I don't own Bleach and I am not making any money off of it. Some other lucky bastard is!
Per my beta's suggestion, which is a good one… all major titles and such will now be italicized, i.e. The Heart, Raien Rite of Purity, The Twins Eternal…. Etc.
YAY Beta Kittychan warm fuzzies!
This chapter is out right now (as opposed to much later) because of Moonlit Water Sunny River. Arigato.
Chapter Edit History
Nothing yet but I am posting this at 4AM without beta feedback so I am certain there will be edits later.
09-09-2008 Minor edits and first portion of beta feedback added, the rest of the beta revised version will be posted soon.
09-14-2008 Al beta edits have been entered.
The Ritual of Truths is over. Uryuu deals with some unresolved father issues. The twins are apparently very close and comfortable with one another. The term 'party trick' is used improperly. Tatsuki has a surprisingly dangerous background, Chizuru seems to be recovering some repressed memories, Arisawa Shiori's true identity is revealed even though she remains clueless, it's finally time for an explanation for what really happened that night Orihime woke up and Uryuu's reiatsu flared, the events that occurred on Las Noches are also finally tied into the rest of the story.
The love was always there, the good intent was always there, but Uryuu had realized that all the warmth his father ever had, all the warmth the man had ever felt, came from Shiori. Without Arisawa Shiori to hold his hand, nothing seemed colder than the man who raised him, Ishida Ryuuken.
Uryuu found that he could no longer hate his father with the same intensity as before. Instead his intense hatred was replaced with a desperate sense of pity and a raging anger.
(Orihime to Chizuru)
Together they Shiori, Tatsuki, and Uryuu pieced themselves back together. In the process, the twins gained her power. The combined powers of the prodigal Quincy and the Raien Elite would be enough to create Ishida Souken's ideal Exalted Quincy. But something else happened, something that could never be planned, something that made them far more special and powerful than a simple Exalted Quincy."
"As a result of the trauma and the measures which were taken to avoid certain disaster, Ury-kun and Tatsuki-chan somehow changed themselves. They somehow transformed themselves in a way that made them independent of everything. They became neutral, able to exist in a state of complete stability under any circumstance."
'I am everything that is in this Universe, but I made a horrible mistake.' Orihime thought to herself. Though her face betrayed nothing, she was racked with immeasurable amounts of shame and guilt.
'I love everyone. I love everything. How could I not?' Sadness weighed heavily on her chest. If Orihime's thoughts could be read, there would be only one thing that would make her words scary - they were the literal truth, pure and simple. 'I am everyone, I am everything. Without a Heart everything will perish.'
In an instant the atmosphere changed. It seemed the ceremony had ended just as abruptly as it had begun. In that moment only one man held the spotlight. Everyone's eyes turned to follow the sickening thud that filled the room. Once the ritually bound palms of Ishida Ryuuken were finally set free, gravity took over. The dead weight of the Quincy's body dropped gawkishly to the floor.
"ARGHHHH!" Uryuu glared daggers at his father's dead body as he aggravatingly clenched his teeth in an attempt to hold back the flood of emotions brewing within.
"YOU BASTARD!" roared the youngest Quincy. Uryuu's restraint was failing.
Everyone in the room could see it, even the silent plus in the corner whom only Shiori, Tatsuki, and Renji seemed to notice.
Everything in the room seemed to disappear for Uryuu, everything but the lifeless body of the most honorable, loyal, arrogant, and stubborn jerk he'd ever known. Tears continued to well up in his eyes. One thought cycled endlessly through his mind, 'Everything turned out all wrong, but for all the right reasons!'
The last time Uryuu cried he was a still small boy. Since then he'd just hardened. He cast aside his own emotions, forsaking personal attachment with others in favor of solitude, academic excellence, and Quincy merit. A childhood without play, a boy without friends, and a single proud Quincy without a clan, even if Uryuu worked hard there was no one around to validate his worth or to recognize his hard work other than his equally cold and detached father. A father whose favor and acceptance he never seemed to win. That's why it was just easier to give up on the one thing he felt powerless to control - the way he felt inside. It was just easier to excel in everything else and ignore the parts that felt, but now there was Orihime. Now he wanted to feel. And, like everything else, the Law of Opposites applied. There was no joy without sorrow, and Uryuu must open himself to both, otherwise there was no escaping the void he'd been cowering behind for so long. Love can't exist in a void.
Less than a week ago, in a small room at the Urahara Shop, the girl he loved finally woke up after having lived through his worst nightmare. There is no greater agony than the kind resulting from the pain inflicted upon the ones you love most. On that day, in the presence of a hurt and disoriented Orihime, Uryuu's feelings finally erupted, overcoming the void he'd worked so hard hide behind.
During that brief time when his reiatsu poured out, Uryuu had dropped every defense mechanism he had. His feelings, his true nature, and the truth of his unique neutral existence were completely exposed to the girl he loved, the vesselled form of God's Right Hand… The Heart of the Universe… Inoue Orihime.
For Orihime, Ishida-kun was always a cute and talented boy, an honorable boy, and a dependable friend who went out of his way to keep his distance from everyone. She had no idea how he felt about her, and she wasn't the type that walked around believing people had secret crushes on her. Aside from that, Orihime only had eyes for Ichigo then.
Inoue Orihime wanted the same for Ishida Uryuu as she as she did for everyone else. She wanted him to smile and be happy. In Orihime's heart, she wished for Ishida-kun, Sado-kun, Keigo-kun, Renji-kun and everyone else to find love and to always have good food to eat. Ishida-kun was a precious friend to Inoue Orihime, and that's all that he was to her.
On that fateful night when Uryuu stood watch over Orihime's sleeping body, while absent mindedly scrambling amidst the books and papers that surrounded him in search of a supposed renegade highlighter, everything changed. Not just for him, not just for her, but that night was the beginning of many new things.
