The Last Stand
By Blinded Ryter

VI - le conteur
("the storyteller")

"An oration to drunk men in one of the filthiest pubs in town? Should I applaud Him this time?

"My first oration was to a bunch of men in business suits over the Net. Was that any better?"

"At least men with briefcases can take more than men with guns. In other words, they can do something, but the drunks?"

"They are still commoners, and we need Him to become the bridge, the vessel. He is our liaison from the rich to the poor, the soldiers to the citizens, and us to the Revenants. And anyways, He has a way with words. You have to give Him props for that."

"...touche. Speaking of words, a new alias called Choix has become quite popular on the Nets, and is targeting the citizens, especially the youth. There are already large groups supporting Choix, and the arguments he or she has proposed. The people are eager for Choix to engage in a debate with either Demosthenes or Locke-...why are you laughing?"

"Oh, because that child still has that wicked streak of hers."

-x-

"If you keep this up you will be decommissioned."

A dry smile hinted with bitterness graced Allen's lips subtly as he tied his hair back neatly. He kept his gaze upon the mirror built on the closet door, but from the corner of his eye he could see Lavi leaning against the opened doorway with his arms folded across his chest. This was the first time the two were conversing with each other ever since the hospital incident, which occurred days ago. Allen could only muse to himself how typical it was for Lavi to break the interminable silence between the two with work. It was awfully predictable for a Bookman.

"That won't happen," Allen simply replied as he tapped on the 14th's forehead on the reflection, still wondering whether or not the shadow would ever do something else besides just standing there. "The Black Order wouldn't even let me resign if I wanted to." Allen paused as he turned his eyes to Lavi, and held a limp hand up in the air. "Can't you see the strings?"

Lavi's brows knitted together, and his lips pressed into a thin and firm line. Was that an austere expression, or one of concern?

"Walker," Lavi addressed Allen by his last name now, a sign of formality and also increasing the rift between them, "you've been neglecting your duties as a soldier for nearly six days."

Allen laughed without mirth.

"Perhaps they will throw me into the incinerator soon enough," Allen replied, then hummed softly.

The Bookman fell silent for a moment as he heaved a heavy sigh. Lavi parted his lips to speak, but was cut short by Allen's DIG, an advanced communicator built for soldiers, began to vibrate raucously upon the night stand. Allen padded over to pick up the sleek black device, and wasn't surprised to see that Kanda was the one calling. Whether it be Kanda calling Allen to berate the soldier for his insubordinate behavior, or to compromise (in other words, make up) after their recent fall out at Maron, Allen was going to reject this call as well. Smiling ruefully, Allen pressed the button to silence the call.

'I'm sorry,' Allen apologized inside of his head as he set the device back on the night stand. 'I don't think you would understand.'

Allen turned his back to the DIG, to Kanda, to his duties, to everything, and approached the window. Parting the gaudy curtains to the side, he removed the large frame holding the largest glass pane, and set it aside. Then, he detached the screen from the window, and began to climb outside until his feet were on the ledge of the outer wall. It was better to leave the building through the window, and down into the deserted restricted area where the cable units were kept. This way, Allen would avoid anyone, most likely Kanda, that would be searching for him.

The wind brushed against his cheeks, and wisped through locks of his hair. Allen closed his eyes for a brief moment. He knew that it was the wind of change, and he could no longer ignore it. There needed to be one person that would bring on a revolution, not of government or economics, but of hearts.

And if Allen wanted to bring on change, he would become the change. He carried many names now. Allen Walker, Abbadon, the Storyteller, and-

"Moyashi!"

Instead of feeling a heated rise surface within him, Allen felt a vague pang of travail within whatever remained of his heart. A sense of nostalgia washed over him, and the sorrow clouding over his eyes was clearly shown when Allen looked over his shoulder at Lavi. The Bookman had taken a step forward, even called Allen by the old nickname, but was not willing to hold Allen back. If no one was going to hold Allen, then Allen was going to move forward. He had to.

Allen looked over his shoulder, and gave a sad smile, because sad smiles were the only ones defeated heroes could offer.

"My name is Allen."

And with that, the exorcist jumped. Lavi rushed forward, and saw Allen land on the ground gracefully with the poise of a feline, then vanish into the alleys in the same manner of the dark phantom he was years ago. What was he going to do? He wasn't an exorcist anymore; he was just a man. What could one single man possibly do?

The Bookman swore under his breath, and gritted his teeth as frustration rose within him for feeling so helpless. Lavi hung his head, and clenched his fists.

"What do I have to do for you to hear me out, Allen?"

-x-

People lived their lives half-asleep, half-awake, and both times, they were never truly happy. Always discontent, always unsatisfied. People could attempt to satisfy themselves, attempt to lie to themselves, that they were content with egoistical things such as having a successful job, a nice car, the latest cell phone model, and the such, but from what Allen observed when he walked with people among the streets, he could clearly see the unhappiness upon their dead faces. Allen could only marvel morbidly how in such a large city full of thousands of people, they were still walking alone with only their shadow as their guide. They were like programmed machines, dead carbon copies wandering around in this surreal reality. Perhaps they knew their purpose in life, perhaps they knew which road they were walking, but nonetheless, they were all turning around, and walking in the wrong direction.

It was only inevitable when society blinded the people to where they lived in blissful ignorance, and when your peers would silence them. These people were alive, but they were not living. Talking, but not speaking. Hearing, but not listening.

But Allen knew everyone still had a voice, a story, and he decided to be the one to seek these tales out. It was an unusual task, but one Allen knew was his duty as a human being Whether it be at the coffee shop, the park, or standing on the corner of the street, Allen could find stories. More than half of the people he approached refused only, because they recognized Allen as a threat in their minds, and because they were afraid to reflect upon their own lives, and once again face the things they ran away from long ago.

