Hi, been awhile for those who read this regularly, and thank you to those people.
For reference, if you want to know what Uryuu Nightwing looks like, google image search 'Arkham City Nightwing' and for what I'm imagining Szayelaporro Riddler looks like, google images for 'The Batman Riddler,' that costume, but with pink hair.
I hope nobody is reading this chapter for action, as it kind of wades through some plot and back-story. I sort of really go into the back-stories of some of the characters, but it helps flesh out the universe I'm building while I try to keep it consistent. I promise the next chapter will have more action.
I'll also remind everyone that I'm taking bits of canon from different versions/portrayals of Batman and fusing it with bits of Bleach to make my own story.
I don't own Bleach, nor do I own Batman, so any characters mentioned here are the property of their respective owners.
Orihime sat at the Batcave Computer, reviewing some Riddler case files Batman had stored in his database. News had just reached her that Granz had escaped from Dangai Asylum. Sadly, high profile criminal's escaping wasn't unusual. What worried her was the apparent lack of riddles or challenges in his cell. The first time Granz broke himself out, he left a riddle for Batman to solve. This time, he just left, like he was in a rush or something.
Szayelaporro Granz, better known as the Riddler, was considered by the public to be one of the less dangerous Vasto Lorde, but the KCPD and Batman took him very seriously. They understood that his love of riddles and challenges could be just as dangerous a gimmick as Joker's clowning or Scarecrow's scarecrow costume.
During one of their clashes, Riddler had revealed to Batman where he developed his obsession with puzzles. As a child, he won a school contest for guessing the answer to a riddle none of his classmates could. As a prize, he received a book of riddles and the praise of his teachers and peers. He was so gratified by the attention; he spent the next few days mastering the riddle book so he could keep impressing the school with his talent.
It worked for a few weeks, but as children often do, they soon moved onto the new fad and the kids weren't impressed by riddles anymore. Szayelaporro moved with the times, but he never forgot how special the riddles made him feel, how being cleverer than his friends made him feel good about himself. After that, he had a mostly normal childhood, no tragedy marring him towards a life of crime; he lived his life with riddles as his hobby. But in his senior years, the stress of exams began to get to him, so he turned to riddles to cope. He delved so deeply, he flunked his exams, ruining his plans for the future.
This was unacceptable to Szayelaporro, so he broke into the school records and altered his grades before they could be recorded permanently. It worked and he got away with near perfect scores. He got into the prestigious Karakura State University on an academic scholarship and had the world at his feet. The way Granz saw it, he deserved the grades that reflected his genius, and he continued to feel that way, right up until he was found out by a routine academic audit of his grades. He was booted out of his scholarship and made infamous by a newspaper story on how he did it.
Branded a cheat by the public at large, Granz fell again into riddles to feel better about himself. One day, he was watching the news when he saw a report on a fight between Batman and Joker. Granz was inspired by the level of attention Joker's antics commanded. It reminded him of the time he spent as a child when he was the talk of the school. He gathered what little savings he had and spent them on designing an outlandish costume. His first crime as the Riddler was fairly humble, he robbed a convenience store. From there, his crimes rose in complexity until he finally had the attention of KCPD. After he had committed enough minor crimes, Riddler decided it was time to move up in the world, and what better way to do that than by getting revenge on KSU.
He staged an elaborate game of riddles and traps, all designed to force the staff and students to acknowledge his intellectual superiority. The police couldn't stop him, the staff were baffled by his genius and everything was going wonderfully until the Batman arrived.
At first it was fine, Granz knew that something as high profile as holding a university hostage would attract his attention. He even looked forward to matching wits with the Dark Knight. So when Batman solved the first few riddles and released some students, he wasn't worried. A few riddles later and Riddler had to remind himself that it wouldn't be any fun if it was easy. As the night went on and Batman kept winning, he slowly became more and more desperate. He finally abandoned all pretence of riddles and took his last hostage, the academic auditor who busted him, and waited for Batman.
