Disclaimer: I do not own any part of D Gray-man nor any of its characters. I can only close my eyes and quietly play dress up with said characters in my head and hope I'm not desecrating Hoshino Katsura's work too much.
For those of you who care, Author's Notes will be at the end of every chapter and any and all questions will be gleefully answer if asked.
I don't need to fight, to prove I'm right
I don't need to be forgiven.
Don't cry, don't raise your eye
It's only teenage wasteland.
The image was distorted and out of focus.
Colors shifted and static filled the screen before the image slowly became clear. A man stood alone in a lonely room; he had wild untamable black hair and weary, beaten grey eyes. He slouched slightly, as if the prospect of standing was too much for him to bear. He looked to be in his late teens to early twenties; though it was hard to tell past his haggard countenance.
He wore ripped and frayed clothes with suspicious maroon stains that bespoke of the violence he had seen during his time. Yet despite his alarming appearance, he wore a small, sad smile that strived to convey more love than his broken body could possibly hope to muster.
He sighed as his eyes gazed intensely into the recording.
"Hello there little one." He took a moment to run a hand through his unruly hair. "I probably should have planned this out better," he muttered incoherently before continuing, looking up into the recording with a sad, guilt-ridden expression.
"God, I have so much to say to you, but I don't know where to start. I guess, I'm sorry is as good a place as any. I'm so sorry that all of this had to happen to you; that you're going to inherit my burdens and live a life not entirely your own and be condemned to a family and an existence you can't even imagine." He paused and looked deeply into the recording.
"But even though I've now ruined your entire life, I trust you. It'll be hard and you'll struggle, but… but I believe in you. I-I don't know how to explain it, but we'll always be connected by some strange bond and somehow I know you'll make things right again. Maybe, maybe you'll see what I saw in the exorcists and-and-" he sighed and smiled lightly, letting his arms fall to his side.
"And I don't know. This is your life kid; I want you to remember that above all else. Just remember that no one, not the Earl or the Order, can tell you what to do with your life. Every decision you make, every step forward… It's all yours, and I want you take it and run with it. I just want you keep walking forward, follow your heart and trust in yourself and your friends." The man suddenly turned away from the recording and, gripping his arms lightly, spoke sadly.
"I wish I could see you and tell you these things to your face, to tell you our story and how we failed. I guess I'll just have to hope and pray that you'll have more sense than the previous 14th."
The dark mood was gone as the man chuckled nervously and began to rub his neck awkwardly. He turned his head back to the recording, but his eyes scanned the room, looking everywhere but the camera. "Fuck me," he muttered to himself as his eyes miserably scanned the bare room.
A moment passed silently as the man seemed to contemplate his next words.
"Er… well I have to go now; you know dying can be so inconvenient at times. Timcanpy should get this to you when you're old enough so maybe then you'll be able to understand what we were trying to do and why we felt the need to die for it." He looked down and played with his hands.
"I'm sorry this has to happen, I don't know who you are, but I believe you can end this war and finish what we started. I just hope you'll be prepared. One thing I do want you to keep in mind is that through all the crap you have to endure, you have to keep walking and never stop until the day you die."
"I have to go now, but remember that you're not alone, not ever. You shouldn't be afraid of making friends; they are greatest strength and your greatest comfort. They alone will make all the sacrifices bearable." He gazed up past the recording, seeing some unknown companions and smiled.
"No matter how strong you are, you're nothing without your friends by your side." He stepped forward and hovered just over the recording. "Alright, I have to go, but one last thing. The road ahead is going to be long and hard, but please, along the way, it wouldn't hurt to smile, so live your life and endure and please-" he gave one last sweet grin before the camera shut off, but his silky voice, a voice forever young, whispered through the air like a ghost from the past.
"-Don't forget to smile."
YEAR ONE: THE CIRCLE OPENS
The life of an exorcist was harsh and demanding, weeding out the weak and at times demanding much of its loyal servants. Or so thought Lizzy Logan and Marian Cross as they sat across from each other on a train headed for the middle of nowhere England.
Cross turned his head vaguely in her direction and she turned away in huff. He frowned and slid as close as he could to the window to get as far away as he could from his most annoying rival and, now, his reluctant and completely unwanted partner.
At that moment, they were both cursing their normally accommodating Master who'd decided that it would be a good idea to send his two favorite students on a mission together. Sadly, said students were too prideful and competitive for their own good and a fearsome rivalry had formed between them.
Any sane person would've kept the two firearm Accommodators far, far apart after their first disastrous encounter, but their Master, General Devdas, was nothing if not patient. He claimed, with a smiling face, that they were good together and after a while, they would settle their differences and become friends. Right, thought the other exorcists as they ducked for cover, avoiding yet another fight between the two kids with way too much combined firepower for their own good.
Elizabeth "Lizzy" Logan, just recently turned fifteen, came from the nice side of town. She had pale skin and lovely chestnut brown hair that fell past her shoulders. Clever hazel eyes skeptically viewed the world she had come to despise. The youngest of four sisters, she grew up wealthy and received the best education possible, the best of everything in fact.
Hailing from the prestigious Logan family, Elizabeth was denied nothing as a child and was given everything she had ever wanted. She was strong, independent, intelligent, hardworking and everything her aristocratic parents wanted her not to be, but everything the Order needed.
Having spent the last six months at European Headquarters, Lizzy was one of those aggravating overachievers who was determined to be better than everyone else. She wanted to prove to herself that, despite what her parents had told her, she was not worthless.
Despite her haughty and distant behavior, Lizzy was caring and, though she wouldn't show it, she believed very much in the Order's ideal to protect humanity. She was always willing to go above and beyond the limit and to push herself to get the job done. Many people may not have liked her, but everyone admired her skills and perseverance. She often worked alone, partially out of choice and partially because few could handle her domineering personality.
She, like her reluctant companion, was lonely and too damn proud to do anything about it.
Sitting across from privileged, rich girl sat her opposite in both manners and upbringing. Marian Cross, also who also just turned fifteen, knew what it was like to grow up feeling hungry. Even at such a young age, he drew attention for his luxurious red hair cut just below his chin and dark brown eyes that almost appeared burgundy when contrasted with his vibrant hair.
Cross had been raised by his drunkard father who miraculously managed to hold a job as a low level scientist for the Black Order. Needing a way to pay his ever growing debts, the elder Cross interned his ten year old son at his place of employ. Innately intelligent and creative, Cross probably could have made a comfortable living working for the science division had it not been discovered that he was an Accommodator for Innocence three years later.
Before the word 'compatible' had left their mouths, Cross had officially moved out of his cramped house and into the Order, finally escaping his father's wrath. Two years of loving care under General Devdas had done much to smooth out Cross's rough and rancorous edges, but Cross still wasn't all that comfortable around people and many steered clear of his chilled personality.
Cross was, as his surname implied, crass, vulgar and rude, but also very dedicated to the Order. He, like Lizzy, was a naturally talented exorcist and would really go places if he set himself to it. His biggest fault was his reluctance to achieve his full potential as both a human and an exorcist. He had thus far been content to meander through life, never quite willing to see how far he could go with his skills. Too many years under an abusive father had taught him caution and wariness when dealing with people.
