Forsaken Qualms

Seeking Atonement

Black Hawks’ Division, Hohburg Fort, 1st District, 2nd March, 7:33 PM

Finding himself in the presence of the army’s infamous yet esteem chief executive officers, Toshiro should be honoured of being blessed by such opportunity! If only it was under normal circumstances. Then he would have happily been thrilled. Why it can’t be that way, he has no idea.

So yeah, curse his dumb luck.

Toshiro imagine the Black Hawks’ working environment would be stern and organised-like now that they are in the heart of their foundation. As elicited from their imposing presence, that is. With the renowned Ayanami-sama as their leader, why would it not be?

Maybe he set too much expectation out of them anyway.

The air within the vicinity was rather blithe, much to Toshiro’s surprise. A let-down basically. Least the Black Hawks were not as bad as the rumours made them be. Not that he believed them or anything.

Half frozen with incredulity the bespectacled blond sat, stiff as a board, on the sofa watching as each Black Hawk members in the room reveal their true colours behind that fearful image. There was no need for introductions it seems. Having looked at several past records from time to time, Toshiro practically recognize each member. He knew their names and ranks… and that was about it really.

Konatsu Warren, assuming him as the livelier one out of the group, was exasperatedly scolding Major Hyuuga, who happens to be sitting beside Toshiro with legs propped against the table outstretched, for bothering their guest and work instead. He had returned just moments ago with some paperwork in hand, waving them at his superior to accentuate on his point. The lackadaisical man however showed no concern whatsoever.

He was a Begleiter and a senior. But Toshiro sympathize the blond Begleiter.

To be assigned to a superior that dumps most of his paperwork onto you and abuses you is terrible. Toshiro wondered who he would get for a superior during his Begleitership. It would be nice if the superior wasn’t a strict person or a slave-driver like Konatsu’s.

On the other side of the sofa sat Haruse cradling a pink haired child; the child being Lieutenant Colonel Kuroyuri.

Though quiet, unlike the complaining Begleiter and lazy major, they are an odd pair. With the taller mop of blue glancing down at the commander dotingly, one could see it was more than that of being mere Begleiter-superior relationship. Perhaps the lower was indebted to the eye-patch wearer, Toshiro pondered, or something. He didn’t want to make assumptions out of it. Though he did wonder when the child will wake up.

The older man, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen. Colonel Katsuragi, was it? Toshiro hadn’t seen the colonel left the room before.

“So, Shiro-chan…”he heard Hyuuga said, finally engaging small talk with him. “Heard you did well in the finals. Whose Begleiter are you supposed to be, huh?”

The bespectacled blond stared at him square in the face before replying. He obviously dislikes the accursed calling. “None at the moment, sir; I will be serving as a normal recruit instead for the time being.”

“Ehh?” Hyuuga stared wide eyed. Surprised blue sapphires were revealed behind blackened shades. His eyes soon closed, hidden once again, nodding to himself as a mischievous grin reflexively played on his lips.“Sounds to me like you’re not wanted~”

A mixture of expressions came from the blond. Toshiro was rather stoic at first before he started to look serious, shortly after sceptical and then finally baffled.

“How so,” asked Toshiro, bemused. “Does it not take a week before any announcement is made? Please elaborate, sir.”

Hyuuga gave a shrug as his response – Toshiro won’t be gaining any answer from the man soon, obviously. If laying back on the sofa with legs crossed propped against the table wasn’t a definite sign, then what is? Suppressing the urge to eye twitch, he sighed. Toshiro averted his attention from the disinterested major and laid eyes upon the commanding officer of the Black Hawks.

Apart from Konatsu, Chief Ayanami was the only one who properly carries out his duties. It was an astonishing sight witnessing the fountain pen move ever so gracefully, deftly filling out paper after paper in its path. Toshiro never knew fountain pens could move at such speed. Rather, it was an elegance to behold.

The diligent silver haired man was working quietly and had maintained a steady pace. But there was telltale sign of solitude Toshiro could detect than state. A crucial presence was absent.

Where is his Begleiter?

If what Major Hyuuga had said is true, hinting that fresh recruits were to be assigned as Begleiters upon passing, surely Toshiro should have seen a familiar face by now…

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

The blond pushed the dread thought away. Without doubt the entitled rank bestowed onto Ayanami has many difficult tasks and responsibilities. An assistant was necessary. Then again, the chief would be better off without one than accepting Shuri as his Begleiter.

Toshiro stood on his feet and walked up towards Ayanami’s desk. He was ordered, debatably allowed, to come with them to begin with. Therefore it is apposite to present himself to their commanding officer. Although it would be nice if he could know the reason...

The soft scrapping of pen touching the white parchment was heard. A cryptic yet soothing rhythm if one would take it profoundly to heart.

Toshiro loved how the two fundamental stationeries sounded when he was a child, somehow reminding him of his father. He used to listen to him wrote his recount of their daily affairs every night. And sometimes hearing the faint mellifluous hum lulled him to sleep. Perhaps the effect was recognized by his psyche, for he was calmed. He was able to think straight.

