And here's the next one, for your viewing pleasure. Stuff goes really bad, really quick from here on out. Well, actually, Saya should leave it up to you to decide if it gets bad or not. Oh well, let's go!
Rated: M 'cause that's just what the story's rated. Lately the chapters have been very tame though…this one's probably another K/T chappie.
"You can't be doing this!" Komui sounded far less composed than he usually did in this situation. "I demand to know why such an order has been given!"
"It's simple, Supervisor," one of the mysterious Grand General's responded with a flippant tone. To Komui's ears the voice was almost slimy and crawled over his skin unpleasantly. "We've discovered mass amounts of new information, but we must test it immediately if we want to put it to good use."
"Why should we test it? What was stated in that tome was fact and you know it! Or do you doubt the Bookman clan's archives?" Komui shouted back. He couldn't believe this was going to happen, not now, not so soon. This information was supposed to prevent these sorts of things from happening so quickly!
"We do not doubt their information" -the figure's tone suggested otherwise- "We just wish to be sure that it is accurate. As a scientist you should know that not everything stated as a fact is one. So we must test each fact and any conjectures based upon it."
"But why now? Shouldn't the testing wait until the book has been completely examined, after all theories have been made and proper experiments have been planned? Rushing into such a thing is madness!" Komui wouldn't stand for this. He knew the Grand Generals were not ordering this testing to take place because they wanted to test the information. No, no, they were just out to torture their resident Noah.
"If we want to put what we have learned to good use as soon as possible, then it is only fitting that we do the experiments as they come up." These dogs! Komui hated feeling like he was surrounded by a bunch of ill-bred pit bulls. How could they be so cruel to a child?
"But there is no justification for doing these experiments in the first place," the Chinese man argued. There really wasn't. The information received from Allen had been taken as absolute fact and had been copied down as such. Komui trusted it; he saw no reason to experiment with it.
"Supervisor Komui!" Another of the Grand Generals spoke up indignantly, "You seem to have forgotten your place! Your job is not to second-guess us, it is to make sure our orders are followed!"
Komui winced at this point; if these people were dogs, then what did that make him? Their filthy bitch, most likely. He knew that was his job and that failure to follow orders would mean losing his job, and he couldn't risk that. His position was all that allowed him to protect the exorcists and finders, it was all that had kept Lenalee, Allen, and Satoru out of confinement. It was what stopped finders from being sacrificed carelessly, stopped exorcists from being used as tools. He couldn't give it up, but he couldn't just give this order, either.
They wanted to start experimentation on Satoru immediately. Komui could hardly believe this. Allen had given up that valuable information and cast suspicion on himself in order to save Satoru, he was going to have a break down if he ever learned of how badly that had backfired. And what about Kanda? If he learned about this he would become so murderous, no one would survive it. Komui didn't want to see those two siblings torn apart, either. These tests would surely drive Satoru to the edge, and very likely over it.
"God has given us an opportunity to investigate our enemies, Supervisor, it would be a shame to waste it."
'Yeah, well your god can shove it.'
Komui's face settled into a hard glare as he looked up at his superiors. "Fine," he said after a long pause, "I will properly ask Satoru if he will participate in these experiments. However, if he refuses then I will not force him to be a part of this. As a member of the church, I implore you to think deeply about just what your god would think about experimenting on a harmless child. Hasn't God already punished us for committing that sin?"
Satoru sighed forlornly as he thought over recent events. His big brother and Lavi were both leaving and wouldn't be back for weeks! He was going to be lonely without them. No, no, he'd be lonely without Yuu-nii around, the rabbit brat could stay away for as long as he wanted. Lenalee had been going off on missions constantly lately because of the number of inactive exorcists, so she wasn't around either. At least Allen would still be around to keep him company; the snow-haired boy had already had his cast taken off, but he'd be in a brace for about another month and so he was not yet allowed on missions. Satoru didn't know what he'd do once all of them were on missions again.
'I suppose I can help out in the Science Department, or maybe I could help Jerry… If I'm going to be here, then I want to help.' Satoru just wanted something to do while he was wasting away in the tower, waiting for his dear friends to return. When they came back from a hard mission, he wanted to be able to tell them that he had been working hard, too, making it easier for them to relax at home.
The goodbyes had been simple, they'd just waved and said farewell, after which Satoru more or less coerced a hug out of his brother and threatened Lavi for attempting to come within three feet of him. Allen had just smiled awkwardly and promised to take good care of himself and Satoru.
"Man, what do you do when everyone's gone?" Satoru asked feeling completely bored out of his wits.
