Chapter 5: Will You Take the Hand of the Devil?
"He has been unconscious for seven days, Sousuke," said Gin, gazing down at Tetsuya's discomfited looking expression, "Not a flicker of reiatsu...nightmares and shaking. You mean to tell me that you are not concerned? You did say that, despite his lack of powers, he still interests you. But why, when it seems that he is just a spent candle now?"
"So it would seem," he agreed, "However, remember for a moment that Tetsuya is a young transcendant. He was granted exceptional power, and I do not think that such power would be frivolously given or taken away."
"Ah, I knew that you must still be convinced that he would wake and eventually regain his abilities."
"Yes," Aizen said quietly, reaching down to caress the younger man's face, "He is a fledgling who is only beginning to fly, after all. Living in a shinigami body requires a sacrifice, if one is to use such powers. This then, is the way that Tetsuya manages that power. Unable to bear the weight of his transcendant reiatsu, his soul split into two beings."
"The horse?" queried Gin, "So, that stallion...?"
"Is an extension of self," Aizen said appreciatively, looking over at Arashi's collapsed body, "Tetsuya was a prisoner for much of his life...isn't that what you were going to tell me?"
"Yes, actually," answered Gin, looking down at the report in his hand, "The files I was able to find record his birth as happening in the secret noble prison, Itamigiri. His father was from the Kuchiki family and his mother was a commoner. His parents were abducted and taken to the prison, where Kuchiki Takao, his father, was executed for being a blood traitor and his mother remained imprisoned. She died while he was still rather young, so he was cared for by an older boy named Naoki, another half blood...a member of the Aomori clan. Tetsuya was freed when Kuchiki Byakuya led an assault on the prison. Witnesses to the raid said that someone had given the guards word that he was coming, and as a result, many of the prisoners, including the boy, Naoki, were killed. Byakuya found Tetsuya and learned that he was the son of his father's favored first cousin, who had disappeared. Tetsuya was then given a place at Kuchiki Manor, and...he eventually became Byakuya's personal bodyguard and head of house security."
"Hmmm," Aizen said thoughtfully.
"It doesn't excite you that you have captured someone who is close to the greatest of the noble lords? You could use this man in a hundred different ways, ne Sousuke?"
Aizen took a slow breath, looking from Tetsuya to Arashi and back again.
"You could hypnotize him and send him back? Position him to kill his cousin...to take power from the Gotei 13 and noble families?"
"I could," said Aizen, "But I will not."
"What?" said Gin, surprise lighting his face.
Aizen's eyes fixed on Tetsuya's sleeping face.
"Part of defeating any enemy is recognizing the worth in every player on the field...even the seemingly inconsequential ones."
"What are you saying?" asked Gin, "You have a better way of using him to defeat the Gotei 13?"
"I am not concerned about the Gotei 13. We will annihilate them. And they are not the ones who I am most interested in destroying."
"Then, you think he will be useful in reaching the king?" asked Gin, stealing a glance at the young man.
Aizen was silent for a moment.
"Perhaps. Gin, I have some things to see to. I want you to return Tetsuya to his cell, Arashi also."
"You are going to keep them in the prison?" Gin asked, smirking, "I thought you liked him. You know that the hollow guards..."
"No one will touch Tetsuya on pain of death. But he is to be kept in the prison. Only Miki and I will be allowed to pass through the seal on their cells."
"You have a plan in mind for bringing him to your side, no?"
Aizen let out an amused breath and turned away.
"I always have a plan, Gin. Always."
Gin watched Aizen leave, then leaned over Tetsuya again, sighing and shaking his head.
"Such an arrogant man, isn't he? But then, you were hated by your own clan, ne Tetsuya? You know all about arrogance, so you should be right at home with him. But, I'll tell you what. I'll be watching. And if it seems he's getting too close to his goals, I will make sure that he doesn't reach them. Aizen Sousuke may always have a plan, but what will be his downfall is that he doesn't realize that I have my own plans."
