Disclaimer: Elfen Lied is a property of outside companies, I in no way claim ownership over it or its characters.

Note: In the course of writing Elfen Lied: Neue Pfade, I am bound to make mistakes in spelling in grammar. Therefore, I ask you the readers to write to me any changes that need to take place and any errors I have made in the process of writing this story, thank you.

Elfen Lied: Neue Pfade

July XXX2 – Experiment Lucy Age 12

Remain small, inconspicuous, and above all else act invisible. It had taken Lucy some time for her to fully grasp the meaning of these guidelines that Noboru had told her. Although people were going to see her, the way was to act so that they would forget you the moment they took their eyes off you.

Still, Lucy did not think these were as important to her as they were to Noboru. He had to get close to his target, and his old and feeble hands were making it difficult for him to invisible. Lucy was young, steady, and calm, not to mention she had over a meter arm span.

The thrill of stealing from humans blessed with a better life than her felt almost as good as it did to kill them. But by doing so she managed to keep the beast within her muffled and in effect keep her promise to Kouta.

The name brought a smile to her face.

But no! That was no time to think about him now. She looked up from her seat on the train to the crowd that huddled around her. In the past months she had learned this was the best place for someone like her. Her arms could pass right through anyone in her way to her target, stealthily reach into their pocket, then zigzag through the narrow openings that the humans left her.

How disgraceful…

"These are not what these are for, yeah I know…" The beast inside her was muffled, but not silenced. And each day that passed became more and more stressful for her. Old urges resurfaced from time to time, and only the thought of Kouta was able to keep her steady. Today had been easy so far, she looked forward to getting back to that tiny apartment, Noboru said he had a surprise for her.

"Tch…more credit cards…" The plastic pieces of money were tricky to use. She couldn't use them, and Noboru said it was difficult for him to use them nowadays. They were practically worthless aside from the short, immediate use for them. To her it seemed a lot of people had started carrying less cash, and more plastic ever since she became a thief as well.

As the train slowed to a stop, she reached down and grabbed her leather satchel that she placed on the ground next to her foot. This wallet didn't matter, as she ever so slightly peeked into the satchel. Today had been a good day even before she got on the train.

----------------

"Tadaima…" Lucy's melancholy voice called out as she closed the door behind her. The tiny apartment that she had come to call home the last couple months had changed slowly with her help. The musty smell had become a memory to even Noboru. Everything was clean, in order, but more than that, there were actual items in the room. Brand new plates on the kotatsu, a second futon rolled into a corner, bags of junk food on the shelves of the kitchen, which up until this point had been a commodity. And over in the other corner on a tiny wooden stand…

"Wah! You got a tele!" she said aloud as she rushed over to it. An eleven, maybe thirteen inch screen, it was the one thing that for some reason, Lucy had missed from her days of squatting. She ran her fingers around the screen and box, smiling from ear to ear with joy.

"You like?" Noboru asked, whom Lucy had just noticed was in the room. Probably the one thing that didn't change very much was Noboru. He still looked old and thin, much like he did when she first met him. But he was livelier now and healthier too.

"You did all right ojii-yarou," Lucy said, her gaze never leaving the television. There was a sigh of annoyance behind her, something she knew meant he wasn't quite used to that name yet. But eventually he would have to, because Lucy liked calling him that. While on her knees, she spun around to him, smiling the largest he had ever seen her, "Hey hey! What can we watch on here?"

Another sigh, that wasn't good news, "Nothing much unfortunately. We can't afford cable yet, and the only stations the antenna can receive are a local station and a news station. But…" he smiled and held up a plastic bag, "it does have a VCR. So at the least we can watch some movies."

"Mmm…that's okay, I like the news." Lucy responded. The look on his face was that of surprise, not expecting her to be satisfied with the news. But truth be told, it was the one last thing that kept her evil desires at bay. Movies always had a happy ending, even the horror and slash films always ended with the hero or heroine escaping or killing the bad guys themselves. Comedies were mediocre to her, no matter what the box they came in said, she just could not find humans very funny. And no matter how hard she tried to view herself and Kouta in romantic situations like romance flicks portrayed, she was more aggravated by the fact that two other people were falling in love and being together, while SHE remained far away from him.

To her, the news was plenty. Very rarely did a tale of death end happily on the news. Scandals, betrayals, humans hurting other humans for no reasons whatsoever…just the thought of that satisfied her strong desires to kill all the humans she saw.

