Addicted to Love

Addicted to Love

I’ve mentioned before I’m a stickler for a good love story. I’d call it my guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel at all guilty about it. Give me a good, heart-rending power ballad any day. And to go with it, give me a book that’s going to make me cry.

The eye-rolling may have already started, but give me a chance here. When I say romance, I’m not talking about trashy romance novels or the latest mommy-porn craze. I’m talking about gut-wrenching love stories that warm your heart only to tear it apart. Love is one of the most amazing things in the world. Everyone writes about it and it’s one of the hardest things in the world to do proper justice. Love is the original roller-coaster and a well-written love story can stay with you a long time.

Here are my five favorite love stories and the features that set them apart. In order to explore the subject matter, this post will be spoiler heavy. Read at your own risk.

5. Nimby/Demon X(A/N)th and Chlorine – Yon Ill Wind and Xone of Contention – the Xanth Series by Piers Anthony
Their Tale:
The plot of Yon Ill Wind revolves around a wager accepted by the demon X(A/N)th to enter his realm and prove the worth of his ‘lesser creatures’ by getting one of them to shed a tear for him without revealing his true nature. In fact, though he can take any form his target desires, he can speak only once. After speaking with a person, he becomes bonded to them. Moving more than a few feet away from this person will result in full body paralysis (and his subsequent inability to win the wager).

Confident he can easily win this bet, X(A/N)th (using the name ‘Nimby’ while he’s in disguise) lays out a careful plan and proceeds to speak with his intended target. Unfortunately the young woman he meant to speak to crossed paths with Chlorine and the two of them inadvertently switched destinations. Nimby realizes his mistake too late, binding himself to Chlorine with his only speech. Chlorine has only one tear left; half in her right eye and half in her left. Should she ever cry this tear, she will go blind.

As with all Xanth books, wacky hi-jinx ensue. Xanth becomes threatened by a magical storm and Chlorine, along with her new friend Nimby, are recruited to help save Xanth from it. Though Chlorine is initially depicted as ugly and dull-witted, she grows throughout the course of the book, proving she can be intelligent and clever if given half a chance. With the help of Nimby’s magic, she can also be lovely, though he can’t change the essence of her character. In the midst of all the world saving, the demon X(A/N)th falls in love with Chlorine, wishing to whisk her away and make her a demoness, save that he can’t speak to tell her that.

Why I love it: Though one book doesn’t give you much time to grow a relationship, Yon Ill Wind does a great job of developing the character relationship naturally. Nimby’s love for Chlorine grows gradually, surprising even him. There’s no indication of strong attraction between them, rather the relationship grows out of friendship. Through the course of their adventure, Nimby and Chlorine bond more deeply than either of them imagined. That’s what true love is all about. Relationships which grow out of friendships have a strong chance of survival, since both parties have already bonded on some level. Plus, since neither X(A/N)th nor Chlorine are wearing their true aspect throughout the story, each falls in love with the other’s personality, knowing their outer appearance to be false.

Most heart rending-moment: When the adventure is over, Chlorine returns home, unaware that Nimby has fallen in love with her. She breaks her bond with him and goes to get her father, wanting to introduce the two to prove she can be intelligent and clever when she wants. She doesn’t realize breaking her bond with Nimby leaves him paralyzed. When she returns with her father, they are unable to rouse Nimby, though he watches the entire scene. Chlorine’s father demands they burn the creature. Devastated, Chlorine steps into the flames and sheds her final tear.

Ashura and Yasha – Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles – by CLAMP
Their Tale:
While Sakura and Syaoran hop dimensions searching for the feathers containing Sakura’s lost memories, they encounter a world of warring clans. Leaders of the warring factions, Ashura and Yasha lead their forces in battle every night and retreat every day to their separate kingdoms. Ashura’s people are depicted as peaceful and music-loving off the battlefield while they believe Yasha’s people are bloodthirsty killers with black eyes. They fight over dominance of the Moon Castle.