There were a handful that obliged. Hesitant and slow at first, towards the middle they were reduced to tears of happiness, or sobs of despair. Allen laughed with them, cried with them, and relived each memory the people told.

Allen's heart ached when he listened to a successful business man speak about how he was failing to be a good father, or heard a mother speak about her first-born lost to pneumonia. Allen allowed the middle school student to lean against him when the child grieved for his physically abused best-friend, and confessed that he felt utterly helpless. Allen held onto an elderly woman's hand who claimed that she lived too long, because everyone was now dead. He heard out a college student rant with frustration about the injustice and indifference in the world, and because he cared so much about strangers' lives being taken each day by a bullet, the student was nearly brought to tears.

There were many that admitted how alone they felt in this world, and it was then that Allen told the person that he loved them. No one believe the man at first, but Allen claimed that he could love a stranger, just because.

No one knew what to say to such a thing.
They could only cry.

Allen was saving lives and strengthening hearts with just a matter of words, and the simple task of listening. He would suffer the consequence of neglecting his orders at a soldier, but right now, there were people that needed him not to be a soldier, a hero, or a savior, but simply a friend.

And so, that was how the Storyteller came to be.

Rumors about the Storyteller began to travel not only within the city, but across the state, then the nation. Anyone that wanted to make a difference in the world, and speak the truth took on the Storyteller's duty. Students in Speech class, professors at lectures, the employees at work...

The people were regaining their voice.

And all the while, Allen Walker was unaware of what the change he was bringing upon the world. He was too humble of a man to ever acknowledge such an achievement, and this made the people that truly knew him love him even more.

Allen Walker was no longer a stranger; he was their hero again.

-x-

The vast sky stretching above today was a light shade of grey, and just as Allen predicted when he woke up this morning, it began to rain. The rain was light and refreshing, but was enough to drench anyone with passing time. Fortunately, Allen brought an umbrella with him, and was using it for a few minutes until he saw a man covered in rags huddled in a dark and desolate alley to the side. Dozens and dozens of people were walking to and for across the cobblestone sidewalk, but no one was bothering to even spare the poor man a glance.

Allen could see the indifference etched across their apathetic faces, and felt a small heat of anger at their ignorance. Would it hurt to just drop in a few dollars for someone that was not as fortunate as themselves?

Allen quickly brushed the heated emotion away as he slipped into the alley with a smile for greeting.

"Good morning," Allen chimed as he sat besides the poor man, and held the umbrella over both of them.

The man stared at Allen for a moment in bewilderment, and blinked a few times as he was rendered speechless. Even some of the by passers who saw the act was slightly puzzled and taken aback by this unusual encounter between an average man and a poor man, but soon the citizens' faced contorted with disgust and hatred when they recognized Allen as Abaddon. A few even spat a few vilifying names, but Allen simply smiled at them in reply.

"A passive young man, aren't you?" the poor man queried at the observation with a small chuckle.

"I guess you could say there's been too much violence in my life," Allen explained as he brushed his bangs back.

The poor man nodded in understanding, and gave a small smile.

"I would agree," said the poor man. "I was once a member of the Black Order as well." The poor man paused for a moment as he let his gaze drift to elsewhere. "You are Allen Walker, correct? The Storyteller, I presume?"

"Yes, sir," Allen answered with a nod.

"I heard that you've been wandering this city, listening to stories, hearing people out..." the poor man's voice trailed off with a hint of some sorrow. "Will you listen to mine?"

Allen smiled.

"Of course."

The man smiled softly, and closed his eyes for a brief moment before opening them again as the cloud of nostalgia veiled over his hues.

"I was born alone..." the man began in a quiet, but clear voice, "but I didn't live alone forever..."

Seconds, minutes, hours, moments past until the story drew to an end, and Allen was still attempting to stifle his sobs in vain. The man besides him shed no tears, but the regret was clear, and yet there was peace upon his face as well. Allen gripped onto the handle of the umbrella tightly as he covered his face with his free hand, the words still clearly echoing inside of his head.

The man sitting besides Allen had so much, but paid a heavy price to lose it all for the sake of his family. His only reward was the grudges and hatred from his sons, and the grieving regret for not being with his wife when she passed on. And even now, when he only had fifty-six cents in the tin can set besides him on the ground, the man would always give whatever he could earn and gain to the homeless elderly woman down the road, or the orphan children in the abandoned theater.

How could someone that had nothing give away everything? Or more importantly, how could people that had something, give away nothing?

Allen could not bid the tears to cease. He could feel the man's anguish, grief, frustration, misery, and hurt channel through his heart, as if Allen's being was some sort of gateway or liaison to closure. By speaking to Allen, and fueling all the stories, regrets, joys, and memories through the young man, people could find peace in themselves, but Allen was the one who had to pay the price, but it was only a small one of weeping and aching. Allen would gladly have done so, if he could ease other people's suffering.

"You remind me of my eldest son, Allen," the poor man commented as he closed his eyes. "You weren't quite hard headed like him, but he had a sense of empathy and a kindred heart that was beyond measures. He was the one that cried for others as well." The man reached over to pat Allen's head. "You are a good child."

"You..." Allen paused as he tried to calm himself down. "You never told me...your name..."

"Are you saying that you will remember me?"

Allen could only nod; his throat was choked.

"My name is Hohenhiem," said the man, then smiled. "If you are ever to meet my sons someday, let them know that I will always love them."

Allen drew in a shaking breath.

"Your sons...what are their names?"

A look of pride and fondness appeared on the poor man's face, as if just the mentioning of his children brought affection to his heart.

"Their names are Edwa-"

"Moyashi!"

The sharp and piercing call cut through the air, and shook Allen to the core. He looked up to see Kanda standing at the other end of the alley, out of breath, soaked to the bone, and fericous yet...relieved. Though the outrage stricken across Kanda's face was more dominating, Allen was not alarmed, but merely at a state of calm.

