AN: Lights, camera, ACTION.
Frau dropped his head into his hands. "I should have expected this."
Castor and Labrador froze in their tracks, and the expression on Castor's face when the redhead swiveled around wasn't murderous only because Frau hadn't yet explained himself. Below, Lord Klein's men were in a frenzy getting ready to ride into town.
"That's not the reaction a person has when he finds out his charge has run away," Castor said silkily as he stepped closer. "Frau. What. Did. You. Do?" By the last word his face was inches from the other bishop's, teeth bared like a cat's.
The blond peeked weary blue eyes at him between his fingers. "I may or may not have encouraged Teito to run away when he had the chance."
The wave of dolls that erupted around them was sort of expected by then but it was halted by Labrador's gentle hand on Castor's twitching fingers. "We don't have time for this right now. We have to find Teito before the Kor do." Castor closed his eyes as if in pain and sighed, but let Labrador turn him around.
"I understand, let's go. We'll deal with you and your great stupidity later." Castor shot Frau through with a golden glare. They left the roof in a hurry to get to the stables where the hawkziles were.
Frau let his hand run over his face and through his hair. "Goddamn brat. I told him I would help him. Why didn't he come to me for help?" The rooftop didn't answer him and Frau was aware that the one person that could was missing. When he looked up, his eyes caught the forest edge.
He couldn't see them but he could feel them. Deep in the forest, the Kor were stirring and Frau's arm was pulsing with the scythe's hunger. They needed to find Teito as soon as possible.
Running away had been easier in theory than in execution. When he snuck into the cart while the mail courier was distracted, Teito hadn't planned for how little there would be to hide behind. He lay stiff as a board under the packages for the entire ride because of how nervous he was about being caught. Luckily for Teito he had picked a day when the courier was in a good mood and not looking for very obvious stowaways in his cart. The entire trip had been filled with cheerful whistling.
When they crossed the town borders, the boy sighed quietly in relief. With hope, he still had until the night for his father to realize he had run away. What Teito didn't know was that sometime during the ride, Ayanami's carriage had passed them in the opposite direction towards the manor. By the time Teito reached the town, the manor was already in an uproar over the discovery of his disappearance.
Obliviously, Teito spent his time lingering in the town's marketplace since he had time still until the next train came. Not that he could buy anything. He had only enough money for a ticket to the next town over and what little was left over had to be conserved for food. Teito wasn't too worried about his monetary situation, thanks to Ayanami of all people. Three pairs of shirts and two pairs of pants were layered atop one another beneath his plain brown cloak. The rest of Ayanami's clothes were in his bag. Since they were of good cut and quality, Teito planned to literally sell the clothes off his back when he needed to.
In direct sunlight, Teito started to feel hot and itchy under his cloak. Everyone else around him was dressed lightly, making him aware of how out of place he must have looked in his bulky outfit. Teito didn't take off his hood but he opened his cloak and flapped the edges to get some air in. Crowded as it was, no one noticed him, or so he thought.
He kept close to the carts so he could dodge the sun in their shade. When he was drooling over one of the carts filled with sweet-smelling fruits, he was surprised by a hand grabbing him by the arm. Instinctively, Teito knocked the person's arm away and spun out of their reach.
"Who are you!" Teito demanded, arms raised. The other person, who was a boy about the same age as Teito, widened his eyes.
"What an excitable person. This yours, shorty?" He waved a familiar object before Teito's eyes. Teito blinked as he realized that it was his money pouch that the other was holding.
"Ahh!" Immediately, his hand went to the pocket where he had secured it and as expected, the pocket was empty.
"Thought so," the stranger said derisively and he tossed the pouch to Teito who caught it by reflex. By its jangle, none of the coins in it had been taken. "Next time, don't keep touching the spot where your money is hidden. You're just asking to get it stolen, young master," the stranger mocked with a tip of an imaginary hat. Seeming satisfied with his deed, he turned to leave and his long blond braid waved in farewell behind him.