"I wouldn't know, since I'm not usually here either," Allen said, before grabbing another roll out of a bread basket that he was steadily making his way through. "When I have the choice though, I like to eat."
"You always like to eat, Allen. Besides, I can't do that because unlike a certain parasitic-type, I'll get fat."
"Haha, I guess you're right. Maybe I could teach you how to cheat at poker."
"I already know how."
"Really?" Allen raised an inquisitive eyebrow; this was news to him. A bit of a grin played on his face. "Well then, perhaps we should play a game or two? I've been playing for my life since I was about 12 so I'm sure you'll find me to be a worthy opponent."
Satoru's expression seemed to mirror Allen's own mischievous one and he grinned. "I've only been at it for a little over a year, but I'm sure I could give you a run for your money. I'd be more than glad to learn a thing or two from you, anyway."
"I'm sure you would be. Maybe we could work on our techniques together? If we practice some, we could get pretty good at working together to pull off a scam."
"Allen should you really be thinking like that?"
"Hey, I can't help it; my gambling skills are my pride and joy. If I wanna flaunt them I will."
"I think you mean cheating skills."
"A skill, nonetheless."
Despite Satoru's supposed aversion to scamming, he was quick to pick up all of the tricks Allen taught him, and soon enough they were practicing working together, testing their coordination on unsuspecting victims they found around the tower. They never played with stakes of course, but even playing just for the sake of playing was pretty fun.
Allen sighed contently at the end of the day. It had been a while since he had played so much, and now that he thought about it, all of the movement was probably good for his recuperating hand. He almost wanted to laugh at it, how he was going back to the very beginning like this. Poker had been physical therapy for his hand when he'd first invocated, and now here he was, thinking it would be a good idea to do that again.
Across from Allen in one of the arm chairs situated by an empty fireplace sat Satoru. He had a content look on his face; he'd enjoyed spending the day socializing. There was something about playing cards that made it easier to talk to people, and since Satoru only knew a select few people in the tower he was happy for the chance to expand his horizons.
"We should definitely play more often; I think it's good for my hand."
"We'll get bored if we play every day though."
"You can get bored of poker?"
Satoru laughed at the nearly incredulous look on Allen's face. "As a matter of fact, yes. Maybe we should switch up the games we play so that it doesn't get too repetitive; I once won a horse in a game of rummy."
Allen made a thoughtful expression as he thought the idea over. "I don't know, I don't trust a game I can't cheat at."
"That makes no logical sense," Satoru pointed out, "And besides, you can cheat at Rummy just like you can at any other game."
"What do you mean that doesn't make sen-"
"Excuse me for interrupting, Sir Walker." There was a tall man at the door that Allen only faintly recognized. He was probably a finder who was off-duty or something of the sort.
"Komui requests and audience with Sir Satoru," he went on after he was sure he had both of the boys' attention. The two looked at him strangely; why would Komui want Satoru? Shouldn't he be calling for Allen? Then again, neither of them could see why he'd really need Allen, either.
"Why does he want me?" The raven-haired teen asked, his head tilted to the side.
"I was not told, I was simply asked to get you." Satoru nodded and stood up when he heard this reply. He supposed it was just better to get it over with. Allen stood up to follow, but the man put his hand up as if to stop him.
"It was requested that he come alone, Sir Walker." At this Allen furrowed his eyebrows and scowled; what on earth was Komui calling Satoru for? A sense of foreboding settled in the pit of his stomach and the back of his throat, as though it wanted to be verbally expressed. However he sensed that it wasn't his place to interfere and sat back down.
"I'll just meet you later then, Satoru," Allen said, as though he was reassuring himself that he would see Satoru later. How strange that he felt like he wouldn't.
"Later, right," Satoru replied almost absent-mindedly; he was already thinking of all the reasons Komui might have for calling him up like this. He waved over his shoulder and left the common room.
Maybe it was because of the worn out, upset expression on Komui's face, but he seemed to be aging. Satoru was more used to the slightly-crazed grin or the childish tears that the man usually sported. He wondered what was troubling the supervisor so and realized with an internal groan that he was probably the cause.
There was silence as Satoru sat down on the couch in front of Komui. It seemed to Satoru that Komui was reluctant to start, and so started for him.
"You needed me for something, Komui?"
"I…" When Komui refused to look at him, Satoru knew something was definitely wrong. "I am very sorry about this Satoru. It was no one's intention to have you get wrapped up in these things so quickly, not mine or Allen's or anyone's-"
"What's going on, Komui? You're not being very clear." Satoru was getting worried. He had a sneaking suspicion about what was to come and it only grew stronger with the mention of Allen.