After all, what could she do that humans themselves could not do?

But Noboru was being bothersome. He really wanted to watch a movie, and for some reason, even though most of her money paid for it, she did not feel like arguing with him. With silent resolve she stood up and walked past him to the bathroom as he cockily strutted by her to the television.

Lucy wondered if he could feel her glare piercing the back of his head, obviously he was too excited to test out his new television that for his own personal safety. It was obvious that he needed a little reminder.

"You're awfully brazen to act like that around me, ojii-yarou…" and with that she closed the door.

The tape in his hand dropped to the floor, his old hands trembling feverishly. Was it senility that made him forget those thugs several months ago?

"Wh-What am I doing?" he whispered to himself, calming his hands. "No…no…she wouldn't hurt me, she's too dependant on me."

It was probably a good thing for the both of them that she did not hear him.

"So what's the haul today?" Minutes later, after Lucy had emerged from the bathroom, the two of them sat around the kotatsu, which had just been emptied for the nightly ritual. In a flash it was covered with paper, leather, metal, and a couple pieces of plastic.

"Tch…" Noboru scoffed, "It's getting difficult that a man can earn a living with so much convenience for other people." Card after card was thrown above Lucy's head, who caught each one with her vectors and snapped it two. As she had thought, they were too troublesome for either one to use and it was for the best to just dispose of them. "Ah, finally someone with a bit of sense. Lucky!" Noboru laid down several pieces of paper cash on the table, next to the coins.

When all was said and done, the only things left were a large stack of coins, and a slightly smaller one of paper cash.

"All in all…about thirty thousand yen, more than that actually. Not a bad haul today, eh?" He smiled at her, who smiled back. To him he loved the smell and feel of money; to her she loved the feeling of screwing all those humans over. "Annndd…here's your cut." He slid several bills towards her and she took him.

There was a moment of silence as she looked over the money, counting exactly five thousand yen out. A cough broke the silence, and she glanced up at him, extending his hand to her.

"Eh-hem!" He coughed again, a little louder this time. Her eyes fixated on him for a moment, then returned to the money.

"Not today ojii-yarou, I'm saving this."

"Eh?" Again Noboru looked surprised. Usually, after a day when the two of them take to the streets to "gather" money, Lucy just hands it back to him with a snide "What would I need it for". It was understandable that he was taken aback by this sudden change of attitude, "What's with you today? I thought you had no need for it."

But she did. She remembered on the train that Kouta would be here soon, and she would love to see him again with a present. It had been an entire year since she saw him, and still his face shone clearly in her mind. An entire year, and soon…soon…

Her head eerily creaked towards the calendar hanging on the wall behind her. It was not possible…how could she…

"Wh-Wh…" her voice trembled so much that it even scared Noboru, who had never seen such horror in her face, "Wh…What day is it…?"

"Ano…the twenty-fifth…why?"

Again, her face did something he had never seen it do it the last six months. Never mind how enormous her eyes had gotten, but how small droplets of water had swelled in the corners of them. Biting her lip so hard it drew blood, Noboru scooted away from her, fearing for his life.

He considered himself lucky when she dashed out the door, using her vectors to slam it open, something she rarely did and she disappeared around the corner.

"What was that all about?" he muttered as the door slowly creaked on its hinges. Pinching himself to make sure he was not dreaming, he looked at the wad of cash that Lucy had left on the table.

He wasted no time to snatch it up and slide it into his cut.

--------------------

"Damn damn damn damn damn damn!" Lucy screamed in her mind. She flew over a low brick wall and continued to sprint towards the grave.

"How could I forget about it? I've been looking to this all year! Why?! Damn damn damn damn…"

The months of studying the ins and outs of the city unknowingly paid off as she used every shortcut to her advantage. She hoped he had only been here a couple days. She hoped that he had just come to Kamakura this very day. She hoped with all her might that he wasn't he even here yet.

The streets emptied out into woods and from there she knew she was close. Her heart pounded in her throat, her stomach screamed at her and threatened to empty itself into her mouth, and none of it was from the amount of running she did. Up ahead in the distance she saw a tree that had become very familiar to her, and in an odd way, comforting. There could only be one thing more comforting and joyous to see underneath its beautiful branches…

"KOUTA!" She screamed at the surprised young boy and launched herself at him.

"Where have you-?" Wham! Lucy's shoulder slammed into his chest and the two of them fell to the ground in a mess of dirt and clothes.

