Collision of Fates
(AN**Okay…*sighs*, I admit it. Spunky cannot pass up a good idea. I tried really hard to resist, but someone mentioned they would like to see an Aizen/Bya version of my story, Bearers of the New King. Having a billion WIPs and already straining to not neglect anything…an impossible task, of course…I valiantly tried to focus on FINISHING something. But muses are funny creatures, and mine just wouldn't leave me alone. So…here it is. There will be some similarities in the two stories, mostly just the process by which the new king is made. But this story will be fresh in that the chemistry between Aizen and Byakuya is very different than that between Byakuya and Renji. All right, I've said enough. Enjoy the story, and please review! I love hearing your comments. Oh, and forgive me for forgetting who to credit for asking for this. I can't remember right now, but whoever it was…*sobs*…thanks! Spunky loves you even though it means another WIP to try to keep up with! LOL)
As much as our pride wishes to brush off cruel fate by calling it an unfortunate turn of events or an accident, the truth is that there are no accidents, only hard collisions of mingled fates…
Chapter 1: It is Always Darkest Before Dawn
Akio hurried down the quiet hallways of the spirit king's palace, his youthful features displaying annoyance at himself for being a few minutes behind, but glad for it being time for his favorite duty…waking King Eiji at the dawn of each new day. And as the spirit king's personal attendant, he enjoyed a place very close to the king. It was a great responsibility, of course, but Eiji was a pleasant and wise old man and Akio lived for the times when the king would sit beneath the lovely trees in the gardens and tell him stories, or when he would bring the king's tea and favorite cookies, and always be invited to join him in enjoying them. He often felt more like a son than a servant, and even the dullest of his duties never seemed a burden with so much to look forward to.
He reached the king's door and slid to a stop in front of the guards, brushing the long, tumbled strands of black hairs out of his blue eyes. The guards chuckled softly to themselves and nodded in greeting.
"Good morning, Akio-kun," said Ken, smiling at the youth, "Running a bit late today?"
"More like every day, ne?" added his brother Kin, laughing softly, "But I do not believe that his majesty minds the extra sleep. He seems to need it these days, what with the demon sightings around the palace and so much unrest among the hollows, now that Aizen Sousuke no longer leads them."
"I do feel safer, now that Aizen is locked up inside Central 46's prisons and not roaming free anymore. At least we can breathe a sigh of relief that he is never going to threaten our lord again," said Ken.
"Yes," agreed Akio, looking relieved, "That shinigami was more scary than any demon."
"Perhaps, but the Royal Guard is being wary, just the same," Kin said quietly, "And if you go outside the palace walls, you would do well to maintain vigilance, Akio-kun."
"Oh…I will, of course!" he promised, "Arigato, Ken-san and Kin-san. May I wake the king now?"
"Of course," said the guards, stepping aside and pushing the door open.
Akio stepped into the room and immediately froze as a shock of icy air struck him. And it occurred to him that the balcony doors stood open, and the cold pre-dawn breeze was coming in from outside. Strangely, he remembered closing the doors, and the king sealing them. And Eiji had fallen asleep before he left. So the king had to have awakened and opened them during the night.
An odd, coppery scent fell across his senses as he moved forward, his eyes blinking as he turned on the lights and then caught his breath in dismay. He stood, breathless and trembling with terror and devastation as his eyes found the body of his beloved king laid out across the bed, his lovely, pale body streaked with blood and the old, kind eyes opened wide. And beside the bed, a wicked, black demon with cruel clawed hands and cold, red eyes stared back at him and froze him in place. At first he couldn't make a sound, but as the deadly beast moved closer, what he had done to the king registered fully in the attendant's young mind and his mouth opened into a hard, rending scream of fury and pain.
And in that moment, young Akio proved what the king had always told him, even though he had never quite believed it.
I chose you to attend me for many reasons, Akio-kun. You are very pleasant company, for one…but you are also stronger than you think, and you are devoted to your king. Give yourself more credit, child. You serve me well, and I will never regret choosing you.
Akio heard the sound of Ken and Kin flash stepping into the room as he closed the distance between the demon and himself, pulling his zanpakutou free and releasing it without a word. The demon gave a rasping laugh, slashing at the youth as he attacked, blocking the sword, but dancing back as the blade flared in release, and launching himself through the outer doors and down off the balcony as Akio's young fire dragon swept after him, followed closely by the two guards. Other guards, down below the balcony, joined the chase, leaving Akio behind as he let his dragon fade, and turned back to the king.
The king's healer was already at his side, leaning over him and shaking his head sadly. As Akio watched and tears streamed onto his face, the healer sighed sadly and reached over to brush the old king's eyes closed. He looked up at the devastated youth and smiled sympathetically.
