"A Call to Arms"
Iragadachi Akira was an Eraser.
He had learned in his adolesence that with enough force of will and a simple touch he could wipe a person's mind of a recent event-- or even go so far as to destroy practically every memory in the brain. He could revert a grown man to a hollow shell who had no idea who he was, what he was capable of, or where he had come from. It was like creating a child with the maturity of an adult, but with no data to explain the maturity, instincts, or talents they might possess. Such a powerful and destructive Gift was rare, and not widely heard of due to the fact that those who possessed such a Gift- or curse, rather -were terrified of it. Iragadachi, however, revelled in his power.
There was one drawback, however.
Once he Erased someone, the results were varied. He had no control over this new person he had created.
That was where Rosenkreuz's strongest Telepath came in.
Unlike his protoge, Schuldich, who was able only to filter through thoughts and insert his own into another's mind in an invasion, Souma had the power of influence. He could mold his suggestions telepathically into a person's mind and influence how they acted or what they said. It was difficult, depending on how intelligent the target was, but an Erased victim was a clean slate for him to work with. And while he wasn't able to eradicate or change the inherent spirit of a person-- the way they perceived things or their basest sense of right and wrong --he could play on these character traits to create someone who might be in some ways similar to the person they had once been, but at the same time vastly different.
It was because the two of them worked so well together that they had been able to rise to Rosenkreuz and work side-by-side with Thomas Crawford. Over the years they had combined their Gifts to take care of useful but rebellious students or enemies. It had always worked out for the best. They'd patted themselves on the backs and moved on.
But as Souma stood in the doorway regarding their two newest recruits, he couldn't help but feel a little uneasy. After all, the last time they had Erased one of this annoying Schwarz/Weiß group, things had gone drastically wrong. There was always that Tsukiyono brat to worry about... he had the power to force buried memories to the front and destroy all that he and Iragadachi had done to a person.
They would have make sure that didn't happen again, he mused.
Silk was slouched in an armchair in the den of the apartment that served as their meeting ground, discreetly watching his new partner. They'd had to tweak his memories a bit to make him forget about bringing Fujimiya in. The prior detective had an annoying conscience that might have made him start to question things if he saw the pyro change so drastically for no apparent reason.
Souma stepped into the room. "Ash."
The young man looked up from where he was eyeing his outfit with a bit of nervous trepidition. Evidently Fujimiya had been something of an insecure person before he'd joined Weiß. Once a prude, always a prude, Souma thought with a flash of wicked amusement. At least Silk seemed to enjoy the outfit enough for the both of them. He'd actually helped pick it out in an eager attempt to befriend the new partner Iragadachi had dumped in his lap.
He was dressed all in black- a startling but pleasing contrast to his crimson hair and pale skin. The silk blouse was loose and flowing, with long flaring sleeves that almost covered his hands. Silk had given him his tight leather pants, and had managed to dig up a thick chain necklace for the redhead, as well as a pair of small gold studs for his ears.
Souma held forth the sheathed katana they'd confiscated when Silk had brought Weiß's swordsman in. "You're going to need this."
"Ash" hesitated before taking the sword almost gingerly. He held it in his hands, staring at it. Abruptly he wrapped his right hand around the hilt and drew it with a hiss of steel. He held it before himself, gazing at his reflection in a mixture of surprise and awe. His body knew what to do with the sword, even if his mind didn't fully understand how or why it knew.
Silk rose to his feet and came over to admire the blade- a shameless excuse to get close to the other man. "So this's your weapon of choice, huh? Nice," he said with honest approval, eyes roving over the razor-sharp blade.
Ash glanced sideways at him, sheathing the blade in a quick, practiced move. "I guess it is," he conceded.
"Tonight you will meet another team that works for us," Souma said, and they looked towards him expectantly, respectfully keeping their silence until he was finished. "They are a group of three called 'Nebel'." He flicked his fingers towards the door. "Iragadachi told you of the assassin groups Schwarz and Weiß, yes?" They nodded. "Nebel trained alongside those that are in Schwarz. They are the only team to ever hold their own with Schwarz, and one of their members is the only one aside from the original Four to ever beat their Berserker." He paused to give them time to mull this over and respond.
"Six against five," Silk mused. "Not bad odds.. especially if this team is so great."
"I thought you said they had reinforcements," Ash ventured.
Souma gave a small, chilling smile. How fortunate that they had found that little bit of information in the middle of the Erasing. To think that Farfarello had gone so far as to hire the Adir'avar... Still, they would be no match for his carefully constructed team. "They have no Gifts," he said calmly. "They are beneath you. As for the others... leave them to our associates." He would be more than happy to leave Farfarello's Vampires to Park and Malachi. His only interest was crushing the men of Schwarz.
Silk shoved his hands in the pockets of his torn and holey jeans, still wearing his fishnet shirt. "So when do we meet these Nebel people?"
"Their plane lands at five." Souma glanced at his watch. "We leave at four. Be ready. And I suggest you make a good impression on them."
Silk arched a brow, not looking terribly impressed. Ash gazed at him solemnly and said nothing.
Souma turned and left, and Silk turned his attention on his teammate, giving a winning smile that somehow came naturally. "So how do you like the outfit?"
Ash looked down at himself, giving a slight frown. "It's a bit much..." he said hesitantly, picking nervously at the front of the skin-tight pants.
"It looks good on you," Silk said honestly, going in a half circle around the younger man to fully appreciate the view. His smile widened.
Color rose in Ash's cheeks as he turned to look at his partner. "Is that why your name is Silk?" he asked bluntly.
Silk blinked before getting it, and gave a little laugh. "I just have a way with words, I guess," he admitted.
Ash reached out, touching the other man's shoulder, where a tattoo could be seen through the netting of the shirt. "What's that?"
Silk pushed up the sleeve a little to look at it, face solemn. The words 'Sin - When you gonna learn?' encircled a cross with wings. "I don't know," he said quietly. "It must be from before the accident that gave me amnesia. Makes me wonder if this assassin thing is some kind of mistake..."
Violet eyes flickered up to search his face. "You have amnesia too?"
"Aa." Silk rolled the sleeve back down. "But Souma says I worked with him before, and the accident occured when I was fighting the rogue group 'Schwarz'. He had paperwork proving I've been employed under him for almost three years, so.." he shrugged. "Not much else a guy can do when he doesn't even remember his favorite drink." He gave a lopsided smile.
Ash reached up to trace the tattoo through the shirt, watching his finger move, though his eyes were turned inward. "I don't remember anything, either," he admitted softly.
Silk watched the young man carefully, controlling a shudder at his featherlight touch. "Then why are you doing this?"
"Revenge," came the simple answer.
Silk arched a brow. "Against who?"
"The people that gave me amnesia." Ash's eyes narrowed slightly. "Iragadachi-sama told me about the men who killed my entire family and left me to die. There were pictures, newspaper clippings..." he swallowed hard. "My sister and my parents, they died when my house was destroyed. The ones responsible are going to pay for what they did. They call themselves 'Weiß'."
Silk caught the other's hand as it drew back, and met Ash's startled gaze. "I'll help you," he said seriously.
Ash blinked and looked away, pulling his hand free. "..Aa."
Just outside the door, Souma smirked in triumph.
Aya was having a hard time keeping her composure.
She said tight-lipped and pale faced at the kitchen table as her brothers argued and shouted around her. Omi was the leader of Weiß, but her brother had always been their rock. If they were to waver, he was the one to step forward. He could be depended on to carry on, to fight, to pull them through. And with their ranks cut down by two, nerves were beginning to fray.
Schwarz would have been fine-- except that their own rock was teetering.
The abduction of Fujimiya Ran had affected the normally cool-headed American more than anyone- himself included -had anticipated. His violent actions towards Schuldich and his shouts gave him away. Nagi confessed to them that he'd never seen the dark haired man lose his temper that badly before. It shook Schwarz's youngest member, to see his leader so worked up. Crawford might have gotten ahold of himself, might have been able to retreat behind cold eyes and an unsmiling mouth to stew in private, if Schuldich hadn't snapped.
He was furious at Crawford's accusations and threatening moves on him. Just as Crawford was calming down, Schuldich, who had been unsucessful in soothing his own temper, had stormed into the kitchen and started shouting in a jumble of English, German, and Japanese. He threw in a few Gaelic insults for good measure, and that was it.
Crawford was on his feet, snarling right back. The others began shouting as well, and Aya, who was normally the one to step in and break up the fights with pleading words and gentle pulls, could do nothing. She sat numbly in her chair and witnessed the chaos, wondering bleakly what her brother's fate would be as she struggled to hold back tears.
Farfarello and Ken had come when they'd heard the news; even Ken was shouting. Only Farfarello remained silent, standing stiffly behind Aya's chair and watching the show with a bright golden eye. He made no move to stop them, merely watching to see how far the fight would go as he pawed idly at his favorite serrated dagger.
Accusations, angry words, and wild ideas were thrown back and forth as Weiß and Schwarz fought among each other and with the Jackal.
"It's not my fault Farf can't keep a leash on his own fucking people"- that from Schuldich.
"Leave Farfarello out of this," Ken shouted back. "It's not his fault-"
"You were supposed to keep tabs on him," Crawford was growling. "On all of us! He called you, and you ignored him?!"
"Shut your trap, Crawford. How was I supposed to know he was in trouble?"
"Why else would he use the bond?" Omi demanded. "You know he hates using it, and he doesn't like you-"
"I don't like that stuck up shitface either," Schuldich snapped. "Stay out of this, you runt!"
"Don't call him a runt!" Nagi's face was red with anger.
"Ken-kun, if you saw him alone, why didn't you come home with him?? You knew it was dangerous-"
"Me?? What about you? Why weren't any of you with him in the first place?"
"He was the one," Nagi jerked a thumb towards the Jackal, "who was upstairs when Fujimiya took Manx to her car."
"I was getting a drink-"
"Didn't you notice when he didn't come back in? Why didn't you follow him?"
"I came right back downstairs, damn it! None of you seemed too keen on following him. It wasn't my business. Besides, he hates me!"
"And what the hell was that all about anyway?" Schuldich was demanding furiously of Crawford. "You tried to push me down the stairs-- Are you trying to break my damn neck? Just because you were hoping to get Mr. Stick-Up-the-Ass in your bed doesn't mean-"
Crawford swung at him.
Aya screamed, but Farfarello- unnoticed -had started making his way across the room a short while ago.
He snatched Crawford's fist in mid-air. The room went dead silent as they all stared at the two.
Farfarello's golden eye slanted upwards to offer his older teammate a cold, warning glare. "Enough," he muttered.
Aya shot to her feet, tears threatening to fall. "Stop fighting!" she shouted, and they looked towards her in surprise. "All of you, stop it! Fighting with each other isn't going to help anything! It's my brother they took, and you don't see me pointing any fingers!" She shook her head furiously, trying to blink back the hot tears. "How are we supposed to win and get them back if you keep fighting with each other??"
She sank bonelessly into her chair and covered her face with her hands, sobbing brokenly.
The assembled assassins could only stare helplessly, unsure what to do when confronted by her tears. Finally Farfarello pushed past Crawford and came to stand over her. He seized her wrists in a strong grip and yanked her hands from her face. She gasped, looking up at him with wet eyes, her cheeks smudged with tears.
"Crying doesn't help either," he said bluntly, his one eye unsympathetic.
Omi made a sound of protest, but Ken put a hand on his shoulder to silence him. "He's right. They're both right." He sighed. "No one here is to blame, you guys. It's them that we should be mad at. Not each other. Crawford, Schuldich made a mistake. So did I. We all did. We're human, we make mistakes." His eyes hardened. "Now we have to fix those mistakes."
Omi looked abashed, and Nagi glanced away. The Jackal's shoulders slumped as he sighed in defeat. Crawford's face had composed itself into its normal calm mask as he got control of his temper. Only Schuldich was still scowling, though he kept his comments to himself.
Aya blinked hard as she gazed up at Farfarello, then nodded jerkily. He released her, and she rose to her feet, scrubbing at her face.
Ken looked around at them all. "At six o' clock we're going to meet the Adir'avar. Do you really want them to see us as a broken team fighting among the ranks? Because I don't. I want them to see what we really are. We may be human, but I want everyone to know that we can fight back." His eyes flashed. "We have to finish this. We have to take out Rosenkreuz, Malachi, and the Pureblood threat for good. To do that, we have to stick together. No more pointing fingers, no more backstabbing, and no more-" his eyes flickered towards Crawford, "hurting other teammates. We knew this was going to be tough, but we've been through some bad shit before, and this is no different. We need each other."
"Nice speech," Schuldich drawled. "But aren't you forgetting something?"
Ken gave him a hard look, waiting.
Schuldich's smile was eerie and devoid of humor. His eyes were cold as ice. "Some of us," he murmured, "probably aren't going to come out of this alive."
"...Maybe," Ken consented at last, his voice quiet. "But then, we always expect that outcome. Every time we go into a fight, somewhere in the back of our minds we realize that we might die. We're assassins, that's the way things are. I'm not saying this is going to be easy or that we're all going to make it through this OK. But god damn it, I'm not going down unless I bring them down with me."
Schuldich tilted his head back slightly, staring him down as if testing the conviction of his words, tasting the edge to his thoughts. At last he smirked, and it had a hint of its old arrogance to it. "I've got dibs on Souma."
Ken blinked, then gave a little laugh. "All right. Just leave Malachi for Farfarello."
"I'll take care of Iragadachi," Crawford said quietly.
"No." The Jackal stepped forward, face grim. "He's the one who gave the order for those monsters to kill my sister. I want to kill him."
Crawford nodded in acceptance.
"I just want my brother back," Aya whispered.
Omi turned a small smile on her, wriggling gloved fingers at her. "Leave that to me."
At six o'clock sharp the Adir'avar entered the underground Vampire tunnels.
Farfarello was waiting for them in the main cavern, lounging in his throne as he tossed one of his knives almost carelessly into the air, catching it by the blade only to toss it again and again. Ken stood to his right, arms crossed over his chest and bugnuks fully visible. Aya was on Farfarello's left, attempting to hide her nervousness. The remaining members of Schwarz and Weiß were standing around the dias, while several loyal Vampires waited eagerly around the walls of the cave, anticipating the arrival of the infamous Adir'avar.
Himeno led her team into the throne room, head held high, a small smile teasing at her mouth as they approached the Vampire Lord. She stopped several feet from the dias and her team spread out behind her. She gave a sweeping bow, then straightened, still giving a lazy smile as she motioned at the men and women behind her.
"My team, Farfarello-sama."
Farfarello's hand darted out, swiping the blade from the air, and he turned the full force of his piercing gaze on the hybrids grouped before him. Ken looked carefully at them all as Himeno introduced them.
Raphael was their leader- a tall handsome man with long raven hair pulled back in a tight braid, his eyes sharp and intelligent. Beside him was his lover and second in command, an equally tall woman with short dark hair, hooded eyes, and a pretty face. Her name was Hikaru.
Then came Yuusuke, a young man perhaps Ken's age, with wayward auburn hair, laughing green eyes, and a wide smile that flashed sharp canines at the room. He was never still, reaching up and playing with his hair, patting his thighs nervously, or shifting his feet as if his attention span had shorted out the moment they walked in the room. Giving him a look between annoyed and amused was Ryoko, a petite young woman with a broad mouth, long red curls, and quick dark eyes.