Dumbfounded, Teito barely managed to stutter out a quick, "T-thank you!" before the other disappeared into the market crowd. The women managing the fruit stalls tittered at him to be more careful, making the boy flush as he realized they had all witnessed him getting scolded. He must have looked like such a naïve young lord for not even noticing he had been thieved.
Discreetly, Teito checked for his train ticket and was relieved to find it safe in the pouch. If it hadn't been for that strange boy it would have been a disaster. Determined not to get it stolen again, Teito kept the pouch firmly in hand as he headed towards the station to wait out the rest of the time until the next train.
The sunny, bustling marketplace didn't seem as safe as he thought it before.
"This isn't good, this isn't good at all," Labrador murmured when their hawkziles reached the town. They could feel the seals that protected the entire town were weaker than they were earlier.
"What's causing this? Is it the kid?"
Castor shook his head. "I don't know either. With hope though, Teito will be inside one of the buildings. Since the buildings themselves have seals he should be moderately safer in there."
Frau clicked his tongue and Labrador said worriedly, "And if he's out in the open?"
Castor's glasses flashed and he revved his hawkzile. "Then we hurry."
They took off in different directions, in hopes that they would catch sight of Teito from the air. There were three of them, they had the speed of the hawkziles and the town wasn't so large that they should have had that much trouble finding one kid. Teito though had a penchant for attracting trouble. He proved them wrong by being almost impossible to find and by the time they caught up to him he had outed himself by revealing the Eye of Mikhail to an entire station full of people.
Frau would have been more annoyed if he hadn't been impressed despite himself.
"Teito seems almost as good as attracting trouble as you were when we were young, Frau," Labrador remarked when they lit upon the scene.
Frau scoffed. "Just take care of the Kor before they start munching on people. I'll get the brat." Intently, the blond stalked off toward Teito.
"I wish he wouldn't say it like that," Castor lamented. Labrador chuckled and the two rushed at the Kor together, bascules in hand.
"This is a bit slow, isn't it?" Hyuuga drawled from his seat across from Ayanami. Since he was sitting with his back to the front of the carriage, he didn't see the two coachmen in the front exchange nervous looks.
Ayanami didn't reply, but shot him a chilling look before going back to gazing out the window. Hyuuga's eyebrows went up in surprise. Ayanami usually would have ignored him for the stating the obvious. Hyuuga smiled around his lollipop.
"Don't be nervous, Aya-tan. We'll find the little lord before long."
That actually earned him a flare of bloodlust and an order of, "Be quiet, Hyuuga."
"Shutting up now," Hyuuga said demurely, though he turned towards the front and rapped on the wood. "You guys wouldn't mind hurrying it up a tad, would you? Aya-tan's getting impatient." The smile the coachmen saw aimed at them might as well have been the smile of a demon and immediately, they whipped the horses to quicken.
Ayanami glanced over. "Hyuuga."
"Yes?" Hyuuga turned back around to face his superior in surprise.
"It would be faster if we had less people on board."
Hyuuga considered Ayanami's comment for a second before breaking into a gleeful expression behind his dark shades. "You're absolutely right! Why didn't I think of that?"
Just a few moments later, the coachmen found themselves tumbled headfirst into the roadside. Scraped up, bloody and dusty, they watched blearily as the carriage sped ahead in the distance, the dark head of Lord Ayanami's second-in-command at the front where they had been sitting.
"When we get to town, have a ship readied. This carriage is too slow."
"Sure thing, Aya-tan."
Hakuren finished his errands and was on his way home laden with bags when he saw red flashes of light coming from the train station he normally passed. "Someone's battling." Hakuren realized and ran towards the source of the light.
To his surprise, the zaiphon user was the kid he saw in the marketplace earlier. Surrounding him was a small crowd of people that was shuffling towards him with eerily stiff and jerky movements. The kid was throwing zaiphon at them to get them to back off, but either he was holding back or the people were sturdier than they looked because as soon as they were knocked down they easily got to their feet again.
