Hey everyone. I apologize for the delay again and I'm sorry this isn't an update to what you probably wanted and/or were waiting for. I need a little break from the CC world itself and I wanted to try an alternate universe fic.

This idea actually came to me while I was trying to sleep this afternoon, down with a fever and lying in bed. I'm not exactly sure where it spawned from, but the idea was alluring enough that I decided I wanted to work with it. I hope you don't find it a terrible disappointment. I've been wanting to try an AU for quite some time now, but just haven't had a good enough idea to work with. And this...well I think it's helping me get over my sickness, because I'm so into the idea.

Despite the title, I will say it again, THIS IS AU.

So I hope this will placate you for now. I've not given up on anything else. I'm just expanding a bit so I don't concentrate so hard on one or two fics that my brain bursts into flames from frustration. Patience is a virtue, and I hope you'll hold onto it.

Without further ado, I give you my first CC AU. Please drop a review if you can spare the time. While I've been wanting to write one of these, I have been hesitating. I hope it does not disappoint.

Disclaimer: Chrno Crusade and its characters do not belong to me. They are property of Daisuke Moriyama, and never to be set free!

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Seventh Bell

ooooooooooooo

The voices around me whisper low, in heated gasps and expressions of discomfort.

I can hear them. They've been gossipping and chattering animatedly since yesterday. Since the arrival. Since the silent mystery came.

Yes, ever since he came.

Seventh Bell is a small town in a remote area. There is nothing special or even unnatural about it. Outsiders don't know of it, and nor does it even appear on a map. There's no fascinating beauty or even mildly-interesting history about it. And it's difficult to even call this place "home". No one ever remains here for a prolonged period of time, and they never return. Visitors don't come here from the outside, either. And the current residents all know that they'll leave and go on to bigger and better things someday, that's why they believe no one comes back. This town will just deteriorate, become more of a ghost town than it already is, and one day completely vanish, as though it had never been.

Seventh Bell is "nowhere", in the truest sense of the word. A population that gradually decreases, and nothing more.

And so of course, someone moving in was instant ground-breaking news to this town's few occupants. The most they've probably had to talk about in years.

Who is he? Why did he come here? How did he find this place? Questions are endless.

I agree with the townsfolk that claim he's strange, because he is, in a way. His outlandish appearance is unlike anything I've ever laid eyes upon. Long violet hair twisted into a messy braid that hangs down his back, eyes that bring blood-red wine to mind, and a foreign look to his tanned skin and pointed ears. However, despite how much he openly stands out, he is quiet, nearly wordless. He prefers to stay in the shadows, watching.

A definite air of mystery hangs about that young man like a thick a cloud.

He moved into an abandoned house on the far left side of town, kiddy-corner to the one I share with my brother. And that establishment was the darkest and creepiest, in my own opinion. It almost suits the stranger, in some odd way.

And though he's only been here for a day, the town's occupants never cease to share their views and opinions on him and his origins. And the majority of the small population has come to the conclusion that he's some sort of criminal, possibly a murderer.

I really don't think it's fair. They talk so much of this nameless young man, decide things about him without even having the guts to consult him or attempt speaking with him. They whisper, like it's a secret, but whisper loud enough that sometimes you can almost be sure even he can hear them.

I admit, I really have no right to criticize. I've been a bit of a coward myself. It's not that I believe the countless rumors spinning about, but one or two of them hold a note of truth I've been unable to ignore...

"Sister, are you staring out the window, again?"

The familiar tone of the voice causes me to whirl around, facing the speaker with a humorless smile. "Can you blame me, Joshua?" I challenged. "It's not like there's a whole lot to do around here."

The boy didn't reply, but came to stand beside me, gazing out the open window with a frown. "Have they no shame at all? Anyone within earshot can hear them jabbering on and on. I liked it better when it was quiet around here."

