Forsaken Qualms

Seek and Ye Shalt Find

Barsburg Church, 7th District, 4th March, 11:45 AM

Teito was outside at the courtyard, sitting on one of the steps of its flight of stairs. He narrowed his eyes and gazes up to the sky. The source of the world’s light remains in the centre as the clouds, the mass of suspended water droplets surrounding the bright sun, slowly float by. It was probably noon by then but the sun was merciful enough to cast gentle warmth of rays on his skin.

This has become a habit of his lately – staring up and contemplating about things.

‘No matter what happens,’ the brunet nonchalantly thought, ‘the sun still rises.’ Mikage all the while was perched on his shoulder enjoying the warm afternoon as well. Cool air of zephyr lightly blows both of their manes. ‘I can’t believe I never realized that before.’

Teito had started the day with waking up early at four in the morning. He ought to since he was going to enter the Bishops Exam. After he finished helping out with some chores, chores that might let others think are way too extreme, Teito had his breakfast and proceeded on training again with Castor. Apparently this is to be his new daily routine henceforth.

…At least until the day of the exam came. Till then, Teito needed to get accustomed to it. He was determined to get the pass after all.

The training, which was using a doll Castor made identical to Frau and had a Kor trapped in it, was rather… fruitless after five hours worth of progress. But all that effort and patience came to fruition when Teito was finally able to summon zaiphon at the doll’s heinous intention directed at the passing nuns. Unfortunately it was a short, one-off success: No zaiphon was summoned through the staff when he tried to demonstrate it to Castor.

Eyes remaining on the skyline, Teito vaguely noticed a presence approach him from behind. “You, over there!”

Teito looked over his shoulder. A blond with frigid purple eyes was revealed, pointing a forefinger at him. ‘It’s that dangerous guy from before!’ Ah yes, the one whom he had gravely mistaken for Mikage. It was pretty stupid of him frankly. ’Thought I lost him somewhere already.’

“I’ve heard that,” the person said, “1,000 people come to participate in the exams every year. Are middle school students taking the exam nowadays too?”

Teito retorted, “I’m not a middle schooler, you jerk!” He definitely did not like this narcissistic character. First he proclaimed himself as his rival, and then he calls him a kid? Teito stood up and approaches the person to say a thing or two. But once he takes a better look at him, Teito had a feeling this person looked awfully familiar. Recognition immediately hit him.

‘He looks just like Shuri from the Academy!’

“You..." a cynical smile dominated the brunet’s features, "wouldn’t happen to know a bastard called Shuri from the cowardly Oaks?”

The hair bound ponytailed twitch at the apparent insult. “That’s a bit rude, little boy. Where do you live?” he said sweetly. “Big brother will show you home.” The blond grab Teito’s proffer hand and gripped it. Hard.

By now the two had started a staring contest evoked by both egos. Their hands were squeezing one another; neither refuses to yield. If it were not for the sanctuary they are in, one would find the two beating each other up. Without a shadow of a doubt actually.

Their grasp broke after some time with simultaneous slapping of the hand.

“There’s no way a kid like you could’ve been accepted so easily. You need at least five years of study at the church.” The person turned his back away and grumbled. “You…” He eyed Teito with an askance look, rubbing his aching hand. “Is it pity or some sort of connection?”

“Back at you!” The brunet was clearly unaffected from their intense ‘handshaking’ standoff. “I hear that the noble Oak family is, without fail, a family of military soldiers or politicians. Why is one in the church?”

The blond looked back but his gaze was that of a bitter one. “I’m the only one that has an interest in the church,” the person replied coldly. “I have no obligation to answer you.” He then turned to go before calling out, “Well, hang in there at least!”

Mikage leapt from Teito’s shoulder and land on top of the ponytail-bound blond’s head. The latter was rather unaware of this as he went.

“H-hey!” Teito called once he realized this. He raced after him, trying to catch up. “Come back here!” But the person was already halfway down the stairs.

Teito came to a fork then. He saw a crowd of people dressed in similar white robes entered one of the doorways. ‘Just where are they going?’ Teito wondered. He spotted a quick flash of pink and blond. Right away he follows after them.

There were a lot of people it seems. Teito tried to squeeze between the mass, struggling to see what they were looking at out of curiosity. But a lot of these people were making a fuss over the already crammed space.

“Quiet!” a voice said. “Assistant Archbishop Bastien is exorcising a Kor!”

