Fubuki paused as he received a brain message… a part of him wondered if someone had found Karen since his attack at Arahabaki. Fubuki hadn’t been able to accept that Karen was just gone.
“Wataru.” Fubuki answered.
“We have some… information. About Karen.” Wataru began. He sounded nervous. He supposed it was no secret to anyone in the OSF that the two had been close, and Luka and Arashi had likely let some things slip.
“Has someone been able to locate him?”
“It’s a little bit more complicated then that.” Haruka said. “Kasane and Yuito were closing some entanglements to shut down the Kunad Gate and they think Karen went back 2000 years old.”
“Karen traveled back 2000 years ago?”
“There’s more. We’re not sure, but… Karen may have killed Yakumo Sumeragi and taken his place. That’s what Yuito and Kasane saw at least. Things are still a little unclear.” Wataru finished.
Fubuki didn’t want to believe what he was hearing. This couldn’t be right… Karen didn’t kill in cold blood, he was kinder then most people realized… but then… Seto had been their friend, and in return Seto had been killed on a highway after Karen turned the Seiran garrison against him. Fubuki still felt sick whenever he thought of what happened… what Karen had done behind his back. How Seto’s body had been returned covered in his own blood. That wasn’t a Karen that Fubuki knew either, to turn on people like that.
Fubuki wanted the ground to open him up and swallow him whole.
“Do you know why he might have taken over Yakumo Sumeragi’s life? Or even… where he’d go next? There’s still no trace on him…” Wataru asked.
“Yeah it’s like he just disappeared!”
“No… I can’t say that I do. I can look into this and get back to you.”
“Yeah that would be a great help! Also could you ask Chief Kaito if we could look at the tomb? Just to confirm any suspicions.” Haruka replied.
“He’s not answering Yuito, he thinks he’s been blocked after his transmission. But you might be able to convince him.”
“It might take some time to get though but I’ll see what I can do.” Fubuki ended the transmission and tried not to fall into the streets where prying eyes might notice. This couldn’t be happening.
The distance between Karen had been growing for the past year, Fubuki could recognize that Karen had been drifting from him. He’d confided in Arashi as much. Even knowing that Karen’s methods were no longer matching up to his, his uprising had still come as a surprise. Fubuki had to swallow once more that he didn’t know his old friend anymore… nothing about this made any sense to him. Karen had never shown any interest in replacing Yakumo before; and even if he had - everything had carried out the same. The government had turned out the same, something Karen had devoted his whole life to changing.
Fubuki wondered if someone else might be pulling the strings… a rogue personality rewrite maybe? Karen had spent so much of his life being exploited by those in power around him but he quickly dismissed this thoughts as idle hopefulness. No… everything was Karen’s doing he just didn’t know why. This wasn’t the same Karen he’d grown up with. There had to be something that Fubuki was missing that would explain what Karen had planned.
Fubuki walked into Karen’s Seiran apartment… a place that still made him feel sad. The very evidence that while Fubuki and Karen had been living in Suoh, working together to unravel the corruption and conspiracy that plagued though their government Karen had been making plans of his own to leave Fubuki behind to clean up the mess.
Fubuki still didn’t agree with Karen’s methods of bringing down New Himuka, the Others in the city… now that was going too far.
But now Karen’s plans seemed like a mess. It started a year ago when they uncovered Suoh learning how to metamorphosis humans into Others… they had both handled that badly. Fubuki remembers being alone in the bathroom, throwing up for hours until his stomach hurt and throat was fire. Karen had put holes in their walls, removed a door from the hinges and disappeared for two days - he never did tell Fubuki were he’d gone. Now Fubuki was left wondering if Karen was with Seiran those two days, had he really been planning this for that long?
The thought made him want to be sick again.
The living room was bare, just a single couch and a coffee table, no TV that could be displayed and the table held one glass of water. It seemed empty and cold, but he supposed that was Karen. Fubuki sat down on the couch and looked though the data Karen had been scrolling though… a detailed report on Seto’s platoon, Nagi’s service record, haste copies of Suoh’s research on metamorphosis, and reports on Seiran’s lack of progress on reversing metamorphosis. It was clear that the metamorphosis was the breaking point for Karen, and seeing what happened to Alice he could understand why. Fubuki had been the one to approach his family with a scheme, hoping to reverse what had happened and bring Alice back to him. It was his motivation from trying to bring down the corruption from within and trying to rebuild what as lost. But Fubuki knew this already; none of this explained why Yuito and Kasane would have seen Karen kill Yakumo Sumeragi and take over his identity.
