Summary: You only have to experience the end of the world once to realize some things. Linali knows this all too well. Spoilers for chapter 21 and up to 69 (re: the boat arc). Linali-centric, might get a whiff of a pairing if you look hard enough.
When All of the Colors Are One
How many more people are you going to lose?
It had been an ordinary day.
Linali had wanted to play outside and ran into the garden, giggling, with Komui fast on her heels. Her parents had smiled and said that they had to go to the market that day, so they shouldn't play too long.
It had been an ordinary, sunny, nondescript day.
She had held her father's hand as she walked (such a daddy's girl, she remembers that) and marveled at the colors and noises and smells in a way that only a child like herself could. She must've been incredibly bright and exuberant (she recalls how the other adults passing by couldn't help but smile), a little ray of sunshine in a typical world.
It had been an ordinary day to rival all other ordinary days.
Her father had promised her a bright flower; she had gotten him to do that. Her mother laughed and said, why not a whole bouquet of flowers that you choose? and so they stopped at a large booth. Her hand had strayed to one of the white lilies in the vendor's arrangement under her mother's approving eye.
It had been an ordinary day in an ordinary week of an ordinary life.
Had been. Had been until.
A blur, something that sprung out from the alleyway and swept past her parents. And then – lilies stained red, roses stained black. Why wasn't mother moving? Why was she slumped against the street, her father stretched out over her prone form, when she had been reaching for flowers only a second ago?
Blood sprayed red, streets streaked gray, sky stained white.
(She's seen so many bodies now that maybe the image in her mind's eye of her family is really the image of another family that she's failed to save, another couple in the wrong place at the wrong time, another person struck down by a devil's tool. But the stark reality of the colors around her, what woke her up to the world, that's the memory that's stayed with her.)
It had been an ordinary day.
Ordinary like her life.
Newspapers drenched in headlines of foreboding black capital letters, proclaiming a freak accident at the weekly bazaar that took the lives of several, including a Mr. and Mrs. Li.
She hadn't really understood. One minute her parents were there and the next minute the air was painted in such vivid colors and who were the men in black and blue that covered her eyes while they took her parents away?
Komui held her hand during the funeral ceremony, gripped it tightly and told her it was okay to cry. But the whole affair had still been so very foreign to her. Why were her parents in those pine boxes, and why did they get lowered into the ground? Why weren't they here any more? Didn't they need to live, to breathe? She had learned that everyone needed air, needed food and drink and company and in those pine boxes, those locked stopped pine boxes, they wouldn't get any of that, so why…?
She sat through the procession while still grappling with her questions. How could people just disappear like that, in front of her eyes? She couldn't understand it.
(She knew the answer back then – always knew – just didn't know, because knowing and acknowledging would mean knowing and acknowledging that they…)
At the end, several men in black and white and silver jackets (so many colors, and yet all she saw was red) approached them. Your mother and father can't be there for you any more – Li-san, you understand why, don't you? – Someone has to take care of the family now, and especially your sister – she's so young. Come with us.
They called themselves the Church.
(Later on, she realizes that the incident with the market was so large that it attracted the attention of officials as far away as the Church, worried about how many akuma could come forth from that one event alone. And they were young, and she might've wished for her parents to come back, and wasn't that why they came, wasn't that the only reason why?)
The men in the jackets came and packed up their clothes in black suitcases and took her by the hand, said it was time to go.
Their hands had been so cold. Nothing like her mother's and father's.
The sky was overcast, deep blue-gray with a blood red sunset.
(She remembers this. This is where everything starts to end.)
How many more people are you going to leave behind?
It was completely by accident that they realized she was compatible.
The men were taking them to a foster home – they weren't going to bother with taking care of children in a time of war – and at the station, the rest of their entourage was there.
(She thinks they called that man "General." She can't really remember – from here on out, everything's more or less a blur.)
Child? It looks like…this innocence…
Let's take her with us. The tests can tell us for sure.
Brother…please, don't let them take me…don't leave me…
(The world was hazy after this, she knows that. Greens and blues and whites all mixing and melding until the lines in the world were blurring to pieces.)
It was the last time she cried.
(She remembers this, a little. Even though she's mostly tried to forget.)
They talked about things like synchro ratings and innocence and valuable and precious and there was no way any kind of innocence could be found within these walls, none at all.
When the Dark Boots wrapped themselves around her legs, she decided that that was what despair felt like.
For days, she stared at the wall.
What's wrong? Isn't she compatible?
Yes, she is. That's not the problem. We don't know why she isn't reacting to anything…
Go ask Hebreska and see if something went wrong…we can't let this…
(In the room the workers come and go, talking of ways to make her power outflow.)
Time went by like a slow ebb of desolation.
Weeks, months – years. They were all the same.
Her family was gone.
Everything was all the same – white. Nothing but white, cruel, cruel white.
