Part Ten

    Schreient is in pretty shoddy state. Tot is the only one who came away unscratched, lucky compared to Chizuru, who got one of Masafumi’s tentacles embedded in her. It came in right under her ribcage and when it curled up so he could lift her, he broke the bottom two ribs. She should consider herself extremely lucky that that’s all that happened to her; the damage could have been much worse. The four of them are currently under Ikida’s care. Crawford informed the Council that they survived and Ikida will file a report on them. The Council doesn’t really care, I know, at least not about Schoen and Neu. Chizuru and Tot are the only important ones. Although Tot is awake, she remains at the hospital to keep an eye on her teammates, fretting over them. I’ll give her a few days and see if Ikida’s sedated her out of frustration. When I went to check on them, she was alternating between worry over them and curiosity over all of his tools. “What’s this? What’s it called? What’s it do? Teach Tot how to use it!” was the general gist of her conversations.

    I’ll give Ikida two days before he asks for permission to put her down. Regardless of her importance to the Council, there’s a chance they’d let him do it just so he could get his work done. The doctor is very important to Rosenkreuz, the doctor with the highest value because of his skill. He can do everything from patch up cuts to surgery, to treating Crawford when he had Guillain-Barre. He’s damn good at his job, even if to get to the level he’s at now he wasted a good twenty-four years in school. His paycheck is way up there, on a level close to ours, and I guess he deserves it. I think he’s the only one within Rosenkreuz that I actually respect for a reason, not because I have to (like the Council). He took care of Crawford, and that’s enough for me.

    Not to mention that he’s the one that gives me my Athlon, which puts him high on my list of favorite people.

    Crawford assigns Nagi to Schreient, which the boy doesn’t mind much because he’s learning new things from spending time with Ikida and because Tot’s there to keep him company. Ikida doesn’t really know Nagi; he knows me the best of Schwarz and because of Crawford’s illness has recently come to spend a good deal of time with him as well. He’s interested in the young boy, sensing Nagi’s interest in education, and he talks to Nagi a lot about college and the like. I hope he doesn’t go putting foolish notions in the kid’s head; he should know better than that. Nagi’s allowed to take online classes to keep him occupied, but a real education and college are things he’ll never have.

    But Nagi spends several hours a day at the hospital, both to interact with Tot and to keep him out of the way. He’s one less person Crawford has to worry about as he stretches his gift beyond the boundaries it’s supposed to remain within. It’ll make things easier for him. We don’t ignore Nagi- I still have him on the bond- but we can trust him not to get into a situation that will destroy everything for us. It’s more than we can say for Farfarello.

    Our teammate’s mood isn’t quite jet black anymore, but there’s still an ugly sort of determination there that gnaws at him. He’s been cutting himself again. We don’t have the time to help him right now. I don’t have the time to dig into his mind and try to figure out what’s wrong. Masafumi is dead as far as his father and brother know. Instead, he’s in a building Estet workers secured for us. He’s alive but barely, machinery and medicine keeping him breathing but in a coma. The Council and Estet’s Elders are going to come see him soon, traveling from Germany to Japan to investigate the results of his formula. They want to see what it did to him without the final ingredient and probably to laugh themselves silly over his fate. We haven’t told Farfarello they’re coming. I think it would just make things worse.

    As it is, we have to keep Farfarello in restraints now. That takes both of our teammates out of the equation temporarily, putting them both places where they have to behave themselves. Crawford is trusting them even if they don’t realize it, trusting them not to destroy things for us.

    Today Crawford is following Takatori around. The man is still playing the part of grieving father for the public, regardless of the satisfaction he really takes in Masafumi’s death. His brother Hirofumi is not as happy. He wasn’t overly fond of his brother, as he thought him to be dirty and uneducated, but it bothers him a bit that his brother was killed. He’s a skittish sort of person, and a murder to a relative makes him wonder if he’s next. His fears aren’t misplaced, whether he realizes it or not. To help calm his nerves, he’s taken some of Takatori’s political allies up to the mountains for some more human hunting. The boy Farfarello killed came from the school Hirofumi raids. I suppose it would have been a kinder death to get hunted down and shot rather than what he received at my teammate’s hands. It’s a bit more painful to get torn apart.