Quietly, Kaede sobbed onto Kouta's chest while he regained the wind that was knocked out of him. The moment he was able to move again under his own power, Kaede quickly raised herself off of him and desperately held back the tears.

He had grown since she last saw him. His face was narrowing out and he was slightly growing taller, even from their angle on the ground. But he still wore that same, sweet smile from when they first met, and to Kaede, no one was more handsome or beautiful than he was.

She quietly gazed at his dust-covered face, a smile pursing her lips just below the deepening red of her cheeks. There were no worries now, nothing in the world that could ruin her happiness now.

"Is cough something wrong, Ka-chan?" He asked in a deep, heaving breath. She closed her eyes and shook her head.

"No…nothing's wrong…not anymore…" she said with a smile.

-----------------------------------

"A whole week huh?" Kaede asked as her feet dangled off the bridge wall. This news came as a shock to her earlier, so much that she almost lost control of herself. But she restrained, she held back her sadness and despair and tried desperately to see the glass as half-full.

"Gomen nasai Ka-chan," the young Kouta said with a deep reflection of his mood, "I waited here every day for you, but you never came…I was worried that something might have happen to you."

How could she tell him that she had forgot? How could she tell him that she was so worked up in a new, decent life that she nearly forgot that out of the excruciatingly long year, the relative timeframe that she could see his beautiful face again? She could not, so she lied.

"It's my fault Kouta…I…moved in with my grandpa and he didn't want me coming outside to meet with some boy he had never met before…" a plausible reason, Kaede thought as the words came out of her mouth. Kouta nodded and smiled, and Kaede's heart melted.

For a moment, Kaede was lost in his face, the burning memory of their last departure still fresh on her mind. Nothing else in the world had felt so good as to kiss him like she did.

"So what made him change his mind? About letting you see me that is?"

"Eek!" A startled Kaede replied, having let her mind wander too far from the situation at hand, "Eh, well, um, ano, that is um…" she had not prepared herself this far ahead, indeed, everything she had said up until this point had been on a whimsy, "I snuck out! Yeah that's it, I snuck out!"

At once, Kouta's face turned from gleeful child to a stern adult, "You shouldn't do that! What if your grandpa finds you missing and worries about you?"

"What? Why you-I came all this way to see you and-" Kaede thought, taken aback by the sudden change of attitude. Apparently her face did not hide her displeasure at the scolding and Kouta caught right on that.

"What if he's out there looking for you now? He's probably worried sick about you right now!"

Kaede puffed out her cheeks in anger and furrowed her eyebrows, "Don't get all high and mighty on me! You snuck out too the first time we met, remember?!"

Bullseye. "Th-Th-That was different! I was younger and didn't know any better!"

But Kaede did not want any of it. She scoffed and turned her head away from him, who in turn repeated her actions. While the noises of the forest overcame their hushed breathing, Kaede had a moment to relax and collect her thoughts.

"Stupid Kouta! Doesn't he realize what I've been through the last year?! Almost dying, barely living off a meager income…missing him…missing him so much…" her eyes gazed over to him, and for a second she thought she saw his face turn away, "M…Maybe I shouldn't have gotten upset…. After all…he's been worrying about me the last week…"

Her fists clenched at her soiled pants and she bit her lip. She couldn't believe she was going to say this, but Kouta…Kouta was different from all the other humans. Kouta was…

Special.

"Gomen nasai!" Their voices echoed off each other, nearly sending them flying backwards.

Through tear-moistened eyes, Kaede looked at him with a sense of humility and relief, "N-Nani?"

And Kouta, with tears less visible that Kaede's but still there, turned his head away as he spoke, "I-I shouldn't have lectured you like that. Being locked up all week…I-I'm sure it must have been hard. I…just know…how it is…"

"How…?" Kaede wiped a lone tear that had escaped her eye, "How what is?"

Kouta did not want to answer, he did not want to answer under any circumstance. But whatever manly urges told Kouta not to, he knew that between the two of them, it was all right to say it.

"Be-Because…because I was worried about you too…when you didn't show up I mean…"

Kaede…hated this. She hated how he was the only person who could make her feel the way she did, how she could feel weak and defenseless around him, how she could let loose her deepest sadness and do nothing but be cradled in his arms.

She hated it…and for that reason alone, made her realize why she loved Kouta so much…

He made her feel human again.

Screaming apologies at the top of her voice, which was muffled by his shirt in her mouth, she cried tears that she had held back for a long, long time. Even if Kouta hated crybabies, she was glad she could be a crybaby in front of him.

