Part Fourteen

    We reach Ouka’s apartment at about the same time even though I left earlier than the two. When Ouka showed up to harass Omi and to request flowers for her home, I plucked her address from her mind and started off. They take the moped when they finally leave, and they pass me when we reach the last block. Neither of them notices me, caught up in each other and their conversation. I make myself comfortable across the street, draping myself against a tree to keep a telepathic ear on things. Apparently Ouka’s having dinner with her parents tomorrow and wants Omi to come along. That won’t do. We don’t need Takatori to see Omi yet. The bastard can have him when I’m done with him, and not before.

    I’m getting bored and impatient with them both as they take their time inside, Ouka watching as Omi rearranges the bouquet for her. When she invites him to stay for tea, however, Omi has enough sense of responsibility to remind her that he’s still on the clock at the flower shop. She sees him to the door with a reminder of dinner and movies the next night, her thoughts triumphant and self-congratulatory. I roll my eyes, brushing my hair out of my face. What a stupid, stupid girl. Arrogant and fucked up, just like her father. What a shame she’s related to Takatori, or I’d kill her just for the sheer fun of it. A pity also that somewhere deep inside of her mind is a piece of me, though I’ve given up by now any hope that I’ll be able to find it again.

    Fingers brush against the claw marks on my face and I look down at the dried blood flecks that decorate my hand. Eyes stray to the burns on the back of my hand and I turn away from the apartment, resting my back against the tree as I study the marks. The scratches are the most visible thing. It would take someone standing close to notice these burns, and the worst burns are covered by my sleeve. I think my face is going to bruise in a few places where Hoffmann hit me, though, and I know for sure that Crawford’s going to bruise.

    Crawford… My mouth curls into a scowl and I rub at my neck, tilting my head back to gaze up at the sky. I don’t want to deal with Takatori’s smug glee when he sees the signs of punishment. Crawford can’t travel places with Takatori if he looks like he’s been beaten, and anyone who knows that Crawford is Takatori’s bodyguard would think Takatori did it in revenge for his son’s death. I won’t allow such an illusion. I won’t allow others to believe that that fat greasy bitch cake has that sort of control over Schwarz. But the time for cutting Takatori away from us is drawing closer as Estet and the Council prepare for immortality, and somewhere along the way we have to figure out how exactly to prove Takatori isn’t the person we need.

    But how to do it…?

    Omi’s thoughts distract me from my own, loud and clear as they wash through my ruined shields. I touch my scratched face again. “She’s so pushy…” he declares to no one in particular as he reaches his parked moped. I pull his thoughts in closer around me, letting them echo through my mind almost painfully loud. He has Hoffmann’s eyes, but unlike the empath, his thoughts are open to me. I can hurt him.

    “She is,” I agree, lifting my voice and echoing the words in Omi’s thoughts to get his attention.

    He whips around, staring towards the tree I’m propped against. “Who’s there?” he demands.

    I slide around the tree, slipping my hand into my pocket. His mind sees the scratches on my face but a tweak of my gift keeps him from truly recognizing them. “It’s me.”

    His eyes fly wide when he recognizes me, a hundred alarms going off in his head. “You!”

    I offer him a smirk, glad to be recognized, glad to be seen for the danger I am. I am nothing to Hoffmann but I am still the devil to the rest of the world. In a few months, my personal Satan will be gone and there will be nothing to stop me, no shadows haunting my steps. Staring across the street at those blue eyes just curls the hatred and determination tighter together. “It must be nice being young.”

    “What?” He doesn’t understand. Not yet, anyway. But he will soon, and he’ll understand too much.

    “Going on a date after killing both of your brothers…How optimistic.” Welcome to Eden. I am the serpent offering the forbidden fruit of knowledge, and if you won’t take it from my outstretched hand I’ll shove it down your throat until you choke on it. “You’ve fallen in love with Ouka, haven’t you?” A flurry of confused and embarrassed thoughts ripple across his mind. I knew his answer before I asked but I still don’t like having it confirmed. It’s disgusting. “You’ve just said to yourself that you have.” I offer a slight shrug, tilting my head to one side. “You said Masafumi and Hirofumi were evildoers, so you killed them.”

