Insert random disclaimer here / Don't own, don't sue, please drop a review.
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Prophecies Gone Awry
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It was snowing on that day, just like back then, on that very same day that person had picked him up and they had started their journey. But he was dead now, dead and cold; colder than ice and buried a pile of equally cold earth.
He – a red-haired grey-eyed child – choked down on a sob, leaning his back against the gravestone behind him while watching the cross before him, a crude memento of his former companion.
"Mana Walker… Shall I resurrect him for you?"
He looked up, coming face to face with a stranger, a funny-looking man in a coat and a top hat who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
The child looked at him, undecided between allowing himself a flicker of hope and resigning to a state of bottomless despair. "Can you do that?"
The stranger chuckled. "I am the Earl of the Millennium. I can bring him back to life."
Grief-stricken or not, he really should have known better…
The Earl's grin widened, and amber-coloured eyes – halfway hidden behind glass lenses – bore down on the child. The boy would take the deal and would attempt to bring his beloved guardian back to life, no matter what the price, and he would be killed, as was his fate. It was nothing worth pitying, not at all. They were all little but pawns to him anyway, tools for him to achieve his goal.
He brought out the skeleton-like doll before the boy. "All you need to do is to call out his name and Mana Walker will be revived."
It was just another tragedy. It was just another akuma to create, or at least he thought so…
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But this child – this boy – turned out to be an exception. The boy was an accommodator of Innocence, as he was soon to realise, but he was so much more than that, even though neither knew it at the time.
"How dare you?! How dare you turn me into an akuma?!"
The child was on the ground, frightened, and flinched when the akuma called out to him, rushing towards him. Then, he was bleeding and he screamed.
"I curse you! I curse you, Allen Walker!"
There was a shredding sound as the boy's arm – infested with that vile thing called Innocence – as it activated in response to the danger to the boy's life, seemingly unwilling to allow its host to be killed, and the boy panicked. "Mana! Get away! Mana! No!"
The Innocence on the other hand cared little for its host's pleas, and tore the akuma apart.
"Allen… I love you…"
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There was a redheaded man kneeling next to him where he lay slumped against the gravestone, his grey eyes duller than ever. "An akuma's soul has no freedom; it's eternally restrained as the Earl's toy," the man said, seemingly uncaring as to whether or not the child was listening to him. "There's no way to save it except to destroy it…" his eyes trailed off to the boy's deformed arm as it had returned to its original state. "You seem to bear an unfortunate fate, being born with an anti-akuma weapon…"
At the mention of the familiar word the boy looked up slightly.
"It looks as though you are also an apostle still possessed by God," the red-haired man continued. "Won't you become an exorcist?"
The boy raised his head a bit and their eyes met. The cut on his face started bleeding again.
The red-haired man offered the child a hand, and the boy took it after a brief moment of hesitation.
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From that day and onward, Allen Walker unofficially became the apprentice of Cross Marian, an exorcist general of the Black Order. The general was known for his sinful life, his debt-making, his womanizing… It was a truly pitiful fate that had befallen Allen Walker, who was likely merely ten years at the time. Even though his earlier life at the circus and time with Mana had been quite tough at times, in retrospect, it had still been a heaven on earth compared to his current reality, facing a drunken Cross in the doorway.
"Master?" Allen asks hesitantly, wrinkling his nose as he catches the heavy stench of red wine lingering around him.
"The money?" the older man asked, bending over him and staring down at him with a cold look on his face.
He surrendered the money without a fuss, even while knowing it would be spent and forgotten in mere hours at some local pub. Had Cross Marian been spending his own money, then Allen would have had no objections whatsoever to it, but Cross was spending his money – the money that Allen himself had worked so hard to get in order to pay for their food expenses and to pay off some of the debts that his master had already made – the same money which said master grabbed and swiftly disappeared out the door to spend, leaving Allen alone with Timcanpy – his master's golem – flying around a bit before settling onto Allen's snow-white head, as his hair had gradually drained of all colour after Mana had cursed him.
