He waited for a while. He didn't know how long. She stayed there, and sometimes he had to glance down at her just to ensure that she hadn't frozen to death.

You'd think that someone so powerful would have greater resistance against the cold, but what could you expect from a mortal? Even if she was half-baku…Len cupped her cheek, his fingers trailing across icy skin. It was dangerously cold, and he feared for her safety. The fear was striking and intense, and it was almost a new experience to him – again, he marvelled at the strength of her emotions, at how she could make him feel so vividly.

He ignored the pain which stroked against him, tiny sparks of dark magic that were anything but distant. The dark magic wanted him to stay, but their affection could only be communicated through the means of pain, and Len could do nothing but accept their painful adoration for him, being one of the nightmare bakus. He cast his gaze upwards, and the mist around him parted so that he could glimpse a ceiling, half-shrouded by grey and fog. It was so high, so far away…he could almost mistake it for the sky of this dreamscape, but he knew that there was no open sky. This was nothing but a giant cell.

He sensed SeeWoo's approach before the baku actually came to them, and when the ash blond nightmare eater finally appeared before him, worn lines of exhaustion actually visible around his blue-grey eyes, Len didn't even look up at him, his fingers sliding against Miku's teal hair. She was not asleep, nor was she awake – she was in a strange state of limbo because one could not fully sleep in this dream, nor could she fight to stay awake in this embittering cold. He wondered how this experience of not sleeping, yet not staying awake, would feel like for her. It was a most frustrating state for him.

"I needed a place where we absolutely could not be overheard, not even the slightest chance," SeeWoo said without preamble, sitting before Len so that their gazes could meet. Len took note of the tense lines around SeeWoo's mouth – suddenly, despite them only having seen each other a few hours ago, the nightmare eater seemed to have aged several centuries. It made Len wonder why, and the familiar curiosity he usually sought to suppress rose up within him, bubbling like premium champagne. He did not rein in the emotion this time, allowing the curiosity to find its once familiar spot on his face.

"Why?" he asked – a simple question with innumerable inflections and possibilities, and SeeWoo was well aware of that. He felt strangely at peace despite facing the one who had trapped him and Miku in this damned place, and he wondered idly if the piercing cold of the place was finally getting to him, softening him. Len would normally be at his throat by now, demanding an explanation and his release. Perhaps he was getting tired. Perhaps he was losing even his defiant streak. It was a most bothersome thought.

"It is time," SeeWoo's voice was hushed, excited even – it infected even Len, and made the blond nightmare eater sit slightly straighter, wanting to listen to the sweet words and lies SeeWoo uttered – for what did his former disciple know other than lies? "You have bound her to you, and her magical strength, whatever it is, is free for you to use. We can overthrow the king!" the last few words were delivered with pomp and flourish, and the fervour of future triumph shone in blue-grey eyes, seeming almost idealistic in its exhilaration. But Len was older than SeeWoo, and was jaded to idealism.

"There is more to this sudden news than you are telling me, SeeWoo," his former disciple started, staring incredulously at Len, and Len just smiled, a bitter smile that indicated no hostility to anyone other than himself. "I have taught you too well and put too much of myself in your being. I know you are hiding something, and I can see that in the exhaustion and weariness on your face. You look older than I do. What is it that you are not telling me about the key? Is she really the key to unlocking great power?"

"…what would possibly make you think otherwise?" SeeWoo's voice flattened, the former excitement in it giving way to typical expressionless intonations. "You have sensed and felt the power in her blood, and you know that she is not a normal human. You know that she is different; you know she is the key to breaking us out of our binds. And now that you have assured control over her abilities, whatever they may be, why are you not using them to help our suppressed brethren? Is that not your duty, since you are the one who so foolishly made a contract with the means of our freedom?"

Something sparked in Len at SeeWoo's choice of words. "There was never anything about duty," he snapped, causing the younger baku to quieten. "I didn't know what I was getting myself into, which was admittedly a gross oversight on my part, but that doesn't mean that I am obligated to use my key to overthrow the king…at least, not without more information, which you are clearly not willing to reveal to me. I wouldn't put it past you to withhold important information from me, SeeWoo – you don't mind so long as it benefits yourself, and you are so much like me that it actually terrifies me a little."

