Forsaken Qualms

The Reason


Barsburg Church, 7th District, 7th March, 11:35 AM

Kuroyuri watched with amusement through the lucent mirror as doll Haruse was apprehended. Clearly the string manipulator had fallen for their ruse, later attacking and destroying other ‘Haruse’ with the intention to maim and render useless. He made a face at the doll’s disappearance. The fun had ended too quickly for his liking. Least Teito was rattled. Probably start doubting the church in his predicament.

Then again it did not matter what Teito would do, what Teito will choose, what Teito would believe. The pink haired lad is bored. Staying hidden and remaining on the defensive is not his forte; he lacks the patience for it. So whatever happens, happens. He settled upon that on his own.

At the parted of the hand, the mirror disappeared. Kuroyuri got up to his feet then. He stretches his petite frame of a lithe child, flexing and bending unused muscles from leaning against the wall for quite some time. From where he stood, he has full access of ample aerial view. He could see the hustle and bustle of District Seven’s occupants; their movements and activities, their daily dealings and communications.

Kuroyuri felt powerful towering over people like that – addicting more like it. Humans are just like ants, annoying and small but numerous in numbers. No. Perhaps he had given them too much credit. Ants are a far better race than humans, lesser beings that have no place in the world; they are but cockroaches at our feet. Where the strong presides over the weak, humans have little value. In fact, humans deserve to die.

Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

But he knew. Kuroyuri is aware there are rules, limits, to abide by when it comes to taking lives, claiming the privilege to take their last dying breath and witnessing the life dimmed from their eyes. One would go so far… Not that it stops warsfeil. Of course, some humans are allowed to exist. Tolerable ones at least. If it were not for that, he might not have met Haruse. Dearest Haruse. His other half, his significant half.

“Kuroyuri-sama.”

Well, speak of the devil. Not that Haruse is a personification of it, far from it really. He is but a guardian angel, a guardian meant for only he. Maybe he relied too much on him.

“I’m sorry for the wait.” He needs not to strain a muscle to acknowledge him. He continued to cast his gaze down below, sensing Haruse’s warmth as he draws in the distance between them and reclaims his place to stand by his side once more. “Shall we get going?”

“Not yet,” Kuroyuri smoothly said. “I’m curious to know how our little layman’s been faring.”

Haruse uttered no word. He followed his gaze and Toshiro, if memory serves its purpose, crossed his eyes at that moment. The lower was keeping his distance away, only nodding courteously like a lil’ good applicant he was supposed to be when passing bishops and nuns and the likes. He might have done a practically good job on his part if it weren’t for the tail.

The other thought the same, although low in opinion. “Coming from the recons branch, he’s not much of a spy, is he?”

“He’s been on the unit just recently. Can’t blame him for lacking experience,” Haruse replied. He realized he almost sounded like he was defending the subordinate. “I’m sure he won’t compromise the mission since Ayanami-sama brought him along.”

Silence.

“…I don’t trust him,” Kuroyuri mumbled after he pulled away. “Being friends with a traitor doesn’t mean he’s not a traitor himself.”

With Haruse following him the pair began their second phase before an all-out attack commences. They leave their post and make their way down into the bowels of the church hidden from the community, with the exception of those of high rank and selective few members who knew. Down and down the many spiral flights of stairs they go, finally they reach their destination.

The hallway that stretches further throughout was poorly lit. Abandoned in a way. There were no windows for light to enter, the walls plain and hollow. A single door could only be found align on one wall. Kuroyuri sensed living presences behind that closed door. The lingering darkness tangling their souls accumulated in the room gave it away. A room in abundant with worthless criminals. A dungeon. He found his sacrificial lambs.

“Haruse,” he called his Begleiter, “this is far enough. I’ll take care of the rest on my own.”

The other made no objections. He felt the unmistakable feeling too. Unarmed, vulnerable, oblivious. They didn’t expect this. “Very well.”

Readying his wars, Kuroyuri allowed a vicious smirk to grace his face. Rim of pink iris flashes red. Personification of young and innocent… gone. At last, some action. This is going to be fun.

Opening the door, instant sweet taste of surprise and eventual fear hit his palate. He was filled with twisted glee. It did not take long for Kuroyuri to overpower the convicts. The pungent horror on their faces was splendid as he took their souls without regards.

This is their punishment. Their overdue reckoning paid in flesh, blood and soul.

