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Essay for Sanji's application to Angelii rank:



If you were to ask him, Sanji wouldn't think he's changed. Not outwardly, at least (and he'd stubbornly deny things, too). During his time in Nautilus he has changed, however, if subtly.

When he first arrived in Nautilus, he was guarded about his true identity, and didn't make many close ties to people. He didn't know if this was a "pirate-friendly port", after all, and he figured he wouldn't be staying here long. (A truth-telling reality storm would soon settle the whole 'pirate issue' for Sanji shortly later). Sanji doesn't make close ties easily, to begin with; it takes something special to gain his trust and loyalty. He kept up a polite veneer towards most people (well, most guys at least; he was always genuinely friendly towards the ladies) but he was never interested in becoming friends with any of them, or being concerned for any of them, or the city. His habit back home of flirting and fawning over any pretty lady, with near-wild abandon, was full in effect though.

Gradually, this started to shift. The reality about the city, and what he would face if he decided to try going home, was already starting to sink in shortly after arriving. He was already very upset about feeling like a "puppet" back in his home world. He was all alone in this strange place, with no crewmates around. Not that he wanted them there; he feared that this place, outside of reality, would feel like a prison to some... especially since it would mean their dreams would essentially be pointless in this place. But he was still lonely, and homesick. The Deva Kergan talked to him about all the potential Nautilus held, and all the paths he could explore here... and about finding his 'niche', his place in the city. As a lady (and as a Deva), Sanji listened to her words, and allowed himself to open up a little as to the possibilties of things he could do in this city.

He started growing closer to some people. In particular, a girl by the name of Orihime. He was charmed by her optimism and good humor, while she found his endless flattery amusing (if a little embarassing at times). She was the one who gave him the book on the language of flowers (which he uses to this day), as well as helping him get over a hurdle in learning how to bend (which he still instructs others to try, if they're also having troubles bending). He also was there for her in times that upset her, such as when close friends of hers went back to Sleep. Knowing she was upset, he worked to restrain himself from being his usually flowery self, and instead focussed on making her feel better, and comforting her... strictly as a gentleman, and as a friend. The two grew closer as friends, and Sanji began to tell her a few things that he hadn't told anyone else in the city. He was starting to grow fond of Orihime's cuteness and charm, but given some of the things she had told him, plus how bright and innocent she seemed, he didn't dare try to push her too far, or ask to become more. For him, just being a friend and being able to flirt and compliment her was enough.

During a reality storm, Sanji was gifted a small tower by the city, and he decided to make it his home, and turn it into his restaurant. Before this, he had been staying at the Southern Welcome House. By deciding to fix up and keep the tower, he was deciding to settle himself, to anchor himself and stay in Nautilus. He decided on a restaurant because if nothing else, he was a cook at heart, and it was his calling in life to feed people. Even if most people could feed themselves through bending, there would always be those who prefer a meal cooked by hand, or those who needed the help because they weren't good at bending yet. In addition to subconciously settling down in his new 'home', he was finding his place and role in the city.

He'd also started to become more friendly towards a couple other people in the city. There was the adorable young girl Jendayi, who seemed to be able to charm nearly everyone she met, and Wally West was one of the few guys he became good friends with, partially thanks to a reality storm (or the coming presence of the Dark Aeon) where people were able to enter into each other's nightmares. Wally saw Sanji's, and vice-versa, and the two helped each other out through both of them. He would bake treats for Jendayi, and show her how to cook stuff... and he felt comfortable leaving his restaurant in Wally's care, should the need arise. Sanji was very saddened when both eventually fell Asleep.

It was around this point in time when the Dark Aeon approached. While his restaurant wasn't ready yet, he helped to prepare and store a lot of food in the Southern Welcome House for those that needed it. He also expressed his willingness to help fight in defence of the city. This was his home, now, and he was aware of the dangers if they didn't succeed - if they failed, all of reality would be in danger of being wiped out, his home world, and all his nakama included. Sanji knew he couldn't just sit idly by.

