Disclaimer: Kubo Tite owns Bleach; Bleach owns my soul.
Description: Hard R. A story about identity. Can Ulquiorra’s allegiance ever waver? Can Ishida’s? Aizen, Gin, Tousen, Orihime, Zael-Apollo.
Warnings: Spoilers for Hueco Mundo arc, (mild) dark-fic-ness, (not overly explicit) sexual weirdness, mind fuckery, a hougyoku with erotic powers, and a long author’s note at the end.
A/N: This story, written the week chapter 272 appeared, begins with the presumption that Renji and Ishida were defeated by Zael-Apollo.
Helio82 from mediaminer.org and Quaedam from LJ get drabbles because they recognized the drabble and fic origins of this fic. I’m so happy because that means someone’s paying attention to my writing! Name your poison in a comment or write email@example.com
As long as you walk by my side, any enemy that may stand up to us… shall never exist. ~ Aizen, chapter 245
The phenomenon didn’t go unnoticed by Aizen’s surveillance crew until some hours later, but it was old gossip in the crafts cellars by the time Aizen, Gin, and Zael-Apollo had left Orihime’s room:
All through Hueco Mundo, for a short moment, some Hollow and a few Arrancar had fallen, conscious but disabled, with legs apart and arms spread wide. They’d risen to tell about bombardment with images and feelings that seemed not their own. Memories of a genocide. Shinigami with blank, professional faces who drew zanpakutou and slashed their swords through human children.
Some of these Hollow and Arrancar recognized the slaughter of the Quincy; most did not. Those who had fallen told those who hadn’t fallen that the strange mass paralysis meant that the enemy had a new weapon. A few wondered if Aizen was to be trusted anymore. A few recognized a sorrow as infinite as the desert sky of Hueco Mundo and knew why they had turned into bitter, angry spirits.
One Hollow, a fierce specimen with pinchers on her skull, a feared and respected spirit who, when raiding the Living World, liked to feast upon the souls of long-haired, wasp-waisted post-pubescent boys--she remembered with sudden clarity having been a Quincy girl in a small village. Her recently murdered spirit had hidden under a bed in a deserted house and waited for her family to return. They never returned…. This fierce Hollow hadn’t known about Soul Society as a child; she couldn’t know her sister and parents were there. Now, knowing that Aizen’s army opposed Soul Society’s army, the fierce Hollow doubted. Should she follow Aizen? Was there any way to see her family again?
The inhabitants of Las Noches, those most loyal to Aizen in all Hueco Mundo, didn’t doubt or fear, but every Arrancar who watched another Arrancar go through the fit of paralysis whispered the news around. Not a one reported the incident to Aizen. It would’ve been a report worthy of praise and reward because the paralysis incident was unprecedented, but the Arrancar seemed to sense that delaying discovery of the phenomenon would benefit all. Would the fallen Arrancar be destroyed for being weak? Would the rest be interrogated and threatened? Would Gin call his short sword on random Arrancar or blast at random unless Aizen got the information he wanted?
In the cloth-spinning and dress-making corner of the Las Noches crafts cellar, the ex-Quincy tailor told his comrades about his vision.
“The Quincy were a people of extraordinary abilities,” he said. “They were self-less and brave. They saved the souls of people outside their tribe. For this, they were slaughtered.”
The artisans gasped.
“Why are they speaking to Hueco Mundo now?” one asked. “Does it mean that the Quincy will rise again--maybe a new legion of Quincy under Aizen’s command?”
“He brags,” said one Arrancar. “As long as I’ve been in the cellar, he’s said this or that about the Quincy and how perfect that past was.” The Arrancar then addressed the tailor.
“C’mon. You were hundreds of separate souls once. They all suffered tragedies. Why aren’t these souls crying out for justice now too?”
“Many people have been killed in large groups over the course of human history,” one Arrancar observed. “Genocide is nothing special.”
“Oh aren’t you the one with the knowledge,” came one voice. “Is that true?” asked another.
“Genocide,” the tailor Arrancar said, “is a human past-time, yes. Humans have been killing one another since the beginning of time. But the Quincy--” He paused to bite a thread as he sewed. “The Quincy were the first tribe to be attacked from the Heavens and wiped out by killed by the gods.”