At that time, Uryuu had no way of knowing the truths of his or Orihime's lives. At that time, his father was an ass, his sensei was cherished, his mother was dead, he was an only child, he was the last Quincy, and even though he was powerful, he certainly had his limits.
Everything changed that night because Ishida Uryuu had reached his limit. For a brief moment he broke the seal on his self contained void.
During that reiatsu flare Orihime felt certain that Ishida-kun was the answer to everything she wanted and the single thing she desperately needed the most, even though she had no idea what that was or why.
Just like Uryuu, Orihime was oblivious to the truth of who she was at that time. However, the fractured diety buried deep within her subconscious understood everything and took immediate action. It understood that the boy, this unexpected an amazing natural anomaly, was a permanent solution to something that had gone horribly wrong. When The Heart had discovered the truth of Ishida Uryuu, it placed a piece of itself within him, the most important piece.
Behind Ishida Uryuu's eyes was the Pulse of The Heart, the rhythm of the universe. Like a magnificent lighthouse, the Pulse endlessly called out to guide the flow of all energy in Orihime's vast and beautiful universe.
And now, just like that fateful night which happened earlier this week, Ishida Uryuu would choose to feel. He knew it was simply wrong to try and deny balance. Nothing good could come from it. The true dichotomy of balance demanded equal passion for both the happy times and the sad. And, because Uryuu wanted to experience what it felt like to feel, to love and to be loved by his Hime-chan he would finally stop cowering from his original bane, his father.
'Everything turned out all wrong, but for all the right reasons!' Uryuu's hands were curled into fists so tight his knuckles were white. Those words, the truth of Ishida Ryuuken's life, and the kind of man his father really was, and the possibilities of a happier life that might have been with a mother and a sister… everything; it all relentlessly assaulted his thoughts. The pressure building in his head was so great the tormented Quincy was certain his skull would crack open any minute.
The Ritual of Truths had ended just seconds ago. The burn marks branded into Ryuuken's palms were nothing short of a Quincy stigmata, and five sets of eyes flew open in complete shock as they watched the aged, boxed up, and denied feelings Uryuu had for his father finally overflow. In one swift kick, in an act completely uncharacteristic of the typically reserved Quincy who had a particular distaste for excessively barbaric acts of violence, Uryuu sent the martyred corpse of his father clearly through the wall that separated the living and the bathroom.
"BAKA!" Uryuu shouted at the body buried beneath the rubble. "Everything turned out all wrong, but for all the right reasons! You should have just listened to your wife!" He took a deep breath before contemplatively closing his eyes and pushing his glasses up, a failed attempt to get a grip on himself.
"We all suffered. You took away my mother and my sister!" Even though Uryuu's anger could no longer be seen, there was no denying the hurt tone of his voice.
Starring at the floor, Uryuu's face softened as he slowly turned his back on his father's body before speaking softly toward the ground, "Still, baka of a father," his voice held a definite hint of sarcasm, "things could have been worse. There's no telling how many people would be dead if Tatsuki and I had awoken sooner and under the influence of someone with selfish intensions. " His voice cracked, "someone like sensei." Uryuu felt sick. 'Someone like sensei who'd use us' he thought to himself.
"You hated me that much boy?" said the plus quietly watching in the corner, inwardly amused with the drama.
'That voice!' Chizuru jumped back on reflex and met Renji's solid chest. "But h... he's dead!" she mumbled quietly to the Shinigami.
Careful not to disturb the fragile environment, Renji leaned in closer and spoke quietly. "Hai, Tatsuki told you about this stuff, right?"
A tentative nod and a fumbled facial expression were Chizuru's only responses.
Chizuru's reaction was entertaining. If the atmosphere weren't so serious Renji would have laughed. 'Her girlfriend's dead father is the first plus she sees.'
Renji glanced around the room and thought about the kinds of people Uryuu and Orihime always hung out with. 'Oh yeah, this is probably a good thing. Seriously, anyone hanging out with this bunch of spirit world junkies should able to see spirits or they'd just get left out.' he thought.
'That voice!' Uryuu's face tensed up in an expression of annoyance and aggravation. Even without looking he knew who that voice belonged to.
"That's right; it was stupid of me to think you were gone just yet." Uryuu's locked eyes with an identical pair and barked, "Abarai! Don't you have something to do? "
Uryuu turned his gaze on the offending Shinigami. "If you won't do it I'll play Shinigami and do it myself."
Uryuu's barking knocked Renji from his thoughts. 'Geez, after all that he's still an ass. Huh? Wait, what does he mean do it himself?...Play Shinigami, what the fuck does he think we are!?' Renji puffed his chest, 'arrogant Quincy, watch it, you're pissing me off.'
Renji calmed himself enough to reply cordially though his tone held a slight hiss. "Hoy Ishida, there's nothing I can do, I can't perform the soul burial. Look at him, his spirit is earthbound. No soul burial for the guy until he deals with his regrets. Sorry man, that's how it is. You know the rules."
"Is that so Abarai? I'll manage fine on my own then." Uryuu's stoic mask had returned, but before he got even two steps closer to his father's ghost something paralyzed him from the waist down.
Now that the Ritual of Truths had been completed, both Tatsuki and Uryuu understood perfectly well what they really were and what sorts of things the full scope of their power permitted them to do. The power of The Twins Eternal was quite literally boundless. There were no magic wands, silly incantations, or vexing hand gestures required, like willing yourself to wiggle a finger; their power was just a part of what they were. It was tied only to their conscious existence, an existence which could not ever be erased nor challenged. Even those as powerful as The Hearts, the builders of universes, could be at their mercy.
To put it mildly, such encompassing power without any outside force to keep it in check was unfathomably dangerous. If either Tatsuki or Uryuu ever chose to use their powers irresponsibly, and without full consideration of the consequences, they could easily be a threat to everything they held dear and everything Orihime had created. Needless to say, something as trivial as a soul burial was a simple task for either of the twins to do. For that matter, anything a Shinigami could do was negligible for either one of them.