Riddler stood there with a gun to the auditor's head, thinking he'd won, Batman would never be able to get to him without risking harm to the hostage. Then he saw him, standing there in the shadows. He appeared so suddenly, Riddler almost didn't notice him. He just stood there, staring. Riddler tried taunting him, daring him to make a move, but he didn't. Granz got so frustrated by his stare, he shot at Batman. The real Batman appeared behind Riddler and grabbed his gun, subduing him. On his way out, Riddler saw the mannequin Batman had dressed as himself to use as a decoy. And he laughed. He laughed liked a maniac as he realised he lost. Szayelaporro Granz knew that it wasn't the end, but the beginning, the beginning of a chess game between the two geniuses of Karakura City.
Back in the present, Orihime could hear the staccato rhythm of Uryuu training with his escrima sticks on the training platform. Turning around, she watched him train for a few minutes. She understood his dedication. Practice makes perfect and anything short of perfect could have deadly consequences when dealing with the criminal element of any society.
Nightwing had planned to return to Bounthaven earlier, but the news that Riddler was loose had prompted him to stay. The second time Batman and Riddler had tangled, the Vasto Lorde class criminal had succeeded in trapping Batman. Tied up and minutes from death by explosion, the thing that saved Ichigo's life was Robin bursting into the bunker after solving one of Granz's riddles. Since then, the Riddler has harboured a passionate hatred towards Robin for interfering in the game he had with Batman.
Orihime paused in her work to muse on that. It's amazing how many super-villains feel what they do with Batman was their own personal game/vendetta, like they're the only ones doing it. It's probably a good thing they feel that way though, if they were to ever put aside their differences and work together…
'Yeah, like that will ever happen.'
Working together would mean playing nice and putting aside their egos for the good of the team. That's what teamwork is, working with others as your equals. Henchmen, minions and gang members don't really count as teams, because they work for the super-villains. By their very natures, the Vasto Lorde class criminals cannot help but be selfish and want to further their own agenda's. They're so used to being in-charge they get angry when people contradict them.
Case-in-point, the closest the villains have ever come to teaming up was when Penguin and Scarecrow got together to take on Batman. Mayuri Kurotsuchi was low on funds for his fear experiments, so he approached Baraggan Louisenbairn looking for money. Baraggan planned to steal the formula once the research was done and Scarecrow was always going to leave with the money before that could happen. Just as they were about to double-cross each other, Batman arrived on the scene to stop them. He'd gotten wind of the meeting, and wanted to discourage the villains from any idea of working together. Realising the danger they were in, Scarecrow and Penguin put aside their differences long enough to actually trap Batman in a backroom at Penguin's hideout.
That's where the problem started. Scarecrow wanted to dose Batman with a lethal amount of his fear gas and drive him to insanity before he died. Penguin was more interested in a personal touch and wanted to beat him to death after unmasking him. Of course, while they argued, Ichigo quietly escaped the room. Once Kurotsuchi noticed this, the arguments intensified as they blamed each other for Batman getting away. Of course, Batman hadn't left yet. He'd hung around watching in bemusement as they competed over who despised the other more and who would get the better revenge on the other person. Ichigo despised them both equally, so he solved the argument by beating them equally.
It put Scarecrow out of commission for a while, but getting charges to stick to Penguin was always difficult. Louisenbairn had deep pockets and could afford the best lawyers. It didn't help that witnesses frequently had changes of heart after a new car or some other meaningless luxury item would turn up at their place, courtesy of Louisenbairn's company, who were deeply sorry for any misunderstanding between them and their boss. Plus the nonverbal implication of 'we know where you live' tended to convince them to not look a gift horse in the mouth.
To his credit, Penguin wasn't stupid, he knew that killing them wouldn't necessarily make his problems go away, plus he saw bribing them as a noble act of penance on his part, worthy of a king. The Louisenbairn's are an old family, entrepreneurs who opened the very first restaurant in Karakura, back when the city was founded. Over the years, they invested and bought intelligently until they owned the nightlife in Karakura. You couldn't book a table without seeing the distinctive penguin family crest somewhere in the building. The success went to their heads, and bred generations of cruel and arrogant men, who began to see themselves as the kings of Karakura and would do anything to protect their positions.
It all came tumbling down when Ichigo's grandfather stood up to them on behalf of an employee whose wife was being harassed by a Louisenbairn goon. The police investigation was backed by an honest police captain who wasn't swayed by bribes and uncovered the mafia-like business practices of the family. Their reputation and business holdings took a hit while the legal process was carried out. People stopped coming to their hotels and bars. Staff they had trained to be the best were poached by other restaurants or implicated in illegal activities and imprisoned. What hurt them the most was the loss of prestige and respect. The kings had been dethroned.
