Chapter 1: On Your Lips is a Venomous Poison
“Hyuuga, trade with me,”
“I can’t let you do that, Aya-tan!” If they did that, Ayanami would get horribly hurt by this traitor. That was something the Major could not allow. He intended to stay in control till the bitter end. No doubt, Katsuragi would come after the Blackhawk leader. So it was up to him, he had to do what he could to make it easier for Aya. Hyuuga had a hunch that there were many more battles ahead for his Aya-tan. And he would do what he could where he could. Even if this was the last thing he would ever do.
What he didn’t expect was Ayanami to deny his request for control and continue to force himself to the front, despite the other’s wishes.
Ayanami always respected the wishes of those whose souls he had in his hands. If they declined his desire he respected that even if it came at a terrible cost.
It was unusual and it threw Hyuuga off for a long few moments as he pondered this turn of events. He was hurt, only in the sense that he wasn’t allowed to protect Ayanami. It wasn’t the fact that the commander had forced himself in control or anything like that. He understood that Ayanami couldn’t afford to lose him. Now with them already being down one with this traitor and all…
He just wanted to protect Ayanami… but it would not be during this battle.
Or any future ones, so it seemed.
Katsuragi had damaged Aya terribly, as Hyuuga had suspected should the commander continue to try and protect him. But it was because of this sacrifice that he was still standing here, this the Major was certain of. He'd been so close to using that seed he was given and that was likely to have taken his life, the plan he had was so dangerous. Perhaps Ayanami knew that he had something suicidal up his sleeve...
But because of this the Ayanami could not continue on and stop events from taking place. The boy, Teito, and all those that they captured had managed to escape and the fort was in a great deal of chaos.
“At least the traitor managed to die,” Kuroyuri reasoned though it was a front to hide how she really felt. Katsuragi had been part of their team long before she arrived. He’d always been there for them, making tea and helping her cook while Haruse was gone. To lose him was a hit to their ranks and their moral.
They’d gained nothing from all of this. Ayanami was hurt and they had lost a hawk in a most terrible way. Worse still, there would be plenty of fingers pointing towards them for the entire mess, which wouldn't be too far off the mark, for once. The boy and the Ghosts were all under the Blackhawk's jurisdiction and they'd escaped and made a great mess of everything. On the plus side the amount of fingers wouldn't be too great in numbers. Most of the ones that detested their group the most were dead and gone. Unfortunately, a powerful one still remained. A former alley and Ayanami’s teacher, Miroku. He would seek to get rid of them all.
“Aya-tan… you should go regenerate, at least for a little while. We can keep watch, if that’s what you’re worried about.” Hyuuga advised, his shielded gaze looking over the pale commander.
“I’m fine. It’s much to risky even with you all watching over me. I am fine, like this. It will heal in its own time.”
“If you’re injured how do we make a move and recapture what we’ve lost? Teito-kun and all those bishops, how do we get them now?” Hyuuga countered. "Don't you want to recapture Teito-kun as soon as possible?"
The pen in the other’s hand paused momentarily, as if he had to truly think about that answer. Surely he had some kind of plan. And as he had said, wasn’t the sooner they went out the better? That would make higher ups happy if they at least recaptured Teito, or so the Major felt.
“It will all be dealt with, in time.”
In time… Hyuuga placed his hand on his hips and looked over the scattered items upon the desk of the other. It was a bit more cluttered than usual. Which was an odd sight on it’s own. And through the slight mess shielded eyes spotted an interesting gleam. Fancy letters, in golden ink, scrawling out what could only be the word Invitation. Much of the invitation was hidden by scattered paperwork but what was clear was the Barsburg seal was on it. Curious. Was Barsburg having another event so soon after the disaster of the last one? He wasn’t aware of something like that happening.
“Is there another ball happening?” he asked, reaching for the envelope to see what it was all about, only to have the commander’s gloved hand slam down upon the invitation, stopping all forward movement on Hyuuga’s part.
“It’s trivial.” Ayanami answered, leaving his hand there.
The Major frowned but didn’t question further, simply leaving the matter alone for fear of continuing to ignite Ayanami's wrath. He also didn't wish to agitate the man further when he wasn't at his best and trying to recover. To be quite honest, everything had become unpleasant and confusing since all that turmoil and fighting had taken place with Katsuragi. Was it because they lost their former friend? This couldn’t possibly go down the same terrible spiral that had happened when Yukikaze was lost. No… Katsuragi was dear, of course he was, but he was still someone that was always held at arms length. Trusted but not a trust that was dear to the heart. So the loss, while terrible, would not cause months, or years, of emotional torment.
Hyuuga would simply leave it be for now. Which would in turn be a mistake, he'd realize later.
The letter was a peculiar thing that much was certain. It was handed to Ayanami from Miroku himself.
“I know you’re not big on celebrations but it would be prudent to come to this one. You’re being honored there so if you could take your reward that would look good, on all of us.”
Gloved fingers took the envelope and violets gazed upon the print and decoration, quite intently, before turning to look upon the man that had tutored him so long ago. “Honoring me?” he repeated. “For what, exactly?”
“For all your hard work. Countless wars and battles have been won because of you.”
Red flags of all different shades appeared in his mind as his every instinct told him that this was a trap. If he was to be rewarded for what he’d done in the past they’d have done it sooner not right after serious blunders that were being blamed on him and his team. Never once had this military honored him for anything aside from the occasional and subtle promotion which was given to him in passing with no celebration.
This suited the commander just fine. He had lived for so long for the sake of Barsburg. The flair and rewards didn’t matter to him, they never did nor would they ever.
But why now? Why celebrate him now?
Because… because it was a trap.
Miroku was no fool, he knew very well that Oak’s death had been no accident. And he knew who was behind it. And he knew should the opportunity call for it he’d be the next to go.
This was the perfect opportunity to drop the Blackhawk Commander especially now that all their enemies were at bay and there was nothing to fear.
The reality of this situation didn’t shock him or upset him and that surprised him just a bit. Ayanami felt nothing towards this revelation. If he showed up to this event they were going to kill him. And if he didn’t… they’d find a way to kill him in a different way. And maybe it wouldn’t be as simple as just being killed. They’d find a reason to arrest him and drag his name and accomplishments through the mud and muck. Publicly execute him even...
But that wasn’t what he was worried about. His own life and his accomplishments here in Barsburg were trivial in comparison to the life of his team. What would happen to them? Would the military go after them? Would they see revenge on an attack on his own life? They would and he knew they would. Kuroyuri and Hyuuga both would do anything to avenge him. Haruse and Konetsu would follow suit, if asked. The twins… They were all strong and only in the military because they had no where else to go or were forced to.
He could send them all away with a chance for a different life and no one would be devastated by it, save for Konetsu, who did join the military because he wanted to and sought to be a Blackhawk.
But he would not allow any of them to stay here and throw their lives away, not for him.
Strange, he realized… He was already committed to dying. Well, of course he was. He had to be with Verloren swirling inside him, ready to take away this life at any given moment. If things had gone according to plan with the boy and those ghosts he’d already be gone. And with Verloren injured and internally recuperating from those events there wasn’t a very good chance he’d survive whatever Miroku had planned for him. With Miroku familiar with him and the subject of Verloren the man would know exactly how to do him in.
He’d resigned himself to this fate long ago. He was living on borrowed time anyway, as his life should have ended many many years ago when he was nothing more than a child. Death had already claimed this body… it lived now only because of the whims of a God. But this God’s desires had almost cost him the lives of the only things left in this world that he’d consider precious. His team.
The very last thing he could do for them all was to set them free. None of them would go though. Not without a fight. Their loyalty to him was so very strong. And it wasn’t just to Verloren, it was to him. Ayanami…
If Katsuragi was alive, and the person he had thought him to be, then this would be easy. Katsuragi would have done this for him, with a frown and reluctance, but he would do it.
There was only one current option.
Konatsu was a good boy. One who’d joined the military because he wanted to. He’d wanted to be a Blackhawk specifically but held no qualifications to join his ranks. But Hyuuga had seen something in the boy and requested him, which he’d allowed. Hyuuga had never fancied anyone but himself and he felt it healthy for the loyal man to attach himself to someone else. Konatsu had a spark of something more than an ordinary solider, even Ayanami could see that much. And once the boy had proven his loyalty Hyuuga had taken that to the extreme. The major was rather lazy while the blond was dutiful. It was thanks to Konatsu that any work was turned into him at all by the end of the day.
What separated the blond from the rest of his team was that his loyalty originated from Hyuuga and not to the commander. Konatsu was not bond to him, it was the one soul he could not take for the younger wasn’t a Warsfiel or aligned with the darkness. Konatsu would save Hyuuga’s life above all others. This the Chief was certain of.
So he went to that boy with a mission that only he could accomplish.
It was tricky and hard to put into words exactly what he wanted to say to the boy. For while he was fiercely loyal and would do anything to protect Hyuuga he also knew that protecting Ayanami was protecting Hyuuga too. Should the blond be aware that something was amiss, he’d tell Hyuuga. And should this plan go smoothly and Hyuuga ever became aware that Konatsu was aware that their lives were saved while he allowed the commander to die, that relationship would shatter and never recover.
The Blackhawks, once away from the military would only have each other. What they chose to do with that new life was their own choice. They could always return to the military, if they believed it to be safe… But in order for any of them to be truly alright they needed to stay together. Causing a rift, of any kind, would only end badly. That was not what he wished for his loyal soldiers.
“I have a job that only you can complete, Konatsu.”
The blond blanched at that statement in the empty office and stood up straighter, clutching files to his chest as he simply shook in happiness. Konatsu and he didn’t interact much, if at all. The boy was more useful to Hyuuga than to him but that didn’t mean he didn’t care for the other. He just couldn’t do what Kuroyuri and Haruse could. He never had missions specifically for the boy… until now. His final order.
“Y-Yes sir? What is it?”
“Something is amiss here in our home. And should it come to pass it will take us all. It will separate us and destroy us one by one. I cannot protect you all. The force that almost took Hyuuga will be nothing compared to what is approaching.”
The boy’s brow furrowed quite a bit, remembering very well what almost became of the Major. “I take it… fighting this force together isn’t an option?”
“Correct. And there are too many here that would throw away their lives foolishly. I can take care of this matter myself, but I need the others, all of them…” he paused for a moment rethinking those words. “All of them but the Oak boy to be far from this place. There is no shame in retreating from a battle that cannot be won.”
“Understood." the blond nodded dutifully. "And when will it be safe to return?”
“You will know.”
Konatsu frowned a bit, the wheels in his head quickly turning and trying to figure out these odd statements. “Is this the final… Verloren or are you– going to. I mean to say…” the boy’s face turned the faintest shade of pink as he fumbled about what he was trying to say without offending. “That is, is this goodbye?”
Clearly Konatsu meant goodbye as in, Verloren was going to make his move which obviously didn’t add up to the young Blackhawk who was well aware that the final pieces had escaped. Truthfully none of this made sense but he was trying not to argue or counter Ayanami who’d finally seen fit to give him something to do even if the mission was bittersweet.
“It is.” Ayanami answered. “My final orders are for you to take them all far from here. Eventually, you may stay in my villa in the seventh district, though not right away… and where you all go from there is your choice.”
“I see…” Konatsu looked towards the ground, his fingers digging into the paperwork he held onto tightly. “The others, if they knew… they’d do something and get hurt or worse. Hyuuga-san and Kuroyuri-kun… they’d all die for you. Your wishes and their wishes are always clashing. You’d die for them. They’d die for you. I always felt left out of it all. I’d do anything too! Of course! But this desire that they have just in their blood. You’re all connected. And it’s because I’m not that I can do this one last thing.” It still all didn’t add up to the younger but he’d take this order to heart. He bowed a bit before Ayanami. “I will do this. I’ll get them all on the ship and out of here. When do you need this done?”
“In three days time. You all must be gone from here.”
Konatsu shifted the work into one arm and offered the commander a salute. “Then it will be done, Ayanami-sama.”
This extravagant event really did seem to be just that and for a moment he almost allowed himself to be fooled that it really just was some gala. Just like the numerous balls and holiday gatherings, the lights and baubles were bright and the music was extravagent. All were in their best military uniforms and gowns. It was something he'd seen so many times before that it felt real and not something sinister.
“Ayanami-kun, you’re punctual as always. Miroku’s voice came from the stage and upon looking at the crowd all standing there, waiting, the thought that this was anything more than what he’d assumed it to be vanished. “Come up here.”
The sea of people parted right down the middle to allow him to make his way up there. It felt rehearsed. All of this was like a rope tightening around his neck. Sending them all away, his team, had been the right choice. For all he knew there would be assassins attempting to pick them off one by one from behind or while they slept.
The ballroom was silent and his footsteps on the marble floor seemed so loud. So out of place.
Death… it was so long overdue. And long had he desired it. It embraced him for so long but did not take him.
The long years without Yukikaze brought him close to that edge but did not fully push him off it. So close though… Had it not been for Hyuuga’s hand he’d have been lost long ago. This God raging in his head and his grief raging in his heart. It was a wonder he had still been able to function.
With Verloren down and unresponsive this was the perfect chance to try and fully fall off the precipice. No more hunting for shards of a shattered soul or hunting for the face of a pretty girl that only came from memories that were not his own.
This was a betrayal, and it stung like one but it was also a release. An escape. It’s why he didn’t fight it. All he desired was that his team lived and he’d seen to that.
All would be well.
There were no regrets.
“Let’s make a toast, Ayanami-kun.”
A glass of champagne was handed to him. It fizzled and bubbled as this liquid often did but it was clear, so very clear, that it was not what it seemed to be.
And it was actually amusing to him. Poison. The same toxin that had taken his life as a child. The same substance that forced him into coming into Barsburg to begin with. It would be what finished off this life. What had started to bring Verloren into this would would now seek to end it.
It all felt so fitting that it was impossible to be upset about any of this.