Even before the twins were born, Ishida Ryuuken and Arisawa Shiori understood the potential power their children harbored and how dangerous such a creature could be. Unlike The First, their children would be sentient creatures, thus they would be susceptible to influences that The First did not have to deal with, and as a result their actions would always be influenced by their feelings. As parents, their responsibility to set the foundations to properly shape the hearts and the minds of the twins was truly enormous.
"You didn't learn anything did you?" Tatsuki's voice rang clear as a bell through Uryuu's head.
The myraid of emotions just kept coursing through Uryuu. Those words were all his sister had to say to make him feel shame for once again acting like a self-centered child. But it still wasn't enough to curb his impulse to do something.
Tatsuki knew Uryuu was confused. She felt bad for her little brother, she knew he could deal with a lot of things but what he was going through right now was the very type of thing he'd spent his life trying to avoid. She knew he didn't know how to deal with the onslaught of powerful and conflicting emotions he was feeling. Still, it wasn't an excuse for acting with foolish haste.
Tatsuki knew the paralysis she put on her brother was a joke. It was like wrapping a lion in a straightjacket made of cotton candy, but it was just intended as something simple to get his attention. She would do what she could to keep him from making a mistake, but in the end she would always support his decision. Still, she didn't want him to act on an anger driven impulse and do something he might regret later.
'If he does this, it will be even worse than what I did three years ago.' Tatsuki understood what horrible consequences could come from acting on an angry impulse. Less than a minute of action had caused a lot of trouble for many people, and a lifetime of suffering and loss for others. The ripple effect of her momentary act stretched far.
"This isn't the same Tatsuki!" Uryuu growled as he intruded on his sister's thoughts. "I can't hurt Ryuuken, he's already dead!" Anger and confusion warred inside Uryuu, each one fighting to prevail. It was unclear which emotion would dominate the young Quincy from one moment to the next. "I… I, just want him to go away, I don't want to see him right now. I don't know how to face him. I want to beat him, just once! I want to know why he has a picture of me in his wallet. No, that's not it… I know why, but I want him to say it. The Ritual, I know why but I want him to say it…. I think. Maybe I just want to hurt him, I don't know."
"It's not all different, my past and your present. The basic elements are all the same but the situation's just different." Tatsuki replied. "Still, those guys deserved it and if I didn't have to worry about how others would be affected, I'd finish what I started three years ago."
The anger and stern conviction Uryuu heard in her voice was undeniable. He had no doubt his sister meant what she said. Tatsuki clearly wanted to finish delivering her own fatal swift justice, but three years later something still held her back.
Steering the topic back on course, Tatsuki continued, "But, aside from not being an affectionate father, Dad never really did anything wrong, everything he did was for his family, and you really didn't turn out so bad yourself so he must have done something right. He actually took care of us the best way he could, even though we didn't know till now. Do you think he really deserves what you were about to do?" She paused for a moment, "And Mom too, does she deserve to suffer for what you want to do to the man she loves?"
With this, Uryuu had finally settled down enough to think a little.
There was a reason Shinigami did not have the power to perform the soul burial ritual on an Earthbound soul like Ishida Ryuuken, a soul full of regret. The Soul Society was a place where all souls were supposed to be re-born pure. Like many other things, this was just a process, part of a larger cycle to ensure balance. To perform a soul burial ritual on an unfit soul would only guarantee a perpetual state of suffering, discontent, and unrest for the trespassing soul. Souls who skipped past the rules and crossed over prematurely only carried their regrets with them. In the afterlife, the effects of the regrets were greatly amplified. The extensive life span during the afterlife only served to make the suffering even worse.
Any individual suffering such painful discord was bound to wreak havoc on his surroundings. In the end, the trespassing soul would most likely be scorned then given a publically humiliating execution or simply just locked away and forgotten. The misplaced soul might be sentenced to wallow in treacherous solitude. In that case, the torment of regret would be the soul's only companion during the painful descent into madness.
For Uryuu to selfishly perform the burial rite without considering the consequences of his actions would only bring suffering and discontent. Committing such an act would cause a minor disruption in the delicate balance of nature that Orihime had forged ages ago and worked endlessly to maintain. In addition, he would be condemning his father to a fate even crueler than the life of sacrifice, loss, and betrayal he'd already lived. And his mother, despite her constant warmth and smile, he knew that she always hid her pain. If he went through with his original plan, Uryuu undoubtedly knew that he would bring her even greater unhappiness and suffering.
'Shiori-san, Hime-chan, Tatsuki… I can't even bear the thought of being the reason for their pain. I'd rather suffer myself than hurt them.' Uryuu thought.
"Are you really that angry Little Brother? I won't try and stop you if this is what you want." Tatsuki spoke silently to her brother. She knew his feelings were just overwhelming his ability to think clearly. They were both hot blooded like that. If he'd calm down a bit more he'd be ok.
"I don't know." Was Uryuu's confused and dejected reply. "Why can I handle everything else except finding out that he loved me and actually did things to protect me? It would have been easier if I didn't know about his life."
"When you put it that way you just sound like a coward who's happy to live with lies. Everyone knows that's not the kind of brat you are." Tatsuki couldn't help but crack a smile as she watched her brother's eye twitch involuntarily while she delivered her back handed taunts.
'Little brother, coward, brat, handy crafts king, sex pistol… what the hell else is she going to call me?' Uryuu thought. He was completely unaware that his desire to pound his sister into the ground for teasing him had momentarily distracted him from his present situation.
Tatsuki continued, "You're more of a tsundere kind of brat, you know, the kind that's combative and difficult to deal with but who's really modest and kind hearted." Tatsuki was pleased with herself, 'tsundere' seemed the perfect one word description to describe her brother.
Having delivered the final teasing blow of 'tsundere', the tone of Tatsuki's voice shifted to a more serious direction. "Besides, you just said it yourself, Mom and Dad did everything for all the right reasons, they sacrificed a lot for both our sakes and in the end you know things could have been worse. So if right now, at this very moment, you think that your pain is worse than what they went through for us, then I'll leave you alone and let you do whatever you want. I'll even help."