"I am sorry, Akio-kun," he said softly, "His majesty was already gone when I arrived. But…if there is anything we can consider fortunate, it is that you stopped that beast from devouring his soul. It has already returned to the King's Prism. And that means that our lord can be reborn."
Akio sniffed softly and nodded, trying to let the healer's words bolster him. But he knew that even once the king was reborn, he would be different than the kind old man he remembered. He would carry the spirit of the former king…and all of the other kings that came before him, inside, but he would be a different incarnation. And Akio knew that it meant that he would simply have to adjust. He brushed away his tears and sat down on the bed, watching as the light of the new day streamed in through the balcony doors and fell across the bed. And as the healer, the youth and several attending guards watched, the king's torn body shimmered and slowly faded away.
Byakuya looked up as Soutaichou's hell butterfly fluttered into the sixth division headquarters and stopped to give its message.
All taichous and fukutaichous are summoned to meet in the first division headquarters immediately. I repeat…all taichous and fukutaichous are summoned to meet at the first division headquarters immediately.
He ignored Renji's groan of discontent and was on his feet immediately, flash stepping out the office doors and into the streets of the Seireitei with Renji at his side, no longer complaining, now that it was clear it would do no good anyway. The two swept past the fourth division and up the hill to the first, slowing as they caught up with Ukitake taichou, Kyouraku taichou and their fukutaichous. Byakuya sighed unhappily, still uncertain that his decision to allow his sister to be promoted to thirteenth division fukutaichou was a good one. But Rukia looked so happy and proud as she fell in next to Renji that he felt it best to let the issue go. He couldn't take it back, and although he worried for her, he knew that she was possessed of the skills to make an excellent fukutaichou.
"Good morning, Nii-sama," she said, smiling at him.
"Good morning, Rukia," he said quietly, nodding in acknowledgement.
Whatever his objections might have been, he simply let them go for the moment and spoke quietly with the other taichous as they walked into the first division together.
"Do you have any idea what this nonsense is about?" asked Kyouraku, blinking lazily, "They sure rousted us early."
"The message did not say," Byakuya said solemnly, "It only called us here, and gave no indication of why."
"No, I heard no clue of why either," said Ukitake taichou, "Whatever it is, Soutaichou is keeping it to himself. It must be very important."
"Good morning, Kuchiki taichou, Ukitake taichou, Kyouraku taichou, fukutaichous," said a pleasant female voice.
"Good morning Unohana taichou," the three taichous said together.
"Have you heard anything about what is going on?" asked Ukitake taichou, "None of us have heard a thing, and it is rather odd for there to be no clue as to what this is about."
"I was not told much, myself," admitted the healer, "Only that my assistance would be needed to move a dangerous prisoner. Oh, and Isane mentioned that when she went to the first division to make a delivery, she saw a royal hell butterfly arrive."
"Hmmm," observed Ukitake taichou, "How odd."
"Well, we'd best get inside," said Kyouraku taichou, looking around and sighing, "We aren't going to learn anything standing out here."
The group walked in and took their places in the meeting chamber. They had only a moment or two to exchange greetings before Soutaichou appeared in the doorway and moved quickly to the front of the room. The discontented flare of his reiatsu was enough to tell the ones gathered that the matter was serious, and they fell silent immediately.
"I thank you all for gathering so quickly," he said solemnly, "I have received grave news from the spirit dimension. What I am about to say to you is highly classified, and no one among you is to breathe a word of it outside of this room. The consequences of doing so could be disastrous. This morning, I received a royal message indicating that there had been a demon attack in the royal palace. And during the course of that attack, the spirit king was killed."
Soft gasps erupted around the room as the weight of the news settled over those gathered. Soutaichou paused for a moment, then cleared his throat and continued.
"As you know, our king had no heirs. There is no one left of the royal line to assume the throne. The situation is extreme. The spirit king is the lynchpin that holds our worlds together. Our worlds cannot survive if we do not replace him with due haste. Fortunately, there is a way for us to bring about the birth of a new king. And upon receiving word of the monarch's death, the King's Council gathered and put that process into motion. But the way from this point is difficult. We have never before attempted the Spirit King's Rebirth Ritual. Until now, there has always been an heir to carry forward the king's line. It is necessary for all of you to be aware of what the process entails, as you will be responsible for holding our society together and keeping panic from erupting as we move forward from this point."
He paused and blinked slowly, placing his thoughts in order before going on.
"The royal communication relayed the information that there is already an imbalance, a shift in the foundation of our worlds. As of yet, only the most powerful among us can sense it, but it is the beginning of our demise. As the next several months pass, that imbalance will continue to gain force and those of us in the Seireitei, Hueco Mundo and the living world will begin to notice instability in our powers, unrest in our people and increasingly severe global events. It is imperative that we position ourselves to handle what happens while at the same time calming and reassuring the populace, giving the King's Council time to invoke the ritual to bring about the making of the new king."