Allen gave Kanda a small smile, then turned his attention to the poor man. He pulled out all the cash in his pocket, a sum of nearly a hundred dollars, and handed it to Hohenhiem, along with the umbrella, then pushed onto his feet.

"My, boy, I could not accept this-" the man protested as he received the umbrella.

"Please, sir. Please accept it as if it was a gift from a friend," Allen replied.

"Allen..." Hohenhiem trailed off in disbelief.

"It seems like I must go," Allen said as he wiped his damp face, and smiled radiantly. "Thank-you for your time."

"No, my dear boy, thank-you," Hohenhiem replied. "You are not what the people call you, but a savior after all."

Allen grinned.

"I'm just a man," he said, then turned to walk towards Kanda, beckoning him out of the alley, and to walk in one direction.

Allen gave Kanda a smile, while Kanda merely glared back. The two soldiers walked in silence, and the entire time, Allen could feel Kanda's eye drilling a hole through him. Allen paid no mind, but only gave his attention to the sky that was now beginning to clear up. Drawing in a deep breath, Allen finally met Kanda's eyes.

"I'm sorry-"

"Damn straight, you better be!" Kanda barked as they came to a halt near the end of the street. Rage flickered furiously within the hardened blue hues, and droplets of water flew from the tips of his drenched hair. "You haven't been answering my calls for days!"

Allen waited as if expecting Kanda to list half a dozen more crimes, but he only left it at one. Allen blinked, then raised his eyebrows.

"That's...it?" asked Allen slowly. "You're not going to berate me for not performing my duties, for not being the ideal soldier-"

"Are you a fucking idiot?!"Kanda nearly screamed, and was clenching his fists to resist the urge of hitting Allen. "You are a brother first, then a soldier second! Why the Hell do you think I'm always yelling at you on the battlefield? Why do you think I'm always trying to hit some sense into your goddamn thick head? Do you think I go around threatening to kill you for no reason?"

Kanda fell silent and was left in heaving asps. Allen continued to stare blankly for a moment before answering quietly. Allen always had a deep iniutiative sense, but after walking among the commoners, and listening to their stories, Allen learned how to understand people a bit better, and right now, Allen understood Kanda.

"Because...you care," Allen said in an almost whisper as shame and guilt washed over him. "You...didn't want to lose me."

Allen kept his eyes downcast for a while longer, and was startled when he looked up. He expected Kanda to be glaring off in another direction, but Kanda kept his gaze steady upon Allen. The samurai truly meant his words, and was even willing to swallow his pride to confess such a thing. Allen recalled how Kanda struggled to fight back the tears when the doctor declared that Lenalee was in a critical coma. Lenalee, who was like a sister to all of them...and Allen, was the only brother Kanda had.

"After all of the stories I have heard," Allen began to say with a soft smile, "I came to realize that the only reason you should live is not for fame, wealth, or power...but for people, and to love and be loved. I think I understand that better than ever now."

('I love you.')

"Che," Kanda muttered, finally diverting his gaze elsewhere. "Since when were you the one for cliche shit?"

('I love you, too.')

Allen laughed good-naturedly. It was unsaid, but they both knew that the three-worded phrase was exchanged between them in their own odd way.

"You should be nicer, or else I could twist my stories about you," Allen warned teasingly with a grin.

"Stori...what?!" Kanda exclaimed, appearing piqued. "Don't tell me that you've been writing those stupid things called fanfics-"

"No, no, no. True stories, our stories," Allen explained, his eyes sparking with a lively light. "The kids love it. They call you a hero."

Kanda fell silent, then let out another, "Che," before turning around, and beginning to walk. As Allen followed, he could see the faint tints of scarlet on Kanda's face.

"Where to?" Alllen piped up.

"A mission," Kanda answered in a neutral tone.

"No," Allen said sternly, his mood swiftly taking on a serious swing.

"You have to, Allen," Kanda said, and with the mentioning of Allen's real name, Allen blinked in surprise and could sense something wicked coming along the way. Kanda kept his eyes straight ahead, but his face was grave, and...troubled.

But Allen wasn't going to go on the battlefield again. Not after walking among the citizens, and learning what it means to be human again. He didn't want to kill...he never did.

"I'm not going to-" Allen began to protest.

"You don't understand," Kanda cut in quickly, then let out a frustrated sigh as he ran one hand through his bangs. "You are the only one still carrying the Innocence inside of you," Kanda began to explain in a low voice as a murderous glint appeared in his anguished eyes. "If you don't do as the Black Order says, they won't think of you as a soldier, but as an object. In other words, they're going to lock you up, and Gods knows what they will do to you. I nor anyone else has the power to stop that from happening if you rebel." Kanda paused, then added with regret, "I'm sorry, Allen. I tried."

The initial shock was not was strong as when Allen discovered that the 14th's memories were implanted within him, but he was still shaken by the revelation. The man felt infuriated at how the Black Order still saw him as a weapon, a tool, and not a human being, but he also felt angry at himself for having put Kanda in a terrible position. Kanda was a General and a friend, a brother. He was torn between duty and blood. What was he to do?

"It's okay," Allen simply said with a content smile as he patted Kanda's shoulder, then added, "Thanks, Kanda."

Kanda kept his eyes straight ahead, and he didn't appear to be any happier.

"I couldn't do anything-"

"It's okay," Allen repeated, his smile unfaltering. "I'll go to the mission."

Kanda stared at Allen for a moment, vaguely bewildered by the tranquil nature of Allen's, and also suspicious about the man's tone. It was not one of subordination, but of...determination. Kanda let out a soft "che", but smiled slightly to himself at the same time.

"Alright, Moyashi-"

"It's ALLEN!" the younger man exclaimed as the two reverted to their usual antics. "ALLEN WALKER! A-L-L-E-N-!"

