#I refuse to let What I Saw keep me from drawing healthy and affectionate family dynamics. I Refuse.
wornout-pinkscarf · 13 days ago
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Mama’s boys & daddy’s girl
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mc-critical · 9 months ago
Ok, I just found your blog and I am still reading through it (and loving how insightful and careful and expressive you are btw!) I was wondering if you would mind talking about Suleyman's relationship with Mehmet? I think their relationship is the only father-son relationship in both shows that is actually "pure" and as healthy as can be. Of course that could have changed had Mehmet lived longer and Suleyman's paranoia with his sons wanting his throne grew. I particularly don't think it would, but at the same time I can see how it could since he once did have a pure and good relationship with Mustafa too. With that said I must say that I would also love to listen to your thoughts about Suly relationship with his others sons (or only Mustafa since he is the easiest to compare to Mehmet). Thanks in advance hon!
Thank you so much! I'm glad you're enjoying yourself in my blog! :)
Süleiman's relationship with Mehmet is certainly the most "inoffensive" relationship he ever had with a prince of his and that would be a given, because Mehmet was, in fact, his favourite prince. I feel the writing contributed much more to their dynamic than the other factors: despite of the refreshing "purity" of it, the relationship is very basic in nature - most of it was centered around Mehmet's desparate pleas to go to a sanjack and Süleiman giving him praise, sometimes just because. Mehmet as a character, had a very stiff characterization throughout the season he was in; the narrative consistently refused to go somewhere with him and that extended to his interactions as well - they reveled only in casual dialogue, all set up, no pay off. The foundation of his interactions was there, but the meat of these interactions wasn't. His relationship with SS was the pinnacle of this, because for him being SS's special, golden child, almost all of their scenes felt a little underwhelming, to say the least. Mehmet's lack of development gave off the vibe that his relationship with SS was stuck in the same place and repetition and one could argue that this lack of fleshing out, is the reason that it was presented in such a good faith during all of its screentime, compared to the other father-son relationships in the franchise.
Still, the relationship does hold its thematic merit, nonetheless. A part of their dynamic did give us a decent framework that helped us drive conclusions - and that part is: the dream that SS has had before Mehmet was born. It acts as the backstory of SS's relationship with Mehmet, in a way, and it puts some things into perspective. When we learn about this dream, it becomes obvious that Mehmet didn't become, but had always been SS's favourite from day one, and the dream makes the first step to explain why does SS believe so much in him and see him on the throne from the get-go. That said, the other reasons aside from this driving force as to why SS prefers him specifically to everyone else are presented more subtly and "in between the lines" than they are within the relationship. That's why I agree with you that SS probably wouldn't be as paranoid to Mehmet as he was to the other princes if he lived longer. There had to be a reason for SS to get paranoid and as far as S03 went, Mehmet never gave him one - he was both very passive and very obedient, willing to disregard even Mihrimah's feelings to be loyal to his majesty's decision to marry her to Rüstem. And I don't think he was going to give him a reason later on, either, knowing his personality. That unshaking, persistent loyalty to the sultan's whims perhaps flattered him a lot and that's something he didn't want to lose, which is where his ample praise for him comes from. The scene in E74 where he talks to Mehmet about the Fatih law is interesting in that we do get a sense of fatherly protection when it comes to Mehmet, he sees his virtues that are probably the best qualities for a prince under his reign and wants to prepare him for the seemingly inevitable as early as possible, for him to be able to react adequately when the time comes and keep his loyalties intact. That could also explain Hürrem (and Süleiman) not letting him go to a province for the longest time: even though I find it to be more of a plot issue and stretching for Mustafa's sending to Amasya to be a plot twist and Mehmet to have his 15 minutes of fame only in the last episode of the season than an irritant with both Hürrem and Süleiman's characters, this narrative choice made Mehmet as close to SS as possible, cementing his preferences over him and giving him a chance to witness that loyalty himself, devoid of supporters who could turn things around for him for the sake of the love of the people or pragmatism. The massive idea that loyalty to the padişah is above all and the unrelenting paranoia of betrayal are angles of SS's character that are explored to the fullest in S04 rather than S03 (starting right from his words in one of the S04 trailers: "All I wish for is loyalty. Absolute loyalty!") and his relationships to the other princes and the way they end up in the narrative are what make the full picture, which could make SS's relationship with Mehmet be examined better only in rewatches than in the particular season. That sure gives bonus points to the dynamic, but it is a minus in Mehmet's specific portion of the series, making the relationship fail in the end, despite of some thematic redeeming qualities here and there. I can appreciate what it does in the story and what facet it gives to Süleiman, but there was a significant amount of wasted potential that prevented me from enjoying it in the fullest and rendered it kinda shallow.
You're spot on that SS's relationship with Mehmet and his relationship with Mustafa are the easiest to compare and contrast, because not only they share a season, but we have the least fleshed out relationship vs. the most fleshed out relationship right in front of us. It's true that SS's relationship with Mustafa was very innocent and pure in the beginning, him even saying that his heart melts when he hears of Hürrem and Mustafa in E05, but the cracks began to appear fairly early in the story, by E29 when he threw that massive fit when Mustafa didn't want to listen and then he was still a child. We could argue that this was the first sign of SS's coming downward spiral, given that we had Valide call him out and tell him she saw his father in him. (and becoming like Selim I was SS's biggest fear, as highlighted in E121.) SS's relationship with Mustafa underwent constant evolution throughout the series, with him growing more and more suspicious of Mustafa with every single move he made until it all reached the final conclusion, acting as a culmination of the show that had been building up for so long. SS and Mustafa was a very centered relationship that leaned on interactions and confrontations. SS's relationship with Mehmet, by constrast, is very light on tension overall, it keeps itself consistent throughout the narrative and that consistent praise Mehmet gets never disappears. There isn't a change of perspective, there isn't development, there isn't a point of contention that becomes SS's major gaping weakness. SS and Mustafa's relationship is focused on the massive paranoia that reaches its peak, SS and Mehmet's is exclusively lacking of said paranoia. The double-edged sword of all the support Mustafa gets drifts SS away from him, the lack of said support with Mehmet (he didn't go to the sanjack until E103, so no chance for support of the people. He hasn't done anything to get their attention and it doesn't seem like Hürrem wants him to have that, either.) brings him closer to SS. It's also important to note that Mustafa and Mehmet have different roles in the narrative and are created with different themes within the narrative in mind, that's why one relationship seems to prevail over the other. (I elaborated more on that when I talked about their deaths.) Mustafa could've been the favourite very early on (though S03's "baby Mehmet on the throne" dream lowkey retcons that), but by him growing up, he began to have mixed feelings that would hint him losing faith in Mustafa altogether, with SS already getting used to the belief that he would slowly lose his innocence; From the point he grew up, on the other hand, Mehmet was counted on so much by Süleiman and he was both filled with hope that he would keep his innocence, but gain a sense of maturity while still believing in the best. That could've reminded SS of his S01 self, in a way, who had a considerably bigger regard for his family than in later seasons.