"The Grand Generals have asked me to start experimenting. They want the Science department to test the theories and hypotheses made based on the information Allen gave us. They also want to reaffirm those facts by using you as a guinea pig," Komui said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose with an expression of distain. This sort of research was so distasteful he couldn't imagine how anyone could ask for such things.
"Oh." Satoru understood why Komui was so upset now. He was worried for Satoru's well-being. The younger Kanda definitely didn't want to be a test subject and yet he found himself wondering if he could somehow help everyone by allowing it. They would be learning something from him, right? Besides, he was sure he was strong enough to handle a good deal of whatever they intended to put him through. He could learn about himself, too.
But no, his nii-sama would not want him to even consider this, and Allen would be devastated if he knew the information he'd given was going to be tested like this. Despite himself he started wondering if Lavi would care at all or if he would just be a bookman about it and observe from a distance.
"Just say no to these experiments, Satoru," Komui advised, "They say this is for the sake of knowledge, but really the Grand Generals just want to torture you because they view you as an enemy. They want to prove you can't be trusted, so they'll push you to the edge with their experiments, and the moment something goes wrong they'll cast the blame on you and use it as an excuse to confine you."
Satoru thought this over for a moment, which worried Komui. There shouldn't have been anything to think about at all; it should have been obvious that the best choice was to just refuse to cooperate and leave the tower as soon as he could. Yet despite this Satoru was still thinking. After all, even thought Komui had said that this was just an excuse to make him out to be unworthy of the Order's trust, if these experiments went well then the Order would make important discoveries that could tip the balance of the war in their favor. Anything that might help keep his friends and brother alive was worth trying.
"What sort of experiments would you be doing?" Satoru asked, not wanting to make a decision before he knew everything about the situation. Komui looked troubled by his response, he'd been hoping for Satoru to flat-out refuse. This little sliver of curiosity would look like an opening to the higher-ups; they'd force Komui to pry into it until Satoru said yes.
"It will start out humane enough, at the moment the only orders have been for simple things like blood and hair samples, so that we may study the genetic information of the Noah. After that I'm not quite sure; there might be some endurance tests, psychological ones, you may be forced to come into contact with innocence. After that, I imagine they will start developing weapons to use against the Noah and they will probably want to test those on you. That's really only the tip of the iceberg; the people at Central have sick minds, who knows what they will come up with. You could die if things go too far."
"But this will all help keep the exorcists and finders safe, won't it?"
"That would be meaningless if you died in the effort."
"If I can help I want to."
"It's not worth your life!"
There was a moment of shocked silence after Komui shouted; it was so unusual for him to raise his voice like that, they'd both been thrown off by it. Even so, Satoru had it stuck in his head that he might be able to do some good, and he wanted to do anything he could to help. If his condition could be used to benefit everyone then he should at least try to help.
"I'm sorry Komui, but I think I am willing to cooperate here." How odd it was that he was apologizing for cooperating! It was so backwards.
"Satoru, shouldn't you at least think about this more? What would your brother say if he knew you'd agreed to this? As an older sibling myself, I think I can speak for Kanda when I say that he'd be horribly angry and upset. You'd worry him to no end, you'd worry everyone!"
Satoru internally flinched at the mention of Yuu, but stood his ground. This was for his brother after all, his brother and everyone else who was risking their lives for the sake of the world.
"He doesn't need to know what's going on, this can be treated as confidential, I imagine?"
"-I just want to help, Komui. If anything can be learned from me, then I will work with everyone to find what we can." Satoru was firm in his decision; Komui could see it in his eyes that had seemed to turn to steel.
"I… Alright. The tests will start in a week or so. I will do as you wish and keep this a secret, but in exchange you must promise me something."
"What, Komui?" Satoru prompted. Komui looked his straight in the eye, and Satoru knew that Komui would not allow him to continue like this if he did not agree to the older man's terms.
"The moment things become too dangerous for you, the very minute the tests become life-threatening or you feel the Noah gaining power, you must drop the tests. If you go against this condition, I will have no recourse but to inform your brother and Allen of you decision to undergo testing."
Satoru's eyes widened, what sort of condition was that? The most important things would be learned from the most dangerous tests! At the very least, the things that would help on the battlefield would have to be learned through a bit of risky research. And why would Allen be told of his decision to do this? Granted, he'd know soon after Yuu did, but still.
"Why would you tell them?" Satoru asked, looking defensive.
"Because they would make you stop," Komui answered simply, "They would make you stop and then protect you from the higher-ups until they could get you out of the tower. I imagine that if you suddenly drop out of the experiments in the middle or if you are forced out of them, headquarters will not be a very safe place for you any longer. You'll need to leave."
