Hi! It's been quite a long time…a month, actually. So, yeah, I've once again managed to make a new chapter and guess what? There are improvements! You wanna know the ultimate improvement?
…It just got more boring! (Five featured characters: Saya, Haji, Kai, Joel, David)
Hurrah! Rejoice with me, whoever is still there willing to read my bo-ring chapter! And curse my piteous soul if there be a vile mistake…the unclean, defiled thing. (I think I made really silly mistakes this time, and if ever you chanced upon one…don't laugh, okay? Stupid, annoying MS Word…)
Oh, and for future reference: (a) 'Locoum' is some sort of traditional candy from goodness knows where (America? Not really sure.). (b) Flat Holm and Steep Holm are two small islands located in the Bristol Channel, UK. Flat Holm is a…flat island and Steep Holm is…steep.
Happy reading! XD
In the Headquarters
Saya walked down the wide hallway, holding a box of the berry confections. Before they had left, each one to his own business, Joel had suggested that she take a box of the sweets for herself. The Director had seen how the girl had liked the berry confections, and was greatly pleased that Saya had found delight in something he was fond of. So he thought he should give her some, went out to take one, and personally handed a box to Saya, who accepted it with great pleasure.
Now she had eaten a great deal of the contents, and only a few pieces were remaining. She took another one out, held it up to admire it, and was about to place it in her mouth, when she remembered something. It was an almost-forgotten memory of which she never expected to remember; there walking down the halls of the Red Shield Headquarters with her Chevalier quietly following her, she remembered the far past:
"What's that?" the pale-skinned, twelve-year-old boy asked, dark eyes reflecting curiosity at the strange, red cube-shaped thing held between two delicate fingers of his much older companion.
"You don't know what these are?" the much older girl in the pink dress said in surprise, revealing a whole lot more of the colorful things in the box she had.
"Well, they're called Locoum," the girl explained patiently.
"Locoum…?" He looked confused as he repeated the word foreign in his tongue.
"Never heard one either?" the girl said, dismayed.
"No." The boy shook his head. She frowned. How could he not know Locoum?
An idea reached her, and she brightened. "Hey, why don't you try one?" She sat in front of him, holding the candy readily. "Open your mouth." When he did, she popped it in, and ordered him to shut his mouth. She didn't have to instruct him any further because he started chewing, chewing and smiling with amazement with the sudden burst of flavors in his mouth. Never before had he eaten anything as sweet as delicious as this so-called "Locoum".
"You want more?" Saya asked, clearly pleased to see that her friend liked it. When the boy nodded with unusual vigor, she stuck out her tongue and ran away. "You have to catch me first!"
A wave of nostalgia brushed over her, and her heart faltered momentarily; she felt compelled to do something, something to help her keep that feeling—yearning—inside. Then she realized, for once, she had not done anything too good that day, nothing good for anyone, at least. And she thought of being nice to him—the boy who chased her because he wanted that sweet, red thing—and in a child-like manner, swiveled around to face her Chevalier. He was no longer a boy; he was a tall, pale-skinned man whose face always and forever remained blank—not unlike the boy who laughed and cried and blushed. He was a man, a dedicated Chevalier, but Saya thought, maybe he might not be so different from the boy of long ago.
She held out the red confection to him. "Want one?"
"No. That is yours," Haji replied.
"I know. But now I want to give it to you."
The Chevalier made no move to take the sweet held between her delicate fingers. "I believe Joel gave you those confections because he wants you to enjoy each and every piece in that box."
"I've eaten a lot," Saya said, "so it doesn't matter anymore."
"I am not fond of sweets," was the Chevalier's dull statement.
"I insist that you eat it."
"Hold out your hand."
"Hold it out."
The Chevalier obeyed and obediently held out his hand to her. Saya placed the candy on his palm and smiled. "Now I've given it to you and now it's in your hand so you can't give it back!" she said and ran away from him, laughing.
The Chevalier watched her as the girl ran down, laughing in a…rather different way—if he were to give his opinion. Different, yes, but seemingly natural. He stood there, witnessed the scene when Saya glanced back at him and almost bumped into an agent. Then he looked at the small red thing in his palm, and might have felt it too, that nostalgia. And then the memories weren't too far from remembering.
David walked down hallway. He had been searching for Kai for half an hour in the ship, but for some reason, he didn't seem to be anywhere. He doesn't do anything here, does he? the grim man asked himself. The boy just idles around, loitering anywhere where he deemed it to be comfortable. David had searched through those "comfortable" places, those areas where Kai was usually found staring into space, but he wasn't in any of them. He inquired about the boy from agents he came across, but the only person whom they mentioned was a teenage girl happily skipping down the halls and a solemn Chevalier silently following after her.
As he continued to walk, he began to think about the matter which he was to inform Kai about. I doubt he could even pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, he thought. He hasn't undergone training, except for some practicing with guns and familiarization with weaponry which could momentarily delay Chiropterans. There was no real training involved. No running for an hour, no formal marksmanship, no nothing.
Kai had not even undergone formal training when he became a part of the Red Shield. He was Saya's brother, so it was only natural that he be treated as someone important. Unlike the rest who had gone through the pain and the weariness of training the whole day for months which altogether pressed heavily on them both physically and mentally, the boy had joined Red Shield as if he had joined some school club. He didn't have to go through intense training, or pass IQ tests. He didn't even finish High School yet, David realized.