    Omi stares at me, angry and confused. He doesn’t understand what Ouka has to do with his brothers, doesn’t like me shoving in his face that the family he always wanted was a band of crooked people that he is killing off one by one.

    “But you’re in Weiss, so who are you to talk? You’re a brother killer.”

    ‘I’m a murderer…’ he thinks, dismayed. He doesn’t like the way the word sounds in his mind. He’s always been an assassin on the side of the just and pure, fighting to keep the darkness away from innocents. He wants to believe in what he does. But no one deserves such foolish ideals these days. The world is corrupt. We’re all insane; we just haven’t realized it yet. We’re all dying, but we refuse to acknowledge our rotting souls.

    “Yes, you are,” I agree with his thoughts. “How else would you be able to kill your own brothers and still continue to murder people?”

    He’s wondering if he said that aloud, wondering what I really want from him. He’s upset and angry, and even with a street between us he feels cornered. He draws a dart, letting his fingers wrap around it. He doesn’t mean for me to see it but he can’t hide anything from me. I point at it, letting him know that I see it. “See? The murderer in you is hungry for blood.” He drew it to defend himself but I push my words through his mind, whispering to him how much he wants to kill me, how he’d take joy in my death. He frantically tries to squish those thoughts, telling himself that it’s for his own protection. “If I told Ouka that you were a member of Weiss, an assassin group…What would she think?”

    The words hit him with an almost physical blow, taking his breath away. Panic flares up through his mind. “Shut up!!”

    I laugh at him, laugh at both of us because we’re all so damned pathetic in the end. I laugh because I have the strength to destroy him but I’m not allowed to, laugh because my arm is starting to hurt like a bitch again and when I go back to Takatori’s place I have to make that fourth bedroom livable. It’s still a mess from where I threw things around to pretend it was lived in. “Did I make you mad?” I taunt him, and he readies his dart. In the back of his thoughts he thinks maybe it isn’t so terrible to wish me dead, thinking that perhaps the world is much better off without me and therefore any relief and pleasure he would get in my death would be justified, even if he hasn’t been given ‘permission’ to kill me by his superiors. “I’m scared…” I shift and the movement just hurts my arm; I can feel my shirt sleeve tightening around the bandage. A dull throb pulses down to my fingertips. “I guess I should be going now.” I offer him a farewell smirk and blur away, fading from in front of him as my speed carries me down the sidewalk.

    /The game has just begun…/ I tell him, twisting my voice through his thoughts in both a promise and a warning. I laugh, letting him hear my utter disdain for him. He cringes away from the sound, still staring at the tree I was just resting against.

    ~What if…what if Ouka finds out…~ He doesn’t want to accept such a horrific thought. I stop once I round the corner, and I can hear him yell even from here: “Damn it!!”

    A wide smirk pulls at my mouth, pulling painfully at my torn cheek. I gingerly remove both hands from my pockets, careful fingers moving down the bad arm. Every touch hurts and my teeth clench under my smirk as I set off for Takatori’s place. I’m not interested in heading back to the estate but I have nowhere else to go. So I turn my feet in that direction, weaving my way through the people on the sidewalks. Omi’s thoughts fall out of place and the thoughts around me fall into the void like water filling a hole, hot foam and roaring waves burning away at my sanity. I close my eyes as I walk, seeking out the bond and sliding through it.

    It’s intact… My extra shields were enough that Hoffmann’s gift didn’t break the walls down.

    I suppose I should be pleased, but I can’t keep the bitter edge from my smirk.


    I’m sprawled in the den when Crawford returns from speaking to Takatori about Hirofumi. As pissed as the Council is about the man’s death, Takatori himself isn’t overly concerned. He’s a bit anxious because he realizes that it’s his family being targeted, but with us as his bodyguards and Estet as his backers, he’s confident that he’s safe. I passed Crawford as I returned and he was going to see Takatori, and the bruises were already forming on his face. He spared me the briefest of glances, a cool acknowledgement of my return, and I sent him a scowl in return that just made my face hurt more.

    But scowl or not, the first thing I did was rework every mind in Takatori’s estate so they wouldn’t notice the beating Crawford and I had taken. It took a bit of reprogramming, but it was worth the trouble. I kept an eye on Takatori when Crawford showed up at his office to make sure it held, but couldn’t sit in on the whole meeting because the volume of the voices around me was making me nauseous.

