Forsaken Qualms

Time Ist Now!


Barsburg Church, 7th District, 7th March, 9:40 PM

Slap. Slap. Slap.

“I’ve heard that a baculus that’s been touched by a warsfeil would turn black. But this room should’ve been purified already... And just now, I hit Bishop Bastien with this…”

Slap. Slap. Slap.

“It can’t be! Bishop Bastien is the Warsfeil…? That can’t be true! But if anyone hears of this, Bishop Bastien will be given the death penalty!”

Slap. Slap. Slap.

Teito and Hakuren ran up the flight of stairs like lightning. The sole of their shoes were heard slapping against the marble floorings as they ascend to the thirty-sixth floor. To the quarters of the assistant archbishop’s. There were guards once they reached the floor. Two guards are stationed outside, guarding the entrance to the man’s chambers. It was clear there was no other way in except going through them. Either they force their way inside or back down.

Without a moment to think, Teito readied a ball of zaiphon. Time is of the essence now. There was no need to waste time with unnecessary confrontation. He threw it relatively far and the makeshift bomb goes off. Hakuren freaked out. It was a bit too big of an explosion for a distraction really. The guards went to investigate nonetheless.

“Now’s our chance!”

Emerging from their cover, Teito and Hakuren went for the entrance like mad. They gripped each handles and pull with all their might. Alas, frustratingly so, it did not open. The door was locked. It would be easier if there was a lock pick. It would be even easier if the lock is an ordinary lock. But clearly this lock is no ordinary lock.

Teito brought out a rectangular metal emblazoned with the carving of a cross. The lock resembled the flat outline of the pass Father Fea Kruez had once owned, the cool piece of finely cut metal he kept close with no worth other than a token to remember him by. And now, that precious token can be put to its real good use. “It’s Father’s,” Teito explained when Hakuren pointed it out in genuine wonder.

Realizing their mistake, the guards began to rush in on them. Quickly Teito fitted the pass-key into the keyhole. He had no clue, not even the slightest, on how to use it. So he prayed, desperately Teito prayed, it is the right key. Praying the door to grant its entrance and save them from being detained exclusively. He believes in Father, and he believes in the church. If he believes in both, then so he will believe the assistant archbishop.

Bishop Bastien must have had a reasonable explanation. For when he was talking about Frau, sharing their past with Hakuren and he, the older man held such a gentle expression in his eyes. With such nostalgia and mellow he had not bother to veil in his greyed eyes. Surely there is a reason. A reason why he had to hide his pain, a reason why he had to keep it a secret. And Teito, with all his power, he will do anything to prevent his fall under suspicion; to help save the man in any way he can. Even if he is indeed a Warsfeil.

A single phrase of zaiphon. Seek the truth. And then there was movement.

The door closed behind them as soon as the two mere applicants set foot cross the threshold. With a clink and a clank and turning of gears, the door is once again locked. As if it had never been open to anyone before. Shouts and warnings were fruitlessly spewed, the banging of fists were to no avail. Eventually it stopped. The guards left to get help, their receding footsteps proof.

Assistant Archbishop Bastien’s room, the teenagers noted, is a spacious, very large room. Teito’s voice had echoed throughout the space when the brunet called out his name. With several bookcases stretching and starting from one wall to another – if its purpose was to surround its inhabitants, well, it successfully achieve it – and a single desk positioned in the middle, there were no signs of the assistant archbishop ever being there. The room was empty.

“He’s not here?” Hakuren said with a quizzical look. He did not understand it. The very man himself said that he would return to his room for a while. But obviously, there was no one here except for statues of female angels seemingly guarding the place.

The pair approaches the desk in great hopes of finding clues, notes and papers even, to the bishop in question’s whereabouts. There was a swish and there was a whoosh creaking from one of the shelves. When Mikage suddenly leapt from Teito’s shoulder, climbing and latching himself on that particular spot, Teito realized it was created by a draft of air puffing through. He neared the bookcases and fingered its surface arranged with books, believing something lies behind this wall. A click was heard once he tilted a random book.

Automatically, assumed to have the same mechanics as the door behind, that whole shelf itself slides to one side of the wall revealing a hidden passageway. It was a dark path which leads downwards.

Perhaps this is where the respectable man has been hiding.

Minding their own steps and footings, Hakuren and Teito climb down the stairs at a fast yet steady pace. The stairway eventually led them flat ground and an open area. The dim lighting made their surroundings too ambiguous for them to get an idea where they were at the moment. But there at the centre, aided by the angle of light the moon shone above through transparent panes, a lone figure was able to be discerned.

