Forsaken Qualms

The Answer


Barsburg Church, 7th District, 2nd March, 9:10 AM

Glittering golden rays of the morning sun entered the guest room through open windows and bathe everything with its heavenly light and gentle warmth. The scent of nature emanating from a few flowering shrubs kept nearby circulated throughout the room. Emerald eyes fluttered open to the sudden sense of warmth together with the refreshing aroma invading its owner’s sense of smell. The sleepy brunet slowly sat up, adjusting his eyes before the harsh light.

Today is the second morning since he came to the church.

With his slight dazed state Teito looked around. The room, the one he currently resided is different, he noticed. ‘How strange…’Confusion all the more adds to his stupor. ‘When did I get here?’ His mind was hazy but gradually, haziness cease as recollections of last night came flooding.

Events which had occurred the night before appeared in flashes. Teito remembered meeting an old man whom had lost his wife; he confided to the teen that he has no place to return home to since that heartbreak. Negativity filled the already heavy air of sadness and loneliness. Teito, thinking of Mikage’s well-being, felt the man’s sorrow.

The feeling of having lost a beloved one… An unpleasant experience for most, immense pain for those dearly attached.

There was something missing in Teito’s life. Someone. But Teito did not know why. Missing fragments of past memories; know nothing of his upbringing. Only vague, if not, blank…The old man reminded him of that absent presence however transient.

Then those bishops came, as though they were rays of glimmering hope out of that heavy despair, and revealed that the man was not what he seems. A Kor was controlling the vulnerable elderly. How despicable of that demonic messengers – Verloren’s curse – taking advantage over his woe.

The wish to bring back his wife… The wish to not be alone...

A fight broke out between bishops and Kor. Between the good and the bad. Strange abilities of manipulative strings from Castor and the skilful handling of a scythe from Frau were displayed. Abilities nothing Teito has ever seen.

The battle lasted within a few moments. With merely cutting off the skeletal pair of wings, appendages that suddenly grew at his back, the old man was finally cured from his obsession. The only problem left was the mark embossed on the brunet by the Kor.

According to what Frau said to him, that is.

Perplexingly, however, Teito cannot seem to remember how he winds up being marked in the first place. He had no recollection whatsoever. Was that perverted bishop bluffing? Or was he telling the truth? Could he even be trusted?

Teito dishevels his hair out of frustration. What is it with him and this lack of remembering? All that thinking hurts his head. Whatever it was, everything is still a blur. The teen did not quite fully grasp what had actually transpired that evening. One thing for sure, he was not imagining Frau pulling out a large beast-like scythe from his arm.

A folded paper had fallen onto the floor, Teito realized, once he got out of bed. The brunet tilted his head in confusion and picked the note up. ‘A letter?’ He unfurls its contents. It was from Castor, a simple sketch of a rough map was drawn. Apparently the bespectacled bishop was waiting for him in front of the water fountain, in the courtyard. Why the man wanted to see him this early, Teito did not know.

‘I wonder if I can ask them about last night…’ thought the brunet as he close the door. Perhaps those bishops could recount what had taken place last night. They may have an explanation as well. Answers he intended to hear.

There are many things, so many things, Teito do not know of the outside world. For he who had never set a foot outside the military, for he who had lived his life as a battle sklave, it was a bit… dazzling. He never knew such a cheerful and quiet world the church is. He never knew such place even existed.

But does he deserve this? This… kindness?

Teito is no believer, still wasn’t sure whether there is a God either, but maybe fate had brought him here. And it, that so called fate, lead Mikage here as well. Rejoining and uniting each other, unifying their forced separation. Does that mean this “God” everyone in the church hold in the highest regard truly existed? If so, then he was thankful to Him.

‘Mikage should probably be awake at this hour...’

Teito looks forward to show Mikage around. He missed spending time with him, hearing his cheerful voice and his optimistic assurance. He need that… he really need that right now.

Smiling silently, Teito eventually reached an open area. To where the sun glows the brightest, to where something called serenity could be found, to where he could find all the answers to his questions.


Barsburg Church, 10:47 AM

Sad uncharacteristic honey brown eyes belonging to that of Mikage Celestine was fixated on the open windows, staring off at a distance as the gentle breeze ruffles the velvety curtains. Time was ephemerally ticking away, little by little. It would not be long until the last grain of sand would fall.

His lasting rein in suppressing the evil force inside of him was quickening.

Drenched in his own sweat, Mikage had woken up with a jolt as a start earlier that morning. Nightmares were haunting him, taunting him, in his sleep. He was very much afraid. Who wouldn’t when found in a place devoid of light?

Darkness. Yes, darkness. Mikage found himself in the darkness. Alone, lost and aimless –these aspects surfaces repeatedly whenever the light-hearted teenager close his eyes. Closed eyes meant drifting into wakeful nights. Closed eyes meant envisioning frenetic dreams. The dreams no longer presented peaceful haven: The dreams represented fear.

