Hey, guys! Sorry it took so long to update! I've had school and a not so lovely case of writer's block. But I did work on it over my Spring Break, which is why it's finished now. Anyway, I'll let you get to the story. Enjoy!

Chapter 12

The queen watched us with an icy stare as all four of us bowed a little in deference to her, my bow not as grand as the other three. I was too on edge to do such a thing, not when it could mean putting me in a position of weakness. The queen beckoned for us to rise and we did as we were told, waiting patiently for her to speak. For the longest time, she seemed to just observe me like one would do when they were looking at something small under a microscope, scrutinizing every part of it.

"Captain Imayru Hitsugaya of Squad 5," she started out saying, her voice as soft as the breeze. "What Rukon District do you hail from?"

"I grew up in the 1st District," I told her simply, not wanting to reveal anything else about me.

"And now you are married to another captain, one who grew up with you in the 1st District?"

"That's correct. I mean no disrespect, but are your questions necessary?"

"I wish to know more about the girl I suspect to be my eldest daughter," she said, her eyes getting even colder with those words.

"Queen, I'm not your daughter," I said plainly. "I'm certain that I would know if I was."

"Unless you have amnesia during your escape into the depths of the forest," she said before sitting up straight on her throne and looking at Taliya. "I have a way to test my theory. My eldest daughter was foretold to be the Dragon Princess. Dearest Taliya, would you assist me in proving my point?"

Taliya paled instantly before quickly pointing her blade at me, giving me an apologetic look before a green arrow formed at the tip of her sword and flew at me. My body shuddered and I felt my knees give out, forcing Ichigo to catch me as he cried out in surprise. My vision blurred as a form slowly appeared before me, one that was both familiar and new to me. The figure soon was a man with black hair that was spiked in the back, his bangs long and hair framing his face. He had two white streaks in his hair on the top of his head that curled up like horns. He had crimson eyes that blazed furiously and was wearing a long black coat, a black strap that when diagonally across his chest keeping it open but not too far. Under his coat was a plain black shirt and dark pants. Even though this was a human form, I knew for a fact that this was my Tatsuya.

The first thing he did was walk over to me, crouching down in front of me to assess how I was doing. He stretched out a hand to brush his fingers along my cheek and kept his expressions blank until the queen called out to him. "You there! Zanpakuto spirit! Identify yourself! What animal shape do you take?"

"That's none of your business," he said curtly before he leaned forward to press his forehead against mine. She's going to do something, he told me in my mind. We will need to fight our way out of here. I'll make sure that you and Ichigo get out of this safely.

"You dare to defy me, spirit?" the queen said coldly.

"I do," Tatsuya said as he stood up to his full height, towering over me since he had to be over six feet tall. "This monarchy holds no power over me or my partner since neither of us belongs here."

"I know you are a Dragon," the queen hissed, looking angry. "That means that she is the Lost Princess. Guards, seize her and her two friends!"

Even though my body hurt from Taliya's shot, I flash stepped to Ryzen and pulled my Zanpakuto from its sheath, pressing it to his throat and making him freeze up. Apparently Tatsuya had the same idea for I saw him holding Taliya like she was his hostage, keeping Ichigo close regardless of his confusion. "Back away or we kill the Crown Prince and Princess!" I screamed, shooting glares at the guards as they got too close. Even Maeda was walking over and I hissed a little before moving my head closer to Ryzen's. "Something is wrong and I think it's safer if you come with us back to the Soul Society for now," I whispered in his ear so no one could see, feeling him nod slowly in agreement. That was when I heard the queen say something that made my blood run cold.

"Kill all of them," she said, "including my children. I can always make more." She stood up and walked out of the room, leaving Ryzen and Taliya in complete shock before all hell broke loose.

The guards all yelled and ran at us as I screamed, "Tatsuya, get them out of here! I'll keep the guards busy!"

"I'll stay with her!" Ichigo told my dragon, who nodded slightly before grabbing Ryzen from me while he was in a daze.

Tatsuya! I called to him in my mind as he turned his crimson eyes to mine. With a grin, I said, I'll give you a distraction! Head to the deepest part of the forest until you reach the darkest depths! Wait for us there!

Stay safe, little one, he told me sternly.

I collected my reiatsu until it was blazing within me before I let it out so that everything went completely dark. The guards yelled and in the confusion I knew that Tatsuya was escaping with Taliya and Ryzen. Since I could see in the dark, I made sure that Ichigo stayed beside me as we ran to a group of guards, taking them out within seconds before rushing away while the guards were bewildered.

