Disclaimer: I do not own DGM!


Where It All Began


Kanda's earpiece crackled, and he shouted, "What?" into his mouthpiece.

It was the year of Our Lord 2000, and Kanda Yu was standing outside the Black Order Headquarters, a pistol in each hand. His victim was cowering before him, suing for mercy.

"The Chief says to bring the intruder up!" Johnny said.

So Komui wanted to speak with this beansprout, Kanda thought. Imbecile scientist.

Out loud, he merely told the Gatekeeper to "shut the hell up!" and beckoned to his victim, who seemed to be rather wobbly about the knees. His victim quivered slightly, quite unwilling to follow him.

"For chrissake," Kanda said. "Just come with me, you beansprout. The Chief wants to talk to you. Stop being such a ninny."

"I'm not a beansprout," it said, glaring.

"As if," Kanda scoffed. "Now move along, unless you want me to make you move."

The intruder gave Kanda's pistols a suspicious stare, deciding that it was a safer option to just walk in the direction indicated. Kanda followed after, and the two of them entered the elevator hidden in the rocky crevices.

"Why isn't there a door?" the intruder asked.

"I don't know," Kanda said. "Don't bother me with stupid questions like this."

"You're so very friendly."

"Hmph."

"Is this it?" the intruder said as the elevator came to a shuddering stop.

"You think?" Kanda retorted, walking out into a rocky corridor.

"Wow, are those diamonds?"

"Of course not," Kanda said, snorting. "Are you an idiot, or what?"

"That's not very nice of you," the intruder said. "My name's Allen!"

"So you're a guy?" Kanda said. He paused and proceeded to honour the intruder with a dismissive stare. "You're short."

"I'm female!" Allen said, seemingly not much offended.

"You don't look like one," Kanda said, starting to walk again.

"Wait for me," Allen said. "And of course I don't look like a girl – I'm bloody wearing a suit!"

"What are you, a cross-dresser?"

"Do you really have to be so mean?" Allen asked.

"We're here," Kanda said, pressing his thumb on what looked a calculator mounted on the wall. The doors swung open with no noise, as all well-oiled doors should.

"Is that a security device? So that only authorised personnel can enter?"

"I see you're not entirely ignorant," Kanda said.

"Arrogant jerk," Allen mumbled.

"What was that?"

"Nothing," Allen said.

A blur of white rushed towards her, stopping just short of her. The blur of white was in fact a man in a long white coat, with a startlingly white beret sitting atop his head. His glasses gleamed, and his teeth, as seen through his smile, were a blinding shade of white.

"Hello!" the man with the beret said, as a second man approached them. "I'm Komui Lee, the Supervisor of this organisation. Nice to meet you!"

Allen nodded and took his outstretched hand. The second man, whose hair was a startling shade of yellow, smiled at her from behind Komui.

"Ah," Komui said. "And this is Section Chief Reever, who's in charge of our science division!"

"Che," Kanda said, choosing this moment to walk off.

"Where are you going, Kanda?" Chief Komui asked.

"To my room."

"So hasty," Komui said in a rebuking tone, shaking his head. "That's Kanda for you! But never mind, come on, uh, what's your name?"

"Allen Walker, sir."

"Come on, Allen! We'll just head to my office and have a little talk about General Cross and how you can help us."

Allen followed the two men through a maze of cubicles, looking askance at the many white-robed men and women sitting at their desks. Occasionally, one would shout to the rest enthusiastically (possibly having succeeded in his or her task) or moan loudly (possibly in response to a failed experiment). These men and women all looked haggard – there were yawns and dark eye circles galore. Allen felt rather self-conscious in their presence, not that they noticed her much.

There were, however, two scientists who did approach the trio. One of these was Johnny. The other had a rather odd appearance – he was shaped like the proverbial ghost – it seemed that he wasn't actually human.

"Oh," Komui said, stopping to introduce the duo, "let me introduce my colleagues. This is Johnny and this is 65. 65's a machine, really, but he's quite indispensible here."

