(12/30/12) This is it you guys. I call it the spiritual successor to chapter eight in that it ends an arc. I'm still editing the 'Quick Notes' and 'Quotes' sections of the Author Note, among other things in the Author Note as well.
(12/31/12) It's the 1 year annivesary of chapter eight's publishing and the the Expository Arc's ending. I've updated the Omake/Side-Story S.O.S.! Distress Call section, along with General, 'Quick Notes', and 'Quotes' sections. 'Character Profile' section is on the way. You'll know it's here when I've edited these past two sentences to reflect it's arrival.
I Don't own Bleach. Tite Kubo does. Also, unbeta'd. That is all.
Inverted Stripes 2
11:37.52 A.M. Alma Secta takes a reprieve back in their makeshift headquarters. A new calm before the storm.
During the two and a quarter hour wait time, Alma Secta had returned to their own base of Ashido's cave, humbly preparing for a new chapter in their quest. The adjuchas Lía had been taken by her sentient Gillian to her late brother's gaol, Segunda Cárcel. Currently unmasked Ashido was employing more healing kidō to a battered and bruised Chad's skin and right arm especially, along with using his other hand to touch up and restore reiatsu to a sleepling Orihime. She seemed to have healed herself but strangely missed some specific areas completely for some odd reason.
Abdul was further away, leaning on one of the walls that lined the exit path, and was looking out into the Menos Forest.
"Not just her reiatsu, but she was much more damaged than she let on. She should've gotten immediate attention. You can tell for example that there used to be an actual structurally sound collar bone right here. Tch. And my so called 'healing kidō' is so below par right now, that it's embarrassing,"
"Sheesh Doctor Shinigmai. If that's your diagnosis for the girl, then I'm scared to know what it'll be for Sado who only has almost his entire top layer of skin burnt off on his torso. Oh and those darn pesky pieces of his actual arm just hanging off for fun," sarcastically replied Abdul without turning around to look at them.
"Don't worry about Inoue. Have you forgotten how she heals with her Rikka? Once you heal her, she'll be able to finish physically healing herself and then she'll just have to rest like she is now and her reiatsu'll restore itself.
"So I see," answered Ashido, "But what about you?"
"Out of all three fights I monitored with Reiraku(Spirit Threads), yours worried me the most. When I first met you, your spiritual pressure quality seemed ambiguous, as if it was 'wasn't concrete' and going through some changes. But in that fight it's like your reiatsu composition not only abruptly continued changing even more, but began transforming entirely. Before, it had a blunt powerful presence as if it was 'explosive yet refined', but during your fight it changed to feeling like a 'booming perpetual engine'. And the thing is, even now it still feels that way, just that the 'engine' has slowed down as you aren't fighting," explained Ashido trying to put his observations into words as he had Chad's full attention.
"But it's weird because reiatsu doesn't just change composition like this normally. It's almost as if your power is trying to burst out its constraints and develop into something else-"
"Shinigami, just come out with it and say that you're trying to say his reiatsu is going through puberty with an abnormal pituitary gland or something," drawled Abdul to the surprised silence of the other males.
"Well now, that's one way of putting it adjuchas. But it's not just his reiatsu, but his reiryoku itself."
"Whatever," curtly began Abdul, "What we all really want to know about is the skid marks. I saw those things," said Abdul as if actually accusing Chad of trying to hide them, "Those things were steaming for like twenty minutes, and that was after I got up there late! What the heck is that all about? You really vaporized the kangaroo woman?" he asked, back still to them yet in a voice as if impressed causing Chad to sigh and pause before speaking.
"It was something I couldn't control. In that last moment it was either me or her," said Chad remembering once more Captain Kyōraku's quote to him about such situations of when souls are close to death, "And my punch was finally faster(than hers), but at a price," concluded Chad in his head looking down at his arm. Ever since then he'd had no feeling in it whatsoever. He had no idea how he'd even moved it back when making to attack Aloban and actually doing so to Ferenan earlier before they left.
"He talks about the 'last moment', but there were many times before when his reiatsu spiked and was reflected in his spirit thread, but that final punch really was something else. His spirit thread all at once elongated and ballooned as if it was going to explode for just a second before returning to normal!" reflected Ashido remembering how Klarradi's bizarre double-banded spirit thread had then faded to nothingness accordingly as if the sewing of her 'thread' had come undone.
"Yeah, my punch was finally faster, and speaking of 'faster'," thought Chad as he mentally segued into his next words, "Was it you that taught Inoue shunpo?"
Ashido sighed and looked over at Orihime who he was still touching up with kidō.
"Earlier after escaping the gaol and coming here, while you were resting and the adjuchas went out scouring the base's perimeter I only told her the basic mechanics. I didn't really 'teach' at all really," revealed Ashido remembering the 'textbook' she'd shown him from her drawstring bag.
"Besides the one she uses for offense that'd gone out after our adjuchas here," he said gesturing to Abdul, "She had the remaining five of her 'Rikka' out and she and they all looked earnest together as I did a 'live demonstration'; a grand show of shunpo'ing forward and backwards again a good one and a half meters each, probably less than that. It's not like she asked for more than that anyways," admitted Ashido candidly to a sweatdropping Chad. The cave wasn't that spacious after all, even though they could've easily gone out to the rock outcropping outside.
"But I could tell they weren't just watching me or listening to my directions, but actually sensing the way I exerted and manipulated my reiatsu to do the pretty much 'abridged' flash step. She thanked me for my demonstrating and brief explaining of it and then expressed more interest in my use of kidō, actually revealing that her 'sensei' had actually taught her 'Jū Kyūseishu'," revealed Ashido himself.
"'Jū Kyūseishu'?" asked Chad, "And more importantly, 'sensei'?" he thought, puzzled at the end.
"Jū Kyūseishu, or 'The Ten Saviors' is sort of what the Shin'ō Academy affectionately calls the first five of the standardized Hadō and Bakudō spells. They're seen as fundamentals and can be used from everyday use to basic survival along with progressing into more difficult kidō," explained Ashido, "But she let me know she'd only successfully used three of the ten spells with 'complete' success up to then. She implied apparently she'd undergone something of a crash course," he continued.
"So you understand my surprise when I actually saw the Rikka she used for offense, actually perform not only shunpo, but incantationless bakudō kidō on the bladed hollow from that trio earlier that left in the garganta. Granted, it was one of the three spells she said she'd already used herself before and didn't perform it's full function properly, yet that's beside the point because it was the Rikka performing it!" exclaimed Ashido dubiously.
"Now for the shunpo, again, I could easily tell it had imitated me from the same demonstration I put on for Inoue-san and the rest of her Rikka earlier. But the thing is, he wasn't even present for that; he was still out 'making rounds' with our adjuchas here," he said gesturing to Abdul in the exit path once more before sighing and putting on a knotted extrospective look.
"All I have to say is that whatever happened up in her battle on the desert, she changed as much as you apparently did during yours—comparatively anyways," he said adding the last part at the end as if clarifying himself as he moved his healing hand to a different area of Orihime's body.
"Still, to extrapolate from that truncated little flash step I did and go a further distance like it did was impressive. It still needs to see proper form of a complete flash step, but it was good nonetheless," thought Ashido as a thought pricked his mind once more, "And speaking of her speed, you seem to have picked up some speed of your own. Tell me man, how does one casually go about 'picking up speed' in a fight? Do you just decide, 'OK, I'm going to be faster starting now'," joked Ashido.