Our expectations and suspense is the sheer cause which educe fear to an individual. Or so state a fact according to a book Toshiro once read. Some factors undeniably proved to be accurate.

“…Sir?”the bespectacled teen began, hoping to attract the chief’s attention without disrupting his cadence. Silence and the inscribing of papers, however, prolonged.

His gaze never leaving the documents, Ayanami finally spoke. “I take it you have been positioned in the Reconnaissance Unit. Correct?” Toshiro only nodded, watching as the silveret placed his fountain pen down. Reshuffling the papers in order seconds later, the Chief of Staff continued. “How’s the hunt for Teito Klein then? Has he been found?”

Lifting his emotionless violets up with hands meshed on one another, he studied the cadet. Not much palpable difference the last time Ayanami saw the blond; only he was more relaxed and collected than before. Straightforward determination yet not doused and wisdom reflected in his eyes – clearly unaware of the unpleasant events that had befallen his friends.

Ayanami wonder how such persona would crumble once the boy found out that he had killed one of them. Perhaps that will be the last obstacle for him to fall utterly deep into darkness. Of course, Ayanami knew the outcome.

Baffled Toshiro was. Surely reports have already been sent regarding their findings at District Seven’s border. How could it reach other commanding officers and not reach the chief? If that was the case, shouldn’t Commander Hiro be a more suitable man to ask for further details?

“Unfortunately no,” Toshiro informed, summarizing their findings; “A crashed hawkzile was only found, sir. The deserter Teito Klein was nowhere to be seen when we arrived at the scene. We believe that he have fled to the church. We had to cease all search, fearing he may have seek refuge there.”

Pregnant silence washed over them as Ayanami leaned back on his chair. Toshiro all the while remained rooted on where he stood, waiting for further inquiries or the likes that will come next.

“I am aware that your unit had recently returned from a mission.” That very same cold hue assessed the form that used to be in dismay during their last encounter. “But would you be interested on taking another mission again? Of course, I will make the arrangements where necessary.”

Dumbstruck, the bespectacled teen merely blinked. Is this what it meant by receiving personal requests? The idea of transferring and achieving a quick way of higher rank seemed tempting. It would be fantastic if he were to be promoted at such a faster rate. Would that mean he could score a position in the upper echelon? No, that would be too exaggerated and ambitious. Perhaps joining higher ranks than that of his current unit?

“Pardon me, sir,” Toshiro said carefully, “if this may come off somewhat rude… but what is the objective of this mission? I am not challenging your authority. It would truly be an honour to receive a mission from Ayanami-sama personally and work under your command.”

An allowed smile flashed onto Ayanami’s full lips at the boy’s consideration but it quickly left his features in the same manner. How naïve of him. Little did Toshiro know the missing puzzle piece needed for a much bigger picture was complete; the wheels of an intriguing game had begun to set into motion.

“…Very well. As per tradition, Barsburg Church is recruiting acolytes to enter priesthood through an examination known as the Bishop Examination. And said examination is about to be held soon. As such, I want you to go to District Seven and infiltrate the church. This will follow with you disguising yourself as an applicant.”

Ayanami continued, ignoring the sudden change and alarm clearly evident by the boy’s reaction.

“You will be accompanied with two of my subordinates although brief as they have their separate mission to accomplish. You may freely act as you see fit in order to aid the retrieval of Teito Klein at all cost.”

Within those last few words the silver haired uttered, many interpretations could be brought to light. “Freely” being the concern phrase.

Indeed his actions are not restricted. Toshiro could make contact with Teito. Toshiro could warn Teito and Mikage of this plan firsthand. Toshiro could do anything, anything at all, that would play a part in saving the hunted fugitive – fugitives if Mikage were to be called that.

But there was no definite boundary he could or could not cross, of what he could or could not do.

Choose to make a mistake, just one mistake – either as a resultant of his carelessness or overconfidence – it will prove to be fatal. There were many what ifs, and those many what ifs led to a very dangerous gamble. Toshiro has to play his cards right, time his momentum. Otherwise it will ultimately be his undoing.

So… should he withdraw from this mission? Or risk to be marked as a traitor and take refuge along with Teito and Mikage?

“Are there any questions?”

Indifferent amethysts greeted the blond as he glance up from the floor. No negotiations are open for him to discuss judging by the look Ayanami gave. Toshiro doubted he could decline too. His option is only to accept: The chief would not take “No” as an answer.

“None, sir,” Toshiro humbly answered as he shook his head. A conclusion was reached. “I will take on the mission.”

Hearing the only entrance of the Black Hawks’ Division creaks open, its occupant turned their heads to meet a tall figure entering the room. It was the missing Hawk and with him he carried a tray of china.

“I’ve brought the cookies,” Colonel Katsuragi brightly announced. At his words, the previously sleeping Kuroyuri stirred from Haruse’s hold, rubbing one visible eye groggily before the child sat up.

It must be time for the Black Hawks’ evening refreshments, Toshiro realized. With Ayanami dismissing him, he should probably leave the personal unit to their own privacy for now.