He sighed, azure orbs closing as he leaned his thin arms on the windowsil. I knew he didn't like the excess noise. My little brother had always been kind of weak and sickly. He preferred to stay inside and read books, avoiding the small crowd of the city folk. I, on the other hand, liked to go outside often. The few other children and teenagers throughout the town were familiar with my presence. Loud, rash, very unladylike.

Joshua once mused to me that I was what kept this town alive. That everyone would disappear or fade away if I wasn't there to wake them with a shout or accidental destruction of their property. The thought still makes me chuckle.

One of us had to be strong and keep living to the fullest. After our parents abandoned the two of us and left this town forever, my brother crumbled, barely retaining the will to live. It was then I decided that I would take care of him, I would be courageous for him, and I would protect him from any further pain or hardship. I would struggle to keep going forward and keep pressing on, keep that optimistic outlook that he could not.

Money and food were very scarce, but I did my best to provide what I could every day. And it wasn't until this past year that I was really able to start seriously reaping enough for me and my brother.

When I turned sixteen, I got a job at the only popular place in this tiny ghost town. A resteraunt and bar, believe it or not. There was no such thing as outdoor visitors, but the locals liked each other's company. Many of them were like Joshua and myself, left behind by family or friends. Some were just too old to leave. They shared a need for each other, a mutual comfort they could provide to one another, even with simple words or close presence. Thus the little eatery flourished as a common get-together spot.

And as for my role, I'm a waitress. Perhaps that's why everyone is still familiar with my loud voice and unusually cheery attitude. I spread it like wildfire through that little resteraunt.

Everyone from Seventh Bell has been there at some point or another. And with my job, I make enough money to keep Joshua and myself fed and watered daily.

Unfortunately, money can't buy happiness.

People that you get to know and to like, suddenly up and leave one day without a trace. Those who knew them well or were comforted by their existance end up feeling lost and become depressed. And then they too, disappear.

By the time I had finally saved up enough money to call upon the only doctor in town, he had gone from Seventh Bell. It was incredibly discouraging. I want to cure my brother and help him to live. Why must the one person who could assist disappear when I'm finally ready to pay for his help?

More people have died since he left, but strangely, less people have left the town itself.

The crowd in my workplace, while slightly smaller, is more close-knit than ever. They stick like glue now.

I can see this. I'm good at observing. But the truth is, I'm not close to anyone in the town. Despite my carefree and outgoing nature, I feel alienated from everyone but my brother. I offer them smiles and words of encourgement, laugh with them, but my heart is guarded. I do not open up to them or share my feelings.

I can't chance becoming weak. Not in any sense. My strength has to remain to keep my brother going, to keep that small, feeble smile on his face.

"Rosette," he beckoned lightly, pulling me from my thoughts. "Do you think we'll leave here?"

His question is surprising, but I suppose I should have expected it at some point. Afterall, everyone leaves someday, either by death or by choice.

"I don't know," I offered with a shrug. "All we can see beyond here is trees. Endless trees."

Joshua nodded, pushing aside his fair hair with one hand. "It makes me wonder how many people really did get away from here. We have no maps and no way of telling how close other civilization might be."

I frowned, having wondered the same thing. No one ever returned. And perhaps that strange outsider might know something, being the first we'd seen come from elsewhere. But when it came to him...

I sucked in my breath, suddenly, all thoughts disintegrating. The air around me felt constricting and intoxicating.

I knew this feeling.

"He's looking at you again, sister," Joshua informed me quietly, a noticeably pang of fear in his voice.

I already knew who he was, even before I raised my sapphire eyes to the second story window diagonal from ours.

The mysetrious and still nameless violet-plaited young man with the eerie crimson eyes.

He held my gaze for a moment, before quickly turning away and disappearing further into the shadows of his run-down choice of housing. I let out the breath I hadn't realized I was holding.

One of the rumors I heard near closing time in the resteraunt last night, which had mad me laugh hysterically at first, had begun to bother me.

Was this stranger really stalking me?

The feeling of being watched, even to an observer such as myself, is unpleasant and discomforting. And ever since the oddly-dressed outsider had appeared, that feeling came frequently. I would like to think it was paranoia or my own wild imagination, but it wasn't.

