A/N: A few years back I was watching a home renovation show where they had to replace part of a crossbeam. This is apparently not easy. I can't remember how hard it was, though... Only that it's not something an ammeter should try doing.
That aside... I AM SO SORRY THIS UPDATE TOOK SO LONG AND THAT THE CHAPTER ISN'T EVEN VERY LONG TO COPENSATE! I really am! My muse was starving to death and I just got her recovered enough to finish writing this chapter. I'll try to keep her better fed from now on. Promise.
Now to answer reviews. And I want to say that I'm really sorry that answering you guys took so long; having a half dead muse seems to make me especially forgetful. I'd remember to answer a review after I'd post the chapter. Every time! So I'm answering them now. Again, I'm really sorry!
Broken doll: Yeah, I had to fix a few things and I think the story is better for it. Besides, I get to play around with some interesting – at least to me – story ideas this way.
Forbiddenlove285: Thank-you! I will! And I'm glad that you've enjoyed what I've written so far. Hopefully I will continue to write a story that you and the other readers will want to keep reading. I'll try to update more regularly.
kitsune's miko: You read the entire thing in one sitting? Wow. I'm flattered. How were your eyes feeling after that?
Shiroi Bara Kitsune Inu: I'll try to update more regularly, but my muse is still recovering.
Myya: Er, are you still confused?
Darkryubaby:Glad that you enjoyed it and I'll try to update soon.
To jainga, Shiroi Bara Kitsune Inu, bluedot, mangaanimefan4eva, Vincent-and-Yuffie-FOREVER, Lady Demoonica Darkmoon, darkryubaby, Victiorian Asylum, Dragons redemption, Saya and Hagi together 4 ever, Chibi Oro, gluttony456, snowpaum, HikariKegawaAshi, divinedragonchick: Thank-you so much for faving this story! It's what kept me writing this story. Every time I got a Fave Alert in my inbox it reminded me that there are people out there reading this and enjoying reading it. It really means alot to me whenever I see a Fave Alert. Thank-you from the bottom of my heart.
To Amayachida, kitsune's miko, Shiroi Bara Kitsune Inu, bluedot, snowpaum, 10-iz4, Chibi Oro, talkstoangels77, On Soaring Wings, the black kitty, crazy-ghost-girl: Thank-you for putting a Story Alert on this! Again, I'm glad that you're enjoying this story so far! And, as with the faves, it reminds me that there are people out there reading and enjoying this!
And now to the story...
Father Remington was a little annoyed. He and Sister Kate had been unable to convince Rufus that it would be better if his subordinates stayed behind rather than tag along. He didn't seem to grasp that they would be getting in the way. In fact, the man arrogantly insisted that they were "probably better equipped to deal with this" than the Order's Militia. In short; Rufus considered Remington and his people to be the back-up.
These people had no idea how to fight Demons and were all-but guaranteed to end up – at the very least – badly injured. As such Remington was heading to the infirmary to warn the head doctor to be prepared for them and to possibly have to treat an Apostle child. After the fiasco with Joshua when Chrono (very understandably) lost his temper with the 'doctors' that had been 'caring for him' Ewan and Sister Kate had made certain that the head doctor would have a conscience and empathy. Oddly enough they wound up with a civilian doctor by the name of Genesis Rhapsodos. He didn't even blink the first time he saw a Demon. Joshua said that he was cold and arrogant, but worth keeping around.
Everyone else was in agreement with his assessment. Ewan suspected that the teen liked the head doctor simply because the man didn't seem to be bothered by Joshua's... Differences. Doctor Rhapsodos was definitely an interesting – and mysterious given that Ewan couldn't find any background information on him – man to say the least.
Ewan stepped into the infirmary and immediately found the auburn-haired, vaguely Asian looking man wearing dark gray slacks, a black turtle-neck and standing in the middle of the floor, checking something on a clipboard. The Minister walked over to him.