The kid was yelling at them, looking more agitated by the second. "Get back! I don't want to hurt you! Get away from me!" Somehow the crowd had cornered him against the wall. The rings of red light around both hands pulsed but his crowders didn't seem threatened. One lunged and actually managed to grab the boy's wrist and the boy started screaming.
Hakuren knew what they were then and he roared, "Get away from him!" hitting them with the bags in his hands for lack of a better weapon. It was sheer surprise at his sudden appearance that managed to get Hakuren between the crowd of Kor and the boy. Now that he was facing them, he could see the sinister red gleam of their eyes that marked them as Kor-possessed. He had never seen Kor in daytime and never so many at once.
Gulping, Hakuren raised the market bags again and tried to look threatening. "Stay away, or I'll whack you into the next century," Hakuren warned. When he glanced behind him, the boy was collapsed on the ground and holding his wrist where the Kor had grabbed him.
"Hey, shorty, you alright?" Hakuren asked in vain for all the response he got. The boy was as still as stone.
"Snap out of it! I'm going to need your help. Don't play damsel in distress now of all times," Hakuren hissed as the Kor-possessed started to shuffle closer again.
"Don't get in the way, boy," one of them croaked.
"This one is ours. Move," said another, and the other Kor joined in,
"Move out of the way."
Hakuren reared back before remembering himself.
"Like hell!" He threw down the bags and let his hands light up with zaiphon. He knocked his braid back over his shoulder as he raised his hands before him to attack. "I am Hakuren Oak. I move for no one," Hakuren declared and sliced his hand through the air, sending a sharp wave of blue zaiphon at them. They were hardly deterred but he threw another wave and another, keeping up the offensive. He hoped to keep them at bay long enough for him to find a chance for them to run.
Behind Hakuren, to his relief the boy stirred. "Awake yet, princess?" Hakuren blinked away some sweat that crept into his eye.
The boy sounded strangely hostile when he answered. "Something has tainted my master. Who dared…?"
Confused, Hakuren glanced back and promptly choked at what he saw. Unfortunately, one of the Kor took his slip as a chance to charge and knock Hakuren aside. The breath whooshed out of him as his body slapped against the concrete ground. Hakuren was on his side, gasping like a fish out of water when he witnessed the Kor reach for the boy.
The Kor was torn apart before it could touch him. Hakuren squeezed his eyes tightly just once to make sure he was seeing right. When he opened them again, it was all the same.
The boy had his hand outstretched, the red stone in it glowing, and there were spindly, branch-like things growing out of his hand. He was both awesome and terrifying, and Hakuren was sure he had never felt so intimidated in his life. Then he heard the wet thunk of the Kor's host body fall to the ground. It was pierced through like a slice of Swiss cheese. The host had been an elderly man, with a face as crumpled and fragile-looking as Hakuren's own grandfather's. His legs were shaking but somehow Hakuren managed to scramble to his feet.
"Stop!" he cried. The boy—or whatever he was—gazed at him dispassionately with eyes as red as the stone embedded in his hand. He pulled his appendages out of the fallen body of the Kor's host with a slick sound that made Hakuren cringe.
"Yes? What do you want with my master? Do you dare to harm him as well?" Hakuren started to back away when those ruby eyes narrowed viciously in his direction.
"I don't mean any harm," Hakuren promised. "I would ask you not to harm the possessed though. They host the Kor, but they're still people."
The boy looked suspiciously at him before growling, "They tried to hurt my master! They tainted his fair body! They do not deserve to live anymore!" The red stone in his hand flashed and the spindly appendages suddenly grew to a monstrous length like a tree in fast-forward and hovered in the air above them.