“Big deal,” one Arrancar said. “Why does the way one was murdered matter? What about the other souls inside us and inside you--?”
“All other souls inside me are voiceless,” he said. “Their accumulated bitterness can not match one Quincy tailor’s passion for revenge.”
“Against the Shinigami?” the artisans asked.
“Who else?” The Arrancar’s finger pinched details into the bodice of a white haori that had been ordered for the princess of Las Noches. “Only Aizen-sama can destroy them. Only Aizen-sama can silence Evil and put an end to the injustices of Soul Society.”
Zael-Apollo Grantz was glad that all cameras in his lab had been turned off when the visions came. He would never hear the end of it from the other Espada, and already Zael was considered undeserving of his rank because he disliked fighting. Noitra, especially, liked to bow over the fey little scientist and ask, “Zael, what color is your hair, really? Is your special ability scaring an opponent to death with the color of your hair?”
Footage of Zael-Apollo, Espada Number Eight, helpless on the ground? Unspeakable. And lucky-lucky be, his fraccion had been locked away in drawers during the incident and didn’t see a thing. That would’ve been embarrassing, even though the fraccion weren’t exactly what Zael would call beings of cognitive refinement.
Aizen-sama will be the only one who knows I fell on my back in the shape of a Quincy idiot. Five minutes of my looking at the laboratory ceiling? He’s going to definitely want to ask about that. He’s going to call any second now wanting to ask about that.
Zael tossed his hair and pushed up his glasses with his middle finger. The legs of his glasses were the remnant of his Hollow mask. Through the tinted lenses designed by Aizen, not only could Zael know the location of hougyoku at all times, he could record all number of trespasses: absent doorkeepers, slacking sparring instructors, grumpy fraccion calling Ichimaru-sama unpleasant names.
Not that any of it every matter to Aizen. Aizen would give paternal-like warnings to those who’d committed the worst infractions, but he never punished anyone.
Little liar told Aizen that the Quincy was dead.
It wasn’t fair, Zael felt, that the little Espada with the big green eyes wasn’t even going to get a warning. Zael knew that Ulquiorra had wanted to stop the experiment at any cost. Zael had told him that breaking the enclosure would stop it, but it seems that the enclosure was indeed unbreakable. What else would any smart Arrancar fearing for his life or powers have done in that situation? Ulquiorra’s solution had been clever. A dead Quincy. He’d probably kicked the kid in the balls to get him to pass out like that.
The first lie. Zael recognized it. Ulquiorra had a talent for lying to everyone else, so how could Aizen believe that one day Ulquiorra wouldn’t lie to him? Did Aizen really believe that Ulquiorra was that devoted? Did Aizen-sama believe that there existed one Arrancar who lacked self-interest and who would never, under any circumstances, betray him?
Zael snorted at his desk and swiveled around on his chair. Stupid, stupid Aizen-sama. The memory-cleansing during Ulquiorra hybridization had all been Aizen’s operation, and the king of Las Noches himself had configured every molecule of the process. Since Aizen invented the operation, it would have to be infallible, right?
Ha, ha, Aizen. Aizen hadn’t counted on the maliciousness of Zael-Apollo Grantz. Zael was the only one, besides Aizen, who knew of Ulquiorra’s high Quincy composition. Zael told Ulquiorra. That teensy weensy pebble of doubt should’ve made Ulquiorra more susceptible to Quincy memories during the experiment….
Ulquiorra probably didn’t remember anything now, the regenerating bastard, but had the experiment succeeded, Number Four would’ve been a Quincy-powered threat to Aizen. Aizen had wanted a loyal Quincy? Ha again. How could anyone with memories about what the Shinigami did to the Quincy be loyal to anyone? In any event, Zael was certain that Ulquiorra Shiffer, favorite toy and prized chosen sacrifice, suffered a good deal in the crystal container.
Aizen’s glasses didn’t record memories, and for that, Zael-Apollo was thankful. Not because it kept one dimension of existence still beyond Aizen’s manipulation but because Zael just didn’t want anyone to see what he remembered.