Fubuki sighed and left the data alone. He made his way into the empty kitchen, one that was bare accept for a few ramen takeout boxes in the trash. Fubuki paused at the fridge, on it where two visions, both photos. The first was a simple time with Alice sitting on the pier at Seiran enjoying an ice cream with Fubuki and Karen standing next to her. Karen might be the only person to be scowling while eating an ice cream Fubuki thought highly amused. In Alice’s arms she was holding a large plush dragon that Karen had betted Fubuki couldn’t win. Fubuki wondered if Luka had taken that photo. The second was one of Fubuki’s favourites, he always kept his own copy close. It was shortly after Alice had joined them in the OSF, she was smiling brightly, her eyes were shining, pressing a kiss to Fubuki’s cheek and holding onto Karen’s hand, their fingers entwined. It was a rare time of Karen having a soft expression, his free arm had gone around and was on Fubuki’s shoulders as the sky filled with stars.
Fubuki wished he could go back to that time.
This was where Yakumo was lost on Fubuki… if he had been asked before where would Karen time travel too Fubuki could have answered. Because he knew Karen’s answers would have been the same as his… to just see Alice as a human one last time. Fubuki could give anything in the world to just hold Alice in his arms one last time, to see her smile, to feel her warmth, just one more moment was all he ever wanted.
He could also see Karen maybe doing more to protect Luka from the experiments they endured as a child… Luka didn’t know but Fubuki had seen the moments of doubt where Karen questioned if their lives really had improved with their gifted powers. For Karen at least it had just been another way for him to have been controlled. His power had always been his double-edged sword.
But not Yakumo. Never Yakumo… Karen barely cared for the history documentaries that Fubuki would watch. If he travel why would he not spend one more moment with Alice?
Fubuki stood outside their commander’s door, leaning against it as the cool breeze hit his face. Of course Karen had managed to find himself in trouble again - he was always finding himself in trouble. Fubuki hadn’t seen it, he’d been placed two different people on the platoon which left him worried… a team leader had given an order, Karen didn’t like it and went against orders and did his own thing.
He had been right it seemed, they did fare better with Karen’s idea… not that that mattered. Karen’s intelligent disobedience never went down well.
Karen stormed out of the office, looking surprised to see Fubuki still waiting. Fubuki would always still be waiting.
“Anyone would think you’d want to move in with our Commander given many write ups you’ve gotten. You’re close to reaching a new milestone.” Fubuki teased as they walked down the hall.
“Shut up you idiot.”
“It wouldn’t hurt you to go with the flow once in a while.”
“Why? I have no intention in letting idiots make decisions.” Karen replied coldly. Fubuki shook his head.
“HEY! There you both are!” Alice run over, her bright purple eyes shining and wrapping an arm around Karen’s and an arm around Fubuki’s. Karen wasn’t one for much public displays of affection, or even private displays of affection but even he couldn’t resist indulging Alice from time to time.
“I’ve been looking for you both.”
“Karen got into trouble again. I’m sure his file is twice the size of mine at this point.” Fubuki replied with a laugh.
“Enough with your creepy laugh.”
“It’s that dragon’s blood Karen. It makes you too hot headed.”
Karen scoffed at that. Something made Karen hot heated and hot blooded Fubuki mused, maybe Alice was on to something when she compared him too a dragon.
“Oh… thank you for saving me, again. It seems like you’re always doing that.” Alice looked up at Karen with a smile.
“You left out that part.” Fubuki pointed out.
“It’s nothing. If she wasn’t such an idiot, she’d know to be more careful.” Karen dismissed them both.
“You don’t have to be such a tough guy all the time you know.”
Karen glared at Fubuki then.
“Hey now of that!” Alice exclaimed and Fubuki watched as Karen’s face softened. He really had made himself a small piece of happiness with the two of them.
“I’m just glad you’re both okay. It seems nobody but the Others got hurt.” Fubuki added.
“Yes, it’s like having my own guardian dragon. Come on! Let’s go home!” Alice agreed.