He was always lurking about in the background and his red eyes followed me.

Now I'm not one to let such trivial things get to me. I don't believe the townfolk's rumors and suspicions at all. I doubt he's a murderer, or a criminal, or anything like that.

What frightens me is that I feel drawn to him. He doesn't speak, but it's almost like he beckons for me to look his way, to notice his presence. I know nothing about him, not even his name. I should feel more alienated from him than everyone else in this ghost town.

But I don't. I feel like invisible threads are slowly leading me closer, shortening their length and guiding me toward the mystery.

I want to know about him. His name and much more. Why he is silent, why he watches me. If perhaps he feels the same inexplicable attraction to me that I do to him.

I want to know, but I'm afraid.

This kind of desire is unheard of to me.

"You should get ready for work, Rosette," Joshua piped up from my side.

I nodded, casting one more curious glance to the empty window. "Yes, I suppose I should."

ooooooooooooooooo

I don't care about the rumors.

I've heard them all. My senses, especially hearing, are extra-sensitive.

They're welcome to believe what they want. I won't correct them.

Besides, the truth isn't something this town can handle.

Tugging the ragged and moth-eaten curtain more securely across the expanse of the window, I feel my eyes dare another glance to down below.

I know she's still there. That strange presence that I follow almost obsessively.

And she led me here, whether she realizes it or not.

I call her Sunshine.

That's what she's like, afterall. Bright and carefree, spreading a warm glow over everything in sight. And yet, the light is often so brilliant that it can almost be annoying and bothersome. I keep my distance, but I'm still drawn to her. Whether it is for or against my will, perhaps I'll never really understand.

The others stay much farther away from her light. And because of that, this little town is lucky that Sunshine is here. Just how lucky, they'll probably never know.

I often wonder how she managed to pull me this far, blissfully and naively unaware of what she was doing.

...Or was it I who came after her?

Seeking light?

I made that mistake once. She had a given name that I knew, but I called her Moonlight.

Her beauty was more subtle and feminine than Sunshine's. As the Night, I found myself immediately attracted to and compatible with Moonlight. She lit the darkness with her mysterious reflective luminesence.

I fell in love with her, but my darkness snuffed out her soft glow.

Had I not learned my lesson from that?

Sunshine is lively, with eyes that mirror the sky. I often contrast her with Moonlight, who was calm and collected, with pools that reflected the ocean. How can lights differ so drastically?

But the true opposite to Sunshine, the real clash, is Night itself. Darkness.

So why am I here? Why am I following the lithe and carefree form as she runs through the nearly-empty streets and listening to her loud and obtrusive voice intently when she speaks?

I want to know. I want to know all about her.

Slowly, I'm inching closer to Sunshine. And it almost feels as though she too, may be drifting toward me, without even realizing it.

I feel my lips twitch. ...Is it a smile?

Seating myself in a half-broken and worn piece of furniture, I pull a black book from my pocket. Placing it upon the desk before me, I lift the cover back and skip through the thin, weathered pages until I come across a blank space. From the desk drawer, I withdraw a jet black quill along with matching inkwell and eagerly dip the point of the writing utensil within the substance, hurrying to scribble upon the waiting page. It is dark in this room, but I feel no need to light a candle. I can see perfectly in the pitch black, anyway.

My hand works almost feverishly, flitting across the page. If only I could release the words as fast as they are coming to mind.

Sunshine has inspired me so much already, and I yet know nothing about her. It's more than intriguing.

I want to know.

And what will she think of me?

Surely a demon poet is not someone you come across often.

ooooooooooooooooo

"Hey missy! Another round over here, if you please!"

Tossing a lock of pesky blonde hair over my shoulder, I beamed back at table of drunks. "On its way, Sir! On its way!"

As expected, the resteraunt is as busy as ever, even this late at night.

I can't blame them for wanting to forget things. To have fun and get so drunk that they can hardly move when it's time for the place to close. They almost seem happy when they're intoxicated like that.