Memories had always been clear, no matter how much Zael tried to avoid them. He had no love for the strange tribe and their charm bracelets, thank you. But, during the experiment, thanks to the messed-up Quincy energy that tainted the whole palace--the memories had been relived in full color and loud sounds. With thoughts and feelings of the past thrown in for good measure. And the effect had been merciless.
Zael’s sister, a beautiful girl but an idiot, danced towards the Shinigami with open arms, and Ilforte, a smart boy but a total bastard, ran off in the opposite direction, leaving Zael-Apollo alone in the house.
Alone. Alone for the rest of his life.
Unlike many hiding children who were discovered and killed shortly after their parents, Zael lived to grow a long and prosperous life. He hadn’t been killed by the Shinigami, but he wished for years that he had been.
During that long life, I believed that bravest thing I ever did was deciding to live when I wanted to die. I chose to go on. Yey me. I knew my people had been destroyed and fuck that, I let it go. Or I thought I’d let it go.
Zael had died peacefully one night, next to his snoring spouse (hideous woman, he remembered with a wince), and became a typical ghost.
It was only after bobbing like a balloon to the ceiling that he saw the panorama of what his life had been.
Denial. Day after day of self-interest and little regret. No memory, at least no willed memory of the brother and sister who, despite being pains in the ass, he had loved.
I loved Ilforte once. Isn’t that amazing? That mindless bimbo who I now despise. Here’s Aizen, this powerful and gorgeous man who I think I love even at this moment… The Quincy child I was had an attachment to his family that even surpassed--
Zael-Apollo Grantz cleared his throat and stuck his fingers under his lenses to wipe at the fog.
No wonder I became a miserable stinking Hollow.
“Put it on,” said Ulquiorra to Ishida.
“That?” Ishida didn’t understand. “It’s a woman’s bracelet.”
Ulquiorra looked at the silvery chain in his hand. “Zael-Apollo designed it specifically for Inoue Orihime so it’s too small for you to wear.” He offered the bracelet to Ishida again. “Here, hold it then.”
Ishida didn’t want to touch Ulquiorra, but the transfer was made with a light brushing of fingertips. Ulquiorra slipped the bracelet over Ishida’s hand, and the chain fell as far as the Quincy’s second knuckles.
“Is the Quincy still non-transparent?” he asked of Orihime. “I mean, can you see him?”
Orihime’s eyes were huge and confused. “Yes.”
“I don’t,” said Ulquiorra. “The moment he put it on your Quincy friend became invisible to me. Because I have superior sensing ability I can detect his reiatsu, but I can’t see his body.”
“And?” asked Ishida.
“Zael-Apollo was right. Quincy make-up inverts the power of the bracelet. It was designed specifically to make Inoue Orihime detectable by Arrancar alone; it was not supposed to work for whoever wore it.”
Ishida thought he should bolt. This instant. Run past the guards, run through the corridors where lower-level Arrancar wouldn’t see him. But he couldn’t leave without Inoue-san. And Ulquiorra was standing next to her--Ulquiorra’s Espada speed had to be greater than his own.
“When I came in here, without announcing myself--” Ulquiorra gave a glance to Orihime as if apologizing. Ishida narrowed his eyes. The monster wouldn’t be apologizing, would he? “When I came in here,” said Ulquiorra, “both of you could see me, is that correct?”
“Yes,” said Ishida and Orihime in unison.
No point lying about it, Ishida figured. Orihime had jumped at the sight of Ulquiorra, and Ishida was sure that he himself had made some startled gesture.
“But… but….” Orihime was frowning now. “Would you explain again why the bracelet isn’t hiding you?”
Ulquiorra lowered his eyes for a moment. He raised them again and said, “Obviously, because I am not a Quincy.”
“But that little boy,” began Orihime. “One time you--”
“Your friend’s Quincy-ness,” interrupted Ulquiorra, “did not have a significant effect upon me during the experiment.”
“And no Arrancar-ness”--Ishida emphasized the word as if it tasted bad--“got into me.”
“Aizen-sama would want to check that, as well as whether or not you have reservoirs of Quincy power left and can still channel spiritrons to the best of your ability--”
Ishida clutched his Quincy medallion. The bracelet Ulquiorra had given him clinked against it. “Of course I can.”