Before them was a man draped in white garbs. Before them was Bastien, the person they had been looking for. Standing upright and sported in his left hand as it proudly did was his prized baculus, untainted.

For a moment, with tired eyes gently closed, he looked vulnerable and sad. For a moment, with that warm, serene smile plastered on his face, he was the same, extremely gentle person that they knew. For a moment, he was Bastien, simply the assistant archbishop; a respectable, amiable man. But when he opened his eyelids, when he directed his gaze plainly at them, all of that took on a whole novel change… into something aloof and unrecognizable.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

The man with his gentle form is no longer. What used to be the shell of a man with his gentle form no longer exists.

Barsburg Church, 9:45 PM

From the time when Frau was suspected as warsfeil – really, holding an unsealed blade that was used by warsfeil meant nothing to the Ghost, dead set against the immortal being; naturally guards who caught him red-handed, oblivious of the god before them for their own good, perceive this differently – and following imprisonment, things had been different at the church. Its usual light has dimmed, dulled. If one took a moment to look at the sky, one would reconsider the hinted ill-omened in the air.

Darkening skies and stormy clouds further added to if not the ominous ambiance. The already darkened night was beyond darkest of darkness, as if beckoning monsters to come out from its hiding, to come out and play, and bask in freedom after their time in confinement. It made the church, the haven which bequeaths protection to its denizens, seemed unsafe and dangerous. It was as though there is a dark secret that the church had kept in years was waiting to be exposed.

Of course no building of worship could ever hold such a sin…

…Would it?

Labrador was at the gardens when he saw the sky. He was aware of the inevitable malice, yet he calmly tends to his flowers. Distressed, its colours bland – these sensitive living beings was the most affected with the proceedings. They call for the gardener, the prophet. They seek his presence and reassuring touch. Cowering in fear these flowers are Labrador sensed. Not fear for the brunet child under the Seven Ghost’s protection, but fear for the child under their charge.

Frau and Castor had known of the blond boy – an alleged friend of Teito’s until proven true – this Labrador informed however irrelevant it actually is. After all, the flowers were the ones who made, urged, demanded, the boy to be part of priority. Castor had offered his dolls to keep watch over the young blond, but Labrador politely declines. It was between him and he and the flowers, he reasoned.

One could never hope to achieve full comprehension of the reasons and the whys. One – especially those whom cannot speak; hear; answer; them in their language – could never “simply” understand their affairs. And besides, as long as the boy had not done anything worth to fret about, there is nothing in it for him to pose any real threat or damage.

Perhaps that was why said russet haired bishop was with him, keeping a close eye on the petite man. Castor was worried for him. He knew, and the flowers knew. Labrador wasn’t sure whether to feel warm or bothered about that. Even though he could predict exactly what the future will hold, he could never predict one’s actions. What you didn’t know wouldn’t necessarily kill you. Fact or conundrum, it is a paradox.

Labrador was bending over clusters of flowers when Castor spoke. “What is it, Lab?” was said gently.

The troubled flowers by then had quietened down, whispering warnings and repeated premonitions in their unique tongue and voices. “This feels so foreboding…” Labrador slowly said. He didn’t need to see Castor’s face to make out a frown on his forehead palpable upon his unreadable countenance. “Danger is drawing closer to Teito-kun.”

The wind blew sharp like shards of glass grazing the trees and plants that swayed along with it. Not enough to cut skins ‘til it bled or chapped thin leaves silly. And yet the breeze was cold, cold enough to raise the ends of hairs and Goosebumps at the sound of its haunting hiss. Until it passes, a storm is coming in its rage.

“Which means it’s time we set out, doesn’t it?” Castor provided, eyeing the disconcerted bishop before grimly pulling away. “Your premonitions are never wrong.” It was obvious what had to be done next. They have naughty children waiting to be punished after all. When Labrador turned away from the flowers, felt the need to state it either way, he added lightly. “Will you be needing help?”

Their eyes met; one expectant while the other befuddled.

It took a moment for the lilac haired to recover from the sudden proposition. Labrador shook his head, “No.” He gave a lazy smile as he approach the bespectacled man. “Don’t worry about me. The flowers are with me to keep us both safe. I’m sure we could manage.” He could only incline his head slightly at Castor’s nod. The earlier glint in the latter’s eyes was gone in less than seconds, his face betrays no emotion but a neutral smile.