    One day we should give Farfarello his own hunting grounds, I decide, struggling to get a brush through my hair. With Takatori wandering all over creation and Hirofumi out in the middle of nowhere, I have to do my searching from a distance. I suppose that’s all right, though it means Crawford is gone for the day as well. It means we won’t distract each other, but it also shows that Takatori is having fun with his bodyguards. Crawford’s presence isn’t required, but Takatori likes flaunting what he has. No one else knows that he has a precognitive under his command; no one else knows Estet is behind him or even knows what Estet is. But Takatori still feels powerful to have Crawford there. His greed for power and control could help us in the end as we try to cut him loose. He’s the tie we’re least certain of. Estet wants him because he’s the closest to getting political power in Japan. Convincing them that they really don’t want him is going to take a lot of work, both on my part and Crawford’s. Soon enough I’m going to have to start influencing Takatori, but I’m going to have to be very careful and make it a gradual change, clinging to his current greed and helping it grow. Crawford’s going to have to prove to the Council that we’d be better off without him.

    I haven’t got a clue yet how he’s going to do such a thing, but I figure it’s his problem, not mine. Takatori is important to the Council, but I don’t know how important or for how long. I do know that our little samurai is after his blood and that we have to keep his team distracted until we’re sure we can lose the fatty. We don’t want things to come to a head so that we’ll have to terminate Weiß, not until we’re sure the redhead has done everything for us that he can.

    But for now I don’t care about the redhead. Right now my thoughts circle around the youngest of Weiß, Tsukiyono Omi. I’ve searched him to figure out why Masafumi called him Mamoru. All of Omi’s memories from his childhood are blocked with a wall that indicates they were repressed. I fight my way through the tangle, tracing backwards in his thoughts to figure out who he is. Children’s memories are annoying things and I follow things back just long enough to learn that he was kidnapped as a child before retreating and choosing to find a different target. I turn the memory over in my head, the memory of a child captured for ransom, a child whose father refused to pay what was demanded and abandoned his child to die.

    So he was taken in by Takatori Shuuichi…That’s interesting. The man is Reiji’s younger brother and the chief of police in Tokyo. I find it highly amusing that the two brothers have taken such opposite stances, one striving to rule Japan and the other creating a group of assassins to take out his brother. Laughing at the thoughts, I turn to Takatori Reiji to identify Mamoru. It takes a bit; it’s a name he hasn’t heard in a long time. He has heard it before, however, and the identity makes me sit up where I’ve sprawled out across the bed.

    Mamoru is Takatori’s nephew? I rake my bangs out of my face in an irritated gesture, a light frown pulling at my mouth as I dig deeper. The child of an affair between his wife and his brother, Mamoru was raised with Takatori until he was kidnapped at the age of six. It was the perfect chance for Takatori to abandon the illegitimate child.

    And Shuuichi, who saved him…I search for his mind, scanning for him quickly. It takes a bit, as I haven’t tagged his mind before, but I manage to place him by finding those around the police headquarters and then working until I find what have to be his thoughts. I rummage around, trying to figure out if he was drunk when he decided to make his son an assassin. What I find amuses me…He has no clue that the child is his own. He truly believes it’s his brother’s son.

    And then _Ouka_…An illegitimate child of Takatori’s who is quite fond of ‘Tsukiyono Omi’. She’s in love with him, with her own bloody half-cousin. I laugh for a long time, flopping back onto the bed. Well, isn’t this your regular old soap opera…It sure beats the pathetic shows I used to watch. Big brother wants to rule the world starting with Japan, younger brother tries to stop him by creating Weiß and unknowingly turns his own child into a murderer while said child is courted by other relative. If only they knew, if only any of them had a fucking clue! None of them know. Takatori knows the child isn’t his, but he doesn’t know that he is still alive and out for Takatori’s blood. He doesn’t know his darling daughter is trying to court him.

