Keep fleeing, no looking back,
Fair maiden, up one foot and down the other,
The unknown darkness ahead,
Can hide you from what's behind you for only so long...
When the sun decided to peak through the bright green leaves during the warmest part of the afternoon, when each breath brought peace and thoughts of blissful summers, and when the crunch of stale, unmoving rocks and dead plants reverberated between tree trunks was the time Orihime Inoue cherished most out of the year.
The feeling of catching a sunbeam just right in her eye and feeling her iris contract her pupils was familiar and comforting, albeit a bit uncomfortable. But when that same sunlight struck her pale skin, the feeling, both physical and emotional, it created crept up into her chest and filled her with euphoria. This was a feeling she wanted to experience every day.
So Orihime could only imagine her luck when her cousin informed her of a job opening at the national park where she worked. Of course, her cousin had said, there was paperwork and the occasional few hours indoors inside a small office, but there were wide windows to look out of, and you could see a barrier of pine trees bordering the winding road that led up to the ranger station. Orihime didn't mind being cooped up in an office for any amount of time, because being outside for the remainder of her work hours made up for it completely.
When she had started out, her time was very much consumed with small tasks such as monitoring the gift shop and giving people their park passes at the registration desk. However, Orihime looked no gift horses in the mouth and menial tasks couldn't dim the bright light that surrounded her new job. Even if she was contained within walls which held air vents that blew uncomfortably chilly air onto her bare arms, she imagined she could still sense the nature around the location as if it were in the room with her.
The park was pretty far from the nearest city, a near two hour drive. Yet this was not a large problem seeing as the business supplied employees with housing for when they were unable to return to their homes within a fair amount of time. But being isolated within the vast mountainous forests made thoughts of cities flee from people's minds as soon as they were engulfed in it.
This is why Orihime was confounded as to why her cousin worked there in the first place. The older woman abhorred the idea of dirt getting beneath her fingernails and her hair becoming sweaty and lank. Which of course was likely to happen in such an outdoorsy job. Orihime guessed the pay was satisfactory enough, but she believed that the real reason was that her cousin could spend more time with her fiancé who was a park ranger.
Her cousin's fiancé was a quite unsettling man, which was why he was put on patrol most of the time. When troublemakers or trespassers were confronted with him, they put their rebellion behind them soon enough.
The scene Orihime witnessed in entering the ranger station one day in the middle of summer confirmed her idea once again that her cousin worked there only for the sole purpose of being near her fiancé.
The older, bustier woman was flirtatiously flipping her silky honey-hued hair behind her shoulder as she sat behind the reception desk while her grinning love interest...grinned. Upon hearing the bell jingle cheerily when the door pushed it, the silver haired man turned to find the culprit of the noise.
He greeted Orihime with a mildly creepy smile and cooed, "Ah, Hime-chan, you're always so on time and early even." He faced his fiance. "Ain't she a doll? You have such an adorable, hardworkin' cousin, m'lady."
The woman beamed. "She's always been like that, even since we were kids! She wouldn't let me sleep in even just a teensy bit in the mornings when I slept over." She winked at her younger cousin. "Lighten up, hun, your shift doesn't even start for another fifteen minutes."
Orihime blushed at the attention, and fussed with her plain, tan, park ranger's top. "But Rangiku, you were difficult to wake up anyways. I had to start making breakfast most days so you would smell it and get up."
Her older cousin's fiance's grin widened. "Why, I know what you're talkin' about, Hime-chan! I can't even roll her out of bed most days, what with her deep sleepin' habits. We don't even go at it that much most nights."
Orihime turned beet red at such information and scurried away to check in as Rangiku playfully smacked her fiance's shoulder with a mock-horrified cry of "Gin!"
When she'd made sure that she was registered as checked in for the day, Orihime retreated to her tiny office she often shared with Rangiku and planted her rear in the stiff rolling chair. Ignoring the discomfort, she took a look out the window to her left to see the valley leading downwards to the highway and the road that twisted and turned on it. It was covered in shadows as the sun rose in the opposite direction, but it never lacked beauty in Orihime's eyes. Hearing Rangiku's shrill flirting and Gin's charming purr of a response snapped her out of her longing daze and forced her to focus on the task before her.
