Lenalee absolutely loved him.
There were no people in the order her age except for Kanda, and Kanda was well, mean.
Perhaps Lenalee had never meant for it to happen, but she was the Black Order's treasure, like the princess in the cursed tower. She'd spent her first few years as the beautiful child wraith, drifting about in the halls. No matter how well cared for the Chinese girl was (and she was because she was a precious exorcist,) her face would only say quite convincingly that she was unloved and ill-used.
She didn't even pick up the skirts of the expensive, popular frilled dresses they gave her to her in hopes of brightening her spirits. She wore them like they weren't a part of her body, drafty things that weren't nearly as colorful and or comfortable as the cotton tunic she had come to the Order with. The hem picked up as much dirt from the flagstones as her bare feet, when she wandered absently like dust looking for a place to settle. Her loose black hair ran across her face like drips of ink.
They doted upon her, the poor thing, so young and tragic, doesn't she look like a fairytale gone wrong?
Never mind the other Asian child-exorcist, who was almost just as young and was just as tragic in a way that was completely secret if only it didn't manifest sometimes as his terrible temper. His long dark hair got tied up and only made him look more severe, and they would've liked his good looks if only they didn't make him look haughtier than he already was.
And no, he did not like Lenalee.
He'd never known anything about girls, especially not girls roughly his age, and he never knew they could cry so damn much. When she wasn't forlorn and pale as she stalked about the place, making a place business into some kind of story about young unfortunate fates, she'd hunker down next to him in the dojo. Her knees would stick out from underneath her petticoats as she cried, cried, cried: "Komui ge-ge, ma-ma, ba-ba…zhong guo…".
Kanda hadn't even known English back then, but although he was always struck with the temptation to ask what the four or five words the girl insisted on chanting nonstop during meditation even meant, she had only known Chinese, and he had only known Japanese, and the two of them were only starting to work on learning French and English so they couldn't meet halfway, and it drove Kanda crazy because he was trying to empty to his mind but there would always be the damned girl there whose mystery words piqued his curiosity more than the girl herself and that pissed him off and he couldn't concentrate!
He'd told her in his head, like he'd said to other people out loud, to stop whining, take pride in herself, and if she couldn't, just die. But when she was young she only approached him in the dojo and he couldn't desecrate it.
Then her brother had come and she had become something of a woman, young and pretty and energetic, while the entire Black Order was best described as ancient, withered, and dully resolute about their cause. She had first stirred their imagination as a ghost and now she and her brother energized them with sibling antics, caffeine highs, and short skirts.
They adored her, adored her, adored her.
She adored Lavi.
Lavi had swept into their lives with his master in the middle of winter, both of them wool-wrapped lumps that smelled like burned highland grasses, the smoke that wafted out of Bookman's pipe. Breathless with cold, they communicated to each other in a high-pitched language that sounded like creaking doors. For the first few days only Komui was privy to their business, but then again strange characters ducked in and out of HQ all the time. No one paid the odd pair much mind until they emerged from Hevelska's room, leaving two empty holes in her body. Then everyone paid attention.
Whatever they were, they were also exorcists.
Kanda met Lavi first by making an effort. In the future everyone would assume that the man-child-exorcist was bad-natured because he had always been that way. If change was gradual, it could feel like that, but really Kanda had started off not too bad and gotten worse over time.
Anyone would be fucking grumpy if he had a goddamned flower eating away at his lifeline.
It was a lotus, for God's sake. Kanda hadn't picked the manifestation of his Faust Legend but if there was such a thing as hope when it came to damning yourself, he had hoped it would amount to something other than a pink-tinged water plant.
It might have been sour grapes about a frou-frou curse or a grudge against that person who was to blame for it or a deepening inner sorrow about dying young, but then again Kanda had been imported from Japan as a child with a deep frown line on his brow and a habit of puncturing the soccer balls of General Tiedoll's other apprentice.
None of the above had helped coax him into a more scintillating personality.
But in any case, he'd been professional if not entirely pleasant back then, and sought out the new exorcists. Exorcists were so rare that just two more made the order feel so much more powerful. Kanda was curious about what kind of warriors they were, he wanted to gauge their ability and the younger one was exactly his age?
