Chapter 1: Unexpected
(This story is in response to a request by SarissaDiablo. ;) Thanks for the lovely suggestion and I hope you enjoy it! I hope everyone enjoys...and reviews! Love to all, Spunky)
Aizen Sousuke knew what the sound was the moment it began. He had been aware from the start that as soon as he made his plans known to the Gotei 13, that they would stop at nothing to kill him. And they had tried more than a few times. But despite their efforts, he still lived and breathed, even though he did so in such a dead place as Hueco Mundo. But where he stood was simply a means to an end. For now, he stood on dry, desert sands, but when he completed the creation of the King's Key, Aizen Sousuke would dwell in the heavenly spirit dimension. And with the fall of the Spirit King, so too would fall the ridiculous farce of a society that placed blood over power and achievement, that played favorites and employed the laws inequitably, in short, the society that tried to hold him back for no better reason than that he came from poor loins. But they would find it very hard to look down on Aizen Sousuke when he stood in the heavens looking down on them.
Still, he wasn't surprised that there were those who disagreed with him…and certainly they would come after him. He just wished that they would be a little quieter about it and not disturb him while he was resting under the one good and beautiful thing in Hueco Mundo, the moon and stars.
"Sousuke," said Gin's voice, floating in from somewhere in the darkness, "It looks as though one of the taichous has come to Hueco Mundo."
"I heard the alert. Do you know which taichou?"
"No," said Gin, "But whoever it is, he…or she comes alone and is in a rather remote area. And strangely, whoever it is, makes no move to come closer to Las Noches, nor even to move in any strategic direction."
"How did this person enter Hueco Mundo?" he asked, his curiosity piqued.
"That's the strangest part…I don't know. There was no garganta opened…and no other method used that we can identify. It's almost as if the person simply appeared there."
"And is now just remaining in that place…odd. I believe I'll go have a look."
"Oh, sounds like fun," said Gin, "Can I tag along?"
"Of course, come."
"Would you like to take along a few exequias…just in case?" Gin asked
He read the annoyed expression on his superior's face and laughed softly.
"Just a suggestion. It could be a trap…meant to catch your attention. You know, not everyone on their side is stupid."
"No," Aizen agreed, "It's just too bad for them that the intelligent ones are not the ones holding the most power."
He sighed softly.
"It is that very stupidity and short-sightedness that will lead them to ruin…Gin"
"That goes without saying," the silver haired shinigami agreed.
They made their way across the sand in silence, Aizen's eyes straying up to the stars as they flash stepped through the stillness, leaving a trail of disturbed sand in their wake. Dunes and cliffs rose up in their path, only to be passed over and left behind.
"You're rather quiet tonight, Gin," Aizen observed.
He flash stepped to the top of a sand dune and paused to scan ahead, then glanced back at his colleague, who he found to be looking up at the crescent moon. He knew well the expression and walked back to him.
"Gin," he said, startling him out of his reverie, "What's on your mind?"
"Nothing," said Aizen, unconvinced, "Gin, I know it's her birthday."
He observed the silver haired shinigami for a moment.
"Maybe you should go and visit her," he suggested.
He received a genuine smile in return.
"Go and visit her? You are funny, Sousuke! I'd have to be mad to set foot in the Seireitei! I'd be arrested and executed, likely before morning! Go and visit her! Right…"
"I could use my zanpakutou…" he offered.
He caught the look of longing that passed over Gin's face.
"No, thank you…you know, it doesn't work on everyone. I'd be found in a flash, I imagine…"
"Then only allow her to see you. It should be easy enough. Just approach her when she's alone."
"And do what? She'd probably arrest me…turn me in, herself," he said, shaking his head, not quite believing Aizen had him actually considering such a thing.
"Well, you won't know if you never ask her. Go."
He drew his weapon…
"Shatter, Kyoka Suigetsu."
Gin frowned in disapproval.
"This is a little dangerous…"
"Like trying to overthrow the Spirit King isn't? Get out of here, Gin. I can handle a lone taichou gone astray…and if I can't then I don't deserve to be the leader."
Gin laughed softly, then drew his sword and opened a garganta. He started to step through, then stopped and looked back.
"What, no teary good bye, Sousuke?" he asked, grinning.
"Why? You're not coming back?" Aizen asked, blinking slowly.