It was only under his and Lewis' supervision that Kai gained understanding in the handling of certain firearms, but he knew that wasn't enough. It wouldn't help him pull through the training. He didn't think Kai could survive. He himself had gone through similar training before he served in the Red Shield. He saw how it made men, men crack. Crack like eggs. Fall down like a sack of potatoes. How could a teenage boy possibly survive such training? He was till too young, too inexperienced. Though what the Director said about Kai being skilled enough to survive perilous missions when other well-trained agents could not was true, David believed that it was only the doing of fortune, quick reflexes and steely determination that the boy survived.
Another thing cast him further into doubt: Kai's attitude. The boy was noisy, stubborn and arrogant. What built his confidence was his learned skill of firing at someone with guns. And his mouth… David found himself sighing. Kai didn't know how to control his mouth. Even when David flung things at him to shut the boy up from blabbering on and on about how they should retrieve Saya in the past, Kai never learned. Perhaps he never will, David thought.
I'll just hope he could manage serious punishment.
Kai had been wandering the ship's interior rooms and halls for what might have seemed to be half an hour. An hour ago, he was sure of his purpose: he had to find Saya. Now, when he had caught no sight of her, when he was tired of having to hear about her messing with people and things, he began to wonder why he was looking for his sibling in the first place. "What the heck are you doing, Kai?" he asked himself, unaware that his voice was loud. "If you found her, what would you accomplish?" Nothing, of course, another voice, another part of him replied. "Obviously," he said with intended sarcasm. I might be able to stop her from playing her pranks and causing trouble; she might just go too far and that won't be good, he thought mentally. "Well, I could do that," he said, still not realizing that he was talking to himself. "But she wouldn't listen. I'm sure she wouldn't. She's just going to ignore me and have her fun. She might even play her next prank on me. Which, as you know, is not a good thing." No thought came into mind to contradict this statement.
He continued to walk. You might as well take your afternoon nap, he thought. "Alright," he decided, liking the idea as it was a habit of his, with a shrug, "sounds like a plan."
The rest of the day turned out to be boring. She hadn't been able to explore the whole ship either. She just suddenly felt like she had to stop for a while. Her pranks weren't working anymore; the agents of whom she had come across were already victims of her past mischief, and had learned a great deal from their experiences and avoided her. The other agents, the 'new' ones, those she had not victimized yet, were well-informed and avoided her as well. A wise move, she discerned. A wise move indeed. It prevented her from having her fun, which all the more increased her boredom.
Sometimes the agents were scared enough to actually 'run away'. It didn't really involve literal running where they'd take to their heels. Given the chance, they could have. However, they were courteous and dignified enough to simply turn around with that sort of 'formalized' motion, and walk away. It would have looked nice, but the others were stupid, making an act and pretending that they had forgotten something with an "Ah!" or "I can't believe I remembered it just now", which should have made it seem more realistic and excusable. But Saya saw it otherwise; she once found herself laughing so loudly because she couldn't hold it back anymore, which made the agent quicken his steps to escape the embarrassing situation.
If an agent was lucky enough, there would be another corner where they could turn to and avoid having to meet with her. Others, though, weren't blessed with the same luck. At one time, an agent came, and when he saw her, his expression changed. It was a small change, really, but Saya understood it. A twitch in the lips. A small twist in the expression. His seemingly serious face was so easy to read. It would have been nice to laugh at how worried and scared he looked; she didn't do anything to him and yet there he was, looking quite horrified. He tried to retain his composure; he was quite good at masking his fear.
Saya watched as they advanced to each other. The agent couldn't escape then; at least he didn't plan to. She wondered what this one would do after seeing his former companions scurry away like mice. Vermin, she preferred to call them, the harshness of the term not seeming to occur to her.
The next move was quite amusing: "A pleasant afternoon, Ms. Otonashi," the agent greeted with a great deal of effort, briefly stopping to dip his head.
Seeing as he deserved a favorable reply, she said, "Good afternoon, too." And she spiced this up with a smile, a childish grin actually, which seemed to put the agent at ease. His small practiced smile turned genuine and he inclined his head once more before continuing on his way.
She had the impulse of making him trip or fall with some move of hers. But she figured in the end, as he walked away, that his bravery had to be rewarded, so he left him unscathed.
Him only, she promised herself. He's different.
That was almost an hour ago. She later found herself standing still for almost twenty minutes, and for twenty minutes staring at the vast expanse of the sea in silence. And she hadn't realized she was thinking, dwelling in matters she usually would not dwell in, of the man everyone in the ship called "Director", and of the man who lived six generations back, bearing that same name. Joel.
The most unlikely man she could ever think of in that particular time of the day. Or perhaps not…she thought, leaning a delicate chin into her palm. I'm on his ship, after all… A seagull flew past and her gaze settled on the bird before it flew high up into the sky; she had to squint to try to see it, but it had disappeared. Dismayed, she looked for other seagulls to look at. For once, within that segment of time when she had nothing to do, she was able to appreciate the appearance of the birds. They were indeed fascinating creatures to her—unlike the higher species, the humans—and she had not realized that her thoughts centered on them.
Joel. The name suddenly flashed in her mind. Joel… "…Goldschmidt…" she said absentmindedly, failing to realize she had said the surname aloud. It was once mine. That name… "Goldschmidt," she repeated, inhaling the salty air and feeling drowsy from the heat of the day. I was once a Goldschmidt, too. I once lived under that name. She closed her eyes and listened to the cries of the seagulls, blending melodically with the soft lapping of the water against the edges of the ship far below.
Her mind wandered on, back, back into the far past. A hand reaching out to grab the dark-haired boy to her. A cry of surprise. Laughter. The vague image and the sounds slowly faded away when she pulled herself back into reality. She opened her eyes again and watched the sea sparkle in the bright sunlight, then turned back to face her Chevalier, whom she almost forgot was with her.
