Ch. 30

'Ain't going to play nice

Watch out, you might just go under

Better think twice

Your train of thought will be altered

So if you must falter be wise'

-Rihanna: Disturbia

Komui sneezed.

It was storming terribly outside, adding an unpleasant chill to his already cold office. The Chief wiped at his nose with a stray handkerchief, feeling lethargic and miserable. It was times like these that he wished his sister were here to hand him a mug of fresh brewed coffee and one of her sweet smiles that always seemed to lift his spirits. Unfortunately, he could receive neither of those pleasures, for Lenalee had so recently been sent to Barcelona for support and the coffee wasn't as great when he made it himself.

He missed his sister dreadfully, and though he had full faith in her abilities, he could not help but worry that with each parting that they took, it would end up being the last. He'd rue the day that he get call saying that his baby sister had fallen in the line of duty. If such a day were to happen, then Komui might as well count himself dead as well.

The soft rasp of someone knocking on his door drew the Chief out of his somber contemplation, the man mustering up a smile as he called for the person to enter. His eyes befell Reever's and Johnny's forms, the pair carrying stacks of paper that required his signature. Komui deflated at the prospect of having to do real work.

"Oh hello there," he greeted a little too brightly, scribbling on a piece of paper in hopes that it would convey that he was working to his two subordinates.

"We need these forms approved by you, Chief." Johnny informed, hoping Komui would have some sense to comply for once instead of finding some absurd way of worming his way out of it.

Komui scribbled faster, brow furrowed in concentration. "Can't you two see I'm busy right now?"

Reever leaned forward—quite the feat for someone who was carrying a large stack of paper in their arms. He peered at what the Chief was writing upon and couldn't help but scowl.

"No you're not!" Reever exclaimed, clearly flabbergasted. "You're busy drawing a picture of Lenalee. And failing, might I add."

Komui covered his drawing with his arms, looking at Reever indignantly. "Am not!" he whined.

"Are not what? Drawing a picture of Lenalee or failing at it?"

Before Komui could come up with a reply, his phone rang. Praising glorious timing, the Chief gladly answered it, met with the stern voice of Kanda, the sound cracking from the poor connection.

"I've located the Innocence and about to head back to Headquarters."

"That's wonderful!" Komui beamed, glad to hear this news. With every piece they found, they got one step closer to finding the ultimate prize: the Heart.

"Yeah, sure," Kanda curtly remarked, his next words overtaken by Komui's desire to keep the conversation going as long as possible.

"So how was your stay in Bordeaux? I don't know much of the place, but I expect it can only be charming. How's the weather there? It's raining cats and dogs here, if I do say so—"

"The Earl left a message that's borderline insane." Kanda cut in, bearing an air of irritation and impatience.

Komui froze at the Exorcist's words, serious professionalism taking over him as he straightened up and sent a sharp gaze at Reever and Johnny that warned them to remain quiet. "Go on." instructed Komui after a moment's pause.

"He said the real game begins now."

The Exorcist's vague message was very troubling indeed, even more so when all the phones in his office began to ring as well, going off one by one. Reever and Johnny rushed to answer them, each bearing a similar message from various Exorcists and Finders all across Europe and parts of Asia.

Chief Komui sat at his desk with the phone still at his ear, watching his two friends scramble amongst various phone consoles to answer a different caller bearing the same message. He could see the struggle in their eyes as they fought to remain calm with each time they had to hear the message again and again. It was the very same thing he was feeling at this moment, though he himself didn't have the luxury of actually conveying it.

Instead he kept his face unreadable, finally hanging up the phone after realizing that Kanda was no longer on the other end. He stared pensively at his hands as he steeple them together, mulling over those profound words.

Just what did he mean by that?

Allen blinked once. Twice.

He was in a world of endless darkness, where physical dimensions held no meaning. And yet, they were there, if the solid ground in which he sat on was proof enough. Candles of varying wicks hung suspended in the air, providing a bit of illumination that seemed to contradict his reasoning of their being ground. The light was casting down as if there was no floor, beaming on into the inky void with no end in sight.

He didn't know why he seemed to fixate on that so much.

A pair of arms lazily encircling his neck in a lose hold startled him nearly out of his skin. He held himself well though, only going as far to give a mild flinch as he turned his head to the side, a warm cheek nuzzling his own. A part of him melted at the gesture. The other was throwing a despicable tantrum.

"Where am I?" was the first thing he dare ask, a question that was pressing on his mind.

Road gave disappointed cluck. "You can't hazard a guess, little clown?"

The nickname made the teen bristle, every fiber of his being alert for some kind of trick to happen. She noticed the way the pet name had irked his nerve, and can't help but grin. He's so easy to provoke. Just like his father.

For a moment, just one, she regretted what she's doing. This is the child of the man she had once loved. By hurting the boy, she's hurting him in extension. But he deserved it, and much more. He should've thought a little better before bringing a child into this damnable world she's come to love and accept.

