Forsaken Qualms

Suffocating


Reconnaissance Unit’s Second Division, Hohburg Fort, 1st District, 3rd March, 11:57 AM

‘Suffocating’ was one word that Toshiro could use to describe his sentiment at the moment.

For sure the Reconnaissance Unit’s main duty is to retrieve information and spy on certain individuals in lengthy extent. His first two experiences were decent.

The task was simple enough; identify the terrain and target, decipher their plans and formation, and then intercept. Although the third command can only be apply once the obtained information are fully accurate, in-depth and prove to be credible.

Intercept has two functions. Sending another unit to the scene or the recons their selves choose to apprehend concerned individuals at that moment. So far, he had only seen how the former was being carried out.

Toshiro found recons similar to mind games recently. Recon challenges one’s intellect, quick thinking in retrospect, and improves planning through creating new strategies in order to fathom and break down the enemy’s formations.The thrill when knowing that the situation will proceed accordingly to plan is quite a triumph feat.

For the time being, however, the pale blond teenager is not so much pleased at his current occupation. He could understand that new recruits were to be given smaller task; which in this case, carrying out the unfinished paperwork left by their superiors. A good thing he’s good with this sort of thing. But with several stacks of towering documents laid in front of him, this is utterly ridiculous!

If one would say the military lacks man power, perhaps it was true.

Since this morning, got a little side-tracked from finding the Reconnaissance Unit’s head office thanks to a certain overslept roommate, Toshiro managed to reduce at least half a quarter from the original quantity. Even a tad of the desk’s surface, what he assumed to be made out of fine rosewood, could be seen underneath tremendous amount of written whiteness.

Comparing fieldwork and deskwork, Toshiro would prefer undertaking missions honestly rather than stay in the office doing what irresponsible superiors have left them, the lowers, to sort out their mess. He did not bother to voice these thoughts out however; he was unsure whether his position in this division will be permanent or not.

He stopped writing for a while and searches the room to find a clock somewhere. It was nearly midday as displayed according to the wall clock, which means that they will have their lunch break in a little while. Putting his pen down, Toshiro reclined to the chair and rests his stiffened posture. He heaves out a weary sigh.

Little had been done to lessen this paperwork lark despite his effort. It will take days for him to complete the task at this rate. Not to mention the fact that he will be leaving for a personal mission soon. Don’t want to leave behind unsettled matters before then, then. Limiting his spare time was a sacrifice he must make.

Unlike the person adjacent to him, he has things easy.

Dimitri Ethmer laid his dense black bob of a head on the desk, asleep. Slightly drooling judging from his parted mouth despite several papers covered part of his face. Talk about having not a single care in the world – finishing the paperwork in particular.

Toshiro ignored the urge to wake the boy up, harshly, and reprimand him. The same goes to the others; although their seniors seem to find it all right and decided to walk out of the office early. Least he could enjoy the calm before the storm.

In the face of silence, disturbing thoughts invaded the blond’s peace of mind.

Don’t go. Stay…

A frown made its way onto Toshiro’s thin lips. ‘What are those voices trying to imply?’ he thought, uneasy.

Voices the pale blond heard during the last mission kept ringing in his head; lingering, warning, pleading… He felt wistful. All these years… the floras have reach for him, finally able to speak to him.

The way those said words were chiming and soothing, lyrical as well. Disappointment and a hint of sadness however shroud the ancient language as Toshiro ignored their warnings. “Don’t go” could mean anything. “Stay” could mean everything.

Such words are too general, unspecific. He had no idea what it could have possibly meant. To say he heard it wrong, it would be contradicting for his ears confirmed its veracity.

If those voices, those plant lives, wanted him to stay… what could he have accomplished? He would only find himself more confused than ever, standing around in the middle of nowhere without any particular reason at all.

Dubious unit might question him, suspecting his strange attitude; Toshiro could not afford to implant suspicions. If he had been there without the company of his unit, he would have certainly stayed. He could ask them for their reasons. He could demand an explanation why they needed him to stay.

Provided that there was nothing for him, returning to the military – to where his hopes and dreams derive – is the only thing left of him. If not, would that meant the plant lives wanted him to return home? To the very house where he once tarnished his own name? Or were they trying to warn him of some unforeseen danger?

The bell rang, interrupting Toshiro’s deep contemplation and simultaneously waking a sleeping Dimitri up.

Suddenly alerted, clearly forgetting his position, countless papers were falling down on him. And as a result, the mop of black curls was buried under the masses of sheer parchments.

“Finally awake are we?”deride an amused voice belonging to that of Toshiro Rolfe.

Dimitri, after emerging from his cover, turned to the source of voice and found said teen staring at him. He replied Toshiro’s calm smile with a toothy grin of his own. “I guess I kind of dozed off.”A faint hint of pink coloured his cheek. “Glasses, could you… err… help me?”

