THE FURTHEST PLANET FROM THE SUN
A turbulent heart is a heavy burden to bear. It hangs in ones chest like an anvil, swinging back and forth on a rickety chain of fate that had begun to rust and decay from the poisonous thoughts that infect the mind. It bumped against the innards of her chest, rattling her lungs and shaking her ribs. She felt the full weight of it hanging from that chain, pulling against her throat until it felt as if it had collapsed in on itself, making it hard to swallow and breathe…making it hard to live. It grows thicker and thicker until the weight becomes too oppressive and cumbersome to withstand.
The weight of the heart is a heavy burden to bear. It reminds you how selfish you are when you're leaning over the one you love, about to steal a kiss that doesn't belong to you. It seizes in your body until it pains you, until you wish you were numb when cowardice feelings and depraved sentiments erupt inside of you like a virus, whispering to you like a seductress, 'why should you have to sacrifice yourself for them?' It can rot inside of you until it hurts so bad you wish there was nothing left inside to hurt.
The heart is a heavy burden that one must carry…but Orihime Inoue wouldn't trade hers for anything in this world.
Racing thoughts, images and scenarios swam through the mind of the girl in question like a whirlwind, taking off at great speeds and picking up momentum with the direction and character of said thoughts as they grew in size and nature, becoming too intense and troublesome to carry on the wind. They shot off into the night, only to curve back around as they reached the edge of her mind, quickly completing their orbit as they swung around the rim of their gravitational pull before inevitably returning from whence they had came in an unending process.
Over and over like a broken record, they would reenter her mind before she would attempt to rid herself of the depressing thoughts springing to life inside of her like a sickness. She shook her head to shed them from her person as one would wipe the dust off ones clothes. And she would walk on, trying to leave them behind as she continued onward to a destination unknown. But they would always return, twice as strong and thrice as disheartening.
I should have said goodbye to Tatsuki-chan, she would be the most worried for me, she would think, before reconciling, But Kurosaki-kun needed me. It wasn't because I was being selfish, was it?
Orihime sighed, resigning herself to try and forget about it completely. What's done was done and what happened before will simply become a faded memory, a past life. She was leaving it all behind, everything that she had lived for, she was now giving up. She was going to protect them this way. If she was nothing but a hindrance on the battlefield, then she would be a help off of it and as far from them as possible, even if it was just this one small thing she could do.
Slowing her steps, Orihime looked around the darkness of the empty street. It was late and the moon was still far from the horizon. She had no idea where she was supposed to go or what she was meant to do. The Espada from the senkaimon had made it clear what would happen to her friends if she didn't obey, but he had been vague on the details of everything else. She didn't know if she was meant to meet someone here in town, or if someone was going to come collect her or even where this 'exchange' was to occur. Perhaps they had forgotten about her?
Even she knew better...
Standing under a flickering street lamp, Orihime turned her attention to the left, examining the park that had been severely scarred during the Arrancar's violent visit to the mortal realm. She didn't know where else to go as this was the only location that had occurred to her to visit given it was also the last place she could recall seeing the Arrancar outside of the senkaimon.
Orihime lifted her foot to take a step forward, but something inside her hesitated. There was something here, something hidden in the night. She could feel it's presence as easily as she felt the breeze caressing her skin and tugging at her hair. It carried with it a warning of something foreboding. Whispering in her ear to at once both run away and beckon her closer. It blew over her moist cheeks, mocking her for the tears she had been crying and reminding her of what she was leaving behind, showing her what awaited in the darkness ahead.
She could see a figure inside that blackness, a shadow within the shadows. It stood unmoving, waiting quietly like a statue on the other side of the small crater that marred the once lush ground. She knew at once it was him, the reiatsu surrounding the area was far too…suffocating to be anything else. It crawled over her skin like a disgusting hoard of insects, bringing bubbles of anxiety and anticipation to rise up in her chest and wrought prickles of goose bumps to sting her arms as she stared down the lone figure, putting all of her concentration into a quickly weakening resolve to remain impassive and unaffected by the ominous atmosphere around him.
His eyes slowly slid open, glowing out from the darkness like a separate entity of their own to peer at her.
Orihime brought a hand to her chest as she took a step back, every instinct inside her body telling her to put as much distance between the two of them as possible. Her head throbbed in time with the pulsating rhythm of her heart, beating in tempo to the screeches of 'danger, danger' echoing through her mind as she began to gravely reconsider this 'agreement' that they had come to.
He had assured her safe passage, but right now, at this moment as she stood on the receiving end of that haunting stare…she felt anything but safe.