"Nice to meet you!" Allen said, bowing to them.

"This way to my office," Komui said, ushering Allen into a room at the side. Reever left them at the door. "Have a seat."

Allen looked at the chairs in the room – all of them were occupied by stacks of paper.

"On second thought," Komui said, "let me just clear a chair for you. Here, take this chair. Now that you're comfortable, tell me more about your relationship with General Cross. Why did he send you here?"

"General Cross?" Allen said, shuddering slightly. "He's my guardian now."

"Guardian!" Komui said. He couldn't imagine a more unlikely guardian than the said General. "How did he become your guardian?"

"I wish he wasn't my guardian," Allen said. "But as it happens, my adoptive dad's will named Master my guardian."

"Oh. And how long have you known General Cross?"

"I've been following Master around for a few years now..."

"A few years!"

"Mostly I worked to pay off his debts, but sometimes he did teach me to spar and to shoot."

"Self-defence?"

"That too, sir."

"Don't address me as "sir", my dear boy! Just call me Komui."

"Yes, Komui." Allen flushed a little. "And, uh, I'm not a boy, actually."

"Oh, indeed," Komui said, hiding his shock. "I'm so sorry!"

"It's my fault, really, for dressing like this!"

"I'm guessing it was necessary."

"Yeah, Master told me to dress as a boy so that I wouldn't attract unwanted attention."

"I see, I see. It must have been difficult travelling alone."

"Rather," Allen said, "but I'm used to it by now."

"Good," Komui said. "How old are you?"

"Fifteen."

"Is that so? Now, about sanctuary... General Cross knows we don't offer sanctuary. Do you know why he asked you to come here?"

"No," Allen said. "But I do have a letter addressed to Chief Komui."

Komui took the letter Allen handed over, wincing at the grease stains along its perimeter. He gingerly unfolded the yellowish slip and began reading.

Dear Komui, the letter read,

I'm sending this little idiot to you. Hope you don't mind – I don't care even if you do. I've trained her well enough. She can fight somewhat and she's good at infiltrating houses. She has other little talents as well. Take her in, maybe? I'm busy spreading dissent where I am, so that's all. So long, and I hope we won't meet anytime soon!

Cross Marian.

Komui reread the letter and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Well, Allen, we don't offer sanctuary, but General Cross sent you here to join us as an official member of the Black Order."

"Oh..."

"Do you want to join us officially?"

"Well," Allen said, scratching her head, "I don't quite know what this Black Order is. Nor do I know what you do."

"I see General Cross didn't bother explaining anything to you at all."

"He didn't."

"You see, the Black Order was founded a century or so ago by some priests who felt that the regime then was too despotic. They formed this organisation to sow a revolution. They succeeded, but my long-ago predecessor decided not to disband the Order in case the times of peace should ever come to an end."

Allen nodded.

"The power struggle has really built up over the last few decades. As you might know, the Earl and his aides have risen to the top of the power pyramid. They abuse their power and oppress the people."

"I've heard such tales before."

"You would have," Komui agreed. "Our mission is to overthrow the current regime."

Allen nodded.

"You don't seem surprised," Komui said.

"I guessed this was what you did."

"So do you think you can help us?"

"I will, if I can."

"That's great! Do you want to join us as an agent or as a Finder?"

"What's a Finder?"

"Eh, you don't know? Right, right. A Finder is basically one of our ground-level members. He or she goes around looking for information and the like. The agents are the ones who actually fight and do the high-level stuff."

"I see."

"I think... with your background, you'll make a good agent. You'll be trained of course; we won't send you straight out into the chaos."

"Alright."

"I'll get someone to show you around now. And, by the way, don't be afraid of Kanda, alright? He's a good agent, and he's sometimes slightly rude. But he's a good guy, nonetheless."

"Hmm," Allen said, looking doubtful.

"You'll learn to get along with him," Komui said sagely. "We all have. More or less. Less, actually, I'd say. Nonetheless, you'll have to get along. He's a good sort."