“To all of your hard work, Ayanami-kun, we toast to you.” Miroku lifted his glass to the commander and all in the room did the same, though it was dead silent. No one saying a word.
Sick and twisted but he followed suit, lifting his glass as well. “You honor me, Miroku-sama. It has been an honor to serve Barsburg. May she forever be protected from those that seek to do her harm.”
“Now she will be, Ayanami-kun, she will be.”
A hit at him but it was no matter. Pride was no longer an issue here and useless to a dead man. He simply followed suit and pressed the glass to his lips and allowed the liquid to pour down his throat. All of it. Every last drop. It’s flavor was off but that was to be expected. And the effect was immediate. Fast and to the point. Something advanced, possibly made especially for him, this he had no doubt. Miroku knew Verloren was weak and something fast acting could be just enough to kill him. This was so well thought out. So planned... They had wanted him dead for so long. And now Miroku finally got what he wanted. What would he do now? Would he hunt for the boy? Would they seek to destroy other lands and nations? Now that Barsburg was unchallenged what would Miroku try and do?
Questions that would never be answered. Just the simple musings of a dying man.
Everything was fading into darkness. He could feel Verloren reacting to this in an attempt to save his vessel and through all the haze and pain he could have sworn he heard someone call out his nickname.
Though he knew that was impossible. That person should be long gone from here.
Chapter 2: I Will Follow You Into the Dark
"Hurry now. We were supposed to be gone hours ago." Konatsu ran a hand through his hair, feeling incredibly anxious and stressed out by this whole task that was given to him. Ayanami had wanted them long gone from here because it was dangerous to linger. He'd made that very clear during their last conversation. And every hawk was giving him an agonizingly hard time. They continued to ask a billion questions, which was only natural but... What made everything even worse was that Hyuuga had been oddly silent about all of this. He simply stood, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and shielded eyes boring into the back of his head. If anyone knew something wasn't quite right it was him.
His silence said more than his babbling to be quiet honest.
Kuroyuri and Haruse appeared again for what felt like the third time bringing even more boxes before promptly leaving again to what he had to assume was gather even more. She was being more difficult than he expected about all of this. Perhaps his major mistake was making them pack most of their things. It created a lot of red flags but he knew he couldn't bare to trick them all into leaving and being denied all their precious items. After all, they'd already be without their most precious person. When they learned that Ayanami was gone they'd want some of the gifts he'd given them through their years together. Some of the first things he'd done was pack up all of the presents he'd received throughout the years on this team. And there were so very many...
Being on the Blackhawks was nothing like he'd ever imagined. He'd been told they were ruthless killers for the front line, near monsters. And that wasn't completely untrue. They were ruthless on the battlefield and the first ones in to fight and they often went in to clean up the mess the regular military had made but when there wasn't war or battles raging on it was a lot of paperwork and honestly, it was very much like a family. Katsuragi, when he was still one of them, brought tea and snacks every day on the hour. And if he didn't have treats Kuroyuri and Haruse had made something extremely questionable but not always bad depending on who the creative mind was. If it was Haruse there were amazing cakes and deserts and if it was Kuroyuri it was... something strange. There was Hyuuga who was always the ball of light in the office either making the environment extremely warm and friendly, irritating and frustrating, or incredibly scary depending how irritated he made the commander. And then there was him who kept order within the office and made sure the work was done, something he knew Ayanami appreciated. The holidays were celebrated somewhat silently in the office but there were always presents and treats upon their desks all from what could only be Ayanami though he silently denied anything of the sort. They even got to go on a vacation or two to the hot springs where there were even more gifts for those that had gone. He'd been given so many lovely things from the commander, things for work and things for his personal day to day life. So many treats and snacks... So many lovely memories that would last forever. And the thought of all this ending was heart breaking.
It was that boy... that defector that had started this downhill spiral then they wouldn't be in this predicament. Teito Klein. When he escaped and Miroku ordered the capture of him and the eye was when things began to slowly crumble apart.
It was finding this boy that lead to the finding of the Bishops which were something important to everyone but himself... The scythe, Verloren, fragments... none of it made a lot of sense to him even when explained to him.
Verloren and Ayanami... two entities in one single being. They were easy to tell apart and Verloren was mostly dormant and underneath the skin, at least from what Konatsu had been able to witness through his Blackhawk career. Ayanami had bright vibrant violet eyes that were hard not to notice. They sparked when he was mad and could become soft and light when in a mellow or a rare good mood. They were full of expression which was nice because the rest of the commander certainly was not. When he was using powers that were not quite normal... the whole dealing with the souls, manipulation of bodies and that fast regeneration they had a tint scarlet. That red color was Verloren. Konatsu personally hadn't dealt with that side or that entity much, if at all. He was just a human and so giving over his half his soul was extremely dangerous. The others were all Warsfiel and could deal with that kind of strain on their being with ease especially since Verloren and their blood were aligned. In a weird way they were all servants to Verloren, or that's how he understood it... It was complicated. He'd seen what happened to those that weren't of the blood and had their souls taken by Verloren. The other traitor boy, Mikage, was so out of it and cold like ice, like a living corpse. He was grateful that Ayanami had never required that of him and that the trust that Hyuuga and Ayanami had in each other meant that he was trustworthy too, because it was Hyuuga that requested that he be allowed to join in the first place.
It was his lack of attachment to Verloren and Ayanami that meant that he could see to this most important final order. No one else but him could do it. Kuroyuri and Harse would do anything to protect Ayanami and Hyuuga was out of the question. Only him.
And he wasn't exactly succeeding right now, though he was trying. They were all so difficult and he felt a new found appreciation for the commander for dealing with this constant insanity on a daily basis.
"Konatsu-kun!" He glanced over to the twins that had been adopted into their ranks recently. They also lacked the connection to Verloren but their joining of their ranks was just a curious thing in general. They had tried to kill Hyuuga during their assault on Antworth and in classic Hyuuga fashion he gathered them up and offered them to the commander, for some strange reason. Stranger still, Ayanami just took them in. They weren't exactly helpful or useful in any way in terms of office work but they held a different and unique skill. They spoke the dead language of Raggs. Something that presumably Teito Klein spoke as well. The girls could gain information and his trust and that's what he sent them out to do and do successfully. Why they obeyed Ayanami who destroyed not only Raggs but Antworth with his extremely potent strategic mind and superior Blackhawk team was a mystery to him and the rest of the Blackhawks. There was something they saw in him... something special. He hadn't been there but he had been told the story of their capture after the takeover of Antworth. They had apparently asked Ayanami if he was a king. At first the blond had thought this a strange question but upon further reflection it didn't really seem to be. Ayanami was elegant in every sense of the word. He held himself with grace and dignity and he spoke in a way that just screamed royalty. He'd heard the royalty of Barsburg speak and he could parallel it heavily with his commander. And there was also the rumor that Ayanami came from a fallen noble family so... Konatsu could see it. But the whole thing was still very strange to him. Perhaps he'd be more inclined to their presence if they didn't make the office even louder and disorganized. Either way, he was taking them with because he was sure that's what Ayanami would have wanted.
He shook his head a bit, dismissing his current thoughts, and offered the two a strained smile. "Yes, what is it?"
"We're all packed and ready to go. Should we get in the ship and wait for everyone else?"
He could have ran up and hugged them tight for their obedience. "Yes. That would be perfect. It still might be a bit but I think it's best if you stay in the ship and just wait for the rest of the team." They both in nodded in unison and hurried inside the ship that was empty except for numerous boxes of Blackhawk belongings that were scattered throughout.
"Konatsu," Kuroyuri sighed, reappearing with Haruse and more of their things and what the blond could only hope was the last of it. "This doesn't make any sense... are you sure we're going to be gone for such a long time? Ayanami-sama really said so?"
"Yes." He glanced at the younger Blackhawk who had a frown on her face. "It's going to be a while. So make sure anything valuable comes with you. Have you done that this time?" he asked wanting them to avoid another trip through the halls.
"Yeeeees," she said with a long drawl. "But it doesn't make any sense why he wants us to leave! After all, they're having a big party for him in the ball room. Is this just cause he doesn't want us crashing it? If that's just the case then there isn't any point to us packing all our stuff up!"
"W-what? A party?" Konatsu swallowed thickly recalling the last conversation he had with the commander. Something dangerous was going to happen and he wanted all his Blackhawks far away so they wouldn't be drawn into it and--
"Yeah." Kuroyuri continued. "It's a party to celebrate Ayanami-sama's accomplishments and all he's done for the country. We weren't invited though. Typical..."
"They've never celebrated Aya-tan's anything. Not even big promotions are talked about. It's all hushed and silently given, as if they don't want to," Hyuuga interjected, slowly pushing himself off the wall and making his way closer to the conversation.
Konatsu wasn't naive of the situation happening. Right this moment their commander might be getting killed. This had been a trap that Ayanami had been well aware of and that's why he wanted them gone because they were all targets because of the deep rooted loyalty within this group. Every one of these Blackhawks would seek vengeance for the death of their commander. That's why...
The blond gripped his own arms rightly, gloved fingers digging into the material of his uniform. Was there a chance to save him? Or should he follow through on the final order he was given and given to him alone because he was the only one that could do it? Ayanami was counting on him to save the entire team. If he allowed Hyuuga, Kuroyuri and the others attempt to save Ayanami and they died, if they all died... How could he face the commander at the end of all things and admit he failed and got them all killed?
"I... I don't know what to do." All eyes fell to the blond who was damn near having a mental breakdown at the choices before him. "He told me... he told me to get you all out of here. He wants you all safe..."
Kuroyuri snapped to full attention at this news, handing over her stack of boxes to Haruse she turned sharply and gripped the blond tightly, offering him a light shake. "Konatsu! What did Ayanami-sama tell you!?" She was more upset than angry by any means. Her eyes were wide and filled with worry while Hyuuga still looked remarkably calm though Konatsu believed that to be his appearance on the surface underneath the skin had to be a very different story. "You have to tell us!"
"H-he said..." the young boy closed his eyes and shook his head. "He said it was his final order... that this was goodbye. Your safety, all of yours, was of the utmost importance. So we have to--"
"Konatsu-kun." Hyuuga began, placing a hand on top of the blond's head. "You wouldn't know this because you and Aya-tan haven't had a lot of interaction and you aren't like Kuroyuri-chan and share her demons, so you can't relate. And that's probably why Aya-tan picked you to carry out this order because you wouldn't know. And when I bring him back he's going to hear about that, you can be sure about it. But I'll let you in on this Blackhawk information that I should have told you about long ago... Know this, if there is anyone that needs to be saved on this team, it's our Aya-tan. He needs it more than you and me and anyone here. I'll tell you all I can about him once we get outta here. Okay?" Hyuuga offered the boy a smile and ruffled his blond locks for reassurance that he wasn't angry. "I'm going to go rescue Aya-tan~" Hyuuga glanced over to the younger Blackhawks. "I leave getting us outta here to you,"
Kuroyuri nodded and released Konatsu and turned to Haruse instead as Hyuuga sprinted off the docking bridge for the ship and went on the hunt for their missing commander. "Haruse, I need you to get this ship off the ground and get us out of here. The usual crew isn't likely going to help us hijack this thing so I'm counting on you."
"Of course, Kuroyuri-sama," he moved as quickly as he could with all the boxes of their stuff in his arms and made to do as he was told. Surely he could figure it out... or he hoped he could.
"Konatsu," Kuroyuri turned her bright gaze onto the blond who almost winced, fearful of her wrath. "You need to go get Ayanami-sama's cats and bring them here. And... anything he might hold valuable in his room. I think most stuff is at his desk in the office... I'll go get that. It'll probably be pretty safe heading towards these places." she concluded. "No one's expecting us to be escaping but there might be assassins all the same if Ayanami-sama was worried about us. Don't let your guard down and don't trust anyone."
Konatsu nodded at her words unbelievably thankful that they didn't hate him or were angry at the secrets he felt compelled to keep. They understood the commander of their team and his self sacrificing nature and they also understood that he wouldn't know all about the mysterious past of their commander. They simply sought to correct the error and get all of them out of here safely. But they had to hurry.
The young Blackhawk sprinted as fast as he could to the where the rooms of the military personal. Those of higher rank, like Ayanami were in a much deeper part of their fort to keep those important soldiers safe. The names were thankfully on plaques by each door which he was thankful for as he had no idea where the commander's room was in this place. Thankfully it didn't take too long to find. The plain door just like everyone else's and inside was the never before seen room with those fierce cats waiting for their master. Konatsu was quite glad that they were pretty tame around him and he could probably get them to follow with relative ease. Animals could sense trouble and distress so he hoped these big felines would be cooperative.
For just a moment the blond placed his hands on his knees and took a few deep breaths after running all this way feeling tired especially after all that emotional distress. It also gave him a few moments to note that it was dead silent in these halls. Not a soul... there were always people walking around and working. It was later in the day true but for it to be completely empty? It made him uneasy. But at least the empty hallways allowed him the ability to kick down the door to the commander's room without causing others to come and seek out the issue.
It wasn't exactly an easy task but he did manage to bring down the door. All his ruckus had alerted the cats who were snarling and all teeth at the noise but at the sight of him they calmed almost instantly and strolled up to him for some light pets. "I need you two to be good..." he informed them, giving each at a scratch behind the ear. "Ayanami-sama is in trouble and we need to get out of here." But first...
