Chapter 9: The Trap
"Which way did Counselor Takayama go?" Byakuya demanded as he and Aizen burst out the front gates of Central 46.
"What are you doing, Kuchiki taichou?" cried the lead guard, "That is Aizen Sousuke. What is he doing out of his cell?"
"He has married into the Kuchiki clan and is now our responsibility. Now, tell me where Counselor Takayama went, immediately! He is a fugitive, wanted for attempted murder, kidnapping, assault and detonation of an incendiary device in the Central 46 compound!"
"Sir, he and the young man with him mounted a black stallion and headed into a senkaimon that the counselor opened."
"Send word out to all of our Gotei 13 units to be on the lookout for the two. The young man is Kuchiki Tetsuya, my cousin, and the stallion belongs to them. Tetsuya is being held hostage. If they are seen, send word to me at once!"
Byakuya drew his sword and hastily opened a senkaimon, then led Aizen into the precipice world.
"Do not think of leaving my side," the noble warned his former colleague, "The bond I placed on you will reveal your location to me, wherever you go!"
"Do not worry, Byakuya," Aizen said in a low voice, "I have no intention of leaving. I am going to find that man and I am going to destroy him."
"You are angry because he attempted to steal the hougyoku from you?" Byakuya asked.
"I am angry because he used Tetsuya to try to steal the hougyoku from me."
"And that...bothers you? The man using my cousin against you? Haven't you also used innocents to do your dirty work, Aizen Sousuke?"
Aizen's eyes flickered dangerously in the darkness of the precipice world.
"Tetsuya belongs to me. He is my white soul and he is my husband. I control the path of that young man's destiny. No one else will interfere with that."
"Well, apparently, the white soul program is a lie," Byakuya said, frowning, "and as far as you controlling anyone's destiny, even your own, I would call that argument ridiculous. Still, you are my cousin's husband and you are his soul bonded, which is why I have brought you to search for him. Tell me, can you sense Tetsuya's direction yet? You merely need to picture him in your mind and you should be able to sense that, although being that your bonding has only just been completed, it may take some time to adjust to using the ability."
"No wonder you dragged me along," said Aizen, "That is a useful ability. However, Hiro will likely have thought of that, won't he?"
"He is a noble," Byakuya acknowledged, looking around them, "and although a perfect resonance like yours is exceptionally rare, all who were present at the prison would have known about it. They do not occur very often, but when they do, the result of their binding can be profound."
"But as I recall," said Aizen, "the joining of the two can result in either great good or great evil."
"Actually," Byakuya said, frowning, "although the choices of resonants may result in good or evil outcomes in the immediate sense, the soul king knows the heart of all and applies that knowledge in pursuing balance."
"In other words, he uses all souls, good and evil, as he wills, to suit his agenda," said Aizen.
"Perhaps," replied Byakuya, "but our monarch is chosen and guided by the wisdom of the former incarnations of the king. He is always a creature of balance, even when that requires painful sacrifice. Your own goals, when pursuing that place in the heavens, were hardly in the interest of maintaining the delicate balances of our worlds. But enough of that, we must focus on the task at hand. Tell me, do you feel Tetsuya's presence yet?"
"I feel that he passed through this corridor," said Aizen, "and they continued in this direction. But are you sure that the best course of action is to follow? After all, it does seem that since that man's goal is to steal the hougyoku and kill me, he will not harm Tetsuya, but will attempt to use him to lure me."
"I do not intend to let him have time to regroup," Byakuya said, slowing as they came to a split in the corridor, "What happened at Central 46 threw him off balance. He acted recklessly...gave himself away and made himself a fugitive. We need to find them before he catches his breath and starts scheming again."
"Although you realize that this move may be a backup plan already," Aizen suggested, "Just be sure that in your haste to take advantage of an opening, you don't lower your own guard, Byakuya."
"I do not need the likes of you to tell me that," Byakuya answered, scowling.
He glanced back at Aizen questioningly.
"To the right," he said, nodding.
"There is another reason to remain close behind them," Byakuya commented, taking the indicated path, "and that is Tetsuya's powers."
"But Hiro has already proven that he knows Tetsuya's powers from beginning to end. And he also has him hypnotized."
"Ah, Tetsuya, yes. But I believe that the one he should concern himself with is Arashi."
"Tetsuya's stallion?" Aizen queried, "Why is that?"
"With Tetsuya being a half blood living among relatives, many of whom look down on him, we decided it was best to keep Arashi's level of intelligence and abilities secret."
"For times such as this?"
"Yes," Byakuya confirmed, "It is a great advantage."
"One which you...decline to explain in detail to his husband?" he asked.
"It is for Tetsuya to decide how and when to reveal his abilities to you, as well as the full nature of your bonding," explained the noble, "However, with your penchant for deception and violence, I do not see my cousin much more likely to confide such things in you as he is to confide them in Takayama Hiro."
"I think Tetsuya and I understand each other as no one else realizes," Aizen said softly.
"What is to understand?" asked Byakuya, "He is aware that you use people and that when you are done with them, you kill them. He knows that every breath he takes as your husband may be his last and he is terrified. I would rescue him from this if I could, but bound by our clan's rules, I must not interfere with the actions of soul resonants."