“I would appreciate it if you stop referring me by that affronting name,” Toshiro stated, no indication of him aiding the troubled teen as he stood.“Blame yourself for sleeping during working hours. Instead of wasting precious time dreaming, you could at least thin your work out. Though judging by your attitude, I expect less from you.”

“…Thanks, I guess?”

Dimitri sat straight up, letting the fallen papers spreadall over the floor.He saw Toshiro began to pick some of the paper that had glided to his part of theirboundary.With that straight face Toshiro supported, the teen wasn’t so sure if he was angry or not. But Dimitri could tell the blond was disappointed.

“So, about that help...” Dimitri was hoping he could have his clear answer; Toshiro’s action was too vague for him to understand.

Toshiro didn’t bother to give a reply. He continued to pick the parchments, gradually accumulating in his clutch as he silently offers his help muchto Dimitri’s delight.Instantaneous gratitude sparkled in the black haired teen’s eyes.

“Before you even try to smooth-talk your way out, your work is yours alone. I have no part in any of this.”

His words were cold, harsh to Dimitri, but he could care less about this nincompoop of a teammate.Besides, he wasn’t willing to add more burdeningloadon his shoulders. He hadn’t finished his own pile yet.

“What?!” Dimitri’s eyes grew wide, disbelieved. He then spewed his protests, “Can’t you see these papers? There must’ve be thousands and thousands of them! No one could possibly finish them all. Heck, even lil’ old me!”

The pale blond disregards the contrasting black haired words of concern. Dimitri was just exaggerating too much and Toshiro knew the teen wanted to find a way out, one way or another, to escape this little hellhole of an office. After all, paperwork is all there is to it this time around. A nightmare of documents greeting them,day in and day out.

“Glasses, please reconsider!”

His vain pleads however fell deaf on Toshiro.


Dining Hall, 12:26 AM

The Cafeteria, the only place where people could be blind to rank, was a full house. Packed full with both high and low ranking officers. All thanks to a certain someone for being late who made this possible. Toshiro wondered how he had let himself become too involve with this person.

Why did he bother himself with the Ethmer fool again? Why did they even become roommates in the first place? He wanted nothing more than to do with that… that nimrod, from the moment he called the blond “Glasses”.

No. Scratch that – from the moment Toshiro laid eyes on him.

Perhaps the reason he kept tolerating the black haired was due to the two belonging in the same faction? Or perhaps it was because they are roommates that it was a needless effort to avoid one another? This is far from that in fact.

Greed.

Ah, yes. Greed… The very same greed that led to the fall of man since the dawn of time, never to wane nor disappear within humans’ hearts. Corrupted desires for their selfish needs clearly blinded man; tempted and lure man to continue. No need for repents, no fear for consequence.

Plunged deep towards the bottom of the insatiable abyss these atrocious scoundrels, it was already too late for them to realize what they have become. Denial however useless, for the blame solely weight upon them. A facet thus destructive it led to the fall of angels, and also… led to the fall of gods.

Such simplicity to view the latter as these highly regarded, perfect beings, when history itself unveils their surreptitious flaw.

Well, Toshiro should never have let incentives get the better of him. The whole plan backfired on him.

Standing about with their respective food tray in hand, in search of a vacant table but found none, they eventually settled on joining some familiar faces within the vicinity. Turns out the latter were Dimitri’s pals, although somewhat… distasteful… to Toshiro’s liking: They are equally loud. Least the Ethmer fellow could prove some other use with his gregarious character.

The bespectacled blond concentrated his lunch so as to steer clear of engaging in their trivial conversation. Humorous and casual they were from the looks of it.

Toshiro sipped his typical brewed tea, just the way he likes it, and took a bite out of his curry rice. He grimaces inwardly, tolerating the unpleasant spicy flavour. His insides sicken with disgust. What supposed to be a simple light brunch was ruined. Maybe he should have gone with noodle bread instead. It won’t go well with tea though.

Then again, menus are not meant to match anyone’s taste preferences. It revolves around one’s appetite. But it didn’t change the fact he had a strange choice of meal on his plate.

“Aren’t you going to finish that?”

Toshiro glanced up, finding Dimitri waving at his retreating friends before directing a grin at the former. They were quite in a hurry, he noticed.

“If you’re not going to finish it… Well, mind giving it to me anyway? I could mighty use a second helping myself.”

“Do you not find it disgusting eating after other people’s food? No need to answer that; you do not.” The teen in question scratched the back of his head, laughing weakly. Apparently he hit the mark. “It would be better if you bought food using your money. Though I believe, with the meagre allowance we receive, couple with the costly expenses, it is impossible for one of your… calibre.”

Eyeing him with one last scrutinizing glint, Toshiro continued sipping his tea. He wondered if he could have the chance to taste Colonel Katsuragi’s cooking again.

“C-ca… Calibre?!” Dimitri protested. “Now that’s just mean.”

“Is it? My apologies for using words which happens to be best suite you,” Toshiro replied coolly. “So here, to compensate for it, you may have this.”A plateful of barely eaten curry rice was pushed in front of the contrasting darkened bob. “I am not that famished at the moment.”

