Chapter 28 – A Foolish Lovebird
It was almost two hours past midnight when a young man with medium length silver hair arrived at the airport in Japan. His height was average, and his features were good. He had soft looking grey eyes to go with his thin eyebrows, which was also silvery like his hair. He wore a black long-sleeved jacket with black long pants, as well as dark-colored sneakers. There was a cross-shaped badge pinned to his chest.
This guy held a picture in his hand. The picture showed a girl with flaming hair and fiery eyes. He looked at the picture as he walked out of the airport. Surprisingly, there were less people than usual.
"This is the Enpatsu Shakugan no Uchite, Shana. A Flame Haze contracted to the Flame of Heavens, Alastor." He said to seemingly no one in particular. His voice was that of a generic teenage male's. "And I'm supposed kill her. Sounds easy enough..."
"You should not underestimate your opponent." A coarse voice came from the cross-shaped badge. "They are a force to be reckoned with. You must have heard stories about the Flame Hazes contracted to this particular Crimson Lord."
"Yeah, of course I did. They all died. This one isn't going to be different." The silver haired youth replied smugly.
"Allen, I will not repeat myself." The Crimson Lord said angrily, "If you let your guard down against this opponent, you will not live to see tomorrow. They are unlike all the enemies you have faced so far."
"Yeah, this'll be the first time... I battle a fellow Flame Haze." Allen said, and a silence hung between them.
A long time had passed before Allen's Crimson Lord spoke again, "Your duty as a Flame Haze is to protect the balance of this world, not to kill others who protect the balance like you do. I do not think that you have made the right decision; you have been manipulated by the enemy, through and through."
"You don't have to keep telling me that," Allen replied crossly, "Lena means everything to me; I will do anything to get her back."
"From the beginning I kept advising you, not to fall in love with that human girl, but you would not listen. Humans are weak, Allen, and falling in love with one has made you weak too. Now look what you've gotten yourself into. Your girl got kidnapped by the enemy, and they want you to kill one of your own kind to get her back-"
"Not just one. If the decoy team fails to do the job or doesn't procrastinate long enough, I would potentially battle against five Flame Hazes." Allen cut across him. He recalled the plan in his mind. There were supposedly five Flame Hazes in Misaki City: Shana, Margery Daw, Wilhelmina Carmel, Arken Varles and Elise. A battalion from the Bal Masque army will act as distraction and attack an Outlaw branch not far from here, and one of the spies working at Outlaw will summon the four other Flame Haze to battle there. He had no idea how long the battle will last, but with four powerful Flame Hazes on the same team it sure would not take very long. All he had to do was to kill his target before the other Flame Hazes return, or else he would surely meet his doom. Then his "employer" will return the kidnapped Lena to him once he completed his job.
"And if five of them were to attack you at once, you think you can kill them all?"
Allen crushed the picture in his palm. "I will kill them all, Cross, if they stand in my way." He said coldly.
"You are very courageous... And yet, very foolish... What a foolish lovebird you are, Allen." Cross commented. "Remember, Allen. We are not sure whether if that Mystes will hold onto his word or not."
"Like I had a choice... I have to trust him no matter how." Allen snorted. "I wonder what's so special about Misaki City to have attracted five Flame Hazes." He said, changing the subject, but he was very curious as well.
"You really should go back to elementary school and learn more Mathematics. Allen Zimmer's arrival makes it six." Cross said with a laugh.
"And killing the Enpatsu will make it five once more." Allen said with a laugh too.
X x x
Meanwhile, Wilhelmina had finished her battle with Elise and was treating Ryosuke's wounds. However they barely had enough time to rest as Arken arrived very quickly in a chopper. Wilhelmina was taken aback when she saw Margery Daw standing beside him.
"Hey guys, I have some bad news." Arken said to the two Flame Hazes and a Mystes below.
"Okay let's hear it." Elise said quickly.
Arken sighed and said. "The Outlaw branch in Atlanta has been attacked, and they need reinforcements. From what I heard from the messenger, situation's very bad. They've nearly breached the inner defenses."
"What? Why would they attack there?" Elise exclaimed.
"That's exactly what I thought. Strange. The Outlaw at Atlanta is pretty much non-existent. Not many people, not much information kept there, and no Flame Hazes ever go there. In fact I didn't even know that there was an Outlaw branch in Atlanta before I received the report."
"Are there any Flame Hazes defending the building?" Wilhelmina asked abruptly.