Like a lost lamb Mikage was in his mindscape, without a shepherd to direct neither his way nor escort him. He had nowhere to turn to, no visible path to tread on. No nothing. Only darkness, pure black darkness, wrapped Mikage around that little finger of hers. Then, unseen by the shadows, there emerge a light. Dimly lit it was but a light nonetheless that was more than enough to overcome the obscurity.

At long last there came the light, brightening his world and showing him a path. But can he trust it? True that light will overcome darkness, but light begets darkness. Uncertainty played another part, manipulating and doubting his judgment. And yet, knowing the light may or may not guide, arousing debatable possibilities, still Mikage walked towards it.

Walk and walk he did; a neutral pace he took. But eventually it broke into a jog as anxiousness, slowly but surely, began to inspire the boy. The light was fading.

Tersely Mikage ceased all action. The one and only illumination vanished and a moment of darkness ensued, taking its initial rightful place. However, much to his relief, the lighting had not fully receded. For replacing the dim light was the sense of familiar warmth and affection.

Before him was his family.

His family were welcoming him with radiant pride and joy; pride for his success, joy for his return. He passed the examination, did he not? His parents beckon him to come closer, his siblings calling out his name lovingly. They longed for him, and he too longed for them. But the Celestine family disappear into nothingness, blending in with the darkness, before Mikage could lay a hand on them… before he could embrace them…before he could –

They were just within his grasp damnit!

Another presence, an outline so to speak, appeared behind Mikage; both backs facing one another. It was ambiguous, for the face was not shown. But there is no mistake of that distinctive brown mane caught at the corner of his eyes. Mikage turned his back, instinctively reaching out for the anonymous figure only to be rejected as the silhouette drifts away. Going further and further away from him, adding great distance between the existing gaps of him and the silhouette.

Mikage kept running and running, running towards that chocolate haired figure despite the push. He was desperate for company; he was desperate for stability. Mikage wanted something that he could cling on, something that could save his sanity. This seclusion, this darkness… This is madness!

Glimpses of the brunet smiling sadly caught his attention. As though the figure, his best friend, was going to leave him alone in the darkness. Alike his family. But no, he refused to believe it. Teito is his light… his only light remaining in that darkness.

A gloved hand materializes out of the blue clasping its firm grip around Mikage’s neck. Caught him off guard it did; he expect nothing of the sort. It, the hand, was cold – coldness he had felt once before. A uniform clad figure emerges from the shadows: An outsider. And yet, somehow he knew well of its form, of who it is.

Malevolent face of that silver haired – that vile man! –greeted him. Smirking triumphantly as he lifted Mikage by the neck, allowing him to breathe only barely. He was choking.

Slowly torturing him, boring his evil gaze right through him, forcing him to succumb under his destructive spell… It was merely a dream and yet it felt so real. So horribly real. He wanted this to end. Mikage want to end this horrid dream.

But he cannot. His mind did not allow it.

His suffering was increasing and increasing, to the point of him enduring immense pain. Perhaps the pain was beyond that, no accurate words could ever be used to express it. His body was being crushed by something bony – strange skeletal limbs he had not seen before. The torment continued… anguish that never seems to end. Never cease to exist. No matter how much he struggle to bear. Unable to move… to breathe… Helpless…

…Dead.

He did not want his family to die.

He did not want his friend to die.

He did not want to die!

Faint footsteps were heard echoing outside the doorways of the Barsburg Church’s hospital. The pace soon intensifies once it reached a specific room. Mikage ceased his shuddering reverie and turned his attention towards the room’s only entrance. With the door knob being twisted, it soon revealed a fretting teen. That chocolate coloured hair…Half worried and half relieved palpably written all over its owner’s face.

“Mikage!” the person he knew all too well cried out as he briskly walks in. “How are you feeling?”He made his way towards his friend’s bed side.

Mikage mustered all the courage to smile exhibiting his usual cheery old self as before. “Very comfortable~” He did not want Teito to be overly worried anymore than he already is after all.

The brunet, Mikage noticed, was eyeing the presents which were surrounding the latter both left and right. “Ah, the sisters gave it to me,” Mikage explained at Teito’s questioning gesture. “The bishops gave me a lot of help too, so I’m completely better now. Look, they even gave me this.”

Teito froze, disliking what he had been shown. His former confusion now replaced with unforgiving irritation when Mikage fished a magazine of some sort – a porn magazine to be exact – from the pile of presents.

Frau. That perverted bishop brings nothing about but corruption.

Not only had the man tried to take his innocence away, make that constant attempts, was he planning on robbing his dear best friend’s innocence as well? Every adult needs one, he says. Teito do not believe that of course. Only nonsense spews out from that bishop’s mouth: His words are not to be trusted.

Mikage playfully pat the brunet’s head, a tease easily came to mind. “You were lonely without me around, eh?” He laughs happily to himself. Man, does he really miss this chibi.