The delicious smell of curry wafting in the air filled sensitive nostrils. That rich-spiced cuisine mix with diced onions and carrots and potatoes would melt instantly at a touch of the tongue, yet with the addition of those chunky sliced meat add all the more of its heavenly taste in each bite. And finally, its lovely sauce poured over warm fluffy rice, thick lavish liquid spreading to one side…

Dimitri seemed to have forgotten the insult. Exclaiming “Thanks a bunch, Glasses!” or so along the lines he eagerly digs in. A spoon in one hand and the other propped the plate up, devouring the food in mere seconds. The bespectacled teen blinked, confound it, speechless to remark at his companion’s barbaric conduct.

“So anyway… As I was saying…” Dimitri said in between mouthfuls as he chewed, “Last night... I know that guy with you one’s of them Black Hawks. I mean –” Toshiro stared at him with absolute horror “– they’re pretty famous! Well… infamous technically. Got me curious I tell you that. Plan on joining them?

Man, this stuff is great. Sure you don’t want it back? You have no idea what you’re missing!”

“Oh, believe me,” Toshiro replied sardonically, having been snapped out from his dread. “I do.”

Growing up in, one could say, a civilized background, never once did he encounter a person with such poor table mannerism. Even a child would have done it better. And here is an educated, ostensibly matured, adolescent for crying out loud!

“Answering to your query… No. I have no intention of joining the Black Hawks.” With their prerequisites mainly those of the strongest in terms of skill and fighting ability, he thinks not. Regrettably that man happens to be one of them and that the colonel’s talent would only be shared amongst their ranks. “But I am to take on a mission.”

Dimitri choked on his food at the statement. “You serious?!” he manage after a while. “Wait… Does that mean you’re getting a promotion?” pointing a spoon while one hand propping his chin.

“Truly? I do not know.” Toshiro drank the last drop of his drink and drain the soothing substance. “It depends on my performance in carrying the duty that I have been entrusted. I do hope the higher ups could grant the advancement.”

“Huh. Figures…” The other puts his attention back at his grub, fiddling and piling the remaining portions into one. “Doubt they would promote newcomers’ ranks just like that.” He clicked his fingers for the desirable effect.“But good luck with that though.”

“Why, aren’t you a glutton,” Dimitri heard Toshiro commented once he finishes with a big bite.

“Foods are meant to be eaten, dude. Why waste it? Besides, I can’t help it if it tastes so darn good!” Toshiro resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Anyways, wanna hear good news?”

“If it involves anything food related, I am not interested.”

“There was this vending machine though…”

Wrong move.

“N-now hold on…! I’m joking, just joking.” Dimitri somehow was able to persuade Toshiro from leaving. “Well, since you ran off somewhere yesterday… I got called for at the commander’s office. Seriously, where were you? Thought I was in some kind of trouble or something. But it turns out that I’m being assigned to someone actually. Got me all worked up for nothing, I tell ya –”

“So it is true then…” the blond mumbled. He paid no further attention to Dimitri’s needless rambling as he continued. Somehow Hyuuga’s words came to mind, repeating itself inside his head like a broken record. Toshiro frowned upon this.

“Sounds to me like you’re not wanted~”

A wry half-smile appeared on his face for once, replacing the usual frown. “Unwanted. Really?” he murmured. “Preposterous.”

“What was his name again? I think it’s Commander…” Dimitri paused. “Did you say something?”

“Nothing.”

“The hell you’re saying? Of course you could tell me.”

“Do not make me repeat myself,” Toshiro said and stood. “This is of no concern to you. Come now, those documents are not going to write themselves up.”


Central Library, Barsburg Church, 7th District, 3:50 PM

Thump. Thump. Thump.

“If you pass, you get a free pass to all lodging establishments and transportation facilities from around the world! Of course, you’ll be able to travel throughout all of Barsburg Empire’s districts borders without strict inspection from the Imperial Guards.”

Thump. Thump. Thump.

“If you really want to get revenge, you must carefully plan everything out first, right?”

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Ever since Teito agreed on taking the Bishops Examination upon Castor’s proposal, he was brought to the library on that instant with said man and Frau accompanying him. And at the moment, he was hearing an explanation from the former regarding the exam.

“The first examcovers a total of 100 topics from all 77 volumes and 7700 chapters of the Barsburg Scriptures. It’s a written exam.”

Rather dismayed Teito gawk at the impossible – several towering, small yet thick, books of bibles were placed in front of him. The longer he stares at those massive stacks, the more he felt apprehensive towards it.

True that he was glad Castor is on the brunet’s side for he wanted to help Teito realize his revenge. He had to go back to the military: To avenge Mikage, to kill Ayanami. And somehow rescue Toshiro. Plead him if he has to. Teito must! But…

Does Castor really want to help him? That bishop’s attitude was starting to get suspicious.