Without saying a word, the shadowy figure removed a hand from its pocket, lifting it to make a small, indiscernible motion against the barren air beside him. Orihime watched in silence as the atmosphere he had touched began to distort and warp the darkness like a heat wave on a summer day. With a suddenness that made her gasp, the disfigured space split apart with a terrible cacophony of ripping screeches and shredding howls of anguish as it tore through dimensions.
"Come, it's time to leave," the shadow said as he returned his hand to his pocket, waiting patiently beside the garganta. His voice was sickly soft and as quiet as the night.
Orihime swallowed softly as she moved forward one step at a time with feet that felt as heavy as lead until she reached the edge of the halo of light the street lamp had provided her. The last vestiges of safety provided in this small ring of flickering, dim hope. She hesitated again as, not for the first time, she began to second guess her decision. She could hear the hum of electricity pumping through the power lines over head and the faint raucous of branches rubbing together under the gentle sway of the breeze.
Then, after a few seconds of contemplation, she stepped out of her circle of light and into the darkness, treading towards a future unknown until she stopped just a few feet from the dimensional rift he had opened. Orihime warily eyed the chaos of energy before her that was the garganta, wavering with uncertainty as fear began to simmer and burn inside of her. It was bedlam in there. He couldn't possibly expect her to enter something so perilous, could he? She turned to her escort, hoping for some guidance as to what she should do in such a predicament.
His eyes hadn't left her person and she could still barely see his face for the darkness that cloaked the both of them. But with the eerie radiance his gaze seemed to give off, she didn't need to ask him in order to tell he expected her to walk straight into that mess. Her eyes immediately glanced back into the garganta with trepidation before lowering them to the ground.
"I…I'm scared." She had to force the humiliating words from her mouth, hoping he would understand.
She didn't know what was on the other side of that gate, she didn't know what would happen to her when she stepped inside or if she would even come out on the other end. It wasn't like when she broke into Soul Society, her friends had been with her then, giving her strength. Now...she was alone.
"There is nothing to be afraid of," he said without a hint of compassion. "Go, Lord Aizen is waiting for you." Orihime shivered, his voice could give a child nightmares.
"Is…is it dangerous?" she asked as his reassurances had done little to ease her fears.
"You must create your own path of reishi once you enter, otherwise you will fall to parts unknown," he replied, reinforcing her belief that if she were to enter such a place, she would never come out alive. "Are you capable of doing this?" he asked, and there was something in the way he stated it, perhaps the shortness of his words, that gave her the feeling he would rather sit here all night and teach her how, rather than have to do something as degrading as carry her to the other side.
"Well, I'm unsure," she answered honestly. "I've never tried before." Orihime closed her eyes as discouraging thoughts about how the necessity to try such a thing probably never would have been an obstacle in her life if he hadn't accosted her earlier that day…and what he did to those Soul Reapers? How could he…? She had barely been able to piece them back together, afterwards.
"We don't have all night, woman."
"I'm sorry, I just…I can't," she said before quickly reaching up to cover her mouth when hot tears began to prick at her eyes, realizing what she was about to do.
His eyes narrowed in on her. "What?" he said a little too sharply in that soft, spine chilling voice of his for her to feel comfortable.
"You have got to be kidding me!" a loud, effeminate voice suddenly shrieked out from overhead, reverberating through the quiet, empty park like a shot. "This is what we came all the way to the human world for? This is such bullshit! What a crock! What a waste of time!" it cried again in a series of unyielding insults. Orihime whirled her head around, looking skyward to see a figure silhouetted against the moon above, standing in midair to glare down upon their persons with open disgust.
"Luppi…" she heard her companion say quietly beside her as the newcomer slowly came into view, clouds splitting from the moon to light the features of an individual she, at first glance, believed to be a young woman.
"This is clear abuse of the Espada, I can't believe we went through so much trouble for a piece of shit like that," he growled, his dark hair fell prettily around his face as he looked down on her, examining her from the inside out, looking for any signs of strength. "It makes me want to vomit," he said disdainfully as he quickly and immediately came to the conclusion she was worthless.
"Is there a reason for your presence here…Luppi?" her pale escort questioned, unmoved from his position.
The young man frowned, marring the attractive features of his delicate face. His long lashes narrowed over his lavender eyes, causing a small crease to form between his brows. "Do I need a reason to come and inspect this great prize we fought so hard to obtain?" he said mockingly, clearly referring to Orihime.
"So, Lord Aizen did not send you."
The other man didn't respond.
"Leave. You're unneeded here," he said dismissively, turning away from him in a manner that the younger man seemed to find highly offensive.
"You're not my boss, Ulquiorra!" he nearly spat. "I can do whatever the hell I want…" Luppi intoned darkly before finishing with a threatening, "And right now, maybe I want to test out the strength of this wrench."