Joshua found that he was actually glad that Rosette had made him filch some 'feminine hygiene' products for her a couple of times (7th Bell had been getting really tight again and Ms. Jean apparently hadn't noticed that they suddenly didn't need get those things after Rosette returned). This would make it far easier for the teen to discreetly sneak in, grab a few things, stuff them in a paper bag and sneak back out. That and the I'm-not-here-so-don't-notice-me trick he had learnt from Chrono. Turns out that's why no one ever remarks on his hair or ears when he's among Humans not from the Magdalene Order. Chrono's particular hair color – Joshua had since been informed – is fairly weird even for a demon.
All that said, the only hitch in the plan would be a Militia member being in the medical wing... And just his luck Ewan was talking with the head doctor, Genesis. Fantastic. To Joshua's surprise the older man lead the doctor away as he continued to talk with him. That was when the teen remembered; Ewan had caught him the last time he had been getting some stuff for 7th Bell and the Minister had been fairly understanding, turning a blind eye to what Joshua was doing at the time.
Relieved he quickly set about filling his paper bag.
Sister Elizabeth Grandberg was in the library running her finger across the spines of the old, dusty books as she thought over what the others were saying about Rosette Christopher. Elizabeth didn't think that their treatment of – and attitude towards – the blond was at all fair. They were far more forgiving of Joshua, but she suspected that was due to his powers. True, his relationship with Chrono was concerning, but the demon was loyal, protective and treated Joshua like a person rather than... Like an object. The only other people who could make the same claim could all be counted on one hand; Father Ewan Remington, Sister Kate Valentine, Edward Hamilton and Sister Clarity. Of those four the last one was judgmental of Rosette and seemed to all but loath Chrono.
Elizabeth sighed and turned away from the bookshelf, nothing catching her interest. Turning towards the other shelf that had been behind her she noticed a particularly thick book, the title of which made her eyebrows shoot up. She didn't notice the middle-aged man with the short cropped hair and Jewish cap on his head approaching. He had a square face, sharp cheekbones and serious, dark eyes.
The Dead Sea Scrolls? Elizabeth thought as she stepped closer to the book on the shelf, Translated by Alistair Doctus?
Elizabeth's eyes went wide when the name sunk in; 'Doctus' was the surname that one of the Demons that sometimes came up from the Demon World uses... And his given name is 'Alistair'.
It can't be... She thought, completely dumbfounded, as she pulled the heavy tome off of the shelf and stared at it.
"Is something the matter?"
The new, male voice caused her to jump half out of her skin and made her loose her grip on the book. It fell and hit her toes with surprising force, startling the man. Normally a sister of the Magdalene Order has steel-toed boots, but – unfortunately for her – she was only there to attend the school that funds the Order and, as such, does not wear the steal-toed boots. The only thing that set her apart from the other students, was that she was the only one who knew about the Demons and that only because of an accident.
"Are you alright?" The man – Guilliam, who had been recently transferred from San Francisco – asked her.
"Yes, I'm fine!" She answered reflexively, though it was a blatant lie, making her inwardly wince.
"Her, let me get that." He said, bending down to pick up the book and knowing that she had not told him the truth, but only to reassure him and not with the intention of sinning.
A 'white lie' people usually call it.
Picking the tome up an old, marginally yellowed envelope fell partially free. Surprised, Guilliam and Elizabeth stared at it as he straightened and turned the book to get a better look. After a moment Elizabeth took hold of the protruding corner of the letter and pulled it free. She flipped it over and found 'To Elizabeth Grandberg and Guilliam Aarons – Please read this.'
The two of them exchanged a glance before Elizabeth asked, "Are you Gilliam Aarons? I'm Elizabeth Grandberg."
"I am." He answered.
She considered the letter while the tall Jew placed the book back on the shelf before deciding to open it and find out what it had to say.
Edward Hamilton – the Elder – was an old man these days, but he was still... Spry. Much to the dismay of many a nun in the Convent. Ewan over-looked the Elder's ofttimes perverted ventures simply because the old man would never do anything to actually harm the girls. Both of them knew that if it was ever taken that far there would be a reckoning at the hands of Ewan. There was a reason that the highest authorities of the Order referred to the blond Minister as 'The Fallen Angel'.
Most who knew about that nickname assumed that it was born out of either (depending on how much of the Minister's past they were aware of) his failure to protect Mary Magdalene from the Sinners, or because of his sometimes boarder-line supernatural abilities. Almost no one knew that the truth of the matter is simply that Ewan can – if he concentrates – sprout wings. The kind that are large, flesh-and-blood and covered in gray feathers. Unlike those of the Apostles there was no glowing to accompany their appearance. Hence why the higher-ups call him 'The Fallen Angel'; they honestly believe that he is a real fallen angel that has been born into Human form for some reason.
Good thing they don't know about the Demon Cells permeating the majority of his body.
Minister Remington's wings had not been discovered until over twenty years after Chrono had been Sealed inside of Magdalene's tomb. The higher-ups mostly assumed that the reason for Ewan's fall from God's Grace was because the Minister likes the opposite gender far to much. It was an understandable assumption given the man's predilection for flirting with every bipedal female around him. It was something that Magdalene had often scolded both of them for, but it never succeeded in curtailing his behavior even a bit. So, the Elder supposed, he really shouldn't be so surprised to find a note left by Magdalene underneath a squeaky floorboard (that he had been trying to fix) telling him to behave before one of the girls seriously injured him. The note had been hidden inside of a simple and sturdy wooden box that had been placed where part of a supporting crossbeam normally should – and would – have been.
He wondered how and when she had managed to get that chunk of the crossbeam removed and the box put there. The very fact of the box's sturdiness was the only reason that the floorboard hadn't yet given out. He was going to have to get some help to fix this now. Nailing a board in place is one thing – replacing a missing piece of crossbeam is another entirely. For one thing it takes a certain amount of expertise.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, next to where he had removed the old board of wood, The Elder considered the box he had pulled out from under his workshop's floor. Inside of it were two notes and a silver Jewel Witch's Port/Interface designed to hold up to four Jewels. Port/Interface was attached to a vambrace rather than the normal, fingerless gauntlet. Obviously it wasn't normal.
With a sigh he decided that he will read the letter first, then get to the exiting an fun task of studying the Interface. Picking up the envelope he opened the letter and read it. The Elder raised an eyebrow and wondered what role Elizabeth was meant to play... There was also a reminder in the note that today was the day he and Ewan needed to get the big box down from the top shelf. At the end of the letter there was a P.S. telling him to give Azmaria the box with the vambrace in it (and no, he is not allowed to examine it – she means it; the box and it's contents are the girl's property).
Who's Azmaria? He wondered, then decided that he'd ask Ewan if he knew.
Putting the letter back in it's envelope he set it aside and grabbed the next one, opened it and read. He frowned. And why did she have to tell him to stop what he was doing with the girls? He wasn't hurting anybody... Right?
Oh, fudge... Edward Hamilton thought, Now she has me feeling guilty. Probably what she was aiming for.
Elizabeth and Gilliam approached The Elder's workshop, the former with an understandable amount of trepidation given that the old man's reputation – such as it may be – proceeded him quite... Loudly. Ever since she and Gilliam had finished reading the letter not more than a few sentences had passed between them. Normally Gilliam would be adamantly against sending a fifteen year old down to live among Demons for any length of time... But, according to the letter, Elizabeth is not a normal fifteen year old. On top of that the writer had claimed to be the Mary Magdalene Chrono had taken fifty years ago and told them to get The Elder to confirm the handwriting.
Hence why they were outside of his workshop.
Gilliam opened the door.
Five minutes later and the Elder was reading the letter, ignoring his throbbing arm and shoulder from his attempt to flip Elizabeth's skirt up. Unlike Ewan Gilliam had no tolerance for Edward's behavior with girls.
"Hmm..." The Elder finally said, "That's definitely her handwriting..."
Gilliam turned startled eyes to a shocked Elizabeth. She looked pale and dizzy.
"Elizabeth!" The Elder snapped sharply, startling the girl, "You are living proof that what you are does not decide whether or not your are evil... Or good. We'll burn this letter and no one else is to know about it." He turned his goggled eyes to Gilliam, "Agreed?"
