Ch. 6

    It is his screams that jolt me from my dreams a long time later.
    Startled and frightened, I scramble to my window and stare out in horrified disbelief at the scene.
    His wall is barely there, held together with wilting scraps of thorns at his lack of concentration. He is on his knees, hands clapped to his head. His hands are stained red with wet blood, and his body is covered in countless cuts and tears that leak even more blood into a puddle at his feet.
    I am outside of my wall and running to him before common sense shoulders its way frantically past my instinctive fear.
    It's not REAL, it's all in his head, it's a nightmare, that's not real blood, what am I doing--
    The screams aren't even ones of pain-- they're more horrified than anything else.
    The thought flickers through my mind unwanted. Was this what Ran sounded like when I was hit?
    I am shoving past the flimsy barrier before I can fully acknowledge these thoughts, and there is a shiver of darkness against my mind that stops me in my tracks. If I cross this "wall", I will be stepping into his mind again. This time, it might be more difficult to get out. I hesitate, fighting with sense and unwanted compassion.
    Finally I turn around, facing my wall and twisting it with my mind. It's so easy it takes me by surprise. Either I'm getting stronger and more confident, or I am just now realizing the things I can do in this place. The wall turns into something like a fog and whirls around me like a protective blanket, and with a deep breath, I step past the thorns before I can talk myself out of it.
    I can feel his mind pressing against me from all sides, hammering at me, but I have experienced this darkness before, and now I have an extra layer of protection.
    Before I know it I'm on my hands and knees before the bloodied Berserker, reaching out hesitantly but not quite brave enough to touch him yet. "Farfarello?"
    My tentative inquiry goes unheard above his anguished howls.
    I shove aside my nervousness and grab his shoulders, giving him a small shake. "Farfarello! It's just a nightmare!"
    He lashes out instinctively, and I jerk back. But his fist only glances off my barrier harmlessly. He isn't even looking at me, his single eye staring wildly at the ground. His screams have stopped, at least, but he's breathing harshly, body shaking as if holding something back.
    I glance around, my hair standing on end. From inside his wall, I can see dark shapes moving, twising in the air like snakes, stalking the perimeter like unearthly wolves from hell. Sounds echo in the small space-- sibilant whispers, eerie laughter, screams of women and men alike.
    "Oh god," I choke, beginning to tremble as I wonder suddenly just what I've gotten myself into.
    A hand seizes my throat.
    It punches right through my barrier and tightens in a vicious grip. I start to choke before I force myself to remember that the throat he holds isn't even real. I reach up and grasp his wrist, trying desperately to pull him away. He has made a small hole in my cover, and some of the darkness around him is starting to leak through. "Farfarello-- let go! Snap out of it! It's just a nightmare!"
    He still doesn't seem to be fully aware of me, but he refuses to relinquish his grip. I have to get him out of this before his mind creeps any further into mine. I release his wrist and reach out, placing my palm over his forehead. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do. Maybe if I could catch a glimpse of his nightmare, I could talk him out of it or something...
    But all I get is a wash of pain, horror, inky blackness, fear, towering rage...
    This isn't working. And his grip is as tight as ever. More of those shadowy things are slipping through the crack in my barrier, and fear paralyzes me. My mouth opens and I start to sing in a voice wobbly with fear in an attempt to calm us both down.
    "Sleep, baby, sleep,
    Oh, my baby, sleep,
    How lovely, how lovely,
    How nice you are..."
    As I sing, notes a bit high and reedy with desperation, I try a different tack. Instead of trying to pull his nightmare from him, I push my dreams towards him. I push at him the image my song always brings to mind: my mother, cool hand brushing hair from my face as I laid in bed as a child, smiling sleepily up at her as I thought with wonder that surely my mother was the most beautiful, lovely creature on earth.
    "Where's the nurse, where's the girl?
    Where's your nurse girl?
    She's gone, she's gone,
    Far across the hill."
    He is still shaking violently, but his breathing seems to have slowed down a bit, and the grip on my throat relaxes minutely. I repeat the song, softer this time, and continue to pour into him every memory I have of my mother, every vision I have of her when the sun hit her hair, or the breeze moved her dress. Her warm smile, her pleasant laugh, her hand clasping mine, her arms winding around me and pulling me close in comfort.
    "Sleep, baby, sleep,
    Oh, my baby, sleep,
    How lovely, how lovely,
    How nice you are..."
