2: The Prophesy

      Nagi takes one look at us where we stand dripping in the doorway and goes to fetch us towels from the hall closet. There’s a creak of leather from another room and our fourth shows up in the doorway to the room that serves as kitchen, living room, and den. He props himself against the doorframe, arms folded over his chest, and quirks an eyebrow at us. Thunder rattles the glass of the windows and Crawford moves past me to meet Nagi halfway down the hall. The younger two say nothing, waiting for an explanation. There’s a parking lot beneath the building; they don’t see how we could be so wet.

      Crawford tosses a towel back to me and I rub my face dry before wrapping it tightly around my shoulders. “We need to have a very long talk,” Crawford says, “but after we’ve warmed up.”

      Nagi gives a tilt of his head; I feel his thoughts give a slight ripple that means he’s using his gift. “The water is heating up in the bathroom,” he says, and Crawford gives an acknowledging nod. “It wasn’t supposed to be raining tonight,” our youngest adds at length, glancing up at the ceiling as thunder booms once more. I wonder if he was the one who checked the weather for Crawford before our run.

      “No,” Crawford agrees. “It wasn’t.”

      He looks back at me and I shrug, so he heads down the hall to take the first shower. I pad down the hall to where Farfarello is and move past him, heading for the window so I can watch the storm outside. I hear soft footsteps against the thin carpet as my younger teammates join me, and the couch creaks as Farfarello resettles himself. A glance back shows him sprawled indolently along the cushions. It’s still strange to see him without his eye patch. The left eye is blind; it was blinded a long time ago in a fight I don’t know the details of. It’s on Rosenkreuz’s orders that he threw the patch away, and two gold eyes stare back at me across the room.

      Whereas Rosenkreuz seemed to crush some long-protected part of Nagi’s battered soul, it offered only solace for a madman like Farfarello. We risked destroying his mind forever in our first battle against Estet; we knew that his powers were untrained and wild but we needed him with us and couldn’t spare the time to send him to Rosenkreuz then. After Estet’s ceremony by the sea, it was finally all right to take a breather and send him there to put his gifts and mind back in working order. He’s a lot calmer now than he ever was before, though he’s no less the ruthless killer that I remember him as.

      I remember wondering for a moment if Crawford and I should be worried about them coming back to us. Our teammates turned out to be much stronger than either of us predicted they would be; Rosenkreuz didn’t explain the breadth of their powers when they assigned the two to us. Farfarello’s knack for self-healing and his ability to project himself a further distance than my telepathy allows me to reach and Nagi’s twisted gifts are not what I expected from them. We sent them to Rosenkreuz because we had to, but it was a gamble. There’s not much to keep Schwarz together, and with Schwarz on the list of traitors back in Austria, there was no telling what the school would do to them- or have them do to us. The only reason I signed off on their training was because Crawford said it would work.

      Either way, they came back in time to help us with the psychokinetic team that came to Japan months ago. Nagi could get away from Rosenkreuz first and came a few hours ahead, buying us time until Farfarello made it into the country. It was just enough- it helped keep the team scattered and busy until Farfarello could get in range to slip into Crawford’s mind and kill off that damned illusionist. We’ve spent the last few months readjusting ourselves to being together again and doing odd jobs where it pleases us. It seems like we’re about to get a chance to see if we can work as a whole once more.

      That still doesn’t explain what Weiß could have to do with such a chaotic storm, though.

      “You should get out of those wet clothes,” Nagi says at length.

      I ignore that. “We’re going to have to go back for the car,” I tell them, looking back out the window. There’s nothing to see, however, nothing but lightning and rain, rain, rain.

      “It’s not downstairs?” Nagi asks, and I can hear the frown in his voice.

      I give a snort at that, flicking him a look over my shoulder. “You think I was going to drive in weather like this?” I ask him. “We took the subway.”