She leaned over to open a drawer on the bulky metal desk and pulled out a stack of papers. These would need to be looked over during the course of the day, and what better time to start than the few extra minutes she had before her shift! Checking the clock, she saw she had ten minutes tops. Good enough.
When it was eventually time, she headed in the direction of the gift shop. She noticed that the happy couple was missing, and the reception desk was missing its temporary receptionist. Orihime sighed, knowing her cousin would get in trouble. She would have to keep an eye on the reception desk from the gift shop and work both. This generosity was instinctual for her. She couldn't help but wonder where Rangiku and Gin went, and then she realized...such information didn't concern her that much.
Lunchtime came around at a snail's pace, and while they hadn't been overrun or anything, there were many guests and visitors to attend to at both desks. As a hefty man with hiking apparel huffed impatiently at her when she gave him his park pass, her stomach announced its empty state. This apparently gained no sympathy from the bad-smelling man, and he rapidly tapped his right foot. Once he received what he came for, he waddled out of the building bad temperedly, the keychains on his outdoors backpack jangling gratingly.
The orange haired girl let the air in her lungs rush out, the sigh seemingly taking her stress along with it. She slumped in the cushy chair, wincing as her stomach retaliated against her failure to forage for edible substance. She looked down at it unhappily, willing it to endure a little longer. However, she didn't have to wait long as another park ranger, and her best friend, Rukia Kuchiki came dashing in, looking ruffled.
"Sorry, Orihime!" the petite woman apologized as she came to a stop at the desk, "The car had a flat tire a mile down the road and I wasn't able to get here on time. Ichigo told me to go on so I could get to work at a decent time." She gave Orihime a glare that obviously wasn't meant for the other girl. "He told me he could put the spare on himself. I told him I wouldn't leave him alone in the heat, but noooo! Somebody had to pull the gentleman act today! I knew you'd be here and Rangiku had most likely abandoned her position, so I decided to come."
Rukia foraged her cell phone from her purse and gave it a glare too, but apparently didn't find what she was looking for on it, and stowed it away. "Ichigo said he'd call me when he was finished. He'd better remember to, he knows how pissed I'll be if he makes me worry!"
And with that, the little spitfire of a woman strode away to check in, and Orihime couldn't help but giggle. Those two seemed to love arguing with one another.
When Rukia came trudging in with the phone practically crushed against the side of her face, Orihime perked up and listened intently.
"Okay, alright. Good. Well then, I'll see you later. And make sure to get that car taken to the auto repair shop! I forbid you to drive around on that crappy spare!...yeah, well, that's life...uh-huh, don't argue with me, you know I'm right...yeah, yeah, bye." Rukia snapped her cell phone shut and stuffed it into the back pocket of her park ranger shorts, giving Orihime an apologetic look. "Sorry, Orhime. Ichigo's fine, he just thinks he'll be okay with that thin spare tire. Man logic." Orihime smiled sympathetically as the small woman shook her head frustratedly. When Orihime's stomach growled with a vengeance, Rukia gave her an amused look and shooed her away from the desk. "Off with you, you're probably starving. Sounds like it. I'll manage from here."
"Are you sure, Rukia?" Orihime asked apprehensively.
Her friend gave her a reassuring smile and made shooing gestures. "Get on with it before your stomach starts eating you from the inside-out."
With a grateful grin, Orihime was about to prance into the small cafe that was attached to the gift shop when she realized she didn't have her lunch box. Oh, right her lunch box! Now where was it? Let's see, she remembered making lunch this morning, putting the box on the counter, walking out the door and...she'd forgotten her lunch box! She gasped, then immediately tried to cover it up by giving a faux cough, but Rukia's sharp ears caught onto her.
