A/N: Alright, I just want to thank everyone who's re-reading this re-write for sticking with me and not walking away. And thank-you for all your comments, Faves and Alerts! You guys are the reason that I Haven't given up on this story yet!
Rosette Christopher stomped through the raised, open-air hallway leading to the main building, absolutely furious. She couldn't believe this! She only got to see her little brother once a year for two weeks, and they hauled him off for more training! She was going to give Sister Kate a piece of her mind! Guh, sometimes she wished they'd let her learn how to use the guns – at least then she'd be able to work out some of her frustrations. But no, only members were allowed. She supposed that she could understand, but still; she was bored, angry and frustrated... And, she suddenly realized, unsupervised.
The date was 1923 January 13 – exactly ten days before Rosette's 15th birthday, at which point she would have to leave the 7th Bell Orphanage. Like most modern teens, she had cut her hair short – in her case, into a bob – and was wearing a dress with the waist around her hips. Normally, a corset would be worn underneath and used to make her figure more boyish, but she couldn't afford one, and although Joshua had bought her the long-sleeved, sailor-style dress – which went down to just below her knees – she was currently wearing, her brother didn't have the funds to get her a corset either. As a result, the dress was a bit tight in the hips and chest area. On her golden-blond head was the sleekly styled hat that in later decades would become indicative of the 20s; a couche. The one that she was wearing was pale yellow, with lavender crochet lace over top. On the side was a flower – also crocheted – of the same color, with a green leaf on either side of it. They were crocheted as well. In contrast to the dress and hat she was wearing, the teen had on a leather coat and brown biker boots.
Rosette wondered when, exactly, it was that she had lost 'Sister Clairvoyant.' Actually, the Sister's name was Clarity, but she could sometimes have an uncanny insight into things Rosette would rather that she didn't, and had even been known to predict things before they happened, hence the nickname.
A mischievous, cat-like smile curled across the blond's face, her sky-blue eyes lighting up with mischief as she decided that, after coming here for nearly three years, it was high time that she started really exploring the place.
She looked one way and then the other, making absolutely certain that no one saw her, before heading towards the tree line at the back of the Order grounds. When Rosette saw a trio of nuns in blue and white habits walking through the open-air hallway that she had been treading only moments before, she plunked herself down and glared moodily at the main building. Doing so reminded her that she had been heading to Sister Kate's office to tell her off, but suddenly thought disappearing would give them a scare, and hopefully teach them a lesson.
By the time Rosette's visit with her brother was done, she would have nowhere to go; in a week and a half she'd be fifteen, and would no longer be allowed to stay at the Orphanage. Ms. Jean had been trying to help her find a job and a place to stay, but they'd had no luck so far. People just didn't want to hire a girl, and those that were willing paid so little that she'd never be able to make it on her own.
Rosette had no idea what she was going to do, and that frightened her.
The nuns continued down the open-air hallway, snubbing their noses as they went, and the blond stuck her tongue out at their retreating forms. The teen had never been able to figure out what their problem with her was, but for some reason, everyone at the Order – except Father Remington, Sister Kate, Sister Elizabeth and of course, her brother – treated her with disgust. Picking herself up off of the ground, she started towards the tree line again. Overhead, the sky was clear and sunny, the birds chirped happily all around, the grass under her boots was fresh and emerald green, and the stone paths were immaculately clean, without so much as a single weed growing between the tightly packed, pale paving stones.
All of it annoyed her.
Reaching the tree line, Rosette noticed that there were paths wide enough to fit a car. After a moment's debate, she decided to see where they led. Looking to her left, she saw that the path led to the long building with the angular supports – Rosette thought that they might be called buttresses, but she wasn't really sure – that started at the base of the roof and went all the way to the ground. Joshua had once told her that the building was used for training, and that they sometimes used real poltergeists and demons for more advanced training. The blond was sorely tempted to go take a look, but – much to her annoyance – she remembered her promise to her brother to steer clear of that building, and instead, she looked to the right. The only thing she saw in that direction was the dorm/cafeteria, which meant that the path angling off from it at the corner led to the outdoor training grounds, and around the back would be the path/road leading to the garage. Both of which Joshua had shown her a while ago. The number of escape plans that she had come up with after finding out where the garage is was staggering. All of them had been shot down by Joshua, until he had finally told her "I don't want to leave."
She'd never tell him, but she had cried herself to sleep every night for over a month afterwards.
A few paces away was a third, even wider path that gently curved out of sight. There were trees on the right of the path, and trimmed grass leading to bushes of varying sizes, and a couple more trees on the left. Spying water just past those bushes, she decided to investigate. Walking through a break between a bush and a maple tree, she quickly found herself standing next to a sparkling brilliantly – almost impossibly – pale blue pond.
"Wow," She mumbled, staring into the surprisingly deep pond.
Curious about how deep it was – and not noticing that the sky was now a softly glowing, pure white, along with anything beyond the trees and bushes – she brought one foot up, grabbed her boot, and started taking it off. A male voice from across the pond stopped her.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you. That pond isn't exactly normal."
