Hi!! I'm back again :) I would like to announce some changes made to the story. I would like to thank PurpleCow12 for pointing out some mistakes in this story concerning the Japanese honorifics.
It's true that the characters are in England, but like most anime and manga, the characters still retain some Japanese practices like saying 'Itadakimasu' before they eat and 'Tadaima' when they come home and bowing and so on. However, I have re-watched the anime series again and have noted that although some characters do use Japanese honorifics, Allen does not address Kanda as Kanda-san or Ravi as Ravi-san. So, I've made some changes in this chapter to rectify my mistake.
There, got that off my chest :) And thank you so much to those who reviewed my previous chapter! I felt really touched at all your encouragements, I really did. Now before my babbling takes up all the page space, on to the third chapter!
Allen stirred slightly before regaining consciousness. He laid there for a moment, unmoving, trying to suppress the blinding pain throbbing insistently in his head. His whole body wasn't feeling too good in general either. He could feel a series of cuts and bruises all over. The cold stone floor felt wonderful against his aching muscles…
Wait, cold stone floor?
Slowly, Allen began to be aware of his surroundings. He wasn't in the country side anymore…that much was certain. Where the heck was he? The last thing he remembered was getting sent to some remote village with Kanda Yuu, getting ambushed by akuma, feeling the blinding pain at the back of his neck...and everything else afterwards was basically an unhelpful blank.
Where was he? More importantly, where on earth was Kanda? Slowly, Allen cracked open an eye, careful to keep it still halfway closed. If he were in enemy territory, it was always best to play dead, or at least, unconscious as long as he could. The enemy tended to be more likely to let slip useful information whenever they assumed the target wasn't listening. He would also be able to buy time to assess the situation and hopefully even formulate an escape route.
Ironically, he had learned all this from the countless times he got kidnapped as a child for ransom by street gangs thinking that if they got his precious apprentice in their clutches, Cross would finally cough up all the money he owed them. Sadly, as all of them found out, General Cross didn't seem to give a damn about his idiot apprentice's welfare. He actually laughed when they sent him the ransom letter…then he would use it to make paper cranes to impress his dates...and would later yell at the worn out and weary Allen as he crept in the door for coming back so late.
He squinted through his half open gray eyes and quickly shut them close again, his eyes stinging slightly.
He was surrounded by what seemed like eye-wateringly bright, white light. Temporarily blinded, Allen tried to rely on his other senses to give him a clue on where he was. He could hear nothing but silence, though he did pick up some strange whirring noises in the background. He could smell the rather cement-y smell of stone, which was explainable seeing as he was lying on it. He could feel nothing but the aching pain of his injuries.
In a nutshell, the only clue to where he was had to be the white, blinding light.
Dear gods, he wasn't in heaven was he?
No, no…he couldn't possibly be dead already. He was lying on a stone floor. Stone floor. Allen didn't think there would be stone floors in heaven. He rather imagined they would be walking on clouds instead. And clouds were supposed to be soft and fluffy, weren't they? Besides, he was in pain. You shouldn't be able to feel pain if you were dead, shouldn't you?
Allen grimaced at the migraine still pounding in his head. Yep, definitely alive...
More carefully this time, he attempted to open his eyes partway again. His eyes stung with all the bright light blaring into it but once his eyes adjusted to the light, he caught a glimpse of what seemed like a laboratory, not unlike the one back at the headquarters, and a number of hooded, white figures. It was then that Allen suddenly noticed his wrists and ankles were cuffed with light, but sturdy looking metal chains firmly attached into the stone ground.
He experimentally gave his right wrist a discreet tug. It jingled slightly but held on fast. Sighing slightly, Allen closed his eyes and attempted to make some sense out of the odd place in which he had been brought. Maybe things weren't so bad after all...maybe these people were just harmless but paranoid scientists who …apart from the whole knocking-out-a-total-stranger-and-chaining-him-to-the-ground bit...were probably really nice and understanding people…
"You can stop playing dead, exorcist. We know you're awake," a cold voice interrupted Allen's train of thought. He gave an involuntary start of surprise. He felt fear and apprehension rise up within him. He was virtually defenseless in an unknown place and was outnumbered a hundred to one by these ominous looking figures in white and had absolutely no idea what the heck they wanted from him nor what they gained from chaining a total stranger to the floor. Wonderful….simply wonderful…exactly the kind of situation a battle- exhausted exorcist longed to find himself in…
Struggling to keep his voice steady, Allen looked up defiantly at the tall white figure standing imperiously before him. "Good day to you too," he said pleasantly, though his grayish blue eyes narrowed slightly in clear suspicion and wariness. The white figure had a hood covering most of his face but Allen could still spot a rather amused sneer tugging at his mouth.
"How unexpected. An exorcist with a sense of humour," the cold voice sounded more amused than ever. A flurry of titters and chuckles came from the masses of white, hooded people. It seemed they were enjoying some sort of a private joke.
