Chapter 28: So That You Will Only Remember...

(Sorry, this is not a new chapter, but one is coming very soon! Just wanted to let everyone know that this story is back and more is on the way! :) Hope you are enjoying Tetsuya-month!)

"Easy, friend," Tetsuya said, looking up into the eyes of the stallion, "I promise I will..."

He paused for a moment, impacted hard by the horse's highly intelligent and gemlike sapphire eyes. Then, he felt a soft buzzing sensation in his mind. He thought he might have heard his name, but couldn't be sure.

"I will take care of your friend," he went on, patting the stallion in the shoulder as he broke the kido holding the young woman onto his back, and carefully lifted her down.

He carried the woman into the cottage and laid her gently in bed, making sure that she was comfortably warm and examining her briefly. Finding that it seemed less a sudden medical event and more a general state of exhaustion and physical decline, he gently infused the woman's body with healing reiatsu to bolster her, then left her to make soup and tea. He returned to her side a short time later, to find that her eyes were blinking open, and she seemed to be taking in her surroundings.

"Wh-what happened?" she whispered, looking up into Tetsuya's gentle eyes, "Where...?"

She caught her breath softly, remembering the face of the young man who had arrived at the manor on the day of the wedding, and whose pictures that she had seen.

"Y-you..." she went on, her voice shaking, "You are...?"

"Please rest and do not strain yourself," Tetsuya said, squeezing her hand, "You are safe here. Your mount is just outside, and will carry you home when you are well enough. But for now, you need to rest and eat to restore yourself."

He leaned forward and coaxed her into taking several mouthfuls of the soup and tea before going on.

"You are...Tetsuya-san, no?" she managed, after a time.

Tetsuya stared at her in surprise.

"You...know of me?" he asked.

He caught his breath softly and his heart began to race.

"Are...are you from one of the noble families, then? Are they pursuing me?" he asked worriedly.

"P-pursuing you?" Hisana whispered, frowning at the word, "Byakuya-sama does search for you, Tetsuya-san, but..."

"You won't tell them that you found me here, will you?" Tetsuya pleaded, "Please do not tell anyone you have seen me! They will execute me!"

"Wh-what? Tetsuya-san, no...he...only seeks to make things right between you," the woman objected, her voice fading as she drifted back into unconsciousness.

Tetsuya frowned in confusion, shaking his head and adjusting the woman's covers more comfortably.

What did she mean?

Have things changed somehow?

He left the woman sleeping and walked back outside to where the stallion stood, grazing. Arashi lifted his head at the sound of Tetsuya's delicate step and looked at him hopefully, his ears perked. Tetsuya smiled and offered him an apple that he had brought with him. Arashi accepted it gently from his hand and stood eating quietly, his intelligent eyes focused on Tetsuya.

Why do you not hear me?

What has happened to you, Master?

Tetsuya?

"Your friend is going to be all right, but you will need to take her home for proper healing. I will allow her to rest here for a time, but then it is best if you go. I admit I am a fugitive, and dare not risk being found by those who search for her."

Tetsuya, hear me!

Why won't you hear me?

I must bring him!

Arashi turned and started towards the barrier.

"Wait!" Tetsuya called, stopping him just short, and making him look back over a satin shoulder.

Tetsuya moved to where he stood near the water, stopping just short and shivering slightly as the surface rippled and he looked away so as not to see the strange face that sometimes appeared on the surface.

You are...afraid of the water?

Tetsuya...why?

"Please, only wait until she is strong enough for travel, then carry her home. But...you must not let anyone know that you found me here!"

But...I don't understand.

I know that you were hurt somehow by them, but...if that is so, then why do you not even seem to recognize us? Why do you not hear my voice in your mind? Are we not part of the same soul, Master? And why are you afraid of the water, which is the very source of your power? Do you fear your own zanpakutou's face?

Arashi's head bowed and he rubbed his soft muzzle against Tetsuya's cheek. At the same time, he sent a visual image of Tetsuya waking to find Arashi healing him, then another of the two of them fighting together.

Tetsuya froze as he felt the odd buzzing in his mind again, and registered the images.

"Wh...what is this?" he frowned, shaking his head, "So odd...it...feels..."

Tetsuya?

Tetsuya backed away from Arashi, his eyes troubled as he walked back into the house.

What happened?

Why did I hear that voice saying my name? Was it that stallion's voice? And what was that feeling in my mind? Why did I see those visions of the stallion and me together? I have...been a prisoner. I...Orochi-sama said that we escaped the prison together. There must be some mistake. He never mentioned a stallion. This is so confusing...

He swallowed hard and closed the cottage door, then walked back to the bed, where Hisana laid, sleeping. He washed her sweating face gently with a wet cloth and went to make fresh tea. When he returned, she was still sleeping, so he infused her resting body with reiatsu, then left to clean the already mostly spotless cottage. Finishing that, he sat quietly near the window, resting his head against the wall and gazing quietly out at the stallion, who knelt near the water, gazing quietly into its depths.

I do not know whether to wish for Orochi-sama's return or not. He could likely make things clear to me again, but on the other hand, the presence of this girl might cause him to become angry. He has been so kind and loving lately...so much less volatile than before. To lose this closeness we have that has eased my loneliness would be unbearable. But, what do I do?