----------------

"Are you done now?" A sympathetic Kouta asked the sniffling young Kaede, who rubbed her eyes intensely.

"Uh-huh…" she sniffled again, except this time peeked an eye open to see his smug face smiling down at her. Naturally, this infuriated Kaede, "D-Don't you dare laugh at me!"

He did, of course. Mildly chuckling, he waved his arms in front of him and backed away, "I won't I won't! I promise!"

Tears of anger welled in Kaede's eyes, "Liar! I just heard you 'heheh'!"

Now Kouta was having periodic giggling fits, all of which made Kaede even angrier. The shouting and laughing continued for a while, finally ending with Kaede pulling a very similar turn-about as not to let Kouta win this argument about nothing. When his soft hand wrapped around hers though, she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had lost.

"Come on…I bet your grandpa is waiting for you…"

Like a bashful, obedient little puppy, she nodded and walked right behind him, gripping onto his hand tightly so neither of them would let go.

It was, at most, a good twenty-minute walk to the old man's apartment, but at least a good hour and a half before the sun would set. And since Kaede had spent the last year studying the city, she made damn sure to use all ninety-plus minutes of Kouta's time.

They stopped periodically, mostly on Kouta's request, to gain a bearing on their position whenever Kaede purposefully led them astray or in an opposite direction of the apartment. He did not know where it was, how could she not hog his presence until sunset?

From the look on his face whenever they stopped, she knew he had an inkling that she was giving him wrong directions on purpose, and expressed it in his tones as soon as they would pick up their last conversation while they continued to walk. But as quickly as his irritation rose, it also fell and he enjoyed her company as much as she did his. It was a momentary heaven for the, only during brief pauses in conversation did Kaede begin to worry about their halved-time together. One week…it was still five days more than what she was given when they first met, but not nearly enough to indulge her selfish desire. But every time she shook it off furiously, drawing herself closer to Kouta and asking the first thing that came to her mind.

"It's starting to get dark…maybe we should find a police officer…" a worried Kouta mentioned during one of their brief stops to rest. This was the sign that Kaede should REALLY go home.

Making sure to avoid dark alleyways and places she knew some of the more shady characters that she had seen Noboru with, Kaede reluctantly led Kouta to her home. Sure, she took her time going home, but she went home nonetheless.

"He…Here it is…" she squeaked out as she ran her fingertips into the palm of his hand. Her little finger-play seemed to embarrass Kouta, who blushed while he looked at her.

"It…It looks pretty small…" he mentioned as he looked away from her, "Is it okay? I mean, to live in…"

Nodding, she looked up to her floor and reminisced about the last six months, "I like it. It's not the home I've always dreamt about, but…"

"Don't say anything more…" her eyes shot open in shock as her consciousness screamed from inside her mind. For all Kouta knew, she had lived a fairly happy life with two parents somewhere in the city.

And that's ALL he needed to know.

Recognizing the agonizing look on his face, Kaede quickly waved him off, "Ano, what I mean is, it's not like my parents place I mean…they're on a trip right now, and my grandpa said it was alright for me to live with him."

Unfortunately for Lucy, this answer, unlike all the others, didn't seem to satisfy Kouta whom looked at her almost pityingly. So much so, that Kaede had trouble staring him in the face, almost as if he could read her mind.

"Please don't look at me like that…" Kaede thought as she grasped her right arm and stared down into the ground, unable to look him in the eyes. When Kouta grabbed her hand again, she felt like her heart would break from the sheer amount of pain she had been through.

"Kaede-chan…what's wrong?" He asked very passively. His hand felt so warm and soft, if it only meant a few more moments of forbidden bliss for the young dicloni…it would be all right to tell him her dark secrets.

With her head lowered deeply, her hair covering any part of her eyes, she mumbled, "Well…you see…the truth is…"

"Oi!" A burly voice called out from one of the upper floors. Kaede recognized it immediately and looked skywards, towards the surly face of her 'grandpa', "You coming inside or not?"

Needless to say, she was a little irritated at the old man for ruining her moment, but on the same note probably spared her some heartbreaking moments with Kouta. Easily faking a smile that she had done so many times before, she reluctantly let her hand slide from Kouta's grasp as she backed towards the stairs.

"Bezuni," she said, "I'll meet you tomorrow, kay?!"

Although he wasn't entirely satisfied with that, the prospect of seeing her again lifted his spirits as he waved to her, "I'll be there! Promise!"