Setting aside the oddity for now, they began to walk side by side in the comfort of silence. Labrador opened his mouth. Had to part ways to confront the intruders, it wouldn’t hurt to wish the other to mind his well-being. They didn’t know what they were facing head on.

Mouth ajar... once, twice, before it clammed up completely. Nothing came out, oddly enough. The pretty man bit his lower lip in contemplation, half frustration. He was hesitating for some reason. He didn’t have any difficulties before, so why now? Without knowing it, he was actually mumbling to himself.

Castor, ever the observant one, unfortunately noticed this. “Is something wrong, Lab? You’re mumbling,” he helpfully pointed it out.

Labrador stopped dead in his tracks. Hastily he bowed his head. Wide eyes stared down at the ground above two feet. What is happening? The fact that Castor was looking at him strangely caused faint warmth rosy his cheeks, making it hard for the smaller man to look at the taller male in the eye. What the heck is happening to him?!

“…Labrador?” Castor tilted his head. It was unlike Labrador to stay quiet, much less shying away, when they were alone together. He couldn’t read his expression which had hid behind wavy bangs. He saw his lips quirk though as he mouthed some words. It was safe to guess and put non-actual words into his mouth. An able manipulator Castor is, but a lip reader he is not.

Just when Castor was inching close to hear, the gardener snapped his head right back up. The master of puppets jerked away slightly in surprise. He found the latter was pouting. He huffed, he glared, and he was… well, to put it into simpler terms, upset.

Castor merely blinked as Labrador, without a word, walked out on him. His prevailing confusion was replaced with sheer amusement. Castor chuckled to himself as he watched the other go. It was rather… endearing.

“So he does care,” Castor softly muttered.

Barsburg Church, 9:51 PM

When Bastien revealed himself as a spy working under that bastard Ayanami’s direct command, Teito was in denial. When Bastien told them he had been at it for such a long time, before he became the archbishop’s assistant; before he even met Frau, Teito was still in denial.

But when Bastien subjugates and takes in Hakuren as hostage, threatening to kill the blond that has absolutely nothing at all to do with his treason against the military, Teito lost whatever restraints that was holding him back. Whatever rationality or hold backs he had at that moment gone.

For a second time, Hakuren’s life is in danger. For a second time, he, Teito Klein, had put, Hakuren – disregarding him being kith and kin with one idiotic bastard by the name of – Oak’s precious life at stake. He promised himself not to involve him in his problems, and yet…

With a rush of adrenaline Teito charges at the corrupted, defiler of a bishop. He created a shield of zaiphon around him, making use of his training with sadistic Castor, though he may be unable to say it to his face, and made his way towards Bastien. He was confident he had mastered the technique. That confidence was the death of him. It led him to his downfall. The barrier broke and darkness swallowed him whole.

Drowning. Teito felt like he was drowning, flailing futilely in the murky waters. Darkness. Everywhere. Darkness was everywhere around him. Choking him, restraining him, dominating him, overwhelming him. The darkness was devouring him.

Now, Teito is not one to be scared so easily. Oh no. He wasn’t scared of the inky black. He wasn’t scared of losing his life. There was a reason he had to live this through, a reason he had to escape this internment. But his heart... Teito had to fight it, had to fight the fear in his heart. He was scared of himself; he was scared of his own compassion.

Caught in the webs of hatred, fear and hunger and sadness he was. Susceptible. These fallen souls, the souls Kors had stolen… Teito fears of sympathizing them. Because pitying the enemy would only lead to his capture. Because being afraid was the same as giving in to their want. He really, really, didn’t want that to happen.

But fuck it! He couldn’t help himself.

Because he was afraid.

Because he pitied them.

That was when a new voice rang in his head. Before he close his eyes, before he lose the feeling of his limbs:

“I’ll just get rid of them for you.”

Teito looked around his surroundings when he came to. He did not know where he was. Everything was blank black, and he thought he was dead. He thought he was devoured by the Wars. But seeing the light below him, in the manifestation of endless stairs he stood under his feet in the middle of nowhere, that can’t possibly be it.

Feathers, white, began to rain down on him as Teito stared stupidly. Where exactly is he? He felt like he had been here before, it was at the tip of his tongue, and yet he could not find a word to come up with a sentence. It was an odd sensation for Teito. He could grasp the familiarity of the place. He could draw in the safety of the place. Still, he could not solve the simplest of questions.