Her attendant paused to observe his comrade over his shoulder, staring him down with eyes that seemed to reflect her own image like a mirror in the dim light surrounding them. "After all, if Lord Aizen regards her so highly, she must have some value," he continued. "And I want to see it now!"
There was a deep silence for a moment and Orihime clutched her hand tighter to her chest, readying herself for an attack from the irate boy as she was unsure whether this other man would bother to offer her protection or throw her to the wolves without a care.
"Should I repeat myself?" he asked, keeping his gaze fixated on the boy when he didn't receive an immediate answer. "Leave," he ordered again, putting no real feeling into the word, but leaving no room for argument.
"Heh, if you want me to leave, you'll have to get rid of all of us," he replied haughtily, and as he finished his rant a pair of eyes appeared from shadows of the trees surrounding them, followed by another and another. Each glowing with an otherworldly presence as shapes and figures of bodies manifested around them, seemingly melting out of the darkness like her worst of nightmares turned reality.
As they got closer, Orihime gasped as she instantly recognized each of the men in their pack.
This was the group that had attacked Ichigo and the others…Orihime's mind spun with the prospect that she had quite possibly gotten out of one trap and walked straight into another.
"Ulquiorraa!" A large, muscular man grinned as he approached her without caution. "So you actually got her, I can't believe she seriously agreed to come along!" he said as he sauntered closer, until he got a little too close for comfort. She took several steps back as she recalled how he had struck her down without a qualm the last time they were in this park together. She had barely remembered much after that, and the fact Ichigo had succeeded in removing the arm from the body of such an intimidating and massive man seemed like such a momentous task now that she thought back on it. All she had remembered from that battle was pain and heartache and the sudden realization that she wasn't as useful to Ichigo as she once thought she was.
"Yes…she does seem rather stupid to have agreed to such a stupid and obvious trap," Luppi concurred with barely restrained contempt, apparently intent on reiterating how stupid he thought her to be for coming here.
When Yammy took another frightening step closer and extended his arm towards her in a manner Orihime could not tell was friendly or not, she panicked and called forth her Shun Shun Rikka, spreading her shield out before her reflexively as she cried out, "Please! You swore there would be no more violence!" she pleaded to anyone who would listen, anyone who would have enough honor to hold up their end of the bargain.
The hefty man in front of her burst out laughing, apparently finding her pleads for mercy humorously entertaining as he went on a rant of how 'weak and pathetic' she was. Orihime had stopped listening. She didn't care what they thought of her, so long as they kept their promise. As he continued to bark on about her, she took a step back, trying to put some well needed space between them.
She gasped as she bumped into something and swirled around with frantic eyes, expecting the worst.
"Who-" she began as she looked down on a blonde haired boy staring up at her with wide, expressive eyes. "I…I'm sorry," Orihime took a step back, trying to apologize for her mistake when the stranger suddenly reached out with more speed and force than necessary to grab her arm, pulling her down close to his crouched person.
"Ooh…" he breathed out, completely engrossed with doing nothing more than simply staring at her.
"P-pardon?" Orihime asked, trying to sound inoffensive, as she was unsure of what he had said.
"Waahh!" the boy repeated with a determined voice, pulling her nearly face to face as he reached out and touched the pins hidden in her auburn hair. He seemed completely entranced by her as he tried to manage a few more syllables of words she couldn't even remotely understand. When he pulled her fully against him in an embrace too strong for her to break, Orihime protested with as much strength and bravado she could muster.
"Wait a second," she protested, attempting to remove herself from his firm grasp. When he rested his cheek on her breasts and stared up at her with wonderstruck eyes, Orihime blushed with embarrassment and discomfort as she continue to twist away from him, only to have the young man squeeze her tighter and tighter like a snake until she could hardly breathe properly. "Please, stop!" Her eyes watered with frustration and fear as her words made no leeway with him and her lips trembled with her failed efforts to keep her disgruntled frown in place, only to fail as she felt every ounce of her pride leave her when she realized it was a useless endeavor.
Orihime turned her head away, feeling too violated and defeated to even bother trying.
"Waah?" the boy intoned with a questioning glance, his mouth forming into a pout upon seeing her tears. "Uhn," he urged, poking at her hairpins again.
Orihime shook her head, trying to keep the hysterics out of her voice. "I'm sorry, I don't understand you!"
"Uhn! Uhn!" he repeated, continuing to gently poke at her.
Orihime blinked as she slowly began to realize what the boy was trying to convey. She swallowed the lump in her throat as she thought that, perhaps, this one didn't seem to mean her any harm. "You…you want to see my fairies again?" she asked cautiously.
"Wah!" He nodded excitedly, liken to a child on the verge of receiving a new toy.