"I'll try," Allen said, and then turned around in her seat when the door swung open.

A girl with long, dark hair stood at the door, multiple clipboards stacked neatly in her arms.

"Lenalee!" Komui cried, rushing up to give the girl a hug. "This is my sister, Lenalee. Lenalee, this is Allen – she's been sent here by General Cross."

"Nice to meet you!" Allen said, rising from her chair.

"Hello," Lenalee said. "Let me show you to your room, and then I'll bring you on a tour of this place! Do you need help with your luggage?"

"I don't have much luggage," Allen said. "Thank you, anyway!"

"Here," Lenalee said. "This way!"

"The Order is really a very big place," Allen observed after a while.

"It is," Lenalee agreed. "Our new staff members usually get lost during the first week or so. But don't worry – you'll be given a earpiece; if you get lost just speak into it and describe your location, and one of us will come and find you!"

"That's nice," Allen said.

"Oh, look, let me introduce you," Lenalee said, nodding toward a tall figure headed their way. "Lavi!"

The figure came sauntering up to them. He seemed flamboyant from afar. On closer inspection, Allen realised that the person – Lavi – was in fact a redhead with only one visible eye.

"Hey!" Lavi said. He shook Allen's hand. "I'm Lavi Bookman."

"Bookman's not his real name," Lenalee said, smiling.

"Nor is Lavi," Lavi said, winking. "I'm a member of the Bookman clan."

"Sorry?"

"Allen doesn't know about the Bookmen," Lenalee said.

"We're a prestigious organisation, and we're not allowed to have feelings," Lavi said, laughing.

"You don't quite seem like a member of such an organisation," Allen said, laughing too.

"I try to seem normal!"

Lenalee rolled her eyes. "Ignore him, Allen, he's just baiting you. The Bookmen are lore-masters of sorts."

"I see. Nice to meet you!"

"Piacere!" Lavi said, and went off with a wave of his hand.

"Is he Italian?" Allen asked.

"No, he's not. Or maybe he does have some Italian blood... I'm not too sure. He's of mixed parentage."

"I see."

"You know Italian?" Lenalee asked.

"A bit," Allen said. "General Cross brought me with him to Italy for a while."

"That must have been exciting," Lenalee said wistfully. "You must tell me about it sometime."

"If you wish to hear about Italy, I'd be glad to tell you what I remember," Allen said. "But it was hardly pleasant travelling with Master."

"Why not?"

"He's a womanizer!" Allen said through gritted teeth.

"Did he –" Lenalee said, looking at Allen.

"No, no, he didn't do anything to me. He likes mature women. Said I'm too skinny for his taste."

"That's good."

"He made me work to pay off his debts though," Allen said, looking depressed.

"It must have been hard on you," Lenalee said. "Here's your room! Just put your things in, and then I'll bring you on a tour of this place."

When Allen finished placing her few belongings into her new room, she left the room. Lenalee was still waiting outside in the corridor, but she was now talking to the same bitter young man who'd almost tried to kill Allen about an hour ago.

"Allen" Lenalee called out. "Here, meet Kanda."

"We've already met," Allen said. She extended a hand. "I hope we'll be friends."

"Che," Kanda said. "I don't shake hands with beansprouts."

"Kanda, don't be mean!" Lenalee said. "Don't mind him, Allen. He's like that all the time."

"This Order is full of fucking idiots," Kanda said, moving away.

"Why's he here?" Allen asked.

"His room is down the hall. You'll possibly see quite a lot of him, but don't let Kanda's attitude get to you, alright? He's a nice guy underneath it all."

Allen nodded, though she did not quite believe it.

"How did you meet him, though?" Lenalee asked.

"Uh, we met outside. He came charging down with a pistol..."

"Oh, he was the one who responded to the alarm? I thought Daisya was on duty today..."

"Daisya?"

"He's another agent," Lenalee said. "You'll meet him soon enough. Come, I'll show you around. I really hope you'll find this place pleasant and homely!"

