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[personal profile] queenofchalices
Title: Moon Over the Tower: Chapter Thirteen
Series: Bleach
Rating: R
Warnings: het (IchiHime), blood, scariness, religious topics, sexual situations. 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.

______________________________________________________________

Orihime watched dejectedly as night fell over the snowy countryside rolling past the carriage window. She had been crying on and off since they left the castle's courtyard, the tears forming chilly tracks down her cheeks. Somehow, the trip back home seemed longer than the trip up to the castle.

The reality of the situation was finally beginning to settle on her. She would never see the Count, or his family or staff, ever again. Yes, she still had her humanity and her soul, but she was starting to wonder how much that was really worth. She had just done the right thing, hadn't she? But if that was so, why did it hurt so much?

'The right path is not always the easiest,' she reminded herself. Such words were of little comfort to her now, though. And what if this wasn't the right path at all? What if she was meant to be in that castle, with the Count, after all? He clearly needed her help, help that no one else had thus far been able to provide him. And he clearly had a soul, if she really thought about it. He felt pain and joy and sorrow, just as she did. And even though she wasn't entirely certain, she did suspect he cared deeply for her, maybe even loved her. His family also shared a close bond, just like a human family; his mother and father were deeply in love, which was obvious even to her.

Could creatures with the capacity to love really be irredeemable?

Then there was the priest that she hadn't gotten a chance to speak to. How did he feel about this? He was a man of God, surely he would know more about this than she? Orihime suddenly found herself wishing she'd had a chance to speak with him. Perhaps he could've put her fears to rest for good, or given her some reassurance of God's plan in all this.

Finally, she could bear it no longer. Orihime gathered her courage, her fists balled into little knots in her dress and her face stern. She stood in the carriage and went to the window just behind the driver's seat. It snapped open easily, letting a blast of cold air into the passenger compartment, but Orihime didn't care. She needed to tell Sado before it was too late.

"Mr. Sado!" she yelled against the clatter of horses' hooves and the grind of the carriage wheels, "Mr. Sado, please stop!" She wasn't at all sure he'd heard her until the carriage eased to a halt. Then, he turned in his seat to look down to her window.

"Miss Inoue?" he asked, his surprise showing beneath his shaggy hair. She was certain she looked like a desperate mess, her face red from crying and hair mussed from the trip.

"I... I want to go back," she said, giving him a piteous look, "I'm sorry for the trouble, but..." She stopped when she noticed Sado was smiling warmly at her from beneath the shadow of his top hat.

"Alright," he agreed with a nod. He didn't continue, for some time, however, stiffening and staying as still as if he were frozen - and for all Orihime knew, it was entirely possible. Could vampires freeze solid if left out in the cold too long?
Before any answer was forthcoming, however, Sado turned to her with an anxious expression on his face.

"Get down!" he yelled, spurring the horses. Orihime's eyes went wide at the command. She was just about to slide the driver's window shut, when an impact rocked the carriage hard. Instead of shutting the window, she flew back against her seat on the other side, then slumped to the floor.

Dazed, she lifted her head and noticed the carriage had come to a stop again. This time, however, she heard the sounds of struggle outside - Sado was definitely fighting something out there. Orihime's eyes widened when she realized this must be the other vampire Ichigo had spoken of. She froze in place, not sure what to do. Of the two things Orihime knew they were deathly allergic to, garlic and silver, both were in very short supply at the moment.

Unfortunately, she only had a second more to contemplate her course of action. The carriage door abruptly splintered inward, causing her to shriek and jump back against the far wall. As the cold air rushed in and the wood was ripped off its frame, their attacker stepped inside.

"My, my," he drawled, "So the little Countess was in here after all!"

Orihime's scream was muffled by his cold hand before he took hold of her.

________________________________________________________

"Absolutely not! I refuse!"

