughter kept getting closer and closer.
Then Pesche suddenly came to a halt, intercepted by someone. "You!" he exclaimed. However, with her face held against his chest, Nel was unable to see who it was.
"I'll hold him off," this person said.
"But you're no match for him," Pesche replied. "Not anymore."
"Let me deal with that. Your task is to get her to safety."
Pesche hesitated briefly before taking off again.
Nel tried to look over his shoulder, but once again could see nothing. She heard the sound of metal clashing and manic laughter. And then…she saw a severed arm along with a spray of blood soaring through the air…
Nel woke up, frightened and disoriented. She just had a bad dream, but she couldn't remember what it was about. The only thing that stayed with her was the terrifying feeling.
Her eyes darted around, unable to identify her surroundings. Then she slid open the closet door, revealing Himeko's room on the other side, the orange-haired girl asleep on her bed. The room was dark. It was still the middle of the night.
Memory of recent events began coming back to her. She was in the living world and had been saved from hollows and taken in by this family.
With her body still trembling, Nel jumped out of the closet and slipped silently out of the room. She wandered down the dark hallway, searching, until her legs came to a stop in front of a particular room. She could sense what she was looking for beyond the closed door. Turning the doorknob, she opened the door slightly and peeked in to find Ginjo sleeping on his side, facing the window with his back to her.
She stood there and watched him as she tugged on her sleeves anxiously, debating. Then she entered the room and crawled into the bed and under the covers. It was this protective reiatsu that had shielded her from harm. In its presence, she was able to feel more at ease. With both of her small hands clinging tightly to the fabric on his back, Nel closed her eyes and eventually fell asleep.
A/N: So…that's chapter one. Please review for moral support? Haha.
Same as last time, the story's already set, so any new conflicting info that Kubo might throw out from here on most likely won't get incorporated. (Crossing my fingers for better luck this round. Haha.) Originally, I had thought about inserting Nel into Searching, because I was already thinking about doing this sequel back then. But if this story didn't work out, then her minor appearance in Searching would have been weird and unnecessary, so instead I decided to leave the 'journey to Las Noches' part relatively blank so I can fill it in later.
I know that child version Nel speaks with a lisp, but I have decided not to type out her dialogue lisp style as it is both annoying to type and read on a recurring basis. And just to reiterate, I prefer the spelling Nnoitora over Nnoitra. So, he's going to be Nnoitora.
I dreamed up this story for Grimm/Ginjo because, as great as the relationship is between him, Ulqui, and Hime, you can't deny he's the odd man out. He's one of my babies, too, and I just couldn't leave him hanging. So, I present to him my personal favorite female Bleach character. See, Grimm? This is how much I love you. Although, he's probably not too happy about it at the moment. Haha!
Thanks for reading! Hope you liked the first chapter! Reviews appreciated!