"And how will that work?" asked Ukitake taichou, frowning, "How do they 'make' a king?"
Soutaichou looked back at them sternly.
"It is forbidden for you to reveal a word of this outside this room, for obvious reasons. This knowledge would be very dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands, but I have been given permission by the King's Council to relay it to all of you. To begin the rebirth, the King's Council invoked a special 'calling' kido. They took the King's Prism, a crystal prism that holds the reiatsu patterns of all of the former kings within it, and they invoked a kido that caused the prism to produce two very special hell butterflies. These left the spirit dimension as the council meeting ended and have arrived here. They have identified two shinigamis who will be responsible for seeing to the rebirth of the new king. And I will tell you that one of you in this room has been chosen to be involved in the rebirth ritual. That chosen one will go with the second chosen to the spirit dimension, where the two will be sealed into the palace for their protection as the ritual commences."
"Can you tell us what the chosen will have to do to make the new king?" asked Kyouraku taichou, "Will the chosen ones be harmed?"
"The two chosen for the ritual will be responsible for the making of the king, but when the ritual is finished, the way to the palace will be reopened and the two will be released to resume their normal lives. However, the demands of the ritual are taxing. Still, it is better for them to endure what they must, than to do nothing and to allow our worlds to fall into chaos and come to an end. So, at the end of this meeting, I will send the one of you who has been chosen to collect the other, and to cross over into the spirit dimension. There, the Royal Guard will seal the two of you into the palace and you will begin the ritual. You must first go to the healing pool in the King's Garden, and there you will bathe to remove your shingami forms and to reveal your inner core. This is part of the reason why the palace must be sealed. The power of those two inner cores, when exposed, will be extreme. It would not be safe to expose the rest of the dimension to those forces. Once the cores are exposed, the one chosen to be the Gatherer will draw the raw reiatsu out of the King's Prism. The reiatsu will be rendered within the Gatherer's body, then placed within the second chosen shinigami's body so that it can be stabilized inside the Vessel's body. Because of the nature of the task, the King's Prism had to identify two taichou level shinigamis suitable for the task. We are compelled not to argue the Prism's choices, but to send them, as called, into the spirit dimension. But you should be aware. The one identified as the Gatherer for this task…is Aizen Sousuke."
Startled gasps erupted from around the room.
"We just got that beast locked up!" exclaimed Kyouraku taichou, "Now he gets to just waltz into the spirit dimension and…"
"How can we rest our future on such a man?" asked Ukitake taichou, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Ukitake taichou is right!" shouted Hitsugaya taichou, "We can't trust that bastard to do what the ritual tells him to. He'll probably just destroy the vessel and try to take over!"
Voices rose and tempers flared as the taichou's meeting room erupted into chaos.
"SILENCE!" roared Soutaichou, banging his walking stick angrily on the floor.
The taichous and fukutaichous within the room froze, and Soutaichou continued.
"We have no control over who is chosen for the ritual," he went on. "That is the decision of the King's Prism, and it is final. If the two do fail to produce a king, then our worlds will end. And so, we have no choice but to obey the orders we are given. Those orders are for the Vessel to join the Gatherer and travel to the spirit dimension and begin the ritual immediately. The one of you who has been chosen to be the Vessel, has a dangerous task, indeed."
"You're telling me!" whispered Ukitake taichou, "I wonder who the poor girl will be. They said taichou level, which means it has to be Unohana taichou, Soi fon taichou or one among the female fukutaichous."
"I'd be sorry for Aizen Sousuke if it was Soi fon taichou," muttered Kyouraku taichou.
Byakuya caught his breath softly, his eye falling on Rukia and his heart racing.
But she is newly promoted and has not yet achieved ban kai. Yet the only ones who have are Unohana taichou and Soi fon taichou. The rest are…
"The Vessel's duty, once the two reach the spirit dimension, is to see that Aizen Sousuke is immersed in the healing pool to cleanse him, and to expose his core. The vessel, too will bathe in the pool, and will have the core exposed, but cleansing is not necessary, as the Vessel is virginal."
Byakuya's eyes widened.
He was uncertain about Unohana taichou, but he knew for a fact that Soi fon taichou and Matsumoto fukutaichou were not virginal. He noticed the sudden flare of Renji's reiatsu, and looked up at his fukutaichou.
"Taichou," he whispered, "You don't think they'll send Rukia?"
Byakuya shook his head in uncertainty.
"The Vessel will accept the placement of the King's reiatsu in their body and when all of the reiatsu has been placed, the king will emerge. The Vessel's last charge will be to then recall the Royal Guard to open the palace gates and to see to the protection of the new king. We are, of course concerned about Aizen attempting to kill the new king. But as there is no one else, the Vessel must avoid that outcome by whatever means are necessary until the Royal Guard can reach them. The thing that will make this most difficult for the Vessel is that, for the duration of the ritual, the Vessel's powers and connection to zanpakutou will have to be removed to make room for the king's reiatsu."
