Chapter 20: Making Peace
"You are looking well, Sousuke," Gin said, smirking, "And I see you have used your illusions to finagle your way back into some foolish people's good graces."
"Yes," agreed Tousen, "But perhaps it is because they have not learned that a once corrupted soul always remembers the path to its corruption...and in the case of a foolish man, repeats it."
"I have no intention of repeating my mistakes," Aizen said, stepping in front of Byakuya, "I have come here to mend them. You must allow Kuchiki Byakuya to leave."
Gin laughed softly.
"Come now," he said slyly, "You remember how I felt about those ridiculous, prideful nobles and how they looked down on us all? I am not letting him go. He will die with you."
Byakuya stepped out from behind Aizen and positioned himself at the former taichou's side.
"I will die with him, you say?" Byakuya repeated, his eyes glaring, "I might remind you, Ichimaru Gin, that you were not able to kill me before, and that although you have grown in power as a hollow, my ascendance to the king's hogosha has made me stronger as well. You should listen to Sousuke. He intends to help you."
Gin's smile brightened wickedly.
"Then...you surrender, Sousuke? You will allow us to rain down the hell on you that you deserve?"
"I am a light being," said Aizen, letting the golden light rise around him, "I can restore you. I can give you back what I took. The king stands ready to issue the two of you a full pardon as you return to life. Things can be as they were before..."
"Before?" repeated Gin, tilting his head, "You mean, before you scooped out a piece of my best friend's soul? Before then?"
"I corrupted you," Aizen said, his voice still calm and soft, "I did this because I, myself had been corrupted."
"And now, you want to go back and undo what you did?" asked Tousen, his milky, blind eyes fixing on his former colleague, "You do know that time moves forward, Sousuke? You cannot go back and undo the lies and deceipt."
"No," Aizen answered, "I accept that my soul was corrupted, and because of that, it will always be more vulnerable for it. But as I have driven out the poison and been cleansed and renewed, I wish to offer the king's same gift to you. You must trust me, and allow me to invoke the king's gift upon you."
Tousen's frown deepened and Gin burst into wicked laughter. Aizen and Byakuya tightened their hands on their weapons and tensed in readiness. Byakuya remained focused on Gin and Tousen, but Aizen's head turned as he suddenly sensed Tetsuya's presence, and the door blasted apart into splinters, admitting Tetsuya and the pale looking king.
"Tetsuya," he breathed.
Then, the mad, golden eyes found his, and Aizen's heart went cold inside him. Gin's laughter rose and became darkly wicked and shrill. Tousen's frown lightened.
"I see you have achieved your objective, your majesty," he said to Tetsuya.
Tetsuya's golden eyes blinked slowly and he smiled.
"Yes," he answered in a deep, malevolent voice that was clearly not his own, "My grandson's body now belongs to me."
"Where is Renji?" Byakuya demanded, "Tetsuya, what have done to...?"
"I am NOT KUCHIKI TETSUYA!" Tetsuya roared, "I am Yuudai, forgotten brother of the former king. I have been freed of the Rippoutai Utsuro and given a new body with which to assume my place as king!"
"Zetsubou," Yasahiro said calmly, "You are correct that your brother, the king, did hide you away and use you unjustly. But my bearers have ended the corrupted line after your brother realized what was happening and acted to stop it. You too, must understand that the darkness of the past must be swept away. But you and Tetsuya need not die for that to happen. You can both be cleansed and I will..."
"Do not bore me with what you will grant me, you brazen usurper! You stole the place that was rightfully MINE, after my brother and his machinations made it necessary for me to take unholy steps to protect my proper place, even costing me the life of my grandson!"
"I told you," Yasahiro repeated, fixing his golden eyes on Tetsuya, "Both you and my Tenba no Kishu can be saved!"
Tetsuya's eyes flared and dark reiatsu began to boil around him.
"I don't need you to save Tetsuya or me! Tetsuya understands that you meant for him to be trapped with me in that awful crystal! He knows how you lied to him and manipulated him. That is why he allowed me to take over. You broke the poor boy's heart and he would rather die at my behest than to suffer serving another day as your protector!"
"Then, why is he still fighting you?" asked the king.
"He is not fighting," hissed Yuudai, "He is collapsed beneath my power, and will be drained slowly of life force with every moment that I possess his body. He will wither away inside me...a sad fate for a child of my own blood, but one of us must make you pay, and since he has chosen his loyalty to you over his bond with me, he must forfeit his life. You know I cannot allow him to live as my enemy."
"Will you kill Aratani and Takao as well, then?" asked the king, gazing at the pegasus pendant that still hung around Tetsuya's slender throat.
I pray my Tenba no Kishu hears those words! Fight, Tetsuya! You must fight him!
