FANFIC TIME: Anything More – Part 4
I write Fanfic. Who knew right? Here’s chapter 4 of a BLEACH story I like to call Anything More. For Coherance sake, I’ll post the rest later.
Chapter 4: Midnight Waltz
“Miss Inoue,” Aizen said, pouring a liquid reminiscent of Earl Grey into a china cup. “Have some tea.” Orihime kept her eyes fixed on the drink as it travelled from the teapot to the cup. She didn’t want to see whatever expression lay on his face.
When the tea hit the rim, he immediately stopped, wiping his hands together before moving to the other end of the table. Orihime heard the chair move out and in, allowing Aizen to sit down. When he settled down, he made a small coughing noise to signal her attention. She didn’t look up, instead choosing to watch her swirling drink.
Aizen made another cough, louder this time. Orihime gave him a quick glance, hoping that would be enough to satisfy. She instantly felt that she had made a mistake. Aizen had that look, the one where no matter what you did or how you did it, it was wrong. And he could do it better than you. The man looked at her expectantly, leaning his head onto the back of his hands. Orihime’s fingers started to tremble. It isn’t supposed to happen this way.
“I really do suggest you drink. It’s good tea. I would like to say it’s the best in Hueco Mundo,” Aizen chuckled. A moment too late Orihime made a weak smile and fumbled for her cup, spilling some of her drink. Noticing the table had become wet; she paused and mopped up the mess with some nearby tissues. Then again she beamed and tried to shy it away as a quirky mistake.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I’m such a klutz.” Orihime laughed, perfecting her smile. She intended it to sound endearing, like ‘Well, you’re the one who brought me here. I guess you’ll have to deal with my antics.’ When Aizen seemed to ignore her comment, she went back to staring at what remained of her drink.
Brandishing a cup, Aizen poured some tea for himself. When it was full, he brought the tea to his lips and drank. Placing it down on its original spot, he fell back into his previous stance.
“Hmm,” he mused. “I think it gets better every time I taste it.” Orihime blinked. There was something horribly wrong with scenario. She had been through these events once. She had lived for two weeks past this day, in all of which never did she have this meeting with Aizen. Something had happened which had changed the original course, and now she was having tea instead of being locked in what would become her room.
Orihime wanted to consider this to be an improvement. Tea was considerably better than being trapped. However, in every piece of fiction she had encountered, changing history hardly turned out for the better. All they told her was that any change would lead to an apocalyptic future with some variance of a revived Hitler or dolphins taking over the earth. In comparison to having physically time travelled, Orihime was not one to wonder whether these outcomes were too absurd.
With the man’s continued stare, she decided not to think about it and finally took a large gulp of her tea. She made a genuine grin. Aizen was right. Whatever kind of tea it was, it tasted fantastic.
“Understand, it’s these little things which prevent anyone from doubting me.”
Orihime nodded. Her satisfaction must have shown because he was quick to respond.
“Good. Let us get to the point, Orihime.” At the sound of her first name, Orihime put down her cup and looked towards Aizen. “How do you think the world will be two-three weeks from now?”
Orihime hesitated to speak. It could be a general question, like the kind they ask on an interview or a homework assignment. But this was Aizen. Everything he said had a purpose behind it. With this in mind, she gave a careful reply.
“Hmm, let’s see. I don’t know. Almost anything could happen in around two weeks. There could be…” There was more that she had to say, but her voice halted at that. There was something about Aizen’s demeanour that told her she should stop.
“Anything?” Aizen smiled. “Then we have the same idea for the future. I’m glad you agree with me, because I have a few changes in mind.” Orihime felt her heart plummet into her stomach.
“What do you mean?” She stuttered. There were more questions floating around her head, though the most crucial one was not the one she asked. In the confusion between her brain and her lips they had all merged into the vaguest phrase she could conceive.
“Orihime, did you think your little trip went unnoticed?” Aizen asked, sounding more surprised than he was; not at all.
“How do I know about your venture through time? That’s a question my Espada would also be keen to understand.” Aizen caught her before she could choke out the rest of her question. Then when he spoke again he raised his voice. “Kaname, let them in.”
At the other end of the room, the door yelped open. Orihime wanted to hide beneath the table as the arrancar poured in one by one, but kept her place. She sat as straight as she could, with an almost pleasant expression on her face. It was an unfortunate fraud that didn’t play off as well as she thought it did. Luckily, most of the arrancar kept their eyes on Aizen. He was the most demanding figure in the room. By comparison, Orihime might as well have been one of the chairs.
