In this slightly slower-moving chapter, you get to see how Mikage finally gets involved in the story, how this semi-AU plot continues to develop, and how Mikhail gets more screen time.
Truly, I had fun writing this chapter. I hope all of you have as much fun reading it too. *smile*
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
Ayanami looked up from the paperwork on his desk, gloved hands clasped together. The young boy he had summoned was standing at the doorway with a perfect salute, expression bright and alert. On closer inspection, Ayanami could see that there was a hint of nervousness behind those youthful, amber-colored eyes. Chuckling slightly, Ayanami said, "At ease. Now…Mikage Celestine, correct?"
Mikage kept his posture ramrod straight. He swallowed thickly, wondering what the Barsburg Army's Chief of Staff wanted from him. "Yes, sir."
"How long has it been since you have been in the military academy?"
"A few years, sir," Mikage responded. "I don't really remember, to be honest."
Ayanami's lips curved into a thin smile. "Your progress has been excellent despite not being in the academy as long as others. In fact," he said slowly, "I daresay your power is probably on par with that of Teito Klein's. He was the one who brought you to this academy, was he not?"
Mikage blinked in surprise – a detail like that shouldn't have been on his personal file. How did Ayanami know about it then?
Perhaps Teito had mentioned it to Ayanami once.
Yes, that could be it.
Forcing the surprise away, Mikage said, "It was indeed him who led me through the enrolment processes, sir." He swallowed a bit of the apprehension away before continuing, "It is impossible to compare my abilities with Teito, though. He…is a prodigy, sir. I've heard that he gets sent out on dangerous missions by the higher-ups. Would you happen to know about that, sir?" Suddenly realizing the implications of questioning the motives of a superior – the motives of Ayanami, no less – Mikage stuttered out, "M-my apologies, sir! I'm willing to accept my punishment for being disrespectful!"
"It is true that Teito Klein constantly attends to missions, many that are under my personal command," Ayanami said, easily dismissing Mikage's apology. Under normal circumstances, anyone other than the Black Hawks who questioned his authority was severely punished – but there was something important that Ayanami wanted to achieve, and in order to do that, he had to let the formalities slide. "He is excellent in fulfilling the wishes of the military and of Barsburg itself."
Mikage nodded a little, in awe of the fact that the rumors of Teito were true. He discreetly smoothed his palms against the black uniform he wore, hoping to remove all traces of sweat from it. Meeting face-to-face with Ayanami was a nerve-wracking experience on its own for Mikage – the amber-eyed youth could only hope that he would be able to survive a full-on conversation.
"What do you feel about it?" Ayanami asked.
"I…uh." Mikage wracked his brains for an answer, hoping he wouldn't say anything that would offend his superior. There was clearly a motive behind Ayanami's questions, but he had no idea what it was. It was perhaps best to stick to a somewhat neutral answer. "I respect Teito a lot, sir. Not only is he strong-willed, honourable and capable, he is also someone…k-kind," Mikage finished off lamely.
"Yes, kind," Mikage said, cursing the fact that he had stuttered earlier on. "Teito had no reason to bring me to the military, sir, and yet he still did it. He showed me a new direction in life."
"Answer me this then, Mikage Celestine," Ayanami said. "Do you aspire to be just like him?"
There was no hesitation in Mikage's voice this time. "Yes."
Ayanami felt dark pleasure thrum in his soul upon hearing the young boy's answer. Everything was going in accordance to his plan. How tragic it would be. How fitting.
"The situation is thus – Teito Klein has turned his back on the Empire."
Mikage sucked in a deep breath, unsure of whether he had heard his superior clearly. "W-What?"
"Teito Klein has taken the side of the enemy by failing to carry out his most recent mission. As of now, he resides in the Seventh District's Church and refuses to return to the military."
Teito had betrayed the military and the Empire? How was that even possible? Cold sweat broke out on Mikage's forehead and he resisted the urge to question Ayanami on this. His superior's explanations were far too vague for it to be believable. No way – there was certainly a mistake. Teito would never do something like that. Whatever he had done, there was definitely a reasoning behind it.
…But to betray the Empire was akin to that of the highest sin to a soldier. If Teito had truly done so…
Mikage chewed on his lip, feeling lightheaded at this new piece of information. There had to be some way to convince Teito to return to the military's side. There had to be.
