Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, Apple Inc., or The Who. You'll understand in a moment.
"Hadō Number 88 – Hiryūgetizukutenshinraihō!"
Rukia braced herself, planting her feet firm against the rocky soil of Urahara's training ground. Her hand clamped down upon her right wrist like a vice. She squinted at her extended palm, waiting, anticipating, preparing herself for the blast.
Rukia blinked. She wiggled her palm slightly, trying to jar the spell free.
"No, no, Kuchiki-dono." Tessai, a few feet to the side, shook his head disapprovingly. "You have the name all wrong."
Rukia looked over to him, eyeing the sketchpad he was jotting upon. She creased her brow. "What's wrong about it?"
Tessai continued in his jotting, seeming to ignore her – but then, he flipped the pad around swiftly, holding it like the renowned banner of a restaurant mascot.
Hi-ryū-ge-ki-zo-ku-shin-ten-rai-hō, it said, in neat rigid handwriting.
"Hiryūgekizokushintenraihō," said Tessai, providing a stern pronunciation. "It's very simple."
Rukia gave him a deadpan look of disbelief.
What in the hell had the Kidō Corps been thinking? Who had designed this monstrosity? What sadistic, chameleon-tongued caster had scrawled it down upon parchment one day, grinning wildly, envisioning the horror and misfortune he would inflict upon all future generations of Shinigami?
Urahara. She'd place her bet there. This was a scheme for profit. He was selling pre-recorded incantation players. She had no proof, but she knew – oh, she knew. He'd pop in any moment now, sporting that infuriating grin as he tried to swindle her out of her meager salary. Bucket hat bastard.
Nearby, Jinta stood with Renji and Ururu, looking on in boredom, arms crossed behind his head. "She's never gonna get this, huh?"
"Don't say that," said Ururu, in a meek tone more suited to suggesting than scolding. "Kuchiki-san is trying her best."
"Oh yeah?" Jinta snatched up her pigtails, pulling each to the side, fixing her head towards Rukia like a rudder. "Since when do you get to tell me what ta' do, huh? You can't even tell that she's hopeless!"
Renji's eyebrows crunched together into a 'V'. He had just broken them up two minutes ago.
"Stupid pigtails! You look like an alien!"
"Hey, knock it off!" snapped Renji. Jinta looked up and froze, still holding the offending pigtails out like ears. Ururu simply blinked.
Renji sighed, turning his eyes back to the (slightly taller) brat from Rukongai. "You wanna prove this kid wrong, Rukia? I'm getting tired of playing babysitter here."
Rukia looked at him as if he were stupid. "How's that my fault? Go find Urahara if you can't handle it."
Renji's eyebrow twitched. "Well I would, but he went with Chad to find some 'stuffed toy that escaped into the city'..." His calm facade broke, and an irritated finger shot towards Rukia. "And it is your fault! They're bored from watching you sit there and shadowHadō!"
"Oh, I'm sure you can do better, Lieutentant." Rukia's smirk sliced through his composure. "Why don't you come over here and demonstrate? We all know that you're a master of Kidō."
The 'V' made a triumphant return. "Why you..."
"Now, now, you two," said Tessai, in the admonishing voice of a schoolteacher.
Pausing in the middle of another scuffle, Jinta and Ururu looked up.
"Kuchiki-dono," Tessai continued – much to Jinta's relief. "Please, try it again."
Rukia turned her nose up at Renji, then spun on her heel, facing back towards the rock outcropping a dozen or so meters away. She extended her right arm, gripping her wrist, planting her feet. Her eyes drifted shut. A deep breath flowed through her lungs.
You can do this. It's simple. Just a simple little spell.
And for a moment, the training ground was utterly silent.
"Hadō Number 88!" shouted Rukia, eyes and palm shooting open. "Hiyakyūgekishūtotenraihō!"
Jinta stared, intrigued. "Flying baseball attack heaven-shooting thunder cannon?"
Renji's grin vanished, and a vein throbbed across his tattooed forehead. "Flying dragon-striking chicken head thunder cannon?"
Ururu produced a shoulder-mounted launcher from nowhere. "Flying dragon heavenly delicious pancake thunder cannon."
She fired it ceremoniously, sending golden-brown hotcakes sailing onto a plate upon a nearby table. Ever the opportunist, Renji walked over, sat down upon a chair, and picked up a fork.
Rukia stared at the pancakes, entranced by the enticing aroma. "I didn't have breakfast..." Her eyes turned to Ururu. "Can you–"
"No meals while training," said Tessai, stern.
Sensing the urgency, Rukia turned back to the table. "Renji?"
Renji, who was raising the skewered half of a pancake to his lips, looked up in surprise.
"Save some for me?" Rukia smiled angelically, eyes twinkling.