“Ugh…”Teito heard Frau moaned in distaste. “I don’t want to see these anymore.”

Ignoring Frau’s antics as usual Castor happily announced, “At any rate, we’ll have to make sure you learn all of these by heart in half a month! Okay?”

“What the hell do you mean “Okay?”?!” burst Frau, the feeling of dissent obviously directed at the bespectacled man. ‘That cocky four-eyes. Just because he is a bitsmarter, that doesn’t mean he could get all high and mighty.’“There’s no way he can do it! It took me three years to do it!”

For once, Teito agrees with him.

Adjusting his glasses the russet haired looked hard at Frau and glowered. “That’s because you’re an idiot.” Cool as a breeze was his tone, it was almost… wounding.

Teito picked up one of the books, leaving the two be, and began to flip through it. His brows puckered and eyes intent as he read one by one of its sentences, absorbing more than a few.Recognition gradually dawned on him.

“I feel like I’ve read this book before,” Teito remarked, surprising not only them but him as well.

“What?!”

Frau’s dubious look was ignored.

“Then let us check how much you remember.”Taking one of the books and flipping it to a random page, Castor read out loud. “Volume 5, Chapter 34: Heaven’s History “From the darkness…” ”

Closing the book in hand Teito closed his eyes.Thoughts concentrated for a moment before he gave an answerready at the back of his head. “…lend not thine ears, my newborn lambs,” Teito recited.

Castor was rather impressed – the brunet’s recitation is correct. Using a different book another verse was delivered.“Volume 20, Chapter 3: Heaven’s History “Into the sea…” ”

“…sank the sinful Babel as punishment.”

For the third and last time, Castor read once more. “Volume 77, Final Chapter: Heaven’s History.”

“When you see the light, come to me.”

The obsessed puppeteer and his creations rejoiced at Teito’s wonderful feat while the perverted injudicious bishop on the other hand shrunk, flabbergasted.

Said teen simply sat there quietly, reflecting on what had just happened. How was he able to recite all of those scriptures? Three-streak correct answers above all. He scrutinize over the book rereading the printed words again and again.

“I… I remember now!” Teito suddenly said, the words finally becoming familiar. “These are the lullabies and children songs Father always sang!”

Yes… that familiar deep and kind voice. It was vague still but he could almost hear it.

“Father always preached the teaching to me since I was little.” A few flashes occurred in his mind as he reminisce the past. Prayer before meal, sleep talking, lullabies…

Good times… Good times…

“But if I don’t remember all of these, I won’t be able pass!” Teito cried out in distress,ruffling his hair messily.

Frau, having been recovered from his surprise-stricken state, was his old self again. He teased the novice acolyte, something about the examiners being bullies, with an evil smirk on his face. Unnerve Teito he did.

“Well, let’s move on to the next step.”

Castor let Frau led Teito the way outside into the courtyard first. When he appeared, an unusual shaped casing, though it had the church’s insignia embossed on, was with him.“The second exam is a practical using zaiphon,” Castor announced while he place the bulky casing down. “First, let us test the strength of your zaiphon.”

At Teito’s nod and readied stance the kind yet shrewd bishop he came to know of threw him a huge wave of zaiphon in his wake. It was disturbingly powerful.

Taken aback as a resultant from that powerful blow, to the point of him barely had time to even erect a shield, Teito was blasted off of his feet. The air blanketed his body and the blunt pressure knocked him backwards. He was hurled a reasonable few distances away to say the least.

Castor looked down at the young teenager. Smokes of dust petered out. Some of the dirt covered Teito and apparently, some of the powdered substance entered his lungs. A coughing fit sounded from the brunet ensued for a moment or two before he looked up at the bishop, bewildered and confused expressions evident.

“My, my,” the russet haired remarked. “You went flying, Teito-kun.” He went closer towards Teito. It seems the boy is in need of some explanation to do; he had so much more to learn indeed. “This is my zaiphon.”

Castor raised a hand and a whirl of zaiphon soon manifests itself, suspending afloat on his palm. But it was too soon to think it would end at that. The zaiphon began to transmute its structure; the usual shape of words formed into an erratic shape of twists and turns. A beast-like shape finally attained judging from its contour.

It was clear this bishop is a manipulation user.

Teito gaze up wondrously at Castor. ‘No way… He’s only a bishop and yet…’ But that admiration, unbeknownst to him, only contributed a horrible feeling which silently began to creep up his chest. ‘He’s at a completely different level from me…!’ The brunet stare down at his hand, dishearten.

Why is he this powerless? He was the top of his graduating class, dammit! Teito was sure he has the same amount of power, or at least nearly as much, as Castor’s. He should have been the one standing, emerging victorious. Not failing. And yet, here he is… down with the rubble and dusty soil. Could anyone be this pathetic?

"There are many people in this world that you cannot protect merely by thinking of them or praying for them.” Teito looked up at him. Castor’s words were almost that of experience. "That is why for the sake of saving lost people in the abyss of despair, we bishops take arms and fight."

