AN: Hiya. I'm kinda tired right now. This chapter gave me trouble at the beginning, which is why it took so long….I just got stuck and then lost interest for…a while. I just finished.
Things are starting to heat up, yo.
I Own Nothing that is Immediately Recognizable as Not Mine. You Know. Those Things. You're smart, you Figure It out.
Simon didn't wait. He ignored the insistant and increasingly annoyed voice of Trisiance behind him and kept going, his strides long and determined, his azure cloak billowing in his wake and meek followers scuttling out of his way as quickly as they were able. He could hear his fellow Knight's footsteps keeping up with him, despite his efforts to shake her loose. Kaite was strolling along after them at a languid pace, leering at any follower brave enough to look up at him.
"Would you actually think about what you're doing before acting?" The woman hissed. "You aren't a trainee anymore, you are a Knight, and acting like a child—"
"Exactly." Simon cut her off before she got into lecture mode. "We're Knights. We have privileges. We're the King's. We should be able to see him when we want."
"We're the King's servants." Trisiance corrected, flatly. "If he sees it fit not to speak with us, that is his right. We have no privileges he does not choose to bestow us."
"He should be happy to see us," He went on, like he hadn't heard her. "He is proud of his kingdom, he'd want to show it to us himself. His power is vast, what we saw at the demonstration was only a fragment of it—don't you want to see more of what he's truly capable of? See him in action? Bear witness to the King's power?" He glanced at her, a nasty smile curling his lips. It widened marginally when she scowled and didn't answer. "He can't possibly say no."
Trisiance fell back a bit, having determined the argument was useless and there was no point continuing it. Were it not for her remarkable self-control and pride, she might have sulked. Yes, hidden beneath her icy exterior she wanted every excuse possible to be in the presence of their precious King, and yes, she very much wanted to see his power, up close and personal, so she could not only satisfy her curiosity but also bear witness to its subtle, deadly beauty once again. The only day she and her companions could yet remember ever having a break from their training was for the demonstration of Adam's Void abilities, all that time ago. It was the first time they had ever actually seen him, and it was a first impression that stuck.
She'd gushed about it afterwards, saying the most words in front of her fellow trainees than she ever had before, unable to contain her awe and admiration. Kaite had teasingly called it "Love at first sight". She had to fight down her blush just thinking about it.
Simon stopped rather abruptly. They had reached the end of the hall, prominently featuring the grand doors of the Cradle. The hall was silent, and completely empty save for them and one other.
The Vassal. They'd barely gotten a clear look at him since their first formal meeting with the King, nearly three weeks ago. It had to be him—the symbol of Adam was stark against the pale skin of his neck, and the way he leaned nonchalantly, but with the confidence of someone with a purpose, against the closed doors of the Cradle was unmistakable. He hadn't moved at their approach, and his eyes were closed, as if asleep.
Simon resumed his stride, but at a slower pace.
"Did you want something?" The Vassal was suddenly staring directly at them. Trisiance hadn't seen them before, but his eyes were very, very blue.
"We have business with the King." Simon said, imperiously. "Let us through."
The Vassal—still a boy, really, he looked no older then their King did—tilted his head slightly, like he thought he'd heard wrong. He glanced past Simon at Trisiance, who had yet to move from her slightly less intrusive stance further away, and at Kaite, who clearly knew better, or just didn't care.
Simon stared. "What?"
"I said no. You're not going in." The Vassal looked utterly bored. "Too bad, so sad. Come back again some other day."
The blue Knight twitched a little, like he'd been poked in the eye and was trying not to blink. "Why not? What reason do you have to block our way?"
"It's not just you, Knight. The Cradle is active. No one goes in until Adam comes out. That's what he wants, that's what I'm doing."
"You were sleeping." Simon snarled.
"Meditating." His grin was impish and sharp. "I'll repeat myself, slowly, since you are clearly too thick headed to get the message: No. One. Gets. Past. Me. Now run along, you're crowding up the hallway."
