Forsaken Qualms

Once Forgotten, Now Dear


Dormitory, 1st March, 6:03 AM

Toshiro woke up earlier than usual that morning. He never thought he could become this excited just because he will be transferring to Hohburg Fort as an official in the military ranks along with the rest of the qualified cadets. As a result of last night’s stirred emotions and restlessness… he was deprived of sleep, wasting the opportunity to have a good rest.

No use crying over spilt milk then.

Suppressing a yawn he stare down at the uniform, given the night before, which lay on his bed. There wasn’t much difference from his standard golden trimmings attire in terms of comparing, save for his usual thigh-length tunic that was replaced with an ankle-length overcoat.

There was also an addition of a small half mantle emblazoned with the Barsburg Military insignia. It looked uncomfortable and restricted frankly, namely on the left side where the mantle was supposed to be hanged. But once he slipped into the garments like a glove, they proved him otherwise. It was easy to move in and was rather flexible.

Not dwelling into the matter too much, Toshiro moved on with packing up the rest of his belongings that consist of a toothbrush and several books inside his duffel bag. He was amazed though that he even has anything left. Toshiro gave an amused smile but it quickly left his features.

‘I wonder how Teito is doing…’ he thought, recalling back last night’s episode.

It was still a mystery to him of why Teito had rebelled in the first place. If the cause that triggered him in acting what he did didn’t happen, Toshiro might have found Mikage and Teito making their way to greet him. Of course the former would be the culprit who suggests it.

Initially he planned on succeeding alone without leaving any ties behind and advanced towards the profession he longed for. But then he found these formless traces of companionship with the two. There was a sense of belonging, and it instigates the feeling of wanting to graduate together.

He could picture the scene; Mikage would make a whole lot of deal about it and share that addictive optimistic charm of his, and Teito actually turning that upside down frown into a refreshing smile.

Despite a short span of time shared, Toshiro took pleasure in getting to know them. Even if one of them happens to be at the opposing side. Turning to the scene of occurrence, a flash of ashen blond suddenly caught his eye.

“Mikage-kun?”

Toshiro audibly repeated the name again as he descend, earning said boy’s attention. Mikage was behaving suspiciously, flinching at the sound of his voice. Possible that he may have caught the teen by surprise but seeing that he was not wearing the official military uniform, doubts slowly surfaces. “What are you doing?” he walked up to Mikage. What appears to be a worn out cloak that was with him further augmented his growing suspicion by the minute.

“You scared me!” Mikage faced him, vainly hiding the bundle of cloth from Toshiro’s field of vision. His face was slightly paled due to the sudden approach but quickly resume his perky manner, feigning innocence. “For a second there I thought you were some officer or something…” He let out a relieved sigh scratching a finger near his cross-shaped scar.

Levelling his eyesight before Toshiro, Mikage studied the latter’s form from top to bottom, noticing a great change in his friend’s uniform. So this is how he will look like when he’s dressed in those clothes. Guess that he won’t be having the chance of wearing one anytime soon. Not with what that man had done to him.

Mikage shivered at the thought. He had no idea what happened last night but it was as if part of him was robbed, he felt… incomplete. And he was on borrowed time too. There was no way he could ever tell the blond that.

“It suits you, Toshiro.” A strained smile was formed upon his lips, skilfully hiding the meaning under that fake smile. Realization too late to notice he forgot to add the honorific.

God. This proves to be a big blow to him.

He hates it when he is forced to hide the truth, to fake his feelings. It was eating him inside.

Toshiro had a thin line plastered on, silently debating over himself to reject his suspicions on the other. There was clear evidence. He could be bombarding Mikage with questions right about now, but hesitance was taking a toll in believing these unpleasant hints.

Toshiro mouthed a “Thank you” then before asking the other teen himself why he had not done the same. Mikage however did not answer. He still insisted on keeping the corners of his mouth turned. Again, Toshiro was baffled by his actions. He decided to swerve the course of conversation into a new route, pressing on the matter afterwards.

“Quite an early bird, I see.” He gave Mikage an approved smile. “Good to see that there are people who appreciate time. Most would be in bed; sleeping, dreaming and the likes. So I assume you are part of that proportion. Mind if I enquire why you are up this early?”

“Well, you know… Since we’re leaving, I just thought it’ll be great to see the morning sun once in a while.” Mikage laugh nervously. “W-why are you staring at me like that?”

“No particular reason.” The blond averted his gaze and brought his index finger to adjust his glasses to its proper position.

Wake up early mornings for the sole purpose to see the sun rise. Who would do that? Besides, to Toshiro anyway, the UV ray that the sun glares in District One can be overly severe in the day than at noon. It was obviously an excuse.