The fight was rougher than anything he could have imagined. Orihime was captured by the enemy, which caused Sanji no small amount of worry. As they tried to drop the city away from it, the Dark Aeon stuck tentacles into the city, out of which oozed sticky, globular "puddle spawn". In a futile attempt to kick and damage the tentacles, Sanji was attacked by these puddle spawn. Despite going down easily, they 'splattered' upon impact, and any bare skin their goop touched remained stained. Through these stains, the Dark Aeon would gain control over the people infected. When news of a sighting of Orihime and her captor - Pyramid Head - was made, Sanji - in his concern - ignored warnings and went off to face that thing himself. He'd later regret that for the longest time. Pyramid Head worked by pulling up a person's own fears, doubts and guilt, having them echo in his head. Sanji was helpless against this beast, driven to his knees by his own feelings of guilt (being the cause for Zeff's loss of his leg and his dream, being a burden upon the man, and so forth). When he was on his knees, that's when the Dark Aeon took control of his body, moving him around like his puppet. It made Sanji fight against the group that had come to - and eventually did - rescue Orihime, and he was restrained as a result. The city did eventually pull far enough away from the Dark Aeon, and it's control was broken, leaving Sanji himself again. The experience had changed Sanji, however. He felt terrible guilt at being unable to save Orihime, and in fact hindering her true rescuers. Even though she did forgive him, he still harboured that guilt for a while after; that he wasn't able to protect someone he cared about. More so, though, he became very sympathetic to anyone who had similarly been under any sort of mind control. Before, he might have reacted callously, or at least indifferent or uncaring towards those that had done things while being manipulated by others. He would still have held their actions against them. Not so much anymore. Now that he had been a victim of mind control himself, Sanji is very sympathetic to those that have forced to do things under the control of others, forgiving them things he normally wouldn't otherwise. He has taken a few steps to protect himself against further mind control - a class against possession taught by Danny Phantom, but only one class was ever held, so Sanji's experience and control at forcing others out of his mind is very shaky at best.

Things calmed down, thankfully, for a while after the Dark Aeon was defeated, allowing Sanji to work more on repairing the tower and opening his restaurant, and to interact more with the people of Nautilus. During a drunk/high storm, Sanji started flirting with a suddenly-turned-human Luna, and while things were awkward thanks to the storm, the two continued to talk (and to flirt) with each other as time went on (more on this later). Orihime left to go check on other worlds, and while Sanji didn't know it at the time, this would be the last time he spoke to her, as Orihime went to Sleep before ever returning to Nautilus. When that information was finally revealed, Sanji was rather heartbroken. One of the sweetest girls he'd met, and someone he had grown rather fond of, was now gone, and he never got the chance to say goodbye. Yes, there was always the chance that she could Wake again, as it had happened to others before... but it was rare, and sometimes, those that came back didn't stay for very long.

It was a little after his one-year-anniversary in the city, when things would change drastically for Sanji again. This time, on Christmas Day even, one of his namaka arrived - the swordsman Zoro. Despite having an antagonistic relationship with him, Sanji was genuinely happy to see him. Despite making many friends, now, in the city, he still was a little lonely for nakama. And despite all the bickering and fighting they did, Sanji always knew he could trust Zoro to have his back in a fight. He went to go find the lost swordsman and bring him back 'home', and attempted to explain the city to him. Being a new arrival, and genuinely stubborn to boot, it took a little while before Zoro started believing Sanji and settling in to the city. Not long after Zoro arrived, Ace arrived as well... and thus started what would become one of the most complex, strange and confusing, aggravating, angsty and painful changes Sanji would undergo. Unknown to Sanji, the two started a 'gay chicken' game with each other, which - thanks to a certain Valentine's Day reality storm - soon progressed to something more. When they first arrived, Ace also wanted to prove to Zoro that Sanji wasn't as "fully straight" as he appeared, and would occassionally tease and flirt with him - flustering Sanji to no end. Sanji was also affected by that Valentine's reality storm, twice over. Zoro took an arrow that made him feel lust towards Sanji, while Sanji took an arrow that made him hate Zoro. Sanji knew both emotions were the results of those arrows, but that didn't stop him from feeling guilty at hating his nakama. However annoyed he may get with the swordsman, he never wanted to hate him. It was at this point too, after the storm, when Sanji learned that Ace and Zoro were 'hanging around' each other, and he didn't quite know how to take that. He told himself that it was none of his business, but - for some reason he couldn't comprehend at all at the time - Zoro's outright rejection hurt, a little. Sanji chalked the confused emotions he had to that as a bit of jealousy that Zoro was getting some action while he's had none, and just annoyance at being insulted as usual. It was easier to think that, than any other reasons.

The awkwardness between all three of them would only grow from here.