The men in white jackets made her use her Innocence – that was what they called it? – and marveled, and ran tests, and recorded. Sat her in sterile rooms and dressed her in black doll frills and ribbons and mesh.
It was all the same to her, all white and white and white. Stained purity, with the colors artificially removed.
Sterile while rooms, four white walls and a white four-post bed. Black uniforms and dresses and shoes.
It whispered to her, her Innocence, whispers without sounds.
- can be with your heart. Deep down, tap into it (powerwantdesireneedhatelove). What do you really want?
I don't want to be here. Please, I want…to go home…
I can do that.
Before she knew what was happening, she felt what it was like to fly without wings.
Hurry, she's going out of control!
Wasn't her synch rate already over 70? This shouldn't be happening!
Don't lose her, she's precious – valuable – we're not going to find many more exorcists with this much potential –
Quick, get to her –
Can't – she's tapping into the power of her Dark Boots –
Just stop her, damnit!
The new sensation was so many things she couldn't describe well. Blurs of color were only the beginning of it. Everything – streaks and streaks of motion, running at a hundred miles an hour and never stopping, blazing forward until streaks became mere pinpricks in her peripheral vision.
Was this what surrender was supposed to feel like?
And then, stinging blows to her face, torso, legs.
You idiot! You're not supposed to hurt her – she's special!
Yeah, well, got any bright ideas on how to make her stop? She'll heal. At this rate, she could injure herself much worse.
Trap her, then.
It's like trying to trap a wounded, berserk animal –
Just do it.
It was all unclear, so hazy. Punches across the faces of the men in white jackets, cartilage tearing across skin – her fists, her nails. Fighting, but a new sense – not freedom – losing hope?
We have her!
Careful, careful, don't let her do anything rash –
Skin, red and raw and bleeding, nails torn and dirty and tearing across faces and hair and eyes –
Hurry, she's losing it! Stop her!
There's a sort of reluctant tranquility that comes with an end to bouts of mania.
Tranquility can mean many things, like peace, serenity, despondency.
I want to fly again, she thought. Please, I want to fly again.
I'm sorry, it replied.
She said nothing.
Light came from beams in the ceiling overhead.
She opened her eyes.
You've regained consciousness.
We don't know what you'll do if we don't restrain you. We cannot let you die, and we cannot let you out.
You are a very precious exorcist.
It was only when they were gone that she realized her arms and legs were bound to the bed, firmly fixed in white casts eerily resembling bandages with her bloody fingertips a sharp contrast, as though they were trying to send her a subliminal message.
I did not. (She knew this, knows this. She never did, never tried to. Never inflicted wounds on herself. And besides, she never needed to; enough things took care of that on their own.)
She wouldn't have known she was bound if they hadn't mentioned it.
Let me go home…I just…want to go home…
Let me fly, let me fly away from here…
It was the first time in years that she mustered up the force to cry.
(That's why she remembers.)
The voice said I'm sorry and she did not react at all. (lovehatewishpowerhopeapathyfeelingnothing.)
It never came back.
Sometimes, the men in white coats came in, whether to check on her or to make sure she was alive and not trying to escape. Or not. Perhaps just to observe.
There was no need for it. Eyes glassed over, her body making no attempt to break free of the restrictive bonds, a blank stare at the ceiling watching dreams of broken childhood memories and nothing more – her spirit was broken.
Hushed whispers came from the men as they came in and out and in. Like a never-ending rotation of colorless figures, coming and coming and – nothing. A door that didn't know how to close.
She only really noticed one of them, only one.
Creak of the door, footsteps. She didn't have to open her eyes. Why did it matter? He'd leave again like the rest.
A warm hand on her forehead.
Heart in her chest, threatening to feel again for the first time in how long had it been? thudding against her ribcage once, twice. Tears before she realized it, mouth agape and –
"This is your home." A pause as he looked down at her, bittersweet emotion in his face. "Sorry I'm late."
She stared in wonder.
She started training with her Innocence again a week afterwards. The bindings clung to her arms. She hadn't healed completely.
There were no flesh wounds on her arms, wrists, or hands, like she thought, though white surly bandages were pasted on the faces of the scientists.
It would take time. To heal completely.
Komui smiled down at her, held her hand.
We've lost so many years.
Without her family, without Komui, her world had been a barren existence, white and colorless and all so tainted. Without meaning.
She would never lose someone like that ever again.
Nor would she shed those tears.
How many more battles are you going to lose?
Something that she learned too late was that the more bonds she made with the other Exorcists, the more it hurt later on. Like fragments of her world breaking off in little chunks, falling into the blue bottomless ocean.
Allen Walker was only the latest one to claim a piece of her world, taking his place so quickly with his endearing smile, quirks, vitality. Everything. But as quickly as he had done so, he threatened to break away completely so many times afterwards, crumbling into the sea.
That idiot. Always sacrificing himself, or being willing to, never thinking about the long-standing consequences. Never thinking about whether it was worth it for him to risk throwing his life away for the sake of saving one creature, one akuma, one person.