“What do you mean, exactly?” he turned to him then. “If there is something that you wish to disclose, do so. I will not ask why nor will I force you if you choose not to. But I assure you, whatever it is you are hiding; it might ease however little the burden you are carrying.”

“Huh? What’re you talking about?” Slight panic strike Mikage. “Don’t get me wrong… It’s just that, you know, since today’s our last, I want to remember the view. I mean, as a keepsake during the years we spent here.” It wasn’t meant to have a nostalgic element in it but the words felt right. “I got to meet Teito and you here.”

Toshiro blinked, that was surprising profound considering it came from the frivolous teen he came to know. Not an answer he wanted to hear but never mind. A keepsake, he said?

“Personally, I digress to your outlook. I do not have any fond or significant memories of this place. Never put any thought into it. Then again,” he closed his eyes for a brief moment before its gaze softened. Toshiro offered him a serene expression, “I suppose meeting you and Teito-kun might be of that memory.”

Amber irises retracted as the eyes grew wide. Mikage was taken aback. It was such a touching thing to say coming from the boy’s mouth he felt tears are about to flow from its banks. That was it. He couldn’t lie to the teen in front of him; he couldn’t hide through this stupid façade anymore. He should know, at least Toshiro should know he was leaving.

“Heh, you got me.” Mikage let out a heavy sigh, ignoring the questioning look on his friend’s fine face. “Guess you already know by now that Teito fled the academy, don’t you? Well… I’m guilty too.”

Gaze glints scrutiny, the other raised an eyebrow. “Why, may I ask, do you say that?”

“Because I swiped a hawkzile for him.”

Toshiro was rather confused before comprehension finally overcomes him. “…What?” he managed, absorbing the news and process it in his brain. Mikage helped Teito. Mikage helped Teito escaped. “Surely you are joking.” But the look on Mikage’s face said otherwise. “Then, last night…?” Toshiro demanded dourly, only to have the other attest to it with a simple nod.

So those suspicions were right all along. What Toshiro feared the most came to unfold: Mikage act upon impulse – He and Teito acted recklessly.

Mikage knew that the pale blond had not taken the news too well. “But you know what? Word is that he crashed near the 7th District. Teito would probably take refuge in the church there so I’m planning on going there to see if he’s okay and bring him back.”

What came next shocked him.

“You idiot!” Toshiro huffed. He was rather cross with Mikage’s decision. Not with him believing unreliable information but with him pursuing after Teito. Reckless, simply reckless. Had the teen gone mad? Certainly he did not think this through.

"Per chance say, you did manage to bring him back… the army would not disregard the fact that you aided Teito-kun with his getaway. That is a fool’s errand! Your efforts, regardless of your good intentions for Teito-kun, will all be in vain. Can you not understand that?!”

Eyes closed, Toshiro compose himself and took a breather. Maybe he went a little too far with his outburst.

“What I am trying to say is that the military cannot simply dismiss you. They cannot let you go as a free man without punishing you. That goes the same with our little runaway. Even if he is Miroku-sama’s student, Teito Klein will not be left unscathed.”

Regardless of the prominent stature or influence any related higher ups has, if one opposes the Imperial Army, the army would seek reprisal for the offense made by the offending individuals in question. There was, and there forever will, be no escape from the Empire’s military forces.

A scary thought indeed.

Of course if the current system, so to say, came to be an ever so lenient regime… that would be a different story. But reality never has their “happily ever after,” or “as simple as that,” do they?

With a weak smile that wasn’t convincing anybody, least of all himself, Mikage replied, “If it’s going to be that way, I won’t be coming back then.”

He could accept that – leaving this military force. But he would not accept leaving Toshiro alone with this corrupted government. He will not leave him with that evil, evil, dangerous man and his lackeys. Was it not enough that they have him, Mikage, in their arsenal? Was it not enough to use him to their advantage, an exploit of the traitor’s weakness, and capture him? Who knows what those people might do to innocent Toshiro.

“Why don’t you come with me?”

“Mikage Celestine,” Toshiro said sharply. “Do not be blinded by foolishness. Do not be a fool. Had I not make myself clear? Do you not see; you will be hunted by the military!”

Why are you jumping into your own funeral? Goddamnit…

“I know… but I can’t just leave it like that! Teito is my best friend, Toshiro. He’s your friend too. Don’t you want to save him?”Desperate ambers plead teal fearful orbs. “I want to save him, but for me to do that… We’re friends damn it! I don’t want us to be enemies. I don’t want to hurt either one of you! That’s why… That’s why –”

Toshiro wrung his hands out leaving semi-circular markings on the palm. “…It cannot be help.” He repeated a second time again, yet the hesitance was evident. How could he convince Mikage if his self have qualms left?