“Leaving so soon?” Toshiro halted, looking at the taller officer in front. “These just came right out of the oven. Would you like to try some before you go?”Katsuragi gave him a pleasant smile, offering said snacks arranged on a larger plate once he placed down a cup poured with aromatic coffee on top of his chief’s desk.

Toshiro glanced up at the colonel and back at the plate. The teen perked up at the freshly baked cookies covered in chocolate toppings. The moment he realized his indecency, he hastily shook his head.

Toshiro was wary of the temptation. There was no way he would succumb to its enticement no matter how heavenly it will taste, no matter how lovely the appeal of those crispy flat biscuit’s rich yellow-brown texture actually is. The sweetness would blend so perfectly with tea. If only he could relish such chocolaty goodness…

Oh shit.

He could feel his mouth watered just by looking at it.

Swallowing an accumulated amount of saliva, Toshiro looked away. “…N-no thank you, sir. I am fine.” He inwardly cringed at his words. “I should really be taking my leave now, sir.”

Colonel Katsuragi was surprised, somewhat saddened at the boy’s reply.

Had he wrongly baked the cookies? It did not appear that way. He followed the instructions, personally tasted the batter to balance its sweetness and blandness; had also added a few changes of his own in fact. Even so, his dishes would come out beautiful, delectable and scrumptious too. No living thing would turn down his baking, Ayanami notwithstanding since he dislikes anything sweet.

“D’aww… Look at what you did Shiro-chan! Katsuragi’s upset.” Hyuuga had called out from the sofa, what appears to be a playful pout replacing his usual equal grin.

What a better way to put salt onto the wound.

Rather than stand his grounds, Toshiro had to struggle with a small conflicted issue known as conscience. Colonel Katsuragi did not say a word nor show any changes of his expression but merely maintained innocence. An innocent, passive smile graced his lips. And Toshiro knew, oh he oh so knew, behind such smile conceal a lethal weapon.

The quiet ones are always the dangerous ones they say.

“Come now,” Hyuuga said, patting the empty seat beside him, “and sit here for a while.” Toshiro took a moment or two before he complied watching as the others take the first bite out of the cookies Katsuragi had set onto the table.“Better eat one~”Hyuuga deliberately encouraged the boy once he sat, rigid.

Slowly reaching out a hand Toshiro took a piece of regular shaped biscuits. He warily eyed the small yet life-fulfilling piece, hesitant to consume such masterpiece and wondering whether this is worth it to jeopardize his weakness. Come what may, he will endure. Hopefully. He took a small bite then…

At once his taste buds sent him flying. Tears ready to burst out with joy. And before Toshiro knew it he ate the whole piece, licking his coated forefinger and thumb clean.

Yes. It was worth it.

Hyuuga put effort onto his mouth to form words but Toshiro could barely hear the man’s voice.

Hungry eyes intently fixated on the innocents, ready to move in for the kill. Thoughts screamed for more: One bite was not enough to suppress these bloody cravings. This madness has had to stop! Alas it was but too late… the point of no return reign upon him.

The pale blond could not stop himself from devouring those divine munchies.

With a hand unconsciously drawn out again Toshiro snatched the cookies clean as fast as the speed of light, leaving nothing more than breadcrumbs on the empty plate. Flabbergasted expressions and rendered speechless, some mouths were agape mainly those of Hyuuga and Konatsu – impassive for Ayanami – and stares were set upon the teen. An awkward moment immediately filled within the vicinity.

Katsuragi was the first to break the discomfort silence. “My, you’re a hungry fellow.”

Toshiro kept his gaze low, staring at the floor and reluctant to glance up. An offended Katsuragi naturally expected to find. But when he did, the man appeared to be pleased. A whistle was then heard which had came from Hyuuga. Toshiro never thought that seemingly pleasant smile of his can be quite… treacherous.

“So Shiro-chan got a sweet tooth, eh?” Genuine amused words coated in some teasing-like venom jeered the poor teen.

Hallway, 8:37 PM

With Konatsu guiding their way – as ordered by Chief Ayanami to prevent Hyuuga from tagging along, much to the major’s chagrin – he and Toshiro made it back to where the latter was found by the black haired superior few moments ago before he was taken by force.

…Or ‘borrowed’ as insisted by Hyuuga.

It was a silent walk along the corridors of Hohburg Fort. Something the blond Begleiter needed badly to get some fresh air from that stuffy office, away from stress-inducing behaviour of his fellow Black Hawks. And also something which Toshiro needed to ease his discomfiture after that little ordeal earlier…

Witnessing their entire plate of refreshments had been consumed by merely one person it caused uproar within the Black Hawks’ Division. If it were to be a fellow member, that would be understandable. They could laugh and forgive, acting as if nothing has ever happen.

But when a stranger is involved it’s automatically on an entirely different story.

Toshiro could feel the pressure of eyes boring their stares upon him. Similar to how a guilty criminal who has made a great offense is being judged. At least that was what the blond felt about the whole situation.

Yes, he was awfully guilty and no, he is not a criminal. He is only a mere victim of compulsive disorder – if ever such syndrome do exists.