"That's my question!" injected Abdul at the end as if saying 'forget the attention-hogging girl, we want to know about you', as he propped himself off the wall he'd been leaning on and turned around to finally face them, "I noticed you using it at first on the way back! Really though your speed, it's similar to sonído, but definitely isn't. What's the deal? Some kinda speed tech unique to humans or somethin'?"
"No, Ishida definitely has that covered," thought a slightly amused Chad. The adjuchas was finally being more overt in his curiosity of things after all this time compared to how it was at first. So Chad paused a while, not looking up from his right arm and wearing an introspective expression as he answered, "I..I don't know. I don't understand it myself," he admitted, "It's like once that initial 'unrest and rustling' of my power got into that 'perpetual engine' stage as he called it, I could keep up with her speed much better. But the weird thing is, that initial 'unrest and rustling' didn't even start until I got negacióned here to Hueco Mundo," answered Chad to Ashido's realization.
"So that's what the recent 'changes' were that I first sensed when we met!" mentally remarked the shinigami as his prior observation was answered.
"Heh, don't worry about it," began Abdul anew after a slight silence, "Don't worry about it for now man. This place has a knack of making people high-strung. I mean just look at the shinigami over there," he said gesturing to Ashido, "He went from "high-class shinigami" to mask-toting 'hangin' with the hollows' savage-status," mocked Abdul.
"Oh? I didn't realize you felt such shame in your species adjuchas. Are you really the same person who complained earlier about apparent 'shinigami favoritism'?"
"Are you really this sucky at sensing sarcasm?" retorted Abdul before looking at Chad, "Anyway, you get the point I was trying to make right Sado? Don't let this place get to you," he spoke, now walking in from the exit path.
"This person here," he said arriving at Orihime's prone form, "She already vowed she wouldn't let it get to her," he explained as they all looked down at the human girl before he continued.
"The shinigami and I get it," he stated simply, "You're trying to figure out what you are. Both of you sort of implied there were actually more of you back after you first broke me out of my cell and again up on the desert, but there can't be that much humans that're spiritually aware and have unique powers. So with nobody to relate to, you're going through an identity crisis or something. But one can say the girl has it the same way since she's also human with powers unique to her. And speaking of identity crises, she even has six extra identities to deal with to boot. Oh, but then you argue back saying her 'identities' and powers and techniques, they all have names. She seems to be bolted down on a straight path forward, while you're just floating in the middle of nowhere. That's how you 'feel' right?" asked Abdul with the full attention of his sitting down audience of two as Chad simply looked up at him.
"Well then stop 'feeling', because you're a complete idiot and I have no sympathy for you if you feel that way. Don't envy the girl's apparent 'straight path'; the way it seems like she's 'on rails*'. It only seems that way. Even what seems like the straightest and flattest distance eventually curves over the horizon. No path is 'straight', certainly not hers. Even I can tell that from the short time knowing her. Look at her again," demanded Abdul, "Those are more than just disgustingly large sleep marks under her eyes. With her unique abilities, relatively from almost nothing, you can see how she struggled with no predetermined path for her to follow compared to if she were a shinigami or a hollow like me. You can see how she's had to find a way to create a path of her own to follow," vented Abdul.
"But as you are now, one could further argue that even with all her uniqueness, that you're still probably more lost and confused about yourself right now than she ever was or even could have possibly been—And yet!" stated Abdul cutting to a interjection, "And yet despite that, she still sees you as a standard, someone not to fall behind and keep herself equal to like a rival or something. I can't be the only one who kept seeing how she'd lose focus and stare off at that giant skid-mark you made. And there's been many more times before that, which proves what I'm saying," said Abdul basically proselytizing his observations at this point.
"So we have a lost person, that's actually on even ground or even higher than someone practically finding out more about themselves every second? Truthfully, if and only if things keep going at this rate, I have to predict that your glass ceiling is gonna end up being much higher than hers. But you better not let that go to your head, not just because it's a conditional prediction but 'cause even if it ends up being right, glass ceilings are glass! They can be shattered!" emphasized Abdul as Chad took in all he was saying surprisingly in stride, occasionally nodding his head in agreement.
"Tch. Man today I've lectured way too much—you get what I'm saying right?!" yelled Abdul after remembering in annoyance his fight with Celvia and Zoréno, "I don't know what's up with your power, but if you want that prediction to hold true, you gotta start finding out ASAP-"
"So that he can start on his own path right," interrupted Ashido, "Note to self: 'Schedule adjuchas for more motivational speaking'."
"Tch. If it's a 'note to self', then keep it to yourself and keep yer mouth shut," reprimanded Abdul, though the shinigami didn't really take the his witty wisdom to heart.
"Sado, there's one more thing the adjuchas mentioned about Inoue-san that I don't get. When he spoke of her having 'six extra identities' in reference to her Rikka, it reminded me of an initial question of mine back when we first came to my cave. 'If they really are her manifested power, and she herself being a female," began Ashido.
"Where's he going with this," thought a sweatdropping Chad.
"Why then are only two of them female and the rest male—and one of said males having an entire aspect of battle to himself at that?" added Ashido at the end.
The minds of the audience were collectively blown. Both of them had obviously realized as much, but never really questioned in that way. What exactly did the six eccentric Rikka egos directly say about the character and personality of the Rikka wielder herself?
"Tch. It seems like you're suggesting shinigami can't have opposite gender zanpakutō. I didn't think 'power manifestation' had gender bias," quipped Abdul getting over the momentary revelation. Whether Ashido was surprised the adjuchas seemed knowledgeable on zanpakutō wasn't apparent as he responded.
"That's not what I was suggesting, and Inoue-san isn't a shinigami. With how literally her Rikka manifest, one would think her gender would at least have some type of influence. But-"
"ACHOO!" sneezed Orihime before continuing in a flurry of consecutive sneezes that woke her up; Ashido expertly and knowingly dodging her head as she jerked further up with each sneeze causing Chad's respect for him to rise. At the last sneeze she fell back in her sleeping position with her back to the ground.
"Well it's about time! I was actually betting against myself wondering how long it would take for you to sneeze," exclaimed Abdul.
A weary Orihime was still wiping her eyes as she then sat up, her vision becoming clear at his statement.
"Eh? Y-you guys were talking about me?" she asked as if still half asleep as all her Rikka were summoned.
"Oh not much really," admitted Ashido, "Just how you lied to me about not being tired earlier the last time we were here, claiming you'd 'already slept'," teased Ashido with a comically completely serious face. Predicatively, Orihime took it to heart with a blush.
"B-but it's true, I had slept! But I told you I was too anxious to even think about sleeping any more back then. But after the fights were over I guess my body made up for lost time," she said now sitting up completely as Ashido removed his healing hand.
Her body 'made up for lost time'? Her body must have a extremely literal way of doing things then since this was the girl who'd immediately began snoring within stepping one thousand meters of Ashido's cave mid quartz-tree jump on the way back. Ashido had to frantically catch and carry her the rest of the way there, thinking her to be narcoleptic.
"We still have a little while before they summon us back to the gaol Inoue," began Chad as Shun'ō and Ayame wordlessly began Sōten Kisshun on his arm causing Ashido to quickly retreat his other healing hand from there as well.
At hearing the update, Orihime stretched and yawned heavily without covering her mouth, causing Abdul to look on in contempt.