There was nothing but a prolonged silence between them, during which Len just stared at SeeWoo, and the baku refused to return his stare, looking away from him like he could not bear to meet Len's gaze. Finally, SeeWoo sighed and spoke, and Len paid careful attention, not wanting to risk falling into another trap set by the nightmare eater. It was impossible to tell what SeeWoo was ever truly thinking. "The key…you know that it wields great power, but no one knows what it does exactly," SeeWoo said slowly. Len just tilted his head, indicating that the nightmare eater should continue.

So SeeWoo did precisely that. "The issue is, the key not only has powers of its own, but it is also capable of amplifying the magical ability of its current owner...however, this is at the expense of having to tap into its own store of magical energy," that's not really something particularly revolutionary. It can't be just this, SeeWoo wouldn't care at all about something so minor – so what else is there? SeeWoo clearly knew that Len could tell there was more, and the ash blond nightmare eater hesitated – for the first time in several decades, Len actually saw his proud disciple hesitate. Not in the name of fun, not a purposeful act to elicit more fear and nervousness – he genuinely hesitated, almost as though he was worried.

Len was truly curious now, and that curiosity gnawed away at him furiously, demanding to be satisfied after spending so long squashed under the stronger will of the nightmare eater. "There is more to that, and you know it. We both know it. What have you learnt – what did the necromantic magic finally deign to tell you about the key and its powers? It must be something quite horrible, for you to be so cautious," Len mused.

SeeWoo's eyes were bleak, and that was a strange emotion for him to sight upon the baku's face, for though bleakness was an emotion at the same time it wasn't one. It was a stark, empty emotion, and to see it on SeeWoo's face meant that things truly weren't going the way he had expected them to. It made Len wonder fervently, and at the same time he wondered if he would regret feeling this curiosity. Then again, once he was out of Miku's dream, he would cease to feel, and regret would be a thing of the past.

"I learnt…" he wetted his lips quickly, his tongue flicking out in a way that reminded Len almost of a snake, "I learnt that the longer the key is bound to a magical entity, and is used to amplify their powers…" SeeWoo suddenly let out a heavy sigh, seemingly resigned to telling the truth. "The more her life force is drained. She is a magical energy source; the more she is used, the more she is emptied, the closer she gets to death. She is now, essentially, functioning just like us – but while we siphon emotional energy to sustain our lives, she has no way to reenergise herself. Since you are now bound to her in power, you have activated her amplification skills, and that slowly drains her magical source. I don't know how much longer she has left to live, which is why we absolutely have to act now, before the key runs out of magic! She is not an infinite source!"

Len blinked, his mind initially refusing to process what SeeWoo was saying. Because that couldn't possibly be true – he couldn't possibly have set off a series of events which would culminate in his energy source perishing. That couldn't be. "How did you learn this?" he asked, his voice low – SeeWoo just shook his head despairingly, his eyes closing in exhaustion. He looked more worn than Len had ever seen him. It now made sense why SeeWoo didn't tell him anything more about the rituals, why he waited until now to say this – because otherwise, Len would never have done that to Miku, because he would never have wanted her to slowly fade out of existence. He needed her.

He needed her sweet, sweet dreams, and if binding her power to him would cause some sort of strange reaction whereby her life was slowly drained away from her…if he had known, he would never have done this to her. "The necromantic magic told me," SeeWoo said bluntly. "But you can't blame me for withholding such information," SeeWoo added, almost furiously. "You want to get free of the tyranny of the king god as much as anyone from our brethren does, don't you? Don't you want your true emotions back, so that you no longer have to be an emotion vampire and put on a constant farce of feeling and deception? Wouldn't you want to be free again, free from the obligations to the throne and the constant fear and threat of death? Don't you want all that?"

Len fixed his disciple with an even stare, unable to get angry at him because he knew that everything SeeWoo said made logical sense. It was he who was illogical now, and that gave him no right to lash out at his former disciple. "Yes, I want to be free, and if using the key to overthrow the throne could be done without any repercussions, I would have agreed to do so on the spot – but now, you have sentenced her to a slow, lingering death, and you expect me to just go ahead with ridding the heavens of the king? She might be the key, the most important weapon our brethren has ever managed to possess, but she is also my food source - and don't forget that I am extremely selfish, and I will not do anything which would harm my being," he smiled bitterly.