When would he understand how much it hurt her?
When would he understand that one of these times, he might not make it?
Because then, he wouldn't be able to save anyone else. Ever again.
Well, I don't see the world like a map. I've been in war for a long time, so instead, what I see are the faces of my companions. I'm a bad girl, huh? My friends are more important to me than the real world. To me, the death of one companion…is like a piece of the world gets destroyed.
If there's nobody left, even if the real world is saved…I will be destroyed…so please don't die, please don't go away any more…
For that, I…
Please don't go away into the darkness…
Linali promised to herself that she'd try hard, so very hard, so that she could protect her friends and never have to cry again, never have to watch her world crumble around her. Would never let any of her companions down, never let them get taken away.
If she knew that even Allen couldn't keep his promises sometimes, how could she expect herself to do the same?
They were running and falling and fighting and Allen dove in, pulled the little girl out, and vanished in front of her eyes with a promise to save Soman.
It was his sure, absolute promise.
While breaking the one that she had made to herself so long ago.
Eventually, she had to return without him.
She found herself back on the ship, but when she closed her eyes she could only see Allen's hand reaching for hers, Allen falling, falling, falling, dropping into the abyss.
Crumbling into the ocean.
Why hadn't she held on? Why hadn't she gone with him?
He's lost his Innocence. There is no path he can take to continue being an Exorcist.
No path he can take to continue being…
No path he can take to continue…
If she had stayed with him, maybe it wouldn't have happened. If she had stayed with him, maybe he wouldn't be as injured as he seemed to be.
She's condemning herself for it.
She stared out the window of her cabin, recalling the stark whiteness of the sterile room's walls.
The same nightmare, over and over.
End of the world, buildings collapsing into rubble and sinking down into endless murky depths, her sitting at the pinnacle of it all, alone, oh so very alone, and why?
End of the world… Komui, Ravi, Allen, everyone…where were they…
She whirls around.
And she has to be dreaming, because he's there.
His face is frozen between a mix of surprise and shock, like he knows he's not supposed to be – can't be – there either. He starts to walk towards her, reaches out his arm tentatively, but retracts it as though he's daring to touch the most fragile of porcelains.
She rushes forward anyway, rushes forward like he's all that's left in existence (and he is; everything's falling down around them and he's really all that's there and he's here and he was supposed to be gone).
She finds that there's not much she can put into words.
"I…I don't know. I thought you…are you…"
His face eases into a smile. "You're all right."
Her composure breaks and she lunges forward, arms wrapping around his neck high enough that she can feel the warmth from his cheeks, face buried into his shoulder like she'll never let go (and she never will).
She shakes, and he stands there, hesitantly bringing his hands to her back.
(He's never been the kind of guy to make the first move. Any kind of move.)
"I thought that you…you were…"
She can't bring herself to say it. (And she's not crying yet, not yet at all.)
He gazes down at her.
I'm never going to leave you alone in this world.
Her arms are still trembling, and he notices. Notices how she's standing at the tipping point, how she's so afraid.
"It's okay…to cry, right now. If you need to."
The tenderness (carefulness?) in his voice finally sends her over the edge, and she does.
When she wakes up, the sky's more overcast with dimmer light shining through the cabin window, and she finds that she doesn't feel as pale as she usually has felt lately upon awakening.
She unclenches her hands, rubs a tear from her eye, and stretches. For once, it wasn't the nightmare that caused it.
Walking out the door, she realizes – she has faith again.
He'll come back. She knows.
When Allen wakes up, he's relieved that he hasn't had another one of those dreams of crumbling concrete and pools reflecting nothingness, with her at the center of it all.
He thinks he feels the ghost of dampness on his shoulder, but shrugs it off.
He has to get his Innocence back.
He has to return.
When Linali fights the akuma, she gives it her all.
She can't afford to lose. Not here, not now. Can't afford to lose the battle, can't afford to lose her friends, can't afford to lose her world.
Some things in the world you only need to feel once to know forever, after all.
(Surviving this is a chance to see them again, to see him again, and there's no way she's going to let it slip through her fingers the way the lilies and ocean water had.)
The light and dusk outside her cabin window is real and blue grey pinks mesh together in the dark, and it's not just red black white around her any more.
Here we go with the excessive author's notes:
Major thanks to Dex for editing despite the whole not knowing D.G-M thing, and Rika for helping with adjusting translation stuff and for discussing things with me in regards to Linali. I don't believe she ever tried to commit suicide. Whatever they resemble, they're still just those restrictive casts they put on people to keep them from moving in institutions. To quote my friend, "In Japan, suicide attempts are too mild for it to be heartbreaking, and therefore manga usually doesn't have it. D.Gray-Man is no exception." But that's just our take on it.
And yep, I spell her name this way. I just can't look at "Lenalee" the same way, official or no.
Thanks for reading, and hope you drop a line if you enjoyed it.