Orihime was at a loss for words as she had not expected to encounter such an innocent mind amongst the enemy's ranks. "Well, I...I suppose I could-"
"Enough!" came the outraged bellow from above them as both she and the blonde youth looked up to see the same young man staring down on them with impatience and rage. His resentment for the situation was barely contained. "I'm not going to sit here while you attempt to infect our army with your disgusting human presence."
The young boy wrapped around her made a rather churlish and decisive noise of displeasure as he frowned at him.
"That's it!" Luppi snapped, infuriated beyond words. "I'm going to do Lord Aizen a favor and get rid of both of these nuisances once and for all!" he nearly screeched, pointing a finger directly at the two of them as Orihime remained tightly embraced in the stubborn youngster's arms.
"Just drop it already." came the voice of their last comrade, who still remained partially hidden in the shadows. "You're getting all worked up over nothing." He frowned at Luppi as if he were the most disgusting thing he'd set eyes upon.
"Shut up, Grimmjow!" Luppi spat the words out vehemently and Orihime averted her eyes for a moment to examine the man. With blue hair and a missing arm, Orihime was beginning to wonder if missing appendages and uncommon features were commonplace amongst the army of these Arrancars. "You don't even hold rank anymore, you're nothing but pond water, so get lost," he said, his voice holding what Orihime very much believed to be false authority.
Grimmjow merely scoffed at this. After sticking his remaining hand in his pocket as he looked away, the man seemed not to bother concerning himself with the situation any longer.
"Hey, he's kinda right," Yammy interjected as he came to stand beside the girl. "I don't think Lord Aizen wants us to get rid of her just yet," he said while scratching the back of his head, as if trying to think very, very hard on the matter. "That is what we were told, right Ulquiorra?" He sent the question over his shoulder, only to scrunch his face up when there was no response. "…Ulquiorra?" he asked again when he all he heard in return was silence. When he turned to see that the man in question was gone, Yammy looked from one side to the other, searching for his missing comrade. "Hey, Ulquiorra!" he called again, his deep voice shooting through the cool night air and reverberating off the trees in heavy echoes that slowly died out in the distance.
"This is just priceless!" Luppi said, bursting into hysterical laughter and clutching at his sides as he tried to catch his breath. "Even Ulquiorra doesn't care what Lord Aizen thinks of her!" As his laughter subsided, his gaze landed squarely back on the girl sitting on the grass below, staring up at him with confusion and fear, wondering what she had done for him to despise her so much. "Now, I think it's about time we give this great power of yours a little test, girlie. What do you say?" His grin widened just enough to show a hint of madness behind a pair of lavender eyes that she would have normally thought beautiful.
"Hey, wait a minute, Luppi!" Yammy stepped forward as the brunette lifted his hand again, a cero forming at the tip of his finger. "I don't know if this is such a good idea. After all, Ulquiorra said-" he began, clearly unsure of what he should do about the situation.
"Ulquiorra isn't here, you idiot!" Yammy frowned through the insult as his fist began to clench with anger.
"What did you call me?" he ground out.
"An idiot!" Luppi barked. "Now, are you going to step out of the way and let me continue, or are we going to have a problem?"
"Heh, fine." Yammy grinned, surprising the smaller man as he moved away from Orihime and gave Luppi a clear shot. "She's all yours. Have fun dealing with Lord Aizen afterwards…asshole."
"Shut up!" Luppi yelled, visibly becoming increasingly frustrated by the second. "I've had enough of this crap, and I've had enough of looking at this wrench's face!" he finished and as the last syllable left his mouth, his cero flared for a split second, showing there was no hesitation or regret behind his actions. Orihime's eyes widened as she realized he was actually, truly going to fire at her.
"Wait, no!" she cried out to stop him. "You don't have to-"
When he launched the cero at her with a speed she had no chance of avoiding, Orihime froze as shock and disbelief washed over her.
He did it…he actually shot at me! She thought over and over again.
Thoughts and strategies of what she should do raced through her mind faster than she could process as instinct failed to kick in and call forth her protective shield.
Orihime let out a wail of panic as her eyes clenched shut, bracing for the pain. She heard the boy holding her make a strange noise as he tightened his grip for a split second before he abruptly released her and disappeared from her side. Orihime gasped in astonishment as she watched the youth reappear before her and deflect the cero with a single hand, swatting the blast of energy away as if it were nothing more than a troublesome insect - dirt and debris flew through the air in the distance as it collided with a large tree, exploding violently.
"Y-you…?" she said breathlessly, unable to believe what had just happened as she stared at the young boy standing before her like a shield. His long, loose sleeves fluttered for a few moments against the quick movement before settling at his sides.
"Wonderweiss," Luppi hissed.
The blonde made a single, curt noise of discontent as a frown stretched across his face while his reiatsu began to give off an unsettling amount of anger.