"Ichigo, it's your turn to leave now," I said as we rushed at another group in the dark.

"I'm not going unless it's with you," he growled. Anything else he was about to say was drowned out when I heard Maeda call something out and two large groups surged forward, one taking Ichigo and another grabbing me. "Imayru! Where are you?!"

That was when the punching began. Even though they couldn't see us in the dark, they hit whatever they could reach. I could see Ichigo, who was trying to fight off his group and felt rage well up from within. Regardless of the fact that I was being held down, I managed to flash step away from them at the cost of feeling my left ankle twist and then snap. I let out a hiss of pain before using both the light and shadows like a strobe light to disorient the guards and Maeda. I blasted Ichigo's group with light so that they had to flinch away and grabbed Ichigo.

I was about to flash step away with him when I felt someone grab hold of my left arm tightly. I whipped around to see that Maeda had finally caught me, his expressions completely blank and devoid of any emotion. He wasn't going to let me go if he could get away with it and I knew that there was only one way to free myself. Biting my bottom lip, my canines sinking into the flesh there and blood trailing down my chin in trickles, I yanked my arm as hard as I possibly could. There was a sickening pop as the bone left its socket, but I managed to pull my arm from his grasp while he was in shock at my action. I grabbed Ichigo and we flash stepped up to a broken window that Tatsuya had escaped from.

As we soared through the open air, I turned midair to see the guards about to try to follow after us. Sliding my Zanpakuto back in its sheath quickly, I pointed my outstretched palm towards the window before yelling, "Hado Number 31, Shakkaho!" I concentrated enough energy into the palm of my hand that the red ball of light blasted outwards in a huge pillar. I made sure it wouldn't kill anyone it hit, but it would incapacitate them for a long time. I twisted around again to flash step after Ichigo the best I could until we finally reached the forest, collapsing on the ground when my injured ankle gave out.

"I've got you," a calm voice said. I looked up just in time to see Tatsuya standing there before he reached down to help me to my feet, avoiding my dislocated shoulder. "We need to fix that shoulder soon."

"It can wait until we get back to the Soul Society," I told him as he wrapped an arm around my waist and I tried my best to do the same with my uninjured arm.

"You should probably let him carry you," Ichigo suggested. When both Tatsuya and I gave him twin looks of exasperation, he looked a little sheepish before saying, "Yeah, sorry. Forgot who I was dealing with here."

With Tatsuya's assistance, I hopped along on one foot until we made it further into the forest. It wasn't long before I could see the darkness up ahead, along with the two forms of Ryzen and Taliya. "Do you have a plan to get us back home?" Tatsuya asked.

"A crazy, wild plan," I said with a pained laugh. I nodded in the direction of the two Exiles. "How are they holding up?"

"They're still in shock," Tatsuya said softly. "They can't believe their mother would discard them so easily, especially since one is supposed to be the next king."

Ryzen seemed to snap out of it when all three of us got closer, but I could still see the pain in his eyes from what he was dealing with. "What will you do, Imayru? What plan could you possibly have?"

"I figure that the queen probably has restricted all ways out of Night Fall by normal means, so you won't be able to get us back your way. We'll have to do it the ancient way."

"Ancient way?" Taliya asked lifelessly.

"You were the one who told me about how your ancestors found this place," I said gently. "We're going to go into the darkness in the forest and then find our way through to the Soul Society."

No one seemed to object after what happened and we made our way inside without trouble. Everything seemed eerily quiet and set me on edge, but all I wanted deep down to my soul was to make it back to the Soul Society. I wanted to make it back to my husband. Somewhere deep down seemed to click into place and I had a bit of a dizzy spell. When I looked around, everyone else seemed to be having it as well until it passed a few seconds later. I was getting tired but I leaned heavily on Tatsuya and hobbled along.

It was the middle of the night and I refused to sleep, not until I felt Imayru's presence back in the Soul Society. I was getting worried as the time for her to come back was drawing nearer and there still weren't any signs of her. It wasn't until I felt a huge shockwave of spiritual pressure from the forest outside of the 1st District that I moved into action. I ran out of Granny's house and flash stepped along until I reached the depths of the forest where I could still sense the spiritual pressure. It was as it was slowly fading that I sensed who it belonged to. There was a group of five people walking from the darkness and I jumped down from a branch ten feet away. Finally, I could see her there as she stood with her little group, just like she promised.