"Well," he said cryptically, "I guess we'll see."
He laughed again and stepped through the garganta. Shaking his head and allowing himself a small smile, Aizen continued through the desert until he drew near the place where he had sensed the enemy taichou. A check of the reiatsu in the area seemed abysmally low, meaning that the taichou had probably lowered or masked it. The sand in the area looked undisturbed, with no tracks leading into or out of the small depression where the reiatsu signal seemed to be centered. He moved forward, his senses extended, expecting fully that he would, at some point, be attacked. But the area him remained silent except for his tread on the sand. He crested a small rise and saw a crumpled body lying in the sand ahead of him. The reiatsu coming from it indicated a life about to expire. Curious, but still expecting it to be a trap, he stepped forward.
The form ahead of him in the sand remained still and silent. As he drew closer, the moon lit the blood on the white yukata he wore. He could see a slight movement, meaning that whoever it was, was barely alive…and not likely to stay that way for long. He closed the distance between them and knelt down, turning the limp body over and positioning the face so he could see it in the moonlight. His eyes widened in surprise.
"Byakuya…" he whispered.
He looked around again, wondering at the oddness of the scene…the lack of any signs of a battle or the passage of anyone living or hollow.
"You're lucky that your spiritual pressure was so low or the hollows out here would have eaten you," he said, opening the yukata to study his wounds, "And that would just be too simple a death for someone like you, ne?"
A cold chill passed through him at the sight of the one wound. A zanpautou directly through the heart. A killing blow.
"My," he said softly, "someone wanted to make sure that you didn't come back. Interesting that one such as you would fall prey to such…"
He stopped and reached out with his senses. His eyes darkened and became stormy.
"Unacceptable," he whispered, "Put out and murdered without any chance to resist. Granted you're strong, but…this is a coward's work."
He sighed in disgust and leaned over the noble, healing energy flaring around his hands.
"You may be an enemy, but this is far too disgraceful a way for any man to die…so it isn't going to happen."
But although he could heal the wound, he couldn't undo the fact that he had lain so long in the sand that he had bled too much…or the fact that his reiatsu had diminished to the point where saving him was not an option. He gazed down at the nearly dead shinigami, frowning.
"What's the matter, Byakuya?" he asked in a low voice, "Don't you want to live? Don't you want to make the coward who took your life this way pay for it? Well…I'll tell you what…I will help you…free of charge. I know it's odd and perhaps a little reckless, but I despise this kind of behavior."
He leaned over Byakuya and brushed his eyes closed.
"This might hurt a bit…but after being stabbed in the heart, it won't hurt as much."
He bowed his head slightly and focused, using the power of the hougyoku. Reiatsu rose around them, disturbing the sand and making the wind rise. In the sand before him, Byakuya's eyes opened wide and his mouth opened into a scream as the hollow mask began to form. He watched as the enemy taichou writhed and moaned and the mask continued to grow. Slowly, the shinigami's struggling ceased and he lay quietly in the sand, his breathing heavier and labored. Aizen knelt next to him, admiring the mask that had formed.
It was as finely carved and as beautiful as the noble, himself, mingled blue and white in a dance of swirls, and inlaid with gold. He reached down and carefully removed it.
"Don't worry," he told the unconscious noble, "another will form whenever your hollow form emerges, but this original is somewhat special. I hope you don't mind if I keep it," he said, placing the mask in his pocket.
He stood and lifted the noble into his arms.
"Now, I think I should return you to the Seireitei. I have an idea of where you'll be safe until you awaken."
He drew his sword and slashed the sky. A garganta opened and he carried Byakuya through. He set down in the forest near Kuchiki Manor and headed for the lake.
"You may not remember," he told the noble, "but when I lived in the Seirietei, I had a cabin where I would go for peace and reflection. It makes a good place to conceal myself and observe now, but there will be no harm in letting you borrow it."
He walked on a barely visible trail that wound around the lake and led to what looked like an abandoned, burned out cabin. As they passed inside, however, the interior looked clean and impeccably well kept. He passed through the front entry and carried Byakuya to one of the bedrooms, then set the noble down and flash stepped to the closet.
"You're a mess, Byakuya. This won't do at all."