"Get out of my way," Luppi ground out and subsequently received no answer.
Without warning as to what was happening, the focus of everyone's attention shifted dramatically as a body suddenly dropped from the trees around them and connected with the ground with a loud thunk that broke the heavy tension in the air, drawing the group's interest away from the situation at hand.
"What the fuck?" Grimmjow snorted while he stared at the body that had landed not three yards from his feet, wondering what had just happened.
Suddenly there was chaos as a voice abruptly yelled out, "We've been spotted!" Orihime was at a loss as she watched shadows begin to fly from the tree line like a wave of darkness. Her eyes followed the figures as they shot into the air before zipping down to the ground, landing without a sound in a circular pattern around them to surround the group of Arrancar in a flash.
"Shinigami!" Luppi said sharply, quickly taking count of their foes.
"Now we're talking!" Grimmjow laughed, already advancing forward to make his move as his dry mood began blossoming back to life. "Nothing better to round off the day than a few dead Shinigami."
"Onmitsukido, to be more precise," Ulquiorra stated as he appeared beside the lifeless body that had fallen to the ground just moments prior, a clear testament as the one to have put it there. "Your presence here has caused more trouble than it is worth," he said lifelessly while staring out at the mass of dark shapes closing in on them, listening as their commander, a large, partially bald man that stood out amongst his smaller, slimmer comrades, barked out orders to different sections of his squad.
"Keh, like I care about getting caught." The blue haired man smirked, eyeing his enemy and completely disregarding the fact that he and the others had quite possibly brought about a major kink in Aizen's carefully laid out plan. "Are they any good?" he sneered as he took a step forward and considered jumping straight into the fight without waiting for his answer.
Ulquiorra was silent for a moment, his eyes scouring over each and every member of the special task force set out before him.
"…they're trash," he said, closing his eyes and losing interest. "All of them."
"Oh well," Grimmjow said with mock contrite and shrugged his good shoulder upwards to loosen up his neck. "I'm sure they'll be at least a little entertaining." Just as he was about to jump into battle, the large man leading the opposition's group stepped forward, proudly jutting his chest out as he decided it was time to formally announce their presence.
"This is an official neutral zone instated by Central 46 itself. Arrancar are not permitted to enter the mortal realm under any circumstances under the ninth clause of the Winter Wartime Act," he stated with a loud, obnoxious voice. "Arrancar, you are to surrender at once and come with us, where you will be taken back to Soul Society to receive a fair trial and receive fair judgme-"
"God, just shut up already!" Grimmjow bemoaned, unable to stand listening to such bullshit any longer.
"Wh-what did you say?!" Their composed leader immediately lost his cool façade and clenched his fist to wave it at the blue haired man in an unrefined, surly fashion.
"I said, 'God, just shut up already!'" Grimmjow repeated. "What are you bald and deaf, too? I'm sure it's bad enough just being a fatass, but damn, all three?" He gave a low whistle, as if he found it to be a greatly impressive feat.
"You little punk!" the man retaliated. His face turned bright red with anger as he went to lunge forward, only to have one of his subordinates quickly place a hand on his shoulder to hold him back. The man heaved out a ragged breath of frustration and put a reign on his temper for the time being as he tried to put duty first. "State your business here, Arrancar."
"Business?" Grimmjow echoed. "Why would I want to tell some strange bald guy all of my business?" He smiled, knowing his taunts were easily getting through to the man who seemed to be of less than average intelligence.
"Why you…" The Shinigami clenched his jaw as his face turned redder and redder with each passing second.
"Who the hell are you, anyways?" Grimmjow asked, baiting the man further. "I'm sure I haven't seen you in the Shinigami ranks before. After all, it'd be too damn hard to forget a face like that."
As if to prove all his insults wrong, the man before him straightened his posture and thrust his chin out as he proudly answered, "I'm Lieutenant Marechiyo Omaeda, Vice Captain to Captain Soifon of the Second Division of the Thirteen Court Guard Squad. Corps Commander to the Onmitsukido Patrol of the Sec-"
"Yeah, yeah, we get it already," Grimmjow interrupted, barely able to stand the arrogant man's voice much longer. "No need to rant about yourself like a total dickwad…" he muttered to himself while lazily scratching at the back of his ear with his pinky.
"That does it!" Omaeda bellowed, his fury exploding like a volcano. "By the time I'm through with you, you'll be begging me to send your pathetic ass to hell! Do you hear me, Hollow?" he declared before pulling his Zanpakuto from his side to immediately call forth his shikai.
"Sounds like fun," he answered darkly and leveled the Shinigami with a wicked smirk. "Looks like you guys may be more interesting than I originally thought."
"Grimmjow," the quiet voice of Ulquiorra cut in before he could advance on their enemy, coming to stand beside him in a few short steps.
