A/N: A baker's dozen to thank for the reviews of the last chapter: Dark Inu Fan, NieveDrop, BiblioMatsuri, Grimelark, Asezuna, Rukia's Reflection, "Guest," KitElizaKing, Carrie96235, Nocturna Mae, Dashita Tichou, dragonlord1337, and AnimeFreakAmanda. And thank you to everyone who put this or its author on their lists. I probably should put a warning here. I mean Sesshoumaru's mother is meeting the "Substitute Group" for this first time. Hilarity is sure to ensue. Or you know, insanity, considering that his mother isn't exactly in her right mind.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha and Bleach characters, mangas, animes, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Rumiko Takahashi et al, and Tite Kubo et al, respectively.
Welcome to the Insane Asylum
The Taiyoukai of Japan's plane was decorated in tasteful beige that colored everything from the plush leather seating to the fifteen hundred count Egyptian cotton curtains blocking the majority of the sunlight from the interior. The cherry wood paneling that hid the TV and gaming console from view was engraved with the Taisho seal and every other surface that Ichigo and the others could see. If having the clan symbol stamped on everything from a drinking glass to the toilet wasn't arrogance at its most incredulous, the teens didn't know what was.
Rukia, a little stunned at the blatant show of ownership, was beginning to think that as far as a superiority complex went, Sesshoumaru Taisho had her brother beat by a kilometer. Settled into a seat next to her partner, she was almost afraid to touch the beverage she'd been offered for fear of breaking the crystal goblet rimmed with gold.
Keigo, unaware of his friends' disquiet, knocked back the soda like it was water and put his feet up, intent on flipping through as many satellite channels as possible on the flat screen TV that hung above the doorway to the cockpit. "This is the life," he boasted, fiddling with the volume until it was comfortable for his human ears. It had been so low that he'd barely been able to hear the news anchor that had appeared when he'd first turned it on.
"This is an outright show of wealth," Ishida said in disgust. "Although, you have to be impressed with the fabrics. I do not think I've ever seen such high quality before," he continued, studying the curtains.
"Trust Ishida to be won over by curtains," the brunet teen said, accepting another glass of soda from the attendant that had served him before.
"His Majesty insisted on only the best," the dog demoness informed them, defending her liege instinctively. "You should be thankful that my emperor only put his clan's emblem on everything. In the old days, demons used to mark their territory in a different manner…" she trailed off, letting them come to their own conclusions as she walked swiftly out of the room. The black inu really hated human children.
"If she means what she implied, I guess we do have to be thankful." Ichigo's trademark scowl twisted in revulsion. "Try not to anger anyone, Keigo. We are several thousand feet up in the air. I'd hate to have to rescue you in my Shinigami form because someone tossed you out an open door."
"Ichigo," Rukia began, "You're more likely to do that than anyone else," she pointed out.
"Che," the orange haired daiko scoffed. Picking up the glass of juice he'd accepted, Ichigo drank most of it before setting the crystal on the Carrara marble table in front of him. Rukia sighed and picked it up before it could leave a water stain, setting it on the coaster that he'd completely ignored. She quickly mopped up the condensation, admiring the golden flecks in the surface as she did so.
"Have some respect for the furnishings. This happens to be Bianco Venetino Carrara marble."
"How the hell do you know that?" he demanded, the others looking at her in surprise.
"I am a noble," she shot back haughtily.
He stared at her critically for several moments before grinning. "Yuzu made you sit through a designing program again, didn't she?"
"Yes," she admitted weakly. Their friends chuckled, relaxing for the first time since getting on the first class private jet. Tatsuki reached around Orihime to grab the remote from Keigo, startling the class clown into falling out of his seat. The healer fussed over him for a few seconds before an arrow made of reishi clipped him in the arm for making an inappropriate move on her.
