"We are going to the Soul Society to capture Toushiro Hitsugaya."
Gin turned to face Aizen, "We are?"
The ex-soul reaper nodded, his face half lit by the perpetual moon. "He is the only one who can counter Yamamoto's Zanpakuto. We will capture Toshiro, and using my zampacto I will convince him to join us."
Toushiro was ahead of his squad. They'd gotten the call that a massive hollow was wreaking havoc in the rukan district and he wanted to stop it before too many people were hurt. He could barely sense Rangiku's spiritual pressure, she had been in the office and was far behind him. He would have to go it alone for now. He came to a halt at the coordinates, but the area was dead. No souls, no hollow. Surely it had not wiped out the entire area? He walked cautiously down the aisle of shacks. But not cautious enough.
It was him– Aizen, the traitor. And Gin with a handful of Espada at his back. They'd been hiding their spiritual power but now it didn't matter and he sensed immediately that they surrounded him. Had they targeted him? It certainly seemed that way.
"What are you doing back here?"
"I've come to get you Toushiro. It seems I can't do this without you." Toushiro's breath caught in his throat. What did he mean? "You have the most powerful ice based sword in existence. I will need you to help me defeat the most powerful fire based sword."
"Like I'd ever join you."
"Don't forget my power." Aizen drew his sword. Toushiro looked away– could he brainwash him? He couldn't chance it, he needed out. He made a break for it. The Espada lunged on him. There were five, maybe six, and he had barely time to enter his bankai before they struck. He was able to protect his body but not escape. Their blows sent him back to the ground. He had to make an offensive move soon. He opened his wings and released Hyorinmaru's true power on them, encasing them in ice, but not for long. Again, he tried to get away but this time it was Gin who stopped him. The espada broke free, he was surrounded once more. Gin's sword darted here and there, and it was all Toshiro could do to avoid his blows– the espada however, had every opportunity to attack him, and they did. He struggled but they forced him to the ground. When his squad arrived, they had him, pinned by all six to the cold, hard earth. His petals were almost gone, he needed to exit bankai but bankai was his only chance to help his men. Aizen approached him, sword drawn and pointed at his chest. The Espada released him and went for his men. Gin watched on, grinning. Toushiro lay where he had been left. Was it really Aizen, it could be a fake– an illusion, how could he tell? If he just sat there while his men were hurt... he made a move but sudden, excruciating pain stopped him. Aizen had not hesitated one moment. He thrust his sword through Toushiro's shoulder and pinned him to the ground. He could not contain himself and let out a holler of terrible pain. Just then Rangiku appeared, exiting flash step. She took in the scene in an instant and dove for Aizen.
"No, its too dangerous!" Toushiro called through his pain. But she would not turn back. Gin intercepted her. Another petal gone. He was more powerful than her. She would die. The Espada would kill his men. He had to do something.
But something was happening to him.
Aizen was staring down his blade at him, and Toushiro could feel the traitor's spiritual energy being transferred through the steel and into his own body. His vision blurred and he lost sight of his lieutenant. It was Aizen's power. He was trying to brainwash him. Not going to happen. He had two petals left, and he would use them to save Rangiku. Though the pain was overwhelming, her raised Hyorinmaru and struck out against Aizen with his ice dragon. Aizen was knocked away. Then, with all the strength he possessed he used his bare hands to pull out the blade of Kyoka Suigetsu. The blood flowed from his palms and his shoulder, but he had little time. He pressed against his wound and leapt into the air. Rangiku was already wounded, blood trickling from her thigh. He would kill Gin for hurting her. She kept a straight face the whole time, never revealing her captain's position as he swooped at Ichimaru's exposed back. Gin countered at the last second but ice crawled its way up his blade and arm. He darted back. Then Aizen was coming, straight at Rangiku. Toushiro was able to counter him just in time, but the blow sent both him and Rangiku spinning through the air. Blow after blow came in at dizzying speed, and the captain was running out of time. In a last effort he shot his dragon straight at Aizen's head. Aizen was able to doge but sent flying back. But captain Hitsugaya had reached his limit. His bankai failed and he felt the ice wings ripped from his back. Hot blood soaked his robes and Rangiku's warm arms caught him as he fell. He could here her yelling at the men to retreat but things were turning black before his eyes. She pressed him close to her, like a mother her child and for an instant he felt comforted. But it could not last. She flash stepped away but he knew there was no escape. He couldn't tell from where but a blow sent her smashing into a tree. She cried out but never let go of him.
