It was a talent of mine after a while – almost natural. I suppose that's what comes from growing up with a clown. Mana's face was almost always hidden. Taking after his example, I suppose I learned how to wear a mask while at work. Always hiding my true face, a smile etched in its place, displayed for the world to see. Sometimes, my face matched my mask. After a while, I wouldn't be able to tell a difference. It wasn't always like that, though. Now and then I'd feel hopeless, angry, depressed, or any other negative emotion. That was to be expected though, right? I was only human.
Or so I thought.
It must have been when Master hugged me. I began to feel the mask slipping off at that time. I suppose his action was what had knocked it out of place. After that, I couldn't really get it back to where it used to be.
That was because Master had never held me before. He had never shown any sign of true emotion in front of me before then. That wasn't how he usually treated me. He was acting differently around me – because I knew the truth.
Yes, because I, Allen Walker, had just found out I was the fourteenth; he began to treat me differently. I knew what was to follow. Once the others knew, they would begin to act awkwardly around me, also.
I was right.
Sympathetic smiles are what I received from each them. That was if they'd still meet my eyes. Apologies were muttered under their breaths, though some would just stare at their shoes, allowing the truth to sink in. I experienced it as if I was watching from somewhere else, as if it were a dream. Nothing seemed real. I wasn't there. Everything was so different – the air itself was thicker. I felt like I was diseased, as if I were contagious, as if I had just announced I was going to die in two months from an illness, and everyone was pitying me and afraid to touch me as if I were too frail, but in this case it was that I could be too strong.
I was still me, right? Everything around me felt different, but I myself was the same. I was Allen Walker. I was an exorcist. I had chosen my path, and I would continue to. I was my own person, and I had people I loved and people I wanted to fight for. I wasn't living someone else's life. This was my life.
Yesterday, I almost bumped into Lenalee in the halls. Her eyes were wide with shock – or was it fear – before the corner of her mouth pressed into an attempted smile and she nodded her head as a greeting. Was I imaging the fakeness of this? Was she actually being sincere when she asked how I was, as if she was concerned? Was I the one being awkward? It didn't matter. Either way, the world I had thought was my own, the one I had created, was gone, gone, completely gone.
Krory always acts shy when he's in his white mode, so I didn't take it to heart when he barely stuttered a greeting and wandering off down the hall, probably in one of his usual daydreams of Eliade. Miranda is always clumsy, so the fact that she was extremely flustered to have crossed my path, nearly knocking the both of us over, wasn't a big deal to me.
I haven't seen Lavi or Bookman in so long. Well, at a distance, maybe. They weren't looking at me. I felt like I was being stabbed. Could Lavi honestly be avoiding my gaze? Would he be recoding this in his history? Would the downfall – the monster in me – be recorded, but not me, the real me, Allen Walker, the exorcist?
Who was I really, though?
Chaoji never liked me. When he found out I was the fourteenth, his eyes lit up in shock and he gasped, but we never spoke again after that. In fact, I haven't seen him.
Kanda seems to hate me more than before. He's even snider and more forceful. I prefer this to the others' reactions, though. I'd rather have him act differently than to pretend everything is fine, to force conversation, and to hold on to a past that is gone. Don't taint the good times by stretching them to their limit, please, everyone, don't.
Master's gone now. Where, I have no idea. He's gone, though. My only link to the truth is gone.
Tim, do you hate me, too? You flutter around the same as you always did. Can you think? I wish I could vent to you like I used to, but for some reason, I even feel strange around you, a golem. I'm really messed up, aren't I? Broken beyond repair.
No, it was too much for me to take anymore. I couldn't continue on with everyone's pitiful glances and I refused to continue with the small talk. I placed my hand to my face and tore the mask away, never to use it again. I didn't care if how I felt scared them off. They were already gone, so nothing mattered anymore. If I were sad, I would cry. If I were angry, I would scream. I was going to be human – pathetically human – and open myself to the world like a box, displaying every dark angle of myself without the least bit of hesitation. This was what they expected to see. This was what some wanted to see. So I'd show it to them. I'd show them how bad I could be. Because it didn't matter anymore. They probably wouldn't even notice, the way they'd been avoiding me lately.
I feel like all the pressure in the world is on me – like gravity is going to crush me. I need to leave here, and now. Tim, you can come, but no one else. They don't need to know that I'm leaving.