"I will provide you with the opportunity to prove yourself to the military, Barsburg, and myself," Ayanami intoned, snapping Mikage out of his train of thought. "It is a mission that you will carry out regardless of the consequences invoked."
Mikage looked into his superior's violet eyes. There didn't seem to be any mockery or disdain in them, and the teenager knew that many boys of his age would only be too willing to be given a chance like that. His superior was now personally entrusting Mikage with a mission – a mission that Mikage already felt personally involved with. It made his chest swell with hurt, pride and determination at the same time.
Whatever this mission was, Mikage swore to himself that he would complete it no matter what.
"What will you have me do, sir?"
"Your mission, Mikage Celestine, is to bring Teito Klein back to the military by any means possible."
By any means possible…Mikage thought, his eyes narrowing with defiance. I'll bring you back, Teito. I don't know what you've done, but I'll never let the military's enemies have you. I'll bring you back – even if it means that I'll have to use force.
"You really are involved in something bad, aren't you?"
Teito pointedly ignored Hakuren, who was helping him change his bandages. The violet-eyed teen rolled his eyes, wondering how he could get the young boy to respond. He had been talking for the past half hour, but the brunet hadn't responded once. With a resigned sigh, Hakuren tightened the knots of the bandages with a little more force than necessary.
"Do you even know how to bandage someone without killing them?" Teito snarled.
Hakuren smiled triumphantly. "Finally! I was wondering when you were ever going to talk!"
"Don't think you're feeling quite up to that," Hakuren replied cheerily, causing the brunet's cheeks to burn. He laughed – this young boy was just so easy to tease. "Calm down, I'm kidding. There, all done. You can walk around if you want – but nothing too laborious, alright?"
Teito eagerly crawled off the bed and took a few experimental steps. Satisfied that he wasn't falling over, the teen pulled the white shirt laid out for him over his head, grateful for the fact that it fit him snugly. Teito then reached for his cloak, clasping the light material between his fingers. The brunet had become so accustomed to wearing it whenever he wasn't in the military – hiding his face away during missions was something he always had to do –
"You do not have to wear that anymore, Master."
"What?" Teito asked aloud.
"I said that the Bishops want you to have breakfast with them," Hakuren said, wiping any traces of blood away from his hands with a washcloth. "Honestly, I really wonder about you sometimes…"
"No, before that. Did you mention anything about my attire…?"
Hakuren looked confused. "I didn't say anything about it."
He didn't? But if it wasn't him, then who else could that male voice be? Teito shook his head, hanging the cloak back onto the rack. "Forget it. Let's go."
"Alright. Follow me."
Teito stayed close to Hakuren, wondering who that voice was. It was strangely familiar, seemingly resonating from within and thrumming with powerful conviction.
And that voice had acknowledged him as a master…
It was another bright, joyful day for the church. Golden rays pierced through the clouds, encompassing the ground with a warm glow. As Hakuren and Teito strode past the courtyard, they bumped into Sister Rosalie, who beamed at them.
"Good morning, Hakuren." Beads of sweat trickled down her face as she lugged a four-poster bed behind with a hand while clutching a heavy-looking suitcase in another. "And you too, little lost lamb."
"Good morning, Sister Rosalie," Hakuren said. Teito acknowledged the Sister with a stiff nod, resisting the urge to correct her ridiculous nickname for him. He may have been a little lost in life, but that didn't mean he was little. "Do you need help?"
"Oh! I couldn't possibly trouble you with something as trivial as this…"
"Nonsense." Hakuren plucked the suitcase from her hand, a charming smile on his face. "Where to, Sister?"
"How kind of you, Hakuren. Just bring that to the headquarters, will you? But…" She then turned back to Teito, a look of doubt on her face. Clearly, Sister Rosalie felt uneasy at the idea of leaving him alone.
"Don't worry about it," Teito said, wincing when his voice came out harsher than intended. He spun away in embarrassment – dealing with females was never part of the military academy's curriculum. Turning to Hakuren, he asked, "Where are the Bishops at?"
"They're at the Eastern Gardens. It's not too far away from here if you take this path."
Hakuren smirked. "Have a good day, little lost lamb."
Teito promptly envisioned himself grabbing Hakuren into a chokehold and promptly squeezing the life out of him.
"Good morning, Teito. Did you sleep well?" Labrador asked. He motioned for Teito to sit by them, to which the teenager hesitantly did.
