Chapter 2: The Jewel
"Good morning, Tama-san," said the nurse, smiling sweetly at the sleepily blinking, sapphire-eyed man who looked up at her from the hospital bed, "You look well today. Are you ready to get up and move around?"
The blue-eyed man nodded and accepted the dark haired, matronly woman's assistance in climbing out of bed and rising onto his unsteady legs. He rested a hand on the bed, gathering himself, then very slowly lightened his grip until all of the weight was on his legs. They still shook slightly, but he crossed the floor in careful steps, then moved out into the hallway, with the nurse at his side, chatting gaily as they made a small circuit around the building.
"You're doing much, much better, Tama-san," the nurse praised him, "Considering the troubling head injury you had, you are making a grand recovery. But Doctor Furudo is still uncertain as to why you are still not speaking to us. I mean, we all love the strong, silent type, Tama-san, dear, but I know I for one, would love to hear the sweet voice that goes with that angelic face of yours."
Tama gave her a gentle smile and continued to walk with her towards the front door of the facility.
"I think we'll go outside today," the nurse went on, leading him out the entrance doors, "The garden is lovely with everything in bloom...so many flowers and the birds singing for us. Oh, and the koi pond is done and we have some really big koi in there now."
Tama's smile widened at the sight of the beautiful garden, and managed to traverse the entire trail alongside the nurse before turning back towards the rehabilitation center.
"Keiko-san," said a male voice, "could you please look this over and give me an approval?"
"Oh, of course," said the nurse, "Wait here for a moment, Tama-san," she said, leaving the young man beside the koi pond.
Tama gazed down into the water, confused at his reflection, which didn't match the dreams he always had about himself. Although his blue eyes were correct, he was sure that his hair had been darker, that his features had been more finely carved and that his lower abdomen had borne a rounded area. He knew well that the name they called him was one that his nurse had made up to match his bright, gemlike eyes, but he couldn't understand the rest. He blinked slowly, watching the fish for a time, then looking up to watch the sakura petals float down on the breeze. He caught his breath softly as the face and voice of another man entered his mind.
"I love you. I will come back to you. You are always in my heart, Tetsuya, and that is a protection that remains with us, even when we are apart."
Tetsuya, he thought, looking down at his reflection again, Is that my name? It felt like my name when spoken by the raven-haired man from my dreams. But I just don't know.
He was distracted out of his thoughts by a flicker of movement in the brush and the intense feeling of being watched. He returned to looking into the water, but used his peripheral vision to watch the bushes, and inhaled softly in surprise when a black, equine face poked through and looked at him through bright blue eyes like his own.
What a beautiful horse...
He continued to study the beast out of the corner of an eye as the horse moved cautiously about the brush, then stopped a few feet away, looking at him intently. Tama slowly raised his eyes and met the horse's, and froze there, with the two of them staring at each other.
Tetsuya, whispered a wispy voice in his head.
The young man came to his feet, gasping in surprise at the sound.
What was that? he thought, his eyes still glued to the horse.
He heard the voice again, but couldn't make out the words. The only thing clear to him was the name that the voice had called him.
Is it that the horse is somehow speaking into my mind? Am I hearing things?
He stiffened as the voice sounded in his mind again.
He strained to understand the words that followed, but had made no progress, when the nurse's footsteps approached him, and he turned his head to greet her. He was sure that she would say something about the tall black horse, but as she arrived, she only continued her chatter and started to take him by the arm to lead him back to the rehabilitation center.
"Sorry to leave you alone Tama-san. But we'll just...T-tama-san, is something wrong?"
He had stopped moving and was staring at the tall, black horse when it occurred to him.
She does not see him? He is right in front of us and she does not see him? How can this be? Is he really there at all?
He quivered as the wispy voice spoke to him again.
"Oh, Tama-san, was the walking a bit too much this time? I am sorry if I pushed you too hard. Come with me. I will give you a nice long back and leg rub. I'll set you right again. I promise I will."
Why can't she see you? Tama wondered.
This time, the voice in his head said something more he could hear clearly.
She is human and we are not. We are...
"Come along now, sweet Tama-san," said the nurse, turning him away, "I'll give you that rubdown and then we'll have lunch."
Another brief flash of memory assaulted him as he walked back towards the center with the nurse.
Easy now...I will give you a good rubdown and a well-earned treat after. That was impressive work, Arashi.
"A-arashi!" Tama gasped suddenly, startling the nurse.