He lifted Tetsuya's limp body into his arms and summoned several large hollows to carry Arashi. They left the infirmary and carried the two through the tower, then down into the prison. Gin watched as Arashi was placed in a cell, then he carried Tetsuya into a second. He laid the shinigami on the cot in the cell, then smiled down at him.
"Rest well," he told the noble, "I am sure that, once he makes his move, he is going to keep you very, very busy, Tetsuya-san!"
He stopped and chuckled softly to himself.
"Oh that's right," Gin mused, "I never did get the chance to tell him that the invocation of your divine form burned away the seal that safeguards your virtue! I wonder how long it will take him to figure that out. Oh well, that should be rather fun to watch."
Why can't I feel anything?
Did he kill me?
I cannot feel my body, nor my own reiatsu. And those voices that reached me before have gone silent. It is too quiet now.
Where am I?
I feel cold. It feels as though something heavy weighs me down. And I sense no one around me.
Am I alone?
I remember that woman who I dreamed about...the one who tried to tell me something about us. I know that woman was my mother, but I do not know her name. And I did not hear what she told me. I still have no idea who I am.
But now I know that I need desperately to learn that. I will take whatever path I must to that end. But to do that, I need to come out of this darkness. I have to open my eyes and make my body move. I wonder, though, what it was that put me in this state. Did Aizen Sousuke injure me? Did he kill me? Did he make me a hollow? Or is it that the power I called on was too much for me?
Tetsuya's eyelids fluttered and his eyes slowly opened.
That coldness I felt before. It was this place he put me in. I see now. He saw the power I wielded and now wants to take it away from me. I wonder if that means that he has learned who I am. And he hates me for it.
He thought back to the feel of Aizen's hands slowly washing him, and the way it had felt the first time the man kissed him...just before the seal stopped them.
Those hands did not feel like hands that despised me, but...why do I know what it feels like to be touched by malevolent hands?
A flash of memory startled him, so that he sat up, staring at the cold metal bars that imprisoned him, the small cell and the shackle on one slender, bare ankle.
"You are the scum of Soul Society, half blood! And no matter how you try to pretend you are not, that is what you will always be."
"We are people too!" he shouted back.
"Tetsuya, no!" cried the brown haired boy standing next to him, "Tetsuya!"
"You can't lock us away like this forever!" he cried fiercely, "You call us animals, but what people would hurt us like this? You are the animals!"
He felt a hard shock strike his small body and his cellmate gasped and shouted his name again, catching him as he fell. The kido blasts fired repeatedly until both youths laid on their cell floor unconscious and the furious guard kicked the metal bars, then stalked away.
The image in his mind faded and was followed by another.
He knelt in front of the tall flagpole in the prison courtyard, his wrists kido-bound to the pole and his body bared to the waist.
"This is what you get for being willful, you stinking little half blooded rat!"
A whip struck his back and he tensed sharply, but held back from making a sound.
"Oh, still being stubborn, ne?" the guard said sarcastically, "Well, let's just see how long you can stay that way!"
The guard's breath hissed and the whip snapped against his back again, but he gritted his teeth and refused to yield a sound, despite the tears that leaked onto his face. The whip rose and fell repeatedly, each time looking for a new, untouched bit of his skin to strike. Tetsuya closed his wet eyes and felt his thin body was shaking madly with the strain. At some point, he collapsed and the guard left him there, until his cellmate came later to collect him. The other boy sobbed at seeing the horrid cuts and bruises on his back, but Tetsuya shook his head to stop him, then slipped a quivering hand into his and walked back with him into the cellblock.
"This is it, then?" he whispered, tears coming to his eyes, "I have become useless again and he has discarded me?"
He slid off the cot and stood on unsteady legs, looking around in the semi-darkness, shivering with cold. Taking a thin blanket from the cot, he retreated to the corner of the cell, behind the bed and knelt, pressing into the corner and still shivering, despite the covering.
"I really am lost now. Is there no one who will come for me?"