"So you would place yourself above your brethren, and leave all of us to our chains," SeeWoo's voice was disbelieving. "You would do so at your own whimsical desires and cravings, because the key is a food source you do not wish to eliminate? Len, she is bound to you already! Your rune is branded on her skin – you're linked, and she's already making use of her skills to amplify your magic! How else do you think you can withstand the pain of this fog like it is no more than an irritant? You of all people should be aware that the pain of this mist is far from mild. She is already amplifying your magic and your resistance, Len – and as a result, no matter what you do, she will have to die."

"All humans die. It is a fact of life, irreversible and unchangeable," Len said softly, his words scarcely more than a whisper in the tangible pain which surrounded them. Miku stirred at his words, and he glanced down at her – she was still trapped in the state between sleep and wakefulness, and he thought it was better that he did not rouse her. There was no need for her to know about this – the less she knew, the better, for if anyone who was not a baku ever came into her proximity and realised what she knew, their entire brethren was doomed, and she would no doubt be eliminated.

"She is not entirely human," SeeWoo countered, his lips set in a stubborn frown. Len just shrugged, a light smile curving his lips – he was at a stage where he could hardly bring himself to care anymore. He had never really cared anyway, being a baku, and now he still found it difficult to feel that emotion. He would have to weigh the long-term and the short-term benefits of using her powers now to overthrow the god king, and wouldn't it be better if he waited till she was at the end of her allotted life span, if she was already going to die anyway? Then he wouldn't have to lose his favoured food source sooner.

Or perhaps he just did not want to lose her at all. But he was selfish and self-centred, and such a thought didn't occur to him. "If you let us out of here," he said slowly, his voice coated with familiar poisonous honey, "then I will visit the disciplinary trio, and you can come along. We can discuss this matter, but believe me when I say I will not act simply upon your instigation. You are not trustworthy in the slightest, and I would prefer a separate opinion…especially when the girl involved is one whom Luki would hold dear to him. He sacrificed everything to keep his niece safe, after all."

SeeWoo blinked, looking stunned by the words which had flowed out of Len's mouth, and Len belatedly realised that SeeWoo must not have known of the relationship between Miku and Luki Megurine. "Wait. Wait…" SeeWoo glanced at the drowsing girl, his brow furrowing in intense concentration. "So you're claiming that…this girl, Miku Hatsune," he started, the frown deepening, "is Luki's niece? So that implies that the baku side of her came from Luki's sister…" SeeWoo's words trailed off. "I'm not surprised."

Len tilted his head, his arms wrapping tightly around Miku's waist – he could feel her head slipping off his shoulder, and he adjusted her so that she wouldn't fall. At this point, his actions were almost mechanical, as he focused most of his attention on what the other nightmare eater was saying. "You have met Luki's sister? I heard she's mad," he said carefully, wondering if those rumours were true. He had not met the woman before, but from what he heard, after the carnage the king god wrought upon their kind, she had become a recluse, spouting nonsensical words and prophecies every so often.

"…I've met her before," he agreed, folding his arms across his chest in an almost defensive gesture. "She's…not what one might consider to be normal, that is true," he conceded, his gaze drifting away from Len. "I would say she is pining, rather. Her grief is so great that the king's curse is not able to fully affect her, but the constant struggle between her heaving emotions and the curse drove her…well, if you ever meet her for yourself, you will understand," SeeWoo sounded almost uncomfortable. "It is why Luki refuses to speak of his sister. How often have you heard him really mention her before?"

Almost never, but Len didn't say that aloud. He knew Luki had a sister, because he had been born before the curse was set, and he met the dream eater then – Luki's sister was a beautiful woman, sharing the same eyes as her older brother. Luki was protective of her, or at least he had been until the carnage – subsequently, Len heard little news of the woman, and assumed that she had been locked away due to her apparent insanity. Was it possible for bakus to go mad? He couldn't be sure, but Luki's sister had not been seen in their world for quite a while, and he didn't think that she had died yet…

"You seem shocked that Miku could be related to Luki's sister. Why is that so?" Len asked that question instead, and half-expected SeeWoo to tell him the truth. He couldn't be sure if a single word the nightmare eater said was true, but it was better than not knowing anything at all. SeeWoo blinked, seemingly startled by the question.