"T-tetsuya-san?" said the woman's voice.

Tetsuya returned to Hisana's bedside and handed her a fresh cup of tea. The violet-eyed woman accepted it gratefully and sipped at it, while studying Tetsuya's concerned eyes and kind expression.

"Are you feeling better?" he asked quietly, "Your reiatsu was very low when you arrived. I have restored it, but you should return home quickly and be certain to see a healer without delay."

Hisana nodded in acceptance, then thought carefully before speaking.

"Tetsuya-san, why is it that you are here? You said something about being pursued. Who is pursuing you?"

Tetsuya bit his lip anxiously and lowered his eyes.

"Oh," said Hisana, "I've made you uncomfortable. I am sorry Tetsuya-san. It is just that I know that Byakuya-sama is desperate to find you. He has been very worried for you since you left Kuchiki Manor."

"L-left...Kuchiki Manor?" the blue-eyed noble asked, blinking, "I...I don't think that...I cannot remember..."

He broke off abruptly and rose from the chair, muttering a brief apology and slipping back into the kitchen, where he sat down at the table and rubbed his hands over his face.

What am I to do? She keeps saying things that make no sense to me! I wondered, at first, if she merely had me confused with someone else, but then how could it be that another person looking like me and bearing my name could have resided at Kuchiki Manor? And what about Byakuya-sama? He was supposed to free us. But he did not come for us before the guards began to massacre us. So, how could Byakuya-sama be so concerned with me when I have never met him?

The door to the kitchen opened, and Tetsuya came to his feet, staring as Hisana entered the room.

"My apologies, Tetsuya-san," she said quickly, "but..."

"You should not be up and about," Tetsuya said in a deeply concerned tone, "Please, you must try to rest."

"But I have upset you," the girl went on, "I did not mean to do that. Please, forgive my rudeness. You have been very kind, Tetsuya-san."

"Oh," said Tetsuya, blushing and keeping his eyes lowered, "It is all right...ah..."

"Hisana," supplied the young woman, "I am Kuchiki Hisana."

Tetsuya's eyes widened and he backed away, his heart pounding in his chest.

"Kuchiki..." he repeated, distress in his voice, "Then you are...?"

"I am Byakuya-sama's wife."

"Ah..." Tetsuya said, his face registering a measure of relief, "Then you are..."

"Byakuya-sama and I have been very worried about you, Tetsuya-san. We only want for you to be all right. But what concerns me is that you seem to be all alone out here. And you also seem unnerved that someone might harm you. Byakuya-sama would offer you better protection if you returned to Kuchiki Manor with me."

"I cannot do that," Tetsuya objected, "I cannot go outside the barrier. It is not safe for me."

"Then, allow me to bring Byakuya-sama to this place to speak with you. You know that he was not supportive of the persecution of the mixed blood nobles. He freed the prisoners of Itamigiri, after all."

"I...I don't know..." Tetsuya stammered, "Please, Hisana-sama, you must go now! I have restored your reiatsu. You must take you mount and go back to the manor, where you can be treated by proper healers. I apologize for seeming rude, but..."

"Tetsuya-san," Hisana pleaded, shaking her head, I am not going to leave you alone here like this. And besides, Arashi is your stallion. He has been beside himself searching for you!"

"I...!"

"It is all right, Tetsuya-san," Hisana assured him, looking into his eyes and reaching out to capture a slender, pale hand, "I know that what I am saying is confusing to you. It seems that your memory of events has somehow been altered. But let me reassure you, Byakuya-sama is no threat to you. Byakuya-sama loves you and only wants to speak to you so that he will know that you are all right. Will you not come to Kuchiki Manor with me, or at least allow me to bring him here to see you? He was devastated when he thought you had died, and he would do anything to have the chance to just speak with you again!"

Tetsuya blinked in surprise.

"Byakuya-sama thought that I was dead?"

"Yes," affirmed the young woman, "And he is very anxious to know that you are safe. I give you my word that he would never hurt you, Tetsuya-san. Please trust me that you should only speak to him and all will be well."

Tetsuya went silent, his eyes tormented as confusion enveloped him, and the pressure against his mind grew unbearable.

"Please, Hisana-sama. You must go now. You are well enough to have the stallion carry you home. I told you. I cannot leave the protected area. It is for my safety."

"Very well," Hisana said sadly, "But may I at least bring Byakuya-sama to speak with you. He will respect your decision to stay, assuming there is need, but please only give him a chance to speak with you..."

"I will consider that. But, go now. I am sorry if I have offended you."

Hisana gazed at him, torn about leaving him, but aware that there was little chance of her convincing the young man to leave with her. And the longer he stayed, the more agitated he seemed to grow. She smiled at him and bowed briefly.

"Arigatou, Tetsuya-san," she said gratefully, "I am sorry to have troubled you. Arashi and I will go now."

Tetsuya stood frozen, watching her closely with troubled eyes, but saying nothing more. He waited until she had left the cottage, then stole to the front window and watched her climb onto the stallion's back. Arashi carefully wound kido ropes about her to hold her in place, then ran at the water barrier and leapt over. Tetsuya watched until they were out of sight, his heart pounding oddly as he remembered the woman's words.

