Disclaimer: I own nothing.


Prologue

Starring: Lavi/femAllen and Kanda/Lenalee


15 August, 2018.

"Don't be absurd."

Lavi turned, his right hand reaching into his backpack, where he'd stowed away a weapon just in case. There was a tingle down his spine; it might just have been the aura of the place, though. The light was dim and wavering, and the flickering tongues of fire cast doubtful shadows on mouldy seaweed-green walls.

"Don't be absurd." The person – man, Lavi thought to himself – repeated.

Lavi rotated upon his feet, scanning the dim cavern for a new sign of life. Behind him, there were what seemed to be disembodied moans and groans racked with misery, but he ignored those for now. At last, he spied a figure sprawled upon a throne-like chair at the dais at the back of the cavern. A male figure, it was, with slicked-back hair.

"Remember me, Bookman Junior?" the man teased manipulatively in his gravelly accent. "I'm sure you do, Exorcist. So – don't be absurd. Stand and fight like a man."

"You!" Lavi gasped. His memories rose thick and fast in his mind, registering at once the tone and sound of the man's baritone. "Tyki MIkk!"

"Pleased to meet you again, Exorcist."

"You... I'm no longer affiliated with the Order. Don't trap me in your obnoxious plans." Lavi turned smartly on his heel and prepared to head out.

"Wait just a moment, Exorcist. There's something you might want to see, and maybe report to your chief." Tyki Mikk snapped his fingers, and more fires sprung up around the cavern, throwing the unearthly light into bouts of flickering.

Lavi paused, and turned slowly. "I told you, I am no longer affiliated – what is that!"

Upon the walls of the cavern were propped two crosses, and to each a man was nailed. Lavi could recognise the insignia on their pale uniforms: the mark of a Finder. He took a deep breath, feeling his blood pulsing within him. He had to act fast – they were in danger, he was in danger, the Order had to be warned, Komui had to –

"What do you think of my handiwork?" Tyki smirked, clearly enjoying watching the spasm of emotions that had flitted across Lavi's momentarily open face.

Lavi squarely pointed his gun at Tyki. "You murderer."

"I am no more murderer than you are. Now, my dear man, I might enjoy playing with you, but go now. I'm sure you have information to share with your superiors." Tyki said with another smirk. "Besides, you shoot me, you die. I will deactivate the gates and you will never leave this place even as the rest of us rot away."

"Mr Exorcist, please, just go." It was a raspy voice, the kind of voice that came from the throat of someone whose parched lips had not touched water in days. "Don't stay where danger lurks."

The paler Finder beside him nodded; his sunken eyes were dull and leaden with immeasurable agony. "Flee, Mr Exorcist, and hide from your doom."

Lavi could only stare in horrid fascination as the ochre-red blood continued to flow from the nail wounds in the Finders' hands. "Go? Flee?"

Then his survival instincts kicked in. Turning swiftly, he exited the cave and fled back to the safety of his own house, and padlocked the door behind him. He was panting, he noted absently. It was probably time to hit the gym again. But right now, he had an obligation on hand. A duty, rather, to an organization he had long since left – or to put it more accurately, the organization where he had left his heart and soul behind.

His house was empty and silent, and the ghosts of his past were weighing down on him. He could almost see Bookman standing outside his room, his heavy-lidded eyes radiating disapproval. Do not lose yourself, the old man had told him too many times. Make a clean break. But Panda was now sleeping in his eternal bed, and he could not stop Lavi. All those greying fingers stretching out toward him could not stop him.

He made his decision quickly. It was not an easy decision – but it was one that he had rehearsed many times before in his mind.

Sighing, he swung his wardrobe's heavy doors open, retrieving with some difficulty a black golem hidden deep within his underclothing. With an unwavering finger, he dialled the secret number and watched as the holograph appeared in front of him.

The picture was fuzzy, as if coated with the painful memories of the residual years, but gradually, the fuzziness disappeared. The line connected, and Lavi found himself face to face with Section Chief Reever Wenham, the strict taskmaster and direct assistant to the Chief.

"Lavi?" Reever asked. "My goodness, how are you? We haven't heard from you in so long –"

"Hey, Reever. I've got information for Komui."

"You do?"

"Mind connecting me to his line? It's darned important." Lavi smiled. His left eye, however, told a different story; its pupil was dilated. Reever could see the worry and fear lurking behind.

"Alright, just a minute." Reever's face grew bigger on the holographic screen, before it was suddenly replaced by Komui's grinning visage.

