Warning: This might turn out to be incredibly cheesy. If you get the chills thinking of a ridiculous amount of parmesan, mozzarella and cheddar, this story may not be up your alley.
Side note: Mmm, cheese.
Wandering through the rows of neatly stacked bookshelves, Ichigo yawned and stuck his hands into the pockets of his school slacks. He was supposed to be searching for something to write his research English essay on, with references and stuff. Apparently his teacher was testing them on their analytical skills. Ichigo figured it was pretty pointless, because most of the other kids would just be copying off some random book or whatever they could find on the internet. It wasn't any use telling them 'plagiarism is a crime and will not help you in the future etc'. No one really bothered to listen anyway.
There was a thumping noise coming from around the corner. Ichigo peeked through the gaps in the arranged books curiously. He caught sight of a girl in uniform and a guy in sports attire, complete with roaming hands and mouths trapped in a frenzied lip lock. There was some grunting and moaning involved.
Hmm. He pulled away and walked to another bookshelf. Some people actually use the library to study.
He neared a geeky guy struggling with an armful of books. Every few seconds, he had to stop to push up his thick black framed glasses with one finger, dropping a few books in the process. Ichigo stooped to help him pick them up.
"Thanks!" The student smiled gratefully, displaying his shiny multicolored braces.
Rainbows slid into Ichigo's mind, and he hastily shoved the thought away into the depths of his head.
"No problem." Ichigo smiled back, walking him to the nearest table so he could deposit his pile of books safely without anymore accidents.
Ichigo went back to wandering aimlessly through the shelves, wondering what to write about. His teacher had said it was a free topic, and the students could choose anything to elaborate on, as long as they didn't choose any offensive material.
So, no raunchy stuff, skip the racy themes, delve into boring, safe topics that no one really bothered to read . . . well, the library was enormous and he had time to kill.
The orange haired teen's mind drifted to his sisters. What would they read? Karin didn't usually read much, being an outdoorsy, sports magazine type of girl. No thick books with tiny words filling up every inch of space on their pages for her. She liked stuff with pictures, preferably ones with motorcycles and sports outfits.
Yuzu on the other hand, almost always had her nose in a book, whenever she wasn't doing the household chores. She would sit on a cushion by the windowsill in the living room, devouring her storybooks. Often Ichigo would watch her riveted expression as she read through the thrilling bits of the stories. She usually read stories with plots like the ones in fairy tales.
"Fairy tales!" Ichigo snapped his fingers. "I could write about them."
Silly childish stories came to mind.
"But it's a pretty lame topic, actually."
Ichigo wasn't sure who he was talking to.
He bumped against the nearest bookshelf with his shoulder. A little ways down the tall rack, a hardcover slipped off and dropped to the carpeted floor with a heavy thud.
A nervous glance around told him that the school librarians hadn't heard. Or if they had, they probably didn't give a damn.
Feeling lucky, Ichigo sauntered over to pick it up.
"Fantasy World," He read, admiring the elaborate gold cursive print of the title. "This book looks like it was made in medieval times for little kids. What's it doing in our school library?"
The book smelled new, however. The paper was crisp, and designed to look like the edges had been burnt. The inside cover displayed a pretty feathered quill being dipped into an inkwell. Flipping through the parchment-like pages, Ichigo came across a fairly empty page with beautiful printed words that read: 'Fantasy World's Fairy Tales, Guaranteed to Satisfy Your Needs! If you close your eyes and make a wish, we'll grant you that in a swish!'
Ichigo rolled his eyes at the cliché rhyming.
"Pa – the – tic." He muttered. "Maybe I should choose something about cars instead. Or animals; like the Emperor Penguin. Those are cute."
He shut the book and was about to place it back on the shelf, when it occurred to him that this was the type of book Yuzu would like to read. With some embarrassment, he placed it on the borrow section of the counter, along with several books on cars and penguins. Sliding his library card over to the bored looking librarian on duty, Ichigo patiently waited for his books to be stamped. He checked his watch. There were still a couple more hours or so to hang out in the library before he headed home.
Making his way to the big comfy sofas at the corner of the library, Ichigo plopped down into one and spread open the fantasy book. Thanks to his rebellious streak, he didn't feel like completing his homework research at the moment, and there wasn't anything else better to do.
"Welcome to the world of melodramatic fantasy and fairy tales." One of the pages screamed in a lovely forest green font, with silver lines bordering the text. "Please wait while we process a fantasy that would suit your needs."
"What the heck's this?" Ichigo frowned, dubiously staring down at the page.
Out of curiosity, he flipped to the next page.
It read "Still calculating. Be a dear and turn the page, will you?"