"They too, must die, as must all within the palace when I return. I will not allow enemies to surround me. But that will not be your concern, because you will be lost as I was when my brother imprisoned me!"
"I understand that your anger with the former king is great, but he has died, and with Tetsuya coming to his place as..."
"Enough talk!" roared Yuudai, flash stepping forward and glancing at Gin and Tousen, "Kill the extras, then position yourselves. I will prepare him."
He turned suddenly, dark reiatsu exploding from his hands and trying to wrap itself around Aizen Sousuke. Aizen flash stepped, crossing swords with Gin and narrowly avoiding a crawling rope kido, while Byakuya lunged at Tetsuya and brought him to the floor. He locked the younger man's wrists in a kido bind and held him to the floor, his eyes wide as he tried to break through to his cousin.
"Tetsuya! Tetsuya, hear me!" he cried, "You have to fight! You have to fight like never before! Fight him, Tetsuya."
Yuudai roared furiously and shattered the kido on his limbs, surging up and wrapping Tetsuya's hands around Byakuya throat. Byakuya grabbed his cousin's hands, gasping for breath as the younger man's hands tightened. Byakuya struggled fitfully, amazed at the strength in Tetsuya's possessed body.
But then, Yuudai is a transcendant being...
His eyes started to dim, and he felt his body weaken. He looked up into Tetsuya's eyes and made his lips move in the shape of his cousin's name.
Tetsuya's golden eyes wavered for a moment, and Byakuya managed a gasping breath. But Tetsuya's eyes went quickly golden again and he regained his powerful grip.
"Tetsuya!" Byakuya whispered, coughing, "Tetsuya!"
His fingers found the chain at Tetsuya's throat and touched the pendant.
Hear me, Cousin!
An odd flash around the pendant distracted Yuudai for a moment, and Byakuya used it to tear away and strike Tetsuya's body with a powerful kido blast to force him away. Tetsuya nearly fell, but caught himself and kneeled dizzily for a moment. And in those brief seconds, Byakuya caught sight of a flutter of blue within the dangerous, golden eyes.
"Tetsuya!" he cried, still choking on the words, "I saw it! Fight harder!"
"SHUT UP!" screamed Yuudai, "I TOLD YOU! HE IS CRUSHED! MY POWER IS GREATER THAN HIS!"
He took several panting breaths and composed himself.
"But enough talk. I am going to finish you, and then there will be no question!"
He met the king's eyes and smiled wickedly, then nodded to Gin and Tousen, who were holding off Aizen.
"Now," he said softly.
Byakuya and Aizen caught their breath sharply as the two produced the Rippoutai Utsuro and the King's Prism, and flash stepped to Yuudai to hand them to him.
"How did you get hold of the King's Prism?" demanded Aizen, "It..."
"I brought it with me," said Yasahiro, looking into Tetsuya's possessed eyes, "so that the heir could use it to defeat you!"
A chill went through Byakuya and Aizen as Yuudai's deep, maniacal laugh rang out of Tetsuya's body.
"The heir? You mean that weakling inside me? Don't make me laugh!"
Yuudai focused his power into each item and whispered the command for their release. A heavy throb of power, forced Byakuya to the corner of the room, and sent Gin, Tousen and Aizen to form points of a triangle around Yuudai and the king.
"What is this?" roared Aizen, struggling to break out of the prison of golden light that had surrounded Gin, Tousen and him at the points of the triangle, "What have you done?"
"What have I done?" Yuudai asked, smirking, "I have begun the transfer of the king's power from this stand-in to me!
"Do you have any last requests, Yasahiro?" Yuudai laughed, "No? You look shocked. You didn't expect to lose, ne?"
"I will not lose," the king said softly, "All of the cards have not been played yet."
"To what are you referring?" he asked. looking around, "Your Tenba no Kishu is defeated. Aizen Sousuke is being sacrificed with the two hollows as part of the power transfer, and even your light being, Byakuya cannot break through into the prism. So, who are you referring to? The red-haired man? He is probably still unconscious. And if not, there is nothing he can do as long as the power transfer is active."
"You have forgotten something," the king said softly, "Tetsuya is Tenba no Kishu...which means that there is one who can..."
The king's voice was drowned out as the broken remains of the ceiling over them shattered, and a pegasus and rider swooped downward.
"Arashi!" breathed Aizen, staring as the pegasus took aim on the triangle enclosing them and ice blade erupted from his nose and mouth.
Yuudai turned and glared up at Arashi and the red-haired man who rode him, as the transfer shield cracked and shattered around them.
"You see," the king said calmly, "Tetsuya's power has never lain completely within his body and zanpakutou. Always, there was some part of him that had to reside outwardly. That part is Arashi! He has shattered the sphere and he will break through to Tetsuya and break your hold on him!"