    By the time Crawford comes back two and a half hours later, I’ve taken four different kinds of drugs and am stretched out on the couch with a bottle of juice. The pain in my arm is less noticeable and my face doesn’t hurt unless I pull my mouth too wide. The voices are still there, still cutting hauntingly deep into my own mind, but the vicious nausea at such an invasion is kept in check by some of the medicine I took. My stomach’s still uneasy but I don’t think I’m in danger of losing my breakfast anymore, so I sip at my juice carefully.

    I look up at Crawford’s entrance. He doesn’t look at me until he’s seated himself in his chair. I’m back to being a light bulb, flicked on and off when useful. When he doesn’t need me, I don’t exist except as an annoyance. I didn’t want to be this ever again… It was irritating even before I realized what I wanted from him, even before we were lovers. To go from that back to this rankles deeply. I sip at my juice, turning my eyes back to the television. But I’ve lost interest in whatever was there, so I grab the remote and flick it off.

    Crawford doesn’t look at me until I’ve started to get up. That’s when he decides I’m worth his time. It’s almost funny that this disregard feels so familiar, almost funny that it pissed me off back then and bothers me so deeply now. Funny in that choke on your drink laughing and die kind of way. “Sit down,” he says.

    “Why?” I ask, pushing myself off the cushions. I screw the cap back onto my juice and start towards the door. Crawford stands up; he’s between me and the exit. His gaze is steady as he stares at me, and his face is carved into that perfectly blank expression. I don’t look at him, keeping my eyes on the door. I pretend I don’t notice that he’s in my way and keep going. When I move to step around him, he reaches out and plants his hand against my shoulder.

    “We’re going to have a talk.”

    “No, I don’t think we are.” I shrug his hand off and start to move around him. He catches my hand to make me stop; fingers bite into the burned flesh of my bad hand and I snarl at him, yanking my fingers free. I lay my cold juice bottle against my hand to soothe the ache but it just makes it worse and I glare at him.

    He doesn’t miss a beat. “We’re going to have a talk,” he says again, and I feel the weight of him sliding into the bond.

    I hesitate, searching his eyes. His gaze is unfocused as he waits in his subconscious for me to join him. Arrogant prick, assuming that I’ll just leap to obey his every word. But I don’t move to leave the room, as if my feet are planted in place, and I reach out to touch the bond. It’s still intact, but what if Hoffmann mangled something inside of Crawford? What if he burned the emotions that were helping the Oracle guide us towards freedom? Fingers tighten around my juice bottle as I think, wondering what this could be about. It could be good or bad, a step towards freedom or a giant leap backwards. Anything is possible after Hoffmann raided him.

    So with a muttered curse, I let myself fall into my gift beside him.

    He speaks as soon as I’ve appeared. “I want an explanation.”

    “For?” I ask, but I already know.

    “For your stupidity this morning.”

    I allow myself a moment of relief that this is all he wants to talk about, instead of declaring that he’s changed his mind about fucking the Council over. I cling to the relief through the irritation that comes from his words. I can’t really explain this morning. Or rather, I can, but I refuse to. Why should I tell him that I pissed Hoffmann off just because I wasn’t going to stand there and watch him beat the shit out of Crawford? Before Hoffmann messed with him, Crawford knew exactly what I was doing and why. I wonder how he would have reacted if Hoffmann hadn’t chosen to sever us from each other. And it’s a morbid curiosity over what he thinks of it now. Hoffmann could erase any interest for me from Crawford’s mind but he couldn’t take away the memories of our time together. Crawford knows we were lovers; he remembers it. He just doesn’t remember why he ever wanted such a thing.

    I keep the scowl from my lips, arching an eyebrow at him. “Why do you need an explanation? It doesn’t matter. A few scrapes and bruises and he left again.”

    I faced them down for you seven months ago. I threw my life away hoping that they would let you live. I was so mad when Adashi told me that they were just going to kill you, that they were going to waste one of their Five just because you were sick.