The look on Simon's face was frightening. The Vassal didn't seem to care in the slightest. He made a shooing gesture, then crossed his arms and slid a little further into his relaxed position. Simon remained stiff as a pillar of cement. Trisiance sighed inaduably, somewhat disappointed, and was just about to coax her fellow Knight away when he moved—
She didn't blink, and she almost missed it. Simon tried to punch the Vassal. It was sudden and vicious and utterly stupid of him, though as immature as he could be Trisiance could not deny he was fast—but apparently the Vassal was faster. Or maybe he was just expecting it. Suddenly Simon was flying back, hitting the floor and going right past her, tumbling wildly. The Vassal's left arm hung in the air, most of his upper arm and closed hand encased in black crystal just like her King's, manifested in less than a second, forming an enormous, impenetrable gauntlet. In the barest glimpse she'd managed to catch, he had effectively used it as a battering ram, ducking Simon's fist and slamming the gauntlet directly into his chest with strength rivaling their own. And he'd made it look easy.
"I wouldn't try that again, if I were you." Alio smiled, the devious expression deceptively innocent. "Adam's sleeping, after all. Wouldn't want to wake him up."
He hadn't been here in a while. He'd kept himself distracted with little side projects that Yuu provided, Alio's training, Haruka's persistant dinner dates, and Inori's 'being human' lessons.
Shu felt like he'd been…neglecting his playground. So he came in person—or as in person as being Gemhead could be considered—and spent some hours just wandering around, patting the head of the occasional Gatherer, perching on top of empty husks of buildings, stepping over rusting vehicles, piles of rubble, and random crystal growths.
It was quiet. It had been two years now since Loop 7 was cut off, and with the invasion of the Gatherers and the fortification of Tennouzou, no human life was foolish enough to wander about the streets anymore. The Undertakers did go out on occasion, he knew, but only when escorted by an Endlave and bearing serious firepower. Even after all this time, he still wasn't sure just where they were getting their supplies. It had to be someone in the city, beyond the wall, or multiple someones. He honestly hadn't looked too deeply into it. He didn't want to know. If he knew, Yuu might catch wind and try and cut it off—he couldn't have that. He wanted Tennouzou to survive. Triton was there, and Hare, and those two children, the blond one and the one with the little backpack…
He felt a kind of fondness for the Undertakers. All of them, not just those he had actually spoken to. Even that feisty pilot, Ayase. He showed it in a weird way, he knew. He still allowed the Gatherers to attack them, after all…but that was for their own development as much as it was for appearances sake.
There was only so much he could do for them. Training was one, preparing them for their war against GHQ and by extention Daath. Resisting the urge to pry was another. It allowed him deniability for the future, and prevented him acting on conditioned responses to a possible threat to the Apocalypse.
So, the less he knew, the better.
That, however, did not apply to Triton. There were some things he ought to be told now, while there was a chance for him to prepare. And it might as well be from him.
Besides, he was curious how much his adopted brother had pieced together.
It didn't take long for them to notice him. Shu, in his tall and cold and strange crystal form as Gemhead, sat down on a spiky crystal growth a non-threatening distance past the outer edges of the Tennouzou kingdom. The wall watchers quickly spotted him and began to deliberate his presence, noting his casual posture and apparent purpose for being there in his single-minded, unblinking stare. They radioed back, and an Endlave came rolling around from the other side of the school—he'd long deduced they'd turned one of the outer buildings into a kind of hangar for their equipment—but rather than attacking immediately, it only positioned itself between him and the wall and settled down, as if content to just watch him as he watched them. Probably Daryl then. He doubted Ayase would have attacked him either, but she wouldn't have acted like she was unconcerned about his presence.
Nothing was said for several minutes. The Undertakers peeking over the wall seemed somewhere between cautious and curious. They didn't outright fear him. Shu thought about smiling at that, seeing as he couldn't physically smile at the moment. The fact he had successfully established himself as a non-malevolent entity in their eyes pleased him, even if they weren't exactly friends. Not that he wouldn't like to be, but…
Some things couldn't be done. It just wasn't possible.
"Oi, Gemhead!" It was Daryl alright, his audacity hadn't shrunk in the slightest, his voice amplified over his Endlave's speakers. "What's up? You got another challenge for us or what?"
Shu considered him a moment. Slowly, he shook his faceted crystal head. Didn't speak.
"Oh? What are you here for then? Just a social call?"
He shook his head again. There was a pause as Daryl pondered this, and possibly conferred with Tsugumi, who was without a doubt listening. Then he called out again.
"Do you want to talk to Gai?"
He did. So he nodded.