"Heh. This is why I'm glad I don't have such a weak body function. 'Sleeping'? You might as well play dead," he mocked.
"So you're a natural insomniac now? Tell me more about how you didn't say 'Can't a guy get some sleep around here?' back in your cell when you made all the prisoners be quiet with your reiatsu," retorted a grinning Shun'ō speaking up from his corner of the healing shield. The Kesshun trio and Tsubaki then got into their 'bipedal' forms. Abdul grunted at this and crossed his holed arms.
"I clearly meant 'eye-resting' sleep back then, not 'play-dead cadaver slee-'"
"Sleep is sleep!" interrupted Tsubaki.
"Who told you to talk?!" shouted Abdul making to charge a cero to which nobody even flinched.
"Hmm. It's getting noisy so I'll take over since the adjuchas does such a poor job at explaining himself," began Ashido, covertly picking up and placing his damaged gazelle mask within Sōten Kisshun after seeing what it was doing for Chad's arm as the shield willfully accepted it.
"I explained myself just fin-!"
"The truth is," continued a bold faced Ashido as if Abdul hadn't even been protesting, "That the adjuchas is shockingly correct," he finished causing more protests with his word usage.
"Of course this is just as far as I know, but it seems most hollows don't 'sleep' in the conventional sense. Unlike humans, pluses, or shinigami, most hollows seem to lack REM sleep," revealed Ashido as if shrugging off-handedly.
"They..don't have REM sleep? So they're like fish?" asked Lily floating next to Chad with a puzzled dubious voice as if cocking her head to the side like a confused dog.
But that particular comment jump-started Orihime's infamous thought process.
"Wait, wait! So if hollows sleep like fish, then what do the fish that become hollows sleep like? They must not sleep at all!" concluded Orihime with a face of complete sudden and for some reason grave clarity before then imagining a dramatized still shot of an anthropomorphic muscular fish violently elbowing the mythical Sandman in the face.
This was what Chad had come to dub as 'Inoue Logic'. The times where Orihime's vivid imagination conjures up an appropriately sweat-drop inducing question, idea, or scenario that actually makes the listener say something along the lines of, "Hey, wait a second, that actually makes sense!" thought Chad actually reflecting on her words.
It's been a while Inoue Logic. It's been a while.
"Enough about my 'frequent sleep patterns', you're starting to creep me out! It's like you people have one track minds or have you forgotten already we're supposed to be at the headquarters in less than twenty minutes and we still know squat!"
This snapped Orihime out of her ongoing mental simulation of Round Sixteen of the Galactic Championship fight of "Fishman vs The Sandman".
"Ah! Tarragó-san's right! Is this really okay? We still haven't gotten concrete answers to anything. I actually have more questions now!" she said, exasperated as her healing shield moved to contain now Chad's entire body after specifically finishing his arm, "Apparently the name of the headquarters place is 'La Pirámide'? The adjuchas I fought mentioned it and that one called Aloban did too. You guys said on the way back here that you heard them say it in your fights too right?" she continued with the same voice.
"Yeah, what is this, some little sewing circle/book club? Why don't we just go down there and make them tell us everything directly!" said Tsubaki reprising his self-made role as 'the voice of reason'**.
"Hey, annoying fairy creature. The normally-sized individuals are trying to speak so take your friends and all go collectively buzz off," said Abdul in an even tone causing a certain some of the other Rikka to protest at being likened to Tsubaki; which of course angered the offensive-purposed Rikka in return.
Ashido seemed amused by their antics, "Inoue-san, you may need to do some stretches and take a walk outside to the edge of the cliff and back so you can wake up fully," he suggested sincerely and not in a jeering fashion, "Did you forget they said to 'expect a debriefing before we embark'?" he revealed as the memory came back to Orihime, "And speaking of 'answers' adjuchas you seem to be holding out. What did you talk to that hollow squad about? I seem to remember you said you had a 'nice conversation' with them. And then you bring them out back there claiming they would replace our need to have the bird adjuchas for answers only for them to just up and leave."
The standing up Abdul seemed non-fazed at this, "Heh. I pretty much already said what they told me when I said they convinced me not to eat every last hollow in that base like I was gonna do at first because like I said, doing that would be fruitless. It's again why I didn't eat those two Gillian when the barged in on our conversation with their idiotic nagging of 'Where's Celvia-sama!?'," said Abdul grimacing at the memory as his audience looked up at him.
"Ya' see, eating Gillian and hollows'll do nothing for my strength. Maybe increase it by thousands of thousandths, but hardly. For my strength to increase at all noticeable anyways, I an adjuchas myself, need to eat other adjuchas. And they're not plentiful to come by. It's why I was starving before I got captured. It's like I said in the cell, but with more detail, the three plights of a Menos, the ever-threat of starvation along with stagnation and regression," continued Abdul.
"But those little hollows told me some interesting info. That rather than settle on Celvia and Zoréno and my anger at the base, I should set my sights on this headquarters place, seeing as it apparently has the self-proclaimed largest collection of adjuchas within all of Hueco Mundo," he revealed. Whether his audience was surprised he didn't give them time to show it as he went on.
"You see, the potential gap in power levels between adjuchas are huge. One adjuchas can easily outclass another," he continued as Ashido injected himself into the conversation.
"You two are aware of Seireitei enlisted ranks correct?" he asked the two humans as they nodded their heads to the further genuine surprise of the shinigami.
"Well theoretically according to textbooks, an 'adjuchas' can range at its very weakest from sub-lieutenant levels to potentially being able to challenge a captain," he said, continuing before they could react, "Take that with an extremely large grain of salt though. Even after long since graduating from the Shin'ō Academy, I'm still trying to figure out what exactly 'captain level' is. It's a vague term and textbooks love vagueness," finished Ashido closing his eyes as Abdul processed what he said before speaking to Chad and Orihime.
"But still that's exciting because both I and I'm sure the shinigami know as well; that these 'opponents' that we fought this morning were only low-level garbage-tier adjuchas."
Orihime and Chad were finally given time to show shock. That's understandable. Just this morning they had thought what they now knew were called "Gillian" was the extent of hollow evolution after all (well not the strength, but the form factor of Gillian anyways). And if elite adjuchas could challenge captains, then what was this "third stage" of Menos Evolution Abdul had mentioned back in the cell? What's more was the question of just how strong could the arrancar then potentially get? They both took in Ashido's lack of reaction as confirmation of Abdul's words.
"Sure the adjuchas says it like that, but still despite their weakness, their hollow abilities were definitely unusual and extremely top notch. Not just my opponent, but everyone else's too judging by what I could make out through Reiraku. And going by how much this base seems to have affected the local population, and the sheer unnatural amount of sentient Gillian in one spot? Its obvious each and every adjuchas, Gillian and hollow included that were involved in that base's operations were all specifically handpicked and sent here. There truly is something grander going on," responded Ashido adding his own take on things.
"Still though, what that Aloban guy said about 'survival of the fittest'? I told you guys as much back in the gaol when you first broke me out, but he said something further that was interesting; that 'If everyone survives, then no one is truly fit.' In that case, if we're going to a place with the most adjuchas, going by that logic, most of them are garbage. I only want the attention of the top percentile! I'll settle for no less."