He should have noticed by now. He could notice it by now. Teasing his presence was fun and games and all, but with this much corruption it is impossible for him – heck, even those other wretched ghosts as well – to ignore. So Kuroyuri dragged the last sack of meat, intentionally sparred, and settled down on the table. He stared up admiring his work. A peace offering from a monster for another unsightly monster that he truly is.

Now he would just have to wait for Zehel, for Zehel will come for him. And when he comes…

Oh, and when he comes, he will make sure of it. Kuroyuri will make sure it will be the biggest surprise of his dismal life. He won’t see it coming.

Barsburg Church, 12:08 PM

Rang the noon bell rang. It – the chimes, the ding, the sound – however fell deaf upon Teito. And he ran and ran and quickly he ran. His mind was wrapped on one thing. One thing and one thing only: Frau.

Teito had to find the Light Dungeon. He knew Frau had been set up. He knew Frau was framed. He can’t let things end with him always saving him and leave it just at that. They have a lot of score to settle. Frau couldn’t have killed those criminals. He wouldn’t have. Even if those scums should be eliminated from the surface of the earth. And besides, isn’t he one of the Seven Ghosts? He couldn’t be a warsfeil. He couldn’t…

This Dungeon of Light, this prison where criminals on death row are kept, is somewhere around the water fountain deep in the waters. Heavily guarded, guards passing by… Castor was right. Teito sneaked in, employing his skills as an assassin, muted and swift, with the shadows at his leverage. Easily he went past the guards. He dropped from his perch above and landed with the grace of a cat’s, the bushes as his cover.

Whispering “Look after my clothes,” audibly to Mikage, he set the already folded robe on the ground. Teito took a deep breath and dived into the flowing current head first with a small splash. He let the current carry him with the fishes swimming past him. The brunet didn’t notice this though, his mind too preoccupied with his seemingly foolproof and simple plan.

Swam and swam Teito did. He has ten minutes of their break, a limit of ten minutes to save Frau from his imprisonment before returning to the surface. More than enough time he needed. Eventually Teito reach a hole leading out the wall of the Church’s reservoir, revealing a labyrinth of tunnels. It was a sight to behold.

Eyefish and other fish species inhabited the waters roam through many submerged pillars and staircases, and many archways and alleyways. Like a sunken temple, lost ruins hidden from the outside world. Made of limestone and marble, this underwater prison shone. No wonder it was called Light Dungeon. Even algae and flowers are glowing.

Suddenly a pair of limbs, smooth yet delicate to the touch Teito noticed this belated, hugs him from behind. He let out a muffled scream and quickly spun. In the same manner he recovered. ‘Razette?’ Teito blinked in surprise, wondering why the noel mermaid was here. However that is the least of his concern, unfortunately.

Unlike the rare sea creature and underwater life forms inhabiting this watery world, the boy was a mere human who needed plentiful oxygen to breath. Loosing significant amount of precious air from the startle, his lungs has slowly begun to tighten. Contract. Teito could feel the slight strain.

A few minutes. He could hold out for a few minutes, but he did not know where Frau was at or where he was held captive. He needed to resurface.

Now.

But how? He had come this far, had gone beyond the passageway separating the fountain and dungeon. No way. He couldn’t face Frau at this rate. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine what would he say to him? Coward? Wimp? Brat? If he were to give up now…

Razette sang a note and smiled at Teito, earning her another blink from the on the verge drowning teenager. Calmly she plucked a scale from her smooth-scaled tail while the brunet watched in mild curiosity. Teito was confused as the mermaid brought the scale to her open mouth, gesturing an action.

‘…Am I supposed to put it into my mouth?’ thought Teito.

She nodded as if understanding and gave the bright coloured scale to Teito, to which he eyed dubiously before popping it into his mouth. Whatever the effect it may have, or side effects if it had any, it worked fast for Teito can breathe. He turned to confront Razette, only to have her face morphed into Frau’s. Damn that precise resemblance. He didn’t need this to jog his memories on Frau’s annoying face to remind him right now.

At any rate, she wants him to follow her. So Teito allowed himself to be led.

And they went deeper and deeper. It was a long way down before they reach several small, barred windows that made each cells.

Barsburg Church, 12:10 PM

It was scandalous. It was the talk of the church. Apparently a bishop by the name of Bishop Frau, whoever that is, was found practicing black arts, or in other words, using Warsfeil. It was also said that seven criminals who had seek refuge in the sanctuary was killed and their bodies mutilated.

…At least that is the hearsay that goes around in these grounds. True enough to witness Imperial Guards going in and out of the church.