"What is it, Orihime?" she asked, giving her a quizzical stare. The orange-haired girl merely flashed her a deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression, and Rukia quickly guessed what the problem was. "You forgot your lunch again, didn't you?" When Orihime started shaking her head rapidly and backing up into the gift shop, Rukia sighed. She fished some money out of her purse and forced it into Orihime's hands. "Buy yourself some lunch or I'll tell Rangiku that you're starving yourself."
Orihime gulped, knowing how she'd never hear the end of it for weeks on end if her cousin caught wind of her skipping out on a meal. She hated concerning her loved ones. Wrapping her arms around Rukia in a firm hug, effectively catching the smaller woman off guard, Orihime squeaked out a word of thanks, then scrambled off to purchase something to eat. Rukia smiled after her, and went back to working the reception desk as a family of four walked into the station.
It was after she had wolfed down a satisfying lunch that Orihime's day took a turn that would change her fate.
She wiped a considerable amount of crumbs off her mouth daintily with her napkin when the manager made an appearance. She heard the steady "clop-clop" before the man reached her table, and raised her eyes to look him in the face.
Kisuke Urahara smiled politely at her as he approached where she sat in the cafe.
"Ah, good afternoon, Orihime-san, I hope your lunch was nice!"
Orihime beamed at her employer before saying, "Yes sir, I quite enjoyed it!"
The man gave a bemused laugh and said, "Well, great! I'm glad. But your lunch is, in fact, not what I came over here to discuss with you."
When Orihime gave him a befuddled look, he elaborated, "Rukia has told me about your hard work today."
Orihime became alarmed, hoping that she hadn't gotten Rangiku in trouble!
"You've done this before I know, and I think you deserve a break. See, you need to rest. Why don't you take the rest of the day off and have fun?" Urahara smiled at her appalled expression.
"B-bu-but Urahara-san! I-"
He stopped her by raising his hand in front of her face. "Enough, Inoue-san. It's all right. No one is in trouble. I just noticed how much work you've done, and I think you deserve a break. I want my employees to work hard, but not be overworked. Don't argue with me!" He told her quickly as she opened her mouth to protest. He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and said, "Trust me. You'll still have your job later. You've done the work of several employees, and if I have to, I'll fire you if you don't take the day off."
Orihime wasn't quite sure if he was joking with her, but decided not to take the chance. She immediately rose from her seat and bowed politely, whispering out a breathy, "Thank you, Urahara-san!", then collected her lunch scraps to throw them away and rush out the door.
Kisuke smiled to himself as he watched her flee. Of course he had been joking.
And that was how it began.
Orihime felt the sun begin to burn the top of her scalp, and moved into the shade of a leafy tree. Earlier, after her boss had given her the day off, she had wondered what to do for the remainder of her hours. Staying in the office was a no, seeing as she didn't wish to freeze in the synthetic air conditioning. That was when it came to her. It was such a pleasant day outside that she believed she would go for her hike! She wouldn't wander too far, but she did want to stray from the safe paths for a little, just to see if she could find something new. Besides, she could easily find her way back. It's not like she was going to mountain climb or jump off a cliff. She wouldn't get into trouble anyways. No, deviating from the usual hiking paths wouldn't be such a bad decision at all.
And that was her fatal mistake.
So far, she had walked an hour's time into the mountainous woods, and finally decided to walk away from the trail. Playing a quick game of "Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Mo" with herself, she picked an area densely grown with trees and ivy. She made sure to avoid the ivy, but couldn't resist the lure of the tall, royal trees.
And so many trees, so leafy and everywhere. The more she wandered, the thicker they became, and it sometimes seemed to be like evening the way the trees blocked out the overhead sunlight. This made Orihime a bit uneasy, but her child-like curiosity was stronger than her fear. She was unconsciously making her footsteps lighter while her eyes became round, her mouth open slightly as if in a parody of a child sneaking into a forbidden place and knowing so. Placing her hand upon a tree revealed how cool the bark was, as if to emphasize the lack of sunlight. Despite knowing this was common sense, Orihime looked at her hand, still on the tree trunk, and stared, her wonder growing. Yes, she definitely felt like a kid entering a wonderland. She turned and gazed behind her, looking at the trail she had left. It was in the distance, yet still visable. Frozen in place, she couldn't decide what to do. Keep venturing farther into the trees, to parts unknown, or return to the safety of the usual path. She only meant to give one last glance at the forest in front of her, but found that she was unable to look away. That was all it took for her insecurities to be overrun by her wonder, and she continued on, away from the path, almost as if in a trance.