The Undertakers within sight broke out in mutters. In less than ten minutes, Gai was at the wall. He didn't hesitate at all, coming out to see the strange creature on his doorstep, just like he hadn't the first time.
Even when I'm not me, you still trust me, Triton.
Shu was almost tempted to laugh.
"Hello again, Gemhead."
Shu fixed the Undertaker's leader with a pupiless, crimson stare. "I never advocated that name." He stated dully and without real bite. Gai smirked, crossed his arms loosely, apparently amused. He stood closer than he had before, and with Shu sitting their vast difference in size seemed less awkward.
"No, but you have to admit it fits. It's your own fault for never providing a name. It could have been much worse, believe me."
"Do you really?"
"You do not think I am familiar with human mannerisms?"
"You must be, to some degree, if you're talking to me like this. I won't pretend to understand what you are, Gemhead, nor your full emotional capacity."
"I see." He paused thoughtfully. "I can understand your dilemma, when it comes to me, Gai. What you see, and how I behave, are likely very odd to you. It may have something to do with the environment in which I was raised."
"Daath you mean?"
"Ah…" The creature made a curious sound, it's eyes growing slightly narrower, it's gaze somehow more piercing. "You delve into dangerous things, leader of Tennouzou…"
Gai smiled, teeth flashing like the edge of a knife. "So I've been told."
"In that aspect, we are not so different. In fact, in many ways, we are more similar than you know…" Shu found himself pausing again. He needed to word this carefully, and resist the urge to drop more hints than he could get away with. "Perhaps, for that reason, I felt the need to come here today and deliver a message of sorts…"
"A message?" Gai repeated, eyebrow lifting. This was getting more subtle and layered than ever, and it was making him very, very interested. "From who?"
"Myself." Red glowing eyes vanished into the depths of the black face. Solemn. "A warning. Consider it friendly advice. I have no intention to prevent you from beginning your battle with Daath, but know that it will quickly escalate into a war that will effect far more than just you and your soldiers."
"I know." The young man wasn't intimidated. "I am prepared for that outcome. I expected it."
"Did you…?" It was looking at him again. "Then I look forward to seeing how you manage it. Nothing ever goes to plan, after all. You may find some things have occurred outside of your range of predictions."
"Maybe." He would handle it. He had no other choice. "Is that really all you came here for? I never thought you cared enough to offer…'friendly advice'."
"There was something else…" The orb-like head tilted quizzically to one side. "How are you at riddles, Gai?"
He blinked. What an odd question. Answered anyway. "Decent enough. Why?"
"I have one for you. Answer correctly, and I shall grant you…a gift. Do you accept?"
He considered it. It sounded harmless enough. "Alright…but I would like something else in return."
Had he eyebrows, Shu might have arched one at the human before him. "Such as?"
"A question. Any question I want, that you must answer truthfully to the extent of your knowledge."
Very clever, Triton. He wondered what his question was. "Done."
"It's a deal then." Gai grinned, nodding to the crystal titan. Squared his shoulders. "What's your riddle then, Gemhead?"
"It's a very simple one. No silly rhymes or anything." One long, clawed hand lifted, drifting through the air slowly, and came to a rest about where a human heart would be on Gemhead's body. "Answer me this…Who am I?"
For a long, tremulous moment, there was nothing. Gai drew up a blank. Is that it? He wondered. That's his riddle? But it's so simple…
Was it really? What did he really know about Gemhead? He didn't even have a name…that he had told them. That had to be the answer: Gemhead's real name. But how could he possibly know that?
Think, Gai. It must have been dropping hints. While it was true he had few facts about the crystal being, he did have a lot of speculations and the creature's unique mannerisms to go off of. It must be one of a kind—even the Gatherers were a far cry from Gemheads purely crystalline, fully regernerative form, and farther from his human level intelligence.
Him. Gemhead was male. Gai was sure of that. His voice was definitely masculine, but there was also something almost boyish to him at times—like the way he had crudely given Ayase the bird when he first appeared, and the black, ironic sense of humor that shone through his well-educated speech patterns. That too, was something unique. Gemhead had mentioned his upbringing, which indicated isolation and strictness. He spoke in an almost formal manner, embellished slightly, but to the point. He directed a conversation in the way he wanted like a pro—Gai recognized one attuned to such triple-layered speech immediately, as someone who participated in it often enough himself. It was almost kingly, really.