"That's impossible!" insisted Hitsugaya taichou, "You're telling me that the Vessel has to go to the palace, give up her powers, have sex with Aizen and then hide from him until she has the royal heir? She'll be completely without protection! There is no way that she will survive, especially without her powers!"
"She'd better be a fast runner," commented Zaraki taichou, wryly, "Although after he knocks her up, she won't be able to run that fast…"
Soutaichou sighed heavily.
"The danger will increase with each mating, I am afraid," he admitted.
"Each mating?" Ukitake taichou said, his eyes widening, "You mean…?"
"The Gatherer will only be able to render a portion of the king's reiatsu at a time, and so the two will need to engage in multiple acts of gathering and mating."
"Shit," muttered Zaraki, "So the poor virgin not only loses it to that crazy bastard. She gets to enjoy being screwed by him repeatedly and then being hunted down and killed by him. Nice…"
"Soutaichou," Byakuya said softly, "Is it not possible to send a protector with the Vessel? It seems suicide to send her alone and unprotected."
The captain commander shook his head firmly.
"We are only allowed to send the Gatherer and the Vessel into the palace for the ritual. All others must be locked out to protect them from the extreme forces of the ritual, itself. But I have been assured that there are controls built into the ritual that will aid in keeping the Vessel safe from Aizen's treachery. I do not know what they are, but it is some comfort. There is nothing more we can do. And that being the case, it is my duty to read the name of the Vessel and to send that person to collect Aizen Sousuke and go to the spirit dimension. As soon as the two depart, our squads will arrange themselves to maintain order during the ritual. Squads one and twelve will guard the dimension wall. Squads five, six and thirteen will be on home front duty, here in the Seireitei. Squads seven, eight and ten will patrol the living world, and squads three, nine and eleven will patrol Hueco Mundo. Squads two and four will arrange themselves among all of the sites to assist with special missions and healing."
Soutaichou paused and took a steadying breath.
"Now, the one of you who has been charged with acting as King's Vessel is Kuchiki…"
"NO!" shouted Renji, stepping forward, "There is no fucking way you are sending Rukia into the palace to be screwed and murdered by that nasty, manipulating bastard!"
"Um, Renji…?" said Rukia, too softly to be heard.
"Soutaichou," said Byakuya, "I must also object. Rukia has only just been promoted."
"Uh, guys," Rukia said more loudly, "I'm not…"
"They are right!" insisted Hitsugaya taichou, "It's insane to send Kuchiki Rukia in there alone with Aizen Sousuke. She doesn't stand a chance against him alone. I don't know which of us would! I insist we at least send someone to protect her!"
"I have to agree with Hitsugaya taichou," said Ukitake firmly.
"Guys!" called Rukia, "Hey!"
The rumblings continued until finally Soutaichou slammed his walking stick on the floor again, sending the room into silence, but not before Rukia's voice sounded clearly throughout the room.
"Guys! I'm not a virgin!" she yelled, then her face flushed red and she fell silent, not daring to look at Byakuya.
"But…I am," Byakuya said softly, meeting the captain commander's eyes hesitantly.
"Wh-what?" said Renji, staring, "B-but…Taichou, you were married!"
Byakuya remained silent, a blush rising on his cheeks and throat. Rukia left her place at Ukitake taichou's side and approached her brother, her eyes wide with realization.
"You…you were worried about her health?" Rukia asked quietly, "You remained childless to protect her?"
"Not that it made a tremendous amount of difference in the end, but…yes," Byakuya answered, "Hisana and I were never together sexually. It had to be kept a secret, because if the elders had known, they would have annulled our marriage. I couldn't bear the thought of that."
"Nii-sama," Rukia whispered, taking his hand.
She looked up at the captain commander.
"So…Nii-sama is to be the Vessel?" she asked worriedly.
"Yes," confirmed Soutaichou, "He is to leave immediately to take Aizen Sousuke to the spirit dimension."
"B-but…" Renji stammered.
The room went silent and all eyes fastened on the two siblings. Byakuya gazed down into Rukia's eyes, relieved that she would be spared, then he released her hand and turned to go.
"Nii-sama," said Rukia, her eyes filling with tears.
"Taichou," said Renji, blinking back his own tears and taking Rukia's hand, "I will take care of her while you are gone."
"Arigato, Abarai fukutaichou," the noble said quietly.
The room remained silent as Byakuya left, and his footsteps faded into the distance.
"Oh my kami," Renji said finally, "We are so screwed…"
Zaraki laughed softly.
"Yeah, maybe," he agreed, "But we're not nearly as screwed as your pretty taichou is…"