goat_dono: (DEVIL SHUU)
[personal profile] goat_dono
Title: The Chamber
Part: Two
Author: [personal profile] goat_dono
Fiction rating: M (graphic suicide, self-harm, serial murder, blade injury, war crimes, demonic possession, religious themes)
Word count: 2986
Music: 菅野 よう子 - date of rebirth
Summary: Some doors are best left unopened.

Disclaimer: Bleach is the property of Tite Kubo. I do not use its characters, settings and/or events for any profitable purpose.


****************************************************************************************


Over all people have I surrendered thee the power, said God to the Angel of Death, only not over this one which has received freedom from death through the Law.

Midrash Tanḥuma


~xXx~


One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed.

Revelation 13:3


~xXx~


He staggers and reels, overcome by vertigo, and collapses against the clammy wall; he scrabbles along it unsteadily, dragging his strange, improvised weapon by the chain.

The remains of his latest victim, decapitated and dismembered, lie in the patch of moonlight that falls through the barred window high in the vaulted ceiling. A lake of dark blood slowly spreads around the corpse.

Eventually, he reaches the massive door set into one end of the vast stone chamber. The other end of the protracted space simply vanishes into the distance, cloaked in an absolute, impenetrable darkness that he does not dare explore. He slumps down with his back against the rough oakwood planks and stares apprehensively at the body.

He hates this place. Time moves almost imperceptibly here, with little difference between night and day. The only temporal marker is the harvest moon, which appears, framed by the high, barred window, every year on the night of his death.

His birth.

He has been interred here for over fifty years, plagued by terrifying illusions and bouts of unbearable vertigo, and a persistent, irresistible compulsion to kill. Despite his seeming captivity, it is a simple matter for him to leap up and slip like mist through the bars, and he does, whenever his murderous urges overtake the restraint of his fear.

Sometimes, when he passes through, he emerges in shadow lands— imaginary places that bear no resemblance to reality; planes of dubious existence composed entirely of colors, or sensations, or nothing at all. But other times, he finds himself in a familiar, squalid district in the south of Rukongai, a dire predator invisible in the gloom of a chilly autumn night.

His preference is for children, of which there is no shortage in the district; they are weak, and easily overlooked, and he steals them away to slaughter, discarding their mutilated bodies in back alleys and trash pits. But no matter how many he takes he is never sated, because his prey is not Human, and only Human deaths can appease his lust.

He longs to return to the world of the Living, where once he stood upon high places and reveled at the desolation left in his wake. He remembers who he is, and the one he serves; he recalls the wails of Human sorrow at his approach, their prayers and pleas, their sacrifices in exchange for the lives of their offspring.

There are beings in this world that are drawn to him because he remembers such things, and they covet his memories. But he cannot comprehend them, no matter how intently he watches, and schemes, and imagines. And so, he is caught off-guard when the gaunt figure stumbles unexpectedly out of the endless void, clutching a naked blade. He panics, and strikes it down without thought or warning.

His scythe bites deep at the base of the skull, and lodges in vertebrae; he wrenches it free and lops off both arms before the body even hits the ground. Then he stumbles back and cowers, trembling with agitation, until he is confident that the intruder is dead.

Instantly he is overcome by something he has never experienced; a horrifying sense of his own mortality, like a suicide that has crossed the point of no return. He sprawls weakly against the door, eyes fixed on the moonlit expanse of blood. It is his nature to kill. Why does this death affect him so strangely?

Inside. There is something inside. Soundlessly, it calls out to him, and it is all he can hear.

It speaks his name, bringing him abruptly to his senses, and he leaps forward to snatch up the right arm, cleanly amputated mid-humerus. The marrow is luminescent, and from it curls a glimmering, opaline tendril. He touches the enticing substance and it tickles his finger like a maddening itch.

It is pure reishi, the robust spiritual essence of a buranku, a vagrant Human soul, and suddenly he knows: this is what he needs to escape the torturous delusion of his unnatural existence. This is what he can use to manifest a physical form and pass back into the Living world.

Greedily he consumes the substance, inhaling it like a delicious scent, clutching at the moonbeams in which it swirls like poisonous smoke. It fills him just as eagerly, quickly suffusing his entire being, and sends an explosion of indescribable agony tearing through his belly like the blade of a sword. He throws down the limb and falls to his knees, and screams with laughter at the pain, delighted by the realness of sensations that he has not known for so long.

His form solidifies, not into flesh, but something scintillating and volatile, like the glowing embers of a smoldering wildfire, needing only a breath of wind to ignite its fury. But it is real, tangible, and with it he can cross over; once again he will rise, the spirit of Destruction, bringer of drought and madness, and stretch forth his blade to reap the lives of Men.

But first— he must escape this chamber.

Now burdened by mass, he can no longer leap effortlessly up to the high window. He hurls himself at the heavy door and hammers his new-formed fists against the rough-hewn wood. The pounding forms a terrifying cacophony with his screeching laughter, but the door does not open.

In his growing frenzy of pain and frustration he doesn't notice the ghostly filaments that drift from the severed spine of the corpse, the gentle cascade of fluid flesh that burbles from the stumps of its arms. He laughs and screams, and the sound masks the faint whisper of re-composition; his voice reverberates on the stone walls and obscures the tingle of reiatsu charging the air. Behind him, the tendrils grow thicker and more solid; the neck regenerates, head and torso drawn together by ethereal threads. Swiftly, silently, the body becomes whole again.

It is the smell that finally alerts him; the essence of life, so alien in this place as to be unrecognizable. He spins about and shrieks in astonished recognition, flickering and shimmering as his tangible reality falters.

No! he shouts. It can't be!

The emaciated figure of a teenage boy clambers to its feet, stretches, and yawns, as if waking from a pleasant nap. His body is filthy but undamaged, except for radiant scars that neatly encircle his arms and neck and cross his belly, and his right eye, which is blind. He has not aged in the fifty-odd years since they last saw one another.

“Ruaḥ ha-Mashḥit,” the boy calls in a clear, quiet voice.

The sound of his name is so lovely, so beguiling, but he knows that spoken by those lips it means only danger. The boy holds up a pike-mounted kusarigama, with two blades set in opposition. His eyes follow the long black chain as it snakes across the floor from the boy's hand to the end of his own weapon, now identically double-bladed, and lying just out of his reach.

His mind screams for him to lunge for it, but his intent is easily read. Faster than thought, the boy yanks his weapon away and suddenly looms over him, staring down with his single, steely eye.

A shock of indescribable emotion overwhelms him as he realizes the scrawny youth possesses the masterful flash step of a Shinigami, and when he moves, his body sings like a blade.

The boy grabs a fistful of his swirling hair and roughly hoists him up against the door, his feet just clear of the ground, and drives the pike through his chest into the wood, impaling him in place. He falls limp, panting helplessly with pain and fear, black blood running down his legs.

Help me, Azra'il, his heart whispers.

The boy flashes a malevolent smile.

“In the manner of your revelation, I, Twice-born, who hath charge concerning you, will gather you up and afterward return you unto your Creator.”

The second double-bladed scythe loops forward in a long, arcing cut, slashing through him like a blast of wind, and the tenuous form, the rogue soul, and the exquisite agony of being all vanish in an instant.


~xXx~


His chance bid for freedom lost, he fills the fetid air with a terrible, keening wail of anguish that is abruptly silenced by a hand that grips him by the throat. The boy jerks the pike out of his chest and shoves him contemptuously to the floor, where he lies, drained of both the stolen reishi and his own. After some time, he crawls into a dark corner and huddles there, clutching his head in a vain attempt to regain his equilibrium.

His tormentor stands in the pool of moonlight, examining the blades of the twin kusarigama, and speaks without looking at him.

"It's been long time, hasn't it, demon."

Dvija—

“That's not my name anymore.”

His shrill voice trails off into a whispered query, the answer to which he already knows.

Why are you still alive?

The boy's cold eye fixes on him, and he feels, fleetingly, as though his very thoughts are visible.

“You have no idea where you are, do you?”

I know you brought me here. You trapped me and put me in this prison.

"Prison?" A derisive snort serves as punctuation; a gesture indicates the emptiness that swallows the far end of the chamber. "You think this is a prison? One with walls that don't close and a door with no lock? This isn't a prison, demon, this is my inner world. This is the stronghold beneath the fortress of my consciousness. All these years, you've been lurking in the darkness of my soul, fueling my despair and waiting for a moment of weakness that you could take advantage of, right?"

The scornful words are heavily and carefully restrained. The boy knows that he is bolstered by malice, that enmity is the source of all his power. He senses the boy's vigilance and begins to feel more bold; crouching lower in the shadowy corner, he watches for a chance to attack.

I thought I would go mad in here without the lifeblood of Humans. It is my nature to kill, Dvija!

“That is not my name, demon.”

It was your name. Dvija Šutej, I remember it. I remember everything about you, Twice-born. I still possess your Human mind.

A long silence passes as the words sink in.

"You remember? You— the nightmares— "

He feels the air expectantly for a hostile response to his revelation, but there is no anger, only sadness.

"You kept them, didn't you. You kept my memories and brought them into this world. You arrogant fool. Do you know what will happen to me if someone finds out I remember my past life?"

I-I don't care. I can't stand the hunger. I have to go back to the world of the Living.

“No. You are a murderous abomination.”

What? He threw back his head and shrieked with laughter. An abomination? Me? I'm the one who found you when you were just another hapless orphan wandering the ruins! I gave you the resourcefulness to survive and the courage to join the nationalists and fight for your people! And when you died, I carried the flame of memory into your soul so you would not lose your strength! And you call me an abomination? You owe everything to me, Dvija!

"I don't owe you anything. You're no savior. You used me as as an instrument of death when I was just an innocent child. All the killings, the rapes, the torture— you did those things. You seized my mind and used my body, you forced me to be your accomplice. You thought my soul would be condemned to Hell for the things you made me do, and then your master would cut you free and send you back to the fields of war.

"But I was in my right mind when I died. You never took me over completely, and your foolish pride kept you from giving me up as an overly difficult target. That was your fundamental mistake— you never considered the tenacity of my sense of justice. You can't even fathom my determination to prevent you from re-entering the Living world and destroying the minds and lives of Humans, because I have free will, demon, and you do not."

Let me go, Dvija. Either let me go, or kill me.

“I can't.”

Why?

“I bound you to my soul. That's why you were dragged along when I was sent here. If I kill you it would destroy us both, and I've already lost enough because of you. My home, my family, my sanity, my life— I refuse to lose my soul as well.

“I will keep you bound for the term of my existence in this realm. And when I die my second death, I will carry you into the Dangai and trap you in the Kōryū for all eternity. You are the guilty one, and I will never forgive you.”

I don't care about your forgiveness. I'll break free, somehow.

“So what if you do? You won't get far, now that I'll be watching you.”

A moment of freedom is better than an eternity stuck in here. I'm so hungry, Dvija. I know you feel this hunger, too. You can't hide it. I know you want vengeance on whoever lured those hollows to your squad.

He hears a catch of breath; he feels the spark of animosity that flares in the boy's heart and knows that he has reached him.

Oh, yes. I was there with you that night. I could have helped you then, just like I can help you now. I can give you the power to find who did it and punish them. But you'll never have justice unless you set me free.

“I'll never set you free.”

That weapon you're holding— it's mine. I made it. But it changed when you touched it. It changed 'cause it's part of you, it was conceived inside your soul. The essence of that weapon is duplicity. Deception. It looks like it has a short range, but its true effect is realized at a distance. It's impossible to predict its motion, like a swallow in flight. With a weapon like that, you'd never be at a disadvantage. If you let me go, I'll give it to you. I'll give you the strength and the skill to wield it.

“I don't want to wield it.”

Really? You were ready to die because you lost your skill with the sword.

“I'm still ready to die. I don't fear death.”

You lie, Dvija. You fear death more than anything. You fear death because it comes to the innocent and the undeserving, the helpless. You fear the deaths of those who should live. And, you fear me, because I serve the Destroyer. That's why you despise me. To stand by and bear witness to my work is beyond your ability to endure, even though you know that death is part of life, that killing is my nature and my sanction. You keep me here, restrict me from serving my purpose, out of pure cowardice.

“The fact remains, demon, that this is a different world. Here, you don't have any purpose.”

You're wrong. My purpose has become very clear. You see, I'm the only hope you have to redeem yourself. If you want to be a Shinigami, your pious devotion to justice and protecting the innocent isn't enough. In order to survive, you're gonna need the ruthlessness of a predator. You'll have to embrace the urge to kill, just like you did in the Living world. You'll have to be willing to sacrifice everything in pursuit of your target. You'll never be able to do all that without me.

He regards his opponent brazenly from across the sepulchral space. The boy is still firmly in control of his anger, but his downcast eyes reveal a solemn resignation. He holds up the double-bladed scythes, glinting in the moonlight.

"I will never free you. Never. But I'll take your weapon, and I'll give you a choice in exchange. You can stay down here, or you can inhabit these blades."

Inhabit— the blades? For a moment, he is startled, distrustful. If I do it...does that mean...y-you'll take me to the world of the Living? You'll use me for vengeance?

"If I'm assigned to a Division, if I get sent to the Human world, if the situation warrants it, then yeah, I guess so."

Swear it, Dvija.

“I already told you, that is no longer my name.”

What is your name, then?

“Hisagi Shūhei.”

He laughs. All the old meaning is lost, I see. All right, swear to me, Hisagi Shūhei, that you'll honor your words. Swear to me that if I submit to you in the guise of this weapon, you'll release me to serve my true purpose. Swear that you'll honor the will of my Creator, who made me an agent of Death.

Stepping up to the door, the boy gently presses his hand against the ancient planks. With a rumble the huge portal opens just a crack, and lines of silvery moonlight appear around its edges. The boy peers intently through the slit between the door and its frame for a long moment before replying.

"I swear it. But you remember this. If you ever attempt to escape, or take control, or influence my mind in any way, I will sacrifice my own soul to utterly destroy you, without a second thought."

He attends solemly as the intimidating words echo into silence, and then his face breaks into a furtive smirk. Open the door, Hisagi Shūhei, he whispers, invisible in the shadows.

Open the door and free us both.


~xXx~


A/Ns:
"In the manner of your revelation..." is a paraphrase of Sura 32:11, the Qu'ran

Azra'il - an angel of Death
Dvija - "twice born," a high-caste Vedic follower whose life is governed by karma, also a Sanskrit given name
ha-Mashḥit - the Destroyer, an angel of Death, killer of the first-born of Egypt (Exodus 12:23)
kusarigama - chain sickle
ruaḥ - wind, spirit
Šutej - Croatian surname



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Part One
Part Two
Part Three


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February 2012

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