    “He is angry at Schwarz,” Crawford says, frowning at me. “He’s going to be watching us more closely. The Elders are going to be paying attention. We cannot afford to draw attention to ourselves like that.”

    I give a careless shrug. “We’re going to draw attention no matter what. We needed them dead, so we let them die.”

    I faced Hoffmann this morning because I didn’t want him to touch you. I rewrote the estate so no one could see that he beat you, so that no one can see that behind your cold arrogance and smooth mask you are still a dog with the Council’s leash around your throat.

    “You made things worse when you opened your mouth,” Crawford says, flicking his fingers in dismissal. “You knew he was angry and you made it worse. He wanted an explanation from me but you took over the conversation and in doing so rubbed in his face that you aren’t afraid of him anymore. Defying him to his face will get you nowhere but killed.”

    I offer him a wide smirk, ignoring the way it pulls at my face. “He won’t kill me,” I tell Crawford. “Not yet, anyway. He told me seven months ago that that was my last chance, that he wouldn’t let me defy him ever again. But he let me walk away twice.”

    “Your arrogance will get you killed, and if Schwarz didn’t need your gift to destroy Estet and the Council, I would say good riddance.”

    My smirk freezes on my face and we stare at each other for a long time in silence. Crawford is angry at me, angry that I put Schwarz at risk this morning. He’s angry because when I stepped forward to distract Hoffmann I almost destroyed everything we’ve worked so hard for. I wasn’t thinking about Schwarz this morning…I didn’t care about Schwarz or freedom or anything. So perhaps Crawford’s anger with me is justified, but I refuse to swallow that. On one level, I accept it. On the other, I shove it away, burying the acknowledgement beneath Crawford’s cold words.

    Good riddance…I should have died so many times before. It’s a miracle I lived through that year with Hoffmann. When I pissed Adashi off, Hoffmann tore me apart worse than he had in years. Extra nurses were called in and Ikida had told me even Hoffmann knew he’d gone too far. All of Rosenkreuz had been watching to make sure I woke up. Seven months ago they should have killed me on the spot for telling the Council that I refused to do what they told me to do, that I flaunted in their faces that I would defy them again unless they gave me what I wanted. And today Hoffmann wanted to kill me, I’d made him so angry. I’d done more than defied him in front of the Council; I’d defied him in front of my team. I did it for Crawford.

    And I would do it all again, and that’s what pisses me off the most.

    The smirk is gone from my face; I tilt my head back to gaze at him. Serious green eyes lock with cool brown.

    “We all die someday. But me? I’ll die when I want to,” I tell him, “and not before.”

    With that, I leave him, fading out of the bond and sliding past him on my way out of the den. The rest of the day is quiet. Crawford and I don’t say another word to each other, and our teammates tread quietly around us. There’s nothing for any of us to say.


    I find Ouka as she’s walking her dog the next day. It’s a sorry excuse for a dog, a little scrap of a fluffy poodle. The other dogs in the neighborhood must laugh hysterically at it. The humans must laugh at Ouka. She’s wearing a pink turtleneck shirt today beneath a white cotton jacket. A short blue skirt completes the outfit and brown socks go above her knees. If the shirt matches her eyes and the skirt is supposed to match her hair, I wonder what the brown socks are supposed to go with. I study her through my open window, thinking again how ugly she is.

    “Cute dog,” I drawl.

    She looks over at my words and I offer her a wide smirk. “Hey.”

    The last time she remembers seeing me was when we first met, Nagi and me stumbling across her as she waited for her father. I reach through her mind for the last time we saw each other, pulling free the block that kept her from running crying to her dad. The memory washes through her, sharp and harsh, of me hitting her precious Omi and toting him away. She gasps, both at what she’s seen and at the feel of my gift working in her mind.

    “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I tell her when she retreats before me, tactfully leaving off the ‘yet’. She doesn’t know what that feeling was but it leaves the sharp sense of warning behind, of facing something dangerous and unnatural. “I’m your father’s bodyguard,” I remind her.

    She does remember; she remembers the disgust she felt for me when we first met. It helps her gather her courage up again. “Then why did you take Omi away?” she demands. She knows I know she’s Takatori’s daughter, so she thinks my kidnapping of Omi was unjustified and requires an explanation. Everyone wants an explanation from me these days, and no one likes what I have to say for myself.