"Just one: Rebecca Reed, Scatterer of Sparkling Light. But she's wounded rather badly and won't be able to hold on much longer. We have to move as fast as we can and assist her." Arken said.
Wilhelmina gasped after Arken mentioned the name of the Flame Haze. Rebecca Reed was an old friend of hers; she had assisted her many times in the battlefield centuries ago. She had not seen or even heard from her for decades, although she knew that she was alive and well. And now Rebecca was injured while protecting the Outlaw. She had to be there to assist her, no matter what.
And without thinking, Wilhelmina leapt onto the chopper and took a seat. Margery came and sat beside her.
"It's good to see you again." Margery said, smiling at her. Wilhelmina tried to give her a little grin, but her face still looked expressionless. However, deep down inside she felt good to see Margery again too. If her thoughts were not so distracted by Rebecca, she would have asked whether Margery was out of town for the past two months, because she had not heard anything from her. Instead she only sat silently beside her, looking at the floor, her eyes barely moving.
"Come on, what you waiting for? Get on the chopper!" Arken shouted to Elise.
"What makes you think I'm coming with you?" Elise said smugly, folding her arms. "Do you really expect me to leave this place when Golden is already within my reach?"
"Golden's not gonna disappear, you know..." Arken said. "You can postpone that for now. Let's go kick some Denizen ass."
"No." Elise said defiantly. "If you wanna fight so badly, go on your own. Don't tell me you can't settle a few puny Denizens on your own."
"Elise, I'm serious here."
"I know. So am I, Arken. You're wasting your time here. I'm not wasting my time on an insignificant Outlaw branch. Golden is more than a million times more important than that."
"Thousand Change Sydonay of the Trinity is leading the charges, along with Fecor and Purson beside him. You know their power. And they've also spotted two unknown Crimson Lords among their ranks. They are now fighting even as we speak. At this rate, Outlaw isn't going to last much longer. Think of the lives that will be lost. If it falls, you will forever be remembered and hated as the irresponsible Flame Haze who avoided the battle and cost us the war."
"Say whatever you want, Arken." Elise said, turning around to leave. "I don't care."
"How could you even say that...!" Arken swore.
"Hey, why not I go with you guys?" Ryosuke said suddenly.
"Don't start bullshitting, you're a Mystes." Arken snapped.
"So? I'm strong enough to beat a Flame Haze." Ryosuke retorted.
"Yeah, and at the cost of what? Wasting your power of existence and then giving it up? This will be a huge battle, your current existence won't have enough to cover the entire skirmish. You'll die one way or the other. Forget it. This is no time to be a hero."
"I don't mind. I'm willing to do this for her." Ryosuke said.
"That's the lamest excuse I've heard from someone in a century..." Arken smacked his own forehead. "Fine, since you seem to enjoy throwing your life away, do as you please." Arken sighed, resigned.
Ryosuke grinned and leaped for the chopper, but before he could steady his feet as he landed, someone grabbed his hood from behind and slammed him to the ground down below. When he shook off his dizziness, he saw Elise standing in the chopper, her back against him. Although she turned her head around a little, he wasn't sure whether she was looking at him or not.
"Make sure nothing happens to Golden." She ordered in a calm demeanor.
Ryosuke smiled at her as the chopper flew away swiftly, although she might not have caught it.
"Can you believe it? It actually freaking worked!" Ryosuke said, getting back up on his feet and looking at his left side. There was someone standing there. A tall Mystes dressed in black. He had shoulder-length black hair and black eyes that gives out despair and emptiness.
"I don't give a darned shit about your pathetic love life." Kuvestar said, "But I give you credit for sending her away. You've done the unexpected."
"She loves me! Ha ha ha ha! She loves me!" Ryosuke chuckled dreamily, "It seems that she cares about me after all! I was right to have a crush on her back then."
"I thought you love the maid now. Tch... You're still not over her?"
"She's still hot..." Ryosuke shrugged, "So, should I call our friend and ask him to get ready?"
"Not yet. You and I have something to do first."
"Ha, aren't you paranoid? Now that the Flame Hazes are gone we can quickly proceed with our plan already."
"No. I've learnt from my mistakes in the past. I do not want any interference. I'll make sure that, this time, everything WILL go according to plan."
"We're really going to set up a barrier over Misaki City? No shit?"
"Save your powers, boss. The Flame Hazes are never coming back... ever. Arken will make sure of that. Let's just ask dude to come out and finish his job."
"You can never be too cautious, Ryo."
"Fine... Let's do a little checking on the surroundings and make sure that nothing goes wrong with the barrier too after we set it up."