She stepped over fallen logs and undergrowth as she ventured into the vast forest. The ground underneath her ranger boots gradually began to change from leafy, pine needle covered to pebbly and rough, albeit still with a considerable amount of pine needles. Soon enough, she began to hear the faint trickle and giggle of a running creek, and eventually met the flowing body of water as the sun crept from overhead to the tops of the trees. The day was becoming less bright, but the young female with fiery orange hair did not notice in the least. The initial wonder and trance had faded, but she could not dig herself out of her new quest. She trudged onward, still taken aback by the beauty and solemn silence of the unpopulated forest.
Well, it was, of course, populated. But this population consisted of creatures that scurried upon quick paws up trees, and flew on feathers into their nests in alarm at the two-legged intruder. Yet she was the only one. No other being inside of the large, forested wonderland walked upon two legs as she did.
Or...that's what she thought.
Ah, yes. It was cool. The air and the rock. The atmosphere neither stirred nor altered. The space was nearly void of sound at all, except for the quiet, rhythmic breath coming from the one who inhabited it. Even the breath was chilled, coming from and to a place devoid of warmth. Though it wasn't as if the heat were being taken from the area...it just wasn't there to begin with. It made the air feel cleaner in his lungs. And it never carried any scent.
Too far back in the cave to catch the smell of random wildlife, he merely breathed the crisp, yet slightly stale air surrounding him. This quality of scentless air seldom ever changed. Today was no different. Not that he ever made many distinctions between any set of twenty-four hours; every day was just the same as the last. What purpose was there to keep up with the suns and moons that passed?
Yes, how pointless. At least there was comfort in knowing that change would not disturb him. It had been decades since something had unsettled him, and-
He could almost feel the altercation in the air as soon as he caught it's scent. A smell he had never encountered before. It was...as clean and crisp as the air which occupied the cave he kept to himself in. However, as clean as it was, he could tell that it wasn't natural. It did not belong to the forest. It was not supposed to be there. But it did not seem as if it would disturb nature's scent...almost as if it blended in. As if it really did belong there. Such a scent that would not bother him in the least.
He did not realize it at first, but the new scent intrigued him so much that the rest of his body responded eagerly. Clawed hands unfurled from their fists as his wings did the same, parting and undoing the cocoon they had made around his pale body. He parted his lips only barely, just enough to capture the smell that was steadily invading his space. He inhaled like a deep-sea swimmer who was relieved to regain lost oxygen. Once having inhaled to his lungs' limit, he did not exhale, keeping the new air trapped within his body, as if to absorb it. When he finally did breathe out, the scent clung to his nostrils, only exciting him further. The smell had awakened instincts that had never been awake. This had never happened in the past, despite having an extensive one. Human. It was human. He killed humans. He took offense to their trespassing in his domain where only he was to roam. But this scent had the thought of killing make him itch. Murder did not appeal to him this time. The smell intrigued him so strongly, he wanted to know more of it.
Prey. Prey. Prey.
Mate. A mate.
His inner instincts made him open his eyes slowly, blinking to adjust them to the dark of the cave. He stood carefully, making sure his wings nor horns brushed any of the rock walls.
It was as if these sudden, surprising thoughts were activating a part of his brain which had been dormant since birth.
He had never yearned for company of another being. And he wasn't even sure if he did now...but he needed to find the source of the scent and analyze it. Why did it feel refreshing to breathe in this human scent? Human scent, which usually annoyed and clogged him. This time, though, he was fighting an odd, compelling feeling. Sure, he had smelled pleasant scents that he'd enjoyed. But he had never felt the urge to grasp it...to keep it. He let out an angered hiss between his teeth at his own musings.
