JC: Please don't kill me! Yeah, I know this is super delayed. I've been busy with life and damn writer's block got me good. No inspirations whatsoever! And I'm a bit focused on my other fic right now. I did manage to get some ideas last week for this chapter. I've wanted to write the execution part. Orihime's gonna do something cool here too and she's gonna regain some of her memories. I do apologize for the absence of romance in this chapter. I'm reserving the sweet parts for later.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach and its characters. Rights belong to Tite Kubo. This story is inspired by Disney's film by Tim Burton.
Chapter 10: Time for Escape! And Memories Abound!
Down in the depths of the dungeons in Las Noches, Kisuke Urahara was slumped on the cold floor of the cell, chained to a wall by enchanted shackles, as he stared off into space. Loly Aivirrne was imprisoned in the cell next to his. She clung to the iron bars, letting out a frustrated growl. Gazing into the cell across her, where it held no one at the moment, she shrugged and swiftly turned around. That particular cell once held Pesche and Dondochakka. Fortunately for those two, they've managed to get away with Yorouichi's help. She and Urahara weren't so lucky after encountering former captains of the court.
Just then, the sound of light footsteps echoing through the dungeon announced the arrival of Aizen's right-hand man, Gin Ichimaru. Loly immediately whirled around and glared at the silver-haired man, though Gin simply ignored her and moved onto Urahara's cell.
"When's the execution?" Loly questioned, banging on the bars of the cage. "Let's get over with it."
"Why rush to your doom, Loly-san?" Urahara asked, his tone a little cheery to compliment his somewhat mocking smile. "Why don't we have a cup of tea first?"
"No tea time for you," said Gin, smirking. "Such a shame really. I was actually looking forward to having tea with you. Since our dear Captain Aizen very much wishes to see you two dead, I can't do anything about it now. Loly-chan, you gave up your last chance too. Now our dear leader is mad at you. You should blame the Angelice and the others for abandoning you here."
"Don't shit it with us, you fox-faced bastard," barked Loly.
Urahara snickered. "Loly-san's right, you know," he said.
Gin unleashed his sword and extended the blade at Urahara's neck. "I could kill you here right here, right now," he sneered, then retracted his sword. "But where's the fun in that?"
"Are you that anxious to see blood, Captain Ichimaru?" Urahara questioned, still retaining his trademark smirk on his face. There was a mischievous gleam in his eyes, and he clearly felt no fear or anxiety.
Gin scoffed. "What do you think?"
"Just get out of here already, scumbag," Loly exclaimed, crossing her arms. "Your rotten face makes me sick."
"Really now…" Gin let out a sigh as he moved to Loly's cell. "A lady lacking in sensitivity…Not cute at all."
Loly clawed at his neck and pulled him against the cage. "Just shut the fuck up," she demanded, glaring dangerously.
Gin never lost composure, even though Loly was choking the life out of him. He was still smirking, which simply sent chills all throughout her body. When Loly released him and backed away, Gin said, "Have a pleasant day, Loly-chan." He then spun on his heel and started toward the exit.
"Damn bastard," Loly grumbled under her breath. "He really gives me the creeps. Hey, Mr. Hat and Clogs, don't you have any brilliant schemes to get us out of here?"
There was a brief silent pause before Urahara spoke up. "Nope, nadda. We're doomed." And he managed to say that cheerfully.
"WHAT?" Loly shouted out. "You can't be serious, JERK!"
Urahara covered his ears and sang a light song in his head, as soon as Loly started ranting and complaining. "La! La-la! La! Can't hear you Loly-san!" he said out loud, which served to anger Loly even more.
In the morning the next day, Urahara was dusting off his striped hat and trying to get his tattered clothes to look presentable. It was almost time for his execution. He didn't want to go looking like a complete mess.
"So what's the plan?" Loly questioned with a shrug.
A cunning smile appeared on his lips. "Hmmm…What plan? There isn't one."