"That's the spirit, Ryo..."
"Ai-chan, get up already! Do you have any idea what time it is now?"
"Mom… it's the holidays! Let me sleep in a little!"
"No! Get up this moment and have your breakfast!"
"Mom, go away! I still want to sleep!"
Ai's mother gave her a really painful twist in the ear that made her scream.
"Ouch! Okay! Okay! I'm sorry! I'll get up! I'll get up so please stop!"
"This will teach you a lesson about being rude to your elders! Have you learnt your lesson, Ai Takasu?"
Ai whimpered and massaged her ear before her mother said, "Breakfast is ready on the table. There's his share too, so don't finish up everything."
Now Ai seemed to have shaken off her morning grogginess which she always had. Last night, she had found Michiru lying under the tree outside her house when she looked outside the window. She never liked looking outside the window, especially when at night, but good thing she did, or else she would not have found him unconscious and would be unable to treat his wounds.
He did not wake when she shook him last night, and that scared her a lot. She wondered if he was beaten up unconscious, or he fainted all of a sudden. Maybe the latter, since there were no signs of beating she could see. However there was a small lump at the back of his head. She had quickly brought him back into the house and treated his wounds. He was probably still unconscious.
After wolfing down her breakfast, she headed to the room where Michiru was currently resting. She went over and touched him on the forehead. No sign of fever. She knew he was safe from his breathing. It seemed to have become normal. She gave him a silent prayer, and soon enough, Michiru woke up.
"Senpai, you have awakened!" Ai said happily.
"Ai-chan?" Michiru murmured, squinting his eyes while he looked at her. He felt rather groggy. He put his hand on his temple. "How did I... get here?" He said weakly
Ai sat beside him, looking concerned. "I found you outside my house last night, right under that tree. You were unconscious, so I brought you in here to rest."
Michiru shut his eyes and thought about last night. All the memories seemed to be returning to him. He had pretended to faint when he was awake, tricked Wilhelmina, and when he was caught in the act, she had ran off. He went out to look for her and talked to her. Then Ryosuke interrupted them. He knocked him out and took Wilhelmina away...
"Damn..." He cursed. He hoped that Ryosuke would not do any harm to Wilhelmina, although he would not dare to anyway. Wilhelmina could protect herself, and he would have at least four Flame Hazes to answer to if something were to happen to her.
"Are you feeling okay?" Ai asked. "Does your head still hurt?"
"I feel fine." Michiru replied briefly, sitting up immediately, "Does sting a little though..."
"So..." Ai said. There was an awkward silence. She blushed. "A-about that time... At the Horror House... I'm... I'm sorry I... threw a temper at you. I must have spoiled everybody's mood, didn't I?"
"Well..." Michiru said, knitting his eyebrows; after everything that had transpired so far, he was barely able to recall it, "Keisaku got jealous, Tanaka said something about his crush... Wait, was it the other way round? Then Ogata-san stomped my foot. So, yeah I guess you did. But I was the one who caused it, so it's my fault, I deserved it."
"N-no..." Ai said in such a soft voice it was barely a whisper.
"I should have told you that I was going to be with some friends. I'm sorry for being so insensitive." He said, "I... errr... used to study in a guy's school before this, so I'm not very good at this kind of stuff... I intended to bring you to meet my friends, and we can have fun together. I didn't know you were thinking about a one-on-one date."
He lied. The reason he had gotten a little intimate with her was to find out whether she was Kojiro Takasu's sister, and to use her as a hostage.
"Don't apologize! I should be the one! I... I got overexcited about a date with you, so I was disappointed, and I... I was being really awful... I..." She looked close to tears.
"I don't blame you for anything." Michiru said in a reassuring tone. "Because you were not at fault at all. And can we drop this? It's not a happy thing, nothing to discuss about. What matters most now is that we're talking again, that's most important."
Ai nodded, although she looked like she was about to burst into either words of apology, or tears.
"Thanks for taking care of me," Michiru said, "But I have to go now, I can't stay any longer."
He stood up. Ai looked as if she wanted to push him back to bed.
"Where are you going to?" Ai asked exasperatedly.
"I'm going to go find..." He paused for a moment, "Yuji. He's my classmate. I live with him currently."
"A guy?" Ai asked.
"Well... Yeah..." Michiru said, feeling that Ai was rather peculiar. He was sure he had used the word "he".
"Oh... Oh..." Ai said, looking embarrassed, "I'm sorry... I... I shouldn't have asked... Err... err... you want to go then... Ok... Ok..."