      He says nothing, accepting that in silence, and I abandon the window and the living room. The apartment is a three room place, one of two units on the seventh floor of this building. In addition to the den are two bedrooms, and we’ve had to pair up in them until we find a larger place. One of the bedrooms had been mine, regardless of the fact that I’ve been sleeping with Crawford for years. I liked having my own room, and I would wander back and forth between them as I pleased. Now Nagi and Farfarello share it, and it looks cramped with two beds. Farfarello’s is lofted above Nagi’s, sitting perpendicular to it so that Nagi’s desk can fit. Our madman likes the vantage point and neither have complained about having to share, so it works for now. It’s still strikingly bare despite the months they’ve been using it, to the point that I don’t like going in it.

      The bathroom is between our bedrooms and I hear the water cut off as I pass. Crawford’s not the type to just lounge around and enjoy the hot water, no matter how cold he is. I have no complaints, since I’m still freezing my ass off.

      I wait by the bedroom window until Crawford enters and reach out to press a chilled hand to his chest. I can’t tell if he’s warm or not, not when I’m so cold, but I can feel his muscles tense instinctively in reaction to such an icy touch. He brushes my hand away and I offer him a smirk, clapping my hand to his bare back on my way out of the room. I don’t get out of the shower until I’m good and ready to. I don’t care what the world is up to. Screw it and screw its storm. I’m cold, the water’s hot, and that’s really all there is to it.

      When I’m pretty sure I’ve burned away a few layers of skin I finally climb out of the shower and wander into the bedroom, where I find the warmest clothes I own and pull them on. My teammates are waiting for me in the den and I ignore them for just a few moments, heading over to the counter that serves as our kitchen and pouring myself coffee. Nagi is standing by the couch, as Farfarello is still taking up all of the cushions, and Crawford has his chair, so I sink into my chair across from the precognitive and bury my face in my mug.

      I choose the wrong moment to take a sip, however, because Crawford’s words have me choking on the hot drink.

      “Thaolin has woken up.”

      Nagi looks my way at the sound of me inhaling my coffee, but ignores my coughing to look back at Crawford. “Thaolin?” he asks.

      “That’s impossible,” I say, trying not to spill my coffee on me. Nagi glances towards me again and Farfarello is looking back and forth between the two of us, but I don’t notice them. Narrowed blue eyes are fixed on Crawford. “We decided years ago that Thaolin was a myth. We saw firsthand that it was. Even if it wasn’t, there’s no one left of Estet that would remember it.”

      “Someone remembers,” Crawford tells me. “I just don’t know who yet.”

      “Who is Thaolin?” Nagi wants to know.

      I scowl, sinking further into my chair. “Thaolin was Estet’s god of death, the lord of war and destruction and utter chaos, yadda yadda yadda. He isn’t real.”

      “No gods are real,” Farfarello points out.

      “This one has potential to be,” Crawford says, a neat argument to the both of us. The three of us turn back to him. Nagi’s gaze is considering, Farfarello’s blank, and mine is a heated glare. “Estet is an ancient organization that has long dreamed of having the world,” he explains. “They were offered two means by which to accomplish such a lofty goal: Thaolin and Marough. They are the two gods at the root of Estet’s twisted religion. Marough is the god of eternal life and youth. Thaolin, as Schuldich said, is the god of death. Estet believed they had the power to invoke these gods and claim their gifts as their own, and Marough was their first choice. That is what they were doing in Asia years ago.”

      “Fujimiya Aya,” I say, picking up from there. I give a disgusted flick of my fingers. “They were going to use Fujimiya Aya as the gate for Marough, which naturally meant that her little bloodthirsty brother should have inherited the role as the bringer of doom. The gods are two halves of the same coin, life and death, and the mortal keys had to be connected by something. Nothing’s stronger than blood, so it should have been Fujimiya Ran. But he isn’t. We would have known before.”

      “He had a reason to stay alive before,” Crawford points out.