A few tiles away, at the very end of the narrow hallway, Teito saw a dark haired man with very pale skin. The man was wielding a staff similar to his which stood proudly in his left hand. In front of him laid an unconscious woman and, the teen noticed, had a pair of bony wings appear on her back.

‘Is that the Assistant Archbishop?’ thought Teito, more ever curious.

Bright zaiphon was summoned through the staff, materializing underneath the woman. Zaiphon swirled around her but never touch nor intend to cause harm. The man raised his free hand and a bright blue ball appears. It ruptured into small bluish white flecks showering the woman where some came into contact with the wings. The flecks seemed to eat the wings for they vanished in no time, leaving nothing but the healed at peace.

Everyone was amazed at the fleeting demonstration judging from the awe in their voices.

Teito too shared the sentiment. To do such a thing… he never knew bascules could be used to remove Kor(s) without harming an individual, the patient.

“That was today’s course,” the tall man, the Assistant Archbishop, said. “If you have any questions, come to my room later.”

And the crowd began to disperse.

“Oh, my…” stated a voice from behind. “Studying hard, Teito-kun?”

Said boy turned around to see Castor. He also saw Frau – who happens to give off a blank stare – and the gentle, ever smiling Labrador. He asked, "Castor-san, what technique was that just now?"

The bespectacled bishop smiled and explained.

“Teito-kun’s zaiphon is an offensive type, while Bastien-sama is an expert at healing type zaiphon; similar to Labrador here. While the healing type cannot directly attack the Kor, you can – for example, restrict the movement of the Kor – loosen its hold from the patient making it possible to remove it. As it is more dependent on your effort than talent, you're not bound to any particular system and you can learn to use various techniques."

“As such,” Castor put his hand onto Teito’s shoulder, still maintaining a pleasant smile he did, “starting tonight, we’ll have a special class as you need to be trained quickly as possible.”

Teito blinked. “Huh?”

The bishops however took their leave with Frau saying "Good luck, damned brat" to the teen. Naturally Teito was upset, with the blond perverted bishop in particular of course, and confused. Those three never did give him straight answers whenever he asked... for some reason.

'But why...' Teito thought watching their gradual fading backs. 'Why do they care that much about me?'

Hohburg Fort, 1st District, 2:00 PM

With his two feet guiding the flow of direction Toshiro found himself walking aimlessly around the fortress. Dimitri was nowhere in sight, and apparently so did other officers as well. He was somewhat glad for that.

Earlier on Toshiro had gone to the Reconnaissance Unit’s head office to deliver his last set of finished documents. He was tentative at first to inform his superior of the personal mission he was supposed to undertake. Commander Hiro is a peculiar man, and Toshiro was wary of the commander’s reaction. The “friendly” pat at the back was proof enough.

For a newly recruit to express his intention of applying for leave, it is uncommon and rather undeserved. Toshiro is only a mere small fry compare to the seniors within the unit. Yet Commander Hiro did not show any concern whatsoever. Didn’t ask why, didn’t ask when. He gave an approval and just like that, Toshiro was dismissed.

“It’s not my business, boy,” the commander had said, “to meddle in your affairs. Not my business to question what the Black Hawks want with you either. But you’re my subordinate and it’s my job to make sure you all are put under good care. So don’t you dare screw our unit’s name, you hear?”

For a second there, Toshiro might actually consider seeing the commander in a new light. But that last remark made him think otherwise.

Footsteps were heard echoing throughout the empty hallways. Not a soul was passing by nor were there anyone in the area. The tappings eventually die out as soon as its owner reached an open area outside the outer foyer of the military institution.

Bewildered, Toshiro flutter an eyelid. He did not realize he had walked this far. Perhaps he had been too deeply in thought to bother notice it. One thing struck him as odd however.

Recognized as the core of Barsburg Empire, artificial plant lives are often seen in District One. Real ones are but common; they are rare. So for that reason it was startling to see part of the foundation have patches of green grasses and a number of trees.

Sitting on one of the steps and breathing in the scent of fresh yet scant nature, Toshiro cast his eyes towards the skyline. White clouds slowly adrift adorn along piercing blue skies. Before him, far in the city, a mix of skyscrapers juts over the low buildings and apartments. Some richer neighbourhood afforded to keep patches of blue and red within their compounds compare to the plain, humble side of the district.

It was, Toshiro realized, a slow day. The sun was warm, the sky was blue, and he caught the scent of freshly cut grass. When was the last time he ever sat down really? Sat down and done nothing but simply stare off at a distance. It had been so long… Toshiro can’t seem to remember. He supposed it was a pleasant feeling to experience once a while.