He did not look human, but he definitely acted like one. Perhaps it was only a front, this crystal form of his—he had seen how Gemhead was purely made of crystals when he had been blown apart all that time ago and simply re-grown. It might not even be his real body. He controlled the Gatherers, or commanded them somehow. His control of the Apocalypse Virus was downright frightening, and far larger than Gai had ever seen or even thought possible…
"We are more similar than you know…"
And he understood. The parallels were there, he'd only just now noticed them.
Gemhead had been waiting patiently while the leader of Tennouzou deliberated, and stood slowly when he looked up, grey eyes focused and jaw set.
"You have your answer?"
Don't disappoint me, Triton.
He nodded. "Yes. I believe I've found your true name…Adam."
Silence. Then a strange sound emitted from the crystal titan, that sounded almost like…laughter. A long black arm lifted, and Gai tensed at the sudden movement, but it was a non-threatening gesture. A gentle, reddish glow surrounded the creature's upturned palm, and Apocalypse crytals formed rapidly, twisting around into something delicately beautiful and eerily alive-looking. A black flower. It was held out to Gai, an offering.
"You are correct, Gai Tsutsugami." There was a smile in the echoing voice. "Congradulations. Here is your reward."
Gai was stunned. He took the flower stiffly; it's hard edges strangly warm even through his glove. "You mean you're really…Adam? They finally created one?"
"Yes, I believe we already established that." Shu ignored the word 'created'. He wasn't entirely confident Triton could handle that he was in fact the original Adam. "I am the King of Apocalypse. It was I who led Loop 7 to become this way, two years ago. It was a…test run, of sorts."
"Is that all it was?" The young man growled, anger rising. Adam stared at him, coolly.
"To them, likely. You should know very well how they think after your experiences no? Perhaps I no longer qualify as human, but at least I do have some morals left."
Gai ground his teeth, but dropped the subject. There was no point getting mad at the being—no, Adam. The King. Daath's greatest and most closely guarded treasure, weapon, god. His ultimate adversary, who for some strange reason, did not return the sentiment. That made next to no sense, and it left him feeling very suspicious, but he wasn't aobut to look a metaphorical gift horse in the mouth.
"I still have a question to ask you." He stated, locking gazes with the titan once again. It nodded slightly in acknowledgement.
"So you do. Fire away."
Gai inhaled deeply. Exhaled. "When will Mana awaken?" He asked in a low voice.
"Ah…" Adam's 'eyes' disappeared again, indicating they had 'closed'. "You want to know about my Lost Eve…? Unfortunately, Gai, you may have chosen the wrong question: one I cannot answer, for the simple fact that I do not know."
Gai's fists clenched tightly. "You don't know?! How can that be?!"
"It simply is. She cannot awaken until she is complete, and I have been trying to achieve that for years now. There is no real telling how much longer it will take. Although…at times, I feel as though I am close. As if she is just out of reach, and I somehow keep missing her whenever she slips close enough to grab. …It is rather frustrating."
Gai said nothing.
"Clearly that is not the answer you were hoping for. For that, I do apoligize. Your other reward, however, does have some use, I promise you…If you are wondering what to do with it for now, I would suggest giving it to a pretty girl." Adam turned and began to walk away, not looking back. "This may be the last time we meet for some time, leader of Tennouzou. Let's hope that next time, it won't be as enemies."
Shu sighed, massaging his temples as his conciousness settled fully back into its fleshy confines, absently deactivating the Cradle around him. The red glow of the walls and floors faded and he was left in mostly darkness. For a few minutes, he just sat there. Tired. Emotionally drained. He'd given this a lot of thought, and he was…mostly sure it would work out, in the end. He didn't entirely know what he was doing what he was—mostly he was following his gut instincts. Alio found this somewhat discomforting, the way he did things without fully considering what they meant or could result in, but Shu had yet to be steered wrong by his impulses. He typically got what he was aiming for in the end, even if in occasionally unexpected ways. It bordered on precognitive.
With another sigh, the King stood, threw his obsidian coat around his shoulders, and departed the Cradle. It was about time he got some proper sleep.