He laid down on the floor, looking over the cot and out the front of his cell to where Arashi stood, looking in his direction.
He waited a moment, then tried again to make contact, reaching out with his mind. When he received nothing in return, he looked up at the stallion and spoke aloud.
A feeling of sickness passed through him at the silence that was his only answer.
"You...cannot speak to me?" he asked softly, his large blue eyes taking on a wounded look, "Arashi...you said that...that you would tell me everything. And now, you cannot even speak to me? Arashi please, I need you to speak to me!"
He froze at the sound of a clanging door in the distance, then cringed into the corner, wrapping his arms around his bent knees and burying his face in his arms. The sound of footsteps approaching his cell made him cringe and cover his ears as the memory of the noble prison returned to him.
"I'm scared, Naoki!" he whispered, clinging tightly to the older boy and burying his face in his shoulder as the guard approached, looked into their cell, then continued walking down the row of cells.
"It's all right," Naoki said, stroking his hair, "I know you're scared, Tetsuya, but you must not cry out loud. You musn't make a sound that will annoy the guards. Just hold on to me. I will take care of you."
"Naoki," Tetsuya whispered, remembering, "My friend was Naoki."
I wonder where he is now? And why do I feel such pain inside, thinking about him? Perhaps it is just that this time, I have no one. Arashi cannot speak to me and there is no one else here...
He flinched and cringed harder into the corner of the cell as the door at the beginning of the row of cells clanked loudly, then footsteps continued towards his cell. They stopped just outside, and for a moment, everything went silent again.
"Tetsuya-san?" said Miki's voice.
He heard the sound of a key in the cell door lock, then the door slid open and Miki stepped inside, carrying a tray of food. He shut the cell door behind him, then carried the food to the cot, where he placed it on the nightstand. He walked around the bed and stopped in front of the curled, miserable prisoner, smiling sadly.
"Tetsuya-san, it's going to be all right. Come, you should eat something."
"I am sorry, Miki-san," Tetsuya said softly, "I cannot eat. I feel so ill."
The white haired hollow knelt in front of him, his silver eyes showing concern as he felt for fever, then shook his head disapprovingly.
"You should still be resting, Tetsuya-san. Come, I will help you back into bed."
"No please," Tetsuya whispered, his face paling, "I just want to stay here. I will be fine here."
"No," objected the hollow, "You don't want to stay here on the floor. It's cold and there's a draft. You will really get sick, Tetsuya-san. Come on."
"Why do you care anyway?" Tetsuya asked quietly, "Aren't you just obeying his orders? You don't care about me, any more than he does, do you? Leave me alone. Just go."
Miki's eyes took on a sad look and he bit his lip gently.
"Tetsuya-san," he said softly, "I will admit that I do not like most shinigamis. They frighten me, because when they come to this place, they come to kill us. That's most shinigamis. But Aizen-sama is different. He says that we deserve a better existence, and he tries to help us to develop our powers. We know he has his own goals, of course, but we welcome the chance to better ourselves and the way we live. So, I do not hate Aizen-sama."
He paused for a moment, reaching out and capturing Tetsuya's hand in his.
"You are even more different than him, Tetsuya-san. You are quiet and kind. You do not seem to look down on me. You ask for little and show gratitude for what you are given. You are a good person, and I am glad that Aizen-sama chose me to attend you. I hope that we can remain friends, even though I must obey his orders and you must stay here, in the prison."
"But if Aizen-sama ordered you to kill me, you would do it, ne?" Tetsuya asked pointedly.
Miki froze, staring.
"Aizen-sama would never..."
"If he did," Tetsuya said more forcefully, "then you would take my life, would you not?"
"N-no!" the hollow objected, "Tetsuya-san, Aizen-sama wouldn't! Stop saying such things. You are only making yourself more miserable. I am sorry that you have to stay here, and I will try very hard not too make it unpleasant for you. I...like you, Tetsuya-san! I don't' want you to dislike me!"