Two birds perched on a branch were chirping and hopping. One of the birds cock its head curiously at the lone blond, the smaller one pecked on a hole before it too tilted its head. A small smile crept Toshiro’s mouth as he watched. Before long the birds take off in a gust of wind, perhaps joining other birds in their flight.

‘I wonder…’ idly Toshiro thought. ‘How are Teito and Mikage? Were they able to cope and live on with life, despite what had happened?’

Roughly a week had passed since he met the pair, and it has been days since their sudden leave – forced for Teito – from the Military Academy. They were in District Seven and are currently taking refuge there at the church. Toshiro only know that much.

Based on what Konatsu had informed him earlier – once Hyuuga and he guided Toshiro to his room; not that he was, oh so desperate, in need of help – the Black Hawks will set for District Seven by tomorrow. And apparently, also revealed, the two subordinates who would accompany him were Lieutenant Colonel Kuroyuri and Begleiter, Haruse.

Toshiro frowned. ‘I should make peace and clear all misunderstandings first before I could work with them.’

Out of the Black Hawks, he thought Kuroyuri was probably the most unstable. The commander is still a small child after all. He might have a slip of the tongue and inadvertently upset Kuroyuri even more. Who knows? It would be difficult to communicate for certain, much less hold a small conversation with. Especially if they were going undercover. The least they he could do is exchange a word or two, but even that was improbable.

At any rate, Toshiro was going to enter District Seven. Not to rekindle bonds with what used to be his former heritage, not to repent, sure as hell not to convert back to become a believer once more; but to apprehend his friend, the traitor Teito Klein.

For him to do that, he had to be deceitful. For him to do that, he had to betray his trust; their friendship.

Poor Teito… Poor Mikage… They would painfully so be surprised to see him.

Toshiro wrapped his arms around his knees. Rustling of leaves hummed in his ears, stirring from its branches as a sudden gust shook the trees – the faint movement was invading his hearing. He wanted to cover his ears; he wanted to block the world around him. For whispers… he heard their cruel whispers.

‘Is this the right thing to do? –‘

“Answer us, reach us –”

‘Is that what you truly wish to realize? –‘

“Why did you run, child? You must –”

‘A traitor then. That is what you truly are –‘

“Return to us… Please –”

‘Remember –’ “Remember –” ‘ “REMEMBER –’ ”

Toshiro straightened his limbs, downcast eyes still fixed on the ground by his feet. He was… conflicted. The inner voice within him whispered. The trees whispered. Yet his love for the country clashed with these two influence.

Is it acceptable to abandon the home he had lived his whole life for upholding a mere friendship? Is it worth it to throw away a friendship he had with individuals he feels comfortable with for the sake of prioritizing this beloved country more?

Toshiro didn't like the strange emotion that was making him feel this way. He felt weak; he is not strong enough to endure. Face in his hands masked his pale complexion. Disappointed, annoyed, frustrated… these emotions were slowly eating him inside. And he was tired. He was damn tired of these uncertainties, this hesitance that was taking a toll on him.

So he stood. Toshiro stood and walked back inside. The sooner he was done with this mission, the better. This was like living in a dream after all. And once he wakes up, everything will all be over. He would remember it simply as one big, horrible nightmare. A nightmare he so badly wanted to end.

It was faint, but if one would observe ever so closely, one could see the usual glint in his teal eyes dulled.

Applicant’s Hall, Barsburg Church, 7th District, 7:27 PM

Sisters Athena, Rosalie and Libelle were guiding Teito around the church that evening. Their little lost lamb brought to them by Heaven had become an applicant in this year’s Bishop Examination. It was an unexpected surprise, but they were happy for the brunet. Surely in a few years time, he too will become the next generation of respected bishops.

“We’re sorry you’ve had to stay in a guest room for so long,” the blue haired sister, Athena, apologized. “Since this room’s used for applicants, it’s right near the library. Makes up for lost time.”

Teito doesn’t seem to mind. Carrying his belongings from his previous lodging in a small box, he asked, “Do all examinees live here?”

“No,” Sister Rosalie, a soft-spoken tawny eyed woman, answered. “Some also commute, like those who live in District Seven.”

The sisters and the green eyed teenager continued to walk but stopped then once they stood in front one of the many doors of the Applicant’s Hall.

“Well, this will be your room!” Sister Athena happily announced. “You’ll have to share the room but I’m sure you’ll get along just fine.”

At the sister’s knock Teito heard footsteps from inside. The door opened its entrance, and basically, all hell breaks loose in that very moment. A shocker indeed to both sides, but oblivious to the three nuns.