Not long after the Valentine's Day event, the city decided to play a joke on Sanji by turning him into a duck for the week. Before they knew what had happened, Zoro had been petting the 'strange duck' to calm it down, and miraculously, it worked. Sanji couldn't understand why it worked, but it felt nice... comforting, relaxing. One they figured out who he WAS, the pettings still continued occassionally... either a tail tug to tease him, or a petting to calm him down when he was stressed. And there were things to be stressed about. Pitch Black was threatening Nautilus with his nightmares and fearlings, and Robin and Nami had also arrived, but as new arrivals, they were weaker with their bending, thus couldn't defend themselves as well (on top of that all, Nami was from when she first met Sanji, before he had even joined the crew. That caused no small amount of grief to the chef). Stuck in the duck body, Sanji couldn't do much but bend lights all around their home, to keep it lit and to keep the nightmares at bay. And of course the city decided upon the worst possible time and place to turn him back into a human - on Zoro's lap, as the two had been discussing things and Zoro had picked him up to try and calm him down. It was around this time as well that Sanji started to grow worried for Zoro becoming so focused in getting stronger... not letting things affect him, becoming "like a rock", emotionless and unaffected, ascending, and becoming a Deva that he might lose all his emotions and personality. The idea of losing who Zoro was as a person frightened Sanji, but he couldn't understand WHY it frightened him. Another storm that caused all sorts of anxiety and awkwardness between them happened in the summer, when their memories were altered. Sanji forgot about all his nakama, and Zoro thought he was a slave in the service of Iason (though retaining all his other memories). During this storm, the memory-less Sanji asked for help clearing out the "strange gym" in his house, and Iason sent over Zoro to help unmake all the weights. Once the storm was over, Sanji felt horrifically guilty, and bent up as many of the weights as he could in apology.

Through all this, there had been points where Sanji and Ace had been able to talk to each other, and a strong, close friendship was formed. It got to the point where Sanji felt confident in returning home and leaving his restaurant in Ace's care. The friendship between Luna and Sanji had also been growing, with Sanji complimenting and flirting with her when she was in human form, and the two talking with each other as close friends other times. When either of them were troubled or upset by things either in the city, or back home, they would listen to each other, and offer their support. Sanji may stubbornly have been denying it, chalking his experiences and emotions up to other factors, but he had been growing fond of, and attracted to, these three people. He wouldn't come to this conclusion for a while yet, though. More things would have to happen, before he was forced to face his feelings.

The awkwardness jumped to about an eleven (on a scale of ten), during a storm where many people in the city were turned into cats... and where instincts overrode reason at times. Even in cat form, he still flirted with Luna, and found nothing strange about it; flirting and talking with her had become something very comfortable and easy. Sanji found himself liking the freedom and agility of the cat form, and would later learn how to bend himself into it at will. What was awkward about this storm - as usual - was his interactions with Zoro and Ace. As a mostly-human with cat attributes, Zoro was strangely territorial and possessive in this form, and he included Sanji in what he considered 'his'... rubbing him and grooming him to put his scent properly back on the other cat. Sanji, of course, fully aware of things found this intensely embarassing, flustered and confused by Zoro's actions; he was sure the Marimo wasn't interested in him at the least. So why, then, being so touchy-feely all of a sudden? And why wasn't he pulling away as strongly as he should? Sanji chalked it up to cat instincts... as cats liked to be petted, after all, and preffered being warmth, which included the warmth of other bodies. Instincts. It was just cat instincts. That was the excuse he gave when the most embarassing incident happened. Only a few days earlier, during the storm, Ace confided in Sanji that he was serious about being in love with Zoro. Sanji - to his own shock and confusion - felt conflicted. He was happy for his nakama, but he also felt confused, like he'd lost a race he didn't know he was running. He felt anxious and flustered, but pushed it all down to give Ace encouragement and support. Then, a few days later, just before the storm ended, a very exhausted Sanji came home, to see Ace and Zoro fast asleep on the living room floor. Too tired to drag himself up to his bedroom, too tired to even jump up onto the couch, Sanji seemed drawn to the two... they looked so comfortable, warm, and inviting. Sanji snuggled his way inbetween the two, the two sleepily making space for him. Only for them all to turn back into humans during the night. Once he woke up, Sanji of course panicked... flailing about and shouting at the top of his lungs, flustered and embarassed. Zoro blatantly pointed out that he was the one that crawled into their cuddle pile (and voiced his rejection again, though the reason varied - Zoro thinking 'too complicated', Sanji taking it at face value). Sanji immediately felt guilty at that, as it was true; he had invaded their sanctuary, come between them... ESPECIALLY when Ace had just told him he wanted something deeper with Zoro. From that point on, Sanji swore that he would make sure to never come inbetween the two again... no matter how oddly-pained that made him feel.

