Forsaken Qualms

Epilogue: Where The Journey Starts

Several days have passed after what seems to be the equivalent beam of an apocalyptic lightning which have struck Barsburg Empire, destroying no more than two army ships to crash on what is left of the mountainous regions of District Seven. Thankfully it had not hit its inhabited populated area. Little knew what that ray of light actually meant. Superstitious believers, namely for one, were convinced it was brought into play by the great knowing Eye of God.

They are not far away from the truth.

Teito Klein, the sole child and lost Prince of Raggs, blamed himself on the repercussions of the aftermath. The boy believes he was insufficient enough to be a perfect vessel for the Eye of Mikhail, causing the angel stone to leave him. It was because he was not strong enough, a lack of steadfast resolution and conviction, that the military with no trouble snatch the Eye right under his nose. The large portion of destroyed land was the constant reminder of his failure.

He could not hold onto the hope Father Fea Kruez had left him. He could not hold on to the Eye entrusted by his father upon him. The arid scar so large was a profound reminder of the immense power still residing within him. He cannot pull back anymore. And so he swore.

Teito swore he would get back the Eye, get back everything that has been robbed and stripped out of him. He would grow and he would get stronger, wiser and older. And in due time, he would exact his revenge on Ayanami, the bastard.

"Are you still keeping that thing with you?"

Teito looked over his shoulder to see Hakuren. Hands crossed over a lean chest and an amused expression evident on his fox-like features. The blond enjoyed the flustered look Teito was wearing, the brunet could tell just about, having caught him scenting the natural aroma of flowers in his hand. Finishing morning chores early, they had time to spare before the first round of the Bishop's Examination began.

"Didn't imagine you'd have a soft spot for this kind of thing," Hakuren commented as he sat beside him. Cool purples were switching from the plants to the brunet. "That important?"

Teito nodded his head, smiling fondly at the bunch of flowers. "Something like that." It was out of recent habit actually. He was slowly opening up to the blond concerning the flowers. Teito didn't hide it like he used to the first time Hakuren teased him.

Soft and fresh-looking, the array of flowers was as they were when Teito dug his hands in and fished them out of its hiding place. Found under the folds of his robes moments after the incident with the Eye – during an emotional hug turned awkward at the apparent bulge on his person with Hakuren – to be precise.

Teito was initially confused of course. Was it normal for a bunch of flowers to suddenly appear magically out of thin air in one's robes? He may have exaggerated a little – but is it even possible for flowers to suppose to be in such nature? He knew nary a thing about plants. Heck. He ate flowers like this raw without much thought. Teito is in no way a flower person at all.

"They are quite beautiful, might I add. This bouquet I mean." And he couldn't agree more.

Bouquet wasn't a word he would use to describe it though. It doesn't even begin to describe them, in truth.

Light in his palm and rather pocket-sized the huddling plants were as close as Teito could think of as a brooch. Without the pin attached to it and crystallized jewellery or other materials typically used than actual flowers of course. Not only was it beautiful, it has a unique blend of fragrances: It smelled nice.

There was something about these flowers, Teito was confident to say. As good as a waste of time finger pointing where frankly – he still held onto that thought. On the other hand, Teito would very much like to know why himself too as well. It was warming him inside out, comforting him. It made him feel…safe.

The teenager suspected Bishop Labrador as the likely suspect. Teito was convinced it was him, coupled with the fact the bishop often surrounded by flowers. And hey, he might as well be very knowledgeable about them.

Labrador had given him a protective charm once before, sort of, and he would probably do it again. It was perfectly logical the bishop would have slipped the plants as protection. Despite the unusually covert means. Teito deliberated the possibility nonetheless but memories express no interaction between the quiet man and the brunet, before and after.

That was when Teito noticed words of zaiphon hardly visible were etched on the stems of tangled knots of vines. And so, he went to see Labrador.

When Labrador locked eyes with the bundle in his hand however, Teito had not expected the petite gardener to react badly for Labrador was suddenly contemptuous. Focused amethystine eyes sharp and tense, grave, locked with the bundle in Teito's hand.

Teito had stood there confused, speechless for a second at the outstretched hand. Spoken with great urgency the lilac haired man asked him of its origin. Teito readily hand the flowers over albeit his numb confusion.

"Plants are free creatures, Teito-kun," Labrador had explained when asked. He denied any involvement, further confirms it was not his.