However, the curse entailed more than just white hair and the scar adorning the left side of his face; it also involved his left eye, allowing him to see things he would rather not have seen – such as the writhing souls trapped within akuma, whenever they got close enough – as a constant reminder of his own sin, which was an unforgivable one.
The sights sickened him, yet at the same time, he could not help but feel sorry for them; to pity them for what they were. He wanted to save them; to free them from their state of imprisonment, and in truth, that was just about the only reason as to why Allen still remained with Cross, after all the years that had passed since then. He wanted to atone; he wanted to free them and to put those unfortunate souls out of their misery, even if he himself had to suffer to do so.
Hence, it was not important to him whether he was the one destroying all the akuma and thereby doing all the work, seeing that his master much rather preferred enjoying himself and the good life rather than doing any of his own work. For the most part, Allen was completely fine with it, even though he was well aware of the fact that he was more of a servant or a slave to his master than an actual apprentice, or rather, he would have been fine with it if Cross Marian had not been such a mean drunk.
Mostly, it was limited to numerous insults showering over him at regular intervals, but as the years went by, the verbal abuse gradually turned physical. Allen didn't mind the beatings too much, seeing that they were usually not very serious compared to what he had experienced during his time at the circus, before he met Mana. However, as they went on, occasional beatings became more regular and gradually worsened, up until the point when he came to fear for his own livelihood.
Once, a drunken Cross had flung the door open and entered with a mallet.
Allen's eyes had immediately sought out escape routes all while keeping a keen eye on the man, trying to calculate his every move, even though he had at the same time realised it was futile; running away meant the same as having his punishment doubled once the man finally got hold of him.
The man's shadow had towered over him, and he had lowered his eyes, awaiting the first blow. This is going to hurt…
He had survived that event and many similar ones after that. Once Cross finally sobered up, the man didn't seem to remember this particular sort of thing ever having occurred; it was either that or him wilfully ignoring it. Allen on the other hand couldn't forget; he couldn't forget about it even if he wanted to.
Still, during a similar event – the one which would become the last – his body had acted on its own and swatted the dangerous object from his master's hand.
The mallet had not even landed on the floor – and Allen had barely even realised what he had done, drawing in a sharp breath – before his master's rage came crashing down on him with full force.
Fingers had been wrapped around his throat, tightening up until the point when they had cut off his oxygen supply; threatening to crush his windpipe all while Allen had desperately tried to loosen them as black blotches had started clouding his vision.
Knowing that Cross would let go of him eventually, Allen had closed his eyes, ceasing his struggles and allowing his body to fall limp like a ragdoll, following which the grip had loosened, allowing him to fall to the floor in a heap where he kept up his act of feigned death or unconsciousness, even though neither seemed awfully far off at the time.
There had been one last kick directed at his stomach before everything had gone strangely quiet, indicating that the other was watching him, but then it had all stopped and after he had heard the sound of retreating steps and the sound of a door slamming, Allen had slowly opened his eyes, blearily surveying his surroundings.
It was over, he realised as much. It was over, and this time around, he had escaped with mere bruises. He could say that he had been lucky. Still, it had been too close; far too close.
It was pointless to deny it, as it was the wretched thing called reality after all. Allen knew it and part of him did not even believe in luck. In the end, whether he lived or died was completely up to his master's mercy, something Allen doubted the man even possessed. In the end, Allen supposed that he was the same as Maria, the corpse Cross controlled with his magic; always following orders, no matter how much suffering they brought to him.
He wondered what would happen when that time eventually came to pass – sooner or later. What would the man do to him? Would his body – his empty shell – also be used; also be manipulated like Maria?
Then, he realised it wouldn't make a damned bit of a difference and he got up, hissing in pain, wondering whether he had fractured a rib or not. Cross didn't care about him, and if he cared, then he cared for him only as a tool; not as a person. If I am to atone for my sins by suffering in this Hell on Earth… then when will he atone for his?