Rukia had tears in her fierce violet eyes as she pounded the table and stood. Her valet stood further back in the room; Uryuu had to stand beside him to keep him from saying anything, but Ichigo could easily tell he was about to lose his temper. He was nearly as red as his hair and shaking with anger, for goodness sake - and, Ichigo thought, with good reason. How many years had he been trying to win Rukia's stoic brother's approval, only to be derailed at the last second?

"But dearest Rukia!" Isshin pouted from across the table at her, "It has always been my fondest wish that you be my daughter-in-law! I know this is sudden..."

"Very sudden!" she interjected angrily.

"...and I know you may feel insulted at being a replacement..."

"Quite insulted!" she assured him.

"...but there's really nothing to be done for it now!" Ichigo was glaring daggers at the infernal old man over the table they'd all been arranged around. His mother sat beside his father, solemn as a statue, while Rukia sat beside Ichigo. The tiny woman was furious, her pale skin flushed and eyes flashing in rage. Ichigo considered them all lucky she hadn't disemboweled everyone present with her bare hands yet.

"Oh, yes there is!" the petite girl interjected, leaning into the table, "Ichigo can march right to the Inoue estate and bring her back here! And if she does not agree, he can stay frozen on her lawn until she does agree for all I care!"

"I won't force her," Ichigo muttered from beneath crossed arms, "It's not right." Rukia wheeled on him, pulling him up by his collar and giving him a healthy shake.

"And this is?!" she yelled into his face. Ichigo winced at the noise.

"And you want me to marry this, old man?!" Ichigo turned his ire toward his father; he was quite well aware that he wouldn't win against Rukia. But his father's attention was already diverted to his mother again.

"It's as if they're already married, dear," Isshin sniffed, smiling, "They're so close to be able to argue like that!" Masaki looked singularly unimpressed, but Ichigo knew his mother was too polite to express her displeasure directly.

"I suppose," she said warily. Ichigo and Rukia both turned on Isshin as one.

"I don't want to be married to someone who yells like this!" Ichigo interjected, his voice being completely ignored by his father.

"Neither do I!" Rukia agreed, slamming her hands on the table again for emphasis. Ichigo winced when she did, certain he'd just heard the wood splinter.

"If you break that table, I'm charging your infernal brother for it," Ichigo snarled, not even bothering to restrain his temper anymore. At this, Rukia rounded on him.

"Do not speak of my brother that way!"

"Your brother is the one who got us into this mess!"

"He was simply agreeing to your father's insanity!"

"Enough!"

The arguing pair looked across the table to where Masaki had stood, furious. Her brown eyes flashed as even the tips of her hair seemed to stand on end with the electricity of her anger. Ichigo had rarely ever seen his mother angry, and had hoped not to see it again. It was truly a fearsome sight to behold.

"You are all being childish," she scolded firmly, "Yes, even you." This was directed at Isshin, who was trying not to cringe at his wife's fearsome voice. "Ichigo," she said, directing her angry eyes back at her son, "Stop this petulance and either bring Miss Inoue back, or follow your father's wishes. It is time you started acting like an adult, and finding a wife is part of that. And Miss Kuchiki, please do not insult my husband in my presence."

All three were cowed into silence as they shrank into their chairs. Renji, meanwhile, tried to hide his mirth on the other side of the room. Ichigo was sure the redhead well knew that there were very few things he wouldn't resort to in order to not have to marry Rukia.

"Is something funny, Mr. Abarai?" Masaki asked, turning her fierce gaze on him. The smile immediately vanished from Renji's face as he stood at attention.

"N-No, of course not, ma'am," he replied shakily. Masaki turned to face the table again and he breathed a sigh of relief.

"Then this is what we shall do," she said, taking her seat delicately, "Ichigo, you have until midnight tomorrow to fetch Miss Inoue and bring her back here. If you can't, or won't, then you will wed Miss Kuchiki here. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Mother," Ichigo muttered darkly. Rukia didn't look very pleased with this proclamation, either.

"Miss Kuchiki, is that understood?" the Marquise went on. Even though her words were sweet, Ichigo knew they were laced with an underlying threat.