“Yeah right!” was the retort. Thoughts on a certain blond bishop discarded. “Don’t get the wrong idea! I wasn’t –”

Emerald eyes widened as a sudden revelation dawned on him. The usual warmth Mikage had was oddly gone; no more but coldness on his scalp. Immediately Teito took seize of his best friend’s hand thus stopping the light tapping. He needed assurance in convincing himself it was the work of pure imagination. But…

“Mikage, your hands… They’re cold…”

Said teen was greatly taken aback and pulls back his hand. “Really?” Mikage said examining his hand, genuine surprise adorn his features.

Teito is perceptive, too perceptive, for his own good. Was he an easy read for Teito to know that something was up? But his hand. It was… different. Mikage doesn’t understand it himself. This hand is his, and yet it isn’t truly his.

Stares… The teen felt stares of concerned eyes boring their selves onto him. One trait of a worrywart and a worrywart Teito become once more.

“I-I guess I’m not used to the climate here…?” That was the quirk reasoning Mikage gave. He could only hope that the brunet would not ask further questions. “Come to think of it,” he added, “the temperature here’s different. A bit low than back at the mili –”

He was cut short.

“Don’t.” Teito’s voice was hushed into a whisper. “Don’t talk about it around here. I haven’t told them anything yet.” He glanced sideways hinting at the sister doll standing by the door. To Teito, she is an odd apple despite being a doll that she is. “We should go elsewhere to a more secluded area. It’s not safe here.”

Mikage only comply with a nod. He was not entirely sure what Teito had meant. Folding the coverlet aside, he watched as Teito walked up to the sister doll. The teen assumed he was thanking her before she bowed afterwards and left the two alone.

“Here.” Teito brought Mikage’s jacket for him to which the latter thanked grateful. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Mikage said. “Unless you want to give me a piggyback ride all the way, I can live with that.” And he grinned.

“In your dreams! You’re too old for child’s game anyway.”

“It’s not so bad being a kid, Teito. And besides, I’m the patient here! Aren’t you supposed to be my cute little nurse? Won’t you take care of me? Hmm? Tei-chan~?”

Teito ignored the calling. “You still have your own two feet. Use them why don’t you.” Mikage chuckled lightly at the response, earning a small smile from the brunet.

“Aaah, you’re so mean!”

Stabilizing his footing onto the cool flooring, Teito helped his bedridden friend stand. “By the way,” he voiced as Mikage slumped his weight against him, “this must be your first time at the church, isn’t it. Why don’t I show you a–”

A grumbling noise interrupted. It came from Mikage and he immediately clutches his stomach. There was a brief moment of awkward silence – muffling the disturbing sounds did no purpose at all.

Mikage scratched the back of his head, laughing bashfully. “I think we should eat some breakfast first.”

Teito stare up at him wearily. Ever the pig… that Mikage.


Hohburg Fort, 1st District, 11:30 AM

The sounds of boots tapping onto the pristine flooring of Barsburg’s main stronghold were heard reverberating throughout the half abandoned hallway. Few officers stood aside, alerted and motioning a salute as a group of individuals proceed towards their destination. As usual, petty conferences never seem to cease from existence. And yet such matter is necessary to maintain order.

In any event, the Black Hawks was summoned.

Nigh on bored out of his wits Hyuuga let out a yawn, breaking the silent pace fellow Hawks kept. “Ne, Aya-tan! Why’d you let Mikage boy go? I wanted to play with him some more.” Their leader however ignored his childish subordinate’s whines.

“I’m sure Ayanami-sama has something in mind,” stated a reply from Katsuragi.

“Really now?”a knowing smile, rather playful, graced the major’s lips.“This oughta be good!”

Silence ensued once more and only the tapping of their soles accompanied them. They eventually reached the conference room. Other expected officers along with their Begleiter had gathered it seems. Related copies of the report were readily set on the table; each of the handouts lain in front of respective commanding officers. The meeting began promptly.

Apparently an insurgence had arisen at a remote area near a town north of District Three. Battle sklaves were reported to be the culprits leading the revolt. With numerous skalves assembling and rallying up groups of dissenters comprise of criminals, their motive to attack the empire would come to fruition if they were to neglect this problem. Severe damage had also been calculated, causing a decline in the development within the adjacent areas and a stop of income gain from the district.

Succinctly, Barsburg is under a threat. Therefore, serving as the Barsburg Imperial Army’s ‘trump card’, the Black Hawks were obliged to handle the situation.

“As such, I hereby order you to suppress the rebellion in this town, which is fostering runaway battle sklaves. Do you have any objections?”

“No,” said the Chief of Staff simply at the decree. Senior officers however gave a disapproving look for his apathetic response they received. Not only had he not paid any attention during the discourse, he was belittling them? The nerve of that impudent damn brat!

“Then commence the attack at once!”

Receiving the order, Ayanami unhurriedly stood from his chair. Patience is a virtue. And he is a very patient man. With the Black Hawks leaving the room, the meeting was adjourned. The only thing left is to return and board Ribidzile.