Ichigo ignored the byplay, not batting an eye when Tatsuki decided to pound Keigo into the thick carpet for his lechery. Instead he glanced down at the glossy black hair of the petite Shinigami next to him and allowed his gazed to rake over her long enough to assure himself that she had just been acting when she'd been upset over the attack. "Rukia…"
"I really am fine, baka. Sode no Shirayuki suggested frying his demonic hide with kido but that would have confirmed any suspicions the tail might have had so I had to play the helpless princess while Tatsuki 'defended' me. The only thing he did was grab my arm." She showed him the slight bruise, frowning at the sight. "His grip was tighter than I thought. Nothing a healing spell won't fix," she said hurriedly, sensing the boiling caldron of anger next to her. His temper had been on simmer throughout the incident and she wasn't too surprised that he was ready to blow his top. Sometimes he forgot that she wasn't as helpless as she had been when they'd first met.
"Let me," he demanded softly and hesitantly began pushing his energy into her. The bruising healed quickly, much to her surprise. She hadn't taught him any healing kido and as far as she knew, no one else had either.
"I asked the old man for some pointers. You and Inoue aren't always going to be around to heal me or one of the others if we get into a jam so it's probably best that someone besides you two girls knows how to heal a cut or two. Besides, if this thing with the Taisho clan gets dangerous, Keigo and Mizuiro might get hurt too. I can at least slow the bleeding until one of you can get to them."
"I suppose I should commend you on your foresight." Rukia touched her arm where the bruise had been, flushing slightly when his spiritual energy hummed beneath her skin. Smiling slightly, she gingerly picked up her drink. "Thank you," she whispered, almost too quietly for him to hear.
"Hn," he replied, uncomfortable with her gratitude. He would rather she scoff or declare that she wouldn't thank him.
"Don't get cocky," she returned, a smirk appearing across pink lips. "I can still grind your kidneys into dust," she continued, lifting a brow meaningfully.
"It's not my kidneys I'm worried about, it's my spleen," he retorted.
"Idiot," she returned, aiming for his side with her elbow.
"Violent midget," he cursed, scooping her up into his lap and holding her arms tightly to her side.
Ishida and Chad exchanged looks of amusement and the archer decided to save the pair from themselves as he saw Mizuiro zero in on the unintentional intimate moment. Of course, Ichigo was likely to need a new organ or two after he said something but it was far better than death if the Kuchiki princess got embarrassed by what the playboy would utter. "It won't be much longer before we land. Perhaps you could save killing each other for when we are safely on the ground."
The two partners stilled in their physical argument and glanced at the Quincy as one. Red crept from their necks upward as they realized the position they were in and Ichigo calmly set Rukia back in her seat. "I was not trying to kill him," Rukia said in self-defense, trying to recover some of her dignity.
"Just maim me," Ichigo added, clearing his throat loudly while shooting Mizuiro a glare that promised early passage into the Soul Society if he said anything.
"Maiming's too good for you," Rukia shot back, crossing her arms and looking out the window at the tropical blue of the sea. Spotting a button underneath the small pane of glass, she pressed it, wondering if it would roll down the window so she could get some air. She was suddenly uncomfortably hot.
Instead of opening the window, several hidden panels opened to reveal blades of various sizes and shapes. The hilts were wrapped in silk and the sheaths made of dark wood. "Now isn't that interesting," Tatsuki murmured, tempted to pick up a blade and use it on one of the males in the room. Which one was still up for debate. Ichigo had gotten chummy with Rukia in front of Orihime, unintentionally hurting the gentle girl, while Ishida had had to point out the fact that they were getting a little too close for comfort. Chad hadn't said a thing, which could have been the worst offense while Keigo and Mizuiro had been contemplating any number of perverted things to say or gesture.
"This is more like it," Keigo said, reaching for the closest weapon, a katana about the same size as Sode no Shirayuki.
"I wouldn't," Chad said softly, figuring that it was probably protected by some sort of magic. They were obviously not to be toyed with and could likely do quite a bit of damage if the occasion called for it.
"Ah, Chad, buddy, don't worry, I'm sure nothing…" Keigo's words trailed off as a surge of lightning shot out of the sheath and electrocuted him. The brown haired adolescent collapsed into his seat, unconscious.
"Asano-kun!" Orihime gasped, calling for Ayame and Shun'o. Her earlier upset forgotten, she concentrated on making sure her classmate wasn't permanently hurt. It wouldn't due for him to spend his entire vacation in the hospital.