"Tama-san!" she said excitedly, "Tama-san, you spoke! That is good, Tama-san! Are you remembering someone you know?"
"Arashi," he repeated, looking back at the gardens, but not seeing the tall horse.
"Who is Arashi?" the nurse asked.
"You have a horse," Keiko repeated, nodding, "What else can you tell me?"
He thought for a moment.
"Tet...suya," he said slowly, "My n-name is...Tetsuya...I think."
Keiko's smile was radiant.
"Tetsuya," she said, touching his face lightly, "What a lovely name. Come back inside, Tetsuya-san. We will find the doctor and work on helping you find your way home."
Tetsuya nodded and continued with the nurse towards the center, but stopped again as they passed inside.
"What is it?" asked Keiko, tilting her head slightly, "Did you remember something more?"
"If things go ill, go to Karakura Town and entrust yourself to Kurosaki Ichigo. In my absence, his presence is the safest place for you to be."
"Kurosaki Ichigo," he managed, "I need to find him."
"Kurosaki Ichigo," repeated the nurse, frowning, "I don't know him. I do know of a doctor named Kurosaki Isshin in Karakura Town, not far from here, Tetsuya-san. I will go to Karakura Town when my shift is over and see if he might be some relation. It is a slim chance, maybe. But I don't know anyone else to try. But I will see if this doctor knows Kurosaki Ichigo."
"Arigatou, Keiko-san," Tetsuya said, leaning wearily against her as they walked back to his room together.
"I told you I am fine!" Ichigo snapped at his younger sister, "I've got other places I can go for such a minor thing."
"Don't be silly, Ichi-nii," Yuzu said sweetly, "We are right near Dad's clinic, see? He will fix that cut right up."
She looked at him quizzically.
"How did you get that cut anyway?"
"Eh...fell down," he lied, not wanting to explain about the hollow, "I told you, I'm fine. I can just..."
"That's okay, Ichi-nii! We're here," she said, pushing him through the doorway.
She ran to the receptionist.
"Is Dad busy?" she asked excitedly, "Ichi-nii fell and cut up his arm, see?"
"It's not that bad," Ichigo said, blushing, "but she wouldn't let up and we were close, so..."
"Not to worry, Yuzu-chan," said the receptionist, "It just so happens that Kurosaki-san had a cancellation. Go with Mika-chan and she will put you in a room."
"Thanks," said Ichigo, chuckling.
He started to follow the nurse down the hallway, but paused as a feminine voice sounded at the front desk.
"I am Iwanishi Keiko. I work at the rehabilitation center on the edge of Karakura Town. We have a patient, a young man, who was struck by a car six months ago and remembers little. He only just remembered his name and spoke it to us today. He did remember that he was looking for a Kurosaki Ichigo. I didn't know him, but I knew of Kurosaki Isshin, and I wondered..."
"I am Kurosaki Ichigo," Ichigo said, walking back to the reception desk, "You say that this guy was looking for me? He was injured six months ago?"
"Yes," said Keiko, "He was unconscious for some time. Then, he woke, but he could not speak or even walk. He came to the rehabilitation center four months ago, and he has slowly been recovering from his injuries."
"What is his name?" asked Ichigo, hardly daring to hope.
"Well," said the nurse, smiling, "We've been calling him Tama, because of his beautiful blue eyes. But today, he said that he thinks that his name is Tetsuya."
"Tetsuya?" Ichigo repeated, "I do know him. We know of each other through a mutual friend and he was supposed to meet with me six months ago. I've been wondering why he never showed up. Can you take me to him now?"
"Of course. He will be so relieved to finally be able to meet someone who can answer some of his questions."
"Please, take me to him now," said Ichigo.
"Wait a minute, mister!" said Yuzu, grabbing his arm, "You are not going anywhere until that arm gets fixed up."
Keiko laughed and smiled at Yuzu.
"Don't worry, I will take care of your brother's injury myself. But Tetsuya-san is very anxious to find his way to you, and I do so want to see that sweet young man find his way home, you know?"
"I'm on it," said Ichigo, turning with Keiko and hurrying out the door, "We've been real worried about Tetsuya. It'll be a relief to know he's okay, and that we've found him."
Tetsuya rested quietly in his bed, still thinking about the lovely black stallion he had seen in the garden.
"Arashi," he whispered, remembering.