It was when I saw the man she was leaning on that I felt absolute rage. It was the first thing I noticed but I soon felt the reiatsu that was pouring off of him, connecting that his was a mirror image to Imayru's. I knew that this had to be the human version of Tatsuya and I wondered how this could be possible when I caught sight of the strange state that my wife was in. She was standing on one leg, the foot on her left twisted in a strange angle. She was covered in bruises and had two trails of blood from her lips to her chin. What I focused on last was the fact that her left arm was hanging limply, which was only possible if it was dislocated.

"Shiro!" she called out to me, her pained eyes lighting up when she saw me. Letting go of Tatsuya, she hopped on one foot before flash stepping to me, wrapping her right arm around my neck tightly in a hug. I hugged her back, making sure not to touch her limp arm in case I hurt her shoulder. "I missed you while I was gone, Shiro."

"And I missed you as well," I whispered, turning my head to press my lips to her hair near her temple. I turned my gaze back to the human dragon, locking eyes with him before asking, "You're her Zanpakuto spirit, Tatsuya, correct?"

"Yes," was all he said, giving a slight nod.

"How are you here right now?"

"The Exile princess used her power on Imayru at the behest of the queen of Night Fall to materialize me. The queen wanted to confirm if Imayru was her long lost daughter that escaped into the Soul Society. But it doesn't matter now."

"Why are Ichigo and my wife injured?" I asked seriously.

"Toshiro, wait!" Ichigo called out nervously. "There are things you don't understand, things that happened that none of us can comprehend."

"It should be obvious at this point," I told him. "The queen has been compromised. Why else would all of you look like you've been through hell? Even the two Exiles are still in shock. It also explains why my wife felt the need to keep all of you safe. And it's Captain Hitsugaya to you, Kurosaki." Before she could stop me, I bent down a little to scoop her up into my arms. She made a small noise of protest, but didn't fight me once, instead leaning against me and letting me do what I wanted since she must have been tired. "Let's go to the 1st District for now. There's someone I promised would have a chance to meet you, but it can wait until I can fix your injuries."

I turned around and flash stepped away with the others on my heels except for Tatsuya, who caught up and stayed by my side to monitor Imayru's condition. The entire time that we were travelling back to the 1st District, she didn't say a word and I looked down to see that she had fallen asleep. She had a peaceful look about her but there were dark circles under her eyes. I had a hunch that she didn't sleep at all during the time she was in Night Fall, opting to stay awake since she didn't trust a soul there.

When we made it to Granny's house, she was already waiting outside, so I had a feeling that she heard me run out earlier. She didn't say a word about the other people I showed up with, instead beckoning for all of us to come inside. While Granny showed the others their rooms for the night, I took Imayru into her old room with Tatsuya. I set her down on the mat she used to sleep on, moving over to her ankle and knowing that Tatsuya would take care of her shoulder. Just as I started using the healing kido on her broken ankle, I saw him pull on her shoulder a little before setting it back in place. I wasn't the best at healing, so I did enough so that her foot didn't look like it was at an odd angle. She still had a look of pain on her face, one I couldn't stand seeing, so I moved closer and lay beside her on the mat. She made a tiny noise before rolling to her right and setting her head on my shoulder as I threaded my fingers through her hair with one hand, my free arm going around her waist to avoid bumping her arm.

"You should get some rest, Toshiro," Tatsuya said as he moved over to the window to watch the stars. "I can watch over the both of you. I bet you've managed to get the same amount of sleep that she did."

"How long have you been with Imayru?" I asked him as I shifted a little on the mat to get a better look at him.

"I know what answer you're hoping to get from me," he said softly, looking at me out of the corner of his crimson eyes. "You want me to confirm or deny that she is the long lost Exile princess. She vehemently denies it. I, however, am not as sure. I've been with her for as long as I can remember, but because there are parts of her mind that are completely blocked. Now, leave it alone and get some rest. We've got many things to go over in the morning."

I pressed my lips to the top of Imayru's head before I finally allowed myself to relax, knowing that Tatsuya would watch out for us. In the morning, I woke up instantly to the sound of a yelp, sitting up to see Imayru trying to sneak out of the room and Tatsuya watching her from the window with a look of disbelief. She must have tried to walk out of the room, only to find out that she couldn't put much weight on her ankle still.

"Where do you think you're going?" I asked her.

"It's morning," she said earnestly. "I wanted to go get some food before Granny sees me and thinks she has to make breakfast."

"I guarantee you that she's already awake and making breakfast," I said as I stood up to walk over to her, throwing her uninjured arm around my shoulders and wrapping an arm around her waist to help her walk out of the room. It was as we were walking down the hallway that she stopped, staring at one door in particular. "What's wrong?"