"Unexpected, isn't it?" Allen smiled politely. He glanced at the chains and looked up again, "Is this how you always treat your guests?"
"Not usually," the man chuckled again. "But then again, we like to make special exceptions for special occasions."
"Oh, really now?" Allen said lightly, the polite little smile never leaving his face. It was so bizarre, Allen thought to himself. Here he was, all chained up in a midst of a hundred unknown foes and by the way they kept exchanging polite pleasantries, they could have been old friends meeting over Christmas or something. "What's the occasion?"
"I guess you'll soon find out for yourself," the man replied in equally light tones. It was as if they were discussing the weather or something. Allen shivered inwardly. He didn't really like the part about him soon finding out what the occasion was. Maybe it was just his paranoia, but when strangers chain you to the ground, they don't usually tend to throw feasts and parties in your honour afterwards.
A heavy silence descended upon the place. Allen took the opportunity to take a better look around the place in which he was held captive, hoping to find a hint of an escape route. A door? A window? Heck, a chimney? Nope…nothing. The entire room was encased within what looked like smooth, door less and windowless concrete walls. Allen felt his heart sink. But there had to be a way out, there had to be. Otherwise, how do the others get in and out themselves?
"I'm afraid you won't be able to find a way out that way," the man finally spoke again, smug amusement lacing his voice. Allen had a sudden urge to punch him.
"Well, then. How on earth will I be going out after my pleasant stay at your…place?" Allen asked, a hint of impatience seeping through his polite tones.
"You'll soon find that it will be the least of your concerns," the man was obviously enjoying himself immensely.
"So what the heck do you people want with me?" Allen demanded, his polite façade shattering suddenly. He glared at the chuckling man, who didn't seem shocked in the least at his outburst. In fact, he seemed to be actually anticipating it. Clenching his fists in fury, Allen yelled, "Innocence, activate!"
For a moment, it looked like it had worked. His red arm started emitting a greenish glow as it began to change into the anti-akuma weapon in the form of a white claw. The chains creaked ominously and looked as if it were going to snap at any moment. However, the green light flickered off suddenly as the chains started glowing mysteriously. Allen screamed in pain as a burning sensation enveloped his entire arm. The white claw quivered desperately for a moment before it slowly shrank back to Allen's shriveled, red arm again.
"Temper, temper," said the man, disapprovingly waggling a finger at him. Allen looked as if he might just gnaw off the finger if given the chance. "Honestly, exorcist. It would do you some good not to underestimate us. Those chains have been strengthened and fortified to withstand the Innocence. Your precious little anti-akuma weapon is powerless against it."
With a smirk, the man threw back his white hood to reveal a rather well groomed looking man in his early thirties. He had intelligent, though rather calculating looking icy blue eyes and had his straw coloured hair neatly combed back out of his face. He also had perfect, straight teeth which were now bared into a leering smile.
"Welcome, exorcist, to the headquarters of the White Order,"
Kanda's dark eyes opened with a start. He sat up on his bed and peered groggily out of the window. It was still so dark and Kanda even spotted a few stars dotted here and there. A glance at the clock hanging on the bare walls told him it was only five o' clock in the morning on the dot.
It was probably a testament to Kanda's strict self-discipline that no matter what country he was in, no matter how tired he was the day before; he would always rise up at five sharp. Without fail. It was as if his biological clock had inconveniently inherited his mind's obsessive quirkiness or something.
So no matter how much he needed more sleep, like when he had gone through a whole day fighting akuma non-stop or like the time years ago when Ravi went through his first heartbreak and he had to be the unwilling listener to Ravi's constant laments and wails about his lost love all….friggin'…night…long, his body simply wouldn't allow him to catch a few minutes more of snoozing.
On a side note, for those who are wondering why Kanda didn't just boot Ravi out of his room all those years ago, he did. But Ravi continued to howl and weep outside his door and it is very hard to ignore someone when they're howling at the top of their voices outside your door. So, our unfortunate samurai didn't get any sleep at all until the wee hours of the morning when Ravi had finally lost his voice and had passed out from exhaustion outside his door.
And up to this day, he still vehemently denies all accusations that it was he who had draped that blanket over Ravi's unconscious form that night.
Though, if you really squint, you could detect a faint flush of embarrassment spreading discreetly across his pale face.
Stretching, Kanda got up and went for his daily morning shower. The bath was nearly always mercifully empty at this time in the morning. Which was a good thing, for both the other males and for Kanda as he, being the dear little private iceberg he was, liked having the bath all to himself and for the other males because, really, who wanted to be bathing in the same place as the infamous, instant-killer-of-any-conversation Kanda Yuu?
After his nice, refreshing and private bath, Kanda pulled on a plain, white yukata, grabbed Mugen and headed down to the practice fields for his usual morning training routine, which usually consisted of around two hours of non-stop sword swinging and complicated foot work followed by half an hour of meditating. The other exorcists and pathfinders knew well enough by now to give the practice fields a huge berth whenever it was being occupied by Kanda Yuu.