He stepped into the room hunting for special items but he found the place almost completely bare. It's was if no one lived here at all. For a moment he suspected that all of Ayanami's things had been removed but that couldn't be right. The panthers were still here after all. Konatsu hesitantly walked around the room feeling awkward about being in such a private place but also on edge. The bed looked to be slept in... just a bit, but that might be from the panthers laying on it. The Blackhawk swallowed thickly and started checking the dresser drawers and found neat folded up clothing. The white shirts they had to wear and pants as well. A good sign, at least there was something in here. Only a few of the drawers had clothing and the rest were empty. His next stop was the closet which held Ayanami's uniforms winter and regular along with a couple pairs of boots on the floor. There were also some very nice looking outfits for the balls and such they were required to attend throughout the year. There were some extra pillows and blankets in the way back and that was about it. There was one last place he could look... The nightstand beside the bed. Personal things were usually kept hidden beside the place you slept. This drawer did hold a few things. Konatsu picked up some bottles that obviously held pills. Sleeping ones, he presumed by the name. They were near ten years old. He didn't think Ayanami was taking them or he at least hoped or he wasn't. There were some other things under the bottles. A box... wanting to be sure that it was something valuable he opened it up. Inside he found letters. Some were in Ayanami's handwriting but in a language he could not read. Raggs. Ayanami spoke the language from Raggs. It wasn't just Ayanami's handwriting though. There was someone else's too. He looked at the bottom of the letter for the signature which would tell him who had sent these letters to the commander.
That name rang familiar... Hyuuga had told him of that man when he'd just started but he couldn't recall too much about it. Either way, he decided that these were important and he'd take them with. Along with some extra clothing and those really fancy looking and important dress suits. There was one other thing Konatsu found important within the night stand drawer and that was dog tags which he simply assumed were the commander's and brought them with. Thankfully there wasn't too much to carry and could bring it all back even without a box. Ayanami clearly didn't have much to his name despite being in the military for almost three decades.
"Okay let's go guys." The panthers had been watching the other curiously but at the word go they pushed themselves onto all fours and padded into the hallway, waiting for Konatsu to lead the way.
"There's one! A Blackhawk."
Konatsu turned around once out of the room seeing a few of Barsburg's soldiers, dressed quite a bit different from the usual as these were specially trained assassins Kuroyuri had mentioned. He took a step back, not able to grab his swords and defend himself right away with his arms full.
It would seem he didn't have to. The two large cats, one on each side of the blond stepped forward. Their long claws clicked on the marble floor and their growls were loud in the near empty hall.
"Those beasts. I heard they were locked up." huffed a guard, lifting his zaiphon gun up.
"Just kill them." the other said.
"Don't hurt them!" cried Konatsu as the cats bounded forward intending to protect the young Blackhawk just as their master would want and would do in their stead had he been present.
On the other end of the fort, Hyuuga didn't even have a chance to shake out his blade of the blood of these assassins that he was dealing with. For whatever reason they were trying to make a foolish attempt at stopping him. He understood, truly he did, why Aya-tan wanted them far from this place but to not come with them... He always hoped that this suicidal like mentality would fade away but maybe after all that had happened and how close Verloren had come to being complete and Ayanami almost lost forever... Maybe it all just brought it back. Maybe he had wanted...
Whatever happened or whatever Ayanami was thinking he'd deal with it later. Right now he needed to rescue him. He wanted to believe that all his fears were for nothing but these assassins only solidified the danger that was lurking in that ballroom. He shouldn't have brushed off that suspicious invitation he'd seen in the office. He should have said and done something. If anything happened to Aya-tan not a single soul would be free from his wrath. He'd kill them all.
Approaching the ballroom doors he didn't slow, he just pushed himself even further and drew his other blade in case he needed to cut up a bunch of people right off the bat.
The major burst through the double doors earning a collective gasp from all these dressed up nobles and soldiers. And for a moment he thought that maybe he'd made a mistake and Ayanami was going to have his head for this grand interruption. Everyone was in their best. There was food and musicians near the stage that had been playing. The light was dimmed nicely for the mood. This was a scene he'd seen a dozens of times before throughout his military career.
And there... center stage was Ayanami with Miroku. But that's also what told him nothing was what it seemed and his instinct kicked in. Hyuuga sprinted forward towards the center stage using that speed he was known for, the crowd of people instantly parted not wanting to be between his blades and what he sought to rescue. "Aya-tan!" he called out, his voice cutting through the thick silence. Once upon the smooth surface of the stage Hyuuga dropped his blades instantly so he could catch the falling form of the commander. The glass that had been in Aya's hand came crashing on the floor, shattering into pieces and leaving an even heavier silence in it's wake. Despite the numerous amounts of people within this room nothing but his own heavy breathing could be heard as he tried to catch his breath from all the running and find signs of life in this most precious person.
"Aya-tan," he said again, much quieter this time as both he and the silver haired commander slowly lowered to the floor. "Aya-tan..." he shook the body just slightly, hunting desperately for some kind of life within the man. It seemed like such an impossible reality to be moments late in rescuing someone so important. And there were amble opportunities to get her sooner. He'd been standing on the bridge for so long. He could have put the pieces together sooner, he knew he could have. Could have. Should have. Those words meant nothing to the situation at hand. He'd failed... He'd failed this most important person. For nearly ten years he'd been struggling when it came to saving Ayanami from himself. He'd tried... he'd tried so very hard. How could he fail now that they were almost free of this place?
Hyuuga pressed his ear to Ayanami's chest seeking a heartbeat, which would be impossible to hear with that thick uniform in the way, but he should be at least able to feel the rise and fall of the other's chest so he'd know the other was at least breathing. But he didn't feel anything. The body was completely still in his arms. "No... no no no." He clutched at the body even tighter. "You're not allowed to go somewhere where I can't follow... that's not fair."
"He's long gone now. I made sure with Verloren's weakened state that he would not be able to survive the poison." Miroku spoke more to the crowd than to Hyuuga, or so it felt. The chairman swirled his own champagne in the glass a bit before dropping it to the floor as well. "I suspected that some of you Blackhawks would manage to get away and that you would all start gathering around here. You've made it easy to dispose of you all." Miroku snapped his fingers and there was a rustling of something or other, what exactly Hyuuga couldn't say in the dimness of the room. "Fire at will." Zaiphon guns the major concluded. Hyuuga grit his teeth together knowing that he could probably easily cut down every soul in this room but the actual will to move and defend himself did not exist. Maybe Miroku knew that... Miroku had found them both together after all. He knew that wherever Ayanami went he'd follow. He knew that the sight of Ayanami's lifeless body would kill all the will to live out of him. He hated that he could only prove this horrible man right...
He wanted to believe he was stronger than this. This is the path that Ayanami had walked on for most of his life after Yukikaze died. Don't chase ghosts. Live for those that were gone. But it was so much easier said than done. And he knew it was hard and he'd seen how that death had slowly killed his dearest friend. For years it had tormented him and slowly killed him. Being by Ayanami's side was all he had ever known... And as much as Ayanami loved Yukikaze was comparable to how much he loved the person in his arms right now. Where was he going to go without him? What was he going to do? What was the point of anything if he was gone? Maybe trying to join them as soon as possible was the best thing to do. Maybe he'd been wrong... But what about all the other's waiting for him to come back at the ship. Living for them and getting them out of here, fulfilling Ayanami's final wish that they all lived was important too.
And yet... he still found himself stuck here, unable to let the body in his arms go. For the first time in his life he was without his dear friend and he truly had no idea what to do.
"It really isn't fair," he murmured to the still body, bringing Ayanami closer to his chest so he could nuzzle into that soft silver hair. "To finally be able to hold you like this and you're not even breathing. You're always so cruel to me, Aya-tan. Always."
He heard the guns fire and he heard them hit but not him or anywhere actually. The stage didn't burst apart at the misfires and was certainly still in one full piece. Confused more than anything he looked up to see the entire ballroom through a multicolored shield. Faint colors moved around faintly as words spun around in two different directions, creating an X and protecting all that were inside this bubble. A zaiphon shield.
What was this!? He looked up in slight wonder seeing this spell so rarely cast. And truth be told he really only knew one person who could create something like this within the military.
The body in his arms took in a deep and slow breath.
"Aya-tan." he could only whisper the name as he felt that breathing continue. But the violet hues that he expected to see peek out from behind pale lashes were not what he got. Instead there were bloody red orbs, brighter and more vibrant than his own, the pupils cat like slits and something he'd never actually seen at such close proximity. This was not Aya-tan right now. This was Verloren. And a terrible thought occurred to him that his Aya might be dead and Verloren took over the shell that was left behind.
"Hyuuga." His name coming from Verloren felt so foreign despite it being the same voice and face saying it. Perhaps it was the tone... there was no familiarity between him and the Death God. It was subject and master relationship and nothing more. He was a warsfiel that was to help the God of Death return to what he once was. Kuroyuri, Haruse and himself knew this call deep in their blood and bones. And it was hard to distinguish the two when it came to that calling. Kuroyuri still had trouble with it. Her childish crush on the commander was for Ayanami but injustices against Verloren brought her to tears feeling as if those slights were against their commander personally and not the Death God. The issue with the scythe was one of many troubles even for Ayanami himself. When your whole body craved to return to it's weapon despite it never being something he'd personally held. It was hard for all parties and had been around since Verloren came into their lives. "Hyuuga," Verloren repeated, insuring he had the Major's attention. "I am keeping this body alive but barely. And if this continues for too long not even I can save it."
"I can't get us out of here in one piece. Everyone here is firing at us."
"That's not a problem." Verloren pushed the body into a sitting position, running a gloved hand over his mouth and bringing staining it with bright red blood. This poison was tearing through this body at a very alarming pace. "I will dispose of everyone in this room who chooses to fire at us. But once that's done I must return into an unconscious state so I can try and save us." Us. Ayanami too. Ayanami was still alive inside that body somwhere. "But that might not be enough..."
"I get it..." The first place they needed to head was somewhere that could offer medical attention and not rat them out to the military. He'd figure exactly where that could possibly be upon actually making it to the ship. Hyuuga pushed himself off the ground and pulled Verloren up onto his unsteady legs. "Can you really do something about all this?"
Scarlet eyes peered through the shield and watched the zaipohns shatter upon the impenetrable bubble. "Yes... if I move quickly." Already Hyuuga could hear less shots as it was clear through the shield that the Commander of the Blackhawks was on his feet and very much not dead. the shots were becoming less frequent and there was even some screaming.
"I can probably cut them up and you can stay behind the shield." Hyuuga offered, leaning down to pick up the blades and put them where they belonged.
"Save that energy for getting out," Verloren advised. "They're all cowards. All this man has ever wanted to do was protect this country. Even knowing..." Verloren trailed off, not finding any interest in continuing and simply lowered his shield so he could fire an attack zaiphon at those that still had the courage to try and kill him.
The sight of the commander, now crystal clear, sent even more people running but there were those that still dared. And they did not live long. Quite easily the God of Death took down the few remaining snipers with quick and deadly zaiphons. But each attack was a terrible strain on the body that was barely surviving.
"Still alive, Ayanami-kun?" Two pairs of scarlet eyes turned to the man that was still on the stage with them. He was unarmed but that didn't make him any less dangerous. "Not for too much longer, I imagine."
He might not be wrong... Dark red blood was making a great effort to spill past Ayanami's pale lips, this body was on it's last legs. "Your first mistake was thinking you could kill me. You had better chances when I didn't have any limbs."
"I didn't think you'd become such an immediate threat to Barsburg." Miroku retorted.
"I was only a threat to you." Had he the strength he'd have fired a zaiphon at the old fool. Every bit of the Death God wanted to... It'd be easy to put an end to the problem right there. But anymore Zaiphons put this body at an even greater risk.
It was time to go and go now and, Hyuuga decided. The only thing on their side right now was that no one knew that they were planning on hijacking their ship and getting out of here. In fact Miroku probably thought many of the Blackhawks were dead already. And he probably also assumed that they simply had no where to go. They couldn't kill the whole army, not with Verloren in the shape he was in so letting them run off for the moment wasn't an issue for him.
Hyuuga smirked and pushed up his sunglasses deciding now was the best time to go and not a moment later. "Catch us if you can, Chairman~" Hyuuga cooed, scooping up the Blackhawk commander and getting the hell out of this horrible place. The action no doubt took the Death God by surprise, his hands like vices in Hyuuga's uniform as he sprinted down the hall. Aya was light which made this all a lot easier and allowed him to still go faster than most.
"What is the plan from here?" Verloren asked quietly, wiping his mouth again but there was just no stopping the blood flow at this point.
"We have a plan and we are getting out of here. They won't expect it either." Where to go once they were out of here was a different matter that didn't need to be thought about right this second. One thing at a time. "Just rest..." Hyuuga advised. "Bring Aya-tan back to me..."
Verloren parted his lips to say something but thought better of it settling for silence instead. Ayanami's subordinate was correct, he did need to rest and try and recuperate and heal up the damage done. Hopefully what he could do was enough but some help just might be in order. But finding help somewhere safe in this world where the reach of Barsburg's hand would be difficult. There were few places they could avoid the fierce military. He'd leave it to these Blackhawks though... they'd find away to help their commander.
Kuroyuri huffed, shifting all the things in her arms and hurrying onward. "I can't believe there are actually assassins out there to kill us." It made her truly worry for the fate of their commander but if anyone would be successful in rescuing him, it'd be Hyuuga. "Haruse!" she called as she hurried across the bridge and into the ship. "Are you okay? There are people out there--"
"Yes, I'm fine." he met her by the door looking quite distressed. "There are more problems... I don't know how to fly this ship. I can't figure it out. I've been trying."
"You have to... You have to Haruse!!"
He shook his head. "If I mess with it too much, I might damage it. I advise we find someone who can."
"No one here is going to help us!" she cried. "They're all trying to kill us!"
Their conversation was interrupted by two large panthers eagerly rushing in, blood dripping from their fangs and claws. They big cats were eager to jump aboard the ship. They loved flying with their master and both were eager to sit by his chair and wait for him. Surely, he'd be here soon.
"Kuroyuri-kun, Haruse-san..." Konatsu greeted them, panting just a bit. "There are assassins out there. Has Hyuuga returned yet?"
"No." Haruse informed as Kuroyuri dumped the treasures she procured from the office onto one of the many boxes littered throughout the ship. "Konatsu-kun, we can't fly this thing. We don't know how."