:::

2 years later

On the third day of January, in the year of Our Lord 2003, Allen Walker and Kanda Yu were summoned to see the Supervisor of the Black Order.

They met outside Komui's door.

"Good morning," Allen said. "I see you're in as a lousy a mood as ever."

"Shut the hell up, Beansprout."

"Ah, you're here," Komui said, opening his door at this most opportune of moments. "Come in, come in!"

"Why did you call me here?" Kanda asked, leaning against the wall. "Is there a new mission?"

"Yes, there is," Komui said. He took his beret off, but didn't speak.

A few seconds passed in silence. Kanda fidgeted slightly and glared at his superior. "Well? Are you going to brief us about our missions, or are you just going to sit there looking sad all day?"

"You're a heartless one indeed," Komui said under his breath. "As I was saying, you have a mission. The two of you."

"Together?" Kanda asked, clear disdain in his voice.

"With him?" Allen asked, looking highly disappointed.

"I've no choice but to send the two of you," Komui said. "The other agents are out working on other tasks."

"Bookman and Lavi," Kanda said. "Send them."

"They're leaving for a Bookman conference in two days. They won't have time to carry out this mission."

"Lenalee could go."

"No, Kanda, Lenalee can't go," Komuk said. "She's going to leave on a mission tomorrow. She's already been briefed. I'm sorry, but the two of you have to try and work together just this once, alright?"

"Che."

"We'll try," Allen said, though her expression was a glum one.

"Okay, good. So –some of our informants were murdered a few days ago. The troubling thing is that they were living in one of our safe houses."

"Oh dear," Allen said.

"The two of you will head out now to the various safe houses. Check to see if the informants are safe. Teach them some basic defence skills. Check the houses for bugs. If any of the houses are compromised, bring the informants to another safe house."

Allen and Kanda nodded.

"I think that's all," Komui said. "You two have a few hours to pack; you'll leave after lunch. Your Finders have got all the important documents you'll need."

Allen and Kanda left the office and parted outside the door.

"After lunch, at the dock," Kanda said. He turned and walked away.

"New mission, Allen?" Johnny asked, looking at Kanda's retreating back.

"Yeah..."

"With Kanda?" Reever asked.

"Unfortunately, yes."

"You'll be fine," Reever said. "The two of you managed to carry out the mission and get back just fine the last time, remember?"

"That was more than half a year ago, though," 65 said.

"Don't rub it in, 65," Johnny said. "Allen, it'll be okay. Kanda will co-operate. Sometimes. I think."

"Everything will be fine," Reever said in his most reassuring tone. "Don't worry about it – just go pack."

Allen nodded. "Thanks guys! See you soon!"

She turned and left the Science Division, little knowing how the upcoming mission was about to change her life.

:::

Kanda and Allen managed to catch the train without too much unnecessary haste. They went to their specially-booked compartment with the accompanying Finders scrambling after them.

Kanda tossed his luggage to the side and sat down, his sword hanging by his side. He didn't usually fight with this sword – it wasn't much good against enemies wielding firearms, but he did use it at times during close combat. Allen took the seat opposite him.

"Want to play a game of poker?" she asked, feeling the cards in her pocket.

'No."

"What are you going to do along the way?"

"Read."

"Read what?"

Kanda glared at Allen. "I'm going to read the mission brief, okay? Now stop making so much noise and read yours. If you die out there because you don't know enough, I'm not going to waste too much effort trying to save you."

"Jerk."

"Shut up, Beansprout."

Allen rolled her eyes and looked out the window. The silence in their compartment was broken only by the occasional shuffling of paper and the snores of one of the Finders who sat at the other end of the compartment, near the doors. Allen's thoughts returned to her worries regarding conducting a mission with Kanda.

It wasn't that she was worried that they would fight. She accepted this as a fact – they would fight, in spite of everything and anything. Such was the nature of their friendship, if that was what the relationship between them could be called.