“This is your roommate who just arrived from District One, Hakuren Oak-kun –” a slender hand was gestured to a blond before another hand was gestured to the brunet, “– and this is Teito Klein-kun.”

“Please change it!” Both young acolytes voiced their objection, but the request was sadly denied.

“Roommates are determined in order to act as a team to improve and challenge each other,” Sister Libelle said. Then Sister Rosalie chimed in; “The spirit of affection and service are the first steps of serving God!”

There was an exchange of wary stares. The two did not like it one bit: They did not like it at all.

The sisters took their leave and left the teenage boys be afterwards. Glaring daggers were sent at each other’s path one last time before Teito, begrudgingly, moved in with Hakuren Oak. The dangerous person whom had not only become his rival (?) but is also a relative of the idiot Shuri. He made little eye contact with the blond and silently went to his personal side of the room.

Hakuren seemed to follow his example.

In the corner of his eye, Teito watched as the Oak organized his belongings, mostly books, in shelves. An uncomfortable silence reigned subsequently. Teito could only stare down at his staff as a few vexing moments go by whereas Hakuren, on the otherhand, apparently unfazed, makes use of his time reading.

Teito heard the sudden sound of a book being closed shut and the scrapping of a chair pushed back. “Get ready,” he heard Hakuren informed, “we’re going to bascule training now.” Fetching his bascule, glancing at Teito’s once, he added, “I wonder if you can even use a bascule… middle schooler.

“Don’t call me a middle schooler!” exclaimed Teito. He knew the mock was intended. Least the awkward tension finally dispelled. At the mention of bascule, his eyes strayed towards the staff held nearby. A frown made its way onto Teito’s lips.

‘Why can’t I use a bascule…?’ He has yet to master it properly. ‘The more power I put into it, the fiercer it rejects me. And it hurts…’ Morose, Teito raised a bandaged hand – an obvious mark of his failure. ‘The zaiphons are hurting my hands.’

The ache in his hands were bearable, they had yet to fully recover from Castor’s intense training. The training was hard and long but he knew not the reason to continue it. There was no point. Maybe it was only a fluke that one time. Maybe he wasn’t cut being a bishop. Because since then, he made no progress whatsoever.

Teito genuinely felt like giving up.

‘Ah…’ idly he noticed, ‘there’s blood on it.’ He grabbed a small cloth and brought it to scrub the metallic surface, trying to clean the blood off. ‘Huh? This isn’t mine…?’ How odd. The red stain usually comes off. Upon closer inspection however, the blood seemed too old to be his. ‘This…’ realization struck him. ‘This is a mark left by the layers of blood shed by the efforts of those aiming to become bishops!’

The brunet could not help but let both ends of his mouth curl. ‘Those people must’ve struggled hard. And here I am, brooding.’ He rested his forehead against the cool staff, a gesture of comforting assurance it gave. A new found motivation. ’I can’t let failure get the best of me. For Mikage’s sake, I can’t give up. I can’t give up just yet…!’

Central Library, Barsburg Church, 5th March, 8:32 AM

News about Aldo the “murderer” death’s made it into the headlines – a talk exchanged and played along people’s mouth within church grounds of District Seven. Many were in shock, especially to those who had found the criminal’s lifeless body lying under pools of crimson, red blood.

True that Aldo was a criminal deserving of punishment for his wrongdoings. Indeed he needs to be punished. It was undeniable and it was just. But to think that such punishment for taking so many lives, for having committed murder, would be like this… It was horrible. Simply horrible.

“The Seven Ghosts hadn’t forgiven him!” “The Seven Ghosts could not forgive him!”

These were their assumptions; these were their fears. To not be forgiven by God…

Teito had awoken early as a start of his priesthood. Last night’s event had scared him quite a bit if truth be told. The dead criminal, people’s remarks and Frau’s cold gaze unnerved him. He even remembered the words imprinted on the criminal’s torso.

“There is no divine protection of God…”

The brunet shuddered at the thought as he walked through the corridors. Would the Seven Ghosts do such a thing? Taking this man’s life ahead of his time?

Already finishing his chores for the day, Teito decided to frequent the library to pass the time by with Hakuren. He needed to learn more about this “Eye of Mikhail” his father had left him. It was crucial in order to find the truth he sought. He pulled several books out of its racks before settling on reading them at a vacant table. However, as he read through, none of the books contained useful information other than what he already knew.

There was a photo on one page he currently read. Beneath it were inscriptions, describing the Eye as the “legendary enchanted stone” and is said in legends to have brought the “unification of the world”.