The blond was immediately distressed but he moved forward following Kuroyuri's lead and placing the items he'd obtained aside, while he struggled to figure out what to do if they couldn't fly this ship "We have to find someone who can... Hyuuga can't. I know he can't."
"Haruse doesn't want to break it... And he's right. If we bust the ship we are going to end up fighting the entire Barsburg army in right here." Kuroyuri explained. "But who can we trust to bring with us? They all hate us. Every single one of them."
There was truly no one that the Blackhawks had as allies. They only had each other and not one of them needed to learn how to fly this ship because there had always been a crew that flew it for them. They weren't the military's favorites by any means but they were the ones to get the job done when needed no matter how against the odds it was for them to succeed they did it. The thought of one day having to fly ships on their own never occurred to them. And yes, they could all fly one of those much smaller hawkziles but this was a much different much more complicated vehicle.
"Konatsu-sama!" All three of the veteran Blackhawks froze at the voice.
"Jeeze... what's he doing here?" Kuroyuri asked, her gaze narrowing as they waited for the burdensome boy to enter the ship.
"I didn't tell him anything about this," Konatsu quickly informed. "Maybe he overheard..."
"He can't possibly come with." the youngest Backhawk insisted.
"Konatsu-sama!" Shuri Oak, hurried into the ship, his bright blue eyes alight and a smile on his face as he dropped his own boxes into the ship. "I'm sorry if I'm late. I had a hard time packing everything I wanted to bring with. There is also so much at the my home but--"
"What are you doing here?" Konatsu demanded, his ability to deal with this boy was near nonexistent at this moment and there was just no time to deal with another crisis.
"Doing here?" Shuri repeated the question, laughing at the oddity of it. "It's the big trip for the Blackhawks. I overheard something, I'm sure. We're heading out for a really long time? Some long mission, right?"
"No, you idiot." Kuroyuri snapped. "This isn't some vacation. We're leaving and never coming back."
Shuri's bright smile quickly disappeared. "W-what are you talking about? Leaving? Why?"
"Cause the whole military wants us dead. They tried to kill us. They tried to kill Ayanami-sama! We have no idea what his status is."
"Wait..." the sunny blond was now incredibly distressed along with the rest of them. "But I'm a Blackhawk, do they want me dead too?"
"Probably not," Konatsu answered, trying to get Shuri out of the ship. "You're an Oak. Your father was important. You're important too. They'll be happy to have you back."
"But I can't possibly abandoned my team."
"Shuri!" Konatsu snapped, losing his patience instantly. "You're not even an actual Blackhawk and you're not one of us. Go back to the military. We, actual Blackhawks, have to get out of here."
The Oak boy looked taken back by the other's outburst but held his ground. "I am so a Blackhawk. My father said so."
"Your father doesn't decide whose a Blackhawk. Ayanami-sama does," Kuroyuri countered. "You're not a Blackhawk. Your dad shoved you into Ayanami's crew because everyone in the military hates us and all the unwanted soldiers get shoved in here. Your dad just couldn't be bothered actually putting you somewhere cause you're an idiot! We're in the middle of an actual crisis and we don't have time for you!"
"Get out of my way," Hyuuga snapped, interrupting the current argument and pushing his way into the ship, the person of all their concern seemingly safe in the eldest Blackhawk's arms. "Someone get a bed ready, please." he ordered.
"Ayanami-sama!" Kuroyuri cried at the sight of their commander. "Is he alive?" she asked hurrying after Hyuuga and completely forgetting the issue with Shuri.
The young blond did look incredibly upset by what was just told to him. "I understand that I'm not the best soldier and my father pulled a great deal of strings to get me a seat somewhere. He said I was Ayanami's begleiter but... Ayanami didn't accept that. And the person I'm supposed to begleiter for should actually want to have one. A-and I also know Ayanami hasn't had a begleiter in a great many years. He did pick Teito though... But. You're all wrong... My father didn't hate Ayanami or the Blackhawks. He thought you all did great work. He talked about it often at home. I always wanted to be a Blackhawk because of all the stories he told me. I wanted to be part of that group my father was so fond of. And my father respected Ayanami a great deal. I am a Blackhawk. And if this is what you're all doing... then I want to come too. B-because if he was still here this sort of thing would never have happened! My father would never let this kind of thing befall Ayanami. He was always defending him in meetings."
"You can't." Konatsu repeated. "You can't... I know. I know this is your dream. This was my dream too. But it's different and much more complicated now Shuri." The blond took a deep breath not exactly wanting to drop this bomb shell on the boy but--
"Konatsu, we need to go now," Hyuuga ordered, interrupting Konatsu once again.
Konatsu ignored the elder Blackhawk for right now. "You can't join us becuase we're the reason why your father is dead. We killed him. Now you can get out of this ship and do what you like with that information but it's true. I have more important things to deal with, like finding away to get this ship in the air and getting you off of it is the first step in achieving that."
Shuri was pale at this revelation but he still offered a weak smile looking between Hyuuga, Haruse, and Konatsu. "T-that's impossible. Why would the Blackhawks kill my father?"
"Because we had to do what was best for Ayanami-sama." Konatsu answered wanting to head for the mean deck so he could take a look at the controls of this ship.
"Killing my father was what was best for Ayanami?" That didn't make any sense to the blond. Ayanami and his father... they weren't... "It wasn't Ayanami, was it?" The blond's brows furrowed as he recalled a conversation with his father, long long ago. "It's the other one. The one that stays in that tube and heals up limbs and such."
"That's still Ayanami-sama." Konatsu answered, now deterred from his main goal again because of the information that the Oak boy somehow had on Ayanami.
"No... I mean. It's all the same body but...My father told me that there are two sides. Like a coin. There is Ayanami who is unbelievably loyal to this country. A man my father truly respected and something else... something celestial and incomprehensible. I don't really remember but," Shuri's hands curled into fists as he was determined to hold his ground on this matter. "But I do know... my father wanted me to be a Blackhawk. And that's what I am. Wherever that leads, I'll go too. And I'll ask Ayanami-san one day what happened. And when I learn the truth, I'll make a choice then. I'm still an Oak, after all. I always have a place to go." The blond boy brightened up quite a bit. "And besides, Konatsu-sama! You need me. You said you need to figure out how to get this ship in the air? I know how to fly these ships! I'll get it in the air and then some!"
"What?" Both Hyuuga and Konatsu questioned this sudden revelation.
"My father taught me how to fly his. It's tricky to do on your own but I can do it. I know I can. I'll show Haruse-san and you too. So we have a better handle of this thing. And this ship is not nearly as advanced or big as my father's ship so it won't be hard."
Subtle and unintentional insults about this ship aside they could all agree, Shrui was in. "Alright. You can stay." If he could fly this thing and were willing to join them then fine. Konatsu shut the door to their ship, gesturing for Haruse to follow the younger blond into the main room so they could get out of here. Oak was ecstatic at this news and hurried to show them how it all worked the issue with his father and Ayanami would have to be ignored and repressed until he could truly ask the man. He honestly thought that the others were just saying horrible things so he'd leave. They couldn't possibly be responsible.
"We need to leave asap so only the important stuff on how to get out of here for right now," advised Konatsu.
"Of course, of course!" Shuri chirped as they approached the main dock.
Hyuuga let out a sigh knowing they had a tiny amount of time before the army came for them and it was unlikely that this would be a first pick when it came to looking for them. After all, who expected them to actually fly it on their own? Especially when it was clear Miroku thought most of them were dead.
"Hyuuga...?" Kuroyuri approached him from behind. "I tucked Ayanami-sama in but... he feels so cold. Like..." She squinted a bit trying to explain. "We're cold, you know? Because we gave up half our soul to Ayanami-sama. But this felt different."
"I'm sure it's just because of the poison." he assured her, leading her back over to the small cot where their commander was resting.
She climbed onto the bed and took the Blackhawk leader's hand, holding it tight in her own. "They poisoned him?" she questioned.
"They did... While giving him a toast to his accomplishments, I think." That's what it looked like anyway.
"Horrible..." She closed her eyes tight, knowing a wave of tears was coming. "It's terrible! Being poisoned is horrible. It harms your senses and there is a taste you can't ever get rid of. You always remember it... I lost my sense of taste to poison. And Ayanami-sama... He's always suspicious of it. He always wants you to test his food." She smiled a bit at the memories that felt so ancient now. "And obviously he's joking but he's serious about looking out for poison and you always are once you've been poisoned before."
Her words caused the major to frown deeply. "Are you saying Aya-tan has been poisoned before?"
"Yeah... I kind of had a suspicion before he told me. He and I talk a lot too, you know." She stuck her tongue out at Hyuuga a bit.
"When was he poisoned?"
Kuroyuri shook her head. "A long time ago, he said. Someone poisoned his medicine when he was a kid. But he got to keep his taste, thankfully... not that he eats or anything." The pink haired soldier pulled her legs up and rested her head on her knees, giving the commander's hand a squeeze, hoping he could feel that bit of love wherever he was be it in a dream or elsewhere in his current state. "Ayanami-sama understands all the pain I've ever gone through because he's experienced something similar long ago. You know a lot about Ayanami-sama. But... not everything." She smiled slightly at Hyuuga. "Because he likes to suffer silently. Well... not likes. But needs to because being a burden to anyone else is unacceptable, he's only told me because I've suffered the same thing and it's easier to understand if you can relate. For me it was. Anyone can say they understand but it's different when someone actually has been there. You remember when they first brought me here? As a joke... Take this sick dying child warsfiel. And Ayanami-sama did. He took me in and at first... I didn't want anything to do with him but I didn't realize he and I were kinda the same. Ayanami-sama... he came here half alive too. But you know that right? You came here together?"
Hyuuga smiled a bit in return. "Yes. A long time ago. I found Aya-tan on a snowy day. He was dressed up real nice. Like a little prince."
Kuroyuri's eyes lit up at the thought of that. "A little Ayanami-sama dressed up like a prince. He's always been a prince to me though. Haruse once said that to break my curse I'd have to kiss a handsome prince." She flushed a faint pink at the thought even after all this time. "A-and my thoughts first went to Ayanami-sama. He rescued me. He's rescued a lot of us. Even though you brought him to Barsburg I bet he saved you too. He gave us a home and a family. I found Haruse here. And all I want to do to somehow repay him is make him happy. And I thought that getting all the fragments and the scythe back would but I think I was wrong. I think I got confused. Because it's like you say, Ayanami-sama is Ayanami-sama and Verloren is Verloren and what makes them each happy is very different. I've been going about this wrong. What makes Ayanami-sama happy isn't those fragments of the scythe..."
"Well, Kuroyuri-kun, you seem quite the expert." Hyuuga took a seat beside her on the bed, his shielded gaze looking over at the unconscious commander for a moment. "What will make our Aya-tan happy?"
She frowned deeply at the question and shook her head. "I don't know. I don't know what to give him or even what to say. I'm trying to see both Ayanami-sama and Verloren as separate but I'm having a hard time."
Hyuuga raised his hand and ruffled her hair. "We'll get it all figured out. We have all the time in the world and only each other now."
She nodded a bit and instantly perked up as they felt the ship come to life and start to move. "Where do we go from here though? The military... that's the only home a lot of us have ever known."
"I have an idea..." Hyuuga admitted, knowing only one single being in this whole world that would help them. And he only knew this because this person tried to help before despite being on very opposite ends. "But I don't think any of you are going to like it."
"Ayanami-sama needs help. I'll go wherever you want Hyuuga. You're in charge here."
Being in charge or not they were not going to like where he wanted to take them. And just getting in would be a challenge. But the military wouldn't be able to touch them there and there would be the care that the commander most certainly needed right about now. "I'll be right back, I'm going to tell the others what direction to go in."
Kuroyuri nodded in agreement, her gaze falling back over to the commander, intending to watch over him as long as she could.
A soft hum was familiar in the garden setting and the caretaker of all these flowers moved through area with ease, making sure everything was neat and organized and most importantly happy and healthy. He'd been gone for so long that things had gotten a bit overgrown. His fingers brushed over a few petals of some lilacs before his vision went completely black and a vision overtook his mind as they often did.
"Castor," he called, once he could see his actual surroundings once more. "Castor!" he called again, glancing back this time at the bishop who was contently reading at their usual table.
"Yes?" the bi-speckled bishop asked not bothering to look up.
"Can you make a very large pot of tea. And maybe some snacks and pack them all in a basket for me? I need enough for... hmm nine I think, if I include myself in those numbers."
Slowly the auburn haired bishop lowered his book. "Nine? Where in the world are you going with all this? The basket will be too heavy."
"No, no, it's fine. And we have some time, and I won't be the one carrying it." The silver haired bishop smiled brightly and turned back around to tend to his gardening, all he had to do was wait for them to arrive and come get him. It was such an interesting turn of events he did have to admit. He had no idea what was going to happen once they all escaped from Barsburg. Oh, he was truly excited about this vision he did have to admit. He felt no danger from it just concern and need for help. He'd be more than happy to give it and maybe even his wish might come to be.
Labrador's soft hum turned into a much louder happier song as he continued about his gardening leaving the other bishop waiting for more information. Eventually Castor just sighed and set aside his book so he could go and make these snacks and tea that the other had requested for whatever reason. Labrador seemed happy enough about it all so it was probably fine.
Chapter 3: So Wake Me Up When It's All Over
“You’re the only one who can do it Konatsu-kun~ The rest of us look too suspicious.”
Well… Hyuuga certainly wasn’t wrong about any of that. Kuroyuri and Haruse had cause an endless amount of trouble within the church when they’d invaded the first time. He and Hyuuga had as well, the second time, but his face was not as memorable. He had common blond hair and normal looking brown eyes. He was the best one for the job.
“Please try and hurry…” Kuroyuri asked, holding on tightly to the commander’s hand. “He’s so cold… and hasn’t moved once since we left.”
Yes. Time was of the utmost importance… it truly seemed like their commander’s life lay in the balance. “I’ll try and be quick.”