That's what the redhead claimed, slurring the English words and numbers ("I am fifteen.") together. He hadn't changed out his shepherd's outfit yet and his master was no where in sight. Kanda noticed the slumped shoulders and the boredom on his face verging on irritability.
"Raaaabi…" and then, with a sigh: "R…a…vi? R…L…Lavi. Lavi."
His mouth worked on adjusting to the sounds. Unlike Bookman, he didn't seem handle English fluidly yet, although he could bite out perfect French and German to Finders from those countries when he needed something. Kanda couldn't quite place the other boy's accent for all the ones he had been exposed to in the Order, but he was reminded of his own initial confusion between the R's and L's and B's and V's.
It was, embarrassingly, a little nostalgic, and it stuck to Kanda in the way he viewed Lavi it even when his terrible English gave way to incredible proficiency, marked only by a slight lilt of no nationality. (A few days later.)
Kanda was kind of weird in that first impressions made more sense to him when it came to people than anything else--maybe in the back of his head he knew he didn't have much time, that he had to be efficient about it.
Maybe he was a little sad and appreciated being reminded of something. Circumstance had it that he would never have much opportunity to reminded of things he associated with long ago, because he hadn't experienced all that much and never would.
No matter how caustic he became from getting more and more worn down, no matter nasty the things he said to Lavi got later, it couldn't change that Kanda kind of liked him.
After all, when Lavi first came, what people said about him was : "He's as bad as Kanda."
It was something he did, that they couldn't quite place their finger on, that made them feel pushed aside, which the Japanese always managed to do. When Lavi looked at them, he made them feel like they'd been disintegrated by an akuma, or worse, somehow forgotten.
He looked everyone over with a glazed-eye interest, as if he were poring over the lines of a dense book. It was as if they were mandatory reads that he was sure had some value, but wasn't actually fond of having to deal with. They could be shelved away and taken out at any time at his convenience. It was unsettling.
But after a few intense discussions with Bookman in their native language that no one could understand, that changed. Lavi bounded out of the library chipper, borderline ADD, and friendly. He cracked sex jokes, how could they have ever thought he was like Kanda?
And yes, it was impossible that at one point he acted stuck up, because now he was flirty with Lenalee and playful with Kanda and wasn't afraid of either of them, no matter how much one scoffed and the other one threatened. In the face of an apoplectic older sibling and the fastest sword anyone in the Order had ever known, it was obvious that someone that stupid couldn't have been stuck up.
With that they chalked up his beginning chilliness to travel fatigue, revaluated Kanda's chronic crankiness as unique, and fawned on Lavi as a new member of their flock to protect.
But Kanda never forgot, and even though Lavi became more light-hearted and idiotic as time went on, even though Kanda became more and more impatient with people as his time ticked away, Kanda could never help liking him.
Lenalee had said, in an uncommon but not unusual moment of sullenness (she did have some morbid inclinations, or else what was that suicidal phase about?)
"Kanda thinks he's invincible."
Lavi had smiled at her because it was obvious he why he came off that way, it was obvious why she felt compelled to say it, and it was most obvious that he wasn't and wished he could think that but can't.
Pride was a tricky one. It was a restraint against unseemly violence, but an excuse to do it gracefully. It was one of the annoying contradictions of human nature which was in no way redemptive in the end.
It was Kanda.
Kanda: proud. Lenalee: scared. Both covering up things even they didn't know about, yet Lavi did.
The same, he thought wryly. They are all the same.
"So, Lenalee, she tricked her rival, the head wife of the old emperor, into sharing the power that was rightfully hers alone…CiXi is known as the 'empress of the west' because her palace is there, and the other dowager empress Ci'An was known as the 'empress of the east' for the same reason. CiXi was able to monopolize all the state decisions even though they were supposed to have equal authority because she knew Ci'An would throw tantrums and not go to them…stop laughing, it's true!"
Lenalee's eyes sparkled. "Go on." she said.
"It gets worse. So she was only promoted from concubine to wife in the first pace because she was the mother of the Emperor's only son, right? They called him Tongzhi…well, she ruled as regent while he was a kid, but when he turned eighteen he supposed to take charge officially…but so she could hold onto to power, she kept him busy with whores!"