Loly fisted her hands. "Then you're really planning on getting yourself killed?" She punched the wall of her cell. "Don't fuck with me!"
"There's just no way out of this, Loly-san," Urahara said casually.
"Fuckin' son of a bitch," grumbled Loly, crossing her arms in frustration. "I can't believe you."
Urahara snickered. "We'll just have to wait and see."
Loly's eyes narrowed. She stroked one of her pigtails and thought about his words. "Hmph…Fine then," she said after a moment, "But it's not nice to keep a lady waiting, you know."
"Patience is a virtue, Loly-san," Urahara said humbly.
Two hours later, Urahara and Loly were taken out of their prison cells and down the long walk to the executioner's platform. An audience of Arrancars was gathered to watch them pass, including Nnoitora, who stared at the prisoners with a sadistic smile on his face. The Hollow King, Sousuke Aizen, watched from his high throne.
"It's a pity about all this, Urahara Kisuke. You were rather a brilliant man," Aizen said, his eyes gleamed with no remorse.
"I was, wasn't I?" Urahara replied, showing off a contented smile.
"I would ask you to work with me again, but I simply can't risk it. You are far too dangerous, Former 12th Division Captain."
"I reap what I sow, I guess. If only I was careful enough…" Urahara sighed. "But you were far too cunning for me, Captain Aizen."
Aizen rested his cheek on one hand. "Hmmm…I can say the same thing about you. The rebellion two months ago…To be quite honest I was surprised. Your group managed to annihilate some of my best Arrancars."
"Your Elite Soldiers, the Espada, wasn't it? My, my, they were a tough bunch. You've certainly created monsters, Captain Aizen."
"But you and your group managed to wipe out seven of them."
"It wasn't easy, you know. Besides, I know they're dispensable to you."
Aizen and Urahara stared at each other for a long, quiet moment.
"Well, enough with the chatter. I'm sure you're anxious for your execution," Aizen said.
A group of Calaveras appeared and surrounded him, forming a circle and readying their swords. Rudbornn stepped forward, unsheathing his sword and directing it toward Urahara. "Are you ready to meet your maker, Urahara Kisuke?" the executioner questioned.
"Maybe," Urahara answered with a smile.
Loly watched, willing herself to stay calm despite the nerves. You've got a plan, right? You're not seriously planning on getting killed, right? SHIT! I don't wanna die here too!
The executioner raised his sword high in the air and the crowd cheered.
"Shit!" Loly mumbled, closing her eyes. Just then, the crowd quieted down, and in the silence Loly heard a popping-disappearing sound like the sounds in magic tricks. Loly opened her eyes and gasped at what she saw.
Kisuke Urahara's body had been flattened, like a balloon that has been popped.
Loly swallowed. "It's a…."
Gin Ichimaru, who had been watching the execution in the shadows, couldn't help but snicker. "A Gigai, huh? Nice one, Urahara-san."
The Hollows stared in disbelief; even Nnoitora himself couldn't comprehend what just happened.
"Urahara, you bastard," Loly cried in delight.
All hell broke out when explosion came from one place to another. The force shook the grounds, collapsed columns, creating a thick veil of smoke around. A blood curling screech cut through the cries of the Hollows as an oozing purple smoke overwhelmed their senses, destroying their internal organs.
Aizen, aware of the poison that has been unleashed, quickly opened a portal. "Damn you, Urahara Kisuke," he said fiercely. "You've planned this from the beginning."
It had been another hectic day for training and meditating. She was very glad that Uryuu was the one who handled her training. Though lenient and temperate, Uryuu was an effective instructor. He knew exactly what to say and what to do in order for her to understand better. Her combat abilities had improved greatly, as she was able to handle mid-range and aerial battle with much decorum now. Unfortunately, she has yet to revive Tsubaki, the one with the offensive prowess.