“Remember… try and find the garden with the ghost with violet eyes and tinted silver hair… he will save Aya-tan.” Hyuuga reminded.
“Will a ghost really help us?” Konatsu asked, removing his military jacket and wrapping a makeshift cloak around himself instead.
“That one will. Without a doubt.” the Major confirmed.
How Hyuuga knew this he didn’t know but he trusted the man. And so the young blond sprinted across some of the desolate lands of District Seven and entered the town of the Church without any trouble. Entering the church was also incredibly easy as well. This surprised him considering all the Blackhawk attacks but perhaps the church had to be accessible to all at all times. If Blackhawks wanted to get in they’d find a way and the Ghosts would just deal with it when it happened.
It took Konatsu longer than he cared to admit to find the garden. This place was much more massive than he remembered and his desire to rush caused more mistakes to happen. It was only natural. Once again important people were counting on him. Lives were once again in his hands.
“Are you looking for me?”
Konatsu jumped in surprise, simply standing at the entrance of the garden and gawking, as if the Ghost would just appear before him…even though that was exactly what happened. “Are you... “ This person seemed to fit the description not to mention he looked incredibly familiar. He was certainly one of the ghosts in the cells not long ago. The little amount that had happened in a short period had certainly fried him. He just wanted to be sure... “Are you a ghost?”
The violet eyed bishop nodded and offered a bright smile. “I remember you. One of the Blackhawks. I’ve been waiting for you.” A friendly wave to follow was offered and the Ghost made his way through the garden, approaching a small gazebo with a basket resting on top of a chess board. “Tell me the situation.”
“Ayanami-sama has been badly poisoned.” Konatsu hastily explained. “I wasn’t there.. and we don’t have anything to show you. But… it was a bad poison. It took him down nearly instantly. Major Hyuuga said you’d be the one able to help us. He’s ice cold and won’t wake up. Everyone... “ Konatsu clutched at his chest. “Everyone will be lost forever without Ayanami-sama.” And it was his fault… if he’d just told Hyuuga immediately none of this would have happened.
“A fast and strong poison, enough to take out Ayanami-san. It has to be a mix of many other things…” the bishop murmured to himself, his violet gaze looking over the garden. “I’ll have to see him for myself to know for sure. Giving a bad antidote won’t help any. Lead the way… um. My apologies, I don’t remember your name.”
“You can just call me Labrador.” the bishop answered cheerfully. “We don’t go blabbing that we’re ghosts. I’m just a bishop to almost everyone here. Now, if you’d please, lead the way.” Grabbing the heavy basket the bishop followed the Blackhawk out of the garden and to where the ship lay in temporary hiding some ways from the church.
It was much like entering a wolf den. Many of these Blackhawks would love to see him dead for this or that but they’d come sought him out specifically and thanks to his vision he knew it was no trap. Even without the vision, he’d have come anyway. A scolding from Castor would be coming one way or the other and perhaps he was too trusting but he simply had to help.
Inside was nothing but a bunch of worried loved ones crowded around the body of their commander. Barely alive… that much he could sense. Verloren was taking the brunt of the damage from the poison which was all well and good unless he was killed by it. This body could not live without the Death God. That was the fate of any of the ghosts and Verloren’s host was no different in that regard.
Labrador moved forward, setting the basket aside for the moment and removed his gloves so he could touch the body. Everyone seemed concerned that it was icy cold. That was actually a good thing in this case. All of their bodies were cold to the touch because they were, for all intents and purposes, dead… It seemed to be clear that no one was aware of this piece of information, not even the loyal Hyuuga. Interesting… it was not his place to reveal such secrets.
“See how cold he is…” the youngest one informed, rubbing at her one available eye.
“In this particular case… it’s a good thing.” Labrador assured the group. “If he starts to get hot… that means the poison is eating away at him. Verloren is stopping that right now but… it’s unlikely something this strong can be held back in the Death God’s current state. You haven’t given him anything, correct? Tried to give him water or medicine?”
“Should we have?” Hyuuga asked, not having thought how water might help…
“No. This is good. There will be traces of poison left and I can try and find some kind of antidote for him. Let me see what I can do for him right now…” Labrador reached for the basket and pulled out the lunch he’d had Castor make for everyone. “In the meantime… tea and something to eat. I’m sure you all could use it.”
This wasn’t untrue at all. They’d lacked the ability to bring food with them much less stop anywhere. Kuroyuri always had some snacks and the ship had provisions in case of emergency but they hadn’t broken into any of that knowing if they did it would because the situation was dire and they weren’t exactly at that point. Missing a day's worth of meals or two wasn’t going to kill any of them.
“Is there anything you can do for him on the ship?” Hyuuga questioned, looking over his sandwich a bit skeptically.
“Probably not,” Labrador admitted, continuing to look over the commander. “Most likely… I’ll have to bring him into the church and treat him there where I have better access to the things I need.”
“That sounds like something you’re not going to be able to do.”
“Oh.” Labrador glanced back and smiled at the Major. “I can do it. No one will be happy about it, but the choice is mine and I’ll take responsability. It’s not as if Verloren is a threat of any kind right now… When he begins to recover we can go from there. And you don’t seem to be a part of Barsburg anymore… would that be correct?”
“Ties have been venomously cut…”
“Do any of you have anywhere you can go after this?” Labrador asked with a frown, straightening up and turning to the Blackhawk group.
“The empire is all many of us have ever known.” Hyuuga answered. “There are a few places we can go… but…” Hyuuga shrugged. “When Aya-tan gets better he’ll know what to do.”
Labrador hummed a bit and nodded. “I’ll take you into the church. The sooner the better, for Ayanami’s sake.”
It was a sight, it had to be. A single bishop leading a group of Barsburg soldiers and two large cats through the town and into the church. Hyuuga carrying the commander and Haruse carrying Kuroyuri. And the twin soldiers, who just looked remarkably young, trailing behind. The murmuring was unbelievably loud and the pointing was amusing. But it wouldn’t be long before some of the other, less pleasant, ghosts picked up what was happening. Hyuuga wondered if Teito was even here and if he was... This could all turn out rather bad. The truth of the matter was that this truly was the only option for them. Thankfully them being technically not soldiers of Barsburg anymore meant that they could stay here. Of course, they were Warsfiel so that may null and void that arrangement, soldiers or not.
“Konatsu…” Hyuuga glanced behind him.
“You might be the only one that actually gets to stay in the church…”
“Well… Shuri and the twins too.”
“Mm. Yeah. Look after everyone if we don’t get to stay. This could get rather complicated rather fast… be on guard.”
“We mustn't start any trouble, Kuroyuri-sama.” Haruse chided gently.
“I wasn’t gunna… unless they start something first.” she grumbled. “That puppet ghost might be able to cut our bonds so it is important to be safe here. For Ayanami-sama’s sake.”
The church was such a sharp contrast to their base at Barsburg. Things here were bright to a near painful extent. The room they were led into had one of the softest beds Hyuuga had ever touched. The sheets and blankets all felt soft… so different from the military cots that were produced in mass quantity for the numerous soldiers.
“I am sure with the lingering poison on Ayanami’s tongue I can come up with an antidote. Hopefully rather quickly. Once the cure is administered it’s up to Ayanami and of course Verloren to recover. With regeneration, I’m sure he’ll be fine. Verloren will take some time depending on how much damage he’s taken. And I am sure the whispers of your arrival have traveled quickly. So I will work quickly on a cure. I just need to lock you in for a little while. You don’t want to face some of the other ghosts without me there to explain…”
Giving them a faint smile the bishop took his sample and hurried out, quickly locking the door behind him. He couldn’t help but be curious about how such a poisoning had happened. Ayanami was a powerful soldier and Verloren was a very formidable force. Was it in secret? Labrador couldn’t see how that would have happened without the Blackhawks being more aware.
What had happened exactly with Ayanami and the Barsburg military?
Castor’s vice broke him out of his stupor and the other shook his head a bit. “Yes…?”
“You were… crying.” The bespeckled ghost frowned deeply and brushed away a few fallen tears on that pale skin. “Why…?”
Labrador rubbed his sleeves across his face, he hadn’t noticed at all nor did he understand it at all. It was as if… A slight separation between himself and Prof for just a moment. They were always insync and inseparable entity but for that moment… Why? “I can’t explain right now.” Labrador hastily answered, continuing to gather what he needed. “I need to do something important.”
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with the rumors I’ve been hearing, would it?” Castor’s concern quickly turned into a disapproving frown. “I hear there are military personnel within the church and their descriptions are strikingly familiar to me.” The auburned haired man followed the other as he moved deeper into the garden. “You had me make tea and over half a dozen sandwiches for guests. Labrador, what have you brought into the church?”
“People who need help.” Was the simple response.
“You and Frau can say what you wish I will defend my choice to do this. It’s the only chance for him to live a human life.”
“Did you think of Teito at all in this matter?” Castor demanded.
“Teito… Teito has grown enough where he’d understand. I can help him understand. There is so much he’s learned but so much still he doesn’t know about everything. And I can tell him. I’ll tell him every detail.”
“You are much too compassionate to those who do not deserve it, Labrador…” Castor answered with a sigh. “Will you at least tell me the situation? How do you know it’s not a trick?”
Labrador’s brow furrowed a bit and he shook his head, taking the leaves he’d picked and moved towards the table so he could make an antidote. “Aside from my vision… Their concern for him is genuine. We know Verloren can’t eat any more of us so… what would be the point in trespassing. And they only sent the one to come find me. To come help. They care about him so much. And not just Verloren… the human that resides within.”
“What happened exactly?” Castor asked, curiosity coating his words. “Why are they here and not in Barsburg?”
“The military betrayed them. That’s all I’ve truly been able to gather. They ran here because it was the safest thing and because I was the only one who could save Ayanami…”
“Because of the military? Why… why would they betray the man that’s won them all their wars…?” The ghost adjusted his glasses trying to wrap his head around this new information. Coming here would be something someone desperate would do, especially considering most of them were Warsfiels. “Betrayal and something only you can fix. I’ll take a guess it was a poison? That seems… cowardly. I suppose that is the only way to take down the man.”
“I think, Ayanami knew they were trying to kill him.” Labrador answered, grinding the plants together. “And he allowed it. Verloren was weak from what happened in District One prior and he took the betrayal as an opportunity.”
“That’s what I am led to believe… I think that’s what Prof believes...”
“I see.” Castor turned away from the other for a moment. “I suppose I can help spread information that they’re not Barsburg military anymore and that will help. And I’ll keep it quiet that they’re warsfiel. And I’ll… keep this from both Frau and Teito as well. I wonder if I can send them off for a few days.”
“We can block off a wing for them for a little while. There are a lot of younger ones. We can’t keep them locked up for too long.”
“I recall. I don’t agree to allowing them to walk free in the church though. They’ve all terrorized this place at least once. Despite what you say I can’t be so trusting that their motives are that genuine.”
“Take a look at them yourself then.” Labrador insisted, peering at the contents of his antidote. This should work… or at least help drastically. “Come talk with them.”
“Is there any harm in allowing the poison to fester to keep Verloren down?”
Labrador tossed a glare over at the other. “He will die. Verloren will be dormant well after the cure is administered. They’ll probably be gone from here when that happens. A lot of damage was done.”
Castor seemed relatively pleased with this information but still cautious. “I’ll know for sure about all of this when I see them.”
Labrador held back a sigh and gestured for the other to follow him. Castor eating up his precious time which was not helping anything, especially if it turned out his antidote was ineffective. Who knew how long Verloren could keep that body alive. That poison was quite vicious and was still slowly eating away at that human body, each passing moment could mean life or death.. Regeneration would take some time… but at least he’d be alive. The next step after recovery was a mental recovery, assuming Prof was correct in their assumptions. But that wasn’t something that he could have any hand in. That would be up to the Blackhawks and they’d see it done. This he knew for sure.
Castor was nearly on his heels as they made their way through the halls of the church. It wasn’t too far from his garden but deep within the church all the same. A good and questionable thing, he understood. But he trusted his vision and he trusted the situation. He wasn’t wrong about any of this. It seemed like the one thing he and Prof wanted very much might finally come to be.
It was oddly silent in the room with the Chief. He expected them to be a bit more… rowdy. Considering the circumstances this was probably to be expected. “I have an antidote.” he assured them. “This should help dramatically. The rest will be up to Ayanami. And then… yourselves once he wakes up.”
Castor quietly closed the door behind him, noting fierce eyes upon him, specifically from the pink haired one. They had a complicated relationship…
“How long will it take for him to recover?” Hyuuga asked.
“Hard to say… It shouldn’t be too long.” Labrador answered.
“Why is the puppet ghost here?” Kuroyuri demanded, Haruse quickly trying to shush her.
“Well… he can help assure the people of this church that military people aren’t actually here. But, within good reason he doesn’t really trust my decision about this. So he wanted to see for himself if it was all true.”
“We sneak in if we’re up to no good~” Hyuuga chirped. “Konatsu just walked in the through the front door.”
“Ayanami-sama needs help.” Kuroyuri cut in. “Once he’s better we’ll leave. We have other places we can go. You don’t need to worry about any of us, ever again. I think…” she hesitated for a moment, once again feeling that slight confusion of Verloren’s desires and Ayanami’s own. The hunt for the scythe and fragments… was it all over?
Haruse slowly stood and approached Castor. “I understand your desire to probably keep us locked up until the recovery. The twins… they’re not dangerous and not Warsfiel. I ask that you allow them out to explore. Konatsu as well, should be allowed such a privilege. Also, in regards to food. Kuroyuri has an incredibly sensitive pallet. If I could be allowed to make her meals, I’d appreciate it very much.”
Castor blinked in surprise at these polite requests. Yes… he supposed that the ones that were not Warsfiel should be allowed out. If they were not of the Barsburg military then there shouldn’t be any problems. “I… don’t see why not. As for that… well. I’ll accompany you then when it’s time. As for right now, I’ll lead the non warsfiel to the courtyard. And I’ll leave open some rooms in the hall. Are the rest of you fine staying in here?”