Mikage could not believe his ears. Rendered speechless, he stared at Toshiro with absolute disbelief. What the hell is he saying? Mikage wanted to ask him. Demand him to retract his words. But he couldn’t.

How could he? Guilt adorned Toshiro’s face. His gaze hidden behind gleaming glasses refuse to stare back at him.

The bespectacled teen could not concur with the idea.

For him to travel to District Seven meant returning to that wretched house of gods, to that wretched church. The very idea of stepping even a foot into that place or any other place which serve God is unthinkable! Whether they bequeath protection or no protection, Toshiro would not go back.

Finally being a soldier, an important line of work for the current generation to contribute to this country, he was one step closer to his ideal. One step closer to prove him – his father – wrong. But even so, could he let Mikage go along with his plan after knowing all this?

“I understand,” Mikage suddenly broke his trains of thoughts, “so don’t beat yourself up for this.” Toshiro glanced at him; a pained smile was present on those generous lips despite that reassuring tone. “It can’t be help, huh. Well. I guess it’s true.”

Toshiro bit his bottom lip. He stood there, remaining to choose silence over voicing things he would regret, as he watched Mikage stared off at a distance. He felt a strange sensation overcome him. He couldn’t explain it, but there was familiar sadness… and pain.

Mikage’s voice broke through the confusion, “I want to say goodbye but if I say that, it feels like we’ll never see each other again. That’s kind of depressing, don’t you think?”

“In this world you and I know all life begins and all life will end. There is a starting point and there is a finishing point. To every meeting, there will always be partings. Between “goodbyes”, “farewells”, and other forms of similar dictions you wish to call, there is no difference in this exchange of words. However at times, there is no need for words if it would only bring unanswered questions.”

Silence reigned and passed between them before Toshiro had the last saying. “Be careful,” he said in a voice that could hardly be called a whisper. He walked away. And Mikage too, silently walked away.

None of them knew that was the last time they would ever confront one another again.


Dormitory, 6:51 AM

Finishing the last touches in fixing the muddled upper deck and ensuring nothing was left behind, Toshiro climbed down the bunk bed.

The dormitory was awfully quiet despite there were some lingering post-graduates here and there. He disregards the fact at most but somehow he could not turn a blind eye on. It was… suffocating. And for the first time ever, Toshiro felt pure loneliness.

He never thought those two people could affect him this much. Never thought he would turn out being despondent either; but the teen had had to toughen up. Military days are starting and brooding over prior morning’s depressing matter does not produce anything worthwhile.

It would only torment him more.

Toshiro walked down the many hallways of the Barsburg Military Academy. One thing he dislikes about the establishment was its maze-like structure.

Often at times, absolutely no freaking way he would ever admit to it, end up lost in his tracks. Even if he were to retraced back his steps. Even without an effort he easily strayed from the normal route. It was always an inconvenience for the blond. Maybe he should have taken the time to improve his topographical memory in the earlier days, but it was too late for regrets now.

“Oh, Toshiro!” a piercing voice suddenly reached the teen’s defenceless ears.

The bespectacled teen attempted to ignore the annoying nuisance, knowing it came from an all-too-familiar blond, though it was futile. The boy’s a persistent fellow. The last thing Toshiro needed is to bump into the young Oak.

“No need to shout, I could hear you miles away.”

Shuri blinked in astonishment, “You could?”

“That was a figure of speech, Shuri-kun. A figure of speech.”

“I-I knew that!” said blond blurted out in defense. He held up his head high, refusing to show his embarrassment. “I was just making sure you know it too.”

The other only shook his head with the excuse Shuri came up with. Typical of him. “Right… So where are the others?” he asked, noticing two empty spots by his side. Those two lackeys must have grown tired of him. Perhaps. “Rather rare for you to be unaccompanied, no?”

“Why, Toshiro… I didn’t know you care. I’m glad you asked!” Shuri’s eyes sparkled with delight at Toshiro’s sudden interest in his personal life. Has their friendship finally taken up to the next step? “I happen to see Papa a few minutes ago. He’s a very busy man, mind you, but Papa took his time to come see me here! Papa’s so wonderful.”

“Ah, yes. I imagine so,” Toshiro replied indifferently and continued his tread.

“Hey, where are you going? It’s rude to walk out on someone while he’s talking! And here I thought I was going to tell you something important too.”Shuri crossed his arms. Like a child throwing a fit. “I don’t like your attitude.”

