Tears of innocence

---Chapter 1: The beginnings of a nightmare

It was a beautiful day in May, in Michigan's countryside. Spring had come a little late that year, but the entire area surrounding the Seventh Bell Orphanage was quickly covering with beautiful flowers, as if wanting to erase all evidence of the long winter that had gone by. The forest near the orphanage grounds had become a playground again for adventurous children like Rosette and Joshua Christopher, who lost no time in getting away from the orphanage immediately after breakfast and got into the woods before Ms. Jean, their caretaker, could even notice.

"Hey Rosette, do you really think this is alright?" Said the boy, a blond 11 year-old kid, looking at his older sister with a worried expression on his big blue eyes.

"Oh, c'mon Joshua, this is our special day. I will apologize to Ms. Jean later, I'm sure she's going to understand, she always does." Said the blond 12-year-old girl beside him with confidence. "Besides, I doubt she'll notice our absence until lunchtime, and we won't be back that late, anyway." She pointed to a special path between the woods that was very familiar to them. "Let's go that way, we haven't gone to the secret cave in months! I want to see if our treasure map is still buried there."

Joshua smiled sadly, feeling a little nostalgic. "Yeah, let's go!" he said, trying to sound enthusiastic. This was their last day together in the forest, after all...

Ewan Remington, a famous member of the great Magdalan Order, a religious militaristic organization known all over the world for their many victories against demons during the Great War, almost 2 centuries ago, was going to take Joshua to New York City the following morning. Joshua, a boy with special supernatural powers, had been "discovered" the week before by the Magdalan Order, and had been asked to join them in order to be trained to become a powerful exorcist, an offer that Joshua, a boy with big dreams, could not refuse, despite his frail health. He was an "Apostle" after all, a person blessed with the ability of using the powers of the Astral Line to help others, and people like him were invaluable in the hard times they were living in.

Humanity was at war, a difficult war that had been going on for over a thousand years against the beings people called "demons" for the extraordinary powers they possessed. Demons, despite having lost the Great War 200 years ago thanks to the help of a very special person known everywhere as "the Holy Maiden", were quickly gaining advantage against humans, and it was crucial to find Apostles like Joshua to help protect humanity.

Joshua and Rosette continued walking towards the cave they had discovered the year before in complete silence. Though none of them wanted to talk about it, the idea of being separated for the first time in their young lives was something they both dreaded. Rosette had not been too happy at the idea of being separated from her dear brother, but she knew how important his decision was, so she tried to cheer the both of them by keeping Joshua and herself distracted from the tearful separation that would come the following morning, when Minister Remington came to take Joshua away. She knew her brother too well, and she was aware that no matter how happy he was at the idea of joining the Magdalan Order, he would be very worried about leaving her behind, and though she knew she was going to cry once Joshua was gone, she didn't want to be pitied by him. She was the stronger of the two, after all, and was determined not to let him see her cry, no matter how lonely she felt...

"Hey sis, are you sure this is the right way?" Asked Joshua suddenly, breaking the hour-long silence between them. "I don't remember the cave being this far."

"Oh, it shouldn't be so far away now." said Rosette, not looking worried in the least. "We just need to find the old dead tree, turn to the right and..." She stopped herself abruptly, looking around her. The place didn't look too familiar, but she was confident she could find the way back with no difficulty. They continued to walk for more than half an hour, until she finally stopped walking and scratched her head, looking confused.

"What... is... it?" said Joshua, completely out of breath. His physical condition was not as good at his sister, and the long walk had made him very tired. "Don't... tell me... we're lost..." he managed to say between breaths.

"Are you alright, Joshua?" said Rosette, looking at him with concern. Joshua managed to smile at her. "Of course... I've never... been better... but where... are we?" he asked, not wanting her to notice how exhausted he really was.

"Umm... "Rosette looked around her again. She knew the forest very well and she didn't want to admit that she had no idea of their current location, so she inspected the surroundings carefully, looking for a clue that could help her find their way back. Something immediately caught her attention. A light shone between some nearby trees, and Rosette smiled.

