Hello! Here's the first chapter of the Halloween-ish story...that's about two weeks late. I can't remember how many times I've rewritten this...
Anyway, first things first. THIS HAS SPOILERS FROM THE LATER MANGAS YET TO BE RELEASED HERE, SO IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS, TURN BACK NOW!
With that out of the way...This is an three-chapter AU story that takes place right after ep 40 of the series, hence the roses everywhere. There are a lot of flashbacks in this chapter, which take place roughly around ep 28-37.
EDIT: Italics have been fixed.
Disclaimer: I don't own . I don't need any of Komui's robots wrecking my house, thank you.
Little Wooden Head
Chapter 1: Under the Forest
"What will you do after the war, Yu?"
The question had caught Kanda off-guard, since the battle against the Akuma would likely last beyond his brief lifetime.
"What does it matter to you?" the dark-haired swordmaster answered blandly, as he and Lavi leaned on the railing of the ship.
They were watching as more and more scarlet bled into the gold-and-ginger sunset, the restless ocean stained with the same stigmata as the sky. At least, Lavi was watching the day end. Kanda's stomach was doing flip-flops while the waves rocked the boat.
"Oh, I was just curious," his ruby-haired companion replied, the burning nightfall shining in his left eye. The other eye was protected, or hidden, by his black eye patch. "I was just wondering what you would do, if you had a chance at a normal life."
"What would you do?" Kanda asked boredly.
"Me?" questioned Lavi, a hint of poison in his voice despite his casual smile. "I don't have a chance at a normal life. I'd just be shipped off to the next war to record it. There's never a shortage of those."
"Maybe I'll see you on the other side of that war."
"No…" Lavi answered, suddenly sullen. "No, you won't."
Kanda raced alone through Rozova Dolina, or "Rose Valley", of Bulgaria. A written message from General Tiedoll was in the left pocket of his coat. The surly samurai wished his master would get his own golem instead of forcing him to run back and forth delivering letters. But no, the artistic Exorcist insisted on the beauty of the written word, and claimed that a sprint through the roses would be good for him.
Flowers were overrated, in Kanda's opinion.
The dark-eyed blade-wielder dashed over the crest of a rose-cloaked hill, rushed down the slope…and abruptly collided with a tree.
Kanda stumbled back, held his face, and cursed loudly. He was grateful that his master hadn't been around to see that.
He glared at the crooked white trunk of the offending tree. Why was there such a large tree growing in the middle of the path, anyway?
The flowery perfume drifting in the air suddenly grew stronger.
Kanda glanced at the roses around him, and saw that their blooms all burned with a scarlet aura. Their feverish glow gave everything a reddish tinge.
"What is this?" Kanda hissed.
Then he saw the grove of bent white trees behind the first tree, threatening to consume the roses before it.
Now he knew that there wasn't supposed to be a forest in the middle of Rozova Dolina, much less one with such strange trees. Their leaves shone with a green light, as if a mystical blaze were sealed inside them.
He looked up to the canopy of the first tree. It too had glowing green leaves that defied the coming crimson dusk.
Suddenly another tree broke through the roses next to Kanda. It went from sapling to full-grown in seconds, twisting erratically as it strained to touch the darkening sky. Radiant foliage shot forth from the bare branches like impish spirits. As soon at that tree gained its leaves, two more erupted from the earth.
He sensed the ethereal presence hovering around him rising in power, making his skin prickle. The scent of roses swirled around him like a red phantom.
This must be…Innocence…but wait, isn't this…
"…Lavi's Innocence?" he spoke aloud, as more trees thrust out of the ground behind him.
Kanda knew the emerald-eyed Exorcist's Innocence granted him not only the power to smash enemies with a size-shifting hammer, but also the ability to influence elements of nature like fire or lightning. Kanda personally had never seen him summon a forest before, but such a thing would be possible, if the redhead desired it.
Now the roses near the supernatural grove were mutating, their thorny stems growing and coiling around the warped trees. The shining blossoms glared like beastly red eyes as their thorns punctured the bark.
The stoic samurai glared at his ever-shifting environment.
But the Innocence…something about it is…strange.
Kanda walked to the crooked tree in front of him and placed his hand on it.
Suddenly his emotions were roaring, trying to pull him in all directions at once. His heart battered hotly against his frozen body.
Was this really Lavi's Innocence?
Kanda felt the air around him become hot.
He saw a huge red symbol form on the ground, encircling him and the tree.
"What the hell?!" yelled Kanda, snapping out of his stupor and quickly leaping out of the crimson sign's domain.
A colossal snake made of fire ruptured out of the scarlet emblem, rising high into the air. The air around it warped from its heat.
Kanda glared at the fiery being, his emotions and heartbeat stabilizing.