“W-what happened to the cookies?!” squeaked one pink haired in protest.

The blue haired Begleiter consoled his superior, preventing the child from throwing a tantrum past bedtime. Can’t let that happen since said person, not too long ago, had awoken from a deep nap. “There, there, Kuroyuri-sama.”

“Oh. Just Shiro-chan here eating all of Katsuragi’s cookies, Kuro-tan~!” sung a certain shades wearing man responding to the former. “Such a shame really... They were meant for us too~”

A weary sigh escaped his irked Begleiter. “…You don’t have to rub it in, Major Hyuuga.”

“It’s fine.” The older man amongst them gave reassurance to his fellow disheartened members – one eye-patch wearer particularly. “I was meaning to save the rest for tomorrow. But it can’t be help then.”

The blond teenager whom was at fault is struggling, having lost his composure and all at that instant. Instinctively he bends forward ‘til the waist. Doing one thing he knows how to show his sincere regret and shame. The only thing he could do to make amends.

“I am truly, deeply sorry, sirs!” the teen bowed, degrading himself by his behaviour.

Toshiro cringed at the account. To think he would stoop so low… his pride wounded. The things one does for love. His weakness will undoubtedly be used as exploitation: Blackmail perhaps is one of them.

In general, Toshiro does not mind whether others know of his sugary compulsion. Syrup and chocolate solely works wonders on him anyway. So where is the harm in it? He wanted to believe that, he awfully wanted to believe that. But unfortunately all that reassurance does not entirely console him.

That darn major just had had to make a huge fuss over it –accentuating what needs not to be obvious! And considering his audience, that man has a high probable chance of taking such advantage over Toshiro. Other members are mature enough to know that they should not make fun of other people’s flaw.

So of course they wouldn’t.

Would they…?

“…Toshiro-kun, was it?” Konatsu began, snapping said boy back to reality. Toshiro didn’t realize he had abruptly halted in the middle of their heading. “I’m sorry that you had to put up with Major Hyuuga. Just ignore him and you’ll eventually get used to it.”

The Begleiter gave a sympathetic smile: He knows what it’s like to be teased by Hyuuga. Different is he has been enduring the torture for the past couple of years, long before his junior.

“Don’t let the major get to you.”

“That… is very kind of you, Konatsu-san.” Toshiro crooked a smile. “But it seems that I have made a fool out of myself yet again. I apologize for my rudeness. It was unacceptable for me to behave in such a manner.”

“No, no. It’s okay.” Konatsu raised both hands to emphasize his point. “It’s pretty amazing how you could wolf down Katsuragi-san’s cookies like that. A good thing he made a second batch, don’t you agree?” They then continued their neutral gait. “The colonel loves cooking, you know, so I’m sure he didn’t mind at all.”

The younger blond looked away from Konatsu’s kind gesture. Not so much assured of the statement though. “The lieutenant colonel appeared to have taken it rather badly, though.” Remembering how Commander Kuroyuri had looked at him with an unforgiving, piercing glare.

“Really now? I’m sure Kuroyuri-sama didn’t mean any ill will towards you.”

Toshiro could not help but doubt the other’s opinion. He was positive the child did not like him that much. Well, for starters, he’s not good with children himself. But he could empathize for Kuroyuri’s antipathy. Anyone sure would have resent it if their precious were to be taken away from her or him. Toshiro would as well.

As long as the two of them under no circumstances turn out to be enemies, he should be fine. One could only hope.

The conversation come to an end as soon as they saw a lower, crying out the word “Glasses”, that was running towards their direction. Toshiro inwardly sigh at this, irritation quickly founding its way to exposure.

Dimitri Ethmer was sporting a questioning look from afar, fretful. Toshiro assume the black haired was ‘dying’ to poke his nose into his sudden disappearance. Either that or there was something else. Toshiro hadn’t bother understanding such a carefree and rather capricious teenager.

“That your friend?” Toshiro nodded at Konatsu’s inquiry, a bit reluctant to admit. He refuses to acknowledge it.

“Roommate sadly.”

Darn. He said it anyway.

Barsburg Church, 7th District, 3rd March, 9:40 AM

He remembered the first time he met him like it was yesterday. Clear images rushing through his mind, dancing along his vision, evoking his memories…

“I’m Mikage! I’m so happy my roommate isn’t a stern guy~”

Teito remember it all so very clearly.

“My name is Mikage! Nice to meet you~!”

In the academy, people labelled as different were alienated – that was the basic preconception held within the institute’s community. And expectedly Teito became the target of rumours and slander. Not that the brunet care or anything. He coped with it. Ignoring every single one of the students was the right thing to do; he was content without the interactions.

Unfortunately for him, Teito was never the type that could be easily ignored by one cheerful individual.

Seven fragments. Seven nonexistent fragments of light but only a tiny speck lit.

“It’s a foreign greeting! A hug! Don’t you know that?!”

He was a strange guy. That Mikage…

He was the only one who acted differently towards him. The way he suddenly grabbed a hold of him and squeezing him into a hug, mistaking him for a foreigner as Mikage attempted a foreign country greeting.