Renji paused for a moment, thinking.
Then he shoved the half-pancake into his mouth, chewing with a victorious grin.
Rukia's mouth dropped open. "What the hell!"
"Hey, you got a syrup cannon, over there?" asked Renji, nodding towards Ururu.
"Upstairs cabinet," said Jinta, pointing towards the ladder with indifference. "Leave the money in the front register."
Renji was appalled. "I have to pay for syrup?"
"Oh, I forgot..." Jinta looked over to him with a grin. "Moocher-san wants everything for free."
Renji pressed his palm against the table, glowering. "Fine." He lifted himself from his seat and headed towards the ladder, grumbling the whole way.
It wasn't his fault that he was broke. It was the damn Soul Society's! He had told them where to send the money. He had given them the exact address of Urahara's shop – and it never showed up!
Well, looking back, that wasn't the wisest move, since it was called the 'Urahara Shop'. The Gotei 13 would probably raid the place in a few days. But that was Urahara's problem. What kind of known fugitive plasters his name on the front of his own store?
The stupid kind, thought Renji, sporting a smug smile. 'Strategic genius', my ass. I bet the Soul Society knows he's here. He probably has to pay them off just to–
Renji stopped dead. A look of fury blazed onto his face.
At this moment, Ichigo descended onto the bottom rung of the ladder. He was wearing earphones: their white wires trailed down into his shirt collar.
"Yo," he said, giving Renji an upward nod of his chin. "What's the deal? Nobody's up there."
And at this moment, Renji decided to rob the Urahara Shop.
Ichigo blinked, blank-faced, as Renji pulled a pair of sunglasses from the inside pocket of his jacket.
"You never know..." said Renji – and he donned the sunglasses, "when you'll be on the wrong side of the law."
Yeeeeeeaaaaahhhh! ... Meet the new boss... Same as the old boss...
Furrowing his brow, Ichigo reached down and turned off his iPod. That was the last time he'd let Rukia borrow it: she always added her songs to his playlists.
Turning his head, Ichigo peered toward her distant figure, dumbfounded. "Flying dragon-striking kitchen sink cannon?"
Renji grabbed his shoulder. "Good luck." And then he was off, climbing up the ladder, mind's eye fixed upon the cash register.
Rukia's shoulders slumped, and her arms fell to her sides. She glared at the rock outcropping – and a drop of sweat fell from her brow, stinging her right eye. She clenched her eyelids shut, rubbing at the sensation furiously.
It was impossible. It couldn't be done. Her tongue couldn't overcome this adversity. She needed a specialized Gigai: Linguistic Model #44, with automatic phrase capability. But that would mean...
Damn Urahara! I can't let him win!
Her eyes flew open, determined – and then blinked, confused. "Ichigo?"
He was standing next to Tessai, pointing to something upon the sketchpad, speaking with hushed words that she couldn't quite catch. Tessai glanced over and nodded: once, twice – and then, he handed over the sketchpad, along with a pen. Ichigo began scribbling upon the paper.
"What are you doing?" asked Rukia, giving him a perplexed look. "Better – why are you here? I thought you were training with Shinji."
"Hiyori had to take him to the hospital," said Ichigo, not glancing up. "Something about sandal-face separation."
"Oh." Rukia turned to him, and her eyes traveled down to the sketchpad. She crossed her arms. "Well, I'm in the middle of something here. You can't just barge in and interrupt my training."
Ichigo looked up over the paper's edge. There was an odd glint in his eyes.
"Don't worry," he said, turning the sketchpad around with a smile. "I'm here to help."
Rukia's eyebrow twitched.
Hi-ryū-ge-ki-zo-ku-shin-ten-rai-hō. It still said the same thing.
But this time, there were boxes around the letters. They were scorecards, and each one was being held up by a crudely-drawn bunny. Chappy Bunnies.
With Rukia hairdos.
"How dare you mock me!" shouted Rukia, thrusting an open palm towards him. "Hadō Number 88: Hiryūgekizokushintenraihō!"
A massive bolt of blue lightning shot from her palm, speeding towards Ichigo. His womanly shriek was drowned out by a deafening explosion. Fragments of rock flew through the air, riding along currents of ash that swept out from the massive fireball.
"Whoa... Awesome!" said Jinta, staring in awe.
Ururu tilted her head at the fiery rubble. "I hope he's okay..."
"Very good, Kuchiki-dono!" said Tessai, waving away some of the smoke. "Next, we'll practice the incantation."
A sense of dread crept up inside Rukia. "Incantation...?"
"Yes. Repeat after me." Tessai cleared his throat, then held up an index finger. "Perplexing pagan power preserved in the Pizhi Pagoda, peal pompously past the purple precipice of Pandemonium..."
Rukia hung her head.