"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Kanda screamed back "YOU'RE GOING TO WAKE UP THE ENTIRE FUCKING CITY, MOYASHI!"

"MY NAME IS-!"

-x-

"I believe that this is the same Zero from a few years back, but I cannot trace the alias to its source. The alias is contradicting everything Choix wrote so far."

"He's pulling us into another one of his games. Taunting us, in a way."

"What shall we do?"

"You write the best out of all of us. I trust you on that, and know that you'll know what's best to do. Sometimes, you know our kin's mind better than me."

"I'm just the metal in between, dear brother...and, there's something else. Several new soldiers have been admitted into the Black Order, which is nothing out of the ordinary, but there's one particular soldier that caught Anakin's eye when he was skimming the database like usual."

"What was so strange?"

"His name is Lelouch Lamperouge..."

"The United Kingdom Prime Minister's exiled first son..."

"Well, we're one of the few people that would assume this Lelouch being Lelouch vi United Kingdom, and we're even one of the fewer people that have acess to confirm such suspicison, but yes, you're correct. Thing is, it seems as if arrangements were made for Lelouch to be connected with General Yuu's first lieutenant, Suzaku Kururugi, and Anakin found a trace of the two having been invovled in a crime fiasco a few years back."

"The Black Order would not have allowed someone with such background into the military."

"Actually, Lamperouge should have been arrested. The same goes for Kururugi."

"We'll let the situation play out for now, but tell the units there to tighten the watch. Also, keep your eyes on the marked soldiers."

"...are you inferring that Lamperouge is part of the Alpha?"

"Perhaps. But either way, it's not Kururugi they want."

"Then Allen Walker?"

"No. They're after the grey chess piece."

-x-

Footsteps resonated in the distance, and rattled the metallic walls of the cargo crates stacked up on top of each other on the Area-51 Trade Dock. Bullets ricocheted off the rusted surfaces, distorted yells pierced the silence, and the dull thuds of bodies falling to the ground went in rhythm with Allen's racing heartbeat. Though the soldier had a rifle in his hand, he had yet to pull the trigger once. If not anything, he was purposely avoiding everyone: the raiders, so he wouldn't have to shoot them, and the soldiers, so they wouldn't question what the Hell he was doing. Allen was wandering around in the labryinth of delirium and chaos, and was torn between conflict. How could he possibly gun down a common man when he was now becoming the common people's hope?

Their mission today was to arrest all of the raiders that were attempting to steal goods from the docks, but it wasn't as if they were trying to steal weapons of mass destruction, but food. Water. Supplies. Such things were so scarce for those who lived in the ruins, such as what Maron is today. Ruins that Allen created with his own hands, and a city that he burned down by the faltering of his morals.

('You were supposed to be a hero!')

The children were right, but Allen was nothing more than the Messiah caught in the manipulating strings of the Black Order, and even to this very moment, Allen didn't know how to break free.

"You appear to be quite lost. A bit like Alice, but this is no Wonderland; this is reality."

The calm note heard in the low voice was eerie and out of place in the current state of calamity. The soft billowing of a cape was heard behind Allen, followed by the quiet tap of heels coming to a landing on the ground. Allen turned around and instantly fell into an offense position with his weapon raised. The piercing light did not waver once in his hardened and narrowed blue eyes as he stared at...at this peculiar figure.

A tall figure that was adorned in clothes of royal colours; deep purple, midnight black, wine scarlet, and swuave white. His body covered by a sleek cape lined with brilliant gold fit for a King. His face was concealed by a helmet that served as a mask with a glass shield in the front, but it was not transparent as to where Allen could see through the pane.

Allen's eyes narrowed even more. Never once in his years as a soldier had he come across such a person dressed in a strange manner. What could possibly be the meaning of this?

"Who are you?" asked Allen.

"A miscreant of justice, my friend," the dark phantom answered, then gave a gracious bow before standing up straight. "Hm. It's quite interesting how you have the eyes of a killer after the war. Tell me, how many human lives did you take?"

Guilt flitted across Allen's face for a second before his demeanor darkened sharply. It was obvious that the masked figure hit a sensitive spot.

"You cannot answer," said the miscreant with a soft chuckle as he took a step forward, the tail of his cape floating in the air softly behind him. "What a child you are."

"Shut up!" Allen barked, his brows knitting into a glare. "Who are you? Are you helping the raiders? If so, I'll gun you down-"

Allen's voice was cut off and his breath hitched sharply when his body was suddenly shoved back as the masked figure used his body to push Allen backwards. The wind hissed by Allen's ears before his back slammed against one of the cargo crates. Allen let out a hiss of pain as pain flared across his back, and the terrible trembling noise of the metallic surface made his ears bleed. Nonetheless, his skills kicked in instantly, and the soldier made a recovery within a blink of an eye.

Just when Allen was about to counter attack, he raised his head, and froze when he saw a vivid crimson eye through the glass. The rest of the face was covered by shadows, but that one eye was a mixture of violet and vermilion, and there was a strange insignia of what appeared to be like a cross hovering over the pupil.

Allen's blood ran cold, and the color drained from his face. He was in utter disbelief, but when the fingers on his right arm suddenly twitched abnormally, and the scar marring his face tingled with subdued heat, Allen knew it was true.

"Innocence..." Allen breathed in a barely audible tone.

The miscreant smiled behind his mask, and Allen could tell it was like that of a Chesire cat.

"Perhaps, perhaps not," said the man in a sing-son voice as he spoke in convoluted riddles.

"It's...impossible," Allen denied as he slowly regained his composure, and shook his head. "Innocence disappeared years ago, and if there was any, the I-Radar would have tracked it!"