"What?" he snapped in reply and rounded on the shorter man with a glare in his blue eyes. The last thing he wanted to hear right now was one of his lectures.
"…make this fast. We don't have all night."
Grimmjow blinked, unsure if he had heard correctly. Had Ulquiorra just given him the go ahead to fight? So often did he only hear 'don't do this' or 'don't do that' from the smaller man's mouth that he contemplated arguing back, just for the sake of arguing. Grimmjow narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "What the hell's going on here, Ulquiorra?" he asked skeptically. "You don't give a shit about stuff like this unless you've got something to gain from it. What's your angle?"
"There is no angle, Grimmjow," he said patiently and shut his eyes to the defensive look the blue haired man was currently giving him. "But if you do not start paying attention to what's going on around you, you will be missing more than just an arm."
"Wha?" he began, only to be cut off by a long, drawn out battle cry erupting from Omaeda as he launched himself forward, charging the unguarded man. "Shit!" Grimmjow cursed, just barely dodging the large, spiked ball that slammed into the ground where he had been standing.
"Take this, you bastard!" the Vice Captain wailed, readying Gegetsuburi for another strike as he leapt from the ground and followed Grimmjow into the air and past the tree line.
"Heh, now that's more like it!" Grimmjow smirked, quickly forgetting any of the previous conversation he had been engaged in, ready to take every ounce of his pent up aggression out on the overconfident fool.
Orihime watched in stunned silence as chaos erupted around her like a tidal wave. The moment Lieutenant Omaeda launched his attack at Grimmjow, his masked troops followed suit, appearing behind herself and the others like phantom apparitions. The ground shook as an explosion rocked through the background, while only moments later she could see the smoke plume rise into the air from her crouched position beside her unexpected guardian.
Orihime pushed herself to her feet, unsure of what she should be doing in the midst of such a crisis. Something inside her wanted to stay and aid the Shinigami, and when a horrible image of the nameless Shinigami escorts that had nearly been slaughtered on her account in the senkaimon came to mind, it only served to remind her that they deserved her help. She didn't want to see anyone else get hurt, too many had already been injured in the span of these past twelve hours, let alone the past several months. However, logic told her to run, to seize the chance and get out of the hole she'd dug around herself like a grave.
Before she could make her choice, Wonderweiss jerked his head up, making a noise of droll curiosity. Immediately following his gaze, she looked up to see a masked figure coming down on her with deadly killing intent, his body was in an offensive posture with hands fixed and ready to strike. Orihime gasped and reflexively called forth her shield. "Santen Kesshun!" She cried hastily, trying to process the fact that a Shinigami was attacking her.
As the soft, golden ambience of her shield illuminated the area around her, the man's eyes quickly widened in shock as he abandoned his attack at the last moment, bewilderment registering behind the little sliver of flesh his mask didn't cover.
"You…!" She heard him intone as he landed in front of her, lowering his guard as something seemed to sink in. "You're that girl! What are you doing he-" He didn't even get to finish his words as a massive fist crashed down on the unguarded soldier without warning.
Orihime flinched as blood splattered all over her face and clothes.
It was hot and thick and left surprisingly burning trails down her cheeks, silencing everything with death.
She froze instantly as an indescribably foreign and sickening fear welled up inside of her at the gruesome sight, staring ahead, unblinking like a porcelain figurine.
Something inside her chest jerked painfully, squeezing like a creature as she felt her throat constrict and gag. Below, she felt moisture begin to soak through her shoes and she didn't need to look down to know it was the pool of blood spreading forth from the mess that was being ground into the earth by Yammy's unforgiving fist. She wanted to scream at him to stop, she wanted to put a stop to all of this wretched violence.
A roar of pain and anger split through the night air as one of the man's comrades flew into a rage, speeding towards Yammy with determined eyes as he scored a powerful roundhouse kick straight to the man's gut.
Orihime felt tears welling up within her eyes as she witnessed his attempt at vengeance do little more than push the Arrancar's feet a few measly inches back in the dirt. "You…I'll kill you!" he proclaimed as Yammy began laughing.
"I'd like to see you try!" Yammy replied before backhanding his opponent hard. It had sent him flying into a nearby tree, snapping the trunk in half with the force of his impact as the special ops member's body fell to the ground, lifeless and limp.
Orihime turned, intending to run from the violent scene playing out before her. She had to get help, she had to call for help. Surely if she screamed someone would come running…Ichigo always came running.
She gasped as she abruptly came face to face with the same blonde Arrancar that had remained by her side through most of their meeting. He was making noises and gesturing towards her hairpins again, intent on persuading her to use them as he apparently found some intense interest in them and remained completely ignorant to the disorder around him. She didn't know exactly how this particular boy would react if she tried to rebuff his attempts and escape, would he become violent with her?