But while the sultan's relationship with Mustafa is the indeed the most suited for a contrast between his relationship with Mehmet, the relationship he shares with Cihangir is the closest to its nature. There are so many parallels to draw here, especially the sense of innocence: Süleiman's desire for protection of Mehmet and intent to both maintain his innocence and righteousness in terms of the battle for the throne seems to "get its payoff" with Cihangir - he doesn't need to do that with him, because the throne isn't an option for Cihangir to afford and that way he has gained a fair, yet heartfelt perspective. He's the prince who has the most chance to retain his innocence, seemingly the least likely to pick sides and to still lean on his family and give them his wise advice when he's become an adult, which makes Süleiman affectionate of him in a different, yet the same way that he is of Mehmet. And similarly to Mehmet, Süleiman becomes attached to the boy almost immediately, in advance, with his illness causing such a massive impact on his psyche and his life. It all creates kind of a fascinating connection between SS's first and last prince that contrastingly parallels them in a significant way: Mehmet is the prince both SS and Hürrem want on the throne and rely on, Cihangir is the one that could never get the throne that SS and Hürrem still rely on and love as dearly. As a contrast to Mehmet, the times where the "purity" of the relationship with Cihangir falls to pieces is the times where Cihangir actually picks sides and worse yet, picks the side of the one SS's most suspicious of and openly asks him to reconsider firm decisions, which breaks apart SS's idea of "absolute loyalty", something that Mehmet would never do. However, that's the only major difference between these relationships and the reasons for SS's affection of both are fairly similar: Mehmet and Cihangir have something unique the other don't in SS's (and Hürrem's) eyes, so they get an extreme amount of affection from him when they don't dare to defy him.
SS and Bayezid as a relationship is a contrast to SS and Mehmet mostly when it comes to their beginnings. As I said, Mehmet became SS's favourite child from day one, because of the dream, while SS seemed to have a lower opinion on Bayezid also from day one. I know about the display around E93 where he went on the campaign by his own intent when SS told him to say, but it somehow looked like SS doubted him even before that with him not wanting to let him in in the first place, once again, for seemingly no reason except to set up Bay's resentment for him. (I mean, this is as far as I recall, correct me if I'm wrong, I haven't watched S03B in ages.) Unlike all the other princes, Bayezid had not even once been an object of SS's favouritism and their relationship only kept devolving from there, with it impacting Bayezid so severely he said Mustafa was wrong not to rebel and decided to raise an army. So SS's relationship with Bay focused more on how he reacted to SS's decisions rather than the way SS reacted to the prince's actions like it was with the others. Like Mehmet, SS had one particular mindset when it came to Bayezid (established even further in E105: "Some people have a sickness on their backs, some have it inside of them!" - quoting by memory) and it drove their whole relationship. There wasn't a change of perspective here. The only point of struggle and dilemma was during his death episode, exactly like how SS's prophetic dream and the reaction to Mehmet's death was the only dramatic point in that relationship. [Another interesting thing about Bayezid is that his relationship with SS wasn't the most fleshed out thing about him, in spite of its dramatic stakes. His most fleshed out relationship was with Selim and that relationship was the true core of his character arc. Bayezid, like Mehmet and Cihangir, is a character that was driven by familial relationships and loyalty, which is why he had a more detailed relationship with his other brothers than he did with Süleiman. And as a character whose arc is about familial conflict, it's only natural that the peak of his most prominent familial conflict would be the end of him. Him being executed by Selim, not Süleiman isn't such a surprise anymore and it definetly doesn't do a disservice to neither of these characters. In contrast we had Mustafa's core story be centered around his relationship with Süleiman, which is why his dynamic with the brothers isn't as fleshed out in comparison. His demise is a theme the show needed to explore, while Bayezid's is another, as inportant theme to explore. That's probably why, even though I gave it flack writing-wise early on, SS is Mehmet's most fleshed out relationship, despite of the fleshing out being simply retroactive and thematic and leaves a lot to be desired.]
The relationship between SS and Selim is perhaps the father-son relationship with the most flavor in the show. It goes many ways in terms of development, it doesn't have a clear path until much later on and it becomes a constant push and pull between Selim's wins and mistakes and Süleiman's view of them. Like Mehmet, Selim eventually becomes the most preferred heir, but it's interesting how so much emphasis is put on his efforts to get there, his cunning and schemes that only give off a distorted idea of "loyalty" Süleiman is unfortunately already all in. I would say that Selim is the pinnacle of Süleiman's toxicity in terms of both his paranoia and favoritism, him wanting Selim on the throne because he seemingly obeys, not because of the qualities he has gained I actually don't think SS is aware of. Because he got severely called out when SS saw him drink in Manisa and it took quite a while for things to go back to normal between them. The relationship is the most real embodiment of the game of survival Magnificent Century relishes so much in and it shows well how quickly you can both become pulled out of favor and a favourite in a blink of an eye. Gosh, Selim really had it hard!