'They're talking to each other… without talking?' Chizuru wondered. 'They have to be, just like Orihime was talking to me a minute ago.' She could see the concern through the creases in Tatsuki's face and she watched as stoic handy crafts king seemingly struggle with an internal battle of sorts. What they were talking about though, she had no idea.
'I've never seen her look like that before. She's so serious and concerned.' Then, out of nowhere, a sharp pain pierced through her head. It disappeared just as quickly as it had come. Cloudy images of a very worried younger spikey haired goddess hovered over her. The image was blurred and distorted as if consumed in a powerful drug induced haze. 'What the hell was that? Was…' An unpleasant chill ran down her spine, 'It… it felt like a… memory?'
'Whatever, I'll deal with that later.' resolved Chizuru as she carefully studied both of the silent the siblings, 'Weird, they seem really close all of a sudden.'
Uryuu straightened his posture and just looked at his sister blankly, all anger drained from his face. When he thought about her last words, 'my pain… worse than what they went through' he really was disgusted at just how much like a spoiled child he was acting.
"You're my twin Uryuu, the one I love most, the one who understands me best. So do whatever you want, and I will hold the consequences of your actions with you, equally," said Tatsuki.
'Consequences of my actions? I really was about to do something really bad without thinking of anyone else.' Uryuu thought.
"Mom never yells at me for the things I do, no matter how bad they are. Even with what happened three years ago. Really, it'd be easier if she just yelled and acted like other parents. Instead, she's like some freak master manipulator specializing in guilt. Anyway, Mom made sure I faced the consequences of what I did. Honestly, going to jail would have been easier to deal with, and apparently Dad took care of a lot of things I didn't know about till today. He kept the whole thing from being aired publically; I didn't miss any school; he fixed it so I didn't have a record; and he even kept me from having to show up in court. They were both around helping in their own ways. Dad is more of an elusive behind the scenes, strategic, plotting and string pulling kinda guy. I didn't see him when I was growing up, but apparently the guy was all over my life. And Mom, Mom is just the opposite. She'll throw you in the middle of the fire so you can't run away from anything. Like how she always tells me that 'right', 'wrong', 'good', and 'bad' were just things people came up with to justify the consequences of what they did. She says we should always choose to do whatever we can to keeps things moving forward, and to cause the least amount of unwanted disruption in the process. She says, even if the unhappiness falls on you…"
"…you'll never feel shame or the need to hide from the choices you make," said both Tatsuki and Uryuu as they recalled their mother's words.
In many ways, Uryuu was grateful for the Ritual. Even though he'd been apart from his mother for 15 years, he now knew everything Tatsuki and Ryuuken knew about her. He'd heard all of her motherly lessons.
It was true; Shiori was definitely not a normal parent. She never raised her voice nor told Tatsuki or their older brother Ryuu that they were right or wrong. Every lesson she'd tried to teach always seemed to be about consequences, responsibility, and balance. She taught by forcing self reflection and independent thought. Through those lessons, Tatsuki and Ryuu both had a well developed conscience, a firm sense of integrity, could think for themselves, and could decide on their own.
The more docile child, Ryuu, seemed to take to the lessons a little easier than the hot-blooded Tatsuki who often had difficulty with self restraint when certain situations arose. Uryuu wondered if he would have developed as easily as his brother had or if he would have struggled with some of Shiori's lessons like his sister. Either way, his mother's lessons were now a part of him, and Uryuu could easily see the value of the things she taught. He decided now was as good a time as any to find out what his learning curve was compared to his brother and sister.
"I still want him to go away, but I won't do anything to make it worse. I get it now. Just because I can perform a soul burial doesn't mean I should. So I'll just leave the little Shinigami tricks to the Shinigami then. We've got our own kind of tricks anyway," Uryuu said confidently to his sister.
'He's sounding more like himself now.' Tatsuki gave her brother a taunting "there there, aren't you a good little boy" kind of smile. She laughed lightly when his eye twitched once again signaling his annoyed reaction to her teasing. 'He's gonna be so much fun to pick on!'
"Hey," Uryuu called silently to his sister. "Before I deal with him, there's something you should know too." The young Quincy stood proudly with confidence. He spoke with sincerity, "You're my twin Tatsuki, the only one by my side for eternity, the one I love most, the one who understands me best. So you also do whatever you want, and I too will hold the consequences of your actions with you, equally." Each word flowed from him as though they were an oath as sacred and dear to him as his own Quincy pride.
Uryuu paused and briefly reflected on the weird events of this past week and how much his life had changed in just a few short days. He had his Hime-chan and now he had his sister, he was definitely no longer alone. "I'll start with sharing the consequences that came with the boy you killed three years ago. Because of what happened to Orihime, I understand. "
Uryuu toppled over slightly. He didn't expect Tatsuki to lunge at him, but her hug felt nice. He could feel the happiness and warmth that radiated off her body. It felt like something important had finally fallen into place. Holding his twin felt natural. With her there were no walls, there was no deceit, and nothing to hide. For the first time in his life, he felt completely exposed and it didn't bother him at all.
For Tatsuki it was the same. There was a special kind of happiness that only he could give her. However, her basking was cut short by an unexpected turn of events.
'Oh I'm never going to let him live this one down. Ever! Honestly, I am glad I got to be the girl. Boys bodies really have no sense for the moment!' The evil twin taunting gears in Tatsuki's head started to plot.
"Uh…hey Little Brother," Tatsuki said trying desperately to hold back the laughter that was building inside.
Tatsuki decided she'd at least do what she could to spare her brother an embarrassing moment by shielding him from the prying eyes of onlookers. Apparently this hug would last a little longer than she'd originally planned. "It's not polite to pitch your tent in front of an audience." She felt his body stiffen against hers instantly in reaction. The heat of embarrassment began to ebb off him in waves.