When the heavy body of the mission commander suddenly landed on the ground to her beside her, bested at the hand of Grimmjow, Orihime looked up to see the last Shinigami fall at Luppi's feet…it had been a massacre. No one was left alive. No one was left to save her.
A low, pained groan rumbled out from the crumpled form of Vice Captain Omaeda and pulled her attention away from the bloody landscape around her. Omaeda slowly blinked a few times, using the last ounces of his strength to try and push himself up, only to fail. Orihime stepped forward, ready to call on her Soten Kisshun to heal him. If only she could save one, just one...
When Omaeda gained enough strength to pull his face from the dirt, he looked up to see her figure approaching him. His eyes squinted in bleary confusion before recognition, similar to what had been on his comrade's face, began to appear.
"Aren't you…" he began weakly as it finally sank it. "You're one Kurosaki's friends!" he stated in shock. "Wh-what are you doing here, you idiot! Run, go on, get out of here!" he urged as he once again tried to regain his strength, only to fall shakily back onto his chest when his arms completely gave out.
When Orihime began to take another step towards the man, she instantly stopped as a severe, grim shadow appeared behind the prone form of Omaeda, slowly edging closer to the bleeding man. She watched the shadows that hung over the form of the pale Arrancar shift as he came to a halt just inches behind the oblivious Shinigami. Standing over him like a picture of something horrific and terrible, he remained still and quiet with his death-like gruesome stare. She could read his eyes as they locked with hers…dangerous and daunting as they spoke to her loud and clear;
If she helped the Shinigami, he would kill him.
Orihime bit into tongue nervously, already knowing she was defeated by those piercing eyes that needn't say a word to subdue her. Warning her to keep her end of the bargain lest she wished to watch the man be slaughtered at his hand.
"Why…why aren't you running?!" he exclaimed when she made no move to retreat or even advance to assist him. When Grimmjow suddenly appeared at her side, smirking like the devil himself, Omaeda gasped in astonishment as realization sank into his bruised and battered head. "You…you traitor!" he suddenly hissed nastily, causing Orihime to recoil as if she were wounded. The words stung painfully like barbed wire wrapping around her heart.
When Omaeda began coughing violently and hacking up a hefty amount of blood before abruptly passing out, Grimmjow laughed and stepped towards him, ready to finish him off. "Looks like this guy was all talk and no action," he sneered, openly displaying his great disappointment with the short, uneventful fight that had occurred between them. "Almost makes me not want to take the time to kill him." When Grimmjow reached down to deliver the final blow, a pale hand suddenly shot out, gripping his wrist and stopping him from continuing.
Grimmjow's blue eyes darted up in a flash and glared into detached green ones that stared back at him with vapid indifference.
"Let go of my arm, Ulquiorra," Grimmjow growled viciously, trying to keep his cool.
After several seconds of tense silence, Ulquiorra blinked for what seemed like the first time and looked away, releasing the man's arm as he turned from the them and buried his hands in his pockets. "Leave him be, he needs to remain alive."
"The hell he does," Grimmjow protested, his seething rage showing through in the animalistic way he bared his frighteningly sharp teeth. "He's my opponent, I get to say what happens to him."
Ulquiorra glanced at him from over his shoulder, quickly sizing up his body's incomplete state of being. "You will leave him alive," he repeated. "Unless you feel the need to confront me in that less than adequate state you're in, I suggest you do as you're told," he finished evenly, bereft of even a hint of life in his voice.
"Why should I listen to you?"
"Because, he is going to be the messenger to relay the news that Orihime Inoue has betrayed them."
Orihime gasped as the weight of that statement sunk in, one horrible word at a time. Relay. Orihime. Betrayed. They repeated in her mind over and over again until she was certain that sentence would be ingrained in her memory forever. It would be the moment she'd never forget, when she finally realized just exactly what it was she had gotten herself into.
"You…you lied to me!" she suddenly cried out, directing all of her anger and pain onto him. "You tricked me!" she wailed again as Ulquiorra leveled his green eyed gaze at her.
"Did I?" he replied quietly.
"You promised me you wouldn't hurt my friends if I came with you, not betray everyone I've ever cared for!" she said shakily and her eyes began to water as it truly sank in that she'd fallen straight into his webbed trap. "I'll never turn traitor, never!"
"Oh?" he said slowly as he casually approached her. "As I recall, I kept my end of the bargain. However, if I'm not mistaken…" he intoned with an empty softness. "You were the one who wondered aimlessly about the living world for hours on end, not even bothering to contact a single authority on the matter." Orihime's lips parted on a ragged breath as she realized what he was saying, what she had unintentionally done. "You even have two Shinigami living in your own home, one of which is Captain level status, am I wrong?"