“The feeling is mutual.” The other had a half smile on, slightly amused. “…Very well. What is it?” Toshiro said impatiently, having stopped and turned around. “I am in no mood to entertain you, Shuri-kun. But please be quick. I have important matters to attend to myself.”

Shuri perked up. “Now that’s more like it. Ah, but before that, would you care to join me for breakfast?”

“Breakfast?”An eyebrow raised and defenses let down, Toshiro stared with scepticism. “You and I… breakfast?”

“Yes. Of course. You, me, breakfast.” Shuri paused. A hint of red colour the younger’s face at the quizzical look the older teen gave. “W-Why? Is it weird?”

Toshiro shook his head. “No, not at all. It is rare for you to ask that from me considering your tendencies to be surrounded by your flocks. For an Oak, you are quite ingenuous.”

“T-that’s –”

Toshiro smirked at a flustered Shuri. Really now, what had gotten him into acting like this?

“Thank you for the kind thought, Shuri-kun. I accept your invite. But let me make myself clear: I am not too assured with this “something important” of yours to be truly important. The reason why I am willing to spare my time is because the one asking this is you.”

“So you finally realize I’m a somebody. I know you can’t resist me. Admit it, Toshiro. You really want to be friends with me. You’re just denying that I’m your friend.”

Toshiro took a step forward and Shuri followed. “What are you babbling about now? I have no friends. Quit your nonsense.”

“Why?” The latter was too stubborn to stop. Unfortunately. “I wonder why you say that, say you don’t have friends.”

“That is of no importance,” the blond ended with no room left for discussions. Why would this rich snob be interested anyway? The only friend he had was his books. They didn’t insult or judge. They were always right where you left them, saving your place and awaiting your return like an old friend. Books were full of information about every subject, facts and truths it provided to quench the thirst for knowledge.

They would never die. Never leave you behind. Books are better than people…

…or so he wanted to believe.


Dining Hall, 7:35 AM

Sat among three individuals whom have gathered around the round table, Toshiro was beginning to question himself: Why did he even agree to this?

There he sat with Shuri at the onset, assuming it was going to be the two of them in the eating establishment, before the latter reveal the news he so badly wanted to share. Not many students were around at that time after the pair returned with their nourishment on food trays.

The bespectacled teen decided it was time to end this outwardly friendly bond and cut to the chase. Getting along with the blond now was the least of his concern.

Shuri did not manage to answer to his demand however as a load of students came rushing in, greeting the ever prominent Oak with great enthusiasm and pats on the back while treating Toshiro with a simple acknowledgement of his presence. Words of congratulatory passed by their lips. Not to the latter but to the former.

“Congratulations?” Toshiro had asked in plain bemusement. “What for?”

“Didn’t you know? Shuri passed the exam!”

Of course he didn’t know. How could he possibly know?

Wakaba Oak, a high-ranking officer and the current Field Marshal of Barsburg Empire after Miroku, was likely involved in this. From the way Shuri had fondly describe his father, it was safe to say he is much loved by the marshal. One of the reasons he was spoilt perhaps.

With that being said, Toshiro understood Shuri is an heir to a very rich and powerful family. As an Oak, and not to mention the son of Marshal Oak, it was imperative that he strive. What son wouldn’t want to honour his family’s name? The whole concept still seems a bit too, well… demanding.

Toshiro was no noble but to an extent, he could understand the burden. Although his was null and void after that life-changing incident.

Having those expectations being laid upon you is neither an easy nor a light thing to accomplish. It was to no surprise if Wakaba-sama uses (abuses) his power in the army for his precious son. Being Wakaba Oak’s son has its merits despite the inequity – choosing agree to disagree, outdoing the impossible that was possible and so on. But this is Shuri, the greatest idiot the Academy has ever had! That idiotic boy may well not realize it yet.

Adding to his irritation was exclusive showers of laud and obsequious flattery towards Shuri that, in turn, boosts his already imposing self-centredness. Toshiro pretty much tuned everything out but nay effect whatsoever transpires.

Curses. Thinking about it, he should have decline right then and there. Now he was forced to hear their loquacious chatters; talkative Shuri with those endless natters to which his faithful sycophants happily agreed head on.

Toshiro had no idea what the others are talking about really. Most were unimportant and irrelevant ramblings he readily snubbed out. Some though, on occasions, also came to benefit him.

Why, one time there was an interesting interlocution regarding a rumoured-to-be surprise test prepared by Lloyd-sensei. Apparently battle strategic themes were the focus for the upcoming week. Sadly to say, yes, rumours and gossips are the main topic that generally played by the tip of their tongue.