He hadn't thought of that. If Satoru said yes now and then backed out when the going got tough, he'd have to leave for his own safety. Also, if his Noah took control during one of the experiments then he would be confined. But what would happen if he just said no now? There would be no reason to confine him, but his stay here definitely wouldn't be made very comfortable.
"Sleep on this decision, Satoru," Komui said, which ended the conversation. Satoru nodded and left the office.
Allen nibbled nervously at his dango as he waited for Satoru to come to dinner. The boy hadn't returned to the lounge they'd been in, and as a matter of fact Allen hadn't seen him at all after Satoru was called to Komui's office. Worry churned away in his stomach as he waited impatiently for Satoru to come down to dinner. He heaved a sigh of relief when the boy finally walked through the dining hall's large double doors.
Satoru seemed to be in a daze as he walked through the maze of people and tables, it was fortunate that he hadn't bumped into anyone. Allen pulled the younger boy into the seat next to him as he passed.
"Satoru, why were you called to Komui's office? It sounded serious," Allen said, his voice snapping the other boy out of his daze.
"Ah, it was nothing nearly as important as that guy made it seem," Satoru said, lying through his teeth. "He just wanted to ask about how I was doing here, if I'd had any problems, and had me answer some questions about my, uh, condition." Satoru looked Allen in the eye as he spoke, trying his hardest not to make the action seem too forced.
Allen furrowed his eyebrows at Satoru's explanation. There was no way that was all Komui had called him up for. The white-haired boy stared intensely at Satoru, looking for something that would reveal the truth. All he found was a perfect poker face.
"Why would Komui say that you had to come alone for something so simple as that?" He asked a pout on his face.
"Because such questions can get personal, clearly," Satoru replied without missing a beat. "What if I had to give an answer that I didn't want anyone to hear, because it was embarrassing or too private? Having me come alone was more or less a precaution."
Allen spent another moment scrutinizing Satoru with his eyes before he decided to just let it slide. Satoru was safe and here now after all, so it couldn't have been too bad. So why had his worry not subsided?
Kanda wasn't feeling so great. He didn't get motion sickness, so he wondered why riding this train through the French countryside was making him feel ill. It wasn't quite a physical illness though, it was more like a bad premonition. Something somewhere wasn't right, but for as long as he was stuck in this little train compartment with the damn rabbit-brat, there was nothing he could do about it.
He didn't seem to be the only one who was uneasy though, for Lavi was being particularly quiet. It was nothing out of the ordinary for Kanda to just sit still as a stone and look out the window, but for Lavi to not at least attempt conversation was truly out of the ordinary.
"Something isn't right," Kanda finally said, breaking the silence. Lavi looked up at him with an expression of surprise.
"Read my mind, Yuu-chan."
"Don't call me that."
"But really, what do ya think it is?" Lavi could hardly stand this feeling; the cause was too uncertain, there were so many things that could cause such an ill sensation.
"Haven't a clue."
"What a help you are." Lavi huffed and pushed his hair away from his face, only to have it fall back into place. "I guess I'm just as useless though." It wasn't like Lavi had any idea what this apprehension was all about. Another moment of silence passed as the two teens mauled over the different possibilities. Perhaps this mission was going to be a lot more difficult than they thought? Maybe headquarters had been attacked and they'd return to a pile of rubble? It might be that something bad was going to happen to someone close to them. There was no way to find out just what was wrong.
"So," Lavi broke from his useless pondering the moment that he realized it was indeed useless. "Got anything ya wanna talk about that would make for a good distraction? Well, you know, something that I could talk about while you don't listen."
"As a matter of fact, yes." Lavi suddenly felt like leaving the compartment when his so-called best friend gave him a basilisk's glare. What had he done this time?
"U-uh… well then, go for it."
"What's the deal with you and my little brother?" Kanda asked upfront. It had been bothering him for a while, even a bit before he'd seen the positively disturbing accident in Lavi's room. Ever since that day way back when Satoru had first left the tower with the redhead, the two had seemed closer. He couldn't exactly explain how they seemed closer, they just were. It was reminiscent of the way Kanda had been with Allen such a long time before when he'd been the only one to know of Allen's affiliation with the Noah. A bond over a secret, perhaps? But no, it wasn't quite like that either, just close. Maybe they'd just reached some sort of understanding on that day?
Whatever the case, there was something different about them. Satoru didn't seem to shy away from Lavi as much as he did before, though maybe that was just because he'd gotten used to it. But Lavi looked at Satoru a bit differently, too. Not in a bad way, Kanda supposed, but it still bugged him. It almost seemed like Lavi knew something about Satoru that he didn't.
Lavi's reaction to Kanda's question was a few minutes of wide-eyed staring, and a bit of blinking toward the end. Then he cracked an awkward smile and scratched the back of his head. Well, he could think of a few things he'd done that Kanda might consider sketchy, and then there were those more platonic feelings of respect he had toward the boy. There were a lot of things really, but he wasn't really sure which things should be hidden.
"Well, nothing really. I guess I tease 'im a lot, but I do that to everyone. I respect him a lot too, 'cause I'm sure what he's living through can't be easy but he's fairing just fine. And…ah, not really sure how to put this but… he's got a sort of relaxing quality about him, you know? Like he can see through everything and you know it, so there's no need for pretenses. I like him or something, I guess? I dunno, what kinda answer are you looking for here, anyway?"
"Hm…" Kanda scrutinized Lavi for a few minutes. It seemed as though Lavi was being truthful, but at the same time there was something that Kanda just didn't trust in that explanation. Kanda rarely ever completely trusted Lavi, he just got this strange feeling that he had never seen this person completely and never would. It was hard to trust the words of someone like that.
"Honestly Yuu-chan, I'm not doing anything with your brother." That was not completely true of course, but Kanda didn't need to know that.
"Better not be," Kanda grumbled out, deciding that since he had nothing more than a gut feeling on the matter, it would be best to just believe the rabbit when he said he'd done nothing. Besides, Satoru would definitely tell him if Lavi did anything strange, right?
Lavi sighed in relief, feeling like he'd just dodged a well-aimed bullet. Kanda and Satoru would be the death of him, surely.
Judging from the fact that he felt a bit lethargic and faint, Satoru had to assume that he was anemic. Of course, that hadn't stopped the nurse from taking blood, even though she'd clearly wanted to stop him from doing this. If the higher-ups wanted something, they got it. He remembered the strict-faced Matron, looking at him with a pitying yet determined and respectful expression.
"I never suspected you were one of them," she'd said as she inserted the needle, "But I feel it makes no difference. I've seen you enough times to know you are a kind person, and I am sorry that you are being treated this way by the Grand Generals."
She'd looked so regretful; it was hard to believe she was the same woman who'd terrorized escaped patients. Satoru was thankful to know that she didn't think any differently now that she knew he was a Noah.
But that hardly mattered at the moment, because he was just a few steps away from his door and he wanted to do nothing more than sleep for the rest of the day. He hoped he wasn't asked to give blood again anytime soon, because he didn't like this feeling and people would notice if he was tired at random times during the day. They'd worry, and when people worried they pried; Satoru didn't want that.
Leaning against the door of his room shortly after closing it, the boy took a deep breath before making his way to his bed and falling into the sheets.
This mission was almost too easy, it was unnerving. There was nothing but a bunch of mindless level ones hanging around, and that seemed odd as Komui had deemed it appropriate to send two exorcists. The Order was usually quite good at guessing how many people would be needed to complete a mission, so the fact that Lavi and Kanda were yawning during their supposed battles was odd. It felt more like they were bullying a bunch of kids, rather than fighting off monsters.
As it was, they were set to go back home a week ahead of time. The information the finders had given Komui on this place had been a bit misconstrued due to the fact that it was passed between quite a few people orally before being written down. That all basically meant that the mysterious happenings going on in this place were not due to innocence or anything particularly supernatural at all, it was just a few neighborhood teens messing around. The only thing special about this place was the presence of akuma, and even that wasn't so outstanding.
Perhaps it was because this town was so ordinary (by exorcists' standards) that they encountered no Noah. Kanda was rather grateful for this; they would surely be particularly venomous toward Lavi and himself for taking both Allen and Satoru away from them. Not that Kanda was afraid, but he was thankful that he wouldn't have to fight a difficult battle. He knew just how tough those Noah were.
The two older boys looked at the ceiling of the hotel they were staying at, each trying to fall asleep and failing. That bad feeling was still with them, stronger now. Since the mission wasn't the problem, it had to be something at home.
"So Yuu, what do you think we'll find when we get back?" Lavi asked, worrying aloud whereas Kanda was keeping his concerns to himself.
"Everything will be fine," he said in a final tone; this wasn't a topic he wanted to dwell on. "We probably just ate something bad on the way here. There's nothing wrong."
"Heh," Lavi let out a dry chuckle, "How optimistic of you."
Ah, everyone's got a bad feeling now. No one wants to see dear Satoru hurt, but the kid is just so determined to help. He's sort of naïve that way, you could say. Oh well, he'll learn eventually.