"Rukia, maybe you should push the button again so that the panels close. We don't need anyone else getting hurt." As tempting as it was to pick up the taiyoukai's swords, Ichigo wasn't about to get electrocuted or worse because curiosity got the better of him. Nor was he about to let any of his friends do the same.
"Aa," the petite woman agreed. Hitting the button again, Rukia sighed in relief when the weaponry was hidden once more. She was thankful that Renji and his friends from the Eleventh weren't there. A vision of several blown holes in the side of the plane came to mind when she thought about how they would have reacted to the secret stash.
"Good thing Ikkaku and them aren't here." Ichigo grinned at her wryly and she only nodded. It was strange how they often thought alike.
"Excuse me," the flight attendant interjected, frowning. She should have asked her leader to secure that device in the beginning so that the swords wouldn't be discovered. "You have a call on the video feed."
"Call?" Ichigo asked in confusion. "As far as I know the only ones who know where we are, are the Taishos." He hadn't even told his dad the full story although he was pretty sure that Urahara would blab once applied to for information.
"It's her ladyship."
Ishida glanced at his friend and mouthed a question. The honorific could have meant several people as far as they knew so the reference wasn't any help at all. "I beg your pardon but who are you refering to?"
The demoness gave him a look filled with superiority and smirked. "I see you haven't had the pleasure of meeting the future emperess. I refer to the demoness who is going to marry His Majesty one day soon. She rarely appears in public but has a great deal of influence in the court."
"That's probably because she wields a great deal of influence with the taiyoukai," Ichigo muttered and received a glare from the attendant.
"That will be enough, Sasha. Please go back into the cockpit and make sure my brother doesn't crash land the plane." A young woman with silver hair appeared on the television screen, white ears much like Inuyasha's twitching on her head. Her violet eyes were pale in color but they were distinctly otherworldly and filled with a confidence that told everyone that she had power and knew how to use it.
"Yes, my lady." The black dog demoness bowed to the screen and returned to the questionable pilot.
"Now then, I hope you haven't had any more trouble than what you've already encountered in the airport. I sincerely apologize. I've been against this idea from the beginning and wish that you were visiting our new resort for entirely different reasons." She looked completely serious and even bowed slightly to show her regret.
"Thank you, but I doubt we would ever be able to afford a vacation at this resort," Ichigo replied.
"Speak for youself," Ishida murmured, bringing a smile to the woman's face. "The demoness did not tell us your name, madam. Perhaps you would be so kind as to introduce yourself?"
"Forgive me. I am known as Lady Chise and as you've heard, there is a rumor going about that I am to become Sesshoumaru's bride." The tone of her voice let them know that the subject had not been decided upon entirely and Sesshoumaru's low growl in the background said otherwise.
"Chise-sama, what can we do for you?" Rukia asked politely.
"Oh, no, dear, I don't need anything. I just wanted to make sure that everything was all right."
"Yes, aside from Asano-kun getting electrocuted by a sword, we're all just fine," the other noblewoman answered.
"Electrocuted? Sesshoumaru, I told you that you shouldn't have sent that plane!" Chise yelled over her shoulder. The tall demon came into view and they saw his small shrug.
"What did you want me to do, send the one with laser assault rifles?" he asked, expression deadpanned as usual.
"How about a normal plane that doesn't shout obscene wealth and military power?" the woman argued and it was no longer a surprise to the teens why she hadn't agreed to marry him.
"Ano, excuse us, my lord and lady, but I believe the plane is about to land," Orihime began hesitantly.
"Ah, thank heavens. Just one more thing before we leave. Do be careful of Sesshoumaru's mother."
"Why, I thought she was supposed to help us," Ichigo said.
"Well, yes, she is, it's just… She's not entirely sane…" Chise trailed off right before the connection was cut.
"What?" Tatsuki yelped and began to glare at her childhood friend. "Just what did she mean by that? And just what have you gotten me into Ichigo?" she demanded, forced to sit still because of the plane's descent.
"Oh, you know, the usual."
"He means the same thing that he's always dragged us into," Ishida said on a sigh. "Meeting crazy people, getting into dangerous fights, and basically saving the world. The usual."