This of course led to the feud between the Kurosaki and Louisenbairn families. Their ancestors had never liked each other, but the actions of Ichgo's grandfather towards Baraggan's father had turned the dislike to hatred. This is why Ichigo hated Baraggan as both Billionaire and Bat, he and Penguin were born to be enemies.
Orihime snapped back to reality when she heard Uryuu curse behind her. She turned and saw the broken training dummy on the ground.
"Maybe that's a sign you should take a break?"
Ichigo grimaced slightly at the high pitched squeal of his little sister hitting his ears. Yuzu raced for the front seat and looked quite pleased with herself for scoring a prime spot next to her big brother.
"Geez, calm down Yuzu." Karin grumbled as she slid into the seat behind Ichigo, Toshiro grabbing the other one. "It doesn't matter where you sit, we all get home at the same time."
Ichigo had decided to finish work early so he could pick up his sisters and Toshiro. While all three of them were capable of driving themselves, Ichigo felt better if he or Juushiro could drop them off and pick them up. The Kurosaki's were a high profile family, so he felt his protectiveness was justified.
Sadly, while the Lamborghini was fun to drive, it only had two seats. So he borrowed one of the company cars, a sensible 2012 BMW. From the outside, it looked like a standard car, which was the idea. Unseen were the modifications Urahara had made in case he ever found himself in trouble.
As Ichigo began the drive back to the manor, Yuzu told him about her day in great detail while Toshiro and Karin argued about the answer to a chemistry question from earlier. Ichigo was checking on them every so often using his rear-view mirror, not liking how close Karin seemed to be getting to make her point. He was about to intervene in the argument before the two of them got too close when he heard Yuzu say something disturbing.
"… And at lunch today, Jinta gave me a flower he picked from the garden, it was so sweet of him—"
"Who?" Ichigo asked abruptly. Yuzu puffed out her cheeks in annoyance.
"Jinta Urahara. Were you even listening to me?"
"Yes, you said he gave you a flower. I just wanted to know the name of the boy who thinks he's good enough to give you flowers."
"Oh!" Yuzu giggled. "It's not like that; Jinta is just a really good friend."
In the backseat, Toshiro hid a grin and Karin snorted. Yuzu was the only person at Karakura Academy who didn't know that Jinta was crushing on her hard.
Objectively, the small part of Ichigo capable of male camaraderie felt bad for Jinta. But the rest of him was quite happy for Yuzu to keep him friend-zoned. His little sisters were in their final year of high school and were certainly becoming beautiful young women in their own right.
Ichigo hated it.
Like every big brother of every girl, he never wanted them to be hurt. Being a man, he understood the really crappy things boys could do to a teenage girl, especially one as innocent as Yuzu.
Yuzu had taken after their mother, demure and graceful, growing out her hair and taking an interest in typically 'girly things' like cooking and fashion. Unfortunately, this made her the dream girlfriend of the majority of the male student body. The only upside to this was all the boys at school put her on a pedestal, and never felt worthy enough to ask her out. The fact that Jinta mustered up enough courage to even give her a flower was impressive, not that Ichigo was going to congratulate him anytime soon.
Karin on the other hand was taller and sporty. She kept her hair on the shorter side of shoulder-length and liked sports, cars and videogames. Of the two, Karin was seen as more accessible, because boys could relate to her interests. As a result, she frequently had to reject boys looking for dates. So Karin worried him a little less, he knew she could take care of herself, but seeing her look at Toshiro when she thought nobody was watching…
As the drive went on, Ichigo could tell Yuzu was getting a little sulky because she thought he wasn't listening to her. So he made a point of commenting on her stories and asking questions every so often. The topic soon shifted to Rukia's impending visit, which Ichigo pretended to be happy for, even though he knew nothing good would come of it in the long run. Checking on the backseat, he could tell Toshiro was hiding his displeasure at the thought of the Kuchiki heir coming over.
They pulled into Kurosaki Manor and Ichigo dropped his passengers off at the front door, then drove a little further up the driveway and parked the car in the garage. As he got out, his phone started ringing. He gave the screen a quick look, frowning as he noticed it was a private number, then answered.