The issue that gnawed away at her heart – and made her worry so – was an entirely different matter altogether. Perhaps it wasn't quite so different. The important thing was, Allen Walker was labouring under a slight infatuation with Kanda Yu. That was really a very surprising statement, and Allen didn't know whether to believe it herself. It seemed so ludicrous, so unlikely, that Allen sometimes felt that she was mistaken as to the workings of her heart.

That doubt disappeared whenever she came face to face with Kanda. There was always this tight pulling in her chest – but that was just pure infatuation, she told herself. It wasn't love, not at all. At the same time, though, she was afraid that Kanda might find out about this infatuation, for even the bravest of girls scarcely want their budding feelings crushed by the scorn and indifference of the man they care for.

Allen decided then that she would keep a close watch on her behaviour over the course of their mission, so that Kanda would not have any chance of wondering at her strange behaviour. It wouldn't do to have him realise that she had a torch for him.

They arrived at the small town of E– at nine at night. Their cross-continent chase would start the next day.

:::

After six successful and rather uneventful sweeps, the two agents finally came to the small town of Matel. They arrived by train – that is to say, they arrived at the adjacent town of C–, were told by the stationmaster in pigeon English that the shuttle train service to Matel was no longer in service, and then had to hire a horse cart to carry them to Matel.

"Are there cars for hire?" Allen had asked.

The stationmaster shook his head. "No, no cars. Only the horse wagon – there. They can bring you."

"Why do you seem so afraid of Matel?" Allen had asked. "It's just a normal town. Has anything happened there?"

"No, no," the man had said, his toothbrush moustache quivering slightly. "It's a bad place. Just that."

Allen had turned to consult Kanda, but Kanda had just shrugged and climbed into the horse wagon. So Allen had followed suit.

Now, they were stranded a mile away from Matel – because the driver of the horse wagon vehemently refused to go any nearer to Matel. When Allen asked him why he was so reluctant to drop them any nearer, all he did was crook his fingers in the direction of Matel before driving off as quickly as he could.

"Idiot," Kanda said, hoisting his bag and starting to walk across the rocky terrain.

Allen sighed and followed after. The trek was an exhausting one; the midday sun beat down on their sweating backs, causing their clothes to stick unpleasantly to their skin; there was little shelter as they crossed the long, dusty paths. It was strange that such roads could exist even in such an advanced society.

There was no sign of a river or a stream – or even a small puddle – anywhere around them. Allen recalled an old saying, that there was life where there was water. Did the lack of water here then mean that there was no life? Perhaps the Earl's associates had come before them and reduced the town to ashes, and now only the ghosts of the pasts walked the roads of the living.

But there was life. Sun lizards lay under large rocks, their red, forked tongues lapping rapidly at the air, as if trying to suck some much needed moisture. Vegetation grew in small clumps at the edges of rocks, and little crawly creatures made their unhurried way across the stone, across the hardened mud. Perhaps – just perhaps – there was no human life.

When they came at last to the large iron-wrought gate, built in ancient times to mark the town's perimeter, Allen saw at once that her worries had come true. There was no sign of life, and carrion birds could be seen nesting in the craggy hills some distance away. It was still – too still, and too silent; their very footsteps seemed to echo throughout the encircling hills.

"They've struck," Allen said. She was horror-struck.

Kanda looked up, down and all around. "It's not the first time you've seen this, so don't stand around gaping like a fool, for chrissake."

He walked through the gate. Allen and the Finders followed after him. Desolation greeted them; the houses along the main street were empty, and there were still traces of dried blood on the dusty asphalt. Half-eaten meals could be seen at eateries, and clothes still hung on makeshift racks, flapping now and then in the dusty wind.

"It seems as if everyone was stopped in the middle of their day and just spirited away," Allen said.

"There's no sign of life at all," Carl said. He was the shorter and younger of the two Finders who came with them; he seemed to quake at the sight of the abandoned town.

Kanda frowned.

"Why don't we split up, BaKanda?" Allen suggested. "We'll meet at dusk."

Kanda nodded, ignoring the much-hated nickname (for now), and turned away to inspect a nearby shop house. Allen beckoned to the older Finder, a battle-worn man named Edouard, and together they set off to investigate the strange situation they found themselves in.