"Why are you so nervous all of a sudden?" Michiru smiled.
"No no no! I'm not! I... I... I just... I... Oh!" She jumped slightly, "Mom has prepared your breakfast, so... can you go after you've finished it? Please?"
"Wow... Is your place a hospital or a hotel? Such great service..." Michiru commented, making Ai blush even more. Maybe she was thinking about other stuff when he mentioned the word "hotel".
He ate his breakfast quickly, thanked Ai and her mother, and left the house. He let out a sigh of relief. That girl was indeed bad news. Just his luck, to be saved by her when there were so many people living within the vicinity.
He did not know where to go to look for Wilhelmina; Ryosuke could have brought her to Antartica, so he decided to head home and see if Yuji or Shana were at home and if they knew about Wilhelmina's whereabouts. After some walking, Shana miraculously appeared in front of him a few feet away, her hands on her waist, looking extremely cross. She stormed towards him, her eyes staring angrily at Michiru.
"Where is Wilhelmina?" She asked, her angry eyes indicating that if Michiru did not give her a satisfying answer she would eat him alive.
"I was about to ask you the same question. I have no idea." Michiru said, trying to keep his tone as calmly as possible, but he was already feeling even more scared than the time they confronted Sabrac.
"You were with her last night. And she has not returned until NOW!" Shana said, pronouncing each word slowly, ending her sentence with a yell. Gosh, she was indeed furious!
"I was with her only a little while. Then Ryosuke knocked me out and took her somewhere else." Michiru said truthfully. Shana's eyes seemed to relax a little.
"What?" She said.
"Yeah... She actually followed him, rather than take him away by force. That's what makes it strange." Michiru added.
"You are not lying, are you?" She demanded, "You didn't take her somewhere and slept together-"
"No, I didn't!" Michiru spoke loudly. He would never dare to do that, not even in his wildest dreams. "Like I said, Ryosuke took her, and I don't know where they went."
He recalled that Ryosuke had said he was going to bring her to a church and get married, but anyone with brains could tell that it was a sarcastic lie.
Michiru noticed that Shana suddenly looked very calm. She shut her eyes, as if trying to feel something.
"What's wrong?" He asked.
She did not reply. Her eyes still shut. Abruptly she opened them, put on her black coat that seemed to come out of nowhere, and drew her sword, the Nietono no Shana. "Fuzetsu." She said coolly.
"You can't be serious!" Michiru groaned. He knew Shana was somewhat of a hothead with a short temper, but this was too much for him to take. She was going to kill him for something he had not done?
"Get out of the way..." She said, unexpectedly looking very aware. Her eyes darted around, as if searching for something, or looking at a bouncing ball.
"What?" Michiru was somewhat startled by her change of attitude.
"I feel an aggressive presence. Someone is out to kill." She said.
"And that gush of energy seems to be emanating from a Flame Haze." Alastor pointed out.
"Go and get Yuji." Shana ordered Michiru, "Find an excuse and take him out of town. I have a feeling this battle will be an aggressive one, and I don't want him to be in danger. He will come no matter what if he knows I'm fighting."
"He'll be at home, right?"
"Be careful, Shana-chan." Michiru said and quickly left. He pondered whether to tell Yuji the truth or not. He would come for Wilhelmina too if she were battling. And if Yuji were to lie to him he would feel livid as well. As he ran, he made up his mind. He certainly had not lied when he told Ai that he wanted to look for Yuji.
"I just want you to know that, I could have attacked on you without you even noticing me just now. But I don't harm the innocent. That boy was. I only want your head." Allen said when he appeared and stood face-to-face with Shana, a huge metallic cross on his right hand. He was holding the shorter end.
"Why do you want to attack us?" Shana demanded. She knew that not all Flame Hazes are friendly and make good allies, but still, they do not attack one another without reason.
"Because someone told me too." Allen replied.
"Are you hired by the Bal Masque?" Shana asked.
"No. It was someone else. I won't mention names to you; it's pointless. You won't remember them anyway after our battle." Allen said coldly.
"I have no idea why you will want to attack us," Shana said, readying her sword, "But I will show no mercy for you, even if you're a Flame Haze."
"I know. I wasn't planning to be merciful either." Allen said, "I really don't want to do this, but they will harm Lena if I don't kill you. So just shut up and die already."
"I will not die so easily. You shall be the one who will die. You'll regret picking a fight with me." Shana retorted.
"We'll see..." Allen murmured, "We'll see..."