He opened his eyes to a golden light. Above him a ceiling seemed to spin like a mobile, intricate carvings of plaster flowers and mythological creatures dancing across the tiles. He felt like crap. That wasn't anything new, but it was still a shock just how terrible his condition was. Every breath seemed to wheeze out of him, and his leg must've been stuck in a blender, because there was no way it could still be in one piece, not with the way it was complaining. What was worse, that was the leg that hadn't fallen off. Now they matched. He was covered in a soft, woolen blanket that caught on his dry, cracking skin. He tried to sit up, but he found that upset his stomach and his spine.

"Welcome... back..." a soft voice rasped. He turned his head to see a familiar redhead wearing an eyepatch laying in the next bed over. He narrowed his eyes.

"What are you doing here?"

"Same...as you... Recover...ing," Lavi chuckled in a whisper.

The idiot apprentice looked a lot better than the last time Kanda had seen him. There were still dark circles under his eyes and his face was still incredibly pale, but the bruising had disappeared, and it looked like his bandages had been peeled off. Still, purple scars reached from underneath his cotton shirt, marring the marble skin. He was in just as bad shape as the samurai in the room.

"You look like crap," Kanda noted sardonically. Lavi lifted one red eyebrow.

"So do... you."

"How did you get here?"

"Luckily, not... the same way... you did. Took the Ark. Crowley went with. Took... forever and... a day. Got here yesterday."

The door to their room opened, and a pretty Indian nurse carrying a tray entered gracefully. Lavi immediately perked up, almost attempting to sit. Kanda could practically see the hearts in his eyes as the Indian nurse readjusted her white sari as she spooned broth out of a tureen into two bowls.

"I see you are both awake. Doctor Eve told me that you would both need liquid foods for now until you've both gotten better," she iterated with a thick accent, smiling. Her thick eyebrows accented her large, almond shaped eyes. Her skin was, of course, nut brown and clear, her hands decorated with henna tattoos despite her vocation.

"You've got to be kidding me," Kanda grumbled as he was handed a bowl of broth.

"Thank you," Lavi said in contrast to Kanda's disgruntled reply, giving his best smile. Kanda rolled his eyes. Even when he's practically dying, Lavi can find time to woo anything with ovaries. The irate swordsman had to keep himself from giving a sharp 'tch'.

"My name is Kajal, and I will be your nurse for the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy your stay here," she said pleasantly, leaving behind a trail of sweet smelling jasmine. The two of them were quiet as they stared at their respective soup bowls, not even bothering to complain considering Eve was still their doctor.

"I don't... care how much... broth I've got... to eat. She's worth it," Lavi sighed wistfully. Kanda picked up his napkin and threw it at him.

"Get your mind out of the gutter, you idiot. She's not looking for an invalid pasty white kid," Kanda snarked.

"Hey...You only... live the... one time."

"Not here in India, you don't."

"Rein...carnation doesn't... count!"

"You're looking at a product of reincarnation, imbecile."

The two of them continued for a while before Lavi started laughing and snorting soup and Kanda had to keep from smirking. Suddenly, Lavi's coughing took a serious turn, and Kanda's stomach dropped. Lavi wheezed, and Kanda began to realize he was hardly breathing. Kanda flew out of bed as fast as his body would allow, leaning out the door where their nurse was seated in a wicker chair down the hall, reading.

"Nurse Kajal! Lavi's choking!"

It didn't take long for the pretty Indian nurse to run in, assess the situation, and begin the Heimlich maneuver. When it was clear that wasn't working (Lavi was still gasping to breath, and the soup must still be in his lungs), she started mouth to mouth instead, Kanda watching with a mixture of uncomfortable concern and helplessness. How had a simple contest of laughable banter suddenly turn into a life-or-death matter?

Suddenly, Lavi started breathing well again, coughing up a good amount of soup in the process. The nurse wiped her mouth and pushed her hair back, trying to regain some semblance of order.

"Are you okay, Mister Lavi?" she asked seriously, her brown eyes wide with worry. He nodded, unable to speak for a moment. She sighed and stood up, looking to Kanda.