Pausing, she looked up and set her foot back on the ground, stamping down to get her foot all the way back into her boot. Rosette looked around, trying to spot the source of the voice, but to no avail. A sharp whistle, and an "Over here!" brought her eyes around to an oddly familiar-looking man. He had spiky black hair swept back, with a single lock falling forward, and a hint of blue in it. He had handsome, fine-boned, friendly features, with a straight nose and fine eyebrows, and impossibly blue eyes that seemed to almost glow. He was wearing dark pants, and an un-tucked button-down shirt. His hands were in his pockets, and on one wrist was a watch. Whatever he had on his feet was hidden by the low bush he was standing behind.
"Name's Zack Fair," He said, "And yours?"
"Uh... Rosette Christopher..."
"Rosette Christopher..." He said thoughtfully, rubbing his chin with one hand, "Rosette... Oh! Are you Joshua's sister?"
Rosette blinked once, staring at him in surprise, then asked, "You know my brother?"
"Yup, funny kid. Gets into a lot of trouble though... Definitely keeps Chrono on his toes."
Rosette was pouting. She didn't realize it, but she was. Zack hesitated, considering what to do, as he removed one hand from a pocket and rubbed the back of his neck. Getting an idea, he said, "You know, there's a bridge just over there." He pointed to his right, "If you want to stop having to yell just to be heard."
Rosette considered the man across the pond from her – he placed his hand back in his pocket – before deciding 'why not?' and went in the direction that he had indicated, following the edge of the pond. When she got to the bridge, she was startled to see that Zack had somehow beaten her to it, and was waiting on the other end. He smirked at her. Behind him was a white gazebo, with Roman-style pillars and a shingled roof topped with a white, miniature statue of a woman holding a set of scales.
As she set foot on the bridge and crossed, he said, "I got some food if you're hungry-"
Rosette's stomach made a sour, gurgling noise as she stepped off of the bridge, and both of them paused then laughed.
"It's not a full meal," He said, "but it'll at least put something in your stomach."
"Yeah... thanks. I haven't eaten since this morning." Her expression turned aggravated, "I was too angry after they came and grabbed Joshua for more training."
"Really? I thought you guys only got two weeks a year to see each other."
"We do!" She exclaimed, her expression turning furious, as Zack walked them over to the gazebo with Rosette stomping along beside him, "And they had the gall to haul him off for more training! They're just trying to push me further out of his life! First, it's fewer calls, then..."
And so Rosette spilled her guts about the last nearly-three years to Zack, who listened patiently while she stuffed her mouth, not noticing that he wasn't eating. Eventually, she tired herself out and fell asleep. The bench inside of the gazebo was done as a three quarter square, rather than following the shape of the gazebo, so she was able to stretch out. How he ended up with her head on his leg, Zack wasn't entirely sure of, but he had.
"Just like when she was a kid," He muttered to himself, then added a little louder, "It's alright. You're safe to come out; she's asleep now."
Zack could hear foliage rustling and a moment later, a relatively tall, muscular, Caucasian man in slacks, a tucked in button-down – top two buttons undone – and a blazer leaned his forearms on the wall of the gazebo. He had strong features that were, nonetheless, reminiscent of Zack's, though the bridge of the newcomer's nose was wider, the jawline more masculine – and sporting a short beard – and his eyebrows naturally arched. His blue-black hair was neatly brushed, as always, and a few inches long.
"She's grown..." The newcomer commented quietly, more to himself than to Zack.
"Yeah," Zack agreed anyway, "Looks like her mom too..."
"So does her brother."
The name of the man leaning against the gazebo wall was Angeal Hewley, once Zack's mentor and a SOLDIER 1st class. Given enough time, every civilization falls and the one that they'd been born into had been no exception, though its fall had come about five thousand years or so after they had died the first time.
When death claims most, they become part of the Lifestream and lose their individuality as they blend back into the life force of the planet. Sometimes, though, a strong enough soul will retain 'themselves' within the Lifestream; such was the case with these two men. What separated them from all but a few hundred – which was nothing in comparison to the number of people who have lived and died throughout the ages – was the fact that, every once in a while, they were sent back by the planet to help save the world. The last time that Zack and Angeal had been sent back was about twenty years ago, and they had died again around eleven years later. And yes, they had known Rosette and Joshua before the siblings had been sent to the orphanage, although Angeal had been going by an entirely different name at the time.
"How much of the conversation did you hear?"
"Enough to know that she may be on the streets soon," Angeal answered, his brows furrowing, as worry and anger clouded his too-blue eyes.
"Unless the Order didn't have any choice but to take her in..." Zack suggested.
Peering over at his once-pupil a bit suspiciously, Angeal asked, "What did you have in mind?"
"Well... If she knows what's going on, and gets involved deeply enough-"
"No," Angeal snapped angrily, abruptly standing up ramrod straight, "I do not want that monster anywhere near her!"