His eyes turned defiant and a spark was lit in them; they were not dull anymore, not dead and devoid of hope. Why waver between Heaven and Hell when in the end they are the same? Why keep on pleading to a God who has since long stopped listening to the prayers of mere mortals? Praying won't bring Mana back to me. Praying won't save me from my master's rage. Praying is…
His hands curled into fists and he gritted his teeth. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. "I hate you," he hoarsely whispered out, even though his throat hurt like Hell simply from speaking. "I hate you."
Even though he knew well that his master did not hear him, as he was at the moment in the middle of sobering up after the drinking of the previous night, and Allen kept repeating the phrase which had seemingly eaten itself into his heart.
Besides the hangover which was likely to be waiting for his master, Allen knew well that he was likely going to be in a really foul mood – even fouler than usual – not that Cross was ever in a good mood unless he had brought about suffering to someone else, namely Allen himself.
He had finally reached a conclusion to the thoughts which had been lingering around in his mind ever since he had accepted the hand his master had offered him; he had found his answer. Cross Marian would never be able to become a new Mana for him and all the man had ever done for him involved some kind of pain. But did he – Allen – have anywhere else to go?
As if guided by some unknown instinct, he wandered carefully across the floor, carefully avoiding trampling upon scattered glass from an earlier scuffle. As he finally reached the door, a great pain tore through him, focusing in the area at his left eye. Akuma?
The curse did not activate, but Allen knew that there was an akuma in the making somewhere and that could mean only one thing.
It was a split-second decision, but he had a feeling that if he only met that man – if he only met the Earl – then something would change, even though that man was the enemy – at least according to his master – but in the end, it all came down to one's individual interpretation.
It was a gamble, but it was still far better than spending a lifetime in despair.
As he rounded the corner, he finally caught glimpse of the fat white-clad figure wearing a top hat. He stopped abruptly at the sight.
The figure turned around, as though he had either sensed the boy's presence or perhaps even heard his approach. "Good Evening…"
"Good Evening, Earl," Allen said and gave the Earl a slight bow of respect, earning a wondering look. "My name is Allen Walker."
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He was panting heavily, beads of sweat running down his face, half pale and half flushed at the same time. He got back to his feet and wobbled a bit; dizzy with the effort it took to simply remain standing. But he wouldn't stop; it was not over yet. "Don't stop! I can keep going…"
"As you wish," a male voice resounded from the edge of the barrier. "No holding back."
Instantly the unbearable pressure returned and it felt like his lungs were starting to cramp. Knowing well that he wouldn't be able to breathe in this closed off space, he focused the remnants of his consciousness on retaining the form of his Innocence. Must… concentrate…
He could clearly taste blood in his mouth; that last battle must have caused some kind of internal injury. But it didn't matter; he had something else he had to focus on. More… power… higher… synchronization…
It felt as though something was cracking, like something within him was being ripped apart. It was painful; it was unbearable, but he couldn't stop. I must keep moving forward. I can't stop here.
His eyes had been closed as it had made practically no difference whether they were open or closed, as it was completely black in there. His mouth moved quietly, not a word breaching his lips. Please… Let me invocate stronger… So that I can save the akuma…
His left arm started to emit a strange glow. He slowly parted his lips, knowing well that he was almost at his limit. If he didn't get out of there soon, he would definitely suffocate to death. If he didn't get out of there then he'd…
"My right hand is for the humans; my left is for the akuma…"
He has no idea how he was still able to speak; he should've run out of air long ago. The words he uttered lacked reason and made no sense; he given himself to saving akuma by the means of destroying them, but he held no similar ties to humanity. In truth, he believed himself to have cut the ties he had with it a long time ago.
The glow around his arm spread so that it surrounded his entire body. By instinct, his right hand reached for his left one, grabbing onto it as it started changing shape. "Critical point broken. Crowned Clown, activate!"