{EDIT: Okay, I recalled the whole arrow incident around the same episode SS didn't let Bayezid on the campaign, I don't know how I managed to forget it while writing this (I suppose it was actually the reason he didn't let him go on the campaign...), but my overall point still stands. This scene is merely our first grasp on SS's relationship with Bayezid and we see how he gave every glimpse of possible favouritism up immediately after. That's highly demonstrative of SS's slowly growing trust issues and how it's far easier to set him off, apparently permanently. I don't think it's something neither Bayezid, nor Süleiman forgot and it became indicative of their relationship in the long run. It was the first impression and it stung, so it can be contrasted with Mehmet.}
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chaoticspacefam · a year ago
OC Interview Meme - Aria Saal
I was tagged for this by @raven-of-domain-kwaad​ , thank you, this one is super fun! :D I shall tag, if you want to, no pressure as always! : @mercurypilgrim​ , @thelastenvoyyy​ , @pauletta-00​
Aria first this time! Cause I think her answers would be the most amusing :’D though I do have another tag for this that I’ll do later and yes it is absolutely gonna be one of the twins skhsjgdjgd
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-She strolls in rather casually, two Tuk’ata walking either side of her (much to the interviewer’s shock and surprise), and sits down. Both Sith hounds sniff reproachfully at the second being, but at a sharp look from Aria they snort and settle themselves across her feet-
? Name ?  -She notices their nervousness and smiles reassuringly- “Oh, don’t worry about them, honey. They only bite if I tell them to.” -Aria winks, sitting forward slightly in her seat to offer the interviewer her hand for a handshake- “Aria Saal-Shenly, but you can call me Commander Canis if you’d like. That’s how most people know me.”
? Are you single ? -She raises an eyebrow curiously and asks, voice tinged with amusement- “Are you hitting on me? Sorry to all the adoring fans out there but I’m happily married.”
? Are you happy ?  “Right now? Yeah, I guess so. I guess so.”
? Are you angry ? -Her head tilts thoughtfully for a moment, then she shakes it and smirks a little- "Not at this time, but I’m known to get quite angry when the situation calls for it, yes. I’m sure you’ve heard that much of me by now~”
? Are your parents still married ? "Oh, no. No...they uh, they weren’t that fond of each other, in the end. Some relationships are better left in the past.” -When questioned further, she waves the enquiry off and seems reluctant to elaborate other than a simple- “They were both good to me in their own way, but they were definitely not good together together, y’know?”
? Birth Place ? “Onderon. Haven’t been back since I was real little, though. Wonder how much it’s changed.”
? Hair Color ?  "Black,” -Aria lifts a strand of her fringe pointedly as she talks about it- “Though the blonde bit in my fringe is a dye job, wanted something different to uhhh, have a change.” -another evasive answer that she refuses to elaborate on. Any attempts to push one are quickly silenced by a warning growl from the Tuk’ata accompanying her and the topic quickly moves on-
? Eye Color ? -She blinks, then frowns, and whether it’s in annoyance or amusement isn’t immediately clear, but she gestures at herself and asks- “I am here, right? You see me? But I guess if you’re askin’ what colour they were before they went all “Sithy”...” -she makes air quotations around the word “Sithy”- “Then the left one was brown and the right one was grey.”
? Birthday ? "Summer, 3667 BBY.”
? Mood ? "Eh, pretty neutral, I guess?”
? Gender ? "Female, last time I checked.” -She chuckles in amusement-
? Summer or winter ? "Winter’s nice, snow is still kinda novel for me, it’s not something I saw regularly growing up.” -this one takes some thought, but eventually she settles on the answer- 
? Morning or afternoon ? "Eh, I don’t really have a preference. Morning, I guess, if I had to pick one.” -she shrugs-
? Are you in love ? -She smiles wistfully at the admission, chuckling to herself- "If you’d asked me that about 10 years ago I’dve laughed in your face and called you a karkin’ idiot. But yeah, yeah I am.”
? Do you believe in love at first sight ? "Not really...I think it takes time. You have to get to know a person first before you can develop the feelings, and then it takes more time after that to accept, to them and to yourself, that that’s what the feelings are. I don’t think that can happen just from looking at someone.”
? Who ended your last relationship ? "Hold on a second.” -Aria holds up a hand to indicate a pause, drawing herself up to twist around in the chair and yell to someone waiting backstage- “Babe! Did we ever figure out who broke it off for real?!” -a muffled voice familiar to anyone who’s been watching the Alliance broadcasts on the HoloNet calls back “what the hells kind of question is that?!” and Aria answers- “I dunno but they wanna know! It was you, right? Yeah, yeah I know it was my fault but that’s not what the question was!” -she quickly adds as the other person starts to protest, another grumble is heard and eventually Aria turns around to face the interviewer again, nodding almost to herself- “It was her. That’s my wife, by the way.” -she grins at the confused look on the interviewer’s face and adds- “Yeah uhh, I believe you’d call it a “lover’s spat”? But an extended one, and in Va’s defence, I deserved it. I was a real dick to her. But then I did some self-reflecting and cleaned up my act and here we are, so I guess that old adage has some truth after all, love wins~”
? Have you ever broken someone’s heart ? "Yep. You wanna hear more about it you’ll have to ask Va sometime.” -She points over her shoulder backstage with her thumb-
? Are you afraid of commitments ? -This question makes her grin sheepishly, but at least the answer seems to be an honest one- "I used to be, yeah. Maybe I still am, a little. But not to her, not anymore.”
? Have you hugged someone within the last week? -Aria leans forward and props her elbow up on her knee to look the interviewer dead in the eyes as she asks simply- “Do I look like a hugger to you?”
? Have you ever had a secret admirer ? "I probably have, and do? But if I knew about them it wouldn’t be a secret now, would it sweetie?”
? Have you ever broken your own heart? -this question seems to genuinely confuse Aria and her brow furrows deeply as she thinks about it, then takes it a little literally- “How would you do that...? I guess, yeah? There was that time I crashed a TIE fighter and got impaled by the bulkhead and almost died. My heart stopped for a couple minutes there before dad and Vano pulled me outta the wreck and got me into a medbay.”
? Love or lust ? -Aria smiles mysteriously- “I think they both have their merits. Younger me would’ve said lust without hesitation, but now...I think a little of both is healthy.”
? Lemonade or iced tea ? "Lemonade.” -she answers this one without hesitation and you get the sense by “things”, she means alcoholic beverages- “You can mix a lot of things with lemonade, iced tea, not so much.”