"Everyone deserves to live," Hakuren retorted weakly, but it looked like the boy wasn't listening anymore. Bracing himself, he wound a thick band of zaiphon around each hand. It didn't look like he was going to get out of this fully intact. Hakuren didn't realize there was another person present until he laid a hand on Hakuren's head and patted it in passing.
"Thanks, kid, but I've got it from here. Take a break." Recognizing the voice, Hakuren stopped and gaped.
The man took his place in front of Hakuren, facing down the red-eyed boy with his bascule leaned against his shoulder.
"Hey there. You been waiting a while?"
"You know you can't actually destroy the Kor with force," Frau said as he casually twirled the bascule in his hands.
Teito, or rather, Mikhail looked at him suspiciously. "What do you mean?"
Since he recognized Frau, Mikhail had reduced the size of his appendages so they didn't so much loom over their entire area as just over Teito's body. The fact that he hadn't retracted them completely showed he still didn't trust Frau with Teito's safety. Frau didn't blame him because the feeling was mutual.
Reaching out with the bascule, Frau ran the head of it gently over the fallen body and the Kor that had blended into the back of its host, weak as it was with the death of its host, disintegrated into dust. "Kor are like ghosts, they can't be harmed physically," the bishop explained patiently, "You can only banish them if you've been trained. Trying to attack them the way you did won't do anything except harm their host bodies." The expression he looked up with wasn't mild.
Mikhail seemed to understand what Frau was getting at because he sneered and said, "I know that. I just don't care. They were going to hurt my precious master. I will destroy anyone who dares to harm him, Kor or human."
Frau frowned as he re-shouldered his bascule. "Teito would care if you hurt people, even if you were trying to protect him."
Mikhail visibly recoiled at Frau's words. Balling up Teito's fists, he spat, "My master would understand! I have to protect him, and even if I must dirty our hands…." He trailed off as he caught sight of and stared at Teito's fists and realized how small they were, even when he spread them out so the palms were open to the air.
Sometimes it was too easy to forget how young his beloved master was, Mikhail remembered.
Frau noted his reaction and said slyly, "Even if you have to dirty his hands?" Mikhail bristled defensively, but bit back on his retort. His master was injured and Mikhail tired of arguing with ignorant minds. He decided on tactical retreat.
"Che, I'll leave him with you now, but I'll be watching you!" Mikhail warned as he turned Teito's body away. "That annoying guy can't keep me away anymore since he's too weak now. His fault for trying to restrain a god."
Frau straightened at that. "Wait, who are you talking about?"
Mikhail ignored him. "Just remember to purify my master's body as he's been tainted by the Kor," Mikhail said as he pulled in his bloody appendages, "It's not life-threatening so I haven't purified him myself. It would be troublesome for my master if my stone got tainted and had to be separated from him." Teito's eyes closed and the stone dug back into Teito's skin as the boy himself collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut.
"Teito!" Frau caught him before his head knocked into the ground. "Brat, you okay?" He checked him over for injuries but Teito seemed fine. Frau pulled the boy into his arms and stood up, grumbling at how light he was.
"Remind me to get some real food in you," Frau told the unconscious boy.
"Bishop Frau, is he alright?" Frau almost forgot about the other kid. He was dressed plainly and had a familiar pale-haired braid.
"The employee from the restaurant," Frau said as he recognized him.
The boy bowed with the kind of perfect form one only saw from the noble-blooded. "My name is Hakuren Oak." When he straightened himself his hair, pointy features and the silver dots in his ears made it so obvious that he belonged to the Oak family that Frau was surprised he hadn't noticed the similarities before.
"Pleasure, I'm Frau," Frau offered.
Hakuren lit up. "I know, you're Bishop Frau of the Barsburg Church in District 7. You hold the highest score of all time in the bishop examination." Frau reared back in surprise at the sheer admiration that was being aimed at him. "It's an honor to meet you, sir. I'm sort of a fan of yours," Hakuren finished sheepishly.
Frau blinked. "Uhh." He didn't often run into fans of his, if he had fans at all.
"Actually, sir, I'd like to give you something. I carry it around just in case so that I could give it to you when I finally met you." Before Frau could consider the oddity of that sentence, Hakuren slipped out a book from one of his bags and offered it to Frau with a flourish.
Frau pushed Teito over his shoulder so he had his hands free and took the book. When he opened it, stars came to his eyes. Now he understood. This was a true fan. He held the glorious porn to his chest and grasped Hakuren's hand in a comrade's grip.
"Kid after my own heart, I will treasure this. Many thanks," Frau said seriously.
"No problem at all, Bishop Frau," Hakuren returned just as solemnly, looking a tad triumphant.
"Frau." The two looked over at where Castor and Labrador had finished with the other Kor-possessed and were now watching them in exasperation, and in Castor's case, barely restrained irritation.
Frau whipped the porn inside his duster. "Nothing to worry your little head about, doll-freak. Anyways…the brat? He got a little contact from the Kor. Probably he won't need more than a splash." He motioned towards the boy draped over his shoulder.
Labrador pulled a bottle from the mini apothecary storage that was his coat. "I've got it. Put him down over here, Frau. Gently, please. Now, where…ah, I see it." With deft fingers, he pulled out the cork and poured the bottle's contents right over Teito's wrist where the skin was slightly reddened. The holy water hissed on contact and thick black fumes rose out of Teito's skin like they were being poured into the air.
"The Kor was strong, but not nearly as strong as something like a Wars so Teito will be just fine," Labrador said with a relieved smile. "Thank goodness we found him before anything worse could happen." Carefully, Labrador swept his fingers across Teito's forehead to brush his hair away.
Seeing this, Hakuren turned away with a slight blush. Bishop Labrador was definitely the mothering kind of person, he thought to himself. Hakuren had thought so before when he had glimpsed the bishop at the Church but it was different when Hakuren was seeing the proof with his own eyes.
Unbeknownst to Hakuren, Frau and Castor were exchanging troubled glances. They were getting too attached to Teito. What would they do when this attachment got in the way of their duties?
Frau got up from his crouch beside Teito, wincing as his joints creaked ominously. He wasn't as young as he used to be. He dug out a packet of cigarettes as Castor calmly regarded the rest of the train station.
"So, what are we going to about them?" Frau jerked his head towards the station's other inhabitants, most of which were looking anxiously in the bishops' direction.
"I'm not sure yet," Castor admitted mildly, "But no doubt they all saw when the Eye of Mikhail appeared. The entire town will find out soon enough and then so will Lord Klein and Ayanami."
"Man, Klein isn't going to be happy when his son becomes the talk of the town right after running out on his engagement."
Hakuren jerked to attention so abruptly that it made the bishops jump. "This is Teito Klein?" His violet eyes roved over Teito's face like he was seeing him for the first time. He slapped a hand to his face and groaned, "The world is such a small place."
"How do you know Teito?" Frau said, but before Hakuren could answer Labrador interrupted.
"I think we should find another place to talk first," Labrador announced as he stood up with Teito in his arms. "Unless I'm mistaken the people over there are calling the authorities."
They all looked over and found that indeed they were. Some of the people looked like they were raring to march on over to their group with or without the police. Frau, for one, had no desire to beat or get beat by a bunch of townies so he took Teito from Labrador, threw him over his shoulder once again and headed for the exit.
"Time to go then!"
"You wouldn't happen to know any good places to stay out of sight for a while, would you, young Master Oak?" Castor asked politely as they walked swiftly out the station after Frau, trying not to look even more suspicious than they already did. By the sounds coming from behind them, they were failing.
Hakuren grimaced. "I know just the place, sir. And please, call me Hakuren."
AN: I've been on nothing but ramen and coffee for the past two days because of all these updates. You people don't deserve omake. XP
...Don't hurt me, I'll get you omake next chapter.