Lenalee burst out laughing as Kanda happened to be walking by. He had heard the story and his face twisted in disgust.
"You think that's funny? A whore who steals rightful power from her own son with other whores? She runs your country?"
Lenalee's good humor faded visibly. Lavi fixed her good eye on her, and then on him, and then back to her.
"Hey, Lenalee." he abruptly changed the subject. "You wanna hear about some of the policies of the Chrysanthemum throne? That's Edo, by the way, where our Yu Kanda's from. So yeah, one thing is that women legally can't ascend the throne…that's already one form of ignorance, but they're also so completely xenophobic that they shut off the outside world for centuries, and became so outdated that the US freaked out the entire country with one fleet of steam-powered ships…"
Kanda whipped out the Mugen so fast that Lavi didn't even have time to evade it even though he knew it was coming. Lenalee was thankfully quite quick with her own Dark Boots and kicked the blade out of his hand. Impressively, it wedged itself point down at an empty table across the room.
"That's dangerous!" she snapped at him. "You watch what you're doing, Yu Kanda!"
Kanda reddened at the fourteen-year-old's daring. By then he should have figured out that a lone girl raised in a building of all middle-aged men inevitably ended up with an independent streak. He awkwardly retrieved his weapon and went on his way, perilously close being humbled.
With a tiny huff, Lenalee resumed her seat.
"Thank you. It'll do Kanda good to get shown up sometimes."
"I didn't really." Lavi smirked . "He's just really out of it. Lately China's had its own fiascos because of an anti-foreign attitude. Some of them involve CiXi. Wanna hear?"
Afterwards, Kanda had a great deal more outward respect for the petite Chinese girl and kept his negative opinions to himself when Lavi went on about the outside world (he wisely realized the bookman apprentice knew more about it than he did) and they all got along rather well; Lenalee herself matured out of being too defensive. But she never stopped smacking Kanda when his stupidity got too dangerous.
That came as a relief to him, somehow.
Lavi was terribly, terribly, weak.
All the exorcists had to train with their innocence. Three floors of the place were dedicated entirely to that alone. If you had friends, you did it together. So it was to no one's surprise a few months after Lavi arrived that Lenalee and Lavi could be see marching off together after breakfast. Kanda, who sat at the far empty end of the table the two other teenagers had been at, idly rested his chopsticks on his pile of soba. He wondered how the new exorcist fought. No one had seen him take out his anti-akuma weapon yet and they didn't know what it was.
Lenalee claimed that her head was now all dried out, wrung like a sponge, emptied of tears after all that bawling (in secret and in the open) during her dark days. She wanted to be happy now and she let that be known with her near-automatic smile. She still lost face after every death. Bandages dropped off cheeks because the salt water melted off the adhesives.
But that was all right, because she would hold her back stiffer after every bad thing, as if she felt the pressure of her steep heels sharpen against her spine. For her sex and age, she bore her burden admirably, and Kanda grudgingly allowed he couldn't really dislike her all that much anymore. The fan boys her presence gave birth to were still to be loathed without exception, but Lenalee Lee was a strong woman.
Stronger. Be stronger.
Kanda found her leaning her weight against the wall as he was returning from meditation (which he was able to do alone now, since Lenalee no longer needed a sanctuary to snivel in). She was hobbling as furtively as possible with Lavi looped around her shoulders towards Kanda's room. Her lashes seemed thicker, like tips of brushes wet with paint, but she was not crying and she was letting the wound on Lavi's thigh bleed out onto hers. She almost seemed to be trying to catch the liquid with her tights to avoid leaving a trail.
"Help me, Kanda." She said through clenched teeth. The tone Kanda heard was desperate, but not frail. She was desperate because she was doing everything that needed to be done, and all that was left for Kanda to cooperate but logically the bastard probably won't because he's a bastard!
But he's also my friend, isn't he?
Kanda opened the door to his room without a word and let Lenalee take Lavi to the bed by herself. She crouched by his side. He was conscious and even a little amused, which became clear when he playfully poked the crease between her eyebrows.
"You, Lenalee Lee, are incredibly strong. I'm going to have to work a lot harder. I'll toughen up too, so don't look so worried. Get rid of that, it's ruining your pretty looks."