The light exploded and the barrier separating him from the rest of the world was broken. His feet connected with the floor with a light thud as he had now returned to a place where he was affected by gravity. Greedily filling his lungs with oxygen, he glared up at his opponent, who did not appear to be the least strained. Allen's eyes narrowed and his grip on his Innocence – which had taken on the form of a big sword – tightened. His opponent smirked and activated his own weapon, looking like he was truly enjoying himself. Allen gritted his teeth and prepared to charge at him.
They dashed off at the same moment, their weapons ready as the distance between them grew smaller and smaller at a rapid rate. Five metres… Two metres… Zero metres…
"That's enough," a voice called out, immediately causing the two combatants to freeze in their positions.
Allen's sword was resting at the Noah Tyki Mikk's throat while Tyki Mikk was holding his Tease – a weapon made out of a type of golem – above Allen's heart. Neither averted their eyes from the other, as though they were both refusing to admit defeat. Then, after a seeming eternity, Tyki finally broke off and pulled back his Tease with a snicker. "And I who was finally getting all fired up. It isn't everyday that I'm asked to spar with an exorcist under the condition that I may kill him…"
Allen's eyes stared coldly at him. "It isn't every day that I get the chance to kill a Noah either, Tyki Mikk," he snarled back at him.
Tyki just continued to laugh at him and then the man gave him a light pat on the shoulder. "You can call me Brother if you like that one better, Boy."
Allen swatted his hand away with a discontent growl. "You would've lost."
The Earl chuckled, directing Allen's attention towards him. "If Tyki-pet had gone all out from the very start, he would've ripped your heart out. But I must say that I'm impressed… that you have come this far after only two years of training… Fifteen years old and already at the same level as a general, indeed you're a scary existence, Allen Walker."
Allen gave him a wry smile as he deactivated his Innocence, returning it to its regular black shape.
"Good for you that I'm not one of your enemies then." He shrugged mildly. "But I'm really hungry now. May I excuse myself?"
Allen gave him a quick bow before leaving the training grounds, as always followed by the golden golem – Timcanpy – who had chosen him over his former master, a fact which Allen felt rather pleased about.
The Earl and Tyki followed Allen with their eyes until he had disappeared out of sight. "He's grown since the last time we fought," Tyki thoughtfully noted. "I'd say we're really lucky that he chose to serve this side instead."
"Indeed, Tyki-pet," the Earl chuckled. "He could grow into a serious threat one day..."
Tyki looked at him with a slightly worried look on his face but he said nothing as the Earl continued. "If I had realised that he would come to harbour this much potential I would've killed him the first time I saw him. But fostering him as one of our own may be the key to our ultimate triumph."
Tyki sighed. "So in short, you want to use his Innocence against the Black Order?"
"He cares very little for humanity." The Earl looks decidedly pleased. "The only thing which is precious to him is the akuma. And now that he has become a Critical, we can finally make some real use of him."
Tyki's amber eyes stared into the distance. "A Critical, huh?"
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Meanwhile, at the Headquarters of the Black Order, Head Officer Komui Lee along with his co-worker Reever Wenham were running in great haste towards the elevator which would take them to the lower levels of the Tower. As they finally made their way to the source of the turmoil, Komui leaned towards the edge. "Hev! What's the problem?"
Hevlaska – the ghostlike mass of glowing material which had the task of guarding shards of Innocence – squirmed violently. "The cube inside me is resonating."
Komui looked as though he had been struck by lightning. "Is it a Critical Point-Breaker?"
A Critical Point-Breaker, or Critical, a person with over 100 percent synchronisation with Innocence…
"Yes," the ghostly mass responded in a fleeting ethereal voice. "I do not know who it is, but he is appearing…"
A Critical, one possessing the power to become a new general…
Komui pressed a hand to his own forehead. A bead of sweat ran down his face; this shouldn't be possible. None of the exorcists in the Order should even have been close to becoming Criticals, and besides the generals no one should even possess that kind of power… unless…
"Chief, what does this mean?" Reever asked in disbelief. "It's impossible. There should be no exorcists…"
"It's not impossible," the Chinese man interrupted, his eyes narrowing. "One of the generals may have taken an apprentice without our knowledge…"
"But why would they?" Reever asked, noticeably confused.