The small apartment they had started sharing was filled with food coming from the kitchen. Karen did most of the cooking, and today seemed no different. Karen stood at the counter, barely replying other then a few grunts of indication that he was listening as he made some pork cutlet bowls. Fubuki sat on the stool, with both arms around Alice as her own stool sat between Fubuki’s legs and resting against his chest, holding a soft pink plush dragon that Fubuki had won her. Fubuki liked the feel of Alice in his arms.
“Well Karen while you were getting in trouble, again, it seems Luka was doing well. We saw him in training - he’s top of his class” Alice exclaimed excitedly.
“He’s my brother… he wouldn’t be weak. That’s just his strength showing - if it’s even enough.” Karen said, his first sentence of the evening.
“It is true; that is must be a family trait. You both even sure your obsession with strength.” Fubuki replied. That earned him a scoff from Karen.
“They both do seem very similar sometimes! They even look similar.”
“Should we do something? To celebrate how well Luka is doing?” Fubuki offered. Unlike his brother, Luka hadn’t really made any friends or knew how to draw people close. He doubted anyone else would do anything seeing as Luka mostly chose to be alone or follow the three of them around.
“There’s no need.” Karen said.
“Are you sure? It is a big deal.” Alice added.
“I’ll just buy him a drink instead.”
“If you think that’s best.” Fubuki replied. Sometimes the Travers brothers were more similar they both realized… or admitted. Maybe all Luka needed was to sit down with his brother for something to drink in a cafe to know that Karen was proud of him even if Karen would never use those words.
Fubuki brushed any fond memories aside, wishing to go back to that simple time where it was the three of them was pointless. For now he just had to attempt to piece toegther Karen’s thoughts and work out what happened.
When Karen had first brought Fubuki here after his rescue in the old OSF hospital, the idea that Karen had gotten the place had hurt him then. There was a wall between them, a wall that seemed to be getting higher and higher until Fubuki wasn’t sure he could ever reach his friend again. Fubuki had been hopeful after Seiran that maybe him and Karen could get back to each other, even with their different viewpoints drifting them apart. The research into turning people into Others had been the last straw, the thought made him sick to his stomach too and sometimes Fubuki was sure that him and Karen had gotten in over their heads but it was Suoh that wanted to destroy the Extinction Belt. Without that there would be no Others anyway, Fubuki was sure of it.
If he had known that it would cost him Karen… he would have followed him to Seiran in a heartbeat.
Fubuki brushed open the door leading to the small bedroom. It held a small double that didn’t look like it had been slept in for a few days, an wardrobe in the corner and a desk. It was plain and simple, with just an abandoned cup, an vision of three of them, this time had the fireworks festival. Alice had always loved them. She was smiling brightly, with a large cotton candy. Fubuki had his arm around her waist and was kissing her cheek - he was never a fan of crowds but he always indulged her when it came to the festival. Karen was too his side, rolling his eyes at Alice’s insistence that they take a photo together but Fubuki was sure he could see a hint of a smile.
There was another vision, one of Karen and Luka. Karen even looked happy to be in the photo - Alice had been the one to believe they needed at least one photo together. Karen had his hand on Luka’s shoulder, they had once looked so similar with their matching eyes and matching hair before Karen’s green slowly faded.
The two visions had surprised Fubuki, Karen wasn’t a very sentimental person and usually showed his affections in his own way. From the outside it always looked like Karen was cold and cared for no one, but once you got in you could see Karen loved fiercely. If Karen was keeping these around Fubuki knew he was feeling lonely since leaving him and Luka behind in Suoh.
Fubuki picked up the two key fobs on the desk, the small round discs that would grant Karen access to his apartment in Seiran and the other more worn and older, the access to the place they shared in Suoh. Fubuki rubbed his thumb over the fob. They were both held together by a simple green dragon keychain. Fubuki remembered this keychain… Alice had given it to Karen years ago.
“Alice… Alice please help me. I’m losing him. I just don’t know what to do anymore, or if I’m even doing the right thing myself.” Fubuki closed his eyes, trying to think what Alice would say if she was here with him.
“There’s a wall between us… I know he’s keeping something from me. Karen has always kept so many walls around him, he takes on everything by himself… I want to save him. I don’t know where he is right now. Karen might have time traveled into the past, they think he killed Yakumo Sumeragi and took over his life. Karen’s not a killer, not one in cold blood, and I don’t understand what he’d want with Yakumo. I don’t understand any of this. Please help me Alice, please help me save him.”
Fubuki hadn’t realized he’d been holding onto the keychain tight enough that it was digging into his palm.