"Look, there's a clearing!!" she exclaimed. "Let's go see, I'm sure there's a path somewhere!"

"O... okay" said Joshua, too tired to protest. They walked a few yards, and they suddenly found themselves in front of a wide open space, looking at something with big curious eyes.

In front of them, in the middle of a big clearing, was a big marble block, with a cross and some inscriptions engraved. Nothing grew around it in a radius of about 10 meters, not even the grass, which was an oddity, considering how thick the forest was in those parts. Yet the earth around the marble block was as dry and lifeless as a desert, almost as if were cursed never to give life again.

"Wow." said Rosette. "Why is such a large tombstone here, in the middle of the forest?"

"Who knows" said her brother, walking from behind her to peek at the marble block curiously. "How funny. There's no name written in it, just a short poem." He got on his knees to shake a bit of dust from the tombstone, and peered at the letters intently. He had always dreamed of becoming an explorer, and the idea that his sister and him had found something like that so unexpectedly, really excited him.

"Holy maiden Magdalene, pray for us. Almighty God, deliver us from all evil. Amen" He read out loud.

"That's all?" Rosette frowned. "Why would someone bring something that heavy here, where nobody could find... WHOA!!" Was the last thing she said before the marble block suddenly lowered before their eyes, showing a large underground passage underneath. "Whoa... this is incredible!" She breathed out, surprised.

"Let's go inside!" Joshua was almost trembling with excitement. "Maybe we'll find a REAL treasure inside, or a mummy, or..."

"Yeah, right." Said Rosette, pretending to be calm, when in reality she was just as excited as her brother. "There's probably nothing there, but let's go anyway..." She grabbed Joshua's hand. "Stay behind me, you might get lost!"

"Hey, YOU were the one who got lost, you said you knew where the cave was!" Said Joshua indignantly, despite following his sister's orders like he always did.

"Yeah, whatever you say..." Rosette lowered her voice. The underground passageway below the tombstone was very damp and cold and the darkness seemed impenetrable, despite the sun rays that fell through the entrance. Joshua remained silent. The atmosphere around them was a bit oppressing, though he didn't exactly know why. Everything was so surreal, like being in the middle of a dream...

"LOOK!" Shouted Rosette suddenly, making Joshua jump. She hurried forward, nearly dragging her brother along, and stopped a few meters away from a big archway with large stone doors. Both siblings stared at them for a few moments, amazed. To think that a place like that could even exist not so far from where they lived was almost unbelievable.

"But how do we open them?" Said Joshua. "There's no lock, and they look really heavy".

"Let's push them!" Suggested Rosette. "Maybe we can move them a little."

"Wait, there is something written here too..." Joshua narrowed her eyes, trying to look at the engraved letters despite the poor illumination. The sun rays didn't reach so far inside the passageway, so he put his face a few inches away from the doors and put his hand on them.

"Holy Ma..." He started to say, when the doors suddenly starting opening, just like the marble stone had moved before. They stared at the inside, incredulous at their apparent good luck. Everything was so easy...

Rosette, the most curious of the pair, stepped forward, with a look of wonder in her eyes, and peered inside the room. Though the light was dim, there didn't seem to be anything inside, except for what appeared to be a statue of a sleeping person, lying on top of a big stone bed. Weird...

"That's all? So it was just a tomb after all..." Whispered Joshua behind her, barely hiding his disappointment. He expected to find a treasure, or something equally spectacular, but there appeared to be nothing of the sort.

"Yeah, but why is it here? It's so strange!" Rosette took a deep breath and walked inside, cautious. She was very scared, but her curiosity was a lot stronger than any fear she might have had at the moment. She crossed the doorway and looked around her. The room was dark, but strangely enough, the darkness didn't bother her. It took her a bit to notice that the statue of the person that was on the stone bed in front of her was glowing softly, as if the moon was shining upon it from behind thin clouds. She walked forward to take another look at the statue, with Joshua a few steps behind her, obviously not liking to go inside the tomb by himself.

