Chapter 10: Love's Prison

Nel giggled softly, then covered her mouth and ducked her small body down behind a cluster of large sand smoothed bones, trying to stifle any further sounds. She listened carefully for approaching voices or footsteps and held her breath when she heard Dondachakka speaking.

"We can't find her anywhere and we've been searching forever! It must have been hours. She'll starve to death before we find her!"

"Okay," said Pesche placatingly, "First of all, it's only been about, like, twenty minutes, which I know is a long time for you to focus, but I don't think it's long enough for Nel-sama to starve...especially because we don't actually have to eat to stay alive."

"Oh, right," said Dondachakka, blushing beneath his hollow mask.

"Heheh," Pesche chuckled, "Don't worry about it."

"I should have said that she was hiding so long that we would die of old age."

"Yeah, right! Die of old age in a half hour? Heheh, just keep looking and try not to hurt yourself thinking, okay, Buddy?"

"But I'm sleepy!" complained the more portly hollow, "I never feel like I get enough sleep."

"Eh, who knows when to sleep in a place like this anyway," muttered Pesche, "It's all dark now that he is gone."

"I don't mind the dark," Dondachakka said firmly, "That guy was scary!"

"He's not so scary now, rotting away in that prison," laughed Pesche, "I wonder if they still call him Aizen-sama! Heheh, he's probably..."

"Excuse me," said a calm and chillingly familiar make voice, "Will you tell me where I can find Neliel?"

"Yi!" howled Dondachakka, "Pesche, that's...it's...!"

Pesche's eyes followed Dondachakka to where Aizen Sousuke stood, holding a lovely and unconscious male shinigami in his arms.

"Holy...hah!" stammered the hollow, "What are you doing here? I thought that you...!"

"Obviously, I am here now. And my friend is in need of healing. He was injured in a fight and I cannot wake him. I would like Neliel to heal this man, and then I will be on my way."

Aizen looked up as Nel took on her grown up hollow form and quietly stepped out from her hiding place. She placed herself carefully between Aizen and her fraccion, gazing at the unconscious man that he carried.

"Is that Rukia-chan's brother?" she asked, "Did you hurt him?"

"I did not harm him," Aizen assured her, "and this is not Rukia's brother, but her cousin...and my friend."

"He is Aizen-sama's friend?" Nel queried curiously.

"Yes, but someone hurt him and I cannot wake him."

"Very well," Nel agreed, "Bring him to me."

Aizen stepped forward and Dondachakka and Pesche edged nervously towards the lady hollow, their eyes on the former taichou. Aizen laid Tetsuya gently on the sand and knelt beside him as Nel leaned over him and laid her hands on his unmoving form.

"He does not seem overly damaged, but I will cure what wounds he has," Nel said, invoking her healing power.

"Nel, I will also need you to release the seal on my greater powers."

Nel looked at him out of the corner of an eye.

"Are you going to hurt Ichigo and his friends?"

"No," Aizen told her quietly, "I only wish to separate myself from the hougyoku. And then, I am going to leave here and return to the Kuchiki clan with my friend. Hopefully, I will be allowed to live out my days quietly among this man's family."

"And they would accept you? After everything, they would take you into their family?" Nel asked skeptically.

"You have heard of the 'white souls,' ne?" Aizen asked.

"Yes."

"This man is my white soul. His name is Kuchiki Tetsuya, and he was introduced to me while I was in the prison. But, someone tried to use Tetsuya to kill me. I escaped death and resolved to thwart that person's plans by removing and destroying the hougyoku myself."

"But if you do that and return to the Seireitei, will you not be executed?"

Aizen shook his head, gazing down at the unconscious shinigami.

"I married my white soul, and became a ward of the Kuchiki clan. That means that they will determine my fate. And they have said that they will only incarcerate me in their own family prison. However, I am positioning myself to perhaps win a few concessions. I do not dream of being fully freed, but certainly, I would like to not have to sit in a boring cell for thousands of years."

"Do you love Tetsuya-san?" Nel asked abruptly.

"We are soul bonded...true resonants," Aizen explained, "Although we are as yet still getting to know one another, we share a close connection."

"Ah, I see," Nel said, nodding.

She studied the younger man carefully, then looked up at Aizen.

"I have healed him, but I cannot wake him," she reported.

"Why not?"

He was stricken with a unique zanpakutou power," Nel explained, "It is a very strong sedative poison. It will not kill Tetsuya-san, but he will sleep for a long time, I think. Unless, perhaps, I free your powers and allow you to break that other power that affects him."

She glared at Aizen meaningfully.

"But I do not know if it is a good idea to allow you your powers. Last time, you tried to destroy everything! You lied to the Espadas and attacked your own people. You hurt people I care about..."