He wondered if the horse was still outside and slipped out of his bed, then walked over to the window. He slid the window open and breathed in the fresh, evening air, feeling relief that soon he would know himself again...that he would be among friends and family who could end his confusion and set him right once more. Tetsuya startled as an equine face appeared suddenly at the window, pushing against the screen and huffing soft breath through it.
"Hello again, Arashi," he said, removing the screen and patting the horse's neck, "I am glad you came back. I have so many questions. I think I am hearing your thoughts. Is that right?"
Arashi nodded and stamped.
"But...except for my name, it's all a bit garbled. Maybe try one word, or just a few...until I can understand more."
"You sense danger?" Tetsuya asked softly, "Where? From whom?"
He heard voices at the nurse's desk and walked to the door to his room, leaving the stallion at the window.
Tetsuya! Tetsuya, don't!
"I have been looking for my brother everywhere," said a male voice to the evening nurse, "I heard that you have a patient who was injured by a car six months ago. I must see him, in case the man is my brother."
"What is your brother's name?" asked the nurse.
"Tetsuya. Kuchiki Tetsuya."
"Kuchiki Tetsuya," Tetsuya repeated, frowning.
He wondered why the man's voice sent a chill through him.
Tetsuya! Come. It is him! It is Orochi!
"Orochi?" Tetsuya whispered, peeking out at the man.
If the sound of his voice had unnerved him, the sight of the coldly handsome, black-eyed man left Tetsuya numb with fear. He turned and fled, still not knowing why his instincts told him the man would hurt him...only knowing that he was sure the man would. He ran to the window and climbed out and onto the black stallion's back.
Hold on! Arashi's voice hissed in his mind as the stallion turned and broke into a gallop, fleeing the center as the lights went on in Tetsuya's room and loud voices rose up behind them. A dark form flew out the window and sent a powerful flash of blue fire after the retreating horse. Arashi ran faster as the man followed in blazing flash steps, firing more blasts that struck the trees and ground all around them.
Arashi ran into the trees, and weaved his way through them, changing direction suddenly, several times as he fought to elude their attacker. Still pursued by the other man, the stallion broke out of the trees and moved to his maximum speed, trying to outdistance the pursuing noble.
"I have you now, you half-blood whore!" Orochi snarled, launching a kido blast at Tetsuya's back.
Arashi turned, evading the blast, but shied and pulled up as a car appeared on the road and swerved to miss them. The vehicle screeched to a halt, and a ginger-haired youth tumbled out.
"Tetsuya!" he cried, "Tetsuya, it's me! It Kurosaki Ichi..."
He broke off, exploding into shinigami form as Orochi closed in and fired a kido blast at Tetsuya from point-blank range. Orochi froze as Ichigo set himself between the shinigami and his quarry.
"You know who I am," he said, frowning, "I know you do. I don't know why you're trying to hurt Kuchiki Tetsuya, but I'm not going to allow it. Back down now, or I will loose enough power to kill you."
Orochi's eyes glinted wickedly in the darkness, and his lips curled with fury, but he knew better than to challenge the youth directly. He turned his glare on Tetsuya.
"You may think that you have escaped me, Tetsuya, but let me assure you, it doesn't end here. Watch your back, Cousin."
He disappeared in a flash step, leaving Ichigo and Arashi and Tetsuya staring at each other. Keiko's voice sounded suddenly from near the stopped car.
"Oh kami! You need to breathe!" she cried, leaning over Ichigo's abandoned human body.
"Oh crap," sighed Ichigo, pulling out the memory altering device that Rukia had given him.
He held it in front of the nurse's face and activated it, making her eyes go blank for a moment. She shook her head to clear it as Ichigo slipped back into his body, and Tetsuya and Arashi backed into the shadows.
"It's okay now," said Ichigo, setting Keiko back on her feet, "Go on home."
He watched as the woman got back in her car and drove away, then turned to Tetsuya and Arashi.
"You're Tetsuya?" he asked.
"And you are Kurosaki Ichigo?"
"Yeah," said Ichigo, "Rukia and me have been real worried about you. We didn't know where you were."
"Well...I am glad you found me, Ichigo-san," said Tetsuya, "I only remember my name, yours, and Arashi's. I don't understand what has happened to me."
"It's okay," said Ichigo, "I'm gonna take you to someone who can help you. But you should take off your gigai so the humans won't see you."
"Gomen nasai," said Tetsuya, blinking cutely, "Gigai?"
"Ah," chuckled Ichigo, "I see you and I have some catching up to do. Come on, Tetsuya-san. I'll take you somewhere safe."