“What? Then the clergy’s job is…”

“The extermination of Kor,” finishes Frau. The blond bishop held a staff of some sort in his hand as he said this. Apparently it was stored in that strange casing all along. “Because you’re still young, your zaiphon is still weak and unsullied. It should be adequate enough to use this staff.”

Frau began to summarize the fundamental existence of zaiphon. Generally the origin of life, it is made up of life energy – that is, all the living things in this world. Despite so one cannot use zaiphon to attack dwellers of the dark.

Unaware of its presence, a black hawk was branched on a ledge. Its beady eyes stare down at the trio from above, observant and watchful.

“However…” Frau tossed the staff at Teito, to which the brunet caught it in his hand.“If you channel your zaiphon through this staff, you can catch and nullify Kor.”

“In other words, this staff is a device that can convert dark being?” Teito asked, rephrasing the information based on his understanding. Frau nodded. “We learned with weapons that used zaiphon at school. I’ll give it a try!”

‘This is easy. It won’t be hardenough.’

Teito griped the staff with both hands, focusing his flow of zaiphon as its ringlets of words began to encircle them both. The words flickered, ebbed and surged. He tried to make it appear at the tip of the staff, but the concentrated energy broke off. Teito heard Frau was making fun of him, in his very own nice way, but he glared at the amused bishop.

“At the beginning, everyone has a bit of a hard time getting used to it,” Castor assured the learning teenager. “Just be patient.”

Grateful by their encouragement, Teito could not help but smile. This is like an obstacle he had to face ahead of him. He could get stronger. “It was easy to match the zaiphon wavelength of the Imperial Army’s weapons since they were massed produced, but this staff has some peculiarities. Who made it?”

Castor enlightened him. "A craftsman specializing in them, the staff master who comes to the church once a year.”

“Huh?” Teito was perplexed. “But you don’t use the staff on the Kor…”

“We have our circumstances,” Frau now voiced.

A thin string, hidden, shot out of Castor’s fingers without warning. That was not such a great surprise however compare to the sudden appearance of a flying Kor. Its sudden advent nearly made Teito jumped with surprise. He watch as the thread weave around the fluttering bony pair of wings which later land on his hand, constrained.

“It looks like someone was looking out for you.” An unusual glint was present in the bishop’s eyes behind those lenses.

Frau walked up to Teito then. “This is proof that you are taking the exam,” the tall blond explained. He showed him an inverted pentagon-shaped silver badge. For a fleet wordless moment, Frau fastens it onto him.

“Someday, no matter when,” cool deep sapphires met innocent bright emeralds, “people will constantly be watching you. So always remember to conduct yourself properly.” The latter’s eyes widens as the former gently rested his hand on the chocolate soft mane.

“May God be with you,” Frau said his saying.


Reconnaissance Unit’s Second Division, Hohburg Fort, 1st District, 10:15 PM

The chilly night air of early March blew over all regions of the Barsburg Empire later that evening. Normal working hours for District One’s Imperial Army personnel were to end at ten o’clock sharp, which is exactly fifteen minutes ago. Exceeding the regulated time meant overtime and overtime usually meant extra income. Unfortunately in the military ranks there is no such thing as paid overtime.

With no money to add into their pockets, certainly many would be reluctant. That goes the same to one Toshiro Rolfe.

Fifteen minutes earlier, he could have leave the office and save these outrageous whiteness for another day. Fifteen minutes earlier, he could have been in his room seated with an interesting book in hand. And fifteen minutes earlier, he could have gotten a good night sleep and lay comfortably in bed.

But no.

For that additional fifteen minutes Toshiro took, it was not enough for him to even slim down the hefty workload half its size despite his adamant effort. Documents after documents kept on coming and coming.

Alone in the office and remain seated, Toshiro read the contents of one of the numerous documents he was working on. He had arranged majority of it separately, according to their respective affairs, as a way to not confuse one matter over the other. Mostly involves verification of missions, finance and other related affairs regarding the ins and outs of the Reconnaissance Unit.

A fountain pen was still in his hand as he diligently fills out paper by paper. One hand signed what needs to be sign, while the other rested on the desk idly until he came across papers that needed the superior’s. That will be removed from his current pile and be put aside.

This is all but fun, tedious work really. If he were to be given a choice, he would have preferred completing his work in a neutral, steady pace. But things had to be rushed.Perhaps he should practice forging Commander Hiro’s signature…

The pale blond sighed, allowing a little bit of happiness to slither away. “Happiness, huh,” absent-mindedly Toshiro mused. Such an abstract concept when expressing the emotions one felt.

Well... He was happy reading his precious books. He was happy drinking his much-loved brew. And he was happy being in solitude. Does that count as him being happy?

Was he happy when Shuuri broke the barrier and approached him? Was he happy when he made friends with Teito and Mikage? Was he happy with the way things are?

“What is happiness really?”

