I really wanted this story to be a slow, detailed depiction of how an Ulquihime story would play out given the characteristics of the two. I wanted to give plenty of room for personal reflection and inner conflict. Particularly, I really wanted to address Ulquiorra's thoughts, emotions (or lack thereof, lol) etc., because I was interested in developing their relationship in such a way that you could realistically see and understand how such an unlikely pair would come together. I feel that there is sometimes a lack of this in the general fandom, and basically I just really wanted to write a story that possessed these features. I am excited to present to you "Libélula"; it truly has been a pleasure working on this.
Without a word, Ulquiorra Schiffer led an apprehensive Orihime Inoue to a room where she would now be spending most of her hours. This would be her first night in the ghost-world of Hueco Mundo. She felt queasy upon inspecting her surroundings. The room was bare and lifeless: a pathetic excuse for a rug, a painfully plain table and chair, a faded cerulean couch, and a window that opened into midnight were the only decorative touches her new dwelling had to offer. She thought back to her little apartment in Karakura Town, with the photographs of her brother and friends on the walls…she missed it already. She thought back to each of her friends, and most of all to Ichigo Kurosaki. How could she have allowed herself to come here? Have I made the wrong decision? She could feel her eyes start to water. No, she reassured herself, I did it to protect my friends…I did it for Kurosaki-kun…
Ulquiorra's voice interrupted her thoughts. She crossed her arms and slowly looked up at him. His back was still to her, but his head was turned to the side so that she could see his face. His aquamarine eyes were just as cold and lifeless as the room. He stared off disinterestedly at some spot on the wall, with his hands in his pockets. "These are your quarters. I will be your primary caretaker. It is my responsibility to ensure that your state of being remains to Aizen-sama's liking. You will remain here, unbothered, unless otherwise directed by Aizen-sama."
Everything about this man was cold; his words were short, and his expression was inanimate. Orihime would be spending most of her time here alone, yet his presence was not even the slightest bit helpful in providing a welcoming atmosphere. Though, this is not the type of luxury I should be expecting in Las Noches, she thought sadly.
Ulquiorra headed through the doorway and turned again to firmly shut the door.
Orihime slowly trudged to the blue couch, buried her head in the cushions, and cried.
Numerous tears had eventually led her to exhaustion. Hours slipped by as she slept on the couch. She dreamed that she was at a dinner table with Ichigo, Rukia, Chad, and Uryu. They were about to indulge in a feast set before them. Everyone lifted a round, silver dish dome to reveal their dishes. Each person's plate had a mixture of appetizing foods, complete with rice and savory smells. When Orihime's turn came to lift her silver dish dome, there was nothing on her plate but an enormous, ugly black worm with bright white eyes. It looked up at her, staring coldly. Everyone at the table yelled at her, "How could you ruin our dinner! What filth did you bring to our table! Get rid of it!"
Orihime began to cry. She attempted to lift the plate to take it away, but the worm snapped at her with its sharp, yellow teeth. She screamed and looked down at her hand, which was now bleeding. She was startled to hear it speak. It said, "Foolish girl, you will no longer be eating at the same table with these people."
The worm's white eyes then turned a brilliant aquamarine color. Orihime looked up to see that her friends were gone, leaving her alone with the ugly black worm.
She woke to clanging. She groggily lifted her head and shifted her body to see where the noise came from. She was startled to see a table that appeared to have plates of food atop it. They were covered in silver dish domes just like in her dream.
Ulquiorra Schiffer stood next to it, staring at Orihime. He patiently waited as she grew more aware of her surroundings. When she finally stood up from the couch, he said, "This is your first meal of the day. You will eat."
Startled at the command, Orihime looked at the table. If she ate food from Las Noches, would this make her even more of a traitor? She remembered what the worm said in her dream—that she was no longer welcome to eat with her friends. Her heart filled with regret. She unhurriedly stepped closer to the food, with thoughts of worms crawling around her mind. Surely they wouldn't put a worm in her food?
"You are clearly hesitant to eat. It is not poisoned if that is your concern," Ulquiorra stated.
Orihime had not thought of that. She looked at the food then shifted her eyes back at him. He was looking straight at her, and this made her nervous; what if he was lying to her? "I, uh…" she started to say. "I am not hungry," she lied.
"Impossible. You have not eaten in almost 24 hours. I watched your movements closely before you came to Hueco Mundo. You must eat, or your condition will eventually become unsuitable."
"Yes. You must remain healthy for Aizen-sama's purposes."
She did not like the way that sounded. She looked at the food again.
"You will eat," he said again.
Something suddenly dawned on her. "Wait…you…watched me?" She thought back to the point at which her lips were so close to Ichigo's. She had been so afraid to seal the kiss for so many reasons. She was afraid that he might wake. She was afraid of embarrassment. But most of all, she was afraid of the possibility of it being the only kiss she would ever give him, and she couldn't bear to accept that he wasn't even awake to feel it. It was such a private moment, and she had whispered so much into his ear. The fact that someone so unfeeling had been listening incensed her. She wondered how long he had been watching her. Her cheeks turned pink.
"Just how long have you been watching me? Where have you been watching me…?" her voice trailed off. She didn't even want to ask, for fear of discovering just how detailed his notes of her had been. Her face turned a darker shade of pink. She looked at him with wide eyes.
"Don't be ridiculous," Ulquiorra surmised what she was implying. "That would be a waste of my time. I have only been observing you since you first placed that bracelet on your hand, according to the instructions placed by Aizen-sama."
Orihime considered this in relief; but her goodbye, which she had thought had been private, was not. Since the hollow standing before her obviously knew she had not eaten, he had to have witnessed her confessing her love to Ichigo.
"So…you know who I chose to say goodbye to…and what I said?"
"What a silly question. You knew that you were being observed. How else would I have known about your obedience to Aizen-sama's orders?"
"I…suppose you're right." How could I have been so naïve? I poured my entire heart out to Kurosaku-kun in front of this hollow…perhaps in front of the entirety of Las Noches!
Ignoring her embarrassment, he continued, "Now, you must eat. I will be back in one hour."
Orihime tried to eat. She took a few bites; she then moved the food around her plate to make it look like she had eaten. When Ulquiorra returned, he stood by the door while a servant removed the table and collected what she had not eaten.
After the servant had left the room, her captor looked at her and blankly stated, "Follow me." He did an about face and walked out the door.
Orihime's thoughts were racing, but she silently followed. She was still thinking about all the things Ulquiorra had overheard her saying to Ichigo. Yet, although she was embarrassed, she was curious about what he must have thought about the things she had said.
Ulquiorra abruptly stopped in front of a door a few yards away from her quarters. "Inside this room, you will find clothing more suitable for your role than your present attire. Aizen-sama ordered that these garments be specially made to fit your…dimensions. He has ordered that you clothe yourself in them as soon as the opportunity was given. Do so quickly."
Upon entering the room, she found the black and white garb folded neatly on a stool. Orihime picked up the garment and observed it. It resembled the attire of everyone else in Las Noches, but it was also unique. She wondered whether they just had patterns of outfits like this lying around, and who had chosen this particular style for her. She reluctantly dressed herself. Wearing uniform similar to that of the hollows solidified her feelings of feeling like a traitor, of crossing sides. She was now one of them. At least its long sleeves would keep her slightly warm in this chilled world. She was relieved to find it modest, unlike some of the other hollow outfits she had seen in passing. Nevertheless, it was still a uniform of the enemy. She folded her regular clothes and exited the place where she had undressed. Ulquiorra was waiting for her outside, his back to her. He glanced over his shoulder, noticed the clothes in her hands and said matter-of-factly, "You will have no need for those anymore. You may leave them on the stool behind you."
Orihime looked down at the clothes she clutched. "What will happen to them?"
"That is of no importance to you; you will never see them again. What does it matter what happens to them?"
She opened her mouth to protest, but decided against it. She turned to the little room behind her and gently laid her clothes on the stool…the last connection to the real world she had, apart from her dear hairpins.
"You may now go back to your quarters."
Slowly, Orihime turned her back to him and walked to her room. She stood and looked out of her barred window for a while, slowly processing her circumstances. Ulquiorra's voice startled her.
"What a surprise. It suits you," he commented.
Orihime swirled around, "Oh, uh…um!" she flustered, "how long have you been standing there?" She slightly blushed. Did he just compliment me?
"Enough of the blabbering," He stated, annoyed. "You should not leave your door open. Other hollow in this palace are not as compliant as myself. You would do well to mind yourself."
"What?" she asked apprehensively.
"Many hollows do not understand the implications of what it means to follow orders. With the exception of me, all hollows were instructed to leave you be, but there are some who have yet to grasp the concept of obedience. I was instructed by Aizen-sama to be your caretaker until further notice. I assumed that this would require some level of accommodating you. You are slightly above a prisoner, so you are not entirely outside of the realm of being treated as a guest, but do not get too comfortable. You, just like the rest of us, operate under the authority of Aizen-sama, and you will do what is asked of you."
She flinched slightly at what he told her; I feel like I'm a slave. Why does the room feel so empty, even when he is around? She nodded in response to his statement.
"Very well, then. You seem to have taken to understand your role rather quickly— that your purpose is to do the will of Aizen-sama." He paused. Orihime looked down at her feet. Ulquiorra noticed a slight cringe in her body language in response to his words, but her expression was blank. It would be worthwhile to see just how far she can be prodded, he thought. "State it, so that I can be sure you are aware of your duties here."
I can't believe he's making me say this. She could feel tears welling up behind her eyelids, but she refused to succumb. She had to give the appearance of being strong so that they would not recognize her hesitancy. It doesn't mean anything…you have no obligation to be honest with them; though your outward appearances gives the impression that you're with them, your heart does not belong to them. Your heart does not belong to them…She repeated his words softly, "My purpose is to do the will of Aizen-sama."
Her face was calm as she repeated his words. Ulquiorra seemed satisfied. "Very good. I shall leave you now. A servant will be by later to bring you your supper," and with that, he left her quarters and locked the door behind him.
After making certain he was gone, she allowed her tears to fall. She sobbed quietly for a few minutes. "I really am a traitor," she whispered.
Upon exiting her quarters, Ulquiorra stood outside of her door. Fascinating, he thought. This woman is ripped from everyone she holds dear, joins forces with the enemy of the man she confesses to love, and still manages to maintain her composure in her current circumstances. This should cause anger and resentment against foreign authorities such as myself at the very least, yet she demonstrates a very open cooperation to everything asked of her. She even recognizes Aizen as her master. Though her actions are clearly a lie, the woman's psychological strength is intriguing…
His thoughts were interrupted by Nnoitra Gilga. "What a tasty job you have…" he remarked.
Nnoitra's insinuation was annoying. Orihime Inoue was exceedingly attractive, both in face and figure, but Ulquiorra was not the type to give himself to idiocy. As the news of Ulquiorra's task of being caretaker for the woman had leaked out, he had noticed several smirks and narrowed eye movements here and there from some of the male Espada as he headed towards Orihime's quarters. It was because of Ulquiorra's sense of duty and methodical nature that had led to his being chosen for the role. Though Aizen had little concern for the girl herself, he recognized that Ulquiorra was the only Espada who not only would have understood the subtleties of Aizen's instructions, but also that Ulquiorra was not one to allow himself to be distracted by his task. Tia Harribel might have been the second choice, but Aizen sensed that her fraccion was much too catty to allow her to execute the job efficiently. It was important that Aizen choose someone highly analytical, so as to recognize the sensitivity of making Orihime believe she was coming to Hueco Mundo by her own free will. Ulquiorra understood the art of psychological manipulation well, and he knew how to instill fear and authority within others without being overbearing. This sometimes ignited the other Espada, but Ulquiorra was not easily provoked. This made him the perfect candidate for luring the woman to this other dimension. Unsurprisingly, Nnoitra did not understand any of this. Ulquiorra patiently explained to him that it was imperative for the woman to be given the impression that her captors were not only accommodating, but also that she possessed some control over her decisions. This would allow her to reach the conclusion that her purpose would now be determined by Aizen, and would give him access into further manipulating her.
After the conversation with Nnoitra, Ulquiorra walked on with his thoughts continuing to dwell on the woman in the room. She is strong, and her powers are extraordinary, but surely she must realize that she is in over her head. Yet, if she continues to demonstrate this kind of behavior, perhaps my task won't be as tedious as I imagined...