"I ought to kill you," she growled.
"Not much point," Ishida continued, knowing that her anger wasn't directed at him. "It seems that no matter how many times he gets run through, he keeps coming back."
"Ishida-kun," Orihime scolded, aghast.
"There's no point in hiding anything from her, Inoue-san. She's already met Urahara and Yoruichi-san, not to mention that she survived a direct confrontation with Aizen. She's been a part of this little adventure from the start so we might as well drag her into the whole thing."
Tatsuki, still contemplating sending Ichigo to the Soul Society, stared at the Quincy in shock. "Gee, thanks. Just what I always wanted."
"Come on, guys, relax. How bad could this lady possibly be?"
Ishida looked at the daiko and sighed in resignation. "You had to jinx us, didn't you?" When Ichigo only shrugged, the archer thought strongly about asking his father to prescribe something for his nerves. If Ryuuken's relationship with Isshin Kurosaki was anything like his with Ichigo, it really was no wonder that the doctor was a complete jerk. It was either ignore the problems of the spiritual world (never mind his claim that it wasn't profitable) or get dragged into the insanity.
Too bad Ishida hadn't realized that until it was too late.
The "Substitute Group" debarked quickly, thankful to be on dry land again as Lady Chise's brother hadn't been particular about how he treated the plane as it touched down. The fight attendant had given them a cheerful wave goodbye, most likely glad that they were leaving. She had made no effort to hide the fact that she thought their business with her emperor was unnecessary and that they did not deserve to be in the presence of the Taisho clan, let alone working with or for them.
Naturally Ichigo had ignored her opinions the entire time he'd had to put up with her and hadn't even bothered to bid her goodbye before helping Rukia off the plane. The others had politely said farewell, earning only a nod in return. Once they'd gotten safely out of the private yet, they'd been met with more youkai servants who had unloaded their luggage without a word. Only one had deigned to say anything at all and that was just for them to follow.
The trek to the resort took them through a small jungle, deep pools of turquois water dotting the area with colorful fish and other creatures that were most likely demonic. The path wound around part of the island until they came out near a beach of what looked like white sand. A patio and veranda separated the main building from the beach, chairs and tables set out so that visitors could enjoy the sights without getting too close.
"It's beautiful," Orihime breathed, tugging on Tatsuki's hand. "Aren't you glad you came, Tatsuki-chan?"
"It is nice," the martial artist allowed, not ready to be taken in by the scenery.
"I can't believe it's this warm in March," Rukia said, tilting her face up to the sun. Back in Karakura, they would have still been dressing in sweaters and coats.
"We're in the subtropics now. It gets considerably warmer here throughout the year than at home," Ishida informed them, reading from the informational packet he'd picked up sometime during his restless night.
"Do you think it'll be warm enough for us to swim?" Mizuiro asked, his eyes falling on a tall woman with red curly hair. She apparently sensed his interest because she turned his head and stared at him with intense green eyes. Tilting her head slightly, she studied the group for several moments before turning her nose up and heading towards a brown haired man who called for her. A trio of children circled around her and the group groaned as one at the playboy.
"Have a little restraint, Mizuiro," Ichigo chided. "I know that you like older women but can you at least keep from trying to pick up women who are married? She even had children."
"Sorry, but I didn't realize she was married, or a mother. And did you notice anything different about her?" the raven haired teen asked, puzzled.
"Yeah, she didn't fall for your innocent boy charm," Keigo returned, almost cheerfully.
"No, it wasn't that…" Mizuiro trailed off.
"I will explain it to you later," Ishida assured the other adolescent. As far as they knew, they were back in enemy territory. It wouldn't do to tell his classmate that he had just taken an unhealthy interest in a demon.
"What do you know about women?" Mizuiro asked, wondering what the archer had picked up on that he'd missed.
"Apparently far more than you do," the Quincy returned.
"But you don't even date," his classmate continued to argue.
"One does not have to date to know something about the opposite gender," Ishida pointed out, holding the door open for Orihime and Tatsuki. He allowed Ichigo to grab a hold of it before entering, giving Rukia the opportunity to berate the orange haired Shinigami for not letting her go ahead of him.
"Ishida-kun's always a gentleman," Orihime put in, smiling softly at the archer.
"Thank you, Inoue-san," he replied, blushing slightly.
"I see," Mizuiro said, giving a smile of his own. He saw far more than the head of the class wanted him to.
Chad had been leading the group and without checking to see how close they were, stopped abruptly in the middle of the foyer. Keigo bumped into his back, bouncing off the rock hard muscles and into Tatsuki, creating a domino effect. Only Ichigo, who'd brought up the rear, managed to prevent himself from stumbling and that was only because he was used to getting pushed by powerful forces.
"Chad, why did you stop?" Keigo asked, coming to his feet. Tatsuki had shoved him away as soon as he'd made contact with her and he'd ended up on the marble floor.
"Look," the tall young man said and the others looked around. Several employees dashed back and forth with either luggage or papers, making it seem as if organization was not a priority. A maid was even carrying linens in the middle of the lobby, seemingly unconcerned that the sight was completely unprofessional.
A pair of teens were behind the counter answering phones, other clerks hurriedly taking reservations or complaints, it was unclear which the case was. Since no one that was present had noticed them or was ignoring them, the group took the chance to take in the opulence of their surroundings. The hotel was done in the same tasteful yet blatant show of superiority and wealth as Sesshoumaru's plane had been, the only difference being that a light blue had replaced the beige. There was nothing gaudy about the décor but it was definitely not for someone that wanted their vacation spot to feel like home.
Behind the front desk hung a tapestry that started only centimeters from the ceiling and didn't stop until it reached the heads of the clerks. It was almost as wide as it was tall and the rich colors appeared only slightly muted next to the newness of the hotel. The subject of the wall hanging was a giant dog, it's jaws opened wide on a growl and its claws descending on armies of soldiers attacking villagers. The dog had two tails, and it was obvious that it was meant to be a demon.
"It's huge," Rukia gasped softly, tilting her head back as far as she could. The ceiling must have been at least fifteen meters above them, giving a sense of openness and elegance to the place.
"The hanging, or the dog?"
"This whole place. It's like a castle that rents out rooms."
"Amusing," a voice from behind them said. "My grandson said the same thing when he saw the plans."
As one the teens turned to face the speaker, the urge to call forth any weapon at their disposal almost overwhelming. "Who are you?" Ichigo demanded.
"Can you not tell?" the woman asked and twirled to show off her expensive kimono. The layers were far more than they were used to seeing and it made them hot just to look at her. How she could wear that many and not sweat was beyond them.
"I take it you're the proprietress of this establishment," Ishida commented, pushing his glasses up with one finger.
"Indeed. Let me introduce myself. I am Hisana Taisho." She gave them a flourishing curtsey, her golden eyes glinting with amusement. "Welcome to my humble hotel. I do hope you'll enjoy your stay."
"Uh…huh," Ichigo muttered, unconvinced. He was going to enjoy his time here about as much as a trip to the dentist.
"You sound unconvinced. Allow me to show you around personally. You are after all the ones that won the grand prize from that magazine. I was so excited when they told me so many had entered." Looking behind them, she called for two of the people behind the counter. "Shu, Fumiko, come here. Our special guests have finally arrived."
"Coming, Grandmother!" A clatter ensued as the two children climbed over the desk instead of going around. They scattered papers onto the floor without looking concerned, causing the real clerks to yell in protest.
"They're dear children, really they are," Hisana murmured, and it sounded like a mantra she'd been using to try to convince herself. "Make your bows," she ordered when they got to the group of teens. "You will be their official guides. Start by carrying their bags to the suite. I've set aside one of the presidential suites for you to use. There are plenty of beds for you to choose from so I hope you'll feel at home."
"Grandmother, why don't aren't the servants doing this?" the boy complained, a bang falling over one eye.
"They are busy. It seems someone took down a grove of palm trees when they tried practicing their katas. A great deal of them are replanting or replacing them. Others are cleaning up the main laundry room as another someone put in too much detergent and made a number of the washing machines explode."