But wait, Toshiro spooled back for a second. That name sounds familiar. If he remembers correctly, he was the one who holds the all-time highest record for the second examination. Could it be? Is this Frau person the very same Frau elder brother had told him? Toshiro was interrupted before he could end his musings.

“Shi-chan! Wait-“

Toshiro scowled at the calling. Too friendly and intimate for his liking. Family is one thing, a complete stranger another. Not that he’s not a stranger now anyway. Considering this being the umpteenth time today, Toshiro lost count already, he had to give him some credit for the effort. The boy’s persistent.

He continued on walking through the hallway, choosing to ignore the other instead of deliberately avoiding confrontation and running away. Yes, running off like a frightened animal from the unknown with its tail between its legs is the cowardly thing to do. He had to end this goose chase. He had to sever this fostering bond and shake this shadow of an adolescent off.

“Hey.”

Toshiro felt a hand on his shoulder and flinched for the sake of his persona. He turned to fix his gaze upon the unexpected individual that the other end is not. Silver eyes met teal ones. The gleam in the former’s eyes was hopeful, expectant. Toshiro managed what appears to be a look of confusion before becoming alarmed.

“I-Is there a problem?” he asked warily, taking tentative steps to back off. The blond seemed to be taken aback by his reaction. Good. Let guilt rear its ugly head and eat him whole.

“Ah… Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you like that.” To show that he meant it, he gave a sanguine laugh and smiled apologetically. If only he knew.

Toshiro pushed his glasses higher onto his face, seemingly letting his guard down slightly in return. “Umm… I have been meaning to ask you this, but who are you?” The other opened his mouth to respond as he usually does, but Toshiro did not let him. “Who are you, really? From a simple nod of acknowledgment to civilized greetings and pleasantries, people do not just grope someone out of the blue.”

“Hey now, that’s mean. I’m not just ‘someone’ someone, I’m your brother! Breaks my heart to know you’ve already forgotten about me, Shi-chan. About us, home. Why don’t you come home already?”

The bespectacled teen twitched, annoyed. All pretences gone if it weren’t for his self-control.

“First of all, my name is Toshiro. Whoever this ‘Shi-chan’ is, as I said earlier, you must have mistaken me for someone else entirely. I have no family, no known relatives whatsoever nor do I have a brother as you so outrightly claim.”

Should he regret those words?

“I am an only child, and I was raised as an orphan. I do not know you nor do I feel the need to. So please, I appreciate it if you would leave me alone and pretend we never had this conversation at all.”

“Ehh? But Shi-chan…”

The other held out a hand as Toshiro turned to leave. Preventing him from leaving was in vain, absolutely, still he done it. The touch connected yet he was filled with disappointment at the response. Impassive blue-green eyes were cold and disapproving.

“What is it with you? Let go of me!” Toshiro slapped the hand away.

The boy was gobsmacked. And then he snapped.

“NO!”

He grabs a hold of him with both hands by the shoulder. If Toshiro was surprised at his sudden eruption, he did a fine job hiding it. If not, he was slow to react in time.

“You’ve been away for far too long now! Mother’s worried sick since the day you left. You could have written letters to us at least, telling us how you were doing. But no. Not a word, no news, not an update, no nothing – we thought you were dead!

“Then, I met you here… of all places! Didn’t believe it was you. Didn’t thought you’d be here. Obviously my mind’s playing tricks on me. But there you were; walking, talking, breathing. Alive and, and… real.”

His voice was soft now, barely a whisper. Lost… Broken... Unstable… Silver orbs were pleading, searching the comfort it needed in the other.

“I missed you, Shi-chan. We all did. I know you’ve said things you didn’t mean to, father was at fault as well. But please. Please, won’t you please come back? With me? You’re still family. You’re my brother and you’re my twin. Ten years worth our life lost, but it always felt longer than that to me. I want it to revert to what it used be. It’s lonely without you, and I’ve had enough of being alone for one lifetime.”

Toshiro bite his tongue before he could let thoughtless words slip right out of his mouth. Without question this boy’s a kin, a brother; family. He swallowed the lurch in the pits of his upsetting stomach. He swallowed it all.

“That is interesting and all,” he lifted his hands away from his shoulders with indifference and pulled back, “but I am not the person you should divulge this to. Your family problem meant nothing to me. However, you do have an alarming attachment to this brother of yours. Perhaps you should seek help from the church’s correction centres.”

The acolyte seemed to be offended by the red colouring his face. The message was clear as it is.