    “That’s a little complicated.” I tilt my head back to rest against the cushion of my chair, eyes flicking down to the clueless dog that’s sniffing around before looking back up towards Ouka’s expectant gaze. “But I have some big news about that Omi you’re so crazy about.”

    “About Omi?” she echoes blankly.

    “Indeed.” My smirk widens. I feel the scabs on my face tear, feel the warmth of blood a moment later. Ouka’s eyes look right past the marks, past the bruises that now stand out clearly on my chin and cheek. “You see, Omi’s real name is Takatori Mamoru. He’s the third son of Takatori Reiji, your father.” She opens her mouth but the denial dies on her tongue; wide pink eyes stare at me in utter disbelief and horror. I tilt my head to one side, trying not to laugh at her. It’s hard. “That’s right. You and Omi are brother and sister.”

    It’s a lie, but it’s what everyone else believes. No reason to tell her that she’s really just cousins with him; it’s more fun this way, more like one of those retarded soap operas on TV.

    Ouka’s gaping at me, mouth moving soundlessly. I have to close my eyes because if I keep looking at her I know I’ll die laughing. Her thoughts are panicked and horror stricken. Stupid, stupid girl. This is what you get. “It’s hard for me to have to tell you this,” I say, wondering if even in her numb shock she’ll realize the breezy tone contradicts my words. “But it would be a lot harder to take if I waited until you two fell in love.” Which they have already, but I don’t mention.

    “No…” She finally manages to get out. “You’re lying.”

    “Why would I do that?” I want to know. “If you don’t believe me, why don’t you ask someone?” She scrambles to think of someone to talk to, someone that would know the truth. I open my eyes, slanting a glance at her. It wouldn’t take telepathy to know who she’s thinking of; the only one she has is her mother. “You just thought of your mother, didn’t you? That’s the right answer.”

    She blinks, thrown. “How…?”

    “Your mother will probably say she doesn’t know.” I flick my fingers, dismissing that, before pressing the button for my window. It starts sliding upwards and I send her a final glance, mocking green locking with stunned pink. “Tell her you’ll ask your father.” I pull away from the curb, leaving her there to stare after me.

    /You’ll get your answer,/ I assure her.

    But a very big part of her really doesn’t want it.


    Dragging the rest of Weiss into it is a last minute decision, done because I think it’ll be more entertaining. I end up recruiting Nagi to help me mess around with them. I could easily play with all five on my own, but I’m sick of the silence. Nagi and Farfarello have been quiet since Hoffmann left. Nagi answers Crawford if the Oracle says something to him requiring a response, but other than that, the two keep back and watch us in pensive silence. Months ago, when I was first starting to realize what I wanted and when it was becoming more obvious to everyone, I’d thought perhaps Nagi had been suspicious for a while. I never investigated it then, shying away from it. But Nagi never expected what happened yesterday morning. He doesn’t know Hoffmann except through us, but he’s come to learn what a danger that man is and just how much I hate him. Farfarello knows how much I hate him. Neither of them thought that anything would ever be enough for me to deny him to his face. Neither of them thought the thing that would push me over the edge would be Crawford.

    Once upon a time I did it to save his life. Yesterday…

    And my teammates don’t know what to think of that, don’t know how to react to what I did yesterday and the consequences of such actions. Crawford and I weren’t lovers for long but I guess they had the time to grow used to it and accept it. But whatever they accepted it to be seems to have been challenged by my bold and retarded interference yesterday.

    “It’s done.” Nagi’s words draw me from my uneasy thoughts and I lean forward, looking over his shoulder at the image he’s created. He slid a picture of Omi and Takatori together, so that Takatori is gazing at the young Weiss with approval and the dumbshit is smiling back happily.

    “Good job, Nagi.” I grin, pleased with the results. “Keep up the good work.”

    “This isn’t my style.” He doesn’t sound impressed with the whole thing.

    I straighten, letting a smirk pull at my face. The scabs tear again. “Doesn’t it feel great to control people’s minds? I’m just sharing it with you. You should be thankful.”

    Farfarello makes an amused sound in the background as Crawford fades into the room. “What are you doing?” he wants to know, a quiet demand as his form solidifies on the other side of the room.