"Lavi?" Komui asked. "Reever said you have some news?"

"Some finders were killed in the town I live in. It's Tyki Mikk on the prowl. Just thought you ought to know."

"You saw them?"

"I was there. Trust me, you've all got to be careful. I think the Noah Clan may be on to you."

"Thanks, Lavi. We'll need a detailed write-up so you'll be able to speak to Reever later to get the details down pat? Mmm. Do you want to come back, anyway?"

"Come back? Nah, not me. Panda's gone, but I'm not exactly sure I'm welcome at the Order..." Lavi's voice trailed off as his thoughts retreated back to an afternoon some years ago, where he'd broken a girl's heart.

"We're really short of people, though..."

"No chance, Komui. No chance. I'm not likely to come back and break her heart another time. I heard that she hasn't gotten over me."

"That's true." Komui sighed.

"If that's all?" Lavi replied nonchalantly.

"See you then, Lavi." Komui nodded into the phone. "Do take care. I'll transfer you to Reever now."

"Bye, Komui."

Komui switched the connection off and pressed the buzzer on his desk. Reever entered, looking none too happy at being summoned.

He stared at Komui. "What did Lavi want?"

"Lavi gave us some intelligence information. Get the details from him." Komui answered. Reever noticed that his supervisor's bright smile was gone, for the first but certainly not for the last time in the next few months.

:::

20 August, 2018

Kanda, Lenalee and Allen huddled together in a small hotel room just east of Atlanta; they were bored and cold and infinitely annoyed.

Grouchy as always, Kanda connected his golem and waited for the connection to the headquarters to stabilize.

"Komui?" Kanda called out when Komui's face appeared. "The trail's gone cold."

"Gone cold? Whatever do you mean?" There was an anxious undertone to Komui's voice.

"It's been some time since Tyki Mikk was here," Allen began, "and I'm afraid that – "

"What the Moyashi wants to say," Kanda interrupted rather rudely, "is that the dumb finders have messed up. All traces of Mikk's activities are gone and unaccounted for."

"That's serious."

"Anyway, nii-san, we did ferret something out." This time it was Lenalee briefing her brother, and her eyes shone with subdued excitement. "Before they died, the finders left behind a message for us."

"That's great. What's the message?" Komui asked, rubbing his fingertips together.

"Uhh. We haven't gotten hold of it!" Allen shifted uneasily on her perch on Lenalee's armchair.

"It's been taken away by some idiots," Kanda put in.

"We need to go to the weekend auction to get hold of the container," Lenalee added.

"Go, by all means! The Order will pay any amount, so long as you recover the message and bring us closer to destroying the Noah."

:::

22 August, 2018

It was slightly past eight at night when a man dressed in a tuxedo slipped into a back entrance of one of the many glass-panelled buildings in the city. Behind him, two women followed silently. The trio signed in at a booth beyond the lobby, before being escorted to their room.

The room was richly upholstered, with soft flowing carpets and luxurious armchairs.

With an annoyed sigh, Kanda pulled at his tie and crossed his legs firmly as he settled into the soft, upholstered armchair just before the laptop. Lenalee, in her designer togs, stretched slightly and sank down into an armchair beside him, eyes bright and wide. Meanwhile, Allen swept the room for devices that could transmit and record conversation. To her relief, she found none.

She made her way toward the last armchair, admiring the view from the glass-fronted room they were in. The room, bright and spacious, overlooked a stage where the auctioneer and his wares were.

The moment Allen had sat down in the last armchair, the auction began.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today, we are honoured to bring to you more pieces of top-notch works. First of all, we will start the bidding for the painting of an Old Master, Rembrandt. All who desire to purchase this item please enter your starting bid."

"It's not this, right?" Allen queried, hand reaching for a glass of water sitting on the plush, velvet-draped table beside her.

"No," Kanda grunted, sipping at the green tea in his ceramic cup.

"Sold!" The auctioneer declared, and the painting changed hands. "Now, we go on to the next item. This next item is a prized collector's copy of an old hymn book. All bids should be entered now."

"That's it," Lenalee said, leaning forward.

"We start at one thousand," Kanda leaned forward too, to enter their bid.

"One thousand dollars," The auctioneer read out. "Going once –"

The monitor before the auctioneer beeped, and he looked down. "There's another offer. Two thousand. Going once – "

"Three thousand," Kanda said, and typed it in. Meanwhile, Allen got up and strolled toward the tinted window.