So, he was really quite surprised and none too pleased when his sharp ears caught the telltale sign of approaching foot steps. Even Ravi knew not to come down to pester him while he was doing his morning practices and meditations. Partly because the red head knew and understood his need for complete privacy and concentration during his intense training…and partly because he wasn't usually capable of crawling out of bed at any time before noon …and mostly because the last time he tried years ago, Kanda nearly sliced off his nose.
And the only reason his nose was still attached to his face was because he had tripped over a log just in time to avoid the blow.
"Good morning, Kanda!"
Kanda cringed inwardly. Brilliant, of all people to walk in while he was training, it had to be that useless four-year-old brat. At least with other people, he could chop off a finger or two in warning, but the bean sprout? He was in charge of him, so basically, any injury to the useless brat's being would be ultimately his responsibility as protecting the brat's useless rump happened to be his mission.
So, it's not that Kanda was showing mercy just because he was a kid. It was because of his obsessive, perfectionist streak, he had to complete each and every mission flawlessly and perfectly, no matter how trivial.
Just to clear things up, you know? So you won't get the utterly wrong idea that he was, you know, softening up. Cough.
"What in heaven's name are you doing up so early in the morning?" Kanda demanded, pausing in a mid-strike to glare at the smiling boy who was still in his bunny pajamas. Komui had lent it to him last night. It had apparently shrunk in the washer some time ago. Frankly, Kanda didn't even want to know why he even had a pair of pink, bunny pajamas on hand.
"Looking for you," the brat replied honestly. He sat down on the dewy grass and looked up at the scowling exorcist towering above him. "You weren't in your bedroom."
"Yes, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be up in my bedroom while I'm down here practicing in the fields," Kanda said, rolling his eyes. "Thank you for pointing out the obvious."
The little brat completely ignored his biting retort and instead stared curiously at the sheathed Mugen gripped tightly in the samurai's hand.
"What are you doing?" the brat asked, his white head tilting curiously.
"Baking cookies," was the sullen reply he got from the disgruntled samurai who now pointedly turned his back to the child and resumed his training.
"Baking cookies," Allen repeated, confused. His face was scrunched up in bewilderment as he stared blankly at the Kanda who was now doing a series of bizarre looking combinations of kicks and swings.
"Yeah, I get a kick out of randomly jumping around and wildly swinging my sword in every direction imaginable," Kanda muttered under his breath. "I'm doing my practices, you little moron. What on earth do you think I'm doing?"
"You said you were baking cookies," Allen blinked in puzzlement. "Then you went on and said you were randomly jumping around and something about swinging in every direction and then you say you're doing practices. Which one am I supposed to think you're doing?"
Kanda rolled his eyes heavenward and gave it up. Sarcasm was obviously wasted on that illiterate brat who had the collective vocabulary of a four-year-old child. Oh wait, he was a four-years-old child now…well, it really was quite hard to tell the difference; the older Allen Walker wasn't all that bright either…
Kanda carried on with his training, determinedly ignoring his little spectator as much as he could. Though, his slashes and hacks were notably a good deal more vicious now than before Allen had interrupted. The brat just sat there, staring the fluid figure with a spark of curiosity in his bright silver eyes.
Watching Kanda Yuu do his morning practices wasn't something one usually had the privilege of, probably because those who tried never tried again afterwards. But it really was jaw-dropping to watch if one had the chance to. The way he fluidly and seemingly effortlessly performed near-acrobatic feats and the graceful but deadly looking strokes of his sword took one's breath away.
The most unnerving thing was how quiet he was. You'd think that slashing and striking with enough force to effortlessly lope off somebody's head would make a more impressive noise but all Allen could hear were the soft, almost gentle swishes of blade slicing through air. He moved so gracefully and softly that it looked as if his feet were barely brushing the ground at all.
Allen sat stock still on the dewy grass, hugging his bony knees to his chest and with his bright eyes never leaving Kanda's fluid form. He didn't seem to be particularly impressed in the least, much to Kanda's slight chagrin. He found himself doing more complex moves than he usually would have done just to get a reaction out of the infuriatingly calm little boy. Even a raised eyebrow would do! But the brat was just sitting there with that annoyingly amiable smile plastered on his face.
After doing a particularly spectacular move involving a difficult spin in mid-air and a series of complicated slashes and jabs (it was, in fact, quite useless in a real battle but it did look very impressive), he subtly glanced at the little boy to see his reaction. Yes! His mouth was wide open….!!!!! In awe? In reverence?
Wait a minute, why on earth are his eyes shut…?
And is that drool trickling down his chin…?
And dear gods, is that brat snoring?
Kanda's thin eyebrows twitched dangerously in aggravation. Here he was, putting on this grand show for the useless little brat who barely deserved it and just how was he showing his gracious thanks? By snoring at him! Snoring! He glared murderously at the oblivious little boy.
Allen sleepily blinked open his eyes. Which was probably a good thing because if he hadn't, Kanda would have probably smothered him in his sleep already, flawless mission or not.
"Wow, it's so bright already," Allen said, smiling groggily. "Look, the sun's nearly halfway up."
"Well yes, generally, the sun does tend to come up during the day," Kanda replied dryly.
"How long was I asleep?" Allen yawned, stretching his thin little arms. The samurai glared at him again, his pride still considerably wounded.
"Long enough," he replied scathingly. He sheathed his sword and sat down cross legged for his daily morning meditation. In order to survive through the considerable strain and stress of being an exorcist, one must be strong both physically and mentally. It doesn't matter how well trained or how compatible an exorcist was with his Innocence if he was going to faint at the first sight of blood. Being an exorcist meant keeping your emotions and your own selfish desires in check, striving only to the destruction of the Millennium Earl.
Something a certain bean sprout could do to learn before he kills himself and his teammates. They can't save everyone. That's a solid fact. No matter how tragic and heartbreaking it is, exorcists are expected to squelch out their own personal misgivings and slog on to their next mission. That in itself was hard enough. Succumbing to weak impulses like guilt and sentimentality isn't going to make it any easier.
That's why everyday Kanda Yuu meditates for at least half an hour a day. It soothes and clears his mind of all the troubles and catastrophes that might have happened the previous day so that he would be able to start afresh once more. It relaxes him and calms him down enough so that he would be able to maintain his mask of cool indifference for the rest of the day without letting a crack of his emotions seep through.
Allen stared at the cross legged samurai in puzzlement. His eyes were closed and his breathing was slow and even. His face, usually scrunched up in cold disdain and cool indifference, was relaxed and he looked almost peaceful. A spark of comprehension dawned in those huge eyes. Allen hurriedly jumped to his feet and hurried back to the building as fast as his little legs could carry him.
Kanda heard the brat hurrying away and sighed in relief. Now he could concentrate on his meditation without any distraction. Maybe he got hungry or something. Good riddance…
Much to his huge displeasure, he heard the sound of tiny foot steps hurrying back to him after just a few minutes. He determinedly made his face as blank as ever, hoping the brat would get the hint and not make any contact at all. The sound of light foot steps got steadily nearer until it stopped a few feet away from him. Kanda heard the sound of heavy panting and the rustling of some sort of material being dragged across the wet, dewy grass.
He dismissed it from his mind and refocused on meditating…. until he felt something warm and familiar being flung onto his prone back. His dark eyes opened with a start, startled. He glanced backwards and raised his eyebrows.
"Why," he asked, perplexed, "have you brought down my exorcist coat?"
The brat had collapsed into a panting heap onto the grass next to him. Propping himself up with bony elbows, he gave the bewildered samurai a stern look and replied reproachfully, "You'll catch a cold if you keep falling asleep outside like this."
"……what?" was his articulate response. He fingered his warm coat that hung limply over his shoulders. He? Catch a cold? The very notion was almost laughable. He hadn't gotten sick since he was nine years old. Unlike some exorcists, he actually took good care of his body. And since when was he sleeping?
"It's cold today," Allen explained patiently. Kanda could think of a million bitingly sarcastic remarks in reply to that statement but all he said at that time was:
Anyway, the coat was pretty warm… and it was a pretty cold morning…
A moment of peaceful silence reigned over as both exorcists fell silent in thought. Kanda took the opportunity to continue with his meditation in peace. The brat wasn't all that bad when he wasn't talking…
"Is this your sword?"
Kanda's eyes snapped open at once. The brat was curiously fingering his sword, poking and prodding every dent and line. Just as he was thinking along the lines of 'as long as the sword was sheathed, the brat couldn't possibly hurt anything,' Allen suddenly pulled out the long, sharp sword with a hard tug and a grunt.
"What do you think you're doing?" Kanda demanded, slightly alarmed. The brat ignored him and started to swing the sword around in weak little slashes and strikes. To his further apprehension, he started hopping around, swinging the sword around ominously with every step and laughing excitedly.
"Look, Kanda!" he called gaily. Kanda felt slightly sick. Maybe it was just him, but he found it just slightly disturbing when four year olds start waving around sharp, deadly swords almost as long as themselves. Oh, dear Gods, was it just him or were that bits of white, snowy hair sticking onto the blade…?
"Oi, stop that!" he roared, standing up and running after the brat. Allen just laughed happily and moved out of his grasp, still swinging the sword around in every direction. Kanda was about to chase the brat around this rock…only, he didn't see this rock, resulting in painfully stubbing his right toe directly into it. He cursed in pain and bent down to check if he'd broken it. Broken toes were considered minor injuries but they were a major pain in the ass in battles.
"Your sword's heavy," Allen commented, panting heavily. He tried to swing it up again but failed. Gritting his teeth, the little boy mustered all his strength and pulled it up again with an almighty squeak of effort. He managed to swing the sword up halfway before his tight grip on the hilt loosened in exhaustion. In the huge momentum, the sword flew right out of the boy's grip and sailed straight into the air.
Kanda looked up from his toe just in time to see his sword perform a graceful arc in the air before landing directly between his thighs, making a hole in his yukata where it landed. Should the sword have landed a quarter of an inch higher, Kanda could have kissed his masculinity goodbye.
Face sweating, whether from the chase or from fright, he looked up at the stunned little boy with a slightly wobbly smirk, "Nice aiming." And he seriously meant it this time, without the usual sarcasm. It usually took years and years of hard practice for a swordsman to achieve such precise and accurate aiming.
"Why?" Allen asked; his head tilted in genuine puzzlement. "I missed."
Kanda paled dramatically as he stood up. He apprehensively glanced down at the huge rip in his yukata between his thighs, dangerously near his crotch area and replied simply, "No shit."
"White Order?" Allen repeated slowly, staring into those icy blue eyes. "And what on earth is that? Some sort of weird cult that gets a kick out of kidnapping random people off the street?"
"Impertinent," the man hissed softly, cold blue eyes flaring for a second before it iced over once more. "Believe me; if you were some 'random person on the street,' your tongue would have been ripped off by now for associating our Order with cults."
"Fortunately, for you however, you happen to be of some use to us," the man continued. "Otherwise, you wouldn't even have woken up from that little nap."
Allen glared at the man. He was trapped. His anti-akuma weapon could not work, at least, not as long as those blasted chains still held him and he was virtually helpless without it. The only thing he could do now was to keep the man talking, hoping that it would delay whatever horrors were in store for him for as long as possible and to obtain as much information as he could for the Black Order in the unlikely event that he managed to escape.
"So, this White Order of yours," Allen began, his polite façade slipping smoothly back on. "What's it about?"
"The White Order?" the man seemed willing the play along with Allen for a while. "It's an organization that strives into a different path than that of your own Black Order's rather murky one."
"Yeah, oddly enough, I had a sneaking suspicion that was the case," Allen replied, so politely that the man went quiet for a while, seemingly unable to make up his mind whether he had just been mocked or not.
"So what does your so called Order do, really?" Allen asked, genuinely curious. "Not the whole different paths thing. What do you people actually do in here?"
"Well, although our core values and goals differ, the main thing we deal with is not all that different from the Black Order," the man replied slowly.
Allen had the urge to scream at him to stop being so darned roundabout, but that wasn't exactly the most wise move in his rather restricted position, tactically wise. So, he maintained his amiable smile and gently probed, "Which is?"
"Scientific research on the Innocence," the man said. His eyes lit up with something akin to passion, temporarily melting away the ever present iciness in it. He spread out his white clothed arms and gestured at the walls of the cold stone room. For the first time, Allen noticed that every inch of the wall around the room had been fixed with shelves that seemed to stretch around the entire expense of the stone wall, almost like the library back at the headquarters. The doors locking the shelves in were made out of what seemed like very tough looking transparent glass that glinted in the harsh light. The shelves themselves seemed to emit a glowing light of their own. Allen squinted at it, confused, then he gasped.
"The Innocence!" he exclaimed, shocked .Pieces of the Innocence; carefully stored behind special glass doors, glowed softly in the harsh white light. Allen's wide eyes scanned the entire room. Practically half the shelves were filled up and that was quite saying something, as all the shelves stretched from the ceiling to the ground and curved around the entire room. "Where and how on earth did you manage to get that many?"
"The Black Order isn't the only Order sending teams out to investigate potential Innocence-bearing sites," the man smiled smugly. "Our network is as, or perhaps is even more, sophisticated than your own. These days, most expeditions to retrieve the Innocence have been more or less fruitless for the Black Order, hasn't it?"
It was true, Allen thought dimly, barely registering anything in his shock. Recently less and less teams of exorcists and finders alike were coming back with successful reports. Allen, like most other exorcists, had simply dismissed it as bad luck or false trails. Not once did it occur to any of them that another group was collecting and storing the Innocence as well. Judging by the sheer number of Innocence this Order had managed to retrieve, they knew what they were doing.
"Is that why so many akumas have suddenly gathered around this area?" Allen croaked suddenly. "Such a large amount of the Innocence all cluttered up together is bound to attract akumas. Aren't you aware of how many people you are putting into danger here?" He stared pointedly at the masses of grave, hooded figures gathered around him.
To Allen's surprise, the man laughed. It was a very cold laugh and it seemed more of a mocking one than a joyful one. "Oh, you arrogant exorcists, always making assumptions as usual," the man said, still chuckling slightly. "Do you actually think that we'd risk storing this amount of Innocence without some level of protection? Do you really think we really are all that helpless? Do you seriously think that all the hopes in the world lie in the existence of the Black Order? Do you truly believe that every single exorcist in the world is in or will be in the Black Order?"
The last sentence struck something inside Allen. His silver eyes widened considerably. He said hoarsely, "You mean there are-"
"Yes, you've guessed it. Not all exorcists choose to belong in the Black Order, you know. A few considerably powerful exorcists have chosen to stake their loyalty to the White Order instead; a wise decision, might I add," the man smiled thinly. "And I assure you, they are more than sufficient to protect our headquarters. We don't need your condescending pity. "
"But-But why on earth are you collecting all these Innocence for?" Allen asked, still slightly dazed.
"As I've just told you, exorcist, scientific research," the man replied coolly. He stared down disdainfully at the white haired boy.
"But we need those pieces of Innocence to defeat the Millennium Earl," Allen said, silver eyes imploring the man to see reason. "Don't you know that by storing the Innocence here to rot away uselessly, you're sabotaging your own side? Do you want to see the destruction of this world? The exorcists need these weapons to fight against the Earl!"
"Weapons?" the man inquired, raising an eyebrow mockingly. "Weapons, you call the Innocence; weapons good for nothing else but for the destruction of your enemies, like some common knife and dagger? Arrogant exorcists! You all have barely tapped into the full potential of the Innocence. Once you get something powerful, it's all about using it in wars and battles and destruction! You are not worthy to be the wielders of such power."
"The Innocence was meant from the very beginning to be a weapon against the Earl," Allen explained, in strained patience.
"The Innocence was something our ancestors left for us before the Noah's Flood," the man continued . "Civilization before the Flood was possibly more advanced than our own. It is only logical that the scientific wonder known as the Innocence surpasses the pathetic technological growth of our times. Think of all the potential it could hold! Don't just think of them as mere weapons. Think of how many fantastic inventions that could be made by studying them! Think of how much easier we could make life for people!"
"The Innocence has the power to cause all sorts of unexplainable phenomenon impossible by the laws of nature. By channeling that mysterious power, we could make wonderful inventions, build cities, stop wars and famines, cure incurable diseases and sicknesses, put a stop to ravaging plagues and epidemics and even ," the man ranted on with a near maniacal gleam in his eyes, "and even….revive the dead! We can make the world a better place. I'm sure that's why our ancestors left the Innocence to us. They entrusted such great power to us in order to restore the once splendid and glorious civilization of our world that was damaged by the Flood. The Innocence is not meant for weapons of destruction, it's meant for the rebirth and the revival of a new beginning for our world."
Allen was struck momentarily speechless. He stared, his jaw slightly agape at the now rather impressive figure looming over him. For a moment, his once steadfast principles and values were shaken. The way the man said it…made it sound so right. It made so much sense to him now. Why hadn't he thought of it that way? It was true that the scientists at the Black Order hadn't exactly explored the idea of alternate uses for the Innocence other than as a weapon against the Earl. Their ancestors had left them the Innocence in order to protect their world from the Earl….
…but could it also be meant to protect them from things other than the Earl that was also causing damage and destruction to their world…like wars and famines? It was only logical to think so…
And to revive the dead…Allen had a momentary pang as he thought of Mana. Would it be so bad to think that he could see Mana's wise eyes once more? Would it be so wrong to think that he could finally have a chance to apologize to Mana for turning him into an akuma? Allen felt tears silently gathering in his eyes as he thought of his father…the first person who had accepted him and showed him love despite he being shunned in society because of his red arm. All of a sudden, Allen wanted to see him again more than anything else in the world.
But then suddenly, Allen's cloudy vision cleared. This feeling he was feeling now; this deep, aching feeling of love and loss, was something the Earl routinely took advantage of in humans. In their darkest hour, the Earl manipulated their sorrow and their intense desire to see their loved one to turn them into his mindless pawns.
The Earl unashamedly used the loving bond between two humans, whether as parent to child, friend to friend, sibling to sibling, or lover to lover to get what he wanted in the end. Worse of all, he shattered that loving bond by forcing the akuma to kill the person who had called it back. The way he callously used and manipulated his victims' hope, love, desperation and grief was something Allen could not find in his heart to forgive. The Earl had to be stopped by all means before he destroyed any more innocent lives. Other alternate uses for the Innocence could wait.
"What you're saying makes a lot of sense," Allen said earnestly. "But defeating the Earl has got to be our main priority for now. Things like stopping wars and famines and curing sicknesses are really good aspirations. I really mean it! But the Earl is slowly plotting the end of our world as we speak. We're on a time limit; we have to defeat the Earl before he carries out his twisted plot. Stuff like wars and diseases can wait for now because if we don't stop the Earl, pretty soon we won't even have a world to have wars and diseases in!"
"Typical exorcists of the Black Order," the man said in cold disdain. "In your eyes, only your goals matter, doesn't it? It doesn't matter how much others might suffer because you guys used the one thing that might be able to end their plights as lowly weapons, isn't it? After all, certain sacrifices must be made for the greater good, is it not?"
"If we don't stop the Earl, the number of sacrifices would be much bigger, believe me," Allen retorted, his patience wearing thin. "The Black Order is doing all it can do prevent the destruction of the world and-"
The man suddenly lunged forward and roughly pulled Allen up by his collar. He groaned in pain as the chains holding his wrists were stretched to their maximum, chaffing into his skin. The man stared into Allen's defiant silver eyes and leaned in close to hiss harshly into his ear, "The Black Order brought on the destruction of my world, exorcist."
Then, the man forcefully shoved the puzzled exorcist back onto the cold, stone floor. With one last withering glance at Allen, he turned to the silent congregation of hooded figures and commanded, "Get the equipment ready for the experiment. We shall use the boy as our newest test subject. Let's see if he can survive what a few dozen mice could not."
"What are you going to do to me?" Allen demanded, looking around nervously as the silent congregation turned around immediately to carry out their orders.
"Congratulations, you are to be our first ever human test subject," the man grinned widely, though none of it reached his cold eyes. "I'm anxious to see if there will be any bit of you left after we're done with you. We have never found a single piece of the lab mice left over after we were done with them, you know."
"Good morning, Yuu-chan, Allen!" Ravi cheerily waved as he spotted them both walking down the hallway. Kanda was clutching his sword and was wearing his white yukata, which could only mean he had been down at the training grounds as he usually did every morning. What wasn't so usual was the little boy happily chattering to his stony companion and who seemed oblivious to the fact that he was getting as much response out of Kanda as he would from talking to a rock.
"So…he actually let someone watch him train broken-finger-free?" Ravi mused inwardly as he stared at the odd two. "That's a first…in about a century…"
"Ravi!" Allen beamed after he had spotted the redhead. The boy ran up towards him, leaving his stone cold companion trudging up behind him. Ravi cheerily ruffled Allen's white hair, all the while eyeing Kanda curiously. He seemed to be in some sort of a silent daze. What happened to him?
As soon as Kanda drew near enough to the now rather alarmed redheaded exorcist, he grabbed a surprised Ravi's collar and said hoarsely, "That brat is never touching anything remotely sharp ever again."
Ravi's eyebrows wrinkled in confusion at this odd statement. As soon as Kanda released his death grip on his collar, Ravi took the chance to take a good, close look at him. After he finally spotted the rather obvious rip in the rather specific area, his visible green eye shone in amusement. He looked up again only to meet Kanda's murderous eyes locked onto his, daring him to laugh…which was what the red headed exorcist felt very much like doing at the moment.
But instead, Ravi opted for a very grave look. If you squinted, you would've spotted the subtle amusement dancing in his visible eye, but his expression was the perfect depiction of nothing short of utter seriousness.
In a deceptively light voice, Ravi innocently asked, "Oh my, is Yuu-chan really a Yuu-chan now?"
Kanda stared dumbfounded at Ravi, who tried and failed to hold in his laughter. Then, he scowled dangerously after he deciphered the hidden meaning within the red head's seemingly harmless statement. Ravi continued to snicker until his brain registered a very fatal fact that he seemed to have forgotten.
Kanda Yuu was clutching his sword.
It was one of the golden rules of survival in the headquarters that you do not piss off Kanda Yuu when his sword happened to be within grabbing reach.
However, Ravi, being the lovable, death wish wielding exorcist he was, continued to laugh. He did not manage to (arguably) befriend the homicidal samurai by fearing imminent death. Just being within the slashing range of Kanda's infamous Mugen was putting your life at risk already, because you'd never know when the way you walk or talk or breathe may suddenly annoy the temperamental, Japanese exorcist very much. And you can be sure that he'd never warn you. Not until perhaps you very suddenly find yourself staring at your own headless body lying in a bloody pool a few feet away.
And almost everything about the young bookman annoyed Kanda no end. It was a miracle that Ravi survived as long as he did. Kanda had almost gotten used to the red head's constant annoying chatter and overbearing cheeriness over the years. It was perhaps a little too premature for the stubborn, dark haired Japanese exorcist to openly consider it affection or friendship, but at least he respected and tolerated the young bookman in a way that he would've long castrated him if he didn't.
"No, Yuu-chan was never Yuu-chan in the fist place," Kanda replied, his eyebrows twitching in aggravation. "Keep this up and you might wake up one day to find some parts of your anatomy brutally hacked off in the night."
"Oooh, scaaaary," Ravi grinned, giving patronizing little shivers of fear. "It's okay, sweetie, you don't have to be defensive. Your thing being chopped off by a four year old wouldn't change a thing in our relationship."
'Since when was 'my thing' chopped off by a four year old?" Kanda demanded, a vein popping in his forehead. "And since when did I have a relationship with you? But if you keep this up, starting a killer-victim relationship with you is starting to sound like a pretty good idea."
"Aw, you're denying it because we're in public?" Ravi winked, obviously enjoying himself. "You're so shy about us it's almost adorable. But that lovable little modesty is what I love most about my precious Yuu-chan."
Allen was staring curiously at this odd exchange with a puzzled look in his wide silver eyes. Then, a look of understanding flitted pass his eyes and he gasped in horror. He stuttered incredulously, "Kanda, you…you and Ravi are-?"
"No!" Kanda denied vehemently. He glared murderously at the laughing red head. "Fine example you're showing to a four year old child. Do you want him to be scarred for life? He was already mentally disturbed enough as a teenager."
Ravi just waved it off, still chuckling to himself. Kanda had the urge to plunge Mugen right into his snickering face. His murderous intent must've been really obvious because even Ravi could sense the homicidal vibes flowing out from him. Deciding to leave while his legs were still attached to his body, he turned to the fuming samurai for the last time and grinned, "Well, nice seeing you two but I have an appointment with Panda. And Yuu-chan, sweetie, don't be too hard on yourself; it's not like you had that much of a use for it anyway….after all, I'm usually the one on top." He winked cheerfully at them and sprinted off before Kanda could lope his head off.
"Love you too, sweetheart!"
"So, apparently, we're going to get you some new clothes tomorrow," Kanda grumbled irritably as the boy jumped up into his bed that night.
It wasn't his idea. The headquarters did not have any clothes small enough for the brat so Allen had gone through the whole day wearing an old, oversized shirt that was chucked away in Ravi's closet for three years. The shirt was apparently once blue but after it had gone one round in the washer with one of Komui's pink pajamas, the blue had turned into a rather ghastly shade of maroon.
It really did not help that the shirt was proudly proclaiming, "I'm too sexy for this shirt!" on the front.
Kanda had lost count of how many idiot pathfinders and scientists alike who had cracked up at the sight of the little brat strutting around and tripping over that very four-year-old friendly shirt. It was admittedly, amusing to see Allen Walker of all people wearing a shirt proclaiming a narcissistic line like that. The real teenaged Allen Walker would've thrown a fit. Not to say that the four-year-old Allen Walker wouldn't have, not if he knew what the word 'sexy' meant….
Kanda had unremorsefully informed the innocent four year old child that it meant 'happy.'
The idiot brat actually bought it and in result, was continuously puzzled and slightly hurt throughout the day at why people kept laughing whenever they caught sight him. In all fairness, it wasn't just the shirt that looked so odd on him. Neither Kanda nor Ravi could find any pants that could fit his tiny waist or that was short enough that it wouldn't look like he was dragging a pair of snakes wherever he went so Allen had to make do with an old pair of yellow boxers found in a dark, dusty corner of Kanda's closet.
Needless to say, Allen Walker was quite the fashion diva that day. If Lenalee were there she would've fainted in horror on the spot.
Kanda had been quite willing to let Allen endure all this humiliation until he returned to his proper age. He was even quite willing to get a few flour bags and make holes on the sides for the arms and legs but Komui, being the evil dictator he was, ordered Kanda to use his own money to get some clothes for the brat the next day. He seemed to be forgetting that exorcists weren't exactly swimming in cash. Considering their life-threatening jobs, their salary wasn't actually all that high.
It usually worked out, because the headquarters pretty much provided all the food and lodging and facilities the exorcists needed and the Black Order usually reserved and paid for all the hotel rooms and lodges and train rides they would require during missions. And it's not as if the exorcists had the time to go shopping anyway. They don't usually need to go out and buy clothes for four year old brats so their meager salary was usually enough for getting their barest necessities.
In the event that they did need to buy miniature clothes, well…they were on their own. Kanda had objected at first. He had offered to go and shrink his old shirts and pants in the washer so that they would fit the brat but Komui had insisted that as amusing as it was making Allen wear embarrassing clothes, they had to try to uphold Allen's dignity as much as they could. That even if he was currently a four year old he was still an exorcist of the Black Order and still deserved some level of respect.
As if that shameless, sentimental bean sprout had any dignity to begin with…blargh….
But Kanda could've nearly gotten away with it, if that utter idiot Ravi hadn't opened his big, loud mouth and happily volunteered to go shopping with 'Yuu-chan' and to contribute some of his own money into buying the clothes as well. Then, Komui, satisfied that all the financial problems were solved, proclaimed with finality that they were both going shopping for clothes for Allen tomorrow and turned a deaf ear on any more of Kanda's enraged protests.
It was as if Komui, Ravi and Allen were in a plot to annoy him as much as possible. Well, whatever they were doing, they were succeeding.
"I'm sexy," Allen muttered as he sleepily laid his snowy head on his pillow and snuggled beneath his bedspread.
"…what?" Kanda said, promptly dropping Mugen in shock. It landed with a resounding clang but he just stared incredulously at the little boy. Allen tilted his head, looking genuinely puzzled at his odd reaction.
"I'm sexy," the boy continued cautiously, looking as though he sincerely feared for Kanda's sanity, "that I'm getting new clothes tomorrow."
"Oh right," Kanda replied innocently, without a trace of guilt whatsoever at the negative impact he was having on the boy's vocabulary. "I get it."
He really, really hoped the brat wouldn't say that in public though…
Phew! Done! Finally! Wow….the chapters really are getting longer and longer, aren't they? O.O
Please, please review! I want to know what you all think about this chapter :)
P.S: Is it Ravi or Lavi or Rabi? I can't seem to make up my mind which one is right…