"You don't realize that what that hollow said can also be taken with an extremely large grain of salt as well. With the pure quantity of adjuchas in general that they apparently have, even if the percentage of them that are 'top-tier' or 'elite' are relatively low, they could easily still have a vast amount of them," said Ashido as realization dawned in everyone's minds. In Orihime and Chad's minds in particular they realized they could be dealing with hundreds, thousands, or even order of magnitude's more of beings that could "challenge" a captain.
"Whatever the case, things'll be much different than they were here. After we figure out all the answers we want, you two could always return home," continued Ashido.
At that remark Orihime shook her head and slowly stood up.
"Remember the decisive battle Soul Society has this winter that I told you about? If we can't handle these hollows now, then we'll be of no use in the battle then. We need to see this through till the end," began Orihime turning to look up at Abdul.
"Tarragó-san, you made fun of me when I said I wanted to make sure human kidnapping by these hollows stop from happening ever again by saying that 'by my logic I should destroy all hollows because more hollows eat humans than kidnap them'," she continued, "But here's the thing about that. Stopping hollows from eating humans? That's the Shinigami and Soul Society's department. Stopping hollows from kidnapping more humans like Sado-kun and I were? That's long since been made into our personal issues," she vented.
"If 'Los Seis Pilares's' raid on the human world where they captured us really was their first raid like Aloban-san said and that there are more bases out there, I can only worry that Sado-kun and I aren't alone and won't be the last. Not to mention our powers made us more valuable for some reason. And since we all initiallywere getting 'shipped' to this 'La Pirámide', it's my personal mission to go there and find out why we were getting sent there and how to stop the whole process."
"Hm," Chad affirmed simply, standing up as well as Sōten Kisshun dispelled, he now fully physically healed(His reiastu still had to fully recover just like Orihime).
"Well now, seems like you two gave more thoughts to your reasoning since we last talked. And you already heard my vendetta. That just leaves you shinigami. We broke you out. The local menace has been taken out and you're back at your cave. So're you just taggin' along now or what?" mocked Abdul with his arms akimbo, prompting Ashido to pick up his newly healed mask and stand up with everyone else.
"Well, I've already been involved this far. There's no need to randomly leave the team at this point and that goes for all of us. And truthfully," he continued getting some form of barefaced expression before covering it as he put on his mask, "I can't do that anyway because I feel I'm indebted to you all for helping me escape that cell and mostly I'm curious about this 'La Pirámide', reasoned Ashido, "Because it sounds strangely like…," he trailed off mentally, putting the thought outside his mind.
"Plus we already explained last time we were here that I have the same motive as Inoue-san and Sado. To find out why 'my kind', a shinigami, is seen as a good 'catch' for these hollows," concluded Ashido.
"So it's…settled then," asked Orihime hesitantly, "Er..or should I say re-settled?" she finished sweat-dropping at the redundancy as she re-sealed all her Rikka and went over to pick up the drawstring bag she'd left in the cave earlier that morning.
The sound came outside the exit path at the cave's entrance.
"T-ten minutes to shipping! First and last call!" shouted an extremely nervous female hollow messenger," as she made to buzz away.
"Wait! Don't leave!" shouted Ashido to the terrified hollow who'd turned statuesque.
"Hey! Quit quivering and straighten up your spine! The shinigami's sucks at explaining himself," began Abdul blatantly tongue-in-cheek, "But he's trying to say 'how do you expect to make it back there for your own shipping in only ten minutes? Hurry up and get in here!" demanded Abdul.
The hollow realized the truth of his words and decided to inch into the cave due largely to the lack of killing intent Alma Secta was giving off. Still nervous, she arrived as they all got into a circle for some reason and saw the much smaller Orihime meekly smile up reassuringly at her. She dared not ask questions as Ashido seemed to close his eyes behind his mask.
The air in the cave went off a wavelength for a second before ethereal ribbon like threads popped out of the ground everywhere.
"This is Reiraku," revealed Ashido.
"Tch. I get it. Like a shinigami's version of pesquisa," remarked an unimpressed Abdul.
"Good analogy," answered the still concentrating Ashido as he opened his eyes behind his mask and located what was apparently the thread that represented Lía's reiryoku. While all the other flowing ribbon-like cloths were wide and broad, hers was skinny, corroded and dilapidated.
"She's barely hanging on by a thread at this point," said a worried Ashido as he grabbed the intangible ribbon-like material so it spiraled around the entire group in the formation dome of Sentan Hakuja. Right before their departure one could make out a single exclamation.
"Wait, shinigami were you actually trying to make a jok-!?"
And they were gone in a flash from the cave for the second and last time that morning.
Goodbye to Los Seis Pilares
Mindless Gillian marched through the arena width passageways in orderly lines led by sentients. Gradually, there was one mindless Gillian aligned with each column of cells, knocking out the weakened inmates inside once and for all with spiritual pressure. The repaired areas of Segunda Cárcel had been done with actual sound architectural integrity compared to the horribly dimensioned cells from before.
The largest collection of mindless Gillian however seemed to be in the now famed 'Passageway C', as they weren't yet aligning with the cells as was happening in the other passageways and subdivisions throughout the gaol. It was as if they were waiting for something.
Suddenly a flash appeared near the very end of the passageway and the now colorless thin threads used for Sentan Hakuja unraveled, revealing Alma Secta with their special passenger in tow.
Immediately they took in their surroundings, looking right in front of themselves.
"T-THIS?" started Chad as he and Orihime took in the sight.
There right in front of them was the very cell they'd broken out of early that morning. Practically untouched during the repairs, still badly dimensioned, glass still broken, the massive amount of negación'd earth from the town south of Karakura still sitting there right where he and Orihime had jumped off of it to break out of the cell.
Ashido didn't seem to notice their taking in of their arrival point as he spoke.
"Her reiatsu is so low now that even after homing in directly on it by using her own spirit thread we still went off a ways. She's down there you guys," he pointed to the left down a steep incline with an open cell at the end where no more cells lined the walls on the way down as if it were the end of a dinner table. It was effectively the end of the passageway and lots of sentient Gillian were on each side of the entrance.
"That's my cell!" shouted Abdul as the lines of mindless Gillian walked by them, now aligning with the cells with the help of other sentients. As his cell and the path leading up to it originally had been uniquely architecturally sound in the first place, it was no different now and was actually an exact replica. "But how!? That kid destroyed it and blew the back wall of it all the way back there!" exclaimed Abdul trying to gesture to indicate what exactly 'way back there' meant.
"I take it mindless Gillian are great laborers. These guys really wasted no time just like we thought," said Chad beginning to walk down the incline.
"Adjuchas, why is your cell so much smaller than mine?" asked Ashido with stoicity.
"Shut it shinigami," responded Abdul. He was still mad that the shinigamni'd had a palace of a cell in comparison to him and the two humans. In fact, Ashido had heard his complaining about it before Tsubaki had broken the shinigami out of his cell. This guy was just messing with him.
"Lía-sama is inside," spoke a towering sentient, apparently of the avian adjuchas. With the height of the cell entrance not even coming past their white pointy boot-like feet, they all looked fidgety with worry, as more of them sonído'd in from within the gaol, apparently at both sensing Alma Secta's arrival and at being finished with helping Zoréno's sentients align the mindless Gillian, leaving it to those guys to make sure everything stayed in place so that they could be closer to their ailing master in her seemingly last moments.