Orihime had gotten to know Rangiku Matsumoto and Momo Hinamori better over dinner that night. She couldn't help but feel mesmerized over Rangiku's beauty and charm, and she considered Hinamori to be so cute. She had fun talking to them, even though it made her miss her best friend in the Real World so much. Uryuu had assured her that he made up an excuse to fool Tatsuki so she wouldn't be worried.
Just after a nice relaxing bath and getting dressed, Orihime was escorted by Uryuu out of the castle to the garden.
"The Divine Queen is waiting for you at the end of the maze," Uryuu said.
Orihime rounded a curve in the hedge maze. Just ahead, lit up by the moonlight, she spotted the Divine Queen sitting on a white bench in the middle of the flower bushes. "Your highness…" Orihime said, walking up to her, then bowing to show her courtesy.
The queen raised her head and looked at her kindly with a smile. "Do you remember me, Orihime-san?" she asked.
The Angelice grimaced. "I'm afraid no…"
"How much do you remember?" the queen asked serenely.
"I remember bits of my childhood here with Uryuu-kun. I remember Las Noches, about the Hollows and Arrancars, about the masks…There are voices in my head, but I can't distinguish them. And Ulquiorra…" she said, shaking her head. "I don't know…but I can tell he's someone really important to me."
"He is important to you," the queen corrected her. "In fact, you share a special bond with him."
"With Ulquiorra?" Orihime clasped her hands together. She had not seen the melancholic Ulquiorra for the whole day. He didn't even bother showing up to her training once.
"You are his light, Orihime-san," the queen said thoughtfully. "When his world was all black and dark, he sat there alone, drowning and suffering…And when you came…you pulled him out of the darkness and into the light."
Orihime's heart skipped a beat. "I…He…" She gripped her upper arm, turning her head away. "Ulquiorra…I want to remember…I want to remember him."
"Orihime-san, nothing will be impossible for you," the queen said, taking her hand in hers. "Nothing…"
Orihime's eyes met the queen's, and they stared at each other for a long, thoughtful moment. She had seen this scene before. Somewhere in the back of her mind was telling her to remember it. "Your Highness…" Closing her eyes, she knelt down on one knee and brought the queen's hand against her temple.
She was a little girl back then, and she was in trouble. The strong spiritual pressure she possessed within her had made her a target of Hollows. Had the Divine Queen and a man clad in a white cloak not appeared to help, Orihime might have been devoured by those fearsome creatures. The queen had carried a sword, yet she used spells to fight, while the man wielded a spiritual bow and arrows.
When the Hollows were vanquished, her shallow wounds were quickly healed by the Divine Queen's power.
"Something tells me that we did not run into this girl by accident," the queen said to her companion.
"Indeed, my queen," the man replied promptly. "I can sense great power in her."
"Um…Thank you," the little girl said, smiling. "Thank you for saving my life."
The Divine Queen lifted a gentle hand to her orange head, returning a warm smile. "You are very welcome," she replied.
"My name's Orihime. Nice to meet you."
"Well, it's nice to meet you too, Orihime-san." The queen knelt down, taking hold of the girl's hands. " I am Unohana Retsu and this is my good friend," she said, gesturing a hand toward her companion, "Ishida Ryuuken, a Quincy."
The young girl's eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. "You two are strong. You were able to beat those mean Hollows."
The queen looked thoughtful all of a sudden. "Orihime-san, about those Hollows—"
A man dressed in a worn-out kimono had come running toward them. He had a dark, unruly mane, and a tall, slim built.
"Oh, it's Onii-chan!" Orihime chirped, lunging toward her brother for a hug.
Letting out a sigh of relief, the man knelt down and hugged her tightly. "I'm so glad you're all right, Orihime."
Orihime giggled as she slightly pulled away to face him. "I'm perfectly fine. Unohana-san and Ishida-san saved me, you know. You should have seen them. They were amazing."
"I see…Then I have to thank them." He released the little girl and looked up at the two people responsible for saving her. He then fell silent for a short moment due to shock. Finally he bowed down, forehead almost hitting the ground, and said, "Your Highness! Ishida-sama!"
"Onii-chan, what are you doing?" Orihime asked curiously.
"For saving my little sister from the Hollows, you have my eternal gratitude. But I do sincerely apologize for troubling you," the brother said.
"My, there is no need for formalities," the queen said kindly. "It is our duty to help those in need. Now please raise your head and tell me your name."
The man took a deep breath and slowly raised his head to meet the queen's pristine blue eyes. "My name is Sora, Your Highness."
Orihime snapped back to reality and stared at the queen with a smile on her face. The queen watched her with those same kind eyes like before, gracing her with warmth and sincerity. Orihime remembered the Divine Queen clearly now. She remembered Ryuuken Ishida. More importantly, she remembered her big brother from this world. Her memories of this world were real and so were the memories from the other world. She was beginning to understand Ulquiorra's words.
"I knew you were special the moment I laid eyes on you," the queen said, recalling their first meeting.
Orihime stood up and looked up at the starry sky. "It was on a night such as this when you brought us to your castle," she said. "You had us trained, educated…and my brother and I did our very best every day. We were just nobodies without a home before, so we were so grateful that you came into our lives, Your Highness."
"I only did what was right and it was for you own sake as well," the queen explained.
"My brother and I were half-siblings. Am I right?"
The queen simply nodded. "Born from different mothers."
"Yet he loved me wholeheartedly."
"He loved you more than life itself, Orihime-san."
"I know…" Orihime said, thinking of her brother's face and smile. "Onii-chan's mother died when she gave birth to him, so otou-san raised him on his own. Otou-san met my mother when Onii-chan turned 13. They fell in love, then…"
"Their love gave birth to you," the queen continued.
"Mother, a Metherlance, was one of the Four Sacred Gods. Therefore, she was forbidden to see me after she gave birth. Those are the rules up there and we can't change that. Onii-chan explained it to me before."
"Yes, rules are absolute in the realm of the gods," the queen said.
Orihime let out a sigh. "Sadly, because of the powers I possessed, the spiritual powers I inherited from my mother, Hollows would come to try and eat me. On the day I turned three, my father died while protecting me and my brother from a vicious attack." She slightly winced at the memory. "It's not something I'd like to remember, but it's engraved in my memories."
10 petals of her hairpin shone brightly. One by one the petals dispersed and transformed into fairies. Shun'o, Ayame, Lily, Baigon and Hinagiku floated around her, giving her their smiles—a sign of their everlasting support for her. Orihime felt nostalgic with the memories flowing into her like a stream. Her childhood, her time spent in the castle together with the Divine Queen, Uryuu and Ryuuken—all of it were coming back to her.
She had first met Uryuu on the day she came to the castle. He was still a Quincy-in-training at that time and his father, Ryuuken Ishida, was his teacher. Ryuuken served under the Divine Queen as the 1st Knight of the Royal Guards. To be head of the Quincy clan and a 1st Knight seemed to be a difficult task, Orihime thought, but Ryuuken was a great and dependable leader, with high-end skills regarded by the best veterans in all of Soul Society. Ryuuken's Spartan-like training forged a warrior out of Uryuu. Orihime had witnessed Uryuu's growth herself and it was splendid.
Uryuu had always been shy around her at first, blushing every time she got close to him, but Orihime didn't mind it. The young archer gradually warmed up to her and they became closer than ever. As children they would always find time to play games, especially during breaks from training, and they'd study together. They were rarely seen apart in the castle grounds.
"You've done it, Uryuu-kun!" young Orihime cheered, raising a fist in excitement. "You've finally mastered that technique! I'm so happy for you!"
The bespectacled boy put away his spiritual bow and faced Orihime with a shy grin. "T-Thank you, Orihime-san," he muttered, scratching the back of his head.