"I'm sorry, but I'll be running a little late tonight, something has come up."
"I love how you're going to be late to the dinner you invited yourself over for."
His frown deepened into a scowl. It must be serious if she's ignoring his teasing. Maybe he should go on patrol a little earlier tonight.
As he made his way into the house Juushiro walked up to him.
"Miss Inoue has requested your presence in the cave, it's about the Riddler."
Yep. Definitely starting his patrol earlier.
The Batmobile dodged through traffic, utilising back streets and shortcuts to get Batman downtown as quickly as possible. A few metres behind him, Nightwing was following on his bike.
Their passage through the streets caused a stir, especially since most people knew where they were headed. Ten minutes ago, the Riddler had been found robbing an art gallery, and was making his getaway with KCPD cars in pursuit.
Ichigo had been saved from making excuses for Rukia when the call had come through about Riddler. Nightwing had insisted on coming along, claiming nostalgia for beating up Riddler, as well as looking out for Batman, who resented the reminder of his past failure.
After five more minutes of aggressive driving, they caught up with the tail-end of the police cars. The blaring sirens were joined by the steady thrum of the Batmobile engine.
When the police caught sight of Batman in their rear-view mirrors, they parted ranks to let him pass, noting with surprise Nightwing's presence behind him. Szayelaporro saw them about the same time. In response, he stuck his torso out of the car window and sat on the edge. Hair whipping in the breeze, eyes manic, he pointed a megaphone at the pursuing cars.
"Riddle me this Batman! There is a shop sign telling me I can buy one for $1, ten for $2 and one hundred for $3. I need 913, so I paid $3 how can I do this? If you want to save the hostage's life, you will find that which always runs, but never walks, often murmurs, never talks, has a bed but never sleeps, has a mouth but never eats."
Having successfully delivered his riddles, Riddler returned his attention to getting away from the authorities.
"What the hell does that mean?" Lieutenant Zaraki mumbled from his seat in the front of Madarame Ikkaku's patrol car. Madarame Ikkaku had the honour of being the first cop to try and arrest Batman. Back in the early days, when people still thought he was an urban legend, Madarame had encountered Ichigo by chance as he was beating up a drug dealer in Old Karakura Town. He tried to use the distraction to sneak up on him, but as everyone knows now, you don't sneak up on the Dark Knight. At the time, he was teased for failing to catch the crazy in the costume. But as Batman began to do the impossible, the ridicule slowly became respect as Ikkaku was credited for 'discovering' Batman.
"Looks like Big Bird has an idea." Ikkaku noted, as Nightwing's motorcycle pulled away from the chase.
"And looks like that wasn't part of Granz's plan." Zaraki observed. A predatory grin grew on his face in response to Riddler's panicked gestures when he saw that Batman was still following him.
Karakura Eastern Suburbs.
Nightwing pulled into the driveway of 913 River Drive. It was in on the richer side of town, a nice, holiday-condo feel to the neighbourhood. After Granz shouted his challenge to Batman, the two of them figured the riddles out pretty quickly. It was obvious in the first riddle that the number 913 was important, and the answer to the riddle (he was buying house numbers) gave them the context. The second riddle's answer told them the house was near the river that divided Karakura in half. Batman had Oracle do a search for houses with the number 913 near the river and only one turned up. Privately, Uryuu thought that using a river riddle for River Drive was fairly uninspired.
'But, I suppose the idea was to distract, not baffle. '
Nightwing smirked as he imagined the look on Riddler's face when he realised that Batman had backup this time, and wouldn't be pulling away.
Climbing off the bike, Nightwing put his game face on. A person's life was on the line, and he would have to balance speed with caution. Move too fast, he might miss an important clue or trigger a trap. Move too slowly and the person's life could be lost.
Circling the house, he didn't notice anything obviously suspicious. A quick scan using the sensors built into his mask revealed the silhouette of a person tied to a chair in the middle of the room. Uryuu moved silently towards a window, scanning it for traps, before easing it open.
Despite his best efforts, the window creaked slightly and Nightwing froze. He stretched his senses out, dead still, and waited to see if anything reacted to the noise. He reasoned that it was probably safe to just get it over with and he jerked the window up. Luckily, there was no noise and the window rose smoothly.