“If you can, then Aizen-sama will want to repeat the experiment,” Ulquiorra said. “If you can’t.…” Again another seemingly apologetic look at Orihime. “Then he will kill you.”
Orihime gasped. “But he sent my other friends back to the Living World!”
“Ishida Uryuu has too much information about the hougyoku; he was inside the enclosure it created, and in some ways that is like being at the core of the hougyoku itself.”
“I don’t know anything,” Ishida lied. “I don’t remember anything about being inside there.”
“You could still have untapped data in your mind or you could be lying to me at this moment. In any case, I want you to use that bracelet to escape Las Noches.”
Neither Orihime nor Ishida had seen that statement coming. They both knew Ulquiorra as a liar, though, so they hesitated to feel hope. Ishida could feel the absence of hope in his chest. His mind, though, was alert. An opportunity has presented itself.
“I’m not leaving without Inoue-san.”
“I’m afraid that cannot be,” said Ulquiorra. “Aizen-sama will forgive me for letting the Quincy escape. Allowing my main charge to escape with him would be treason.”
“So I’m not important? So Aizen could let me go just like that?”
“Understand this, Quincy. I’m doing this out of self-interest. My kind are beings of self-interest. We do not soften or change under the influence of your human memories or your Quincy powers. I am Ulquiorra Shiffer, Espada Number Four….
Ishida was starting to believe what Ulquiorra was saying.
“And my reasoning,” Ulquiorra continued, “for letting you escape is that, even though I know you can’t change me into a Quincy, the experiment will no doubt be performed again, and I have no interest in participating in such a useless humiliation. Further--” Ulquiorra’s eyebrow-less forehead wrinkled as he looked from Ishida to Orihime.
We must look freaked out, Ishida thought.
“There is also the possibility that proximity to you may exacerbate whatever small remnants of you” --Ulquiorra looked blankly at Ishida--“remain in my spirit body. I am regenerating my neurons and significant self, but….”
“I don’t want you in me either,” said Ishida, and he paused, blushing at the double meaning of that statement. “But like I said before, I’m not going anywhere without Inoue-san.”
“Ishida-kun.” Orihime began in a pleading tone. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“I know exactly what I’m saying. I’m staying here. I’ll offer myself to serve in Aizen’s army. I won’t lose sight of you. I--”
“He said you were going to be killed!”
“I’m the one who is going to save you!” Ishida said in a sharp voice.
Orihime answered him just as sharply. “I’m the one who’s going to save myself. I have a purpose here in Las Noches, and I will save you and Kurosaki-kun and everyone else.” Her face was relaxing out of its stern look. “I will save the world. I know I will. Trust me. Can you trust me?”
Ishida looked into her brown eyes and could. He didn’t want to, but he could. The two held one another’s gaze for a long moment, and it occurred to Ishida that he had never looked for so long into another person’s eyes. Trust me, she says, trust me.
“Save the world,” Ulquiorra repeated without a trace of sarcasm in his voice. “Aizen-sama uses that phrase often.”
Ishida broke his look with Orihime to glare at Ulquiorra. “Aizen slaughtered his fellow Shinigami in Soul Society,” he snapped. “I don’t know why you don’t believe he’s going to turn on the Arrancar as well.”
“And I don’t understand why you want to stay and upset this girl with your death. In your world, you would have a chance of seeing her again.”
Orihime looked at Ishida and her eyes said he had to go.
But he still didn’t want to go.
“Now,” she said. “Go now.”
She reached for him, and when Ishida felt the tug on his sleeves, he thought that she was drawing him closer for a goodbye hug. Instead she pulled hard enough to bring her face close to his and--
She kissed him.
He would wonder, many times later, if she had kissed him out of pity. If she had kissed him because she’d felt what was happening in the other room and instinctively had wanted to restore his sense of manliness. He would wonder if the kiss held hope for more kisses, if it was a promise. A girl’s first kiss--that had to mean something, right? He would wonder how much the kiss could mean since she still--no doubt--cared for Kurosaki, not him.
But for the moment her slightly parted lips rested on his, and the kiss refreshed his soul.
He knew that the kiss was not goodbye.
When they pulled apart (she moved away first and only then did Ishida realize that he had been holding her by the shoulders), Orihime looked as surprised as Ishida felt.