It's surprising that, being so similar, the two children didn't get along better, or perhaps it was that specific reason that had thus kept them apart. General Devdas himself had reservations on pairing the two for such a mission. He specifically recalled the last exorcist's ball in which the two, working together on the decoration committee, got into a shooting match resulting in multiple injuries.
But the children had to grow up eventually. They needed not only to get more experienced in battle, but they needed to learn to work with others one does not necessarily like personally.
As he pushed them off at some god awful hour in the morning, before either was alert enough to understand what was transpiring, he explained how important compromise and teamwork was on any mission. But the General wasn't too concerned. Both were too dedicated to their work to let something as silly as a petty disagreement get between them and the mission's completion.
And who knew? Perhaps the two would put aside their differences and become friends.
… Then again, perhaps not.
But as long as they recovered the Innocence and made it back in one piece, he would be satisfied. The General sighed, this damned war had taken too many people, good, innocent people, and it almost hurt to send his students out into that harsh world. But he would tackle that particular problem the next time he had enough liquor to drown out such unpleasant thoughts.
For now he would enjoy his peace and wonder how his students were getting along.
Wise travelers stepped to the side as the angry young boy in the black coat stalked off to the back of the train, back to the tiny bathroom and slammed the door so hard; it nearly broke under his practiced hands. He leaned over the sink and glared into the mirror cursing his Master, the Order and of course, Lizzy Logan.
Damn rich bitch, he huffed angrily. He couldn't sit there any longer or he was sure they would've started fighting again and that wasn't going to get them anywhere except thrown off the train.
Master was convinced that they were 'perfect for each other', but Cross couldn't stand her company. Just thinking of the sneering way she looked at him was enough to get his blood boiling. Did that little bitch really think she was better than him or something? Releasing his grip from the sink, he looked out the window and tried to quell his anger.
While he certainly couldn't spend the next couple of hours in here, he could at least get a few minutes reprieve from the brunette's angry gaze. As he sat brooding over his bad luck and his Master, his well-trained eyes caught something trailing outside the window.
He cautiously leaned over to look outside. His eyes widened with grim realization to see four or five level one Akuma scattered along the length of the train. Stepping back, Cross's sharp mind quickly shifted gears.
Had the Earl found out that they were on the train? No probably not, the comings and goings of exorcists were tightly guarded and, besides, why would the Earl go to so much trouble for two kids, not even full exorcists? No, there had to be another reason, but that was for later.
Previous grievances were pushed aside as he rushed back to his partner to inform her of the latest development. He returned to find her exactly where he had left her, with her arms folded across her perfectly pressed uniform; a look of utter distain on her face. Cross had noted upon seeing her for the first time that she would be a very pretty girl if she just got that pinched look of irritation off of her face.
"What, do you need me to hold your hand for you?" She asked testily, not even bothering to look at him. He glared down at her, reminding himself that he needed to work with her, not kill her.
"We have a situation, follow me." He said straightly, there was no humor or anger in his voice, only the strict seriousness reserved for battle. Lizzy lowered her lids as she recognized the severity of his tone.
Straightening her coat, she got up without a word and followed him. Her eyes spoke of the horrors that would befall him should his warning turn out to be false and he knew better than anyone how skilled she was with her twin pistols.
Just because he despised her company didn't mean he could not acknowledge her skills, which were on par with his own.
... Well not quite.
Cross was so busy wondering just how they would get at the Akuma, that he missed the boy around their age, discreetly following them with his curious silver eyes behind his newspaper.
It wasn't all that strange that they would pass him; Neah Walker, age sixteen, was very good at blending in from years of traveling with his brother in the crazy world of circuses. His appearance was wholly unremarkable with his small, lanky frame and wavy black hair.
Once the exorcists had passed, the boy smirked quietly to himself.
He was good at that too.
"So those are exorcists? They shouldn't prove too difficult to stop." Neah shifted in his seat as he resumed reading his paper. While reading, he wondered to himself what exactly this Innocence looked like and if he would even be able to find it.
This was his first real assignment from the Earl and he wanted to do well. He wanted to prove to the Earl, and himself, that he really belonged with this strange and awkward family he had found himself trapped in. He was just trying to make the best of a bad situation as his brother would say. While he thought about this, he pointedly did not think about what he might be expected to do as a Noah.
Neah had been a good Christian growing up and thus felt uncomfortable with the prospect of hurting anyone. He was hoping he could just collect the Innocence and leave without any incident.
The Earl certainly wouldn't mind that, right?
Surely, he thought, they wouldn't ask him to kill without reason. That would draw too much attention to the Noah's activities if anything. So he rationalized his fears by not thinking about the gleam in his newfound siblings' eyes as they told him about their first missions.
Needless to say, Neah didn't fully trust the Noah.
He could never trust someone who smiled the way they did, it was unnatural. He was confused and conflicted on what to do, about whether what he was doing was right. It seemed that everything the Earl taught him was in direct violation of all the things he'd learned from Mana. He gripped the sides of the paper as he tried to push these treasonous thoughts from him head before they grew into something dangerous.
He sighed and set down the paper and looked out the window. He could have easily taken the Ark to this Dairy place or whatever, but it wasn't very often he got out of Edo and he wanted to get a full perspective on the situation.
He just wished the damned Akuma didn't have to accompany him, but favorite Noah or not, Neah could only win so many battles.
A part of him, what the others called his 'Inner Noah', would whisper to him occasionally and tell him to do things; awful, horrible things that he would never even consider doing. It told him that it was alright to kill humans, that it would help him integrate with the Noah, that he would like it.
Most of the time Neah could ignore it and it was more of an annoyance if anything. Of course the half that that still thought of himself as human was horrified at what the Earl and what the Noah did.
He silently promised himself that he wouldn't be hurting anyone, not even the exorcists the Earl hated so much. Whatever the case, this would be a good opportunity to find out what was really going on in this so called holy war.
"You want to shoot a weapon on top of a speeding train and hope to hit a dangerous, moving target, all without attracting attention?" Lizzy asked, incredulous that he expected such a ridiculous plan to succeed. "Are you insane?" She obligingly contributed after a minute. She'd decided that Cross wasn't very bright after a few minutes talking to him, but she hadn't known it was this bad.
"Well, when you think of a better idea, I will be happy to listen, until then, there are some Akuma dying for our attention. Besides, I think we're both good enough to end this thing quickly." Cross explained, fiddling with the lock on the outside door. Lizzy dimly nodded to himself, slowly understanding that Cross had inadvertently complimented her.
Well he was still a bastard.
The lock undone, Cross slowly and quietly opened the outside door. The roar of the wind was mostly muffled by the train and they were too far away from the other passenger cars to be immediately detected. Lizzy was a bit surprised when Cross extended his hand out to her.