"If anything else is wrong, feel free to... do what you just did," she said, gasping a little. Apparently, mouth-to-mouth was very strenuous. Kanda made a note to never learn it. Well, not unless necessary. Considering his state, trying to save someone that way would actually kill him.

After the nurse left, Kanda sat down on his bed, stiffly cracking his back. His leg was on fire, and he wished that he knew what had happened that had caused him to black out in the cart. From what he remember, he'd snipped an artery. That would explain the bandage around his thigh.

And suddenly, Kanda heard snickering. He looked up, eyeing Lavi's mirthful expression.

"That... was awesome," Lavi sighed. It took Kanda a moment to realize that Lavi's little accident had gotten him to second base.

"Did... did you just... fake choking?" Kanda hissed. Lavi looked at Kanda with a squinty, very pleased green eye.

"Mmmm, maybe," Lavi confessed. Kanda slapped his forehead before suddenly throwing his pillow at the redhead.

"I thought you were dying, you idiot!" Kanda snapped. Lavi just continued to laugh, holding on to his stomach.

"You bet... you did, hahaha... the look on your... face!"

"I'm not laughing," Kanda stated seriously, giving Lavi a harsh glare. Suddenly, Lavi stopped laughing, seeing the look on his friend's face. Though their relationship could best be described as undulating between vitriol and brotherhood, for the most part they'd stuck with each other over the past couple of years. Though it wasn't automatically evident, there was real tension as Lavi realized just how badly he might've scared Kanda. Oh, the swordsman would never, ever in a million years admit that he'd been scared, but it was in his face. Lavi considered how alone Kanda had been these past couple of days, with no one but Eve to share his pain. And Lavi had acted like Kanda was about to lose the only person who might be able to empathize or understand, someone familiar...

"I guess... I'm just trying... to lighten things... up around...here. Sorry," Lavi stated haltingly. Kanda's face remained stoically flat. He got back in bed slowly, and the two of them stared at the ceiling for a while.

"If I have to suffer here, you have to suffer here. Or so help me..." Kanda threatened without looking at the man in the next bed. Lavi raised his eyebrows before smiling.

"Yeah, yeah... don't bust an... artery over there," Lavi answered.

Allen walked down the hallways quietly. The Indian headquarters was a nice, open building with beautiful stone friezes. It had originally been a temple built to the Hindu God, Vishnu, and religious imagery covered the walls in bas-relief. The Exorcist sighed as he thought about the places he'd seen, the things he'd done, and how small those achievements were in light of everything the Order had accomplished up until that point. He took a shuddering breath as he passed a window, blue moonlight spilling over his shoes.

It was nighttime, and all was silent. It was at these times that Allen enjoyed walking through Nea's memories. The aftermath of the war had left Allen and Nea at a crossroads. It had been all too likely that Nea would completely overshadow Allen and once again live, but the Fourteenth Noah had come up with a better solution. They lived together in a strange sort of symbiosis, with Nea passively experiencing life through Allen once more, integrated so deeply into Allen's conscience that they were almost one person. Every now and again Nea would wake up and talk to Allen, mostly to give advice or something of the sort. Allen had access to all of Nea's memories, but he rarely touched them in order to leave Nea at peace, dormant.

Allen was suddenly aware that his feet had taken him down a long hallway carpeted with rugs. The rooms were all closed, though a door at the end of the hall was ajar, and blue light leaked out like an effervescent liquid. Allen frowned as he neared, noticing that he was passing science labs of some sort. This must be the science quarter. High above him, the ceiling was like the roof of a cave, nearly hidden by black night. The light seemed to glow around the door, and Allen silently peeked through.

Eve sat with her back to the Exorcist, working on a typewriter. His eyes flowed naturally from the woman working late at night to the inert hand poking from under a sheet.

His breath caught in his throat as he drew conclusions of his own.

He'd been with the body the entire way to the Indian headquarters, but he'd never actually gotten to see the body. It was hard to believe that Kanda was merely a vessel for another person, and that other person happened to be lying on the table in front of the doctor. Allen watched silently as Eve took a skin sample and placed it in a device with two eye holes connected to a long tube that ended in lenses. He peered around the door to get a glimpse of the face, but it was covered by the sheet.