Arashi's hooves pounded down on the floor as he landed, and Renji leapt down off his back.
"Go on and help Tetsuya!" Renji called out, flash stepping towards Byakuya as Gin attacked Aizen with a huge cero and Tousen moved towards Byakuya threateningly.
"Renji!" cried Byakuya, "Thank kami, you're all right! I knew something had happened, but I did not know what."
"Ah, your cousin just knocked me a little loopy. That ol' fleabag horse of his found me and woke me up. Bastard blew horse snot on me...ugh!"
Byakuya managed a small smile.
"I am glad you are all right," he said.
"We can reconnect later," Renji said, blocking an incoming cero, "There's more of us now, so let's use that to our advantage! There's no room for my ban kai, so we'll have to depend on yours."
Tousen paused just short of them, raising his blade and giving a soft command. The two stared and held their weapons ready as the hollow's body took on a huge, winged bug form. A moment later, a sea of small, sharp ceros erupted from his many eyes and fired themselves, not at the shinigamis, but at Arashi, who stood facing Tetsuya, his bright blue eyes blazing and sapphire reiatsu flaming around him.
"Fleabag, look out!" Renji cried, flash stepping with Byakuya and blocking the bulk of the ceros with petal blades and swords.
Arashi flash stepped clear, but then turned and closed in on Yuudai again.
Master, hear me!
The pegasus fended off a thrust of dark reiatsu that exploded from Tetsuya's palms, then blasted his master's body with kido, throwing him backwards.
"You think that will be enough to defeat me?" howled Yuudai in Tetsuya's body, "You are going to DIE, you ridiculous beast!"
"I wouldn't, if I were you," the king warned him, "Tetsuya and Arashi are linked. You wouldn't want to lose the physical body you worked so hard to possess, ne?"
"SILENCE!" Yuudai screamed, striking at the king.
The dark reiatsu bounced off of the king's instant shielding, and Yuudai attacked again.
Master! Arashi called into Tetsuya's overwhelmed mind, I know that he controls your body. Join with me and I can...
Arashi felt a sudden shock of pain and gave an equine cry of distress at finding Re-kuhime buried in his chest. He staggered back, screaming in pain and snapping at the weapon, trying to pull it out.
"He will not answer you," Yuudai said, smiling as Arashi's legs weakened beneath him and shook ominously.
Arashi lowered his head, panting, as Yuudai closed in on him. Byakuya and Renji tried to flash step to the stallion's defense, but were forced back by Tousen's new wave of thin, dastardly ceros. Aizen slashed at Gin and parried, his steps carrying him slowly in Arashi's direction as Tetsuya's possessed body closed in on him.
"You thought I wouldn't attack you, because you dreamed you could connect with him," Yuudai said, extending a hand in his direction.
Fall! Fall now, Arashi! Tetsuya's voice whispered in the injured stallion's mind.
The pegasus gave a groaning sigh and collapsed onto the floor, his long neck stretching out and his eyes closing. Yuudai paused and nodded in approval, then raised a protective shield around the stallion.
"I only sought to stop you, so that you wouldn't interfere," he told Arashi, "I know I can't kill you without taking damage myself. But that will cease to be an issue once the power transfer is..."
He stopped mid-sentence as a flash step sounded behind him and a sword buried itself in Tetsuya's back, then burst through his midsection, making Yuudai's eyes stare down at it in surprise as Tetsuya's fingers touched the sharp tip.
"Ban kai," said Aizen's soft voice, "Seken touei, Kyoka Suigetsu."
Yuudai loosed a scream of pain that blended hauntingly with Tetsuya's as the noble's legs gave way, and he collapsed with Aizen's sword still impaling his body. Aizen wrapped his arms around Tetsuya from behind, leaving the sword sheathed in his body and whispering into his ear as Renji and Byakuya separated to brace Gin and Tousen.
"Hear me, Tetsuya," he said calmly, "My sword will not hurt you. The command I gave has provided a doorway into a place where you can confront the one who possesses you. You can use all of your strength...all of your powers. He cannot hold them back as he did before! Fight, Tetsuya. Fight him with everything you have! You must win this battle, or we are all lost!"
Tetsuya's eyes flickered, and the blue and gold mingled together as he settled against Aizen and allowed his body to be held.
Thank you, Sousuke, the noble's voice whispered in his mind, Thank you for freeing me to fight him!
"It is going to be all right, my love," whispered Aizen, touching Tetsuya's hair lightly, "Just as you saw me through my battle with the dark wraith, so will I see you through the battle against the corrupted soul of Zetsubou!"
As the fighting raged on around him, Aizen held Tetsuya against him, watching the shifts of power as the battle raged for control of his lover's body.
"You will win," Aizen whispered, "I believe in you, Tetsuya. You will not fail with everything riding on this!"