Lenalee mumbled an exasperated denial, but "that" really smoothed out and she looked as charming as a doll again as she got up to go.
"Where are you going?" Kanda barked at her, making her jump just as she placed her hand on the doorknob.
She didn't really toss her ponytails, but she moved so quickly that she couldn't help them flouncing as she turned around to glare at him.
"To my room. I need to change out of Lavi's blood. I'll be back as soon as I can, so take care of him."
He head her frightened, or frustrated, mutter as she slid out: "Komui's going to kill me."
"She missed the bone but those heels are like stilettos. I think she punched a hole through me. Heh."
Nothing. Kanda was binding the wound. He had had a lot of practice.
"Komui said not to try anything yet. Lenalee must have known too, but she probably figured it would be fine if she went easy on me. Ha ha."
Nothing. Working on cutting the gauze.
"…Kanda, don't tell Lenalee, but my synchro rate's really low. Less than thirty percent. That's why she kicked my ass."
That was a terrible score. He'd never heard of an exorcist with such low synchronization, not even the ones just starting out. He started wrapping the bandage around.
"…Bookman says we're accommodators because God knows we're doing His work on earth too… his rate's around seventy."
Where the hell was that medical tape? He went to his nightstand and slid open a drawer, found it, and bent over Lavi's leg again.
"Do you want to know a secret?" Lavi asked. He sat up a little more and leaned in close to Kanda's ear. "I'm not really loved by God."
If it had been Lenalee in the room, hearing that, she would have understood right away, but it was only Kanda. All he could come up with was "I see" .
The lotus floated lazily in its jar like a specimen preserved in formaldehyde, and Kanda stared at it as petals rippling languidly. Stupid, jelly-fish-like, fucking, cursed flower.
You'd better watch out, Kanda. Lenalee's usually spastic older brother had collected himself enough to give a stern lecture to Kanda, as if Kanda were the one who had finally gone so far in his own stupidity that he snapped the chief out of shamelessly enjoying his own. You cursed your own body even though God chose you to be his apostle. That's almost betraying your innocence.
Kanda put the last piece of tape into place. Lavi looked expectant, and said "Do I look decided to you? Must not."; what the hell did he want?
Strong. Be strong.
I need to be who I AM.
Some people can actually get away with being invincible, Lavi thought. The irony stung a little, like getting crippled by a tiny Chinese girl half his weight, but he would get over it. After all, I am not the same.
Kanda hadn't thought it would be possible to feel more hollow until Komui had said it.
You are almost fallen.
The bitch. His sister was nicer.
"Thank you Kanda."
"You can call me Yu."
"Nothing. I didn't say anything. Shut the fuck up and stop bleeding so you can get out of my room."
"Yu-chan, spar with me."
Kanda did not want to be the same as her. It was an absolutely perfect fit; she was spunky, she had trademarks like that shockingly high hemline and her two thick ponytails, she was their goddamned mascot. If a nickname belonged to anyone, it was to her.
Don't use it with me.
"What happened to Lenalee?" he groused over his plate.
"Hm…Lenalee-chan? She's a little too scary to train with, doncha think?"
That afternoon Lavi found himself on his back with Kanda's boot on his chest.
"You're just as good as Lenalee-chan!" he said cheerfully.
Kanda's shoulder was smashed. Of course the idiot's anti-akuma weapon would turn out to be something ludicrously unpredictable. Of course it wouldn't behave like any conventional weapon, causing damage by slicing or ripping or blunting, but shrank and expanded people right into walls.
"Did you hold back because she's a girl?" Kanda growled.
He could his flesh reknitting itself, the mark on his pectoral neatly evolving another brush stroke. It hadn't mattered in the end. Kanda was the one who had stayed on his feet after getting ambush-swatted by a ton of steel or spirit or whatever innocence were made out of, and Lavi was the one who had gotten pinned to the ground by an opponent whose entire side was shattered.
"Yu-chan, that's mean." Lavi was indignant. "Not everyone's a sexist like you. I went all out on Lenalee."