’Looks like any other red stone to me,’ Teito thought.

Mikage wagged his tail as he watched the brunet’s troubled expression. And so he leapt up, with the intention to rest on Teito’s shoulder and cheer him up, only to cause the latter to drop the held book in surprise. The pages flipped and stopped at a random page. A peculiar symbol caught Teito’s eye.

‘Verloren…? So this is about the evil death god who was sealed away or something?’

According to the text, it read:

Verloren (Myth)

A death god who is said in legends to have escaped to the mortal world after committing the heinous crime of murdering the daughter of the Chief of Heaven. On earth, he caused more catastrophes by creating epidemics, sorrow, and sin everywhere...

Emeralds went wide and a gasp was released. The printed – now blurred – words began to animate, come to life, and swirled around Teito. For a moment there, a huge staircase was envisioned in front of him. And he was knocked for six.

“Are you okay?” Hakuren asked blankly, looking up from his book at a suddenly fallen Teito. “Did you fall asleep while reading?”

Teito blinked once, then twice before recovering. “Y-yeah… I think so.” He managed a nod, slightly mystified with the sudden dream-like vision. ’What… was that?’ Teito wondered while he stood and sat back on his chair, still dazed.

“Oh! I see you’re studying really hard, ya damned brat.”

The voice was familiar yet annoying. “Frau…” Teito reflexively uttered, turning to said tall bishop. He stared up at him. Frau’s sapphire eyes were piercing, but its gaze was not as cold as the night before. The brunet was, to some extent, glad seeing the normal Frau.

‘He comes by everyday to talk to me lately... It’s because of that promise collar, isn’t it?’ His thoughts reminded him of the unfortunate incident which resulted in Frau becoming his “Master”.

“Bishop Frau!” Teito heard Hakuren voiced. “Are you Bishop Frau?”

Frau had a blank look on when he turned around. “Hm? Yeah,” he replied.

“I’m extremely honoured to meet you,” Hakuren said and handed him a book. Teito watched on curiously. Frau doesn’t usually read books now that he thinks about it.

The blond bishop examined the book uninterestedly, flicking to several few pages before he stopped on a certain page. Looking back at Hakuren, Frau took his hand. Imaginary sparkles were seen in the background.

“What’s your name, kid?”

“Hakuren Oak.”

The two blonds, as a mark of brotherhood it seems, exchanged knowing glints with one another. Like they were accomplices planning in some sort of conspiracy.

‘Is that a porn book?’ Teito’s jaw nearly dropped, finally realizing what Hakuren had given Frau.

“Bishop Frau,” a new voice stated from behind. Teito saw that it was Archbishop Assistant Bastien. Brusquely the man whacked Frau on the head, earning a grunt of pain from the bishop. “As I thought,” Bastien said angrily, noticing porn magazines spread on the floor which had been dropped by Frau. He snatched the books away. “I’m confiscating these!”

‘So that’s why he’s been coming to the library…’ Teito sighed witnessing Frau’s, reduced to a beggar in seconds, pathetic plea merely for a couple of porn magazines.

Defeated, Frau grumbled and bent down. He picked up his hat which had been knocked off of his head and brush away the dust.

“By the way, Bishop Castor was looking for you.”

Frau flinched. “Really? Shit…” he muttered the curse under his breath.

“Uhm…” Teito hesitantly began, halting the bishops in their tracks. “After last night, there’s something I want to ask.” They stopped and listen. “Bishop Frau, would the Seven Ghosts really do stuff like that?”

There was a brief silence before the question was answered by Frau. “…We don’t really know what happened last night. The Imperial Guards are investigating the crime scene.”

“The post mortem indicates death caused by a single blow from behind,” added Bastien. “A trail of fresh footprints with Aldo’s blood was also found leading from the outside in. His murderer was probably begging for compassion outside the door and successfully convinced Aldo to open the door for him.”

“But how,” Hakuren questioned, “can we be certain that it was an outsider who did it?”

“You… Are you suspecting the people in the church?!”

Teito couldn’t believe what his roommate slash partner had said. Despite his protest however, the assistant archbishop had to agree with Hakuren.

“No. It is extremely important to consider every possibility. However, every church member must definitely leave a record when he or she goes out. From the results of yesterday’s investigation, not a single one stepped out of the church’s premises.”

The library was beginning to swarm with apprentices and church members appearing from side to side as the older man said this. Some read accessible resources, some borrowed volumes of books while others carry out their own agenda. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, to say the least.