    Gott, I can’t wait to share this with Crawford.

    I think I’ve found a stress reliever to keep me entertained for the next few weeks, and I offer the ceiling a wolfish grin.


    Things get quite a bit more entertaining when I find out that Hirofumi is indeed Weiß’s next targets. The stress level goes up as well, but at least I know it’s going to be interesting. The Council let Masafumi drop because they were done with him, because he had refined his formula as far as it could go and was just extra baggage. He was insane and had his own dreams of glory, and if he’d been in his monster form around his father he would have killed Takatori. The Council accepted his downfall because they chose between the two. Now we have to figure out if we’re going to let Hirofumi die. Right now the only use he has is winning over politicians for Takatori. He’s working with some big names, ones that Takatori needs for the elections. If he dies, the father will know he’s next and he won’t have all of the support he would have otherwise.

    Crawford is sitting at his desk and I’m perched on the end of it, the both of us going through files about Takatori’s running. We’re doing numbers, trying to figure out if we can sacrifice Hirofumi and still get Takatori elected. We have to get the fat man his position or the Council will kill us for failing. His son, if allowed to live, though, could just give his father greater power and bigger ties with his connections. If we can manage it, Crawford thinks we should cut him from the running. Now we have to figure out two things- if his death means Takatori’s dreams will remain unrealized and if we can let Hirofumi die. I know it’s not a must that the man get murdered now- there’s always a later, after all- but why wait if it’s possible?

    I set my stack of papers down onto the desk in front of me. “Takatori already has the eastern powers,” I tell Crawford, drumming my fingers on my stack and watching as he reads. “They account for at least a third of his votes. The northern voices are divided evenly.” Crawford glances towards my papers as he sets his own down. “Hirofumi and his father have been very busy.”

    “He might just have enough,” Crawford says, leaning back in his chair and lacing his fingers together in his lap. “They’ve been working on this for a long time.”

    “But they do have enough?” I want to know, lifting my hands to my hair to rake it out of my face. Urg… These are things Crawford is supposed to deal with. I think I liked our jobs much better when they were a bit more normal of bodyguard work. It would be much simpler now if we weren’t trying to deceive the most powerful Talents Rosenkreuz has to offer and trying to topple an organization that has been around for many, many decades. Those things just sort of complicate matters, you know. I remember wondering when Rosenkreuz would give us something more challenging; several months ago I wanted something else to work on. Now sometimes I think I liked it better before. There are so many factors to deal with now, most of them things that only Crawford had to worry about before. It’s strange to think that this is what Schwarz has always been like for him, if a bit less urgent and messy. I never had a clue before.

    Crawford considers this, brown eyes studying the files. “They have enough to win,” he says at last. “His position will not be as strong as possible, but he will win. You will have to work on these people,” and he pulls a few sheets free from the stack. I take them from him, studying them. They aren’t supporters of Takatori, but if I can push them to his side it’ll be better for Takatori and we can tell the Council we’re trying to strengthen his stronghold on Japan. I nod, setting the papers to one side for later.

    “And Hirofumi?” I ask, searching for the man’s mind. He’s still off at his hunting grounds, entertaining his guests while they wait for the next shipment of pray. The men are collecting tonight and his hunt will be tomorrow. Right now he’s being lazy and ingratiating, making sure the men he has with him are strong supporters of his father’s ambitions.

    “For the time being, he lives,” is Crawford’s response. By it he means that he hasn’t figured out a way to kill the man yet. He’ll be working on it, though, now that we know he isn’t necessary. How we’re supposed to trash him and prove to the Council that it’s not our fault he died, I’m not sure yet. We’ll think of something.