Looking down, Toshiro realized he had stopped writing. He picked up his pen and went back to work. In a few hours time, the day known as the third of March will end and the following day will come and replace it. Before the fifth. That is how much time he has left to finish everything before the due date.

So little time, and so much to do…

Then again, paperwork was the least of his troubles.

It has been a decade since Toshiro last heard the mention of the Bishops Examination. Never in a million years expect anyone in the military would bring that up. Should he prepare himself? Better yet, should he even be looking forward to it? Doubt he would look forward to it again though.

Had he stayed home, never question his religion and the acting head of the Rolfe house never declare his repudiation over his youngest, the pale blond would have been thrilled. But he is no longer required to partake in the exam.

Now, however, circumstances change.

Toshiro could only assume that the church community had forgotten the extremely gifted child ever born in the Rolfe family by now. It has been ten years after all. Despite so, he cannot dismiss entirely the possibility that people might still retain memories of him.

On the otherhand, with the fact of his renouncement from their hierarchy and severing the ties with his family, Toshiro’s existence in the Rolfe family may well be denied. Nonexistent. He expected that.

They were better off without an apostate, a nonbeliever, in the family. And he was better off without a family full of religious crap and bull.

But he knew. Toshiro always knew that sooner or later he will face the church; face the very gods who had neglected their believers, face the family he cut ties with. Like it or not.

“I will prove to you the error of your belief,” he said to no one in particular.


Hohburg Fort, 4th March, 5:13 AM

Unbeknownst to slumbering mortals, the first crack of dawn envelops the world of man as the celestial epitome of a fiery star warms the Earth with its many shafts of light. Scorching it may be but the glimpse of early sunrise always meant the beginning of a new day, of a new journey. To feast upon its presence… once one opens his or her vulnerable eyes.

Some have seen it as a blessing, others as a curse. But no matter what effects it had on people, the sun will, time after time again, rise and set for all eternity. Shedding its gentle warmth for the freezing, its heavenly light steering humans before the ominous dark, and continue to be present alongside humans until its counterpart, that large white disc, hung in the sky.

Locks of flaxen gleamed under the dawning light as bright blue strings materialized. A puff of air from the aftermath gently tousles its owner’s hair. Black bold words encircle on one hand, concentrated for some period of time, before it was allowed to vanish into thin air. Copious specks of white followed as it slowly rained down into nothingness.

The same process was repeated for countless of times, and yet, the caster shows no signs of fatigue for he was calm. No sweat trickled down his face nor does his breath out of need, erratic.

Eyes finally opened, revealing a set of two piercing teals behind translucent glasses, the figure of a teenager quickly unsheathes his weapon. He raises its lowered angle up and then slashes down with a ripping tear. A single slit, narrow yet solid, of similar blue hue sped through the atmosphere hitting nothing but the air. Two or more slits ran free before the sword was sheathed back into its holster. Resigning his stance, the pale blond retain his prior position.

Toshiro let out a frustrated breath to escape his lips; he was displeased with his performance. ‘I am exerting a lot of energy still,’ overtly he chided himself. ‘I cannot waste this much energy for only a sword!’ The blond repeated the actions for one last time, wanting better results than the last.

Inhaling and exhaling a lungful of air, he closed his eyes and emptied his mind. Toshiro began to concentrate. Thinking purely of his feelings and ignore the surrounding distractions felt by his senses. With one swift motion guided by instinct, his movements become fluid. An ounce of force was applied but the sword dances along with his hand as it gently glow with a healthy hue.

A slit tore through the air. However this time, it was no longer narrow but was thick with a sturdy form.

Sheathed his weapon once more and the teen stood still. Toshiro glances up, eyes staring at the horizon. The clouds, he noticed, were no longer dreary as he saw a fine blue sky. It was time for him to return to his shared accommodation. Retrieving his jacket lain on a nearby bench, dusting and smoothing its creased fold before buttoning it up, wordlessly Toshiro leaves the site.

‘Perhaps I should keep the influence within bounds before I… overwhelm you too much.’

Darkened marks contrasting his skin were rather visible under the pale blond’s eyes. It was obvious that he had not been sleeping last night. A result of an all-nighter Toshiro decided on with the intention to finish his remaining paperwork in one go. He finished it all right. The only thing left to do is preparing himself for the mission.

Thus the reason he was practising his zaiphon channelization; by making the most out of an empty space he found, away from onlookers or passer-bys.

Each instrument has different wavelengths when it comes to zaiphon channelization. High, medium and low are their range frequencies. Since military weapons are mass-produced, it has the lowest for easy synchronization. Ordinary weapons are next on the list. Its frequency is slightly higher than the former but just as straightforward. Then there’s that staff – “bascules” people of the church call it – Bishops uses.

Unlike most instruments, these bascules have a unique frequency. Different than others: Neither low nor high. Apparently church personnel are only those who are able to operate it given that bishops mainly utilize bascules. Now this is where the Bishops Examination comes along. It is for the purpose of those wanting to be full-pledged Bishops aspirants.