Obviously as a reflex Teito pushed him away. A punch mark on the cheek was left as the result of his affronting conduct. Yet Mikage kept his approach up, refuse to go away despite the consequences.

That Mikage… What a strange guy indeed.

The second light was dim so as the first. Yet together, two dimmed lights began to glow.

“Mikage,” Teito remembered calling his name. He was at the Library, reading a reference book to pass the time by. But Mikage appeared and had happy-go-luckily decided to tag along willy-nilly. Definitely not a good thing for the other. “If you stay with me, they’ll alienate you.”

“Baaaka,” was his nonchalant reply, dismissing the warning. “Don’t worry about that.”

Completely ignoring the rumours about him, Mikage gave Teito a cheerful smile.

Always. Even though Teito did not return a smile back.

Another lit. These lights… slowly they spread. Little by little darkness was steered, illumined by the light, and finally, she disappears.

“Friends? What’s that?”

Mikage was the first person who ever introduced him the concept of friendship. Teito knew not the term “friends”. It was a strange word.

“Someone who you learn many things from, an important person,” Mikage had once told him.

The brunet never imagined the two of them would eventually become friends. The only one friend Teito has ever made. It was an odd experience. And yet, secretly and left unnoticed, it gave a new meaning in Teito’s life.

Light was left. And that light was getting strong. Its radiance so bright, it was brighter than any sun.

Until one day…

“Mikage, don’t make friends with a sklave! In our noble Oak family, we do not drag our servants into the mud.”

Teito had already warned him but he chose to ignore. Look what caused him; snotty Shuri was mocking Mikage! But…

“My family aren’t servants! We’re stewards!” Teito remembered how Mikage had grabbed his hand right then and there and pulled him away. “Don’t worry about them, Teito. Let’s go.”

Still Shuri continue to mock.

“Oh, I see…Being a servant means you are our slaves. And, after all, slaves do belong with other slaves.”

And then something happened. Something snapped inside Teito.

It’s near now, it’s here. The lonely heart regained its warmth, filling the inured emptiness all this while. Yet the heart aches, the heart fears.

He was fine with their constant mocking directed at him; the discriminations, the prejudice. The young brunet could handle them just fine. But chose to mock his friend, mock his innocent one and only dear friend…

Teito let go of Mikage’s hand and lunged at the startled Oak, vulnerable against his blow. “APOLOGIZE TO MIKAGE!!”He wanted Shuri to take back his words. He wanted Shuri to apologize to his friend.

‘Unforgivable… unforgivable!’ his thoughts chanted. Teito chant those words over and over again. That damn Oak would pay dearly for what he said to Mikage. For what he takes up Mikage for.

Mikage was nothing like him. Mikage is not a sklave!

…But Mikage has always been a forgiving person.

One piece remained unlit. Had to fathom it, this wavering stir… Had to find it, the missing light… Soon. Now!

“Teito, stop!” Teito remembered the way Mikage had tightly grabbed a hold of him, soothing him with reassuring words… promising words. “You don’t need to soil your hand over a jerk like him.”

It was unforgivable the way Shuri treated Mikage. The way he treated him like garbage… Teito could not forgive someone like that.


But Mikage was there with him. The fact that Mikage was there with him… Teito had to refrain himself.

For his sake. For Mikage’s sake.


At last… his seven fragments. Seven fragments of light were now whole, complete. An epitome sphere of a benign afterglow. This is his light… the light he had given him.

One word… That one word of appreciation meant for him. Meant just for him…

It was so strange. That particular word caused his chest to burn up. A sensation nothing Teito has experience before. It wasn’t pain No, it wasn’t anything like that. It was more gratifying than that. He was too ignorant to realize that.

Teito was sprawled on a bed, said person’s jacket not faraway clutched nearby. He pressed the jacket closer, closer and closer tightly, feeling the rough material touch his skin. Hugging it close and never wanting to accept the cruel reality.

“Always face forward. Walk toward the path of light.” – Those were his last few words; his words came back to him. Mikage’s last words to Teito… before he left him forever.

Mikage’s words always lingered in his heart.

Teito inhaled the scent, the familiar scent of cologne and flowers. Such a gentle scent for such a gentle friend. Before he knew it, he felt tears. Fresh warm translucent tears were pouring out from the corner of his eyes; drenching his face, soaking the covers, wetting the jacket.

He needed.

He wanted.

He must…!

But the tears continue to leak out. He couldn’t stop his tears.

“Mikage…You were my light,” Teito whispered dimly. “My light in all that darkness...And now, it’s gone.”

Barsburg Church, 7th District, 9:46 AM

Meanwhile, behind a particularly locked door of one of the church’s many guest rooms stood Castor and Labrador outside. Inside said room was Teito. The bishops had knocked several times in hopes of Teito to open its entrance. However, the door did not budge nor were there any response from the teenager. They were worried.

According to the overall story from Frau, the one winged Kor that was residing within Mikage had been controlled by someone. And whoever that person was, he knows about the scythe. Verloren’s scythe. Frau intended to save Mikage but his soul was being eaten by that wing. He was reluctant to kill the boy in front of Teito but the one controlling Mikage took matters into his own hand.