“Hyuuga and I will stay with Ayanami-sama,” Kuroyuri assured. “You don’t have to worry about us.” She pulled her legs up to her chest and rested her head on her knees.”
“The room is big enough for at least a small cot. We can bring another bed for them.” Labrador offered, standing up straight now that the poison had been administered. “I’ve done what I can for now. If he starts burning up come find me in the garden. The chill that you’re all worried about is a good thing for now.”
Kuroyuri wrinkled her nose at this as that didn’t make a bit of sense. “Is… is it cause we’re Warsfiels?” she asked. After all, they were all a bit on the cold side of things since Ayanami each had half their souls.
Labrador nodded slightly. “It does have something to do with that, yes. I am sure Ayanami can explain it much better when he awakens.” The violet eyed bishop offered them all a reassuring smile. “Hopefully, everything will be okay now. Castor and I will prepare the rooms for all of you.”
Two weeks and there was no sign of any kind of response from the silver haired commander. If it wasn’t for the faint signs of breathing you’d think there was a corpse lying in the bed. Keeping anyone locked up in a room for that amount of time did not sit well with either of the two bishops so as the days went on they slowly allowed the Blackhawks further into the church and eventually into the courtyard.
“We can’t keep Teito and Frau away from the church forever.” Castor reminded, as they sat at a small table near the fountain where the twins were happily splashing each other and playing with Razette. “They may have to leave regardless if Ayanami is awake or not.”
“He’s slipped into a coma it seems.” Labrador explained. “I suppose there is a chance he won’t wake up. That’s not news I wish to tell them but it wouldn’t be right sending them off with him and not know.”
Although… Labrador glanced around the courtyard at the disheartened Blackhawk team. In their hearts they might already know. None of them ate a great deal even when Haruse was able to make them something and not Castor. They were quiet and it looked like sleep didn’t come easy to any of them save for one or two. Perhaps it was the connection with the commander that let each of them know that perhaps this fight for life was over.
“Ah. That one’s Hyuuga, right?” Castor asked, drawing attention to the older Blackhawk who emerged from the church for what had to be the first time. He was always perched at Ayanami’s bedside. To see him anywhere else was… was not a good sign.
“Yes. That’s Hyuuga.” Labrador answered, slowly sipping his tea. “He’s probably going to try and cheer everyone up a bit.”
“It’s interesting… They’re safe here in this church. Barsburg hasn’t stepped in this District to find them and yet… they’re all like this. I had never presumed to guess that their love for that man was so… deep. I was aware of the attachments to one another. Kuroyuri and Haruse, of course. I didn’t know it was to him as well. Even with their connection to him hanging by small thread. They still care so very much. It’s all… genuine.”
Labrador smiled brightly. “Are you surprised?”
“Yes… I didn’t know Warsfiel were capable of that. And I am to understand that the feeling is mutual on the other end. It makes you think, truly it does.”
“We’re not so different. Some might say they’re surprised we can feel anything. Fragments of a being that once cared too much. Would his servants be any different?”
Castor found himself smiling at those words despite himself. “I suppose not.” he admitted.
“It’s not often I see you away from his bedside.” Labrador informed, stepping up towards the Blackhawk. It was late now, nearly everyone had turned in which is probably why this one had come out. A bit of solitude and reflection. The silver haired bishop often found himself doing similar things after some late night gardening. “That’s twice today…”
Scarlet orbs glanced at him but there was no answer. He’d never seen the other without the dark frames. Even when they’d crashed the Barsburg ball Hyuuga had been wearing the glasses in his fancy white suit. Only here, thinking he was alone in the courtyard with nothing but the slight splashing of Razette did he remove them. Taking off that seemingly important piece of armor for just a moment.
Labrador hesitated for a moment before gently sitting himself on the edge of the fountain beside the other. “I could say something positive, but that probably won’t do much. I could tell you the truth or my opinion but it’s something you already know. But maybe you should do the talking. I think that would prove more useful.”
Hyuuga shrugged, offering a faint huff of laughter. He kept his gaze straight ahead but did lift a hand to rub at his eyes. “It’s… It’s just like when we were kids. He was always sick. Always laying on a bed like that looking like death. It’s been a long time since I sat and worried at his bedside. And even when he stopped getting sick he goes out into battle and allows himself to get hurt because regeneration is an option. No one is allowed to protect him anymore.”
Labrador tucked away every bit of information that Hyuuga had given him away. He was subtly trying to unravel the mystery that was the Blackhawk commander and confirm his and Prof’s suspicions about what happened.
“Which reminds me…” Hyuuga dug into his pocket and held out the seed that Labrador had given to him just before his capture. “I didn’t get a chance to use them. He stopped me… Heh, I had a pretty crazy plan. It might have killed me. Maybe it was better that he stopped me, even though he got hurt doing so. I don’t know what would have happened if I had actually died on him to save him. Can’t put him through that again.”
“Again?” Labrador questioned taking the item from the Warsfiel.
“Yukikaze.” Hyuuga answered, pausing a moment and debating if he should elaborate. “Ayanami’s begleiter. And the love of his life. He was killed during the Raggs war. He jumped in front of a sword that was meant for Ayanami and died.” Hyuuga ran a hand through his dark hair. “I was on orders to track down the prince, so that’s what I was doing… By the time I found Ayanami he was completely different. I knew him and didn’t in two different ways. It’s confusing. It really is. There is a servitude to Verloren. Your very blood knows it. And then there’s Ayanami. I’ve known him for so long. It confuses the others sometimes too. Kuroyuri especially. She ends up in tears because of it all sometimes.”
Labrador frowned for a moment. “You knew Ayanami before he was Verloren?”
“Yeah.” Scarlet hues glanced at the bishop.
“That…” he hesitated for a moment attempting to explain this without revealing the Chief’s well guarded secrets. “When Castor and I became Ghosts we left everything behind. We were sent here and no one from our human lives could know…”
Hyuuga’s eyes narrowed slightly as it was his turn to start taking in information. “Maybe it’s different because he was a Warsfiel before he was Verloren.”
“Why can’t see anyone you once knew?” Hyuuga questioned. “Is it because Ghosts need to be secrets?”
“Well… It’s because to be a ghost you had to die.” He shouldn’t have told but he wasn’t about to lie either.
“You are dead? And the other ghosts. The one with glasses and--”
“Yes.” Labrador quickly answered. “We all perished and the Chief brought us back as vessels to the Ghosts.”
“So anyone could have been a ghost?”
“I don’t know the answer to that, I’m afraid.”
“Could anyone have been Verloren’s vessel?”
These questions. “I, I’m not an expert despite being a ghost. I only know what I know. I do know that he looks exactly like Verloren…”
“Aya-tan hasn’t died… I’d have known. I wouldn’t have let it happen.”
Labrador placed his hands in his lap, knowing that he shouldn’t have said anything. He certainly didn’t help the situation or relieve any of the Blackhawk’s stress. It should have been Ayanami who decided when to talk about it but… the bishop had a feeling that would never happen. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe Verloren works differently than the Ghosts, like myself. I apologize. I didn’t sit here to upset or add to your worries. I know you just wish for Ayanami-san to get well again. And there are obvious concerns on where to go from there once he is well. There is a lot on your mind. I would like to know about the situation you’re in so I can explain it to the superiors if need be.” Obviously that wouldn’t be necessary… but it would help when eventually speaking to Frau. “Ayanami-san is very strong and skilled. I can’t imagine it would have been easy to poison him unawares.”
Hyuuga grit his teeth together, his gaze returning to the water. “It wasn’t unaware. He knew what was going to happen. Verloren was injured and weak from protecting me from the traitor in our ranks. The fort was a mess. Teito escaped again. You all escaped. The blame was on us. They hate us back there. They loath Aya-tan despite everything he does. How hard he works… Miroku… Miroku trained Ayanami and helped turn him into what he is now. It was all so he could be a vessel for the eye. But it became obvious over time that he wasn’t suitable. Specifically after the Raggs war when we all learned we had Verloren on our side. Miroku turned his sights on a different user for the eye. And we became a much more free working faction of the military. Verloren hasn’t had a great part to play these past ten years. It wasn’t until Teito appeared and vanished did things start to happen. Verloren was a much more active force and Aya-tan’s goals to protect Barsburg were swept aside. It became about getting the fragments and all of that. It didn’t feel like a problem. That’s the goal. It’s in our blood to obey that instinct. The closer we got to completing that object the more rules we had to break within the military fort. We had to kill high ranking people. General Oak… he was always on Aya-tan’s side about things but Verloren said he had to go. So he was gone. Miroku probably knew what we were doing. He’s a very smart man… He sent up a gala to honor Aya-tan… A trip that he was well aware of. He knew very well what would happen if he went there. He told Konatsu to get us all out and somewhere safe and he’d just give up and die. Kontasu cracked under the pressure of his orders and I went to find him. They really set it up. A full ballroom of people dressed to the nines. The entire military was there to watch him die. After everything. Barsburg wouldn’t be what it was if it wasn’t for him but it’s so easy to forget all that when the dust settles. With no current threats to Barsburg they don’t need us.” The dark haired man gripped at his sleeves. “I want to cut them all up for all the suffering they’ve tried to inflict upon us. You can’t walk down the halls without people muttering something. He walks past as if it’s nothing. And maybe it is to him. But it makes my blood boil. Verloren has complicated everything and I’m helpless to it. You smile and you serve. I always kind of hoped that when Verloren got what he wanted Aya-tan would go back to normal. But if that wasn’t the case I’d find a way to see him again, no matter the cost.”
“I find it interesting that there is such a clash between Verloren and Ayanami-san. For all of us, we’re always in sync with our Ghosts. We didn’t lose ourselves but then again, our past lives are long gone. We can embrace what we have without issue. If we had stayed in our current homes, as Ayanami-san did, I see that being incredibly difficult.”
“Verloren appeared during the Raggs war. Yukikaze died that same time. You can’t imagine how hard it was to keep him functioning. To keep him alive. I thought for sure he’d do something irreversible and I’d lose him. He had nightmares and stopped sleeping for the most part. He’s never recovered from Yukikaze’s death.”
“It goes without saying… that you two should have a long talk when he wakes up. Your relationship is not professional anymore. And knowing what you know now and Verloren dormant you could have a very important conversation.”
“I’ve only and ever wanted him to be happy.”
Labrador smiled faintly at those words and very carefully placed a gentle hand on the Blackhawk’s shoulder. “Believe it or not, I want that too.”
Dreamless sleep was always the most comforting. Dreaming was burdensome in all sorts of ways. Mostly because the dreams were hardly ever his own. They were memories about a girl he’d never met and a place he’d never been to. Verloren’s dreams and nightmares invaded what should be peaceful resting. And so he’d gone and done what he could to avoid such things altogether.
First he tried just not sleeping at all. If this body could run on little to no food than it could do the same to sleep. That wasn’t quite the case. The body was human and it needed at least something to help it keep running day in and day out. And so he tried pills. Those did the trick but for a very small amount of time. And so he mixed the two. A small bit of sleep while taking the medication would ensure something dreamless and quick and just enough to get through another day.
As of right now he was somewhat aware that he’d been sleeping a great deal of time dreams were starting to seep in so he’d forced himself into an awake state. How long had he been asleep for exactly? He had that grogginess in the head feeling. He knew it well from the regeneration chamber. Was that where he was now? No… it didn’t feel anything like that chamber at all. His body also felt fine. Sort of. All the limbs were clearly in tact but there was certainly pain. In his middle but beyond skin deep. Like it was deep inside him. His organs, maybe. But that didn’t make a great deal of sense.
It reminded him of something though. A memory from long ago. Ah yes… as a child and waking up in a tomb. A vile taste on his tongue that never left. The aching in the core of your body from a toxin that had succeeded in its job.
It all started to trickle back to him. A false party. A speech. Wine. Miroku… Hyuuga’s voice?
Slowly the commander opened his eyes noting he was in a fairly bright room. This wasn’t a place he was terribly familiar with. With the little strength he had Ayanami found himself pushing himself up into a sitting position. His limbs shook a bit at the effort it took. The poison had left a devastating affect on nearly every part of him. It would eventually be healed up with regeneration but as of right now he was terribly weak.
It was time to take note of the situation then. His hand felt warm. Someone had been holding onto it. Rather tightly, he had to imagine. There was a small indent on the edge of his bed on the other side, where another person had been sitting frequently. And another bed was in here altogether, clearly been used before judging by its disarray.
Was he in a hospital? But where… this was not a hospital or medical ward within the military base. In fact, judging by the scenery outside his window he was not in district one at all. How was that possible? Where could he be and how could he have gotten here?
Weakly he rubbed at his mouth, the poison taste on his tongue vile and unwanted. Stronger than normal… Miroku’s vile concoction probably lingering still.
Ayanami decided to make a deduction.. It would be safe to assume that his loyal Blackhawks were here with him, wherever here may be. The warmth on his hand is that he hadn’t been alone long. Whomever was at his bedside would likely return. Sooner or later, he didn’t much feel like waiting.
He threw off the numerous covers over his form and turned. Each movement caused a wave of dizziness but he would endure. His feet touched the floor. Cold. Boots were missing but he’d have to go without. His jacket was too. It had been removed, quite obviously. Though he couldn’t pinpoint it’s location he reached for the next best thing, the one on this chair beside his bed. It was just a tad too long and a bit wider all around for him but it would do. The sweet smell that lingered on it told him this had to be Hyuuga’s… So Hyuuga was here. That… that was a very good thing.
His legs weren’t very sturdy but he could walk. His fingers brushed against the walls which helped to steady him. No gloves. Those were missing too. They were much more a necessity to him than the other things. He’d be sure to get someone to find them for him.
Out of the room he found himself realizing where he was. The church. The familiar hallways were something he’d seen with his own eyes and through the eyes of others. His Blackhawks had taken him here? How and why? In terms of Military personnel this place was ideal for keeping safe. But for them with Warsfiel blood and Verloren it was incredibly dangerous as well. And yet the room they were clearly staying in told him that they were somewhat welcome here. It was quite curious…
His connection to several of his Hawks led him to a courtyard. Bright out here as well but not unpleasant by any means. There was a sound of running water and joyous laughter coming from the familiar voices of the twins.
“Ayanami-sama… Ayanami-sama!” Kuroyuri’s enthused shout nearly brought a faint smile to his face as he prepared for her small form to crash into him.Though normally incredibly respectful of distances when her emotions got the best of her there was no denying something like this. He’d allow it, this time. He supposed he’d given them all a slight scare.
Without fail she slammed into him, her smaller arms wrapping around his middle tightly. “Ayanami-sama, you’re awake. You’re finally awake.”
“Ayanami-sama!” the twins chirped, also approaching. Sprinting past them was the two large panthers quickly making their way over to their master so they could brush against Ayanami's legs and hopefully earn a few pets from him.
“We were quite worried, Ayanami-sama.” Haruse softly informed, gently making an attempt to pry Kuroyuri off but she would not be moved.
“I… I hope you’re not upset, Ayanami-sama.” Konatsu approached next looking nervous. “I did my best to follow your orders but… I am glad thing turned out this way.”
“Konatsu-kun doesn’t need to be apologizing~” Hyuuga sang, the last to approach the small group. “Does he, Aya-tan?”
“Hyuuga…” The first words spoken, his voice sounded a bit hoarser than he’d care for. But it was to be expected and it was unlikely that his team would fault him for any small weakness right this moment. “Are you implying that I should be apologizing for something?”
“Ah~?” Hyuuga smiled brightly, leaning in a bit. A sign that his response had been correct. They were all here hovering and worrying… perhaps with good reason. But if simple responses could ease all their minds then he was glad for it. He could avoid complicated questions and conversations with most of them. The usual suspect, he’d never be able to shake.
He took a deep breath, feeling tired and a handful of other things due to not properly medicating during his time asleep most likely. Gently he placed a hand upon Kuroyuri’s head and ruffled the pink locks to ease her mind and heart. “Inform me of the current situation.”
“Yes sir,” Konatsu quickly saluted and began speaking starting from where he’d attempted to gather up everyone into the ship and leave District One.
Teito found himself blinking in complete shock at the sight of the black and gold uniform. Even curiouser was that it was Shuri Oak. Ayanami’s begleiter?
“Something doesn’t smell right.” warned Frau, stepping up from behind.
“Teito!” The blond called over. “So I was right. You do stay here now. I thought so but you just weren’t here. The other bishops said you probably wouldn’t arrive until we left. Shows what they know.”
Other bishops… Castor and Labrador obviously. They were the ones that kept sending them on these pointless errands. They were, technically, back early as Frau couldn’t stand another moment of traveling. And perhaps the reason for all these errands was that Castor and Labrador were in trouble of some kind? Barsburg military was clearly here.
Teito darted past Shuri, Frau close behind, leaving the blond boy to call out for him but that was easy to ignore.
“Did you get any sign from them that they were in trouble?” the younger asked.
“No. Maybe they were acting suspicious… I couldn’t tell.” Frau grit his teeth together, getting ready to call up on the scythe. “I can’t believe they’d be so bold as to invade again.”
It honestly didn’t make a lot of sense. But maybe Verloren was desperate to end this. Well. Then it was going to end here and now. They wouldn’t get away with this.
Teito slid to a stop along the marble floor spotting the black and gold coat and silver hair that he’d recognize anywhere.
“Ayanami!” he called, feeling venom flood through him. It was time to end this.
Chapter 4: Things I Almost Remember
I wanted to say thank you to a wonderful artist who has done art of this fanfic and has even done art of some of my other works as well as some of my rps. If you enjoy Aya/Hyuu art then you must see what she draws for it is truly beautiful and amazing.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy.
Violet eyes glanced back at the boy who’d called his name and a faint sweep of nostalgia crept over the two who had been in a similar position not all that long ago. You could call it their first official meeting as Chief and cadet back then. This was different for various reasons but the major one being the sight of those violet eyes. They were quite different than Teito remembered. And at the sight of them the young teen found his resolve slowly slipping away. That was not the face of the man he’d continued to come face to face with. Nor was it that stature of someone who was able to fight this current moment.
He couldn’t think about it too much before they were taken out of his sight. History repeating it itself to some extent. Hyuuga moved in front of Aya prepared to protect. The man was fast with his deadly katanas…
“Stay back!” Snapped Kuroyuri jumping in front of everyone being one of the few with available weapons at her fingertips. “You leave us alone!”
Teito felt himself being yanked roughly back, Frau appearing in front of him, the scythe in hand and prepared to end it with these troublesome Blackhawks. Managing to catch himself, the brunette reevaluated the situation trying to figure out where his lack of resolve went. Weapons. Not one of these Blackhawks was armed with their weapons. Most weren’t even dressed to the fullest. In fact… had that even been Ayanami’s jacket? It lacked the usual flair on the shoulder… And Hyuuga certainly didn’t have those sharp swords at his hip otherwise he’d surely be at the front.
“Enough!” Castor’s voice came forward one of his nun dolls appearing in between the two factions to catch any possible blows. “Enough.” he repeated, appearing from the courtyard and maneuvering around the Blackhawks. “Frau, put that away before it causes more problems. More importantly, why are you here? I told you to head to district five--”
“More importantly? Do you see what’s standing across from me?” The blond demanded, waving a hand at the obvious threat within the church. A well placed look from Castor had him putting away the weapon despite his objections.
“They’re our guests, Frau.” Labrador explained, slipping past the Blackhawks as well and into the middle of the almost feud.
Teito blinked at the information that was appearing before him. His jade colored eyes moved back to the Blackhawks who were simply retreating back into the courtyard. What in the world was going on and why? Why were these people allowed to be here?
“Teito-kun.” Labrador moved around the irritated blond and offered the younger a faint smile. “I guess this is rather confusing… ah, it’s a complicated situation right now. Are you okay? This is all my fault. I allowed them in here. I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t necessary.”
Castor and Labrador had both lied to him or at least tried to hide this. Why? Why would they do this for those people? “Those guys killed my family… He killed Mikage .” Teito looked away from the concerned bishops. “I don’t understand...” the boy trailed off for a moment a slight realization coming to him. “Is it because you all know? You all know that Ayanami is related to me?”
“I beg your pardon?” Castor asked, his gaze sliding back to the Blackhawks back in the courtyard. “Did you just say…?”
“That’s the only reason I could see letting them in… It’s because you all know.”
Labrador straightened up a bit and glanced at the other two ghosts for a moment. “I… don’t believe we were aware of that, Teito-kun. How do you know that Ayanami is related to you?”
Teito grit his teeth together, starting to feel incredibly irritated about all of this now. “I bit him… And it brought back memories. He was my father’s younger brother. Krowell… Krowell Raggs.”
“Interesting.” Castor murmured, bringing his fingers up to his lips as he fell into deep thought. Labrador took a few steps back before turning around to head back out into the courtyard, seeking out the Blackhawks.
“Kid, that’s not possible.” Frau interjected. “The youngest Prince of Raggs was killed when he was just a kid.”
“So were you, right?” Frau stiffened at that statement. “You all died. That’s what makes you a ghost. Krowell had to have died to become Verloren, right?”
Frau waved a hand. “I mean to say…”
“It’s not impossible.” Castor interrupted. “I believe what you saw, Teito-kun, was quite real. I understand it’s hard. Someone you despise as much as that man turns out to be your family. But you do not have to treat him as such. Nor do you have to be here for the small amount of time he remains here. But, I do believe we will be done with them in the near future. Should you wish to finish any business with them, I advise waiting. Just a bit.”
Teito shook his head needing better answers than he was getting. “What’s going on? Why are they here?”
“Ayanami and his company are no longer part of the Barsburg military and they needed a place to go momentarily. Ayanami had taken quite ill. So much so it put Verloren in a dormant state for a small amount of time. And Labrador deemed it safe so we allowed them entrance. Just for a little while. Seeing as the former commander is awake, I am sure they will depart soon enough.”
This information was incredibly hard to process. Ayanami and the elite Blackhawks were not part of the military? That… that didn’t make any sense. They were the first into battle and if they weren’t that they cleaned up the mess and had won Barsburg countless victories against all enemies. It was well known even to a former cadet like him. The Blackhawks while somewhat feared and loathed to some extent were extremely valuable to the kingdom. They were under control and Ayanami’s loyalty was unwavering to the cause. Did the Blackhawks just decide to leave? That didn’t make a lot of sense. Where could a group like them go?
Castor had also said that the commander had taken ill? No, that wasn’t right either. Ayanami couldn’t get sick. Hyuuga… yes, it was Hyuuga that had told him back when he’d had his memories suppressed that Ayanami never got sick anymore. As a kid it was common but not as an adult. Verloren obviously had something to do with that. Teito’s head was spinning trying to figure out what was happening exactly. Castor and Labrador weren’t exactly being honest could he even trust them?
Maybe he should try and have a talk with the commander himself, if it was true that Verloren was dormant than it should be a fairly risk free task. Was it possible to have a civil conversation with Ayanami and the Blackhawks? His interactions with the man had always been… Teito’s gaze moved back to the courtyard where he watched Labrador approach the Blackhawks who had convened under one of the gazebos… He’d go to. He needed to talk to them just so he could understand. Understanding was important. Especially if they were sharing a roof. It could be all a trap, after all…
The young teen would like to believe he’d grown a decent amount over these few months. His hatred for Ayanami had not lessened. Of course he still hated that man, how could you not? But he also wanted to understand him to some extent. He’d been doing a lot of thinking lately. This was a man that was truly loved by those around him. And those around him weren’t bad people… they did bad things under orders. Kuroyuri and Haruse, Konatsu and Hyuuga… He’d gotten to know them all pretty well during his time as a Blackhawk. He surprisingly didn’t wish any of them any ill will, not even Hyuuga who’d slaughtered his retainers when he was a child. He understood being a soldier meant following through. Even Ayanami answered to someone. He wasn’t the head of the military… Miroku was.
Teito forced himself forward to where Labrador was, hearing the beginning of what sounded like a frantic Labrador. The young teen decided to linger back and listen to what was being said. Maybe he’d learn something.
“You! You’re a prince of Raggs!” The normally soft spoken bishop slammed his hands upon the table that the hawks were seated at. Each and every one of them looked at the other with blank to confused expressions. “They don’t know…” concluded Castor, his gaze moving over all of them. “Of course they don’t know… Not one of them knows anything about you.”
That statement caused Kuroyuri’s hackles to be instantly raised. “That’s not true!”
“You must be mistaken, good bishop. All the princes of Raggs are dead. I killed them both with my own hand.” Ayanami answered smoothly, his gaze unwavering.
“Don’t do that.” Labrador warned.
Hyuuga slowly shook his head at the bishop. “There are only two princes of Raggs… They both died ten years ago. The last remaining one is Teito-kun.”
“There was one more. One who died when he was just a child.” Labrador corrected. “Hyuuga-kun, when did you meet Ayanami-san? I bet you know the exact day to the second. Match it up to the books. Krowell Raggs would have died close to that meeting. Better yet… find a portrait of Prince Krowell.”
The major’s eyes narrowed behind his glasses, the mind racing with thoughts and pieces of information. “How did Korwell Raggs die?”
“Don’t indulge in such nonsense, Hyuuga.” Ayanami warned, though his voice remained soft and level.
“He was poisoned.”
“Ayanami-sama…” Kuroyuri looked over at the commander with wide eyes. “You told me you’d been poisoned before. You knew what it was like to not be able to taste things properly. It’s why I share my jelly with you.”
Hyuuga nodded, slowly pushing himself up from the table. “Yukikaze knew, didn’t he? He had to have known. He called you a King till the day he died.”
“King?” The twins chirped in unison. “King!”
That’s right… the Antworth twins. They knew too. They knew in their heart of hearts the moment they saw the man what he was. “Everyone knew.”
Kuroyuri placed her hands on her cheeks, a faint pink appearing. “Are you really a prince, Ayanami-sama?”
“A king!” the twins corrected.
“Yes… a king.” Labrador answered. “The only one capable, as of right now, of ruling the kingdom of Raggs.”
“There is no kingdom of Raggs. It’s gone.” Ayanami attempted to correct, ignoring all other questions about his identity for the moment.
“The land still exists. The castle. The people. And the royalty."
Konatsu cleared his throat hesitantly chiming in. “Regardless of everything that has been said we are loyal to Barsburg. Yes… we have been betrayed. But we will not so easily turn our backs on a land we’ve bled for…”
“But imagine what you could do for Barsburg if you got rid of what was rotten inside it.” Labrador insisted. “You wouldn’t be betraying the kingdom. You’d be saving it. For isn’t the man that betrayed all of you a dangerous force to have festering within the district you all love so much. Isn’t he the one that started so much of this?”
“You are fanciful as always, Prof.” Ayanami let out a huff. “Assuming everything everyone said is true it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what anyone here wants or thinks is best. Verloren will desire to finish what he’s started. All the pieces are laid out here in the church. It will be close enough to completion and that will be the end. Kings and princes… it’s all irrelevant. It would have been in your best interest to leave--”
“Ayanami-sama.” Haruse’s voice, surprisingly sharp, cut off the commander. “My apologies for speaking out of turn. But you have only just awoken after being very ill. Many of us have been endlessly concerned and worried. These are all matters that can be discussed at leasure another time. For now, I suggest cake. Kuroyuri-sama, will you assist?”
The pink haired girl hesitated, eyeing the ghost that was badgering Ayanami carefully and then allowing her gaze to move to the commander himself. She had things she wanted to ask but thought better of it. Hyuuga was here and he’d keep Ayanami safe if the conversation went awry. She slid off her chair and followed after her companion.
The blond jumped a bit and looked towards Haruse as well. “Yes?”
“Why don’t you come as well.”
His brow furrowed for a moment before taking in the situation. Oh, yes. That made sense. He made a gesture for the twins to follow as well and left the two older soldiers to their own devices with the bishop. Perhaps more things would come forth if they weren’t there to listen in.
“Ayanami-san,” Labrador continued “Please consider this… You have the best soldiers in Barsburg on your side. There are Raggs people out there. It would not be an impossible task to defeat the military might of Barsburg and bring about a new era with princess Ouka.”
“Princess Ouka…” Ayanami scoffed, the first change in his demeanor since this conversation started. “She’s no more fit to be Empress of Barsburg than I am to rule Raggs. Shattered memories of previous living beings have no business being anywhere near a throne.” The silver haired man waved his hand. “If I give into your words and do what you say what purpose will it serve at the end of it all? Verloren won’t sleep forever. He will return and things will go exactly as they had been. You all sit here with the boy who is the key… it could all end so quickly in one fell swoop, if given the chance.”
Verloren was a problem there was no doubt about that. Labrador glanced to the side for a moment, knowing that he could do something. Something that only he could do.
“I will speak to Verloren.” Labrador concluded. “I’ll do it. And the matter will be taken care of.”
“You believe yourself to be quite the negotiator?” Ayanami questioned, a faint smile appearing at the bishop’s words. The former Chief couldn’t see how that’d work but he’d allow the other to try. If these bishops allowed them to stay until Verloren awakened this could all end horribly fast in a victory for one side or the other. If that’s the risk they wanted to take it was fine with him. He’d just wait it out since there was nothing to better to do. “We will talk more on this subject if you can pull it off, and not before then.”
“Excellent.” Labrador breathed a sigh of relief, a wave of confidence filling him. “Then I also have another request while you’re here… If you would speak to Teito-kun.” The bishop gestured to the boy who wasn’t too far away, clearly listening onto the conversation. “You’re the only family he has… And I am sure he has many questions about what he… no, what you both have lost..”
“I know as little as he does.” Ayanami assured Labrador. “There is nothing I could tell him.”
“We’ll see. But will you at least try? If everything goes as planned… I think you owe him that much.”
“I owe him nothing.” The commander corrected. “But if he wishes to come up to speak to me, surely there is nothing stopping him.”
Labrador smiled at the former chief, taking that as a yes in so many words. “Very good. Please focus on getting well. Until then, Ayanami-san.” The bishop turned away gesturing for Teito to follow him. There was some things to talk about on their end as well. No one was going to like it but--
“You didn’t even bother trying to deny it halfway through that conversation.” Hyuuga plopped back down next to the commander. He couldn’t help but smile slightly at the other’s huff of irritation.
“No one was listening when I repeatedly declined the accusations.” The commander leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms in front of him.
“Is it true?” Hyuuga asked, turning his shielded gaze upon the other. “Are you the last Prince of Raggs… aside from Teito-kun?” Ayanami’s silence was all he was greeted with. Did the other think it would change things so much between them? With a sigh Hyuuga pushed himself up again and dragged the chair all the way around to the opposite end of the small table so he could talk a bit easier with the other. “I remember many years ago finding a little silver haired boy in the snow. A few days prior my Warsfiel blood had awoken and I had accidentally slaughtered my whole village. And then I found you. Dressed in regal clothing of white and gold… and looking as pale as death. I thought it was because of the cold. But it was because you died. Did I become a Warsfiel because Verloren woke up that day? I thought he hadn’t been around that long but maybe I’m wrong… Is that what happened?”
Again silence. Just the usual piercing violet stare.
“Why keep your silence now when there is nothing left to lose? Do you think we’ll care if you’re from Raggs? Do you think we will care if you’ve died? No one here is leaving… we’re all in it till we stop breathing. I just want to understand… That’s all I’ve ever wanted, Aya-tan.”
The silver haired commander took a deep breath, listening to everything the other said as he always did. But these were sincere words and very much concerned in a tone that was familiar. When Yukikaze died… When Verloren appeared… All Hyuuga had wanted was to understand then too. It would have been easier to tell him then. But yes… he was worried that if the other learned that he was dead that he’d be abandoned. Much of that probably had to do with Verloren’s own inner fears. But if he could keep everyone at arm's length and protect them always then all would be okay. It would always be okay.
“There was a third prince of Raggs…” Ayanami began. “A very sick young boy named Krowell Raggs. During a particularly harsh winter someone decided that the boy should be granted mercy. And so in the medicine that he took daily was infused with a quick acting poison which stole away the boy’s young life quite efficiently. They laid him in the tombs of Raggs with his forefathers. A prince went into those tombs and I emerged. Something new and a little different. Like you… my Warsfiel powers had awoken too. But I was not Verloren. I was still me. One driving force that exists is that you cannot stay in the place that you died so long as there are people who know about it. So without any sense of direction I moved forward, eventually finding you. And with your assistance we eventually came to a place where we’d be found by the then Chief of Staff, Miroku. He probably saw my clothing and knew where I came from and saw a potential eye wielder.”
“Did Yukikaze know?”
Ayanami shook his head. “Yukikaze never knew. I never intended to tell him for I thought the same thing. That he would leave… a thought I was not capable of bearing.”
Hyuuga smiled a bit at that thought. “He’d never have left you. If he’d ever learned you were a prince? He’d have been over the moon! He was already calling you a king, after all. Can you imagine?”
“I am not Krowll Raggs, Hyuuga.” Ayanami reminded, sitting up a bit straighter in his chair. resting his hands upon the table. “That boy is dead and has been dead for a very long time. What came out of those tombs was me. I am me, and no one else. A statement I have tried very hard to focus on through these past ten years as my identity continues to waver in front of me with each passing day. The wisest thing I have ever heard come from you is that I am me… No matter what happens.”
Aya-tan is Aya-tan. An important statement for him too. Grounding words for the both of them it appeared. Whatever Verloren may do those words would always hold true. Ayanami would always be Ayanami and Verloren would be Verloren. And though those personalities may mingle and merge depending on the situation at the end of the day they were separate. And he was glad those words managed to help his dear friend so much who no doubt struggled with it endlessly.
“Then how did Verloren come to be?” This is what he and the bishop had been discussing the other night.
“I died. For a second time and with the eyes both activated it was the worst possible situation come to light. I am sure Vertag would have never done such a thing if he’d realized who I was.”
“Vertag… That was one of the princes… Your brother?”
Ayanami nodded slightly. “He didn’t recognize me nor I him. His blade pierced through Yukikaze and I gave chase in blind grief. In an empty room he blindsided me and impaled me. Verloren awoke and devoured him. No one saw me die. No one knew it happened so there wasn’t a need to depart somewhere else. I could stay right where I was which was the ideal situation for the Death God but it left the conflicting human attachments. His choice to remain in the military base would forever keep us from syncing as all ghosts do to their humans.” The silver haired commander couldn’t help but offer the former major the faintest of smiles. “However, I think if I had vanished there would be nothing in this world that would have stopped you from finding me.”
Hyuuga brightened up at those words mostly because they were absolutely true. His devotion to the other was unwavering and strong even back then. The ten years of strife had only strengthened those bonds and ensured that he wouldn’t be so easily deterred from the other’s side.
“I wish you had told me.” Hyguua reached out and took the other’s hands in his own. The hands were chilled and cold much like they had been when he was dying. It was because this body was dead. A strange concept… Not one that would take any time to get used to. He didn’t think so. Aya breathed and moved and did all things a living person did. He could never truly see him as being dead.
“I could not risk you turning away. Not at the time. Not ever… You are one of the driving forces of why I am still here. Something that continues to this day, as you see.”
The past ten years had been unbearably hard for them both but more so to the dear friend in front of him. Yukikaze’s death and Verloren’s desires all meshed together into unbearable pain. To watch someone you love so dearly slowly die in front of you was a pain that very few could understand. All you could do was hold onto their hand as tight as you can in case they fell. More than once that had been a quite literal statement.
“I’m not going anywhere, Aya-tan. I’m here till the very end. And I always will be. Wherever you go, whatever happens I’ll be right behind you. It just may take a little bit of time to find you sometimes.”
“Are you upset?” the commander asked, a faint hint of curiosity in his voice.
“Not about anything I just heard. About other things… there are lots of things I want to say… something about willingly ingesting poison is top of the list to be sure. I want to do a little bit of yelling and maybe shake some sense into you when it comes to caring for yourself but… I’m just glad you’re here right now. Alive, in a sense. And I don’t honestly know how much time we have left. Who knows what will happen when Verloren comes around. What do you want to do now that you’re free to do anything?”
A curious question and rather dark he supposed. If you only had a few days left to live what would you do? Well… he hadn’t thought about it much or at all. His life had become nothing but work. Every spare moment of his existence he’d given to the Barsburg Empire. What was he supposed to do with a lack of office and paperwork? Would he be permitted to leave momentarily and go places? Or was he confined within these stone walls?
Hyuuga could practically hear the wheels turning in the other’s head as the data on how to enjoy life was clearly missing in the man’s sharp mind. “Well, I have some ideas!” he informed with his usual devious smile in place. “Would you permit me to show you how to enjoy life for the first time?”
“That sounds like the last thing I should leave in your hands.” Was the honest answer.
“Pleeeease.” Hyuuga whined, squeezing the other’s hand. “You can trust me, can’t you? Time is potentially short. So let’s play for a little while, okay? Leave this to me, Aya-tan.”
It was all very depressing in actuality but Hyuuga was right. Verloren would eventually awaken and be surrounded with fragments and his actual body. The end could come quickly and without warning. He may be alive but in actuality saving him was only prolonging the inevitable. The bishop could try and reason all he liked with the Death God but it wouldn’t change anything.
Teito silently followed the bishop after being pulled away from his eavesdropping. He was feeling incredibly conflicted and it was making him irritable. It sounded like Labrador wanted those people to rebuild Raggs. It made his stomach twist and turn. He didn’t like it.
“Are you upset with me?” Labrador asked, glancing back at the younger as he led them to the garden.
Teito kept his gaze on his feet not wanting to answer. Labrador was the kindest of all three bishops and actually being upset with him didn’t feel right. But it was how he felt. “Yes.”
The silver haired bishop nodded a bit. “Understandable and it’s okay to feel that way. But you are about to learn a very important lesson. An important thing for any bishop to know.”
“What is that…?” The younger questioned.
That word did not sit well with Teito right now.
“Forgiveness is important… We can’t live our whole lives feeling upset and wronged no matter how terrible the deed. We have criminals here that are seeking forgiveness and we here at the church give it to them. Surely your time in the military has stained your hands a bit.”
Teito instantly recalled his time in the slave pits. But that was kill or be killed… you couldn’t compare the situations!
“Soldiers have to do what they’re told. Orders from higher ups trickle down the command and sometimes people find themselves in questionable situations. Right and wrong… They don’t really matter. You have to do what must be done for your own survival. You understand that, right?”
“I do. I’ve been there… the consequences for not following orders are punishable.”
“Good. I’m glad you understand. Now. I am correct in understanding that Ayanami and the Blackhawks follow orders from higher ups?”
“Yes.” Teito confirmed. “From several other higher ups… He’s the Chief of Staff but he answers to the board. I recall they were recently promoted but I don’t remember too well, I guess it doesn’t matter too much anymore.”
“That’s fine, you told me what I needed to know. And if the order of events are clear to me… You attacked a commanding officer then fled your imprisonment and then Mikage failed to answer to military questioning. I suppose… from a military standpoint their actions, while harsh are understandable to some extent.”
This conversation was making Teito incredibly angry. “Are you saying that Mikage deserved that?”
“Not at all.” Labrador insisted. “There are two sides to every story. Like the Raggs war, remember? Knowing what you know about that, surely you have a differing opinion about it. Knowing what I know about the Blackhawks I find myself having a different opinion. I haven’t had a chance to speak to Ayanami-san but I bet--”
“He killed Mikage! He killed my family!”
“He did. He killed those people. He killed your friend and your family. A family… that was also his own.”
The younger’s rage stalled for a moment as he rethought that statement for a moment. His father and uncle… yes, they were of course Ayanami’s family too. His brothers. “But…”
“Do you think Ayanami hated them? Do you think he killed them because he could?”
Teito shook his head. “Just because he was ordered to doesn’t make it right.”
“You’re right. It doesn’t… Do you blame the soldiers under orders to kill or the ones that gave the order? It’s very complicated. And in the end it’s up to you. A bishop must forgive all no matter the crime. It is not up to us to judge souls. That time will eventually come to us all. The Chief of Heaven decides…” Labrador knelt before the younger and offered a smile. “I would not blame you or be upset if you refused to speak with them. The crimes against you are great in number. But I wasn’t about to turn away anyone in need of help. One of my deepest wishes and desires is for Ayanami to live a human life.”
“Why…” Teito looked at the kind hearted bishop with such deep confusion. “I don’t understand why you’d want to help them.”
“Because, Teito-kun, I am the one ghost out of the seven who is blessed with the truth.”
“The truth…?” The truth about what?
Labrador offered a bright smile at the other’s confusion. “My power is very unique. I heal and speak with the flowers. I see visions. And I wouldn’t dare to brag but if you hadn’t noticed, Verloren likes me the most.” Labrador slowly stood to his full height encouraging the vines and branches of the flowers to come to him for a bit. The bishop’s pale fingers gently grazing soft and fragile white petals “I have a very specific set of powers that radiate so specifically to someone. I am burdened with knowledge, knowledge that Prof has used only when the need is dire. This time, I will use it to help extend a life. A life that I feel deserves to continue. One that could change everything and give you back your home.”
His anger had ebbed away at the near ethereal presence the other was giving off. What was it that Labrador knew? What did he know that no other Ghost knew? “Labrador…?”
“I know what really happened that day.” Labrador’s expression turned serious for a moment before he lowered his voice just a bit so no one else could hear. “I know what happened to Eve.”