"Time's up Rangiku. Give him to me," Gin's hot breath tickled Toushiro's neck. He had a hand around her throat.
"What do you want with him?" she gasped.
"He's going to help us win. How about it, would you like to join?"
"Never!" she struggled but he was tightening his grip. Then something stirred inside of Toushiro, a last reserve of strength. His vision returned, he broke free of Rangiku's arms and hurled himself at Ichimaru. Ablaze with the silver light of spiritual power, the heavens turned stormy and snow poured out of the sky. He pinned his opponent to the ground with the sheer force of his energy. For once that awful smile faded.
"Never touch Rangiku!" Toushiro was filled with a horrible rage. He could feel her standing up behind him, she was alright. "Rangiku, run, please."
"Captain, I–" nothing more.
"Captain Hitsugya. I suggest you calm down if you want your lieutenant to live." And the smile returned. Hitsugya turned. Aizen had Rangiku in his clutches, sword against her throat, already pressed so close as to cause a trickle of blood down her neck. He gained control of his spirit energy. Suddenly he felt incredibly weak and the pain in his shoulder and back were overwhelming. He staggered to his feet. Gin got up behind him but Toushiro did not even bother to see what position he was taking. He stepped toward Aizen, dizziness overtaking him, but the face of his lieutenant always visible.
"Let her go."
"Come closer" Toushiro staggered forward another few steps. "Excellent." Aizen shoved Rangiku toward Gin and in the same instant pierced Toushiro's shoulder in the same spot. Already his spiritual energy was flowing into him. Rangiku was screaming, but Gin was not hurting her. He just held her as she watched. She was screaming on her captain's behalf. Toushiro raised a hand to Aizen's blade but he could not move it. There was not strength left in his body, only Aizen's energy keeping him on his feet. The black energy entered him in pulses, each one taking away the clarity of the world around him. His heart felt like it might burst from his chest and suddenly he was screaming because an overwhelming pain struck him. The energy seemed almost to be ripping through the scars in his back, his breath shortened into desperate gasps and all he wanted was for Aizen to stop.
And Aizen did.
The blade slid free of Toushiro's body and the sheer weight of gravity hit him with full force. But the ground did not strike him. Instead Aizen caught him, gently, and held him up, pressed against his chest. Toushiro did not understand but he was too weak to fight it. Hyorinmaru fell from his bloodied hand.
"Too much for him?" Gin asked lightly.
"For now yes. We will have to complete his transformation in Heuco Mundo, after his other wounds have healed. If we try now, he'll die, and then he'll be no good to us at all."
Just past Aizen's white robe Toushiro could see Rangiku's horrified face. Tears streamed freely from her eyes. For a moment they gazed at one another and to his surprise he could feel tears falling from his own eyes. He knew her, but something was wrong. She was his lieutenant, his friend, but how had they met? How long had he known her? What had Aizen done to him? Then Gin released Rangiku. The Espada had already opened the gate. Gin picked up Hyorinmaru. Aizen picked up Toshiro. His body was dead weight but some how he was still awake. His head fell back and he saw Rangiku had been pinned by a kido barrier. His men were strewn about the field. And just as they were passing through the gate, the other Captains arrived. He heard his name echoed among them but they could not reach him, the Espada would keep them at bay to the very last second.
"No need for tears Toushiro." Aizen wiped away the tear that leaked its way out of the small captain's eye of its own free will. He wanted to strike out at him, but his body would not move, and so he lay helpless in the arms of his enemy, awaiting his fate.