"You're horrible…" she said breathily as tears slid down her cheeks, blurring her vision of the man standing before her.
"Think what you want," he replied. "I fulfilled my promise. You were the one naïve enough to trust your enemy." He turned then, ready to walk away. Uncaring for the tears in her eyes. "Come, you've kept Lord Aizen waiting long enough already."
"What did you say?" he asked, piercing her with his gaze once again in a manner that told her he wasn't used to being disobeyed.
"I refuse," she repeated more firmly. "I won't go, I'm not leaving with you."
Ulquiorra was silent for a moment longer, gauging whether he believed her to be serious or not, whether she was simply trying to put on a defiant front for the sake of causing him more trouble than she was worth. When he saw her resolute gaze and realized she had meant what she said, it became clear that more drastic measures may be in order. "Need I remind you of the deal we made, Orihime Inoue?" He answered her determination with calm, calculating coldness. His eyes narrowed and she could see the threat in them, chilling her to the bone and coiling around her like a predator ready to devour her without mercy. "Or are you going to force me to go back on my word, as well?"
"You wouldn't!" she suddenly cried with a desperate plea and took a shaky step towards him as her hands began to tremble in fear; fear for what he would do to her precious friends. Her eyes begged him not to harm them and let him know that she would do anything for them…anything he said.
"You have already done a splendid job in leading us straight to Kurosaki Ichigo and his family...shall I pay them a visit, as well?"
Orihime's heart leapt up to her throat when she heard the callous warning, listening as his voice carried on the night breeze until she could have sworn she felt his breath against her ear. "That…that was a private moment," she whispered, realizing that he had been aware of her every move, every word and every breath since this morning.
"Woman," he said quietly as he stepped closer, too close for Orihime to feel safe for she could read it in his otherworldly eyes that he was beginning to become very, very tired of her emotional antics. "The moment you said yes to me," He leaned closer, his mouth a nudge away from her ear. "You had no privacy." Orihime swallowed as his voice sent tremors through her body in a strange way, wrapping around her heart with his cold, white fingers. "You have no freedom, no rights, and no friends. You have nothing, Orihime Inoue. You...belong to us," he finished and Orihime, too stunned to take notice, barely acknowledged him removing himself from her personal space, turning from her and walking away towards the still open garganta as she stared blankly into the night.
"Yammy," he called out. "Grab the girl and don't drop her. She is incapable of creating her own path inside the garganta." And then he disappeared into the void, leaving her behind as his comrade swooped her up without question, pinning her arms to her sides in his hand that seemed too large to be real. Orihime nearly recoiled into herself as she felt the blood coating his palm soak through her uniform, causing a sickening discomfort to hang in the pit of her stomach.
They moved past a stubbornly silent Grimmjow and a glaring Luppi who hadn't stopped sending her nasty looks and spiteful sneers as Wonderweiss followed along beside her, making unintelligible noises and trying to keep up with her person as Yammy handled her with all the finesse of a child swinging a rag doll at his side.
Orihime closed her eyes when she felt the harsh sting of fresh tears pricking at her lashes. She pursed her lips and crinkled her chin, trying to stop the uncontrollable trembling washing over her. This wasn't what she had wanted at all…she was supposed to sacrifice herself for the greater good. Not betray everything she'd ever stood for.
I'm so sorry…I'm so sorry… She repeated over and over again to herself when horrible images started coming to mind as she foresaw what the dawn held for both herself and her friends - her friends that she had been willing to die for, learning that she had betrayed them and left them behind for a foe intent on the worst kind of destruction.
"Damn it, cut it out, twerp!" Yammy snapped irritably, swatting the young blonde away from him as he continued to pester and prod at Orihime. "You're getting on my nerves."
Orihime's eyes slowly slid back open, feeling void of hope. A freckled face with innocent violet eyes came into view as she hung from Yammy's hand like the lifeless body she felt she was, barely registering the naively inquisitive gaze of the blonde boy following along beside her like a lamb.
She felt the change in reishi around her as they entered the garganta, leaving behind her home…her life.
You belong to us…his voice repeated over and over in her head, his cold eyes coming to mind.
Her long hair swooshed about her face and her bangs obscured her view as she watched the garganta close behind them, cutting her off from everything she had ever loved.
For anyone wondering, this is going to be a canon-esque fic. Meaning it's going to follow the same overall plot, timeline and such of Bleach, but certain scenes and events may be revised or even switched around for the sake of the story. It will contain mature content(come on, it's me, of course it will) as well as many other things I hope UlquiHime fans will enjoy.
Stick around for the rest!
…and, yes, in case it wasn't obvious, the title is an analogy to Ulquiorra.