She looked out for Grimmjow and Ulquiorra but they ignored her just as much as the others. Only one of the six allowed their eyes to stray. He looked her up and down and then licked his lips. Orihime cringed inside.
Watching them enter was reminiscent of seeing the freak-show at the carnival. They were all strange or disfigured in some way with their masks a unique signature of their being. She could label each of them by their masks, The Man with an Extra Jaw, The Man with Horns, and The Man with an Oar on his Face; all staples of Aizen’s violent cavalcade.
Methodically, they all fell into their chairs and then turned them to face their lord. Orihime decided to follow suit and looked away from the awkward appearance of the Espada.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the Espada. As you can see, Yammy, Szayel and Barragan, could not join us for today’s meeting.” Orihime made a mental roll call of the room. There were two chairs empty on either side of her. “I apologize for the sudden meeting but there has been a change in circumstance. Our plan is going to fail.”
The Espada gave him an odd look. Even the ones who had previously appeared indifferent perked up. There were a few that appeared stunned. Orihime tried to picture what the arrancar were thinking, seeing as she had only a vague understanding of the situation and was quite puzzled. Nevertheless they waited for him to continue.
“I imagine many of you are confused about this realization. We have been carefully organizing this plan for months; how could I know that it would fail? Unless of course I’ve seen the outcome. And I have, more or less.” Orihime thought she saw him wink at her, although she doubted it. He was a maniac, not a conceited manga villain. He continued, “Kaname, visual please.”
A translucent sphere materialized in the centre of the table, phasing in like static on a dial television. It displayed a black fuzz with the words Input Needed written in block text. “This morning, our research department recorded a temporal distortion occurring in our foyer and preceding today’s incident involving the Sixth Espada.” As he spoke the sphere played footage of that morning’s affair alongside a series of charts and graphs measuring something Orihime found incomprehensible.
The Espada seemed to understand or were at least intrigued and paid attention to both halves of the sphere. The video sped through the morning’s activities, only slowing down when Orihime entered the frame. She watched as her figure approached a wounded Grimmjow with a bearable degree of confidence. Then she stood there. Orihime assumed the device was broken until she saw the look on her face, complete and utter horror. The corresponding data spiked at this point, veering off the Sphere’s viewing range. To compensate, it automatically scaled back the readings until they were viewable again.
The video continued until the scene between Grimmjow and Luppi, where it powered itself down and disappeared. Grimmjow beamed when he saw the ferociousness of his attack while the others gave him looks of admiration, distaste and indifference. From what Orihime gathered, no one at the table really liked Luppi anyway.
“From what we have gathered, our current strategy is set to fall into a battle of attrition with no clear victor for two weeks. Now, are there any questions?” Aizen proposed. Orihime watched for the arrancars’ reaction. They were divided. Many of them were apathetic to the explanation. Through most of the monologue, Grimmjow had given an interesting I’m bored but don’t fuck with me expression. The others gave similar looks, varying between tired and blatant unconcern. They didn’t need a lecture for what they did; they simply carried out their Lord’s orders. Warriors of their calibre did not need to be sat down and taught why they fighting, and all that bravado. Orihime imagined Yachiru’s friends would have reacted the same way to the news, although a little more sword-happy.
The remainder was tense, with sweat underneath their brow if it could be seen. They looked between each wondering if they were allowed to object to the absurdity. They sent looks to mild surprise to one another before finally resting their eyes on Ulquiorra who returned their bemusement with a cold stare. As if negotiating some bargain with their eyes, Ulquiorra seemed to be in agreement after they exchanged a couple glances.
“Lord Aizen, is there any physical evidence of your claim? Excuse my insolence, but those statistics you exhibited have little meaning to us,” Ulquiorra asked mechanically. Aizen was amused by this response. Ulquiorra made a subtle nod with his hands which detailed both that it was not his opinion and that he couldn’t care less about any of these scientific musings. That was the research’s department’s responsibility, not his. Orihime caught several of these nuances with a veiled interest.
“Evidence? Why I do believe I have just that.” Aizen pointed to Orihime. The arrancar all shifted towards her. “We have her to thank for this information.” Orihime felt her hands claw against the edges of the table pushing her deeper into her chair.