“Ayanami-kun,” said a deep voice belonging that to Chairman Miroku, halting the faction under his command’s march. His Begleiter, Karu, not far from him stood by his side. “Going back to the matter of the deserter, Teito Klein…”

“Do you wish for me to seize him and bring him back?” Ayanami quietly interjected. His back directed at the chairman, not bothering to face his superior. “You needn’t worry about it.”He then continued his gait. Trailing behind, his subordinates too follow their leader’s example.

Smiling inwardly Miroku watched as his prized asset, a potential young man that could become one of the greatest leaders Barsburg Empire has ever known, leave for a mission. He well aware knew Ayanami was very interested in the boy. The man had always been a step ahead of him after all. It would not be long until both of them came back to their possession.

“That boy is strong,” the chairman audibly spoke. “He’s the best student I’ve ever taught. I have high expectations from you, Ayanami-kun.”

Miroku was looking forward for his capture. No matter what, Teito Klein is the candidate for the Eye of Mikhail.

Him and only him.


Barsburg Church, Western Tower’s Greenhouse, 7th District, 12: 05 AM

Time had quickly passed by since the two friends embarked on a mini tour escorted by yours truly Teito. The reactions from his jovial light haired friend can be compared to that of a child receiving his new toy – Mikage was giddy.

He marvelled at the vast complexity structure of the church, had also entertained himself with many souvenirs offered by the overflowing tourist shops at the streets outside the church. He was especially amazed at the large figures sculptured in distinction of the mythical millennium old legend of the Seven Ghosts.

District Seven sure is something.

At the moment they were back at the church. And this time around, Teito guided them to the greenhouse. He knew the afternoon mass would start by now but spending time and showing Mikage around was more important.

“Heehh, so even the church has places like this.”

Teito smiled at the remark. He plucks a cluster of growing flowers there and presents it to Mikage, saying that the flowers can be eaten. He earned an incredulous look from Mikage though. He practically tore the plants out of their stems.

“I see you’ve become completely used to church life,” Mikage said as he took one. “I’m glad to see you’re doing okay.”

“I guess so…” They settle on resting on a nearby bench then, admiring the various breeds of flowers adorning the garden, “but I’m still finding it hard to eat the food here. I mean, they serve creepy eyefish stew!”

Mikage ruffled his chocolate locks. Smiling slightly, he said; “You shouldn’t be a picky eater. Sure breakfast was… interesting? But it taste good! Eat real food, Teito, it’ll do you good. And hey, maybe they’ll help you grow a little.” A ticked off expression unsurprisingly welcomes him.

Teito was ready to counter his statement but he dismissed the idea. Mikage always came up with a point. Teito enjoyed the bizarre-looking cuisine despite their appearances. No argument about that. In fact, better than his usual tasteless intakes back in the Military Academy.

…The Military Academy.

A thin line was plastered onto his face at the thought. Teito looked down, fiddling with his thumbs as Mikage continued to admire the garden. Thinking about it now, only little time had passed since his stay in the church. Teito realized he dearly missed his time there. Not many pleasant experiences are worth mentioning, but the Academy was originally where he first met Mikage.

…And to where he was able to meet another friend, to both Mikage and he… Could he even be called that?

“What’s wrong, Teito?” Mikage asked as he turned to Teito, noticing the silent atmosphere lingering in the air. The brunet lifted up his head to stare Mikage in the eye, a troubled expression clear on his face. But he averted his gaze and turned his attention towards the flowers instead.

Not giving a chance for Mikage to utter his worry, Teito quickly said; “It’s nothing. I was just wondering about Toshiro… How is he, anyway? I mean, did you meet him before you came here? Does he…” he gulped. “Does he know about the escape?”

“…You’re worried about him too, huh?”Joining him Mikage stared at the flowers again. A smile of rue flashed along the usual kind beam. “Didn’t take it well as I hoped him to… but I’m sure he understands. Don’t worry,” he assured. Or perhaps he was the one that actually needed reassurance? “That guy’s rational enough not to do anything reckless like we did.”

“I see…” Teito nodded in understanding.

There was no reason for him to return now, no loose ends to tie up in the military. He could start anew. Living a normal life with Mikage, in this church, and put the past behind. But all of that would have to wait. Right now he has to find out the truth… the real reason for the fall of his overthrown kingdom.

Even if it meant confronting the military, confronting the Empire that was hunting him down.

…But Toshiro is with the army now. Are they going to be enemies? Would he hunt Teito down too? Then there was Mikage. Teito would rather not question their trust… but how did he know where he was? Had he been ordered to come here?

“Mikage.” Teito throw himself against him, clutching his shirt as he did so. “Tell me you’re here because you wanted to escape from the military. You’re not here to take me back, right?” Striking jade green eyes stared desperately into Mikage, pleading. But Mikage stayed quiet. Stunned. He didn’t want to answer him: He couldn’t answer him.