“Although I cannot condone the culprit’s actions,” Bastien continued, "I still believe that people will be punished for their sins, even if under sanctuary. Once god determines that you ruin others' lives with your existence, then like the kor, the murderer like Aldo could only pay his sins with his life.”

The loose air around them felt tight. For once the gentle man’s voice hinted traces of malign and spite.

“Everything,” Assistant Archbishop Bastien said grimly, “will be decided by the heaven sent seven gods. Never will they make allowances for evil.”

Reconnaissance Unit’s Second Division, Hohburg Fort, 1st District, 10:04 AM

It was decided.

Doing nothing does not suit him. Doing nothing does not suit him at all despite the special exempt.

So there Toshiro was, writing and scribbling words and signatures on documents at his desk in the recons’ second division. They were just begging to be completed.

When Toshiro came into the office earlier that day, intending to retrieve the copy of a boarding pass he requested, the blond found fresh documents were stacked on what used to be his neat workplace. Seniors should already be informed of his temporary discharge – incoming paperwork shouldn’t flood his desk then. Clearly some irresponsible fool, deeming it was all fine and dandy to make its owner take up his work, had left it there.

The irresponsible fool here being Dimitri Ethmer.

“Ehh… Didn’t you say you were excused or something?” The black haired had greeted Toshiro with a quizzical look, surprised to find his roommate back at his desk. “Whatever. Now that you’re here, I could use some help sorting these out. Sorry I used your space while you’re gone by the way. …Signed? I was pretty sure I hadn’t touched this pile yet –”

“Be thankful, Ethmer,” Toshiro only said as he placed his pen down and reclaim his pass. He stood, sparing Dimitri not a glance before he left the recons’ second division.

“Hey, hey, hey! What are you? Some kind of bat finally out of hell? I said wait, Glasses. Slow down a bit why don’t ya,” remarked Dimitri at the hasty blond. “I know we’ve recently become roommates and I don’t know much ‘bout ya, but you’re acting pretty weird since yesterday. Not that you’re not weird already of course. So, you okay? I haven’t seen you in a while too.”

Throwing a raised incredulous eyebrow at the other, Toshiro said; “A… bat? Honestly, is that the best simile you could think of?” Dimitri shrugged. “Yes. I am perfectly fine. Why would you think otherwise? Rather, I should be the one to question your normalcy.

Had you been a light sleeper, you would have noticed and heard the creak of the door being opened. It was loud enough to wake a person. But I must say; if it were not for closed doors, others might have heard your dreadful snoring. And another thing: Please, stop fantasizing about food in your sleep. Your… food fetish – it is disgusting.”

A moment of blissful peace passed between them before Dimitri take the initiative to break the silence.

“Ah. Well… that was awkward.” The black haired smiled sheepishly. He forced a nervous laugh, scratching the back of his head as he did so. “…D-do you have to be so blunt about it? What’s wrong with loving food anyway? It’s not like I have a fetish or anything…” He grabbed Toshiro by the shoulders all of a sudden. Pleading with desperate eyes, he said; “Forget what I just said.”

Toshiro frowned at the contact, not too happy with the invasion of his personal bubble, and slaps the hands away. “I was proving a point. Would you rather hear last night’s activities then? I could –”

“NO!” Quickly Dimitri put a hand out in protest to emphasize his point. “Don’t wanna hear it. Don’t wanna know. I don’t want my roommate to turn into a stalker. That sounds so wrong! Besides, weren’t you in such a big hurry seconds ago? Go. Just go and spare what little dignity I have left.”

The corner of the blond’s lips curled into a small smirk. “That would be a wise decision.”

And so, hours flew by.

Toshiro made his way down the hallway, trying to remember the directions Konatsu had previously given him to the workshop. As luck would have it, he was able to stay on course for once. Perhaps lacking good sense of orientation is not a matter of limitation itself.

Engineers dressed in faded jumpsuits were seen working on various vehicles as the blond entered the garage. The common being Hawkziles, four-bladed helicopters called Black Hawks and other fighter aircrafts. Flashing his pass to questioning officers, Toshiro gained access granted only for authorized personnel to enter. He was guided deeper leading into a wider segment of the garage. Eventually, Toshiro came face to face with the military’s known first class aircraft: Ribidzile.

The aircraft, a pale grey with decorative, golden pattern painted on each wing, was massive itself. Black feathered wings, rigid yet elegant, spread open supported the man-made armour to which the animal was built on. It seemed lifeless from afar, like combat machines they supposedly are, but one could hear the breathing of the dragon and the battering of eyelids revealing equally-matched onyxes.