He untied the bloodied, white yukata and carried the noble to the bathroom, where he ran a warm bath and began to wash the blood away. As his hands passed over the soft, pale flesh, he couldn't help but admire the artistry that had gone into the making of his body, the finely shaped bone structure, the delicate look that concealed shocking amounts of power, lovely, proud features and nothing to mar the beauty of him, now that the hole in his heart had disappeared.
He knelt next to the unconscious noble, wondering again who might have wanted him dead badly enough to kill him in such an unseemly and dishonorable fashion. And then, there was the way he had been left. Yes, this wasn't just someone who didn't like Byakuya, this was someone who hated him with a passion. And while he had found the man's proud nature a bit annoying, he certainly didn't hate Byakuya. To the contrary, he found him quite fascinating. He looked, walked and talked like his noble kin, but there was something different about him. And this difference had gotten him into trouble with the clan on more than one occasion…the most well known occasion being when he had defied the rules and married a commoner. There was, he had decided then, more than met the eye about this noble…
He finished cleaning away the last of the blood and lifted Byakuya out of the bathtub, then carefully dried him off and dressed him on one of Aizen's own yukatas, a dark, rich red on that he thought looked lovely with all those swirls of black hair tumbled down onto the shoulders. He carried the noble back into the bedroom and tucked him in bed, using his power to keep Byakuya from waking.
Walking out to the kitchen, he made some tea and carried it back to the noble, raising his consciousness just enough so that he could drink the tea without choking and without fully waking. He wasn't, he decided, ready for Byakuya to know who had assisted him. The noble had other things of importance to deal with, not the least of which was finding and dispatching whoever had ordered his assassination. And besides, Aizen thought, he would most likely blow the doors off his manor when he realized the lengths someone had gone to to save his life.
He certainly didn't expect that Byakuya would thank him…
In all likelihood, the noble would be incensed enough to want to hunt down and kill the one who hollowfied him. But perhaps he would content himself with killing his would be assassin.
"Time will tell," he said softly.
He looked one last time at the handsome noble sleeping soundly in his bed. He was definitely pleasing to the senses and one didn't get too many chances to see such a beautiful creature up close like this. He leaned forward and planted a warm kiss on the soft, sweet tasting lips. The feeling of that kiss stayed with him as he opened a garganta and made his way back to Las Noches. It stayed with him as he showered and prepared himself for bed. It stayed with him as he turned to look out the window and caught sight of a lovely shooting star.
I wish you were mine…he thought. Then, he laughed at himself for thinking in such a way. That one such as Kuchiki Byakuya would ever love a dangerous traitor to Soul Society was beyond ridiculous. It was beyond dangerous and bordering on insane. But in the darkness of his room, under the stars and moon, it was enjoyable to indulge in fantasy. He did, after all, have a creative and busy mind. And thinking about Kuchiki Byakuya was amusing…amusing…and stimulating.
He fell asleep, still thinking about the noble, and wondering what he would do when he woke. Would he remember the killing? And how long would it be before he caught and killed the ones who had done it? Odd questions, he thought, but he needed something to occupy him as he waited for the time to advance in his plans. And this noble seemed a deeply pleasant diversion.
Byakuya opened his eyes and groaned uncomfortably. He sat up, bringing a hand to his aching head as he looked around the room, trying to figure out where was. Realization coming into his eyes, he tore the yukata open and stared down at his bared chest.
So odd. I remember waking…and there was a blade through my heart…
His searching fingers found an odd reiatsu around where the wound had been. And a moment later, he discovered that there seemed to be a dfference in his own reiatsu, though he couldn't sense what it was. He felt chilled and uncertain.
It was obvious enough that someone had tried to kill him…not the one who had actually struck the killing blow, but someone who ordered that person to do it. He took some comfort in remembering having slain the assassin, but the one who had ordered his death was still walking around, alive and likely to try it again. He had to get back to the manor and begin unraveling the mystery, but he was going to have to be extremely careful. Whoever had done this had gone to great lengths to see that he died. And in fact…he had thought they had succeeded. Certainly, he couldn't think of a reason why he was alive…and in this place…having been brought here by some other person…someone powerful enough to have stopped him from dying, but not terribly interested in sticking around to take credit for doing so.
Byakuya sighed and settled back into the bed. He wasn't ready to leave this place and return just yet. Before he left the safety of this sanctuary, he needed, he thought, to have a strategy.