    I can feel hot tears on my cheeks, the words more wobbly than ever. Will I ever see her again? I have spent most of this time while trapped in the hospital fretting over my brother's well-being, but for the first time, an old, childlike fear and agony chokes my voice and makes my chest hurt as if it is being squeezed.
    His hand has slipped away to fall limply into his lap, and at last his golden eye is focused on me. His breathing is more even, and the bleeding has stopped; some of the wounds are already fading into the scars they are now.
    Something inside me breaks.
    I fall forward, and my head thumps against his chest, my arms coming up to wrap around myself protectively. For just an instant, I forget who it is I am dealing with, I forget about the horror I have gone through recently. I manage to choke down the wail that bubbles in my throat, but a sob escapes anyway, strangling my voice. "I miss my mother," I whimper, and suddenly I am five years old again.
    I miss my mother, I want my mother, where's my mother...
    I have been so busy struggling to survive, to wake up, worrying about Ran, that I never let myself recognize this basest of instincts. I'm scared, in trouble, and alone, and I want my mother.
    I don't realize I'm crying until a hand closes like a vise on my shoulder and shoves me roughly back.
    I gasp, realization crashing down like a bucket of ice water. I stare numbly at the one-eyed Berserker before me, eyes still watering hopelessly.
    He is staring at me stonily, no traces of his horrendous nightmare visible on his scarred face. He doesn't release his grip right away, and for a moment I am frozen in blind terror, too frightened to get up and run.
    Finally, he loosens his fingers, and at last pulls back his arm. Quickly I seal the hole in my barrier. He looks me in the eye, his voice flat. "Your mother is dead."
    Somehow, deep inside, I knew it had to be true. But hearing it... Whatever was broken inside me shatters further. With another sob I am unable to hold back, I stagger to my feet and run as fast as I can, past his wall of thorns, and back to my space, my wall throwing itself up behind me.
    He does not move, does not try to stop me or attack me.
    I am too numb to wonder why.


    It takes me a long time to calm down again. What feels like a day in this place passes while I deal with my grief. Farfarello remains in his thorn barrier in silence, back turned to my wall, keeping his thoughts to himself as always.
    When my crying and sorrow has subsided, I find myself staring bleakly at him through my window.
    Why did I try to help him, anyway? Just to get him to stop screaming so I could rest? Or because the sight of another human being-- though sometimes I think he hardly qualifies --suffering bothers me almost no matter who it is?
    He told me my mother was dead, and those simple words are tweaking at my mind, drawing out buried memories of the accident. Until now, all I had remembered was the festival I attended with my brother; after that, everything but the headlights coming at me was a haze.
    But I think now I vaguely remember... something about my parents.
    Seeing them stretched on the floor at unnatural angles.... I shudder, shoving such thoughts from my mind, even as an abrupt wave of anger rises up with the pain. Someone did that to them. Somebody tore our family apart. And I want to know who.
    But will Farfarello tell me? Does he even know who's responsible?
    And anyway, why did he let me escape back to my wall? I still can't believe he didn't lash out viciously when I collapsed, or at least try to trap me in his thorns when I made a break for it. Had he just been worn out by his nightmare? Or was there some other reason for letting me go? Some twisted plan, maybe? Was he too busy enjoying my bitter tears?
    The incident did help me to realize one thing, though.
    I have gotten stronger.
    As long as I stay outside his barrier, I am stronger than he is. This is my mind, after all. I am still feeling a bit numb from my breakdown before, and this helps dispell most of my fear. After a moment's thought, I let the wall between us dissolve.
    Farfarello senses its abrupt retreat and glances over his shoulder suspiciously. I let my barrier surround me like a close-fit, hazy shield, and sit cross- legged on the ground as I stare back in silence. I have imagined myself in a simple blue sundress because the kimono took up too much concentration, remembering all the little details. My feet are bare, and I prop my elbows on my knees, hunching forward slightly in a very unlady-like position. But then, I'm not trying to impress anyone here, and I very much doubt Farfarello gives a damn what gender I am to begin with. I'm just another target to him.
    He turns slowly to glare through his thorns at me, obviously wary at this sudden change. He, too, must sense how much stronger I've gotten since we first were trapped here. He stays safely behind his own wall.