Snapping out of his own disbelief at the situation he said, "Agreed. For now."
The Elder sighed, knowing that was the best he was going to get for now.
"Well," He said, "Get going – both of you! You've got a door to the Demon World to sneak Elizabeth into! I'll take care of this letter."
Not long after that The Elder was staring up at the top shelf contemplatively, wondering how he was going get the box down. At the time that he'd had it put up there he had been a few decades younger and it had been at Mary Magdalene's request. She had instructed him – amongst other things – to place it up there and to pull it down on the current date; hence the reminder in the one of the letters she had left him. The problem lied in the fact that the box was not only big it was also solid oak... And The Elder was way to old to be risking climbing up a ladder to pull it down by himself.
He had been counting on Ewan's help. So far the man seemed to have forgotten.
A knock from the front door followed by the sound of it opening and Ewan's voice calling out a greeting.
"I'M BACK HERE!" He called back to the blond man.
A moment later and Ewan was joining him.
"Thought that I had forgotten, hadn't you?" He asked with a lopsided smile.
The Elder 'humphed', which led Ewan to the assumption that his decades-old friend had failed to catch a peek at some girl's underwear sometime in the last half hour. The Minister figured that Edward would be back to himself in around... Ten minutes or so.
"Get a wiggle on and give me a hand with this box will you? We're already running late."
"We are?" Ewan asked, genuinely surprised.
"Yes! Joshua already ran by!"
"Applesauce!" Ewan muttered as he quickly grabbed the stepladder, "How did he get ahead of me? Move." He ordered as he set it in place before climbing up and proceeding to single-handedly get the long box down by grabbing one of the end handles and pulling and rotating it.
Ewan turned and carefully stepped down from the stepladder, using his shoulder to support the rest of the box's length and his free hand to keep it balanced.
"Well, then... I'll be right back!"
Five Minutes Ago...
Joshua got back to his room without being noticed and still had ten minutes to spare. Which meant that he had just enough time to shove the paper bag (sealed shut with tape) into his duffle bag, close the duffle, sling it over his shoulder and make a mad dash for the Gate. He had long since learnt to stow his sword in the duffle when he's planning on doing any kind of running around that wont end in the need to immediately use the weapon... So that was where it currently was and would stay until further notice.
More than a few people felt a strong, swift wind at his passing, but the 'I'm not here, so don't notice me' was still working. As a result no was really sure where the wind was coming from. Except for sister Clairty. Astonished at his speed (had he been hiding this from the Order the entire time?) she took off after him as fast as she could. Unsurprisingly, he quickly started to out-pace her.
Like hell! She thought ferociously and put on more speed.
The gap started to close and she started to get this feeling in her legs... As though she could run much, much, faster than she was. Try as she might, though, her body refused to tap into that extra speed. By the time she managed to halve the distance between them she realized that she was not nearly as winded as she should be.
Joshua chose that moment to glance over his shoulder, spot her, and pick up the pace. Again she was astonished at his speed – she also suddenly realized what he had over his shoulder and where he was headed. Sister Clarity forced her body to tap into that latent potential and suddenly it was not a race to catch up with him, it was a test of which of them was faster. Everything had been blurring by her before, but now it was all just a smear of color from every direction. She found that if she focused on any one thing it took on a sharp, crisp clarity (giving yet new meaning to her name – haha) she had never experienced before. She felt... In control. Sister Clarity had never noticed before then that she felt like her fate was being orchestrated by someone else and not in a good way. The sense of control gave her a sense of freedom and she felt in that moment like she could have flown off into the sky and been free forever. She new that – as a Christian – she should gladly hand over her fate and destiny to God, but somehow... She wanted a say in her life... She actually wanted to live her own life. The nineteen year old wondered if Joshua ever experienced the same thing when he was moving so fast... If he was ever frustrated by the way everyone tried to control him. If so she could understand a little why he always seemed to be rushing everywhere – and away from everyone.
Clarity came to a decision then; she would not stop Joshua from entering the Demon World... She would, instead, join him and find out what drew him there. Sure she had plenty of stories about Demons tempting Humans, but Joshua – no matter how many times he went down there – never lost his divine powers, so something was obviously being left out. Something important that he wasn't telling anyone.
Besides... She realized, It might do him some good to have a Human he feels he can relate to.
They burst into the clearing with the Demon Building and Joshua abruptly stopped. Clarity almost crashed into him but manage to twist and turn so that she was standing at a right angle to him. Joshua stared at her coolly.
I know that look. She thought and braced herself.
"Leave." He said bluntly, "You know the rules. Only I'm aloud through the Ga – Doorway."
"Joshua you should see my record; I don't follow the rules very well."
She almost added – just before the period at the end of the sentence – a comma and the comment, "That was my husband."
The problem with that statement is that – at nineteen years old – she's never been married before. Granted, she had washed up on shore five years ago with no memories of who she was, or where she came from, but Sister Clarity very seriously doubted that she had been married at the age of fourteen... And if she had been then her parents needed to be shot in the head a couple of times. Whoever they are... Or were as the case may be.
"It could case an incident!" He snapped.
"Don't you take that tone of voice with me!" She snapped right back, making Joshua's temper flare, "And you've caused a few 'incidents' yourself young man!"
He didn't know why but she tended to go into what everyone else called 'Mother Mode' with him every once in a while. Whenever she did it was like having her resemblance to his mother thrown in his face with the same painful force as the fastball that had broken his nose two years ago when he convinced Ewan to take him and Rosette to a ball game during one of her visits. It made her opinion of Rosette all the more stark... And painful for his sister. Both factors served to make him disproportionately angry.
"DON'T TALK TO ME LIKE YOU'RE MY MOTHER!"
"If I was you wouldn't ever be allowed down there without an escort!"
"Well, then it's a good thing that you're not!"
For some reason that remark was like a sharp slap in the face to her.
"If you two are quite done," A new, deep-toned voice interjected, drawing both of their attention.
The Duke stood only ten feet away, frowning at them like they were a pair of bickering children. They had the good grace to look embarrassed. Duffau narrowed his attention to Sister Clarity and said, "If the Order is so concerned about Mr. Christopher's well being while in our care than you are welcome to join him in his diplomatic visits at any time."
"Then I'm coming this time." She announced bluntly.
Joshua shot her a sullen glare.
"That's enough Joshua."
The sound of Ewan's voice startled both teens, scaring them so effectively that it felt like their hearts tried to jump out of their bodies through their mouths. Both whipped their gazes over to the blond and blue-eyed Minister and wondered what he was doing there – especially Joshua. Ewan turned to address the Duke.
"Well, if she's going to be going with Joshua then I'd like to throw one other person into the mix, just to keep the peace, if you don't mind."
"And who were you considering?" The Duke replied coolly.
Duffau thought it over for a moment and then nodded, saying, "Very well. She has already snuck down anyway."
"What? When?" The demand came from Ewan while the other two shot the Duke a wide-eyed look.
"A few minutes before you arrived. She came bearing a message from the Magdalene you used to protect and who held a Contract with Chrono."
Ewan wondered what one Earth Magdalene could have said in a letter to make Elizabeth do something like that. Then he smiled dryly and said, "I wonder how I'm going to explain this one to Sister Kate?"
The Duke smirked and replied, "That is for you to decide."
"I suppose it is..." Ewan said with a worried frown, then added, "See you two in a couple of weeks."
"Wait! That's it?" Both Joshua and Sister Clarity exclaimed at the same time.
Ewan gave them both a unexpectedly severe frown and said, "The last time that Magdalene set up something like this I almost hesitated too long before doing what she wanted me to." He shifted his focus solely onto Joshua before continuing, "If I had waited any longer than I wouldn't have been there in time at 7th Bell and Aion would have gotten you. If you want to know what I did, then ask Chrono when you see him later."
And with that Ewan simply left, leaving behind two speechless teens and a thoughtful Duke Duffau.
A/N: Please review! It aids in my muse's recovery! By the way, what did you guys think of Genesis being Joshua's doctor?