That feeling of regret passed.

"Well, Allen? Care to wager a guess?" she asked sweetly, patiently waiting for a response.

He fidgeted uncomfortable and she realized that he doesn't have an answer worthy of saying. It disappointed her and she can't fight back the noise of disgust as she pulled away. The way he tensed further and looked over his shoulder brings her a bit of satisfaction though. He understood that she's his lifeline in this world they've created together. He needs her. And that brings her a bit of hope.

For what, she doesn't fully understand.

"Fine…" she exhaled slowly, conveying her disappointment blatantly to him with the droop of her small shoulders. "Since you can't even guess, I'll just tell you. We're in a dream. Your dream, to be precise."

Allen turned to her to see her fully, his confusion evident by his knitted brow. "My…dream…?" he repeated, as if the phrase was foreign to his tongue.

"Yes, that's right. We're inside your own head. Isn't it great?" That last part was added with a giggle, one that infuriated Allen to no end.

"How do I know you're not lying?" he snapped, face darkening with fury as she continued to laugh, this time at him.

Her laughter stopped abruptly, her face draining of any mirth that had been there before as she became startling serious. This sudden change brought a bit of pause to Allen as he eased up to a knelt position, eyes trained on her. Road cocked her head to the side, looking off to the distance away from him. Her eyes were strangely sad.

"I could never lie to you…" she seemed to murmur to herself, smiling bitterly at nothing in particular. It only served to set him on edge.

When she turned back to him, her expression was once more devious and playful as she stepped towards him, trailing her palm against his cheek while she began circling him. His head twisted after her so his eyes could follow her, only to find her gone. The ghost of her touch still lingered on his face, sending forth a shiver down his spine.

"Where'd you…" he began, only to become startled when her voice echoed back all around even though she wasn't there.

"You may be a clown, but it will be I who will be doing the tricks here today. Just sit back, relax, and try not to let your mind get broken too quickly."

Allen gaped momentarily as he stood at his full height, then he closed his mouth and clenched his jaw. He did not like the meaning behind her statement. But then, he wasn't supposed to. It was supposed to bother him, like it was now. And that itself was pissing him off.

Silence blanketed the world in an unnerving sort of calm, one riddled with promised threats and haphazard surprises. Tension left his body rigid as he stood there, completely alone. He waited for something to happen. But nothing did.

Five seconds. It was still too quiet.

Ten seconds. His heart was starting to race with anticipation.

Fifteen seconds. He could hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears. Was it really that loud?

Twenty seconds. The sound of footsteps nearly made him flinch.

His initial instinct was to turn towards it, to ease his mind out of this state of apprehension. But he was afraid of what he might find. It could just be Road, toying with his nerves. Or it could be something else entirely. And that's what frightened him. What if it was something so ghastly, so terrible, he just might very well break right then and there? Wasn't that the point though?

If it was who he thought it was, then he might as well get this suspense over with. And hey, who knows, he could be wrong.

Allen inhaled a bracing breath as he turned around.

His heart nearly stopped and his mouth grew dry. A part of him felt his mind begin to crumble, his sanity stretching thin. He licked his lips, lost for words even though he isn't entirely surprised. But he is. He can't deny it. And he nearly laughs at how silly this all is. Why is he surprised by something that he knew would happen?

Then the feeling that almost compelled him to laugh twists so sharply that he now wanted to cry. Because he's breaking, and nothing has really happened yet.

Body racked with trembles, Allen looked to his new guest with eyes glossy and red-rimmed. His throat tightened, and it's suddenly a little harder to breathe.

He gasps the one word his mind can muster, and it comes out as a question.


The clown gave a warm and endearing smile as he drew up to him. Allen didn't want to believe that what he saw was real, but it was too hard not to. Maybe that's why his guard slipped just a fraction. It was just enough for him to ignore the sudden patter of rapid paws running across the nonexistent floor, heading towards him.

It was the sound of barking that really grabbed his attention, forcing the boy to look away from his clown-garbed father to see what was approaching. He found, to his amazement, that it was Tramp, the little terrier leaping into his arms eagerly.

Allen nearly laughed as the dog for which he had not thought about in years nuzzled its wet nose against his cheek, yipping gleefully.

Everything felt like a…

Cold dread surged through him, and as he began remembering what Road had said about not losing his mind, it was too late.

Canine teeth clamped ruthlessly on the soft flesh of his throat, gnawing viciously, and his stomach twisted and burned as a thick barb erupted from his middle in a blossom of blood.

Allen struggled not to cry, fought against the burning sensations in his eyes. So instead, he surrendered himself to another emotion that was, in hindsight, far more despicable than the one that wanted him to sob.

He started to laugh.