Obviously, this was a really weird book. He wondered if he should let Yuzu read it. Of course, she really only liked things with dashing, manly princes who did their best to stay awesome and saved damsels in distress for a living. These damsels were usually rich and had jolly fathers who would allow their daughters to marry the first guy who managed to protect his child from the usual suspects – general bad men, bandits, evil witches, wicked stepmothers, terrible ogres – take your pick. Either way, they were all out to get feeble, I-need-help-to-tie-my-shoelaces type of young ladies. Not that they wore shoelaces anyway. Most of them owned dainty footwear or went barefoot.
Daintily, of course.
Every few paragraphs, they would all break out into cliché song numbers or perform a random dance routine.
"Aren't there any spineless men who need saving from strong women?" Ichigo wondered aloud, scratching an itchy spot on his chin. "Crap, I feel a pimple coming up."
He looked down at the new page.
It now read: "Calculated! Please shut your eyes and count to three."
Like he would do that.
A glance at his watch told him barely two minutes had passed. Oh well.
Shaking his head, Ichigo shut his eyes despite feeling like a silly seven year old. He counted to three, and heaved a yawn before opening his eyes.
His heart froze.
His hands were now empty; the thick book had vanished, as had the entire library around him. Ichigo gaped, taking in the scenic view of his surroundings. It was exactly like one of those places in fantasy lands. There was lush green grass all around for miles, and the spot he was standing on seemed to be near the edge of some cliff. Ichigo took a step forward with a rustling of skirts and – whoa, hold up.
The orange haired teen stared down at his new outfit. Gone was the usual drab light gray of Karakura High's uniform; in its place, wrapped around Ichigo's lean torso, was a strapless fitted bodice in a light pink hue. His shoulders were bare, and his lower arms were covered in lacy white gloves that went up to his elbows. The dress itself was made of a delightfully silky material. It had a long pink train that flowed out behind him like a wedding gown's.
"H – Holy shit." Ichigo stuttered, feeling slightly dizzy. "The hell . . .?"
He gripped at the dress, lifting up the ridiculously long skirt to check out his footwear.
"Please be Nikes, please be Nikes."
To his mortification, his size ten and a half feet were encased in beautifully made white satin pumps. At the heel, lacy white roses were sewn on for decoration.
What in the world was going on?
"How the hell did they get my size right?" Ichigo hollered to nobody in particular. "No, wait! Why am I in a dress?"
A dress that fit just right, too.
Obviously, no one answered, save for the birds chirping cheerily as they flew overhead. Their innocent songs seemed to be mocking his plight. Ichigo felt his knees turn to jelly out of sheer horror and dismay. Dropping to the soft grass, he stared at his glove covered hands and groaned.
"This has to be a dream." Ichigo muttered, running his hands through his spiky orange hair.
His fingers grazed against something on his head. He yanked it off after a few cautious pats. The teen found himself looking at a pretty white tiara with a matching pink gem smack in the middle of the headpiece. It was too much to handle. Already, being in a dress in a strange place was building up his stress levels. He snapped the tiara into seven pieces of plastic and hurled the broken bits forward with all his might.
Pinching himself on the arm, Ichigo winced and gritted his teeth at the pain.
Pain receptors worked just fine, which indicated his bodily functions were still quite intact. Had he hit his head somewhere in the library? Like, a random overhead lamp given way and decided on succumbing to gravity's seduction?
Mmm, no way.
Well, pain ruled out the theory that he wasn't dreaming. But his body was still in good condition. He wasn't sure if that was a good thing.
"Think, Ichigo, think! What would you normally do when in an entirely new environment?" He gritted his teeth. "Find someone, get help. Try to figure out where you are geographically. Get directions on how to get home. Like with a taxi, or the bus. Hitch a ride. Yeah. I just need to find someone."
He jumped to his feet, which was insanely difficult because he wasn't used to wearing flimsy heels. Nevertheless, the feminine shoes were the only choice of footwear he had available at the moment, and he didn't want to risk ditching them in case the ground had snakes or poisonous spiders – which was highly unlikely due to the dreamy fairy tale-like scene, but Ichigo – former Boy Scout member and regular jungle trekker – wasn't one to take chances.
He tottered over to the edge of the cliff, taking care to avoid treading on the rocks. Upon looking down, Ichigo felt like he'd just been thrown into a Disney world, complete with flying unicorns and smatterings of royal castles.
"Fucking hell." Ichigo facepalmed. "Someone kill me now."
"I'm afraid that would be a horrendously ridiculous waste, my good lady."
Ichigo nearly jumped out of his skin, but thankfully he had the long trailing piece of dress anchoring him down. He staggered on the balls of his feet, trying to regain balance.
The owner of the voice graciously held out his arms to help steady him. "My humblest apologies, my lady. I did not mean to surprise you."
"S'okay," Ichigo said breathlessly. "I'm just not used to defying gravity."
He looked up into the handsome face in awe. The guy was so gorgeous and model-like he practically glowed in the bright sunshine. The way he flashed Ichigo a 200 mega-watt smile would send women swooning into his arms.