      I rake my hair out of my face in an irritated gesture, and Nagi perches himself neatly on the arm of the couch. Farfarello has to shift slightly to accommodate him, and that he moves at all surprises me. “I’m not following you,” Nagi says slowly.

      “Long before Schwarz put foot in Japan, Estet was working here with the Takatori family and countless others they thought they could use to shape their future. The Fujimiyas played a vital role in those plans in that Fujimiya Aya was prophesized to be the key they needed. Takatori took care of the family for Estet, leaving just the children alive. The children cannot exist without each other while they are still keys; the death of one sets off the invocation of the other’s power. If Ran had been killed that day, Aya would have been sealed with Marough’s powers and Estet wouldn’t have been able to retrieve them from her. If Aya had been killed, Ran’s power would have eaten him alive and he would have cut a large swath through Japan with his death.” He makes a cutting motion with his hand and looks back towards me.

      “Estet allowed Weiß to do what they wished because it kept Fujimiya Ran balanced, and Estet chose to use Schwarz as a buffer between their people and Weiß. Things would have worked out perfectly for them if we had not stepped in three years ago. We interfered with the ceremony on Rosenkreuz’s command and Estet failed in waking Marough.”

      A frown pulls at Nagi’s lips as he considers that. It’s almost strange to see an expression on a face that has been stony and blank for months. “And Ran?” he asks.

      “He never showed signs of being an active key before,” Crawford says, “so those of Estet that knew about the legend wanted to write him off completely. Not everyone would allow that to happen, as it seemed blasphemous and dangerous to pretend a god didn’t exist, and the argument was never settled. Still, the argument and the knowledge of the prophecy should have died years ago when we killed the Elders and Weiß killed that faction of Estet. Those that knew about the gods were there that night, and there were no survivors.”

      “You know about it,” Farfarello points out.

      Crawford and I exchange looks and say nothing in response to that. Farfarello isn’t really expecting a response to the accusation, anyway. Instead Crawford continues with his explanation. “One cannot open the doors to life and death simultaneously, which means only one key can be active at a time. When Estet focused on Fujimiya Aya, it put Ran’s power into a dormant state until his sister died or failed. Because of our intervention, Aya is a dead key now, and the power should have shifted to Ran. Schuldich and I have been watching Weiß discretely since that day, and Ran has never showed signs of being an active key.

      “I believe that something happened tonight to finally wake his gift,” he concludes. “Estet knows from this latest confrontation that Fujimiya Ran is still alive, which means that if anyone else overseas remembers the prophecy, they will want to act on it. If Estet can’t have the world, no one else can, and Ran is the quickest way to achieve such a thing.” He glances at his watch. “I called the Magic Bus Hospital before getting in the shower. Fujimiya Ran was checked in an hour ago.”

      I do the math and grimace. “That’s right around when the storm started. What the hell is he doing in the hospital?”

      “He was attacked in the streets,” is the answer. “A pedestrian called the ambulance when she found him passed out on the sidewalk, bleeding from a stab wound to the abdomen. He is in the intensive care facilities now, and if this storm is any indication, he is not faring well. When I called, he was still unconscious.”

      Nagi and Farfarello exchange looks, considering each other in silence as if reviewing the conversation mentally, but there are no words traded from mind to mind, not over the link I’ve put up between Schwarz or through any other connection. I look away from them, turning my attention on Crawford. “You’re sure about this,” I say. “You believe that that’s what’s going on here.”

      “I know that’s what’s going on,” Crawford answers easily.

      “What do you see?” I demand. “What did you see?”

      His smirk is humorless. “As long as Ran is an active key, it won’t take a ceremony to wake Thaolin. All it will take is his death. And if he dies, he’s going to take everything and everyone with him.”

      Silence follows those words. I sigh and take a deep swallow from my drink. “You’d think that Estet would have given up by now,” I grumble. “That’s twice we’ve kicked their asses and sent them home crying.”