Tetsuya lifted his head slightly, revealing his proud, tearstained face.
"Then, help me get out of here," he said, more calmly, "If you really want to be my friend, don't leave me locked up in this place. Help me. Open a garganta for me so that I can go back to Soul Society!"
"Tetsuya-san, you don't understand! The prison...it has protections so that a garganta cannot be opened here. And there are many guards...so many guards. We would be caught! Then, both of us would be punished. Aizen-sama does not like to be disobeyed."
"Well, Aizen-sama is not my master, and as long as I am in control of my own mind, I will never let him order me! He can lock me up in here forever, but I won't let him control me! I would rather die!"
"Miki," said Aizen's voice from the cell entrance.
The two younger men looked up in surprise at his having entered the room so silently they hadn't heard him.
"Go now. I will see to Tetsuya."
"Y-yes, Aizen-sama," the hollow said, fleeing the chamber.
Aizen gazed down at Tetsuya disapprovingly as the cell door clicked shut. The younger man buried his face in his arms, ignoring his captor. The leader of the hollows stepped forward, capturing Tetsuya by the front of his yukata and dragging him to his feet. Tetsuya's jaw tightened rebelliously and he avoided the other man's eyes.
"You don't belong cowering in that corner...Kuchiki Tetsuya," he said firmly.
"You have learned my name?" Tetsuya asked, startled into meeting Aizen's eyes.
"I have," Aizen confirmed, "Kuchiki Tetsuya, clan leader Kuchiki Byakuya's trusted cousin, personal bodyguard and head of house security at Kuchiki Manor. Does any of that sound familiar to you?"
"Byakuya?" Tetsuya repeated, testing the name on his lips, "It does feel familiar when I speak it...Byakuya-sama, though. That is what I call him. Still, I cannot remember his face."
He looked up at Aizen questioningly.
"What else did you learn?"
"Your parents were Kuchikis Takao and Kiko. They were abducted and placed in the secret noble prison, Itamigiri, because your father, Takao, married a commoner and was thus considered a blood traitor by the faction that ran the prison. They were incarcerated and your father executed. Kuchiki Kiko gave birth to you, but died while you were a child. You were cared for by another boy..."
"Naoki," said Tetsuya, "I have remembered him."
"Yes, but Naoki was killed when Byakuya led a raid against the prison."
Aizen's eyes softened at the sudden look of anguish that crossed Tetsuya's face, then was hastily controlled and hidden.
"I take it you did not yet remember that," Aizen said apologetically, "You were taken to Kuchiki Manor and Byakuya, learning that his father and yours had been close, took you in."
"Thank you," Tetsuya said quietly, "It does help to have some better sense of myself."
"I think so," Aizen agreed, "However, now we must move on to other things."
"I want to go home," Tetsuya said abruptly, "You know who I am, therefore the only right thing to do is to allow me to leave peacefully."
Aizen smiled and shook his head firmly.
"No. You will not be leaving Las Noches, Tetsuya."
"You are a close confidante of the leader of the greatest of the noble clans. As their sworn enemy having captured one of their kinsmen, and one in a strategic position, I am obligated to keep you here."
"As a political prisoner?" Tetsuya concluded, "I am to be imprisoned in this cell, now?"
"That all depends," Aizen said, eyeing him meaningfully, "You defied me and attempted to leave the fortress."
"And I will do so again, given the chance," Tetsuya countered, his blue eyes flashing aggressively, "I will not be forced to stay here against my will!"
Aizen stepped forward, trapping the younger man between him and the wall behind him, and gazed sternly down at him through dangerously darkened brown eyes.
"You will not be able to escape. And if you will not agree to stay, then you will spend your time locked in here, which I know is a great burden to your heart, having been a prisoner before."
"Well, if the freedom I will gain by being cooperative means being your plaything and being used as you like, then I will gladly suffer this! I will not betray my family to serve you! I may not remember you, but it is clear enough to me that you betrayed your own kind and came here, making plans to overthrow the king whom I am sworn to serve!"