"Uh…yeah." Teito hadn't expected to be able to fall asleep at all after Ayanami's assault, but the exhaustion and strain had been too much. Even top soldiers such as himself succumbed to exhaustion. Teito's sleep had been fitful, but he had managed to rest.
That itself was good enough.
Frau peered up at the teenager from the edge of his teacup. Teito certainly looked better this morning – although layer after layer of bandages could still be seen peeking out under his shirt, the brunet had regained some colour in his face and was, at the very least, standing up strong. That was good.
The blond Bishop placed his teacup back on the table, suddenly realizing that there was something slightly odd about the teenager. Teito was moving around normally, but something about the brunet felt different. There were dark shadows in his emerald eyes that seemed to stir and move – shadows that Frau knew only Ghosts like him could see.
Something about Teito was very off.
"That's good to hear," Labrador said. "We have prepared a nice, warm meal for you. Tea?"
Labrador smiled in that kindly manner of his upon hearing Teito's response, moving around with ease despite how his Bishop robes flapped in the wind.
Teito ate quickly, scarfing down anything that was edible on his plate. When he finished he asked for seconds, and then for thirds – darn, how did he not realize how hungry he had been? Strangely enough, Teito was starting to like the food in the Church. Perhaps eating fish-eyes weren't so bad after all. He finished up quickly, wiping any traces of food on his mouth away with a napkin.
"You left this on the grounds last night," Castor said, handing Teito his two blades. Teito took them gratefully, painfully realizing that he had been getting too careless – the brunet knew for certain that he would be dead by now had he been in genuine enemy territory. Sighing, he gave the blades a quick glance, satisfied that there were no traces of blood or dirt on them. Castor must have taken the trouble to clean it up. The teenager absent-mindedly ran his fingers over the smooth hilt, relishing at how it fitted so well into the curve of his palms...
Wait – smooth?
Puzzled, Teito pressed several fingers against it, searching for the little indents that he had been so familiar with. When he found none, he held the blades up high, squinting at the sunlight that bounced against metal.
"They're…gone," Teito said in surprise. "The symbols of the Seven Ghosts that were on my blades are gone."
Castor nodded, pleased that the boy had noticed. "Indeed. It seems that they disappeared after last night's confrontation with Ayanami."
"Weapons with symbols of the Seven Ghosts are considered to be sacred," Teito muttered under his breath, repeating what Frau had said to him about it a day ago. "Gods primarily reside within weapons that hold these symbols…but what happens when the symbols disappear…?"
"It could only mean one thing," Castor said.
"What would that be?"
"The God that was sealed has been released by its true particular God chose who it has decided to serve – and by doing so, its master might have consciously or unconsciously removed the seals placed on it."
Teito blinked. Released…? How? Was Ayanami the true master? Had the God returned to Ayanami? Would that mean that his enemy was now stronger…? No…no. That wasn't it.
That voice in his head...could it have been...?
The brunet had to ask Castor to be sure. "...What happens to the God after that?"
"Gods have two options after their unsealing," Castor said, holding up two fingers. "They can either take on a physical form, or choose to manifest themselves as part of their master's subconscious."
Teito sheathed his blades, allowing Castor's words to sink into his head. The voice that had been in his head – the doppelganger that had appeared in his mind during the fight – it all made sense now.
There was a God inside his head.
The brunet didn't want to believe it either – how was it even possible in the first place? He wasn't special, nor was he extremely powerful. Teito couldn't summon scythes like Frau, nor could he manipulate dolls like Castor – he didn't have any outstanding abilities that could have prevented him from being harmed by Kors – or Ayanami, for that matter.
Teito knew that he was weak – so why?
Why had the God within his blade chosen him as a master?
More importantly, what was he going to do about it now? Teito knew that this had to be kept a secret – it was out of the question to inform the three Bishops about this. That applied especially to Frau – that Bishop was nosy just as he was perverted.
...But how was Teito supposed to handle having a God as part of his subconscious? Oh, well – the brunet didn't know how it worked, but he would figure it out somehow. Anything was better than asking these Bishops for help.
Teito looked at Frau questioningly, waiting for the blond to continue. The blond stood up and walked to Teito, towering over the teenager with his massive frame. Teito resisted the urge to jump out of his seat – the temptation to defend himself was strong.