Zack sighed and said, "Angeal, she knew what she was doing!"
Rosette stirred slightly and both men lowered their voices.
"There is no way," Angeal countered, planting his hand on the wall, and leaning over it again to whisper fiercely at Zack, "That she understood the consequences when she was only twelve!"
"You're underestimating her."
Angeal's glare, if anything, got more ferocious.
"A child – whether they realize it or not – thinks they're immortal, that nothing can actually hurt them. She may have outgrown some of that by now, but I guarantee you that she hadn't by then!"
Zack sighed again.
"You got a better idea? We're kind of dead at the moment, so I really can't see too many other options."
Angeal ground his teeth in frustration, his glare hardening on the other man, who stared back with an unusually serious expression. Normally it was Zack who was the emotional one and his companion the one who kept a level head.
"Angeal," Zack finally said, "She's going to end up on the street, or working absurd hours for a ridiculously low wage for years to come, until some guy decides to marry her and she starts having kids."
Angeal's glare softened and he turned his eyes back to Rosette's sleeping form. A mental struggle warred visibly across his handsome features until they finally went slack. His large body slumped, he hung his head, and a sigh drifted past his lips. Zack knew that he had won the argument.
"If that monster," Angeal said at length, "Does anything else to her, I will find a way to resurrect myself and make certain that he pays."
The threat was not an empty one.
Rosette woke up about an hour later, feeling very rested and refreshed – and was by herself. Looking around she found an envelope nearby on one of the three benches. Standing, she walked over and picked the letter up. After examining it and finding nothing to indicate who had left it she assumed that it had been Zack and opened the unsealed envelope. Pulling out the letter, Rosette read it.
Hey, Rosette. Sorry for up and vanishing on you! Had to get going and didn't want to wake you. Anyway, if you go back the way you came you'll see that one of the paths curves. Follow that one and you'll come to an old church. Knock on the door. The guy inside is called Elder, he should be able to point you in the direction of Chrono.
Rosette stared at the letter in surprise for a moment, before noticing that there was a postscript at the bottom in different – easier to read – handwriting.
P.S. The old man is a pervert; feel free to hit him if he tries anything funny.
The postscript had a dash, like someone had been about to sign their name, but decided not to at the last moment. Either way, the blond was glad that someone had thought to give her a heads-up on what this old man was like, and debated whether or not she actually wanted to deal with him. After a minute, the temptation of seeing Chrono again after three years proved to be too much and, absently stuffing the letter in her pocket, she headed back across the little, arching bridge. When she was at the highest point on it she spied the path and decided to make a beeline for it rather than retrace her steps.
A couple of minutes later, and she was standing on paving stones again. Rosette glanced around to orient herself, spotted the familiar buildings of the Order, and went in the opposite direction, following the curving path. It was only a couple of minutes again before the trees gave way to trimmed grass, and the old church came into view. The building was covered in moss, partially surrounded by a stone wall that hugged close to the side of the building. It had paneled, double doors, with steps leading up to them, and a wooden bench off to the side at the base of the stairs. Directly behind the bench was a wall that jutted out from another one, which partially covered the front of the building. Rosette didn't know it, but this was the original Order outpost for the area. On one end of the wall that the bench sat next to was a marble gargoyle with wings, and was about the size of a very stocky and muscular child. At the peak of the roof and directly above the double doors was an old, worn out statue of Jesus facing to the side and beginning to reach upwards beseechingly with one hand. Chimneys stuck up from seemingly everywhere on the roof. Rosette counted at least seven.
Behind the old church was another tree line. A yew tree grew closer to Rosette on the lawn, which the blond passed as she walked up to the building. As she drew closer, she noticed that the arch above the doors – along with every wall that she could see – wasn't just made of stone; it was made of reddish-tan, stone bricks. Three strides away from the steps, and one of the double doors opened, revealing a hunched-over old man with the strangest, red-lensed goggles Rosette had ever seen in her life. The lenses were set in tarnished brass, and on the underside were steel-colored, metal half circles that attached to two unpolished, brass arms that further attached to thinner, silver-colored arms that disappeared behind his ears. Coming out of one of the goggles' arms was a black wire that attached to something white in his ear. On his head was a round, black cap covering his flaring, gray hair. Above the goggles was a set of bushy, gray eyebrows, and on his chin was a matching tuft of beard.
The old man was wearing a priest's cassock, though it was short even by the Order's standards, all black – instead of the Magdalene's blue – and the collar was missing, leaving the neck open. Over top all of this, he had on a white lab coat.
He broke into a grin, and asked, "Well, who do we have here?"
"...Rosette Christopher. And you?"
"Ah! Joshua's sister! Well, it's good to finally get to meet you... And I must say, he forgot to mention how pretty you are. I'm the Elder."
Remembering what the letter had said about Elder, she gave the old man a wary, suspicious look.
"Oh, come now! Don't give me that look! What has that boy been telling you about me?"
"Not much," Rosette answered bluntly, "Anyway, I was told that you could tell me where I can find Chrono."