? Cats or Dogs ? -at this question, the hounds at her feet lift their heads and fix her with beady-eyed stares, almost as if they are expecting an answer- “Cats.” -she answers much too quickly and to their consternation as both rear their heads further and snap their jaws at her- “I’m KIDDING, I’m kidding, sheesh, settle down ya goofballs!!” -she cackles with laughter, slapping the larger of the two on the flank with one hand affectionately while the other scratches the second behind the ears until they settle down again- “Definitely dogs. These two idiots are great, I love them.”
? A few best friends or many regular friends ? "I would say I have quite a few acquaintances, but not really friends, so...a few best friends. It’s good to have contacts in case you need favours, but unless you know you can trust them it’s best not to let them get too close.”
? Wild night out or romantic night in ? "Come on now, I’m sure you know enough of me by now that you know I like to drink. I’ll take a night out on the cantinas any day, sweetie.” -she grins again-
? Day or night ? -the grin persists into the next answer- "Definitely night time. It’s quiet and peaceful, and the dogs like it. We go for a lot of walks at night when everyone’s asleep. Old habits die hard.”
? Been caught sneaking out ? "I wouldn’t have been very good at it if I got caught, would I~?” -she taps the side of her nose with a smirk- “If you’re asking if I have snuck out, then yes. But got caught? Never.”
? Fallen down/up the stairs ? -Aria snorts with laughter this time, slapping a hand off her knee- “Personally? No. But I could tell you some funny ass stories about other members of the Alliance that have, y’know, if this wasn’t going live on the HoloNet. I ain’t a snitch, sorry honey!” 
? Wanted something/someone so badly it hurt? "Yes. It took me time to realise that...that was okay, but I did.”
? Wanted to disappear ? -Aria looks genuinely guilty this time, dropping her gaze to her fingers, intertwined restlessly in her lap in silence for a moment before she finally speaks up again- "Wanted to, actually did it, broke my wife’s heart letting her think I was dead for five years. I fucked up bad on that one, and I’ll admit to that.”
? Smile or eyes ? "Smile. People can lose eyes, but you can’t really lose a good smile.”
? Shorter or Taller ? "I mean...most people I meet are taller than me.” -she smirks and gestures at herself a third time-
? Intelligence or Attraction ? “You sayin’ people can’t have both? You’ve met Vano.”
? Hook-up or Relationship ? "I think it’s subjective, depending on the person. I did a lot of hooking up when I was younger, but now I’m pretty happy in my relationship. But a long-term, committed thing isn’t ideal for everyone, you should do whatever makes you happiest.”
? Do you and your family get along ? -She looks a little sad, maybe wistful- "I don’t really have any living family left, not blood-family, anyways.” -it doesn’t last though, and she quickly perks up again with another smile- “But I’ve got a brother-in-law, and an adopted younger sister of sorts, that I’m very close with. Plus my crew, they’re like my family now and I’d say we get on pretty great, yeah.”
? Would you say you have a “messed up life” ? -the wording of this question seems to amuse her, and she lets out a long, quiet whistle- “I guess so, yeah. It’s been pretty crazy. My parents are dead, which I don’t wanna go into the details of, people keep trying to kill my wife (fuck you, Arcann and Vaylin) and now the Republic and Empire are back on their bullshit and trynna get the Alliance stuck in the middle so yeah, it’s messed up. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
? Have you ever ran away from home ? -the guilty, awkward grimace paints across her features again- “Yeaahhh, I uhh, I did do that once. Probably shouldn’t have, but I found my way back in the end.”
? Have you ever gotten kicked out ? "I guess the Jedi kicked me out when they threw my ass in jail after the whole “helped the invasion on Tython” thing? That counts, right? Not that it bugged me, I was lookin’ for excuses to leave and go home for a while.”
? Do you secretly hate one of your friends ? "Secretly, noooo. I think that dirty laundry got aired a long time ago, most of the ones that mattered came back now. So no, no I don’t.” -she blows out another breath halfway through the question and slumps back in the chair, one of the Tuk’ata sitting up with a concerned rumble and settling its head in her lap once she drops the leg she had crossed back to the floor-
? Do you consider all of your friends good friends ? "Yeah. I would say so, now. They’re a good bunch of people. I’m lucky to have them.”
? Who is your best friend ? "I don’t think I could say I have one single best friend, there’s a handful of ‘em.” -she admits, brightly, with another shrug- “Vano, of course. She’s been my friend since we were kids, even before the rest of the feelings happened, and she’s always been there for me. Qyzen, too, though. He’s stuck by me through a lot of the bad shit. And then Merak and Ziri, who helped me through a pretty rough patch in my life. I probably would’ve gotten myself killed if it weren’t for them.”
? Who knows everything about you ? "Normally I wouldn’t admit to this one.” -Aria quirks an eyebrow, apparently struck by being honest yet again, for once in her life- “But my wife, Vano. When you’re as close as we are, it’s kind of hard to hide things from each other, not that we try to. We don’t.”
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lorelailui-blog · 3 years ago
Bird Cage: Chapter 13 - Death
There was something terrifying about being touched by the wrong person. It was hard to explain exactly why the princess felt that way exactly, as Aizen's cool palms and fingers brushed against her skin. The pressure in which the pads of his fingers caressed her was almost ghost-like, as though he were ever present yet barely there. It was cold, ticklish and made her want to cringe away from his touch, yet still, she could not fathom why.
It all felt wrong.
Aizen ran his fingers over her cheek and stroked the space between her ear and neck. Her spine caught alight with pins and needles and the princess had to force herself to stay still so that she did not pull away from his repellent touch. She wondered if he were punishing her for chopping her hair, but he more than accommodated her by ordering the maids to style and cut it neatly and did not voice any distaste for it. In fact, objectively speaking he was trying to be affectionate, but his advances were unwelcome and she detested it.
"If I touch you like this, you will eventually grow to enjoy it." Aizen advised her, his voice kind.
"Will I?" Orihime asked blankly.