"Three thousand," the auctioneer announced, his voice crackling through the intercom, "going once, going twice –"

The auctioneer's monitor beeped again. In that instance, Allen's heart skipped a beat, Kanda leaned back and cursed, and Lenalee gripped nervously the stem of her wine glass.

"We'll do five thousand." Kanda said, and entered the figure.

"It's Tyki Mikk." Allen announced suddenly, her eyes flashing. "I see a man in a top hat just opposite us."

"Tyki Mikk?" Kanda queried, trying to see past the tinted glass panels that lined their room.

"Five thousand," The auctioneer was growing impatient. "Now, six thousand from the gentleman in the Blue Room."

"Seven thousand," Lenalee said and pressed the enter button.

"Shall I," Kanda growled, "just walk into the Blue Room and slaughter Tyki Mikk?"

"You have no reason to, Bakanda. What do you intend to do him in for – disrupting your purchases?" Allen remarked starkly.

"Moyashi, you obviously lack an understanding of our law. I could barge in and kill him for obstruction of justice." Kanda replied; his brows were furrowed.

"Guys, stop that – Tyki's bid is now eleven thousand." Lenalee put in. "We're at the losing end now. So what it'll be – twenty thousand?"

"Mikk's a rich guy. It probably wouldn't hurt his pockets to pay a million for this." Kanda informed them.

"Let's just go with twenty thousand for now, alright?" Lenalee punched in the bid without waiting for a reply.

"Twenty thousand, Green Room." The auctioneer paused. "Thirty thousand, Blue Room."

"Damn," Kanda said, his fingers twitching. "Forty thousand!"

"Forty thousand, Green Room. Going once, going twice, well, look – fifty thousand, Blue Room." The auctioneer beamed. "This is going to be exciting!"

"Sixty thousand!" the auctioneer announced after he looked down at his monitor again. "Green Room.

"Now the bid is up. Seventy thousand by the gentleman in the Blue Room!"

"Screw him," Kanda cursed, glowering. "This mission will not fail. Eighty thousand!"

"Eighty thousand," the auctioneer announced, "going once, going twice, sold!"

"We've got it!" Allen cheered.

"But why?" Lenalee asked, puzzled. "Doesn't Tyki Mikk want it?"

At this moment, there was a quiet knock at the door.

"You don't suppose..." Allen's voice trailed off.

"Hands on your weapons." Kanda suggested, before walking forward to open the door, his own right hand cocked on his hip, hiding the butt of his pistol from view.

Upon the threshold, there stood an inconspicuous man in a sombre suit. Without further ado he handed over a box. "Your item, sir. The prized collector's copy of an old hymn book."

"Thanks." Kanda closed the door and placed the box upon the table draped with velvet. With steady hands he wrenched open the cover.

The hymn book was a beautiful piece of work. Kanda didn't stop to admire it, however. True to form, he studied the book with close precision and finally found the message.

"The Earl is starting to rise again. Beware." Kanda read. "So that's why Tyki Mikk let us have it. He was taking us for a ride."

Seeing Kanda's eyes glower, Allen shivered. Lenalee put a calming hand on his arm, and smiled. "At least we know that the intelligence is true. We can now put the necessary procedures in place."

"That's true," Allen sighed. "Let's go now. We won't gain anything by staying here..."

:::

7 November, 2018

"Good evening, my dear Noahs." The Earl grinned broadly at his apostles. "I am glad to see you all again."

Tyki Mikk stood up, his hair flying strangely in the stifling room. "They have brought the scroll back to their Headquarters."

"Good!" The Earl nodded approvingly. "Now the play begins. I will roll the curtain up, and you will all see the set I have been designing for so long."

"The Exorcists intend to investigate certain... events in Paris and in Italy in a week or two." Lulu Bell added, her dark eyes glittering strangely.

"Tyki, you head to Paris," the Earl barked. "And do you, Lulu Bell, head to Italy. Take as many Akumas as you wish. We here will await your good news."

The Earl grinned and brought his fingers heavily down on the piano keys. He produced a stark, unhappy sound.

"We will destroy the foundations of the world!"

He brought his fingers down again, playing a melody so disharmonious that it could scarcely be called music. "This is the taste of bloodshed."

(The Earl's smile stained the night red.)


A/N: I had an urge to post something, but I haven't finished the next chapter of the fic I'm currently doing yet, so I posted this instead.

How was this? I felt it was somewhat choppy, but I can't be sure. I've never been to an auction before, btw, so the scene in the middle was based solely on my imagination.

Can't think of anything to add atm.

Reviews would be nice!~

And – thanks for reading!