"Even if that means allowing Tetsuya to die?" queried Aizen, arching an eyebrow.
"Even then," said the clan leader, narrowing his eyes, "But...I would make sure that you share whatever fate you hand him."
"I will watch my step," Aizen said sedately.
Tetsuya woke to find himself lying on his side on a hard surface, securely bound in kido ropes and blindfolded to keep him from seeing his surroundings. He sensed the heavy, threatening presence of the prison coordinator nearby and felt a soft shiver pass through him as the man's fingers teased his hair lightly, then slid down his back. He tried to remain still, but felt sweat break out on his skin as the oddly gentle touches on his body continued.
"Kuchiki Tetsuya, I know you are awake. And I have been kind enough to allow the hypnosis to fade."
"Why?" the noble asked, testing the strength of the bonds as he spoke, "Because I am not so stupid as to think that it was any sort of kindness. Not coming from you."
Tetsuya flinched and turned his head away as something cool and slightly wet touched his lips.
"It's all right," Hiro assured him, "It is just some fresh fruit. You need to keep your strength up, so that when he finds you, you are up to your task."
"And what exactly is it that you want me to do?" asked Tetsuya, "Because, what you just said tells me that my part of this involves more than just allowing my husband to take me sexually."
"You are very bright. But do not worry, Tetsuya. You do not need to cloud your mind and taint your spirits with the details. You will do what you need to do. You are a white soul. It is in your nature to do what is right. You will take the necessary steps and end the threat of Aizen Sousuke very soon. Then, you can rest easy. You can be at peace, knowing that you have achieved the fate you were born into."
"And what fate is that?" Tetsuya asked, his anger flaring, "I am not going to kill my husband! I won't! And I do not care what you may have programmed into me. It will fail."
He could feel Hiro's wicked smile even through his blindfold.
"I told you. There is nothing you need to do. Rest, Tetsuya. Have something to eat. Relax. Aizen Sousuke is the one who has to make the next move. Then, you will be freed to play your role. You need only wait until he comes."
Hiro's hand once again brought food to the young noble's lips. At first, Tetsuya thought to refuse again.
But if I plan to get free of this man, at some point, then weakening myself is useless.
"A wise decision," Hiro said approvingly as Tetsuya accepted the offered food.
Hiro continued to feed him for several minutes, then helped him sit up and offered him several sips of warm tea. The food and drink revived the young noble and he extended his senses carefully to sense Arashi's position.
He flinched as he felt Hiro's hand caress his face.
Master! Are you all right now?
Yes, Tetsuya answered, but I will need you to help me escape this man.
I have already set an escape form. Focus on me so that I can pull you into it.
"It is such a shame," Hiro said, curling an arm around Tetsuya and holding the younger man against him, "One such as you, forced to endure the wickedness of that man joining with you. You must be relieved not to have been taken by him. The thought of any part of him corrupting such innocence sickens me. You shouldn't have to suffer the touch of that man, Tetsuya. You should know much gentler love."
Tetsuya gasped in surprise as the other man's warm lips found his.
"S-stop! What are you doing? Takayama-san, stop!"
Master, focus on me so I can free you!
Hiro's hands slipped beneath the bound noble's clothing, seeking his nether region.
Hiro's fingertip touched Tetsuya's entrance, shocking him back into awareness. He reached out and focused on Arashi's nearby presence, then felt the comforting wrapping around of the stallion's power. He was drawn out of his body and carried the short distance away to where Arashi waited.
The stallion watched as the waterform he had set morphed into his master. Freed of his bindings, Tetsuya launched himself onto the stallion's back and urged him into a gallop. Behind them, in a copse of trees, Hiro stared in surprise as Tetsuya's body turned to water and splashed onto him and the ground beside him.
"What?" he exclaimed, "But I sealed away your powers! How did you...?"
He heard hoofbeats and burst out of the trees. Spotting the escaping noble, the prison coordinator drew his blade and pointed it at the two.
"I don't know how the two of you managed this, but it is not going to happen! I have worked too long and too hard to bring this to fruition. Dageki, Doku no Haze!"
Hiro smiled as a silvery mist erupted from his weapon and shot in the direction of the fleeing stallion. Arashi screamed in fury as the mist touched his and Tetsuya's bodies, shocking them with a numbing toxin that sent both crashing to the ground. The two lost consciousness almost immediately, leaving them helpless as the prison coordinator approached them. He stood over the fallen stallion and shinigami, considering what to do next.
A moment later, he sensed the opening of a senkaimon nearby, and the approaching reiatsu of the Kuchiki clan leader as well as a second strong presence.
"Byakuya...and Aizen," he whispered to himself, glancing down at Tetsuya and Arashi, "Hmmm...perhaps it is time..."
He reached into his coat and withdrew a small, odd looking device, then touched the activation button.
Byakuya came to a stop, laying a hand on Aizen's arm as he sensed several presences ahead of them.
"Tetsuya," Aizen whispered.
"Arashi and Hiro are with him," Byakuya added.