Rosette, however, forgot everything about Joshua as soon as she looked at the statue at a closer distance. She gasped.

"What is it, Rose..." said Joshua before he stopped abruptly just behind her.

What they took for a statue was actually a living person, a tall young man dressed in strange clothes that seemed to belong to a different time period. His thick, straight hair reached his shoulders and seemed to be a dark color, though it was difficult to say what shade it was due to the dim light that surrounded him. His face was very pale, but his features were very handsome, almost like a prince in one of the fairy-tale stories Ms. Jean sometimes read to them. He had a rosary around his hands, almost tying them together, and he had a golden medal on his bare chest with a strange cross-shaped symbol. He seemed to be in a deep sleep, though his breathing was nearly imperceptible.

"It's... it's a VAMPIRE!!!" Shouted Joshua suddenly, startling Rosette, who had forgotten all about him while looking at the mysterious stranger sleeping before her.

"Shh, you're going to wake him!!" Said Rosette in a voice nearly as loud as her brother's. She lowered her voice immediately and turned to look at the sleeping person again. "Do you really think he's a vampire? He doesn't look like one..."

"Yes, he is, I'm sure of it!" Exclaimed Joshua, excited rather than afraid. He loved horror stories, and he considered himself a vampire expert. "Just look at all the holy symbols we've seen, I'm sure somebody put him here so that nobody would ever find him!"

"That makes sense, but..." Rosette looked at the face of the man, studying it carefully. "He looks a little sad... somehow I don't think he's evil."

"How do you know that?" Asked Joshua, looking at the guy with curiosity. He didn't find any expression on his face, neither sad, nor happy.

"Just look at his eyes... he seems to have been crying." Whispered Rosette. Somehow the man seemed rather sad to her, though she didn't exactly know why.

Joshua just shrugged. "Yeah, whatever you say, sis." He didn't like to contradict his sister in such matters. She seemed to understand people much better than he did anyway, which was probably the reason why she had so many friends, when he had so few... "Anyway, we should go now, he might be dangerous, and we don't have any holy water with us."

Rosette appeared doubtful. "I don't really think he's a vampire. He has a rosary in his hands, and he's not burned by the cross on his chest either!"

"Yeah, but why is he in here then?"

"I think somebody put a spell on him" Answered Rosette, matter-of-factly. Joshua snickered. "I'm serious! What if he's a prince?"

"A prince?! You really think so? You're kidding!"

"Well, he's not a vampire, or he wouldn't be holding a rosary!"

"Yes, but..."

"We should wake him up in any case, he seems to have been asleep for a long time." Rosette interrupted. Joshua didn't argue about that. He was very curious to find out about the man's identity, and like his sister said, an evil being like a vampire wouldn't be holding a rosary and have a cross around his chest, so he let down his guard a little.

"How will we do it? If he's under a spell, then there's nothing we can do... unless... you know..." Joshua blushed a bit, looking at his sister, who also blushed, but said nothing. They were both having the same thought. The only thing that could break an evil spell was a kiss, wasn't it? That was what all the fantasy books said, in any case...

Rosette stood before the man, looking at his handsome face once more. What was he like? Why was he buried alive in such a far away place, and why did he look so sad? She was very curious to find out. Rosette sighed and held her breath. She lowered her face slowly, letting her blonde pigtails fall over her blushing face, closed her eyes and kissed the young man's lips softly, pressing one of her small hands on his chest for support.

The man's lips were warm and soft, and Rosette pulled back almost immediately, feeling very embarrassed. Her heart was beating so hard against her chest, that she put a hand over it trying to slow it down. Joshua didn't say anything, expecting the man to open his eyes any second, but a long minute passed, and he didn't move, or show any reaction.