Allen knew that he must have been imagining things. If there was Innocence around, the I-Radar, a device created by the Black Order designed to pick up signals of Innocence, would have pinpointed any users of Innocence. Such a thing would not have gone left unsaid if the I-Radar found something...right?

The Black Order wouldn't keep secrets-...

Allen's mood turned foul instantly as he caught himself being utterly foolish again. Of course, the Black Order would lie...especially to Allen, their walking weapon.

"Tell me, Allen Walker, do you know where innocence, just simple innocence, comes from?" the phantom queried as he tilted his head.

"The Heart-"

"The hearts of children," the man answered before clicking his tongue. "More than ninety-nine percent of the human population go through their lives losing childhood innocence at one point or another, but only those children who never had a childhood, who never had childhood innocence to begin with, can tap into it."

Allen's eyes knitted together to sharpen his glare and confusion.

"There was a limited number of Innocence users during the Akuma war-"

"Ah, but children are quite brilliant, especially the ones with Innocence. They wouldn't be foolish enough to come out in the open, would they? And they were even smarter to hide it from you," said the masked figure, poking Allen's chest with his free hand.

"The Innocence should have disappeared..." Allen said weakly, and he was beginning to wonder why he couldn't accept the truth. Perhaps it was because he was afraid to stop believing the lies, the lies he once believed were the truth.

"There's thousands of children out there," the phantom stated with a wave of his hand. "Think about what all those countries, let's say...hmm, America, Iraq, North Korea, and so on, would do if they discovered Innocence. It would be the next big thing since nuclear warfare, right?"

Sheer horror was stricken across Allen's face. If the world powers decided to use Innocence for military reasons...God, it would be the Armageddon.

"Now, just imagine, if the I-Radar, if the Black Order, were to pick up signs of Innocence..."

Allen's heart ceased to beat.

"The children would be taken away."

"No. Killed," the man corrected. "And it has happened before. Many, many times."

Allen's head snapped up in shocking anger.

"What?!" he nearly screamed in sheer outrage. "When did that ever happen?"

"Everyday," the man answered in a passive voice. "The Black Order is just very good at lying. Lying to you. To everyone. To the world."

"But there's no reason to murder the children just, because they somehow have Innocence!" Allen protested in outrage as his voice began to crack.

"There's every reason," the phantom countered with another clicking of the tongue. "If the world realized that Innocence still existed, they would believe that the Akuma were back. What would happen then? Things would lose control, terrorists would use the threats of unleashing Akuma, the people would live in fear and lose faith in the Black Order. The Black Order would lose control. Plus, what if the children were to use Innocence? After all, children can see the truth clearer than anyone else, so surely they would go after the Black Order. In children's eyes, the Black Order is like the bad guy in their superhero comics, and trust me, those kids won't stand around idly forever." The man paused as he laughed quietly. "The Black Order is a preemptive species. They strike before anything else strikes first, and they happen to strike children."

Allen's eyes were on the ground as his eyes flickered in conflict. Was this man speaking the truth? Had children been being killed everyday behind closed doors?

"Wait..." Allen spoke up. "Then...why do I still have Innocence? I am not a child anymore."

"Because Allen Walker, your heart has yet to die. When children grow up into adults, their hearts die when they become caught up in materialism, indifference, and apathy, but you..." the phantom's voice grew softer, "you are still a child."

Allen clenched his fist. It was merely a statement, but it also felt like an insult.

"Then why is the Black Order keeping me alive?" he growled.

"It wouldn't be fun if all the answers were given, right? You should find out on your own."

"This isn't a game, damnit!" Allen exclaimed. "Innocent children are dying-"

"So, what are you going to do? Are you going to continue dwelling in confusion when you could make a difference?"

Before Allen could respond, the masked figure released the soldier, and took a few steps back in a manner that implied that he was about to take his leave. Allen stepped forward abruptly.

"Wait!" Allen shouted. "What's your name?"

The masked figure paused as he wrapped his cape around his slender figure. Allen flinched when he saw that glint of red in the man's left eye.

"Just remember me as Zero."

Leaving his words to hang in the air, the miscreant of justice vanished into the shadows, his cape fluttering in the air. Allen stood there dumbly for a moment as he tried to compute everything Zero told him. Innocence still existed? Children were being killed? What in the world has the Black Order become? A Hitler with the facade of being Gandhi?

Allen's breath hitched as a harsh epiphany dawned upon him.

Were...were all the children he killed wielders of Innocence?

'Are you going to continue dwelling in confusion when you could make a difference?'

Allen would ponder on his own time later. Right now, he had a mission to do.

The soldier moved forward, and traveled by a line of alleys. He didn't stop until he reached a group of men varying in ages with backpacks slung over their shoulders, and guns in their hands. They came to a halt, and paled visibly when they recognized the scar on Allen's face. Allen felt a slight pang of sadness; was he always this feared?

"Follow me," Allen commanded as his face turned stoic. He turned and began walking. "There's a safe route you can take that will lead you into Area-48. You can cross the border, and disperse from there."

The men stared incredulously at Allen before one of them spoke up.

"He's lying! He's just going to turn us in, and shoot us!"

Allen came to a halt, and glanced over his shoulder as he gave a steady glare.

"If I was going to shoot you, I would shoot you in the face, not the back."

The men stared at Allen before exchanging uneasy glances. Seeing as how this was the best alternative, they followed Allen. But they also followed Allen, because they saw the light of honesty in his eyes; a light the common people had not seen for the longest time.

It looked as if the hero was back.

Allen was quick on his feet, and even quicker in his thoughts. He was calculating how to avoid the other soldiers, but also pick up as many raiders at the same time. After gathering at least half a dozen more men, Allen was nearing the border to a city where the men could disperse into the alleys, and easily join together later at Area-58. Just when they were about to reach the border, Allen came to an abrupt halt, and the men behind him followed suit in confusion.