Finally, one of them had enough and blurted, “What is this all about? What does this girl have to do with anything?”It was the one with a paddle covering his face. His hands trembled as he spoke, despite his attempts to draw attention away from it.
“Please, don’t be rude. This girl is our guest; and coincidently from that future.” Aizen appeared as stagnant as always. He had been anticipating this outburst. “Miss Inoue, could you please recite to us three of Szayel’s fraccion?”
Orihime paused. It wasn’t a difficult question for her; she knew the answer. During her original stay in Hueco Mundo, before any of this madness had occurred, Szayel was the one who would take her from her room down to an experimental facility hidden underneath the main structure of the Las Noches. He would perform what Orihime considered mostly passive experiments alongside one or more of his fraccion. What bothered her was the smile he made afterwards. Are you going to play?
“Lumina and Verona” She said ultimately. Then the third one, “Enire Vapore.” It was hard to forget him. The interested Espada members gasped.
“She not only knows his fraccion, but can inform us of a member who was initiated yesterday. Does this need my explanation?”Aizen gave Orihime a nod, Thanks for playing.
Everyone was quiet, even the anxious members seemed to calm down after that announcement.
“Good. Any further questions should be addressed to the head of our research department when he returns. Now, for the real reason of our meeting. As a result of this change in circumstance, we are commencing our experimental phase a month early.” He gave Orihime another quick look. Ready for your reward? The sphere boomed back to life and radiated an image of a boy Orihime thought was familiar. “And as per our plan, we will be gaining another member soon. Everyone, meet what I hope to become the newest member of the Espada, Ishida Uryu.”
Orihime covered her mouth before she could scream.
The previous occasion she had seen Uryu was a month ago in her recollection of time; she had no idea it had actually been. When she last saw him, his abilities had abandoned him and he had gone off to train somewhere. She could see in the corner of the image Szayel waiting for a response from the boy. Uryu appeared tired and broken, though she realized that at full strength Szayel would still be able to overpower him.
“What do you make of our decision, Miss Inoue?”
Asshole. Orihime ignored the question and dropped her hands to the table. She glared at them for a moment then closed her eyes and wondered if she kept them closed long enough, Aizen would disappear.
* * *
Uryu had to run. It was not a desire, but an imminent urge to dash in the opposite direction without even conceiving of looking back. Yet, he knew how fruitless the venture would be. It hadn’t taken Uryu long to realize what he was dealing with. Pulling at the soul. He could sense two more aside from Szayel’s; however they were faint. Szayel’s reiatsu overwhelmed the others like bad stench.
It was difficult to deduce how strong he was, but it had to be stronger than he was in his current state. He barely had enough energy to walk, nevertheless fight one of these beasts.
Uryu gave the figure a quick looking over. The arrancar was dressed in a gown reminiscent of a doctor’s uniform. There was a chance that the arrancar was a part of a weaker medical division but it didn’t seem too likely that they would send a medic on a kidnapping assignment. Besides, his father was a doctor and he didn’t seem to have any trouble fighting Uryu off.
“You’re going to take me to Aizen?” Stalling. His mind began sewing a method of escape together.
“So the boy thinks,” Szayel gave him a babying smile. “Yes, this is all for Lord Aizen. But, honestly, who did you expect? Who else would want the scraps of your dead clan?” Uryu could think of at least one person.
“What does Aizen want with me?” Another useless question. Even if he did explain the totality of their plan the only help it would give Uryu was some more time to think. This time the arrancar showed a guarded expression, but answered immediately.
“Give yourself up and you’ll find out.” Szayel said, his grin starting to fade. “It doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact I’d prefer it that way; it would save me time sterilizing you.” Uryu flinched. The idea of this effeminate creature sterilizing him was not one he wanted to linger on.
“Let me see if I understand. You won’t hurt me or anyone else if I decide to leave with you?” He took a step backwards, keeping his eyes on the arrancar. Szayel frowned.
“Boy, you’re trying my patience.” Szayel folded his arms as if he needed to visually assert his irritation.
“You haven’t answered my question.” Uryu said, taking another step behind him. Szayel eyed him briefly, before appearing to light up with smile.
“I see what this is. Please, don’t tell me you’re thinking of escaping.” He waggled his finger in front of Uryu in a tone that said Oh, that’s cute, but better luck next time. “I’d hardly propose that as a viable option. I have you cornered.” Hurting this arrancar suddenly became higher on Uryu’s to-do list. Uryu slipped another foot behind him, careful to avoid any traffic. Running was still at the top.
“Sorry, that road is closed. Enire, grab him.”
Smoke billowed around Uryu, building up behind him. On instinct he held his breath. Out of nowhere a foot jammed into his stomach. Uryu started coughing and sucking the air into his winded body. He felt his arms become restrained and a blade by his throat. The smoke gathered together and materialized into a body. A hand was holding his arms together while the other hung a jagged sword at his neck. The sword twisted closer to Uryu’s skin. Uryu pushed away, but Enire simply made his grip tighter. There was a small laugh as Uryu tried to squirm out of the figure’s grasp.
“Enire, don’t be rude. Introduce yourself before you make a mark on the boy.” Szayel signalled for Enire to lower his sword. The arrancar complied, if only reluctantly.
Enire made another laugh and put his head beside Uryu’s. Uryu recoiled at the sight of Enire’s face. It was an inhuman white as if he had applied make-up to him appear more intimidating. All in all, it wasn’t necessary.
The most striking aspect of his face was his mask. It was familiar. Uryu recalled an old documentary from his history class explaining chemical warfare. When one side released a poisonous gas into the atmosphere both combatants would be forced to wear gas masks unless they wanted to suffer an agonizing death. Enire’s face was reminiscent of one those masks cross-sectioned horizontally at the nose, and then glued to his face.
“I would be Enire Vapore, your kidnapper supreme.” Enire began. His voice echoed within his mask, giving it a distorted sound. “I think you’ve already become acquainted with my zanpakuto, Veneno. You know, I think he likes you. Maybe we can all-”
“Enire, that’s enough.” Szayel chastised. Enire mocked a disapproving face before drawing back. Szayel glanced towards Uryu, giving him a smug look. He was the only thing protecting Uryu from the lunatic that was restraining him. Uryu hated it. It made him feel pathetic and desperate.
He tried to think of a way to escape. With his hands bound his chances were slimmer than before, if that was possible. Think harder. Picture the result in your mind. With no better alternative, he closed his eyes and tried to visualize an exit. Instead, he saw his father.
“If I was an arrancar, you’d be dead.”
Szayel tucked a finger under Uryu’s chin and pulled his head towards him.
“My, my, you are an interesting one. Most of my subjects give up by this point but you still seem to planning something.” He pulled away and watched Uryu’s head drop. Satisfied, he began to walk in the opposite direction. “Enire, make this quick. We don’t need anything dramatic.”
Enire placed the blade against Uryu’s neck. Uryu leaned away from the sword and found himself pushing at the arrancar’s chest. For a moment he stopped struggling and closed his eyes. There was a reiastu hurtling in their direction. Uryu assumed it to be only one person and braced himself.
“Hold on.” Szayel stopped walking, using sonido ensure his command was fulfilled. He grabbed Enire by the arm. “You idiot, didn’t you feel that? Someone’s-”
A slight gust blew past them.
When Uryu opened his eyes he realized it was because Szayel was now holding a disembodied arm. It took a moment for Enire to make the connection that it was his own.
Szayel dropped the arm and wiped his hands against each other. “Kurosaki Ichigo. How quaint of you to join us.” Ichigo stood a few feet ahead of Uryu in full Bankai garb. His hand dug into his zanpakuto, ready for a counter.
Uryu jumped away from the recovering arrancar and slid aside Ichigo.
“You should have arrived earlier.” Uryu shot. Unfazed, he shrugged.
“It took me a while to get here.”
“They wanted to make sure I wasn’t chickening out.” He grinned. “As if.”
Uryu suspected as much.
“Can you fight?” Ichigo asked. Uryu was glad that Ichigo didn’t state the obvious and ask how he ended up in his condition. He didn’t want a reason to mention his father.
“Well enough.” Uryu reached into his pant leg and drew a Seele Schneider. Ichigo watched him, surprised.
“Where’d you get that?”
“Does it matter?” Uryu spat. Something else he didn’t feel like explaining. He had ‘borrowed’ it from his father while he wasn’t paying attention, tucking them in his pants as to not attract any attention.
Szayel scoffed at the sight of both of them. “This has taken longer than necessary. I’m not going to waste my time fighting these buffoons. Enire, finish this quickly. Signal me when you’ve captured him.”
A tunnel grew in front of Szayel heading right into Hueco Mundo. Garganta, Uryu thought. Szayel stepped towards the hole.