Just as Joshua was about to say something to his sister, however, the man stirred lightly, and the soft light that enveloped him suddenly disappeared, obscuring the room around them. "It... worked..." said Joshua, almost too excited to talk. Rosette nodded slowly. What would the stranger say once he found out she had woken him? The thought made her blush even more.

The man, however, continued to be asleep, though he moved a little and appeared to be making a big effort to open his eyes. "It looks like something is not allowing him to wake up fully." Said Rosette, a little worried. He seemed to be having a bad nightmare...

Joshua nodded, somehow getting the same feeling. He put his hand on the guy's chest, trying to shake him a bit, but as soon as his hand touched the golden cross-shaped symbol that hung around his chest, the room suddenly filled with a strange golden light that radiated from many Latin words written on the walls of the room, which they hadn't noticed before due to the dim light.

The man's eyes opened suddenly and he looked around him for a few moments before slowly raising from the stone bed he had been resting on. He stood up before them and pierced them both with a cold glare. Rosette and Joshua watched him in silence, suddenly too afraid to move. Now that they could see him clearly due to the eerie light coming from the symbols on the walls, there was no doubt in their minds now that the guy was definitely not human. His eyes were as red as blood with cat-like pupils, and his hair was a deep shade of violet, almost hiding his strange pointed ears. His broad chest had a strange symbol that appeared to have been burned into his skin with a hot iron, and his expression while looking at them was rather fierce, like a tiger surveying its prey.

"Who are you? Why did you wake me up?" His voice was low and dangerous. He broke the rosary that tied his hands together and raised a fist in front of him. "I won't show any mercy to humans, even if they're children. Who sent you?!" He roared, voice echoing in the cold walls of the room.

Rosette and Joshua cowered a bit, but she was not one to be intimidated by anybody, no matter how fierce or un-human her opponent was, and suddenly felt very angry at the man's harsh words. After everything they done in order to wake him up, she was not going to tolerate a treat from him, even if he was a vampire, or something equally dangerous. She had a brother to protect after all...

"Nobody sent us." Said Rosette, sounding more much more courageous than what she really felt. "We just stumbled on this place by accident. We didn't mean to disturb you."

"Th... that's right!" Mumbled Joshua, feeling a bit less scared by his sister's apparent lack of fear towards the stranger. "We're just orphans who live nearby, we didn't know you lived here!"

The stranger's red eyes narrowed dangerously. "You expect me to believe such a stupid lie? Don't take me for a fool. That woman is even more cunning that I thought, sending two children down here. Where is she?!" He growled, showing his uncommonly long fangs.

"I told you, nobody sent us!" Said Rosette, starting to feel a bit desperate. What if the guy didn't believe them? If he attacked them they would have no chance against him... "We found your grave by accident, and ended up here by mistake. You seemed to be having a bad nightmare, that's why we decided to wake you up!"

The man walked took a step towards them, still piercing her with his blood-red eyes. Rosette (and Joshua behind her) took a step backwards, yet she continued to look at the man's eyes defiantly. She was not going to be intimidated by him, no matter how scary he was...

The man's expression relaxed a little, feeling somewhat amused at her vain efforts to hide her fear, but it was still harsh and distrustful. "Only a person with a strong spiritual power would be able to open the doors' seal. You're telling me you two opened them by yourselves? Don't joke with me, or I won't show you any mercy." His tone of voice made it clear that he was being serious.

"We're not joking!" Rosette was still very afraid, but she was determined to make him believe her. "We didn't even know that there was a seal. Joshua, my brother, is an Apostle, and he was the one who opened the doors. We weren't sent by anybody, we came here by ourselves. We really didn't mean to disturb your sleep, we're very sorry!" She sounded apologetic.

The man continued to stare at the both of them, but this time with more curiosity than anger. "You boy," he said to Joshua. "are you really an Apostle?"

"Y, yes... that's what the priest said, anyway." Said Joshua, trying to be brave for his sister's sake.