    “He’s on Weiß’s list,” I tell him, stretching back over to Mamoru-Omi. The kid’s going to try to find a way into Hirofumi’s hunting grounds, searching out the places people have been disappearing from. He’s watched his classmates vanish over the weeks though this is the first time the white group has been given conclusive evidence as to who is behind it and what is happening. If he’s successful in getting abducted so that he can find the hunting grounds, Weiß will be after Hirofumi tomorrow. He’s a bold one, that’s for sure, to try and purposefully get kidnapped. One would think that he’s had enough of such a thing by now.

    Crawford doesn’t answer; he accepts my words in silence and thinks. I tug Crawford’s little date book towards me, flipping it open and skimming through it. He bought it when we decided to go against the Council, since he was going to be brutally wrenching his gift and there was going to be so much to keep track of. Scribbled notes adorn some pages, most of them seemingly irrelevant. A lot of them are things that, even if I know they pertain to visions, I can’t understand. Crawford writes them so that he understands them; it doesn’t matter if they’re just gibberish to anyone else. I find today and it’s blank, for now. A few flips ahead takes me to the date of Takatori’s promotional party, and my lip curls into a sneer as I read it. We’ll be attending that. Takatori and his supporters are going to be throwing a big celebration, all the rich politicians clumping together to talk about how great they are and what wondrous things Takatori can do for Japan.

    I close the little book and slide off the desk, wandering over to the bed and letting myself fall face first onto the mattress. I rest there for a while, my mind seeking my two teammates. Tot and Nagi are eating at the food court in the hospital, talking about this and that. I frown, pushing myself up enough that I can fold my arms to make a pillow. I rest my cheek against my forearms, sifting through his thoughts and her mind. The images in her head are clearer; somehow Nagi is drawing the shattered pieces of her mind back together. How, I haven’t got a clue. Crawford doesn’t know, either. All we need is for them to connect in just the right spot that we can figure out her purpose. I still can’t believe that she’s important, despite whatever Crawford thinks. He doesn’t even know why she’s important…He’s just sure that she is somehow. I want to tell him that his brain’s just a bit fried from so much Seeing, but I don’t think he’d appreciate it.

    I don’t like that Nagi’s spending so much time with her, either. Crawford wants him there for a few hours a day; he ends up staying there an hour too long. I don’t know how he can find enough things to talk about with her, but they’re quite content with each other’s company. Without the rest of Schreient to distract her, Nagi is Tot’s main focus. The others are healing, however. As soon as they are well enough to be released, Nagi and Tot will be separated. I’ll be happy to get him away from that fluff. Nagi’s smart; his IQ is surely dropping from extended exposure to the brainless one.

    I suppose I should just accept that being with Tot gives Nagi something to do and that he’s content to have her for company, but he wouldn’t have even seriously sought out so much companionship if Crawford hadn’t given him the nudge that direction. I don’t know if his interest is real or influenced, and I’m not sure which one I want it to be, either.

    I turn to Farfarello next to avoid thinking too much about the youngest Schwarz. Farfarello is restrained again, and I know that as much as the restraints can make his state of mind worse, I also know that it’s necessary. Farfarello doesn’t accept it as such, though, and the moment he feels my mind touch his he sends me a dark mental scowl.

    /If you weren’t carving yourself up like someone’s turkey dinner, you wouldn’t be in your jacket,/ I inform him. /Don’t glower at me as if it’s my fault. We’ve got too much shit to do without having to worry about you bleeding to death./