That bastard used his very scythe to kill the boy!

“You know it’s fated to come back to me someday,” was the bastard’s parting words – a promise that will soon be fulfilled; an impending doom waiting to unleash its pandemonium.

Thus the aftermath that has brought them to this present morning.

Since yesterday evening Teito had locked himself in his room, suffering from the unpleasant event and brooding over his lost. He never came out for breakfast either. It’s bad for his health, no matter what the excuses.

Rapid strides were heard behind the two bishops and Frau – turns out to be him – brusquely kicks open the door without mercy. “I’m coming in, stupid brat,” he called and let himself in. Alarmed Castor however was struck dumb by the blond’s intrusion.

The next thing was a whirl of emotions coming from Teito – mostly anger, frustration, anguish and regret. Saying the church can’t save anything, God doesn’t exist. “He didn’t even save Mikage!” he said along the lines. Teito claimed it was his fault he got his friend involved in their promise. That Mikage got killed as a result. He was to blame… he was to blame for all of this.

Some water works here and there, the tears simply kept of flowing and flowing.

Frau looked down at Teito and sat beside him. Placing a hand on his shoulder, he tried to calm the brunet. “It’s not your fault.” Frau could sympathize with his lament, but the one who was at real fault was him. It was his fault, not the brat’s. It was his fault he let Mikage suffer so. As one of the Seven Ghosts it was his job to help those who desperately in need help. And yet, he failed.

He couldn’t protect either one of them. Not Mikage from his death… and certainly not Teito from his misfortune.

“…When it's time for a person to be born, they make a promise with the chief of the heavens. Three dreams,” the blond bishop gently said. “When all three are granted, they’ll be called back to the chief’s side. “To protect someone dear at the risk of his life,” no doubt that was Mikage’s third dream.”

Frau fixed his hat and continued, “Since all of his dreams are granted, he was called back to the heavens. Mikage must be happy to have protected you.”

“Those are just pretty words for the survivors,” came Teito’s sullen reply. “You’re probably just trying to console me.”

“Well, that could be true.” Frau stood up. “But he’s already by your side watching over you.”

A stunned Teito stared unbelieving at the winking bishop. He looked down at his hands. The earlier strange pink creature that came barging in with Frau sat on all fours, wagging its long thinly tail. “Burupya~!” squeaked the bundle of fur. Its soft paws gently pressing against his palm, a gesture as though saying it’s true.

“He got injured,” Frau explained. “I’m taking care of it since it fell from the nest. Because once it falls out of it, the parents won’t take care of it.” His gaze then softens. “A soul that had all its wishes granted will reincarnate again. This little guy’s soul has the same colour as Mikage’s.”

Frau’s words seem to have fallen deaf on Teito, seeing the brat’s gaze was fixated onto the pink creature. Frau smiled as Teito brought the serapii, the young dragon, up and hold it into his arms. Tears once again threaten to fall from its hold but Teito let them fall, blurring his vision with those tears of joy.

The smile on Frau’s face was replaced with a troubling frown as he turned away, pondering.

Ever since that brat came here, mysterious things have been happening. And that bastard. The bastard that attacked Mikage and played with his soul like that… Just what exactly does he want with Teito?

Black Hawks’ Division, Hohburg Fort, 1st District, 10:08 AM

Ayanami was alone in his office, the sounds of scribbling and occasional stampings here and there accompanied his solitude. He heard the door scraped open but did nothing to shunt his pace. He did not bother to look from his work, knowing full well that Hyuuga had come to pester him yet again.

That good-for-nothing sloth.

A chair was brought up in front of his desk where the shades wearing major sat down and watch him work. “That looks so much trouble,” Major Hyuuga absent-mindedly remarked after a moment in silence passed. The man-child licked his prized treat in his mouth, looking innocently at his superior as he did so.

“Want a candied apple?” Hyuuga rips out the treat, draped in glistening wet saliva, out of his mouth. Giving one last lick he offered it to his Aya-tan. “Look, I even got two.”

The silver haired glanced up, violets slowly trailed to the saccharine sweet in front. Slightly melted syrup mixed with secreted liquid clearly dripping welcomes his field of vision. Brief irritation flickered in striking yet dangerous amethysts at such repulsive sight.

The next thing was a blur… Hyuuga honestly did not see that coming.

Before said man knew it, he was on the floor all of a sudden. He felt throbbing pain on both side of his face; a swollen bruise on one cheek and the other queerly imprinted with the military’s seal.

“That’s surprisingly painful,” groaned Hyuuga from below. “But it’s good to get your sugar level up when you’re tired…”

Ignoring his subordinate as usual, Ayanami quietly interjected. “That cadet has the stone.” Walking away, he left his chair to sort the finished paperwork then from overlapping his neat desk before returning to face it once more.

“Stone? Cadet?” Hyuuga questioned as he wipes the ink off his face with a small panda-designed handkerchief. He stood. All playfulness had gone that was replaced with bemusement.