"It's pretty windy out here; I'll get you over to the ladder. You take the first shots while I get up there." Lizzy eyed him suspiciously, a bit unnerved by his gallantry. The oafish pig she'd come to abhor certainly couldn't have such manners. Cross noted her hesitancy as he rolled his eyes.
"Jesus, I'm not asking you to marry me. There's nothing wrong with accepting a little help." She watched him for a second longer before taking his hand. Tightening his grip, they pushed their way outside into the blustering wind; Cross threw a teasing smirk over his shoulder to her.
"I can't think of a better first date than killing a few Akuma, our kids will love it!" Cross shouted, though even so, she had to strain to hear him. It was probably something insulting anyway, so she decided to ignore it. Cross put his arm around her shoulder as he helped her get over to the ladder.
"Now careful going up. There are two trailing behind the train at your 3 o' clock. I think there are a few more up ahead. They'll probably come down after they hear the others explode, if not, then we'll make our way up there later." Cross shouted, she nodded though she hadn't caught a word he'd said.
It didn't matter; her Innocence would tell her what to do.
She silently climbed the vertical ladder, gripping with all her strength just to keep hold. As she neared the top, she slowed down and stopped.
She dared to release one hand from the ladder to grab her weapon from her holster. Peering her head delicately over the top, she managed to spot the two Akuma through her wild, billowing hair. Taking a deep breath and utilizing every moment of her rigorous training, she pushed herself up onto the top of train and pulled out her second weapon.
When Lizzy first arrived at the Order, it was decided that her Innocence would best be utilized as a firearm. Lizzy had been aghast at first, exorcist or not, she had been brought up a lady. She'd never in her life held, much less fired, a gun. She fought her superiors for a while on it, begging for something not so masculine, something that she wouldn't feel dirty using.
Something that wouldn't make her parents even more ashamed of her.
After much deliberation, her Innocence was split into two smaller caliber pistols, elegant and refined. Even so, at first she'd initially despised the sleek, silver guns that had robbed her of her home and family. However, a nasty run in with an Akuma early on had forced her to at least respect their godly power.
She would be the best, because her skills were all she had left.
While lacking the sheer force of say, Cross's abhorrent revolver, "Crime" and "Punishment" fired shots that were smaller and more intense. Both of the pistols attacking at the same time could easily destroy a level one with but a few shots.
The jump from the ladder and the retrieval of her second weapon had taken barely a few seconds, by the time she started firing, the Akuma had just gotten around to noticing her. By the time Cross managed to make his way to the top, both Akuma had disappeared in a brilliant explosion. She smirked and blew away the smoke from her weapons.
Offering but a small nod to her in acknowledgment, Cross scanned for the other Akuma. Sure enough, a few more Akuma began to slowly make their way over.
"Get down!" Cross said in a hushed whisper as they jumped down in-between the cars. They panted silently from their hiding spot as two more Akuma circled overhead. Both were silent as they readied their weapons, Cross finally able to unleash his own Innocence.
There was "Crime" and "Punishment", but "Judgment" was clearly the most bad-ass of them all.
The unsuspecting Akuma floated right into their hands as they hovered just above the waiting exorcists. Aiming their separate weapons above their heads, not a word was spoken as they fired. Unfortunately, one of the Akuma chose that particular moment to move and was only grazed. While his partner detonated, the other turned its guns onto the exorcists below just it.
"Shit," Cross cursed as the Akuma began firing. Being nothing less than physically perfect, they were able to avoid the first onslaught by diving across to the end of the car in front of them. However, their victory was short lived. While the bullets missed them, they went on to massacre the caboose which they had previously been standing on.
Cross winced as he heard the panic and discord erupt from inside the passenger cars and felt the lurch as the train began to slow.
Shit, now they were in for it.
The Akuma repositioned itself and began firing again. Making their way up to the top of the car, the two took a moment to catch their breath.
"We should not be having this much trouble with a damned level one." Lizzy panted, lowering her weapons to lean on her knees. She heard Cross's revolver click and looked up only to be face-to-face with the barrel of Judgment. Suddenly frightened by Cross's apparent loss of sanity, Lizzy barely registered what exactly he was saying.
"Duck," that said, she quickly lowered herself into a crouch and heard the revolver fire soon followed by the sound of the Akuma exploding. She felt the hot shell brush past her cheek. Heart racing and shaking slightly, she could only glower up at Cross when he offered his hand to her this time.
"You bastard! What the hell were you doing aiming that at me!" She shouted, smacking away his hand and steading herself on her own. She didn't need him or his damn, stupid revolver.
"You were in the way, besides, what the hell were you doing lowering your weapons like that? That's certainly a good way to get yourself killed!" He shouted back, the train had nearly stopped by now, soon the authorities would arrive and ask a lot of questions he didn't want to answer.
He sighed in frustration, ignoring her infuriated face; this was shaping up to be one of those days. "Alright, let's bail now before we have to answer any questions." He said, walking over to the middle of the car to calculate the best angle for them to jump. Ok, they were about three meters from the ground, if they hit the ground in a crouch at the right angle they should be able to-
"Leave? You mean jump off of the train? We just need to explain what happened and-" she stammered furiously, first he aims a gun at her and now he demands that she jump from the train. Who does he think he is ordering her around like that?
"And what?' Sorry we blew up your train, I was trying to kill some demons, please send the bill to the Black Order?' If we're caught, we're gonna be arrested. So get your head out of your happy, little fantasy world and enter reality. This is real life princess, deal with it." Cross shouted, there was a nice patch of grass ahead, perfect for an impromptu landing.
Lizzy pursed her lips, but made no further arguments. He was right of course, it just pissed her off to no end to realize how absolutely unappreciated all of their hard work was. Securing their weapons, the two already sore exorcists leaped from the train and rolled into the soft grass. Taking but an instant to reorient themselves, they broke into a sprint aiming to get as far away from the damaged train as possible.
They carried no luggage with them since the trip was supposed to be short, so they left nothing behind them, except perhaps, some broken pieces of their dignity.
Lizzy frowned; these things always seemed to happen when Cross was around.
"This sucks," Lizzy moaned, glancing over her shoulder one last time at the slowing train. "Now how are we going to get to Derry?" Cross grinned cheekily at her.
"Was anyone hurt?" He asked simply. She blinked in confusion, not understanding his query. "Was anyone on the train hurt?" he asked again.
"No, all that was blown up were extra storage cars, the passengers will probably be inconvenienced-" she replied slowly, wondering where he was going with this.
"As long as no one was hurt then we did our job. We'll find a way to Derry somehow, but until then, our job is to protect the public from Akuma." He said, turning his head to face the horizon.
She smiled slightly to herself, feeling a little better about the disastrous train trip. Maybe Cross wasn't as big a jerk as she'd thought. "Besides, that train was getting stuffy, I'm not sure I could've lasted another couple hours with you." The frown returned.
She was certain she would kill this man before this mission was done.