'What the….? Damn you! EVERYONE'S WATCHING US .' Uryuu's external composure remained calm even though the gravity of his current problem was causing him to freak out. Like everyone else, in the privacy of his own mind he had a completely different personality separate from what others saw.
Uryuu felt the need to cry again, but he had absolutely no intention of actually doing it. And, just as he had done so many times in the past, he silently cursed his testosterone crazed teenaged body and tried to will Orihime's little Quincy back into hiding.
It really didn't bother Tatsuki at all that being with her did this to him. Nothing about her twin was unwelcomed or uncomfortable, but she still pitied the poor boy for having to suffer through the moment. She couldn't possibly imagine this happening to him at a more embarrassing time.
'Get back! You come out for Orihime only! Noooo, that's NOT Orihime! Not Orihime, not Orihime, not Orihime... GAH! You have no sense of timing! Just go away…. Not Orihime, not Orihime, not Orihime! NOOOOOO! No, no, no, I said get back, not get bigger!' Uryuu begged and pleaded with his lower half, who'd never reacted to anyone other than Orihime, until he realized that thinking of Orihime was only making it worse. He mentally chastised the trigger happy appendage for not being able to appropriately gauge the seriousness of the moment.
As if the situation weren't already funny enough, Tatsuki's ability to hear everything her brother thought pushed the entertainment value to a whole new level. The absurdity of this situation was so ripe it would have been a complete waste if she didn't try and take advantage of it. Mortal or eternal, this was a once in a lifetime setup.
With insidious intent, Tatsuki focused all her will power into not laughing as she ground her body subtly against his. She intentionally coaxed her brother's arousal just enough to provoke him to the next level of frustration.
Uryuu vehemently cursed his sister, her perverted nature, and her wily perspective on what was considered fun. As far as he was concerned, this was the meanest thing anyone had ever done to him. Though he cursed her deft movements, he was grateful for the skill of her technique which was so properly executed that the entire predicament continued to remain unrecognized by their audience.
"I have to check with Chizzy first Little Brother, but I'm pretty sure she'll be fine with it if it's you." She said with a seductive tease. The taunt was laced with a straggling whimper that escaped the girl's forcibly concealed laughter.
"Chizzy's got a twincest fetish too, so I'm pretty sure she'll go for this." The spikey haired instigator continued to prod in her quest to milk the moment for everything she could.
Tatsuki's body began to tremble. She sucked in both her lips and buried her face in the juncture of her brother's neck. There was so much more that she wanted to say but it took everything she had just to keep from laughing.
Uryuu's situation wasn't improving. In fact, in was quite the opposite. Orihime's little Quincy seemed enormously happy at the prospect of meeting his twin's parts.
Uryuu felt his sister's resolve weaken even more. 'Damn hentai! She's nothing but trouble! If she can't get a grip on herself everyone will see me like this! Why the hell couldn't she be a good girl, like Ori….' It was pointless to finish that thought. Orihime wasn't a good girl either. 'GAH!'
'Gah, HENTAIS,' Uryuu screamed to himself. 'I'm surrounded by gorgeous hentais!' All of them, his mother, his sister, his girlfriend, and his sister's girlfriend, he had no choice but to think of his father and hope those thoughts calmed him down before they made him sick. His inner self was one wicked thought away from a torrential nosebleed.
Uryuu decided to pull his sister in even tighter, a doubled effort to hide himself from the audience as well as an attempt to try and keep her from snapping. He foolishly buried his face in her black spikey mane to hide the crimson flush that covered it. Her comforting and familiar scent combined with the softness of her hair quickly made Uryuu realize that his choice of hiding places was not the best idea. Not even close!
"I hate you!" Uryuu's thoughts declared sternly. His tone dripped with annoyance and frustration.
Tatsuki's dam was so close to breaking. She'd never wanted to laugh so hard in her life. "Yeah-yeah, I can tell," Tatsuki retorted with an audible snicker that also slipped past her defenses. "Apparently you hate me a lotttt!" she replied.
"I'll get you back for this someday!" Uryuu hissed.
"I'm counting on that Little Brother." Tatsuki snickered while digging her fingers into his side, grappling for just a little more control.
Despite the chaos of arousal, embarrassment, and laughter that ensued the Twins Eternal, to the onlookers it seemed as though they were just having a particularly tender moment embracing and consoling one another. They couldn't have been more wrong.
"Not so 'little' are you brother?" Tatsuki couldn't resist the word play. She had also reached her limit.
In one carefully executed move, Tatsuki pushed her brother away, and swiftly sent him face to face in Orihime's direction. After all, the boy and his happy tool were Orihime's toys so Orihime should be the one to take care of them not her.
As soon as Tatsuki freed herself from her brother's embrace she inappropriately dropped to the floor in a roaring fit of tears and laughter. She could still hear Uryuu's curses flying at her.
The blush on Uryuu's face heightened three shades deeper when he slammed into his girlfriend, and another two shades when the look on her face told him she finally understood why Tatsuki was laughing so hard. The blushing boy was grateful when his Hime-chan wrapped her arms around his body and placed her head on his chest.
Orihime was happy to act as Uryuu's shield. She would keep her eager little Quincy from being noticed by the others until her big Quincy could regain enough composure to send the little guy back home. Still, she loved the feeling of her little Quincy being pressed against her. She had to fight back the urge to reach out and take care of him herself. The only thing holding her back was the audience.
For the sake of his own sanity, Uryuu chose to momentarily ignore everything around him but the girl in his arms. With an audible sigh of relief, he returned her embrace. "Hime-chan… please don't ever leave me alone with my sister," he said half jokingly.
Orihime smiled against him. She knew he was kidding. "But Ury-kun's so cute when he plays with Tatsuki-chan," she teased as she tightened her hug around his body and tilted her head back to search his face.
