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Ch-6, Triptych


"There was a huge explosion in the western tower four days ago, blew up a major chunk of the fourth floor. The subsequent fire was immediately subdued."

"Any responsibility claims?"

"Nothing that was released to the public. My best bet is that it was internal but an extremist group is just as good a possibility. Which is why they must be keeping tight lipped 'bout it."

Frau frowned. "Was anybody targeted?"

Ai sagged against the wall, he could feel the beginnings of a dull ache tugging at his bones in earnest, and his eyes were watery and warm unlike the stark parchedness of his other colder extremities. His head throbbed painfully. The cold was finally getting to him.

"There was a breakout in the dungeon. Suffice to say, the explosion was a distraction."

Frau searched for the bright azure of the janitor's eyes. The flickering gold of the scones caught Ai's features in a spotlight. "But you said-"

Ai clucked his tongue. "I know what I said, but I also said it is a rumor. It's just the men heard some old dowager ranting about overstaying in some overpriced hotel now that the marriage is postponed. The princelet could have eloped with some middle class bimbo for all that matters."

"And they postponed the marriage."

"Yes."

"And in lieu of the current events, it is well justified too. The over caring, overbearing family too concerned to tie the knot when some psycho's blown up a whole tower, perfect reaction really."

Dirty brown locks dripping and half-heartedly fighting off shivers, Ai frowned at the blonde. "What are you suggesting exactly?"

The blonde smirked. "That even the wildest of rumors start from smallest of truths."

Ai shook his head, taking in the blonde's insinuation."The political balance is fragile as it is. And if Antwort decides on entering the war, the news of a missing heir is bound to spring last moment complications. It is after all in everyone's best interests if the war remained confined to District 3 and remained that, a civil war." He regarded the blonde with the same piercing gaze that had him freezing a dagger just above Frau's heart, ruthless and precise in their malice. The blonde returned the look with a wary glance of his own, hatred rolled off the boy's profile in thick murky waves, oppressive and biting cold. Then just as swiftly the air became clear, Ai stood stiff like a soldier on guard, muscles taut and stoic. It unnerved Frau more that Ai was capable of shutting off all his emotions in the blink of an eye. That was what truly made him dangerous; he kept everything bottled up so that it fueled his intent to its goal even in the impossible of tasks. Frau equally admired that determination and feared that concentration.

"It could still be for nothing."

The blonde sighed. "It could be, I admit. But I'd like for you to look into it."

Ai nodded. Frau made to walk away.

"I heard you got into an accident. You don't look so good." He halted.

If before Frau had broken into cold sweat under the seemingly casual stare sweeping across his body, he barely refrained from sighing audibly when he finally felt the scrutinizing gaze settle on the dark crescents under the eyes, away from the mangled hand under wraps.

"Lab says it is just mental weariness. He healed all the physical ones." He all but hoped that Ai wasn't susceptible to the unconscious twitch of his right hand. The brunette nodded absentmindedly, gaze trained on the delirious dimness of the corridor, occasionally lit by a stray lightning, and body shagging with a sort of alert weariness. He heaved a sigh that racked up his entire frame and Frau belatedly realized that the teen was shivering in the wake of the chilly wind howling through the empty corridor.

"Take a bath. I'll send Libelle to your room with dinner, provided Lab hasn't already done so." Frau jerked his head in the general direction of his bedroom and received that same distracted nod. Wherever he was, Ai wasn't really listening to him.

"Ai?"

That seemed to break the trance; the brunette nodded wearily, a shaking hand dragging across his dark spikes. "I'll report to Hausen later." And with that Frau knew he was dismissed as the lanky brunette staggered ahead of him, light footsteps echoing in the jarring silence. It wasn't until the lighting transfixed a careless once-over onto the sudden brightness of the floor that Frau noticed the anomaly, dilute droplets of blood trailing the cold stony path into the darkness. Azure eyes narrowed.

love-love-love

The third time Teito encountered the portrait of the scowling senior, pale grey eyes narrowed into twin glares over the dainty bifocals as if Teito had done him some personal offense by failing yet again in locating the way out through the confused dark corridors and for the first time in the evening, the brunette was starting to regret his decision of tagging along in a friendly game of hide and seek with the orphans after the scones flared to life.

Teito warily sidestepped a flickering shadow. Shoulders tensing with every unfamiliar thud and swish. And the rattle. Above him the rain bore down on the mansion with a persistent stomping of hoofs like an enraged stallion.

Rattle, rattle.

Teito stood ramrod straight, cursing his lack of foresight to bring along anything that could serve as a feasible weapon.

Rattle, Rattle, Rattle, clear as a day and gaining ground with an impressive speed; Teito panicked.

Stealth and agility are as important in the face of a nameless enemy as is the weapon. It not only gives you the advantage of the element of surprise but the chance to observe and possibly determine their strengths and weakness.

The mist of a voice in his head had Teito pressed up against the walls under shadows without a second thought and round the corner, light on his feet and silent as the shadows. And then he waited with a bated breath.

The rattling grew louder and clearer until it stopped abruptly just two steps from the dusty staircase Teito had taken shelter in. All of a sudden the temperature dropped, a dead silence hanging in the air like a horrible stench and Teito swallowed a lump in his throat, hands itching to close around the familiarity of an invisible curved blade, any blade.

Then just like that she walked in front of him, chains rattling softly as they trailed the bare floor. Teito gasped, breathing in a lungful of painfully cold air and coughed abruptly.

She had looked as startled as he felt, silver eyes wide and translucent lips parted in a gasp. A blonde perhaps, seeing as how her hair glittered a pretty silver fire and floated behind her in graceful curls, Teito's haywire mind somehow managed to register as the initial surge of panic flushed out of his system, leaving pure unadulterated fear glazing his eyes. He shuddered. She was dressed in a shabby translucent dress that disappeared into the mass of swirling mist just above the floor where her feet should have been and dangling from the frail, see through wrists were heavy black shackles, binding her stooping figure and trailing behind her form. But glaring back at him in a stark contrast to all the silver was a shimmering stain of blood on her abdomen. Beautiful and haunted.

Transfixed emeralds locked on wide silver and a shiver ran down the brunettes' spine, forcing him to take a step back in order ensure his balance. But Teito couldn't look away, drawn to her shimmering form like a traveler to a mirage.

The lightning flashed. Teito was left staring at air, goosebumps treading the length of his bare arms in a wave of frenzied electricity, his heart a panicked flutter inside his chest. Overhead, the rain continued to beat down with a persistent vigor.

love-love-love

Frau glanced outside. It was hard to tell one morning from another when all he remembered was tossing and turning in a fretful sleep, the gnawing pang of the feral hunger through it all and plans of the upcoming raid pounding his skull. With dark bags under his bloodshot eyes more prominent than ever and pale skin a drastic contrast to his hollowed out features, he more felt than looked drained as he staggered towards the previous dining hall. Midway though steps blurred together into hazy whiteness and before he knew it, the blonde missed a step and found himself wobbling dangerously over the staircase in immediate danger of falling headfirst downstairs. Frau winced, recalling the many injuries that he would sustain lest he fell but still too light headed to truly contemplate the consequences before wiry limbs circled around his middle and jerked him backwards with impulsive brashness, away from the what-would-have-happened and into the arms of a certain Teito Klein.

Azure eyes regarded the soft contours that were so Teito in a lazy flutter of blonde lashes; he managed a lopsided smile, not quite the roughish grin he was actually aiming for.

"I didn't know you were so desperate to have me fall for you Klein."

Teito blinked at him with enormous green eyes, lips twitching into a frown, undecided if the blonde was actually as much an idiot he looked, momentarily forgetting the encroaching heaviness draped over his lap and showering him with an upside down gaze of drunken intensity.

"Are you drunk?" He asked irritated, jostling the blonde from his lap. Frau rolled away from him, groaning as his headache came pounding back, nausea a sudden breathlessness and tightness in his gut.

"Meds," he whimpered around the bitterness in his mouth. "Help an injured man, will you Klein? I think I'm gonna throw up."

"What meds?" Teito stumbled in his first try, what with Frau's huge frame limp but he managed to haul the man to his feet with a still unresponsive arm draped over Teito's shoulders. Teito bit his lip when one of Frau's boots stepped over his toes as the blonde leaned against him. Side by side they made their way to the brunettes room since Frau could barely coordinate his steps to even stand and it was the nearest.

With a grunt he fell back into the welcoming coolness of the sheets, breath coming out ragged and labored.

"Painkillers. Nabbed from Lab. I probably overdosed. Don't call him." He all but panted. "Get me a glass of water please."

"You sure?" Teito frowned, slipping the glass on the nightstand into large clammy hands.

Frau gulped it all down at a go, eyes becoming bright but breath still too loud and fast to be normal. "Positive."

"Why are you taking painkillers? Didn't Labrador-san heal all your wounds? Come to think of it, he heals them really fast." Frau's eyes found them on the brunettes' forehead, no longer bandaged, he could clearly make out the nearly healed scab that was purely Labrador's ingenious salves and potions, not the exceptional healing zaiphon his friend possessed.

Head injuries are tricky and should be handled delicately. They need to heal slowly by themselves to heal completely, lest they cause any internal damage to the brain.

"Lab has healing zaiphon."

"Healing zaiphon?"

Frau nodded, some color returning to his face and closed his eyes.

"There aren't that many healers with this ability but it's not really rare, manipulating zaiphon on the other hand, that's bloody rare."

"Zaiphon…" Teito frowned. An azure eye regarded the teen with mild interest.

"Zaiphon is the uh, the visible form of life force. It can be channelized for certain purposes, for example, activating a weapon. But its ability is rather specific for every individual, not everyone possesses the same form of zaiphon. And it's not easy to control so there are all these regulations-er, okay, bans on using it without license and proper training. Hence for now, it's mostly those researchers, soldiers and clergymen who are allowed to use it. Legally speaking."

Teito cocked his head to the side. "Legally?"

"Zaiphon is mostly outlawed in these parts of the kingdom. But you know." He shrugged.

Beautiful. Your zaiphon is so beautiful, Tiashe.

"Beaut-" Teito stopped mid-word, emeralds wide and a hand half raised to grasp on empty air.

Frau stifled a yawn. "Did you say something?"

"Is it- what's your zaiphon?" Teito quickly made to get up, not really paying attention, mind a sudden mush of emotions. Did he imagine that?

He completely missed the raw pain on the blonde's face. "I don't have one, anymore."

Frau closed his eyes, lulled to a dreamless sleep by the steady beat of rain and if his chest clenched painfully, he consoled himself that scythe had yet to act up.


A/N: Thanks for reading. Feel free to tell me if you stumble over any mistakes :)