The last two might as well have been one: two twins, slightly younger than Nagi. Jun and Seiji leaned against each other almost unconsciously and offered identical grins to their employers, their chocolate hair parted neatly in the middle and brushing the tops of their shoulders. They had a tendency, as Ken soon found out, to finish each other's sentences.
They were all armed with a variety of wicked looking weapons.
"Assassins for the assassins," Schuldich drawled in the moment of silence that followed the introductions. "How.. sad." He pointed at Yuusuke with an arched brow. "What the hell's wrong with him, did he forget his Ritalin?"
"He thinks he's funny.."
Schuldich made a face at the twins. "I can already tell that's going to annoy the hell out of me," he muttered sourly.
"Schuldich," Farfarello intoned, and the man fell silent, giving a careless shrug.
Farfarello rose to his feet and stepped off the dias, walking towards the assembled crew slowly. The twins seemed to wilt a little under his hard stare, and even Yuusuke stopped fidgeting.
"So this is the infamous Berserker," Raphael murmured, taking a step forward to stand before him. Farfarello came to a halt, tilting his head back to stare up at him in silence.
The shadow of a sneer crossed the halfblood's handsome face. "You expect me to follow your orders, you had either be paying me a shitload of cash, or you'd better live up to your reputation, Lucifer."
Some of the Turned in the cave murmured in shock at the man's blatant disrespect for their leader.
Farfarello regarded the man in silence for a few moments before cocking his head to the side slightly and giving a strange, unholy smile.
Five seconds later Raphael found himself flat on his back, gasping for air, with a silver blade pressed to his throat and a scarred face inches from his own. "Reputation..?" Farfarello murmured, eye hooded. "You'll follow me because.." the knife pressed harder, almost breaking the skin, and Raphael flinched violently. "..I tell you to. Or you die." Abruptly he rose to his feet and took a few steps back. Hikaru helped her lover to his feet; Raphael was watching Farfarello warily, eyes a little wild. Finally he gave a fleeting grin that flashed his fangs. His teammates, who had drawn their weapons the instant Farfarello had attacked, hesitated, watching their leader.
"Very well, Farfarello..sama," Raphael said, reaching up to touch his throat and reassure himself that the silver had not cut him. "I can respect strength. And the amount you're willing to pay is considerable." He gave a short bow. "The Adir'avar are at your service." Behind him, his team bowed as well, even Himeno, whose lips were curved in a familiar amused smirk.
Farfarello turned his back on them and returned to his dias, where he sprawled in his throne languidly, as if he'd lost interest in them already. He reached out and began idly playing with the hem of Ken's shirt as Crawford stepped forward to address the assembled halfbloods. He held up a picture in each hand. "There are two on the enemy's side who are not to be killed," he said firmly. "One calls himself Silk. The other's codename is unknown at this time, but he's relatively easy to spot in a crowd."
Nagi floated the pictures over to them; they looked suitably impressed by this small display of power. They studied the pictures of Yohji and Ran as Crawford continued to fill them in on exactly what they would be going against.
Ken took the opportunity to lean over and tweak his shirt from his lover's fingers, murmuring in his ear, "You think they'll be a help?"
Farfarello reached out, stubbornly hooking a finger in one of Ken's beltloops as he regarded his hired assassins with a dispassionate look. "Who knows?"
Ken blinked. "If you're so unsure about it, why'd you agree to hire them?"
The Irishman shrugged, looking bored.
Ken sighed. "I wish you wouldn't be so secretive. Anyway, thank you for not gutting that guy to convince them you're in charge. I was afraid that's what you were going to do, for a second. It's something you would've done six months ago."
"I was going to," Farfarello grunted, ignoring Ken's Look. "Schuldich heard the thought and told me that was a stupid idea."
"It was," Ken sighed. "You could have turned the rest of the team against us. Baka."
Farfarello offered a deadly glare. "I'm not su-"
Aya reached over and pinched his arm to get his attention; the Adir'avar were excusing themselves. Farfarello dismissed them, and once they were gone, he leapt lightly to the floor. Ken followed while the Jackal reached up to help Aya down.