    He snarls a response at me and I sigh. The Council must have really been pissed off by Farfarello to screw him up. If Takatori is such an important assignment, Hoffmann was either really offended by the Irishman’s attitude or he didn’t realize that it would have such consequences. Granted, it might not have mattered as much if we were doing the job the way the Council and the Elders think we’re doing it. As it is, when we need all four of us to be functional, only two of us really are and we’re still kind of off. Nagi is distracted with Tot and only knows what’s going on part of the time. Farfarello is constantly distracted by whatever darkness he’s obsessed with and the hatred he has for Hoffmann. Crawford is twisting his gift to where it shouldn’t be and I can see the weariness in the back of his eyes at such a thing. He falls asleep quicker these nights; he’s never been one who had to wait to drift off but some nights he’s out almost as soon as he hits the sheets. I can feel it on the bond between us as his energy climbs and sinks. He hasn’t been out of the hospital and I’m not sure this is healthy for him to be doing. I could say that it doesn’t matter because it’s mental work, whereas he was physically incapacitated before, but I still don’t like it.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m the one who’s in the best shape on this job, and I don’t like that, either. It just reminds me of what it was like when Crawford was gone, when I was the one who had to check in on everyone’s mental and physical levels. I suppose it’s my job to be aware of them, but before Crawford fell ill I didn’t have to worry about it. We were fine, physically and mentally. I didn’t have to keep an eye on the others because Schwarz is too damned good a group to need me babysitting my companions. Besides, I’m not completely intact, not when I’ve got a chorus of thoughts on repeat circling through the back of my waking conscious.

    I touch Farfarello’s mind again but he refuses to acknowledge the touch. I roll onto my back, looking towards Crawford. He’s gazing at his desk, thinking still. “When is the Council getting here?” I want to know. I know they’re coming to see Masafumi and bringing the Elders with them, but Crawford didn’t tell me when. He didn’t tell the others yet that they’re coming. It means that Farfarello will be furious as all hell but at least we don’t have to deal with his increased fury for several days as he waits on them to show up.

    Crawford doesn’t answer for a long time, and I wonder if he’s too lost in his thoughts to have heard me. Before I can ask again, he finally glances my way. “They shouldn’t be here until after the party,” is his answer. I’m satisfied. I don’t want them to come at all, but at least I still have a few more days until they’re here. He is quiet again, staring at me and through me. Finally he goes “Hm” and lowers his gaze.

    I push myself up on my elbows, looking across the room at him. “‘Hm’?” I ask.

    “I should call them,” he says simply.

    I frown at him, wondering why the hell he’d want to do a thing like that. I trust him to have a good reason, but still…Crawford doesn’t notice my expression, instead turning and reaching towards the phone. Curiosity tells me to stay in the room and listen. That’s taken out of my hands by a small mental surge from Farfarello. Cursing at the trouble, I shove myself off the bed and leave the room. I use my foot to kick his door open and come to rest just a few feet in front of him, glaring down at him where he’s kneeling. He’s struggling in his jacket, snarling under his breath. He’s managed to get it most of the way off, and it seems we missed one of his blades when we took them all away from him. He has it clenched in his free hand, using it to tear at both his jacket and his skin. Blood stains the clothes and floor, and I shove him into the bond as roughly as I can.

    It’s hard enough that he sags to the ground, head and shoulders hitting it. I snatch the blade from his free hands, turning and throwing it where I know his room door is in reality, before whirling back on him. I crouch in front of him, grabbing hold of his jacket and wrenching him upright again. He glares at me and I glare back.

    “Can’t we trust you to stay out of trouble for TWO SECONDS?” I demand of him. He bares his teeth at me in a snarl. “You have no clue how much you could screw up if you start losing it. Just sit here and be good. Is it really that hard?”

    “Get away from me,” he snaps back, wriggling in the jacket and trying to shove at me with his free hand. I grab him by his wrist, slamming his hand against our nonexistent floor, and lean my knee onto it to keep it pinned down.

    “Just sit here,” I tell him, giving him a shake, “and calm the fuck down. We need you sane on this, don’t you get it? You want to get back at Hoffmann and Mosuli? Then keep your damn head and stop cutting yourself to pieces. You’re not getting revenge on them by bleeding yourself to death, you’re just being stupid. There’s no _point_-”

    He interrupts me with a savage tone. “It used to hurt.”