In front of them were two soldiers.

The Elric brothers.

Edward and Alphonse Elric were staring at the group of men, then at Allen. Allen pressed his lips into a thin and firm line as he swore silently inside of his head before making a choice. He raised his gun, pulled back the hammer, and aimed at the brothers.

"Move," was the only thing Allen said.

Edward and Alphonse stared at Allen in disbelief, until it finally registered in their minds what the older soldier was doing. The two boys exchanged glances before smirking at each other. Edward gave a heartily laugh as the two boys moved. Allen was genuinely surprised; he thought...no, he knew that they would have put up a fight.

'Children can see the truth clearer than anyone else.'

"Looks like the hero's back," Edward remarked with a salute before running off.

"We'll keep watch, sir," Alphonse added, then followed after his brother.

Allen was still utterly bewildered, but right now, he had no time to lose. He guided the group of men to the borders as they ran at the speed of light. More than once they were almost caught, and Allen even had to shoot bullets in a random direction to lure a near soldier away, so that the threat would disappear for the time being. By miracle, they all reached the border safely, but the ongoing mayhem could still be heard from behind them.

"Don't look back, and just run," Allen told them as he tried to catch his breath.

The men nodded before crossing the border, but as they left, they all muttered thank-yous to the soldier. One particular man stopped to pat Allen's shoulder.

"My family was literally starving to death," the man explained in a strangled voice. "Thank-you so much. You saved their lives."

Allen swallowed hard to keep his composure as he nodded and grinned.

"You're welcome."

"And..." the man began to say, then paused to clear his throat. "I was one of the men at the bar. The bar you spoke at. I...thought about what you said, and you're right. I tried telling others, they think I'm crazy, but...they still know that I'm right, and that in some way, I changed them. So, thank-you for that as well."

The man lingered there for a second longer before crossing the border. Allen blinked. Did his small talk at the bar really have such impact on men that also happend to be drunk?

A few more men, and they were all gone. The instant Allen was alone, he quickly fled from the scene, and just ran. He felt like the only thing he could do right now was run, because if Allen stopped running, reality would catch up with him. He just comitted a crime, he was a criminal, he was a rebel, he-...

Allen drew to a halt when his legs could no longer take anymore, and he was on the verge of suffocation. He bent over his one hand on his knee, and gasped heavily. He was so exhausted, so tired, but he had never felt so alive in his life. The man blinked when he felt a lukewarm and damp sensation on his face. He raised his fingers to his cheek gingerly, only to realize that he was crying. Crying for sadness? For joy?

Was this what redemption felt like?

Allen shook his head, thus answering his own question. He could be condemned for the rest of his life, and he wouldn't care. He knew what he had to do now: speak the truth, seek the truth, and act upon the truth. Villain or hero, it didn't matter. Allen was just a man, but if not anything, he realized that one single man could change the world by striking the first domino.

"...the world..." Allen sobbed quietly as he dried his face. "I'm going...to change the world..."

Perhaps...perhaps Mana and Cross would be able to rest in peace one day. Maybe Allen could make the world a better place for the children to seek out childhood again. Maybe Allen could put an end to all the lies, and give people freedom again.

Allen Walker knew what he had to do.

-x-

Allen Walker knew that he committed a crime according to the Black Order protocols: he was an acompliance the raiders. If anyone was to tell the Black Order, or simply spread the rumor, about Allen having led a group of raiders escaped, he would be given a one-way ticket to the incinerator, or...as Kanda said earlier, he would be locked up and probed with syringes on an hourly basis. Bluntly put, Allen would rather burn to death than become an experiment for the military. He would die with dignity, and not be sacrificed as an animal.

There were a handful of witnesses. The raiders, but there was a slight chance of them leaking anything out, probably because they still feared Allen to some extent, while a few were truly grateful. And then, the Elric brothers. They two, had committed a crime in some sense, but if they were to confess, Allen's crime would outweigh theirs, therefore they wouldn't receive a punishment. But Allen didn't believe that the brothers would tell him out. They were...friends.

But then, Lavi was once Allen's lover, and Lavi comitted the worst betrayal of all.

Allen sighed inwardly as he climbed out of the transportation vehicle, and entered the building. He had to believe in the brothers. If Allen told the average citizens to have faith in others when they shared stories, then Allen should listen to his own words. But would Allen ever be able to trust Lavi again? Perhaps not, seeing as how Lavi had no intention of reconciling with Allen. They weren't enemies; they were strangers.

"Tough day?" a voice asked behind Allen as someone fell in stride with him.

Allen turned his head to see Kanda's first lieutenant, Suzaku Kururugi. The young man was only twenty, and admitted himself into the Black Order at a very young age. He was the youngest lieutenant in the military, and was somewhat of a prodigy. Suzaku proved to be quite brilliant in military calculations, had an eye as sharp as Riza Hawkeye who was the #1 sniper, whereas Suzaku was #2, and the man was also excellent in military combat. He was a well-rounded soldier, and actually someone Kanda could tolerate (but still harassed nonetheless). But more importantly, he had such a lively spirit, and kindred heart, something Allen found very appealing in a person. Suzaku was the one to approach Allen, claming that Allen was his childhood hero, and in the midst of it all, a strong friendship was born.

And yet, everytime Allen saw Suzaku, he felt a sense of uneasiness. If Suzaku was to ever discover the atrocious practices Allen indulged in on a daily basis, what would the younger man say? Surely, Suzaku would be disappointed, and...and disgusted. Repulsed. Would Kanda, the Elric brothers, Ichigo, Hitsugaya, and Lenalee all react in the same way?

Or worst of all, would they be like Lavi, and simply not care?

"Just a little," Allen answered with a small laugh. "What about you?"

Suzaku grinned as he wiped some dirt off his face with his sleeve.