Fubuki sat down on Karen’s bed, questioning everything that had led him to the point. He’d never felt more alone then in this moment. Not even talking to Alice had helped… though he wondered about going to the research facility and seeing if he could talk to her there. Even if only for a few precious moments.
Fubuki brushed a tear from his face that he didn’t know he’d shed.
Alice’s laughter filled the room as her fingers traced the shapes on Fubuki’s chest, going over each panel. It was rare moments like this that Fubuki was sure Arashi would be proud of him… it was gone eleven in the morning and here he was still in bed with his arm loosing around Alice’s waist feeling content. He was glad they had the day off from the OSF.
Perhaps this was what heaven was.
Fubuki leaned up and caught Alice’s lips in a kiss.
“Our anniversary is soon.”
“It is! Isn’t it exciting?” Alice asked, her eyes already shining. Fubuki felt another wave if love wash over him.
“I don’t think I could ever love another person more.”
“I love you too.”
Fubuki pulled her closer then, the soft jersey of the long t-shirt she was in brushing against his skin as he kissed her and held her to him. Fubuki loved the soft private moments alone where all he wanted to do was touch and hold Alice. In every sense she was his whole world.
Though part of his world lived in someone else, though he wasn’t sure what those feelings might be yet.
“Can I talk to you about something? I don’t want to upset you…” Fubuki started.
“Is something wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong… and I know our anniversary is our day but… Karen is also very special to me. And I know you feel the same way about him. I’d like to get Karen something for our anniversary. Just a token to let him know that he’s very special to me too.” Fubuki explained.
“We should make Karen feel included! I’ll get him something too and we can take him on the picnic with us… I’m sure he’ll say it’s not his style but it would be nice if Karen came.”
Fubuki looked at Alice and wondered how he got so lucky to find someone who understood exactly how he was feeling. Everything about Alice was amazing.
“So there you two are. You’re so lazy.” Karen sneered, standing in the doorway after brushing open the door.
“You didn’t knock.” Alice teased. Karen scoffed in response.
“I’m taking some advice from Arashi. We have the day off, might as well enjoy it.”
“She might actually be proud of you for once.” Karen replied.
“Come join us! Please!” Alice asked.
“Why not? There’s enough room.” Fubuki reasoned.
“Please Karen… it’s never the same without you.”
“Fine.” Karen agreed, likely to please Alice… she was hard to resist. Karen took off his heavy jacket and tossed it over the pastel blue chair in the corner, and dumping his keys out on the bedside table and laid down to Fubuki’s side. Fubuki had never seen anyone look so stiff and uncomfortable laying down and wondered if they had pushed too hard in getting him to join them.
“You’re using the keychain!” Alice, referring to the green dragon that she had given Karen for his birthday.
“You know you remind me of a dragon. I think it’s a good fit for you.” Alice continued.
“It is?” Karen asked, unconvinced.
“Dragons… they’re strong and protective, filled with courage… and very independent.” Alice explained.
“That is a fitting description of you.” Fubuki laughed.
“Shut it with your creepy laugh.”
“I can’t see dragons taking well to authority either.”
“The dragon’s blood, keeps him too hot-headed to listen.”
“I don’t see it.” Karen brushed the whole thing side.
“That’s because you’re always so stubborn Karen.” Alice pointed out.
Fubuki walked down the streets, trying to clear his head. He’d hoped speaking to Alice would help clear some things up… perhaps Karen had said something to her. Or at least they could piece together the information they had and try to find Karen.
Fubuki couldn’t just give up on Karen… even if it seemed he was descending into insanity. He was out there somewhere, even if it meant he was living as Yakumo Sumeragi under Suoh. If Karen had killed Yakumo there had to be a reason. Fubuki just couldn’t work out any connection in Karen’s plans to why he’d want to travel back to Yakumo’s time.
Fubuki made his way though the museum ruins, throwing quick blasts of ice towards the Others had had long claimed this place as their own. Fubuki wondered how some of his research time managed to get though these maze so easily? An cushion pound came up to Fubuki’s left and he tossed two bou shurikens, hitting directly at it’s front before unleashing an ice blast continuing on his way, stopping just to retrieve his bou shurikens. Karen had always found his use of a weapon he had to throw stupid, not that Karen running in weaponless was any better in Fubuki’s opinion.
Fubuki used his key card and made his way though the laboratory and down into the hallway. Strange Fubuki thought, it was too quiet… where were all the Others?
“Major General Fubuki? I’m surprised to see you here… I thought with the human Others gone that we’d be shutting down.” Emilia, one of the research assistants said. She looked surprised to see him, like she hadn’t been excepting anyone to come down.
“Where have the human Others gone?” Fubuki asked. Alice… where had Alice gone?
“I… Sir didn’t you take them away? A few days ago…” Emilia looked confused. Fubuki was confused. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
“I apologize Emilia. I recently have been having some memory problems, I fought an Booger Sabbat and it’s given me a level of confusion. Would you mind telling me what I did?” Fubuki lied smoothly.
“Oh of course! There was some concerns about Togetsu bringing an army down here. So you and another OSF agent, with black hair… she was wearing a jacket and some shorts. I think you called her Kodama? Yes, you both believed for Suoh that it was best that you’d take the Others… it was… it was a surprising request. I was sad to see some of them go… Major General I… none of them survived the attack. I’m sorry, I’m sure you couldn’t have known.”
Fubuki’s head was reeling. He thought he was going to be sick. After going against Kaito and trying to rescue Luka and the others it seemed he lost that little bit of control he had over the twins… Yuta and Kodama had used his face to come here and take the Others… they’d taken Alice.
Had Alice died thinking Fubuki had betrayed her?
He needed Karen… Fubuki needed Karen but Karen was also gone.
“Yes thank you Emilia, I remember now. It seems the confusion has cleared up. I meant to collect something from the office.”
“Of course… I’ll leave you too it.” Emilia left him with a smile. Fubuki didn’t think his knees could withstand it but he managed to make his way to the small office Karen and him had set up to monitor the research that went on here. Fubuki collapsed down in his chair and never could stop him from shaking all over.
He devoted so much of his life to trying to save Alice, and now she was gone. Fubuki thought he might be losing his thin hold on sanity. Everything was slowly becoming too much.
He’d lost Alice. He was losing Karen.
Fubuki was sure Karen knew. The last time he’d seen him, Karen had received a message and left him in Seiran telling Fubuki he’d take care of it. He said Fubuki needed the rest. Karen never came back. Karen knew… he must have known Alice had been taken out and died. Fubuki felt a sense of betrayal of Karen not telling him… how could he have been so cruel not to tell him that Alice had died? That he was too late in his research to reverse metamorphasis?
Fubuki looked at the vision on his desk, the one of Alice smiling with a large dragon Fubuki had won at the fair. Fubuki had wanted to name the dragon Karen… much to Luka’s amusement. Alice had loved that plush dragon.
Fubuki was never going to see Alice smile again.
Fubuki pushed his way back though the museum ruins, freezing some rummies to the point with little care as he made his way back to the streets. He had been hoping for answers but instead he was left with more questions. No… maybe he did have his answers.
Karen must have reached Alice too late, that had changed everything. Karen had used Kasane’s powers, he looked for Yuito - Fubuki had told him where Yuito would be heading when they hadn’t come to Seiran. Fubuki would feel guilty about that another time. Reversing metamorphasis wasn’t enough now, he’d need to save Alice. Did Karen mean to go back to that date? Yakumo was still an unknown… but Fubuki was sure it wasn’t Yakumo Karen was after. It needed to be Arahabaki as Karen tried to rewrite the timeline.
Oh Karen what have you gotten yourself into Fubuki thought.
Fubuki started a brain message with Chief Kaito.
“Can I have access to go inside Sumeragi Tomb with Yuito platoon? I believe Major General Karen may be buried down there… there’s too much to explain on such short notice.”
“Are you insane Spring? We might have overlooked your treason dealing with Togetsu but you are far from a position to make demands.”
Fubuki didn’t think it would be easy.
“Yuito and Kasane have a suspicion that Karen might be down there, I have reason to believe they may be right. It would be beneficial to confirm if it is Karen, you may even be right.” Fubuki reasoned.
“Very well. I’ll turn off the cameras and let you all parade around down there.”
Fubuki was surprised to read that Kaito had agreed so easily, though since he was set to take the fall for his father’s many crimes even Yuito’s broadcast it would appear that helping them would benefit him too. Or perhaps he needed to know he hadn’t risked everything just for it to be Karen down there all this time. Now Fubuki just had to connect to Wataru and Haraka and have everyone meet him at the tombs.