Allen has never been afraid of his own mind, but if this place is a product of his subconscious, he might have to reconsider.
He finds himself once again seated on a stone throne, bound head to foot. The Fourteenth Noah is leering down at him as he stands against a plane of destruction: mangled trees claw at the sky like hands, perhaps trying to escape the malignant black shadows that crawl along the ground, shifting and twisting like the wind. Snow falls from the black sky—perhaps trying to escape the darkness there—only to promptly disappear before it can pile up, the shadows swallowing everything.
But the most unnerving aspect of this place is the silence. There’s no wind, no wildlife, nothing but the silently churning shadows and the eerily smiling Noah.
It’s all very appropriate.
Allen tugs desperately at the bindings around his wrists and ankles, but they don’t budge—they never do. The chain around his neck cuts into his throat as he swallows.
“How many times have you been here now, Allen? Will you keep trying that every time?” the creature asks, sounding amused.
“I’ve forced you down more than once,” Allen snarls, giving the chain binding his Innocence arm another tug. He’d passed out for only a moment, exhaustion finally getting the best of him. He’s been on the run for several weeks now, but the Order has eyes and ears everywhere. If he were anyone other than Cross Marian’s apprentice, he probably wouldn’t have made it this long without being captured or killed. As it is he can’t even take a nap anymore without being captured by an enemy—a different, altogether more sinister one.
“Yes, it’s all very admirable,” the Fourteenth drawls. “But you seem to have gotten a bit cocky. I’ve just been having some fun with you up to this point; I could end your resistance any time I want.”
The chain around Allen’s neck tightens. He chokes.
“Playtime’s over now,” the creature says, and this time he’s not smiling. “We’re running out of time.” The shadows seem to notice the Noah’s change in demeanor; their movements become just a bit more frantic, jagged.
“If you could have overpowered me from the start, why didn’t you?” Allen gasps. It couldn’t just be for sport. Even that would grow mundane after so many months. The Fourteenth responds with a look and it communicates several things at once: isn’t it obvious? Haven’t you noticed? Are you really this slow?
“I don’t have to be a parasite, you know,” the Noah says softly, leaning forward and reaching out a hand. “But I’m more than happy to do that, if it’s what you insist on.” His fingers brush the chain binding Allen’s neck as he looks Allen in the eye. “Will you hear me out?”
Allen holds his gaze, mostly because it’s less unsettling than staring at the shadows slithering across the ground. He nods, not sure he can get words out. He’s hardly managing to breathe.
The Noah pulls back, looking satisfied, and the chain loosens slightly. Allen sucks in a breath, but the stagnant air provides little relief.
“You’ve been groomed to believe whatever lies the Black Order is feeding its Exorcists these days. I’m sure they told you the Innocence you carry is sacred, that you’re a true Apostle of God chosen to carry out His work. Is that right?” The Noah’s voice is full of derision and Allen is reminded of Road’s words, clear and bright as she licked the blood from her thumb. You are the chosen ones of a false God. We are the true Apostles.
“Did you really believe everything would be so black and white? This world is about balance. Dark Matter, Innocence; they’re two sides of the same coin. The Millennium Earl has lost sight of this. His crusade to destroy the Innocence is a mistake, a distortion of our original purpose. A mistake, just like the Black Order’s efforts to eliminate the Noah clan. It’s all a mistake.” The shadows twist around him as he speaks, their movements becoming more and more frantic. “It must be reset, begun again by someone who understands that balance.
“I’m going to end this war, Allen Walker. The question is whether or not you will be helping.”
Allen closes his eyes to shut out the eerily shifting landscape and the waiting Noah, but his mind supplies him with a much more disturbing litany of images. He remembers the soulless pits of Suman’s eyes, so at odds with the voice that had screamed its desire to live; the blank expression on Lavi’s formerly expressive face as he grappled with his own heart; the empty spot at the table where Tup normally sat; the shimmer of Matel’s gate as it shattered, swallowing Kanda and Alma with it; the terror on Tokusa’s normally smug face and his insistence that they all want to save this world; Komui grabbing his arm as Crow hauled him to his prison cell, whispering urgent reassurances before the door slammed shut between them; watching Link, looking young and vulnerable for the first time, as his fist closed through the empty air where Tevak had stood; Road’s attempts to bolster him and her peaceful smile as she faded away; Lenalee’s tears, and her trembling when he drew her to his chest.
And he remembers the last words his Master spoke to him before his death. There’s another side to this war.
A world of balance; Innocence and Dark Matter. You hold within you two such monsters.
Maybe it’s finally time to start carving out that new path.
“So how do you suggest we do that?” Allen asks finally, voice ragged. All at once the pressure around his neck disappears as the chain falls with a clatter. He looks up, shocked.
Neah Walker is smiling, and for the first time it seems genuine.
Allen doesn’t recoil from the extended hand this time.