"Only threatening thing out there was General Yuu," Suzaku replied. "He was yelling at me more than usual today."

"That's a good thing," Allen explained as his eyes trailed to ahead, and his hues softened with fondness. "It means that he still cares. When someone stops trying to correct you, it means that they've given up on you. That's when you should be worried."

"You're such a fucking girl," a sharp voice snapped before Allen was hit in the back of the head with Mugen's hilt. "Spitting out nothing, but cliche words. Che."

"I love you, too," Allen replied rolling his eyes, and rubbing the back of his head. Muttering something incoherently about hitting Kanda back later, Allen diverted his attention to Suzaku. "Hey, Suzaku-..."

Allen's voice trailed off when he saw that Suzaku had come to an abrupt halt in step, and change in deamanor. The young man held no expression at all. His face was blank, his emerald hues were wide, and his lips were parted as if his brain suddenly shut down, and all functioning ceased. Suzaku seemed to have stopped breathing, and yet unconsciously, he was clenching his fists so tightly that they trembled slightly.

And then, Allen saw it: that flicker of fear in his eyes, and suddenly, Suzaku looked more like a child than ever.

With growing concern and alarm, Allen followed Suzaku's line of gaze where it ended at a dark-haired young man up ahead in the near distance. The face was new, so Allen assumed that he must have been a new soldier, but obviously, he was already on everyone's good terms. A few soldiers were crowded around him, and the new soldier was already charming everyone with his wit and good-natured personality.

Allen suddenly felt a sense of deja vu. Where Suzaku stood, Allen stood. Where that dark-haired soldier stood...Lavi stood.

It was a reunion of a broken boy and a tormenting ghost. A reconciliation of a grieving man and a skeleton that escaped from the closet.

"Who's that?" Allen asked Kanda cautiously.

"New soldier," Kanda answered with a shrug. "Actually, he's to be in my unit. Lelou...Le-something. Some fancy English name," Kanda explained as he sheathed Mugen. "Oh, and Kururugi, he'll be sharing your flat."

It was only Allen that saw Suzaku flinch from the corner of his eye. The soldier appeared to be losing the color from his face with each passing second.

The new soldier's violet hues sparked with recognition when he looked towards Allen's and Suzaku's direction. A broad smile touched his lips as the soldier approached Suzaku, and laughed in disbelief.

"Suzaku!" the new soldier exclaimed, a lively light dancing in his eyes. "Dear friend, I can't believe that it's you! It's so good to see you again. I missed you, you know."

Suzaku blinked as if his mind had difficulty processing the young man's words, and sheer incredulity was stricken across his face. Suzaku's body was incredibly tense, and he almost made the move to step back, so he could run away, but Suzaku stood his ground not, because he had courage, but because he was petrified.

Then...Suzaku smiled.

"I missed you too, old friend," Suzaku replied as his smile grew warmer. Then, he turned to Allen and Kanda. "Allen, and General Yuu, this is a good friend of mine, Lelouch Lamperouge. He'll be a promising soldier."

Kanda looked Lelouch up and down then gave his usual "Che" with a tone of approval. Just as when Kanda was about to speak, Allen grabbed Suzaku by the arm abruptly, and began pulling him away as Allen said they needed to be excused.

"Wait, Suzaku!" Lelouch began to say as he stepped forward, but froze when Allen turned his head sharply to give the younger soldier a piercing glare with murderous intent clearly portrayed in the hardened blue hues.

"Don't," Allen warned in a growl through gritted teeth, then turned to continue dragging Suzaku away.

Before anyone could protest, Allen already had Suzaku in another corridor. Allen would have expected Suzaku to complain or oppose, but he remained silent with a dead look on his face, and the skin around his eyes tints with faint scarlet; he was near tears.

'You are a naive fool.'

Allen clenched his free hand tightly until the nails dug through the fibers of his gloves. This was like watching history repeat itself all over again.

Allen didn't stop until they reached the end of a corridor that was usually secluded, because not many wandered in this wing unless they were searching the archives. Allen made Suzaku sit down on the window sill-bench, then took his seat besides him. Suzaku refused to meet Allen's eyes, and Allen clearly knew why; Suzaku was ashamed, and so unstable to the point where he was on the brink of self-destruction.

"You were smiling," Allen began to say quietly, "but your eyes weren't smiling. I know a fake smile when I see one."

Suzaku attempted to give a mirthless chuckle, and now the bitterness was finally seeping through.

"How did you know?"

"It was like looking at a mirror," Allen answered as he placed his hand over Suzaku's. "Suzaku, I'm not just your comrade. I'm also your friend."

"No..." Suzaku murmured as he shook his head, and closed his eyes tightly as pain contorted his face.

The raw emotions were beginning to surface. The boy's facade was beginning to crumble, and his mask was being reduced to thin tissue paper...thin paper Lelouch tore to shreds with just one damned smile.

"Allen, you're like my brother..." Suzaku confessed in a barely audible voice that trembled, "and that's why I don't want you to see how pathetic, and weak...a-an insignificant..." his voice was beginning to break, and so was his composure, "and worthless, and used I am...because...you'll be so disappointed..."

Suzaku's voice was cut off by a strangled noise from the back of a throat before a heart wrenching sob escaped his lips. As Suzaku's frame began to tremble with stifled convulsing sobs, he brought his free hand up to his face, and pressed the back of his hand against his lips as he turned his head away from Allen. Allen could see how hard Suzaku was trying not to cry as old wounds were beginning to tear open. Allen reached out and pulled Suzaku closer to him, and the boy broke like glass in Allen's touch. Allen marveled with sorrow at how strong Suzaku and optimistic he made himself out to be, but was so fragile and delicate underneath.

Allen glanced at the window, and caught his own reflection. His eyebrows raised for a second when he realized that he and Suzaku were the same: liars at best, weak people at worst.

Minutes past as Allen allowed Suzaku to weep in his arms. The boy needed to cry everything out, and if he had poison inside of him like Allen, then he needed to release that as well, or dear God, Suzaku was going to lose himself, and never find himself again. A sudden terrifying though crossed Allen's mind in a spur of a rather frightening moment. Was Suzaku possibly enduring something as self-afflicting as Allen?

Allen swallowed hard as dread filled his insides, and formed into a dead weight. A weight he knew that was going to fall on his feet, and it was the dreading anticipation that made Allen feel awful as he reached over to Suzaku's sleeve. The young man was too preoccupied with weeping to notice Allen push the sleeve up-...

There was nothing, but the usual bandages Suzaku bound around both of his arms. Never once had Allen or anyone else seen Suzaku without the bandages. Everyone assumed that Suzaku had a nasty scar, a defect of somesort like Allen's, or got wounded on a general basis. No one honestly paid attention, no one ever questioned, no one...cared.

Allen gingerly lifted on strip of the bandage up to expose the skin underneath.

Oh, how Allen wished he was wrong when he saw that bright red scream marring Suzaku's flesh.

Suzaku wore these bandages for...years. So, did that mean that he was mutilating himself for so long?

No, he was waiting. Waiting until someone would notice. Until someone would tell him to stop. Until someone would save him.

'When someone stops trying to correct you, it means that they've given up on you. That's when you should be worried.'

Allen's face contorted at the echo of his own words. How could he have been so blind? How could he have let someone so close suffer on their own in such despair?

Each sob was pulling at Allen's heartstrings, and soon, he wanted to cry, but he couldn't. Right now, he had to be strong for his friend. Allen swallowed hard as he pulled Suzaku's sleeve back down, and pulled the younger man closer into his arms. For a fleeting moment, Allen was afraid that Suzaku would vanish into thin air any second.

"I..." Suzaku cried out in a cracking voice. "I...I can't tell you...yet. He...took my voice. My...everything. He took everything, and left me nothing to build back with..."

"Who, Suzaku?" Allen asked gently.

Suzaku's body tensed as his breathing became erratic. Allen held the boy tighter; he could feel Suzaku losing himself, and was struggling to win against his demon.

"Like a ghost...he came back," Suzaku answered in a distorted growl, though his words were almost incoherent because of the uncontrollable sobs. "Why couldn't he just leave me alone?! Why does he have to walk back into my life? What gives him the right to try to ruin my life again? I hate him, Allen! I hate him so much, I wish he would drop dead! I wish he was never born!"

Suzaku let out an anguished cry of devastation before breaking down into hysterical sobs once more. He clung onto Allen's shirt. No longer able to take it, Allen closed his eyes tightly, and let the tears leak in scalding streaks.

To see someone so close to you break down like this was heartbreaking. But to know that the person kept it a secret for so long was even worse, but Allen understood. If Allen ever tried to tell someone about Lavi, it would have been impossible, because his throat literally choked, and his voice wouldn't project, but more importantly, it was like asking Allen to relive memories he wished he could forget, and pull apart stitches that never stayed intact.

"But..." Suzaku wept pitifully, "I...I still care about him, and I hate myself even more, because I want him to suffer at the same time. I'm such a terrible person, Allen. So terrible..."

Allen shook his head as he stroked Suzaku's head, and could not believe how selfless Suzaku was.

"No, Suzaku," Allen murmured in grief, a grief that allowed him to understand how Mana and Cross felt years ago when Allen wept in despair for the frustration of being an abandoned son, for the loss of Mana, and every time a fragment of childhood innocence broke away.

So, Allen spoke the same words they did to him.

"You are only a child."

-x-

Tears brimmed Lelouch Lamperouge's eyes as he listened to his old friend, his other half, his past lover break down into pieces of glass that Lelouch was only bound to grind into dust from here on out. Lelouch was hidden in the shadows, his presence entirely unknown, but when Suzaku spoke about wishing Lelouch to drop dead, Lelouch smiled bitterly in rue.

Lelouch died the day he sold Suzaku.

Perhaps Lelouch died earlier; the day Lelouch gave his soul away to the Devil.

But knowing that Allen Walker was the one comforting Suzaku, the one that Suzaku trusted enough to cry in front, the one Suzaku confessed to, a scalding flame of anger and hatred sparked within Lelouch, thus fueling his knavish intentions even more. Fierce eyes flickered open, and as Lelouch wiped his damp cheeks, the left violet hues darkened into a shade of crimson.

'I will oblierate you, Allen Walker.'

--

(Edit: due to a request, someone wanted me to state the fiction new characters are from.

Edward and Alphonse Elric are from Fullmetal Alchemist.
Lelouch Lamperouge and Suzaku Kururugi are from Code Geass)

Blinded Ryter: First off, I wanted to say thank-you to all of my readers, reviewers, adders, favorites, and so on! You guys honestly make my day better, and I am so glad to hear that you are enjoying this story. I am truly sorry for the slow updates, but I am trying to put my heart into my story; that's why I never write during writer's block, because then it will be forced, and not good enough for my readers.

Secondly, characters from different animes and fiction will begin to enter the scene. Ages and background stories will be altered to adapt with Le Concerto Finale.

And as for Suzaku being a self-mutilator...I will begin to write companion stories for Le Concerto Finale, and one of them is Suzaku/Lelouch starting from their past to present day/end of Le Concerto Finale. Please don't misunderstand as Suzaku being "emo", because I strongly dislike portraying self-mutilator's in such a way, and there's hundreds of reason why people afflict harm upon themselves, and one of them is having no reason at all. You can go read Bright Red Scream for support on that, and I'm a self-mutilator myself, so I wouldn't write about mutilation without putting honesty into it.

Feedback is lovely, kiddos! Hope you enjoyed this one (: