Note: This story is being updated before it is continued, so if you've been here before and the chapters look a little different, do not be alarmed. It is just the writer keeping house on old writing.
A balsamine day dawned powder blue over the bamboo fields. The Chan family's graves were fresh, but it was a day for starting over.
I will seal the lower floors for good, Fou announced. There will no longer be any entrance, unless ordered otherwise by the heir.
She, the Guardian, mourned just like the people. Her sorrow was cold in shadows on the stones. Dirge-like winds rose from the deepest chambers of the fortress, hollowed so deep and old into the mountain that chalky springs still bubbled through them. But the Guardian had hope, just like the people/
The heir. Bak Chan.
Whispers echoed to the dizzying ceilings, louder than they had dared to be since the incident. The tragedy, the experimental accident, the act of God. They said the Chan's son listened to the walls the same way his mother and father had, and that perhaps his bond with the Guardian would guide him on the path of his late and indomitable parents. Perhaps the Order would recover strong after all.
There were other whispers, of course, as there always were in the Order. Some reported glimpses of a child from nowhere, the one old man Zhu crafted a sword for. A new exorcist? Who? Someone was being promoted, sent up to Europe to be a bigshot Branch Chief. Isn't he too young? I thought the Grand Generals didn't accept anyone not Western-born. A skirmish in Ukraine had revealed new Innocence. The Generals were elusive. The world still moved.
The Guardian heard it all, for the stronghold heard it all. But Fou would not speak again—what had been set in motion was already too late to stop. Whatever happened, to the child or to the scientist, to the Innocence or the Generals, did not have anything to do with her outside her walls.
Kanda could not see the dawn outside, and had not ever been able to. But somehow—he didn't know how—he knew what a sunrise. The Guardian's door looked just like a sunrise to Kanda. The tiles radiated in arches of dull yellow and pink, just like morning light. They were mute with age and warm to the touch, and pulsed like Alma's chest when he had insisted Kanda feel the beat of his heart.
Zhu had picked him a new name this morning. The old man knelt on his creaking knees draw characters in sand and talk about rice paddies in the country of the rising sun. Kanda didn't understand what he meant very well, but he understood that Kanda would be Kanda now and Alma would Alma and that would be that.
Kanda traced the name out again, dragging his finger over the texture of the tile. He may not have ever seen the sunrise before, or a country of the rising sun, but another man very like him had. That man had seen much, much more than tiles. Kanda was not that man anymore, but he was not Yuu anymore either. Something restless and awake stretched its wings in his soul.
He was ready to be free.
For weeks, the heavy bleach had been wafting up to Komui's workspace. His colleagues winced around their scoured throats as they imagined their friends' remains being scrubbed away, but Komui Li's was a different anguish: impatience.
Komui felt the tragedy as keenly anyone else. Komui always had that sense, a sense of impact. But he was too tireless and anxious to feel it this time. He needed to get to the future as fast as he could. The death of the Director was a tragedy, yes, but it was also an inconvenience.
There was a transfer order with Komui's name on it in neat European letters, just waiting to be approved—by a new Director or by God, whichever could get him to Britain faster. And there, somewhere, he had a sister, a small one, with soft white hands that reached up to brush like dove wings over his face.
Komui Li had an Exorcist for a sister, a sister who he had not even stood in the same country as since she'd been taken. She had gone where all the Exorcists went, all the men and women and children who could withstand the power of the thing they called "Innocence"—European Headquarters. Only a select few scientists of the Asia Branch ever went there, and only the very best transferred to work directly with the Exorcists.
So Komui had been better than the best. Edgar Chan signed the transfer form himself. Of all the reasons for Komui to wish the man was still alive, that Edgar had died before sending that letter kept him up at night longest. Komui had never allowed himself to look back at the unfathomable depths of effort and determination he poured into his pursuit, but now that he stood on the precipice of success or of failure, the distance he'd come overwhelmed him.
All of this, the young scientist would think to himself, through the daze of bleach fumes and overwork. All of this and it might be wasted because of postage.
But Komui kept his faith. Rebellious, Komui's hope refused to be killed. Komui waited, just like his Lenalee, to be told he was released.
Like her, he waited to fly.
Elyan likes experimental formats, yes they do. Thank you for reading!