Making his way out of the cave, caught sight of the barest hints of light pouring in from the entrance. He did not favor the daytime. Yet daylight was fading into the evening, when the sun was departing. He paused. He would wait an hour's time. An hour's time, and the hunt was on.
Fate's a difficult thing to fight
Are you up to it, love?
You and I against it together,
Yet what happens when you aren't there anymore?
I watched you disappear
Destiny took you upon tattered wings
I could only watch as you left with tears
And the only thing that came back was a single strand of your hair
Orihime officially realized that she had made a huge mistake when she felt the fatigue in her legs. Even her back, which had begun to hunch with the exertion of continuing to walk, started to ache. She also felt hunger clawing its way into her stomach, and winced at the pangs it gave off.
Finding a large, buried boulder to sit on, she plopped down without a second thought, too focused on the burning sensation in her suffering back to look around. The landscape had changed a few times since her journey, and now it resembled the mountains more than the forest. Of course, there were still trees, but they now were thinning out and sparse. She could see cliff faces close to her and knew that she could not go on any farther. Then her thought process halted altogether.
What was left of her trance that had formed in midday broke completely.
Cliff faces? Cliff faces? She rose to her feet quickly, the protest in her back easily ignored by the overwhelming panic and alarm that raced through her brain. She should not be anywhere near the cliffs! She had most definitely gone way too far! She had only meant to see a few sights, that's it! Orihime knew she had gotten way too carried away. What a horrible mistake. A truly terrible mistake.
She whirled around, taking in her surroundings. To her back was the forest, onward was the cliffs. Oh dear. The sun...the sun had begun to set. The light around her was a soft, yellow-orange, and the clouds in the sky were painted pink, purple, and orange. It was way too late, and she was way too far away from the station.
The only thing she could think of to do was turn around and retrace her steps. It was too late in the day to make it back before dark. Was she really willing to stumble around in the dark? Wouldn't it make more sense to stay put until morning? Of course it did, but in her desperation, the foremost goal in Orihime's mind was to make her way back to home as quickly as possible. She couldn't stand the thought of being found by an animal or worse in the dark!
At first, she started to take rapid steps back down the way she'd come, and those steps turned into strides, finally breaking into a panicked run. She drew haggard breaths as she fearfully pelted through trees, commanding her legs to move even though they shook.
Only a half-circle of light peeked over the horizon as a sobbing Orihime lay on the ground where she had landed after tripping through a patch of vines. The reality of the situation crashed down on her just as she herself had crashed to the ground when her feet entangled in a thorny vine. She didn't recognize any landmarks, and knew for sure that she hadn't encountered thorns on her first way through here. She refused to let the word, "lost" enter her mind, but it was creeping up surely, and she knew what she couldn't deny.
How could she have been so stupid? Now there was no way to fix her situation. She should have found a spot near the cliffs to sleep until daybreak, then she could make her way back when she was able to see. At least she would have seen a threat approaching her. But now she had run herself into the open, easy prey for any creature that found her desirable. There was no turning back now.
When her sobs had reduced to hiccups, she sat up, dazed and hurt. She gazed around her, her sight dwindling sadly as the sun continued its descent. She sniffled pitifully, and took a look at her leg. Long, thin hairline scratches trailed down it, and she shook her head hopelessly. The tiny wounds started up a dreadful itching, but Orihime decided to ignore it the best she could. She took in a deep breath, attempting to calm herself down. When she let go of the air in her chest, she tried to find something familiar among the nature.
Nothing. She could try and retrace her steps to her best abilities, but truthfully, she was lost. No doubt about it now. Denying it would be turning her eyes away from reality. Something she was prone to do in the past with her childlike ways. There was a difference between hope and being realistic, and she knew better now.
Once she'd stopped crying, and forced herself to calm down, she stood and continued to shuffle in the direction she thought the station was. Perhaps she hadn't given up yet.