"I assure you that I will not be continuing my plans. As you know, the hougyoku has rejected me. It will no longer grant me powers sufficient to challenge the king, so I will make myself content within Tetsuya's family. Or if necessary, Tetsuya and I will live somewhere else, where no one will interfere with us."

"And what does Tetsuya-san think of your plans?"

"Well," said Aizen, smirking, "as he had been unconscious, I have not been able to discuss future plans with him. But we are married now. He is a lovely young man, as you see. I will enjoy exploring our connection."

"Hmmm," mused Nel, "I wonder how Tetsuya-san feels about that."

"He will feel much better about it once he wakes and we can discuss it. Now, if you do not mind, I would like the final seal on my powers removed. You should not unseal the hougyoku. It is no longer under my direction and could be dangerous."

"You could be dangerous too," said Nel, "I don't think that I can, in good conscience, release you."

"Although, if you do not, harm could come to Tetsuya and me, as we will have no way to defend ourselves. Come now, Nel. You can certainly see that the seal on the hougyoku is still strong. And I couldn't remove it, even if I wanted to. Urahara Kisuke used a special seal that he developed himself, so it would take some time for me to figure it out, if I even wanted to unseal it, which I do not. Add to that, I have been deprived of my zanpakutou. Even if I had my powers and called it to my hand, it has gone rogue and is not likely to obey me."

"Imagine that," Nel said with an edge of sarcasm, "Your own zanpakutou, not wanting to help you. I would say that Kyouka Suigetsu has grown wise. You are not trustworthy, Aizen-sama. However, as I do not want to be burdened watching over you myself, I will release your powers. I will leave the seal on the hougyoku...and I do hope that you can, indeed, destroy it. Then, I also hope that you will leave us in peace, Aizen Sousuke. You have damaged the ones here enough."

"I understand," Aizen agreed, watching as Nel touched the bands on his wrists and he felt his powers swell within him, "Thank you, Neliel. I will take my leave of you."

Nel glanced at Tetsuya, then bit at her lip gently.

"Wait, Aizen-sama," she said softly.

"Yes?"

"Your husband will still not wake immediately, even now that you can use your powers to disperse the poison in his body. And you said that you will need to find a way to destroy the hougyoku, ne?"

"Yes."

Nel studied him quietly for a moment, considering.

"Leave Tetsuya-san with my fraccion. I will go to the fortress with you and help you to find the way to destroy the hougyoku."

Aizen shook his head gently.

"Tetsuya and I are being pursued," he explained, "And add to that the problem that Tetsuya has been unconscious for some time and will be disoriented, perhaps combative when he wakes. I plan to place him in my private garden within the fortress for safekeeping while I search for the information."

"But surely, even there, you will not leave him unguarded?" Nel said, looking alarmed, "There is a new hollow lord in the fortress, and he will not hesitate to kill you or Tetsuya-san."

"Well," Aizen said, looking amused, "He will have a hard time doing that. I am immortal because of the hougyoku, and Tetsuya, though not immortal, is affected through our link, so would be hard to kill, even unconscious as he is. I will place him in the sealed gardens, and he will be fine there."

"I will leave my fraccion with him, and I will accompany you to the archive," Nel said stubbornly, "As much as you say that you are going to destroy the hougyoku, I do not trust you, Aizen-sama."

"As well you should not," Aizen agreed, "Very well, then. We should go to the fortress now. We can use my secret entrance that will take us into the gardens, and we will leave Tetsuya there with your fraccion. They will be safe there while we enter the archive."

"Very well, Aizen-sama," Nel said solemnly, "Pesche? Dondachakka? Come."

XXXXXXXXXX

"He sure is pretty for a guy, isn't he, Pesche?" Tetsuya heard an unfamiliar male voice say.

"Well," said another male voice, "I guess you're Aizen Sousuke, you can pretty much have anyone you want...guy or girl. He probably tricked the poor kid into marrying him...you know, used his illusions or something."

"I thought that he said that he couldn't use his sword powers," the first voice objected, "That's what he told Nel-sama, ne?"

"That's what he said, all right," the second voice agreed, "But what you have totally forgotten is that shinigami powers aren't all in their sword. The original power is in the shinigami. The sword spirit is given powers that are similar to the shinigami's original powers. Then, the two fight together. So Aizen-sama can use some illusions...so, he could have tricked pretty-san here into marrying him! See?"

Tetsuya's eyes blinked open.

"Whoa!" cried Dondachakka, jumping back and hiding behind the trunk of a plum tree and peeking out, "I thought he would be asleep longer."