Just where did they get a load of this stuff?

Toshiro paid no attention naturally. Learn and excel – that was his philosophy when it comes to learning. To trust these unreliable rumours meant relying on others. Relying on others meant believing in their words, might it be true or untrue, to ensure success.

But he made an exception that one time. He chose to believe, for once engage in their tall tale and take it into account. Well… he learned that sometimes it’s good to have an open ear on things from time to time.

“Wow! So it’s true you’re going to be Ayanami-sama’s Begleiter, huh, Shuri?”

Almost choke Toshiro did on the tea he was drinking. Ayanami-sama’s Begleiter… Was he hearing it right? Shuri being the chief’s Begleiter is the most ridiculous thing the teen has ever heard of.

“But isn’t he a warsfeil?” the other chimed in. This caught Toshiro’s interest further. “I heard that the Black Hawks are full of them.”

He heard rumours, most of which are bizarrely true, of the chief of staff being warsfeil. He should have realized it sooner from the hue of his zaiphon, but Toshiro supposed he didn’t bother to register that fact into his head.

That crimson zaiphon… a sign of the corrupt soul destined to never meet the Chief of Heaven in their lifetime. To never meet the Chief of Heaven. Toshiro wondered if he were to become warsfeil.

Deny Him, forsaken Him, from his very existence; carrying unresolved hatred towards the Chief of Heaven. Would he ever be able to become warsfeil with these sentiments?

To control Wars, to consume innocent souls, to grant fleeting desires. Will he – or can he – endure the urge of temptation from those vile deceitful creatures called Kors? As any typical human embodiment that could easily be manipulated, he might have also given in.

If so, would serving the death god Verloren any better than the Chief of Heaven? Injustice occurred up the sky above and so does in this world. Righteousness will never prevail.

Then there was this Black Hawks being warsfeil notion.

Come to think of it, Toshiro never really saw the other members of this special unit in action. How could they speculate such things if they never witness it themselves? He suspects nothing out of the ordinary when the Black Hawks first made an appearance. There was no proof these group of individuals are what people claim they supposedly are.

Even if it was true, discrimination is indeed an endemic disease.

Hailing from the house of gods was judged, then what of warsfeil? People look down on the Black Hawks, unwelcoming their kind and disapproving their able capability. Yet they fear them. People fear warsfeil… these bad seeds of evil.

Perhaps the ‘Black Hawks’ act as an asylum to these group of individuals. Perhaps ‘tis the only place where they feel accepted. Perhaps it unites and gathers those of the same kind. Many may have been killed, reduced to no more than a few, leaving the strong of the strongest alive to serve under the army. Whatever the reason, a creature born of darkness deserves a second chance.

Or at least for those who are in the clear.

The sound of the school bell rang ended Toshiro’s contemplation. “I should be taking my leave now,” he said, glancing down at his wristwatch hidden by sleeve cuffs before looking up. His presence was rather inconsequential judging from their startled reaction as he stood. “Once again, congratulations on passing, Shuri-kun. Though, I found it implausible for you to graduate considering that dreadful humiliation.”

“Why you,” retorted one of the flatterers out of the blue, “you’re one to talk! What makes you think you’re any different?”

“Yeah! If it weren’t for the chief, you wouldn’t have passed either.”

“So, you are saying for Shuri Oak to be able to graduate is acceptable while my right to qualify as a Begleiter is not? Thus the simplicity of an ignorant,” the pale blond replied coolly.

“Unlike you people, I do not run from the enemy nor do I beg for my life to be spared. Only cowards do such things. Surely you do not find it iniquitous to allow these people to graduate and face the heat of battle only to be killed in the end? I doubt any one of you will survive.”

The teenagers stared at each other, exchanging nervous glances between them. Toshiro scans unfamiliar faces briefly. “I question whether this lot are truly glad for you graduating, Shuri-kun.” He understood not why Shuri prefer their company still. Idiots flock with idiots, he guessed.

“That’s not a very nice thing to say,” said Shuri finally. “Of course they are! Who wouldn’t be? You are just jealous that no one wants to congratulate you.”

Toshiro deadpanned. “I see. Enjoy your love fest then.”He turned on his heels and walked away. The next time they meet, Toshiro would no longer approve of Shuri. All pleasantries will be terminated if they were to confront each other.


Barsburg Military Academy, 9:11 AM

At first glance there was nothing special about the warships that were used by the military, save for the fact it can hold up a fleet of military vessels. But now, he has to take it back.

Toshiro stared in awe admiring at how grand the technology of Barsburg that the kingdom both possess and blessed. The world today was innovative, in contrast to the old era many years back.