"Is that matter really important? I just didn't think that Miku would be related to the disciplinary trio, that's all," SeeWoo answered, sounding almost offended. "I mean, not physically, just…" he sighed. "I must admit that despite all my knowledge, one thing I cannot understand is reincarnation and rebirth. It makes little sense to me, since the reincarnated person is said to be related to their old relatives, yet at the same time the body they are born into shares none of the old ones' blood. It is simply illogical."

"No, it makes perfect sense," Len shook his head. "Her soul is that of the key. Her body is simply that of Miku. I doubt she looks like what she did before she was reincarnated. If she did, Luki would have recognised her sooner," he would have asked about the key sooner – initially, the only thing Luki had warned him about was regarding love, and falling in love with a mortal…he started at the thought, and wondered if he was in love with Miku. But my kind can't feel, and everything I experience now is simply a result of her energy. If she loves me, will I feel as though I love her? Is this care and affection I feel no more than an illusion brought about by her own feelings? I know she has affections for me.

"You wish to speak to the trio," SeeWoo stated, changing the topic – Len looked up at him, interrupted midway through his thought process. "Just to see if now would be a suitable time…you do not believe my words then?" he tilted his head, a seemingly innocuous action that, at the same time, was almost malicious. "What I said to you about her life force is not a lie, at least. That you can be certain; and even if you ask the trio about it they will not know. They do not have the same access to the knowledge of ancients which I do. None of them have ever dabbled with the unknown, not that I know of."

"I'm not disbelieving you about that point," Len said patiently, though a hint of irritation made itself known on his face. "If you really just wanted me to get rid of the king, you would not have told me about the effect that would have on the key. What I want to know from the trio is whether now is a suitable time. I do not do things for the sake of our brethren, SeeWoo – you know that. My foremost priority is myself, and while I admit that it would be nice to have our emotions back, I also know that the bakus are slowly getting free from the curse. The king is getting lax. I can see it in the way the trio speaks to me. If they are slowly feeling by themselves, then I see no reason why I should sacrifice my favourite food source just to do something that would come about naturally."

"Then what would meeting the trio have to do with anything?" SeeWoo's impatience finally broke out into his voice, and the ash blond nightmare eater glared at Len, evidently losing his temper as he rose from the floor in his anger. Len felt a strange sense of triumph, because SeeWoo was usually ruffled and calm, with a poised smile on his face – to see him so ruffled and emotional was actually quite a new experience, and Len was enjoying it immensely. In an unemotional world, where dreams were the only place they could feel and everyone was usually dead to experiences, to make someone flare up would be quite…satisfying.

Len looked up at SeeWoo. Now SeeWoo was standing, while Len was sitting with Miku in his arms; but there was a sense that despite this change in power – for SeeWoo towered over Len, and Len was looking up to him – Len was still the one in control. He was the one with control over his emotions, no matter how fresh and new the feelings in this dream were, and he was the one who had more experience than SeeWoo. SeeWoo had more knowledge, but Len had more experience, and had done far more things in his youth and life than his protégé. They were both aware of that.

Miku was oblivious to the tension between them, but it wasn't a peaceful kind of oblivion. She was clearly troubled, and he wondered if subconsciously, she could hear what they were saying – but even if she could, she would not understand what they were talking about, so that didn't matter. "In all honesty, I wouldn't mind overthrowing the king. I just don't see the need to. The disciplinary trio are the ones who represent the voices of the baku community at large, and they are older than both you and I put together," he shrugged. "They have knowledge, they would understand if doing this would make any difference. If they want me to do so, I will confront the king. Otherwise…forget it."

SeeWoo sighed, all the fight suddenly leaving him, so that Len was reminded of a deflated balloon. "Very well…very well," the baku repeated, his voice as weary as the appearance of his body. "If that is what is needed to convince you, then very well. We will visit the trio and see what they have to say. I do hope that your hesitation isn't simply because you care for the key, Len. After all, you're the one who always claimed that it is foolish to love or care for a mortal. She is mortal, even if she was born a halfling, and if you're doing the exact same things you claimed were immoral and weak to do, it's…hypocritical of you, don't you feel?" he cocked his head childishly.