"Yeah, well it's been ten hours since Nel-sama left with Aizen-sama. Hey there, Pretty-san, are you feeling better?"

"Wh-what?" stammered Tetsuya, trying to sit up, only to be shoved back down by a large hollow wearing a tiki mask, "Who are you?"

"Heh, shall we tell him, Dondochakka?" laughed Pesche.

"Uh, I think you just did," the more portly hollow said, touching a finger to his chin thoughtfully, "But okay, if you think we need to."

"TA-DA!" the two hollows yelled, launching themselves into the air.

Tetsuya blinked in confusion as the two landed in front of him, shouting varied versions of something he took to mean two great brothers of the desert...

"I'm Pesche," said the thinner, lavender colored hollow.

"And like he said already, I'm Dondochakka."

"We're Nel-sama's fraccion, you know," Pesche finished, "Nel-sama told us to care for Pretty-san until she and Aizen-sama came back, so don't worry, we've got your back, okay?"

"Eh...o-kay?" Tetsuya said, looking around at the trees and grass.

"What's wrong, Pretty-san," Dondachakka said sympathetically, are you still confused by Aizen-sama's illusions that blinded you?"

"H-his...illusion?" muttered Tetsuya, "Um, no, actually. I...you say that Aizen Sousuke brought me here?"

"Uh-huh," said Pesche, "What, did I say it too quietly or something? You didn't hear me?"

"Oh, I heard," Tetsuya said, warming somewhat to the two unusually personable hollows, "I just..."

"...cause I can say it again, louder if you want," Pesche blundered on.

"Oh, no," said Tetsuya, shaking his head, then wishing he hadn't as pain cracked across his brow, "I didn't mean that."

"Well," Pesche said, tilting his head, "You should really learn to say what you mean, you know? We can't exactly read your mind here...and Dondachakka, he can't read at all!"

"Yes, well, what I meant was...when I was...wherever I was before, a man had captured me and was trying to..."

He paused, thinking that it might not be good to share too much about his predicament.

"Did...did anyone else come here with Aizen Sousuke and me?" he asked, "A man with brown hair or another noble, like me?"

"Nope," said Dondachakka, "And we were surprised too, him coming here all alone and with his powers sealed. But Nel-sama released his powers, so now he can..."

"She what?" Tetsuya exclaimed, looking alarmed, "He is without restraints on his powers?"

"Man, you really need to get your ears checked, Pretty-san. That's what I said!" confirmed Pesche.

"Oh no..." Tetsuya said softly, looking down at his hands, "And he didn't ask your master to unseal my bonds?"

"Eh, no," said Pesche, "She asked that, but he said that you might have been hypnotized by someone bad and you could be not in your right mind. But you look okay to me, except for making me repeat everything."

"Can you release the seal on my powers?" asked Tetsuya.

"Nope! No way!" exclaimed Pesche, "Because, how do we know that the bad guy who stole you didn't leave you hypnotized to kill us all!"

"Well, I hardly think that he would have known that Aizen would bring me..."

He looked around, frowning.

"Pesche-san, where are we?" he asked.

"Las Noches," Pesche said, nodding.

"But..." Tetsuya mused, looking around him, "There are...and...?"

"Oh," laughed Pesche, "This room is Aizen-sama's enchanted gardens. He didn't like how dark and cold everything was when he got here, so he made this place and sealed it so no one could come in but him and the high ranking Espadas and their fraccion. He wanted you to be safe while he and Nel-sama went to the fortress archive. He'll come back, though, and then if he thinks it's okay and you're not hypnotized, he can unseal your powers, all right?"

"V-very well," said Tetsuya, settling back against a tree and looking around at the gardens.

"Are you hungry?" asked Dondachakka, "You can have some fruit from the trees or we can make you something. And if you want a bath, Pretty-san, there is a bathing pool."

"My name is Tetsuya," the noble informed the hollows, "And I think I will have a walk around and maybe eat something."

"Okay, but we have to go with you," said Pesche, "Wouldn't want you to get lost in here..."

"I think I'll be all right," Tetsuya assured him, "But thank you."

He climbed slowly to his feet and started towards an apple tree, but stopped short as another tall hollow with bright, light blue hair and eyes stepped out from behind a tree in front of him.

"Eeee-yaw!" howled Dondachakka, "G-grimmjow, what are you doing here!"

Grimmjow stepped closer to Tetsuya, glaring down into the noble's widened blue eyes.

"Came to get some food, but...looks like I found something a whole lot more interesting..."

He took hold of the front of Tetsuya's yukata, making the noble gasp softly and stiffen.

"So, who are you...what did they call you, Pretty-san? Who are you, and what are you doing in Las Noches with your powers sealed away, Pretty-san?"