Abdul mentally scoffed at the dramatics as they all walked inside the shockingly now lit cell, "Not just the gaol itself, but even the cells had lights in them! What was that kid's freakin' malfunction?" complained Abdul referencing Xodri's lack of utilizing the lighting in his gaol. They'd learned as much about the gaol itself when they came back to break out Ashido, but to now learn even the individual cells had lights all along sort of irked him considering he'd spent almost a week in his own.
Walking through the now glassless entrance they entered the familiar drab three-walled cell(with the usually closed off special glass barrier entrance being the fourth wall). The first thing they saw were two hollows standing in front of what seemed to be a raised platform, similar to the ones found in the Dispatch loading stations. At this the messenger hollow who'd been brought along with Sentan Hakuja squeezed through in between Ashido and Abdul from behind and went up to them.
"Soledad! Jirona!" she shouted hugging her smaller teammates.
"Geez Iniza you act like you haven't seen us in months! It's only been like an hour and a half. They chose you to go 'cause you're the faste—mmMMuuu!," the hollow called Jirona managed to get out while in the suffocated hug with Soledad simply laughing.
Alma Secta watched this exchange with blank stares before a shadow twitched in the corner, and the owner of it spoke before revealing themselves.
"Well now, and here I thought you were all no-shows," the weakened Lía Halconero spoke without looking up, sitting down against the back-left corner of the cell.
"Thought we weren't gonna show? We got here within like ten seconds of that girl alerting us. Now let's get on with this so called 'debriefing', we probably barely even have nine minutes left and we still have no idea how this 'shipping' even works!" complained Abdul getting right down to business.
At this, Orihime imagined hollows fitting the 'trucker' stereotype driving eighteen-wheeler trucks filled with hollow prisoners across the desert in a giant caravan/convoy.
However, Lía didn't particularly take to Abdul's tone and struggled to compose herself.
"Shut up, sit down, and be quiet because I'm only going to explain things once," she managed cooly.
"Yeah, and that's because you'll probably keel over and die mid-sentence-" retorted Abdul resulting in an interrupting tri-elbow jab from the rest of the Sectans ironically mid-sentence.
Soledad saw the adjuchas warden trying to keep her calm with mental mantras and decided to jump in.
"Eh, um..allow me to explain please Lía-sama," she asked in her meek voice.
"Yeah, yeah go ahead," answered a sour Lía swaying her hand passively, "You four!" she shouted changing her voice instantly and getting Alma Secta's attention, "Let Squad #223 Captain Soledad Narvola explain!" she declared as said hollow then turned to face the Sectans with her now respectively crossed armed and akimbo teammates.
"Ok…so um shipping," she began, getting her thoughts in order before clasping her hands together, "Alright, so you know that unfortunately by their nature, normal garganta can only be used to travel to and from Hueco Mundo. Because of this it's like Aloban Vibrerra said, 'One doesn't simply make a garganta to a separate part of Hueco Mundo. You must go through another area first,'" she quoted, "Now whether that area is the human world, the Soul Society or even the Dangai is up to the creator of the garganta. However, La Pirámide finds all these 'destinations' troublesome for obvious reasons involving shinigami and the blatant danger of the Dangai. So they instead managed to exploit the troublesome limitations of the garganta to their own advantage, manufacturing an entirely new method that in everyday speech we call 'shipping', but is officially called 'Transgarganta'.
"'Transgarganta'?" questioned Orihime.
"Yes, you heard right. And despite all the options being troublesome, they had to choose one of them. And out of them all they chose to exploit the most nostalgic option," she continued, "The human world," she finished allowing that to sink in.
All of Alma Secta had a range of expressions and or body reactions that signified a mixture of shock, alarm, incredulousness, and dubiety, and above and among all, confusion.
Ever-perceptive Soledad saw this all as clear as day and was amused.
"Well out of all three options, the human world is the most 'nostalgic' for obvious reasons. But first let me explain how Transgarganta even works you know?" she chirped.
"Now you may think that of all places, the human world, would be the most monitored besides Soul Society itself and that the Dangai which transcends space-time, albeit dangerous, would be much easier to do anything under the radar because of those exact attributes. Ironically the shinigami better monitor the Dangai than the human world, and it's not just a recent thing, it's always been so," she explained, emphasizing that last tidbit directly for Ashido's knowledge.
"But how is that? Because La Pirámide proves it by knowing the extent of the human world and selecting coordinates in numerous 'viable areas' to carry out their Interdimensional Transgarganta Network(IGT). The base's function starts when our Gillian rather than creating the usual kūmon, are coerced to do mass garganta in the spots of the ceiling in each cell," explained Soledad pointing upwards at the familiar rectangular protrusion coming out of the ceiling as she, Jirona and Iniza looked up at it.
"That's what that was for?" thought Chad. He'd figured it was just stylistic or more bizarre architecture. He'd barely paid it any mind; their cell had been so dark back then. And now that they mentioned it, the ceiling protrusion was sort of parallel to the raised platform on the ground. The negación'd earth back in their cell must've been sitting on top of that.
"The gargantas then all open up together at the assigned 'viable area', forming almost sort of a garganta coordinate plane in the same layout as the cells they're opened up from," continued Soledad, "However at that point, La Pirámide is already ready with their own gargantas which have been made to the same coordinates that they themselves gave us in the first place; this way their garganta exits line up parallel to all of ours. So as both ours and their gargantas open at the scheduled time to the specified coordinates, they shoot a negación from each of theirs, connecting to each of ours as the prisoners or cargo are transferred up to Headquarters swiftly and efficiently," she finished, proud of her explanatory skills before she took in Alma Secta's reactions.
"Um….do you understand?" she asked hesitantly sweatdropping. Was her explanation too technical?
"'Prisoners' or 'cargo'? She didn't say that as if she were calling the prisoners 'cargo' and that the two words were interchangeable, but instead said it as if there's a difference. But if all of us were 'prisoners' then what could possibly be 'cargo'?" thought Chad as he made to ask his question only for Orihime to speed blitz him.
"Um…just what are these 'viable areas' Narvola-san?" asked a concerned Orihime.
Surprised Soledad simply looked at the girl before responding, "You'll see for yourself one of the many possible areas when traveling up the negación between the two gargantas. Whether you see anything or not though depends on how close they have their garganta positioned parallel to ours. Too close, and right on exiting our garganta, you'll be in headquarters like a direct portal. That was the initial concept after all, but who knows what they'll do. All we have are the coordinates they give us to use."
"So it's a new place in the human world they're using each time?"
"Not exactly. Assigned areas are shuffled and recycled among all parts of La Pirámide, and headquarters is always adding new coordinates to the overall database. Personally we squads never hear much about the coordinates of shipping since Dispatch and El Centro's sentients were in charge of that to relay to the gaols, but from what I have heard, we've always gotten some place near-"
The sound came from the avian adjuchas in her corner as all turned to see the red plasma now streaming from her mouth.
"Is..there-any particular reason," she began, "that you're staring at me like I'm your dog that just died girl?!" she screamed directly at Orihime causing the Rikka wielder to look away.
"No it's nothing..it-"
"Tch! Don't waste your healing power on me!"
"Eh!?" The shock of her declaration caused the girl to look back at her former opponent.
"You heard me! Your healing power! I've seen what it can do. In fact, I think I finally understand how you all's pet idiot Tarragó managed to somehow get his arm back as crazy as that is...Everything that's happened, the chain of events…it all makes sense," she trailed somberly.
"But there's no time or need left to heal and replace my reiatsu with your weird powers. Save your energy. You'll need it for La Pirámide," she finished lowly, yet with unfiltered raw emotion in her voice.