"How interesting. Tell me, how did an Apostle like yourself come all the way here on his own, without being sent by anybody?" His eyes were fixed on Joshua's face, carefully studying him. If the boy was lying, he would know it immediately.

"I don't know... we were exploring the forest and we got lost." Was everything Joshua could say. The man didn't appear to be too convinced. "Oh, I see. So you just figured out how to break the seals and wake me up all by yourselves? How smart of you." There was more than a bit of sarcasm in his voice.

"He's telling the truth!!" Shouted Rosette, now more angry than afraid. "We didn't know this place even existed! We found a grave in the middle of a clearing in the forest, and it suddenly moved, and we found a passageway, and we came here, and the doors opened too, and then we found you sleeping, and we decided to wake you up, but we couldn't and then he took the cross and..." Rosette made a small pause to catch her breath, and then continued: "and then it started glowing, and you woke up. That's it, really." She said, completely skipping the "kiss" part. The man smiled at her sudden outburst for a moment, but then his expression became as cold as ice.

"Go out of here." He said simply. No matter how much he despised humans, he never really intended to kill children, but he didn't want anything to do with them either. "This is no place for humans like yourselves. Go out!!" He roared, before suddenly falling on his knees, clutching his chest and breathing heavily. He gritted his teeth in pain. The seal they had put on him burned like fire, and he couldn't do anything to stop the searing pain...

Joshua lost no time in taking his sister's hand and running to the entrance, but Rosette appeared reluctant to leave. She looked at the stranger's face with a mixture of concern and curiosity. "Are you alright, sir?" She asked politely, letting go of her brother's hand and walking inside the room once more. The man raised his head a little to look at her, completely taken aback at her reaction. He narrowed his eyes in suspicion. What could this little human possibly want to do with him? "Go away and leave me alone." He said, forcing himself to speak. He made a face again and closed his eyes. The pain was almost unbearable now, but it would go away once the Astral power that still remained inside him died down a bit. He breathed deeply several times, trying to calm himself. After a few long minutes, the agonizing pain receded a little, but he still felt as if he had a bright red coal burning the skin on his chest. Bastards. He thought, as some bad memories came back to him. Some day, I swear...

"Do you feel better now?" A small voice beside him interrupted his thoughts. He opened his eyes, only to find the little blond girl staring at him with a worried expression in her deep blue eyes. He had momentarily forgot all about the human children that had awoken him in such mysterious circumstances. "I think so... you better go away now, before I recover." He said with difficulty. Amazingly, instead of going away, the girl just breathed a sigh of relief, and spoke to him in a rather friendly tone. "Thank God." She said. "I was afraid you were going to faint, or something. Can you stand up?"

He just stared at her incredulously. What's wrong with this girl? Why isn't she scared of me? He thought. "I... yeah, I think so." He blurted out, not really knowing what to say. The girl's brother came from behind her to take a closer look, apparently no longer afraid of him, though he still looked cautious. Pathetic. Not even human children are afraid of me anymore. He thought bitterly. He stood up again, putting his hand on the rock for support. The pain had diminished a great deal, but he still felt horribly weak, and only his anger towards the people responsible for his current situation seemed to give him enough energy to stand. He looked down at the two small children with a cold expression. Before he could say anything, however, the girl spoke again.

"My name is Rosette Christopher" She said, smiling at him. "And he's my little brother Joshua. Who are you?"

"My name is Chrno. I'm what you humans call a demon." He said coldly, waiting for their reaction. Rosette and Joshua's appeared to be very surprised and a little afraid, but rather than run away, they just stared at him curiously.

"A demon? You don't look like one." Said Rosette, cautiously. "Aren't demons supposed to have horns and wings?"

"Y, yeah!" Joshua added. "We thought you were a vampire!"

"Well, whether you believe me or not is entirely your problem. I warn you though, nobody calls me a liar and lives to tell the tale." Chrno said, looking dead serious. Joshua didn't look too happy at his words, but Rosette quickly apologized. "We're sorry. It's just that we've never seen a real demon before, except in books."