"Me too!"

From his story's balcony, Noboru watched the two curiously. Indeed, this was the first time he had ever seen Lucy look so…happy. The television this morning did not nearly amount to the look he saw on her face as they walked down the road to his apartment.

Noboru continued to watch, unashamed, as Lucy and the boy broke apart from each other and they went their separate paths. The boy was out of his sight long before Lucy had reached the floor of their building complex, which struck Noboru as kind of odd. His eyes gazed upon her apathetically as she walked towards him, head dropped so low that her hair hid her face.

"So who was that kid?" He asked with no regret, "Never seen him around before." Lucy did not say a word as she solemnly walked towards the door and placed one hand on the knob, "You'd better watch yourself kid, boys like that are-"

Her piercing, evil glance nearly sent Noboru over the railing. There had been only one time that he had seen a similar look from her, and it led to a still-in-progress hunt for a serial killer. A serial killer that he was standing in front of.

There was no wavering in her glare, no amount of resentment or doubt. She did NOT want him to talk bad about that boy in any way, shape, or form. With her real hand, she slowly opened the door and walked on inside, leaving the door swaying in the light summer breeze.

Noboru waited for a second, making sure that she was not tearing up the apartment in her apparent anger. Satisfied that she had quietly turned on the television, he too walked into his apartment, closing the door behind him. The last thought on his mind before he entered was, "I think I'll let her have the TV just for tonight…"

------------------------

With a ferocious pull, Noboru boldly dragged the protesting Lucy by her arm away from their apartment.

"I said!" Lucy hissed, "Let! Go!"

Her sugar-coated wards of imminent danged never did not seem to reach his ears, as he continued to overpower her tiny frame, "You've been gone for several days all day to see that young punk-"

"Watch yourself ojii-yarou! I can do whatever the hell I want to!"

"That's what you think but you're wrong! With you gone there hasn't been a steady source of income for us and-" Again, Lucy cut him off.

"We have plenty of money!" Her teeth grated against each other so hard that her jaw ached in pain. It took all of strength not to scream at him in the middle of the crowded street, much less rip him apart by the seams.

"It figures that you would go so ungrateful, after I saved your pathetic little body from freezing in the snow!" This struck a chord with Lucy, who jolted back with shock, "And don't forget, you said that…boy was going to be busy until later today, right?"

Lucy did not speak a word. It was true, yesterday after spending all day together, Kouta had said that his family was doing some kind of lunch gathering, from what the two of them could gather. That did not mean she wanted to acknowledge it to him.

"We'll only be in here for a little while, and then afterwards, you can do whatever you like the rest of the day. Go get killed for all I care."

In the back of her mind, she felt her inner demon rage at her for not obliterating him on the spot. But no, there were too many factors working against her right now, one of the main ones was the endless amounts of humans that wandered past them.

They stopped abruptly, to Lucy's surprise, as she looked up to see the building that Noboru supposedly wanted to go to.

"Now wait here, I had to spend a long time to let the manager of this place to allow you in here, but I need to tell him you're here before you're allowed in." With that, he let go of her arm and stormed into the building, still angry over their argument.

Lucy wanted to run away, she wanted to do nothing until wait for Kouta by the grave and then spend the rest of the day with him. This man had no right to tell her what to do, someone who had helped finance all the current luxuries in his apartment.

Silently, she sat down on the warm concrete sidewalk. As much as she wanted to leave, she knew that if she waited for Kouta, nothing but bad and unpleasant thoughts would come into her mind, much like they did last year. Doing this little chore for the old man would take her mind off of things for a little while anyway and then she could spend the rest of the day with Kouta.

Again, she looked up at the building, with it's flashing lights and large, glass paneling. Lucy has seen places like this before, but never really knew how to use the machines inside.

"Pachinko…" she muttered, watching the customers inside curiously as they pressed their faces up against some kind of machine as their hands fiddled with some knobs. Apparently, Noboru figured this to be an excellent way to make money through the use of Lucy's vectors. They had tried other things, from robbing ATM machines to distracting people by throwing or breaking an object. All of which failed, some more miserably than others, but this was a more-sure fire way to earn money, at least that is what Noboru had told her.

Several minutes went by before Noboru came out of the building, more calm now than when he entered, and led Lucy to the machine where he would be playing at.