Though Ashura knows where to locate Sakura’s feather, he allows the fighting to continue so that he may meet Yasha on the battlefield every evening. When he finally masters his emotions, Ashura reveals the feather, which has taken the form of Yasha in order to grant Ashura’s selfish wish.

While Ashura and Yasha were once equals on the battlefield, Yasha was weakened by a mysterious ailment which allowed Ashura to gain the upper hand and mortally wound his opponent in battle. It was only after Yasha appeared to him in his last moments, that Ashura realized his true feelings for the opposing warlord. Despite knowing his beloved was dead, Ashura allowed the war to continue because it was the only way he could still see Yasha, even if he knew the image was false.

Why I love it: CLAMP has a talent for tearing your heart into pieces like no one else. They have a knack for drawing attention to the truly terrible aspects of heartbreak. In this case, we have unrequited love alongside regret. Since Ashura and Yasha are immortals and their war seems to have gone on for generations, it’s likely they both loved each other for some time. Either unwilling or unable to break their cycle, the two relied on meeting each other in battle as their only interaction, until the moment they each realized it was too late. Unable to make peace with their unfulfilled love, Ashura perpetuates the cycle in order to keep his feelings alive.

Both Ashura and Yasha originally appeared in RG Veda, CLAMP’s first major work. They had something of a love arc within that story, but it never made much sense to me. Ashura was a child for most of the series and viewed Yasha as his father. Even though Ashura becomes an adult by the end of the story, it’s too weird for me to think of them as lovers. This story revisits the characters in a different setting where they are equals and thus able to be involved in a mature, romantic relationship.

Most heart-rending moment: When Ashura reveals Sakura’s feather is the only thing which allows his beloved Yasha to ‘live’, the illusion collapses and Ashura takes over the Moon Castle. It is said that the Moon Castle will grant its ruler one wish, but it doesn’t have the power to grant Ashura’s only wish: to bring Yasha back to life. Instead the castle collapses under the strain and Ashura refuses to leave, determined to be with his lover in death if not in life. Instead he asks only that he and Yasha become beacons for future generations as inseparable gods rather than opposing warlords.

3. Orb and Natasha – Being a Green Mother – Incarnations of Immortality – by Piers Anthony
Their Tale:
Orb has never lived a normal life, the daughter of the Incarnation of Fate and once-lover to the Incarnation of War, she has the most beautiful voice in the world and there is magic in her music. Considering her background, it’s only natural when she’s chosen to become the new Incarnation of Nature upon Nature’s retirement. With the magic of her song, she governs the ecosystem of Earth.

Like Orb, Natasha is a singer with magic in his voice. He promises to help Orb discover the illusive Llano, a song she’s been searching for her entire life. As he teaches her to weave the magical aspects of the song, the two of them fall in love.

It’s only when Natasha asks for Orb’s hand in marriage that he reveals himself as Satan in disguise. He was given permission by the other incarnations, including her mother, to woo her so long as he did so only with lies.

Why I love it: This is a pretty typical love story until you hit the twist, and it’s the twist that makes things interesting. In the Incarnations of Immortality series, Satan is a troublemaker. He crops up in pretty much every incarnation’s story to cause said trouble. When Orb discovers the man she loves is Satan, and that everything up until “I love you” has been a lie, she’s not only devastated, she’s angry. It doesn’t help that her office gives her the ability to wreak havoc on the world while she sorts through her feelings over the betrayal of both her lover and her family.

Most heart-rending moment: Orb agrees to marry Satan to undo the damage she’s caused to the Earth. During the ceremony, Satan proves his love is true by releasing the undamned souls inadvertently assigned to hell and repenting of his sins, thus abdicating his office and preventing the two of them from ever being together.

2. Henry and Clare – The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger AND River Song and The Doctor – Doctor Who
Their Tales:
Number two is a two-fer. That might seem like cheating, but Henry and Clare’s tale is so uncannily similar to River and the Doctor’s, I can’t really include one without the other.

When Clare meets Henry for the first time, she’s six years old. She’s a young girl faced with a stranger who claims to be from the future and knows all kinds of details about her life. When she catches up to Henry in ‘real time’, they start dating and their roles reverse. Clare knows a great deal about Henry and his future, but Henry is clueless.

River is fairly young the first time she meets the Doctor, though she’s also trying to kill him. Like Henry, the Doctor is a time traveler that knows all about River’s future and what she will become, but he refuses to share those details. As time goes on and the two meet more often, they fall in love. But eventually, River reaches a point in her timeline where she’s a stranger to the Doctor since he’s only just met her. At one point River explains their relationship by saying it’s all in reverse; while she moves forward, the doctor moves backward.

There are many parallels between the two relationships. River, for instance, keeps a journal of all her encounters with the Doctor, including a reference with all his faces since ‘he always shows up out of order.’ Each time they meet she recites a series of incidents from her journal in order to identify which version of the Doctor she’s interacting with and where he is on his timeline. Clare also keeps a journal as a girl which lists all the dates on which Henry will appear in her backyard. The main difference here is that River keeps the details of her encounters with the Doctor a secret, where as Henry gives Clare the list of dates so she can provide him with clothing and a place to hide. Later, when she’s grown, Clare gives Henry the journal so he can memorize the dates and give them to her younger self. They also often refer to their meetings according to the dates.

Henry often shares small details of his future with Clare, such as telling the younger Clare that they’ll one day be married. He also tells the grown Clare they’ll be successful in having a child after one of Clare’s many miscarriages. The Doctor and River, on the other hand, keep most of the details of their meetings secret from each other, simply saying “spoilers!” whenever one asks too many questions.

Why I love it: There’s a sort of whimsy involved in both relationships. Both stories center around dealing with a relationship when one (or both) of the people involved travel through time. Henry and Clare, for instance, might never have met or developed a relationship, had Henry not traveled back in time to meet the young Clare. Nor would he have traveled backward in time to meet the young Clare if he hadn’t been in love with her, since his ‘disease’ often causes him to travel to important events or visit important people in his history (a sort of chicken and egg dilemma). Since Clare cannot travel through time, she’s forced to wait for Henry to visit her, or later to return. They often experience events in a disjointed fashion. Clare, for instance, shared her 18th birthday with Henry, but he didn’t experience it until several years after they started dating. He inadvertently time traveled away on the day of their wedding, but an older version of him made it to the church on time. And a younger version of Henry served as a surrogate for conceiving Alba, their daughter, after Henry had a vasectomy.

River and the Doctor face similar circumstances, though River can sometimes find the means to travel through time herself. Other times she leaves messages for the Doctor knowing he will find them and travel through time to the appropriate meeting. For instance, she carves a message to him into the black box for a ship, knowing he will one day see it in a museum. She also leaves a message on the oldest mountain in the universe which the Doctor discovers sometime later is a message calling him to a meeting. Though their relationship causes each to be suspicious of the other, each learns the other’s personality well enough to know how to deal with the situation without revealing too much of future events.

Because neither of these relationships happen in chronological order, they grow in a strange, unusual way. Without the involvement of time travel, it’s unlikely either relationship would ever have occurred. Yet the problems presented by time travel enhance the relationships rather than hindering them while offering an interesting twist to the usual relationship issues couples face.

Most heart-rending moment: Because Henry can be present at the same location or event many times, he eventually witnesses his own death. Not only does he spend several months knowing exactly when and how he’s going to die, he prepares Clare for living in his absence. But because he travels both forward and backward in time, Clare is able to encounter Henry after he has died. When she is old, perhaps in her seventies, Clare gets one last chance to see Henry on one of his rare forward flashes, though she must wait many years for the brief meeting.

The first time the Doctor meets River, he learns how she will die. While attempting to save the people trapped in the Library, River sacrifices herself rather than allowing the Doctor to do so. In the moments before her death, she gives an impassioned speech about how this means he always knew how she would die but never told her. She speaks of their last encounter with each other and all the wonderful things he showed her. On the flip side of the coin, shortly after River falls in love with the Doctor, she is forced by her former abductors to once again attempt to kill him (her previous attempt having failed). So it seems that each of them knew how the relationship would end for the other, though neither ever revealed their secret.

1. Subaru Sumeragi and Seishiro Sakurazuka – Tokyo Babylon, X, and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles – CLAMP
Their Tale:
Tokyo Babylon (something of a precursor to X) opens with Subaru and Seishiro already having something of a relationship. In Subaru’s eyes they’re friends, but Sishiro seems to have something of a crush on the young medium which often causes Subaru’s twin sister to tease the two of them. Subaru is a kind-hearted youth who spends most of his time solving the spiritual problems of others in preparation to take over the Sumargi family legacy rather than going to school. Seishiro is often his protector, though he speaks of some strange wager made between the two of them which Subaru is unaware of.

While attempting to assist a young woman with some issues, innocent Subaru stands unmoving while the woman assaults him with a knife. Seishiro jumps between the two of them, losing his eye to the woman’s blow but saving Subaru’s life. The permanent loss of Seishiro’s eye affects Subaru deeply. He spends some time soul searching and comes to the realization that he cares deeply for Seishiro, that the two of them were destined to spend their lives together. He rushes to the hospital to tell Seishiro and, in typical CLAMP fashion, that’s when the shit hits the fan.

Seishiro, as it turns out, is a powerful assassin, the last of the Sakurazukamori clan. In his youth, Subaru inadvertently witnessed Seishiro in the act of killing. Instead of killing the young, innocent Subaru, Seishiro made a wager with him; “The next time we meet, we will live together for one year. If, in that time, I cannot convince myself I truly care for you, I will kill you.” He reveals this to Subaru the very moment Subaru appears to tell him that he’s finally realized that he loves Seishiro.

You’d think I would have saved such details for the most heart-rending moment but that isn’t even the worst part! When Subaru escapes Seishiro’s assassination attempt, he falls into a deep depression. In order to snap him out of it, his twin sister sacrifices herself so that Seishiro will be unable to kill Subaru in his usual manner. Subaru then vows he will hunt Seishiro in order to avenge the death of his sister.

This leads to further development between the two characters in X, where they end up on opposite ends of a war which will determine the fate of Earth and the human race.

In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, both characters appear though their relationship is never fully explained. Subaru is on the run with Kamui, the two of them hopping between dimensions in order to evade Seishiro who is searching for Subaru for some unknown reason.

Why I love it: I guess I’m a masochist? The relationship between Seishiro and Subaru is probably some kind of anti-romance. There’s never a point where Subaru and Seishiro have a normal relationship, since Seishiro was only ‘pretending’ to care for Subaru. But the true genius of CLAMP is that they call even that into doubt. There’s evidence that Sishiro did care about Subaru at some point, but refused to accept that as truth. The events are all so perfectly timed that they catch you up, give you hope, and then tear you to shreds when you realize the terrible truth. Never have I seen a tale of love so strong, and so sad.

Most heart-rending moment: Subaru and Seishiro’s tale is one huge tragedy, but for me the most heart-rending moment comes during the final confrontation between the two. Subaru no longer wishes to kill Seishiro. Instead he wishes to be killed by Seishrio because it would mean he was strong enough to be noticed by the man. He loves him so much he just wants the man to notice him for goodness sake! Seishiro reveals the reason why Subaru’s sister sacrificed herself was so that he would be unable to kill Subaru in the same manner which he killed her. Yet even knowing that, he then attempts to kill Subaru in his typical fashion. The spell instead bounces back and kills him. Further proof that Seishiro loved Subaru all along.

And you’d think that’d be the end of the sob fest, but no. There are still a few sorrowful details to the aftermath of Seishrio’s death because CLAMP just can’t quit twisting the knife in your heart.

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