'Ury-kun is different now' she thought. The faint scowl he always wore and the perpetually pensive look he'd always had in eyes had disappeared. The changes were subtle, and to others who didn't know him as well he still looked mean and grouchy. But to Orihime he was even more beautiful than he was before. He looked like he'd finally found some measure of peace and contentment, something that came from within, something that wasn't dependent upon her presence nor anyone else's.
Orihime tried her best not to cry, but she was so happy, so relieved to see him this way. She loved her special boy so much. She always swore she'd do her best, everyday, to make him smile. She felt sad that he'd held in so many unhappy things and carried around so much pain. But, even if everything around them disappeared and it was just the two of them living in some paradise she knew that there was only so much happiness she alone could bring him. Happiness came from many places, but all happiness starts with the changes that are made from within.
"Hime-chan?" Uryuu said as he wiped her tears away softly with the backs of his fingers. "You have the cutest face right now and these…?" He held up a finger with a lone salty tear. It was true, he was completely captivated. His Hime-chan had never looked so cute before.
"Orihime?" Uryuu didn't know why she was crying, but he knew it wasn't bad. He really just wanted to pick her up and carry her off somewhere to hide her from the rest of the world so he could selfishly preserve and covet this unprecedented display of cuteness. He never wanted it to end.
Orihime's gentle smile broadened a bit right before she hopped up to give him a quick kiss. "Ury-kun, you're all better now. Your Dad's waiting." She laughed lightly at the winced expression and slight blush that garnished his face when his mind had finally re-synched with reality.
'That's right, Tatsuki and I just killed our father, made our mother a widow, and not even fifteen minutes ago I sent his body through the wall before I got a hard on from hugging my sister.' Uryuu shook his head lightly and sighed. Part of him really just wanted to sit down and do his homework like he typically did every Sunday.
It was clear to everyone that Uryuu's rage had dissipated. He now stood confidently in the center of the room, a perfect picture of the proud and reserved Quincy everyone knew him to be.
"Abarai, I'll leave the soul burials to the Shinigami." Uryuu said respectfully while slightly bowing forward.
Renji simply nodded in response. He took the simple sentiment of apology for what it was worth.
"But, I'll take care of the regrets," Uryuu said while he carefully studied everyone in the room. When he met Orihime's eyes he softly smiled. Though it was true that it was his twin whom he loved the most, it was a different kind of love than what he felt for Orihime. 'Orihime,' he thought to himself, 'I love you. I can't ever imagine not being with you. The only thing that could hurt more than not being with you would be to fail you. You are my one and only Shiori-san, like my mother to my father.'
"You!" Uryuu swiftly turned to meet his Father's eyes. He still felt like a boy when he met his father's stern gaze head on, and everything about the past still hurt. But, thanks to Tatsuki, Uryuu was ready to take action in a way befitting of his mother's teachings. He would keep things moving forward with little disruption, and he would feel neither shame nor the need to hide from the consequences of his actions.
Curious as to the sudden change in his son, Ryuuken cocked and inquisitive eyebrow, and as always, refused to back down from anyone's glare.
"You've passed on Ryuuken. Your place is within the Soul Society not my living room," decreed Uryuu. "You cannot pass on because you carry regrets linked to others in this room so I'll have you take care of your regrets and then you'll have no reason to bother me again."
Uryuu knew this was just as much for his sake as his father's. He must handle this day properly to avoid cultivating new regrets for himself. "Your first regret is with me Ryuuken." There was no need to ask, both father and son knew it was the truth. The person that suffered most from Ryuuken's acts was Uryuu.
Holding his son's gaze, Ishida Ryuuken replied with an even and emotionless tone, "Yes, my first regret lies with you."
That alone was almost enough to cause Uryuu's composure to crumble. His father had verbally confessed to him and to everyone else important in his life that he had wronged his youngest son, and that his wrong doings weighed so heavily on his soul that it was one of the reasons he could not rest in peace.
Uryuu wasn't certain he could handle anything else from his father. His relationship with his Ryuuken was what it was. In many ways they were exactly alike, but not in all ways. Thus, Uryuu understood the gravity of his father's acknowledgement and required nothing else from him.
Uryuu would take it upon himself to address the rest of the regrets his father had for him. "Understand Ryuuken, I am grateful for the sentiment behind everything that you have done for me, but I am not you. I will not make the same mistakes that you made. I will stay by Orihime's side, and will do my best to be a worthy son to the woman you chose to as my mother."
For the first time in Uryuu's life, Ishida Ryuuken surrendered and broke eye contact first. With the utterance of those three sentences Ishida Uryuu had effectively eliminated the regret that his father carried for him.
Ishida Ryuuken did not want his son to be like him, but he did not know how to keep such a thing from happening. In truth, because of Uryuu's power, he did not know what kind of man Uryuu should be. He could not properly prepare his son for such an enormous responsibility. But Shiori, his wife who was both adored and feared by everyone, she would know what to do; how to properly raise their son.
Since he'd known her, even when she was five, Arisawa Shiori seemed to possess a peculiar outlook on life and have a unique understanding of things that always made him question her true origin. Ryuu and Tatsuki both flourished under her guidance. Ryuuken was certain Uryuu would too. That is why he decided that he wanted his son to be worthy of his wife. Frankly, he could care less if his children were worthy of him, he was nothing special. He was just the guy who was somehow lucky enough win Arisawa Shiori's heart.
Tatsuki smiled at her brother. He had made the right choice, one they could all live with. And taking advantage of the momentary pause that settled over the room, the spikey haired Quincy girl crept over to and whispered into her Pervy-chan's ear while gently taking her hand.
The red-head was so enraptured with the drama that she wasn't paying attention to Tatsuki at that moment. Although, things were quite different just a few minutes ago when Chizuru's anxiety was off the charts with concern for the other girl. But, her level of anxiety dropped substantially when she saw her strange bedmate rolling on the floor consumed in a fit of delirious laughter. At that point it seemed safe to assume Tatsuki was just fine.