The plan was simple enough, Noboru would "explain" to Lucy how to play the game, and as she caught on she could direct the pachinko balls accordingly to what would be the most rewarding design. And strangely enough, Lucy found it quite entertaining to watch the flashing lights and electronic sounds as she directed the balls to specific holes and gates. But always she had her eye on the clock on the far wall, and within little time at all, it was nearly one o'clock.

"Oi, ojii-yarou," she muttered, "I'm getting out of here, it's almost one." Flexing her arms against the stool, she barely lifted herself upwards when a large hand came down upon her shoulder.

"It's not time to go yet, just a little more."

Her eyebrows furrowed as she looked at the clock again. Maybe she was becoming a little too impatient, as there were still twenty minutes left until one o'clock and it was a ten minute walk at the most to her dog's grave.

Ten minutes passed, more slowly than it had before. Nonetheless, this was a time that Lucy felt she could not wait any longer and this time, without telling him, leaped off her chair and took one step towards the door.

"Hold it," Noboru said, placing a hand yet again on her shoulder. This time, Lucy cocked her head and stared at him with disbelief, not quite sure what to make of it. "I'm not done yet," he grumbled, "Sit back down and behave!"

Mouth agape, Lucy continued to stare at him with an unwavering amount of shock and surprise, "Excuse m-"

"I said sit down!" He hissed at her again, taking his gaze off the machine for the first time. Not quite sure how to make of it, there was something inside Lucy that…made her want to stay there for a little while longer, just to see what he would do. She did not like it one bit, but she figured five more minutes and she could run to the grave in that amount of time.

Five minutes passed, and she said aloud, "I'm going." No question, no indication that she wanted a response, just "I'm going."

Noboru persisted, however. "You will leave when I tell you to."

Curiosity was replaced by fury, as she watched the minute hand of the clock tick slowly to, and past one. Every other minute she would tell him she was going, and every time he would snap back with a denial that was not requested. Alongside that, if she would lose consciousness of the game in front of him, he would be sure to "remind" her how to play the game.

Now it was five past one. Continuously she asked herself why she obeyed him. Was it because he had domesticated her? Was it because she felt sorry for him? No…no it could not have been any of those reasons. The truth was, Lucy was curious to see a side of this man that she had never seen before.

And for some reason, her inner demon did not say a word to her at all.

Ten past one now. The last lingering bits of curiosity still bound her to this hard, metal stool. Something that was…important for her to do.

Her moves inside the machine became jagged and unrewarding. All of it my accident too, she was too infuriated to purposely mess with his game.

Now the clock neared one twenty five, and Lucy felt the insides of her mind snap. After thirty-five minutes of quieted arguing with this man, there was nothing he could do now that would stop her from leaving.

One final time, she muttered, "I'm…leaving…now…!"

And Noboru, lost in a maelstrom of greed, spun around to stare her in the face, "Listen you little shit, I am the adult, and I will tell you when it is alright for you to leave, do you hear me?!" The tone of his voice raised, just enough to get the attention from nearby players, "And as far as I'm concerned, that other shit of a boyfriend of yours can just-"

It was so instant not even Lucy saw it coming. All of her blind rage became directed at Noboru, and she launched her vectors towards him. She wanted to kill him, she wanted to strangle the life out of him and she did not care who was watching her! It was only through sheer force of will that she forced Kouta's face into her mind, and sent her vectors screaming past his face and into the machine that he was sitting at.

Glass, metal, and plastic exploded everywhere, sending all the patrons off their seats and spilling every single Pachinko ball. Noboru himself slammed his back against the opposite row of machines, as he finally caught a glimpse of what he had missed. Lucy's eyes stared angrily at the floor in front of the demolished machine, swelling with tears. Her face became red from forcing all the blood into her head to stop herself from unleashing Hell upon this tiny store. Even her entire frame trembled violently at the emanating waves of hatred she poured from her very soul, all directed at him.

The other patrons, those who had not ran out of the store, scrambled feverishly to grab as many Pachinko balls as they could, the only ones not making a sound being Noboru and Lucy. Finally, with her feet gingerly tapping the floor, her fists clenched tightly, she stormed out of the store, turned right down the street, and sprinted away from that place.

Running as fast as her tiny legs could carry her, only one thing stood out in her mind. Kouta. Kouta was the only one who could contain this raging beast inside of her, that until recently had been kept contained. Now, from the actions of one stupid old man, she felt her grip on her sanity loosening.

No words entered her head, no voice telling her to kill, to slaughter and to destroy. Just her entire body resonating with hopelessness and despair, with anger and hatred. She needed a medium, something to calm her down before she did something she would really regret. She needed Kouta, and she needed him now.