This mythical beast, the kings and queens of the firmament, was eager to soar into the sky to claim its reign once more.

Toshiro was greeted by Konatsu once he boarded Ribidzile. The Begleiter was expecting him. Dismissing the former’s escort, he motioned Toshiro to follow him. “Did the directions prove to be useful?” asked Konatsu, creating small talk along the way. “I hope it wasn’t that complicated to memorize.”

“No.” The lower shook his head. “It is nothing of that sort; in fact, it was very helpful. I cannot thank you enough for all the help you and Major Hyuuga had offered yesterday. Although… I notice that the major seemed to be amused at something I know not of. Frankly, does he not take anything serious?”

Konatsu sighed. “Unfortunately. I question his profession as a soldier too. That idiot’s just making up excuses to escape from work. How many instances, I lost count already.”

“Now that’s not true.” Both blonds spun around, startled – for Toshiro anyway – to face Major Hyuuga himself. “You know I can’t stand looking at those documents, Konatsu. And why didn’t you wake me up earlier?”

Too late to realize the yawning man had come from behind, the younger blond shrunk back. It took him five seconds to compose before his hand had flown to his head in salute.

“…Major Hyuuga,” acknowledged Toshiro. “Good morning, sir.”

“Ah, Shiro-chan! Why, aren’t you tense? First thing in the morning too, I see!” The cheery lieutenant chuckled. “Good morning to you too! This your first time boarding a big ship like the Ribidzile? Consider yourself lucky! Most people, when it comes to newcomers see, don’t get a chance boarding this “hell ova beauty” – so they say – right off the bat.”

“Should this make me feel special?” Hyuuga blinked. His smile nearly fell off at the recruit’s deadpanned response. Toshiro chided himself for allowing the slightest form of insolence to escape. He was tempted but then that wouldn’t be respectful to the major, would it? “I apologize. I did not intend to sound sarcastic.”

“Don’t worry about it. Lollipop?”

“Sorry,” Konatsu cut in crisply, “but we’ve got a schedule to keep. We are needed for a cleanup mission today. It’s a last minute notice, but it shouldn’t take us long to complete it what with the original plan to travel to the 7th District in hand. Don’t worry. This isn’t part of your mission. As for you” – this was directed at Hyuuga – “I tried waking you up for an hour. An hour! But I ended up getting late myself.”

“Oh pish-posh, I’m sure Aya-tan didn’t mind! Any chance you didn’t tell Aya I slept in?” Hyuuga asked hopefully.

Toshiro said nothing but followed Konatsu’s example: Ignoring the pouting man-child who lay there on the ground struck with (apparently) a blunt blow to the head.

With dark blue walls and floor and many luminous yellow coloured pipes going through the floor, the Ribidzile is very spacious. Several officers were working on a large control panel but most were chatting as he tried to keep up with Konatsu’s brisk pace. He found himself in the ship’s bridge later on, reaching the lowest platform first before they climb up a staircase.

Upon access to the middle platform, which Toshiro presumed to be the cockpit seeing that another set of sophisticated terminals were align at the forefront, a single table was revealed. Sat on one chair was Katsuragi, absorbed in his book before he glanced up at the sound of their footsteps.

“Well, hello there, Konatsu. I see you’ve brought Toshiro-kun over for a little tour.”

“Ah, Katsuragi-san. Yes. It was supposed to be Major Hyuuga and I, but he…” Konatsu trailed off and sighed dejectedly. The colonel flashed a smile, understanding, and resumed his reading.

“Moving on… This part of Ribidzile is where soldiers are able to rest, eat and drink. As you can see here, it’s somewhat of a second office. Then upstairs,” Konatsu motioned towards one of two ladders, “we have the navigation room. Further above is Chief of Staff Ayanami’s personal quarters. And that’s just about it. Feel free to help with the crew, though I doubt there’ll be any problems.”

Toshiro gave a curt nod as Konatsu left him to join Katsuragi. He wasn’t sure whether to join them as well or explore more of Ribidzile. Toshiro walked towards the terminals instead and looked down below, mindful not to touch unnecessary buttons. He knew each function well enough from the simulations he had done than to disturb the programming.

From above, Toshiro watched as ordinary officers alike communicate, engaging their selves in conversations like colleagues that they are. As did the two Hawks. He truly felt like the odd one out of this ship; belonging to none, at ease with none. The atmosphere is in no way the same as it was in the Academy, Toshiro remarked. Back then students were just students and teachers were just teachers. Mingle without restrictions, no strings attached.