    The rest of my sentence is forgotten. I glare at him for a few moments in silence, mouth twisted into an uncomprehending frown. “What?” I finally ask. He tries to wrench out of my grasp. I pull him back, lifting my free hand to grab his chin in a tight grip. I force him to look at me, two green eyes searching one furious yellow. We stare at each other for a long moment in silence before I ask again. “What did you say?” I demand.

    He frowns at me. “It doesn’t hurt anymore.”

    “News flash, it hasn’t hurt in years.” I release him and he leans back, still frowning at me. He doesn’t seem as rabid anymore, which is a relief to me. “Ikida says it’s a nerve malfunction, that the signal’s lost before it even reaches your brain. His guess is that you were born with it, that you were either like this at birth or that your nerves degenerated in your early age.” He considers this in silence, and I sit from my crouch to my rear, wondering why he’s been obsessing over this lately. “Considering that Hoffmann’s so interested in you,” and the walls around us flicker blue at the reference to the bastard empath, “you should feel lucky that you don’t feel pain. It’s one less thing he can bother you with.”

    He thinks about it before letting himself sag onto his back. He gazes up at the swirling cosmic ceiling, thoughts slow and laced with bitterness. We sit in silence, him thinking about whatever and me wondering just how badly Hoffmann scrambled his brains. Farfarello was never so troublesome before. Finally Farfarello sighs, rolling onto his stomach. I take the hint and move over to him, fixing his straitjacket. I pull it tighter this time. As soon as the buckles are in place, my teammate drops himself from the bond.

    Crawford appears as Farfarello fades, towering over my kneeling form. I lean backwards against his legs, looking up at him. Phone call’s over…I missed it. “Have a fun chat?” I ask, reaching an arm above my head, bending it so it goes around the backs of his legs. My fingers latch onto his pants and I arch an eyebrow up at him. “What did you want them for?”

    He just shakes his head, lowering himself to a crouch behind me. I let my arm slide up him so that it goes behind his neck this time and tilt my own head back to rest it against his shoulder. I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t fallen ill. Would we be together? Would we have the conviction to go against the Council? Nagi wouldn’t have had to feel Adashi’s gift, but Farfarello wouldn’t have met Aine, either.

    “Farfarello’s a mess,” I tell Crawford. “Between Aine and Hoffmann, he hasn’t got a clue anymore.”

    “He’ll see her again,” my American lover says, and I try to turn my head to look at him. I can only turn my head enough to touch my temple to his cheekbone, though, so I frown at the floor instead.

    “Will he?” I ask.

    “The Elders will bring in telekinetics and pyrokinetics to help them carve out the chambers they need for the ceremony. They need it done early to start collecting energy. Aine is one of the pyrokinetics chosen to come over here for the job.”

    Huh. So we’re going to see the chirpy Irishwoman again. I never thought I would; I figured she had walked out of our lives forever when we were allowed to bring Crawford home with us from the hospital. I wonder what Nagi will think of that. Neither of us was sure what to make of her, even though she stayed with us for several months. She worked well enough with the team; she worked wonders with Farfarello. “We should tell Farfarello,” I tell Crawford. “It might put him in a better mood.”

    “He’ll want to know why she’s coming to Japan,” is the precognitive’s answer, “and then you’d have to explain to him that the Council is coming as well.”

    “Hm.” I think about that. “Maybe we’ll just surprise him, then.”


    Dinner is a dull affair, even with all four of us here. Farfarello isn’t being violent or antagonistic, but he’s moody all the same. Nagi, who returned from the hospital just a while ago, is being quiet, lost in his own thoughts. He’s running over the time with both Ikida and Tot, and if I could, I’d reach over and pluck the two from his thoughts. They’ve made up the majority of his thinking lately. Crawford is silent, lost to his own thoughts about the future and what we’re doing. I can feel him there through our personal bond, and the edge of fatigue lines the bond. Above my teammates is the chorus of voices I still have not been able to place. I need to get rid of them before they drive me mad. I need something, anything to cover them up. I push my food around my plate, looking at my teammates before deciding that I have to go elsewhere for entertainment and distraction.