Teito hang his head low, his body quivering at a fact he could not accept – Mikage was indeed sent to take him back. “I’m sorry, Mikage… I can’t. I have to find out about my past: the Raggs’ Kingdom, my heritage, my childhood! I can’t go back with you!”

The taller teen’s shocked expression vanished only to be replaced with an understanding smile. “Can you stand, Teito?” he gently asked and held out a hand for which Teito accepted.

“I’m fine.”

“Well, of course.” Mikage patted the soft chocolate mop of hair. “You can’t possibly go back to the army that killed your dad.” He forced a laugh that came out weakly.

“Is that your answer?”

“…Teito,” Mikage said in urgency, grabbing a hold of Teito with both hands by the shoulder. He was nearing his limit: His time is up. “Listen very carefully to what I have to say. Listen to me while my voice is able to reach you, okay?” Imploring pair of ambers locks its gaze onto confused emerald, its look of confusion however ignored.

“First, don’t make the imperial army your enemy. Revenge produces nothing in the end. Even if you hate someone enough to kill them, you won’t be saved from it. Always face forward. Walk down the path that has light.

Second, you suck at accepting other people’s kindness and opening yourself up…” He paused, smiling silently. A tender remaining memory crossed his mind. “But you’re my best friend along with Toshiro. I always pray for your happiness. I’ll always be by your side. Don’t forget that.”

“M-Mikage?” Teito stuttered. “Why are you saying such things…?” He did not like where this is coming from. He had a bad feeling about it. And his words, his words… why? Why does he sound like… it felt like he was leaving him. Mikage said he wasn’t going anytime soon, but… Was he saying goodbye?

“Haha…” Mikage gave a weak laugh, nervously running a hand through his hair. He can’t keep his front up anymore… keeping secrets and lying to his friends. “I can’t go back to the Imperial Army either. I give up.” Then he added in quickly, “I have one last favour…”

There was a moment of silence; Teito anxiously awaited but Mikage dare not to meet the eyes of the brunet’s as he said his next words: “Kill me, Teito.”

Wide eyed, said teen asked back. “What are you talking about?! I can’t kill you!”

“Then…” Mikage clutched himself as his body began to tremble. He was starting to feel the overpowering presence looming over him. He needed to stall, long enough to let Teito escape. Even if it harmed him, he needed Teito to escape. “Hurry up and run! Run for it, Teito! I can’t hold him back much longer…!” he groaned.

“Not me… Someone else… is after you…”

“Damn it..!” Mikage yelled as Teito continued to stare at him; aghast, scared, horrified. Know nothing on what to do. “There’s no way I can sell you out! To me, you’re just as important as my family!”

Teito found his voice and shouted; “Tell me why! I can’t just leave you alone!” He rushed to his friend’s side only to be push away.

“What are you doing?!”[I’m scared, Teito.] “From now on,” [Don’t go…] “I’m going on my own!” Mikage declared out loud, pushing Teito away further.

He had lost his sense and free-will to the outsider’s control; his mind was the only thing left of him. But Mikage knew it would not be for long. And yet… he cannot let that man take over him just yet! He needed to finish what he had to say… before Mikage could no longer be he. Before that man – he – use his body to hurt his beloved one. His precious person, his one and only best friend.

“Because I” [hate this…] “met you.”[I’m lonely without you…] “My heart always felt warm. I was truly happy.” Mikage closed his eyes, unable to bring himself to look upon Teito’s shocked face… his fearful face. Eyes ready to shed tears. He didn’t want to see his best friend cry. He didn’t want to cry. “I’m leaving.”[Don’t let me die!] “Before I hurt” [my family,] “you!”

“It can’t be… Did the army do something to you!?”

Mikage opened his eyes and Teito gasped. He watched in horror as the gaze in his eyes changed drastically: They are not Mikage’s anymore. The warm, cheerful, honey brown eyes was gone. The ones that Teito knew and love… gone. Instead there were cold ones, eyes glinting with ominous red.

“You can’t escape,” [I love you] “Teito. You’re coming back with me.” [Goodbye]

Hohburg Fort, 1st District, 1:27 PM

For fear of a breach in carelessly allowing suspicious characters and criminals around, either wanted or petty lawbreakers, top notch security is clearly a must within all districts govern by the Barsburg Empire. This has had to be done for every vehicle, both air and land transport. Consisting of checking identification papers, cargo and crew inspection, as well as pass permits before preceding onwards the passage gate.

And as the core of the empire, District One has the strictest procedures. The army unfortunately is no exception.

Incidentally, the Reconnaissance unit was waiting for the approval to enter Hohburg Fortress. This particular unit had actually taken on a mission lasting for two days, more or less, right after their investigations regarding the crash site reported at District Seven. Their second mission was to scout the area back south. Apparently a rebel was rumoured to break out.