"There is no ownership to be passed by one person to another. No claim or assertion to our rights; but with mutual understanding can we call for their help in power. With acceptance comes trust, and with trust," he gestured at the ornamented floras, "in turn, this will be possible. Unfortunately this handicraft isn't mine. This is a gift."

Teito was dubious. "…A gift? From who?" He could have sworn he had asked in an embarrassingly shrill voice. "Isn't it a bit, well… I don't know, too feminine, for me?"

The brunet found it very hard accepting the older male's answer.

Because when Teito gazed into that achingly familiar teals, he told himself the blond soldier is not him. Told himself he is not the friend he longed to see, but an enemy. Just another foot soldier getting in his way. Just another person standing before answering the challenge Ayanami sought after.

He should have ignored his desperation; he should have refused acknowledging it. His mind was clearly playing tricks! And yet, he was weak.

A sparkle of hope reaches his heart at the reaction the blond gave the moment he uttered his name. What relief. What joy! That is until he found himself nearly at the cost of a raised zaiphon to his skin.


Having receiving this so called "gift" from Toshiro is utterly, frustratingly, confusing. Equivocal than anything even more so. Teito did not enjoy being left in the dark, in the unknown. He did not know what to believe anymore. Especially after what happened.

Teito traced a slender finger at the outlines of the feathery blooms. According to Labrador, each of these blossoms was selected with intent, selected with a purpose – each represents a meaning in its arrangement. His eyes settled on a flower in the centre, a carnation it was called, before straying towards the others beside it.

"White, it is a symbol of endearment."

Slight fluttery warmth crept up the teenager's cheeks. Doing flips inside his gut at Labrador's words echoing in repeat. He couldn't help it despite himself.

"The petals are rather large for a single bloom, denoting care rather than love. While these yellow flowers, bearded crepis and acacias, if combined its meaning in this particular display, symbolizes the sentiment of protecting someone dear. A friend to be specific."

Teito had been in many shades of crimson at that point, understanding quickly dawning upon him. He was completely blown away. He hadn't known. Those flowers were carrying a whole different, if not deeper, meaning than its worth.

Toshiro obviously wasn't a florist. He hadn't counted on him taking an interest on flowers, let alone knowing this flower language either. Teito was just as clueless as the next person. But the fact that this was done for him in mind, courteous of generous Labrador interpreting it for him, Teito welcomes the lurches his heart gave.

Toshiro's betrayal is not what it seems.

His touch lingered on the leafy greens. Ivies, if he is not mistaken. Labrador had expressed his worries about them. "They are poisonous," he had said, "to humans. Could cause irrational irritation upon contact if handled without gloves as protection. But it seems he found a way to counter that with his zaiphon."

Teito was right in his hunch about the intricate wordings along those green tendrils. He had ideas; what it does, what it meant – it was a peculiar trait. That alone explained a whole lot of things. The bundle as fresh as newly picked flowers, potential harm averted, etcetera.

It was special, all in all.

However, Teito wasn't that enthusiastic when Labrador explained that ivies, other than the pleasant idea of friendship and fidelity, also meant marriage. The meaning was implausibly far-fetched, inappropriate. Their relationship was based on a hate kind of thing that gradually changed into something… tolerable. They were far from friendly or the least in a mutual agreement; but their camaraderie was there, somewhat in between, thanks to Mikage. Therefore comparing their relation to something to do with nuptials is out of the question.

Yet the gardener merely gave him a smile, a knowing smile Teito did not understand.

The church's bell rang snapping Teito out of his reverie. "It's time, isn't it?" he heard Hakuren said. He watched as the other stand first, dusting his rump from dusts collecting on his pristine robes. "Let's see the bishops first before we go. A little blessing might do us some good."

"Hakuren," Teito said a little too sudden. There was hesitance omitted in his voice. "Do you remember the guy that used to play with Mikage, the one you mentioned before? Turns out it's Toshiro, that's his name. He's a friend-"

"Are you referring to the heathen that attacked me?" Teito flinched at Hakuren's used tone. His cool gaze flickered between apathetic and annoyance. "Need I remind you he – this Toshiro or whoever – kidnapped you? Tried to hand you over to the military and take you away?"