    I pick up my plate and rise from my seat, drawing all eyes to me. I ignore them, pushing my chair back under the table and wandering out of the room. My exit is enough to startle Nagi from his thoughts. Farfarello doesn’t really care if I leave, and maybe Crawford understands. I find it almost funny that it’s one of the few times Crawford can eat with us and I’m the one who walks out. I bring my dinner to the stairwell, placing myself halfway down the stairs and eating again. It puts me closer to the servants downstairs, who are wandering around and working on Takatori’s dinner.

    I doubt it’s a good thing that I find myself seeking out loud groups of people now, but with so many active minds the voices I have caught fade into the distance. I can feel them fading into the background; they act as my thoughts and are washed away under the noise of others. I clear my plate and set it beside me, letting my fork dangle from my mouth as I gaze down the stairs. No one is in view; they’re down the hall where the kitchens are. I lean forward, folding my arms over my knees and propping my chin on them. Green eyes slide closed and I let the tangle of everyone else roam through my mind, using it as a blanket before reaching through it to the world beyond.

    How arrogant Schwarz is, to seek freedom like this…Rosenkreuz and Estet have been around for years and years, and the four of us think we can make any difference? Estet’s been planning this ceremony for decades. The Council is powerful. We think we can topple both? The Council will never let us go willingly…Our freedom will be a fight to the death. How can we take them on? No one else has challenged them…No one else has ever tried anything like this. No one has dared to try, yet we think there’s a chance of succeeding?

    Oh, what arrogant bastards we are…

    I feel a humorless smile pull at my lips as I continue to stretch outwards, searching for the redhead samurai that somehow has been pulled into this mess. I seep through his thoughts, circling him mentally. This is the man who is to help us buy our freedom…How can someone with no Talent help us against the Elders and Council? I just don’t understand how it’s possible. A soft laugh escapes me and I rake my hands through my bangs, twirling around Fujimiya Ran’s mind. He has no clue what he’s really being pulled into, not a clue at all. Him and his group of white knights are supposed to help us in this. They’re just another group to watch to make sure they don’t screw things up, people that we have to keep alive until we’re through with them.

    Right now his thoughts center on Omi; he and the rest of Weiß are monitoring the boy’s progress by a tracker embedded in the youngest assassin’s clothes. I slide towards Omi and find him unconscious. It’s an unnatural sleep. It looks like he got what he wanted…Hirofumi’s men have picked him up. I sink through his drugged thoughts, seeing what’s happened this evening. Ouka features rather heavily in the background of the day. She was there with him. I give a small snort, sliding towards her. She still has something of mine…

    But her mind is out as well. She’s been caught right alongside Omi. Her own brother’s caught her for a human hunting game…But then, he doesn’t know she’s going to be one of the targets. It would be hysterical if one of his men killed her…Takatori would off his son himself and save us the trouble. A smirk slides along my lips at the thought, but I don’t want her to die yet. Not yet, not until I claim whatever I lost to her. When they wake for the game, I’ll have to keep an eye on them to make sure they both make it.

    They’re just more people to guard, more people to babysit…I rake my hands through my hair, wincing at the beginnings of a headache. Nagi’s distracted with Tot, more interested in her than I think it’s safe to be. Farfarello is torn up over Hoffmann. Crawford’s weary from pulling his gift to unnatural lengths and is still recovering from months of illness. And I…I’m falling to pieces alongside the rest of them, willingly scattering my mind to the winds in hope for some relief.

    By the time we actually manage to get to the point where we could walk away from everything, I wonder if we’ll still have the strength to do it or if we’ll have destroyed ourselves along the way. I laugh again, because it’s almost funny, leaning backwards on the stairs as sharp laughter rings through the air. My fingers find my plate and I hurl it past me, letting it shatter at the base of the stairs before letting my thoughts vanish once more, lost in the swarm of a million minds and more.

Part 11
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