After about fifteen minutes of running they came to a country road and a very convenient buggy heading for Castle Rock, a scant five kilometers from Derry, or so claimed the red faced farmer. They sat in silence for most of the ride, speaking only to satisfy the man's understandable curiosity. Reaching Castle Rock, the kids thanked the farmer and headed in what he claimed was the general direction of Derry.
They reached the town long after sunset and after walking close to seventeen kilometers, even the physically fit kids of the Black Order were about ready to collapse.
Though unspoken, it had been agreed upon that they would find a place to crash for the night before searching for the Innocence the next day. Both were worried that their dirty, ragged, and overall disheveled appearance would dissuade any right-minded inn-keeper from renting them a room.
They were proven wrong to their delight as an old lady pitied them and accepted their filthy, wrinkled money. It was a small room with two lumpy beds, but neither noticed as the prospect of sleep made any bed seem heavenly.
Peeling off their grimy coats and wet boots, both flopped onto their beds as if it held all of life's answers.
"So what do we do now?" Lizzy asked softly, wincing at how loud her voice sounded after countless hours of silence. Cross reluctantly expended the energy to turn his head toward her.
"What do you mean? We collect the Innocence and go home and sleep for about a week." He said gruffly, rolling his eyes. He had thought it was pretty obvious after all.
She glared at him, though she was too tired to put much heat into it. "I know that, but I mean the specifics. Are we going to investigate the town, talk to people? Can we at least discuss the mission parameters and decide our plan of action?" Lizzy was very organized and by the book. She had a plan for everything she did.
She would not leave anything to chance and risk any more heartache in her life.
"A 'plan of action'? You've got to be kidding me. This town's, like, half the size of Headquarters. Just kick up some dirt and you'll find the Innocence no problem." Cross snorted, wishing she would stop talking so he could sleep.
Cross, unlike Lizzy, grew up in a house where you had to be on your toes unless you wanted to wake up black and blue. Plans only got in the way and made it harder to avoid his drunken father. Cross made it a personal habit to never have any kind of serious strategy in life.
This did not suit Lizzy.
"Well we can't just go in charging blind. There is a lot at stake here and we can't risk treating this like some sort of game. You know what will happen if that Innocence falls into the Earl's hands." She said, rolling over to face him. He rolled his eyes in annoyance; he so did not need a lecture on Order policy now.
"And it won't. You can't predict everything. Being overly prepared will get you killed. You get so caught up in your perfect, little plan that you can't adapt to changing events and you ignore your gut." Cross retorted, trying hard to keep the irritation out of his voice. He was far too exhausted to get into a fight with the prattling girl right now.
Not another word was spoken as they turned away from each other and fell asleep. Far too alike for their own good, it seemed like only a great tragedy could occur to unite the two exorcists.
But that would be telling.
The next morning arrived far too soon for the beaten and bruised kids. Even Lizzy, who always rose with the sun, covered her head with a pillow as if to block out the very existence of morning. Cross, who was at no point a morning person, remained blissfully asleep.
Eventually though, duty called and the kids were forced from their peaceful slumber, if a bit later than anticipated. Neither spoke as they drearily went about their morning routines, dreading the upcoming day with each other. Gratefully accepting a meager breakfast of apples and a biscuit from the kindly inn-keeper, they sat opposite of each other, lost in their own thoughts.
"We're searching for some weird phenomena. Finders were sent out here about a week ago, but couldn't locate the Innocence." Lizzy stopped brooding over her apple to look up in surprise at Cross.
Was he- was he actually trying to compromise?
"According to them, the animals around here will occasionally go crazy and do weird shit. The animals were doing strange things like doing complicated humanistic actions and attacking people, stuff that's clearly not normal. Finders report that the animals don't look right, that they've got a weird vibe to them, like they're possessed or something." Cross stated in between bites of biscuit.
Even through mouthful of food, Lizzy could practically hear him forcing the words out. She smiled slightly at his attempts to be cooperative, so she decided to meet him halfway.
"Yeah, I read that all animals affected have some weird glow surrounding them just before they act strangely. After breakfast, let's wander around, ask some questions and see where it leads us." The lack of a concrete plan would surely drive her crazy, but she'd be damned if she let Cross make her into the bad guy.
He eyed her doubtfully, as if wondering why she was being so accommodating. They stared at each other for a minute, like the two tough dogs on the block staring down each other. Sensing no immediate danger and deciding to accept each other's generosity, the two set out to find the Innocence.
Whatever shred of optimism was there at the beginning of the day had all but shriveled up and died by the time the sun started setting. A whole day of walking and questioning had revealed absolutely nothing and frustration threatened to destroy the temporary peace between the children.
The townsfolk of Derry were paranoid and superstitious. Not only were they unwilling to answer questions, but they wouldn't even acknowledge that anything was wrong.
The closest they got to a confession was from an old man who claimed this was the work of an angry deity and it would work out on its own, without help from the big city folk. Walking away, Cross kept his hands clenched to avoid strangling the delusory man.
Lizzy moaned in irritation, clearly this failure was a result of not having a plan. What was she thinking degrading herself to compromising with an ape?
"You know this is your fault don't you?" Lizzy turned to face the red head angrily, how dare he beat her to the accusation! Cross looked at her out of the corner of his eye, the gruffness of his voice the only indicator of his own frustrations.
"You're way too harsh on these people. These are simple farmers, of course they're gonna freak if some crazy girl in an authoritative uniform starts interrogating them." Cross sighed internally, he'd hoped to have been done by now, but it looked like another night of sleeping with the enemy.
Lizzy felt her face flush with anger, that arrogant, selfish bastard!
"You're blaming me!" She screeched causing the crows lining the fence beside them to quickly take flight. "I cannot believe this! This is clearly your fault! Mr. We-don't-need-a-plan. This is what I was afraid of! Without a set strategy we were just asking blindly, now they've all shut up and won't tell us anything!" She shouted louder, she felt she had been pretty damn patient until this point and she couldn't take it anymore. Cross turned his apathetic calm into a snarl.
"My fault? Oh sure, when something goes wrong blame it on the guy. You just can't stand to see your own mistakes, so you push them on the poor motherfucker you're with." Cross shouted, matching her in volume. The air became electric almost as if in fear of an imminent explosion.
"You're just pissed that I'm right! You're such a man, you can't have a plan or ask for help or admit when you're fucking wrong!" She yelled, stomping her foot and kicking up dirt.
Unbeknownst to the bickering exorcists, a group of young boys were chasing what appeared to be a gasping young girl somewhere behind them. While Lizzy and Cross screamed at one another, the boys caught up to the frightened girl and started teasing, pushing and pulling her hair. Had the exorcists been paying attention, they probably would have intervened in the vicious bullying.
However, if they had intervened then the girl would not have screamed and if she hadn't screamed then perhaps Cross and Lizzy would still be arguing in that field in Derry. The fact of the matter is that the girl did get scared, scream and then suddenly the sky turned dark as if a giant tarp had covered them.
Cross and Lizzy ceased in their arguing and looked up to see who had turned off the sun, only to see it was being blocked by an innumerable amount of birds.
All and any kind, it looked like a mass exodus of anything avian.