The main purpose for such engagement is to train fresh recruits and provide fieldwork experiences for them to gain as soon as possible. It was the perfect opportunity.

And well, this year’s recruits sure learn fast – they were able to intercept their target’s plot before any tumultuous disturbances were to occur. A report was sent and a different unit was sent to manage the situation immediately.

To commemorate for a job well done, the air overflowing inside the recons’ aircraft was lively. They were back from a mission after all and the recruits were missing their nice and comfy bed awfully lot by now. They had enough of straining their innocent tender bums.

“It takes practice to sleep while sitting,” that was what their seniors told them upon constant complaints.

Fellow members were conversing and making acquaintances with one another – absolutely different from their prior state; quiet, rigid and awkward. Even the captain was engrossed in it. But if truth be told, there was another reason why they acted in such a way:

“As part of the Reconnaissance unit, you’ll be given a room in our wing. Sorry to break your bubbles but two of you will have to share. Not much difference with the Academy, eh? Don’t worry though, the bed’s nice and all so get used to it!”

To most, the proposition was conventional; unfavourable to others. For a certain teenager it’s the latter.

At the far corner sat Toshiro Rolfe alone, silently reading a book as he observed his peers in an awkward fashion. His face skilfully stayed neutral. Perhaps he should recant his mindless thoughts – Toshiro underestimated how difficult it was to approach a person. Especially if he persists on continuing with his standoffish mien.

People like grander things, and clearly, the teen is one of those people himself. He desire for the better bed. With enough flattery, one can have his way. Things are easier to be said than done however.

Normally, and more often than not, others were the prevalent party in starting a conversation. Toshiro merely responds correspondingly and states his thoughts according to his own perspectives. Unfortunately the pale blond’s way with words left wrong impressions on most peers in his age group. There are no gains to benefit from such interactive conduct other than maintaining good relations. Why bother?

In this case, however, there is that gain. Hence the hesitance. But to change one’s behavior and putting up a front in order to gain other’s acknowledgement… that was not something Toshiro wish to accept or utilize.

A cheery voice broke Toshiro’s bitter contemplation, “Hey there, Glasses.” Immediately a twitch out of irritation had gone exposed.

Glasses, or so he was dub, turned to face the person whom had called him with such a mortifying name. He recognized the individual in front of him, beaming brightly, as the very same recruit who believed the Seven Ghosts to be “monsters”.

Placing a hand onto his hip, the stranger continued. “You’re Toshiro Rolfe, aren’t you? I’ve heard rumours ‘bout ya!”He offered a handshake to which the pale blond gradually accepted with ennui.

“Were they good ones?” sarcastically Toshiro shot back a comeback, sliding further to his left thus adding the distance between them. The stranger however took the gesture as a sign to sit beside him.

Great.

Another idiot who can’t seem to read the situation.

“Meh,” the black haired shrugged, “not so much. Just that I’m amazed that you’ve stand up against Lloyd-sensei during the exam, is all. But man, what were they thinking? Allowing criminals like that be our opponents…”

Incredulous, Toshiro stared at him. There are some truths to his statement – if he ignored the unpromising rumours about him. “Perhaps…” Toshiro found himself unconsciously nodding in agreement. “Regardless of the harsh exposure, it was necessary to assess one’s ability by applying of what we have learned during our stay in the Academy. The female proctor once said this, correct?”

The unidentified teen was slightly taken off guard. “Female proctor…?” he hesitantly asked before recognition dawned on him. “Oh! You mean that lady? No clue.” He shrugged. “What’s it gotta do with ‘em criminals?”

Toshiro narrowed his eye – contemplating whether he could hold a conversation with this stranger – but add nothing to chastise.

“Basically speaking, the military is scouting for potential in candidates. That being strength, intelligence and talent; but mostly talent. One born without talent cannot possibly succeed in life – that is the fundamental principle in this world of warfare. We, as those who are in the Special Program, beneficially have this.”

“What? You mean zaiphon?”

“Precisely. However,” Toshiro flicked over a few pages and continue to downcast his eyes, “I choose to disagree.”

“Compliance to abide the given order willingly, the capability to carry it with no objections and the strength of mind to overcome fear without harbouring second doubts; I believe this is a must-have in order to execute unpleasant punishments or acceptable cruelty. Becoming a soldier is not for the faint of heart after all. Lives are at stake to protect the country.”

“Let us put this as such…” He placed its bookmark and closed the book. “If the final exam had not included those criminals, majority of us all may be unable to prepare ourselves for the worst in the nearest future. Are you that competent enough to comprehend such situations? Could you ensure the survival of others along with yourself? If so, enlighten me. How would you do it?”

“Eh?” was the brilliant response the black haired youth gave. “Ah… Sorry, sorry,” he apologized, raising his hands up surrendering in defeat at a deadpan blond. Scratching the back of his head, he let out an abash laugh. “I have no idea what you were talking about, actually. Lost me halfway. B-but you said something about being ready?”