There was no other choice but go up.

Teito treaded the ascending stairway until he stopped to a halt. An enormous gate was in front of him. At one glance he knew it was locked – a dead end if he didn’t know any better, unless he has the key or some sort of phrases to be said – but without even laying a finger on its hinges the gate flew open. Teito braced himself from the burst of wind. When it died, pillars and walls could be seen further in. He knew better than to step inside. His inquisitive nature got the better of him though.

Ten careful steps inside the familiar-unknown, he felt his right hand began to throb. Ten steps inside the unknown, pain had not hit him just yet. Ten steps later inside, a strip of film too large was displayed resembling a screen. Something was playing on it and it knocked the breath out of the brunet’s lungs. Slowly his legs took the liberty to near it.

Teito was in disbelief, his mouth hung agape. He couldn’t believe his eyes. There, appearing on that film-like screen was Bishop Bastien and Hakuren. They were just as he remembered before darkness engulfed him. That darkness was gone now – he was freed, Teito realized, but the two of them stared with mind-blogging eyes. Why were they-

“Who is it? Who was foolish enough to betray my Master?”

Oh.

“…Wait,” Teito stuttered, it was more to a gasp if he paid attention, having finally found his voice. Not that deep intonation of, well, strangely, his voice. “Is that… Is that me??

Teito stared in mild horror and astound as he saw himself, the spitting image of the very teenage brunet himself. The red stone imbedded in his right hand sealed hidden was revealing itself. And his irises… His irises were red, as red as the red stone hosting one of the two archangels. The Eye of Mikhail has awakened. White branch-like protrusions extended from the area around it forming into a ring. Before Teito could comprehend, black masses began to collect into a globe as the same hand was raised.

“I’ll show you to the ninth circle of Hell. Have it back!”

The sphere was thrown at Bastien. Smoke, smoke and everywhere smoke – that was the first thought that registered in his head once he open his eyes and goggled. When the smokes of dust and rubbles petered out, Teito let out a sigh of relief. The impact had gravely injured him, badly damaged the walls behind he noted, but the assistant archbishop managed to defend himself. Barely was a word Teito did not want to add or admit.

“Ooh, aren’t you stubborn for a little worm.” Teito heard the haughtiness in his tone.He didn’t like that tone as he felt a knot in his stomach. It promised violence. “However, you can’t escape consideration. After all, I’m going to kill you.”

“No... Stop- Don’t!”

Teito ran up to the screen, clawing fingers and pounding fists onto it. ‘Bastien is going to get killed… Bishop Bastien is going to get killed!’ His mind screamed at the fact, and he cried it with his voice.

“Don’t kill that person! He’s Frau’s important person – he’s the same as Father!! The same way Father is important to me!”

He had no idea if it went through. But he begged and he implored, the echo of his voice reverberating the whole time, desperately at his ruby-eyed self. He has gone too far out. Lost in the idea of power over the inferior mortal. Teito’s words seem to have reached his other self at the visible stagger. A whimper he had missed unknowingly in his fretful frenzy.

“M-Master…!”

Then, suddenly, firm hands were squeezing his neck smothering him breathless. Teito felt it, and he fought the strangulation. The landscape in his mind was falling and fading as he was brought back to reality. He heard Bastien’s voice filled with spite as the man’s gaze darkens.

“It seems you wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice the Empire in order to protect those who are dear to you. But in that case the Empire’s future will not be protected!”

“Insolent whelp, you’re dead! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you!”

Mikhail was struggling to regain his control over his stubborn Master. He wouldn’t stand a chance fighting this man if he were to slip back being dormant. It was them or him. The protrusions extended and aim for Bastien’s neck, entrapping him from making sudden movements attempting his beloved Master’s dear life.

“Then why…” Teito breathlessly chokes out with much effort once he found himself back in control. He strained his eyes and risked it to see Bastien in the eye. “Why… do you have such… sad eyes…?”

Mikhail proves to be stubborn. The protrusions were still in its position despite in half control. His voice rang inside Teito’s head.

“Master, there’s no need for your heart to grieve so. I shall kill him in an instant for you!”

‘Stop it!’ The archangel heard his Master’s cry through their mental link. [“Master, leave him to me!”] Mikhail offered as he resisted his Master’s wishes.