Though perhaps platoon would be better as the birds suddenly dived, heading straight for the boys.
Wide eyed, the boys let go of the girl and ran as fast as they could away from the killer birds. Reacting quickly, Cross and Lizzy whipped out their guns and started firing, fearing that the manic birds would hurt the children. However they were surprised to see their hits were completely ineffective. As a shot neared a bird, the bird glowed green and absorbed the bullet.
They were even more surprised to see the green birds turn around and volley the shots back at the exorcists. Seeking shelter behind a large haystack, they wondered how to combat the rogue birds.
"Stop!" Silence prevailed after the girl shouted. Peeking cautiously over the stack, they were surprised to see the birds halt in their tirade and form a gigantic multicolored circle around the crying girl.
"Please, just please stop" she begged, though whether she was referring to the birds, the boys, or the exorcists remained unclear. That said, the birds scattered jerkily as if confused why they had ended up there anyhow. They all flew away at the same time, creating a thick wall between the exorcists and girl and by the time it had cleared, she was already halfway down the road.
"Wait please! We don't want to hurt you!" Lizzy shouted, running after her, avoiding the last of the straggling birds. Confused and exasperated, Cross followed her, hoping this girl would have the Innocence they sought.
"Please listen to me, we understand what you're going through and we want to help you! We came here to find you and tell you what's going on!" Lizzy shouted, hoping the girl would hear her. She did hear her and, to Lizzy's surprise, turned around and ran full speed back towards her.
Unprepared for such an occurrence, Lizzy staggered and braced herself as the girl threw herself around her waist. Both girls probably would have tumbled onto the hard dirt had Cross not caught up and steadied Lizzy by the shoulders. As the girl held onto Lizzy for dear life, she looked up with hope tearing in her light blue eyes.
"Can you really help me?"
Once they calmed the shaking girl down-well Lizzy did, that wasn't really Cross's sort of thing-they managed to get a name and a story. Her name was Rachel Orwell and she had been born sickly. She pulled down her sweater to show where the area coloring her neck and shoulders was red and scaly. She explained how she had been born with a weak constitution and fragile organs.
Never really receiving any love from home, she spent most of her days wandering around and befriending the many animals in town. She had an immediate connection with all the creatures, feeling a kinship with them that she never felt with any of her two-legged companions. Sadly, she wasn't as well liked by her fellow humans. Many kids, in the league of the boys earlier, teased her both because of her poor health and her unnatural attachment to the animals.
There were times when she was frightened or stressed that her head would pound and suddenly, wildlife of all sorts would come to her aid or even weirder, she would have an out of body experience and feel herself in the animal's body.
She cried some more out of fright. Cross and Lizzy both exchanged understanding looks, both knew the confused fear that follows the activation of Innocence for the first time. It was scary to feel so out of control, so alone. So they quietly explained to her what was happening.
Her Parasitic Innocence, Exorcists, the Black Order, Akuma and the Earl.
They explained to the young child her destiny as one of God's chosen warriors and how she would be a force for good in the world. But despite their sugary smiles, the exorcists felt guilt and disgust worm into their hearts.
The Order, despite the cheerful tale they spun, was not a jolly place.
Death hung over everything they did and very few exorcists were retired by old age. Who were they to drag this small child from her home and throw her into their holy war? Lizzy and Cross joined the Black Order knowing full well the hell that awaited them, this girl knew nothing outside her tiny town. How could they justify stealing her childhood and quite possibly her life?
"I wanna go with you." They looked down as Rachel spoke, drying her tears. "I hate being so sick and weak and-and I can get strong if I go to this place. I'll get to work with the animals and I can use them to help make people happy. That's all I wanted, I just want to make sure everybody's happy, no matter how many legs they walk on" she smiled with determination and love shining in her young eyes. Recognizing a bit of their own desires in her blue eyes they smiled and each grabbed one of her small hands.
It would hard, but she would make a fine exorcist one day.
"Alright kiddo, but remember, the Black Order isn't a playground. It'll be a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day, you'll sleep good knowing all your work pays off." Cross smiled down at her, he wasn't a bad guy, just a little bitter. But how could anyone act harshly to such a damn cute kid?
"Will I get strong?" She asked, her eyes sparkling with joy and excitement.
"Almost as strong as me." He said, throwing her a charming grin. The girl giggled as she gripped both their hands tightly as they walked back towards town.
Lizzy raised an eyebrow at Cross, since when did you become such a gentleman? He shrugged and gave her a pointed look, get as cute as her and I'll treat you like that, it seemed to say. The heartwarming mood lasted a few moments longer before Cross felt his heart sink in anticipated danger.
He stopped suddenly causing the two girls to stumble.
Lizzy looked back to ask Cross what his problem was when she noticed his serious expression scanning the countryside. Still holding onto Rachel's hand so not to upset the girl, Lizzy slowly drew one of her weapons, now on the lookout for whatever it was that was upsetting Cross. Rachel looked back and forth between her new friends, worry coloring her pale face.
"What's going on, is something wrong?" she asked, more fear leaking into her voice than she would've liked. She was supposed to be an exorcist after all.
"Nothing's wrong Darling. I would just like your Innocence and we'll be on our merry way." Cross jumped and turned around at the voice coming behind him. About ten meters behind them were two level two Akuma and some freaky guy.
He had an even grey skin tone with some crosses lining his forehead. To top it off he had glittering gold eyes and a devious smile. "My name is Neah Walker, and I am from the clan of Noah dear exorcists."
Cross already had his weapon drawn by the time he turned around and Lizzy dropped Rachel's hand in order to grab her second gun. They glared that the strange man, though 'man' was probably stretching it as he looked to be around their age.
They weren't really sure what to make of him, but he was amongst Akuma and that alone made him an enemy. While it wasn't unheard of for a human to side with the Earl, this union felt…wrong.
With their guns still raised, Cross questioned the stranger.
"Hey buddy it's pretty dangerous in that general direction. I don't know what you've been told, but it isn't good for one's health to associate with Akuma." Rachel hid behind Cross, so those were the Akuma she had been told about? They were scarier than she had imagined.
"That's very kind of you, but Timothy and Mandy won't lay a finger on me. And I'll make sure they won't harm any of you if you just quietly hand over the Innocence." Neah said, smiling gently as if greeting an old friend. The Akuma looked down at Neah, frustration evident on their cruel faces.
"But Lord Neah, The Earl told us to kill as many humans as possible, especially exorcists," one hissed. Animals in the surrounding area screeched and howled as Rachel cowered behind Cross, tightly gripping his hand. He squeezed back, promising her in unspoken words that everything would be alright.
"Yes, and please don't refer to us using such demeaning names. He is Thundor and I am-" the other began before Neah glared and cut them off mid-sentence. He knew what the Akuma were for and he knew where they came from, but dammit, Neah would not be killing anyone. This was a simple mission, get the Innocence and get out.
No one would die today, not if he could help it.