I don't have to fade to realize who I am
I just know where I'm going
But that's in the distance
And I can only reach it by falling
Orihime heard the first gust of wind as she was climbing clumsily over a gigantic fallen tree that she knew she hadn't ever seen before.
The sun was fully well and gone now, and here in the isolated forest, the only light that reached her was from the moon and stars. She could barely make out the shape of her own hands in front of her eyes, and this brought on another wave of desperate horror. She heaved a dry sob, but didn't stop. Her feet kept going one in front of the other, carrying her farther in her destination.
When she heard the sudden movement of air, she stopped. That wasn't the normal wind, which she'd heard quite a few times as she had ventured out here during the afternoon. It was forced, as if by fan blades.
She heard it again, and now thought the sound more resembled beating wings instead of a fan blade. This injected fear into her heart quicker than any medication. She stopped, frozen in place. She didn't realize just how perfectly she fit the image of caught prey. As another gust sounded through the leaves overhead, she felt a small wisp of it ghost over her cheek. And in another burst of prey-like behavior, she bolted like a deer that caught onto a hunter's game.
Orihime was completely forgetting the fact that she was in a forest with trees on all sides of her, and rammed her shoulder into one more than once, as well as banging her appendages on other misplaced obstacles. Adrenaline again made her limbs feel weak and like jelly, but she refused to go down like she had before. Upon hearing the gusts of wind multiply and quicken, this urge strengthened. Even when she had her legs taken out from under her by the odd rock or branch, she made sure to regain her footing. She even had to scramble on hands and knees thrice when her legs gave out under her.
Running headlong into a wall of rock and tree would've normally been funny in a light situation, but when it happened to Orihime as she fled her unknown threat, there was nothing to laugh at. It felt as if the surface had been thrown at her with a painful velocity, and her vision erupted into white as she hit. She had whipped her head to the side to try and catch sight of her pursuer, and threw the side of her face into the solid surface as she came into contact with it.
She fell back and bounced as she was repelled away from the rock and trees by her own force. She was dizzy, lightheaded in the moments directly after her collision. Opening her eyes revealed that she was lying on her side with her arms curled under her body. It only took a second, but she immediately remembered that she was in the process of being chased, and swiftly raised her head, pushing off the ground with her battered arms. This was the wrong move, and her brain didn't waste time in indicating so by shooting a sudden bout of dizziness and pain into her noggin. But she wasn't deterred. She shakily rose to her knees, and looked up.
Her mind blanked as she took in the image of someone standing a couple of yards away from her.
He stood there, almost proudly, satisfied at having caught his prey. He really hadn't meant for her to run herself into a boulder, but it put her out long enough for him to swoop through the trees and catch up with her. She was surprisingly light on her feet, this human female. This human female, most strange.
Inhaling deeply as he had before in his cave, he closed his eyes. The scent she gave off almost seemed to set off sparks in his nerves, and his wings twitched, furling and unfurling. Orihime watched in wide-eyed shock and utter surprise. When she thought that she was being hunted down, she hadn't expected her pursuer to so closely resemble a human. This caught her off guard, and once he closed his eyes, she relaxed. She wasn't as alarmed as she had been a second before, but his golden irises upon pine-green sclera were mildly unnerving.
Slowly, so as to not catch too much attention from him, she eased herself onto her feet. She watched him carefully, trying to guess his next move. He had his head tilted back slightly at the moment, as if savoring something. She tilted her own head to the side, subconsciously questioning his actions. His jet black hair slid off his pale shoulders silently, and even though she couldn't see very well at all, she could make out his wings and horns jutting out from his form. And of course, not forgetting that long, whip-like tail. Orihime gazed at her hunter, fascinated. His lower extremities were covered in a coarse, thick, black fur, and from his elbows to his hands he was colored a dark black as well. Long claws extended from those hands, which now mimicked his wings, curling into loose fists before becoming open again.
When he remained in his odd pose, she decided to leave him as he was. Of course, she was full of wonder at his appearance, but she was still wary of him. Despite wanting to know who and what he was, he had chased her without calling out to reassure her that he was no threat. Then again, should she be fooled by his appearance? Sure, he had a humanoid form, but looks could be deceiving.