Those who attack his precious vessel must be punished. He was trying to protect him, pulling him away from any threats or danger entailing his life and safety. Why can Master not understand that? And yet, Teito blatantly refused him.

‘No! He’s Frau’s… Frau’s dear friend!’

Mikhail, reluctantly relents, was forced to lie dormant at the latter’s words. Dark energy was exuding from the corrupted bishop, unbeknownst to the willing beaten brunet. If this keeps up, not only will the Wars taint his Master, the Wars will be allowed to enter the Eye. With one last resort, Mikhail forced his dominance oh so coaxingly.

Teito was numb with all sorts of pain. But he cared nothing of that, he cared nothing of himself. He cared for Bishop Bastien’s well-being. The man, despite his betrayal, was suffering in so much excruciating pain unimaginable than he is. He was alone, lost deep in his illicit ways. However, that does not mean he should lose his important person, Frau, along the way. Teito wanted to remind him that, remind him he should not be the cause of grieve to the ones he left behind. It is a nasty experience for anyone. His was painfully awful.

That was probably why he was fighting tooth and nail to pass the message on. Before the Eye of Mikhail resumed his control, before the man actually subdue him with his wars, before he was even brought back to the military by force.

[“Master”] Teito ignored Mikhail’s calling and plea. “Don’t go…” [Hurry, set me free] “From…” He gulped, finding in himself the energy and the words he was meaning to say. [“The Wars are getting inside!”] And he finally choked it out in the last ditch, “Frau’s… side.”

Teito lost his consciousness then.

Barsburg Church, Western Tower’s Greenhouse, 10:10 PM

Once night has fallen over Barsburg it was obvious by now that most parts within the church of District Seven are off limits to everyone. Excluding its church members of course. Rules are meant to be followed – what are rules when it is not heeded? – though often more than not, at some point in life, people don’t concern themselves with such restrictive things and place it further in the depths of their mind, only pulling it up onto the surface when circumstances needed it.

Well, Toshiro found a loophole these strict restrictions had set upon acolytes. (In his defence, he was under no obligation to abide. Still, considering his position in this travesty…) At least with the help from his plant friends which made it this possible, he was able to sneak in.

“Breathe in, breathe out… Breathe in, breathe out~”

That was the tune from giggling sprouts occasionally teasing the blond wearing glasses. They reminded him of nymphs. At one time, he would have revel in their endearment like a three year old child, giving in to their temptations and mischievous nature. But right now, rather than good-heartedly offering help, it was an unnecessary form of distraction.

Chest heaving up and down, Toshiro calm himself. It was evidently failing. His eyebrows twitched in annoyance as he felt curling vines brush against his face, tickling his nose and poking him. He tried to dismiss it, reasoned it may be a form of abet of some sort in itself, and treated the ministrations the budding flowers were making it their sole mission to wind him up for their sheer amusement as nothing.

Toshiro frowned. Bascule training felt different than it typically was as of late. Perhaps due to years of unused it took him quite a while to find its frequency and match it with his zaiphon. And when he did, seamlessly summoning zaiphon through the staff was child’s play. Be that as it may, a bit of concentration is required. He needed to concentrate.

A lost cause really, in hindsight.

Breaking his concentration Toshiro relaxed tensed muscles. He heaved a sigh, showing his displeasure at his giggling lot of company. With a baculus in hand lowered he walked up to the oak tree and sat under the oak’s shadow, leaning against it as he watched the landscape before him. The moon gently lit up everything creating an almost eerie feeling. But he knew that is not true at all.

Darkness is an entity all individuals fear. He feared darkness himself because he is only human. And because he is human, perceptions and assumptions believe the unknown as something to fear and a cause for alarm. How different we view things when in the light of day and in the dark of night. Yet the terrain around him, no matter how forlorn or dark or creepy it may be to others, has always been full of life to the child under the flora’s blessing. The night highlighted their natural beauty under the glistening moonshine.

The wind blew, gently stroking the oak tree’s leaves before it swiped over the landscape before them touching everything in its path. Some stray leaves, hung loose split from its branch, caught in his ashen blond hair. Flowers crowd around singing their endless hymns as vines tucked and wrapped itself, not too tightly, around the young boy as if to appease him. Similar to how arms wrapped around him without thought but in a simple act of protecting. A security blanket if you may.