Channelization in most cases may damage the users’ piece of equipment. And for that reason, it is wise not to inspire emotions beyond that of its standardized frequency. A typical broken tool used for attacking or as a means of defending is nothing, but a broken reliable one is – the fundamental rule of a very passionate weapon practitioner.

Least that is what Toshiro’s trusted sword meant to him: It is irreplaceable.

The light tappings caused by the soles of his boots were heard once Toshiro stepped onto the tiled flooring of Hohburg Fort. He had been outside earlier with the dirtied ground on his feet, so it was considered odd by his ears. Although the sound seemed hollow the teen continued his gait.

Few officers gradually filled the hallways from left to right after some time. Toshiro offered salutes towards superiors as well as seniors, while exchanging an acknowledgement of a simple nod to most people he knew within his department; which is fortunately less. For the most part, Toshiro made his way suavely around the fortress until he reached the entrance of his quarters.

With the usual push, the obvious thing the door does is open its entrance. But the door did not budge. Toshiro tried a second time but the outcome was the same. Considering that he made sure not to lock the door before he left their room, the blond was bemused. A knock was the next reasonable course of action.

The longer Dimitri dawdle from opening this door for him, Toshiro swear, he will never help that ungrateful lout again! Even if the Ethmer fool grovel at his feet for all he cares.

“Dimitri-san,” Toshiro began once the door was open, his tone dripping with subtle venom. “You may have the right to lock this door, which I believe could be at your advantage to drive others away and sleep to your heart’s content. But I advise you: Do not repeat this again. Otherwise I will kick you out myself and claim this room as mine.”

He was expecting a voice of disapproval from his black haired companion but a different voice gave a reply instead. “But isn’t that against military regulations?”

The blond looked up, startled. His face no longer contorted with provocation. A blank stare replace it instead before recognition dawned on him. Blinking, Toshiro composed himself.

“Ah… Good morning, Konatsu-san.”

“Good morning too,” the older blond said. “Is there a problem, Toshiro-kun? There’s a rule that newcomers share rooms without exception, mind you. Get promoted if you’re unhappy with it.”

Was he being considerate?

“No,” Toshiro said quickly. “But I apologize for this needless interruption but thank you for the advice. I will keep that in mind.” A yawn was heard from inside – Konatsu is not alone it seems. “Please excuse any chance of disturbances to which I might have caused this early. I will–”

“Who’s at the door, Konatsu?” A glimpse of black caught his eyes. “Ah, Shiro-chan! Funny seeing you here. Did ya need somethin’?”

Toshiro froze. Stood behind the Begleiter was Major Hyuuga, the usual curve up of the lips graced his regular face.“Hmm? Got lost again?”

There was a slight twitch from the blond’s body at his stare. He pushed the right buttons. Unfortunately, it did not fail to go unnoticed under the swordsman’s sharp acuity.

Ignoring Hyuuga, Toshiro turned to Konatsu. “I will take my leave now.”

“…Are you sure you don’t need any help?” asked Konatsu, watching as his junior looked from left to right. Unsure and confused. Like a lost kitten. “We could –”

Hyuuga interjected, “Of course he is! Look at him, he’s practically asking for it.”He walked up to Toshiro.

“I don’t think that’s…”

But it was already too late. Hyuuga grabbed the lower’s collar and dragged him away, leaving Konatsu by the door. The Begleiter sighed. Muttering a reminder to apologize and a promise to hit Hyuuga in the head, Konatsu closed the door behind him.


Reconnaissance Unit’s Second Division, 8:10 AM

“You’re awfully quiet today, Glasses. Cat got your tongue?”

The fountain pen stopped moving but only for a brief moment, for it resumed its initial scribbling motion. The silence once again takes place.

“Say something, would ya?” he called at his station. “It’s weird hearing me talking to myself.”

Again, there was no answer save for the scribbling and scrapping sounds of a fountain pen.

Unease, ignored and arguably worried Dimitri was. Silence was all the teen could get out of his sharp tongued roommate the moment he first entered their unit’s second division, their hellhole of an office. It was unusual for him to not say anything or throw in disdainful words at the other. Clearly something must be wrong.

Since yesterday night, a Friday night, Dimitri had not seen Toshiro much. He knew that the blond was staying in late at the office, planning on to lessen his work lark or something. Dimitri left him to do his thing while he ended his work for the night. No way would he want to pass the opportunity to sleep – especially after all that paperwork.

Those infinitesimal black typed words strained his eyes. Note the exaggeration.

He was expecting some sort of a reproach from his nagging friend when he woke up around seven in the morning. Got a little scolding he did last time he overslept. But Toshiro was nowhere to be seen –partial good news for the lazy black haired teen. For Toshiro to leave without informing him he had gone out early…

Aren’t they supposed to be roommates?