The old man frowned at her, and hummed thoughtfully, his hand on his chin. She didn't know it, but he was debating whether or not to ask her to let him grab her breasts in exchange for showing her. Whichever way he chose would decide his health for about the next week or so. He did not make the right choice, but, then again, when it comes to pretty girls he rarely does.
"I'll show you if you let me fondle your breasts..."
He ducked the first boot she immediately threw at his head – which banged loudly against one of the doors, before rebounding and tumbling down the stairs – along with the second boot, but he still got nailed with her fist when she landed a roundhouse on him. The noted that she's very fast. He fell to the ground, where she proceeded to try stomping on him. Elder managed to dodge most of the blows, though she did land some that were going to leave some nice bruises later, and all the while, he was getting to see up her knee-length skirt.
"I see London, I see France!" he sang gleefully.
Realizing what he meant, she let out an embarrassed yell, stopped trying to pummel him with her bare foot and pressed her hands onto her skirt like she was trying to keep it down as she stumbled back. This was an instinctive response to try and stop him from looking up her skirt. Unfortunately, she forgot how far – or, more precisely, how close – the stairs were, and fell backwards. Luckily for her, it was only four steps, so she didn't get anything worse than a bump.
"Oh my!" Elder exclaimed, getting up and going down the stairs.
Grabbing her arm with a surprisingly firm grip for an old man, he helped her stand, saying, "Here, let me help you."
Once standing, he asked her if she was alright.
"Uh, yeah... I'm jake. Thanks." She answered, surprised.
"Come on." He said, now feeling a bit guilty, "I'll show you where you can find Chrono."
Rosette's face light up.
She didn't hear him add in a mutter, "Though I'll probably lose my job for this..."
"Anyway," He added louder, beginning to walk away from her, the odd little church and the path, "If you'll follow me..."
Rosette started to follow him, and then realized that she was in only her socks.
"Ah, wait! I have to grab my boots!"
The old man paused and glanced over his shoulder, waiting as the blond teen ran over to the double doors, scooping up the boot at the base of the stairs, and grabbing the other one from the top. Deciding that since the Elder was heading towards a grassy path and she'd like to feel it under her feet, she tucked the boots under her arm, raised one foot and balanced on the other as she tugged the first sock off. Setting her foot back down, she stuffed the sock into one of the boots, then repeated the actions with the other foot.
That all done, Rosette grabbed both boots by their laces and chased after the old man, relishing when she felt the cool, refreshing sensation of the grass on her bare feet. She would never understand why Joshua liked the city so much. Yes, it has its advantages, but the countryside was cleaner, less crowded, less smelly – she'd never been to a farm – and had so fewer restrictions. Besides all that was the fact that you also knew everybody, as opposed to all of them being strangers to you at any given time. It was creepy. Joshua always argued that you got to meet so many new people, instead of always having to deal with the same idiots all the time.
Rosette understood full well why he would say things like that. After the Incident everyone at 7th Bell had been scared of him and tried to avoid him as much as was possible given where that they were all living together. Oftentimes, they had used his past health issues as an excuse to not include him in things. Rosette and Chrono had spent the majority of their time with him – at least until Chrono suddenly vanished, and Joshua then joined the Order a few days later.
Rosette had been left behind.
Catching up with the old man he started walking again, telling her as they went about some of the more interesting incidents Joshua had gotten himself into, but had not told her about due to orders – which had never been issued to Elder, so he quite happily informed her of what her brother had been up to since he had joined the Magdalene Order.
The teen didn't know it, but he was deliberately leaving out the incidents that would understandably frighten her on her brother's behalf (this included the incident involving the doctors, a very angry Chrono, and some remodeling afterwards). On they walked as he continued regaling her with stories. When he ran out of ones to safely tell her about Joshua the old man moved on to stories about Chrono. Imagine Rosette's surprise to learn that there was a way to and from the demon world! And Chrono didn't even need to use it to make the journey. She had gotten hints from Joshua that their friend was an extremely powerful demon, but, from what the Elder was saying, it sounded like Chrono was more powerful than everyone else... That couldn't be right... Could it?
"Well then, here we are!" The Elder announced, jarring her out of her thoughts.
The first thing that Rosette noticed about the place was that the moss – the grass had given way to it about five minutes ago – led straight into a wooded area. The second thing that she noticed was the pale yellow ribbon tied to a sapling at the edge of the tree line, a very familiar pale yellow ribbon. Did he-? Have they been-? She was going to kill Chrono! That had been her favorite ribbon she had given him!
"The ribbons mark the path," Elder explained, indicating the first one, and completely oblivious to Chrono's impending doom, "Just follow them until the building comes into view. I'm not allowed to tell anyone how to find, or use, the door, so you're on your own there."
"Thanks," Rosette grumbled, glaring daggers at the yellow ribbon fluttering offensively from the sapling.