Toshiro, observing their behaviour wordlessly, did not mind; he acknowledged the affection. He has his worries for possible asphyxiation there – no one has ever seen a plant move on its own, at least to his knowledge. It may not be a silly assumption these plants, outwardly gone rampant, was trying to eat him. Quite a frightening prospect actually – but he buried the disturbed thoughts. Convinced these plants would not harm him, confident enough to entrust his life to them.

He laid the borrowed bascule nearby. He extends his free arm up, gesturing a few vines to stretch at one hand. A small ring of zaiphon was summoned then in the other. Fingers manoeuvring its flow black words carefully enclose it as the tendrils interlaced with one another. Toshiro narrowed his eyes, focusing.

After the hours and instances he spent in the gardens practising, familiarising himself once more and recalling the knowledge he learn about life force and energy, it was time to come clean and face his calling. Toshiro had his qualms when putting it up to the test. Endeavouring what had been left to rust and collect dust is best to forsake, he stand by that. A miracle he hadn’t forgotten the old man’s teachings entirely.

Specks of white-green lights were visible as he extracts the evergreens’ essence. It was a slow process of transferring and exchanging and manipulating the altered structure. A first attempt… and so far, so good. When small leaves along the stem expanded into buds rose up and blooms, opening up its colourful petals, he deemed it satisfactory. Zinnias and dahlias were in full bloom, three or four dwarf cyclamens added to the bouquet in his hand. The light died down.

Pale brows knitted together and furrowed. “…What is this? Is this supposed to happen?” Toshiro slowly asked, a tinged of panic in his voice. Chirpy murmurs coming from below indulge the blond instead of the low undertone of the oak’s that usually answered him.

“Oh my, you don’t know? How dreadful…” “Poor boy… He doesn’t know. “Why doesn’t he not know? It is his.”

They were rather unsubtle about their… brusque, sassy comments, in their little tattle. Still, not an answer he was looking for.

“Hush now, little ones, hush. Do not rush this child.”

The oak tree appeared to have notice Toshiro’s mild aggravation. He was suddenly self-conscious in the darkness as he harks back a fact: These telepathic aides could read emotions.

“Years unheard and quiescent, it is a blessing he had not turn a blind eye on us yet. Bear in mind: Had he chose to relinquish our existence, his knowledge about us, we would not have the pleasure of having him in our grace at this juncture.”

The murmurs quietened down, reduced to a hush. Toshiro was unsure if he should feel flattered or guilty hearing them talking about him. Although, he’s pretty certain being their topic of discussion was slightly… unnerving. Not even the sanest of individuals would take comfort in it if placed in his shoes.

“Now then, dearest chil’… You wish to know?” broke Toshiro’s muse. “Close your eyes. Go on.” Toshiro raised an eyebrow, ready to question the point of such action. But nearing at his wits’ end, he did just that. “Good. It may be hard to grasp the concept, but I shall teach you. Be patient and heed this old timer.”

Toshiro humour the oak tree.

“Do you remember your first time? The time we welcomed you, as you had welcomed us? Do you remember our voices back then? So foreign yet felt so right at home? Relive it. Relive what you have felt, seen, smelt, heard, anything. Remember that feeling and remember it well.”

He made an effort listening to every word. He pictured his young self. Bright, innocent, easily amazed, curious. The old man with his warmth… the warmth radiated in his eyes and smile real in that idyllic, picturesque depiction in his reflection. His tender voice, so clear. They were at peace. Flowers and life dances around them in that little garden the family’s little cathedral could retain. He could feel the smiles.

Now… Delve deep. Search within yourself and tap into that source. Let it guide you, allow it to lead you. Hold on to it and hear, hear closely and open your mind’s eye. And you shall soon understand.”

And then there was a flash of light blinding the already bright vista. He cringed as his head burst with thoughts not of his own. Tunes and tones he mostly understood and recognize, but it become deafening voices and words, once distant and vague, stronger and less afraid, singing along with them, had turned up into full volume. He couldn’t tune it out as much as he willed in time. It became bearable just after a few moments, allowing him room to recover.

By the time the pain receded into complete nothingness Toshiro slowly open his eyes. He half expected the previous light to blind him anew. Toshiro blinked. He found himself staring into the dark night instead. Was it all an illusion? A vision? Or had he doze off? A nudge on his wrist caused him to glance below.

“See… See… What do you see?”

“What-” Toshiro stopped himself. Sudden thoughts filled his head. “…Friends? No… absent friends.” Jumble of words and sentences played he did not quite comprehend practically threw itself at his face. It didn’t make sense. “One… no. Two different outlooks.” He scrunches up his temple at the last phrase. “…Distrust?”