When he was a wee lil’ toddler, he used to think these airships were the size of small birds flying up the blue sky high. Like dots sprinkled on a piece of paper. What can he expect from his childish mind exactly? He took quite a fancy at the amazing display of splendid take off, watching how they reign over the skies. Flying so gracefully and listening to their cry of ecstasy.

Ah, to be free.

However, the serene scenery was only a veil hiding the atrocious truth. War. Toshiro never did like the other side of it.

In order to emerge victorious there will always be casualties of war. An inevitable aspect that cannot be avoided or forestall. In the blink of an eye, without realizing it, tragedy had already closing in on us. Struck us when we are the most vulnerable. To the losing side especially, its people the ones suffering.

So many deaths and so much destruction…Imagine the years it might took to rebuild what was lost, regain back their strength to subsist and have a place in the today’s world.

Now that he has grown, Toshiro knew better. Those dots turn out to be large mechanisms, an aircraft that he will be boarding soon enough. And that entire struggle was for the better good of the country.

Still… must there be bloodshed?

Thanks to the duffel bag he had left behind – after much searching around the academy from the Dormitory to the Cafeteria, the bag was with Shuri when he found it – for reasons that is better not to relive, Toshiro barely made it on time. Outside, he quickly sneaked into one of the two lines formed which had been divided equally. As luck would have it, the officer in charge had not step out from the ships yet.

Three ranking officers providentially appeared not a moment too soon. Everyone was at full attention as they advance towards the centre of the crowd. Honouring their presence, readily the officers were greeted with synchronized salutes.

“At ease,” boomed a deep voice.

The voice belonged to an aged man in his late 50s, an average height between the three and proven older, was apparently the one in command. Judging from his badge, Toshiro could make out that the man has the rank of a captain. The man was fairly satisfied seeing each cadet presenting exceptional qualities expected in the army as they cut down neatly.

The welcoming speech began. “I would like to congratulate all of you that have stood here today. You have proven yourselves to be the elite, selected amongst the best, fine soldiers this year has produced in the past few years alike. You are the future of our great Barsburg Empire.

The military exists only for the sole purpose of protecting the country that we know and love, and its people. We fight those who dare to threaten our peace. We fight those who dare to tyrannize our country. We fight those who dare to disrupt our sovereignty!

The main reason we are here to this very day is to realize this vision. We aim to exterminate the poison of the nation. To serve our ruler, His Royal Highness King Wolfram Eifeler Barsburg and protect the kingdom he governs.

Now listen closely! The Eye of Mikhail is said to have enough power to wipe out an entire country. As candidates for the Eye, each of you will be assigned to a superior officer who will make use of your abilities as Begleiters starting today. May their strict tutelage nurture you into becoming excellent soldiers!”

The superior then nodded at the officer to his right, signalling for the next procedure to commence. The officer, a clipboard in hand, stepped forward and began his explanation.

“Each and every one of you, as you all know, will be assigned to a specified group that you’ve applied prior according to the choice given. To those that haven’t, don’t worry. You will be placed under the division that is well suited with your capability.

Normally, the officers who train you will be at commander level. But there is a slight change in this year’s tradition due to urgent vacancies that needs to be filled in, which are: The Administrative Unit, the General Affairs Unit, the Reconnaissance Unit and the Medical Laboratory Unit.

I will call out your names and announce the unit each one of you will be in. Lest anyone forgot this, bear in mind that you cannot change the department you are in except from personal requests or when you have attain a certain position needed for the transfer.”

The officer glanced down at his clipboard and began reading the names enlisted.

Toshiro listened to the names of his fellow cohorts, mildly interested to know whether there are people he could possibly knew of. Most of the names didn’t ring any bells though.

‘Hopefully it will be the medical unit,’ crossed a random thought.

Hastily, he pushed the thought away but his mind had unconsciously began to hark back the past. That art of healing…forced to latent.

The terrain that surrounds the small church has always been the Rolfe family’s property ever since their great ancestors first lived and claimed the land as theirs. Before the existence of the religion they came to believe in.

From a mere hut to a proper building – following the ever developing trend of time – it grew into a fine, decent cathedral that have stood proudly to this very day. The management handled by the household. It was a home to their children’s children, and a home to many.

It was not a well-known house of worships but it did provided accommodation to travellers and employs those who are willing to lend an extra helping hand. Basically it serves as an interval for those who had come from a long way home.

A bright and naïve curious child Toshiro was, he was thrilled to meet all kinds of people. Many have come and go sadly while others stayed. Amidst the encounters, he took an interest towards an old man in particular.