    “Hey Crawford, did you know that people’s minds taste like honey?”

    “Don’t get caught up with the sweet taste and forget to watch out for the bees,” he returns.

    “Ch.” I flick him a sideways look, cool green and indifferent brown meeting and holding across the room. “You’re no fun at all.”

    “I’m not required to be,” he answers.

    I look towards Nagi again. “Send it, yeah?” I say. Crawford opens his mouth to say something else but I’m already sliding out of the bond. I’m not interested in listening to him right now. A return to reality brings me back to my bedroom and I survey it with no small bit of disgust. Flicking my hair over my shoulder in a scornful move, I stalk out of the room to find my little victims for the night.


    What lousy weather. I’ve found myself a spot to wait by a rotting wooden pagoda thingy. If it weren’t for my telepathy I’d be completely blind, what with this damn fog. It seems to be clearing, though, slowly but steadily. I sigh, moving to fold my arms over my chest. A sharp flare of pain reminds me that such careless movements are impossible right now and I settle for resting my hands on my hips instead. A lot is coming together soon… I intercepted Ouka at the movie theater just a short time ago. If she thought it was bad that Omi turned out to be her ‘brother,’ finding out that he’s also part of an assassin group just made things worse. She just about had a nervous breakdown on me. I told her I could prove it, and only her desperate hope and frantic belief in Omi made her agree. So I trussed her up and now she’s tied up to a tree up the stone stairs from me. Omi’s on his way; I called him and told him that poor Ouka had found out the truth, not bothering to hide the fact that I’d been the one to tell her. I also told him Weiss was out to kill Ouka. Omi doesn’t believe such a thing, but wherever Ouka is, he’ll go. And Weiss…Well, Weiss is on their way. Nagi sent them the picture and a letter declaring that Omi was a spy for Takatori. If they want proof, they were invited to come here to this park.

    The night should prove to be amusing.

    Weiss shows up first, literally dressed to kill, and I carefully slide around the pole until I’m out of sight. The fog’s still there but it’s cleared enough that Ouka can see them. She has no clue what they’re doing here, nor does she understand what they’re wearing, but they’re still familiar faces in a world that seems to be collapsing around her. They don’t notice her at first, muttering to themselves about this whole situation. Ouka leans forward against her ropes, shouting out to get their attention. “Help me! Somebody help me!”

    They recognize her voice and react instantly, racing towards the stairs. They pause at the base of it, not even ten feet from me, and stare up at her in surprise. She’s not what they expected to find here. She stares at them, wide pink eyes taking in their strange attire now that they’ve moved closer. While Kudou and Hidaka’s weapons are semi-concealed, Ran is very obviously wearing a sword. She seems lost for a moment, struggling for an explanation because she doesn’t want to accept mine.

    Omi materializes out of the fog behind Weiss and I give him a mental tug towards my position. He moves forward silently, darts in hand as he watches his team with uneasy blue eyes.

    “Help me!” Ouka says again, finding her tongue.

    “Ouka!” Kudou calls back.

    “Hold on!” Hidaka adds.

    “Wait!” Omi calls out as his team starts to move forward. His thoughts are racing in frantic circles- panicked and worried over Ouka’s position, over the way she’s been avoiding him today, over my news that she knows the truth; tense and uneasy and in denial over what I told him about his team. He wants to believe in them but they’re here in full gear and she’s tied up to a tree. He believes in his team enough that he shouldn’t believe me, but the mess about Ouka finding out puts him on edge.

    “Omi!” Kudou isn’t surprised to see him here; he’s just as confused over this whole mess and he wants a resolution.

    “What are you doing here?” Hidaka wants to know.

    “I want to ask you the same thing!” Omi sends back.

    “We received some strange information, so we came to check it out,” Hidaka answers.

    “I wonder if what they’re saying is true,” I say, keeping my voice down so only Omi can hear me. “They’ve come to execute Ouka. Hurry up. You have to save her or they will kill her.”

    Omi snaps, nerves frayed from a very trying day. “Shut up!”