And as fate would have it, that was the first thing her face ran into.

"Ita-ta-ta-ta…" Kouta mumbled. He had seen Lucy running towards him but before he could move her face slammed into his chest, sending the both of them to the ground. "K-Kaede-chan…daijobu…?" He wheezed out.

The heavy burden surrounding her heart began to lift, the animalistic instinct in her was fading and in the nick of time too. She was far beyond okay however, but well enough to force a smile and say, "Hai…I'm fine Kouta…"

-------------------

"Stupid ojii-yarou!" Kaede huffed, slurping her juice box forcefully. Both Kaede and Kouta had retreated to her dog's graveyard immediately after they ran into each other, which to Kaede's surprise and delight contained several juice boxes and two bento-lunches.

Kouta, who was sitting perpendicular to Kaede on the tree, looked back at her nervously, "Maybe if you'd stop calling him that…"

She cut him off, "Ojii-yarou is ojii-yarou! He hasn't had a problem with it so far!" Another loud slurp from the juice box, causing the box to implode.

Kouta could not help but chuckle as Kaede tried to squeeze every last bit of juice from her box, "Maybe he was lonely and wanted to spend more time with you."

"We've spent every day together for the past…" she stopped, thinking of a good date to tell him, "Four months!" Satisfied that her juice box was completely empty, she tossed it casually to the side.

"Oi!" Kouta yelled, "Don't litter! It's not nice!"

Although startled, she did feel embarrassed, letting her emotions get the better of her around Kouta. "G-Gomen…" she muttered while her vectors grabbed the box and brought it near her, unseen to Kouta.

A small finger sandwich was the first item she grabbed out of the bento box, gingerly holding it with both hands as she nibbled on the outer layer.

"Oishi…"

"You like?" Kouta asked. With a grunt, she responded to him, "It's kind of surprising though, oba-san has really been teaching Yuka to cook really well!" Instinctively, her eyes glared forward as her mouth stopped in mid-chew, a vein swelling in her forehead. "I hope you don't mind, she really insisted on making a lunch today. I don't know why." Unbeknownst to Kouta, Kaede had quietly rolled the half-chewed food onto her hand and threw that along with the rest of the sandwich, far into the woods.

"What was that?" Kouta asked upon hearing the sound of leaves rattle to the discarded food.

"I didn't hear anything," Kaede muttered, grabbing another juice box and, much more quietly this time, drinking from it.

Silence befell the two soon after, the only sound was Kaede's gentle slurping and Kouta's quiet chewing. To Kouta, this was nothing more than a relaxing visit for him, while to Kaede she could not help but let her mind wander to earlier today.

"Kouta…" she whispered softly, embarrassed to ask this, "Do…Do you think I should apologize to ojii…san?"

"Mmm…" He muttered as he thought about it, "You should probably apologize for running away from him, even though he did upset you pretty badly. Maybe if you try to explain to him he'll understand." He looked up in the sky, lost in thought, "And while you're at, maybe you should stop calling him…"

"Ojii-yarou!"

"Yeah that." It took Kouta a moment to realize that a third presence had made himself known to them. Peeking over Kaede's shoulder, he saw her "grandfather" towering over them, his face radiating of anger. Lucy, of course, was quite shocked.

"W-What are you doing here ojii-yarou?! How did you find us?!"

With a tone that implied he did not need to answer that, he said, "It just so happens that I saw you two running into these woods. It took me a while but I finally caught up with you."

Kill him.

"Ano…" Kouta muttered. He felt it was his job to melt the ice between them, not realizing it had transformed into a glacier at this point, "K-Konichiwa, a-ano…ojii-san. I'm Kouta, a friend of your…"

Noboru never gave time for Kouta to finish. Whether out of jealousy or greed, Lucy never did find out why he kicked Kouta in the stomach.

Kill him.

Now the voice was screaming in her head, louder than ever. She saw Kouta's trembling frame on the ground, unable to move the slightest as he peeked at Lucy with fear in his eyes.

"K-K-K…" he gasped out, before he rolled onto his side and passed out.

Kill him.

"Kouta…?"

Noboru's hand snatched her arm and forcefully lifted her to her feet, practically dragging her away from Kouta's body.

"It seems you don't understand the hierarchical system here…" he hissed at her. "I'M the adult, therefore, YOU obey ME!"