With the natural grace of an acrobat, Nightwing dove into the room and sprung up with his escrima sticks at the ready. He scoped the room for threats, before lowering his weapons, but not his guard.
He walked cautiously to the person in the chair, only to notice it wasn't a person, but a mannequin dressed in a cheap green suit covered in black question marks. Taped to his chest was a folded piece of paper with a neon green question mark on it. Opening the paper carefully, Uryuu read the note.
"Dear Batman. Riddle me this. What starts with T, ends with T and has T in it?"
Well obviously it was a teapot. Nightwing walked over to the kitchen. Sure enough, a teapot was the only thing sitting out in the otherwise clean kitchen. After checking again for any sign of a trap, he opened the lid and pulled out another note.
"Getting warmer. You saw me where I never was and where I could not be. And yet within that very place, my face you often see. What am I?"
Hmmm. This was a little more obscure. Uryuu pondered it for a minute before deducing the answer. A reflection. He guessed that the bathroom would be the best place to look for a mirror, but not before doing a check quick of the rest of the first floor for any mirrors. Heading up the stairs, he found the main bathroom and did another scan. He saw strange markings show up in the infrared spectrum on the wall opposite the mirror. Riddler probably knew that Batman could scan for that. Making an educated guess, he looked into the mirror and saw he was right. The markings were a backward message that needed to be viewed in the mirror to be legible.
"Under the lid."
At this point, Nightwing was starting to get tired of the game. Clearly, this entire episode was meant to frustrate Batman and keep him busy so Riddler would have time to get away. Still, he wouldn't put it past Granz to have a random trap laid out on the off chance Batman got impatient, nor could he take the chance that Riddler was bluffing about a hostage. He decided to call Orihime and inform her of his progress.
"Oracle, I don't believe there is a hostage, but I'll see out this farce for the sake of being thorough."
"Okay Nightwing. Just so you know, Batman caught up with Granz and handed him over to the Police, he's on his way to see what Riddler set up for him."
"No problems apprehending him then?"
"No, he was surprisingly subdued about it." Orihime giggled. "I think he was feeling cheated that you being in town is what got him caught, rather than Batman outthinking him."
Uryuu smiled before once again checking for traps on the lid of the toilet. He lifted it to find another note taped there.
"Almost there. I am a box that holds keys without locks, yet they can unlock your soul. What am I?"
Uryuu remembered a piano in the downstairs lounge room, so walked back down the stairs. He found the piano and scans revealed more of the infrared-visible paint on the keys. Getting closer, he read the message.
The 'X' was on one of the C keys. Nightwing looked closer and saw a small signaller pointed outwards. Clearly pressing the key triggered something, but what?
It was pointed towards a TV screen, so Uryuu decided to press it. He was confident that it would only trigger a gloating victory message from Riddler who, same as Joker, was less interested in killing Batman and more interested in beating him.
He pressed the key and prepared to run for it. Just as predicted, it only activated the TV screen opposite the piano. The TV came on and static buzzed on the screen as the picture slowly came into focus, like the video was having trouble being received. More likely though was the Riddler edited it in for dramatic effect. Once the picture was in focus, it revealed the Riddler in front of a giant green question mark on a black background.
"Hello Batman. By the time you see this, you've probably already realised that there is no hostage. In fact, the owner of this house is on vacation. I hope you didn't make too much of a mess solving my riddles, but I doubt it. I'd be very disappointed if you made a fuss solving them, they were pretty easy. While you were busy running around like a lost child, I was busy making my escape from those idiots at the KCPD. By now, I should be safely tucked away in my new hideout. Yes, I've moved since you found the last one. Oh, and one other thing, when you pressed the key to play this message, it also sent a signal to some friends of mine across the street. They should be arriving as I finish my message. We even rehearsed the timing for this. Enjoy!"
"You in dere Bats!"
Nightwing calmly looked over at the door. He recognised the voice as belonging to the Ventriloquist, specifically his Ganju Shiba voice.
"Are you sh-sure this is a good i-i-idea sir?" Came a very timid second voice.
Because you couldn't have Ganju without Hanataro Yamada.
"Course it is dummy, I thought of it, don be stupid. Lefty! You an' Bull break down da door!"
