I don't know why I keep writing backstories that'll soon be proven wrong. But I wanted to explore some link between the two Varia mists.

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Meeting of Mist

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"Go up to the fourth floor, turn left, then right, fifth door on the left," Fran recited to himself as he trudged up the stairs, mission report in hand. He had once again been bullied into running the errands for his squad.

He paused at the landing, tensing at the sound of a door slamming in the distance. Open or shut, he wasn't certain, but the anger behind it was unmistakable. Voices followed, unintelligible at first, but getting clearer as they approached his direction.

"You can't just leave. Varia is for life. You'd better die if you want to escape."

The second voice was softer, tempered with calm and still impossible to make out.

Fran took a cautious peek, curiosity overcoming common sense. The blond prince and the tiny magician were rounding the corner.

As far as Fran could tell, the two were on good terms and pretty much inseparable. They were always together, Belphegor, the demon who seduces by suggesting inventions that will make his prey rich, and Mammon, the false god of riches and avarice.

He now had to revise his understanding of their relationship. Belphegor was staring down at Mammon with contempt, looking for all the world like he wanted to punt him.

"So you're looking for the easy way out, just because your body is weakening?" he sneered as they came to a stop. "I didn't realize you were such a coward."

"I'm not looking to die, Bel," Mammon corrected, sounding tired and old. "If I wanted to do that, I'd stay here and do nothing."

"You hate the other Arcobaleno. You said it yourself."

"Which proves how serious this situation is," Mammon sighed. "Face it, Bel. The future is bleak."

"You're still better off with the Varia."

"You're an assassin. You know how to decimate, not how to protect."

Belphegor swooped down to pick up Mammon, squeezing him tightly enough for the magician to wince.

"Oh, so it's 'you' now, instead of 'we'?" Belphegor asked silkily, voice low and dangerous as he gave a little shake. "Don't be so cold, aren't we still teammates?"

"I didn't mean the Varia. I meant you," Mammon gasped out in pain. "Bel, you can't save me."

Belphegor's smile froze and he slackened his hold.

"The prince always slays the dragon and frees the princess from her curse," he insisted.

"The only happily-ever-after is one you seize yourself," Mammon countered.

"Just like Mammon, selfishly taking the hero role for himself."

Belphegor stared solemnly at Mammon, as if committing each individual feature to memory to create an mental collage. Mammon endured with practiced patience, resting weary hands over Belphegor's wrapped around him.

Finally, Belphegor grinned, all sharp teeth and no amusement despite his laughter. "Shishishi. Go ahead and kill yourself, you ungrateful brat. I'll laugh at the news and come dance on your grave~"

He knelt down on one knee and gently set Mammon down, gave the Arcobaleno's hood one last firm pat, then disappeared back from where he came.

"Mu."

Fran felt strangely guilty, having intruded on such an intimate moment between the two core Varia members. But he continued to watch as Mammon ripped the Varia patch from his coat and let it flutter to the floor.

Mammon didn't give him a second look as he pitter-pattered by, and Fran breathed a sigh of relief and unstuck himself from the wall.

"You emit the mist flame, correct?"

Fran pointed to himself, although the other still had his back to him. "M-me?" he stammered, surprised at being addressed so directly.

"Do you know what the role of the mist guardian is?"

Fran shook his head, realized that Mammon didn't have eyes on the back of his head, and vocalized his "no, sir."

"Pretending that something exists when it doesn't. Confuse the enemy and don't allow them to capture the true form of the family."

There was a clink and a flick, and a flash of metal sailed toward Fran. Fran caught it reflexively, looked down at his hand, and unclenched his fist. Lying in his palm was a ring, emblazoned with three digits: 999. Oh, wait. Maybe it was 666.

"What-?"

The baby was gone, replaced by a dark, hooded man who glided down the stairs. An illusion? But no. The figure felt real. Fran blinked and rubbed his eyes, took another look.

The small magician scaled down the stairs with nimble hops, his baby voice echoing and filling the staircase with surety of prophesy.

"They'll think our numbers down, but the Varia will have you in reserve."

Fran watched the mysterious creature disappear from sight as he absently pocketed the ring. His head felt foggy, as if he had just woken from a dream.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, as he remembered the report he still held in his other hand. He was now late, and Commander Squalo would not be pleased.

"What was it again? Left, then right, fifth door on the right?"

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The End.

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December 21, 2008