Not because of how ironic the situation was beginning to feel or because of his own stupidity for letting himself just momentarily forget where he actually was. It was because he could feel it. His mind was starting to teeter back and forth, already fragile from a harsh life that felt to be decades ago. And there was nothing he could do about it.

He was about to shatter.

Road sat with her back pressed up against the wall space of a brick building, legs drawn out. Gentle fingers ran through Allen's white locks in a soothing manner, his head resting peacefully on her lap. The blood from his left eye socket had begun to coagulate, caking that side of his face in a thick layer of gore. But that didn't bother her. In fact, she thought it was kind of beautiful.

Briefly she looked to the Exorcist General, noticing his hands twitch with unconscious spasms. He was just sitting there though, staring blankly at his lap. That was good enough for her.

A curious smile slowly grew on her face as she continued to stare at him. She wondered what was going inside his own head right now. She had just placed him in an endless void after all. Maybe now it was time to bring it up a notch. I wonder how much harder it'll be to make him scream, she wondered to herself.

Kevin Yeegar did not like the looks of this place.

The space around him was nothing but darkness, distilled only by the few candles that hung suspended in the air. An eerie sort of quiet befell this place, setting the Exorcist General on edge.

"Welcome, General Yeegar." Road greeted sweetly as she walked out from behind him, twirling a pointed candle around her nimble fingers. "I hear you were a teacher. Is that true?"

Yeegar eyed her warily, keeping his face keenly neutral.

"Well are yah?" she asked with a hint of impatience.

"I was…" he relented, tone guarded. "But who, may I ask, are you?"

"My name is Road, and I'm from the clan of Noah, ever heard of it?"

"Clan of…Noah?" the General repeated, the words sounding distantly familiar.

Road stopped in front of him, smiling up at the man. "That's right. We're the true apostles who've sided with the Millennium Earl and his akuma."

"Why would a human ever dare to do such a thing?" Yeegar questioned, voice tightening with barely permissible disbelief.

"We're not human," Road waved off with a simple giggle. When she sobered she added, "We're super-human."

The Exorcist General appeared skeptical, but paid close attention. He watched her closely as she began pacing again. "Your body language suggests that you believe what you say to be true," he pointed out. "But that doesn't make me believe it."

"Fine, then let this dissuade you from your preconceived notions, you old coot." With a flourish of purposeful hand motions, the darkness began to lessen and her body began to fade away until there was nothing left.

Soon the General found himself in a place that he very much dreaded, one that he had thought he had left buried deep inside his heart. Perhaps that was the reason why it was being brought up, to be exploited as his unfortunate weakness. If so, then this girl knew him well, however that was possible.

Though his face remained stern and unaffected, his heart raged with turmoil as he stood in front of the small school house he used to teach at until life took the unexpected turn that would lead him to where he was today.

Yeegar watched his younger self gaze at his fawning students huddled around him, all eager to gain his attention. The further he watched, the more his heart twisted with the shackles of despair pulled tight within the confines of his chest. It ached for him to watch this play out, all those oblivious to what only he knew. The carnage that was to follow.

"Stop this now." Yeegar hissed, knowing that the strange child would hear his demand.

Road appeared behind, form strangely translucent as she rocked back and forth on the tips of her toes to the balls of her feet. A thin smile stretched across her lips, pulling back on the youthful roundness of her face and making the girlish planes sharper than what they appeared to be. In just that one moment, a flash of a much older person took over her features.

"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" she mocked cruelly, making sure to remain outside his line of vision. It wasn't too difficult, given the man's age and deteriorating eyesight. "Now wasn't there a student of yours who turned herself into an akuma? Joanne, wasn't it?"

The General refused to answer, though the way his hands clenched into fists was enough for Road.

The scene changed, morphing into the inside of his old classroom. Children stood around a particular girl who's face remained blank and pale as her fellow classmates greeted her with the utmost enthusiasm.

"Why isn't that her right there?"

Indeed it was. That ignorant girl who let her own grief take a hold of her heart too tightly. She stood there, quivering slightly. None of his former students seemed to take notice. Perhaps if they had, things might have ended differently. Or perhaps not. Either way, General Yeegar could not allow himself to endure such a cataclysmic event ever again.

Just as Joanne was amidst her transformation and the other children took notice, the General lunged forward, swinging the length of one of his chains towards the immerging akuma. The blow landed, resulting in a satisfactory explosion that denoted the akuma's extermination. A sense of fulfillment bloomed inside the old Exorcist, one that was quickly squelched when he noticed the door open and Joanne walk, the other children unaware of his prior actions.

This stunned Yeegar, allowing Joanne the time to transform once more into her akuma body and this time kill all of her classmates. Blood and dust flew, leaving the mark of death on all the walls, the desks, and the floor. A dank haze obscured his vision, making it hard to make out what was happening. When the smoke cleared, the scene had rewind itself again. His former students stood circled around Joanne.