The aged man was alone when he first arrived within church grounds. Young Toshiro was helping his dear mother watering the flowers growing there as their daily routine on mornings at that time. Their work immediately came to halt the moment the stranger greet his mother. Toshiro remembered how he stared curiously at the man, pondering whether he would stay or leave the next day similar to others before him.

The elder radiated a warm aura the moment he smiled. Toshiro could not explain it but on that day, he knew there was something about that old man. The man with his gentle form. That warm smile plastered on his face. He was like a grandfather he never had.

At first Toshiro thought the man was a dreamer – enlightening the young boy with his desire of exploring the world and uncovering its mysteries – but the wisdom reflected in his ageing eyes rendered him to recant his perception. The man is old, true. Yet he had not fully savour the beauty of this world created by the Almighty. He regretted wasting his life ever so carelessly, unappreciative.

He, at the very least, with the remaining years left, wanted to accomplish that: Savouring the magnificent beauty of the many creations that the world offers.

The old man, generous enough, taught half of the knowledge he hold to Toshiro. It made him change his whole perspectives on the world… more conscious of the decaying land, more valued of what life can give if one truly welcomes it. He taught him, the most important of it all, the world’s secret remedies – plants.

He claimed that anything grown on the Earth’s surface contains curative essence. Even in the weeds of wild plants that we throw! It is one of God’s gifts granted to humans yet humans do not appreciate nature. Plants possess telepathy was another claim of his. They can read emotions. Toshiro was sceptic to believe such statement but the elder soon proved it.

One day Young Toshiro was asked to gather two bundles of flowers in the garden; healthier one and wilted ones that were on the verge of dying. The older man held the healthier flowers using one hand while the latter was hold by Toshiro. Bright blue strings were then formed around the man’s free hand, carefully handling them like delicate frail glass as black words gently enclosing the bouquets of the former flowers.

It was wonderful, graceful… magical.

Specks of white-green were soon visible as half of the extracted life energy within the plants was transferred to the wilted flowers. Slowly but surely, the pale flowers little by little began to stand tall and recover its vivid colours. The once wilted flowers were fresh again.

“Learn their language, young’un,” the elder had spoken in his tender voice. Toshiro could remember how he downcast his greyed gaze at his amazed self. His formerly big, innocent dark cyan stared widely at him. “Hear closely to what they are saying. Feel the bonds that tie the plants and its life source. Take what is needed but do not exert what is left in them wholly.”

The words echoed through his mind. More of these words. More of these memories.

“Tell me, little one, do you know why these wilted flowers were able to be healthy again? No? Hoho… Well, did you wish for them to be as they were before? Alive and blooming? Yes? Then that is the answer, child. Wishing; wishing for a wish.

I told you plants have feelings too like us humans. The wilted ones were happy that you cherished their beauty before it turned into an unattractive sight. Even as they were, you wished these flowers to be as beautiful as they once were. And for that, they did it for you. Your happiness spread towards them, aspires them and they share it with other plant life. In a way, these sorts of feelings supply them as their life energy. Pretty fascinating if I do say so for myself!

Now then… What I have showed you is an example of how the flowers’ essence can help restore what its kind lacks – in this case, the lack of water. Of course you can give them water but it’s too late by then. Most of its life source are already gone and drained away because of their needs being neglected. That is why this method can be used as an alternative to revive and heal. Then again it must have some remaining life left before it dies completely, even just a portion or an ounce of that energy will suffice.

Understand this: If this can be done to plants, then to humans as well; whether by using plants towards humans or by transferring one’s energy to another to restore what was lost. If a soul is lost, however, it cannot be done. The soul will be truly gone forever and return back to the Creator. After all, the living must not disrupt the dead nor enter the world of the dead and vice versa. Meddling with the balance of the world is inexcusable and forbidden.”

Why the elderly told him this, Toshiro once asked. With a light chuckle, he said; “You, my boy, have the potential of nursing this gift to the fullest. I can see it in you. I know you wouldn’t ever think of performing the forbidden, that is why I’m passing this knowledge to you.

So will you promise this old man to keep this secret safe and not to use it for your own benefits? Even if you grow into a fine lad and eventually forget, promise me that you will not forget my teachings.”

But Toshiro cease to practice the man’s teachings. How could he possibly continue? He abandoned those greenery life forms he used to bask in long ago. From the moment he hardened his heart he cease all practice.

But forgetting? Oh, no. Toshiro never forgets.

Never forgets the promise. Never forgets the old man.

And yet… he put that knowledge behind, put that dear past behind. To rust and collect dusts, just inching to be of use. Attempting it now was out of the question however.


???