"The Earl gave you to me to use as I please. I don't care what he said, I say that we're not killing anyone, is that understood?" The Akuma straightened up quickly, noticing the look their Master was giving them. Their Lord may have been small and soft, but it was suicide to argue with a fully awakened Noah, especially one who had the Earl behind him.
"Y-yes, yes of course Lord Neah!
"Our deepest apologies and I, for one, think Mandy is an adorable name!"
Neah rolled his eyes and turned his attention back towards the exorcists, the easy going smile returning a moment later.
"Sorry about that, good Akuma are so hard to come by these days. I can promise you all that no one will be harmed in the slightest if you will just give me the Innocence." Neah thought it would be easy, since becoming a Noah every order he'd given had been obeyed. He just expected the exorcists to follow suit. Why wouldn't they after all? It was an easy choice, their lives verses a glowing rock. Sadly, Neah had yet to acquire the knowledge that exorcists were stubborn to the point of suicide.
Cross felt his finger trigger twitch, not liking the situation one bit. He wasn't sure what he should believe, but the hairs on his arms and neck told him that they should leave as soon as possible.
"Yeah, so why don't you let us fix those unruly Akuma for you. The three of us will be going back to Headquarters and you can then go wherever the hell you want, maybe to wash off that sissy ass make-up." Cross said, wanting one last time to negotiate. Something told him that this fight would not end well if they faced this guy head on.
He couldn't figure out why exactly this guy set him off so much, he was only human right? How much of a fight could he put up?
Gripping his Innocence tightly, he still resolved to open fire if his final offer was not accepted. Neah sighed and rubbed the back of his neck in disappointment. He had been hoping to leave here without any bloodshed, but he couldn't exactly leave without the Innocence either.
Maybe if he just scared them, they would give up like normal people.
"Are all exorcists this stubborn? All right then Tim, Mandy; please rough up the exorcists a bit. But don't touch the little girl, I'll kill you myself if she's harmed in any way." But the Akuma were too excited by the prospect of killing exorcists to fully comprehend their master's words and charged towards the waiting children.
Pushing Rachel to the side and out of immediate danger, both Lizzy and Cross began firing. The Akuma were quick and managed to dodge most of the bullets, but still suffered damages.
"You goddamned little brats, I'll kill you all!" one shouted, getting close enough to throw Lizzy off balance. Before she knew it, she was on her back with the Akuma grinning above her "My, my aren't you pretty." Lizzy smiled and put both her guns right in its face.
"Yeah, I'm a knock-out," she replied, volleying a few rounds right into the Akuma's face. It stumbled backwards, cursing only to run into the barrel of Judgment.
"Yeah, that face of yours is enough to kill any Akuma," with that said, the Akuma exploded with a well-placed shot. Silently helping Lizzy up, they scanned for the second Akuma. They looked over to the Neah guy who was also looking around, a frown gracing his features. He turned back to the exorcists.
"Uh, hey, where'd that little girl go?" Cross and Lizzy froze, shit, Rachel! They'd pushed her out of the line of fire and now she disappeared, along with the other Akuma.
And then suddenly she appeared.
The Akuma landed in between the Noah and the exorcists holding the wheezing young Accommodator in its giant clawed hand. She was terribly frightened and mutely pleaded for help as she struggled against the crushing grip.
"Lord Neah! I have acquired the Innocence! This girl's a parasite type; I can feel the cursed thing humming under her soft skin." It traced her neck line with its other claw drawing minute amounts of blood. With her failing lungs, she could only whimper in pain and fear.
Cross's heart contracted painfully. He swore to God that he'd save this girl's life. He would not let another innocent victim be added to this endless war.
Apparently, his sentiments were reciprocated in an unlikely source. Neah, this Noah guy, was shaking with anger. He snarled at the Akuma in fury.
"What the hell did I tell you? Do no not harm the girl; she has nothing to do with this! I told you just to get the Innocence, now put her down, now!" While the Akuma was distracted by his Master, Cross and Lizzy took the opportunity to close the distance between them and rescue the young girl.
A few seconds later and they might have actually saved her.
Three human hearts sank at the sound of the Akuma burying its sharp claw completely through her chest. Due to the immense size difference, her head was nearly severed from her body and her midsection was mangled. Her eyes rolled back as a fountain of blood poured from her wound and mouth. Blood even trailed from her eyes in mock tears, taunting the exorcists with her brief pain and mercifully quick death. Cross and Lizzy stopped dead in their tracks, unable to move and unable to tear their eyes away from the gruesome scene.
A loud thump was heard, Cross vaguely acknowledged that Lizzy had just fallen to her knees, letting go her weapons and gripping the ground as if looking for support. The sound of the Akuma's retracting claws from her pale flesh threatened to drive Cross mad.
It was sickening and it went on so agonizingly long. Upon removing his massive claw, the Akuma revealed a tiny, green glow; it was the Innocence they all sought. The three humans, pale with horror, gazed at the holy crystal.
So this is what had been causing so much death?
Neah gaped at the Akuma and the blood that dripped down its claws. This couldn't be real, she wasn't doing anything. She was just a little girl. This was just a simple mission to collect Innocence and maybe terrorize a few pestering exorcists. He tore his gaze away from the pitter-patter of life saturating the ground to the exorcists.
His elder siblings and the Earl had tried to instill in Neah a hate for exorcists and the God they stood for. Neah had once asked the Earl why they hated the exorcists so much, the only answer he had gotten in return was that they opposed him.
He'd never seen one before, as he spent most of his time on the Ark or in Edo, but he'd always imagined them to be subhuman. Looking at them now, he wondered how he could have ever thought that. The girl was on her knees, gripping the ground with such intensity, it surely had to be painful. Tears making their way down her pretty face as she took in the scene.
The red headed boy just stood there, pale and wide-eyed. He looked like a stiff breeze could knock him over and keep him down. The look of anguish on his face was of one who had absolutely no idea what to do.
And where did that leave him? He was doing the right thing, right? The exorcists were the ones destroying the Earl's perfect vision for the world.
But still, why were all these people being killed?
Neah spent most of his pre-Noah time travelling with his brother, Mana. Since their parents were rarely home, Mana took Neah with him when he ran away. It was hard life with few comforts, but they had been happy. And in his travels, Neah had met some wonderful people, people he learned a lot about life from, people who he had come to admire and respect.
The Earl disliked of it, of course, but Neah had found a love for his fellow humans.
Yes, despite what the Earl and the others said, Neah still considered himself human; he was no better than anyone else despite what the Noah claimed. Maybe that's why this hurt so much. That girl was so young; she never got to experience any of the things that made life great.
And here she was dead, gone for all eternity.
This was wrong, Neah decided watching the Akuma's delighted face. All his previous thoughts had led to this conclusion and it had happened in the span of a few seconds. Returning back to reality, he noticed the exorcists still standing there doing nothing in the face of their shock. It seemed that Neah wasn't the only one out for the first time.
The Akuma meanwhile had dropped the little girl's cooling body. It hit the ground with a nauseating squelch; the exorcist girl let out a shrill, rasping gasp and buried her face into the boy's coat. The boy put his free hand on her shoulder to offer her comfort.