The searching proved futile. When the two agents met at dusk, neither had manage to unearth any evidence that would allow them to even speculate why (and how) the townsfolk had disappeared.

"This is ridiculous," Kanda said.

They were, at this point, standing outside a dusty cathedral.

Allen sat down on a rock nearby and pushed some of her hair out of her eyes. "We must have missed some clue or other. It's not possible for them to disappear just like that."

"I know that, idiot."

"Well, you sound like you don't."

"Shut the hell up, Beansprout."

"Wait," Edouard called out. "What's that?"

A small dip had appeared in the ground some distance away, close to the cathedral's side door. Kanda, holding a revolver in his right hand, cautiously approached the hole. Allen followed behind, her revolver out too.

"Stairs," he said.

Allen peered down the hole in the ground where the stairs spiralled away into darkness. "I wonder what's down there."

"The answer to our questions," Carl said. He seemed excited.

"We'll only know if we go down," Allen said. She took the lead, making sure to be as silent as possible.

Time seemed to hang heavily over them as they inched their way down through the oppressive darkness. After what seemed like hours (but was in fact only a stretch of minutes), the group came to the last step and found themselves in a large cavern lit here and there by candles.

It was then that they heard a quiet sobbing. Allen, Kanda and the Finders stood still, afraid that any movement would give their positions away.

The sobbing soon gave way to a jerky hum, which morphed into a beautiful and tragic song. The voice was a beautiful soprano.

"It's a requiem," Edouard whispered. "In Italian."

"Move," Kanda said.

They moved as one toward the source of the singing, which was located at one end of the cavern. There candlelight spilled easily and brightly, illuminating a small area in which two figures sat. One was doubtlessly female. Her whole form was meshed in candlelight, and her hair was a bright, glimmering golden. They could roughly make out the movement of her mouth; it was she who sang. There was something nestled on her lap, and they could see arms, legs and a torso attached to the bag-like something. It was another human, ostensibly male.

Kanda stepped out into the light, brandishing his revolver, while Allen tried in vain to stop him from being so rash.

"Who are you?" Kanda asked, his brows furrowed and voice booming.

The female trembled upon hearing his voice, her song coming to an abrupt stop.

"Kanda," Allen said. "Stop it."

Allen then turned to the people in the cavern. "Don't worry, he won't hurt you. Are you alright?"

The female nodded. She lifted her head up. Allen noticed two things: one, that the female had the face of a young woman; two, that an exquisite beauty bloomed in her face.

"Who are you?" Allen asked. "Why are you hiding here?"

The girl stared at them for a long while.

"Speak," Kanda said at last, when he could not bear the silence. "I'll think about sparing you if you speak."

"Shut up, BaKanda. She's afraid of you!" Allen said, walking over to the girl. She smiled. "Who are you?"

"I'm Lala," the girl said, voice quivering. "And this is Guzol." She gestured at the person who lay in her lap.

"Is he alright?"

"He's dying," Lala said, bursting into tears.

Allen laid a hand on Guzol's forehead – it was burning. "Carl, get me the medicine chest please."

"Forget it," Kanda said. "He's dying, anyway."

Allen felt herself grow hot with anger. "Please bring me the chest, Carl. Bakanda, if you can't be helpful, just sit down and shut up."

"You're jeopardizing the mission," Kanda said. "I can't allow that."

"I'm not jeopardizing anything, Kanda. Has it occurred to you, thick-brained as you are, that I am in fact trying to make us seem less threatening and therefore more approachable?"

Kanda sneered, but walked away to lean against some dark wall.

Allen and Edouard finished with the treatment after close to half an hour.

"Here," Allen said, "he should be fine now."

"Thank you so much," Lala said. "Thank you!"

"You're welcome," Allen said. "Do you mind telling us how you ended up here? What happened to the townsfolk aboveground?"

Lala looked away, her hands always busy stroking Guzol's face. "We escaped from the safe house in Matel about two months ago. We were worried... the townsfolk didn't seem too friendly once they started dropping the pamphlets down from the air."