She moved her foot backwards and placed it down behind her.
At the sound of a twig cracking, his head snapped back forward as his eyes flew open. She froze once more, not having anticipated alerting him to her potential plight. He narrowed his eyes at her, as if to warn her from attempting to flee again. But rational thought was something she'd left behind a while back, and she brought her other leg back, mirroring her left one.
"What good would it do you?"
Orihime stared at the creature, very surprised that he had begun to speak to her. Surprised that he was able to talk at all. She collected herself, and worked up enough nerve to reply to him.
"Why do you say that?" she whispered so quietly, she thought she should say it again so he could hear her. But he apparently had no trouble hearing the gentle phrase.
"You will not escape. You will not be able to evade me again. The only thing that kept me from catching you earlier was the trees. Don't think I won't be able to fly in between them should you run again." His voice was monotone as could be, but she could feel the truth in his words as if they were physical. He meant business.
"B-but why? Why are you following me?" Orihime managed to squeak out. She had already thought up the answer, but hoped that it wasn't true.
When he didn't reply, merely staring at her through half-lidded eyes, she elaborated, "You can't eat me! I have friends to return to!" And she struck a defensive pose, readying herself for an attack.
His eyes widened slightly at her sudden burst of courage. He had been right. This woman was a strange one. Fearful one second, brave the next. Studying her closely, he could see that as frightened as she still was, this bravery was no facade. Determination, survival instincts were kicking in, willing her to fight off a threat to her life. Intrigued, but now mildly impatient, he began to move closer to her.
She tensed at his approach, balling her fists and bending her knees. It looked like she was going to have to battle her way out of this.
When he was a couple of feet away, she sprang into action, planning a kick to his head. Her training with her friend, Tatsuki, in her earlier years weren't for nothing!
Alarm filled her as he casually snatched her foot up in his hand. His hold was firm, but when she tugged on her leg, he let go. She thought about her situation for a moment as she warily stared at him. He wasn't moving right now, but she could sense that he wanted to get his way eventually. Bringing her arm back, she aimed a powerful punch at him, but seemingly without any effort on his part, he caught her fist within his and locked eyes with her. It was then that she noticed the peculiar green streaks pouring from his eyes, down his cheekbones and to his jaw. They contrasted almost artistically with his pale grey complexion, and she found herself entranced for a moment or two.
He took advantage of her lack of focus, and gripped her other arm with his free hand. Brought out of her thoughts violently, she gasped and tried to back away, but was held in place in front of him. She twisted, turned, and yanked on her upper body as hard as she could, but this creature was far too strong to be so easily escaped. He held on firmly, not enough to hurt her, but enough to let her know that she wasn't going to be able to run. She started kicking his shins, yet he didn't react at all. No matter how hard she fought, he wasn't deterred.
"Get off! Let me go, I said let me go, you jerk!" she cried out, flailing and whipping her hair around her head.
His voice stopped her once again, and she met his gaze questioningly.
"It's Ulquiorra. Don't use such human terms to describe me. I am no 'jerk'," he explained to her plainly. As an afterthought, he added, "My purpose is not to eat you either. What point would there be when I could easily catch a more foolish animal?"
This made Orihime pause, and she looked at him without fear. "You...you don't want to eat me?"
"No." he said.
"Then...what do you want with me? Why have you captured me?" she asked, tugging on her arms and gazing pitifully at them as if to illustrate her point.
It was the weirdest thing as he could find no answer. In all reality, it was a question he should be asking himself. He'd never chased anything unless to eat it or remove it from his territory. How had this human's scent alone driven him to...acquire her? Yes, that was what he wanted. To acquire her. To have her. Funny, he had never wanted to own something before. But the strangest urge to have her belong to him, and even belong to her was gripping him.
It wasn't some silly emotion driving him to this, that he was sure of. He felt no emotion. He didn't care for the passion that humans normally labeled their belonging to each other with, but somehow, her smell had awakened a primal instinct inside of him. Just her scent had indicated to him that there was something different about her. Something off, something strange. And that's when his desire to possess her took hold.
Ulquiorra realized she was still waiting for an answer, and returned his focus to her. He bent over her and reached around her, swiftly trapping her arms in his hold and effectively securing her to him. She let out a small scream, and started to fight again when he whispered into her ear, "Because I want you."
He didn't figure that he needed to elaborate on that. She needed no other answer, did she? He wanted her, he would have her. That simple.
He wanted everything about her.
The man bent his knees slightly, then leaped away from the ground and flexed his wings, shooting off toward his cave with breakneck speed. Orihime clung to his chest, crying out in surprise and terror as they left the ground. Even in her scared state, she knew how stupid it would be to fight him now. Not that she could have gotten out of his grip anyway, as he had just proven a few minutes ago. This creature who called himself Ulquiorra had wrapped his arms around her back and thighs, making sure that she would not drop in their flight.
Letting out a hysterical sob, she pleaded with him, "Stop it, stop! Put me back on the ground! I want a say in this!" She beat his chest with her small, clenched fist to emphasize her point. But he ignored her, choosing to bring his hand up behind her head while keeping his arm on her back, and entangling his fingers in the silken strands.
Frightened and with nothing else to do, she began to cry in earnest, letting the tears flow like rivers, as she had done earlier in the evening. She regretted having ever thought it would be a good idea to explore uncharted areas of the forest. Because this is what it gets you. Kidnapped by bat-men. This one humorous thought brought a hysterical giggle to her lips, and she simultaneously sobbed and laughed, the resulting sound coming out strangled.
His body heat was oddly comforting, a contrast with the chilled night air whipping around them. Giving up entirely, she wrapped her arms around his neck and continued to cry into his body, resigning herself to her fate. His warmth was the only comfort she had now.
She barely realized as the air around her changed, but when she did, she noticed that they weren't in an open area any longer. He seemed to have zoomed into a closed space with walls. Suddenly feeling claustrophobic, Orihime asked, "Where are we? Where have you taken me?" She was ashamed at how childish her voice sounded, embarrassed that she had shown him weakness. Where was her bravery now?
"My home," Ulquiorra told her. "This is now where you stay."
This information slowly sank in, and Orihime could feel what was left of her sense start to slip away. He landed on a hard surface, what she guessed was the floor of the enclosed space. By the rocky feeling, she figured out that it was a cave they had flown into. He had put her down on her side, and she tried to rise from her lying position. He blocked her with his body, however, and wrapped his arms around her once more. She heard a rustling and could tell that he was also covering their two bodies with his wings.
She struggled fruitlessly, her breath coming out in panicked gasps, but he only held on tighter as he lay the two of them down onto the rock floor.
"No," she whispered, "No, no! This wasn't supposed to happen! No! Please let me go!" She thrashed her body around, forgetting that it just wasn't possible.
Ulquiorra held on tighter, refusing to let go of his new treasure.
Ah, gone are the days of my childish naivety
I've turned a new leaf
And need to find out what's in store for me
A few hours later, Orihime had given up completely, returning to her state of resigned self pity. Ulquiorra, though put off that she wasn't excited about her new home, couldn't help but feel hopeful. He was already feeling less empty, and knew that life would no longer be so either. The small, orange haired female in his arms hiccupped occasionally and relaxed, falling farther and farther into sleep.
He sighed, comforted by her presence. He unconsciously stroked her back with his fingers lightly, reveling in this pure being beside him. His new treasure. He'd keep it safe from everyone else. He had captured it, it was his now.
A ghost of a smile graced his lips, and he too gave himself up to the retreat of sleep.
Maybe she was a bit unwilling now, but he'd show her how nice life would be now. He'd be her caretaker and object of affection. That he would make sure of.
She would be happy in time.
A/N: Finally, an UlquiHime story. My first one. Please tell me what you think.
All of the verses used in this story are mine. Any similarity to already existing poetry and verse is purely coincidential.