What does that idiot think-
Kanda's dark eyes widened.
The flame serpent's form was corrupted. Its eyes were bulging, great balls of yellow staring at the samurai, and its neck was crooked. A tongue of fire hung out of its gaping mouth.
It lingered in the air a minute more, its swollen eyes gaping at Kanda accusingly, before it lunged down at the blade-bearing Exorcist.
Kanda took out his sword Mugen and ran his fingers down its side, causing the black blade to become silver.
"First Illusion!" he shouted, swiping the air. "Hell's Insects!"
From the cut air came ghostly silver bugs, each with eight red eyes aglow. The sinewy creatures swarmed over the giant fire snake, tearing it to pieces.
Kanda watched the remaining embers fall and die away, his eyes narrowing. Then he dashed farther into the shining forest, Mugen still in hand.
"Oh god, Lenalee, don't scare us like that," Lavi said, running up to hug the female Exorcist.
Kanda too was relieved to see violet-eyed girl safe, as was Allen beside him. After seeing her dive into the mouth of an enormous dragon Akuma to destroy it from the inside, everyone had been fearful that she wouldn't come back out. But here she was, not a bit of her long hair singed by wyrm's fire.
"Don't worry, it's alright now," she replied with a smile.
The scarlet-haired Exorcist began to shake.
"No it's not alright," he answered, his voice shaking too. "Why do you have to always do things like that? Don't you care what happens to you?"
"…As long as you guys are alright, I'm happy," Lenalee responded. "Please Lavi, don't worry so much."
He pulled her closer instead.
"Geez, even if you don't care what happens to you, at least consider your Innocence. You wouldn't want it to be destroyed, would you?"
"You're important to us too, you know. You're important to me, dammit!"
And then he kissed her.
They should have expected it, when Kanda thought about it later. Right then, though, both he and Allen couldn't help but stare, and no one else's expression was more shocked than Lenalee's.
When his lips released hers, his emerald eye soon wakened from its dreamy state and looked to the side. He let go of her.
"I-I'm sorry," Lavi murmured, his cheeks and ears steadily growing redder. "I-I had no right…"
Then he noticed his comrades, who were still staring, and his whole face flushed red.
"Ah, so, anyway, we've destroyed all the Akuma, so let's all go back to headquarters, eh?" Lavi chirped a little too cheerfully, turning around and pushing up his snake-scaled headband. "Nothing like a good nap after a long mission, huh?"
The blushing scribe had just begun to march off when his old master Bookman landed next to him. The elderly Exorcist grabbed his scarlet hair, forcing Lavi to bend down due to the height difference.
"I go to deliver the Innocence, and this is what happens," the panda-marked scribe hissed, his hand still gripping the younger Exorcist's hair.
"I-I didn't mean-"
"Apologize to Miss Lenalee this minute!" snapped the old man, making Lavi turn around and bow, all while maintaining his hold on his red hair.
Lavi's face had become terribly pale, and he shivered slightly under Bookman's grip.
"Lavi!" Bookman spat.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" he blurted out, squeezing his one good eye tight. "I had no right to kiss you like that! I'm sorry!"
"Lavi…" Lenalee began.
Before the red-haired Exorcist had any chance to reply, however, his master dragged him away. Lavi kept his gaze on the ground.
Kanda watched the two scribes walk away in silence.
He would think little of the scene afterward, until much later.
Kanda soon found out that the forest itself was insane. The dark-haired samurai was plagued not only by broken fire snakes that would set parts of the woods on fire, but by the trees and roses themselves. Their branches and thorns lashed out at him like warlock claws, and even the glowing leaves would detach and try to slice him with their surprisingly sharp, hot edges. Occasionally spikes of ice thrust up from the tormented ground. The overwhelming aromas of the blossoms were making Kanda feel slightly ill.
Has that idiot lost all control of his Innocence?
Another fire snake erupted from the forest, crooked mouth parted wide to swallow him. He jumped to the side to escape the massive jaws.
The flame-born being was blown away by a sideways tornado. It took away some of the powerful perfume with it.
A moment later a teenage girl landed next to Kanda, her long dark pigtails streaming behind her.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"Alright enough," answered the stoic warrior. "…I don't suppose you can explain to me what Lavi thinks he's doing, do you?"
Her violet eyes grew anxious.
"I don't understand what's going on either," admitted the dark-haired girl. "We were up late fighting Akuma, so we all slept in late. Then Allen and Lavi took a walk to see the roses one more time while Krory and I shopped for supplies…"
"…And then this strange forest appeared," Kanda finished for her, swiping at an intruding rose vine with his sword.