Ichigo kept his laughter to himself, seeing that both of the younger demons were embarrassed. Rukia coughed into her fist beside him and the others looked hard pressed not to show their amusement. The accidents earlier in the day explained why a hotel looked like the Gotei Thirteen during one of his impromptu visits.
"I do hope no one was hurt," Rukia replied, her training as a noble coming in handy.
"Sadly, several trees are beyond hope, along with their coconuts. We'll be using the ones that didn't get entirely decimated for dessert. Thankfully, the two miscreants were not harmed in the incidents although what will happen to them when they return home is anyone's guess. I have been told to use them as I see fit so I can only assume something of a similar nature has happened there." A stern eye was leveled on the siblings.
"It was an accident," Shu complained as he opened the door to the suite. "Nii-san was just showing me one of his tricks."
"Tricks?" Rukia inquired.
"Yes, he's a master illusionist," Fumiko grinned, her fangs glistening in the light that came through the window.
"I thought you belonged to Sesshoumaru," Ichigo said, a nasty suspicion entering his mind.
"Nope. Uncle's only child died a long, long time ago. He adopted her and as she was human, was only with him for a little while. My old man is Inuyasha." Shu dropped his concealment charm although it wasn't necessary. The teens had known he was a demon from the beginning.
"Great, another Shippou," the daiko growled.
"Make that two," Hisana sighed, sitting in one of the lush chairs near the unlit fireplace. "Are you regretting your decision to come? Despite their names, there is nothing disciplined or scholarly about them."
"We hadn't noticed," Tatsuki said dryly, watching in disbelief as the male half of the duo sat down and turned on the television, flipping through the channels as if he had every right to invade their space.
"Shu!" his sister hissed, dragging her brother up by the arm. "We've got serious matters to discuss."
"Indeed," Hisana intoned, sounding a lot like her son. "Now listen well. From here on out assume that there is no safe place to discuss the true nature of your visit but here in your suite. Most of the demons that are currently on the island either have very excellent hearing, vision, or both. This suite was designed for such uses and has been fortified so that no sound can be heard outside of these walls. If you pull the curtains and activate the special screen, no one will be able to see in either."
"It comes in really handy for other things too," Shu added, a meaningful glint in his eye embarrassing all but two of the group.
"Forgive him," Fumiko said. "He grew up around several perverts and hasn't had it beaten out of him yet." She was too used to her brother's antics to get upset over his comments.
Hisana opened her mouth to scold her grandson but noticed that Ichigo and the others had reached their limit. "Enough. Make yourselves comfortable and order anything you desire from room service. I will come back, alone, after dinner to continue." Rising regally from her chair, she pulled on one child while pushing the other.
Once they were out the door, the lady looked back at the selection of adolescents her son had sent to her. "There is no need to be alarmed, pups," she said quietly. "We're only half as crazy as we seem." With that she left, closing the door tightly behind her.
Ishida was the first to recover, taking his glasses off to wipe them thoroughly. Orihime sank onto the nearest chair, blinking to refocus. Tatsuki didn't even bother with furniture and simply sat on the floor, her bag behind her back for support. Chad quietly took his luggage to one of the bedrooms, shutting the door so that he could be alone. Mizuiro and Keigo were too busy looking over the large menu to think too much about what they'd just witnessed and the Shinigami partners were hoping Hollows would show up so that they could hit something.
"Ichigo," Ishida tried calmly. It was taking everything he had to stay composed.
"Hmm?" the daiko muttered, wondering if he could move fast enough to escape the Quincy's wrath.
"You have landed us in the demonic version of Bedlam."
"Really? I was thinking it was more like the Eleventh."
"Same difference," Ishida growled.
For once Ichigo didn't argue.
A/N: Hisana is the name I used for Sesshoumaru's mother in the "HK" series and I used it here again because I couldn't think of anything more fitting. The two children of Inuyasha's that appeared here (Shu which means discipline, and Fumiko which means literary or scholarly child) are OC's that I made for the benefit of hilarity. Chise (little star or torrent of wisdom) is another OC because I decided not to let Sesshoumaru wallow in his bachelorhood.