“Save the world….” Ulquiorra, unimpressed by the kissing, was still considering the curiosity of Orihime’s remark. “Go now, Quincy, before Aizen gives me a direct order about where to take you.”
Ishida still hesitated.
It was a humiliation to beg anything of Ulquiorra, and Ishida still didn’t trust the Espada, but there were all these Arrancar around who seemed so crass, and then there was Aizen who Ishida just knew was a pervert.
“Ulquiorra,” Ishida began. “Will you not let….” His voice was too soft, and he had to start again so it would be comprehensible.
Ulquiorra stared at him.
“Please don’t let anything happen to her.” Ishida wanted to bolt before looking at Inoue-san again and before the emotion showed in his eyes. “Please protect her.”
Ulquiorra’s face, as always, showed no read-able response.
And Ishida flew out of the room in a wind of hirenkyaku.
Orihime and Ulquiorra stood next to one another for a short time, neither saying a word. When Ulquiorra turned to tell her that he was going to leave her room to see Aizen, he noticed the tears in her eyes. “Friendships weaken human beings,” he said and jutted his chin forwards. Was the girl going to expect him to now be her friend? “Imagine if he had stayed here and was killed. You’d be crying harder.”
Orihime asked Ulquiorra. “Will Aizen punish you?”
“No,” said Ulquiorra. “Not Aizen. I may have my arm ripped off by Tousen-sama, though.”
Orihime looked at her hands, the ones that had healed Grimmjow. “Thank you. Thank you so much for saving Ishida-kun. If there’s anything I can do to help--”
“I don’t need your help,” Ulquiorra said. “Among the Espada, I am unique in one ability. I can regenerate myself.”
And re-making himself was exactly what Ulquiorra planned to do for the next few days. He walked away from his charge and her undisguised affection for him and informed the communicator on the wall that if anyone wanted him, he would be in Aizen-sama’s quarters.
One would expect Ichimaru Gin to assume a selfish, space-dominating sleep position, one with far-flung arms and with legs spread as wide as his grin. Gin was a man who didn’t reveal much about himself, though, and that showed while he slept.
When Ulquiorra walked into the room, he noted that Gin’s sleep position rarely varied: He was curled up, embryo-style. Guarded, even though asleep. His hands folded into a flat pillow under his head even though Aizen’s giant bed was crowded with all manner and sizes of pillows.
Aizen-sama had once said that he slept with hands as pillows because of his days in the Rukongai, and a displeased Gin had disagreed with that evaluation. “If I still kept to the habits of poverty,” Gin had said, “I would be charging you by the minute for time spent on my knees.”
It had taken Ulquiorra, who was intelligent but ignorant of culture beyond Las Noches, a few days to figure out what Gin meant by that remark. Someone who exchanges sex for another service. How was Gin different now?
Gin was a light sleeper, so Ulquiorra moved silently past the bed and removed his long coat.
“Anything?” came Aizen’s voice from behind a wall of white drapery.
Ulquiorra knew what he was talking about.
“I couldn’t see his memories,” Ulquiorra said. “I couldn’t see anything.”
Ulquiorra could tell that Aizen believed him. Or if Aizen doubted him, it wasn’t a serious matter for the king of Las Noches.
“Ah, that’s because you’re special, Ulquiorra.” Aizen, wearing a light kimono, emerged from behind the room divider. “Your unique consciousness dominates any reishi that might interfere with your spirit body. The Quincy--now, he wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped.”
“I take it that you don’t mind him already being outside the perimeters of Las Noches and running towards Garganta.”
“I told you I trusted you with this project,” Aizen said. “Letting the Quincy go was a creative move.”
“Creative?” Ulquiorra stood a long length of bedroom away from Aizen. His words were just loud enough to be heard but not loud enough to disturb Gin.
Aizen smiled. “You mean you weren’t trying to get rid of what infected my army?”
“The Quincy experiment triggered responses all over Hueco Mundo.” Aizen removed his kimono and stood, broad-chested, olive-skinned and nude, before Ulquiorra. “No one, surprisingly, has reported the phenomenon yet, and I expect there must be some trepidation in the ranks. I was considering killing in Quincy in some public display to restore the army’s faith in me and show that no enemy could stand before us but--”
“I let him go,” said Ulquiorra. “You will forgive me for that?”