Stretching, he leans back against the wall. “Never really put it much thought. We just have to be careful not to get ourselves killed, I guess. But with the way things are, I don’t think we’ll be in any real danger.”

Toshiro scoffed at this. “That childish thinking would not get you anywhere. Death is inevitable to all living things – being involved with the military in particular. We might lose our lives at any moment; may it be on the battlefield or outside our line of work. Choose to be strong and you will live, choose to be weak and you will die. And yet…”

The pale blond stopped himself, his voice now strained. A memory, an unpleasant one at that, came to mind. Toshiro surreptitiously looked down at his hand. It was trembling.

“Humans are fragile creatures.” The way those people die so easily… Within mere seconds death and sorrow taint the air. Innocents getting involved plunged even deeper into great despair. Until they lost their will to live. “What fragile creatures indeed.” He balled his hand into a fist.

“Enough chit-chatting, we’re home sweet home, boys!” interrupted Commander Hiro from the cockpit. “Seeing, or should I say hearing, that you guys are familiar with each other, I’m sure you’ve found yourselves a roommate. Just don’t cause me too much trouble, understand?” Leaving a subtle threat hanging in the air, Commander Hiro and his escort left the compartment. “Be seeing you newbies tomorrow.”

Salutes were offered. Seniors then followed shortly afterwards.

“Hiro-sama is something, huh,” Toshiro heard the black haired commented as he bent down to reach for his bag. It had collected dust resting on the floor. “Can’t say he’s weird… But I think you’re weird.”

“Pardon?” The pale blond turned to him. He resists the urge to eye twitch at the other. Annoyed, he managed a raised eyebrow instead. “What, pray tell, are you trying to imply?”

“Whoa, there. No need to get all snappy…What’s your problem? Got some inferiority complex or something?” the teen said. “Serious though, what kind of life were you living? I think it sucks.” He nodded to himself. “Yeah. Definitely sucks. Lighten up, dude!”

Toshiro was speechless; he did not know what to say. Being slapped repeatedly at the back is not to his liking, moreover painful. Resenting the contact he endured it.

“Well, anyways,” the torture stop, thankfully, “I should probably introduce myself sooner but I guess it kind of slipped off my mind. The name’s Dimitri Ethmer. Nice meetin’ ya!” Dimitri grinned. “Wanna be roomies, Glasses?”

“No,” said Toshiro simply and swung the duffel bag over one shoulder, a book in his free hand. “Try again later if you can prove yourself as an equal to stand beside me. I trust you are not that dim-witted of a person to foolishly besmirch my name.”

With that, he walked past Dimitri, sparing not a glance, and board off the airship.


???

Inside the vast, bare personal quarters of the Chief of Staff, a large throne was placed in the middle of it all. Sitting on it was the very man himself.

Ayanami watched as the bright ball of soul continue to twist itself, shifting and forming into different shapes in his hand. As expected from the boy whose soul he manipulated; cheerful, full of life and tenacious no less. And it wanted to be released. Free from the bind that deterred him to pass onwards onto the next life.

“It’s fine,” the silver haired man ordered. He did not care about the soul; it had done its job. The soul is of no use to him at this point on. “Go.”

The soul belonging to Mikage Celestine quickly scuttle upon the command, vanishing into thin air as it slips away through the walls and ascend to the sky above.

Rather fitting with his name.

In any event, Ayanami failed to capture and retrieve Teito Klein back to the military. The church was protecting the fugitive. And knowing how their autonomy rule works, it might be difficult to persuade them in handing the boy over that easily. Drastic times calls for drastic measures some would say. However, there was the matter of the so-called Seven Ghosts to take into account. They were protecting the boy as well.

Resulting from his battle through Mikage against one of his fragments, Zehel, the violet eyed bearer’s perfect pale complexion was blemished. Damned that Chief of Heaven, creating replicas of him! Those foolish copies are a hindrance, pests that needs to be exterminated. But no matter… he will retrieve all of them back. He will personally make sure of that.

Moving a hand over his gashed cheek, Ayanami swiped the blood clean. The cut disappeared at an instant leaving no trace of a wound none so ever scarred his flawless, porcelain skin.

‘I see...’Ayanami thought. ‘I finally understand why you especially wanted me to meet him, Miroku-sama.’

Simply put, Teito Klein has the Eye of Mikhail.

A twisted smirk graced Ayanami’s lips. The turn of events has become rather intriguing. Crossing one leg over the other, the silver chief laid back, quite satisfied with the vital information he had gained. Capturing the boy has now become an imperative objective. It seems he would have to play another trump card.

Through Mikage’s eyes, and not to mention Teito Klein, that boy has become an important person. Their worries of his self being prove as such. However, their methods of keeping him out of harm’s way are for naught. No one is safe after all.

The time has come to bring the boy into play. Already a plan began to formulate: Failure is not an option.