"I see." He said, tiredly. He sat down on the stone bed, feeling very weak again. The seal on his chest still burned a little, but he could ignore the pain easily. The lack of Astral energy, however, was what really bothered him. He could no longer absorb the energy he needed, which meant he had been condemned to a slow and painful death...

"You've been asleep a long time, haven't you?" Chrno raised his eyes to look at Rosette, who was standing in front of him, looking concerned. "You must be very hungry, wait a sec..." She put her hand in one of the pockets of her dress and took out a carefully folded handkerchief.

"Hey, why didn't you say you had food before?!" Asked Joshua indignantly. "Because I was saving it for later, you dummy, we just had breakfast a while ago!" Shouted Rosette, equally annoyed.

Chrno interrupted them. "I'm not hungry, so just save that for yourselves." He said, not wanting anything to do with human food. He didn't really need it, anyway.

"Oh, it's okay, we're not hungry yet." Said Rosette, smiling at him once more. Despite her rather quick temper, she was the kind of person who couldn't stand seeing anybody suffer, and helping a person in need always made her happy. She unfolded the handkerchief before his eyes, ignoring her brother's resigned face and extended her small hands in front of her, showing him an adorable smile. "Here!"

Chrno looked at her, intrigued. She was such a strange girl, completely unlike anything he had ever imagined a human to be. He wanted to say that he didn't want her food, but he reluctantly took the handkerchief from her hands, almost against his will. "Th... thank you." He said. Ah well, he could throw the food away later, in any case. "Now go away, and leave me alone. I don't have anything to do with humans, so don't come back here." He said rudely.

"Yeah, well, but we're kinda lost." Said Rosette, ignoring his harsh tone. "Do you know where the river is? We can find our way back from there. C'mon, come with us!"

Chrno sighed. Was there no way to get rid of these annoying little humans? Then again, he longed to go outside and look at the sky once more, though he was sure the world had gone through great changes during the time he had been asleep. He raised from the stone bed slowly and walked towards the entrance of the room, which became as dark as a cave as soon as he stepped out. The Latin words written on the walls lost their glow and everything became cold and lifeless once again. Rosette smiled warmly at him. "Let's go!" She said, taking his hand and pulling him gently.

Chrno let himself be guided by her, once again lost in his thoughts. He looked around him at the hall that reached to the underground chamber where he had been buried alive a long time ago. How many years had it been since then? He guessed it might be several decades, judging from the dust and the bad state of the symbols engraved on the walls which neither Rosette nor Joshua had noticed before, but that his demon eyes could see clearly even in the dark shadows. "Here lies the ignoble one" Was written in one of the walls. Chrno almost smiled. "The ignoble one" they called him. What a joke.

Joshua was the first to go out through the entrance, followed shortly by Rosette and then Chrno, who still had Rosette's tiny hand inside his, though he really didn't notice. He stared at the large area around the marble block that marked the entrance of the underground passageway, not bothered in the least by the bright rays of the sun that nearly blinded Rosette and Joshua's eyes for a few moments. The place had changed very much, but he could still recognize the deserted area surrounding them, where many years ago he had taken the energy of all the living things that grew there trying to gather enough Astral energy to break his seal and break free...

"What year are we now?" He asked at last, afraid of the answer. The humans measured time very differently from demons, but it would still give him a good idea of the time gone by.

"Today is May 12, 1920." Said Joshua. "How long have you been in there?" He asked with barely hidden curiosity. Chrno didn't answer immediately, trying to calm himself. "About 200 years." He answered at last. 200 years. It wasn't such a great amount of time for a demon, but it was still much longer than he had imagined at first. "Wow" Said Joshua. "You mean you've been sleeping all this time? Ow!" He exclaimed after Rosette elbowed him.