In the meantime, something had been happening with a friend of Ace's - a newly adopted brother, actually - Tsuzuki. He was getting in with a bad person, Hazama, and Ace was concerned, but had no idea how to help him. Normally, Sanji wouldn't care at all what happened to this guy, as he didn't particularly know him, and thus wasn't interested in what other men did. Because he was special to Ace, though, Sanji became involved. He attempted to talk Tsuzuki out of going to confront Hazama alone during a Power Ring storm. He offered his support to Ace when the man was distraught over what was happening, and called a meeting to try and figure out a course of action, suggesting getting some of the Ascended involved. Before, Sanji wouldn't have bothered for a man who was relatively a stranger to him, but because he was important to Ace, he knew he had to do something.

Other storms would augement and highlight to Sanji just what his feelings were, making them harder and harder to ignore. The Power Ring storm enhanced Sanji's feelings of love, which included the fondness he felt for Zoro, Ace and Luna. The aftermath of that storm was the first time he directly acknowledged what he was feeling for them. It was a hard pill to swallow, as he thought of himself existing only for the ladies, and able to love only the ladies... so to be attracted to two men was something he could still barely comprehend... but couldn't deny to himself anymore. A storm that split his personality, and turned one into a girl, further helped to confuse things. His girl-half was a little more free with her emotions, and a slip-up in wording tipped off Zoro that Sanji was hiding something, who then later went on to discuss things with Ace.

It would take something a little more drastic for Sanji to finally, fully face all that he was feeling, and make him come to a decision on things. Namely, the creature known as the Labyrinth rising up from underneath the city, and seeking out Sanji for a personal confrontation. The Labyrinth was like Pyramid Head, pulling out one's fears, regrets, insecurities and doubts, and truths that people are unable or unwilling to see... but to the nth degree. The Labyrinth pulled at all the guilt, anxiety and worry Sanji had been feeling for about a year, now, forcing him to face them head-on. He was forced to face his attraction to Zoro, and his fondness towards him, Ace and Luna. The Labyrinth also brought up his worries about his image, how he viewed himself and what he felt it meant to 'be a man', and coupled with that to be attracted to the people he was, and even his old feelings of guilt and shame at not being able to protect people he cared about like Orihime, and his worth as a man. As with most people that faced the thing, the Labyrinth really shook Sanji up. For a while he was extremely on edge, and just further cemented the idea in Ace and Zoro's head that there was something wrong with Sanji... and they were starting to get a clearer idea as to exactly what it was. One night, alone on his balcony, Sanji finally came to a few conclusions. Sanji still didn't want to drive a wedge between the two, as he feared would happen if he go too close to them. Sanji knew that the two of them were strongly in love with each other, and he felt that if they offered anything to him, it was only out of nakamaship obligation. He believes that Zoro really isn't interested in him at all, and that Ace only cares because he's nakama, and a caring guy. Sanji had promised himself that he wouldn't come inbetween the two again, and he resolved to do so. He also came to the decision that even if Luna was a cat, and he was a human, there was still something sincere there, and perhaps that something was worth exploring. So, for the first time in his life, Sanji decided that he would try to ask a lady to be his steady girlfriend.

So, in summary, one of the biggest changes that Sanji has gone through are matters of the heart... him riding the rollercoaster of emotions before finally being able to accept - to himself at least - that the once proud ladies man could be and is attracted to two males. Those tumultuous months also had an unexpected, secondary result, in that he's calmed down quite a bit in his dealings with other ladies. Before, he would spin in delight, spout flowery words of poetry to any pretty lady he ran across, with hearts in his eyes. While he still does, and always will treat ladies with politeness and respect, and will fawn over them, and pay them compliments... he's mellowed out some, no longer going to the over-the-top extremes he once has. The chaotic emotions he'd felt himself, coupled with the true, sincere friendships he's made with some of the ladies here in Nautilus has helped to temper him somewhat. He has also made friends with a couple of guys, whereas before he usually wouldn't pay them any attention. He doesn't hold himself as distanced as he did upon arriving in the city. Through the battles he's fought, such as against the Dark Aeon and defending his home turf against Pitch's nightmares, Sanji has been ready to fight alongside Nautilus' residents in defence of the city. Taking the words of some of the Deva to heart, he knows they have a role here, to help protect all of reality. As his home world and his nakama are part of that reality, Sanji is ready and willing to jump to their defence.

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Sanji

August 2014

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