"You're an Exorcist. Shouldn't you be slaying the akuma?" Road's voice taunted, echoing all around inside his head. "They were just innocent school children, it's too bad you weren't as strong back then, otherwise you could've saved them."

General Yeegar could not say how many times he witnessed this one scene, how many times he destroyed Joanne, how many times he failed. He'd attack and Joanne would then return. It went on endlessly without respite. The strength of his body and mind were wavering, steadily depleting of the resources to keep going.

Sending a futile swing at Joanne's akuma shell, the General wavered when the scene repeated again. It was too much, having to bear witness to his heart's inner most torments. His pupils were dilated from the encroaching fear, heartbeat stuttering rapidly in his chest.

"Stop this…" Yeegar repeated with a voice reduced to breathless pants and desperation. "I beg you!"

His students were slaughtered again just as Road's laughter filled the air, mingling with the sounds of screams.

Though his will had once been strong, Yeegar could not stand to bear this torment any longer.

Hands that shook clutched the sides of his head and the General let loose a scream of his own, the sound withering with grief and failure. He fell to his knees, scrunching his eyes shut and moving his hands to his ears. His attempts of escaping this nightmare were futile however, and even though his eyes were close and his ears were covered, he could still see it and still hear it.

The darkest day in the General's life repeated endlessly without pause, Road's illusion ensnaring his once keen mind inside a web of torture and insanity.

He just wanted it to stop. Just wanted it to end.

Narein woke suddenly to the sound of unrelenting cannon-fire. Senses jolted into awareness by the noise, he sat up too quickly and a sharp spasm of pain assaulted his body, causing him to gasp. The stench of burnt flesh and metallic blood was stuck in his nose, sending his stomach into rolling fits. He made to retch, but nothing but hot bile and blood would come up.

"Try not to move so much, or you'll start to bleed again." Lenalee advised, sitting beside him as they stayed sheltered outside the entrance of a bakery.

The young Finder looked to her with blurry eyes. It took him a few seconds to realize that his own blood was clouding his vision, and it made him gag.

"H-How long was I out?" he asked, voice gravelly with disuse.

Lenalee tried to appear sympathetic as she replied, "Just a half hour if I had to guess."

Narein nodded, although the action brought him a bit of pain.

"Lenalee, your help over here would be very much appreciated!" Daisya shouted, kicking his bell as hard as he could at a cluster of encroaching akuma.

Lenalee informed him that she'd be there soon before turning to Narein. She stared at him right in the eye, a strange look rising up in the amethyst irises. "I have to go. Don't move unless you have to. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Narein leaned back against the sturdy foundation, exhaling a wet sigh as he watched Lenalee rush off into the din of battle.

She never did say what her eyes told him, and for that Narein was glad. He didn't need to hear it, didn't need to be reminded of the possibility that grew more and more true with each ounce of blood he lost. She was wrong though, she had to be. He was going to be fine. He would just wait this all out and hope Allen was alright. His best friend would come and assure him that he'd live, that his wounds were merely superficial. Then they'd head back to their new home to recuperate, maybe share a few laughs for the other's benefit. Everything was going to be fine.

A sudden tightness in his chest warranted a round of chilling coughs. Though his arms felt like deadweight at his sides, Narein managed to bring up a hand just in time to cover his mouth. Hot liquid landed on his palm, the substance thick and sticky to the touch.

Thinking it just wads of saliva and mucus, the Finder let his arm fall back to his side, unaware that his hand was stained red.

Allen rolled and thrashed upon the black ground, screams cut off by the set of teeth digging into this throat. He heard each rib crack one by one as Mana continuously kicked him, the man shouting words that Allen didn't bother to pay attention to after the first minute. All around them the people of the circus he grew up in jeered their enthusiasm, spitting out words that would've made him cry had he the will to listen to them.

He struggled to fight, but his heart wasn't truly in it. After all, he'd never dare lay a hand on Mana. Even if the man was beating him to death.

His vision began to darken when he felt a particularly sharp, stabbing pain shoot up his right hip. Pain ebbed into numbness as his senses began to fail him. Smell, taste, touch, hearing all left him and just as eyesight began to do the same, a different type of darkness suddenly shot out from the endless abyss.

The clown and dog paused in their work, turning their blank gazes over to where a hooded figure stepped slowly forward. The figure carried its own luminance, setting itself apart from the black stain that was the space they were in. Mana and Tramp watched the person closely, mirroring the looks of intrigue that Road herself had at this moment even though she was not physically there.

Allen didn't understand what was happening when Tramp suddenly darted off of him and Mana's blows seized. Looking about him, his eyes fell upon the tense figure that stood waiting for the terrier to come at him. He wore a tattered and bloodied Exorcist coat, deep hood pulled over his head and bushel of white hair covering his eyes and the scar that was sure to be there. His left arm was in the shape of a mighty claw, one that appeared to be out of proportion with his body.