"Kouta…" her body swayed ferociously from side to side as his tiny frame disappeared among the foliage.

"I will not have you go running off like some whore the first sign of some guy shows the slightest interest in a horned freak like yourself!"

"Kouta…" his body was completely out of sight to Lucy now, and more than ever, her voice whispered in her ear.

Kill. Him.

She wanted him to die; she wanted to kill him. But she could not. She would hurt Kouta if she did so; she would betray her promise to him. But she had to do something.

"W-Why are you doing this?" she asked, probably the first time in her life she had asked so shyly to anyone, "I don't want to go back, I want to be with…"

"SHUT! UP!" He screamed at her, letting go of her arm. This was the first time in Lucy's life anyone had startled her so much, had frightened her so much. Because at no other time could she not kill them.

"This isn't about what you want! You can't always have what you want! You will be working for me until I am dead and buried!"

Oblige him of that request.

"Then…this is about…what you want?"

"YES! You piece of shit, it's always been about what I want! The strong control the weak in this world and they benefit from the weak's work! While WE, the strong, provide YOU, the weak, with the necessities you need to survive! Nothing more! Nothing less!"

What kind of deranged, egotistical point of view was this? Lucy pondered this as the old man, Noboru, acted like he never had before. What could have happened to him to have-?

No…No he was exactly right. Everything he said. It was all right. The strong DO control the weak, why had Lucy not thought of this earlier? But he was wrong on one thing; HE was not controlling her. It was the other way around. He would do anything that he asked of her, as long as she provided him with his precious money. But he had gotten too greedy, or perhaps he had been too greedy from the start. Either way, he had to be punished. He had to be taught a lesson…

For just looking at Kouta.

"Now let's go! The owner of the store is willing to accept the machine malfunctioned so we can still-"

The tree's behind him screeched loudly and cracked like bones against an invisible force, piercing his ears. He immediately stumbled around and fell to the ground, looking frightfully at Lucy, who glared at his feet.

"Ojii-yarou…" she whispered as she let her vectors run rampant on the trees behind her, "You…don't ever…touch…Kouta…again…"

Rage, hatred, anger. This was all fine now. She understood now. In this world, the strong survive, and she would survive together with Kouta. No matter what.

"Ch-Ch-Choto matte!" Noboru yelled, finally realizing the seriousness of the situation. Whether it was his senility or greed had gotten the better of him, he had made a grave mistake in touching this girl's beloved.

"Anata…ANATA…" Lucy's shoulders exaggerated her forced breathing, making her small body become even larger to Noboru. Finally, in a burst of rage, she raised her head up, tears streaming down her hatred filled eyes as her teeth ground together in blind fury, she yelled at him, "YOU, WILL NEVER TOUCH KOUTA, AGAIN!"

The last thing Noboru felt before everything went blank was a large, strong hand gripping itself tightly around his mouth, cheeks, and throat.

----------------------------

Dazed and in a great amount of pain, Kouta wearily pushed himself back onto his knees. The only thing on his mind right now was that Kaede was in danger, that something bad would if he did not do something right away. So it came as a huge relief to him, when he felt her arms wrap around his head and pull him close to her.

"K-Kaede!" He exclaimed, half-embarrassed and half worried, "Daijobu?!"

She softly rubbed her nose into his hair, his short strands tickling her nose and cheek, "H-Hai…" she muttered in an exhausting tone.

"Wh-Where's your grandfather?" He struggled slightly against her grip, which proved fruitless. She wanted to be near him and not let him go.

"He…He's gone now…" she sniffed away her tears, "He…He was a bad man, and, the police came, and took him away when we got out of the woods…"

She cried softly into his head. Out of respect for her, he did not move and in turn, wrapped his arms around her body.

For the past few months, she had what she thought was a strong resemblance of a family, and although she would never had admitted it, she was happy. But that was gone now, and in a few days, she would be completely alone again. In his passing minutes, he had taught Lucy a valuable lesson in life, the last decent memory she would have of him.

And she cried. She cried for the Noboru she thought she knew, but mostly, she cried for herself.

No matter how strong she was, she always became so weak around Kouta.

----------------------

END CHAPTER 4

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-bows-

Sorry for the long wait…AGAIN. I've finally settled down with World of Warcraft, and intend to continue my writing again. As I have promised in my profile, I have no intention of dropping any one of my stories thus far, especially Elfen Lied and Shuffle!Hope. For the fans of my Shuffle! story, stay tuned for the following week.