"Record this please," Eve said, and a golem fluttered to life.

"The specimen is exactly six feet and one quarter of an inch tall, black hair, brown eyes, of Asian descent, muscular build, with no defining characteristics. Appears to be mid to late twenties. It is in good condition, with little decomposition. The skin is still supple and flesh colored, characteristic of a body that has been dead for a few days. I will start at the head of the body before taking any more samples besides skin," Eve iterated. Allen couldn't help but watch in horrific fascination as she pulled back the top part of the sheet.

It looked exactly like him.

Allen felt panic reach inside him and rip at his heart. For a moment... The nose, the mouth, and the structure was almost identical. There were small discrepancies, such as a slight turn to the nose, a width of the eyes that wasn't present in the living counterpart, a small curl to the sides of the mouth that gave it the appearance of smiling- but all in all, it was a dead ringer. Pun unintended, of course.

The hair was splayed out and slicked back, wet from having been washed by whoever had taken care of the corpse. The face was serene, Japanese by the look of it, with a slender nose and a well defined chin. The lips were still full, but not womanish. Allen felt sick as he realized that the body was not breathing, further discomforting the Exorcist. It was too uncanny.

"The face is of stable structure with a well-defined skull. All features are present, including accessories of cartilage. There is no damage to the face."

She pulled the sheet lower, and the golem fluttered over her, no doubt video recording as well.

This time, Allen almost outright ran away.

A hideous wound sliced through his torso. There was no blood in the wound, leaving just a yellowish-red meaty substance where flesh should be. It parted like a gruesome pair of lips, revealing the mess beneath.

"The original wound was never closed, but the specimen was exsanguinated and embalmed to a certain extent. All features are again present. No discrepancies."

She continued. For modesty's sake, she'd thrown a towel over his lower half, clinically going over all the bits and pieces, commenting on the condition of such and such medical term and the color of such and such anatomical word. Allen found himself slowly stepping inside of the makeshift mortuary, not noticing until the door squeaked on a hinge.

The doctor looked at Allen so fast that he nearly shouted in surprise. She suddenly relaxed as she realized it was a friend, and Allen noted the tension in her hands and shoulders. Her face, which had been turned away all this time, looked disconcertingly calm and detached.

"Oh. It's you."

Allen took a tentative breath and stated, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. I was..."

He glanced at the body.

"...just curious."

Eve blinked at Allen before shrugging.

"Go ahead and have a seat, then," she stated. Allen took the offered chair, and he stared at the body.

"It's odd, isn't it?" Eve asked, plucking a single hair off of the thing's head. He had to think of it in those terms. It wasn't him. Yet, that bit of uncertainty lingered.

"Yes. It's very odd," Allen agreed. They were silent for several more minutes, the cold blue lighting giving the body a washed out color. It also turned Eve a pasty white, further adding to her unhealthy appearance.

"Why does it not look exactly like him?" Allen asked quietly, his eyes tight. It was as if all their fears had been solidified and presented on a cold, metal table. He kept trying to find differences between the corpse on the table and his comrade. It was like that child's game they put in the news prints: spot the differences. Yet the more Allen stared, the more 'real' it seemed that Kanda was dead.

In a way, Kanda was dead.

"DNA is a funny thing. Even when cloning by magical means, certain phenotypes will not appear even if it's in the genotype. There were certain codes in his genetics that just didn't make it through, and so there are a lot of small things about this body that are off from the copy," Eve stated. She pointed down towards its feet.

"See how the second toe is longer than the first? That's one difference."

She picked up its hand. Allen almost flinched with how careless, yet comfortable, she seemed to be with it.

"And the hands are less slender, a little bit thicker at the joints. The arms are a little shorter, and the musculature is different, though that could be put down to plasticity rather than phenotype. Of course, there is a lack of a magical tattoo over the pectoral, and his shoulders are a bit too narrow," Eve pointed out, putting the hand back on the table with a delicateness that belied her usual disregard. She was kinder to the dead than the living.