“Teito Klein has the Eye of Mikhail,” Ayanami explained while Hyuuga pocketed his handkerchief. “He’s under the protection of those Seven Ghosts. He’s not completely awakened yet.” Ayanami collected the slender documents which rested on his desk readied. He continued, “I was interrupted while trying to retrieve it, but that was the real Eye of Mikhail.”

Hyuuga supported his trademark grin. He understood where this is at. “It’d be troublesome if the church gained more power.”

“Indeed.” Ayanami handed Hyuuga the papers for him to carry. “It would be a worse result than if the worms in our upper ups were to stage a coup d’état after they got the stone.”

Their conversation continued as they walked out of the office.

Since the King and the High Pope, both having equal political influence, have always shunned each other; there was an opportune opening for Ayanami to seize over their little divergence. He considered his chance but suspicious characters will certainly be hot on his trail if he were to act now.

“And so,” Ayanami concluded, “with prudence and promptness, we must bring that weapon back to the rightful control of the Imperial Army – before the stone falls onto the hands of the pope. Otherwise, something similar to Raggs War will happen for a second time.”

No. Ayanami was not willing to sacrifice yet another multitude of innocents; he was not willing to take any unnecessary deaths.

“To bring peace to our Barsburg Empire, retrieving Teito Klein from the church is the most expedient way.” He didn’t notice the taller man’s small smile. “It’s unacceptable to leave the matter alone. By all means, we must avoid loss in our army.”

“…Is that why you killed that boy?” Hyuuga suddenly asked, sauntering behind. “Though it’s true he disobeyed military regulations, and it was inevitable that he meets such an end… I can somewhat understand the feelings of that kid.” He looked at Ayanami meaningfully only to have the chief averting his gaze.

Ayanami coldly replied, “We have no need for deserters. That’s why I killed him before his eyes so that he will come to me.”

“What about Shiro-chan?” Their gaze had not yet met. “The three of them are friends, right. Sooner or later, I’m sure he’ll find out that Mikage boy died. Won’t he abscond too?”

Ayanami gave a small smirk unbeknownst to Hyuuga. But Hyuuga noticed that.

And his very small smile went wide.

“That is why I gave him that mission; to ascertain where his loyalty lies. Does he have the courage to betray the army and valour the consequences, or would he betray his friend? It can’t be help if he chose wrongly.”

Rather a shame if that were to happen. Another useful playing piece lost before he could make the most out of.

“In any event, that boy will surely return to the Empire in order to take his revenge on me.”

Hyuuga let out a light laugh. “I’ll be here to protect you then, Aya!” He flashed his Aya-tan a reassuring grin. The latter turned to the other, expression impassive before he looked up ahead.

“If it comes to that.”

For a fool that he is, Hyuuga’s loyalty towards Ayanami is truly admirable. No doubt he would hold on to his words and defend this stubborn, silver haired companion he cares for.

‘I… have not overlooked something important, have I? ‘his mind whispered.

Ayanami wondered the reason for this amiss. He had meticulously planned a whole lot of things; considering his odds and save the important bits for another day. Had he fail to notice some significant matter happening without his knowledge insight?

That certainly can’t be good…He will have to wait and see everything unfolds itself in that case, and put a stop to it then if things go awry. There’s always a backup plan for every plan.

The two Black Hawks continued to walk down the long hallways of the fortress. Silence did not last long between them as Hyuuga raised another query. “But y’know...” the major curiously remarked. “Normally, you wouldn’t know where to find that child in such a large church.”

A black hawk swooped in by the window, easily distracting the major from hearing the silver man’s answer. Hyuuga clearly didn’t hear Ayanami’s reply.

“Oh, isn’t it Chief of Staff Ayanami?”

Three officers appeared before Ayanami and Hyuuga, the sound of their stride halted. “You were ten minutes late yesterday,” remarked one officer. “It would be troublesome if you were to slacken off.”

As they began to walk away, another officer added to their scornful remark. “Or is it that you have a secret agenda?”

“Yes, actually.” Ayanami gestured Hyuuga to bring out the concerned pile of papers at their attention. He informed them, “We are investigating the source of the army’s mysterious expenses.”

By their shocked faces at Hyuuga’s mention of “Shabushabu”, Ayanami knew they were the ones responsible. No doubt leaving these people to govern the country meant the fall of Barsburg itself. To protect his dear country from corruption… he will do anything in his power. Ayanami will do anything in his power to retrieve the stone back, no matter the method.

‘I must protect this country… I will protect it no matter what I’ll become.’

Barsburg Church, 7th District, 11:30 AM

Chiming bells of early afternoon rang across Barsburg Church’s domain. Sounds of chirping birds soar high up the blue sky as the heavenly lights shone its brilliance. Gentle zephyr blew past by, accompanying the tranquillity of this holy place… this holy place of worship.

Or so what their believers believed. But to the nonbeliever, it was a load of bull. Nonsense.

“I’m sorry, Mikage.”

A single thought.

“I’ll definitely avenge you.”

