Litchi sat against a wall and brought her knees up to her chest. After a difficult decision, she had been dragged into whatever it was Hazama and his allies were planning
"Why did this have to happen?" she asked herself. "I don't even want to be here. I didn't even want to join the NOL. Maybe that girl was right." The words that Rachel had said to her still stood out in her mind.
"Do whatever you can do."
"I still don't understand what she meant." She kept thinking about it ever since then but she still didn't know the answer. "Did she mean do whatever I can do to save him or just save myself? I don't know. I just want to save him but I get the feeling that that isn't what she meant to tell me."
"I thought that the NOL were just trying to protect us but those two, Hazama and Carl's father. They're just evil and they're the masterminds behind everything. Hazama was the reason I came here but Carl's father... How could he attack his own son like that? He didn't care at all. And his marionette... Carl said that it was his mother. It must have been made the same way as Nirvana but to turn a person into that..." She reflected on the events that made her join what she had learned to hate.
"Hazama... how did he find my research?" It all started with him. From the moment she met him, she knew that there was something sinister about him. This was supported by the fact that she had a vision of herself trying to obtain the Azure Grimoire.
As if on cue, her vision completely blacked out and felt as if she was sinking into something. The only thing that was visible was the unnatural light of the Azure Grimoire. "No!" she yelled in her mind. She grabbed her head with her hands and shut her eyes tightly. "I don't- I don't want it. I don't want to go that far."
At first, she thought that these visions only occurred when she was near Arakune as she had seen had seen herself facing him when he called out her name followed by visions of her facing Hakumen and a Murakumo unit. Now they had been occurring more frequently after meeting Hazama and it was getting harder to resist the temptations of the Azure.
When the sensation of sinking into the azure disappeared, Litchi let go of her head and opened her eyes again. She looked at her hand, almost expecting to see something that wasn't there before. "I'm being corrupted by it. I can almost feel that it's actually happening to me right now." She knew that, even though she hadn't lost her form yet, it was affecting her performance visibly. The power she was drawing from the Boundary allowed her to easily overwhelm Tager with his limiters active. Her performance scared her making her want to think over the situation without interruptions. Although, when she thought she had gotten to a quiet place where she could think clearly, Hazama appeared again, almost as if he knew she would be there.
"He said that the Librarium could cure me" Litchi thought. "If they can cure me, they must know how to bring him back. If not, I still have time to figure it out for myself. That was the only reason why I even sided with them." She once again thought back to her 'betrayal'. Hazama and all the others might have been defeated there if she hadn't arrived.
Before the events surrounding Noel occurred, Litchi learned that Arakune had been captured. She didn't know who actually caught him though as Hazama had only told her that he had been captured. From that point on, she knew that she had become a pawn in the Imperator's plan.
During the attack by Hakumen against the Imperator, Hazama had looked over at her with a smirk. He didn't need to say anything to get his message across to her. If she did nothing, Arakune would be killed. She had no choice but to block the strike of the legendary hero.
Litchi knew that she was one of, if not, the only person who still cared for Arakune. Hazama and his colleagues would do whatever they wanted to him just to get her to do as they commanded. She feared that they would end up telling her to kill someone close to her and if she didn't, they would kill him. To kill someone she cared for to save another; she didn't know how she would act in such a situation.
The thoughts of any her friends right now brought tears to her eyes. How would they all react to what she did? Surely Ragna would have told them about her actions. Kokonoe would most likely be indifferent and probably have no problems in killing her if they crossed paths. Tao probably wouldn't accept the fact that she had joined the bad guys and would probably eagerly await her return. Tager would probably attempt to go against Kokonoe's orders to try to bring her back before Sector Seven ended up wanting her dead. Carl would lose all respect for her for siding with his evil father and aim to kill her too. She had comforted him and she even tried to defend him when his father attacked them. Now she had joined Hazama and Relius in the NOL, the kind of people that Carl hated and now Litchi was one of them. Everything that she had said to him before might as well have been a lie. Although she initially had little respect for Bang, he had sworn to do anything for her and he always seemed to be nearby for what she thought was a coincidence. He even risked his own life to save her. He hated the NOL so what we would he think of her now that she was a part of it?
The residents of Orient Town would have mixed reactions. Some may think that she had been taken away by the NOL while others may think that she was secretly with the NOL the whole time. She feared that, if she ever went back there, people would never look at her the same way again. To them and everyone else she always appeared kind-hearted and respectable but now, some of them might think that it was all just an act. She kept trying to justify her decision to join the NOL with the thought that if she stayed in Orient Town, her corruption would progress to the point where she would become like Arakune and consume everything around her.
Litchi's thoughts were interrupted by the small sounds of her panda, Lao Jiu. She wasn't entirely sure if the panda understood how she felt but if he did, he never objected to anything she did. Litchi took the small panda out of her hair allowing it to fall out of place.
"Lao Jiu" she said softly, tears still flowing a little. "You're not against what I'm doing, are you?" He simply responded with a sad look in his eyes. She hugged the panda gently to avoid crushing it. "I just want to find a cure quickly so that everything can go back to how it was."
"Yo" a voice said, seemingly coming from nowhere. She also heard footsteps approaching. The voice startled her a little but she knew who it was anyway. She also made sure to try to stop any more of her tears from escaping.
"Hazama..." she muttered under her breath.
"So how you doin', Doctor Boobs?" the green haired man asked with his usual smile. "Although, first allow me to compliment you on your performance when we all escaped. Even if he was a little injured, it still takes a lot to block an attack from the H-Man"
"Just leave me alone" Litchi responded, putting Lao Jiu back in her hair. "Also, you could at least call me by my name."
"Well we're gonna be working together from now on so we might as well make the most of our time together." Hazama said.
"I'd prefer it if you still didn't use it though" Litchi said.
"Aww, why not?" Hazama complained. "It basically sums up your entire character."
"What do you want from me anyway?" she asked, seeing no point in continuing with his pointless conversation.
"I'm just checkin' up on ya" Hazama replied. "We can't have you running off somewhere or a certain boyfriend won't be living for much longer." Litchi clenched her fists. This man knew exactly how toy with her emotions. "Those visions are occurring more often now, aren't they?"
"H-How did you-?" she began.
"Please" he said with a lot of emphasis. "It's painfully obvious. I told you that there isn't a lot that I can't find out."
"What will happen if... I actually manage to get it or if I end up embracing it?" she asked.
"Well, let's see" Hazama began. "After getting it, you'll feel good at first and by good, I mean powerful. But you can't just have a little bit of the azure, you'll want to have more and then after that, you'll keep wanting more. In the end though, the contact with the energy will cause your form to degenerate, followed by your mind, memories and pretty much everything else apart from your strength. Sounds like someone you know doesn't it?"
"You said there was a cure for it" she recalled, ignoring his question. "As soon as I know that I'm going to start losing myself, you will stop it from progressing." What she said sounded more like an order.
"Oh don't worry, that won't be for some time" Hazama stated. "After all, you help us out and we'll help you. Sounds fair right?"
"Not really" she thought to herself. "He's being held hostage so that I have to follow orders."
"I'll just take your silence as a yes" Hazama answered for her. "I don't see why you were crying earlier" he continued, shocking Litchi a little. "All of your friends probably won't give a shit about you anymore after they hear about what you did. Hey, maybe you just wanted to see what it was like for your boyfriend seeing as though no one gives a shit about him either. It's actually pretty funny when you think about it. You care so much about him, yet he barely even recognises you."
"How...?" she asked herself in disbelief. How this man was so scarily accurate, she didn't know. "I just need to endure this. It's all for his sake."
"I bet I can guess what else you were thinking" he continued. "'Everything will go back to normal', right? Wrong!"
"Wh-What...?" she began.
"What will the people of Orient Town say when their beloved doctor returns to them?" he interrupted her. "Something like: 'you left us for the NOL just to save some man eating blob!' Or maybe they'll just run you out of town for good. Or maybe..." he trailed off, giving Litchi a bad feeling about what he was going to say next. "Maybe you didn't care about them at all. Maybe all you ever cared about was him. That's the reason you became a doctor wasn't it?" His grin grew wider. "You just wanted to feel good about yourself by helping people after what happened to him. 'Who gives two shits about what they think of me. I'm just here to cure him!' That's what you thought wasn't it?"
"That's not true! I became a doctor because I can help people!" she yelled, completely losing her composure for the first time since coming here.
"Really? It's just that you seem to spend more time looking for that thing nowadays" he carried on. "I bet if we told you to slaughter every last person in Orient Town, you'd do it with no regrets just to keep your boyfriend alive. No wait, forget that. Maybe you'd let us destroy the world just to keep him alive."
"Shut up!" she yelled at him. "Do you think I'm some sort of monster who would actually do that?"
"Well then, you could say goodbye to all possible chances of saving your boyfriend then can't you" Hazama responded. "What would you do then? You couldn't return to Orient Town because you left them to join us which means that you'll be staying on our side forever."
"Forever...?" she whispered.
"Yes, curing Arakune seems to be the only reason for your existence right now" Hazama stated. "Take him out of the picture and you'll be lost. You've already betrayed everyone who might have cared about you and you can't simply reverse it. Even if that heap of garbage dies, you'll be forced to stay with us. Fate might be what brought the two of you here so do you know what that means?" he paused and looked straight into her eyes, a few inches away from her face. "You were destined to join us, Litchi Faye-Ling" he said ominously. "This is who you are: cold-hearted, deceiving and selfish. Just like me."
Litchi slapped him hard across his face. "How dare you compare me to you."
"Aww, too much of the truth for you?" Hazama mocked her, rubbing his cheek where she had slapped him. "The only difference between me and you is that I've always known where I stand. You didn't know where you belonged until you met me. You left Sector Seven because they didn't care to help you, you only cared for Arakune when you were a civilian and now you're here where people like me and you belong." Litchi was about to slap him again but he grabbed her wrist before she could hit him. "I'm doing you a favour here. The faster you get this out of your system, the sooner you can accept it as the only possible outcome." He let go of her wrist but as soon as he did, Litchi stood up and pushed him away.
"Just go away!" she shouted. Litchi turned and ran, not wanting to listen to his words She didn't know what to think anymore. She knew she wasn't like him but everything he had said hah had an effect on her.
Hazama simply watched as she ran away from him. "Should I catch her now while she's like this or do I wait until she thinks she's safe?" he said to himself. "Hmm, I'll let her get a head start." He waited around briefly allowing Litchi to get some distance away.
"None of it is true" Litchi said to herself while running. "It can't be true. I'm not like that." Images flashed through her mind of times when she was treating patients at the clinic and when they showed their gratitude. She also saw images of herself teaching the kittens of the Kaka clan various things about the world. "I know I'm not like that but... why do I keep getting the feeling that he was right? It's like I... I don't even know myself anymore. Maybe I really was trying to cover up the fact that I only ever wanted to find and cure him." Logically, this was the only explanation. She never told anyone that she was trying to save Arakune. She stopped and considered the possibility
"Hello~?" she heard Hazama call out. "You here, Doctor Boobs~?" Litchi remained where she was, out of what she thought was his field of vision and tried to remain as quiet as possible. "I know you're here somewhere so it's only a matter of time before I find you! Also, what did I tell you about running away?" Litchi prevented herself from gasping by covering her mouth with her hand. They would definitely do something to Arakune if she wasn't found but she didn't want to face this man again.
When she was sure that he had walked past where she was hiding from him, she quietly slipped away from where she was. "If he knows I was hiding, I'll make it worse for myself. If I can just get away from him here, I can pretend that I got lost while running." She continued to walk in the opposite direction from Hazama quietly but soon after felt something like a chain wrap tightly around her waist.
"Thought you could get away from me, didn't you?" Hazama said. "I knew you were there but if I 'found' you then, it wouldn't be any fun. Do I have to pull you back forcefully or are you going be a good girl and stay where you are?"
"I'll stay here" she sighed.
"Aww, that's no fun" Hazama complained. "Oh well, I guess I can go easy on you now seeing as though this is your first offence." He reduced the distance between them and when he was close to her, he allowed Ouroboros to retract. "Now, where did we get to?" he said after pausing to think about his next mental assault. "Ah yes, who do you think will still care about you now? I'd be willing to place bets on the cat and possibly the ninja but what difference does that make?"
"No difference at all" she answered quietly, deciding to just answer the way he wanted her to.
"Correct! You got it exactly right!" Hazama exclaimed. "And you know why? They ain't gonna be able to find us here and they've probably got better things to do. You're all alone here and we're the only ones who can help you."
"You... you're trying to turn me against them" she said.
"Very observant of you" Hazama noted. "You won't be of much use to us if you don't want to kill those who stand against us. They've given up on you so why don't you do the same?"
"I'm a doctor. I don't kill people" Litchi stated.
"Well, you gotta start at some point" he responded. "I'm sure that you know that me and the others can make you do anything we want. But, to me, that just seems cruel." Litchi raised an eyebrow.
"Well, now that that's out of the way I think we can summarise that: we'll all get along if we all just follow orders, okay? If you do that, you might find your stay with us all the more enjoyable. Besides, isn't it much better to be here than back in Orient Town? Here we have the means to cure you and possibly even cure him too. If you were still there, after some time, there'd be two sacks of bugs wandering around eating everything that moves and then the two of you could be together forever. So either way, you get a happy ending. It's just that one of them involves you being in a different form."
"You're right" Litchi replied. "I'd rather be here than in Orient Town right now to protect them just in case that does happen. Other than that, I'm only here because you manipulated everything around me so I had no choice."
"Did I?" he asked. "I didn't do anything to you. I offered you my help, which you initially rejected. I told you that the Librarium could cure you and I even told you where Arakune was wandering around. So you see, you joining us was your own decision. I don't recall ever telling you to join the NOL."
"He's right, he never did ask me if I wanted to join it" she thought. "How has he done this to me?" She thought that he had caused her to do all this but she had just been proved wrong. He never offered her a position in the NOL. He only told her a little about his job.
"Well, overall, did you ever consider that any of this wasn't your fault?" he asked. Litchi just looked at him in confusion. "Just think about what everything would be like now if Kokonoe and the rest of Sector Seven actually listened to you."
"If they... listened to me" she said quietly.
"Yes. It's because of their decisions that you're here right now" he said. "They pushed you to make this decision, not me."
"No, that's not true either. It wasn't their problem to deal with" she replied quickly. Hazama could tell that Litchi had thought about what he had said. After all, her response sounded like something she had just made up on the spot just to make him think that she hadn't let his theory cross her mind.
"Come on, stop lying to yourself" Hazama provoked her. "We've already established what kind of person you really are. You want to blame them, don't you? You go to them asking for help and Kokonoe just tells you that you're an idiot for trying."
"I told you, it isn't their fault!" she replied more forcefully.
"Oh yes, of course it isn't their fault" Hazama said, trying to provoke her even more. "After all, it wasn't because Kokonoe's genius made someone feel bad about himself and become what they are today was it?"
"It isn't their fault" she replied with heavy emphasis on every word.
"Aww, did I hit a nerve?" he grinned. "Well, like I said a while ago, I'm doing you a favour. In any case, as soon as you admit that it was their fault, you'll feel a hell of a lot better."
"Just leave me alone" she said as she looked away from him. "You said you just came here to check up on me, not break my mind."
"Me? Breaking your mind?" he said in a voice filled with fake shock. "I told you what I'm doing: helping you out. Now, are you going to shift the blame to Kokonoe?"
"There's no blame to shift" Litchi said.
"Well, anyway, I don't think it's good for you if you keep lying to yourself" he stated, dismissing what she just said. "If you want, I can make it so that you don't have to use your fake feelings for everyone but him anymore. That way, life would be so much easier for you, wouldn't you agree?" He waited for a response but he didn't get one. "Ah, to hell with what you might think, I'll do it anyway. You'll need to lose any of that 'kindness' if you're going to be helping us, otherwise... well I've told you several times what'll happen so you get the idea."
"I told you to leave me alone" she responded in an annoyed tone. "If you think that you-" She stopped speaking suddenly as soon as he saw one of Hazama's knives pointing straight at her.
"And I told you 'to hell with what you think'" he replied in almost the exact same tone. "I'm going to draw out that selfish side of you whether you like it or not." He walked closer to her with his knife in hand, forcing her to walk backwards until she was a pace away from a wall. "Now, I'm going to ask you series of questions and you just answer them however you want. And in case you're wondering why I'm threatening you with this, it's just to make sure that you answer correctly. In case you answer one wrong, we'll come back to it later. Understand?" She nodded in response. "First question: Who are you serving right now?"
"The Library" she answered.
"Hmm, well we don't like being called the Library" Hazama said. "We can work on that later I guess but it isn't exactly a wrong answer so I'll let that one slide. Next question: Why did you join us?"
"You forced me to join by when you captured him."
"Aww, so close but..." he began. "That's not the right answer." As soon as he finished, he pocketed his knife. His free hand then darted to Litchi's throat and shoved her into the wall. Litchi winced in pain, considering herself lucky that her head didn't hit the wall along with her back. "Next: What led you to make the decision to join us?"
"That's practically the same question so it has the same answer." She didn't want to answer the way he wanted her to. She would resist.
"I thought you would have got the hint by now seeing as though I was kind enough to give you the answer earlier" he said. Litchi tried to pry his hand away from her neck only to start desperately grasping at it when his hand began to close.
"Stop it, it hurts." she choked out. He would no doubt end up choking her to death if she continued to answer the way she was doing.
"That's the idea" he stated. "It won't hurt if you give the right answer. Now since this question is going to be the last one maybe I should give you more of reason to answer correctly." Hazama withdrew his knife once more. He let go of her neck and took her glasses from her. Hanging them by one of the arms of his pocket, his hand returned to her neck. "I'm sure you can carry on with your research with just one eye or even none, depending on how you want to play this out. Now the last question: What's the only thing you care about?" He pointed the knife at her right eye.
Litchi remained silent. The blade in front of her eye made her tremble. Was she willing to allow him to mutilate her just so she could defy him?
Hazama appeared to grow impatient with the lack of an answer. "Oh well, we can keep going until you answer and just so you know, I don't like that you're making this difficult so I'll return the favour. I hope the last look of your boyfriend was worth it because, just like your sight, he's gonna be gone too." He slowly moved the knife closer to her.
"Lotte Carmine!" she eventually yelled. She couldn't take it anymore. He had broken her.
"Yes, what about him?" Hazama said, stopping briefly.
"He's the only person I care about. I just want to bring him back no matter what anyone else thinks. Do whatever you want to me but please... please don't kill him!"
"Music to my ears." The man grinned. "Now, why did you join the NOL?"
"So I could cure him" she said, defeated. The answers came to her so naturally now. She had found that it was much like he said. It was so much easier to stop pretending.
"Who made you choose this?"
"Very good. Now a bonus question: Who cares about you?"
"There's a good girl" Hazama responded, giving her glasses back and then ruffling her hair with his hand, disturbing Lao Jiu. "Isn't this so much easier than before? You didn't do anything wrong. You just wanted to help the person you loved. What's wrong with that? Those heartless bastards at Sector Seven just wanted you for your knowledge and they have the nerve to call you selfish?" Litchi didn't respond at all. She just kept looking down at the floor. "I'll give you some time to let this all sink in." Afterwards, he walked away, leaving Litchi where she was.
"Oh yeah, Doctor B- " Before Hazama could finish, he received a glare from her, preventing him from finishing. "Oops, I mean Miss Faye-Ling" he corrected himself with clear emphasis on her name. "The Imperator wants to see everyone so you can accompany me. That was why I came to see you so I guess I kinda got a little carried away and forgot about it." Litchi didn't say anything in response. All she did was follow him.
"Everything he said... it's all true" Litchi thought to herself. "I've just been lying to myself the whole time. This is… where I belong."
"You're late Hazama" Relius said when Hazama and Litchi arrived where they were supposed to be some time ago.
"Sorry, I got a little side-tracked when I went to go fetch her." Hazama scratched the back of his head. "But I think you'll find that I did a good job in the mean time."
"Really? And what job might that be?" Relius asked.
"Well you can say hello to the new and improved Litchi Faye-Ling" he said proudly. "I can guarantee that she'll do anything for us as long as we keep that thing alive."
"She would have done that anyway so you've wasted all of our time" Relius replied.
"Ah but before, we couldn't be sure if her emotions would get in the way" Hazama began. "So I guess I should rephrase it as: she'll do anything for us without question. The reason being that: I was able to pull the dormant part of her personality out for the entire world to see."
"Oh? And what was this dormant personality?" he asked.
"I only ever cared for him" Litchi answered him. "Everything else was meaningless."
"You heard her, she'll be like this forever thanks to me" Hazama grinned. "She'd destroy an entire city for us now and would keep going until we tell her to stop."
"That will be enough, Terumi" the voice of the Imperator cut in who then appeared before the group. "I shall be sure to test your theory in due time."
After the meeting was over, Litchi was sent back to her quarters. She was relieved to find out that Hazama hadn't followed her so she was alone. She still hadn't let what Hazama had said to her sink in yet. As much as she didn't want to believe it, it was all true. She did only care about Arakune. She did hate how Kokonoe refused to help her. She didn't need anyone else unless they could help cure him. All of the people she had met were useless.
At that point, her vision began to fade again. She was expecting to feel herself sinking into the Azure again but this time, there was a blinding light that wasn't from the Grimoire. When it cleared, she saw that the area where she was now was not where she was a few seconds ago. The only people at this place were Hazama and herself. She concluded that this must have been one of those visions of another timeline almost like the time she faced Arakune before.
"I was gettin' a little bored there. Thanks, lady. Now I feel all energised" Hazama said as he began walking away from her. He wasn't wearing his hat and his hair had become spiked. She concluded that she must have just fought him a moment ago.
"High concentration of seithr?" she said, sensing it all around her. "Are you trying to resurrect the Black Beast?"
"The Black Beast? What would I want with that failed experiment?" he asked.
"Failed experiment?" she asked, not believing that the thing that caused the Dark War could be considered a failure.
"Well, yeah. Didn't I say that?" he said. "A huge failure. But that black trash heap you're in love with? Even bigger failure." The vision ended there. Although she could still hear Hazama's voice before she could see again.
"This world is nothing but lies! Lies! Lemme show you what I like to call the truth. The truth called despair!"
"He called him and the Black Beast a failure..." she thought. "Then that means... He created the Black Beast and did this to him. Then... he was manipulating me. Everything that he said to me was just to turn me against everyone, and he was the one behind this from the start... it's his fault that I became like this."
Litchi tried to recall how she felt when she was helping the patients, or teaching the Kaka kittens. The feeling was one she enjoyed. Helping people was something she liked to do. "I might be selfish from what he said but that's not the only 'me' there is. My kindness didn't come from nowhere. It was genuine. I did enjoy living in Orient Town. Everyone there respected me for who I was even though I never told them that I was searching for him." She realised that there was only one person that actually knew about what she was doing regarding Arakune. That person was Ragna even though she had only just met him at that point. She thought once more, and realised one thing... she was scared. Scared that the people of Orient Town would consider her selfish and reject her for trying to save what they knew as Arakune.
She also remembered something else that she had said to the elder of the Kaka clan...
"Litchi, when you found what you're looking for, would you leave this town?"
"No. Orient Town is my home now. And its people need me..."
"I was just scared of what they would think of me and as a result, I let this happen. I will go back to Orient Town and when I do, I'll tell them everything. I don't have any reason to hide anything anymore. That I've been selfish. If they hate me for it, then I deserve it. Orient Town is my home, after all."
Her encounter with Hazama made her realise that she had another side to her. She had a darker side, that being a selfish woman who abandoned those who cared for her if they couldn't help. "This selfish part of me… I don't like it but it's part of me. It may have brought out but I know the truth now and if I acted on it I know I'd do something I'd regret. Before that happened to him, I know I wasn't as selfish as Hazama said. That selfishness was always there deep inside of me but I just never showed it back then. Back then, I was happy. I was with him before all of this happened so I had every reason to be happy."
"If I didn't join the NOL, I'd have died or become completely corrupted without any hopes of finding a cure and everyone who cared for me would be in despair. I suppose this might be the right choice after all... the wrong choice is to give in to what Hazama wanted me to be like. So for Lotte, no, for everyone, him included, I have to hold on. I won't let myself fall victim to whatever they do to me. And I hope he can hold on as well..."
"And if the time is right..." Litchi thought about Hazama's words and declarations from her vision. That he made the Black Beast, Lotte was turned into Arakune and he was called a failure as well, "Hazama... I will make you pay. For what you did to him... for pushing me to tap the power to the Boundary and join the NOL. You did speak the truth. I am selfish, but I will never forgive you for ruining our lives!" But for now, all Litchi could do was bide her time, and hope that until the time comes, she would be strong enough oppose Hazama and the Imperator.