There's the door. I'm nearly running now. I need to make my escape now, before it's too late. Before the darkest part of me takes over. Before I'm the fourteenth. Before I push them even further away.
"Where do you think you're going, Walker?"
I stopped, a huff escaping my lips. "Not now, Link. Please, not now."
"What better time?" he asked, and I could hear his footsteps drawing nearer. "You're under my watch, and you're running out the front door as if you're being chased. This is the first question I must ask, or else I am not fulfilling my duty as your supervisor."
I wanted to hit him. Usually I didn't want to hit people, but without the mask, nothing mattered anymore. I barred my teeth, refusing to turn around. "You need to let me go." I tried to keep my voice calm, reasonable. "I'll die if you don't."
"And if you leave, you'll survive?" he asked sarcastically. "Without any food and water, running in the middle of nowhere?"
"You don't know where I'm going."
"I know you're running."
"You don't understand."
"I understand that you're taking the coward's way out."
I spun around then, but I was sure his expression hadn't changed from before. I clenched my fist.
"You don't want to go," he said, as if testing me, "you don't have to go. By running, you'll just be admitting defeat – that you are the fourteenth. They'll think you went to the Earl."
"Let them think that," I spat, wondering if I really meant that.
"You want them to think that?"
"I don't care what they think."
"Yes, you do. That's why you're running."
"What are you, a psychiatrists?"
"I'll let you go," he said, challenge in his voice, "If you honestly want to." He raised one of his eyebrows, and I clenched my other fist.
Did I really want to go? I had to choose now. It was either returning to them, or running out this door. If I stayed here, I'd suffer under their fearful gazes, forever gripping onto the memories of the past for company. If I left, all those memories would die, and I'd be remembered for leaving, for giving in to the fourteenth.
Would I suffer here, maintaining the most of my old self I could, or would I run for the hills, where I could finally find refuge and peace?
Link seemed almost a little surprised that I was still debating over it, as if he thought I'd rush back in right away, back to all those I loved and had once loved me. I turned away, trying to concentrate. Tim didn't help. He kept flying in my face, as if by looking into my eyes he'd be able to read my thoughts. I swatted him away again and again, but it didn't do much good.
I hit him one last time, and then he started levitating in one position. Suddenly, my Master's voice filled the air, causing me to jump. It was coming from Tim.
"Hey, Allen. Come to think of it, I've never asked you before, but do you like Tim? I asked you to keep hold of him for me, but to be honest…I was always thinking of giving him to you."
I stared a Tim, awestruck. Was this message going to contain something that could help me fight the fourteenth inside of me?
"I've told Tim he can do what he likes from now on. You may not want to listen to me, knowing I'm carrying on the fourteenth's will…but in case you're thinking that you're being made to follow the path the fourteenth chose for you…I just wanted to tell you you're wrong."
I had been right about one thing, though. This message was going to tell me how to get rid of the fourteenth! I was sure of it now!
"A path is something you create as you walk it. The ground you've trodden hardens, and that's what creates the path. You're the only one who can create your own path. So stop wearing that mask of Mana. Walk, on your own. If you haven't given up yet, that is."
It stopped after that. The room was even more silent that before. I couldn't even hear my heart beating.
I had been wrong after all. This wasn't going to help me. Was it?
Another moment passed before Link lost his patience. "Well?"
I took a breath. I had to decide now, or he was just going to drag me back upstairs. I had to make this decision on my own – completely on my own.
"I'll stay," I blurted out, and even though I had thought about it for so long, it seemed sudden. "But I'm never going to put back on my mask again – ever. I don't care what the others think. After this, nothing matters."
I'll walk on. I don't know what direction, but wherever the wind carries me, I'll go. No matter what the outcome, no matter how much it hurts, I'll keep going. But I'm not going to fake myself – I'm not going to sugarcoat anything – to spare the others.
After this, reality will seep through my disguise. Will that break everything, or will it build something new?
Author's Notes: Thanks for reading my story! I hope you liked it and tha it wasn't OOC or anything...I know some of you are probably thinking that Allen would never be that emo, but Hoshino didn't really show much about his immediate reaction to being the fourteenth, so...I figured I'd give it a shot! Drop me a review and let me know what you think!
Thanks again for reading!