    "I don't want you here anymore," I declare bluntly. "I don't even get the advantage of a sane conversation with another person. You've known Schuldich for awhile, you have to know something about telepathy. How does it work? How do I kick you out?"
    His eye narrows in surprise, mouth tightening as he debates this, probably searching for some trick or lie. I only stare blankly back, and at last he slowly falls to a crouch. A knife shimmers into being in his hands, and he begins toying with it idly, though his eye never leaves me. "You're not strong enough," he finally admits in a grunt. "You're completely unconscious because of the drug. You would have to pull yourself out of a drugged state before you would be able to push anything out."
    I sigh, tugging slightly on a strand of hair hanging over my shoulder. "I was afraid you'd say something like that," I mutter. "What about Schuldich? Why hasn't he done anything? Shouldn't he have gotten the drug out of my system by now? I'm sure he would expect me to panic and try and boot you out."
    Farfarello arches a brow, as if to say "You don't look like you're panicking". Instead he only shrugs slightly, looking unconcerned. "Schwarz is preparing. When he has the time, he will do something."
    "Preparing for what?"
    He only sneers as if laughing at some private joke.
    I don't feel like getting into an argument by trying to get an answer he's uwilling to give, so I change the subject. "I'm still not sure if I believe these 'powers' you seem to think your team has,"I say slowly. "Though I have to admit, Schuldich's telepathy is real, so there's always the possibility that there really are such people as telekinetics and clairvoiyants. But what about you? You certainly don't seem to have any special 'powers'. Unless insanity, bloodlust, and the inability to register physical pain are considered extraordinary."
    Farfarello abruptly leans back and lands with a bump on his butt. His expression is one of boredom. He flops onto his back and begins spinning his knife in the air above his head. As if he has nothing better to do-- which he doesn't --he finally relents and answers, albeit monotonously. "Rosenkreuz never found any 'gift' in me. They were only interested in seeing if I really couldn't feel pain. A Berserker on hand for dangerous missions-- a dog they could send out to kill, and then bring back and cage again."
    Again I find myself wondering just what this Rosenkreuz place is, but I hold my silence. He is actually having a conversation with me, twisted conversation though it may be. I am not about to ruin that. He must really be bored.
    "Schuldich told me that Crawford had one of his deranged 'visions'," Farfarello continues, and I can hear the sneer of derision in his voice even if I cannot see his face from his current position. "About me. The Oracle was also a top student; they listened to him."
    "They gave you to him," I guess, propping my chin on my hand and frowning. "But you don't sound like you have much faith in this Crawford guy's power. Did they ever tell you what his vision was?"
    His torso shifts in what I assume is an unconcerned shrug.
    "Right," I sigh. "You didn't care, as long as it got you out of that place, right?" I gaze at him for a long moment, debating whether or not to press it. Well, no time like the present. Maybe he's just bored enough to actually answer some questions now. "What happened to your eye?" I ask quietly. "Did that happen in Rosenkreuz?"
    He lifts his head slightly to glare at me.
    "I didn't see that, when I accidentally, um, got caught in your mind," I explain. "Um, if it's a bad memory, you don't have to answer. I was just curious."
    He stares at me for a long time, then abruptly sits up. Face unreadable, he reaches up and shoves the patch up onto his forehead.
    It's still there. That surprises me. I think I almost expected there to be a gaping hole there, as if the eye had been removed. But it's obviously blind, completely white. There is scarring all around the eyelid. I keep my face carefully blank, but inside I shudder a bit.
    He is watching me carefully for my reaction, perhaps hoping I will recoil in horror or scream. Though after the things I've glimpsed in his mind, this is not the worst I have seen by far. If he is disappointed at my lack of response, it doesn't show. He pulls the eyepatch back down again and drops onto his back once more. "Poison," he says shortly.
    "From... the people at Rosenkruez?" I venture, hoping the mention of the place won't cause him to back out of the conversation. Was it done in another of their horrible attempts to get a shriek of pain from him?
    "No." His tone is cold, though, and I can sense another forbidden topic on the wind.
    I frown, digging through my mind, picking at the memories I leeched from him in search of a clue.
    One arm is tucked beneath his head, but the other is stretched by his side. I can see his fingers twitching and jerking unconsciously as his index finger traces something on the ground over and over. I am not close enough to figure it out, but I decide tactfully not to mention it.
    I search for another topic, but he surprises me by speaking first this time.