"You've been locked in that awful place that many years, all alone?" Rosette's blue eyes were full of concern while looking up at him. Chrno let go of her hand and quickly diverted his gaze too look at the forest in front of him. To be pitied by a mere human child was a lot more than what he could bear at the moment, so he said nothing. The all-too-familiar feeling of rage and frustration threatened to obscure his senses once more, but he needed to be calm in order to think clearly... "The river is over there." He said, pointing to the direction of the small, but unmistakable sound that reached his sharp ears. "You two should go back to your home now. I spared your lives for being the ones who awoke me, but that doesn't mean I can't kill you later if I want to. I'm your enemy, an evil being feared by you humans, so don't come back here ever again!" The tone of his voice made it perfectly clear that he didn't want any company at the moment.

Rosette and Joshua looked at each other and walked towards the edge of the forest in silence. None of them wanted to leave Chrno's side so soon, specially when they still had so many questions they wanted to ask him, but there was nothing they could do. Rosette looked back at Chrno, who was still standing there in the middle of the clearing, absently holding the handkerchief with the food with his left hand. He looked rather out of place, and Rosette couldn't help but to feel sorry for him, even if he considered himself their enemy.

The children walked for almost half an hour until they finally reached the river and sat down for a few moments to rest and to drink a bit of water. They knew how to get back from there, since the river ran near the orphanage's grounds, but they still had a long journey ahead of them and they needed to hurry up if they wanted to get back before dinner.

Joshua was the first to break the silence. "Hey Rosette, do you think we should tell Minister Remington about Chrno? He looks very dangerous, you know." He said cautiously, waiting for his sister's reaction.

"No way, they could kill him or lock him up again!" Said Rosette indignantly. "And he's not really dangerous, I think he's just lonely. Just imagine what it must be like to be buried alive in a creepy place like that for 200 years! He must be feeling awful."

"Yeah, but we don't know anything about him! What if he did something really bad?"

"We don't know that yet." Answered Rosette. "And we can't betray him, we're his only friends!"

"Yeah, that's true..." No matter how rude or unfriendly Chrno appeared to be, Joshua and Rosette felt responsible for him, being the ones that had broken the spell on him. Joshua sighed. He was very hungry now, and the orphanage was still so far away... "Well, we better go now, before Ms. Jean gets annoyed at us" He said slowly. He had just remembered that the next morning he would be taken away to New York, and he started to feel a bit homesick.

"Okay." Rosette knew her brother better than anyone, so she quickly changed the subject and pretended to be cheerful. "C'mon, Ms. Jean said she was going to make a special dinner for you today. I'm sure she's going to bake some cookies too, so let's hurry up before Billy eats all of them!" She said, raising from the rock she was sitting on. Joshua did the same, smiling sadly, and they started their long walk home.

They arrived to the orphanage almost 3 hours later, feeling exhausted and ravenously hungry. Ms. Jean was worried sick about them, but like Rosette guessed, she was too glad to see them safe to punish them, and just sent them to their rooms to change their dirty clothes before dinner.

The rest of the afternoon went by uneventfully. True to her promise, Ms. Jean prepared Joshua's favorite dishes and a batch of his favorite cookies as a farewell gift for him. Everybody (except Rosette) was very excited at the idea of Joshua joining the legendary Magdalan Order, so Joshua had a great time talking about all the things he planned to do once he became a member of the Militia, the elite forces of the Order. Rosette listened to him patiently, forcing herself to be cheerful. Joining the Order was nothing but a dream for most children their age, and she wanted Joshua to enjoy his last night at the orphanage instead of making him worry.

Minister Remington came the next morning in the convent's car to pick Joshua up. All the children of the orphanage and Ms. Jean stood up in line outside the main entrance, waiting for Joshua, who was the last person to leave the house. Rosette stood up bravely next to the rest of kids. She had said goodbye to Joshua very quickly the night before and she didn't want to say anything more to him. She didn't want anybody to see her cry, specially not Joshua...