Nightwing gave the door a quick scan; he saw three bodies and what appeared to be the outline of a smaller one on one of the body's arms. He mentally recalled the file Dangai Asylum had on him. It almost made him pity him.
Hanataro Yamada had always been a quiet child, often bullied and picked on by the some of the meaner kids at school. But that all stopped when his father was arrested for the murders of twenty different people. The bullies at school were too scared to make fun of him anymore, worried that he may turn out to be crazy like his father was. That was when little Hanataro learned a bad lesson; people didn't pick on you when they were scared of you. Unfortunately, this also frightened the few friends he did have away, which hurt the young child. Everyone at school was suddenly scared of the sweet, shy boy. The psychologists who would later analyse him thought this was when he developed his split personality. Part of him wanted to be friends with everyone, so he tried harder to be nice and became a bit of a doormat. But he was never really taken advantage of, because there was a dark part of him that took his bad lesson to heart, and would use fear and intimidation to get what he wanted. This darker part of him manifested itself in the form of a sock puppet on his right hand.
So now you had this normally shy child who would walk around using a sock puppet to be horrible towards his classmates. His mother sought help from professionals who managed to help him through his problems. By the time high school started, he was relatively more adjusted, but all the teenagers remembered the weird kid with the rude sock puppet, so Hanataro never really fit in with any of them. After a time, the dark part of him began reminding him about the bad lesson he learnt in school. He managed to shut it out until his twenties, when he started working as a cleaner at the History of Karakura Museum. There he found himself fascinated with the section on the old families of Karakura, specifically, the bloody end of the Shiba family.
The Shiba family had a proud history of producing policemen who served with honour in the KCPD. The very first Chief of Police in Karakura was a Shiba, and half of the Police Commissioners since have been Shibas. The last one to hold this position had been Kaien Shiba, who died in a gunfight with his brother, the Mob-Boss Ganju Shiba. Ganju was the black sheep of his family, the first Shiba ever to turn to a life of crime. It turned out that their talent for stopping crime could have easily been channelled into being successful criminals.
Some experts in criminal history however, argue that Ganju only built his organisation as high as he did because Kaien didn't want to believe his brother was a crook. And there was a truth to that, as things didn't come to a head until Ganju Shiba kidnapped their sister Kukaku Kurosaki, Ichigo's grandmother, in an attempt to ransom her back to her rich husband.
Kaien had tried to reason with his brother, but Ganju wouldn't listen, and shot his sister to make a point. Enraged, Kaien fired at him and the two of them engaged in a shootout until they both mortally wounded each other, dying with their sister before any of them could be saved by doctors.
Uryuu knew from talks with Juushiro that his mother's death was what inspired Isshin Kurosaki to study medicine, so he could save the lives of other people's families. Juushiro also mentioned he thought it was sad that two generations of Kurosaki's were so affected by tragedy. Uryuu had seen pictures of Ichigo's grandparents, and could see the resemblance Karin held to her grandmother and Ichigo held to his great-uncle.
But where Isshin Kurosaki had seen the stupidity of violence in his family's deaths, Hanataro had been in awe. To him, Ganju Shiba was everything he wanted to be. Tough as nails, he took what he wanted, and nobody gave him crap. People wanted to be his friend; they wanted to be on his good side. And that's when the bad lesson he learnt as a child was completed. If people feared him, not only would they leave him alone, but he could use that fear to control them, make them take notice of him. The dark side of him reasserted itself and took control. He broke into the locked museum gift shop and set off the alarm, but he didn't care; he only had eyes for the cash register. When the night security guard came in and confronted him, Hanataro responded by stabbing him with some scissors from the counter and killing him.
Once he was done though, Hanataro was horrified with himself. So to deal with it, his mind fractured further into two distinct parts. To symbolise this, he took down one of the gift shop's Mobster Puppets, one that bore a resemblance to Ganju Shiba, beginning the criminal career of the Ventriloquist.
All this took two seconds for Uryuu to recall, leaving him with five seconds at most to prepare for what would come through the door.
I had Uryuu take on Riddler's game, because in the anime, Szayelaporro and Ishida fight each other, so I thought that should be reflected here. Also, I know I took some liberties with Ichigo's family line, but it helps connect some dots in my hybrid universe. Can't make any promises on when the next chapter will happen, but I promise there will be another at least, I have it planned out already, just need to sit and do it.