"You'd be great in a toothpaste ad."
Ichigo almost slapped himself.
"Forget I said that. Um, I'm Ichigo, by the way." The teenager held out a hand for a quick shake.
To his horror, the man lifted his hand to his lips and kissed his fingertips with a practiced air. Ichigo tried to mask his shock with a weak smile, which gave him a grimacing look.
"Forgive me, my lady. Perhaps you are more used to being kissed on one knee?" The man tilted his head and waited politely.
"What?" Ichigo said, a little too loudly. He lowered his voice and practically breathed out his question. "You want to kiss me on the knee?"
"Yes," replied the man, looking fairly puzzled. "It is the custom around here for the men to greet the ladies. Unless of course, you are from a foreign kingdom, I presume . . . ?"
Realization swept over Ichigo in an awkward wave.
"Er. Yeah, something like that."
He was lying through his teeth, but it was better to play along than to be abducted and slaughtered the good old medieval way. This way, he could also figure out where he was and how to get home from the alien place. It was killing two birds with one stone.
Taking his answer in stride, the man dropped to one knee and brought Ichigo's knuckles to his lips. "Then I welcome you to the kingdom of Azasael, my good lady. You may call me Captain Renji. I work for the Royal Guard."
Ichigo started at the familiarity of the name. He had noticed something vaguely recognizable about the man before him, but without the presence of the usual black tattoos and the gold headband covering his red hair, Captain Renji looked like someone else.
"Renji? I can't believe you're here!" Ichigo reached down to squeeze his good friend's shoulders. "Tell me this is all just some weird joke you're trying to pull on me."
Captain Renji stood up and clasped Ichigo's wrists with both hands. "You are familiar with me, but forgive me my lady; I am not one to forget a beautiful face such as yours so quickly. If you may prompt my memory . . .?"
Ichigo made a face. "You're not Renji, after all."
His response only garnered him a quizzical stare.
Ugh, so much for hope.
"Sorry." He noticed the confused, hurt look on the man's face. "I'm just . . . new here. Thanks for the welcome. There's a ton of questions I have to ask you."
Mentally slapping himself for such a lame excuse, Ichigo chewed on his lower lip and tried to come up with something else. Renji masked his surprise with an understanding smile and took Ichigo by the hand.
"I'm Ichigo, by the way."
He felt a little weird for having to introduce himself to Renji.
Except that this wasn't Renji.
"What a beautiful name." Renji gushed. "It suits you, my lady."
"Um, thanks. Could you please call me Ichigo?"
'My lady' sounded alien to his ears.
"Of course." Renji nodded and did some more smiling. "Now, if you are lost, Ichigo, allow me to take you to the Castle and present you to the Royal Prince. It's dangerous out here at night, especially for a young lady like you."
Ichigo bit back a retort; for a high schooler who fought Hollows as a side occupation, he was more than capable of taking care of himself.
Renji led him to a proud white stallion and held out both hands. Puzzled, Ichigo raised an eyebrow at him.
Ichigo raised the other eyebrow.
"Allow me to lift you up, Ichigo."
Shooting Renji a glare, Ichigo shifted his weight on his heels. The skin on his left ankle was feeling painfully itchy from being scratched against the sewn-on roses. He was sure his right ankle already had a blister.
Okay, just this once.
With some effort, Renji's strong arms hoisted him up onto the saddle.
"Y – You're quite heavier than most ladies, Ichigo."
Was he saying that he thought Ichigo was overweight?
He barely had any fat to spare.
Obviously, track running and bench presses did wonders for his muscles. Not that this Renji would understand if he tried to explain. Deciding it would be fun to mess with Renji's head, Ichigo gave him a sultry look.
"Stronger, too." Ichigo smirked, pushing up his sleeve to flex a bicep. "Want to see my thighs?"
His sleeve fluttered in the wind, exposing a well tanned upper arm.
"No, no. That's quite alright."
Renji's cheeks turned pink and he blinked, checking the reins as an excuse to avoid eye contact.
Stepping onto the stirrups, he swung himself up behind Ichigo, almost losing his balance because of the splash of frills and lace kissing his face. Ichigo had to tuck them down at his sides to avoid enveloping Renji with his dress. After a few minutes of hasty fumbling, a sure sound of fragile cloth ripping, and some mumbled apology, Renji could finally see clearly without any obstructing material.
Disgusted with his dress, Ichigo rolled his eyes.
"Onward." Renji clicked his tongue at his horse.
As they lurched forward at a brisk trot, Ichigo shut his eyes and allowed the breeze to fan his face.
If this was a dream, when would he wake up?
Any suggestions for princes? Dudes only, of course. Like Nnoitra, or Stark, or Byakuya. Whoever comes to mind. Except for Grimmjow. He's definitely on the top of the Prince List. ;)