Turning around, Elder noticed the near-murderous look and where it was directed, then belatedly recalled that Chrono had once told him that the ribbon had come from Rosette. Deciding to save the poor demon from the blond teen's wrath, Elder explained Chrono's reasons.
"Rosette," He called, unusually serious.
Said girl's attention slid away from the offending object and over to Elder.
"Do you know why Chrono decided to use this ribbon?"
"No," She answered crankily.
"Well, Chrono once told me that he decided to use it to mark the path as a reminder to himself."
"Yes, of the one time in his life that he could remember being both happy and content. He said that whenever he sees the ribbon it reminds him that, even though those days were gone, there is still the possibility that happiness and contentment can be found again with the people he cares most about."
Rosette's gaze went back to the ribbon, but this time her expression was thoughtful.
"Oh," Was all she said in answer.
"Well," Elder said abruptly as he started walking away, "This trek is too much for this old man. Just follow the ribbons, and you'll be fine. Good luck!"
Rosette watched for a few moments as his hunched form retreated with surprising speed before she turned back around and started towards the path. She would have put her socks and boots back on, but the path was covered in moss – and lined on either side by more yellow ribbons. Some were tied to bushes and undergrowth, but the majority was tied to low-hanging branches. Her expression softened at the sight. Like Chrono and her brother, she wished that they could all go back to those days and, like them, she knew that was impossible.
With a sigh, she half-crouched, half-knelt down, placing her boots on the ground. Taking the laces of both, she tied them together, then draped them over her shoulder, one boot going over her chest and the other her back. Normally, the weather would still be too cold for her to do this, but, for some reason, the weather was unseasonably warm. Standing back up, she headed down the path.
The walk down the path proved to be fairly boring, though it was interesting to find out that the moss seemed to glow blue-green in the shade. As she went deeper into the forested area, the trees got larger and older. The ribbons were more commonly tied to undergrowth and – eventually – even that gave way to tall, delicately-wrought peaked arches made out of some dark material that Rosette couldn't identify no matter how much she inspected them. Eventually, her target came into sight within a small clearing that looked like it was from a fairytale-like land. Carpeting the entire area was the same blue-green moss that had lined the path and hanging from the branches of the enormous trees were draping curtains of yet more moss – this stuff green and flowering. The blossoms gave off a faint glow, though this went unnoticed by Rosette as she stared, dumbfounded, at the three-story building in the center of the clearing.
The building looked like a layered, near-white, pristinely clean, squat, oval fortress tower decorated with more peaked arches – one stacked on top of the other – that reminded the teen of flower petals. The first layer of the three-story tower tapered in and up to the next one, which was narrower. The second layer did the same, making the top half the width of the bottom. Rosette wasn't really sure what she had expected, but this fairytale scene was not it. Surprised, she crossed the clearing and when she was within reach placed her bare hand against the surface of the wall, next to the leg of an arch. Peering at the surface, it was easy to see that whatever it was made out of wasn't stone. The surface was far too smooth and non-textured. Anything made, her subconscious informed her, had some kind of texture – however fine and seemingly undetectable.
Unable to identify what it was about the structure that bothered her, Rosette started inspecting the building. The first thing that she looked at was where the arches met the rest of the wall. They seemed to be made of the same dark, colorless material that the arches lining the path were made of and were raised from the wall by about two fingers' widths. But there was no seam between wall and arch, nor was there any overlap of color from either the wall or the dark material to indicate that either had been painted.
"Jeepers..." She muttered.
Now thoroughly unnerved Rosette took a few steps back and stared up at the otherworldly-seeming structure. After a few seconds she gave herself a shake.
"C'mon," She told herself, "No point in lollygagging."
With that said, the teen started looking for a door, all the while keeping in mind what Elder had said about finding the door. When her first circuit around yielded nothing she frowned and circled the building again. Nothing, not even a window. She made another yet another circuit, now very curious and determined to find a way inside. This time, she started looking higher up – and found exactly what she was looking for; a window situated high above her head, very near the top. Looking the side of the building over she quickly determined that this was not going to be an easy climb.
It shouldn't be any harder than climbing the side of that waterfall two years ago... She assured herself.
About two years ago Rosette had been exploring around the lake she, Joshua, and Chrono used to play by when she discovered a small waterfall about fifteen feet high. Roughly halfway up she had seen something flash in the sunlight and – curiosity getting the better of her (especially with no around to caution some sense into her) – she had set up the slippery wall of rocks. She had gotten a broken arm for her efforts, but she had also gotten what had been tucked away up there, a simple teardrop-shaped necklace on a fine chain. She'd worn it ever since and even now it was hidden under her dress.
Her brother often accused her of being too curious – at times with good reason – though he was still the only one who didn't tell her that she was an idiot because of it. The teen aged girl however, did agree with the others that she wasn't exactly the smartest person around. But that didn't stop her from getting mad at them every time they said it.
Walking backwards until she was nearly in the tree line, Rosette hooked her thumb on the tied-together laces of her boots and pulled them off of her shoulder setting them on the ground. Her jacket was unceremoniously dumped on top of them a moment later and she rolled up her sleeves a broad, closed-mouthed grin pulling at her lips. Rubbing her hands together she set herself in a position very similar to a runner's starting stance in a race, then went at the building running. When she got close enough, she jumped, planted her bare feet on the building wall and pushed herself up higher. Grabbing at the ridge which formed an arch, created where the building tapered up into the next level, she scrambled until she got her feet planted on the top of two arches. Pleased – and her stomach now sore from colliding with the corner of the taper – Rosette then started climbing again.
A few minutes later and she was looking into the window from a very precarious position. The window was too grimy to see anything though, so she very carefully reached into a pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, which she then used to try and wipe the window clean. When she was satisfied, she – handkerchief still in hand as she gripped the small ledge of the window – looked in again. It was too dark for her to see anything.
There has to be a way in, she thought in frustrated annoyance.
Although it took Rosette a few minutes – in which her arms and legs began to get tired, though country life and a lot of exploring throughout her life had given her good stamina and muscle tone – she found something along the lower edge of the window. It looked like some kind of weird script had been carved into the window frame. She couldn't really make it out though, because it was caked in dust.
The handkerchief was put to use again.
When she had wiped away as much as she could Rosette returned her fabric-bearing hand to gripping the sill. She inhaled deeply, then blew across the script to try and get the rest of the dust out of the gouges. The moment her breath touched it the script lit up all around the window and down the length of the building. There was a bright glow directly in front of her that should have hurt her eyes, but didn't. When it faded she found a door where previously there had been solid stone and glass. The blond also now found herself lying, uncomfortably, on a set of stairs that had extended out of the wall.
Rosette stood up and examined the entryway. It looked to be made of something metallic and silvery, and had a lever handle.
She had no way of knowing, but normally a door like this one would have a terminal, into which a passcode would have to be inputted.
Rosette Christopher would never understand what possessed her to reach out and turn that handle, but she did, and then stepped through. On the other side, she found herself on a sizable balcony – oddly warm under her bare feet and very hard – going from one side of a domed chamber to the other, with stairs at the halfway point leading down to a large space below. Tall stone pillars reached all the way to the ceiling above her head, where they became beautifully carved, cathedral arches. Hidden somewhere at the base of each arch were green lights that gave everything a slightly surreal cast. On the floor was a mosaic made out of honeycomb-shaped tiles. It depicted what looked like an armless, horned, winged – one set on the woman's back, the other on her lower half – mermaid, with a severely bloated lower half, sleeping with her head turned upwards. She was beautiful, but something about her gave Rosette the creeps. Maybe it was all those extra fins and that snaking tail extending past the bloating, combined with the double set of angelic wings...
Coming to a decision, the teen turned around to go wait for her brother so that she could ask him about this, but found that, oh dear, the door was gone. Frantically, she looked for anyway out and/or weird scripts carved into something. When she found nothing she took a deep breath and looked again, this time more calmly. And then looked again and again and again... And again. Over and over, Rosette tried to find some way out that was attached to the balcony – because there was nothing to climb on the walls – but could find nothing.
Scared, she leaned against the wall and slid down to sit heavily on the floor, pulling her legs close to her chest and hugging them as she tried to figure out what to do. The teen took several calming, steadying breaths, refusing to acknowledge the tears clogging her throat and stinging her eyes.
Think, think, think! You may not have much of a brain, but you've got enough to use, so figure something out!
"Hello?" A male voice called, startling the teen out of her thoughts.
Rosette scrambled to her feet, and ran to the top of the stairs, her footfalls barely making any sound to her ears. There, standing almost dead center of the mosaic, was a man with shoulder-length dark hair, long, pointed (furred?) ears, horns, wings, handsome features – she felt a blush creeping onto her cheeks – a neutral expression, and a dark outfit that looked like it just might be some kind of very form-fitting armor. On his forehead were three dark dots in a triangle pattern. From the base of his skull was a long, segmented... Something... That ended in a sharp point and seemed to float away from his back.
She stared down at him, not sure what to do with this oddly-familiar looking man in front of her.
Finally, he spoke, his tone one of disbelief.
"Huh? Do I know you?"
"...Magdalene's Tomb. You gave me candy."
A moment of silence as this processed, and then she finally exclaimed, "CHRONO?"
She hadn't realized that it was him because 1) she had only seen her demon friend in this form twice, 2) it had been three years ago that she had last seen him and there were no pictures at 7th Bell of Chrono anywhere and 3) he had looked fifteen years old the last time she had seen him.
He was about to answer her in the affirmative, when she barreled down the stairs and nearly tripped. With a startled "Gah!" he put on a burst of speed and caught Rosette before she took the fast and painful way down to the plaza.
"Geez, Rosette." He said, looking slightly exasperated, his hands holding her shoulders, "You haven't changed a bit..."
"Shaddup!" She exclaimed, righting herself, ready to bonk him on the head, only to find that he was too tall for her to properly reach, even standing one stair lower.
Refusing to be deterred, she pulled free of his grasp and moved up three steps, much to his surprise and confusion. Keeping a hand on one of his (definitely armored) shoulders she made sure that she could reach without losing her balance and bonked him a good one on the top of his noggin. He was a bit startled by this – though unhurt – and stared up at her in confusion.
"You just left!" She yelled, trying, and failing, not to sound hurt.
"Rosette, I told you I was going to have to leave eventually to stop Aion."
"You could have visited, or written, or, or – told me! You didn't say goodbye, or anything. You just left me!"
He saw flashes of the last three years go through her mind, though nothing clear. Even without seeing those memories he had realized by what she had said that she was lonely and felt abandoned.
It was nearly three years ago – just a few months after she and Joshua had found him in Magdalene's Tomb, and pulled him out of the literal and metaphorical darkness – that Aion had nearly taken Joshua away. Chrono had just barely managed to get to Joshua and pull his horns off of the boy's head before it was too late. He had undone the Freeze her brother had placed on the others in the orphanage and had then decided to remain in his sealed form as he figured out what to do. Although he had ended up only looked like a child for a few weeks more due to the fact that he started growing at a phenomenal rate thereafter until he looked like the adult he is. Ms. Jean had insisted on him staying at the orphanage, even after seeing him in his true form and for nearly four months he had happily helped her care for the children. That is until Duke Duffau showed up and offered him amnesty in return for helping them deal with Aion.
He had taken the offer, if only because his presence was a threat to the children of the orphanage. Rosette was mad more because he hadn't said goodbye than because he hadn't visited or gotten some word to her, though she wanted to be.
Picking her up so that she didn't tumble down the stairs Chrono said, as he made his way to the foyer, "The door won't open again for a few days. You can stay with me until then, but please stay close and do as I tell you."
He didn't see the slight blush across her cheeks. She wasn't sure why, but she liked the fact that he could lift and carry her so easily.
At the bottom of the stairs he set her down again and this time did notice her blush, making him wonder why she was blushing. Dismissing it for the moment, he, knowing that she just might wander off simply to spite him at the moment, wrapped his segmented tail – growing out of the base of his skull – around her waist. He noted that she was starting to get curvy as he led her to an exit that would take them to a Gate Room, which would then take them to the capital. They had recently started expanding out from Pandemonium when Chrono had pointed out that their numbers had become so precarious after the rebellion because the lack of space demanded controlled numbers. He had also pointed out that they needed a way to get to the surface more easily to catch Aion and other transgressors (there are other law breakers among demonkind – and all of them are called 'sinners').
As a result there are now two cities already built – demons are very efficient workers and the help of literally countless Legion hadn't hurt – branching off from Pandemonium, a third underway and tunnels being constructed under the noses of humans all over the world, with entrances/exits to get to the surface. The one Rosette had just come through was made to keep contact with the Order, who had been proving to be an asset in catching sinners. To say that many Pursuers had been shocked by the number of crimes committed on the surface by their brothers and sisters was a bit of an understatement.
Their alliance with the Order, though, was entirely secret and not even the Bishops' Council knew about it. Hence why the doorway was a forty minute walk away from all the other buildings.
As Chrono entered the tunnel he turned off the alarm lights hidden up on the ceiling and triggered the door to close behind him and Rosette. The walk down the barely-lit, spacious hall wasn't long, but she grumbled under her breath anyway, stopping only when they entered the more brightly lit Gate Shift Room. The teen stared. The room was enormous, and made of the same material as the tower. The walls were lined in interconnected arches that, this time, were made of the same pale stuff as the walls. In the center was a dais and a few feet away from that was a hexagonal hip-high – on Chrono – pillar about two feet wide by six inches across. The top of the pillar was angled and faced towards the dais.
Chrono gently pulled the gaping girl along, pausing at the pillar to tap in some commands on the terminal in the short pillar. With that done he then took her over to the Gate Platform and stepped up onto it. With his tail still wrapped around her waist Rosette had no choice but to follow and ended up standing next to him. Instead of going straight to the capital like he had initially intended to he was now taking her somewhere else.
Normally, a Gate Shift requires a Technician to safely operate it, but, in this case, the Gate itself had preset destinations, so as long as a person knows how use the terminal they can select where they want to go. Chrono had bypassed entirely this to take Rosette to see something. This hacking skill, along with knowing how to safely operate a Gate Platform, was something that Aion had insisted they all learn how to do. Though, in Chrono's case, he had already known how to hack the system. It had been something he had done a lot when he was younger.
There was a rush as the Gate Platform activated that disoriented Rosette and then, just like that, they were on another Platform in a nearly identical room. The difference was that the room was much smaller and the terminal was missing. In it's place was an attached, raised room with all of the controls necessary to operate a Gate. It was also manned by a rotund, relatively Human-looking demon with sharp eyes and a hawkish nose. He had a three-quarters ring on his back with spikes coming off of it that work in place of rings.
"We're not there yet, but there's something that I want to show you."
Looking around, understandably bewildered, she exclaimed, "That fast?"
He smiled – a bit amused – and answered, "Yes."
"Mister Chrono..." The technician manning the Gate Room said calmly, drawing the attention of the two arrivals.
"Technician," Chrono acknowledged.
"What is... That doing here?"
Rosette got the distinct and annoying feeling that 'that' meant her.
"She stumbled through one of the entrances on Magdalene Order grounds, Manhattan branch. I'll be keeping an eye on her until she can go back."
The technician frowned, but nodded. Chrono had just – deliberately – told him that the entrance had spontaneously opened without warning and which one. Since Chrono didn't have any rank, he couldn't just go up to someone and say 'Hey, this needs to be looked at.', but there are some, like the technician, that know him well enough by now that he can drop them clues.
The technician watched Chrono leave, His Human in tow and wondered where he was taking it. The only thing currently in the direction he was headed was the unfinished tunnel on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean... Well, Chrono had always been an odd one.
Chrono led Rosette along the almost pitch-black tunnel for nearly half an hour, before stopping and holding his hand up above his head. An orb of light seemed to manifest out of nowhere in his palm, much to the blond's shock.
"Joshua's come down through the way you had for various reasons," Chrono informed her, "But I've never been able to show him this."
"Wha- Joshua's- He never..."
"He probably couldn't. The demon-Magdalene Order alliance is strictly off the record."
"...Oh," She answered, suddenly feeling completely left out of the loop again and finding the floor terribly interesting.
"Rosette, take a look."
She did, not sure what she had expected, but a giant eyeball above her head definitely wasn't it. The sight was utterly terrifying, but then Chrono was standing right behind her, his hands on her shoulders (the orb of light was floating in the air behind them), and saying, "You're the first human in centuries to see a kraken and live, Rosette."
She turned a stunned look up to his smiling face and her fear evaporated, just like when she had first met him.
"That's a-?" Was the best the teen could get out.
"Yes." He turned his attention back up to the creature, "They live on the bottom of both oceans, and only rarely go to the surface, even when they're young. They're basically the biggest squids alive. Oh, you're also the first human to be standing on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Don't worry, the tunnel is extremely strong. You're safe."
Speechless, Rosette turned her attention back up to the giant eyeball. She sucked in a sharp breath when she saw it light up in a display of breathtaking color.
"That's how they communicate; they're very intelligent... Way smarter than you or I."
"W-wow," She finally managed to get out, still not sure what to feel about any of this.
Rosette stepped away from his comforting presence, his hands slipping off of her shoulders and his tail from around his waist, until she was standing only a foot away from the clear material holding the ocean back.
Chrono let her stare at the creature until it decided that it had shown off enough and left, which took roughly two hours; Rosette's feet were killing her by then and her lower back wasn't fairing much better. He still had no idea how he had managed to convince anyone that it would be a good idea to allow people to see the ocean outside the tunnel, but he had. And he was really glad right now that they had listened.
A bit reluctantly, he said, "Rosette, we gotta leave now."
She looked as reluctant to leave as he felt. To his amazement, she didn't argue though. Not sure what to make of this deviation in her behavior from what he remembered, he took her back to the Gate Room.
His reluctance was born out of the fact that he really – and with very good reason – didn't want her around his kind too much. The fast rate at which they heal allows them to be pretty brutal with each other. In most cases without too many consequences beyond angering or annoying someone. Unfortunately, this meant that it could be dangerous to let a human around them, since most didn't seem to quite grasp how delicate they are.
When they reached the Gate Room, Chrono was only mildly surprised to find the Duke sitting on the edge of the platform, his forearms resting on his knees and his long fingers loosely inter-laced. He was probably waiting for Chrono. He had his usual stern frown and scowl in place as he regarded the two.
"Chrono, who have you brought down here?"
"... Rosette Christopher, the Apostle Joshua's older sister. She came through-"
"The technician has already given me those details. What do you intend to do with her?"
"I was going to have her stay with me-"
"You think that you can protect her?"
"Most haven't forgotten what I did on the day of the rebellion."
"Exactly. You have enemies that will exploit her."
"If they lay a hand on her-!"
"You'll what?" The Duke interrupted, his deep, stern voice easily cutting over Chrono's, "Commit another act of treason, and kill them?"
When Chrono answered, his tone was chilling, and actually gave the other two in the room pause. Rosette was stunned at this new side to her childhood friend.
"If I have to."
The Duke was quiet for a moment, before answering.
"Chrono, the Unranked One, the Apostle Joshua Christopher's elder sister is present as a guest of Pandemonium. You are to act as her bodyguard for the duration of her stay. Is that understood?"
Chrono was more than a little surprised, but bowed out of reflex and said, "Yessir."
"Good. Now bring her to the capital."
Chrono led her onto the Platform and the Gate activated, sending them whisking away again, even as the Duke wondered why Rosette was barefoot...
A/N: All comments welcome and appreciated!