"You claim allegiance to that family that you don't even remember? To a king whose face you have never seen? One who granted you transcendant power, then let those vicious men lock you away and keep those powers from you for years on end? Think of the pain you suffered, Tetsuya, because it is obvious that that has come back to haunt you. "
"And you will end that pain by imprisoning me here instead? You still deny me my powers..."
"No, you lost your powers because you are a shinigami bearing the weight of being a young transcendant. There is every reason to believe that with rest and care, your reiatsu will stabilize and your powers will return."
"What does that matter if I am to be locked up in a cage?" argued the noble, "You pretend to concern yourself with me, but all you care about is what is in it for you! So, I will save you the trouble of asking. I will not obey you, not ever, Aizen Sousuke! You can lock me away here and you can torment me to the end of my days, but you will never make me obey you...not EVER!"
The cell went silent for a moment as Aizen continued to glare down into Tetsuya's seething eyes, considering his words.
"What would you say if I told you that I can give you something that your noble family can't...something that your devoted king won't?"
"What do you mean?" Tetsuya asked, frowning, "What can you offer me?"
Aizen's lips snaked into a lovely, wicked smile.
"I, like you, am a transcendant," he explained, meeting Tetsuya's eyes meaningfully. There is no one better than me to help you grow your divine powers, Tetsuya. I will train you to use them to the best advantage."
"Do you not mean your best advantage?" Tetsuya asked dryly.
"I will, of course, use you at times. But you will be gaining something in return."
"I will not betray my own to gain power. I am not that kind of person, Aizen Sousuke. I don't need to remember myself to know that!"
"I don't doubt that," Aizen said, looking at the younger man with affection, "Very well, then, I will agree not to use you against the Gotei 13 or your family. Will that suit you?"
"I will not betray the king," Tetsuya said stiffly, "I may be a half blood, but I am not a traitor!"
"No, hardly that," Aizen agreed, "Very well. I offer you this. I will train you to use your divine powers and I will not ask you to act against your own. You will agree to remain here at Las Noches and to obey my every command that does not breach our agreement. You will return to my room, and when the seal on your core spirit center has been removed, you will consent to become my lover. You will submit to me, body, mind and heart until the end of the war, at which time we will choose our directions. At that time, you will have the choice to remain at my side or you may return home."
"And if I refuse?" Tetsuya asked, "Will you keep me imprisoned here? Will you kill me, Aizen Sousuke?"
Aizen let out a soft, amused breath and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
"What does that matter to you, Tetsuya?" he said, smirking, "You know that if you want to master those powers, there is no one but me who will allow it. Gin told me that among the information he found was a communication between your elders stating that even though you had reached manifestation, you were to be given no help in becoming stronger. And the king who gave you those powers will not come here to help you. You know in your heart that you must become stronger. I see it in your eyes. Now, why would you choose then to sit here, cowered in the cold corner of a cell and powerless, when I can help you to know every part of yourself?"
He took a step back, leaving Tetsuya reeling for a moment, before he recovered and remained with his back against the cell wall.
"Perhaps you need some time to consider, Kuchiki Tetsuya. But as you do, remember this...only I have an interest in training you, only I have the power and knowledge to do so. And I have not asked you to become a traitor. I ask only that you agree to obey me while you are my prisoner."
He waited for a moment as Tetsuya absorbed the words.
"I will leave you now. You and Arashi are safe here. And I will be back. You can summon Miki to see to your needs by speaking his name."
Tetsuya watched in silence as Aizen turned away, and he had to clench his jaw to keep his silence.
Although I ache so much to feel that power grow within me, I do not trust this man. I must think this through carefully before giving in to his wishes.
He stiffened his resolve, knowing it was only right to give such an important matter due consideration.
But both men's eyes widened in surprise as the cell door began to close and Tetsuya's voice sounded, the words echoing lightly off the rock walls of the cells.
"Aizen Sousuke...I accept your offer."