Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, or anything associated with it whatsoever. Alas, and woe.

La Belladonna

The numerous labyrinthine hidden corridors that weaved together behind the blank, white walls that lined the intricately laid out hallways had been put in place to allow Arrancar and lesser servant hollows to move freely through the expansive palatial grounds of Los Noches without being observed in times of emergency. Large battalions of guards or individual messengers could move directly from one chamber or passage to another by bypassing the twisting main hallways or use the spaces for ambushes on intruders, providing a tactical advantage. The cramped dark, space was normally quiet, near silent even when occupied do to the deliberate soundless movement of those who used them.

Normally.

"Scoot over! I can't see anything!"

"It's not my fault you're so short."

"HEY! Who's short you freaking giant?! And get your sword out of my way!"

"The two of you shush. An intruder shinigami is coming."

"Sunsun, don't tell us to 'shush'!"

Apache whirled on the demure acting Fracción and raised a shaking fist, not sure how much of an effect it would have in the near dark space illuminated only by the slim slivers of pale light leaking in through the well hidden observation slits.

"I will break your face so badly not even Aizen-sama will be able to fix it!"

"Oh, are you sure you want to make such declarations?" Sunsun drawled, sounding bored. "After all, battles are mostly won through using ones wits and you are, unfortunately, unarmed."

"WHAT?!"

"Quiet," Mila Rose order firmly, peering carefully towards the massive staircase, "they're about to face each other."

More scuffling followed as Apache crammed herself between the taller Fracción and the smooth wall to squint through the slit into the huge pillared room the shinigami with the bright hair had wandered into.

"There's Ulquiorra," Mila Rose whispered.

The group squinted as the Cuatro Espada confidently descended the towering staircase, mentioning the death of one of the intruders and one of the other Espada while tossing out backhanded insults as he went.

"So, you sad Aaroneiro's dead?" Apache whispered upwards.

"Nope."

"Me neither."

"Hmm. I think Ulquiorra may actively dislike this particular intruder. Do you think he's the one he scouted for Aizen-sama who was such a disappointment?" Sunsun whispered thoughtfully from behind her snowy sleeve as the Espada continued to casually taunt the boy in the black robes.

"If so why does he give a crap now?" Apache wondered out loud softly.

The loud-mouthed intruder had turned his back on the Espada and was raising his voice. "You are an enemy… but you yourself have yet to harm any of my friends!"

"Is this kid stupid?" Apache muttered darkly as Ulquiorra mulled over that revelation.

"I see." He tuned his dark head to face the retreating back of the shinigami. "What if I told you that I was the one who brought Inoue Orihime to Hueco Mundo?"

All three Fracción reflexively jerked back at the burst of energy through their viewing slits as the intruder furiously attacked the unimpressed Espada, bellowing loudly about how Orihime hadn't left on her own after all.

"How unexpected." Ulquiorra replied, unruffled as casually halted the flurry of sword swings. "It seems that even the very friends who came to save her had some doubt in their hearts."

Sunsun scoffed behind her sleeve and Apache narrowed her mismatched eyes.

"Losers."

The shinigami yelled some more, shouting about how Orihime had been declared a traitor.

"That was the idea," Mila Rose commented as Ulquiorra said as much.

"So, have you found a reason to fight me?" he asked sarcastically.

Sunsun chuckled briefly as Apache laughed sharply. "Oh, he's just lookin' for an excuse to kick this kids butt!"

"These are the people Orihime left?" Mila Rose watched the shinigami power up to fight Ulquiorra as a little hollow she didn't recognize made a racket in the background. It was obvious the intruder was going to get massacred. She looked away from the fight, losing interest. "This is just pathetic."

Apache and Sunsun followed her lead as they felt the Espada use his powerful cero to blast the shinigami through the thick wall opposite the staircase.

They slipped through a concealed exit to renter the main hallways beyond the staircase, just in time to see the Fracción who had unwittingly sparked the fight walking in their direction, wearing a look of concern.

Orihime's expression brightened when she saw the trio. She broke into jog, the white fabric of her coat fluttering behind her.

"Have any of you seen Ulquiorra-sama?" she asked animatedly. "I felt his reiatsu spike. He must be in a fight."

The tallest Fracción gave her a friendly smile. So like Orihime to want to be wherever Ulquiorra was. "He's just killing an intruder. He'll be back in minute."

"Really?" Orihime responded, flicking her eyes towards the nearby descending staircase. "I should go see if wants me to do anything."

"Eh," Apache made a dismissive noise, picking at her ear with one hand while the other rested in her pocket. "Don't bother. That guy's weak. Loly and Menoly could take him."

"Yes," Sunsun agreed, lowering the hand she typically used to hide her expression to press it against her breastbone as she thought over the uncharacteristic behavior of the stoic Espada. "How odd that he should deal with him personally."

Orihime shifted her weight as she thought that over, unbothered by the sounds of muffled explosions in the distance. "He must have done something to anger Ulquiorra-sama." She frowned. "If he did, I wish Ulquiorra-sama had let me kill the intruder for him instead."


AN:Dialogue quotes are from manga Chapter 270.

I received enough positive feedback on my other UlquiHime stories that I decided to try again. I tried a different style this time to see if it is more reader friendly. Is this style better, or should I stick with the other one?

Also, this will not be the last in what will now be called the La Serenissima series if people are interested in seeing more from this particular universe.

Thoughts? Opinions?

Review if you like it!