As he was stepping away from the doors, Shu saw a dusty pink head of hair near the floor in the hallway, against a pillar. He sensed Alio elsewhere, and assumed Inori had taken a turn watching the door. Waiting. He smiled a bit, softly, and approached her. She was curled up with her hands close to her chest, like a small child, wrapped in her shawl. Not wanting to disturb her, Shu was very gentle when he lifted her up bridal style, her head on his chest and arms supporting her slender body. When the movement made her twitch and murmur, he hummed a few notes to settle her. Once her weight was comfortably distributed, not that it really made a difference with his supernatural strength, Shu continued down the hall. Inori had her own room, but tended to sleep in his anyway despite various sources of discouragement.
Not that he minded.
"I knew she'd fall asleep. Knew it." Alio appeared at the intersection, cracking his knuckles one at a time in an absent manner. "I think inactivity triggers her 'off' switch. Seriously. She sits alone without something to occupy her attention for ten minutes and boom: out."
Shu cast his friend a knowing look. "Boredom can do that to people, especially one with the mentality of a seven-year-old. What have you been up to?"
"Oh, you know," Alio plastered on a nonchalant expression. "Things."
"Mm-hmm. That's what I thought."
The Vassal avoided direct eye contact with his King. Moved on. "So, about what you said earlier…" He stopped mid-sentence. They came to a sudden halt. Shu felt all emotion drain from his expression.
"Shuichiro." A face he hadn't seen very often in some time. Not that he wanted to. "I'm not really in the mood for you or your bigotry. Move aside, please." The politeness was something Haruka had drilled into him, but despite that it was very clearly a demand.
"You are a naïve king, Shu." The man said, ignoring him. He looked a little more disheveled than Shu was used to. A little older. His stance was more like the tense, tightly coiled stiffness of someone deeply stressed and beginning to fray at the edges. He had been avoiding his nephew like a plague but the look in his eyes told Shu he had not stopped thinking about him. "You cling to your attatchments and insist on making new ones when they should bear no meaning. Eve is the one you should be pursuing, not that thing. You waste so much time."
"I think I shall be the one who decides where my time is worthy of being used." The King snapped back coldly. "You really need to get over yourself, Shuichiro. What you believe should be done, and what you believe being a King really means Does. Not. Matter. I refuse to be treated as if I am inferior by you any longer, and if you continue to do so, I will remove you myself. Without hesitation." Shu's eyes glowed crimson threateningly, and Shuichiro paled slightly. Satisfied he had made his point, Shu resumed walking, letting his uncle flinch out of the way with Alio following silently. "And for the record, Inori is not thing, nor a fake. She is her own person. Do well to remember it."
They left the conniving, obsessive man alone in the hall, not sparing him another look. Alio didn't speak on their journey as Shu continued to seethe. The completely absolutely ludicrous amount of audacity his uncle had…
When they reached the King's personal chambers, Shu had cooled off somewhat. Alio waited in the parlor while he brought Inori to his bedroom. He could speak with her privately later. He laid her down on the enormous bed and pulled a loose blanket over her.
"Shu…?" Her eyelids fluttered, her tone faint and dreamlike. He leaned down so he was in her field of vision.
"I heard something…earlier…"
"I wanted to…ask you…What is…a kiss?"
For a moment, Shu didn't breathe. Then he smiled, and it felt sad. "It'd be easier to show you than explain."
"Mmm…" She blinked a few times, sleepily. "Is it…a nice thing?"
"Yes. Yes it is."
Shu closed his eyes. "Sure."
The majority of the gathered Undertakers gaped at the plan laid before them. This just couldn't be. He couldn't be serious. He couldn't.
But he was.
"This is our goal, everyone." Gai stated in a clear, resolved voice. Beside his hand was the rotating image of a strange cylinder. "The Void Genome."
Yeah. Stuff. Some of this felt iffy, especially the bits between dialogue, but I'm fine with how it came out. I'm pretty ready to just move on-we've dillydallied for much too much.
So. I hope you enjoyed. I also hope you like my OCs, because you'll be seeing lot more of them. Honestly, I'm a little wary of their presence myself, because although I deliberately tailored their personalities for the benefit of the plot, I'm not sure how well or how realistically I can pull them off. I've never been good at villainous dialogue...
Read, Review, Rebel, Revolt, Reverberate, Recreate, yadda yadda yadda…..pi.