      “Third time’s a charm,” Nagi points out.

      “Don’t quote that pansy nutcracker shit at me,” I send back. “Third time’s not going to be a charm because I don’t plan on letting Weiß or Estet be the death of me.” I lift my index finger from my mug and point it at Crawford. “You’re positive,” I press.

      “Unless we do something about it, Fujimiya Ran will be dead by morning and so will we.”

      “And we’re just sitting here?” I ask, but the words seem foolish when thunder crashes overhead.

      “Farfarello?” Crawford asks, looking towards him.

      The hint of a smirk pulls at my teammate’s lips, and I feel his mind give out. I press up against his thoughts, listening to the way they sound when he’s using his power. I want to see what he’s seeing, but he can reach farther than I can. His gift allows him to stretch out to other people and places based on souls, whereas I have to pull myself along by thoughts. If I try I can feel Weiß’s redhead, as the years we spent watching that group make him a familiar mind, but he’s so far away that I would have to open too many shields to hear him. Farfarello tilts his head to one side, considering what he’s seeing, and he draws back a few moments later.

      “He is unstable,” he announces. “Very.”

      “Estet’s going to be looking for him,” Crawford says. “We need to put him somewhere where they cannot find him.”

      “I want to know what triggered him,” I insist. “Why now? What happened today that changed him?”

      Crawford shakes his head. “First we stabilize him,” he says, “and then we’ll find out what happened today.”

      “Takatori,” Nagi says, and it takes me a moment to realize he’s not talking about the fat bastard we watched over years ago. “Let what’s left of Weiß handle it.”

      “Weiß isn’t strong enough to protect him,” Farfarello points out.

      “But they’re enough for now,” Crawford says, motioning towards the ceiling as thunder booms again. “Let them move him from the hospital to safer ground in a storm like this, and we will retrieve him when it is possible for us to do so.”

      “I will call him,” Nagi offers, sliding off of his perch. “He will listen to me if I tell him Fujimiya is in danger.”

      “He’s going to be limited in what he can do without anyone else figuring things out. Kritiker thinks Ran is dead,” I remind him, though he knows that. Nagi met up with the littlest Takatori while he was in Europe, after his training was finished at Rosenkreuz. He ended up staying on there and working with Kritiker for a while until Farfarello was done. I’m still not sure what to make of his alliance to Kritiker or his random tasks for Kritiker’s new leader since his return to Japan. Crawford doesn’t seem to have an opinion on it either way, but at a time like this, it will be useful. Takatori Mamoru isn’t stupid enough to trust Nagi completely but he does trust him to an extent, and having Kritiker take care of moving Ran when it’s so wet and cold out is definitely a plus. I’m not sure how they’ll manage that, however. Takatori cut his team loose after S-Class was defeated, and if he wants Ran moved, he’s going to have to do it himself or find people he has influence over that know nothing about Weiß.

      “I will take care of it,” is all Nagi says, and he pads out of the room in search of his cell phone. I watch him go before flicking Crawford a look.

      /That child has issues,/ I inform him.

      ~He’s not a child anymore,~ Crawford reminds me. ~He hasn’t been in a while.~


      Crawford ignores that and turns to Farfarello. “We need you to keep Ran as stable as possible until Kritiker arrives. We cannot afford to lose him.”

      The other man gives a shrug, tucking his knee up to his chest so he can slide a blade out of his boot. He lets his leg dangle off the side of the couch and turns the knife to admire the way the light flickers off of it. “And then?” he wants to know.

      “The rain is because Fujimiya is close to death,” Crawford says. “The world is reacting to the instability of a key. When he is better, we will be able to move him and take charge of his protection. All we have to do is find a place where we can keep Estet from getting to him.”

      “Ask for something easy, why don’t you?” I mock Crawford. “You want us to lock him up in a cellar in the middle of the earth?”

      “No,” Crawford answers. “I want us to bring him here.”

To Be Continued...
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