There was a fit of giggles.

“No. Not it, silly.” “He still hadn’t figured it out, has he?” “Should we tell him?”

The bespectacled boy breathed out a vexed sigh. “I am glad to know you have found your entertainment in this. But please,” Toshiro said exasperatedly, eloquently near beseeching, “I would appreciate it if you would save all that trouble and tell me.” He was done playing this… guessing game. It was too late at night to think, and he was worn out from mental exhaustion. It made him more prone to irritable tendencies – this, they made no waste.

“My, my, what a grumpy boy.” “More like cantankerous.” “Shame on you.”

Toshiro hadn’t bothered to hide his eye roll, for another giggle followed. When the foliage finally answered him seriously, they hummed as one chorus.

“This has been fun, oh yes it has, but now it has come to an end.
From nothing we are but vines, you had moulded us to become fine.
For that you have our thanks, and for that we symbolize your sentiments.”

The bouquets of flowers entangle themselves and separate. He watched their spectacle as the colourful sway began to dance. He could barely keep his heavy-lidded eyes open. Zinnia buds brightly coloured littered on one twine was first before bold dahlias came next, waxen cyclamens distributed evenly.

“Hear ye, hear ye, mortal child within our care
Bask in our marvel, and listen to what we have to say in your regard.”

“Approached by many, shunned very much the same
‘Friends’ a concept so strange, yet you mange to find in some.
Thoughts of absent friends thus we represent
we represent thus absent friends you longed to see.”

“We prided ourselves, as you have prided your dignity, a stubborn one at that too
but you are willing to cast it aside, proven for you had cared for us in the past as now too
Deny it all you may, still our gratitude exceeds your care.
Because, like it or not, we will always stand by your side.”

“Least but not at least, the trouble in your heart we see.
It is alarming, the hesitance that you lumber.
Do not let it consume, do not let it in.
Thus we represent diffidence, so that you shall constantly be reminded.”

“Emerge up and be bold, and yourself shall never be doubted.
Should everything go against you, remember; just remember to believe in You.”
So sleep, now, sleep… Our dearest child, sleep.
You deserve the needed rest for you soon will gain restless sleep.”

“Be wary on what you tread, we could only give so little.
When a new day offers itself to you, crossroads will appear.
Tell us; which path will you choose?”

When it finally ended, all came to a standstill. No hymns, no voices, no movement – the magic was gone as though nothing had ever happened. Stillness envelops the garden.

“…Hurry up and choose…”

In the distance, a snoozing teenager could be seen sitting under the old oak tree. His slim chest rise and fall evenly, a faint breathing so soft it could not be heard. Anyone would have missed him if it were not for the white contrast of his attire. Why the blond was sleeping in the open, no one will ever know. The freezing night could very much kill a person. Oddly, he seemed profoundly comfortable the least.

But when the crack of dawn comes, and guards and bishops and nuns find him here, wonder what he will say?

“…Tarry not…”

Barsburg Church, 10:22 PM

Castor didn’t break so much of a sweat ensnaring this child of an intruder before him with his strings. Provoking him with his dolls made his job quite easy. He neared his trapped victim with purpose. Calculating eyes ogled the humanoid of a young boy. Another with half a soul, he mused, this one.

“I’m sorry, but I have some business with the person on the other side of your soul.”

Taking off his glove revealed a mark of a peculiar scythe, beginning at the centre the blade curves counter-clockwise, blazed red against his tanned skin. Castor raised his naked hand and directed it at the boy’s chest. He forcibly reaches for his core, advising the child warsfeil to stop struggling as his hand went through. It would not do any of them good if the boy is hurt. The bishop was betting on it though – it will still be in his favour just the same. And his ghost strings went to work, searching for the link connecting the other end.

An allowed smile, pleased, was plastered onto Castor’s face when he found it. “So we meet at long last,” he said.

Silence was met before monotone rang in his ears. A male’s voice definitely. It sounded infuriated despite its cool timbre.

“…Again, you’re getting in the way. Fest.

Castor scoffed in dry amusement. He could almost picture the man behind the voice. So he knew who he is, did he? He must be the one calling all the shots.

“I won’t hand over that child,” Castor dared.

“Oh, really?” came the relative smug reply. “I wonder. A conclusion still hasn’t been reached.”