"Leave us," Farfarello said shortly, loud enough for his voice to ring out in the room. The Vampires who had been watching the exchange hurried out, talking amongst themselves.
"So, those are the Adir'avar." Omi scratched the side of his nose nervously, glancing sideways at his dark haired lover. "They look pretty shady."
"Yes. But they look competent," Nagi said. "You saw how quickly they reacted to Farfarello jumping their leader. Besides, their reputation precedes them."
"Oi." Schuldich was scowling slightly, hands on his hips. "What's with all the big wigs having fancy names?"
Aya blinked. "Nani?"
Schuldich waved a hand in the air impatiently. "Agammedo, Malachi, Raphael, Farfarello... those aren't Japanese names. Or Irish," he added with a glance towards Farfarello.
"It's a Pureblood thing, mostly," the Jackal explained. "It used to be a custom for really old Vampires to rename themselves- usually with a name from classic literature or the bible. Now it's done mostly by Vampire Lords and a few top Vampires. Though it's a little arrogant for the leader of a team of halfbloods to follow that practice."
"Malachi and Raphael I get," Aya mused. "But I've never heard of 'Agammedo' or 'Farfarello'."
Crawford pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose, and Schuldich rolled his eyes heavenward as the American explained smoothly. "Farfarello was the name of a demon in Dante's Inferno. Agammedo is probably a warped version of the name 'Agamemnon', who was a leader of ancient Greece."
"Thanks for the history lesson, nerd," Schuldich snorted. Crawford blithely ignored him.
"All right, so we've got our team," Omi said briskly, bringing the conversation back to the most important matter at hand. "We can assume Rosenkreuz is going to attempt to use Ran-kun and Yohji-kun against us. That's probably how they managed to capture Ran-kun. We can't let that happen again."
Ken nodded. "Ran and Yohji are our enemies, even if it's only temporary," he agreed. "We're eventually going to have to fight them. Just... try not to hurt them too bad."
"News flash," Schuldich interrupted rudely. "Kudou won't be much of a problem. Fujimiya, however, is a fucking human blowtorch with a shorter fuse than a woman at the wrong time of the month. We piss off Fujimiya when he sees us as the enemy, and Rosenkreuz is going to be holding a weenie roast over our smoking ashes."
"We'll have to try not to piss him off, then, won't we?" Ken said primly.
"You want me to not piss Fujimiya off?" Schuldich repeated incredulously.
"Maybe you should just head the other way if you see him coming," Nagi suggested dryly. "Since it seems to be your hobby to get under his skin."
"Is it your hobby to be a brat?"
Farfarello had found Ken's beltloop again, and was tugging on it slightly in a very distracting way. Ken struggled to pay attention and shake Farfarello off at the same time without being too obvious.
Schuldich turned to look straight at him, and gave one of his most smug grins. "Well, I guess that's all we're going to see here today... unless anyone wants to stay for the late night show...."
"What late night sh-" Aya started to ask curiously, when Omi elbowed her into silence. Nagi sighed and glared at Schuldich, who was sniggering as a blush rose to Ken's face.
Farfarello glanced sideways at Schuldich but said nothing that the others could hear.
Crawford's eyes flicked towards the subtle hold the Berserker had on his flustered lover and turned to leave. "We should start the Hunt tomorrow," he said calmly. "In the meantime, everyone should get some rest."
They all said their goodbyes, already talking amongst themselves of ways they could prepare to catch their enemies off guard. As she entered the tunnel leading to the rest of the caves, Aya chanced a quick glance over her shoulder.
Farfarello hadn't bothered to wait until his guests were gone. He was holding Ken's wiry body against his own, crushing his mouth against his lover's in a deep, bruising kiss. Ken's arms were wound about the Vampire's neck, his entire body relaxed as he accepted the possessive kiss. Aya felt a smile tug at her mouth and hurried after her brothers to leave the two their privacy.
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