The two concealed themselves within the trees and carefully edged forward. A few steps later, they spotted Arashi's collapsed form, just beyond the cover of the trees. And a short distance from that, Hiro stood, holding Tetsuya's unconscious body against him with one arm and holding something in his other, clenched hand.
"Come out," the prison coordinator ordered them, "If you make any sudden moves, I will detonate this device, and Tetsuya will die with me!"
Byakuya considered the man's words for a moment, then exchanged glances with Aizen.
"Release the seal on my powers," Aizen requested, "You needn't free the hougyoku to do that."
"I am not taking the chance that you will escape," the noble said stiffly, "I can protect us."
"You are a fool," Aizen hissed softly, "You risk everything with your stubbornness."
Byakuya ignored him and stepped out of the trees. Aizen frowned and shook his head, then moved to join him.
"You are wise to be cautious," Hiro said, eyeing them suspiciously, "One wrong move and you will lose him."
"You have nowhere that you can go that we will not find you," Aizen warned him.
"That is why I will be taking you with me, Aizen Sousuke," Hiro said, smirking, "Come away from Byakuya."
"No," Byakuya said firmly, "There is no way that you are leaving here with the two of them. I will not allow it."
"You risk your cousin's life with your arrogance," Hiro growled angrily, his fingers tightening on the device in his hand.
"We might as well do as he says, Byakuya," Aizen said calmly, "The man is no match for me. To take me with him is only going to invite death."
"You are the one who is going to die, Aizen Sousuke!" laughed Hiro, "Come now, my hand begins to tremble. You wouldn't want me to blow up your new husband, ne? That would be a horrid waste."
Aizen pulled free of Byakuya, who gave the man a disapproving glare, but let him go. The former taichou moved slowly towards Hiro, his eyes focused on Tetsuya. Byakuya slid Senbonzakura free and stood quietly, waiting.
"Do not come any closer, Byakuya," Hiro warned him, "Slowly now, Aizen."
Hiro's breathing slowed, as he watched Aizen approach, his finger lightly stroking the button of the device in his hand.
Just another step closer...
Aizen took that final step, then Hiro let out a savage yell and shoved Tetsuya into Aizen, sending both crashing to the ground.
"Scatter," Byakuya commanded his weapon.
"Watch from within the explosion, Aizen Sousuke!" Hiro cried, "Watch as it blows him apart before your eyes!"
Aizen dodged Tetsuya's falling form and lunged at Hiro as the prison coordinator pressed the button on the device in his hand. A huge, fiery blast engulfed the man, then swelled around Tetsuya, Aizen and the fallen Arashi. Aizen caught his breath in surprise and relief as Byakuya's petal blades curled around them, protecting them from the explosion and resulting inferno. The petals swirled wildly, holding the flames back as Aizen lifted Tetsuya into his arms and carried him to safety near Byakuya and the still unconscious Arashi.
"I told you it was a foolish risk," Aizen said, frowning, "You nearly got him killed."
"Your enemy is dead," Byakuya said evenly, "We can return to the manor for healing. Come."
Aizen smirked and flash stepped away, taking Tetsuya with him.
"I don't think so," he said, looking into Byakuya's angry eyes, "I am weary of life behind bars."
"You have nowhere to go."
"I can go anywhere I want," Aizen laughed softly, "I may be powerless, but operation of the garganta is still available to me."
"Aizen!" Byakuya exclaimed, flash stepping to him, only to realize that the man had already flash stepped away and was entering the opening garganta.
"You have no way to protect yourselves in Hueco Mundo!" Byakuya insisted, "Come back. Do not take such a useless risk."
"Goodbye, Byakuya. Thank you for freeing me," Aizen said approvingly, "I will see that Tetsuya is not harmed in any way. I give you my word."
"Then, leave him behind if you want to protect him!"
"To the contrary," answered Aizen, "The best way to protect Tetsuya is to keep him close to me."
"If you hurt him, there is nothing I won't do to see you die!" Byakuya fumed, his reiatsu swelling.
He raced towards the garganta, only to reach it as the doorway snapped closed.
"Bastard!" Byakuya hissed, "You will not do this!"
He turned back and knelt at Arashi's side, trying for a moment to rouse the stallion, then summoning a hell butterfly.
"This is Kuchiki taichou, Counselor Takayma Hiro has killed himself and Aizen Sousuke has abducted Kuchiki Tetsuya and escaped to Hueco Mundo. Alert all squads, Aizen Sousuke has escaped into Hueco Mundo and has taken my cousin as a hostage. Both have seals on their powers, but Aizen must be considered extremely dangerous. I am returning to the sixth division to gather a team to pursue them!"
He paused for a moment, patting Arashi's shoulder, then summoning another hell butterfly.
"Torio, bring Koji and a house security team to retrieve Arashi from the location provided. He is unconscious, but appears to be fine otherwise. I will need you to return him to the manor for treatment of minor wounds."
He sighed softly and shook his head in frustration, then laid his hands on the unconscious stallion and began to infuse his body with healing reiatsu.
All the while, malevolent eyes watched him closely from within the trees.