Kanda didn't know what to think. He was not a--Lenalee was the only girl in the Order, just because he was unkind to her sometimes, that didn't mean he was--did he care what Lavi thought about him, especially when it came to what he thought about a girl?--no, Lenalee was definitely not as strong as him, there was no reason for her to be flitting around like normal after fighting Lavi, Lavi had held back, he was the one giving her special treatment--but Kanda didn't even make the distinction, Lenalee was an equal as a exorcist, as in if she failed, it was because she was weak and stupid, like the others who had died-- Kanda was failing where she did not.
"Geez! That's a serious expression. Don't kill me, I know you like her."
Kanda surprised himself by actually prodding the other boy with Mugen (Lavi yelped )over his tough eye patch.
"I do NOT like her."
"Aw, I just meant you like her…like I like her."
Kanda withdrew his hand and stalked towards the exit, slower than he would have liked. The lotus wasn't that good.
"Hey, Yu-chan, it was a good fight, yeah?"
"Call me that again and I'll blind you." he said without looking back.
What, pride again?
"I…Kanda! I'm at sixty percent! That's why! Yu!"
Kanda could hear running footsteps. He gritted his teeth and tried to go faster.
"Okay, fine, I didn't want to hurt her! I knew my rate had gone up, and I wanted more…more…I got better, you're stronger than Lenalee, would you stop and…I couldn't invocate! I couldn't invocate when I fought Lenalee! I only got it after I talked to you! That's the difference!"
A dead weight around his waist made Kanda lurch to a stop. Lavi had grabbed the end of his coat.
"Yu, does it really matter whether God loves us or not?"
"Does it really matter whether God loves us or not?"
It was the first time Lavi, know-it-all, enlightened, clear-headed Bookman junior, had asked Kanda a serious question, expecting a real answer.
"What the hell does that mean?" had been more or less what he expected. But the way Kanda's mouth had opened a fraction of a second too early, and the short silence taken up by his heart compressing itself, had been the real answer.
In theory, there were two gods. There was whatever worked the Black Order to their sorrowful bones and whatever fed the Earl and his Noahs' ire. They both made weapons. Did they only differ by their standards?
Lavi wondered, how can we both be getting stronger? How is that possible? What is wrong with this God? How can he accept us as apostles when we love nothing?
And Kanda thought: How did he know? Lavi had a scowl to his face like when Kanda had first met him; Kanda found that he had never felt better and worse about him.
He replied : "It must not matter as much as who we hate."
Afterwards, Lavi was sure that his smile at Kanda's reply was real. It the only one of countless past maybe's and not's.
He is the same.
It was even more important to him. It felt different from before.
Komui took out his drill, but Lenalee saved him the trouble by kicking Lavi in the gut when he tried to kiss her on the cheek for her sixteenth birthday. She pecked him on the forehead (bandanna, really) as way of apology for the bruise on his stomach.
Lenalee Lee, properly loved by God, would be recognized as His precious heart in less than a year's time. She would accept it better than her friends would.
Lavi, Bookman junior, could now do fancy moves with his hammer, including spiffy and painful magic-tricks by bringing it down on seals. He was not an apostle of god, he was not decided, he did not know what was going to happen. He had to hate akuma and destroy them, and for that he had God's blessing.
He was able to invocate knowing someone else was the same.
He had certain people he liked, even though he still trusted in Yu Kanda's answer. He realized he'd never minded the other boy being invincible at all.
Yu Kanda tended his lotus carefully. With each petal it casually relinquished from its thick stem, he would get stronger and faster. But the sensation of a worsening sickness that that brought on got trapped inside him.
He didn't mind at least two people in his life and that was his limit. One was more interesting than the other, but Kanda did things simply and did not overanalyze it. It had taken a lot of complications to get even to that. He didn't have all that much time.
Nimbly, Lenalee bent her knees and rammed her feet against the tower wall, jetting herself toward Kanda. She had her clipboard in hand, which had recently become her favorite tool for smacking-Kanda-out-of-attempting-murder. Lavi was in Germany or Austria, or else she was sure he'd be streaking beside her on his hammer.
A pale boy with a star on his face stood below as they catapulted towards him, his discolored eye widening as they fell.
The infamous CiXi really ruled within the time setting of D. Gray-man. Wiki her.