Orihime lay stretched out with her head resting on his thigh like a pet, as he had requested. Her heart had changed functionalities and instead of loving and yearning, it beat oxygenated blood through her system at an even, constant pace.
Every time she thought about her husband, she grew hateful and resentful. More than anything, she wanted to hurt him as he had hurt her. She wanted him to feel jealous and insecure. Then her kindness seeped in and she felt saddened that her soul had blackened to such an extent that she wished harm on the person she loved.
Ulquiorra was after all, a man who deserved only the greatest life could give and her heart was something that she gave without expectations or any kind of reward. Most of all, she wanted him to not only be happy, but to be fulfilled in every way imaginable and to be lucky, healthy and blessed so that he could do great good for the world without too many hurdles to hinder him from reaching his ambitions.
"Now, you must touch me." Aizen instructed. "Remember that a healthy amount of eye contact will help you liken to me more."
Orihime sat up robotically and stared up into his handsome, benevolent face. He smiled at her as though she were the most important, most precious person in the world. He looked at her as though she commanded his free will, and she was privy to his undivided attention. Still, the princess found herself incapable of feeling anything at all.
She tried her very hardest by caressing his face with her hands and running her fingers through his hair. She removed his glasses so that she could have a better look at his eyes. Her mind ran circles as it tried to imagine what their life would be together and how happy he may be able to make her, but still, Orihime felt nothing. Personally, he could not draw her attention long enough to look at him without growing disinterest in his countenance. It was not intentional, but she found herself comparing him to a heightened standard that he would never rise to.
"I can't love you." Orihime said, sadly. "I don't want to be with you."
For an instant, Orihime thought that she sensed loathing and maybe even killing intent in his eye, however that changed as abruptly as it had appeared. With a quick flick, he pulled his glasses over his eyes once again so that she would no longer perceive any lingering malice.
"No one else will have you, darling." Aizen whispered.
"Then I will have no one." Orihime answered, unblinking.
"I understand that you are still grieving." Aizen said, his expression cold. "After all, there is nothing more important and valuable than your memories with someone."
As he did each time she made him uncomfortable, he rose and left her with the promise he would be back again soon. It was a tactic he used to starve her of attention so that she would be more compliant the next time he came to visit.
To nudge her more towards loving him, he stopped visits from the maids and instead of providing food for her, they left it by the door and only gave her a small tray. That was, unless he was there to eat with her.
When Orihime heard the doors close, she sighed with relief and played with her hair nervously. Ever since it had been cut, all she could focus on were the thick, choppy broom-like ends. Without ever realising it, she had hidden behind her long hair as a defence mechanism and now that she no longer had her orange curtain, she felt exposed.
Tatsuki had been unable to visit without Aizen's permission and his supervision, so now she was utterly alone without him, however that did not stop Tatsuki from secretly leaving her messages inside the books she provided for her. Most of it was complex medical journals, as well as horticulture and methods of healing. So far, she had memorised all the different kinds of plants used for medicinal purposes, but still did not know how to administer them. Some required eating, others drank as tea and most could be laid out over the skin.
Tatsuki left her small notes on occasion cheering her on, but in front of Aizen they kept a cold distance. There was no reason to conspire against him, but it built up a sense of closeness and comradery between them, which Orihime loved. Even though Tatsuki was a human, she was Orihime's ideal and what she aspired to be. It was impossible for someone like her to become someone as strong and noble as that, but to be around someone so amazing motivated her to be better herself.
Knowing that she would not see another soul for another day, Orihime began to pace through her prison.
"I wish I was the person I used to be." Orihime said to herself. "I can't believe how used to being alone I was back then."
Another day had passed and Aizen still had not come to see her.
Orihime came to regret how cruel and unkind she was to him, and wondered what she could do to right what she had done. Aizen had no obligations to keep her company or be kind to her, and yet he did so dutifully. Now that she had hurt his feelings and rejected him, he would not want to see her at all.
"If I wasn't so nasty, I wouldn't be alone." Orihime muttered to herself anxiously. "I'm a horrible person. I deserve this."
"I deserve this. I deserve this. I deserve this." She repeated consistently, itching at her hair nervously.
The princess wanted more than anything to take a bath. Aizen would not allow her to have warm water for a bath without him there and now that she had slighted him, she could not bathe at all. For the moment, she had resorted to cleaning herself in the pond, however there were no scented oils that she could use for her hair or skin and those aromas are what she associated with cleanliness.
"What can I do to make him forgive me?" Orihime moaned, chewing on her thumb nail as she crawled into a ball. "I don't have anything he could possibly want or anything to give…"
For a brief moment, she debated giving him her body. It was all she had and for a brief, revolting moment of discomfort, she could have all the comfort in the world and it would sustain her until he desired it again. He would give her gifts and she could bathe every day and eat proper meals again and maybe, just maybe see Sora and Ichigo.
Orihime wanted to vomit and scream with anger at the thought of giving herself to a man so that she could have a bath. But she was not Tatsuki and she could not fly into a rage and destroy and scream at the top of her lungs, as much as she wanted to. All she could do was clench her teeth and shake with mortification.
Now, Orihime did not know how much time had passed.
It could have been days, it could have been weeks.
It didn't matter anymore.
She lay, stretched out like a corpse by the door of her prison.
Instead of feeding her pickled vegetables and rice as they had when she had gone against Aizen, her food became solely bowls of rice.
So far, she had been using the rice to count the days. There were three bowls of rice in a day, she believed – however it could have been a bowl of rice a day by how thin her body grew.
Stretching her arm out with a sigh, she could see the bones jolting out of her skin. To pass the time, she traced each connection, each vein and each tendon in her arm.
Orihime remembered painfully of when she felt insecure about being too plump when Ulquiorra had seen her naked body. He was so thin and lean, and at the time she wished that she could be just as skinny and elegant, but she no longer felt that way anymore. Besides, she had gone far past that point of slender beauty and now she was just skin wrapped around skeleton.
"If you saw me now, Ulquiorra…" Orihime murmured. "What would you do?"