Sometimes I even find myself envying that happiness. I wish I could bottle it and give it to my brother.

But I would never get him drunk. He had enough sickness and headaches to deal with as it was.

Haphazardly filling the line of mugs, I quickly load them back onto my tray, pausing only a moment to smooth my dusty-rose skirt. I do hate these kinds of clothes.

Masterfully masking the scowl over with a bright grin, I returned to the waiting table, tray held gracefully (as well as I could manage, anyway) and proceeded to pass the fresh containers of foaming alcohol to the all-too-eager young males.

"You're looking pretty lovely in that outfit, Rosette."

The smile on my face twitched slightly as a wandering hand patted my hindquarters. I hastily stepped back from the table, clutching the tray close to me.

'Stay calm, stay clam,' I chided myself inwardly. 'The boss will not be happy if you knock another one out.'

"Aww, that was a compliment, Rosette," notified a bespectacled brunette from the other side of the table. "Girls like them, don't they?"

"Yeah, Kevin's right! You should thank him!" Another chorused in, his mug, already half-empty, thumping on the wooden table.

The person in question smiled back at me, almost smugly.

"T-Thank you, Billy," I choked out, my hands tightening around the empty service tray as they longed to wrap around his throat.

The men whooped and I cast a glance toward my empolyer, who was watching silently from the door to the kitchens. He gave me a thumbs up and I grimaced.

Oh, what I put up with for my brother's sake.

"Aww, shucks guys," the young man blushed, grinning and showing a definite missing tooth. "You all know me n' Rosette are gonna get married someday, right?"

My face grew redder, the death grip on the tray threatening to break it. Like I would ever even think of marrying that sneaky, perverted little pest!

The men whooped aloud again, clinking their mugs together noisily. The one called Kevin leaned in toward the drunken Billy, whispering something into his ear.

Uh-oh. That grin was going to mean trouble. I could smell it.

"Well now, I think Kevin's got a good point," the short-haired brunette announced loudly, droping his empty mug as he stood. "If me n' Rosette are gonna get hitched, I don't think there's anything wrong with a little kiss."

The table of men whooped even louder than before, and I stepped backward hastily as Billy sauntered closer with a leer.

I take it back, I do blame them for getting drunk! All of them! I could even hear the boss clapping his approval from behind. Why was this happening to me?

"Jus' a little one, Rosey," he spoke almost innocently, but I could see the intoxicated hunger in his eyes.

My legs came in contact with the table behind me, causing me to halt my retreat. I was ready to use the tray if he came any closer. There was no way in hell I was going to let him kiss me!

"C'mon, Rosey. I think you'll like-"

BAM

The door to the resteraunt/bar burst open and smashed off the stone wall, the loud noise causing two drunken men to fall out of their chairs, and Billy to fall flat on his face.

Collective gasps came immediately afterward.

Standing in the doorway was the last person anyone expected to see, especially in a public place.

The crimson-eyed stranger walked in without a word, allowing the door to close almost softly behind him. He cast a quick glance to me and proceeded to situate himself in the farthest and darkest corner. Once safely out of earshot, the table of drunks immediately began to whisper heatedly to one another.

I was grateful to the nameless young man, though I'd never tell him so. Hitting Billy might have cost me my job and thus would send Joshua and I into financial difficulty. And it seemed the intrustion drove me from the brunette's perverted mind, as well. He was reseated beside Kevin, drinking the remainder of his friend's beer as he cast frequent glares to the lone figure in the corner.

I felt the chill once I turned my back. The violet-haired young man must have been watching me again. I wasn't sure if I could simply avoid him this time around. If he wanted something, he was a considered a customer, and I would be expected to serve him.

I don't think I even wanted to avoid him. That inexplicable pull tugged on my senses repeatedly. And as if they had a will of their own, my eyes trailed back to his poncho-coated sillouhette. His ruby eyes were bright, even in the most lightless corner of the establishment. They were even enchanting in some way.