"Good morning Rosette. How are you today?" Minister Remington's kind voice interrupted her thoughts. "I'm fine, thanks." She said angrily, avoiding his face. She disliked Remington more than anybody else in the world, and was determined not to speak to him unless it was absolutely necessary. The boys considered him a real hero, and even Sarah and Nelly, her best friends, found him to be quite handsome, but she didn't agree with any of them. To her Minister Remington was nothing but an hypocrite who was only interested in Joshua for the supernatural powers he possessed, and all his attentions towards her only made her angry.

"Don't worry about Joshua, he will be fine with us. He will be coming back to visit you frequently, I promise." The tone on Remington's voice was very friendly, but it only annoyed Rosette, who just nodded and said nothing. Remington noticed her annoyance, but he kept talking, wanting her to open up a bit with him. He felt a little guilty about separating two siblings as close as Joshua and Rosette were, and he didn't want her to have the wrong idea about his intentions. "I know how you must be feeling about Joshua, but you two won't be separated forever. He will become a powerful member of the Order, I promise you." He said. Rosette nodded again, still avoiding his gaze. What did the stupid Minister know about her feelings, anyway?

Joshua walked towards them smiling, wanting to hug his sister once last time before going away. "I'll see you soon, sis!" Was everything he managed to say. "Yeah." Said Rosette simply, giving her brother a quick hug. Joshua got into the car then, and waved towards Ms. Jean and everybody else enthusiastically. Remington opened the car's door on the driver's seat and waved at Rosette, but she didn't even look in his direction. She kept waving at Joshua until the car reached the nearby road and disappeared from sight.

All the children started to go back inside the building, but Rosette stood outside a while longer, making a big effort to hold back her tears. Ms. Jean walked towards her, smiling gently. "Get inside, Rosette, breakfast is almost ready!"

"I'm not hungry." Said Rosette in a small voice. "Can I go to the forest for a bit?" Ms. Jean nodded, understanding. "Yes, you can, but don't come back too late. Here." She gave Rosette a carefully wrapped bundle. "I saved some of yesterday's cookies for Joshua's journey, buy he forgot to take them." Rosette tried hard to smile. Joshua always left something behind wherever he went. "Thanks." She said, and started to run towards the forest as quickly as she could, fighting back the tears.

Rosette kept running until she could barely breathe, and even then she continued to walk towards the place Joshua and herself had discovered the day before. She walked for more than an hour, until she finally found the path that lead towards the clearing where Chrno's resting place was. Rosette stopped for a moment to catch her breath, thinking about him. Had he gone away too? Would he like to see her, or would he just tell her to go away, like he did the day before? She really wanted to know...

Rosette walked towards the entrance to the underground passageway, almost afraid to look inside. What if he was no longer there? Rosette took a step inside and looked around, trying to figure out where the entrance to the old room was. It was earlier than yesterday when Joshua and her went inside for the first time, and the tunnel was even darker than before. She put her hand on the wall for guidance and walked inside cautiously.

Chrno was sitting in the stone bed, feeling too weak to even stand. His powers were gone, and his level of Astral energy, his very own life-force, was dangerously low, thanks to the seal that had been put on him. So this is what it feels to be dying, huh. He thought bitterly. But I won't die like this. No matter what, I won't die until I kill all of you! He clenched his fist in anger. All he needed to survive was a human, somebody willing to use his or her life to remove the seal, even if it was temporarily...

"Mr. Chrno? Are you still there?" Rosette's small voice reached his ears from the tunnel, along with her soft steps, which were slowly coming closer. Chrno raised his head, almost unable to believe his good luck. He smiled for himself. This was just the opportunity he was waiting for, and he was not going to miss it again...

To be continued...


Sorry for the long lengthof the chapter folks! Next chapter will be a bit shorter, maybe... anyway, please tell me what you think, even something like "I love the story" is more than enough for me to keep writing it!! Constructive criticism is also more than welcome... please? ;