"Yeah," replied Lenalee, eyeing the demented woods around her. "People from the fields came running into town saying how this forest came out of nowhere and how the trees and roses attacked anyone who tried to go near it. I knew Allen and Lavi were out there, so I ran into the forest to find them."
"And? Have you found either one of them?"
"No…" the violet-eyed Exorcist responded, as she looked away. "Though I can tell by the fire snakes that this must have something to do with Lavi's Innocence. I've been in here for at least an hour looking for them. Krory must be worried."
"He didn't come with you?"
"I wanted him to stay behind to make sure none of the villagers got hurt by the forest, and to help them evacuate if necessary," Lenalee explained. "I hope we can save at least some of the roses, though, and I don't want the villagers to lose their home."
The roses wrapped around the trees started to catch fire one by one, like candlesticks. Strangely, this seemed to amplify their scent rather than burn it away.
"Roses saved or not, we need to hurry up and find those idiots before the whole forest burns up," growled Kanda, running ahead.
"Right!" Lenalee answered, her Innocence-infused boots giving her the speed and grace of a gazelle. "I don't understand why Lavi's Innocence is acting like this, but he and Allen must need our help."
Kanda's eyes narrowed.
"Can you really help me…Yu?"
"Do you want me to help you?"
"…Yeah…Yeah, I guess I do."
Kanda had jumped ahead to avoid a thunderbolt when he saw it: Lavi's snake-scaled headband, stuck on a thin black thorn of a dark tree. Lenalee saw it too, and she followed the dark-haired swordmaster to the tree to retrieve it.
He halted when he reached the tree, his eyes widening.
"Kanda?" Lenalee asked, just behind him. "What is it?"
Kanda's eyes narrowed as he plucked the thorn from the tree's bark. For the thorn wasn't a thorn at all, but a thick black needle.
"I'll be your fighting partner."
The other Exorcists in the training area turned around. The dark-eyed samurai didn't so much as look at them. Instead he kept his sharp gaze on the old man on the other side of the room, who returned with a cool stare.
"Very well," Bookman replied calmly, his large wisp of gray hair bobbing as he walked into the practice ring.
Kanda also treaded into the arena, drawing Mugen.
The elderly Exorcist summoned black needles to his fingertips like claws.
The referee, who was really just a bored Finder, took his place beside the arena and rung the bell.
Kanda charged forward.
It was over in a matter of seconds.
Kanda found himself falling forward, his nerves paralyzed by well-aimed needles. As his face hit the cold floor, he felt the diminutive scribe place one foot on his back and point a needle at the back of his neck.
The bell cried shrilly.
The dark-eyed blade-wielder felt the amazed eyes of all the other Exorcists burning into his skin. He hated it.
Then he saw Lavi, who had been just entering the room, only to find his comrade pinned under his old master. His one-eyed stare scorched the samurai.
"You still have a lot to learn," Bookman stated coldly, as he helped the stern warrior sit up. He began to treat the younger Exorcist's wounds with his supernatural acupuncture techniques.
Kanda had never felt more disgraced.
"Why would Bookman attack Lavi?" asked Lenalee, as the two Exorcists rushed through the manic woods. "I mean, it doesn't make any sense."
Kanda stayed quiet as he slashed away malicious branches. If only he could cut through the stifling scent. If only there was something that he could actually kill.
"What makes you think that I know why the two of them are fighting?" he snapped, a thorn cutting his cheek. "It's not my business."
"Oh," answered the girl with the long pigtails. "…But I never said anything about Lavi attacking Bookman. I only asked why Bookman would attack him."
"Well, I assume the idiot would fight back if he was attacked. Is that a poor assumption?" growled the stern warrior, the cut on his cheek quickly resealing. He had a feeling that his rapid healing powers would come to use several times before the ordeal was over, if only to heal thorn scratches.
"Well, no…" Lenalee trailed off.
Kanda leered at the wild trees and burning roses. Another thorn sliced his other cheek.
…This better not…
Kanda was never one to get drunk easily. Therefore, the irritable swordmaster was having a hard time getting any kind of buzz while he was at the bar on the ship. Lavi, on the other hand, had no such trouble, and his mind was in another world by his third shot of beer.
The two of them were sitting side by side, Lavi cheerfully and loudly singing something in Italian, while Kanda remained as silent and sober as ever. Then Lavi began tugging on the warrior's lengthy ponytail, giggling and hiccupping all the while.
The surly blade-wielder did not appreciate this, and he let his madly merry companion know it by pulling on his red hair, hard.
Lavi let out a sharp yelp and stiffened in his grasp, letting go of the samurai's ponytail.
"See? That hurts, doesn't it?" growled Kanda, a grim satisfaction in his voice.
Lavi stared at Kanda with a wide green eye, and began to shake.