She stayed quiet but soon started walking towards the door, using me for balance until she reached it. She didn't even bother with knocking, just opened it as wide as she could to reveal Ryzen sitting in the corner of the room with a lifeless expression. His eyes looked dead as they slowly slid upwards to settle on her. She seemed to stand up a little straighter, a determined air about her as she gazed down at him. Neither one of them said a word and I could only wonder what was going on between the two of them when she finally spoke.

"Get up," she said in an authoritative tone. There was a pause of a few seconds before he slowly did as he was told. She pulled away from me and gradually made her way over to him until she was only a few feet away. "Listen to me. Don't you dare give up because of this. It's one little challenge. Your twin would be disappointed if she saw you in this condition."

Within seconds, the dead look to his eyes faded and was replaced with an unholy rage that burned like the dark pits of Hell. With a snarl, he grabbed her by the front of her kimono and lifted her into the air. She didn't fight back once, just stared down at him imperiously. "It wasn't your mother that just discarded you like trash," he growled. "I was to become the king one day! It wasn't a position I wanted, but I'm still her heir! How could she just throw us away like this?!"

"What you need to do is put my wife down before I make you," I told him calmly, waiting until he finally looked at me and gradually did as I said. Once her feet were touching the ground, he gave her a pained look that seemed to hurt her deep down, a pain I could feel through our bond.

"Did you ever take into consideration that someone was behind your sister's disappearance?" she asked softly before I pulled her back in case Ryzen reacted badly.

"Of course I did," he said hoarsely.

"What about the fact that maybe you were the target as well but your twin thwarted their plans by hiding you away in the hollowed out tree?" Ryzen didn't say a word, instead just looked down at the floor in front of him. "Did you ever find out who was the one to tell your twin about this herb to heal the queen of her illness?"

"I asked around, but no one knew of or had even heard of such a plant," he whispered.

Imayru went quiet for a few seconds in hesitation before asking her next question. "How long has your mother been sick and what illness is she suffering from?"

"She was poisoned by a Hollow when we were three. She went out with our father and was attacked by a Hollow. Our father was killed by it and she was poisoned while escaping. It caused her Zanpakuto spirit to shift forms. She used to have a huge lion for a spirit, but when she came across that Hollow her spirit morphed until it looked like a manticore the Hollow resembled."

Imayru instantly stiffened. "I can never escape from that damned Hollow, can I?" she said, laughing a little to herself to hide her slight fear. "Honestly, I think that the Hollow's poison has messed with her mind and she twisted her perception on the world."

"What do I do now…?" he whispered, looking lost. "All I wanted was to become a Guardian… Now I can't go back to Night Fall or my mother will most likely have me executed… I have no reason to keep going now."

"Your mother thinks that you are replaceable," she told him, determination rising faster than ever and making him look at her in amazement. "Show her how very wrong she is. If you say that your twin is really as strong as you think, go find her and fight the queen."

"Thank you," he said softly. "Would you like me to neutralize what Taliya did to you earlier and put your Zanpakuto spirit back?"

"No, he can do it himself," she said before turning to Tatsuya. "Will you be able to do this whenever you want?"

"Of course I can," he snorted as he walked over to her. He leaned down and pressed his forehead to hers, both of them sighing a little and I could feel through our bond that they were silently communicating. Finally, he said, "Good-bye for now, little one. I'll be back as soon as I get some rest. Being manifested drains my energy after long periods of time."

"Farewell for now," she said simply. One second, the dragon was there. The next second after I blinked, he was gone and she had an air of sadness about her before she was back to her normal, happy self. "Shiro, I'm ready to get some breakfast now. Will you help me walk to the kitchen?"

I nodded and she gave me a grateful smile before looping her arm through mine, limping heavily as I led her out of the room. It was at that time that I heard a tiny gasp and we both turned our heads to see the little blonde girl with bright green eyes, her macaw standing on her shoulder. "It's Lady Imayru," she whispered in disbelief. "This is… a dream come true…"

"Shiro, who is this?" Imayru asked curiously, watching as the little girl bounced up and down on her toes excitedly.

"This is Rika and her macaw, Harlie," I explained. "They had taken to living in your cave in the forest. She looked hungry and cold, so I thought I would bring them both back here to give Granny some company. I had to bribe Rika with meeting you though. She seems to be a fan of yours."

"Is that right?" she said with a small smile. She looked down at the little girl before saying, "It's quite interesting to find that I have fans, given my reputation and all."

