Grimmjow would find her in the strangest places.
He knew that she had trouble being cooped up in her cell; he would sense her reiatsu in all manner of locations throughout the compound of Las Noches. How she came across some of these obscure places was a question for someone with a more vivid imagination than his own.
It made for excellent covert meetings, though.
The rumble of beasts in the subterranean waste disposal facility echoed eerily off the dark walls, the plip-plop of condensation dripping off every surface and adding to the ambiance. It was no surprise that in the diverse array of Hollows of this world, there existed ones whose sole purpose it was to eat trash. A use for everyone, Grimmjow mused.
The girl before him was staring up wide-eyed at the vast, cavernous space, one hand covering her nose and mouth as she attempted to balance her curiosity with her gag reflex. The stench was atrocious, but Grimmjow had more control than to show how it affected him.
"How the hell do you find these places?" he asked her, judgment lacing his tone and echoing off the walls.
"How do you always manage to find me?" she countered, voice muffled by her hand. Grimmjow sneered.
"You're about as discreet as a rhinoceros, Princess. Anyone could hear you stomping around from a mile away." Ignoring the nickname, Orihime pouted at the accusation. Was he insinuating that she was fat? What a jerk.
"I didn't realize Hollows could make such a mess," she postulated as she turned in a slow circle, meandering deeper into the cavern filled with trash and waste. Her head snapped up towards a rumbling bellow she heard somewhere further into the catacombs of sewage. There was more than one monster in here. Grimmjow said nothing to her comment and merely watched her, arms crossed and expression unreadable. "Or is this from the Shinigami that live here?" she asked observantly, turning to face him as she asked the question.
Again, he ignored her.
"The Soul Society abandoned you. They've ordered your friends not to go after you," he updated her bluntly. Her saddened – but unsurprised – reaction meant that Ulquiorra had already told her.
"I know," she said softly, confirming his suspicions. Her hand still stung from where she had slapped the Fourth, and a tumult of emotions stirred to life beneath the surface. Uninterested in that particular reaction, though, he did not let her linger on this for long.
"They'll come for you, regardless." Her head popped up at this, her eyes looking at Grimmjow strangely. She was silent for a moment as she weighed something, never once letting her expression leave the Espada before her.
"Why do you think that?" she asked finally.
Grimmjow again decided not to answer. "We need to be prepared for when they enter Hueco Mundo. That is when Aizen will be most distracted, and when we will be able to mount our opposition from the inside. If we wait until then to start preparing, though, it will be too late." He made sense, she thought. She nodded slowly in moderate understanding, prompting him to continue. "I need you to tell me how long you think it will take for you to destroy the Hougyoku once I get you in."
Orihime blinked owlishly. That was… direct. "Uh… I have no idea," she answered.
Grimmjow's eyes narrowed, the only outward sign of his growing worry. "How well do you understand your own powers?" he asked, deep voice rumbling in the echoing sewer. He refrained from allowing his unease to bleed into the question, but he felt a cold lump settle at the bottom of his stomach.
Orihime merely shook her head, unable to answer the question as she looked up at him with helpless eyes. He gave a long exhale and gazed off down a long, damp corridor.
"Brilliant," he grumbled, staring intently at the puddles around them as he thought hard. Orihime was fascinated by the look of intense concentration on his face. He was a more precise tactician than she ever would have expected based on first appearances. She wondered if he spent his free time playing strategy games. A mental image of Grimmjow challenging Ulquiorra at a chess board fluttered into her mind. The Fourth Espada stared quietly, green eyes expressionless and frightening, while Grimmjow's blue ones were narrowed in cold calculation. Her imagination gave Grimmjow a burning cigarette to rest on his lips. Fedoras appeared on both their heads.
He spoke again, and her mental scenario ended with the imaginary Sexta flipping the chessboard in a rage.
The Espada was looking down at his left arm as he spoke to her next, clenching his hand into a fist then loosening it again, over and over. "You did this in mere moments," he told her, referring to the restoration of his dispatched limb, "from absolutely nothing. I've never seen anything like it before." He glanced up at her from under his furrowed brows with what she could only describe as a look of distrust. "I'll bet you don't even know the limits of your own powers." Her silence reflected the speculation she'd often heard from friends and allies. Having never been a particularly power-hungry person, she never tended to test those so-called limits. Training with Hacchi the Visored gave her a greater understanding of her capabilities, but she was still very ignorant as to the boundaries of her particular magic.
'Magic,' because even Hollows and Shinigami alike found her powers unusual. She felt like a freak, sometimes.
"I can't attack very well," she started, much to Grimmjow's surprise. "In fact, the last time I tried to use Tsubaki, one of you destroyed him," she explained, remembering the horrible encounter with Yammi. "My shield is pretty strong, but someone once explained to me that my powers are only as strong as my resolve. That's why I can heal and reject past events so well. I'm always determined to make things better." That was what Hacchi told her once as they recovered between training bouts. It was the day after Tsubaki had been restored, and the tiny volatile fairy had not fared well under her tears and smothering.
"Who the fuck is 'Tsubaki'?"
For the second time that visit, Orihime blinked largely. Grimmjow, like most people, she realized, had never truly "seen" the true form her powers took. Suddenly taken with a new idea, she bit back a grin before she summoned her Shun Shun Rikka, ready to introduce them to the unprepared Hollow. He exclaimed with a bit-off curse of surprise as they made their appearance.
Lights burst from her hair clips like flower petals on gunpowder. Bright and sparkling, the six points of power spun around their master like fireworks, swirling playfully and chasing away the clawing shadows of the underground world they were in. The Sexta's surprised eyes darted around at each of them as they zipped past his head, looking like a cat chasing a laser pointer. One tiny golden fireball screeched to a halt before his face.
It started speaking.
"I'm Tsubaki, asswipe," the little glowing light said, voice surprisingly full coming from such a small source. "What's with that look? Did your shitty dye job seep into your brain?"
Grimmjow's eyes narrowed dangerously.
"Ohh, big man's mad now!" the light taunted.
The Espada's large hand shot out and wrapped around the ball of light, no longer worried that it would burn him. The Hollow's eyes widened in slight astonishment when the glowing dust vanished to reveal a tiny man in a black jumpsuit clutched in his fist. The little man struggled in his grip. "Let go, you fat ape!" Grimmjow just continued to observe the fairy as it flailed in his grasp, fascinated.
"Your powers… are fairies?" he asked with some wonder. The other five lights stopped near him now, surrounding him in a half-circle and extinguishing their glow. He looked at each one in turn, noting the diversity of the tiny group.
"Mm-hmm! This is the form my powers manifested themselves in. Cool, huh?" Orihime said proudly. On the inside, though, she secretly worried about what Grimmjow would think. His dangerous grip on her already once-destroyed assault fairy did not help matters. Grimmjow looked from the last of the small floating persons back to the one writhing uncontrollably in his hand.
"'Cool' wasn't the first word that came to mind- Ow!" His hand opened when the tiny bandana covering Tsubaki's face lowered so the fairy could bite him. The offensive-powered creature flew in an angry circle around the Espada, then landed on Orihime's shoulder possessively.
"Yeah, coming from the guy with a Billy Idol complex. The Eighties are over, Fashion King," he insulted. The insinuation was not lost on Grimmjow although the reference flew over his head, so he merely growled.
"Come closer and say that again, pipsqueak," he threatened.
Then, the rest of the fairies descended on him.
"A Hollow that's not trying to destroy us! How fascinating!" said the energetic mad-scientist looking one. The large brawny one just kept staring at him with a dumb look. His mechanical lower jaw reminded Grimmjow a little of Yammi.
"His… his hair is blue!" said a shy fairy, draped in a tiny cloak that swallowed her form.
An athletic looking female whizzed past his ear, closer to his face than his comfort levels permitted. "And despite that, he's kind of a cutie!" She had pink hair, so the Espada felt it was unfair of her to judge.
An exasperated blonde male with a ponytail pushed her aside, taking charge of the situation.
"Honestly. At this rate he's going to think we're all imbeciles. Let's not lump ourselves with Tsubaki, hmm?"
Angry words of protest came from the fairy on Orihime's shoulder, and the Sexta's thoughts spun. This absentminded little girl had a surprisingly complex power, he realized. While most Shinigami had a Zanpakuto with a single personality, hers manifested into six separate beings, each one more different than the next. He would never again underestimate what madness was taking place in her mind, he figured silently as their chatter punctuated his thoughts. The poor girl looked like she was trying to break up an argument between Tsubaki and the blonde one.
"Okay, I get it. You've got the gayest power in all the universe," he said in a bored tone. He knew he struck his mark when Orihime visibly deflated. Five of the fairies vanished in a burst of glowing dust, while Tsubaki launched himself from her shoulder to face him again. He stopped, inches from the Espada's face.
"If you hurt her, I'll fly so far up your ass that you'll taste my boots on your tongue," he hissed before vanishing like his siblings.
Grimmjow let the threat roll off of him, unworried. He found it amusing, quite honestly.
"They're… they're little bits of me. Projected into an outward manifestation. That's what I've been told, at least," she explained in a tiny voice.
Grimmjow decided to add to her mortification.
"Little bits of you, huh?" he questioned casually. Orihime heard the hint of mirth in his voice before he spoke again, and she braced herself. "Tell your subconscious that being 'kind of a cutie' is the worst insult I've received in years. I'm a motherfucking dreamboat," he said with a sneer on his upper lip.
He chuckled lowly at her burning face and blubbering response.
"I'll think on this whole thing for a bit," he said seriously, hands in his pockets as he started to walk away. "Your power's stupid," he lied, "but I still think it's our trump card.” He prepared to make an exit, tossing his final words over his shoulder at the young woman.
"I'll find you again another day. In the meantime, practice," he ordered.
He stopped in his tracks when Orihime squeaked a request. Unable to hear her, he turned slightly so he could regard her more fully. "What?"
She twirled a lock of her auburn hair in her hands awkwardly as she looked at the slimy ground, meekly asking her question again.
"I… don't think I know how to get out of here," she said, embarrassed. "Can you help me?"
One of Grimmjow's eyebrows rose in exasperation. Before turning back around to continue out, he sighed loudly, then walked more slowly than he'd originally intended.
He did not turn again to see if she was following. The sound of her boots scampering on the stone beneath her feet was all the indication he needed.