The boy looked up and their eyes met. Fierce, burgundy eyes burned into his desperate, silver ones. That boy hated him, hated him for his relation to The Earl, for the death of the poor kid, for making his girlfriend cry. Neah suddenly felt like the most wicked person who had ever soiled this Earth with his presence.
What the hell was he doing?
His muddled mind had no further time to contemplate this rather vague question when it registered that the Akuma was speaking. He reluctantly pulled his gaze from the livid exorcist to glare at the monster he was suddenly afraid of. It even had the audacity to look proud.
Was this what it meant to work for the Earl? To be a hateful killer? And to enjoy it?
He then found himself with the glowing orb of Innocence in his face. He could feel heat and electricity radiating from it; it burned his skin for a moment before decreasing significantly in intensity. He looked down and was not startled in the least to see that his ashy Noah color had faded to his normal skin tone.
So this was the power of Innocence.
"Here, for you Lord Neah. The accursed Innocence from the young girl, just like you asked. Would you please take it and destroy it? It burns me terribly." The Akuma said in voice that managed to combine his pride and pain. Indeed, Neah could see the demon's claws smoking. Neah numbly took the crystal; it hummed warmly in his hands.
It was-it was beautiful.
It began to burn into him as well, as if it was it was disappointed in him, as if it expected better of him. He deserved this. Neah watched calmly for a few moments as his hands smoldered.
That was sure to leave quite an interesting mark.
"Lord Neah… are you alright?" the Akuma questioned, hoping he had done nothing to upset his Master. Upsetting any of the Earl's apostles was a very good way to end up dead.
"You obviously are not that good of a listener. I told you not to harm the girl." Neah said in a harsh whisper, his hands shook as he endured, no, reveled in the pain the burning Innocence was causing him. Her blood was on his hands, no amount of time or punishment could ever change the fact. This pain could do nothing to atone for his atrocious crime, but it was at least something.
"But Lord Neah, the Innocence…" worry filled the Akuma's voice both for his own welfare and his Master's sanity. A Noah was bloodthirsty at best; he could only imagine an unstable one.
"I don't give a damn about the Innocence! You killed that girl! You killed her, you killed her…" Goddammit, Neah thought, now I'm crying. He ignored the stubborn tears as he glared at the demon with all the hate and disgust he could muster. "Now stand still and don't move while the exorcists finish you off. That is an order." The Akuma straightened with fright.
Neah could easily explain the loss of the Akuma. He also happened to know that the Earl was busy with Rhode all day. Neah had come on this day specifically so that he knew the Earl wouldn't be watching him.
Good thing too.
"W-what! Lord Neah you can't! We're on the same side! We both work for the Earl, why would you side with the exorcists!" Despite his acute fear and wild struggles, an Akuma was bound by a Noah's word, he couldn't move a muscle.
"I don't give a damn about you, the Earl or the exorcists. All I care about is the little girl you saw fit to rob of her life." He turned to look at the exorcists who looked at him with suspicion and surprise. "Well, what the hell are you waiting for? Do your job." He shared a moment with the redhead as they stared, trying to decipher the other.
Looking back years later, Neah would recollect how he had discovered everything there was to know about Marian Cross in that brief exchange. Somehow he believed the feeling was mutual. Back in the present, the exorcist boy nodded and raised his weapon.
"Lord Neah! Lord Neah! Please, I don't want to die!" The Akuma pleaded, struggling against his body with all his might, but a Noah's order could not be ignored.
"Neither did she, but at least she had the decency to die with dignity." The effect of Neah's words was amplified by the sound of the Akuma exploding. Silence reigned as the air stole away the last bits of debris and they contemplated their next move.
Cross let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Holy shit, this… this… He couldn't even describe what he was feeling. This emptiness, this absolute despondency filling his entire body.
Was this what failure was like?
That wasn't important right now, turning back to Lizzy, he gazed down at her. There was blood on the ground where her grip had cracked and ripped her fingernails. He knelt down to beside her as she sobbed pathetically.
She looked so sad, so heartbroken. He'd always thought she was cold and unfeeling, so why was he just finding out that she actually cared?
"W-what did we do wrong? How could we let her die? Y-you, you said an exorcist's job is to protect people, so why couldn't we save her!" She shouted to the sky, bruising the ground with her battered fists. They would need to be bandaged soon before she got an infection.
"I'm sorry Lizzy. I don't know what else we could have done. But- but you can't save everybody." She looked up at him; tears seemed to permanently stain her pallid cheeks.
"This is a miserable, cruel world and only through grit and force can you hope to break even. People like you, you're too nice and it's bad for your health. You can't let this get to you." He gently held her hands, preventing her from further injury.
They were soft, they were hands meant to save, not take, lives.
"There are some things, no matter how hard you try or how fervently you pray, there are just some things that can never be undone." He spoke softly; he'd never lost anyone close to him before. Well, his father died earlier that year but they hadn't been close by any stretch of the imagination.
Maybe it was just that he'd never been close enough to anyone to feel this kind of loss.
Dammit, he couldn't even look at her. They'd never gotten along before, so where was all this crap coming from? He didn't know what else to say, so he just continued to stroke her hands.
"W-why do you have to act like such an asshole all the time Cross-" she asked softly, gasping as she leaned completely on him. The unexpected contact made him pause, but he didn't push her away. "When you're actually a nice guy?" He smiled slightly.
"Well, you know I do have a reputation to uphold." He rested his cheek against her hair and hesitantly wrapped his arms around her. He couldn't remember being this intimate with anyone before, it felt nice in a strange way. He wasn't a nice guy; he knew that… But perhaps, right now, maybe he could bring some small measure of comfort to this girl he'd misjudged.
How had he not seen it before? She wasn't uncaring; she was lonely, just like he was.
They sat like that for what seemed like hours as she quietly wept for the life lost and he sat there stroking her trying to save the only life he could. Both, deep in their own misery, had completely forgotten about the Earl's lackey.
"I think this is yours." Cross cursed his failing instincts which hadn't caught the kid's presence until he was right in front of them. Still holding Lizzy tightly, he aimed Judgment right at his head. Goddamned bast- his grip on his weapon relaxed almost against his will as he observed the kid's face.
The guy was crying, his posture was bent and angular while his face just looked old. The strange coloring he'd had earlier had disappeared along with his mischievous smile leaving only an expression of such genuine regret that had Cross thinking twice about shooting him. So busy had he been staring into the other boy's eyes that Cross had missed the Innocence lying in his hand. He held it out to Cross as if offering it to him. The Innocence smoked softly in his hands, slowly eating away at his flesh, yet the guy didn't seem bothered by it at all.
"I think you should have it, I know what the Earl wants with it and I don't think I destroy something so beautiful. Not after-after…" His breath hitched as he looked away in shame.
"I won't stand here and say I'm sorry because I know that it won't do any good. I didn't want anyone to get hurt and-and the only thing I can possibly think of doing to make this better is to give you this. You can at least do something good with Innocence; all I can do is destroy it." Cross mutely held out his hand and felt the glowing object drop into his hand.