"Oh, are you done? Okay my turn," began Abdul as he sighed before continuing, "Yeeeeeeaahh here's the thing birdy. I'm not buying your sudden docile, reserved act. I'm not buying it at all."
"Good, because we're non-profit," she managed respond to the confusion of everyone present.
"What the!? See! That's what I'm talking about. Now you're trying to make bad jokes?! You know exactly what I'm getting at. We kill your brother, I eat your brother, we kill all your friends, I eat the ones I killed; now you're about to die and you're helping us? Even going so far as to trick your 'La Pirámide headquarters' and not inform them of anything that happened here and scaring the squads and those Gillian into keeping it that way by threatening them with me; the brother-eater person?! What're you really up to?! Drop the act!" he demanded, venting his suspicions he had since before the 'intermission' of waiting to be called back for shipping.
"Oh. So it looks like the cold-blooded monster Tarragó has a conscience after all," she responded monotonously without looking his way.
This irked Abdul to no end as he managed to calm down. It wasn't right to be getting upset. Making people mad was his thing after all.
"I know this may be difficult since you're a bird and have to consequently deal with your miniaturized bird-brain and all, but stop getting your 'C' words mixed up! 'Conscience' is not the same word as 'Confused' which is what I actually am because your actions don't add up Lía!" he voiced, using her actual name for the first time, showing genuineness.
At this Lía mentally smiled as if she'd just won some mind game only she knew they'd been playing.
"It's nothing really," she began," Just that before 'Los Seis Pilares' existed as a base, we were a simple team of sentient Gillian Menos Grande led by "'Black Beacon' Celvia the Adjuchas. Xodri and I were the last addition to the group and we all caught up to Celvia in no time, becoming adjuchas alongside her as equals due to her sacrifices for us. While we were Gillian she often joked on our height saying we were like tall pillars, but after we all were adjuchas, the six of us were then 'the six pillars'. Each of us, a pillar united as one.
"Los Seis Pilares," thought Orihime in understanding.
"Well now. So my 'Cinco Pilares' joke earlier wasn't that far off after all," thought a newly amused Abdul.
"We roamed the desert for who knows how long, simply existing and surviving together in that circular lifestyle Aloban Vibrerra talked about until one day that changed forever. It's a shared story among many members of La Pirámide. That day you were told to 'join or die'. That if you joined you'd ascend higher than you ever could alone. That united, everyone could ascend together; to never fear for your existence or face starvation ever again, and to reach a new paradigm in hollowdom itself. This was La Pirámide's promise. And yet Xodri being the kid he was wasn't interested in any of that. We thought he was short-sighted, too naïve and too blissfully ignorant. Now it reminds me of a saying I've heard before, 'Sometimes a child's unmolded innocence is wiser than an adult's set in stone conformity,'" she recalled the quote with a glum chuckle.
"Still we joined," she briskly continued, "La Pirámide trained us and taught us things we never could've fathomed. Before we were but animals, but then we had been enlightened, and above all we got the rare luxury of not being split up. We got to stay together and actually increased in strength as promised, and eventually we got a new assignment," she went on now shakily holding up an index finger to make a point.
"We would become the assimilators. The ones that say 'join or die', we would have dominion over the savages of the desert we once supposedly were," she said in her familiar dramatic voice as if reminiscing proudly.
"And so this satellite branch of La Pirámide, 'Los Seis Pilares' was born. Naturally we named it after ourselves and our 'unity', but slowly I guess we found ourselves consumed with rising higher together in La Pirámide's eyes. I guess we felt since we were united in that goal that we hadn't lost our own 'unity'. Yet we as a group had become more 'unified' toward La Pirámide than we had to each other. It took one of the pillars to fall to make me realize that," she said referencing Xodri with her voice cracking. One could hear a pin drop before-
Applause from you know who.
"Bravo, bravo, nice obligatory back-story and whatnot, but stop avoiding the point," said Abdul before his voice became sinister, "WHAT are you up to?" he asked darkly.
Yet this only encouraged Lía. "Ohoho, but if you hadn't interrupted you'd see that I circularly segued right to the point. 'What am I up to?' And Squad 223, you gladly help me out which I'm eternally grateful for, but I can tell even you wonder why I help the likes of these people, Tarragó in particular," she went on as Soledad and her teammates shifted uncomfortably.
"Again, 'It's nothing really'," she smugly quoted, literally circling back to the point as promised, being her opening statement. This almost caused Abdul to truly start charging a cero this time, but he killed the thought.
"Just that I figure if anyone could disrupt La Pirámide and what it stands for, it's you people. And if you fail-HA! Well then the people responsible for my brother's death die and our base would've still technically completed operations. You see, either way I'm quite pleased," she at last revealed to a glowering Abdul.
"And Tarragó," she continued causing him to widen his eyes in slight surprise, "Even if you accomplish the first path, still one day you'll get your due. Either you starve and regress or another hollow devours part of you and you stagnate or they devour all of you which would be even better. Or you might just get straight up killed or die even some other way. It's coming and you can't stop it," said a now defiant Lía.
With her counterbalancing smugness gone and now replaced with defiance this in turn fueled and allowed Abdul's own smugness to re-surge.
"Ha! Challenge Accepted! But personally I'm still stuck on the fact that even before you joined this La Pirámide, you freaks had still named yourselves. Celvia and Zoréno had me thinking the 'Pirámide people' were responsible for all your Adam-complexes, but you people had it beforehand!" shouted Abdul. Unfortunately most of the decibels went down in Ashido's ear.
"Adjuchas, its long since been established that hollows naming their groups and techniques is a common hollow custom," managed an even-toned Ashido.
"So what does that make me? A quartz tree?! I've never heard of hollows doing this crap until I came across these apparently new-age geniuses on the desert," mocked Abdul, "And 'hollow custom'? What, does Hueco Mundo suddenly have a culture now? Am I on the fringe of society? No because there is none! Anarchy is the rule here," he finished to a chuckle/scoff from Lía.
"After we beat you back then, we were wondering what backwards section of the desert you came from Tarragó," she admitted before pausing, "It won't be long now," she finished, laying her head against the wall.
Everyone knew she'd just made a sort of double entendre. One, that shipping was about to start, and two, that her life was about to stop.
Ashido surprisingly started walking over to her, yet she didn't lift her head off the wall in response. "You know, you don't have to die like this. If you're cleansed by a shinigami's zanpakutō, you can live on in Soul Society. I can make it painless and you won't remember life as a hollow, but at least you'll live on as you," finished Ashido stepping in front of her.
Lía moved her eyes to observe the fabled gazelle-masked shinigami, "Heh. 'Cleansed' huh? For him to so innocently voice such negative connotation. As if hollows were dirty…and yet…!"
"Well, you specifically weren't involved in Xodri's death," she trailed, lifting her head off the wall and sitting up before a pause was held and the edges of her mouth behind the ebony beak of her mask slowly curled up, "You know what?! Whatever, I'm a spontaneous type of gal! Do it shinigami!"
Abruptly, Ashido thrust his hand in front of her mask as her golden eyes dilated.