He narrowed his eyes at this. Someone sure is confident. “I’m glad I caught this kid after all,” he said evenly. The bishop gave an experimental squeeze as he probed inside. The kid drew a single line of blood trickling past his lips and down his chin. “Just as I suspected…” Castor’s smile grew at the visible flinch experienced on the other side. An advantage he could exploit. “If I seize this child, it’s the same as seizing your soul.”

“Please let go of my soul, Ayanami-sama! At this rate, even you-”

“If,” he continued his (half torture/half interrogation) session, ignoring the uncooperative display at present, “half of his soul is in your possession, until you release it, you share a life. Isn’t that right?” His wring tightens the more the other resisted.

“But wouldn’t it be a problem if the damage your servant received reached you through the link? I wonder. Can you really control all of a soul and subjugate that human? There were formerly two owners of that power. Or is it that right now you can’t control half? …I’ll hear you out,” was the proposal. “Which is it?”

“A foolish question, Fest.”

An inquiring eyebrow was raised but no comment was being made. Instead, “Both are traitors who rebelled against God,” was said. He needed answers, but it proves his little ministrations gave no leeway. And then, in that instant, there was a change so palpable in the air it alerted Castor. The smirk the boy was sporting looks unsettling.

“God doesn’t exist in this world,” heatedly he answered. “All that exists are foolish humans.”

Castor promptly whipped out his threads at his defiance, further holding him down. Whoever the person on the other side is, he managed to bind the man through the breach. But it seems that he wasn’t dealing with any ordinary human. Because with ease and precision, he snaps his barbed ghost strings like a twig allowing the boy to pull his hand out of his chest. It caught Castor off guard.

Before he realized it, a Wars was fired at him and detonates. Castor couldn’t brace himself in time as it sends them both hurtling in opposite directions. He anticipated the cell wall on his impact. Instead he felt something soft cushioned the blow.

“Castor!” he heard Labrador’s voice.

He disregarded Labrador for a moment, having caught sight of a new player making his appearance as the child warsfeil’s lone backup. It appears he managed to escape Labrador seeing that he’s here. Eyes were trained on their fading figures, unable to do anything to stop them but allow the pair to take advantage on the situation, before he could afford of letting down his guard.

When the coast is clear he finally glanced up, acknowledging Labrador. He saw the troubled expression marring the other man’s face. “You saved me, Labrador.” Castor offered him a smile, to which Labrador respond with a sigh of relief. He averted his gaze. “…But they escaped,” he said guiltily at the end.

It was a shame he couldn’t get a lot out the intruder. If only he could effectively force him to divulge more, at least a clue on who they are or what they are intending to do. Oh, but the child did let one thing slip: A name. It’s as good as nothing, it’s more than enough. It’s a start.

“I look forward to being able to meet you again, ‘Ayanami-sama’.

???

As sudden as an unknown reaction was confirmed, the noise that was triggered from before had died down just as quick. Assumed there might be a malfunction in the system or possibly some sort of interference taking place which had disrupted their signal. Of course, Ayanami knew better the real cause of it. Either way the matter was solved and easily dismissed.

The single line of red contrasting the tone of his pale skin has almost dried up. Calmly he damped his lower lip with his tongue, tasting a coppery tang on his palate, and used the thumb of his glove to clean the rest of it off. He admitted there was a slight miscalculation on his part. As long as those ghosts stayed Teito Klein’s his side, they will make certain the thwart of his plans. But never would he allow them until he finally achieve his goal.

Ayanami was alone in his throne when he heard someone climbing one of the two ladders set at each side. He had not bothered glancing up, knowing full well who it is.

“Aaaya-tan~” called out a sing-sang voice.

Hyuuga.

Typical.

The black haired man, waving a lollipop in one hand, made his way towards his seated leader with lazy strides. Leisurely he stood by his throne while stuffing his mouth with said sweet confectionery. “Who were you talking with?” he asked teasingly before pulling it out. “A naughty child?”

The major bent down at his shoulder level, invading the chief’s personal space without worrying an impending slap just waiting to land on his face.

For once, none of that happened. Hyuuga’s antic was tolerated by the silver haired man. He confirmed his guess by simply saying, “That’s right.”

“Ooh… You’re in a good mood today, Aya-tan. Did something happen?”

Hyuuga gave grin as he licked his candy like an innocent five-year old. Ayanami just stared… and hit the major, leaving him on the ground groaning.

“Start the preparations, Hyuuga. Or I’ll confiscate your treats if you don’t.”


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