Toshiro took his leave without giving face at the other. Had he been a bit harsh alienating himself from him? He had embarrassed him in many ways; denying the connection, insulting the long-separated attachment. Wont’ have to worry about distractions anymore on the bright side.

The church was quiet albeit the end of afternoon mass. As he walked past the courtyard, Toshiro caught a glimpse of pink near one particular patch of bushes. It was odd. Shrubs don’t grow flowers. Even if it could this is not the season for blossoming. Best to pay no heed. Curiosity of course got the better of him however as a certain pink creature – somehow calling it a pet is unbecoming – was brought to mind.

Crossing the water fountain and inching closer to reach the hedging plants, his peripheral vision was assaulted in less than a second. What felt like a bundle of fur smacked upon his delicate features, his nose and glasses in particular, with a soft bump. “Pya!” was the warning that came out too late.

Calmly Toshiro pinch its (whatever’s) nape pulling it from his face. A young dragon was revealed. It was whining and it was… smiling. He tilted his head as it squirms under his hold and flaps its feathered miniature wings. He hadn’t seen this type of species before, Toshiro observed as he brought his glasses up his nose with one finger, seeing it up close. Heard it once and read it in books. Fyulong dragons are said to be rare, so why is there a Fyulong pup here?

His muse was distracted as his gaze flicker to a folded robe resting on the concrete floor just nearby. He squatted down and lowered the young, letting it free. Mourning clothes. Toshiro wondered why he chose to wear these. Had someone close died? Nevertheless, it was Teito’s definitely.

Toshiro was brought back to the attention of the young by its cry. He watched as it sat atop the clothes as if guarding it like a staunch friend. Then suddenly it jumped up. Toshiro braced himself, a pathetic display almost, only to find it land on his shoulders before nuzzling its cheek against his. He brought up a hand to shake it off, uncomfortable with tiny paws rove upon him and the affection. The young kept evading however. Merely shifting and switching shoulders.

“Stop being difficult,” Toshiro muttered. It cried innocently, playful and teasing as its response. For some reason, it brought a smile tugging at his lips. Might this be the reason the young was able to take away Teito’s sadness? “Fine.” Toshiro heaved a sigh, finally conceded. This is one losing battle he could never hope to win. “Would you mind getting down now?”

Seemingly nodding, the young hopped down then. It circled around the laid garments once and faced Toshiro, sitting down and wagging its tail as it said “Burupya~” Its eyes were closed and red were colouring its cheeks.

He tilted his head in genuine curiosity. “…You keep on saying that,” Toshiro remarked, unsure whether it could understand him or not. For sure animals cannot understand human speech – this creature in front of him is no exception. Having ancient intelligence surpassing humans, its parents might possibly could. Yet this young pup apparently can. “Is that your name?”

The young mimicked what considered a shake of the head. “Burupya~” it said again.

Toshiro studied the pup. Belatedly he realized it has a scar on its forehead. “Had you been hurt? Or is it perhaps a birthmark?” He patted its head, which it leaned on his hand fondly, as the young looked up at him. It was rather strange, in a good way of strange.

“You somewhat remind me of a friend. Though I am uncertain whether his is a birthmark or a scar as a resultant from a traumatic incident.” His gaze softens. “Have you met him? Surely Teito has introduced you both. As for I, well… I had not made the pleasure yet. Unfortunately.”

His mind wandering faraway and distant, Toshiro felt his hand was being licked. Small pink beads met cloudy teals for a long moment. The young whined and nudged its head at his hand, an act of comfort it seems which, frankly, surprised Toshiro, much to himself. His defences broke into a small smile.

“Thank you,” Toshiro said, “my friend. I appreciate the gesture.” Still the young continued to whine. “My intention was to show myself to Teito, but clearly he is not entirely here. I believe this meeting with you will suffice.” He stood up then. “…I have to go now. We will meet again – I give you my word,” softly Toshiro comforted. That expression, reserved only for those he deemed worthy to show, quickly vanished. As quick as swapping cards. Toshiro narrowed his eyes.

“It is rude to eavesdrop.” Footsteps that were drawing near halted at his words. “I cannot imagine why anyone would want to listen in, but I suppose it was my fault to begin with saying the words out loud for people to hear.” Toshiro turned to see a blond. Made no mistake, it was Teito’s roommate. He offered him a sheepish smile. “I got found out! Sorry you had to hear that…”

“Yes. Indeed.” He didn’t seem to buy it. Toshiro could feel he was being assessed for a moment there.

Wordlessly the hair bound blond bypassed him to approach the pink fluff ball. He glanced down to see Teito’s robes set on the ground. A disapproving look was evident on his face.

“You…” Toshiro heard him say before he turned to leave. Apparently the attention was directed at the young. He watched as it leapt on his shoulder with the other completely at ease of the added weight. “Do you know this guy? I’m a tad curious to know who you were talking to.” Toshiro understood his gaze was more to a condescending glare than an assessing look itself.

The pink creature tilted its head. “Pya~!” came its reply. The little dragon – as though saying it did, to prove it – jumped from his shoulder and land directly on top of Toshiro’s head. It curled up comfortably in his hair and cried. All glee and innocent.

The blond was silent while the other gave an unconvincing smile. To him anyway, it looks that way. To Toshiro, who had laughed nervously, he couldn’t agree more.

“I see…” he eventually said and nodded. Then again, to a degree, he had a strange smile plastered on. Not in a friendly or a pleasantly sort of way, Toshiro believe. “But unlike that little fellow up there, I won’t believe you until you tell me who you are. So speak up! Who are you and what do you want with Teito?”

Barsburg Church, 2:04 PM

Gentle breeze blew over and sweeps the veil that had fallen over his face from the mitre he wore. Still on Church grounds they were on a ledge; a place higher above ground, away from the people and away from human interference. Haruse stood there, quiet as a mute, behind Kuroyuri as he watched him sat on the edge with arms wrapped around his knees, hunched back.

He is upset. He is frustrated. Negative feelings spread…

Haruse made the right choice to stay his distances away from his beloved superior, this child he cares so much. He knew he didn’t want to talk about it. He knew he didn’t want to be comforted right now. But Haruse felt helpless to do anything about it. He could feel Kuroyuri’s hurt, very hurt, and yet there was nothing to sate or calm this disturbing sense of emotions and level of pain.

Considering Kuroyuri’s incapability to communicate properly, Haruse volunteered to make the first contact. He closed his eyes as his mind focused on forming a connection, tapping the link to reach the receiver.

“Ayanami-sanbou,” Haruse began his report telepathically. He felt the chief’s presence in his mind, and opened him to the present conversation. “Zehel lost control. He has been placed in confinement according to plan.”

“Just as predicted.” He could hear the pleased tone in his superior’s voice despite the drawl.

“But… but…! I can’t stand it!!” Haruse flinched. He heard it, the rage and sadness surged into one tidal wave that washed onto the shore of his mind. He was letting it all out; Kuroyuri was shedding his tears for the offence made, for the crime Zehel had committed. Haruse balled his fists until it turned white. “That… someone like that… To think of him defiling Ayanami-sama’s precious scythe…!”

By now Haruse cut their telepathic communication. He sensed he was about to tread on something personal. He knew better than to eavesdrop on their exchange.

Tears were brimming from one visible eye. Thankfully the other hid behind a patch did not. Kuroyuri tried to bite the insides of his cheeks hoping it would stop, but still he could not stop the downpour that was wetting his face. He pulled his knees closer to his chest and hugged them even tighter.

“Don’t cry,” Ayanami silently commanded. “Your feelings certainly reach this heart.”

He obeyed him, quietening the hitch in breath caused by his involuntary reflex in small hiccups. Ayanami-sama was comforting him, Kuroyuri realized, his voice gentle surprisingly so. The solace he seek in his console soothe him, his body slightly shakes from the stifle.

“But right now, you must bear with it. Don’t move. Don’t act on your own. We must absolutely capture him.”

Kuroyuri rubbed his eye with his sleeves and dried the remaining tears. “…Understood,” he answered, slowly recovering from his momentary break down. “I swear that I’ll capture him!” With that the crimson glint in his eye faded and the natural hue of pink takes up again. He stayed motionless, persisting on his curled up position afterwards.

He heard, although hesitant and faint, footsteps behind him. Up until now he seemed to have forgotten about Haruse’s company during his wallowing. But Kuroyuri couldn’t face him at the moment, not while he’s vulnerable. Regardless, all things considered, he knew it was pointless. He was like an open book to the other.

Haruse’s warmth is near now before he was surrounded in that specific familial heat.

“Kuroyuri-sama…”

Kuroyuri didn’t struggle under the older male’s embrace, feeling his breath tickle his hair and the sigh blowing over his ear. Just let Haruse hug him, the warmth blending and engulfing his own body warmth: He allowed it. Haruse shared his weakness with him, and he had done the same. Why stop it when he needed this comfort?

Haruse did not disappoint.

Soon this mission will meet its due. Soon their plan will proceed accordingly. They will be on the offensive and so will they attack. Made no mistake about that. The time to contact the subordinate is near, as well as related parties so far. Despite his insignificant role in this ploy, he should be ready, he should not falter. Soil his hand if he has to. But be reminded, all that in favour in order to retrieve the Eye back.

Barsburg Church, 6:03 PM

There was a splash and there was the unmistakable audible intake of air. A longer time had been spent than intended it seems by the mixed of gingerly amber and orangey tinting the sky. Time passed so quickly in a different world. Light Dungeon was more or less a different world with that strange vibe of otherworldly it exuded. Resurfacing, Teito swam over to reach the raised platform and pulled his body from the body of water already pruning his skin.

“You’ve got some nerves to swim in the middle of winter.”

Teito glanced up startled to see Hakuren. Hands crossed over his chest with Mikage perched on his shoulder. He expected to hear Mikage’s cry, to which the Fyulong dragon squeak his greeting. He did not expect his roommate.

“Hakuren!”

His response was a towel threw at his head. “Dry yourself up and put on some clothes, be decent. It’s dinner time,” he dryly informed. Leaving Mikage with Teito, Hakuren turned to go. He trusts Teito well enough to know he would be right behind.

“Ah, Hakuren,” Teito called out, “wait.” He grabbed his robes and stood up at the same instant the blond fixed his attention towards him. “Sorry, but go to dinner ahead of me. I have some stuff to do beforehand.”

He was unsatisfied with the outcome. How this incident had come to be. It was bothering Teito. He couldn’t get his mind out of it. There was something amiss, something definitely wrong. If he went to the scene of the crime, there will be clues. Teito believes it so. He could clear Frau’s name, he could justify his innocence: He could find the true culprit.

But Hakuren knocked the breath out of him.

“Wasn’t it settled that we’d act as a pair? Don’t destroy the standard,” Hakuren huffed.

And Teito was dragged, more like man-hauled, out of the courtyard before he could find the ability to process what had just happened into his head. Which was a little too late considering the girlish giggles chiming from the nuns and amused faces from passersby. H flailed and miserably failed before he could even have to chance to go along with his plan.

They walk in silence. Awkwardness did not disappear completely, but it was as pleasant as it can be. They happened to passed on nuns and several criminals doing labour work for compensating their crime. It was a wonder these people remained to seek shelter and refuge from the church despite the unfortunate series of events occurring as of late. Victims happen to be the convicts themselves.

On one hand, it’s rather ironic. On the other hand, it’s troubling.

They could run, they could hide. But criminals, like murderers and rapists and thieves and other heretics that had done despicable deeds in the past, had no place to turn to; had no place for them to return to. Society rejects them like infectious diseases, condemning their cruelty and questions their existence in life. The whys, the whats, the hows.

They should have done better and find a bigger purpose in life – do something worthwhile, contribute and do a favour to the community – than destroy other people’s lives, implicitly cost it their own lives when all is said and done. Period.

“…Teito.”

Teito, having to put on his robes earlier on, hummed in response as he enjoyed the stroll. After a while, quite some time actually, had been spent in their walk of silence, Hakuren choose it now to voice his thoughts? The conversation had to be put on hold, for now, however for they were greeted by the three sisters. Niceties although brief were exchanged before they smiled and inclined their heads as they waved their goodbyes.

The pair reached the main hall when Hakuren continued to where he left off.

“There’s something that I wish to discuss with you. It crossed my mind a few times, but…” He cut himself off. The Church’s altar was opened for everyone to see its insides. Hakuren noticed how Teito was staring at the crystals engraved into the walls and floor throughout the main hall. He decided to enlighten the brunet, feeling slightly triumphant Teito lack the knowledge.

“The crystal scatters light, even at night. It uses the moonlight to reflect inside the sanctuary,” Hakuren said matter-of-factly. Perhaps he should enquire him about it on a later time. “The colour changes according to the angle of the light too. It’s red now, so it’s six o’ clock.”

“I see… It’s beautiful,” Teito trailed. “Ah, Hakuren! You were saying?”

Hakuren paused in his tracks and looked over his shoulder. “Is it weird if I say this could wait until after dinner?”

“Huh?” Teito tilted his head, at a complete loss with the uncharacteristic response. “Well… No. I mean, if it’s not that important, sure. Is it that big of a deal?”

He had his answer when Hakuren spun his body to face him wholly.

“…You said that guy,” Hakuren pointed out a finger in the direction of his shoulder at Mikage, “is the reincarnation of your friend, right. Assuming you’ve known it recently, does anyone outside the church know about it?”

Teito blinked at the question. “No.” He heard Mikage idly chewing the towel that hung around his neck. Teito wasn’t sure whether a being that has been reborn or reincarnated retains any memories of their past lives. Mikage certainly show nothing to prove it except being protective of him. “Why? What’s the matter?”

“While you were gone, swimming leisurely without taking into account the season at all at that time, might I remind you, I happen to meet a fellow acolyte playing with that little fellow.” By the genuine look on Teito’s expression, it was safe to say he had no idea. Not even the slightest.

“I don’t know much about your past or the life you lived outside these walls before coming to this church, but he seemed to know him. That guy too. It’s not unusual to see animals acting aggressive towards strangers and those bigger than them. He was just as comfortable as he is with you or me with him though.”

Teito twisted his neck slightly. “Mikage, is that true?” The Fyulong dragon ended his gnawing to look at Teito, his head tilted to one side. Apparently he hadn’t been paying attention. “Pya!” he only squeaked.

“Do you know him? Said he was a friend of yours.”

Teito became wary. Had word got out about Mikage’s death? Maybe it did, maybe it did not. Teito doubted either. After all, a cadet’s death meant nothing to the military if he’s not an official soldier. Perhaps providing closure for the family was the least the military could do lest invoking their unrest and distrust unintentionally.

“So this guy claims he’s my friend?” Teito said. It is a disturbing thought. If it is who what he thinks he knows it is... what was he doing here? Just to be safe, Teito offered “What does he look like?” before he starts jumping into conclusions.

“Let’s see… He’s tall, taller than me slightly at full height, but I think he’s about our age; wore hideous glasses, if I do say so for myself; and lean, not too lanky. Narrow eyes, blond hair, pale skin. I’m not sure whether to call him an idiot or he was trying too hard to be one. It’s conflicting with the way he carries himself and his speech. He does have a way with words though.”

Hakuren had him at the mention of glasses.

‘That’s him. That’s him, alright. No doubt about it!’ Teito concluded and let the thought sink in. When Hakuren commented on his wording, that further convinces him. Teito recognizes that silver tongue any day. But then again, why did Hakuren believe Toshiro was an idiot? He’s full of hot air, at first anyway, and arrogant – yeah, unsurprisingly so, bearable than what Shuri could never be anyhow – but the Toshiro Rolfe he knew is not an idiot.

Immediate worry and dread spread wide across Teito’s whole being in his confusion. If Toshiro were to have known about the Mikage’s death, defiled by the hands of Ayanami, had he ruin his chance of becoming a Begleiter? Had he fled the military too? Then Toshiro has anything to do or a connection pertaining with the military no longer, if that is the case. Teito was feeling anxious suddenly instead of being relieved. The lurch he felt, what felt more like eons ago, was coming back.

“…His name. Did you get his name?”

“He refuses to state his name,” Hakuren tuts. “The nerve of him! Who does he think he is taking for granted the patience I had listening to his explanation? Why do you even attract that sort of people, I honestly don’t know.”

Hakuren was aware Teito had not been listening to the words he spoke. The brunet made a face. He was distant too; body still there but eyes stared right into nothing.

“I should be able identify him, when given the chance to, if it makes you feel any better. He did promise that pup they would meet again. Isn’t that right, Mikage?” Teito was brought back to reality at Mikage’s cried in agreement. “Let’s go, partner. We’re already late as it is.”

???

They had come. The two had come for him.

There was no need for an explanation. There was no need for further details. Instantly he knew. He knew it right away. They were going to say those words he dreads to hear. But before those words could even be heard, could even be uttered, their presence tells it all.

“It’s time.”

Two words. Hearing those words – those two words – at the part of those thin, cruel lips… The crazed look in that gleeful yet cold orb of an eye undermines his innocence. The innocence that was once known as a mere child is lost in this afterimage in front of him. Perhaps it vanished a long time ago. A very long time ago.

“I’m sure you understand what that means. Don’t you?”

He chose silence over remonstration. It is unwise. It is treacherous. He was aware of the promise that hid behind such action. Only an idiot, or someone with enough luck, would survive treading on a field full of landmines. Ignorance is bliss as they say, but how could he ignore when he knows the truth about them?

He made no confrontations, not yet. It was too early, far too early to let himself be known to him. He hadn’t exposed himself. He made sure of it. Or he was probably in denial, telling himself he was not ready. And yet they took his privilege, his only privilege, away.

Was there some unknown contravention he had breach? But he swear, he wish nothing of that to happen. A mistake surely, there was no other explanation. Had he been found out, then?

Indeed, he willingly admitted, he had considered warning them once they made into contact. He abandoned that plan however. He had no desire continuing that notion. He could not possibly get away and be done with it. Because frankly, nothing will change; the outcome will not change. Even if he were to somehow played a hand in this. He is not the maestro orchestrating this movement.

Without realizing it, he had given his consent. He was forced to be involved in this twisted affair. Stuck in the middle of it all. He had no choice. He was never given the choice to choose. He is a pawn for the king. And for the king, pawns are meant to be use for easy disposal until they served their purposes no longer. He wanted to be an asset, and he intends to prolong his use.

“What do you need me to do?”

Refectory, Barsburg Church, 7th District, 6:31 PM

The dining hall was already filled with applicants when Teito and Hakuren got there. Hakuren blames Teito for being tardy, which he apologize vehemently for.

They grab their food trays and proceeded in line to obtain a helping of served food. The church was serving eyefish stew as per usual tonight. As for appetizers, one could get himself some patches of edible flowers prepared placed on each table if one prefers.

Teito was lost in his own train of thoughts yet again. Thinking about Frau, thinking about Mikage, and thinking about Toshiro. He didn’t lose sight of his surroundings however, so that was probably why he noticed a notebook had dropped to the ground. Balancing his tray on one hand, Teito bent down to pick it up. Because that was the right thing to do; because that was true altruism.

“Excuse me,” Teito said out loud, acquiring not only his attention but others. He walked to its owner, the tall acolyte in front of him. “You dropped this.”

“Ah… Thank you very much-”

“He talked!!” was the gasps of almost everyone that happens to be nearby. Leaving Teito dumbfounded. A pink haired boy, few inches smaller than Teito, chimed in.

“Did you guys come from the 2nd District? Bishop Castor had you up late at night for unique training, right?” he asked while the abrupt scene faded as quickly as it ended. “When you receive that bishop’s training, I hear that you become traumatized though. Are you okay?”

Teito froze. “T-traumatized!?” he stuttered. Wasn’t the training supposed to be a secret? He would have noticed if people were watching. “Have you seen it?”

“Well, yeah,” the boy eagerly replied. “Being able to see a person who masters zaiphon of manipulation system must be absolute bliss.” Unknown to him, Teito shuddered. Why would annoying Frau Dolls surrounding him ‘absolute bliss’ have any part in it? “As you know, he is in charge of managing the bishops of the church in the second district.”

“For real!?” “Really?”

It was quite an unexpected surprise to both Teito and Hakuren. Who would have known Castor, that sadistic slave master, that seemingly kind bespectacled senior, is an important figure in the church community.

“Why is everyone talking to me like this?” Teito directed his attention at Hakuren as the taller male scold the smaller acolyte. “I was always the one talking, right?”

“Maybe since until now you were always looking down so you didn’t notice,” Hakuren supplied. “There’s a difference when you talk to others and when you talk to those you are comfortable with. Similar to how you address Bishop Frau and me,” he slyly added.

Slowly a flush creep by. Before it could fully adorn Teito’s face, the notebook owner spoke.

“I’m sorry. He could be a blabber mouth sometimes. You won’t hear the end of it if someone doesn’t stop him. I’m Ouida, by the way, from the 5th District.” He gestured towards the earlier pink haired beside him. “This guy here is my little brother, Liam.”

Teito straightened his posture and held out a hand. “I’m Teito Klein. Pleased to meet you.” They both shake hands. Returning the etiquette, he motions a hand towards Hakuren. “And this is my roommate, Hakuren Oak.”

“Pleasure to make your acquaintances,” Hakuren said and firmly shook Ouida’s hand. “Care to join us? It’s better to sit down and talk while we’re at it.”

“Thanks, but we’ve just finished ours. Besides, Liam and I had to go over some verses in the library before it closes. Another time perhaps?” Ouida smiled apologetically. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Teito-kun, Hakuren-kun. Come now, Liam. Don’t forget to say goodbye to these two.”

Liam made a face. “You don’t have to tell me that, onii-chan,” he protested before turning to the pair with a smile. “Bye now! Oh, and good luck for the exam!” And he ran off to his brother.

Teito and Hakuren waved back at the siblings. Unbeknownst to them, someone was watching the pair intently as they sat down on a nearby table. The person stood and approaches. Mikage saw this. He cried.


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