    "You're a nosey little brat," he points out. "Were you always this annoying, or is this a recent development?"
    Again with the snarky comments. I make a face at him, even though he can't see it from his position. "Har har, you're a real barrel of laughs," I mutter. "What, I'm not allowed to ask questions?" I sigh in defeat after a moment. "All right, I didn't used to be this, um..."
    "Curious," I finish primly. "But what do you expect? I've been lying in that godforsaken hospital unable to talk to anyone for god knows how long."
    "You did this," he interrupts, and again I can tell he is jeering as he flicks his fingers to indicate our surroundings. "God has nothing to do with this."
    I blink. "God has everything to do with it," I say.
    He goes still, then sits up abruptly, expression shifting into something ugly.
    "At least," I continue, glancing away, "that's what I used to tell myself. It's all 'God's plan'. That's what they tell you in church, right? I kept telling myself right after the accident that God was still watching over me, that He still loved me. That everything happens for a reason..." An unpleasant little laugh bubbles out of my throat before I can gag it. "What bullshit."
    His eye narrows as he studies me in silence.
    "If there is a God," I growl, glaring at my lap, "he obviously hates me."
    "...God hates everybody."
    The response startles me a bit. I look up at him quickly. "What?"
    One shoulder moves in a slight shrug. "Humans are here for God's sadistic amusement," he states flatly, as if this is an obvious fact of life. "He sets out a million inane little tests and rules, and sits back and waits for us to fail. It's a game."
    "I didn't think a person like you would even believe in God," I admit slowly. A shred of a memory I touched only briefly in his mind turns over-- a picture of a nun. A woman named... Sister Ruth. I stop myself just in time from saying the name out loud. The only thing that surrounds that woman is pain, betrayal, and anger.
    He ignores the words. "We hurt Him the most when we frustrate him, when we ignore his 'Plan' and follow our own rules. He doesn't like it when people don't play along in his demented little game." His mouth twists into a tight smile both frightening and mocking. "Hurting God is the only way Man can be completely free."
    I can only stare back at him dumbly.
    A small part of me thinks firmly.. This man is even crazier than I thought.
    Another part of me...
    Finds his opinion fascinating.
    "Maybe," I admit softly, before I can snatch the word back.
    He smirks, and though it is just as malicious as it has always been, it no longer frightens me like it once did.


    "Why do people do such horrible things to each other?"
    His glance is sardonic, as if to say "I'M one of those people".
    My wall is up less and less these "days". Now I only put it up when I'm dozing. Not that he seems as inclined to attack me anymore. He has either grown bored of his fruitless attempts, or has resigned himself to wait for Schuldich's rescue.
    I am sprawled on my back, hands behind my head as I stare at the multi-hued butterflies dancing overhead that I have put there for my amusement. Keeping them in flight and talking at the same time isn't as hard as it might have been before. "I meant, why are people so cruel to those who don't deserve it," I clarify. "People create a lot of the monsters of society with neglect and abuse. Take you, for example."
    He snorts, looking away dismissively.
    "And my family..." I frown. "What did we ever do to anybody? I don't understand. They killed my parents... and then ran me over for no reason. They ruined our lives-- mine and my brother's. Now he's so angry and hurt all the time, and I'm stuck here with the walking talking example of what man's cruelty to man can do. It's extrodinary that you don't feel any pain, and I could understand why men of science would be fascinated by this. But..." I shudder. "What is Rosenkreuz?" I ask quietly for the umpteenth time. It is a question I have asked over and over, with varied reactions. Sometimes fury, othertimes cold silence, sometimes just a hooded stare. But never an answer. It only makes me feel more curious. What the people there did to him made him into who he is today. And he has hinted that the Oracle and the Jerk were "students" there. It doesn't add up.