Darkness. Complete pitch-black darkness.

Too weak to open his eyes, too weak to care, too weak to even move. The chocolate haired fugitive did not know where he was. As far as he was concern, he may have already died and was left stranded in this foreign abyss… this black oblivion. Perhaps it was a realm made for souls whom cannot enter heaven or hell resides. Restless spirits they say.

Probably. Yes. He may be one from the looks of it. But he was still breathing.

He was breathing? Don’t the dead stop breathing at this stage?

Falling…

Ah, that’s right. Falling, the last thing Teito remembered was falling! His firm hold onto the swiped hawkzile was slipping; his clutches slipped off as consciousness began to fade. Teito could feel it. Slowly but certainly, he was falling.

He remembered free falling from such high height, few feet above ground, enough to land with a splat. Even if he had survived, he might be barely alive with some broken bones and fractures here and there. But falling felt… good. It felt awfully, incredibly good.

No constraints, no limits, no nothing. He cares not a single thing in the world. What only mattered was the feeling of the rushing air engulfing his whole being, the wind soothing his soul, surrounding his body. It was as if he was free. Free from everything – free from the burden of life. Forget the reason to live and just shut down. Simply shut down and close his eyes and drift into an eternal sleep.

And he must be seeing things too: He saw glimpses of snow.

Snow from my home town…

Teito had no idea why that thought even crossed his mind at that time. Whatever “home” really was, the white flakes of snow were similar to the snow from his dreams. Without thinking – maybe part of him was curious too – he raised both hands.

Reaching… Teito wanted to reach that pure, white essence. Wanting to touch that pristine, untainted, cold snow. It felt gentle, so, so gentle… it was almost cruel. Too cruel indeed.

Blood stains his hands. On the hands that were used to kill. To kill and take the life out of the living, out of criminals who are nonetheless still human. At least, part of them that was humane.

“Kill your emotions and fight, Teito Klein.”

Fight he will. He did. But kill his emotions Teito cannot. Why was it so hard to erase these feelings? Why was it so hard to follow that simple order?

Because he wanted to remind himself he was still human.

Though he follows the path decided for the army, a rail for him to walk above; becoming an effective, merciless, human killing-machine was far from what he sought to turn into.

Teito feared he would become a monster. He must already have mainly that in the eyes of his victims. He knew and he could smell it. That mixed fear and hatred. He was sure of that same fear and hatred they intended towards him when he brought a swift death. An emotionless, harsh yet swift death.

If he is a monster, then why are feathers falling down on him? White beautiful feathers were raining down on him.

Was he not on the darker side, the one clad with so many sins and darkness? An unclean and tainted soul? The abyss he was in shows him that. So why had he been shown these white feathers if none of its strands were coated with the colour inky black?

“May God watch over you.”

Bright light suddenly enter at the resonance of those words, shining into the oblivion Teito was in. It seems to vanquish the dark, for a much brighter surroundings materialized. It must be another one of his dreams, but Teito was starting to believe it was more than just a dream.

No dream could ever repeat itself in a continuous cycle. It is simply a figment of our imagination, a fantasized mindscape created in our threshold of unconscious perception. But maybe, just maybe, these visions are the memories of his past. His lost childhood. That may possibly be it! But no matter how hard Teito probed his brain, searching for an explanation or an answer, he cannot seem to remember.

He felt a gloved hand cover half of his face, the fabric of its material touched gently against his skin. It was as though the picturesque scene was real itself. He saw a man in white garbs behind those gloved fingers. His eyes… his desperate eyes were hinted with sadness and fear. A feel of nostalgia hit Teito. He could not understand this feeling of dread. This –

Flowing…

What is this? …Tears?

“Someday… the time will come when you will understand your mission.”

There it was again – these words his father had constantly said in his dreams. But why did he say this? When exactly is the time? It was already too late by now, isn’t it?

Faint voices reached the brunet’s hearing.

Teito chose to ignore it however. He wanted to continue the dream. To run up to the fatherly figure like he usually does, trying to get a hold of him. There may be a hint or two perhaps, or some kind of clue he could gain if he prolonged the dream. But in the end, as much as he refuses to accept it, his eyes were forced to open.

Something was hindering him. Something was preventing him from pursuing the truth. Awaken with cold sweat drenching his body said it all.

“WAKE UP!”

Teito’s eyes snapped open at the sound of a deafening voice. He realized he was not in that black, foreign abyss anymore. Pillars of light invaded his vision. Blurred, the boy blinked in attempt to adjust his eyes against the harsh light of day. Two unfamiliar faces soon registered his field of vision.

“He’s finally opened his eyes.”


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