"Yes, ma'am," Rukia said cleanly and distinctly.

"But... But dearest," Isshin finally said, turning to his wife, "Why make things so complicated? Wouldn't it just be easier to..." Her look silenced him completely.

"Dear husband," she began, her sweet voice holding a threat for him as well, "Would you like to move to a separate chamber from me in the morning?" Ichigo could swear he saw his father panic.

"N-No, of course not, darling," he replied somewhat miserably, as though he was pleading with her. Ichigo propped his head up with his hand. He really didn't need to hear his parents discuss their love life in front of him.

"Then I suggest you drop the subject for the time being," she said kindly, causing Isshin to wince a bit. Then, she turned back to Ichigo.

"Ichigo," she went on, "Isn't there someplace you need to be?" Ichigo stood, bowing his head slightly to his mother. He could take a hint.

"Thank you, Mother," he muttered sincerely before heading for the door. As soon as he'd left, Rukia addressed the older lady as well.

"May I be excused, as well?" she asked, her eyebrows puckering her forehead. The Marquise gave her a gracious nod.

"Go ahead, dear."

__________________________________________________________

Several seconds after Ichigo excused himself from his parents' company, a rush of tiny footsteps followed him down the hall. Just as he was turning to see what the commotion was, he found himself grabbed at the collar by a pair of small, white hands and slammed into the stone wall. When the stars had finally cleared from his vision, he looked down at his attacker.

"Oww! What the devil was that for, Rukia?!"

The fierce little woman was staring at him with all the determination and anger she could muster.

"You know very well what it was for," she said, shaking him roughly before releasing him, "I do not know what you did to offend that girl so, but you had better undo it before tomorrow!" Ichigo flinched before looking down each end of the hallway to ensure they were alone. When he was satisfied, he turned back to Rukia, face stern.

"Walk with me," he ordered quietly. Rukia frowned at him, but obliged anyway. When Ichigo was satisfied they were out of any possible earshot, he turned back to Rukia and began to speak.

"This entire thing was a ruse," he confessed, glancing sideways at his companion to gauge her reaction. Rukia seemed unsurprised.

"To convince your father to leave you be," she correctly guessed, "So what was the Inoue girl? An actress? A prostitute?" Ichigo's eye twitched.

"Did she seem like a prostitute to you?" Ichigo growled, "She's a peasant from the village. Uryuu picked her specifically to appeal to my father." Rukia seemed oblivious to the undertone of aggravation in Ichigo's words as she considered what he'd said.

"Hoooh, she's a very good actress, then," Rukia observed, "You two really seemed smitten with each other." Ichigo was about to answer back that they had been when Rukia's eyes widened with realization.

"You told a peasant about us?!" she asked, horrified, "Ichigo, why would you--" Ichigo cut her off with a sharp glare.

"Of course not," he hissed, "She found out about my... condition the hard way." Rukia's glare turned stony.

"You idiot!" she huffed, boxing his ear, "What were you thinking?! Did you... What if she... And now you...! Ichigo!" Ichigo resisted the urge to throttle the fiery woman.

"We didn't do that!" he protested, trying to keep his voice down, "Tatsuki and Uryuu caught me. But yes, that is how she found out. She was even going to stay for this entire visit until that infernal old man started pushing us to wed!" Rukia folded her arms over her narrow chest, sending Ichigo a deathly glare.

"And what were you going to do once you set her free and she could no longer come to family functions?" Rukia asked sternly, "Go pick her up from the village again?" Ichigo cleared his throat to keep from shouting at her.

"I would simply tell them she had died," he said firmly, "I had been under the impression it would stop my father from perusing the matter any further." Rukia looked unmoved.

"Well, that obviously is not the case," she said, her voice barely suppressing her irritation, "So I suppose fetching her is out of the question?" At this, Ichigo's look softened from one of hard irritation to one of regret.

"I tried to convince her to marry me anyway," he confessed, causing Rukia's eyebrows to fly toward her hairline, "But she refused. I didn't want to force her. And I know she doesn't want this life. From what Tatsuki has told me, she fears for her soul." At this information, Rukia looked thoughtful for a moment. Then, her face lit up.

"Ichigo, that's it!" she said, as though she'd just uncovered an amazing secret, "Take Urahara with you and have him convince her! If she is religious, she will have to listen to him!" Ichigo's nose crinkled in distaste. Even as much as Urahara had helped him and his family, he still didn't trust the father as far as he could throw him. To be honest, he feared even letting Orihime talk to him.

"I'd rather he stay away from her," he grumbled. Rukia gave him a sour look before punching him hard on the arm. "Oww! What was that for?!"

"For being a dense idiot!" she exclaimed, "Do you want that girl back or not?!" Leave it to Rukia to get directly to the point. Ichigo simply gave her a bewildered look. Of course he wanted Orihime back. He'd felt her absence keenly every minute since she'd gone, and the thought of never seeing her again was almost too much to bear.

"What kind of question is that?" Ichigo grumbled, "Of course I want her back." Rukia gave him an impatient look, as though he was dancing all around the correct solution.

"Then if her religion is stopping her from accepting you, you have to appeal to it," Rukia said matter-of-factly, "It is not going to take care of itself, and you cannot ignore it. Taking Urahara to see her is the best thing to do." Ichigo sighed - he hated when Rukia made sense towards something he didn't want to do. And there was no telling what awful things Urahara would tell her or convince her to do. But if it meant getting her back once and for all, he would talk to the blond man.

"Alright," he muttered, his face set in a grim, determined line, "I'll go fetch him and when Chad gets back, we can go down to the village for her." As if on cue, the doors of the great hall banged open downstairs, drawing both Ichigo and Rukia's attention. "There he is now."

As they made their way down, though, it became evident that something was very wrong. There was clattering and the clamor of footsteps, as well as frantic voices blending together in a blur. Ichigo recognized Tatsuki, Uryuu, and Karin right away, and as he made his way down the stairs, he could see they were joined by Nemu. And all of them were hovering around Chad, who was kneeling on the floor and grasping his shoulder.

"What happened?" Ichigo demanded, practically flying down the stairs. They all turned to face him, except Tatsuki, who was trying to get keep Chad from losing any more blood than he already had. As Ichigo grew near, he could see the puddle seeping around his friend; it had to have been a silver wound.

"The carriage was attacked," Uryuu informed him quietly. The valet wasn't stupid; he knew Ichigo would fly into a rage at what he needed to tell him, and Ichigo could tell when his friend was stalling in telling him something that would potentially upset him.

"I can see that," Ichigo said, barely restraining his anger as dread began to creep up on him.

"Ichigo," Chad gasped, looking up at his friend from the floor, "It was the one you fought before. He took her."

Ichigo's eyes flashed with red hot fury. Without another word, he turned and started toward the castle's armory. He was going to settle this once and for all.

_______________________________________________________

Orihime was brought slowly back to consciousness by two things.

The first was the dampness on her face. Her eyelids fluttered as she felt drop after drop of cold water splatter against her forehead and trickle down her cheeks. It was freezing, but it hadn't yet managed to turn to ice, for which she found herself hazily grateful.

The second was the biting cold. Even though she'd worn her thick wool petticoats and stockings, and her warm winter dress, she was still freezing. The cold was so profound and uncomfortable that it made her joints ache. Even her dress, which was now damp from the dripping water, was no real comfort; indeed, she thought it might have only been making her colder. Without thinking, she drew her knees up to her chest and began to shiver. Then, she scooted away from the infernal drip that had woken her up.

Finally taking the chance to look around, Orihime realized she was somewhere very dark. There was the blueish light of the night sky coming from somewhere vaguely to her right, but past that, all she could tell was that she was somewhere cold, dark, and at least out of the snow.

"Where am I?" she breathed to herself in fear and awe. The last thing she recalled was the man who had stopped the carriage and fought with Sado. Orihime didn't even know if he was still alive or not; this thought disturbed her deeply.

"Oh, here an' there," a male voice spoke to her from the shadows. Orihime gasped and jumped, startled, and instinctively tried to move away from it. As she looked around frantically for the source, she found that her eyes had adjusted to the darkness. In the moonlight, she could just make out the outlines of rocks and a dirt floor; this was a cave.

Worse yet, there was a shifting mass moving along the cave roof. She could barely make out what it was at first, but as she listened, it dawned on her exactly what the squirming black carpet was made of: bats. She cringed, knowing they would come after her if she moved too quickly. Even so, she wanted to scoot as far away as possible from them.

"Who... Who's there?" she asked, much less fire in her voice than she'd anticipated.
At length, one of them detached itself from the mass and fluttered down. Orihime found she could see this one better because its fur was silvery-white and reflected the scarce starlight well. Right before her eyes, the bat began to transform, lengthening, hair and wings eroding, until it took on the shape of a man.

This man was taller than she, although not as tall as the Count. He was dressed all in white, from head to foot, with a straight mop of shaggy white hair atop his head. He was as pale as the snow outside, and with a shiver, Orihime realized exactly what she was looking at. This man was a vampire, the one the Count had mentioned was stalking her village.

"Me?" he finally answered, his glowing red eyes opening at last, "Oh, I'm just a friend o' yer sister's."

Date: 2011-03-13 07:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] giethe.livejournal.com
Masaki was awesome, I like how she owned everyone in that room. Fufufufu.

And well, Gin's as greasy as usual. Ugh.

Date: 2011-03-13 08:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
I like to think that Masaki owned the entire family when she was mad. |Da

I LIKE GIN AS A BAD GUY OKAY 8D

Date: 2011-03-13 02:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] giethe.livejournal.com
Oh yes.

IF ONLY HE STAYED THAT WAY.

Date: 2011-03-13 06:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
Even with how Kubo did him in the end, he still could've kept him bad if he'd have just... I don't know, dealt with what he actually was *after*. Yeah, he "did it for Rangiku", but that doesn't tell us much of anything, really. Was he trying to take over the world instead of Aizen so he could have her as his queen? Was she actually missing something he could tangibly get back? Why was he such an asshole to EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANET? And I like that Kira got 0 resolution, too.

To my mind, these are much more important questions to THE STORY than "Will Orihime ever use Tsubaki" or wtfever. And I never see people asking them. And we're not going to get any answers to them, because GIN'S DEAD. :|

/bitches forever

Date: 2011-03-14 03:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] giethe.livejournal.com
Yeah, it reminds me of that time Kubo complained that Gin was supposed to be creepy as fuck, so he couldn't believe how popular Gin was.

Double standards. :| But Kubo just cutting off that plotline makes me wonder if he was just sick of it and got rid of it as soon as he could.

Date: 2011-03-14 06:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
Yeah - it reminds me of JKR wondering why Snape and Draco were so popular. But it's also kind of naive of an author to *not* realize that people are probably going to react that way to that kind of character. If Kubo knew what people thought about Ulquiorra, he'd probably be creeped out, too.

Probably. He most likely just went "GOD SHUT UP" and threw them a bone before getting rid of him altogether. Kind of like what he did with Ulquiorra!

Date: 2011-03-14 01:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alice-candy.livejournal.com
AHAHAHAHA MASAKI ♥

also, it's great to see a different bad guy this time! :D

AND HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Date: 2011-03-14 06:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
YEAH, no one ever makes Gin a bad guy. :'( I LIKE CREEPY GIN.

Thank you!

Date: 2011-03-15 10:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inuyatta.livejournal.com
Creepy!Gin is creepy!

And happy belated!

Date: 2011-03-15 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cappuccinolady.livejournal.com
Thank you! And I love creepy Gin!

I actually got a review on FFnet expecting him to be a good guy. I don't even, man. :/

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