The sudden break of stillness caused by Tatsuki's unanticipated presence caused Chizuru to jump lightly. The feel of Tatsuki's hand wrapping around her own, and the familiar warmth of her champion's breath on her ear felt wonderful. In Tatsuki's direct presence, Chizuru immediately began to feel more at ease with her surroundings.
"Hey Pervy-chan, wanna see something cool?" Tatsuki flashed the winning smile she reserved only for her green-eyed hentai. "Uryuu's gonna do a neat little party trick."
Suddenly, Shiori who'd been standing silently in the corner softly crying and watching over everyone else, stood still with a shocked expression. "Ken-kun…" she uttered softly in reflex. The plus, the spiritual remnants of her only love, were instantly split into small bits of pure energy. For a brief moment they seemed to gather and dance around her son. Then, without any sort of prelude, the energy disappeared into Uryuu's body like the last bit of milk sucked up through a straw.
With the exception of the knowing smile on Tatsuki's face, the rest of the room looked in utter disbelief as Uryuu faded away, and in his place was a much younger Ishida Ryuuken.
In the middle of the Uryuu's tiny living room stood the full-blooded Quincy prince himself. A twenty year old Ishida Ryuuken, the pride of the Quincy race, appeared looking just as he had on the day of his wedding.
'This is what she calls a party trick?' thought Chizuru as she watched in amazement.
"Heh heh… You impressed Pervy-chan?" Tatsuki's voice echoed around silently, bouncing off the walls inside of the green-eyed hentai's mind.
It was Chizuru's turn to twitch. Violations of privacy were absolutely not permitted, and someone getting into your head, well, that was the epitome of privacy violations.
"Babe, for you I'll suffer through the impossible and unbelievable, but if you ever listen to my private thoughts again without permission, you'll remember what's it's like to be a virgin!" Chizuru quietly hissed.
The smug smile on Tatsuki's face morphed into an overly exaggerated expression of dread. "Uhh," Tatsuki said while nervously rubbing the back of her head. "That's not fair. Pervy-chan's too mean sometimes," she whispered with a pout.
A devious little glint shimmered in the corner of Chizuru's eye. She couldn't help but smile. Tatsuki really was a very-very bad girl in all the right ways, and a very good girl in all the other ways. Her spikey haired goddess didn't ever need to be told twice about anything that was important, and she always honored her word. Chizuru knew her private thoughts would remain private. This was just one of the things about Tatsuki that made her so special.
'Honestly, it's too easy to get that girl to do what I want,' the red-head thought.
Despite everything that was happening around her, for the first time since last night, Chizuru finally felt like herself again. She turned and placed a soft kiss on her champ's cheek to reward her good behavior, to thank her, and to let her know everything was ok before her focus returned to the main attraction.
"This can't be real." said an uncharacteristically bewildered Ryuuken as he starred in disbelief at his hands and jumped slightly at the sound of his own voice. Not only was he alive again but time had turned back in his favor; he was young again.
The departed Quincy prince looked up at the only person in the room who would have an answer. "Tatsuki? What is this?"
"It's the only thing we can do to thank you." Tatsuki said to her father. "You can't move on because of your regrets, and you can face all of them right here. So, this is your time to say what needs to be said, your time to say goodbye to your family Dad… properly."
"It's all true then, my children really are level to The First." Ryuuken thought out loud.
Renji had to admit to himself that the power that allowed something like that to happen was certainly worth watching, but these were his friends and right now this was not his place. He quietly slipped out the front door and waited on the balcony, respectfully giving his friends and their unusually odd family the privacy they deserved.
Chizuru saw the hippie clad Shinigami slip out the front. She decided to follow his lead. She only took one step in before a very large and heavy hand fell on her shoulder. It was definitely not Tatsuki's hand. Feeling like a scared fish out of water, Chizuru slowly turned to meet the hand's owner.
"Your father and I were always in the same class growing up," said Ryuuken to Chizuru.
'Damn, he's scary… very-very scary!' thought Chizuru.
Ishida Ryuuken continued, "Because my Shi-chan was five years younger than us, your father called me a lolicon… every day. I really wanted to break Sota's neck for that."
'Honestly, what the hell do I say to that?' Chizuru felt like a defenseless and trapped animal. Even if she had a response, nothing would have come out.
Chizuru was relieved that she didn't have to say anything since Tatsuki's scary father continued talking. "But, he's a good man. Honshoo Sota was a good friend, and he was my groomsman the day I first wore this outfit."
Chizuru found that interesting. She liked the idea that she had some ties to Tatsuki that went that far back. But, although she was certain Tatsuki's scary father was making an exceptional effort to be friendly, she was still quite uncomfortable.
"Uhm ahh, I didn't know that," was the only thing Chizuru could think to say before her flight instinct kicked in. "I'm sorry Ishida-san, you should really be with your family. Please let me wait outside."
Ryuuken's hand dropped from her shoulder giving her the freedom she needed.
"Whichever side of the door you decide to stand on is your choice Honshoo Chizuru," Ryuuken said as he shifted his gaze back and forth between the two teenage girls that stood in front of him.
To Chizuru's surprise the man's voice softened considerably. "But, I would like to be able to support my daughter as only a father can, at least once before I go. I am not ill informed on the nature of your relationship." Ryuuken hesitated for a moment. "If anything I'd say I know more than any father would want to know about his daughter's private affairs. But, The Ritual of Truths made me a part of Tatsuki's life, her acts, her thoughts, and feelings. Because I know Tatsuki as well as I do now, and through her I also know the kind of daughter my old friend Sota raised, I have no hesitation, as Tatsuki's father, in giving you my blessing to stay right where you are."
Chizuru watched Tatsuki's father as he turned his attention back on his daughter. This time, she really was speechless and frozen in place. A shiver ran down her spine, and she couldn't tell if it was the good kind or not.
