Whaddup y'all? It's been 8 years since I last read and saw this series. This is just a light spin-off exploring what would happen if Sephiria took a break from Chronos to pick up sweeping like Train and company. I make it no secret that Sephiria's my favorite Black Cat character. I'll be combining manga and anime material, picking what I like from each.
Sweeper Trial (1)
Train's gold cat-like eyes flew wide. "Well, look who decided to join us tonight," he breathed.
His best friends Sven and Eve looked on with wordless, skeptic shock. Sephiria Arks, commander of the Chronos Numbers, stood before them inside Annette's cafe. All three knew better than to dismiss her gentle looks and young age. She had good reason to be ranked number one, a clear cut above the rest. When she moved forward, Sven slipped a protective arm around Eve, but Sephiria only made to join them at the counter. She raised a finger to get Annette's attention.
"A cup of chamomile tea, please," she said.
Sephiria came in a blouse and scarf, a departure from her usual professional attire. Her signature weapon, the sabre called Christ, was nowhere to be seen. She wasn't one to flash it around when she didn't need it, as expected of a practical assassin. Sephiria looked serene and relaxed, reclining in her seat, shoulders slacked, hands steepled, and an amiable smile gracing her face. When Annette saw that the young woman meant no harm, she made a brisk nod and disappeared behind the counter.
Train, Sven, and Eve still stared perplexed at her.
Eve tapped a finger on her forehead and voiced what everyone had in mind. "You...you removed your tattoo?"
Sephiria chuckled. "Not quite, little princess. That would mean I decided to leave Chronos. Given my responsibilities, I highly doubt I'd do such a thing anytime soon." She didn't fail to notice how Train deflated a little in dismay. Intrigued by his reaction, she lifted her scarf to show them the Roman numeral I etched on her right clavicle. She hid it again with a flick of her hand and went on, "I had my tattoo moved, that's all. Having it branded on my forehead would draw too much attention. No Eraser wants that, let alone a Number."
"So what drew you out into the open?" Train asked.
She met his gaze, though she didn't have to look to sense his overwhelming curiosity. "Your way of life interests me, Heartnet," she admitted. "I thought a lot about the last time we talked, and about the day you defeated and spared Creed. The conviction that's in your promise, resounding through your actions, touching the people you meet...I felt compelled to see the world and live life through your eyes, if just for a short time. For lack of better words, I simply want to understand you better."
Train's interest grew with each second. He leaned so far forward on his stool that he teetered at the edge. "And...what do they think of this?" By "they," she knew Train meant the three Elders, whose existence remained known only to the Numbers.
Sephiria surprised them all, particularly Train, with her reply: "I've been granted permission to take a week off from my position."
"Seriously? You could do that?" The ex-Number exclaimed. "Huh. I thought they'd be too stiff to bend their old, creaky backs for even someone like you, Sephiria."
"I told them I'd keep an eye on you and maintain surveillance of your activities. When I worded it this way, it's no surprise they accepted. Belze assumes full command of the Numbers in my place. Heartnet, this is why I've come here tonight." Her eyes, bright and blue, steeled for a moment as she declared, "Allow me to accompany you not as a Number, not even as an Eraser, but as a Sweeper like you three."
Shock rendered them silent for a long stretch of time.
The cigarette butt dropped from Sven's gaping mouth. "Y-you really want to do that? For seven days?"
Train let a grin spread ear-to-ear across his face. "Wow, so you've really opened your mind to something new."
Sephiria smiled in thanks as she received her tea, then it turned into a wry grin as she looked back at Train. "Do I hear mock awe? Sarcasm?"
"Neither. I'm being serious." He took a sip of milk before continuing, "I always thought you were so stubborn, especially about Chronos. Chronos this and Chronos that, like it's the right answer to everything. But taking a week off to be a Sweeper? I had the impression you'd never 'stoop to that level,' so to speak. I didn't know you had it in you, Sephiria. I gotta admit I really like that." Like a flexing cat, Train leaned back in his seat with arms folded behind him. "Well...since you asked so nicely, and if you really want to, I have no problems with you tagging along. What do you guys think?"
Eve affirmed her opinion with a silent nod. Honestly, she didn't know Sephiria very well. Deep down, she had always wanted to get better acquainted with Train's mysterious former superior.
His body hunched up and tense, Sven peered at the Chronos commander with a single narrowed eye. "I'm not sure...this sounds too good to be true for you to have interest in our kind of life. You could be setting up a trap or plotting a scheme for all we know..."
"I understand your misgivings. It seems that Heartnet has informed you of my...tactics." She frowned. "I stop at nothing to complete my objective, it's true, but please know that I don't pride myself in the measures I take to make that possible. Besides, our common enemy has been defeated, so there's no need for further bad blood among us. I have no reason to antagonize you three. Sven Vollfied, I assure you that I'm making this request for the sake of only what I've said. Nothing more, nothing less."
Sven found it hard to raise any objections to her open sincerity. He had heard plenty of times from Train, and had seen for himself, the extent of her manipulative abilities. He seemed hard-pressed to sniff out an ilk of ulterior motives from her, but found none. After a long time of saying nothing, he looked away and muttered, "Okay, I guess you can stick with us for a bit." His voice hardened. "But I warn you...if you ever dare lay a finger on Eve-"
"Relax, Sven," Train cut in. "She's much better than that." He lightened the mood with a broad, toothy grin. "Welcome to the club, Sephiria."
The warmth of his reception was not unlike the tea she had finished. She returned his grin with her own little smile. "Thank you for your trust. I look forward to what lies in store for us all the coming week."
Thinking of the wild goose chases and perpetually running low on money, Sven regarded her with a raised eyebrow. "Is that so? For better or for worse, you're in for one hell of a ride."
Sounds interesting so far? There will be one chapter for each day, so I hope you stay tuned and keep reading.
I have a fist-sized tattoo of a wolf head (tribal art style) on my arm, and I find it amusing that some Black Cat fics make a big deal of how excruciating it is to get a tattoo etched or removed from Sephiria's forehead. It really doesn't hurt that much, especially if the tattoo's a tiny "1" and Sephiria's got a surgically enhanced body to tolerate pain. I dunno...I just thought that was funny.