It was him. He was it.

A wave of confusion assaulted him as he sat up, unaware of the fact that his once damaged body was inexplicably mended. He watched with rapt attention as his doppelganger attacked Tramp without hesitance, swiping at the dog with a strong blow that ripped him in half. Tramp gave a high pitched yelp before melting away into the darkness. The copy took a moment to mourn the terrier's passing until he was assaulted by Mana, at which point, he promptly spun away. The boy's lips moved, uttering words that could not be heard.

Things got even stranger after that. Before Mana could send another blow at Allen's copy, another, separate figure tackled the clown from behind, trapping him in a headlock as he was pinned to the ground. The newcomer had no features Allen could readily make out, his body mere black shapes wearing an expensive looking white cloak. The thing—for Allen dare not call it a man—pounded ruthlessly on the clown's back, left unimpeded even as the doppelganger approached. In fact, his copy joined in, thoughtlessly tearing at Mana's body in a manner that Allen could hardly stand to watch.

Allen swallowed hard and kept his eyes close as he turned his head away, body trembling as an image of that strange pair destroying his father arose in his mind's eye. Ghastly screams filled the air, bouncing off of nonexistent walls. The sound of splatters accompanied them, making Allen's stomach spin.

When the screams had long since silenced, the young Exorcist chanced taking a look, his eyes boring into the figures as they stood in front of each other. The two beings stared at one another, holding a conversation that was not expressed through words. Neither moved, transfixed with the other as they continued to speak in their strange form of communication.

After a few curious head tilts and wild gesturing, the two seemed to have reached a suitable agreement for they both turned their heads over to Allen. The Exorcist tensed as they stepped towards him in delicate pacing, matching each other's steps. He thought to run, but realized there was nowhere for him to go, nowhere to hide. Besides, he probably wouldn't be able to escape them anyways.

In seconds they were upon him, standing over him as they stared down. Both appeared captivated, though it was hard to say why when he couldn't read either of their facial expressions. His doppelganger looked to be politely gazing and the shadow man couldn't stop grinning. The thing had had it on his black face the entire time he had emerged into this strange dream.

"Who are you?" Allen questioned anxiously, scooting away just a bit. "What are you?"

The reply resonated inside his head, bearing two voices that mingled harmoniously with each other to produce a pitch and tone that was indiscernible and genderless.

'Don't be afraid.'

Such a short statement brought inexplicable calm to Allen as he sat there, fully believing their words to be true. He felt at ease upon hearing it, suddenly very trusting of this bizarre pair that stood before him. Whatever was to happen next, he knew it would be alright. He was prepared to face whatever circumstances were to come next.

His doppelganger and the shadow man shared a look before the latter stepped forward, resting a black palm upon Allen's forehead. The copy stood on guard, rigid in tension as he stared out into the darkness. Unspoken words passed between the pair before the doppelganger darted swiftly away, charging headlong to face the wave of circus folk that were being sent in by Road in an attempt to disrupt whatever was transpiring.

'Close your eyes, and count to five.'

Allen did as instructed, eyes falling shut as he took in a few measuring breaths. He felt at peace, willing to do or accept anything that may be presented to him.






Road was caught by surprise when Allen suddenly jolted awake, his only functioning eye opening. The two stared at each other for merely a second before a strange look came onto the Exorcist's face that Road didn't like. The Noah girl tried to move away, but the boy possessed astounding lightning fast reflexes, his left hand wrapping tightly around her throat. She gasped, hands clawing at the one grasping her neck.

"Let…m-me go!" she rasped in between breaths, kicking and scratching him. She even ran her nails along the bloody mess on the left side of his face, but that brought no affect. He just stared at her, a look of despair on his features.

Sitting up, Allen caught Road once more by surprise as he leaned forward and captured her lips with his. Road went rigid, eyes wide with shock as she was kissed by the Exorcist boy. The kiss wasn't much, lacking heated passion and love. What it carried was only regret, a taste she had become most familiar with.

Pulling away after a few seconds, he leaned his forehead against hers, exhaling softly. He mumbled something that Road couldn't catch, and she strained to hear what he was murmuring until he punched her in the side of the head. His hold around her neck lessened and the resulting blow to the head sent her flying to the side. She hit the brick wall of a building hard, crashing unceremoniously to the ground.

When she picked herself up, she noticed that the Exorcist's face had gone cold, a cruel glint flashing in his eye.

Road rubbed at her broken jaw, pushing it back into to place so that it would mend properly. "What the fuck was that?" she questioned darkly, far past being coy and playing games at this point.