Orihime hooked his arm with hers and leaned her head on his shoulder. "See what you can do if you try hard?" she said, giggling. "That was the fruit of your determination!"
Uryuu was blushing madly at the closeness. "Um…Yeah…" He swallowed hard. "It was all made possible because of your support, Orihime-san. I'm really grateful."
"I just cheered you on. You should give yourself a little more credit." She hopped away from him, twirled twice, before facing him again. "By the way, since you're done with yours, I can now show you the results of my training." She winked an eye at him.
"I'm looking forward to it, Orihime-san."
"Here I go!" Orihime shouted out, raising her arms into the air. "I now summon!"
Uryuu blinked in surprise as Orihime's body glowed in a warm, orange light. The wind picked up, breezing through them calmly, then around Orihime, as she positioned her hands in a triangular manner.
"Shun'o, Ayame!" Orihime uttered, and two streams of light flew out from behind her and swirled around Uryuu. "Now I call upon Hinagiku, Baigon, and Lily!" Three more streaks of light came out and took flight in mid-air.
"What kind of creatures is she summoning?" Uryuu asked silently as he maintained his focus on Orihime. Her spiritual power was overflowing, yet it wasn't wild like a storm. It was gentle, light, and soothing, just as it always was, just like her. "Orihime-san…"
"And lastly…" A small golden orb formed in between her hands. "Tsubaki!" The orb flew out instantly the moment she called out the name.
Orihime touched her beloved hairpins and raised her chin with dignity. "I understand it now…Tsubaki-kun is…" Two petals of her hairpin glowed and took off. "Tsubaki-kun is…"
The Divine Queen felt her power increasing. "Yes, he is none other than…"
"Orihime, your new friends are your own power. Each of them represents a part of who you are…" Her brother words echoed in her mind. "Hinagiku is earnest and quick, Baigon is calm yet strong, while Lily symbolizes your charms and assertiveness."
"I think Shun'o represents your compassion and sincerity, Orihime-san." This time it was Uryuu's voice. "Ayame-chan seems to be the embodiment of your innocent and gentle personality."
A violent gale surrounded Orihime and the Divine Queen, whipping the leaves and petals around. All of a sudden Ulquiorra swooped down toward her for an attack. However, Orihime seemed to have anticipated this and had Hinagiku, Baigon and Lily to block the strike. "Ulquiorra, I finally understand the Shun Shun Rikka. I know how to use Tsubaki-kun now," she said, smiling up at Ulquiorra, whose blade was still pressed against her shield.
"Then tell me what part of you does he represent?" Ulquiorra questioned, backing away and landing gracefully on the ground.
Dispersing the shield, Orihime spun around on her heel. "Tsubaki-kun is…" She slightly raised a hand, then swung her arm forward, unleashing a streak of orange light toward Ulquiorra.
Ulquiorra, biting back his bewilderment, blocked the arrow-like light meant to hit him, but the force was ridiculously strong. He was gradually being pushed back. Not a minute too soon Ulquiorra deflected the projectile to the right, jumping away at the same time. "So…You've finally found it, woman," he muttered, his cold green eyes meeting hers.
The projectile flew around Orihime and materialized on top of her open palm. The black-haired fairy-like creature crossed his arms and raised his chin with pride. "Yes, that's right," she said. "Tsubaki-kun is my flaming resolve…"
To be continued…
JC: Wah! I can't believe I finish chapter 10. It took me so long. I've been banging my head on the table because of this stupid writer's block. I tried to find inspirations to prompt me to continue this, but I couldn't until days later. My readers, I sincerely apologize for the delay again. I can't really do much if I'm not inspired. But I swear that I'm not gonna stop until I finish this story no matter what. Glad I finally wrote the execution part. I find it pleasing to write about Urahara for some reason. I just enjoy his personality. Oh, and Tsubaki's finally AWAKE! Hehe…Please do review. No flaming, okay?