Komui's only reply was a deep frown as he turned his attention back towards a still-glowing Hevlaska. "…In dark future that Innocence will create a great Destroyer of Time…"
"A great what?" Komui shouted. "Hev!"
The glow suddenly died down and Komui's face gained a stone-like expression. He raised his hand, drawing Reever's immediate attention to it. "Reever, contact the generals at once. We must inform them of this situation."
Reever gave him a quick nod. "Roger that. But what about General Cross? We haven't been in contact with him for years."
"Irrelevant. Contact the others."
Komui watched Reever leave in a great hurry. He himself remained at the same position, staring thoughtfully into the distance. "A Destroyer of Time… doesn't that mean…"
A person with the ability and destiny to destroy the Millennium Earl…
In such case they would have to get to him first, before the Earl decided to eliminate him. But first, they had to find him. And if he wasn't among their ranks, where the Hell could he be?
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Meanwhile Allen sneezed after finishing his third portion of mitarashi dango.
"Bless you," Tyki said with a smirk.
"Curse you," Allen said, his eyes narrowed.
Tyki merely laughed. "You're unusually cold today. Did something bad happen to you?"
"Besides the fact you almost ripped my heart out earlier, then no," Allen replied with a voice brimming with sarcasm. "Tyki Mikk."
"Come on, we're practically family," Tyki said. "There's really no need for such politeness."
"Oh, but I was not being polite," Allen responded, wearing a smirk of his own. "I was intending on being rude."
"Well, you're failing miserably at it," Tyki responded. "But I guess we won't have to worry about having my lack of manners rubbing off on you then."
Tyki gave him an amused glance while reaching for a cigarette and lighting it. "But I must say that I'm glad that you aren't an enemy," he said, giving Allen an affectionate pat on the head. "You would've given me a run for my money."
Allen swatted his hand away, an expression of annoyance plastered all over his face. "Why would I sacrifice so much for a world and humanity which has never given me anything?" he asked. "My parents abandoned me and society shunned me. Mana was different though."
"He did curse you though," Tyki said, exhaling some smoke.
"Only so that I would be able to repent my sins," Allen replied with a slightly bored expression. "I live for the salvation of akuma alone, not to serve some corrupted justice or a God who has turned his back on us a long time ago…"
Tyki snickered. "If those fools in the Order could hear you right now, I wonder what kind of expressions they would make…"
"Not my problem," Allen replied with a shrug.
Tyki laid his hand onto Allen's white hair in an affectionate manner and for once Allen didn't swat it away. The other's amber eyes gained something which could possibly be confused with gentleness, even though he had a general habit of giving the brat a roughing up once in a while. "To them you must be like an angel associating with devils," Tyki said, caressing the teen's soft hair while pulling him a bit closer. "Doesn't that bother you?"
Allen remained seemingly unaffected by this motion, but Tyki watched with well-hidden mirth as he leaned into the partial embrace a bit. Allen himself would never have admitted it, but he did have a certain need of affection and psychical contact every once in a while. Before losing Mana, he had no idea of how much human warmth had meant to him, since Mana had been the first to give him some.
The Noah weren't exactly humans anymore, but they still had an ability to give off similar warmth, like the one he secretly longed for but would never care to admit that he needed. In his life, there should have been no need for kindness or warmth. Instead, he should have encased his heart in ice and focused on what was truly important to him, such as finding a way to save the akuma without neglecting his duties to the Millennium Earl. But, as things appeared, his heart still longed for warmth, no matter how much his brain told it to give it up.
"Not really..." he said, slowly gripping Tyki's hand, the same hand which had almost killed him earlier, and lifted it away from his head while still holding onto it. "After all…"
Tyki looked at him, virtually expressionless for once, his eyes glimmering as Allen looked up at him with his viciously glimmering silver-grey eyes.
"…I fell from grace a long time ago."
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