For several moments, blue orbs pierced jade ones in concentration. Teito hastily looked away, squirming in discomfort under Frau's intense scrutiny.
"Teito," Frau said softly, "Look at me."
Against his will, Teito found himself captive in those eyes. Frau's gaze was sharp and unyielding – it was as if he was peering through a window, looking into Teito's very soul.
"What the hell are you doing?" Teito snapped, attempting to swat the Bishop away.
Frau disregarded Teito's annoyance, proceeding to shake the brunet's shoulders insistently. "Who are you?"
"Are you insane?" Teito asked, raising his eyebrows. "Have you finally gone senile and forgotten who I am?"
"I'm not talking to you, brat," Frau said with a snort. "I'm talking to the thing inside you."
Teito took a sharp intake of breath, surprised that Frau knew. That wasn't right – Frau wasn't even supposed to notice anything in the first place! He felt trapped and suffocated, caught by Frau's words and the intense gazes from Castor and Labrador. From their knowing looks, Teito knew that they knew. He bit back a curse – these Bishops were just too observant for their own good.
Would lying help to make a difference? Perhaps. It was a stupid thought, but it wouldn't hurt to try. With that, Teito forced out a laugh and said, "What the hell are you talking about?"
Frau's gaze darkened. "Do not even try to run away from this." He shook Teito some more, this time a little roughly. "I repeat – just who exactly are you? What do you intend to do to this brat now that you're a part of him?"
Teito opened his mouth to retort, except something odd began to happen. A strange sensation washed over him – it was as if there was a heavy presence stirring within his mind, looming out from dark, unexplored corners. Teito wasn't so blind as to not recognize what was going on – the God was attempting to rein some form of control over him. The brunet snapped his eyes shut and mentally conjured up images of thick, strong barriers – now was not the time for this God to interfere –
"Let me talk to him, master."
There. It was that voice again.
No, Teito said firmly. You should stay hidden. I can handle this – if I can pass this off as a lie, these Bishops never will have to learn about your existence.
"That Bishop has already seen my presence in you, master. Please, allow me."
Teito bit back an impatient growl. You do realize that I have no idea who you are, don't you? Why did you choose me as your master in the first place?
The voice didn't reply for a short while, leaving Teito to wonder whether he was being ignored. Finally, the God said slowly, "That is a story for another day, master. We will somehow find the time to be better acquainted. In the meantime, please allow me to converse with the Bishop."
What will you tell him? Teito asked. I have no reason to trust you. You could be collaborating with Ayanami for all I know.
"I will never do anything to hurt you, master." The voice was beginning to sound exasperated. "Besides, if you must know, I despise Ayanami with all my might. It was he who placed this accursed seal on me in the first place after all."
Teito sighed. That was something he would have to discuss with the God some other time. The teenager rubbed his head, feeling lightheaded – talking to this God seemed to place quite a strain on his mind. Was this, perhaps, the power of a God?
"It is," the voice replied, sounding apologetic for once. "I cannot restrain my powers when I converse with you. You will, however, get used to it in the future."
Teito gave a groan of protest in response.
The voice chuckled. "Rest for a little while, master. I will allow you to come back when it is over."
Fine. Just don't do anything silly.
Frau watched silently as Teito's emerald eyes gradually closed. He readied himself to catch the teen if he had to, but apparently it wasn't necessary. The next thing Frau knew was that the teen had forcibly wrenched away from his hold – with strength far too powerful to belong to Teito himself.
The teenager's eyelids fluttered open, and all Frau saw was dark crimson.
The emerald-colored orbs had disappeared.
This wasn't Teito anymore.
The blond sucked in a deep breath. Even though this scenario had been anticipated, nothing could have ever prepared him for seeing it occurring before his eyes. Teito – no, this God – stood in pride and grace, chin turned up in defiance. Frau found himself scowling in annoyance at how this God was smirking coyly, something the original Teito never would have done.
"My name," the God said, and Frau was perturbed at how arrogant he sounded, "Is Mikhail."
OH YES. This chapter's finally finished! So we have like, a Mikage who gets manipulated by Ayanami, and Mikhail who appears and would...probably not get along with Frau too well. All these are part of the plot - I mean, the Bishops don't even know Teito's true past yet. What happens next? Stay tuned! At any rate, I hope you guys liked the chapter!
Please leave a review! They make me uber-happy!