A movement caught my eye suddenly, as his arm raised from his side to rest on the table before him. And then a finger pointed toward me. I blinked, and the same appendage curled back toward him. And the gesture was repeated.

I followed the silent beckon, slowly, but smiling as brightly as I would toward any other customer.

"Yes, would like something?" I inquired, feeling my cheeks begin to flush as I saw him up close for the first time.

Otherwordly-looking, without a doubt, but handsome.

"Water would be pleasing," he answered silkily.

The sound of his voice almost made me shiver. I didn't trust my own to reply, so I merely nodded and spun away quickly. At least the water was kept in the back. I was going to need to splash a little on my face, as well.

Who was this young man?

The boss raised an eyebrow as I hurried back into the kitchens, but I didn't stop to speak with him. I made my way toward the water basin and cupped my hands beneath the clear liquid, splashing the coolness onto my heated face.

People don't have this kind of an effect on me. They just don't. Curiosity is one thing, but my heart never works overtime like this. Why is he putting me so offbalance?

I would find out.

Quickly filling a crystal glass with fresh cold water, I placed it onto my tray. However, when I snatched a hand towel to dab my face, a loud shout echoed from the main room. Dropping the cloth carelessly to the floor, I hurried back out. If my ears weren't decieving me, it sounded like Billy.

"Think yer somethin' dontcha?"

It was who I expected, but yelling at someone I did not expect. Billy had his fist snuggly situated into the front of the violet-haired man's shirt. While the latter looked calm at first glance, the red eyes appeared to be lacking patience.

"You jus' make her uncomfortable, that's all! So stop watchin' her like that!"

"Remove your hand from my clothing."

If anything, his calm voice enraged the druken boy all the more. With a growl, Billy reeled his free fist back and sent it flying toward the man's face.

I closed my eyes at that point. I don't know why. Maybe I was actually worried for the stranger. But there was definitely a loud smash and a scream of pain. It could have been anyone, from the sound of it.

Prying my eyes back open slowly, I could see the mystery man was still standing, just as calmly as before. Billy, however, was literally halfway across the room, unconcious against the wall.

The other men were quick to leave, none bothering to stop and help their fallen druken comrade. I hesitated a moment, before proceeding to bring the lone stranger his water glass.

"Thank you," he spoke as he nodded to me, not even bothering to sit as he downed the glass of water.

He deposited coins into the glass, and a piece of paper, before handing it straight back to me. I merely looked back at him incredulously. He really was strange.

As he passed me, his shoulder brushed mine for just a second. It was like an electric shock.

"Read the note after I leave," he instructed.

And without another word, he whisked straight out into the darkness.

I obediently waited until his footfalls grew faint and then pulled the folded paper out of the empty glass, hastily opening the parchment. The scrawled words were strange, but clear, causing me to gasp aloud as my eyes ran over the dried black ink.

Did you ever wonder or wish to learn

Why they leave and never return?

My breath caught in my throat, hand fisting unconciously over the worn paper. The mysterious outsider did know something.

And it looks like he was leaving it up to me to find out what.

Wanted to encourage further encounters, did he?

I smiled to myself.

Rosette Christopher would happily oblige.

ooooooooooooooooo

So, what do you guys think of this? To be continued...?

I have no shame in saying that this was extremely fun to write. I've been dying to try an AU and I finally got an idea. And I really do like it, I'll admit.

Is a continuation request in order?

One note, since I'm sure someone is going to ask: Chrno's form right now is like that of the flashbacks to his past with Magdalene. That is, he's in his tall adult-ish false form. Hope that erases any confusion.

Also, please excuse the typos and grammar mistakes for now. It's midnight and I want to submit this before I go to bed (I have work in the morning), but all I have to work with is wordpad. I'm sorry I can't do a better check on this for now. Patience, I beg.

A please, please don't be angry with me about what I choose to write and when. That's guided by inspiration.

With that said, spare a review if you can. I'm nervous, but anxious to know what you think.

Thank you for reading.