"But more or less, this is... this is him," Allen stated, his kind face suddenly becoming steely. Eve took a moment to weigh her words.

"Yes. In a way, this is him. Or it was," Eve said, sitting down in a chair. She waved at the golem, and it promptly stopped recording.

"What are you going to do with the body when you're finished?" Allen asked, almost breathlessly. It was odd how uncomfortable he felt around this corpse. He'd seen thousands, hundreds of thousands, of dead bodies before. He'd walked among them, around them, over them. Yet, not a single one had had as profound an effect as this single body, laid out along a medical trolley with its gruesome wound and serene expression.

"Well, the spells will continue to keep it in its pristine state. Even after me handling it after so many years of decay and mistreatment, the body is highly resilient. I shall keep it here for further study in one of the freezers, though I doubt I'll really need it, considering the amount of embalming they did to ensure that the body stayed intact," Eve said, waving her hands about and staring at the body almost nonchalantly, as if she were merely talking about storing away her luggage from a long trip. Allen stared at the body's feet, their outline fading in and out.

"Perhaps...we should go outside. He'll still be here, but it seems you're close to losing the curried chicken you just ate for dinner," Eve suggested, slowly rising out of her chair. Allen was only too happy to oblige.

They stepped out into the temple courtyard through one of the large, square doorways. The grass was springy beneath their feet, and the wind blew wondrously, not at all like the stuffy stillness of the mortuary with that... that thing.

"What exactly do you plan on doing with Kanda's body, anyways? What more can you learn?" Allen asked.

Eve shrugged as they stood by one of the canals that ran along the sides of the courtyard, a fifty meter wide chasm that ended with a still surface of lily pads and lotuses.

"I... I honestly don't know. I don't know what I don't know, so I don't know what I'll find until I find it. Kanda's deterioration appears to be a matter of his genetic coding, which is inscribed within that body right there. If I compare the two, I might find the difference between the two. Kanda was in perfectly fit condition when he died, and he was presumably the same way when he was reincarnated, so I believe if I compare the two body cells I might find some... some thing," Eve admitted, gesturing to the sky in an exasperated manner. She began to sway under the vehemence of her speech, and Allen was swift to give her a leaning shoulder.

"Are you alright?" Allen asked as he sat her in the grass, and she nodded her head, dark hair streaked with silver swaying back and forth.

"I'm not... not as young as I used to be. Link's already attested to that, I'm afraid," Eve croaked, rubbing the bridge of her nose. Allen sat next to her in the grass, giving her a sympathetic look as she rubbed her eyes. It was clear she'd been putting in more hours than she should have, but Allen could understand what drove her. She was desperate for a cure, for the both of them. In doing so, she was finding the cure to his predilection as well, and Allen was hoping that out of this nightmare, her dream might come true.

"You really want to help us," Allen stated. Eve looked at him with a slack look before breaking out into a dark chuckle.

"The side effect of practicing medicine is that people get better," Eve quipped. They were quiet for a while as they sat there in silence.

"Yes. I have to. I've done nothing with my life besides try to survive. The Order has been good to me, despite everything," Eve said, gesturing to her patched shoulder with a sardonic grimace. Allen felt himself wince in return, thinking of how the politics of the Vatican had suddenly soiled the Order's hospitality to this frail human being.

"You don't seem the type to pay back," Allen said.

"I'm a closet philanthropist. Make of that what you will. Maybe it has something to do with my childhood."

"And then... and then I said... 'Are you sure you want... to drink that?'"

Kanda rolled his eyes as he continued pushing Lavi's wheelchair around the paths that bent around the temple. In the air, the smells of Delhi wafted with the aromas of sweet spices, acrid dung, and humanity. Though they were fairly set apart from the rest of the city, they could still hear the car horns.

"And... you know what he did?" Lavi asked, leaning his head back to look up at Kanda. The samurai raised an eyebrow.

"I have absolutely no idea." Even though Lavi must've told this story a hundred times in a week.

"He... drank it! Drank it... without ano...another word. The poor piss-off... didn't know he'd... drank piss! Not just piss either, but... but elephant piss. That's just wrong," Lavi chuckled. Kanda tried not to groan. For a guy with such a good memory, he told the same stories an awful lot. Then again, Lavi did have a knack for keeping long accounts of people, but he tended to keep quiet about those.

Lately the Bookman Junior's mind had been on an uptick, though. He had begun reading again, though he could only manage a few pages a day with his poor health. Every now and again, Kanda caught him with paints, creating renditions of the places he'd been, all from memory. However, Lavi's concentration seemed to rise and fall, an effect of the brain trauma he'd received from the blood loss. It was clear that it sometimes bothered Lavi that he couldn't seem to pay attention to things people said or to his surroundings. Kanda tried not to notice it.

But today was one of those days where it seemed to be in his face.

"Where are we?" Lavi asked, his voice suddenly incredibly strong and succinct. Kanda frowned.

"What do you mean? We're in the courtyard, dolt," Kanda tersely answered, continuing to push Lavi's wheelchair. Lavi frowned.

"I... uh, I don't remember leaving the... the temple," Lavi admitted, his voice waning, and Kanda's face fell slowly.

"Don't worry about it. You didn't miss much. Some trees, a couple monkeys, a nurse in fish net, nothing really to see," Kanda said, throwing in the 'nurse' in the hopes that Lavi would perk up.

"Hey... no way, I missed a hot nurse! We're going back!" Lavi laughed, hitting the arm of his wheelchair and twisting around to look at Kanda. The samurai smirked and shrugged, continuing along the way.

They continued their walk, eyeing Lenalee and Crowley sitting on a bench. Crowley was gleefully playing with a frog he'd probably found in the moat surrounding the temple, and Lenalee was smiling, albeit with a pale cast to her face.

"Did you hear about-?"

"Komui? Yeah. It's sad to... say, but I'm honestly not... surprised," Lavi said, taking a filling breath every few words or so. His lung capacity was getting better every day, but even so it strained him to talk. For a while they were afraid of having to use oxygen tanks, but it seemed that Lavi was in the clear. Kanda's first thought when he'd overheard Eve talking about it with Link was a rendition of the redhead wearing some sort of zany backpack strapped with oxygen bottles. Lavi, inert and chained to a few metal tanks by plastic tubing? Not likely.

"Why not?" Kanda asked distantly as he stared at the lotuses in the moats a few meters away.

"Well... considering what... happened to me..." Lavi said confidently, gesturing to himself with both hands. Kanda suppressed a wince. Yet again, a true statement. Lavi had only stuck his nose into things he shouldn't have, something he did often. This time the nose almost got lopped off. Komui, on the other hand, just seemed to be collateral damage seeing as he'd unwittingly matched Kanda with Eve.

"I hate to say it. You make a point," Kanda admitted grudgingly. They continued walking quite a ways, both in silence with their thoughts seeming to circle like vultures over their heads. They were laden with worries, stiff with clogging death and lingering despair, only able to move from the small hope within them. Their thoughts gave off a stink, one that the nurses seemed to be able to smell with nothing but their instinct as they moved out of their way, not bothering to check on them from the sheer darkness in their faces.

Suddenly, Kanda said, "Hey."


"I've got an idea."

"What's that?"

"I'm thinking about leaving. Taking a break or something. Going places, doing things."

"I think that's... the longest sentence... I've ever... heard you say," Lavi wheezed. They trundled along, Kanda pushing but slowing down as his muscles began to twitch under the strain.

"Shut up. I want you and Allen to come along. You can find the places I'm thinking of. Allen can keep me from killing everybody within a mile's radius," Kanda proposed. Lavi frowned to himself, looking down into his lap at his folded hands as he thought about this proposition.

"Why would... you want to... do that? You've... been enough... places," Lavi asked, his curious mind ever working.

His friend shrugged as he tried to think of a suitable response. He couldn't really place any singular moment in time where it had become apparent to him. It had slowly dawned on him that his life was waning, with or without treatment. Every day he looked in the mirror, and it seemed like there were more lines added to his skin, furrowing it into a map of wrinkles. Though minuscule, they made him look as if he were almost twice his age. Despite the fact he'd gone to so many different places in his life as one of the Order, he'd never really experienced those places. They'd just been another place on the dossier, extraneous information to be used to kill the things he'd been created to destroy. Now he wanted to see those places again, reminisce a little perhaps. Not only that, but there were other places, locations he knew he'd never visited in this life. Perhaps he still had family. Maybe some of his old friends or their children were still alive.

He had never tried to connect with the person he was. Maybe it was time to do so as he was coming so close to meeting that other side of him. His hands gripped the handles of Lavi's wheelchair, coming to a halt with a wheeze in his chest. He really had to stop pushing himself so far. He looked down at Lavi, and the answer to his redheaded friend's question was suddenly clear.

"Simple. Why not?"

The air was suddenly still, the grass growing between the cobble stones of the path. The orange walls of the temple sprouted from the ground as if they'd been sown into the very earth, and the world seemed to hold still for a minute.

"When?" Lavi asked.


"Worried about dying?"

"...Not necessarily."

"You've never... been this... talkative."

"I've been saving all the talk."

"Slow to speak? Quick to listen?"

"Working on the slow to anger. Consider it my old age. Enjoy it while it lasts."

Eve sat back, pushing her hair back from her face. Her fingers came down over her forehead to rub her eyes, squeezing them shut tightly. Her bottom lip quivered as she fought her tears.

There was no way. Not even a clone would halt the progress. There was nothing they could do to stop it. It was hopeless.

At least with Parasitic users, she'd found a way to graft organs off the patient in order to repair those bits that were falling apart and to halt the progress of the dissolution and wear-and-tear that came with the Innocence wearing out the user's body. But this was an entirely different animal.

Kanda's cells were from someone who was at the prime of life when they'd been killed and cloned. The basal cells were all around 25 years of age, if not a little more, and so the cells believed they were still 25 when Kanda had been cloned into a preteen. Despite the fact Kanda underwent puberty as any other boy did, his cells had actually held a marker for age that was closer to twenty-five than nine years old when he'd come out of the tank. Not only that, but because of the advanced time in which Kanda had been incubating, a good thirty years, the cells could possibly have multiplied and 'kept the clock' so to speak.

Kanda's cells now 'believed' themselves to be anywhere between 40 years old and 70. They had copied themselves over too many times. Mistakes in his genetic code were being made. His body was breaking down, and the magic that kept regenerating him was failing because the cells blessed with the magic were almost all gone, presumably. Eve had been using a 'telomerease' treatment, an enzyme that created the 'aglets' that held together the genetic code and kept them from unraveling. That could only do so much, however, especially with so many things damaged.

She folded her hands in her lap, looking down at them. They were cracked in so many different places, both from dry skin and perforation due to age. Her hair was slowly turning grayer. Eve herself was beginning to look just as sickly as her patient. They were running out of time. She'd lived long enough, but Kanda had only experienced life for fifteen years. What were they going to do?

"This is getting us nowhere," she said to the corpse on the table next to her. "It seems every time I get closer to a cure or a treatment, I get put back a few steps."

The corpse didn't answer back.

"We need something to stop the age marker. There's got to be a way. The only thing I can think of is... well, cancer," she muttered to herself. She looked over at the body and scoffed at herself.

"Must be the disease. I'm talking to a corpse."

However, her last few words stuck with her. Cancer cells were nearly immortal. They kept reproducing and reproducing without any sort of stop signal, but they replicated ineffectively, making them useless. She couldn't find a way to stop cancer, but perhaps...

She looked at a petri dish filled with Kanda's own cells. What if she could isolate the stop signal? It would be easy, with a little finagling and some magical intervention. If they could isolate the stop signal, perhaps they could even get rid of the stop signal. The cells would replicate uncontrollably without an age marker, perhaps even creating a new series of grafted organs (a little project she'd run on the side, just an offshoot). Kanda would have spare organs for... who knew how long. He would be less than handsome, but he'd still be alive.

Her telephone rang as she played with the petri dish, and she stared at it. Her eyes tightened as she contemplated whether to answer it or not. After all, the entire hospital was on one line, so just about any phone that called them was going to be routed to all the phones. She sighed. The reception desk could get it. She turned back to her work.

The phone continued to ring persistently. She looked back at it, apprehensive. Finally, she snatched it off its cradle.

"Yes? Who is this?" she asked.

"Hello, ma'am. Long time since I've heard ya. Miss me?"

Her heart seemed to skip a beat as her stomach rioted. The Texas accent was hard to miss. She swallowed, trying to keep calm.

"I'm sorry. I have no idea what you're talking about. I believe you have the wrong number."

She hung up, her heart leaping in her throat. She closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose.

Something suddenly thunked on the table beside her, and she looked over. An arrow stuck straight out of her specimen's hand, and she screamed, nearly smacking her head into her desk as she fell out of her chair. She crawled under the desk, heart pounding as adrenaline flooded her system like white hot metal. She put her hands to her mouth as she crammed herself into a corner. As tough as she tried to be, here alone she was frightened and fragile.


"Don't come in! Link... stay out there. He's here. Close," she hissed. From her vantage point, she couldn't see him, but she knew that he was probably going to defy her orders.

Sure enough, he seemed to materialize right next to her desk a few minutes later.

"You're safe. There's nobody out there," Link assured her.

"How do you know?" she asked scathingly, pressing herself deeper into the desk. He rolled his eyes.

"Trust me. It's a CROW's first technique to use three dimensional combat awareness. Is that what made you scream?" he asked, flicking a hand at the arrow sticking out of the corpse's hand. A piece of paper fluttered on the end of it.

"Yes," Eve admitted.

"They can't make things easy. Bows are a lot harder to hear than a gun," he muttered as he straightened up from his position by the desk to inspect the arrow. He was about to remove it, but Eve made a rather disgruntled 'ah!' as he reached for it. Link gave her a tired look before removing one of his switchblades and sawing off the shaft right above its entry point. He glanced at the serene face of the body with disconcert, but he merely did his job. He was too aware of Kanda's predicament and past to really be fazed.

"What does it say?" Eve said, finally venturing out of her desk. She made sure to keep out of the way of the windows.

" 'Good day and good luck on your recent venture. We expect to see you again.' That's just perfect. They know where we are," Link sighed.

"Not like we kept it much of a secret. This is an Order run hospital," Eve muttered. She rubbed her face, exhausted.

"We'll have to leave again soon," Link said.

"But we just got here! I unloaded all my equipment!"

"Eve, you almost got clocked by an arrow. They intentionally missed. This is psychological warfare. They want us afraid, and they want us out in the open," Link said. He considered moving, but he figured this was an effort to flush them out. They were more vulnerable out on the road than they were here. The more they moved, the less time they'd have to research, and the worse condition their passengers would be in.

"Moving is probably what they want, of course. We'll stay for a while longer," Link conceded, and Eve pursed her lips.

"That's what I thought. Now what?"

Link rolled the arrow between his fingers. He shook his head. Kanda wasn't going to like what was coming next.

"It looks like we're going to have to cage our birds."

A/N: I finally have another chapter out! Now that summer is here, I should have some time to write and get these chapters rolling.

Thank you SO much for sticking with this story, even when it appeared it was going under. I plan on finishing this story, and perhaps even going beyond. ;) Special thanks goes to TheRandomGirl (I'm so glad you like Eve - though her character is finicky to write sometimes, haha!), karina001 (who's got the best insight and betaing around; I dunno what I'd do without her), and the guest(s) that posted the comments that helped keep this story going. Reviews are a writer's bread and butter, after all!

A big, big thanks to every one of my subscribers and favoriteers! I plan on getting a recognition page up for you guys soon - it's so long, it's a little unruly to do that right now, haha! I guess that's a good thing.

And finally, discussion questions: How do you like the idea of Kanda's proposition? Do you think the story is slowing down? Is there any OOC going on? What did you think of Allen's portion of the story? Are there any questions you'd like to have answered or addressed? What characters do you want to see more of? What would you say the atmosphere of the story is?

Well, that's all I've got for now. God bless you, and keep reading!