Teito frowns. "Now, wait just a minute. Toshiro's not like that! You don't know him like I do. I'm sure he's got a good, a very good, explanation…"

"No, Teito. No," was said sternly. "A person like that is not what I call a friend. Or are you too blind by the false friendship he created to accept the truth? For goodness' sake, Teito! Don't tell me-"

"Look. I know what he did alright; I was there, remember? And it's okay. Really." Hakuren stared at Teito as if he had grown a second head. "So Toshiro betrayed me. Big deal. I can live with that, I can handle it. But Toshiro… I know he didn't mean to."

"What. Are you saying he's innocent? That he's not guilty, that it's okay for him to get away with it?" Teito nodded his head. Hakuren shook his head as he muttered his disbelief. "I can't believe this…"

"I saw how he looked at me," asserted Teito, looking down as his hand clench tight but not too much over the gift. "I know what I saw. At first I understand it as a surprise. And I was glad for it, Hakuren, because it's Toshiro: The Toshiro I know back at the Academy. But then I saw the guilt in his eyes – the regret, the fear, the hurt – when he did it. When he pointed his zaiphon at me…"

Teito showed Hakuren the flowers, motioning it forward. "This is from Toshiro; this is his proof. I mean, why would he put it in my robes if he's not guilty? Don't you think that's strange? It's an apology." He looked up at the blond in the eye. "It's not like I've forgotten about Mikage. But I don't deserve the apology. I should be the one to apologize for keeping a secret. He has the right to know about Mikage's last moments, to know who killed him."

"Toshiro-kun believes in you, Teito-kun. He trusts you. Will you trust him too?"

"I trust him, Hakuren, as much as you trust me. Because from now on, I'm going to take the exam with my friend. With you."

Teito made his resolution there and then.

One day he will meet Toshiro, one day he will confide to him the cause of their dear friend Mikage's death. He needs the closure. Because one day, they will come face to face no longer as friends; they will meet as enemies. And that, Teito is very sure of it, is the last thing he ever want to break their friendship.

"Ne, Shiro-chan. How'd your reunion go with your friend?"

Toshiro ignored a facetious Hyuuga and sat down. He had hoped to find the break room empty. If not, at least one or two crew members loitering about. You could imagine how vexed he was having to deal with the man that likes to torment him for a living.

"Hope little Teito didn't take it too badly," Hyuuga stated absent-mindedly, bordering deliberate. "Isn't it a shame though? You could always abandon the mission and side with him." The blond raised an eyebrow, but didn't dissuade the shades wearing man from continuing. "Just saying. Thought I'd give you a way out or something like that."

Major Hyuuga was plainly bored to death Toshiro could see it as clear as daylight. With Konatsu out of sight, there was nothing to distract the older man from bothering the lower blond. Which unfortunately leaves Toshiro alone with the jittery, not quite lone, major much to his chagrin. The teenager wished he had a room to go to and retire than afford to humour Hyuuga, or anyone for that matter, at the moment.

Toshiro chose not to give an answer, seeing it better if he doesn't attach any comment to this. "Where are the others?" he instead asked a query of his own. "Will they not be joining us?"

"Them? Oh, you mean the rest of the Black Hawks!" the older man exclaimed. "Meh. They'll come around eventually. But I'm more interested in you." Hyuuga gave a cheeky grin before it quirked up into a not too subtle full grin. "So spill. Come now. Tell. It's supposed to be 'I ask, you answer' dynamics, silly. I won't know your feelings unless you answer y'know."

He stared at him in disbelief. "What is this? Some sort of game to you? I would do no such thing!" The perfect concoction of stress, annoyance and anger slowly seeped out of Toshiro. He was being questioned. "If you want answers, then explain to me this: Why did no one, anyone, not even a soul, informs me that Teito Klein is the vessel for the Eye of Mikhail?"

To begin with, District Seven is a "No Fly-zone." That meant aircrafts and ships from the military are banned, prohibited, from entering since the ordinance is practiced. Even a person, let alone a task force, from the military are not allowed. Here they were talking about a fleet, an armada, of Ribidzile-themed battleships! As though it was a commonplace.

They were practically an envoy sparking the flames of war. Without a sliver of a doubt the simple act of retrieving their man, a rather extravagant one, was more than a single objective.

Yet, the revelation did not surprise him. They have searched for the lost Eye for years. The Eye will only select the best amongst best of candidates in order to have, to possess, a perfect vessel worthy of its power and acquiescence. In preparation, the very program their cohort was in was initiated.

Teito Klein is a strong person, Toshiro himself acknowledge that. It would not be a surprise if the small runt was chosen. But at the same time, he had not imagined such power is hidden inside his friend this whole time. Inside of Teito. The Eye chose him as its Master. For a moment, Toshiro was scared. Scared of Teito for what he is capable of doing; afraid that he might lose himself in the process. Because Haruse was sacrificed, his soul lost during the explosion of that ball of red light.

"Isn't it obvious? I thought it was obvious."

Toshiro resisted the urge to hit the blinking major, the outburst dribbling away. Perhaps Hyuuga is right; it was obvious. That protrusion, that alarming bloody blown red eyes… Of course!

The younger bespectacled male closed his eyes and rubbed his face, glasses askew. He was tired as it is to put up a fight. They barely manage to leave after all, thankful to have pass through the district without further complications. There were casualties, a few ships sacrificed, but the Eye is in their possession now.

In spite of that, the victory was but short-lived for the Black Hawks all the same. For they lost an important person – one of the important limbs that made them who they are entirely, one of the piece that holds them together so strong. They lost their comrade: They lost Haruse.

Toshiro adjusted his glasses and looked ahead at the glass panel. Nothing but clouds and more clouds on view. "Where are we heading? I do not recall this flight to be particularly long." He forced himself to regard Hyuuga. "Should we not reach Hohburg Fort at this time of day?"

It was a subtlety made out of sympathy. Medical attention is needed what with Haruse rendered comatose. Physically, the Begleiter did not sustain any injury; his mentality on the otherhand is a whole different matter, a whole different trauma. From books to researches he had read in archives, it was a first for Toshiro to come across a condition as fatal as that of Haruse's.

There is no known cure, no known treatment. There is nothing they could do. The comatose Begleiter was like a vegetable – sleeping on the outside, mute but very much alive and lost in the inside. In a state of regression and stagnate. And it visibly became a sensitive subject to the Black Hawks, depressingly so for Kuroyuri, without words ever conveyed.

"I…" Toshiro bit his bottom lip, working out the words he wanted to say. He caught a glimpse of raised eyebrows in his hesitance. Gulping and breathing a sigh, Toshiro finally muttered, "I'm worried about Kuroyuri-sama." Genuine concern for the pink lad was evidently laced in his expression.

The blond quickly avert his eyes not wanting to acknowledge the blooming heat.

It was not his place, he knew. He hadn't been acquainted with them for that long, less than a week with little to no interactions: They were basically strangers on foreign land, and Toshiro a wandering outsider in their in-group. Still, Toshiro cannot help but feel partly responsible.

Haruse left him Kuroyuri to watch over. Someone to look after when he is no longer capable of protecting. And he felt an obligation. Toshiro felt an obligation he had to fulfil, in order to carry out the blue hair's sole and final request before things came to be.

Hyuuga watched him for a while, deciding how much truth to give. "I know how you feel, Toshiro. We all feel the same. Even Aya-tan's affected," he eventually revealed. A smile tugged at the older man at the teenager's precious reaction. Either from the use of his proper name or the fact their usually apathetic leader is troubled. Perhaps a little of both. "Kuro-tan's handling it in his own way without Haruse around, so we should too. Anyways, we got some time before we reach Antwort."

"Antwort?" was echoed. Toshiro wasn't sure if he heard it right. "I beg your pardon, sir. Did you say Antwort? If I am not mistaken, we are supposed to return to base. We should change course immediately and –"

Hyuuga tuts. "Shiro, Shiro, Shiro. You should really pay attention to what your superiors say to you. And here I thought you're not just a bright apple." He shook his head in mocking dissatisfaction. The other's deadpan went unnoticed.

"We'll be paying a short visit to Antwort, you'll be joining us of course. Doesn't mean you don't have a choice per se… You could, but –" There was the scraping of a chair. "What're you doing?"

Hyuuga traced Toshiro's movements with his eyes. The latter didn't answer, only standing up and passing Hyuuga like the wind he truly is. Toshiro disappears from the platform as he climbed up the stairs.

Sounds of a new pair of feet came to a halt during that situation.

Konatsu witnessed the whole procession taking place. Albeit his confusion, the Begleiter knew at once, without ever being present in the room before, that it has something to do with his moronic superior. He glared at Hyuuga, giving a criticizing look to which the major merely shrugged his shoulders as a reply.

"We've got a stubborn one on our hands."

Ayanami was resting in his quarters when he heard a knock at his door. He opened his darkened eyes that seem to en masse in the dark and took a moment to come back to reality.

Once again, the silver haired man couldn't sleep what with the recurring nightmares haunting him day and night. That fact was already established. Accepted. From time to time he would dream of his memories and his past. Sometimes as Krowell, but for most of the time, as Verloren. That predominant part of him is always, constantly, reminded.

The Death God had caused a considerable of impact upon his being, upon his personality. Verloren's insanity overwhelming, Ayanami felt as though he might get sucked up into that world of madness. Sometimes he could not grasp a hold onto his reality, slipping into the depths of his mind and reliving the god of death's timeframe. Many times he drifted, often pulled and at times pushed. So close… it was so close. But Ayanami fought it. He prevailed, and so he endured. That is, until the Death God forced himself out and overtake him.

Not all are unpleasant visions however.

On occasions, Ayanami would dream about Yukikaze. That is the only time he could find his peace of mind; the only time he could indulge himself and thought of happy memories. He would take in the pleasure, no matter how painful it was, to heal the hurt. But it wouldn't. It mattered not.

"Come in," told Ayanami the door, allowing permission for the person on the other side to enter.

Deep amethysts went wide. Ayanami barely caught himself in that quickened exhilaration before it became too late. The twinkle of shock, so unusually devastating, left the two orbs. He must have been tired, the fatigue getting to him. For a split second, just a mere fraction, he saw Yukikaze.

As the silhouette neared towards him, the afterimage was gone. It revealed an officer. Not a black haired man, but a light haired boy. Not a bright, animated face but a wary, stern face. Under the lighting, it did not reveal his dead Begleiter. Under the lighting, it revealed the cadet Toshiro Rolfe. Not his Yukikaze.

There was a salute and the boy was at full attention. "First and foremost, I would like to apologize for the intrusion. There is a matter that I need to discuss with you, sir."

The boy stalled halfway in his advance at a bestial sound, suddenly close within proximity. Two glossed, jet black panthers were on all fours. They stared at the visitor, as if stating their presence.

Ayanami raised a hand, silencing his snarling pets.The chief in his observation saw the other's tensed body relaxing slightly once the large felines were calmed. "Oh? And what would that be?" was coolly said. He had been expecting him, but not this soon. "Are you unsatisfied with the arrangement you're in?" Toshiro shook his head. He did not broke their eye contact"…No? What is it, then?"

"You read my file." It was more of a statement than an accusation "Of all people, you… You knew. You are fully aware of it."

"Aware of what, boy?" Ayanami challenged, feigning ignorance. The blond had a nerve to give him that petulant look behind equal cool stare. "Do share. I would like to hear it from your very mouth."

Toshiro looked at the Chief of Staff warily. The man was toying with him. "There is nothing to be said, sir. What is there to be said?" His throat was suddenly dry, causing his reply to sound out wry. Something flashed in those apathetic purples, and Toshiro knew he should not be crass if he intends to stay on the man's safe side of things.

"I have made the decisions by my own accordance; I would gladly carry out the task I am to be given. To the very best of my abilities, and to that I am capable of. However, sir." He continued as he watched the panthers circle Ayanami,"I do not appreciate information to be kept a secret from me. Especially ones that I have an exclusive right to know in it. That much should not be taken away, the least I ask of you. And if I were to fail, after being well informed of its nature, I will take full responsibility. Thus the question I should ask: Does this answer yours?"

A smirk tugged at the corners of Ayanami's mouth. He did not let it show.

"Fair enough. You made your point," was said. And the silver haired man stood. "Now come. Prepare yourself, Toshiro. This may be your first fieldwork on the battle field, but I have high expectations from you as I do in my subordinates."

Toshiro glanced up at Ayanami, blinking. No grin, no teeth was the two thoughts – plain white, bold words on black – that whispered in his mind. For those full lips crack into a smile. A measured, calm smile that seem to light up the place. Toshiro was at a loss for words, having to be this close to the older man. His glasses slipped down a bit from the bridge of his nose.

“Do you understand?”

"Y-yes, sir,” he gulped down the stammer, “Ayanami-sama, sir."

The panthers followed their honourable master and the young human boy to the door. They were wary of the human – it was in their inane instincts to protect their Master. But the boy's scent… it was melancholic. Mild and yet soft, a kaleidoscope of wild nature and dewdrop of grass. A faint sharpness is underneath it, of lemongrass and fresh flowers. It smelled like hope. It smelled like life. They like it.


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