"Even if I do care, even if it is hypocritical, then what's wrong with that?" Len countered, his tone blunt. "Is there really anything wrong with hypocrisy? Everyone in the world is a hypocrite anyway, be they mortal or otherwise. I am not lofty or idealistic, and I do not claim to be anything I am not. If I am hypocritical, and if you think so, then what would a protest against that judgement do? It's not going to change what I intend to do anyway, no matter how people view me. So what if I change my mind?" he sighed. "But all that is hypothetical anyway. I never admitted to caring for the girl," he met SeeWoo's gaze.

The nightmare eater smiled. "Well, if you insist," he said smoothly, suddenly settling back into the familiar, unruffled SeeWoo whom he knew. "I shall take you out of the dream then. Rouse her, would you?" SeeWoo added, glancing at Miku. "We need her awake to get out of the dream – but it's good that she wasn't listening the whole time, I suppose," he mused. "We don't need her to know that she's going to die. The less a mortal knows about the gods and their matters, the better it is for everyone."

"That's what I thought so too…" Len murmured, snapping his fingers before Miku's face. The girl started, her eyes flicking wide open – her gaze was blank and staring, almost like a doll. It was different from what he was used to, and he wondered about that – but before he could observe her for too long, SeeWoo's hand latched on to his shoulder, and then the world faded, and the only thing he could see was black.


Len awoke in his own room, his body curled around Miku, who was still sleeping, or so it seemed. SeeWoo was not in the room, but that didn't surprise him. The dream world never indicated their physical presences, anyway. SeeWoo was probably elsewhere, but he had little doubt that the nightmare eater would be making his way here now.

What did surprise him was the fact that Miku was still unconscious. SeeWoo had already released them from the dream prison, so she ought to be stirring now. But she wasn't, her eyes still closed, her lips pressed together tightly, like there was some secret in her body and if she opened her mouth, it would spill out into the light, like a terrible malady out to afflict everyone. Her hands were clasped together, as if in prayer. Len studied her, uncertain about her state – she was supposed to be awake, yet she was not, and now she looked like death. He was certain she did not look like this before they fell asleep.

Curious, he tugged her shirt up, studying the rune emblazoned on her skin. It seemed to writhe under his stare, but it looked no different to what it did just moments before, and he let the shirt drop back down, his mind racing to understand what was happening. Was there ever a case where the person remained stuck in the prison, even after their jailor released them from the world? No, that had never happened before – dark magic was dangerous and malicious, but one thing it could not be said to be was unreliable.

Dark magic always did what the owner bade it do, and she should be awake. She should be. What was happening? Len let out a breath of annoyance, and realised abruptly that he could…he could feel. The agitation swarming in the back of his mind, the racing of his heart, the clamminess of his palms, the way he watched her carefully like how a mother would watch over a sick child – he was feeling, these were his actual feelings, and he wasn't using a single bit of emotional energy in the slightest. This wasn't just a farce for the people who interacted with him…he could feel them, these emotions were his own. He swallowed, exploring the newfound emotions the way one would use a new prosthetic limb – with careful wariness, he remembered the different emotions he was once capable of feeling, and tried to apply each one to the situation he was facing.

He decided that worry and nervousness were best suited for this strange problem, but also knew that panicking would be of no use. He tried to rouse her, but she did not respond, almost like she was in a coma. What was a coma other than a suspended state of dreaming? He wondered if he ought to dive back into her mind and see what she was dreaming, but when he actually tried to do that, he found he was blocked from accessing her head, and try as he might he simply could not enter her dream world. That either meant that she had sealed him out, but that could not possibly be the case when he had been with her just moments ago – so the other alternative was…she is not dreaming?

Then what are you? At that moment, a knock sounded on the door – SeeWoo must not have been able to figure out the new password Len set for his chambers. He had taken great care in choosing a password no one could figure out, because he simply couldn't risk any baku walking in and realising what he was doing with this mortal girl. He didn't want anyone in his world to realise that he had brought a human up to the baku dimension. They would question him, and he did not wish for anyone to know that there was a mortal here, and he especially did not want them to know her function. This was a secret meant to be shared with no one…at least, not unless it was absolutely necessary.