"Is it true that you're the Lost Girl?" Rika asked quickly before pointing at Toshiro. "He kept saying you were, but I wasn't sure that he was telling the truth!"

"It's not the best moment of my life, but it's actually quite true. Since I could first remember, I had been wandering about the forest outside of this district. I became incredibly territorial and chased others out of the forest itself, which is why people began to call me the Lost Girl."

"Good thing we tamed the Lost Girl or she would have terrorized the whole district," I said under my breath, earning a peal of laughter from Rika and an amused grin my wife.

"You just think you've tamed me," she said deviously.

I quickly grabbed her by the chin so that she was forced to look at me and moved my face closer to hers in an attempt to push my dominance onto her. She wasn't about to back down, giving me a smug look as she stared harshly back into my eyes with a smirk. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Rika and Harlie had disappeared, which I thought was perfect timing since I needed to teach my errant wife a lesson. Her gaze seemed to shiver with a hidden fire, her dark eyes blazing their way down to the depths of my soul.

"Submit," I said softly so that only she could hear me.

"Hell no," she told me as she tried to pull away from my grasp. I wasn't going to allow it, instead moving forward until I had her pinned between my body and the wall of the hallway.

"Do it or no breakfast for you," I said with my own smirk. "I'll drag you back to your room and prove my point."

"I'll pretend to submit if I can have breakfast," she said flatly.

"Not good enough," I growled before hungrily pressing my lips to hers.

Her fingers from her right hand were instantly raking through my hair to tilt my head the way she wanted just as I forced her lips to part for me, all the while making sure to avoid any of her injuries in the process. She shivered slightly before she could stop it as I teasingly lapped at her tongue with my own. Now she was trying to take control, but I wasn't about to have her do that. I slid my hand that was grasping her chin down to collar her throat, brushing my thumb over the spot on her neck where I could feel her pulse racing. I vaguely noticed the sounds of a door sliding open and what I thought was a yawn when I heard someone make a noise of surprise. When they awkwardly coughed to bring our attention away from each other, both Imayru and I turned to see Ichigo standing there.

"That's not what I expected to see first thing in the morning," he said, looking everywhere but at us.

"Such a prude," Imayru teased, making Ichigo blush bright red.

"H-hey, I am not a prude!" he said angrily before pushing past us towards the main part of the house. "Stop doing this sort of thing in public and we wouldn't have to worry about it again!"

"We need to put him out of his misery one of these days," Imayru said with a tiny laugh. "We keep doing things to irritate him."

"For once, I feel slightly bad for him," I told her with a smirk as I kept hold of her neck. "But not bad enough. I almost had you submit to me if only Ichigo hadn't walked out when he did."

"That's what you get for pushing me up against a wall in the hallway," she reminded me mischievously. "What would your dear Granny say about such behavior?"

"I know that look. You're not going to tell her about this."

"I'm definitely going to tell her, just to get you in trouble. Then I'll for sure be the dominant one."

"Going to tell her what?" a tired, sad voice asked. We both turned our heads to see Taliya coming out of her room at the same time as Ryzen. Taliya still had those dead eyes while Ryzen's were gaining a bit of life to them after his talk with Imayru. "Why does he have his hand around your throat, Imi?"

I felt her body stiffen against me and I could tell that she was going to tell Taliya not to call her Imi when Ryzen slightly shook his head. I knew why he did it. They were still both hurting. Taliya just wanted the comfort of another older family member after their mother had just abandoned them. That was when she seemed to slouch a little, almost as if she felt exhausted or defeated. She pulled away from me and walked over to the girl, giving her a hug that startled her.

"Don't worry, Tally," Imayru said gently. "It will all turn out for the best eventually. I won't let things get worse."

I heard a strangled sob as Taliya's arms wrapped around my wife and tears slid down her cheeks. Imayru just held onto her for the longest time until Taliya's tears stopped flowing and she pulled away, rubbing at her eyes to wipe away the wetness there. She looked as if life had finally seeped back into her when she turned her gaze to Ryzen. All of us headed out into the dining area where breakfast was already set out for us. We ate in companionable silence until I heard a loud noise, looking over at Imayru to see that she had dropped her spoon onto the table and all the color had drained from her face.

"They're here," she said hoarsely, seeming distant as she almost stared off into space.

"Who is?" I asked quickly, taking her hand and watching as she slowing turned her face in my direction.

Her expressions hardened before she said, "The Exiles. There are thirty of them heading this way from the 1st District and they're not here to negotiate. They're here to kill."