"What pamphlets?" Allen asked. "And who does 'they' refer to?"

"I don't really know... about two months ago, helicopters started dropping little pamphlets which carried a caricature... the figures in the caricature looked exactly like us," Lala said. "Guzol and I."

"Oh," Allen said, nodding.

Lala nodded too. "So the townsfolk became suspicious. The safe house was even trespassed one night. That was when the two of us decided to go underground to hide."

"And then you snuck up to kill the townsfolk one by one," Kanda said.

"No, we didn't, we truly didn't!" Lala cried. Her pale face was now streaked with tears.

Allen glared at Kanda. "Stop accusing people of things they didn't do, Kanda!"

"We really didn't kill anyone," Lala said.

"I believe you," Allen said. "When did you realise that the people aboveground were gone?"

"About a week ago. Guzol went up to get us some food, and when he came back he was delirious. Muttering about something dark, and then he said everyone was gone."

"Does he know how? Or why?"

"He's been like this whole week. Feverish and unable to say much. I don't know what's wrong with him, either."

"See," Allen said to Kanda. "I think there's something wrong here. The Noahs – they must have struck."

Kanda shrugged. Allen frowned. Kanda was a good-looking man, but sometimes he was hard and cold and all too narrow-minded. She pulled him to the side.

"I can tell that she's telling the truth, BaKanda!"

"You don't know for sure," Kanda said loftily.

"Oh, get off your bloody high horse and try to open your mind!"

Kanda stared at Allen. He was surprised by this sudden outburst, because, for chrissake, wasn't the Beansprout supposed to be nice and kind and naïve and stupid? The silence between them stretched and hung heavy in the cavern. It was, however, broken some moments later by a soft crashing sound.

"What's time?" Edouard asked. He turned to the source of the sound. "Aren't we the only ones here?"

Lala shook her head and clung tightly to Guzol. "I don't know, I don't know!"

"It might be the Noahs," Allen said. She pulled her gun out and looked at Kanda.

Kanda had already his gun out. He strode forward toward where the sound had originated from.

"Keep them safe," Allen said to the Finders, and hastened after Kanda.

The two of them crept softly over the rocky surface, eyes open wide for signs of life, for signs of an impending attack. All too soon, they saw two black-clad persons standing at the edge of the light. They wore masks painted with fearful expressions and contortions of facial features.

"Who are you?" Kanda asked.

The taller person stepped forward. "We're here to slay the two loose-tongued fools. Stay back if you don't want to die like those idiots aboveground!"

"What did you do to them?" Allen asked. The semi-darkness hid the anger on her face.

"They refused to cooperate and tell us where these two bloody sneaks were," the shorter person said. "So we took them off to one of our facilities. They're being experimented on now, as we speak. Some of them have already died."

"That's too cruel!" Allen said hotly. "They didn't even know anything!"

"Too bad," the shorter person said. "This is our modus operandi. Tough luck for them, then."

"How did you find out about this hole?" Kanda asked.

"It was easy-peasy," the taller person said. "We were watching you. Who are you?"

"Can't you tell?" the shorter person said. "They're from the Black Order!"

"How did you know?" the taller person asked.

"They have a crest on their chests. Am I right, agents?" the shorter person's voice had suddenly grown silky and dangerous.

Allen's fingers fastened tightly around her gun.

"No, pretty," the taller person said, pulling out a lasso. "We're doing the shooting tonight, not you!"

Allen glared. "You evil-doers will never triumph!"

Three things happened all at once.

One: the taller person swung the lasso in his hands. The agents hadn't realised it, but the lasso was made of a very strong material, and was capable, if wielded by the right person, of inflicting great injury.

Two: Kanda stepped in front of Allen and got hit by the lasso in the chest.

Three: Allen pulled the trigger, and the masked (taller) man fell backwards.

The shorter person rushed forward to avenge her fallen comrade with a pistol.

"Cover them!" Allen shouted.