“Nonsense, not to worry,” said Aizen. He moved towards Ulquiorra in a stride that was both regal and familiar. “Not to worry. The Hollow and Arrancar who experienced disorientation during the experiment will not suffer a repeat occurrence, and they will assume the problem was taken care of.”
“I didn’t want a repeat of the experiment,” Ulquiorra confessed. His face was expressionless as Aizen brought his hands to his sash and unbound it.
“I don’t blame you,” Aizen said. “There would not have been another experiment, though. The Quincy was weak. Even despite his little resurrection after the experiment, I could tell right away--he’d given you no extra power.” Aizen unzipped Ulquiorra’s coat, and it fell away, revealing the slight but muscular torso tattooed with the number 4.
Ulquiorra could see that torso reflected in one of the huge mirrors strategically placed around the bedroom. Lithe-ness. Was this a characteristic common across the spirit bodies of Arrancar with Quincy soul?
Aizen leaned forward and kissed the number 4 on his favorite Espada’s chest. “My only concern, Ulquiorra, was whether or not your memories had been affected. Taking upon a store of Quincy memories--well, that would’ve been unpleasant for you, wouldn’t it have?”
Ulquiorra’s gaze swept past all the mirrors and located the one small, high window in the room. Darkness there. A moon he now recognized as rotating in the opposite direction as the one in the Living World.
“You watched me in Orihime’s room,” said Ulquiorra. “You saw me give the Quincy the bracelet and tell him why he should go. You didn’t, at any point, believe that I was to betray you?”
“Of course not.” Aizen kissed the front of Ulquiorra’s neck and then circled him to kiss the back of it. Both of Aizen’s hands pushed down Ulquiorra’s wide-legged hakama with the deep pockets and the hougyoku. The tiny ball rolled out of its hiding place onto the floor. It was often lost in this room, among the sheets and clothes and pillows. Aizen trusted Gin and Ulquiorra that much.
“You are my most intelligent creation,” Aizen continued. “You would not betray me. You would not walk into the fire. You live for me, and for that, I let you live. Leaving me and my world would mean the very erasure of your existence.”
Ulquiorra made a barely perceptible sighing sound as Aizen’s body pressed closer. It was not irresistible, but why would one ever want to resist this body?
“There might come a time,” Ulquiorra said, “when I might want to obliterate my own existence.” He wasn’t sure why he wanted to allow Aizen to guess at the truth. “If I believed that the being you created was going to be diminished in power in any way--why would I not turn my own reiatsu against itself and dissolve into that unredeemable oblivion that lies between Heaven and the Living World?”
“You remember my talking about the injustice of reincarnation with Gin,” said Aizen. “Your memory for these sorts of things is fascinating.”
Aizen knew? Knew about Ulquiorra’s new memories?
“I pay close attention to everything you say,” Ulquiorra said. Aizen’s long eyelashes were fluttering against skin of hierro as Aizen kissed his shoulders.
“Would you, really, kill yourself?” Aizen breathed the words.
“The chances for finding myself in a situation where I consider suicide are very small.”
“Before you could even consider such a thing,” said Aizen, “I would destroy you with my own hands.”
Aizen’s tone of voice told Ulquiorra that Aizen was vulnerable. That, maybe, because Aizen didn’t want his favorite Espada to have any self-determination, he would continue to believe that he didn’t.
Ulquiorra continued to stare out the window, and his arms still hung by his sides. There would be a point at which he would embrace the king of Las Noches, but for now, Aizen’s power was still resistible.
“Destroy me yourself? I matter that much to you?”
Aizen smiled. “Perceptive as always. You’re not indispensable to my army, but I do care, yes.”
“And it doesn’t bother you that I have no feelings for you whatsoever?” Ulquiorra had a new sensitivity to expressions of attachment. He wondered if that sensitivity would wane.
Aizen took a limp fistful of Ulquiorra’s black hair. He kissed the white flesh at the very nape of his neck. “I prefer you that way,” Aizen said. “Devotion is one thing, but an excess of it would make you a woman.”
Ulquiorra turned around and kissed Aizen’s chin. He held his open mouth next to Aizen’s lips. “I don’t understand,” he whispered. His hands of hierro swept into the softness of Aizen’s hair.
“Of course not.” Aizen kneaded Ulquiorra’s bony shoulders. “I created you this way. Beautiful, cold, and innocent of your Hollow past.”
Ulquiorra thought that if Aizen’s hand was going to plunge through his body, killing his favorite Arrancar, that it would’ve happened by now. The rest of the night would be a bright, wakeful oblivion.
As the two exchanged a hard, deep and unbreakable kiss, Ulquiorra thought: No, I’m not innocent.
No, I’m not innocent. The secret was something new to hold in his pocket. Knowing something that Aizen didn’t know felt heavier than the hougyoku. Even though it could be of no advantage to Ulquiorra, really, in power or status, the secret gave Ulquiorra a separateness from his leader. A selfdom.
That alone felt like escape.
A/N: There will be a very short epilogue to this story so I can have five parts for each spoke of the Quincy star (yes, neurotic numerology), but this is the end of Ulquiorra’s story.
And now here comes the long-ass, unnecessary and eccentric author’s note I warned you about:
This was my first attempt to expand on a drabble. It didn’t work. The drabble, a shameless excuse to molest a favorite character, was supposed to be included, without much revision, in this story. Sorry girls, but it wasn’t. It’s here if you want to read it: Fun with Bow and Arrow Boy. Diaspora may be the P taken out of a PWP or it may have ended up a twenty thousand-word excuse for an Ulquiorra/Ishida moment of hotness.
Maybe, with this story, I tried to rewrite “Bright Majestic Winter” Bright Majestic Winter minus the morbid ending for Ulquiorra. “Winter” was written before the manga had progressed much into the Hueco Mundo arc, and I imagined HM as a frozen place. It turned out to be an arid place--there’s a difference in mood and metaphor there. Also, I was depressed when I wrote Winter, nervous about writing eroticized non-con, and wrestling with the issue of culpability. I made Aizen the typical puppeteer villain in that story, and in this one, I wanted to give some voice to those he manipulates. I really wanted Ulquiorra and Ishida to escape this time.
It’s funny that this story, like “Winter”, was written while listening to choral music. I didn’t intend that; it was a coincidence I noticed only when I was halfway through the fic.
The painfully gorgeous 17th century Allegri Miserere was the background music for “Winter.” The music for this fic was the less ecstatic 20th century Alfred Schittke Concerto for Choir based on the 10th century Russian Book of Mournful Songs. The songs are about redemption, but they’re more Jewish than Christian as far as choral music goes; they’re very contemplative and dark. They begin:
"I, an expert in human passions,
Composed this collection of songs, where every verse
Is full to the brim with black sorrow…."
I heard a post-story Ulquiorra composing those emotions above.
I know that some Arrancar fans (helloooo Shini!) don’t like a redeemed Ulquiorra or a story that softens his character. Some fans dislike reincarnation or human life stories about the Arrancar. To them, I apologize. I tried not to make Ulquiorra change from his villainous self when I wrote this story, but I must admit, I thought of him when I read this:
Prayer D by Grigor Narekatsi, author of Mournful Songs, translated from Russian:
Since I have traveled the path of destruction
pursuing the footprints of darkness,
like the priests of Israel scolded by the prophet, and
since I have traded your plot of paradise for
a barren desert,
how can I call myself human,
when I have earned a place among the inhuman?
How can I be named a thinking being,
when I indulge in brutish ways?
How can I be called a seeing being,
when I have snuffed out my inner light?
How can I be known as cognizant,
when I have slammed the door on wisdom?
How can I aspire to incorruptible grace,
when with my own hand I have slain my soul?
Indeed I lack attributes of a moving or even
let alone one capable of spiritual, thoughtful life.
Download Shittke’s “Master of All Living” here:
And Shittke’s “I, an expert in human passions…” here:
Thank you for indulging me if you read this long A/N. It’s really a long A/N for a story I wasn’t pleased with (much), but maybe the background of the story ended up being more important to me than the story itself.
I’ll try to write a lighter fic next time while listening to bouncy pop tunes. ~ debbiechan, April 21, 1997.
Oh LJ, why must you play with my formatting?? >.<