Then, without warning, that same searing pain shot through her head again, only this time through the drug-like haze it was Ishida Ryuuken that she saw hovering over her and speaking incoherently while shining a tiny flashlight back and forth between her eyes. She felt as though everyone knew things about her, important things, that even she didn't know. It should have been wonderful to have his blessing, but it made absolutely no sense why he would do such a thing. And, just like before, the pain and the images disappeared just as quickly as they had descended.
"Tatsuki," Ryuuken said, "there is nothing I can tell you that you don't already know. The Ritual of Truths has shown you everything."
"The Ritual didn't give me everything," Tatsuki said as she wrapped her arms around her father. "Dad…" Tatsuki buried her face into his chest. She couldn't stop the tears from falling. It was the first time she'd hugged her father in 15 years. It would also be her last.
It was also the first time in 15 years that Ishida Ryuuken felt warmth pulsing through his veins. 'She looks just like Shi-chan did at that age,' he thought.
He really did miss his family. His wife always used to tease him about how badly he spoiled his only daughter. Shiori told him one day that she was thankful for the nights she had to work late, because those were the nights she came home to find her precious family trying to wait up for her. And every time, without fail, she'd come home to find all three of them asleep in front of the TV. Tatsuki was always asleep on her father's chest, held securely in place by his giant hand with Uryuu nestled against his father's shoulder.
Ryuuken continued to make use of the final gift his children had given him. There were only two people that stood between him and his entry into the Soul Society, his wife and her true master.
Before the truths of the Twins Eternal took his life, Ryuuken was fortunate or perhaps unfortunate enough to finally discover the truth about his precious wife. He had been right to question her origin. The body of Arisawa Shiori was nothing more than the same type of body that belonged to Inoue Orihime, a farce, a facade, a vessel. Yet his wife didn't have a clue.
If The Hearts of the Universes were the right hands of God, his wife was The Heart's most cherished handmaiden.
One didn't need to have any special abilities to notice the darkness that enveloped the departed Quincy when he locked eyes with the timid girl who had remained withdrawn and silent through most of the day's events.
For the first time in a very long time, Ryuuken's emotions bled through to the outside world. The man who was once as translucent as obsidian had suddenly become as transparent as quartz. He looked as tortured and torn as Uryuu had when the Ritual ended. Anger, hurt, and confusion seeped out through every pore.
"You! I blame you, my wife's beloved Heart for everything that has happened to me, both the good and the bad. I blame you for the burden of eternity that Tatsuki and Uryuu will suffer. Despite the similarities, they are not like your Master. They are sentient!" Ishida Ryuuken couldn't have stopped if tried.
The distraught Quincy could feel something horrible building inside of him; it was the truth of his one true regret. The single regret for which all other regrets followed, and this regret filled him with unbearable shame. His one true regret was both the reason his heart had flourished and grown cold. His one true regret was the very existence of his only true happiness.
"Your little sabbatical as a vessel has sentenced them to burdens no sentient should ever have to bear. It's unnatural to forever feel everything but never be able to find peace through rest," Ryuuken said as the weight of his truest regret grew so heavily inside him that he dropped unceremoniously to his hands and knees.
Ishida Ryuuken blamed The Heart for causing his one true regret.
Tears strew down Orihime's face. Everything he said was true, and she'd already blamed herself for it all, long before this day.
The Heart and those who served her had been taking the forms of various vessels throughout her domain since before the dawn of Earth, but this time she was careless. This time she'd failed to make sure the necessary checks and balances were in place before entering a vessel. The necessary checks and balances allowed The Heart to safely take the form of a vessel without jeopardizing her primary task of keeping the energy of the universe balanced. Simply put these checks and balances to make sure that order was maintained while The Heart took sabbatical as a vessel was roughly the same thing as people making sure their mail and pets are taken care of before they go on long vacations.
But, never once, in all of the times that she had chosen to be a vessel, did she close off so much of her true identity from the vesselled form. This time around, The Heart wanted to experience as much as she humanly could as the human vessel Inoue Orihime. Thus, the less Inoue Orihime knew, the more enriching the experience.
And, never once, in all of the times that she'd chosen to be a vessel did she allow her chief handmaiden, the one who'd normally watched over things in her absence, to do the exact same thing she did.
Ishida Ryuuken had correctly determined his beloved wife's true origin. Arisawa Shiori was The Heart's chief handmaiden. When he had figured that out, it suddenly made much more sense why nature's most profound anomalies were created the day Shiori finally mastered the Raien Rite of Purity, otherwise known as taking her true form.
With no one properly watching over The Heart's domain and with the vessel being so far detached from her true form, the traumatizing course of events that Orihime suffered in Las Noches had effectively caused enough damage to render the sleeping Heart unstable. The balance of the universe had been disrupted, and the one person responsible for it all was unable to set things right.
Ishida Ryuuken, the pinnacle pureblooded prince of the Quincy race hung his head shamefully. Out of the corner of his tear filled eye he could see his wife. He could tell he was hurting her, he knew she wanted to rush over to his side. She loved him. Every contour of her face and every restrained movement of her body told him that her heart belong to only him, just as much as he belonged to her.
Watching her was too painful. Instead, he chose to watch his falling tears disappear into the soft fabric of the rug beneath him.
Orihime knelt to sit on the floor besides him. She had done this to him, she had done this to all of them.
Like a timid child reaching out to touch a the face of a fragile newborn baby, Orihime placed her hands on either side the once proud Quincy's face, lifting it carefully till their tear stained eyes met once again.
"Why Kami-sama… why did I have to meet my wife? Of all the possible ways things could have gone, of all the possible husbands she could have chosen, why did she have to love me? Why did you let her find me? There is no one else that could cause her so much pain… because there is no one but me who was strong enough to bring her children like ours." Ryuuken was finally able to say it out loud. His greatest regret was also the source of his only true happiness.
END OF CHAPTER, not the end of the story
This story will be renamed now to, Drawn to the Rhythm.