Two large black panthers that were in the room purred sensing the excitement building up within their honourable master. They were the only creatures that are not afraid of said man. One of the big cats nuzzled its head at Ayanami’s hand, licking him; while the other was at his legs, resting on its paws to keep his master company.

Although their honourable master shows no signs of aforesaid emotion, they trust their instincts. Faithful pets as they are know their master better than anyone else in the end.


Hohburg Fort, 1st District, 7:12 PM

It was inevitable, it was a daily protocol. Discussing over simple matters – hearing remarks and suggestion for this and that, giving approvals for this and this – everything were simply repetitive. Meetings after meetings, those senior officers were all bark and no bite. Sitting on their chairs and ordering inferiors to do the work. That is to say, the Black Hawks.

Reporting their hardly fought victory regarding the mission to suppress the rebellion, the meeting has finally come to an end that evening. It was safe to call it a day for the night. Work however was beginning to pile up for the chief officer. When it will end, no one will ever know. Quickly completing the job done and maintaining a high standard in his work is the only way to reduce the load.

Katsuragi’s voice was heard as the Black Hawks marched along the hallways. They were making their way to the Chief of Staff’s office, unofficially becoming their office department. The chief didn’t mind as long as they don’t disturb him with his paperwork.

He reminded his superior’s schedule, “After this, you have a meeting with General Wakaba at 9pm and a court-martial at 10pm. And starting tomorrow, the induction course for new Begleiters is scheduled to begin!”

“Just a little further, Colonel Katsuragi,” said the chief. “Work hard.”

Katsuragi takes pride in his work, and hearing his superior complimenting his work brought him joy. He was honoured. But as much as he enjoyed working for Ayanami, he hopes that their leader will find a suitable Begleiter soon. That man prefers to work alone, Katsuragi understood, but the time will come when he would have to share the responsibility of burden with someone again.

“Aaaya-tan~” sung an all-too-familiar voice before the group were about to turn to a corner. “Lookit what I’ve found!”

At times Ayanami, as a matter of course, would ignore his subordinate’s typical mischief and proceed on continuing his destination. However, the sounds of struggling coming from behind were most unusual. It seems that Hyuuga brought an unexpected guest.

“With all due respect, sir, please kindly release this lowly officer such as myself free!” Ayanami looked over his shoulder to see Toshiro Rolfe, held firm in Hyuuga’s grip, being dragged towards their direction. “I assure you, I had done nothing wrong.”

“Uh-uh, no can do, boy. I’m just here to help you!”

“Major Hyuuga,” Konatsu exclaimed in alarm, making the Begleiter the first one to speak, “what are you doing?! Please don’t pick on the new recruits this late.”He went towards his superior unhappily.

“But Kona-chan, he got lost!” What appears to be a pout was plastered onto Hyuuga’s lips. “I saw him standing there all alone in the hallway. He looked like a lost kitten and it made me want to help him. I’m such a nice guy, aren’t I?” He smiled his trademark smile as he patted the blond mane.

“Unhand me, you animal abuser!” Toshiro snapped and reflexively tilted his head upwards. It was an act of freeing himself, self defense. But… Who would have known freedom hurts? Toshiro had hit his head right at the major’s forehead.

Hyuuga was on the ground, squatting. “That hurt…” he bawled as he rubs his hurting temple. “Why’d you have to do that, Shiro-chan!?”

“S-Shiro-chan...?”

A spectacle of emotions dance in teals for seconds; the cadet Begleiter was taken aback. Blinking away the shock, Toshiro cleared his throat. He then puts his attention at the Black Hawks.

“I apologize, sirs!” Promptly Toshiro bowed. “It is not my place to ask for forgiveness, but I hope there is compassion within your hearts to spare and pardon any misconduct to which I have caused before your grace. Once again, I apologize.”

“No need,” Ayanami regarded him coldly as the boy gave a salute. “Come,” he said, continuing onwards, “I have some matters to discuss with you.”

“Sir.” Toshiro cut down sharply. Katsuragi spare him a smile as he, along with Haruse carrying Kuroyuri, trail behind. Toshiro follow suit. Ignoring the man whom he had inflicted pain upon without holding remorse.

Konatsu glared at his superior as the others went ahead. “What have you got yourself into this time? You’ve done enough to make us look bad than it already is.” He crossed his arms.

“I told you, Konatsu,” Hyuuga sulked, “he got lost. I just wanted to help…”

“Then why don’t you help me do your work.” Konatsu smiled sweetly. “That’s what I call helping, not doing nothing and eat candy all day long. Unlike someone I know.”

Prior pain nonexistent, Hyuuga stood. He gave a smile of his own back and waves his Begleiter off. Still smiling as he watched their retreating backs, Hyuuga said; “Well Konatsu, looks like something’s good going to happen.”

A sigh escapes Konatsu’s lips. Sometimes he doesn’t understand the major’s nonsense. But he did notice the glint in his eyes hidden behind black lenses. He couldn’t help but share the thought.

So they walk side by side, waiting for that little “something” to happen.

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