He muttered the password softly, his gaze fixed on that pale face with the unmoving eyes and the still lips – she was so motionless, and were it not for the faint rise and fall of her chest he would have thought her dead. The door opened, and SeeWoo came in softly, reminding Len of a cat hunting its prey. Once the nightmare eater was inside the room, the door slid closed, and SeeWoo approached his bed, footsteps still almost soundless. Len himself didn't notice him getting closer, all his attention taken in by his key and mortal, and it was only when an elegant hand reached out to cup Miku's cheek did Len realise that SeeWoo had already made his way from the door to his side.

"What's going on…?" SeeWoo murmured, more to himself than to Len. "I let the both of you out, so she shouldn't still be suspended in limbo. Is there something wrong with the spell? But that can't be, the spell has never gone wrong before…" SeeWoo suddenly turned to face Len, who was watching the two of them, his blue eyes narrowed. "Was she any different in the dream? I do not know, since when I arrived she was already like this. If there was anything different about her, you have to tell me – that difference might be what affected her so that, even outside of the dream world, she is still in a state of neither wakefulness nor sleep," SeeWoo said his piece, his words delicate and careful.

A difference…? Len frowned, trying to think back to his interaction with the girl. There hadn't really been anything wrong, though he did find it strange that she had seemed so…weak. Not weak in the body, but weak in the emotions. He was used to her being passionate and curious. He was used to her having volatile emotions which burnt against him, demanding and accusing. He was used to her weakness of heart, but not to the weakness of her feelings – she was always strong there, the strength of her emotion being the one thing that could never be challenged. He had desired that strength.

Miku was, occasionally, rather subservient to him. A simple kiss or a sly word was often more than enough to work her up into a fluster, and cause her to forget everything he had done to her. She could get angry, and he had felt her anger and irritation before. But in this dream…no, the anger was muted. He knew she had been angry at him for kidnapping her and hurting her – he had seen that anger in the coldness of her tone, the way her eyes narrowed at him – but the strange thing was how this time, the anger had not lasted for long, and the depth of the emotion was less than what he was used to.

At the time, he told himself that her anger was replaced with bewilderment, which was why her emotions didn't seem as strong to him as they usually were. Usually, if she got mad at him, the passion of her wrath burnt him like fire, and he would be drawn to it, wanting more but staying well away at the same time. This time differed, but even if the mildness of her temper was due to confusion, then the newfound confusion was weaker than what he was used to as well. She frequently felt confused while around him, so he was used to sensing the intensity of her uncertainty…but this time, compared to her usual befuddlement, her confusion at all the secrets he was holding back from her was nothing. It was pathetic, and for any other human it would not have drawn his attention. Her personal feelings in this dream were a far cry from what he usually sensed.

True, the dream itself was full of emotional energy. But the girl displayed no more feelings or passion than a limp rag doll. That part made him feel confusion, which was another emotion he had not experienced truly in centuries, and he didn't understand how to deal with the emotion, so he tried to stay away from it. He told SeeWoo of this difference, and when he was done with the details, the nightmare eater looked grim. Now that Len had feelings of his own, he could see past the farce SeeWoo was putting up, and realised that the nightmare eater had never been anything but a good actor. Since Len could now experience emotion himself without relying on external energy, he saw that SeeWoo's act was nothing but a pretence, incomparable to the real thing.

He elected not to tell SeeWoo that he could now feel, uncomfortably attributing this difference to the fact that the curse was weakening, though he was aware that even if that was the case, this change should not have happened so quickly. He would ask someone else himself about this – SeeWoo would probably just give him some warped version of the truth again. "I don't know why, or if that emotional change you sensed from her has anything to do with her life force weakening or your bond or the current state she is in now," SeeWoo finally said after some consideration. "Nor does the seed of necromantic magic still lingering in me have any answer. This is something I cannot understand. We will have to ask someone who is well-versed with the old artefacts."

"Really now…? And pray tell me, who would have any experience regarding the old legends?" Len's voice was filled with horribly masked impatience. "You of all the bakus were interested in the legends. None of the rest ever displayed interest in the olden artefacts – everyone else was smart enough to know that interfering with the works of Fate and the old gods is folly, and troublesome enough without unleashing some kind of curse upon the world or the like. Who else would have done research into this – would understand enough about the key to figure out what is happening to her?"