    Ran realizes something’s out of place and comes flying forward, sword sliding out of the sheath. I bounce out the way as the blade goes singing through the rotted wood, offering Ran a wide smirk as the old pillar collapses. “You cannot bury the truth with lies,” Ran says.

    Sure I can…I just laugh at him, dodging another swing from his sword with a wide smirk on my face. Weiss sees me and I hear their startled recognition lacing through my mind; they’re not pleased at all to see me here tonight, except that they take it as some small reassurance that this was all a set up. Then Farfarello comes leaping out of nowhere, his mind rocking against mine just moments before he comes flying in to battle. I stare past Ran at him as he plays around with Hidaka, wondering why he’s here. In the end I figure Crawford let him come so he could get some exercise, and I choose to ignore him so I can go back to taunting Ran.

    I’m having a grand time. It makes up for the day, almost. I can forget what’s happened as I drown myself in Weiss’s thoughts, as I play with the little kittens however I wish. I have a gun on me but I don’t shoot to kill; I don’t even shoot to hit. It seems real to them but we can’t afford for them to be put out of battle. Farfarello seems like he’s enjoying himself, too, for all that he’s not allowed to maim the little weaklings. Behind it all I keep my thoughts on Omi and Ouka, listening as Omi finally makes it to her and she weeps and spills out everything I’ve told her. Omi’s reaction is exactly what I wanted it to be; sweet agony and bitter denial, a crushing of yet something else he’s come to believe in.

    I’ve accomplished all that I wanted to tonight, so I make my way to Farfarello. “Let’s go,” I send at him over my shoulder, slamming another clip into my gun. Kudou and Hidaka are in our way. A few bullets have them running for cover. Farfarello takes my gun from me, our fingers brushing briefly before the cold metal is tugged from my grip. Ran’s finally made it back to his sword, which I managed to knock halfway across the park. He whirls around as soon as his fingers curl on the hilt, violet eyes broadcasting hatred and a promise of death even with such distance between us. I offer him a final smirk and wave at him, wiggling my fingers in farewell.

    It’s all fun and games until somebody gets killed.

    The gun goes off behind me and Ouka’s thoughts come to a stuttering halt. Everything in her goes on pause as her body registers that she’s just been hit, and I whirl around to stare across the park at where she’s suddenly slumped in Omi’s arms. Farfarello looks over his shoulder at me; wide blue and steady yellow meet for the barest of moments before he looks back at the dying girl. Hidaka and Kudou have stopped their advance on us to stare at the girl as well, and even Ran pauses.

    _Fuck_. Snarling a curse under my breath, I race away from them. Farfarello waits a few moments longer before following after me. I can hear Omi screaming, both out loud and mentally. His mental voice is loud enough that it’s almost painful, strident denials and pleas and utter grief lacing through my mind. I speed up, but Farfarello catches me at the corner. He grabs my elbow to stop me and I whirl around to hit him. The blow is strong enough that he is sent back a step.

    “What the hell was that for?” I demand, shoving at him with my good hand. Takatori’s most precious daughter. He didn’t care about his sons, but Ouka…He loved Ouka, truly adored her. Hoffmann’s already pissed at us because we let Hirofumi die; how are they going to react when Takatori goes bawling to them about his darling daughter? I don’t want to see Hoffmann again; I can’t see him so soon. “How could you do that after yesterday?” I want to know. I’m yelling but I don’t care. People are staring at us and I lash out with my gift, hitting them with the sharp edges of my telepathy. Some of them fall down; others go stumbling back with cries of pain. Their agonized thoughts just bite back into me, rebounding to cut into my mind. “Don’t you think? Don’t you ever think??”

    He studies me in silence for a moment, and then a small wisp of an eerie smile curves his mouth. “Sometimes,” he says, reaching out to press the gun back into my hands. I hit him with it, cracking the barrel against his shoulder. He doesn’t even blink, merely gazes back with that strange, cold smile. “Only sometimes.”

    “Fuck you,” I snap back, whirling around and starting off. The search for Crawford’s mind is almost instinctive; I frantically reach out and place him. He’s at Takatori’s buildings…Nagi and Crawford went with him to a meeting and he’s still there. “Fuck you,” I snarl again, but Farfarello’s several feet behind me so I don’t know if he hears it.

    Fuck me, too.

Part 15
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