She could hear Edouard and Carl getting out their shielding equipment behind her. Before her, Kanda groaned in pain, blood pooling about his chest, but he managed to keep his hold on his gun. Then came the sound of one –and then the second – gunshot.

"Are you alright?" Allen asked, dodging the first and second bullet as she scrambled to Kanda's side.

Kanda gave her a small push. "Fight the damned Akuma," he said, wincing. "I'll look after myself!"

The masked woman was almost on them. She seemed to leer at them. Allen aimed her gun, ready to shoot, but the woman dodged and kicked the gun away.

"Damn," Allen said.

She stood up and moved away from Kanda. The woman moved with her, and they circled one another.

"I've a gun," the woman said. "You won't be able to win."

"That's what you think."

"Just admit defeat now."

"Then you'll kill us," Kanda spat from behind. "We know your fucking ways!"

"Shut up, you imbecile! Getting yourself hurt before the battle begins proper... what agents the Order breeds! All so inferior."

"You shut up," Allen said. "Your end is near."

"That's what you think," the woman said, and she fired.

Allen jumped, narrowly missing the bullet. The woman laughed hysterically, and fired a few rounds. Allen jumped on the spot, now twisting, now turning, now bending – managing to escape any major wounds. A bullet, however, did graze her elbow, and she slipped, clutching at her elbow.

"Bloody hell," she said.

The woman shrieked with laughter. "I'll be rewarded by the Earl! Two more simple shots till the die!"

Kanda took this chance to pull a small pistol from within his coat. Allen drew her pistol out too. Both of them fired a shot in their enemy's direction at the same time.

She fell with a scream.

"Are you alright?" Allen asked Kanda in the ensuing silence.

"I'm fine," Kanda said. "See to your own wounds."

Allen shrugged, though an inexplicable worry for Kanda did settle on her as she bathed her slight wounds. Edouard saw to Kanda, and Carl built a fire to ward against the impending cold night.

"Do we have food?" Allen asked hopefully when she was done.

"Yes," Carl said. "I'm going to start warming the canned soups."

"All you think about is food," Kanda said.

"Shut up, BaKanda! I've been fighting! I need nourishment now."

"You'll grow damned fat someday."

"That's none of your business!"

"It is, if I ever have to rescue you," Kanda said.

Allen glared at her colleague, then went to check on Guzol and Lala.

:::

Night fell, and two men, both clad in black and masked, crouched above the entrance to the underground cavern. They waited in silence as the moon waxed and waned across the sky. The people inside would fall asleep soon.

Within the cavern itself, the little fire Carl had built flickered fitfully. Shadows danced across the floor, hiding along the walls. Allen tossed on the rock-hard floor, her cloth blanket doing little to make her more comfortable.

"You're noisy," Kanda said waspishly.

"I can't help it."

"Stop tossing and turning. Go take a walk if you can't sleep."

"Stop being mean."

"Stop bitching," Kanda retorted.

Allen sighed and sat up. She glanced up toward the entrance into the cavern.

"There was a shadow," she said.

"What?"

"There was a shadow, across the entrance," Allen said. She got up. "I'm going to go check."

"Are you sure?" Kanda asked. He sat up too.

"You stay here," Allen said. "You're wounded, remember?"

"I'm going too."

"Fine," Allen said.

"I won't be a liability," Kanda said. "I'm not weak like you."

Allen chose not to argue. Hidden in the darkness, the two of them inched their way up the spiral staircase, all the while checking to see if any more shadows flitted across the entrance. When they reached the top at last, they crouched down and looked out.

"I don't see anything," Kanda said. "You must have been dreaming."

"I wasn't," Allen said. "Look, there's something there. In the rubble. Look!"

Something did indeed stir in the rubble. It was black, and it held a gun, and it was coming towards them.


AN: As you might have realised, I still need to work on writing action scenes :X Sorry about the sub-par writing during the more action-oriented bit!

In any case, I hope you enjoyed the rest of the chapter! Reviews would be appreciated (: