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[personal profile] queenofchalices
Title: Moon Over the Tower: Chapter Four
Series: Bleach
Rating: R
Warnings: het (IchiHime), blood, scariness. Should be read with the lights off.
Spoilers: This is AU. We don't need spoilers where we're going.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to a lot of Japanese people, namely people like Tite Kubo and Shonen Jump. You'll notice how none of those are me. The LiveJournal format that you'll probably be reading this in (if you're one of my friends) is rough draft and is subject to revision. Consider this a 'sneak peek'. If something sits the wrong way with you, let me know. This will probably (never) be updated weekly, until I eventually drop it like every other project ever. Not responsible for epileptic seizures or allergic reactions. May contain eye-and-brain-bleeding levels of radioactive ANGST and/or peanut products. Please sit a reasonable distance from your computer screen.

Author’s Note: I'm not sure exactly what my schedule is going to look like from now on. I just transferred shifts at work, and day shift is kind of stressful for me. I don't know if I'll be able to keep up this update schedule for much longer, but I'm definitely going to do my best! Wish me luck!


Hot hands slid up her naked sides, holding her tight. Orihime gasped at the feeling as they brushed over her full bosom, then back down her sides to her hips. The hands were curious, fascinated, and so were the ruddy brown eyes belonging to their owner.

She watched in utter fascination as the redheaded man above her continued to explore her body through touch. She was completely open to him, naked and vulnerable. He could do anything to her and there wasn't a single thing she could do but to lay there and enjoy it.

As this realization dawned on her, hazy and gray, she couldn't bring herself to care much. What he was doing felt too good and made her relaxed. And soon his mouth joined his hands, kissing and sucking the flesh along her collarbone. This drew a little gasp from Orihime; she had never even thought about being kissed by a man before, but now how could she think of anything else?

As the world melted around her, everything seemed to fade into darkness. Even the Count's licentious touches fell away, replaced by numbness and the feeling of floating. As Orihime vaguely wondered why that was, she began to feel very heavy. Her body felt as though it was filled with lead, sinking and pulling her down.

She was no longer floating now, instead having sunk down as far as she could. Wherever she lay was incredibly soft; she wondered if she perhaps was laying on a cloud. While she was too heavy to roll over now, she found she didn't really need to; she was already plenty comfortable as it was.

A little while after gaining this awareness, Orihime realized she should probably attempt to open her eyes. She wasn't sure when she'd even closed them or how long she'd been laying there with them closed. But now that she was somewhat awake, she might as well try to open her eyes.

She cracked one eye open, the dull gray light coming through her thick curtains and spreading gently across her face. It wasn't harsh enough to hurt her head, but it didn't feel like her head needed much help in that department anyway. It was pounding and fuzzy in a way she'd never experienced before. It felt like her head was filled with sheep's wool. Or possibly head gnomes mining for gold between her ears.

"Haaah," she sighed as she sat up. As Orihime brought a hand to her head, she heard someone else in the room stir.

"You're finally awake," Tatsuki said, drawing Orihime's attention. The redhead turned to see her new friend sitting by the fireplace, stoking the fire. She scrunched her eyebrows together in thought.

"How late is it?" she asked hoarsely. Her own voice surprised her; it was rough from disuse, her throat dry from sleep and the wood fire in the grate.

"Almost noon," Tatsuki tutted at her, "You had a little too much wine last night and passed out. I had to drag you out of the dining room and undress you."

Two things dawned on Orihime then. First and foremost, she had made a fool of herself in front of the Count. That was the worse thing. Secondly, her rather vivid dream about being touched probably came from Tatsuki undressing her. Orihime held her cheeks as they flushed, embarrassment flooding her face. What wicked thoughts this place instilled in her!

"A-Ah," she breathed, glancing shyly at Tatsuki, "I-I don't think I should have wine again..." Tatsuki smiled a little at her, her countenance kind.

"No, I don't think so," the black-haired girl agreed, "Well, let's get going. We still have a lot to do before Ichigo's father gets here." Orihime drew the quilt up to her chin.

"I embarrassed myself in front of him," she said quietly, "Rangiku would be so ashamed." Tatsuki's eyebrows rose.

"He doesn't hold it against you," Tatsuki said, moving to pat her head, "If anything, he's embarrassed because he talked you into it." Orihime lowered her blanket, giving Tatsuki a cautiously optimistic look.

"Do you... really think so?" she asked shyly, "I wouldn't blame him if he didn't speak to me again..." Tatsuki just rolled her eyes.

"The Count isn't like that," she said simply, "He's not going to eat with you tonight, though, so you'll have a day or two to practice before trying to dine with him again." Although this simple statement set Orihime's heart at ease, it also brought up another fine point; she didn't know what the Count really was like. She had only seen him twice now, and her logical mind told her that this was nowhere near enough for her to feel so infatuated with him. It also made her wonder if he was disgusted with her, since he wasn't going to eat with her tonight.

"O-Oh, I see," she said quietly, her countenance growing serious and somewhat melancholic, "I'll have to make a better impression next time." Tatsuki snorted.

"It's not you," she said, tugging at Orihime's comforter, "He has business to attend to today and won't be back in time." Orihime stole a nervous glance at Tatsuki as she allowed her to take her covers.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, tentatively relieved, "I see! Well, in that case, let's try extra hard today so we can surprise him when he gets back!" Tatsuki gave her a lopsided grin as the redheaded girl stood with renewed vigor... before growing dizzy and clutching her head with her hand.

"That's the spirit," Tatsuki said, steadying Orihime before she toppled herself over, "But first, I should probably get you some hangover medicine."


Tatsuki hadn't completely lied; Ichigo did have business to attend to. It just wasn't during the day. As he prepared to leave for the evening, somewhere around dinner time, he found the head maid hovering outside the spacious dining hall.

"Getting ready to go out?" she asked, arching an eyebrow at him. He was dressed the same as ever, in his waistcoat and fancy trousers. "Your clothes will be ruined."

"Well, I can't very well go naked," he said, only half-joking, before continuing, "Chad and Ishida are going with me." 'Chad' was the name that only Ichigo used for his coachman. No one ever bothered to correct him, and Sado himself didn't seem to care, so Tatsuki let it lie.

"It'll just be you and Kurotsuchi with Miss Inoue," Ichigo continued, a hint of trepidation in his voice, "Please keep her safe." Tatsuki waved him off as he pulled a pair of fine gloves on.
"It's no problem," she said nonchalently, "I can handle Nemu, and Orihime's no trouble at all." As she spoke, she stole a glance at Ichigo. He was thoughtfully watching the redhead in the dining room, who was currently practicing her polite dinner conversation with her silverware. The corners of Ichigo's mouth tugged up against his will, ever-so-slightly.

"She really wants your approval, you know," Tatsuki said quietly, seeing where he was looking. At her words, he looked back over at Tatsuki.

"She only needs to get Father's," he said evenly. Tatsuki folded her arms over her chest. Ichigo could be really dense sometimes, especially when it came to girls. Then again, she couldn't really blame him.

"That's part of getting yours, isn't it?" she asked, eyebrows raised. Ichigo looked somewhat confused.

"I don't care what that old buzzard wants, as long as he ceases his nagging," Ichigo sighed, ruffling his already unruly hair. Tatsuki just shook her head. He was just as thick as always.

"When will you be back?" she finally asked with an exasperated sigh.

"Well before dawn," he said quietly, content they wouldn't be overheard by the girl currently eating at the table, "This won't take long. You should have Miss Inoue abed by then. We don't want to have to enter through the servants' entrance." Tatsuki nodded her understanding.

"Yes, sir," Tatsuki said simply.


Rangiku had just settled in when a loud knock on the heavy front door made her jump.

She shuffled off her heavy blankets and moved toward the door. While she was feeling stronger today, she hadn't ventured out since Orihime had left. She missed her sister terribly and simply didn't feel like leaving the house yet. Even so, the owner of the tavern she worked for had stopped by to check on her earlier, as well as Mr. Hisagi, her sometime lover. She had assured them both that she just had a small cold and that she'd be fine soon.

So when this knock came, she naturally assumed it would be one of those two again. Granted, she doubted they'd be about after dark, but it made the most sense. As she drug the heavy door open, however, she saw that she was mistaken once again.

On the other side of the door stood a tall redhead with fiery cinnamon brown eyes. He was just as pale and just as finely dressed as that Mr. Ishida from the other night, so the two automatically connected in Rangiku's mind. Perhaps it was a friend of his? Either way, Rangiku was aware that she was staring, her mouth slightly agape.

The redhead on the other side of her threshold gave Rangiku a slightly superior look while she sized him up. Well, that didn't exactly sit well with her, but she decided to table her concerns for the moment.

"May I come in?" he finally asked, his voice belying his impatience, "We're in a bit of a hurry, Miss Matsumoto." Rangiku's eyebrows shot up as she stood aside to let him enter.

"Have we met before?" she asked incredulously. She knew she might not be worth as much as a pretty noble in fancy clothes, but she'd be damned if she'd let one talk down to her.

"No, we haven't," he said plainly, "May I come in?" She quirked an eyebrow at him; she'd moved aside, hadn't she?

"Yes," she said with a bit of a sarcastic edge, "You may come in." As the redhead entered, brushing the snow off the shoulders of his fine jacket, Rangiku eyed him suspiciously. She didn't know what to make of this man; he came off as horribly arrogant, yet waited for permission to enter a peasant's home? 'At least he's good-looking,' she mused. When he finished brushing the snow away, he turned to the heavy door and easily shut it. Then, he began properly making his way into the room.

"So this is where she lives," the man said to himself as he looked around, ignoring Rangiku entirely, "How does she get by with only one room?" Rangiku had had just about enough of this.

"Yes, I'm sure it doesn't meet your standards," she quipped, "So why don't you tell me what you want so you can be on your way?" The man turned to look at the busty blonde as though he'd forgotten she was there entirely.

"Right," he said succinctly, pulling a small bag of coins from his jacket pocket, "This is for you, to compensate for your sister's absence while she resides with me." Rangiku blinked at the man for a second before reaching to take the bag.

"You mean with the Count, correct?" she asked skeptically. The redhead raised one pale eyebrow at her question.

"No," he replied smoothly, "She's residing with me. I am the Count." Rangiku almost dropped the bag.

"You're the Count?" she sputtered incredulously, pointing with her free hand. He continued giving her the same unimpressed look.

"Is that so strange?" he asked impassively. Rangiku continued to look flabbergasted.

"But... But you're supposed to be old!" she protested, "And ancient! And decrepit! And your hair's supposed to be black!" The Count visibly winced.

"That's my father," he corrected, "And he's not that old. And he's elsewhere right now. He's a Marquis." Rangiku took this all in, her shocked expression turning to curiosity.

"And what's this for?" she asked, holding up the coin purse, "If you want to buy Orihime from me, she isn't for sale. And certainly not as the love slave of a perverted nobleman!" For once, the Count seemed to be at a loss, the same sickly color flooding his face as Ishida's.

"It's for the loss of her wages!" he sputtered, "For your household! I'm not trying to buy her! Especially not as a l-l-love slave!" Rangiku smirked as she watched the young nobleman before her act the same as any commoner when confronted with a member of the opposite sex.

"You can't fool me," she said, poking his chest, "Boys your age all think about the same thing - taking pretty girls into the hay loft for a little tumble!" The Count was completely flustered now.

"I-I don't think about those things!" he protested, causing Rangiku to look at him in disbelief and put her hands on her hips.

"Oh, so you prefer men?" she asked, cocking her head to the side.

"O-Of course not!" the Count flailed, "I'm just not a pervert!" Rangiku still looked unimpressed.

"Oh, don't give me that," she said flatly, "I know very well that it's impossible for a man to be around my little sister all day without having any dirty thoughts. Unless..." The Count seemed to be waiting trepidatiously for whatever it was Rangiku had to say. "Unless you're a eunuch!"

"I am not a eunuch!" he screeched, causing Rangiku to erupt into laughter. She briefly wondered if he'd start stamping his feet like a little child. Regardless of the awful first impression, this young Count was terrible fun to tease.

"Well, in that case," she said with a wink, "If you do happen to take advantage of her, you had best take responsibility. I expect nothing less!" The Count's cheeks were as red as little apples now; Rangiku liked this much better than the sickly, half-hearted blush he'd been sporting at first.

"Take advantage--" he parroted, eyes wide, "Responsibility... O-Oi! That's not going to happen!" Rangiku simply waggled her eyebrows at him suggestively.

"If you say so," she said devilishly, "It's just something to keep in mind." The Count threw his hands up in aggravation.

"You're as frustrating as my father!" he exclaimed, "How did a girl like Miss Inoue come from the same house as you?!" Rangiku just smirked.

"Well, one of us had to be the worldly one," she said with a shrug, "I figure it's better if it's me. Orihime is kind and innocent and naive. She'll make some lucky man a good wife one day, but until then, I have to be the one to look after her." She thought the Count might explode. Beneath his stoic exterior, he really was still just a child. He might even be as sheltered as Orihime.

"Well, it... It won't be me," he spoke to the floor, "She's just a... peasant. It's not allowed." Rangiku stared sternly at him, hands on hips, as he glanced back in her direction. She really didn't like the way he said "peasant" like it was a dirty word. It even sounded like he might've said something else instead, but had thought better of it. Rangiku could only imagine what derogatory terms he'd considered instead.

"Then I suppose you'd best not go breaking her heart, sir," she said firmly, "If I find you have, you'll have to deal with me." The Count was given pause for a second before he looked away again. An awkward silence followed.

"We must be on our way," he finally said, eager to end the impasse and change the subject, "I'll be back next week with more, madam." Rangiku opened her mouth indignantly as he let himself out.

"It's miss!" she exclaimed angrily.


The night had fallen heavily over Kurosaki castle, like the thick blanket of snow that lay over the rafters. The fire in Orihime's room burnt low in the grate; she'd gone to bed hours before. Even now, she slept deeply under her covers, as still as the dead.

While she slept, the heavy doors to her room opened quietly. It was only a crack, but it was still big enough for a pair of emerald eyes to look at the sleeping woman through. After several seconds, the door began to swing inward very slowly, so as not to make the hinges creak. Before the black-haired girl on the other side could take a single step into the room, however, a firm hand gripped her shoulder.

"And just where do you think you're going?"

Nemu turned to see Tatsuki standing behind her, her expression still but deadly. Nemu's own expression didn't change at all.

"I'm hungry," Nemu stated dully. Tatsuki seemed unimpressed.

"Ishida's gone hunting for you," she replied sternly, "So you can leave Orihime alone and get out of her room." Nemu stood staring at her as though she was speaking another language.

"You are not my master," she stated plainly. There was no malice in her words; just a simple statement of fact. Tatsuki was singularly unmoved.

"No, but if you hurt her, the master will be furious," she said plainly, "And Ishida's pity will do nothing to save you then."

"I do not understand," she dully intoned, "Humans are food for us." Tatsuki folded her arms.

"Not for me, they aren't," she noted, "And not that one. They're bringing you back your own meal, so just go back to your quarters. Or would you rather I made you myself?"

There was little reaction as Nemu took in Tatsuki's words. Even though there was no overt sign, Tatsuki could tell she'd understood her meaning. Silently, the girl with the long black braid nodded and turned toward the passageway leading to her room.

Tatsuki let out a sigh of relief as she ruffled her hair. She was glad she hadn't needed to fight Nemu, but it was a close call. Between this and the wine incident, she just knew she was going to have some very strong words with Ichigo and Uryuu about Nemu's behavior.
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Crystal Dawn

February 2012


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