A solemn vow…Atonement…

Walking through the outside corridors was Teito. With wintry eyes set forward he avoids all forms of contact from its dwellers. Today is Mikage’s memorial: Today is the day he leaves for District One. The brunet cannot afford to stay here any longer.

Mikage’s reincarnation by his side, perched on one shoulder, was Teito’s drive and strength. Mikage’s reincarnation by his side was proof of what that man had done. Of what that man had did. He will kill him. He will kill the man who had taken his best friend’s precious life.

And nothing will deter him from getting his revenge, seek justice for his friend. For Teito is an avenger.

“Oh?” a familiar voice said up ahead. Teito halted at the greeting.

Bishop Castor had approached him, standing a distance before Teito. He eyed the teenage brunet. No longer wore the former white garbs, jet black robe parted white at the back with a flax trim and mantle overtop hugged Teito’s form. He hadn’t changed back after their prior function it seems.

Castor asked, “Where are you headed?”

“I’m going to Hohburg Fort,” Teito said flatly. Keep it simple, he told himself, and straight to the point. “Thank you for your help.”

Fleeting silence reign a moment or two between them. The young dug its budding claws into the fabric – barely touch his human friend; holding onto him from falling off his shoulder – as Teito bowed. The sweeping nuns continued their chores in the background, one by one furthering away from the vicinity.

Castor’s front changed. It was unreadable. “…You would so,” the bespectacled bishop finally said, conceivably acknowledging, “even if we tried to stop you, wouldn’t you?”

The brunet did not answer him, expression unclear hidden under swaying bangs. His back remained arched, Teito simply thanked again. “Thank you for preparing these mourning clothes.” Stood upwards without delay Teito resume his stride and passed the man, intent to never look back. As the saying goes, the sooner the better.

“Wait, Teito-kun.” Said boy cease his tread at Castor’s request. The latter had a pleasant guise on; his dolls were gathering. Turning to Teito, nonchalantly he asked a simple question. “Have you laid eyes on the Shinigami ‘Zehel’?”

“…That was Frau,” Teito easily said. He was positive the skeletal form was Frau. The annoying voice he was all too well familiar with. “And also…”

Mouth agape, hesitant, before it closed again. Teito looked over his shoulder. For a moment, their gazes locked.

“You carry the same scent on you, Castor-san.”

The wind suddenly blew nasty. The sister dolls rattled reflecting their creator’s unacceptance: Their secrecy has been exposed. The silence has been broken.

Strange strings materialized from nowhere. Know not of its origin but Teito recognized it was of the same filament, threads he witnessed some nights ago. A glimpse of this ability saving the old man.

Castor could see confusion was written all over the teen’s face. He was glad, it made things less difficult. Applying simple manipulation he manoeuvred the otherworldly strings. Curling around Teito they did yet dare not an inch to get close. A simple distraction really. Subconsciously he morphed into his real form – Fest.

Having no presence at all a hooded, skeletal form appeared behind Teito. “Good guess.”

At once deep emeralds grow hazy as the strings join the teen’s own threads. The young Fyulong dragon was the first to fell unconscious. Towering over Teito was the Death God Fest in all his glory. Like a puppet he was, dangling on its master’s strings.

“However,” Castor, reverted back into his human form, caught an unconscious Teito in his arms. “There are things in this world you must not see. I apologize.” His words were apologetic but in no way did it lose its strict edges. “I will have you forget everything about the Seven Ghosts.”

This is for the better. Their identities must remain a secret.

Side story.

He was walking down the hallways. All was well, except for the nagging voice of his companion ruining the peaceful evening.

“Glasses. Hey Glasses!”

‘Ignore the fool and keep on walking.’

“C’mon,” Dimitri whined, “Glasses. Talk to me. Where were you? Said you’ll be at the Cafeteria but it’s obvious by now you didn’t. Say you’re sorry and we’ll be even.”

‘Refrain yourself.’

“You hear me? Earth to Glasses…”

Irritated, Toshiro finally snapped. “What?”

“Yeesh…” Dimitri winced. “Ya don’t hafta get all snappy. It’s your fault y’know that I didn’t get to eat dinner.”He rubbed his grumbling stomach. “Let’s go and grab some grub already. Your treat, of course.”

Toshiro remained quiet as he strode forward before slowing to an abrupt stop. “…For what reason, if you care to explain?”He raised a question eyebrow at the perplexed black haired. “I do not feel any obligation – much less agreed – to “treat” you to food.”

“Oh. I don’t know,” the other said. “Because I want to be your friend and friends should help each other out?”

The blond was incredulous.

“What logic is that? I understand the concept of friendship but not to an extent of providing concrete material that one has to pay for. Are you trying to blackmail me?”

“Wha…? Of course not!” Dimitri blurted.“Why would I… I mean I –” He sighed. “Nevermind. Guess I’m going to starve myself tonight.But I’m still getting dibs on the bed!”

Toshiro said nothing, trying to quench the frustration. It was that man’s fault. Yes. It was his fault. He would never admit that is was indeed his own naïve fault it all had happened in the first place.

Oh that man will pay for this! He will pay dearly.

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