It was covered not only in Rachel's blood, but the crazy kid's as well.
Hadn't there been enough bloodshed today?
"Hey, look, uh… kid. Your hand looks pretty bad. Why don't you come into town with us so we can get that cleaned up for you?" The kid, and he was a kid now that Cross could see him close up, looked up with confusion and Cross knew how he felt. Every part of him told him to shoot this guy until he was dead; there was this evil, dark aura radiating from him that had Cross's instincts screaming.
But Cross could ignore it all by just looking at the guy's face.
He'd never doubted his instincts before, but despite what every rational thought in his mind said, he knew he had nothing to fear from him.
He couldn't say how, he just knew.
"I killed that girl" The kid said flatly, as if it were the most obvious thing. Cross winced, the guy was right, what was he doing? This-this Noah was dangerous, but still Cross couldn't bring himself to shoot him. Cross would later spend many hours wondering what exactly had compelled him to help Neah that day. The closest answer he could ever find was that anyone who looked that miserable and guilty couldn't possibly be evil. Crossed smiled, though it must have been quite an atrocious thing.
"No, the Akuma killed her. I don't know what's going on between you and the Earl but, if you're half as sorry as you look, then I know you're not one of them." The boy stared wide-eyed at Cross, who, not knowing the impact his words were having, continued.
"This has been an awful day for all of us. Rachel, Rachel was a good kid. I'm sorry I didn't get to know her better and that-and that we couldn't help her. But she's gone and there is nothing you, me or God can do anything about it. The best thing you can do is move on and live for her." Cross was surprised when Lizzy, who had thus far been quiet, spoke.
"Rachel was going to be an exorcist. She wanted to save lives and stop the Earl from killing anymore people. If you really want to atone for her death, live your life as she would have, save those around you. Wallowing here won't bring her back, but maybe if you work hard and believe, you can save other people from the same fate." Lizzy smiled, still clinging tightly to his shoulder and Cross thought for a moment she was the most beautiful woman on Earth.
The moment passed and Cross shook his head to dispel the unfamiliar feeling. He helped Lizzy off of the ground, and seeing that she was alright, he stripped off his coat and put it around the kid's shoulders. With the sun setting, it was getting colder out and, with his hand bleeding like that, what's-his-name needed it more than he did. The kid stared up at them, going back and forth between them, trying to understand their kindness.
He tried to wipe away the tears, but got blood smeared all over his cheeks instead.
"Come on, we'll get you cleaned up. I don't know what we're going to do with Rachel, I suppose we'll take her into town." Cross said, shifting his gaze to her small, maimed body which he gracefully picked up. He tried not to think of her smile as walked back towards town. God how would they explain this to the Order or to her parents for that matter? He sighed, he was so tired, he just wanted to sleep and forget all of this. Unlikely, but a guy could dream right?
"You would really help me?" Neah asked in a small voice, unconsciously gripping the warm black coat the boy had given him without a second thought. The pretty exorcist girl smiled and extended her hand. He stared at it as if doubting its reality.
How could, how could these people, these exorcists be so nice after what he did to that girl?
"A stupid, silly man once told me that it's an exorcist's job to help out all people, no matter the cost. Now let me have a look at your hand." He stared at the offered hand for another moment, before giving in and letting her look over the burn the Innocence had left on his hand.
She hesitated, but after a minute she walked over to her friend and ripped the bottom hem of the girl's dress off. Neah shook his head as she held it out the torn cloth to bandage his hands.
"Oh no, no, no, I couldn't I mean I-I, she-" she shushed him and gently began wrapping the wound. She did it with intense care, but Neah had already begun to feel the pain fading.
The more he stared into the pretty girl's face, the less the Innocence seemed to bother him.
"It's okay, she would want this. We can't just let you get an infection because of sentimentality. We've already lost one person today; I couldn't stand to lose another." Neah stared silently as she tied off the cloth neatly. He flexed his hand, never taking his eyes off her, noting the precision of the wrapping.
"So, um, what's your name?" He asked softly, it felt so strange asking such a casual question to an exorcist. Something in the back of mind writhed in agony at the thought, but he ignored it. She smiled wearily and held out her hand in a friendly gesture.
Out here in this bloody field, he wondered how she could still smile so beautifully.
"My name is Lizzy Logan; the sourpuss over there is Marian Cross. We are junior exorcists for a place called the Black Order it's-" Neah gripped her hand and smiled, really smiled. It felt nice.
"Yeah I've heard of it. I'm uh Neah by the way, Neah Walker." He didn't let go of her hand which, despite being so calloused, was still soft and inviting.
He suddenly jerked back his hand and rubbed the back of his neck, what was he doing? He didn't belong here. These were-these were exorcists. He'd already given them the Innocence, what more did they want? He should say goodbye right now, turn around, hop on the Ark and make some shit excuse to the Earl while he tried to forget all this ever happened.
That's what he should do, if he wanted to live to see the New Year that is.
But he couldn't stop thinking about the little girl, the one he had inadvertently killed, about how he'd be doing this kind of thing all the time as a Noah or about the pretty exorcist girl- Lizzy, her name is Lizzy- with her sweet smile and soft hands.
And Neah really, really, really did not want to go back to Edo right now.
His soul may have been saved, but who the hell was going to save his skin if the Earl found out his favorite child was working with the exorcists? He just wasn't that brave; he wouldn't risk his life for something like that.
He should walk away right now while he still had the chance.
"I think I'll follow you back into town and maybe tell you a little bit about what's been going on." Thus spoken, the dreary clouds which had hovered all day suddenly cracked and with a fury let loose a torrential rain unlike any other Neah had seen.
It plastered his black hair against his face and he closed his eyes, feeling the rain wash away the blood on his face and hands. There was something else, something baptismal about this rain. He'd read that you had to wade through a sea of blood before you could come out clean on the other side.
Feeling the stinging in his palm decrease with each drop of rain, Neah did indeed feel clean for the first time in a long while.
The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let's get together
Before we get much older. ~ The Who
Okay (deep breath) after so long, I'm finally unveiling this. I feel like a paranoid mother letting their child see daylight for the first time. Anyways, I've been working on this story since May of 2011, so just under a year. Please keep that in mind with the new DGM chapters coming out that I've had this idea running long before Neah's past became known. It started with the random thought that Neah might actually be a good guy who was secretly working for the exorcists and it evolved into... this. One thing I'd like to get straight is, however much I appreciate all of your opinions, this story is completely written and will not be rewritten. I probably won't be making changes according to new DGM chapters and thus this story will just have to be AU. It's a hefty read, I'll admit, but one I hope you all will enjoy.
Once again, all characters belong to Hoshino Katsura except for my characters.
I would like to thank my lovely Beta, Going Sideways, for reading, editing and letting me make this story the best it could be. Suz, I couldn't have done this without you, thank you for all the countless hours spent on Skype in which we beat out the particulars of the plot.
Baba O' Riley (c) the Who