"Tanma Otoshi," he thought as his hand glowed white and Lía instantly lost consciousness, eyes slamming shut. Before anyone could wonder, she was already sliced sitting down from what was left of her left collar bone down to the hip bone. Her mask and skeletal hollow bones disintegrated revealing a girl with olive brown skin, long jet black hair, and as she opened them, piercing green eyes that filled with recognition before she dispersed into spirit particles onwards to Soul Society. One could hear the hollow cries of her sentient Gillian outside of the cell who undoubtedly had sensed their master's willing end in such a fashion.
Everyone besides Abdul marveled at the spectacle.
"Looks like the shinigami fanclub just got its charter renewed," he joked in a mental deadpan.
Ashido sheathed Kamokuen and turned back around with body language that basically meant, 'And that's what it's all about kiddos!'
It was already guaranteed with five of the adjuchas gone. The sentients were trying to manipulate their vestigial influence on them as long as possible. And with now no adjuchas at all left it was only a matter of time before the mindless Gillian of the base now all began rioting similar to the prior prison riots.
It was Soledad who broke the silence, eyes suddenly widening before turning around to face the raised platform.
"Get on you four, its time," she stated as Alma Secta briskly walked over (Abdul using sonído only to find Ashido calmly claiming he'd been there before him with shunpo which of course was blasphemy. Orihime and Chad on the other hand simply stepped up onto the platform together).
"Hey wait, what about you three? Aren't you supposed to be at the other gaol?!" asked Orihime in sudden realization.
After the initial surprise at the sincerity of the question, Soledad's and her teammate's eyes twinkled.
"Heh," was all Soledad replied in her meek voice to Alma Secta's then understanding reactions.
The mindless Gillian all screamed in unison as a garganta opened up within the dimensions of the rectangular ceiling protrusion and a golden beam shot down completely encompassing everything in its path. Alma Secta found themselves rising slowly at first, but gradually increasing in speed as the platform actually was ripped out the ground as a new one surprisingly rose in return. Eventually they approached the point of no return, beginning to rise past the garganta opening.
"This is it," said an anticipating Orihime.
"Yeah," answered the three males in some way or fashion as they looked up at the shrouded path that awaited them.
Soledad looked up at the departing Alma Secta for the last time.
"Has your mask changed any? I mean, it's been so long since I've seen you…and… And with the way things are now it'll probably be longer. Cuarta Cárcel is shipping everyone away right now as I speak, but Jirona, Iniza and I, we chose to not join the others. We were the only ones who did so. To stay and start new lives away from La Pirámide's influence that is. But do know that I truly believe we'll see each other once more. I will stay safe, but you must as well, because some frightening people are coming your way," she thought as Alma Secta finished rising into the garganta.
"Until we meet again,…"
After a few more seconds all the gargantas closed within Segunda Cárcel and Cuarta Cárcel simultaneously.
Ironically contrasting to the prior 'order', chaos seemed to be a quiet phenomenon.
Makeshift Made-At-Last-Second Low Budget Arc-Epilogue: Mindless Gillian meander into the forest. Sentients create kūmons to 'viable areas' agreed upon by each other, and Squad 223? They'd jokingly agreed upon a new name for themselves as their garganta began to close behind them. Los Difuntos
Omake/Side-story: "Mission Complete!: How Squads were retrieved after completing a mission in Hueco Mundo"
Up to now ,you've heard of how the squads went on missions and everything else. But you only saw the unique process of retrieving a squad when Squad 336 got negacióned from the living world. That was a special case one time thing, because the squads normally did all their missions within Hueco Mundo.
"Extracting." The name of the process which uses an amended Transgarganta process. By exploiting the way hollows can be attracted to the human world from sensing reiatsu of potential meals, the Gillian monitor of a squad's mission creates a garganta or Kūmon at whatever one of the "viable spots" in the living(human) world that the base was assigned to utilize at the time. The squad or solo scout(s) senses their monitor's reiatsu in the human world and creates a garganta to that very spot, allowing a Negación to be shot through and connect the two gargantas, bringing the squad or individual hollow back up to their loading platform at their monitor's station. Often squads or soldiers come back with victims. The monitor of the mission at Dispatch gives off a special standardized wavelength of spiritual pressure alerting the gaols whose respective workers respond accordingly. These victims turned prisoners are then immediately transported to cells in any of the four gaols using the more traditional Transgarganta process except using a reverse-negación originating from the monitor at Dispatch. (In the case of Segunda Cárcel where there were no sentients and just Xodri and his mindless Gillian, Xodri literally trained and conditioned his mindless to perform the tasks. And even then he was fully able of doing it all by himself) Orihime and Chad were special cases and were transported to Segunda Cárcel personally by some of Zoréno's sentients.
Omake/Side-story: "S.O.S.! Distress Call: How exactly were the Dispatch workers going to 'send' that S.O.S. if they had?"
The same concept as Transgarganta applies to the S.O.S. Hollows can be attracted to reiatsu in the living world. So what do the distressed people sending the signal do? Open up a passageway to the living world in a viable area and let off a standardized wavelength of reiatsu. If you haven't noticed, I've had some of the adjuchas this arc do standardized/specialized reiatsu wavelengths for certain things(see Zoréno in chapter 14 for just one of a few examples). So after this, depending on the situation and the corresponding reiatsu wavelength used, Headquarters would respond accordingly. As far as specialized/standardized reiatsu wavelength's go, I'd like to think La Pirámide has a whole catalog of them.
Chapter Started on paper: July 27th 12:00 PM
Chapter Finished on paper: July 27th 11:10 PM-August 2nd 5:59 PM
Chapter Typed: September 11th, 4:25 PM-September 15th, 6:36 PM
Revisions: September 17th, 1:00 PM; December 24th, 11:20 AM; December 30th, 11:56 PM est.
*"On-rails.": I've mentioned it before in previous Author Notes, but I continuously wonder if the people from other countries, who aren't native English speakers will get some of the colloquialisms in this story. I know 'on rails' is sort of 'to the point' as far as definition, but I still wonder if non-native speakers will get that when I had Abdul say 'on-rails', I'm referring to 'on rail' simulations; like 'on-rail' videogames for example.
**Tsubaki as voice of reason. Goes back to chapter nine when he claims that he is.
The Satellite (mini)Arc is finally complete, having started since chapter nine. Chapter subtitle Inverted Stripes 2 refers again to Chad(Tiger) and follows up from the last Inverted Stripes section of chapter twenty-six. The second chapter sub-title Goodbye to Los Seis Pilares is self-explanatory, as is the main chapter title of "Transgarganta", provided you actually read the chapter instead of skipping.
I hope this chapter began to explain some things revolving Orihime's kidō usage(since chapter seven) and shunpo usage(since chapter seventeen). 'Jū Kyūseishu' is an interesting concept. Speaking of things Orihime learned that Chad didn't know about, she still has some explaining to do to him as far as explaining what exactly she was up to in certain parts of chapter six. But if you've noticed, Chad is pretty patient and just makes mental notes to remember for later discussion.
I also hope this chapter set the broader foundation for further development for both Orihime and Chad; especially and specifically Chad. You can tell this chapters beginning scene was focused on him and bringing added closure and development to his fight with Klarradi along with looking to the future. Back in chapter 26's author note I mentioned how "I'll touch more on the parallelism and dichotomy of the two around chapter 29's Author Note section". By 'of the two', I of course mean Orihime and Chad, and this just so happens to be the promised chapter 29 author note. I mentioned in chapter 26's author note how both did something in their battles they couldn't control properly. Orihime with her mock-cero and Chad with Kidō. And that was something specific instead of a more general example which I'll get into next.