"Haji, who am I?"
"You're Saya, of course."
She stared right into his eyes; he made no reaction and looked back straight into hers.
"Why Goldschmidt? Isn't that father's name already?"
She blinked. He stared in silence.
"It is. You're a Goldschmidt, too, like him, because you're his daughter. You bear his family name."
"Will that be my name forever? I don't want to have the same name he has."
"I suppose. Well, if you get married, it would be replaced by your husband's family name."
"I won't ever get married. So that means I'll be a Goldschmidt forever."
A few minutes had passed and neither looked away. Finally, after the minutes of unusual, unbreakable silence, she asked, "Haji, am I a Goldschmidt?"
His answer satisfied her. She turned away and faced the sea again.
"If I were to bear that name," she said, "that means I'd be like them."
"But you are not like them," the Chevalier replied.
A ridiculing smile. "That's right," she agreed, "I'm not a bit like them. We're different." A small pause. "I'm different. I'm not stupid either. They're human and I'm not. And yet I still bore that name…"
"You no longer do."
"I don't," she said, facing him once more. "And I'm glad that I never will." A question tugged on her mind and she wasted no moment to voice it out. "Haji, is Joel Goldschmidt VI stupid?"
The Chevalier looked at her rather strangely before responding. "He fares better than the former generations." His reply amused her.
"It's obvious in his eyes…his compassion."
"A bigger heart?" said Saya, raising an eyebrow in interest. A genuine smile quirked at the corner of her lips. "Perhaps." She turned away, and when she spoke the next few words, her voice softened. "The man who bore the original name was heartless." The smile instantly disappeared at the memory of him.
"He took immense care of you," the Chevalier commented quietly.
"I won't deny it," replied Saya. "I was so well taken care of that I turned into a spoiled brat. I was so happy and free back then…" While the other was not. "…And I used to sing and dance and pick flowers and play in the sun all day." While 'she' had to be locked away high up in that cold, dark tower. "It's funny," she went on, smugly leaning forward on the railing, "it's all coming back now. Like it was just yesterday…or the day before that. When you were just a young, innocent boy"—her eyes flickered to him for a moment, but she immediately looked away—"and I the playful teenage princess in the pink dress…" Her eyes narrowed, as if she were reminiscing on the far, far past, or perhaps it was just because the sun was too bright that afternoon—or both.
And there was the girl who was clothed in rags who loved to sing, whose voice was so much better than mine. "And Joel was like a loving father"—he never was my father—"and he gave me all that I wanted and made me as happy as I could possibly be…" While he silently ruined 'her' life and I didn't know. When he conducted his inhuman experiments on 'her', looking upon 'her' with cold, soulless orbs, which only warmed at the sight of his daughter. Her. She. Saya.
"I was so happy, nothing else mattered to me anymore," she said, and was saddened. How could she have realized it just now? How could she have understood this right when 'she' was far away, when 'she' had been the reason why the memories kept coming in, smoothly, naturally? All of a sudden, it was sad. She felt a slight, cold emptiness spring up somewhere inside, despite the humidity of the afternoon, and the brightness of the sun.
She knew she should stop talking—quit talking about 'her', because it'll hurt again. Before she could stop herself, however, her mouth was already opening to form the next line of words. "I always thought he was the father I would always love," she said. "But looking back, knowing and understanding my past, and everything that had happened back then, I realized that I was wrong. He wasn't a real father, was he, Haji?"
"He was a man of Science, dedicated to his work."
"Yes, he was dedicated, wasn't he?" acknowledged Saya. "In fact, he was so dedicated that he even considered me as a part of his experiment. I was simply under a different environment, the favorable side of the project." Unwittingly, she continued, "Diva wasn't the only lab rat…"
The Chevalier made no reaction to this statement. It might have been nice if he gave a reaction, Saya thought to herself. Because then, she'd know he was angry, too. She'd see that he was to hate Joel I because he had used her as his experiment. Then her anger would be more reasonable then, right? Then that only proved 'she' had every right to hate him…and murder him. And it wouldn't even be called murder anymore. It would be seen as justification.
And 'she' wouldn't be at fault.
Stop it, she told herself. Stop talking about her. They'll hear you. And when they do, it'll be over. Because the simplest of thoughts about you, she said, with a small smile and a painful aching in her chest, would be an act of betrayal. I can't think about you anymore, because…
It's no longer right.
"Nothing ever is," she said silently, again forgetting her Chevalier was there, right beside her, listening to her words without comment. Haji made no move to comfort her; he merely stood there in absolute silence until, finally, Saya sensed him, and trying to collect herself together, turned away so that he would not see her tear-filled eyes. It was ridiculous. She couldn't believe she was this emotional.
"Say," began Saya, and she sensed her voice shook slightly. She tried to sound more composed, "I think I'd like to read something nice right now."
"Shall I lead you there?"
Saya managed a smile, a quite genuine one. "No. I think I can still remember where it is; I'll lead."
I honestly don't know what I'm doing, thought Kai, as he lifted his gaze from the book from which he was reading. He looked around, and scratched the back of his head. "How'd I get here again?" he wondered aloud. He heard no answer; the library was empty. Oh well. He shrugged and returned to reading.
Well, the book was interesting, he had to admit, and though he wasn't fun of reading, he found himself enjoying the novel. It's the story of a boy named Seth, whose whole family had been massacred. He was fortunate enough to slip away from the killers, and hide in the attic he used to play in. He was so engrossed with the book that he sat down on the soft, red mat which carpeted the whole flooring of the library, and leaned back on the bookshelf. The boy was only five years of age then, but he remembered clearly how the dark-faced men mercilessly slew his parents. He was immediately brought to live with his kind aunt, and days after that, the manor where he lived in, his home, had been burned to the ground by the same unidentified men. And then, when he was seven, on the day when his cousin Alice came to visit him, they ran out to play in the lovely green fields. But when they came back, the doors to the manor were hanging loosely on their hinges, and the furniture inside were destroyed, the huge draperies torn and tattered, hanging like rags, and in the midst of all the wreck, the bleeding body of his aunt…
Kai heard the glass door of the entrance open, and a voice float in the in the cold air.
"I told you I could find it."
"You have an impressive memory," remarked a quiet voice.
He tried to get up, surprised when his right leg felt numb. The shelves had no spaces where he could peek through, as they filled with so many books, and so he stole a glance from the edge of the shelf he was leaning on. It was Saya and Haji, he wasn't mistaken.
"This is nice," he heard Saya say. "It's quite strange, though. Do they get to use this place when they're so preoccupied with their duties?" The footsteps headed to the other end.
"Yes." Kai had to strain his ears to catch every bit of Haji's words. "Only when Joel does not demand too much of their time and attention."
Wait, Kai thought. Why am I hiding? For some reason, he just didn't want them to know he was there. He had been looking for Saya, but now, he didn't really care to see her. The book was far more interesting, he thought, and ignoring the rest of what Haji was telling Saya, he settled himself comfortably against the bookshelf and opened the book once more.
Seth was then sent to an uncle, who took him in, unwillingly. His uncle didn't like him at all, and preferred to be alone. Seth didn't like him either, but had no other choice but to live with him. When he was eleven years of age, another uncle wanted to take him, but his first uncle refused. Seth thought it would serve him better to live with the other uncle, and although the first did not like it at all (which was ironic, for Seth thought he was disliked), Seth insisted his way…
"Kai?" he heard Saya call. Strangely, his name being called was clear to him, even when he had somehow ignored the rest of what the pair of them was saying to each other.
He looked up, and was startled to see his sister already standing before him, peering down at him with a look of curiosity. He was sure he didn't feel her coming. Maybe he was concentrating too much on the novel? Or perhaps…
"Hey," was all he could say.
"You were already here when we came," said Saya.
"Yeah," he said, scratching the back of his head, "I thought I shouldn't butt in your conversation." His gaze flickered to Haji (who was standing a short distance from Saya), and then he looked at his sibling, unintentionally looking directly into her eyes. He thought he saw something. "Hey, you okay?"
Saya seemed suddenly interested in the book he was holding. "What's that?"
He had no choice but to answer. He tried not to sound too dismayed, though. "It's entitled 'Murder'." He froze momentarily when Saya settled herself beside him. She took the book in her hands, and flipped its pages. As she did, Kai could only stare at her, and watch as her eyes gazed down at the parchment-like pages. He noticed something: was it just him, or was there a sad motion in the way she turned the pages, the way her eyes reflected the light?
"You were bored," he suddenly blurted out without thinking. Oh no, not bored. Just sad.
Saya looked at him, rather surprised. "Yeah," she said. "I wasn't able to explore the whole ship." She returned to reading. Now it was her who had the book. Kai wasn't interested in it anymore. On the other hand, he wanted to speak to her, and she to him. At least that was what he felt. "And the agents?" he said, smiling once again.
"Oh, them?" Saya smiled as well, and he was relieved to see she wasn't faking it—not much. "They were smart enough to avoid me."
He tried to tease her a bit. "Should I avoid you, too?"
"Don't," his sibling quickly said, her head snapping to him, and her hand grasping his wrist tightly, as if he really was about to disappear. Her eyes were reflecting both fear and panic, so that Kai was so stunned, he was left speechless.
Saya at once recovered from the shock of her own reaction, and drew her hand away. "Sorry."
"I…didn't mean what I said," said Kai slowly. Saya was back to reading again, as if nothing had happened. He hesitated, fearing he might be treading on some line he was not meant to step into, but went on nonetheless, "Something's troubling you again?"
"No." She wasn't very good at lying this time. He was about to press on the matter, but a voice, sharp and clear, cut through his words.
"Kai." It was a voice he knew too well.
Both he and Saya looked up. Kai wasn't at all too pleased to see his frowning face. "David."
"I've been looking for you," said David in an always-serious tone. "There's something I've come to talk about."
Can't he see that he was still busy talking to Saya? "Right now?" He didn't bother to hide the irritation in his voice.
"Yes," said David, unperturbed. "It's a crucial matter and you'll have to know as soon as possible."
Kai knew he wasn't going anywhere, unless he'd agree with him. "Can we stay here, then?"
"No," said David. "I'm afraid this is for you and you alone." He looked at Saya, who seemed not so happy as well with his presence. "Forgive me for having to take Kai away right now." She seemed reluctant, but nodded.
"Now," said David. "The sooner, the better."
"Alright, alright," grumbled Kai, reluctantly getting to his feet. Saya watched him go. "You enjoy that," Kai said, giving her a quick smile, before following after David out the glass door.
"So, where are you taking me?" David ignored him; he got irritated. "You heard me?" Still, David did not turn to face him. Just when Kai thought of leaving, David stopped, opened a door, and gestured him to enter.
Kai looked at him and saw that his face was grimmer that usual. He decided to obey and entered, sitting at once on a vacant chair nearby. David locked the door, and faced him. Kai raised an eyebrow, unimpressed. This scene was too familiar to him: the locked room, the two of them alone, and then finally, the talk. It was more like a private father-to-son conversation, if he were to express his opinion. Well, not that I see David as a father… he thought, finding the idea absurd.
"Yeah?" He watched David take his seat, opposite him.
"How are your dealings with the Chiroptera going?"
Kai was surprised. What, is he seriously acting like a parent? "Difficult," was all he could say. "But we have Saya, so—"
"Will she be enough?"
The question startled him. Surely David knew more than that. "Of course. She's a whole lot stronger, isn't she?"
"Yes, and so are Chiroptera. Saya will be there, but it would not mean that she could ease our difficulties." He stood up and walked to the window. "The Director talked to me earlier this afternoon. He was saying how we lacked the abilities to fight Chiroptera, and…" He looked out the window in silence, stopping mid-sentence.
"And?" prompted Kai. Now he was overcome with curiosity, so that he forgot he was angry. Were they to discuss a new tactic?
He thought he heard a sigh escape David's lips. "Kai, have you any idea of how the Military train their units?"
"Yeah, sort of—"
"So you do know it'll be difficult."
"I haven't tried it myself," said Kai. Why was David shifting topics? What did it matter how the Military did training? They didn't handle Chiroptera anyway—just been turned into one of them, which wasn't of much difference.
"Let me tell you that it isn't easy."
"Why?" demanded Kai. "I'm not entering the Military anyway. What makes you think—"
"Training," David cut in.
"…What?" He was confused.
"The Director informed me that a selected group of agents are to undergo training," said David, and he seemed reluctant as he said this. He hesitated awhile, before continuing, "He included Akihiro Okamura and you, Kai Miyagusku—"
"That's great!" said Kai enthusiastically.
"No, it is not," said David, turning to face him. Once again, he was wearing a frown of disapproval.
Kai frowned as well. "What isn't? Me being one of the trainees?"
"Well, too bad," he said, almost mockingly. "Joel decided already, hasn't he?"
"Yes, he has, but with little knowledge of what you can really manage."
"So what are you trying to imply? That I'm not good enough to be one of them?"
"Red Shield gives training much, much harder than the Military, Kai," said David, eyeing him warily. "Better even than the CIA's."
"I think I'd figure that much," said Kai with the slightest bit of sarcasm. He saw David's scowl worsen and wasn't too glad to see it. "Look, I've been chosen, and what, you're going to tell me to just say no to such a big opportunity? Wouldn't that training help me get stronger?"
"It will," said David, "if you could live up to the required skills."
"So you think I'm not good enough, is that it?" said Kai harshly. "Why do you have to decide for me, anyway? Let me remind you that George was my father—"
"And George would surely say no as well," David intervened. "Do you think it was his wish to see his son put himself further into danger?"
"Dad isn't here anymore," Kai pointed out flatly. "And you're not him either."
"He entrusted you into my hands," said David.
"What is it with you anyway?" said Kai irritably. "This is my chance, my one big chance to prove myself. I want to be stronger like Saya, so why won't you let me?" His voice shook with anger. "I don't want to be useless, alright? I want to be able to help, too!"
"You've helped out too much, then," said David curtly. "Many a time you've almost got yourself killed, and for you to allow yourself through the cruelest of trainings, only to be put your life on the line once again in the battlefield—would not George be worried?" As he said this, his voice rose sharply, so that Kai was not able to intervene.
He's dead, thought Kai stubbornly, but he did not dare to voice it out, not when David was in a fine rage. He did not reply then, or give any retort, and the minutes passed into awkward silence. David's voice was still ringing in his ears, and each time he mentioned someone was going to worry, it was George. But George is gone, he told himself, while David simply turned to face the window again. David was a man of practicality. Surely he accepted that George was gone, and would not be able to do anything to all with any of the current situations that they were facing. Unless…
He stared at David, whose back was turned to him. "You're…worried, aren't you?"
"Riku is just one of the hundreds of children I have failed to protect against Chiroptera," said David quietly.
"I'm not a kid anymore," said Kai.
"You act like one." At this statement, Kai couldn't help but smile.
"I might learn to be a man once I join the training. You never know." David faced him, face still wearing the frown, but Kai could tell it had lessened a bit. "I'll make it through, and I'll get stronger." His grin widened boyishly. "Then I wouldn't have to be under the Death List, right? I've got a lot more than it takes, old man."
Saya and Haji were the only ones in the library. Kai had been there, but David had called him. She was still settled comfortably on the red rug, leaning on the bookshelf the way Kai did. And Haji was nearby, not quite standing there like motionless statue, awaiting orders; for once, he was acting in his own accord, taking out books for himself, and looking into them, since his mistress was in no longer in the mood to talk. She had no commands for him either. And, well…she did insist he take out books for himself, too, so that he could read and enjoy them. So perhaps he was simply obeying "orders"? Maybe not, she thought, glancing up at him. His face may be blank while he read, but she sensed, very subtly, his enjoyment and interest in the pieces of literature he had chanced upon.
She was a much faster reader than Kai, and had reached the pages were he had stopped short. It was interesting, just like what her brother had said. Surprising how good his tastes were.
The day he was about to leave, however, the first uncle threatened the man who had come up to pick Seth up, pointing a pistol at him, and before Seth understood what had happened, his uncle lay bleeding on the floor. When he looked into the eyes of the man, he was shocked: he had recognized those eyes—they were the eyes of one of the murderers. And the uncle told him to run, and before the man could get his hands on him, his uncle tackled him to the ground despite his injury, and once again, Seth managed to escape, this time, with nowhere to go…
To take her mind of the 'those' thoughts—that was the reason she was here. It was why she was reading the book—because she wanted to forget the thoughts and the memories, and the pain, the constant pain. "As he ran down the familiar street, crying and sobbing, he understood that he no longer had a home to return to…"
Home. Where was my home? She found herself asking where she was meant to be with. For the first time, after days staying with them, she wondered where she really belonged. Or am I simply just like Seth, who had nowhere to go? she thought with a brief spasm of pain. She had wanted to talk to Kai; that was another reason why she was there. She wanted to confide in him the thoughts that have been bothering her. After all, he was the closest person other than Haji. He was rash and impatient, the very opposite of Haji, but he voiced his opinions different, and she wanted to know how he'd see it, perhaps even be fortunate enough to receive his comfort and assurance, if he understood her. But perhaps he wouldn't truly understand, a part of her said. After all, he's human, and…
I'm not, she said, and hated it. Perhaps. It seemed rational, and she thought maybe she was being too open. Kai might take a hint of her deepest thoughts, and then it'll all start falling apart. Maybe it was good, she thought with relief, that David took Kai away before I could tell him anything.
David knocked on the door. Kai stood awkwardly beside him. He did feel strange after their conversation, after he intuitionally realized that David cared for him in his own way. (Still, though, it didn't change the fact that David was annoying). He realized too how bad David was at expressing himself. He really is getting old, he thought, staring at David's back, and smiling a bit. Somehow, his respect for this man heightened, too, from the time of their conversation onwards. And it was quite funny, how they wordlessly left the room where they had privately conversed—both apparently in a state of discomfort. His happy memories were promptly cut off when a voice, the Director's voice, told them to enter.
And they did, with David unbolting the door and holding it open so that Kai would take his seat before the Director's desk. Joel was seated patiently, his sober expression breaking into a friendly smile at the sight of him. "I see you've talked already," said Joel, obviously talking to David. His eyes, though, were studying the ginger-haired young man, scrutinizing him from head to foot. Kai shuffled uncomfortably in his seat; how his friendly eyes could gaze at him with austerity enough to make him stay still, he did not know. He considered it to be one of Joel's 'talents'.
David closed the door quickly and chose the other vacant seat, just beside Kai's. "Would you like some tea?" asked Joel, gesturing to a tea set. There were exactly three teacups, all waiting to be filled with the warm, brown drink. Kai was about to decline the offer, but thought better.
"Okay." He watched as Joel poured tea into all three cups. He gave one to Kai, who took it and sipped a bit. David did not have to be called; he immediately stood up and took his share, before returning to his seat.
Joel calmly sipped from his cup, and placed it back on the saucer. He looked at Kai, then inquired, "What has David told you?"
"Well…" Kai glanced at David, who made no body language whatsoever, then looked back at the Director. Of course he couldn't say that David did try to discourage him from joining. "He warned me that it'll be difficult."
Joel gave a low, amused chuckle. Kai didn't expect this; he didn't think that he said anything funny, but he didn't dare to ask about it either. "Ah, yes," Joel said, leaning back into his seat, "it'll be arduous." He paused, then added, "For everyone except you."
"I don't really see how it'll be easy for me," Kai said, looking both confused and surprised.
"What duties have I assigned you just recently?" asked the Director, suddenly diverting from the topic.
Kai looked bewildered, but answered nonetheless, "Hunting the Chiroptera."
"I'm quite sure that you've made progress, after having to deal with them almost every time," said Joel, nodding slightly. He paused again, then fixed Kai with a thoughtful look. "You have, haven't you?"
"Yes," said Kai, a bit too quickly. He thought otherwise, though, not seeing, as Joel had, how he could have possibly improved. Yeah, sure, I fight them a lot, but I narrowly avoid losing my head every time. He voiced the next thought without meaning to, "But I think I was just lucky." Ironic, really, how doubtful he now felt about his own abilities and the training.
At this, Joel gave a short, amused laugh. "You're too humble."
Was he? Or was he merely getting more respectful than usual in the Director's presence? Kai didn't say anything.
"Anyway," went on the Director, turning serious once more, "the first few days will consist of the most basic training. I say that it's almost like the Army Physical Fitness Test: push-ups, pull-ups, and running, to warm you up for the next exercises. There'll be marksmanship, of course, and it is only then that you are taught tactics on how to bring down Chiroptera, if possibly, to kill them." After speaking, Joel passed into silence and drank his tea, watching Kai carefully.
Kai certainly didn't know how the training would actually turn out, but he saw that the exercises weren't too hard. He certainly knew how to run; push-ups and pull-ups, he hardly tried, but he knew them, and he could definitely do them. Marksmanship. It was simple, really. Perhaps having to hunt Chiroptera down all the time had its own advantages, even if he almost had himself dismembered each time. Now the tactics…that, he didn't know, and he was most curious about it. How coulda human bring down a Chiropteran? It was impossible. Maybe not, he thought. If I join the training…
So, overall, the training didn't seem too difficult. Joel didn't even look worried, nor did his tone make indication that it was going to be difficult. Kai glanced at David, and thought, maybe he was getting old, what with him acting like a father and all… Kai tried not to think about it, since he was feeling that bit of awkwardness from a while ago, and instead asked, "Where will we be training exactly?"
"Certainly not in 'The Farm'," said Joel. "It's the Red Shield's training facility," he explained when he saw the questioning look in Kai's face. "It isn't available for you as of the moment. There are a large number of recruits currently undergoing extensive training, so I can't have you sharing the facilities with the new ones."
Kai didn't know that the Red Shield had what Joel said was 'The Farm'; he was about to dwell on the matter, but could not, since Joel continued explaining: "So therefore, I've decided to have you trained in the two Holm islands." Joel did not bother to explain where exactly these islands were located. He gave a sigh. "Well, it's not what I can call an ideal place for training. But, you see, my father was very fond of Flat Holm and Steep Holm ever since he was a child. Ever since the end of World War II, they were abandoned and uninhabited. My father immediately bought the islands when he became the Director, and built facilities for the Red Shield there. They weren't used at all, and seeing as it would be a complete waste, I decided to improve the area so that it may be good enough to be used." Joel drank from his tea, then smiled again. "It won't be bad, I assure you. The weather is favorable at this time of the year. And I want you to be a bit 'isolated' from the rest of the world, so that you may be able to concentrate."
"I don't think it'll be bad," said Kai truthfully. He did feel rather excited. What did it matter if it were an island? In the midst of his excitement, he remembered something. "How about Okamura? Was he informed?"
"I've sent letters to the other forty-nine," said Joel. "Consider it as some 'privilege' that I've personally informed you. And it was fully-detailed, too." He seemed to amuse himself with this and the corners of his lips quirked. "You will leave immediately, so I suggest that you prepare everything that you'll be needing," he said after a moment.
"Of course." Kai immediately stood up. "Thank you," he said gratefully, and left, feeling grand that he wasn't going to have to spend the rest of the days doing nothing.
When the door closed, silence ensued. David said nothing and simply stared at Joel. Joel calmly poured more tea into his empty cup. After doing so, he drank from it, turning more serious by the minute, and by the time he had placed the cup in the saucer, his face was almost expressionless. "Saya seems to be in a stable condition."
David did not reply.
"You still haven't asked anything from her." It was a statement, not a question.
"No," said David, finally speaking. "I feared that she may still be too sensitive. Hardly two weeks has passed, and she exhibits strange behavior. I have no idea what's going through her mind either," he added.
"I see." There was a long moment of silence. "We have no other option. She might, as I've said, know something about Cinq Fleches, and Diva's whereabouts."
David inclined his head. "Of course, Director."
Saya stood at the front deck, where she could see the sun setting. She stood still, wondering about some certain things, until she remembered, without intending to, the novel; how Seth had to live his life as an orphan, how he had to grow up without parents, how he had to run away… She was not able to continue reading, because she thought too much about "home"—where was home? Home was nowhere; it was unreal, nonexistent. And Saya stared far into the horizon, wondering where 'home' was, looking there because maybe…maybe 'home' would be standing there, and she could live there and be happy. But there was no shape, no form, except for the plain sea, no 'home'…
Think of other things…think of things which are not about 'home'… And it came in her mind, loud and clear: knife. Good for stabbing. Haji watched as his mistress turned to face him. She held out a hand. "Haji, your dagger?" At once, the small weapon was given to her. She focused all her attention on the dagger, trying to forget...until it finally worked.
It was a fairly fun afternoon, she thought to herself, examining the ornate designs of the weapon, and the red ruby placed in the middle, so that it sparkled magnificently in the dying light. Now what could make it a bit more fun? she wondered. She needed something like a grand finale…
The Chevalier gazed at her; she did show rather unusual interest in his dagger… Something glinted, coming toward him, but he caught it within an instant. The point of the dagger was close to piercing his face, had he not caught it between his fingers in time.
He was able to see a dangerous smile cross Saya's face before Saya herself vanished. He leaped back, when a figure landed a kick on the place where he had been seconds before, then veered at once to the right when he felt swift movement on the left.
Sword, he heard her voice say in his mind, and he immediately complied, taking out her weapon as he continually dodged her playful but dangerous attacks. It was almost impossible to do as he was told, especially since Saya herself was preventing him from doing so. But within a span of minutes, the sword was in his hand, and he closed his cello case and slung it over his shoulder before throwing the weapon into the space before him. The only thing that fell on the floor was the sheath, though; the blade itself was gone—
Something sharp nearly caught him in the shoulder; he evaded it at once, and leaped meters back, before feeling her presence there, too, just behind him. He dodged another attack right before a deadly slash in the air could cut his arm clean off. There was seemingly nothing behind him, but he spun around, and threw a dagger straight into empty space. There was a spark, and the sound of metal and the dagger dropped to the floor, as if it had hit some invisible wall.
It was silent once more.
He looked ahead of him and saw her a short distance away, bathing in golden light, she and her sword, which flashed gloriously. And her lips were stretched into an almost childish smile, and she winked furtively, before she blurred out of sight.
And he knew she was right behind him, raising her sword to the sky…
It was quite stupid, really. He remembered then that all his belongings were left in the apartment, when he was halfway down the corridor. He looked behind him, back at the opposite end of the corridor where Joel's office was situated, wondering if Joel thought the same. Darn, he thought, biting his lower lip in disappointment. He couldn't drive home. He thought of commuting, but that was insane; it was a desperate idea, so he dismissed it. Well, they're almost going home, aren't they? It would soon be night, and David would have to take them back to the apartment.
A quarter of an hour later, he found himself lying on his back on the roof of a helicopter. It was a great favorite spot of his. He did remember, as he thought of random things, that he loved this place mainly because it annoyed David. And it was rather comfortable, and the metal felt cool against his skin, and he enjoyed being in the highest point of the ship.
As he stared at the orange-and-pink sky, he let his mind wander. He imagined himself in the days of his training: he'd be running ahead of the rest of the trainees, making the most number of pull-ups and push-ups, and getting the highest score. And then afterwards, after the training, he'd be holding a massive gun, pointing it at those brainless Chiroptera, and with a simply pull of the trigger, they'd all be lying on the floor…
He was picturing himself in those glorious moments, but something rang loud and clear in the salty air. Something which immediately cut his thoughts off, because he distinctly recognized it.
Immediately, he jumped off the helicopter, and ran to the edge, where he looked down and saw it. His heart raced with excitement, and he turned back and ran for the stairs, wanting to be down there at once.
Her eyes were set only on him, but she knew a small crowd of spectators had showed up, all being agents. Little imp, eh? she thought with a disdainful grin. Well, look at your 'little imp' now. She would show them that she was just more than what they called her, make them feel how frightful she can actually be. (Out of fun, she intentionally had deflected a dagger to their direction; it missed and she was slightly dismayed that it hadn't struck one particular agent whom she remembered was annoying.) She gripped her blade and headed for Haji, disappearing in a blue blur, and only reappearing when she was at close range. Haji directed three daggers at her; with one swing, two were knocked off their course. The last remaining nearly caught her in the eye, but she struck it, and it was sent flying to the side. Haji took the opportunity to swipe her, but there was an extraordinary moment when she caught his wrist, and flung him away with inhuman strength. This made some agents back away, intimidated; she gave an inward laugh, pleased. Haji landed on one knee and slid back on the floor. The bandages were ripped off his hand, and his monstrous appendage struck fear and awe in the crowd of spectators. Saya found this to be unfair, because all attention had turned to her servant simply because of his 'showy' hand. And as an expression of her displeasure, she tried to attack him again.
By then, she knew there were other people, people she recognized. David, Julia, Lewis, and even Joel. She even thought she saw Kai at one part of the crowd while she exchanged powerful blows with Haji and glanced at the people who were watching them.
"I never thought that she would actually practice here," said Joel, obviously awed as Saya and Haji engaged in close combat.
"It has become a part of her daily routine," said David.
"Has it? I'm glad that she strives to improve her skills." His eyes followed Saya as she and Haji distanced by jumping back in opposite directions, but it was almost impossible because she was moving too fast.
Not exactly for fun; David knew Saya fought because she felt like it, but he didn't voice this out to the Director. Instead, he looked at Haji, who had picked up a dagger from the floor, and had thrown it at Saya. Again, it was deflected, and it nearly struck one of the agents.
Joel didn't talk anymore. He was concentrating on the battle, watching and observing the scene with his careful eyes. David thought he had seen enough, especially since Saya practiced almost everyday, back in the apartment. So he let his gaze wander, and he recognized the ginger-haired head, almost hidden in the crowd of tall, muscular agents.
He never grew tired of watching his sister no matter how many times she practiced. Sometimes, he was the only one left watching during those few mornings and evenings, when everyone had been fed up, and thought to spend their time and attention on something more important. He'd see (or at least glimpse) the most amazing moves the two made, the most breath-taking scenes, and he'd admire each and every swing of the blade she wielded, and mock every failed move Haji would make. He enjoyed it, too, just being the only spectator, the only one to clap, the only one to congratulate Saya every time she emerged the winner. And he'd even have the privilege of smiling derisively at Haji, which he thought was one of the best parts.
But now, there were so many of them, so many tall men standing in his way, so he couldn't see what was happening at all. And it annoyed him and his fist itched to smack one particular agent who was directly in front of him. He couldn't yell at them, he couldn't do anything, so he contented himself with listening to the clangs, the sounds of battle, and to just imagine Saya with her sword. He was annoyed, but at the same time, he was proud for Saya, because he knew the agents would all be gaping at her, and would be wearing those looks of wonder.
Saya was amused; they really looked ridiculous, just staring at her in wonder, as she moved swiftly. She wasn't that 'little imp' anymore. She was the girl who had earned their admiration and respect, Red Shield's ultimate weapon. She even felt she had enamored a few men. But they were all old, ugly humans, and she was out of their league. She was too good for them…they didn't deserve her.
It was getting dark then, and everything was passing into shadow. With one last move, she surged forward, faster than anyone could have imagined, and knocked the useless dagger from Haji's hand. The blade caught the last remaining light and it glowed as it pointed under the Chevalier's pale chin, and she let them know, made them feel, every single one of her spectators, that she was not merely a girl they could trifle with. She was Saya; she was powerful, and they were not. They were human, she was not. And she made them feel, very subtly, that she was no ordinary Chiropteran.
The atmosphere chilled, and she distinctly sensed that every one of them had tensed, unnerved by the almost inhuman expression on her face. Her eyes were glowing eerily then, bright red orbs, reflecting what was left of the sun in a queer way.
A small, amused smile quirked at one corner of her lips.
No. She was a Queen.
In all honesty, I think this chapter stinks. D'you know? The first part was, like, made last November, and I managed to continue it last week, and it was really hard to edit and to recall the events that were supposed to follow.
And the 'ns' with David in the first part? I wanted to edit that, because it seemed exaggerated. I know it is, but I was too lazy to change it. Let's just say that David was thinking too much and he was just very, very worried. And I made it obvious that there was some father-son relationship between Kai and David. Quite OC, if you ask me, but I don't really care. I had fun writing about them.
Oh, I don't know if I should be happy or not. I'll just be delusional and imagine that you liked my chapter. I hope it turns real…
And the reviews! Please, oh please give your reviews! I really, really worked hard to make this a better chapter! (Ironic, though, how it turns out to be bad…) Ignore my negative me—she really gets on my nerves, too.