    I wait for an answer that doesn't come, then sigh quietly. "When I was in grade school," I say quietly, "there was this kid named Uchihara Eiji. He was kind of weird; really quiet, stuck to himself a lot, and he used to sit on the playground and just play in the dirt. He was picked on constantly. Kids would push him over, try to get him to eat dirt, play horrible pranks on him, and make fun of him all the time. He would burst out crying a lot, and run off and hide. The teacher just pretended like she didn't know about it. She would get impatient with him when he'd sit sobbing in class because someone had put gum in his hair or bugs in his desk. I used to think it was terrible, but no one else did anything to stop it, so I didn't, either. I guess either no one cared, or they were afraid they'd get bullied, too. I've always regretted that, you know? Maybe if someone had stuck up for him, just once, it would have helped. But no one ever did. I kind of forgot about him in middle school because he wasn't in my class. But he was teased even worse." I raise my hand, willing one of the rainbow butterflies to alight on my finger. "Then one day he came to school with a razor. You know, one of those box cutter things? I heard he just lost it in class and attacked one of the kids that had been bullying him for years. He cut the boy pretty bad, stabbed him right in the stomach, screaming and crying the whole time. His parents stuck him in some institution, and I didn't see him again until my second year of high school. He was so different. He never smiled or talked to anyone, and he'd gotten so skinny. He looked like he never slept, and he jumped violently whenever someone startled him. And he would freak out if anyone touched him. It made everyone nervous. I think eventually he was transferred, but I don't know if he just went to another school or if he was put back in that place." I let my hand drop onto my stomach, and the pink butterfly joins its companions again. "I used to think, 'has anyone ever been nice to this kid in his whole life'? It made me feel so guilty. I always thought if I could go back and do it again, I would stick up for him. I would talk to him and let him cry. I don't think he had a single friend his entire childhood. Sometimes I would lie awake at night and wonder, what if that had been me? Would I have snapped like he did? Would I have tried to kill someone, or myself? If I didn't have friends or my brother, could that have happened to me?" I smile dryly. "I think every kid is teased at some point in their life. Ran-niisan used to be teased all the time because of his hair. I dimly remember him coming home crying one day when he was in grade school. I was too young to go to school, yet, but I remember being so confused. His hair was so beautiful to me. Why would anyone make fun of it?" I laugh. "The teasing stopped when he got into middle school. A lot of the girls thought he was handsome."
    I lift my head a bit to see if Farfarello is even listening; he's dozed off when I have been talking before. Rude bastard.
    He's watching the butterflies with a hooded gaze, face expressionless.
    "Me, too," I admit, letting my head fall back again. "I got bullied by these three kids in middle school for an entire year before this girl finally got sick of it and stood up for me. They were standing around my desk teasing me, trying to get me to cry. She came running up and just started hitting them with her notebook." I laugh at the memory. "She kept yelling at them, calling them useless human beings. They were so startled, they backed off. After that, she stuck by my side all the time and we became friends. Those boys never bothered me again."
    "Trying?" he repeats in a deadpan.
    Surprised, I sit up a bit, leaning back on my elbows to stare at him. Was he actually listening? "Huh?"
    "'Trying' to get you to cry," he elaborates in a bored tone, eyeing the butterflies as if he's considering swiping them from the air and crushing them in his fist.
    "Oh..." I shrug one shoulder slightly, following his eye to the butterflies. "I never let them see me cry," I admit. "I thought if I didn't react, they'd stop. And it was kind of a pride thing. I wasn't about to let jerks like that see me break down. I would go home and cry to niisan, but I never let them see how much they upset me. In the end, it probably only made it worse; I think all they wanted was a reaction."
    "What about you?" I ask impudently. "Weren't you ever teased when you were a kid? What about your hair? I would think mean little kids would find a boy with white hair an easy target."
    He shifts his gaze to me for a moment, staring. Then, for just an instant, his image shifts. For a heartbeat, his hair is no longer white, but a rusty red.
    I blink, surprised, but his hair is already white again, and his attention has returned to the butterflies. "Is... that your natural hair color?" I venture, staring at him as if willing him to do the trick again. "Well, I guess that makes sense," I hedge. "You're Irish, after all. Isn't that like the stereotype for the Irish? Red hair and short tempers?"
    His lip twitches in a sneer/smirk, but he doesn't respond.
    I hit my palm to my forhead in sudden recollection. "Oh-- that's right. I'd completely forgotten. You did have red hair-- that time you were in that nightmare. When you were a kid..." I stare at him. "Jei."
    His eye snaps my way, and his shoulders tense in what I've come to recognize as a dangerous sign of his mounting vicious temper.
    I wisely decide to drop it. "Sorry," I mutter, leaning back once more. I wave my hand, and the butterflies transform into birds with rainbow plumage. They circle and dive around my head, spilling melodies from their mouths.
    Farfarello watches them in silence for a long time, expression impossible to define.

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