Closing her eyes, she licked her dry lips and imagined him as best she could. She remembered the story he told her of how a man did not feed his family and let them starve, and wondered if Ulquiorra had somehow tried to prepare her for this very moment. With renewed fortitude, she steeled her heart in preparation of when Aizen would finally walk through the doors again. He had as much food as a person could imagine and still refused to feed her out of vindictiveness and pride. He was the man who gorged in the forest and did not feed his family, therefore if she ever decided to give in and marry him, she would most definitely starve again.
Cruel men did not make for good husbands and she would never marry him.
Her stomach growled and she cringed with pain. At first the hunger was a mild annoyance, but now each time she grew hungrier, it felt as though someone was punching her in the stomach as hard as they could manage. Mostly, she tried to ignore it and as her conscious faded and drifted, so did the pain.
Come to think of it, they would probably have been feeding her less than daily if she were to revert to this starved state.
Orihime whimpered as the flap of the fortress door creaked open and a bowl of steaming rice was placed in front of her limp body. The door shut as quickly as it opened without sympathy, and she looked at the bowl with fascination.
Like clockwork, she began to salivate but could not find the energy to get up and eat. Instead, Orihime counted each individual grain of rice that she could see as it piled up in the blue, ceramic bowl.
Orihime felt something soft brush against her leg and craned her neck to see what it was.
A black cat watched her enigmatically, it's tail swishing back and forth while it observed her with quizzical yellow eyes. She recognised it immediately and smiled, happy to have some form of live company.
"If you are hungry then you are welcome to my bowl of rice." Orihime offered. "I appreciate you visiting me, so make yourself comfortable."
The cat understood her perfectly, walking over on its tiny paws and taking her offering with zest. Orihime was glad that someone could enjoy the food and it did not matter that she was close to death, because she would never be capable of dying.
Still, she was afraid to die.
Her eyes fluttered shut and she felt as though she could no longer move, her body growing faint and cold. It was like drifting in the ocean, unable to move or breathe in the cold, heavy waters of the deep. At times, she wished she could open her eyes, but her body was no longer yielding.
As Orihime felt herself falling and sinking into nothingness, she noticed the familiar affectionate brush of a cat caressing her skin. Waking up, she found herself in complete darkness with only a flickering light in the distance. It was like being inside a tunnel or a cave, but without any echo or noise of any kind.
The feeling reminded her of when you press your hands over your ears, and all you can hear is the silence.
Getting up, Orihime followed the cat as it made its way lackadaisically through the darkness. She hoped to keep pace no matter what, and did not let her eyes stray into the darkness or behind her, in fear of being abandoned.
"Keep strong, little one." A voice reverberated through her mind, as clear and crisp as her own thoughts. "You don't believe how powerful your heart and soul are, but in time you will come to understand yourself more."
Orihime clasped her chest and smiled, her will and fortitude recovered despite the weakened state of her body. She was either experiencing death or dreaming. The pains of flesh no longer mattered anymore.
"Are you God?"
Orihime felt funny asking that. It was just a voice in her mind and she was just crazy for all she knew. Either way, the voice did not answer and she was grateful for that. For some reason, she did not want to know.
They journeyed on and on and she felt a vague sense of nostalgia. When she first came to the underworld, she was inside a long tunnel to the unknown with Ulquiorra. She dreamed about this place, even though it was a terrible, tragic dream.
"Where are we going?"
Still no answer.
To pass the time, Orihime thought of the life she had lead. It was insignificant and left little impact on the world, but towards the end especially, it was a very good life. There were no regrets that burdened her when she truthfully thought about it. She wished that she could be with Ulquiorra one last time, but that was about it.
Regardless, Nelliel would keep him happy.
As they pressed on into the distance, the light came closer until Orihime could see a simple shop. The ground underneath them was hardened dirt and she could vaguely see a sign titled 'Urahara's Shop'. It was old fashioned, with a tiled roof and paper sliding doors, but it still felt too grand for her to enter.
Before she could turn back, the door slid open and a man with blond hair and a strange green and white striped hat stepped out with a big smile.
"Back so soon?" He said, with his arms wide.
Orihime did not know if he was speaking to her or the cat, so she smiled awkwardly with her hands pressed together. She had never seen this man in her life, but it was possible that they were very well acquainted from the times her mind could not recall.
The cat sauntered in and made itself comfortable, but as it stepped through the entrance it transformed into a beautiful, sun-kissed woman. Her body was voluptuous and toned and her hair a beautiful brown that complemented her skin colour. The woman was entirely naked until she plucked a nearby robe from the floor and tied it around her body casually.
Orihime was shocked, but before she could say anything the stranger wrapped his hands around her in an embrace. Strangely enough, instead of feeling violated, she felt as though she had just come home. She dug her fingertips into the fabric on his back and sunk her face into his chest. After having only unwelcome touches, she now felt as though there was nothing wrong with her when her heart sang at the comforting hug. Orihime did not want to let go, and she could have remained that way for the rest of her life. It was bliss.
"How is my boy?" He asked, his voice tickling her ear.
As though they had been through this a hundred times, Orihime knew exactly who he was talking about. She sucked in a deep breath of air, but before she could speak she was interrupted.
"Remember little one," The woman began sternly. "All things have a price. Do not give him information for free."
"I will tell you about him as long as you do the same for me." Orihime agreed, as he ushered her through the door while laughing.
The store was quaint, with many little trinkets strewn about as though children lived there. Orihime was still unsure where she was, but she knew that it was probably some strange sort of lucid dream. That did not make sense because her mind could not conjure random people, but either way she welcomed any explanation that might make sense.
As they settled her down in a cushion with tea, Orihime smiled while they looked at her expectantly.
"I'm sorry, but have we met before?"
They were surprised for a moment, but surprise gave way to recognition when they readily understood.
"Oh, I forgot that we traded your memories that last time." The man said, as though that were a small price to pay. "Well, all of the times you have been here."
A small fragment of the puzzle had come into place and it was as though something had ignited inside Orihime's mind. Every time she had come here, she had traded her memories for what she had desired. Although she had found an answer to one of her biggest questions, all it did was raise more questions.
What was so important to her that she gave her memories away?
"Will you tell me your names?" Orihime paused. "Again?"
The man tipped his hat.
As Orihime looked up, she watched as the woman held out a glass of tea for her with a smile.
"And I'm Yoruichi."
Orihime smiled appreciatively and took a sip, savouring the taste and warmth that flooded through her system. She vowed never again to take for granted the taste of food or drink ever again.
"Orihime for the price of your questions, let me ask you something." Urahara leaned forward, his attention focused solely on her. "Every time you have come here, you have given me your memories. Why did you choose your hair this time?"
The way he spoke was so reminiscent of the man she loved that for a second she was thrown off. Ulquiorra always loved to name a price and rarely gave without receiving something in return. Orihime did not quite know what he was talking about for a minute, but remembered the putrid smell of her burning orange hair and clapped her hands together with recognition.
"Ah…I was inspired by someone very special actually." Orihime said, her heart brimming at the thought of Tatsuki.
When she realised that her actions were inspired by Tatsuki's words, her thoughts flickered back to something Aizen had said to her the last time they spoke.
"After all, there is nothing more important and valuable than your memories with someone."
Her mind raced as she made connections within her mind of the very truth behind the cruelty that had plagued her all of her life. They were caught in a consistent, cyclical arrangement like the seasons themselves. Every time Orihime left the heavens, she would do so with an open mind and heart and she would fall in love with Ulquiorra over and over again. Then, out of motives Orihime could not yet fathom, Aizen would bring her back and implant the idea in her mind to sacrifice all memories concerning him, pushing her to do so out of heartache when he convinced her that Ulquiorra had betrayed her for another woman.
It was no wonder Orihime's main concerns when she first met Ulquiorra were whether he would take other women.
She could not help but cry out with anguish, knowing that her husband had suffered more times than she could possibly imagine, all because she was naïve and easily impressionable. How many times did she need to get manipulated before she finally learned?
"I was waiting all my life for Tatsuki to finally lead me in the right direction." Orihime realised, "Humans truly are the most fascinating, most amazing creatures this world has to offer."
"Why thank you." Urahara grinned as he tipped his head back sheepishly. "I agree that they are my best creation yet."
Orihime was lost for words.
"You created humans?" She asked, leaning forward excitedly.
"Didn't the boy tell you any of this?" Urahara paused, looking at Orihime expectantly. When she shook her head, he continued. "Well, I guess he isn't exactly proud of me and it's hard for him to even talk about himself."
Orihime rested her head and got comfortable, knowing that what Urahara was about to say was important and would not be said twice.
"When I first came to exist, I waited thousands upon thousands of years until Sosuke and the boy appeared. We were alone - that is, not including the manifesting chaos surrounding us." He began, his eyes far away in the recesses of his memory. "I was bored and had an infinite amount of time on my hands, so I played around and from my little experiments I accidentally created life. For reasons that I don't want to get into…"
"Please." Orihime interrupted. "Please tell me everything."
"It was because of a woman." Urahara grumbled playfully, as he looked over at Yoruichi.
Yoruichi's laughter was like music and Orihime observed how the corners of Urahara's lips tilted just at the sound of her mirth. This was love, in all its awkwardness, complexity and splendour. A shared happiness that links each heart as though tied together by string.
"Anyway," Urahara continued. "I split the workload between both the boys. One takes care of humans when they're dead and the other takes care of humans while they're alive. Simple."
Orihime's heart ached when she realised that no, it wasn't simple at all.
"So, the gods are?" Orihime didn't quite know how to phrase the question. "I am…?"
Yoruichi jumped into the conversation, sliding over the cushions, as relaxed as a cat. "Every now and again, gods simply appear out of the woodwork. It's a freak accident with barely any chance of occurring. I guess you could call it a miracle."
"Are you a god, Yoruichi?" Orihime asked, her fingers shaking.
Yoruichi chuckled again, Orihime knowing deep down that the charming woman was too dangerous to be something as feeble and puny as a god.
"I think the word you use now is Ayakashi. Kisuke coined the term chaos…" Yoruichi's eyes were downcast as she smiled in thought. "I guess that I am just fear itself – or a better term may be the unknown."
"She is nothing like the beasts that hunt and corrupt everything they touch, but something more dignified and noble than that." Urahara added thoughtfully.
"Or so you like to think." Yoruichi jested.
Orihime should have been afraid, but instead she beamed sweetly.
Here she was, thinking that her history with Ulquiorra transcended any kind of romance that any other person could experience. The princess believed they were like winter and summer, opposites in their entirety but somehow finding common ground and loving each other. She thought of their tragic destiny and how very important it was to be together and how they were entitled to be supported by anyone who would listen, be it Nelliel, Grimmjow and even Tatsuki.
Now, she stood in front of two people who genuinely should not have ever come together. The first ever god, and arguably the most powerful and omnificent person in the universe, in love with what would be considered the atavistic fear that every living thing had held in its heart for eternity. Orihime knew that deep down she should be angry, that God had sacrificed his most loved and cherished creations to be with the intangible – the unknown. However, all she could see was two very different people that loved each other regardless.
"So, then what about the Nephilim?" Orihime asked.
"We were hoping you could tell us, because we think it as something to do with Ulquiorra." Yoruichi said, waiting intently.
Ulquiorra hadn't told her much at all and she never really thought to ask properly. She knew that he was an important part of their society, but was it possible that he created them himself just as Urahara had the humans?
Either way, Orihime did not know the answer they were looking for, and personally she was glad. Her disposition did not allow her to lie or deceive those she liked, so it was for the best she did not know. Disclosing any information about the Nephilim would most likely be a betrayal of them, as Ayakashi were their natural enemy and they hunted and devoured them arbitrarily. For the time being, their ongoing war was fair, and Orihime did not want to be a catalyst that tipped the scales.
"I know that he is deeply involved with them, but I don't know anything past that. I know that the Nephilim help fulfil the functions of taking care of souls and that they do protect and watch over humans to make sure they are not eaten away by corruption." Orihime said as she smiled apologetically. "I think that they are much more innovative and intelligent than their years, but that is just the kind of creatures they are. Ulquiorra's involvement is minimal, as far as I can tell."
"Innovative and intelligent…" Urahara rubbed the stubble on his chin thoughtfully. "That sounds about right."
Orihime did not quite know what to say in response, but she smiled proudly as she shared his feelings. She knew that they were no longer talking about the Nephilim and more their master and it was a very fitting description.
However, Yoruichi did not seem nearly as amused. Her question was of deep interest and to be without an answer left her agitated.
"We have to get on with the deal. Orihime will soon have to go back to the natural world and if we don't explain thoroughly, it will cause her more problems than we have put her through already." Yoruichi said, looking to Urahara severely.
"Right." Urahara touched Orihime's hand gently, making sure that she was paying attention. "Because you offered your hair instead of memories this time, things have changed a little bit. The value of hair does not come close to the value of memories, but it is still enough to get the ball rolling."
"What do you mean?" Orihime was already lost.
"In exchange for your hair, we will allow you to go back and see Ulquiorra." Urahara said slowly. "That is what you wanted, isn't it?"
Orihime wasn't quite sure that it was a good idea. She was still angry with him and hurt, even though truthfully there was no way to know if he had married Nelliel or not.
"The only problem is, we can't take your physical form in its entirety back. Unlike the other times, your body will remain where it is and your soul will travel back. Each time you fall asleep, you will go between the past and the present instead of dreaming." Urahara explained, showing her quickly on a diagram. "Make sure not to die, because you will end up back here until your body recovers."
"I'm dead?" Orihime whimpered, unable to absorb anything except that small fact.
"The only way to get here is to die, my dear." Urahara grinned, as though it were a simple stroll away. "They will resuscitate you soon and you will be back where you left your body. To grant your wish, I will need you to burn your hair when you go back to the past as well. Your current hair is just the deposit but I will need your past hair as well."
"I don't understand at all."
Orihime panicked as she felt her body grow lighter and her heartbeat quicken.
"You will understand when you go back." Yoruichi squeezed her other hand tenderly. "I will watch over you from now on, so don't worry about a thing."
Orihime took a deep breath as she recovered from the shock. Her mouth felt dry and she saw Tatsuki looking down at her, her face coated with sweat and panic.
"Orihime, can you hear me?" Tatsuki gripped her shoulders and hoisted her up with care.
Tatsuki's voice seemed very far away, despite how close she was. Orihime's fingers shook and the first thing she did was grip Tatsuki's hand tightly. She was so confused and afraid. Her whole body felt numb.
"Your heart stopped." Tatsuki explained, her face as white as a sheet. "You're going to be okay now though. I'm here. Just relax and I will take care of you."
"Tatsuki!" Orihime cried out as her eyes filled with tears.
The princess wanted to describe how hurt and scared she was, and how relieved and thankful she was of Tatsuki, but no words could describe any of those powerful feelings. Regardless, Tatsuki did not wait for a word of thanks and immediately got to her feet and got to work.
The first thing her loyal friend did was sit behind her in the dirt so that she could keep her frail body hoisted up. Carefully, Tatsuki spoon fed her a small bowl of rice porridge with tiny chunks of chicken within it and maybe a hint of seaweed. If Tatsuki had brought in an entire cooking pot of rice porridge, Orihime would have eaten it so fast that no one would be able to stop or restrain her, but Tatsuki warned her against the thought by filling her mouth with the spoon only once every couple of minutes.
"If you eat too much after starving, you will die." Tatsuki said matter-of-factly.
"I don't want to know how you know that." Orihime chuckled weakly.
After watching from the heavens, the awful things that men had to go through during war time, she could not imagine the tragedies that Tatsuki had experienced first-hand.
"You will learn it in those books I gave you."
"I haven't had the energy to read anything lately." Orihime croaked.
Tatsuki laughed, but Orihime could hear the wavering in her voice. The princess was sure that if she had the strength to turn her head, she would see tears in Tatsuki's eyes.
Hearing her own voice was disconcerting enough, but looking down at her tiny, bony thighs and legs was too much for Orihime to bear. Her feet and toes were pale and worn, each tendon visible connecting her ankle to her toes. Her voice was barely audible above a whisper and crackled each time she tried to speak. Seeing the state of her body, she was surprised that Tatsuki did not scream and run away from her ghoulish appearance.
Never in a thousand years did she ever think that she would ever look that way.
Orihime did not want anyone to see her like this.
When she finished eating, Tatsuki lifted her carefully and carried her to the cleanly polished floors of her rooms. Despite being a little heavier than Tatsuki when she was healthy, now Tatsuki could carry her with ease as though she were an infant. The bath Aizen had prepared for her had large mirrors on the dividers so that she would be able to see the grotesque ugliness of her naked body intimately, but Tatsuki knocked down the dividers without even being asked.
Tatsuki undressed her and wrapped her in cloth before carrying her into the bath. It was a tub of freezing cold water, and it was terrifying to be lowered into it, but Tatsuki joined her and shared her pain.
They sat, naked and shivering, while Tatsuki washed her hair and back carefully. "You're lucky your hair is such a beautiful colour because I think you could have your hair at any length and it would still be stunning."
Orihime beamed as brightly as her frail body would allow, so happy to have someone say something nice when her self-esteem was currently at the lowest it had ever been. She did not want to be praised for her body or to be told that it was somehow okay. It wasn't, and it would take a long time for her to eventually gain the weight she used to have. The only thing she still took solace in was the pretty colour of her hair, for that was all she had anymore.
Their teeth both clacked in unison as they finished up their bath and Tatsuki dried her quickly before even considering drying herself. She wrapped Orihime's hair in cloth and towelled it down gently. It was much easier to dry now that it was short, but she did not want to risk Orihime catching a cold while her body was still so weak.
Tatsuki dressed her in long, woollen wrap and pants that did not quite fit. It was funny, because there was no way Orihime could have fit in something so lean beforehand, but now it barely stayed around her hips.
"I met god while you were gone." Orihime said softly as Tatsuki prepared her futon and blanket.
"Did you now?" Tatsuki did not believe her.
Orihime fell down against the futon and her dear friend tucked her inside while sliding in next to her to keep her body warm. Soon she would probably have to wake up and eat again and Tatsuki was prepared for that.
"Yes." Orihime smiled, as her eyes grew heavy. "He was very kind."
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