“And when you do, leave the body looking recognizable.” Szayel added. Enire seemed to nod, though he replied:
“No promises! You know me, sometimes my hand starts slipping over and over again.”
Szayel entered the tunnel despite this. Uryu tried to pass off the comment as a scare tactic; however the arrancar made it difficult. Enire’s eyes stared at him with a tinge of madness and tossed his sword from hand to hand.
Uryu glanced at the ground. The arm was gone. He either regenerated or reformed his body, although the method wasn’t important. He was fully able now and required their full attention.
“Don’t underestimate him.” Uryu warned. “I’m not sure how his powers work, but they’re poison based. His zanpakuto likely emits a toxin on contact.”
Ichigo raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t let him cut you.” Ichigo gave a slow nod. He understood that one.
It took until he saw Enire’s mask did he realize what his zanpakuto’s was capable of doing. If Szayel had wanted to kill him, he could have done it himself. Instead, Szayel had Enire grapple him, which meant Enire had to have some ability that was either a tranquilizer or a poison. The mask gave it away.
Ichigo was the first to attack. Enire welcomed it with open arms, spreading his body apart like a canvas. His right arm fell to the ground. Uryu watched Ichigo glance back, finding a sword hovering in front of him. Attached to the end was the arrancar’s arm. Surprised, Ichigo attacked it on instinct. The sword blocked every blow, building for a counter and finally stabbed into Ichigo’s abdomen.
There was light and a grinding noise, and the arm was gone. The sword clattered on the ground. Uryu stood at the other end of the attack, his arms still in the Quincy stance.
“I forgot to mention that he can reform at will. He’s made of smoke.”
Ichigo let himself breathe and stepped on the sword.
“Yeah, thanks I noticed!” Ichigo yelled. Uryu ignored it. Ichigo was supposed to be the representative shinigami for the region. He should have been prepared for anything.
Uryu walked over to where Ichigo was standing and picked up the Seele Schnieder. The fight was over faster than he expected. Looking at Enire, Uryu realized the arrancar was smiling. Uryu yawned. The arrancar’s insanity was getting old.
“Are you going to capture him?” Uryu asked. “I can hold on to the zanpakuto.” It was a fair question. Ichigo was, if unofficially, a member of the Gotei 13. They could request that the arrancar be kept for \ analysis. When Ichigo didn’t respond, he tried to relax keeping his eyes on Enire. The arrancar was still grinning, his eyes just as locked on Uryu as Uryu was with him.
Uryu blinked. It reminded him of something. I broke my promise with father. He had been saved by a shinigami. He blew the thought aside. It wasn’t his fault that a shinigami needed to save him. Unless wanting to go home was looking for trouble, he hadn’t meddled in their affairs. Not that Ryuken would see it that way. In his mind, he could hear his father’s apathy.
“You’re pathetic. If you were strong you wouldn’t need the help.”
He shook his head, feeling it drop. He could deal with his father tomorrow. There was a current matter that still required his attention.
When he looked back, Enire was gone. Uryu wanted to smack himself, though he smacked Ichigo instead.
“Weren’t you paying attention!” Uyru yelled. Ichigo appeared surprised but silent. Expecting an instantaneous outburst, Uryu almost wanted to check a watch. Wait. Uryu pushed Ichigo’s body as hard as he could and watched as it fell to the ground.
The idiot! The sword had cut through Ichigo’s sandal and marred his foot; instant poison. Unable to react, the sword leapt up and slashed across Uryu’s hand. By impulse he grabbed it with his other, smearing his blood over his flesh. He could hear laughing in the distance. Uryu cursed. He should have expected it. It was a more than obvious trap, one hundred percent predictable.
He didn’t bother to think of how he could have missed it. There was little point to it, aside from an adequate amount of self-loathing which Uryu could already provide.
He could feel his limbs becoming stiff and his heart rate slowing. His mind stopped thinking and through it, he had gained a strange feeling of peace. For the first time in hours, he didn’t need to think.
Enire grabbed his shoulders.
“Don’t fight it. As I am now, the poison is almost instantaneous. You might even start to enjoy it. You’re lucky that I don’t-” Enire whispered into his ear. Uryu pushed against him, heaving his head as high as he could.
Before his vision left, he saw exactly what he had hoped for, Enire’s appalled face. Then having done what he had desired from the instant he met Enire, he waited until he could wake up again.