Those things she said...about Byakuya-sama knowing me...thinking I was dead and worrying for me. What does that all mean? What is happening? I need Orochi-sama to come back. I need him to help me understand this. I don't know what's going on...why those people are looking for me! And if they come here before he comes back, then what shall I do? I am trapped here and unable to escape them! I have nowhere to run!

Orochi-sama!

I need you to come back!

With an effort, he managed to make his breathing slow, and his heart stopped feeling as though it would burst out of his chest. He shivered, even in the cozy warmth of the cottage, and finally walked out and cautiously approached the water barrier. He wrapped his arms around his slender body, his widened eyes looking down at the water's surface. And when the feminine face appeared on its glassy surface, and the petite lips moved to speak to him, Tetsuya forced himself to remain and to listen.

Tetsuya.

Tetsuya, do you hear me?

Why do you not answer me?

Trust me, Tetsuya.

Let me help you.

It is time for you to go home!

"But this is my home!" he insisted, "This place that I share with Orochi-sama. I am happy here with him. He cares for me and will let nothing hurt me again. Why would I leave this place, when everything I know that means anything to me is here? Why do you ask this of me?"

The eyes of the woman reflected in the water looked deeply into his.

Because as much as he has shielded you, you cannot escape the truth.

Come to me.

Come into the water.

Let me open your eyes!

"He said not to enter the water," Tetsuya objected, backing away, "He told me that I would drown! You only want to hurt me! You want to take away the happiness we have together! Leave me alone. I won't be tempted by you!"

He turned and ran back into the house, slamming the door shut behind him and placing his back against it, trying in vain to shut out the sound of the pixie's voice in his mind, and the sound of an incoming storm.

"STOP IT!" he screamed as the thunder began to sound, rumbling through the cottage and rattling the windows, "GO AWAY! PLEASE, JUST GO AWAY!"

He let out an incomprehensible scream of surrender, sliding down the door and falling onto his knees, covering his ears as the thunder seemed to shake everything apart around him. Somehow, he dragged himself across the floor, to the corner of the room, where he sat with his arms around his knees and his face buried in his arms, panting and sweating, whispering to himself to shut his mind away from what was happening.

"Orochi-sama will come. He will stop the storm. Orochi sama will come. He will stop the storm...he will..."

He lost track of time, locked away in the howl of the stormwind and the pounding of the rain on the rooftop and windows. He focused steadfastly on his memory of his lover, his senses piqued and his body shivering with dread.

"Please come back, Orochi-sama," he pleaded softly, his eyes closed tightly and his arms shaking where they wrapped around his bent knees, "Please come back and make things quiet again. Come back, Orochi-sama, come back...come back...come back..."

He thought he heard Orochi's step outside the door, but quivered at the fact that the storm continued to rage around the cottage this time. He looked up as the door opened, and Orochi stepped inside.

Tetsuya flew across the room and buried himself in the other man's arms, shaking all over and sighing in relief at his presence.

"Tetsuya, what is wrong?" he asked immediately, taking hold of the younger man's face and looking intently down into his eyes, "Did something happen?"

"We have to get out of here!" Tetsuya half sobbed, "They will know I am here now! She will tell them!"

"Sh-she?" Orochi repeated, his expression darkening, "Tetsuya, who are you talking about? Tell me now!"

"I amsorry! I knew I shouldn't let her see me, but the stallion arrived and she was unconscious on his back. And I was afraid that she might be dying. So, I brought her inside and I healed her as best I could."

"Healed who? Who was this woman?" Orochi demanded.

"Sh-she said that...she is Byakuya-sama's wife," Tetsuya stammered, "But she kept saying things that made no sense to me! She said that I had been to Kuchiki Manor, and that Byakuya-sama was desperate to find me! She tried to convince me to leave with her, but I refused, and she left."

"Tetsuya, when was this?"

"I...I don't know," Tetsuya sobbed, nearly incoherently, "The storm began just after she left...after the girl in the water tried to convince me to go into the water."

"Tetsuya..."

"I wouldn't. I ran back inside. But the storm came in, and it won't stop. It won't stop! Even now, it..."

"Tetsuya," said Orochi, his hands tightening on the younger man's face, "There is no storm! There never has..."

A peal of thunder rattled the windows again, and Orochi's eyes widened suddenly.

"You...you...hear it?" Tetsuya gasped, his face going sheet white.

"What in kami's name..." Orochi hissed.

He turned back and opened the door, freezing in place as he saw where the water in the channel around the cottage had shot into the air and frozen, making a thick ice dome over and all around them. Tetsuya threw himself against the other man, burying his face in Orochi's strong shoulder and breathing in his calming scent. Orochi moved enough to close the door, then wrapped his arms tightly around his distressed lover again and kissed him reassuringly.

"It will be all right, Tetsuya," he promised, "We are going to leave here now. Go and quickly gather anything you need."

"B-but the ice..."

"Do not worry about it," Orochi said darkly, "If anything or anyone gets in our way, I will destroy them!"