Deciding this was bothering him too much, Dimitri abandoned his work. A good number of them had yet to be completed. ‘To hell with it.’ He ogled the blue-green bearer with an intent look squatting on his toes. The latter simply filled in a form, unbothered and immersed in his writing.

“Hmm?”Dimitri turned at his table and back at Toshiro’s. Tilting his head, idly he remarked; “Where’s the rest?” Dimitri staggered aback once realization hit him. “Don’t tell me…you’ve finished them already?!”

Stacks and stacks of towering papers were reduced to a manageable size. Slender documents were set aside on the sturdy desk, organized and neat. Quills and pens were in its proper holders as though untouched and stamps along with its bottled ink were arranged in front. Not a speck of dust defilesthe seemingly spotless workplace.

“That’s not possible...!” said Dimitri, astonished.“I bet you stashed them somewhere.”

Accusation usually work wonders on people. Sometimes, in most cases, cause great reactions in the form of a retort, to denial and to a simple glare. As for the bespectacled blond… the answer could be seen through the other’s disappointment.

“Fine.” Nothing was going to make this person talk it seems. “Give me the silent treatment why don’t you. The least you could do is telling me what’s wrong.”

“Cease your unnecessary worries, Ethmer. What did I tell you about wasting time?” Toshiro placed down his pen and looked down at his work. He picked the sheet single up and flipped it over, ensuring he had filled all required contents. “Did anyone not tell you that you are annoying?” He finally glanced up then, expression jaded but mild irritation was equally presented. “You are giving me a headache.”

“Glasses!” Dimitri exclaimed clearly forgetting where they were at the moment. “Annoying is a harsh word… I’m just here to wind you up, is all.” He gave him his usual grin, much to the latter’s chagrin. “So… what’s with the paper?”

“This? Simply a simple leaving form,” Toshiro drawled.

“Ah… Right, right. A leaving form.” Dimitri nodded. “Wait. What?”

“A. Leaving. Form. A two-paged sheet of paper used to apply for permissions on taking temporary leave before giving said slip to one’s acting leader or of similar stature. Surely you are bright enough to know such things. Or are you that dull?” Toshiro feigns a surprised look. “It seems that I have overrated your stupidity, Dimitri-kun.”

Said teen sweatdropped.

“I know that already, but not in a… uhh… complicated, lengthy way. Why though? ‘Coz of this mission you’ve been talking about?” He received a nod from his bespectacled friend. “That soon? Must be urgent.”

“Indeed,” agreed Toshiro, his voice dry. Eyes set onto the thin written statement. In all honesty, he has mixed feelings about this mission itself. If only Dimitri knew its true objective is to pursue the pale blond’s own two friends. “I have to report myself to the commander after this. And by right, I am excused from all work in regards to the Reconnaissance Unit.”

It was all thanks to the Chief of Staff that had made this possible – a benefit to which Toshiro could gain from. No longer would incoming paperwork wait him in the office nor flood his desk. Those sleepless nights will not be left in vain, not for naught. His efforts are paying off. No regrets there.

“Oh wow… Is that even possible?” asked Dimitri, impressed. “That’s the Black Hawks for you.”

He watched Toshiro placed down the writing utensil, looking quite satisfied with his work. ‘Lucky bastard,’ Dimitri thought with unspoken envy. Those hellish documents might probably be distributed to other remaining lower officers. And the frustrating thing is that he was one of them lot.

Sensing the bitterness, Toshiro stood from his chair. “Not keen on seeing me leave are you?”

“Nah… Who said anything about missing you? Wait. That didn’t sound right. Anyways… remember what I told you about being assigned yesterday?”

A look of puzzlement was sent at the other. Slowly Toshiro said, “Yes. What of it?”

“Well,” Dimitri proudly announced, “I’m going to report myself in today too.”

“Really now? How unlikely productive of you.” Sarcastic tinge was noticeable although indistinct to the oblivious teen. “It seems that both of us have an important agenda in our hands to attend to.”

“I know, right?” came Dimitri’s innocent reply. He was excited. “Seriously pumped up to know what it feels like being a Begleiter and all. The Academy doesn’t offer much about Begleitership. Didn’t teach us anything at all except fighting and those paperwork related stuff… D’ya have any idea what Begleiters actually do, Glasses?”

“Stop that,” demand Toshiro, referring to the ridiculous nickname. Is it too much of a hassle? But he supposed it was at least better than be called with an honorific usually meant to address the opposite gender.

“Stop what?”

Toshiro deadpanned. It’s not worth his time to get through him: Dimitri was a lost cause.

“…Nevermind. I have some few ideas, but it is time for me to report myself.”Toshiro collected the concerned documents set aside and added the leaving form atop.

It was still early, Toshiro knew, but for him to familiarize the fortress’ structure, it was de rigueur. It was a necessity. Lacking sense of direction was a grave limitation for his end.

He could ask for help but it showed weakness. And showing weakness is the last thing he wanted to do.

“Dimitri kun. Accompany me for a while.”

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