In general, from the arc's outset after chapter eight I wanted this dichotomy to evolve from what little we saw in their spar with each other in chapter 7. Chad's attacks are very 'explosive', while Orihime's offensive attack is rather 'precise'. Even before the spar, the river splitting scene in chapter 7 was just one direct example of this. From there I wanted to build a foundation where both would increase in strength, but have different ways of doing so. To be blunt, Chad being in Hueco Mundo means it's influence could potentially be an advantage for him. Orihime on the other hand, has no such advantage. She's not raw power like Chad or infinite reiatsu like Ichigo. She has a very moderate reiatsu amount and not much 'raw', 'brute' power at all. She has all her Rikka to worry about and techniques to develop, while Chad conversely is pretty straightforward with how he develops his power.
This viewpoint of Orihime being at a disadvantage compared to Chad is contrasting to his viewpoint shown in this chapter where he is actually questioning himself. Orihime since chapter seven and throughout this arc has often measured herself against Chad as well in return. This 'continuing mutual recognition' between the two was seen most recently within chapter 26(Orihime realizing Chad's speed increase, and the devastation Chad caused in his fight, Chad's shock at how she'd incapacitated Lía) and chapter 27(Orihime seeing Chad's speed firsthand rather than before when they merely crashed into each other, and Chad's surprise at Tsubaki's display of shunpo and kidō). Then of course there are the Rikka's surprising declarations in chapter 10 regarding Chad as Orihime's main rival, and if you interpret it this way, an "obstacle" or standard to not fall behind.
In the end, both are on the path forward relative to their own developments and each has something unique about them that will continue to increase their ability. The opening conversation between Chad, Abdul, and Ashido established that much I would hope.
Quick Notes(commentary added as of 12/31/12):
-Ashido mentioned back in chapter 26 how he could've used Sentan Hakuja to go right to any of the battles by combining it with Reiraku. I actually had him demonstrate this exactly in this chapter by his using Lía's spirit thread in proxy of the usual bandages to perform Sentan Hakuja with. Pretty cool, don't you think?
-Yes Klarradi's spirit thread was 'bizarrely double banded' because of the baby joey hollow.
-'Passageway C': In case you forgot, it is the name of the "hallway" Chad, Orihime, and Abdul's cells were on. This passageway was arena-sized in width, yet nothing more than a hallway in comparison to the whole gaol.
-Chad and O's untouched cell(because it was still 'evidence'): Yeah I decided that Zoréno and his Dispatch sentients decided to leave Orihime and Chad's cell untouched for "evidence" instead of repairing it like they did the rest of the gaol seeing as Zoréno mentioned noticing traces of their reiatsu in the gaol back in chapter 14; Orihime's in particular due to her chain-slicing of the cells with Tsubaki. Not that Zoréno somehow magically pieced the puzzle together at that time. He was simply confused and hadn't pieced everything together until sometime post-chapter 15 if you remember correctly.
-So back in chapter 26's author note I hinted one last group of previously seen minor OCs which finally made a re-appearance this chapter in the form of Squad #223 headed by Soledad Narvola(first seen chapter 11). And her two previously unnamed teammates were there too and got named! Jirona and Iniza! Iniza was the messenger to Alma Secta. The actual "name" of this squad was never revealed, but as you see in the (made-at-last-second)epilogue, they sort of made up a new one as a joke. Whether they'll seriously use it is a mystery wherever they end up at. Oh and Soledad apparently has a sister.
-I added the part about Celvia joking on her teammates's Gillian heights during revisions. I literally just inserted randomly these exact words in between the ones already there: "...While we were Gillian she often joked on our height saying we were like tall pillars, but after we all were adjuchas, the six of us were then 'the six pillars'. Each of us, a pillar united as one..." This but meager example shows that seemingly tantamount small details and thematic concepts to the story arc like that quote included can literally be added or inserted on a whim and it in perfectly with the basic frame of what's already in place. As a former non-author I remember questioning how authors made such complex stories, but now I understand in a way that it's not as "systematic" as it seems on the outside looking in.
-The spell Ashido used this chapter, Tanma Otoshi; it was used by Shinji on Ichigo in the canon in case you've forgotten.
QUOTE: "...Truthfully, if and only if things keep going at this rate, I have to predict that your glass ceiling is gonna end up being much higher than hers. But you better not let that go to your head, not just because it's a conditional prediction but 'cause even if it ends up being right, glass ceilings are glass! They can be shattered!"
-This is Abdul with one of my favorite lines of his, because his words are so true.
QUOTE: "Well now. So my 'Cinco Pilares' joke earlier wasn't that far off after all,"
-Abdul referencing his line at the end of chapter 14.
QUOTE: "Because it sounds strangely like…,"
QUOTE: She seemed to have healed herself but strangely missed some specific areas completely for some odd reason.
-This was narration. It's referencing how Orihime realized Sōten Kisshun had spotty healing for some weird reason back in chapters 17 and 21.
QUOTE: "Tch. It seems like you're suggesting shinigami can't have opposite gender zanpakutō. I didn't think 'power manifestation' had gender bias," quipped Abdul getting over the momentary revelation. Whether Ashido was surprised the adjuchas seemed knowledgeable on zanpakutō wasn't apparent as he responded.
-Interesting that Abdul seems knowledgable on shinigami powers. I wonder if that'll come up later in some form, or if he just simply knows?
QUOTE: "Wait, shinigami were you actually trying to make a jok-!?"
-Abdul's line to Ashido right before Sentan Hakuja activates. Yeah, I'm thinking Ashido made an unintentional joke about Lía's decrepit looking spiritual thread with his "She's barely hanging on by a thread at this point," line.
[Quote commentary added as of 12/31/12]
Remember this from the Chapter Eight author's note?
"Chaps 1-8: Expository Arc: 'Acquisition of Unwavering Resolve'(aka 'Resolve Arc')
Chaps 9-?: Main Arc made out of multiple mini-arcs: (Name of the arc revealed next chapter and mini-arcs to be revealed when the time comes for each one)"
Time to update it:
Chaps 1-8: 'Unwavering Resolve'
'The Pyramid Syndicate' Arc
Chaps 9-29: 'The Satellite' (Part of the grander arc of 'The Pyramid Syndicate')
Chaps 30-?: 'Order of La Pirámide' (Further continuation of the grander arc of 'The Pyramid Syndicate')
NOTE: As you can see from this update from what was in chapter eight author's note, these plans are tentative and subject to change as each chapter gets written and the plot evolves and gets fleshed out mid-writing. Arc subsections could get shifted or split up. Remember I thought the Satellite mini-arc would end around chapter sixteen partially due to how obscenely long my chapters were back then)"
Character Profiles Part 3: 'Los Seis Pilares Edition'
In the first character profile segment in chapter eight, we did a look at the group of hollows known as Los Tranquilizantes. (Meanwhile chapter 27's Author Note was sort of a 'follow-up/extra edition' of those chapter eight profiles, but not an actual continuation of the Character Profile Series.) In chapter ten we looked at another group called the Shun Shun Rikka. It's now time to showcase a group called Los Seis Pilares. And this time, original concept notes will be incorporated into the character profiles just like last chapter 27's author note did so that there will be no need for 'follow-up/extra edition' segments on them in the future.
Remember the guide from chapter 27, "[o](insert notes here)[/o]" stands for 'original conceptual notes'.
[Coming some time mid-hiatus]