It was simply that.

But here, there exists a wall; a boundary. A boundary treated with only a baseline of respect – or is it fear – in this ship where the Black Hawks reign supreme. A warsfeil infested ship.

Perhaps he is no different. To be in the same presence with the Black Hawks was humbling; it was still uncomfortable. And yet, Toshiro did not mind. Feared yet respected, small yet strong. These Black Hawks are remarkable individuals; and their leader, is no doubt a man with such great amount of talent.

If only he could prove his worth to them… If only they could see him as an asset. Not as a liability. Not as someone who cannot pull their own weight.

This is a personal mission, and a mission too personal to himself. It was high time he make up his mind. He needed to draw a line to where he stood in this war.

The war within him.

Barsburg Church, 7th District, 5:50 PM

Castor’s face held an unreadable expression as he observed Frau calming a misunderstood brunet. It was unfortunate indeed that Teito had overheard their conversation. Naturally the boy ran. For he who holds the Eye of Mikhail, it was a sensitive topic to discuss. The Eye has awakened after all. And as its bearer, his powers too are awaken as well.

The russet haired pulled his gaze from the two and walked away. Frau seemed to have handled the issue successfully. However, the killing of Aldo was a situation that has yet to be solved.

‘It’s highly likely that, that, has already hidden itself somewhere within this church.’ Castor passed a group of young acolytes walking through the hallways. ’How unfortunate.’ He greeted them with a nod and a smile, in return for smiles and humbled bows he received. ‘For this to happen during a season when the church is brimming with so many examinees…’

Then, it happened…

It happened in a matter of seconds, in a fraction of seconds. A looming shadow cast at the interior wall extend its form. Reaching and snaring, wanting to catch its prey and kill. Castor spun around at once sensing the intent but only to be greeted with nothing. His view held their – the applicants’ – retreating backs: Not a hint of normalcy out of place. The intensity of it dissipated. Yet, still its faint traces linger in the air.

“My, my… What a naughty child,” Castor said in amusement, “going through all that trouble to provoke me.”

The twilight bell rang. And Castor resumed his gait.

He went suavely through the halls towards the courtyard, passing the fountain then before finally reaching the gardens. There he found Labrador squatting over the bushes of budding flowers, tending to them as he would expect the petite bishop to. There was no need for an exchange of pleasantries as Castor went closer. Frau was nowhere to be seen yet. But once did, he arrive minutes later.

“What’s up, four-eyes?” Frau unceremoniously greeted. He advances towards the fountain’s edge and sat. All too casual about the current situation he was. “I’ve dealt with the damned brat already. What else is there to it?”

“I would be careful at what I’ll say to Teito-kun if I were you, Frau.” Castor fixed his glasses, taking in said man’s evident flinch with indifference. “But enough about that – trouble is brewing. It appears there are intruders within church’s grounds.”

Castor paused and silence ensued. The update was enough to earn grim faces from both bishops.

“I don’t know for sure how many are there unfortunately, but that child… For him to have broken into the church and blindly challenged me, he’s quite confident in his powers. His desire to kill was certainly strong.”

“You,” Labrador, whose lavender eyes were cast down at a budding flower gingerly cupped in one hand, remarked, “could never tell a good seed from a bad seed until it blossoms.” He snips its stem and stood. The flowers were getting agitated; even their sprout sense the bad vibes of the situation itself. It did not help their growth nor will there be peace. Labrador did not like how this will bode.

“Right.” Castor nods his head in concur. “We cannot send everyone who’s come to be a priest. There is nothing we could do…”

There was a scoff from Frau. “Let him flounder about. I’ll kill him eventually.”

Labrador stared off at a distance. Lost in his thoughts. He could sense his floral friends watched in discreetly, laying in wait with silent anticipation. Soon that boy will come. The boy the flowers deeply care for as they do with him.

The lavender haired frown, his furrowed brows broke the usual benign complexion. Labrador was unsure whether he could help with their request. He know not when “too late” really is. He knew not of the boy either. It would be best if he intend to seek help. That would be easier to guide. But if the boy chose to refuse help, could his power alone save him from being a lost one?

It all comes down to his decision in the end frankly. The boy would be the one to choose the path he shall take; he would be the one who will seal his own fate.

“So, relax!” A hand grabbed Labrador’s shoulder. “I’ll protect everyone.”

A smile graced Labrador’s lips at Frau’s assurance. Trust Frau to stay true to his words, and he will.

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