Originally posted 1.27.2016
I need to keep this fresh in my mind before I write it, yeah? ULQUIHIME!
She was late.
Ulquiorra could not recall the last time it had taken him more than ten minutes to retrieve an herb from the garden. He fought the urge to tap a finger against his desk. Its surface, he noticed, was no longer dusty. The woman had seen to that. Somehow this only made his irritation grow.
“If she cannot identify rosemary by now, she’s hardly worth your time.” Kokuto picked scum from his fingernails with the tip of a dagger. “Even that witch Unohana’s pious assistants are capable of that much.” He smirked to himself. “The tall one–what is her name again? I’m having so much fun with her. Such monstrous height, and she can’t even have the decency to flower into a beautiful woman.“
“I am surprised Unohana hasn’t tried to stop you.”
“I’m surprised you still think Unohana cares about anyone but herself.” Kokuto threw Ulquiorra a grin. “You’re both cut from the same cloth.”
The study door creaked open and the woman rushed in, footfalls echoing off the high ceilings, her boots still covered in snow. Kokuto, of course, had vanished. Ulquiorra had a quip prepared, but the distressed expression on her face turned it into a question. “What happened?”
She stopped to catch her breath, the ends of her long brown hair sweeping across the surface of his desk. Without a word, she thrust her arms out towards him. Ulquiorra observed a mess of blood and feathers cupped in her gloved hands, staining the white fabric red. “Please,” she gasped. “I am not yet knowledgeable enough to save it.”
Ulquiorra’s eyes lifted from the bird to the woman. “You have delayed our lesson for an insignificant kestrel?”
Her own eyes met his, and he was struck again by the life in them. How transparent, her soul: its light illuminated her entire being. “This bird was attacked. Look how it still breathes! Is it not the very purpose of a doctor to mend a creature, as long as it still breathes?”
“If the bird allowed itself to be attacked, it does not deserve to live. Go put it back in the mouth of whatever flea bitten mongrel you found it in.”
The woman recoiled from him slowly, brows drawn, tears unshed. Her disgust struck Ulquiorra with all the force of a fist in the stomach. “Never mind. I will tend to the bird myself.” She cradled her bloodied hands to her chest and marched towards the door, where she hesitated before turning back to him. “It is true that your knowledge is unparalleled in this land, Mr. Cifer, but I do not have it in my heart to call such a cynical man a doctor.”
As soon as her footsteps had faded, Kokuto reappeared. “There, you are rid of her at last. Shall I tell Giriko to prepare the carriage for her return home?”
Ulquiorra sat back in his desk chair, unable to erase the image of her blood-stained gloves from his mind.
Some hours later, Ulquiorra emerged from the shadows of another study, one the woman had claimed as her own. In daylight t had a view of the snow-covered garden in back of the house, and beyond that, the rising slope of the mountain, its gnarled and tangled trees. The room itself was sparsely furnished: a work bench, a sofa, a fireplace, a sink.
Here Ulquiorra found the woman, dozing at the bench. In the glow of the firelight he could see the leftover tracks of tears on her cheeks. Before her, a rusted cage she had procured from God knew where contained the injured bird. Ulquiorra reached past the woman to open the cage door and inspect her work. Having no knowledge of avian anatomy, she had done her best to stitch the wounds, but it was clear the bird still suffered. It gazed at Ulquiorra with eyes glossy and beak open.
Ulquiorra removed his glove. He drew a penknife from his coat pocket and pricked his thumb, then held it over the mouth of the bird until a drop of blood landed on its tongue. The bird blinked rapidly. Its wings fluttered once, twice, then it hopped to its feet and regarded Ulquiorra with a tilt of the head. He closed the cage door and licked his thumb to heal the self-inflicted wound.
Beside him, the woman sighed in her sleep. Ulquiorra watched the firelight cast dancing shadows upon her face. “Cut from the same cloth, am I?” he whispered, then left the room the way he’d come.