SeeWoo's eyes gleamed with some sort of unidentifiable emotion – Len could not read it since he did not know what it was like to fake his feelings anymore. He was still rather incredulous about the fact that he could feel, and expected this to be taken away from him at any moment. "I never said that we are going to ask the other dream eaters," SeeWoo said simply. "Of course I know that none of them would have done research about the whole matter. I meant to ask someone else about it – for bakus are not the only ones who are involved in legendary magic and artefacts, don't you think?"

"Then who do you have in mind?" Len asked, curiosity getting the better of him. Curiosity was a familiar emotion to him, and he didn't have any qualms about letting it seep into his voice now – not when he could feel such a diverse, unbelievable range of other sensations. How strange… "If it is one of the gods, then you should not even consider the idea," he said flatly, the curiosity extinguishing itself like a candle flame which had burnt for far too long. "They would not deign to talk to the brethren of cursed gods, since we are still out of the king's favour. Who did you consider?"

"Do you trust me?" SeeWoo turned completely to face him, his blue eyes intense. Len stiffened at the unexpected question, and the first word which came to his mind was no. No one in their right mind would trust SeeWoo. He was a hypocrite of the worst kind, withholding information so that it would benefit only himself, and he was completely apathetic to the plight of other people…just like I am, but I don't know if I can continue to be so apathetic if I no longer am unemotional. It is a strange and fresh new experience, and…is this what it feels like to have a conscience? He thought back to the rune on Miku's skin, and the slight shadow of guilt he once felt returned, this time in full force.

"Well, it matters not," SeeWoo decided, before Len even had a chance to open his mouth. "I will bring you to see them now," his eyes were still gleaming with that unknown farce of emotion. "And if you are careful enough with your words, and sharp enough to unravel the stories they tell you, then you will be able to find out the truth. It is not something I can assist you with, for this is your trouble, and you have landed yourself in the middle of a maelstrom of chaos, all because of your own doing. You will have to save yourself, for when you're damned in such a manner no one else can help you."

No one else can help you…they were stark, harsh and unforgiving words, but Len did not feel either remorseful or regretful. Perhaps just a little, for it would be most troublesome and even if he had nothing better to do with his time, he did not want to be embroiled in such a situation – but he knew that in the past, he would have done anything to get his emotions back, and if everything he did up till this point had enabled him to achieve that, then there was absolutely nothing to regret…not for him, at least.

"Take me to them then," he answered softly, his gaze never leaving the still girl on the bed – she looked so much like a doll, even more so than she usually did. He wondered if she was really breathing, or if what he saw was nothing other than an illusion. "Take me to the ones you say can help me with the legendary weapons of old. If they are as knowledgeable and confusing as you claim, then I think I have a fair idea of who you have in mind, and I am not looking forward to it. Let us get this over and done with, for after this I still insist upon discussing with the disciplinary trio," he cautioned.

SeeWoo simply sighed, sounding resigned to the idea. He stretched his hand out, and Len gestured to the bed, asking if they ought to bring Miku along, just so that explaining their problem would be a little easier – visual representations were always better than verbal ones, and despite how these people were omniscient, one little matter could be easily lost in the deluge of information they had to handle every day. This might be something they had overlooked, and if that was the case, Len would have to explain the whole situation to them, piece by excruciating piece. It was a dreadful thought.

SeeWoo shook his head, and unwillingly, Len took hold of his proffered hand. He thought ruefully about how strange it was, that he was relying on someone younger than him to transport him everywhere – ah, but then I am much older than SeeWoo, even if I look just as young as him – and he wondered if all gods would eventually age in appearance as well as mind. He certainly did not want to look like a decrepit old man, even if his current reliance on someone younger than him might suggest otherwise.

I hope this can be resolved quickly. Too many parties are being brought into this for their own good. It is not ideal to have so many knowing of the existence of the key. This had better be the last group, or I swear, I will use Miku to destroy the Halls of the Gods itself.


Solitaryloner: I think this is a really, really long chapter and it took me an incredibly long time to write it because…well, a lack of motivation is one reason. Don't worry, I will do my best to complete this story no matter how draining it gets, since it was one of my first few.