Allen's reply came in the form of action, the boy charging at her and slamming her back into the wall. Stone cracked at the strength of the force, denting to form a small crater. Road felt one of his hands go across her face and he began to push and pull her head repeatedly against the alley wall. After enduring this six times in a row, Road grew fed up and braced her feet against his chest. Mustering up an abundance of strength, she delivered a kick with enough power to dislodge him from her and push him back against the opposing wall.

Stumbling on her feet, Road brushed a hand across the back of her skull, fingertips coming back a thick red. She stared at her blood—the only evidence of her prior mortality—and proceeded to lick them delicately as the wound at the back of her head healed.

"You shouldn't do things like that. It isn't very seemly for a girl to taste her own blood."

Road froze.

That statement, she had heard a similar one being said years ago.

She stared at Allen, once again noticing the similarities that he shared with the deceased Musician. Was it purely coincidence or was it…

She didn't have long to contemplate theories because he was upon her again, attacking her without restraint. Punches and swipes assaulted her face, the blows knocking her off balance. The fight continued upon the floor, the pair rolling and thrashing in a tangle of limbs.

As the battle persisted, Road felt a steady rise of pain inside her head. She tried ignoring it at first, but too quickly it became white hot and that resulted in an unfortunate slipup. Her control on both Exorcists' minds loosened, freeing them from their psychological torment.

Yeegar gradually stirred awake, eyes opening slowly to reveal just a glimpse of his tortured and tormented soul. Though he was fully conscious, his mind was still consumed by the horrors of his past repeated to him. He was left unaware of what was occurring, believing to still be trapped in his very own nightmare. All he saw was Joanne transforming once more into her hideous akuma self.

"Stand…behind me…my students…" the General mumbled as he stood up and took a solid stance. His tired eyes stared at Road and Allen's tangled forms. Readying his weapons, the old Exorcist swung forward with as much strength as he could muster, the attack hitting them both.

Allen was hit in the thigh, the blade sinking straight to bone. A part of him felt it crack, but adrenaline managed to dull some of the pain. He gave a grunt, glaring at the senile man with anger.

Road was more fortunate, receiving just a shallow cut to the forearm. Regardless, his assault infuriated her. With the flick of her wrist, she conjured up a swarm of candles and sent them flying. Most of them missed, but a few struck home and buried themselves into the General's lower abdomen. The old man gave a shout as he crumpled in on himself, holding his wounded side as he yanked back the length of chain whose knife end was stuck in Allen's leg.

The boy's eyes bugged as agony came with the knife's removal, his hands clamping over the gushing wound. He curled slightly on himself, muffling shouts through clenched teeth. Road didn't pay him mind, catching the chain that had been thrown back at her. Yanking on it, she pulled Yeegar off balance and pounced on the unsuspecting man.

With chain still in hand, the Noah girl bound the man's arms together and dug the knife end into his chest. The man convulsed once before falling silent, his eyes closing shut and his face relaxing. He fell onto his back with a hearty thump, laying still and hardly breathing.

Road then took the head of the other chain and crushed it in her palm, effectively destroying the piece of Innocence that gave the weapon power. Brushing off her hands together whilst giving a pleasant sigh, she turned to her left to check on Allen and was met by a punch to the face. The blow sent her stumbling back, knocking into a cluster of garbage.

Allen was over her in seconds, pinning her to the ground with his knees. His hands went to the sides of her head before she could stop him, turning them sharply to the right. A loud snap resonated in the air and the Noah girl's body went limp.

He stared at her lifeless body, watching patiently as it began to disintegrate away in wisps of smoke. His face scrunched up darkly, his eye steeling with malice as he warned threatening, "I'm sorry this had to happen, but I couldn't let you break this body. He's mine. Next time I won't be so kind."

"Who are you?" Road's fading voice asked.

"I think you know the answer."

When no reply was given, the young Exorcist knew that Road was gone. Leaning against the wall he now stood beside, Allen covered his eyes in a sign of exhaustion, an oddly bemused smile stretched across his lips.

He could claim this body. Take it before the other half fought him for it. It'd be his to do whatever he wanted.

The wondrous thoughts seized when pain flared to life all across his body. He fell to the floor in violent spasms. His consciousness began to fade, a fresh rise of agony reminding him that his plans were going to have to wait. The other half wasn't about to let him break the momentary truce they had agreed upon in the name of protecting their shared host. It would fight him without abandon and struggle to hold back the darkness.

It would fail though, eventually. It was only a matter of time.

Minutes dragged on, feeling more like hours to Narein as he sat there. Some of his wounds had reopened when he tried to get up, having grown tired of just sitting there waiting. Blood ran thick and hot across his soiled uniform coat, standing in contrast with the pale fabric. His body shook with tremors from the shock, skin pallid with the mark of death. Beads of sweat trailed the sides of his face, his forehead burning up. He felt as though he was both cold and hot at the same time, a sensation that did not bode well.

"Allen…" he rasped softly, voice too quiet to carry more than a few inches from his face. "Where are you? I thought you said you'd be here if I called you?"

Something must have happened if it was taking him this long to get here. Forget about the whole stupid 'not coming when called' deal. Almost an hour must've gone by without their paths crossing. Barcelona wasn't as huge as he once believed it to be. He should've seen him by now.

What if something happened? What if he was hurt? Or worse…dead?

The troubling thoughts added to his already rising fear. As he sat there, steadily bleeding out, Narein became startling aware of his own mortality. Merely thinking about Allen's death made him think of his own and how much of a possibility it was soon becoming. There were signs, but he refused to see them. He could not die, not yet. He had too much to live for, too much to experience before it was his time to go.

He was a simple man, an ordinary man. He had never expected his circus life to lead him out onto the battlefield of a secret war. Perhaps it had been wrong of him to insist on joining Allen on this insane journey. It's brought him nothing but pain and grief, and now it was leading him to death.

For just a moment, he allowed himself to get angry at Allen. Why though, he could not say in the greatest detail, but he needed someone to blame. Of course, he had no one to blame but himself. And if, should he been given the chance to do things over, he might as well admit that he wouldn't change a thing. Not even if it meant his death.

Still, it brought him a bit of ease to place the blame on someone else's shoulders.

The feeling of anger was quickly washed away by his returning fear, his heart picking up in beats.

"I don't want to die…" he admitted to himself, eyes watering and throat tightening. Tears trailed paths through the grime on his face. "I don't want to die alone."

Broken sobs followed such words as Narein began to accept his horrible fate. There was nothing that could be done to save him at this point. The volume of his cries rose at this startling realization and Narein shattered completely. He allowed the tears and snot and blood to flow, too tired at this point to move his arms to clean his face.

He hoped it didn't hurt any more than it did now.

He wanted his death to be quick.

Allen gave a pained groan as he came to, blinking open his good eye. It took him a moment to process the sight of his mentor sprawled on his back, but when he did, he immediately scrambled upright. Getting to his hands and knees, Allen let out a sharp yelp when his entire leg throbbed as weight was put on it. The boy looked and noticed the bloody tear at his pant just over his thigh. The leg had then gone numb, much like the left side of his face.

Painfully and slowly he dragged himself over to where the General lay, pulling himself up beside the man's head. Sitting back, he brought his left hand just over Yeegar's nose, patiently waiting to feel a breath. It came after a few long seconds when Allen was starting to worry. The small exhale was enough for Allen to believe that his mentor had a chance.

"General," he called softly as he lightly patted his cheeks. "General Yeegar, please wake up."

The man gave a grunt before he tiredly opened his eyes. A glazed look stared back at him, filled with pain and exhaustion.

Allen tried to remain hopeful as he asked, "Are you able to get up, General?"

General Yeegar's mouth flapped open, moving as he struggled to speak. It took him a few tries before he was able to grate out, "Was…I able to protect you…my students?"

Allen didn't know how to respond to that. He could only nod, unsure if the question was even referring to him.

The old General seemed pleased with the response, smiling softly before falling back into unconsciousness.

Left alone once more, Allen tried to keep himself from growing frantic as he struggled to think of a way to save them. There was no immediate help in the vicinity as far as he could tell. And General Yeegar didn't appear to be in the condition to be getting up and walking if his wounds were any judge on the matter. It appeared things fell to his shoulders, even though he himself was grievously injured.

Regardless, he had to get them out of there.

The first thing he decided to do was tearing off a bit of his coat tail and wrap it tightly around his wounded thigh. He fought back tears and held back screams as he tightened the makeshift bandage, able to feel his broken bone move at the pressure. He almost passed out from the pain, his vision spotting dangerously. A few deep, measure breaths was enough to calm him down and keep him awake.

From there he pulled the Exorcist General to him, burying his shoulder into the man's armpit and taking a hold of his belt at the back. When he was sure the man's weight was on him, Allen devised a way of getting them up. Through a combination of shimming and pushing, the boy was able to stand after what seemed like forever. The process left him feeling drained, but he knew that this was hardly it. It was only the beginning of a long and painful walk to find help.

When the battle was over and the fight was won, Lenalee returned to Narein with Daisya all but reluctantly following. She stood a few paces away, gazing at the boy sadly as her heart twisted inside her breast. Solemnly she bowed her head in respect, sending out a prayer to God that Narein's spirit obtained peace.

"What?" Daisya questioned brusquely, peering over her shoulder to see. When he did, his face lost the mischievousness commonly there. "Oh…that's what."

Lenalee nodded, all the while wishing she could've known her fellow Exorcist's friend more. At least then she'd have a few nice things to say about him.

The sound of shuffling and mild cursing sent the two Exorcists on edge, both wheeling towards the direction the sound was coming from. They were prepared to activate their Innocence when they took notice of the moving blob of black and white. It was then that they were able to discern that it was two Exorcists: Allen Walker and General Kevin Yeegar.

"Oh God…" Daisya remarked, echoing Lenalee's own thoughts. There was so much blood.

"Help!" Allen croaked weakly, shaking terribly as he took a step forward, dragging his right leg and with it a trail of red.

When he was about to collapse, Daisya and Lenalee were at his side, the former taking the General while the latter took a hold of Allen. She fought off a wave of repulsion at the sight of his face, blood heavily caked on the left side.

"What happened?" she asked, unable to believe that such wounds could be a result of an akuma attack, at least, not in the General's case.

Allen leaned himself onto her, wheezing for breath. It took him a minute or so to regain it, and when he did, he murmured, "Attacked…by this girl. She said she came from…the clan of Noah."

Lenalee furrowed her brow together, confused. In all her years of serving as an Exorcist, never had she heard such a term being used. Maybe he was making it up, maybe he was mistaking it for the girl's name. He was losing a lot of blood after all; he could just be delusional.

"Allen, are you sure you aren't mixing something up?" she asked patiently, readjusting her hold on him when all of his weight came down on her.

He looked at her, exhaustion heavy on his features. But amidst it was anger for not being taken seriously. "I don't forget…a girl who took pleasure in poking…my eye out. Her clan…works with the akuma…"

Humans working with akuma? Since when did that start?

"How many are…still alive?" Allen asked, distracting her from further contemplation.

"I don't know," she admitted. "Daisya—the Exorcist that accompanied me—and I took out what we could of the akuma. I think they're all gone, so if they are, I'll call Headquarters and have them send a recovery team to search for any survivors."

"And the dead?"

Lenalee instinctively turned her head to Narein, eyes clouding with sorrow. "Yes, they'll be collected as well."

Allen followed her gaze when she didn't turn back to look at him. His heart leapt into his throat and his stomach dropped, his already pale skin draining to a chalky white.

"Narein?" he called disbelievingly, pushing away from Lenalee's supporting arms.

She did nothing to stop him, gave no excuse for him to go to his friend. She merely hugged herself and turned her head away, eyes falling shut.

Allen stumbled as best as he could to his best friend, panic rising inside of him. Each step brought him closer to the bakery that Narein sat at, patches of blood pooled on the ground. The flesh at his throat was riddled with burns, the resulting wound showing signs of heavy bleeding and trauma. Allen made sure not to look at it long, but staring at his face was much worse.

A look of distant surprise held on Narein's still face, his eyes staring unseeingly up at him.

The strength in his legs went out and Allen fell to his knees. His mind didn't register the sweltering pain in his thigh, to busy focusing on his friend's dead face. Cold dread filtered into his system, causing him to surrender to painful disbelief.

Taking a fist full of his tan coat in each hand, Allen shook him desperately. "No. No, no, no, no, no, no. No!" he gasped frantically, willing for his friend to come to life. "You can't be dead. You just can't. You were supposed to make it out of this alive."

He craved for his friend to reply, but when he didn't, Allen lost it after that.

"NO!" he screamed, pushing away from Narein's corpse and falling on his back. He violently clawed at his face and pulled at his hair, thrashing out at nothing as he howled his grief for all to hear.

Lenalee flinched away from the sounds, unable to escape them even when she covered her ears. As it persisted, she steeled herself to approach and took a few steps towards him. She crouched beside him, meeting his feverish gaze but knowing that he couldn't see her amidst his panicked state of mind.

"I'm sorry…" she said with a great amount of empathy as she brought one hand over his mouth and used the other to pinch his nose. She held him like that as he squirmed, his screams muffled by her hand. It was quick though, and soon Allen passed out.

She hoped his dreams would be better than his reality.

She doubted they ever would.

End of Act 2

Author's Note: Sorry this took so long guys. But guess what? It's summer for me! Updates should be quicker seeing as how I don't have much plans of doing anything.

And for those of you who guessed it, you were right, Narein did die in this chapter. He was meant to die the moment a reviewer (pardon me for forgetting who it was, but you know who you are) suggested that he tagged along. I think everything ahead, see, plan it out before I'm even close to writing it. And sometimes, if I super excited about an idea, I write that part ahead. Just to give you an example, I wrote Mana's death scene after I wrote the second chapter. I also have the prototype of the ending written out. Eager? I believe so. But if you're worried about this story ending any time soon, don't. This story still has quite the number of chapters left before I'm through with it. I can't give an accurate estimate at this point how long this story will be, but do know that it will definitely be over fifty chapters. By how much, I'm not sure. We'll just have to wait and see.

Thank you all who've taken the time to review, favorite, and alert. It brings me satisfaction to see this story liked.

I hope you all look forward to the beginning of Act 3!

As a last note: Don't take things in this chapter for granted. There's a bit of significance in this chapter that hints at what is to come.