"I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry-"
Kanda blinked, his grip on the Exorcist's hair loosening.
"Just don't don't don't don't-" the tyro scribe went on, closing his eye tight.
Kanda let go of his hair, dark eyes wide and confused, while Lavi hid his head in his arms, still trembling.
Kanda couldn't get a peep out of him for the rest of the night.
"Mist Wind!" shouted Lenalee, blowing away a duo of fire snakes. "…Kanda."
"You know something, don't you?"
Flurries of fiery rose petals were flung at the two of them, the blazing flowers joined by the hot glowing leaves.
"Mist Wind!" yelled the female Exorcist, kicking and summoning another mystic tornado. "Please, tell me what's going on."
"First Illusion! Hell's Insects!" shouted Kanda, as he summoned the ghostly monsters to deal with the hurricane of rogue foliage. But he said nothing else.
Thanks to their little excursion to the bar, Lavi woke up with a horrible headache. In fact, Lavi was still lying in bed battling his hangover. He hadn't even bothered to put on his headband yet.
Kanda was nearby, tying his hair back up into a ponytail and wondering whose brilliant idea it had been to book the two of them in the same room. He suspected his master. On the table between their beds was a vase filled with white and red roses.
"Damn, my head hurts…" the redhead muttered, his arm laying over his eyes to block out the room's harsh light. "It really frickin' hurts…"
"That's what happens when you drink too much," stated Kanda, who was little worse for the wear. "You get hung over the next morning and your head hurts like hell."
Lavi sat up, only to hold his bare forehead and squeeze his eye shut.
"Damn…it hurts almost as bad as when that old panda-"
He suddenly fell silent.
"…Like when that old panda what?" questioned Kanda.
The redhead remained quiet, his dazed eye appearing fearful as he kept his gaze on the bed.
Kanda's eyes narrowed. It was the same kind of fright that had been in his fellow Exorcist's eye last night.
The long-haired warrior walked over and sat next to Lavi on the bed.
"Yeah?" the Exorcist with the pirate patch asked, still holding his head.
Kanda grabbed the scribe's hair and pulled on it. He felt Lavi stiffen under his grasp like the previous night.
"…Stop that, Yu," the emerald-eyed recorder spoke quietly, his gaze fixed on the bed. "Stop it."
"I would like to know…" Kanda began, before his eyes narrowed. "Hmm?"
He used his free hand to brush Lavi's long bangs back. On the upper part of Lavi's forehead were small oval burn scars, one on the left side of his temple and four on his right.
"…What the hell are these?"
"Nothing! They're nothing!" the scarlet-maned scribe insisted, squirming in Kanda's grasp. "Just some old scars from an old battle, that's all."
Kanda studied the scars. They didn't look fresh, but Lavi's involuntary reaction today and the night before suggested that he expected another attack like the one that had left these scars…or had endured it several times previous.
"Lavi," he began. "…Where did these scars come from, and what do they mean? Tell me."
Kanda was the first to spot him.
Lavi was wrapped in the coils of thick wooden vines woven into a parody of a tree, his arms held straight out and his legs bound together in the mockery of a cross. A few feet above him was his Innocence-infused hammer, also embraced by the wooden vines and pulsing a brilliant green. Dozens of roses bloomed and blazed on the web of vines.
"Lavi!" both Exorcists shouted, as they rushed toward the entangled redhead.
Lavi slothfully raised his head, his one green eye lusterless.
Despite the scribe's horrid appearance, Kanda felt a surge of relief.
The glassy green eye narrowed.
The surge of relief was swept away by a sickening flood.
Lavi had not said his first name "Yu", Kanda realized, but the cold pronoun, "You". Why did those two different words have to sound the same?
"Lavi! Lavi, it's us!" called out Lenalee. "Kanda and me, Lenalee!"
The eye remained narrowed.
"We're here to help you Lavi!" shouted the violet-eyed girl. "We're going to get you out of here!"
"Go away," the verdurous-eyed scribe hissed.
"Lavi!" yelled Lenalee.
"Humans are scum. Go away."
"Lavi, snap out of it!" called the female Exorcist. "It's us, it's us!"
Kanda said nothing, but his grip on Mugen shook.
Oh hell, oh hell…
"Go the hell away!" screeched the crimson-maned young man, his hair rising as his eye shone bright green. There were fresh burns on his forehead.
A ferocious gale shot from the redhead's direction, blowing the two Exorcists away like dry leaves.
The last thing Kanda remembered was the stench of ashes.
So how'd you like it? Feel free to let me know what you liked and didn't like. The whole story has already been written, so more reviews means faster updates (though I'm still tweaking the later chapters)
NEXT CHAPTER: Under the Rose - The truth, the secret, and the unexpected consequence.