View Full Version : Chapter Ninety-Seven: The Changing Winds Bring Unwelcome Tides

rhapsody blue
January 08, 2008, 04:42 PM
Author’s Note
I apologize for such a late chapter. I’ve been busy with the holidays and whatnot. It also took me a while to figure the events in this chapter all out and I enlisted my sister to help with some parts (guess which ones). I personally don’t think this is a great chapter but it will do.

I hope you enjoy and thank you for your patience!

Chapter Ninety-Seven: The Changing Winds Bring Unwelcome Tides

Part One
The first month of Zane’s reign was… surprising. Immediately once he took control, funding from Central was arranged and received, resulting in sufficient funds to allow the branch to function. The move to the new headquarter in Washington D.C. was smooth with everything unpacked and ready for operation. The exorcists who were stationed at the North American branch and battle ready were ordered to undergo a strict training regimen, resulting in successful missions.

Subsequently, the then interim branch leader was slowing gaining the respect and adoration of his subordinates. Whispers among the staff glowed about his able and efficient leadership, causing some to wonder why Lione was not fired earlier. Because of his hard work and his accomplishments, Zane was promoted to chair the new office of “Exorcists’ Welfare” in which he was in charge of their training, missions, and assessments. However, Madeline was unimpressed; after all she had to work with him, allowing her to see his ugly side.

While she did agree with some of his policies, the sister disagreed with him in various areas. Yes, Madeline understood that the move to D.C. was a wise move, considering how they needed to hide their base from the enemies. Nevertheless, it seemed abrupt as everyone hastily packed their belongings into their bags. She couldn’t help but wonder if they had forgotten anything important. And was she the only idiot who realized that once Central decided to activate the branch again, they would immediately get funding?

And Madeline knew that it was important for the exorcists to begin training. Nevertheless, she believed that Zane was pushing them to hard, resulting in many of them especially the young ones to report to the hospital ward as they suffered dehydration from the harsh training. Every time she protested, the blind man would brush her arguments aside, saying, “You’re just mothering them. No wonder they are so weak.”

The sister also disagreed with his policy concerning the rescued prisoners who were anything bur recovered. She concurred with his decision not to rush them into missions and into the battlefield. But totally sequestering them from their friends and comrades were extreme. All had been assigned physical therapy which they were supposed to compete as they travel back to Central.

“They’re not going to get better if you send them away to become someone else’s problem,” protested Madeline as she slammed her fist against Zane’s lacquered oak desk. Instead of listening to her reasoning, the man just sighed and rambled on how he was protecting them from danger and was trying to prevent exposure to anything that could trigger their trauma.

However, his arrogance and stubbornness were not the characteristics that pushed Madeline over the edge. It was the fact that he viewed everyone especially her as his personal servants, ordering them like they owe him for everything he had done for the branch. Every time something went right, the sister thought that any second Zane’s head would explode from his growing ego.

As she sat in the chair next to his desk, she wondered how long she would have to stay in his office. At this rate, being personally watched by the branch leader was a fate worse than excommunication, exile, and death. She stared as he fingered along the documents before him, muttering comments on how this would affect the branch and how the proposal before him was a stupid idea. Nothing irritated her more than listening to his talking to himself for hours.

“Madeline,” barked Zane causing her to jerk from her chair. “I need you to send these forms to Ying. I also want you to send the following people listed to my office so I can finish my report to Central.” He handed her a huge stack as she grated her teeth and seethed sarcastically, “You’re welcome.” What was she, his secretary!?!?

As she turned to exit that hellhole, she heard him add one more command, “While you’re up, give me a cup of coffee.” Madeline slammed the papers onto a nearby desk and quickly poured some into a cup. Angrily marching up towards the guy, she spilled it onto his lap, causing the man to scream and back his chair away.

“Oh dear!” she exclaimed as she grabbed some important document. Trying in a half-assed manner to clean up the mess, she continued, “I tripped over the carpet and spilled it all over you. I’m so clumsy, let me clean up after myself in order to teach myself discipline and responsibility.” The coffee was quickly soaking up the papers, making the text and Braille unreadable. The stench was overwhelming and soon the room reeked of the espresso.

Madeline felt a hand on her shoulder and noticed that Zane was trying his best to keep his composure. “I’ll take care of this. Just go and do your job,” he said as he shooed her away. His body was still stinging from the hot drink; his clothes were soaked and he deeply desired to change his clothes immediately. Hearing her back away, he let out a loud sigh. Her tripping especially holding hot drinks was becoming a habit. A deadly habit.

As she grabbed the stacks and exited the room, the sister smirked thinking how she still had her rebellious nature. Perhaps, when the blind man returned, he would discovered that his “helpful assistant” had kindly rearranged the furniture in the room.

Part Two
“I can’t believe that we bought this much for our room!” Ellie exclaimed exhaustedly as she dumped the last few shopping bags onto her bed. Noting the piles of bags lying on the girl and her beds, Lyra had to agree. They did buy a lot. “Well,” she began as she eyed her roommate sprawling on the floor, “I guess we better get started unpacking or else we won’t have a bed to sleep in.” With a slight giggle, Ellie immediately sat up and grabbed the nearest bag.

When they first arrived in their new room, they were amazed by how big and spacey the corner room was. Their windows face out toward the city and the inner courtyard, which Lyra liked since she could easily people watch. In spite of everything, they felt that the room seemed too…plain. To fix that problem, they have decided to decorate their room to make it feels like home…at the Black Order’s expense, of course. After rearranging the room to their liking, the two went out to the city to buy the needed supplies.

“Where should we put this mirror, Lyra?” Ellie asked as she held up the said item. “Let’s put that above my dresser,” the exorcist suggested while she was hanging up the curtains. She watched amusingly as the young Finder struggled to place the heavy mirror on the dresser; she reminded Lyra of her young sister, Noel (was that her name?). Both were stubborn and they wanted to prove that they can do it on their own.

After an hour or so, they were almost done setting up the room; all they needed to do was hang up the picture frames on the wall. “You can pass me the nails while I hammer them to the wall,” the exorcist said, grabbing the hammer. Ellie nodded and gave her a nail. They worked quietly; the only sound that they could here was the pounding of the hammer. Finally, Ellie, who could not stand the silence, blurted aloud, “What do you think about my dad?”

“Your dad?” Lyra paused and gave her a contemplated look. “I guess he is like a fun older brother except he hasn’t started teasing me or giving me noogies yet. He is a pretty good exorcist and the head honchos are impressed by his skills from what I heard. In fact–“

BAM! BAM! The two startled girls jumped at the loud banging at the door. “Coming~” Lyra chirped and went over to open the door. Maybe her Finder or Riena was at the door to remind her about their upcoming mission or maybe it was that Noisy Munchkin complaining about something again. Imagine her surprise when she saw the She-man; wasn’t she just a minor “security guard”? “Hi,” she began slowly. “Is there a problem?”

“Yes, there is a problem,” Sam seethed, glaring at the two. “You brats are making too much noise! I can hear it from my room which is across the hall!” Lyra and Ellie looked at each other and tried their best not to laugh. Sam’s steamed face was as red as a tomato and her hands were placed at her hips. Putting on her most innocent look, Ellie apologized, “We’re sorry. We were just decorating our room; we’ll try to be quieter next time.”

“Decorating?” Sam smirked as she examined the room decorated in pastel colors. “I didn’t know that the Black Order is planning to set up a day care, Lyra. Next time, why don’t you tell me so I could give this girl a pacifier?” Hearing those words and seeing Ellie’s stunned face, Lyra became vivid. “Don’t you dare insult her!” she responded angrily. “She just apologized to you and that was your reply!? She is just a child!”

The muscular woman returned her glare. “Are you trying to be her mother? If so, I pray to God that she does not turn out like you.” Before the exorcist could reply, Sam began to walk away. “I’ll let this slide for now, but let me tell you something. You should remember your place – you’re here to serve the Black Order not to be a babysitter.” With that said, she slammed the door behind her before a flying hammer could hit her.

“Bitch,” Lyra muttered but she suddenly remembered that Ellie was in the room. She saw Ellie was staring at her with a horrified look. “Shit! She heard me!” she groaned and realized that she said another bad word. This was just great; she just corrupted an innocent young girl. The exorcist walked up to the girl and kneeled down so she was at the girl’s eye level. “I’m so sorry, E1I should not lose my temper and use those bad, bad words. Don’t you ever use those words especially in front of your dad. If you accidentally did, tell him that ‘It’ told you those words, okay?” she begged. The girl began to smile and hugged her friend; Lyra has a funny way to cheer her up. “It’s okay,” she replied as she stuck out her tongue, “you were trying to protect me after all. And don’t worry; I won’t tell dad about it.”

Relieved, Lyra glanced out the window and noticed that there was snow covering the ground. She gave the girl a mischievous wink. “Even though I am supposed at training area right now, I think it would be better if I play in the snow with you and your brother.” Ellie became excited and grabbed her coat. “I’ll go get Ewon; I’m sure he will be out there in a heartbeat!” she exclaimed as she ran out the door. Lyra just smiled as she grabbed her winter coat. Sure, she is an exorcist, but today, she is just a “babysitter”.

Part Three
“And….time!” Rinvak, Tabitha, and Riena stopped running and exhaustedly collapse onto the floor. In the balcony above them, Zane stood supervising them with Shawn who was busy jogging down new information into each exorcist’s personal file. “What’s their time?” he asked thoughtfully. Shawn looked at his stopwatch and muttered in a soft voice, “Eight minutes and forty-five seconds.”

Zane sighed and yelled at the girls, “You hear that, girls? You completed the Gauntlet in eight minutes and forty-five seconds. Pathetic! Do you think the Earl and his army would give you that amount of time? I expected more from you, but then you were trained by the ‘great’ Lione so I should not be surprised. I want you to run again until you do it under five minutes. Now go!” Hearing that, Rinvak stood angrily and shouted back, “What is the point of running through an obstacle course!? Is it so that we can practice running away? Maybe that is why our so-called missions are successful. Why aren’t we training with our Innocences? Riena especially needs that the most!”

The blind exorcist just smiled as he answered, “Because you have not proven yourself to be ready for that yet. You need to be ready physically and mentally! Looking at everyone’s files, I realize that all of you need to improve your stamina, endurance, and flexibility. So stop complaining and start running unless you guys want to be dead on your next ‘serious’ mission!” Grumbling, the girls immediately began their training again. Even though he knew that he should not be that harsh on them, Zane relished making them (especially Rinvak) miserable. It was probably due to the stress of trying to handle a stubborn Madeline that he was in a bad mood, which was a reason why he forbade her from training with the others. For all that he knows, she may cause a revolt against him.

In fact, his legs were still sore from bumping into his newly arranged furniture; he would have killed her at that moment if the researchers, whom he was meeting to discuss his training techniques, were not there. Not only did that woman caused him humiliation, she made him look like a fool in front of his guests. Zane grinded his teeth; he is going to make sure that Madeline regrets her action, but now is not the time to think about it. He needed to focus on training the ingrates in order to make them a better weapons against the Earl – that’s all that matter right now.

He was pleased that Renee gave him the okay to create this indoor training facility and the completed result was beyond his expectations. The room was one of the biggest in the new headquarters; any interested researchers could easily observe the exorcists’ training from any of the eight small balconies (two on each side of the walls). In the far left corner was the shooting area (Deadly Assault); exorcists, who are long-range users, must run to different stations where they can hide from the attacks of several rapid-firing “akuma” while attempting to hit them. In another corner, melee fighters fight on a hanging platform as they try to knock the other out of the ring into the mats below. But in the middle of the room was his prized creation, the ultimate obstacle course – the Gauntlet or as his trainees have called it, “The Torture Chamber”. They have to scale a 7-foot platform and then cross a suspension bridge while avoiding getting hit by swinging 50 lb balls. After that, they must climb a 10 ft long cargo net where they subsequently have to walk across a balance beam. Next they have to swing from ring-to-ring to the other side. From there, they have to climb a pyramid made out of gym mats where they can zip line to the finish line.

“What are the others doing?” he barked at Shawn who immediately responded. According to Shawn’s dictations, Ty was at the shooting arena; however, he must not be taking it seriously though because he was making goofy poses as he ran to a different station to hide behind in a vain attempt to make the scientists who were observing them to laugh. Not surprisingly, Lyra has decided not to show up again, which made it her tenth time she skipped going to the indoor training facility. Zane sometimes wondered whether or not he was handling a twenty years old or a thirteen years old. Even though he knew her from past missions and what her personality is, he needed to do something about her especially since she was the one who needed this training the most.

“Good afternoon, Zane,” someone called out behind him. He turned around to face the person. “Good afternoon, Renee,” he responded as he greeted her back. Based on the heavy footsteps coming toward them, Maniac was arriving as well. Personally, he did not care much about her “bodyguard” whom he saw as a hooligan, but he decided it was best not say anything about it. “Do you need me for something?”

The branch leader shook her head. “No, not really. I just wanted to check how our exorcists are doing under your regimen,” she said eyeing the people below her. “Isn’t this a bit harsh for the young ones?” Zane shook his head. “It may be harsh, but they will get used to it. Besides, they have to realize that some of their later missions won’t be as peachy like they want to imagine.” Renee just raised her eyebrows but did not say anything.

Instead she grabbed the exorcists’ updated personal files that were lying on the table and scanned through them. “I see that they have greatly improved, Zane; I’m impressed.” She looked at Maniac, who was peering over her shoulder. “What are your opinions, Maniac?” Based on the notes, she knew what Zane’s opinions were but she liked to have another person’s assessment as well.

Looking at the exorcists’ training, he simply responded, “Well, right now I cannot trust them with protecting your life, Renee. However, most of them will probably improve and my best bet would be Rinvak and Tabitha. Ty and Lyra need to start getting their acts together before I can take them seriously. I don’t know much about Madeline, but I can see her as a troublemaker. As for Riena, I agree with Zane’s assessment; she is more of a hindrance than a help to us.”

Suddenly he realized that the room has become quiet and that his booming voice has echoed across the room. He noticed that everyone looked horrified or offended (especially the girls). The one that struck him the most was Riena; she looked like she would burst into tears. No matter how hard she tried to adjust to Zane’s difficult training, she still struggled. Now hearing her assessment, she felt like she could not amount to anything and made Zeran proud of her. Feeling awful about what he said, Maniac just bowed his head embarrassingly.

Renee just pretended that she didn’t notice what happened as she finished reading the assessments. “I see…” she muttered as she handed them back to Shawn. “Thank you for letting me observed their training, Zane. It has given me a lot of insight of what we have right now. Shawn, when you are finished with those files, please turn them into my office.” She motioned Maniac to follow her much to his relief. As he was leaving, he felt like someone (or a whole bunch of people) was staring daggers into his back, which caused him to quicken his pace.

Part Four
Lying on the floor, Ellie watched as her brother bounced a ball off the ceiling for the umpteenth time. They have been bored ever since they came inside from playing out in the snow. Ellie went over to her brother and her father’s room with hopes that they will find something to do since Lyra has to get ready to head out to her mission tonight. Unfortunately, they still could not find anything fun to do. “I’m boorrrrreeeeeddddd,” moaned Ewon. “I wish dad was here; he would think of something to do.”

“Maybe we can ask Shawn if he can play with us?” she suggested. “He must be lonely since he always spends time in his room.” Ewon stopped throwing the ball and looked at his sister thoughtfully. “That is a good idea. Come on; maybe he is in his room.” With that said, they headed out of the room.

Climbing up the stairs, Ellie looked questioning at her brother. “Why are we going down this way? Isn’t his room on this floor too?” Ewon just shrugged. “Apparently, since he is Renee’s secretary, Shawn has his own room next to hers. That is what Maniac told me anyway when I asked.” Reaching the fourth floor, he pointed to a room that was third down to the left. “There’s his room over there.”

Filled with excitement and nervousness, they ran toward the room – and nearly crashed into Eny. “Omph!” the Bookwoman cried out as pile of papers fluttered down on the three like snowflakes. “Watch where you are going next time!” The kids apologized and helped her gathered her belongings together. After they finished cleaning up, Ellie asked curiously, “Where are you going by the way?” Eny replied, “I just finished writing my report about the rescue mission and was about to turn it in to Renee’s secretary until someone bumped into me.”

“You’re gong to see Shawn as well?” the kids said in unison, which spooked Eny. Maybe she should not have told them that, she thought regretfully. “Why don’t we go together?” Ewon proposed. The Bookwoman just sighed; this really hurts her image of being a girl who is mature beyond her age. “Sure,” she said sarcastically, “Go ahead.” She was just glad that Lyra wasn’t here; that woman would probably call them “The E Group” or something similar to that nature since all of their names started with “E”. In fact, she heard that the exorcist called Ty’s kids “E1” (Ellie) and “E2” (Ewon) and when they are together “E Squared”. How on Earth does she come up with those weird nicknames?

They walked up to the Shawn’s door and knocked. No one responded so Eny tried again but with a louder knock. “I guess he is not there,” she said nonchalantly. “Oh well, I guess I’ll slip my report under the door and you guys can bug him later.” Nevertheless, the two kids gave her a stubborn look. “He might be taking a nap,” Ellie guessed. “…and he is a heavy sleeper too!” added Ewon eagerly. Eny looked at them with amazement as they made all these ridiculous excuses. These kids don’t know when to give up. Might as well humor them, she thought dryly.

“What’s about this? I will check to see if the door is unlocked. If it is, that would mean that your hypotheses are correct and that he is in the room, then you’re right,” she proposed. She reached the door knob and prayed silently that she was correct. Much to her dismay (and to the kids’ joy), the door clicked open. “We were right!” they cheered and rushed into the room as a displeased Eny followed. She felt slightly better when she noticed that Renee’s secretary was not in the room though.

For a kid, he has an enormous room, Eny thought jealously as she examined the room. It was twice as big as Tabitha and her room! Guess it paid to be a secretary to a branch leader. Though she admitted that she also would have thought it would have a lot of windows, but there was only one small window, which faced the inner courtyard. However, for such a big room, it was somewhat…plain and creepy. Shawn’s bed and nightstand were at the upper left corner of the room while a small desk sat across from it; a leather briefcase was lying next to the desk. A small brown rug lay in the middle of the room, but what creep her out the most about the room was the shelves of porcelain dolls of various sizes that were displayed all over the walls. Who would have thought a boy was interested in dolls? Usually the Bookwoman did not pay much attention to this sort of things, but she has a weird feeling like they were watching them as if they were intruders (which they were).

“Whoa,” Ty’s kids said in awe as they began to wander around the room. Eny looked at them with disbelief. “What are you dong!?” she asked Ewon exasperatedly as he was playing around with Shawn’s calligraphy set, which was on his desk. “You should not be touching any of his stuff while he is not here!” My god, have Ty ever teach his children etiquette? She snatched the pen out of Ewon’s hand and placed it back into the kit while giving him an admonishing look. At this rate, she should just left her report on Shawn’s desk and left these brats here; she has a bad feeling that something bad will happen if she stay there any longer…

A sudden slight scream interrupted her thoughts. She and Ewon turned around to see a frightened Ellie was pointing at a doll which was on the bed. “What is it this time?” Eny snapped, walking over to the girl. The young girl immediately hid behind the Bookwoman. “That doll just blink!” she squealed, grasping Eny’s clothes. The other two just looked at each other and then at the doll. The doll has short blonde curls, hazel eyes, and wore a light blue Victorian-style dress. After staring at the dolls for a long time, Eny let out a deep breath; the doll didn’t blink at all.

“It must have been your imagination,” she explained tersely. “It does look lifelike so I would understand why you thought it blinked at you. There is nothing to worry about; besides there is no way a doll can move on its own!” Despite her efforts, Ellie did not look convinced. “I swear I saw it blink,” she insisted desperately and grabbed the doll. She shoved the doll in front of the Bookwoman’s face. “Maybe it was just shy around you or something!”

Before she could reply, someone’s standing near the doorway cleared his throat. “What are you doing?” Shawn asked coolly. Eny was somewhat surprised; this was the first time that he has spoken in a decibel louder than a whisper though he looked very scary as he glared at the three. “We’re sorry!” Ewon apologized (Eny noticed that his face looked pale). “We wanted to know if you want to play with you and we noticed that your door was unlocked. We didn’t mean to go into your room and…” The red-haired boy just ignored him and walked over to Ellie. He snatched the doll out of her hands and looked her over as if he were checking if she was scratched or damaged. What a weird kid…

“Um…” Ellie began nervously, “I didn’t know that you like dolls; all of them look very pretty.” Shawn glared at her but softened his expression a little bit. “I made them myself,” he muttered absentmindedly. “My mom taught me.” She looked at him impressed. “Really? That’s awesome!” she gushed. Maybe he would tell them a little about himself and his family. “What’s your mom like?” He looked at her as if this was the first time he noticed her and finally said flatly in a soft whisper, “My mother is dead. My deadbeat father came home drunk one day and strangled her to death right in front of my eyes.” Everyone gasped with horror. “And what happened to your dad?” Eny asked out of morbid curiosity. “He’s dead,” he just said avoiding their glances as if he was hiding something from them.

“So you went into my room without my permission so you could play with me?” he snapped, remembering that he was mad at them. After an awkward moment of silence, Eny rolled her eyes and began, “These two want to play with you, not me. I just wanted to hand over my report on the rescue mission to you.” She gave a slight hit on their backs to give them a hint to talk. “We just wanted to know if you want to play with us,” Ewon said meekly. Shawn raised his eyebrow. “So, in other words, you want to be my friend?” he asked bluntly. The two kids nodded at the same time. To their surprise, the boy gave them a disgusted look.

“Why do I want to be friend with you?” he demanded. “They pretend to be nice and friendly with you, but as soon as you leave, they badmouth you behind your back. ‘Friends’ will just use you until you are no longer useful to them which then they will discard you by backstabbing you! Besides I am not here to make friends; I have a job to do and I don’t want to be distracted by anyone especially those who don’t know manners! So get out of my room now and if I see you snooping around here again, I will make sure you will regret it.”

Frightened by the dark look on Shawn’s face, the kids grabbed an unexpected Eny by her hands and dragged her out of the room before she could even think of a comeback. I always have that feeling that he was a strange kid, she thought to herself, but he is actually one messed-up kid. Looking back toward the opened door, she observed that Shawn appeared to be talking to the doll. Yep, he is definitely a strange kid.

Part Five
Ellie was lying on her bed but she could not concentrate reading her book. She felt that someone was watching her every move, and no matter how hard she tried to ignore it, the feeling still lingered. Finally she dropped her book and looked around the room. The young girl felt almost relieved to see that no one was there until she looked out the window nearest to her. The doll that was on Shawn’s bed was staring at her. She let out a small yelp and fell out of her bed.

She did not have time to recover because she heard someone was trying to open the door. “Open up the door! I know that you’re in there!” someone shouted. Ellie recognized that voice; it was Sam. Frightened, she held her breath and prayed that Sam would just give up as Sam kept turning the knob. After a few minutes (more like hours), Sam gave up. The girl let out a deep breath. Maybe this would be all over now…

Suddenly an axe went through the door, which caused Ellie to scream. She saw an amused Sam staring at her through the opening. “Don’t bother to scream, girl,” she said in a sickly voice. “No one is here to help you.” With that said, she continued to hack through the door. Ellie began scrambling as she attempted to find a place to hide. She turned around to see that Sam finally has broken open the door. “Lyra! Lyra! Help me!” she cried out, running to Lyra’s bed. Unfortunately, Lyra’s bed was empty – except for that blonde doll.

“She isn’t here, remember?” A startled Ellie spurned around to see Shawn was sitting on her bed. He was holding a doll which looked exactly like her and did not appear to notice the situation around him. Before she could say anything, the boy walked up to her and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Don’t be frightened,” he consoled, whispering in her ears, “It will be a swift death, I promise.” He smirked and shoved her onto the middle of the floor. Stunned, she looked up to see Sam was standing right in front of her and was about to swing the axe…

Panting, Ellie sat up on her bed. Just a nightmare, she convinced herself as she looked around the room. No doll was staring at her through the windows; no one was trying to break open the door; and no one was in the room besides her. Looking at the empty bed next to her, the girl recalled the earlier conversation she had with her roommate.

“So he chased you out after he said that?” Lyra asked. Ellie nodded as she watched the preoccupied Lyra prepared for her mission tonight. “He was very scary,” Ellie commented, “I don’t think I don’t want to be his friend now.” Lyra stopped what she was doing and looked thoughtfully at the girl. “Well, maybe he has some bad experience which is why he has such negative opinion of making friends,” she surmised. “But I am sure that after he gets to know you and your brother more, he will change his mind.”

The girl looked at the exorcist doubtfully; she has a feeling that would not be a likely case. “But he is soooooooooo weird!” she complained. “He has dolls everywhere in the room; no boy I know like dolls!” Lyra just smiled. “Well, didn’t you say that his mom showed him how to make them and that she was dead? He might have them as a way to remember her.” Ellie just gave her a look so the woman just shrugged. “Sorry, I’m just playing devil’s advocate, but just give him time. He might turn out to be a nice guy after all.”

Sensing that Ellie did not want to talk about Shawn anymore, Lyra changed the subject. “So you think you would be fine while I am gone?” she asked, grabbing her exorcist uniform out of her closet. The girl nodded and insisted, “I am a big girl; I will be fine that’s for sure.” She jumped from her bed to Lyra’s so that she could help her roommate zip up her uniform. “So what is your mission about?” she murmured. Lyra just gave out a frustrated sigh. “It would be mostly a training mission like the last time. Riena and I are going to Baltimore to investigate a strange occurrence there. Zane thinks that since my Innocence’s purpose is to increase an exorcist’s synch-rate, I might help her get used to her Innocence much faster. We probably will be gone at most a week if nothing bad happens.”

She looked at Ellie and put a loose strand of hair behind the girl’s ear. Even though the girl acted brave, Lyra knew that she was still shaken up by the incident. Maybe she needed something to cheer her up. The exorcist went over to her jewelry box and pulled out a bracelet made out of glass beads. “Hold out your hand,” she ordered, which the girl did. She placed the bracelet in her hand and clasped her hand closed. “I want you to have it so in case you miss me, you have this to remember me by.” Ellie was touched by the gesture that she hugged her friend. “Thank you!” she said happily. Lyra just smiled. “It might be a little big on you right now, but I am sure that it will fit around your wrist one day. Just be careful not to lose it now.” The girl looked at her determinedly. “I won’t lose it!” she promised. “I will be extra careful with it.”
*Flashback Ends*

She looked at the bracelet which lay loosely on her wrist; it did help her a little bit to calm her down, but she was still scared. She looked at the clock on the wall. It was 11 o’clock so that would mean that her dad would be still awake. Maybe he would let her stay in his room tonight. She grabbed her rag doll and put on her slippers. After she made sure she got everything, she left the room and walked toward the male’s dormitory.

The hallway was mostly quiet as majority was asleep in their beds. Renee and the other superiors were probably still in their office working, but Ellie knew that the Madeline and the others were hanging out in the lounge which was located in the opposite direction. Even though it would be a lot quickly to visit them, she thought that they would just ridicule her for being scared. As she was about to turn the corner, she heard a voice hissing near by, “Don’t forget why we are here, Shawn!”

She froze; that was Sam’s voice. Trying to locate where the two were, she found a mostly dark room which door was slightly ajar. Out of curiosity, she peered through the door and saw Shawn was staring out of the windows while Sam was sitting in a leather chair. She was staring at the boy with a disapproving look on her face, but he looked like he did not care at all. “Of course, I did not forget about our mission,” he muttered, annoyed as he was stroking something in his arm. “It’s you I am worrying about.” Ellie, hoping the moonlight would help, squinted to look at the window’s reflection but she could not see what he was holding.

Frustrated, Sam stood up and walked up behind him. “Me?” she inquired. He turned to face her and there was a glint in his eyes. “I heard that you got into a silly fight with an exorcist’s daughter over a minor issue,” he commented. “From someone who prizes discipline, I expected better from you.” His comrade flushed with embarrassment before making a comeback. “Well, I heard that brat and her brother offered to be your friend and you blew that off!” she jeered. “What were you thinking? You could have found out some valuable information from them!”

“I don’t need them to find out information,” Shawn said bluntly as he glanced down to his arms. “I have Elise and others that can do the job for me and I am the secretary to a Branch Leader.” Ellie looked confused; who is Elise? That was when she noticed what he was holding; it was the doll that she saw blinked at her earlier. She put two-and-two together and realized that he was talking about the doll. What is going on around here? What mission are they talking about and what information are they looking for? Who are they?

She did not realize that Lyra’s bracelet was slipping off of her wrist until it made a slight noise on the floor. The two looked up at once and stared at the door. Panicking, Ellie hid behind a corner and held her breath. “I thought you told me that it was safe,” she heard Sam grumbled as she opened the door to look around for the eavesdropper. “It is safe,” Shawn argued, “I made sure of it. Besides, it was probably a mouse or something.” Ellie heard the woman sighed and walked back. Waiting for a few minutes, she returned to her spying. Something is going on here and she is going to find out what it is.

Sam was standing next to Shawn, who continued to look outside the window, but she was staring at him. After a moment of silence, Shawn finally asked, “What is it, Sam?” Sam looked at him hesitantly and walked behind him. “I am worry about you,” she stated as she was about to wrapped her arms around him as if she was trying to hug him from behind. “I know that you miss her but I cannot keep an eye on you forever…”

“You’re not my mother so don’t try to be one,” was his cold reply, which caused her to stop. Instead she just placed her hands on his shoulders and squeezed them. “I think it would be best if we don’t meet each other like this again,” she muttered in his ears, “We do not want to draw any suspicions and no one including them knows the family connections we have. Who knows what they will do to us?” Shawn just scoffed. “You’re the one who suggested that we meet each other tonight,” he said in a mocking voice. “So you’re the one at fault if we get caught. Anyway, if we are done, I am going to bed.”

Sensing that she should leave now, Ellie quietly ran back to her room. She has forgotten about seeing her dad or her nightmare. She even forgot about the bracelet which still lay on the wooden floor. By the time she remembered about it the next day, it would have been gone. Instead all she could think about was trying to remember all that she heard and not getting caught by any of the two.

Part Six
While that was happening, Tabitha was relaxing in the women’s lounge from a long day of hard work and training; apparently, each dormitory has their own lounge because Renee believed that everyone should have a place to relax. Each lounge has comfy sofa, enormous pillows filled with down feathers, and a fireplace. Even though she does miss the old headquarters, Tabitha really loves the relaxing atmosphere the room has. Well, it would be relaxing if Rinvak and Madeline would stop ranting.

”And then he forced us to do 100 chin-ups! Can you believe the nerve of that guy?” Rinvak grumbled as she stretched out on the sofa. “I can,” Madeline said tersely. “Today, he was, ‘Madeline, do this’ and ‘Madeline, do that’. He’s acting like he is doing me a favor because he ‘helps’ me get out of trouble with the Order. Now, with everyone’s telling him a great job he is doing, Zane’s ego has blown out of proportions!” Rinvak agreed, “I know what you’re saying. He even acts like he is the Branch Leader around her!”

“What do you think about Renee though?” Tabitha asked Madeline and Eny since they were the ones who interact with her. Madeline paused, sipping her cup of tea. “She’s alright,” she began, “but I prefer Lione over her.” The Bookwoman disagreed though. “If you think about this objectively, she is more efficient. Paper works are completed immediately and morale has increased significantly. You have to admit that your skills have increased drastically under Zane’s supervision too.” Noticing everyone’s glares, she added hastily, “But I miss Lione’s leadership too.”

Everyone became somber; no one knows what ever happened to their former Branch Leader. Many of the North American Branch staff now believed that he has deserted them just to save his own hide; some even called him a selfish coward much to his supporters’ anger. They were annoyed by how the staff members immediately have high opinion of Zane as soon as he “turned” the place around. “God! I can’t stand him!” Rinvak shouted with aggravation. She slammed her fists upon the table. “He is such a self-conceited, arrogant, and self-righteous piece of pig!” Tabitha looked at her; everyone knew whom she was talking about. “Yeah, he can be a maniac sometimes,” she muttered, hoping that would shut the girl up. God damnit, she came here to relax not to think about that guy.

“Which reminds me,” Rinvak began; she turned to Madeline and Eny. “Did you hear what Maniac said today during training practice?” The two shook their head. “He said that Reina was a hindrance in front of everybody! Poor Reina was about to burst into tears and was about to give up when she heard it. Luckily, Tabitha and I convinced her not to give up.” Both of them looked speechless. “He said that!?” Madeline gasped. “What was he thinking!? That poor child…”

The Bookwoman looked thoughtful as if she finally realized something. “No wonder I saw him talking to her before she left on her mission!” she mentioned, “He was apologizing to her and she accepted it. I was wondering what was going on between those two.” The winged exorcist snorted. “If I were her, I would never accept his apology that easily. I would make sure he would suffer everyday for his stupidity.” Madeline smirked. “Like I am doing with Zane?” Rinvak smiled back. “I think it was a brilliant idea of rearranging his furniture, my dearest Maddy,” she commended. “Too bad you cannot do the same for his ego.”

“Fortunately, she does not have the brain to do so,” a voice bellowed behind Rinvak. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned around shocked to see Zane. He was wearing his Exorcist coat over his blue pajama as if he was stating that he still has authority over them even while they sleep. “Likewise I am surprised by what I hear; I would have thought you would have worse opinions of me.” Tabitha noticed that Rinvak and Madeline opened their mouths in horror when they realized that Zane heard their entire conversation; how long was he standing there?

“What do you want?” Rinvak growled. The blind exorcist just turned to her direction and gave her a rueful look. “Since I have hearing so many complaints about how the missions are too easy,” he began, “I decide to give you a very challenging one which would match to your ‘abilities’. So for your next mission, I want you and Tabitha to go back to the Noah’s base and try to find any valuable information which may help us find out what the Earl is planning next.” Tabitha stood up before Rin could say anything. “Are you insane?” she cried out. “We barely escaped from that place the last time and now you want us to go back? Are you trying to get us killed?”

The Exorcist Welfare supervisor looked at her mockingly. “Don’t worry,” he said in a condescending voice. “Maniac will be accompanying you in your mission in case you cannot handle it, which I doubt since you are sooooo prepared. Besides, I am sure that the Noahs have deserted their base since we now know its location. Anyway, your mission will start in two days at 5 AM sharp so you better get ready. But then I probably don’t have to tell you since you already know what you are doing. Oh, and Madeline? Tomorrow you will have to file over 200 reports into the right order and I want it done at the end of the day. If you do not finish in time or do it incorrectly, you will spend time in my office with me the whole night. Is that clear? Well then, good night, ladies.” Smirking, he walked back to his room.

“Argh! I hate that pompous jackass!” a frustrated Rinvak shouted after he disappeared from their sight. She was tempted to throw her cup, which was still full of hot chocolate, toward the back of his head while he was walking away, but she knew better. He was just trying to provoke her but she won’t let him get her. Madeline was steaming; Tabitha swore she saw smoke was coming out of her ears. Tabitha and Eny just looked at each other and sighed. Sitting back down, the exorcist stared out of the window. Flames and the others are probably having a better time than we are at this rate, she thought unhappily.

Part Seven
Flames couldn’t help but feel unprepared for the coming battle. This ambush by the Earl was unexpected and completely caught him and the others off guard as his thoughts raced through his mind, trying to think of the perfect solution that would limit the number of causalities and the damage that a fight would inflict onto the ship.

“Belle, Stephanie!” he commanded as he turned to his comrades, “Go back and protect the crew! Let Blade, Daniel, and I take care of this!” Though he did not completely trust Belle (she was after all present during his tortures), the man had no choice but to do so in this instance. He activated his Innocence, noticing that everyone else had done so likewise. It had been a while since he had fought with his weapon; his imprisonment had caused him to forget what it was like to use Innocence. It also didn’t help that Zane had ordered them not to employ it while they were at headquarters. Flames held his spear tightly and wondered if perhaps his body might remember what it was like.

“Are you going to use that dinky weapon against me?” asked Anlen as she stared at him with excitement. It had been a while since she had battled an exorcist though that might have resulted from the fact that she was busy pillaging and drinking. She brought her guns up to her lips and licked one of their tips. The Noah felt the adrenaline rushing through her blood, her heart beating at an incredible rate. This would be the perfect way to forget Lione and all the problems he had caused her.

Turning to her sibling, she hissed, “Let me take care of this one and you can go play with the rest.” Amaterasu smirked and saluted her as he jumped abroad the Black Order’s ship, acknowledging, “Ay, ay captain!” She watched with a psychotic grin as that blond twerp she called brother charge at a brunette boy and returned her attention to Flames who was awaiting her attack in fighting stance.

Aiming her weapons at him, she screamed, “Dance, you stupid exorcist.” A barrage of bullets fell upon the ground as the exorcist was forced to dodge quickly in order to avoid getting hit. Flames could hear the Noah laughing insanely as he hid behind the metal wall of the ship’s cabin. Her fighting was sporadic as if she had no concern for the safety of anyone including her akuma crew. It would be tough fighting her but he would have to in order to give the girls time to evacuate the crew.

Flames could hear heavy clanking approaching and his werewolf instinct kicked in. As soon as he noticed that whoever was responsible for the noise was within a few feet in front of him, he lunged from his hiding spot at his victim, slashing the level two akuma. As he looked over the carnage, he heaved heavily for air, his body on the alert for future attacks. The exorcist scanned the area for enemies only to find more akumas lurking in the dark. He rapidly dispatched them, recalling all of his anger over his inability to fight back at the camp.

Suddenly, the sensation of pain from his leg shot up his body, causing him to collapse to the ground and to howl. Flames looked up to find grinning Anlen staring him down, smoke coming out of her gun. With her weapon still up, she approached him, mocking, “I thought that you might have posed a greater challenge than this. However, the Duke Millennium has been getting on my case about my lack of work ethics so showing him your hide might appease him. That’ll give me plenty of time to drink before he nags again.” She pressed a gun to the exorcist’s forehead and whispered, “Say a prayer to your so-called god, Mr. Exorcist.”

The sound of a gun echoed throughout the room and Flames opened his eyes. The Noah was holding her hand in pain, cussing loudly. He turned to see Daniel with his Innocence aimed at his opponent, the boy’s face revealing how much concentration he had put into preparing his shot. Daniel fired several more time, resulting in the Noah to retreat behind some debris.

Rushing over, the boy placed Flames’s arm over his shoulder and carried him to a turned over table. “Are you badly injured?” he asked as he carefully laid his friend next to the wall. Clenching his mouth in pain, the native responded as he carefully removed the bullet, “I got shot in the leg but I’ll survive. How are the others?” Looking carefully over the table, the boy answered, “I haven’t heard from the others but the last I’ve seen of them, Blade was battling the other Noah while the girls were rounding the crew into a safe room located somewhere in the ship.”

He tried to sound confident in an attempt to show how mature and composed he was but deep inside, Daniel was troubled. Not only was he concerned about the others, but the secret orders from Zane echoed in the back of his mind. “If any of the exorcists show any sign that they are becoming corrupted by their Innocence or any indication that they have a chance to become of the ‘Fallen’, kill them.” Though he agreed to these terms, he wondered if he had the heart to kill his comrades and the more he thought about it, the more frightened he became with the possibility of this happening.

Daniel sighed as he noticed that Flames nodded, ripping part of his uniform to bandage the wound. He noticed that the concern look on Daniel’s face and thinking that he was worried about the werewolf’s health, assured him. “I’m fine. It’ll take a lot more than a silly bullet wound to kill me. Besides, Lione would murder me if he found out that I was defeated by a girl!”

“You know Lione?” whispered a surprised voice. Both exorcists turned around to see Anlen pointing her guns at them. Her face was full of anger and shock, her hand quivering from the revelation. “I said, ‘You know Lione?’ Answer me!” she barked as one of her guns fired and hit the ceiling.

Daniel and Flames gripped their weapons and prepared to attack. “How do you know about Lione?” retorted Flames angrily as he flung his spear in her direction. The Noah felt her right arm stinging from the cut he managed to inflict upon her and barely missed a shot from Daniel. Landing on the ground, the werewolf continued, “Judging from your reaction, the only way you could know about him is if you are the one responsible for his disappearance!” Glaring at her, he continued in a dark voice, “If you have harmed him in any way, I will kill you.”

As she prepared for the exorcists’ charge, Anlen smiled and pondered if she could ever get away from Lione’s presence.

Part Eight
Amaterasu landed onto the metal ship with a loud thud, feeling the shock from his feet moving up his body. It had not been that long since he had battled but it wasn’t that he was afraid to enter a fray. Earlier he had heard an exorcist barking orders to his fellow men, his ears becoming alert when he had one particular name. The Noah was intent on making her life miserable.

In the distance, the boy noticed two figures running from the battle into the ship’s interior. He hastened to followed, gaining speed with every second but a blade approaching from his left caused him to jerk back. With his sword aimed at the Noah, the Bookman stood, his eyes not leaving his target. He had anticipated this meeting for a while though he did not expect this opportunity to arrive so quickly.

“I will be your opponent,” he hissed as he noticed the haughty expression on Amaterasu’s face. “Focus your attention on me, not on them.” He tightened his grip and awaited the enemy’s next move. He recalled and analyzed all the information he had obtained. The Noah fought with his hands which upon touch turned any living thing to dust. His fighting style therefore depended on him being in close proximity. Keeping himself at a reasonable fighting distance would allow the Bookman to successfully combat and possibly defeat him.

Amaterasu looked at the boy and chuckled. Blade was concentrating so hard on finding out his weaknesses that his face made him appeared constipated. What a silly exorcist! His laughter caught Bookman off guard for a bit before he returned to his fight stance.

“What’s so funny?” he demanded. Blade was getting annoyed as he waited impatiently for the fight to begin. It was going to happen so why was the Noah delaying the inevitable? His heart was pumping harder and harder, his breathing becoming more frantic. The cold wind was blowing his hair all over the place, bothering him when they brushed against his eyes, clouding his view.

“Oh nothing,” Amaterasu began as he slowly removed his gloves and placed them into his jacket pockets. “I was just reminiscing when I first met you. If there wasn’t this silly war, we could have been best friends.” He noticed Blade’s face changing from a hard expression to “what the?” and continued, “We would have gotten along.”

He began to move and both the Noah and the Bookman circling on the ship’s metal deck, making loud clacking sounds with each step. “We would have been what you humans call ‘best friends’. We would have hang out with each other, done pranks, talk about whatever…”

“Make your point already!” interrupted Blade as he quickened his pace. This chit-chat was getting nothing accomplished except making him more irritated and more impatient. He was tempted to attack him but he was afraid that this was the Noah’s intention. The Bookman had to remain rational lest he fell into a simple trap.

“My, my how rude! You should let me finish my sentence before you speak, you boor,” scolded Amaterasu. Some people are just unpolished and unsophisticated. “Most importantly, if we were best friends, we would share stuff.” He winked and smirked in an attempt to insinuate something. However, it apparently went over the Bookman’s head for he asked, “What do you mean?”

This time it was the Noah who blinked and gave a questioning look. Was this guy in complete denial or just an idiot? He quickly regained his composure and hinted, “I think you know what I mean.” Blade showed no change in his expression and gave no response. Amaterasu sighed and elaborated some more, “You know that girl who ran back there with that former angel of Jacques. We could have shared her. I know from experience what she likes and how she is liked. After all, I was the one who deflowered her.”

Upon hearing that, Blade charged, swinging his sword with everything he got. He had never wanted to kill the man so badly until now. The Bookman had been in complete denial over the entire situation, hoping that the rumors were indeed untrue and that the change in Stephanie’s behavior was due to something other than her imprisonment.

His opponent moved to the left and soon he felt someone yank his hair and throw him to the ground. Amaterasu laughed as he stood over the boy and continued, “Did she mean something to you? She meant a lot for me. That girl made my stay a lot bearable especially she provided me with comfort only a woman’s touch could provide.” He dodged another strike before he smacked Blade’s right cheek with the back of his hand.

“You humans are all the same. Fighting with your emotions instead of your head is only going to get you killed,” he mocked as he watched the Bookman wipe his face. Wherever the Noah touched felt like it was burning. Damn it, he thought. He was getting irrational which was probably what the Noah wanted. Blade reached for his sword and replied, “I will never allow you to touch her again.”

“Is that a threat?” Amaterasu asked as he stared admiringly at his hands. The Bookman was already weakened and due to his injuries, he was not going to last longer. Still he had to respect his opponent for his determination in a losing battle; not a lot of people are fearless or utterly stupid when impeding death was near.

Blade struggled to get up and pointed his Innocence at the blond Noah. He kept telling himself that he was going to kill Amaterasu and survive. The more he repeated this, the more confident he became; it was the only thing that he got at the time. The Noah looked at him with amusement and noted, “Because of your efforts, I’ll make your death short and sweet.”

Blade chuckled and replied, “Don’t even bother.” He made one final charge carefully anticipating the Noah’s dodge and striking him in the arm. Amaterasu screamed in pain and instinctively swung at the Bookman who fell to the ground. His skin grew darker, the distinctive crosses revealing themselves with each second.

Holding his arm, he snarled, “You’ll regret doing that, Mr. Bookman.” He ran towards the Bookman and kicked him in the stomach, sending him flying across the ship. The Noah watched as Blade attempted to get up only to collapsed back to the ground. Amaterasu grabbed the boy’s head and slammed it repeatedly, leaving a pool of blood before tossing him against the ship’s metal railing.

Torturing Blade increased the Noah’s bloodlust and he knew that there was only one thing left to do. He picked up his opponent and threw him over the railing only to have the Bookman grabbing the railing before he fell into the raging water beneath him. “We could have been friends, Blade,” hissed Amaterasu as his hands reached for the hanging exorcist. “However, I just realize that I’m just a selfish person and it would have never worked out.”

He slammed Blade’s fingers and his grin grew wider every time he watched the pain expressed in the exorcist’s face. He slowly began to pry the fingers off and as Amaterasu watched the boy fall into darkness of blue sea, he muttered to himself, “But don’t worry, Mr. Bookman. I’ll send your girl your love.”

Part Nine
The ship rocked violently with each blow it received from the battles, making it nearly impossible for anyone to maintain balance. Still, Stephanie and Belle knew that they had a job to do as they scrambled throughout the ship, searching for anyone whom they needed to protect. At this rate, evacuation was the only option unless for some unknown miracle something saved the sink from sinking.

Every now and then, they bumped into some akuma that appeared to be more interested in looting than battling. However, they were not to be taken lightly as they were tough especially for those who had not fought in a while. “Are you okay?” asked Belle after they had destroyed the last akuma located in the dining area. Stephanie nodded as she gasped for air.

During her brief stay at headquarters, Zane had not permitted any of them to battle or even train due to the changed nature of their Innocences. In fact, the man probably would have thrown a fit because they were using them right now but under these circumstances, the exorcists on board had no choice.

Stephanie felt someone patted her back and immediately slapped the hand away. “Ow!” yelped Belle as she rubbed her right hand. “I’m your friend remember. I’m no longer working with the Noah.” The exorcist shook her head and apologized. Seeing Amaterasu again so soon had rattled her especially when she noticed the lust in his eyes. Her heart felt like it was getting stabbed and her skin crawled as if his fingers were there.

She quickly snapped herself out of her thoughts and whispered, “We probably should search the ship some more and gather any survivor before it’s too late.” She motioned Belle to the door and cautiously scanned the hallway. With the exception of the sound of explosion and thumping from above, it was quiet and still. No akuma was present or any humans for that matter. “Let’s go,” she mumbled as she exited.

Belle followed, staring at the exorcist in front of her in silence. She felt that she needed to prove her loyalty to the Black Order in order to repent for her previous sins. The former guardian knew that Flames did not trust her since she was present during his tortures and his assumed murder. However, she did not have any inkling from the others and she was somewhat curious and nervous to know about their opinions of her. After all, she was present and knew what they were going through; yet she did nothing to help them.

The girls stopped at the end of the hall and examined the area. Akuma had been in the area, leaving destruction and rotting corpse in their wake. Covering her nose, Belle cussed silently to herself, wondering why they were too late to save them. Walking carefully through the debris in complete silence, they remained on alert for any sign of life or any presence of an enemy.

“How do you think everyone is doing?” asked Belle in an attempt to make small talk. She observed Stephanie as the exorcist knelt to the ground and examined a thick, black coat. She breathed a sigh of relief as she realized it did not belong to an exorcist though she admonished herself for finding comfort in this fact; someone did die here after all.

“I think they’re doing fine right now. They’re stalling so we can ensure everyone on board is safe,” she replied as she lifted herself off the ground. “When we’re done with this, we’ll help them out.” The exorcist smiled to make her companion feel better and it must have worked because Belle returned it to her.

“So which way should we head?” asked the maude-haired girl as she looked around. The hallway split into two different directions with no light at the ends. They still had a lot of the ship to explore and there was not much time left if they wanted to finish the task thoroughly. She noticed the hesitation in her comrade’s face, realizing that she was thinking the same thing.

“Maybe we should spilt up?” suggested Belle. It would be dangerous to go solo but they would be able to cover more area by doing so. It seemed like the reasonable and only option. Stephanie stared at the ground for a minute, pondering the idea before answering, “I’ll head down this right hall. The captain and his crew’s quarters are located in this direction and since I have the most experience, I’ll take care of this. Your side of the hall contains the boiler room and storage area. Yours should be easier since they’re probably less people there but still be careful. They most likely would attract akuma.”

The girl nodded and watched as the exorcist disappeared from her sight. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen but she took a deep breath before she headed in her own direction.

Part Ten
Stephanie hit the wall hard as the ship took another blow. The attacks were becoming more frequent and more violent as time dragged on and she couldn’t help but wonder if everyone was okay. The exorcist prayed that she did not make the wrong choice in abandoning Belle but she was confident that the girl could take care of herself. From what she had learned, she did betray Jacques which resulted in their rescue. Anyone who did that had to be brave.

The lights from the crystal lamps that lined the hallway were growing dim due to the loss of electricity caused by the damage. The wall mural showcasing the crew’s travel was torn and scraps. This ship which was so beautiful was now deteriorated, its glory never to be reclaimed.

The girl stopped when she arrived at the door labeled, “CREW” and yanked it opened. Suddenly, a chair was swung in her direction and she barely dodged it. “It’s okay, George! She’s an exorcist,” came a voice and someone offered Stephanie a hand. She looked up and noticed that there were around twenty or so guys in the room, all looking scared and worried.

A burly man looked away and muttered, “Sorry. We just heard that we were under attack so we thought that you might be an akuma. There has been a lot of screaming from above earlier and we freaked out.” Stephanie waved her hands and rambled, “No, it’s okay. There is no need for you to apologize. I would have done the same in your situation.”

She opened the door and scanned the area. She motioned to the men and instructed, “The akuma in this area has been cleared so you should be safe. Head over to the safe room located two floors above and wait until my friend and I return.” The crew nodded and one by one slowly ventured into the hall.

Before the last man left, he turned to the exorcist and asked, “Our captain is still in his chamber and we don’t know how he is.” Stephanie nodded and watched as he followed his friends before walking in the opposite direction. The captain’s chamber was the last room in this hall. Once she was done with that, she could head back and meet up with Belle and others.

It took her fifteen minutes for her to arrive at her final destination, a gold panel proclaiming “CAPTAIN” boldly inlaid. She turned the knob only to find a splendid room. A huge bed made from lacquered oak was located right in front of the door and the chamber contained various items like a globe and furniture. At the furthest point of the room was a desk that matched the bed, the chair with its back turned.

Stephanie cautiously approached it, thinking that maybe the captain might be there. She couldn’t help but feel like someone was watching her and tried to shake the creepy feeling off. “Captain,” she whispered as she arrived at the chair. “We need you to get out of here. We’re under attack and it would be best if you get to the safe room as soon as possible.”

The man seemed to be asleep, his eyes closed and his breathing appeared nonexistent. He appeared grandfatherly, his white beard sticking prominently and his body gave out an aura of wisdom and kindness. She had heard that he was loved by his crew and she understood why now.

“Sir,” she began as she placed her hands on his shoulders in order to shake him awake. However, once she touched him, his arms fell off leaving a trail of dust as it collapsed to the ground. The rest of his body soon followed with each bits and pieces turning into particles.

Upon seeing this sight, Stephanie backed away and screamed. It only meant one thing and she had to get away from there. Before she could make her move, she heard a click and saw a blond boy closing the door. Her heart dropped and she tried to maintain her composure. This had to be a nightmare, she thought.

“It’s really silly that the captain had a hallway that directly connected his room to the deck. If the ship wasn’t built this way, he could have been saved,” Amaterasu noted as he locked the exit. “However, if it wasn’t built this way, I wouldn’t have bumped into you, right?” He stared at the girl and noticed that her eyes were frantically looking around for the secret entrance.

He continued, “Don’t bother looking for that secret passage. I have already blocked it off.” The Noah placed a chair in front of main door and added, “I like your new uniform by the way. Did you think of me when you tried it on for the first time?” He sprinted towards her only to get slammed by her ribbons.

“Don’t even think of touching me,” Stephanie hissed as she raised her Innocence towards him. “I will never let you abuse me again.” The memories were still fresh in her mind and she trembled as she recalled them. She noticed a deep cut on the boy’s wound and demanded, “Who gave you that wound?”

Amaterasu glanced at his injured arm and shrugged it off. “It’s funny how you claim that you won’t let me touch you just like the guy who said the same thing gave me this wound. Would you like to know what happened?” The girl’s guard was still up but he knew that he had broken her before so it wouldn’t be long to do so again.

She gave no response causing him to sigh. Some people just like to remain ignorant. The Noah continued, “I killed him. If you like, I’ll let you look out the window though I doubt you’ll see his rotting corpse right now. It’s probably in some shark’s stomach right now.” He felt some ribbons sped by him, wrapping his body in their webs. He noticed that her eyes were darkening as the ribbons’ grasps tightening.

“Do you intend to kill me, Stephanie?” he asked. “After all I’ve done for you.” He felt her Innocence digging into his skin, blood slowly pouring out. As her murderous intent increased, the exorcist hissed, “Shut up. I’ve lost everything to you and the Earl.” First it was her family, then her innocence, and now Blade. What would be next?

His sudden chuckling caught her off guard and she demanded, “Stop laughing.” This was making her uneasy and suspicious. Was he going insane? The Noah replied, “You can’t kill me, not with that Innocence.”

Once he said that, the ribbons released themselves from him and enveloped the exorcist who looked shock over this turn in events. Patting his coat to remove any blood, he walked towards the girl who was struggling against her own weapon. Stephanie felt her ribbons slowly tightening, crushing her bones and slowly stopping her circulation. She noticed the Noah approaching and fought to remove her ribbons from her. Why did this had to happen now?

Amaterasu placed his hand on her face and made shoo-shoo sounds. Jacques’s curse still flowed in every ribbon’s strand and he knew what was going to happen soon. It was definitely his luck that it occurred now. “My dear Stephanie, your ribbons are going to kill you which is such a shame since I was hoping that you would be accompanying me on my sister’s ship. I needed your company to make my punishment less miserable.”

He lifted her up and carried her to the bed. Dropping her, he pulled his gloves up to ensure that they didn’t fall and whispered, “Of course, I could save you but there will be a price. However, right now you have no choice but to accept.”

Stephanie struggled to move away from him but she felt him grabbing her legs, dragging her towards him. He placed his hand behind her back, lifting her body towards him. As he brought his lips closer, he whispered, “Shall we relive some memories?”

Author’s Note – Post reading
That’s it! All twenty-three pages of it (twenty-four if you include Author’s Notes)! It wasn’t as long as Chapter Sixty (that will probably never be reached again). Anyway, here is a short summary of the chapter if you’re confused by the turns in event:

~ Zane’s making Madeline’s life miserable
~ Lyra and Ellie decided to have a room makeover and got into an argument with Sam
~ Training time with Zane
~ Ellie and Ewon decided to be friends with Shawn…and failing miserably
~ Ellie’s discovering that something up with Shawn and Sam. However, I don’t think anyone except her brother would believe her, which then caused them to investigate Shawn a la Harriet the Spy (hint, hint). ;)
~ The ladies’ night in that was ruined by Zane’s sudden announcement
~ Flames and Anlen battle
~ Before Flames is killed, Daniel saves him
~ Daniel has secret orders that if any exorcist becomes a Fallen or become corrupted, he must kill them
~ Anlen discovers that Daniel and Flames know Lione and their fight continues.
~ Blade battles Amaterasu and discovered what Amaterasu had done to Stephanie
~ Blade gets defeated by the Noah and is thrown overboard.
~ Belle and Stephanie are trying to evacuate the crew
~ They go their separate way
~ Stephanie meets Amaterasu and finds out what happens to Blade
~ Her ribbons act up resulting in disastrous effects.

Oh yeah Blade isn’t dead; his fate will be discovered later. And don’t worry; Stephanie will be saved this time but I’ll reveal that later :amuse

I hope you enjoyed.

January 08, 2008, 06:12 PM
Aw, I don't know whether I shall hate or like Amaterasu. He's indeed a bastard that makes me unsure about my opinion of him. Hate, like? Whatever, I love the interaction in the fights and the interactions at HQ. Poor Anlen, Lione is everywhere even if he is not around. xD

Zane is really a strict leader, really, really strict. He kind of remind me of someone I just do not know who exactly it is. The fact that he is blind is really amusing because jokes can be played easier but at the same time it's scary to see that he still can "see" (or rather "notice"). He definitely has a third eye on his forehead.

Why do I want to be friend with you?” he demanded. “They pretend to be nice and friendly with you, but as soon as you leave, they badmouth you behind your back. ‘Friends’ will just use you until you are no longer useful to them which then they will discard you by backstabbing you!"
This little Bookman so reminds me of Magier because she also said something like this. Furthermore, he is not less creepy and the scene with the doll was really scary. I loved the scene with San, Shawn and Ellie. Mysterious!

“You’re not my mother so don’t try to be one.
Isn't it the same Sam also said to Lyra? What a nice connection, very well-thought out. <33

All in all, a brilliant chapter. I love your writing style and the way you build up suspense and connect the scenes. The interaction of all characters was very well thought-out, funny and very human.

LOVE this chapter <333333

rhapsody blue
January 10, 2008, 03:57 PM
Aw, I don't know whether I shall hate or like Amaterasu. He's indeed a bastard that makes me unsure about my opinion of him. Hate, like? Whatever, I love the interaction in the fights and the interactions at HQ. Poor Anlen, Lione is everywhere even if he is not around. xD

i understand how you feel. i hate amaterasu's guts but i enjoy writing his interactions with the other characters. i guess i like writing the bad boys. ^^.

This little Bookman so reminds me of Magier because she also said something like this. Furthermore, he is not less creepy and the scene with the doll was really scary. I loved the scene with San, Shawn and Ellie. Mysterious!

actually, the quote describes his personality. ;)

Isn't it the same Sam also said to Lyra? What a nice connection, very well-thought out. <33

my sister actually did not realize that she made the connection when she wrote those parts. :sweat guess she did it subconsciously.

January 10, 2008, 05:26 PM
Sweetness. =D

I know what you guys mean, I can't decide is I hate IA with a passion, cuz, I mean, he really is a d**chebag, or love him to death. xDDD And Shawn kinda... creeps the crap out of me. Seriously, I shivered. Ellie and Ewan (E squared, I like it. xDD) were soooo cute, and their Harriet the Spy mission is going to be adorable.

So, lemme get this straight -> Riena and Lyra are currently on a mission, and Tabby, Rin, and Maniac (Off topic, but I physically winced at Maniac's whole analysis. Harsh. =D And so what I'd wanted for his character. xDDD) are heading off to the ex-Noah base?

rhapsody blue
January 10, 2008, 05:32 PM
So, lemme get this straight -> Riena and Lyra are currently on a mission, and Tabby, Rin, and Maniac (Off topic, but I physically winced at Maniac's whole analysis. Harsh. =D And so what I'd wanted for his character. xDDD) are heading off to the ex-Noah base?

that sounds about right. poor maniac; rin and tabby (mostly the former) will make his life miserable during their mission. ^^

...and my sister just realizes that she accidentally misspelled Ewan's name after reading your post. :sweat

January 11, 2008, 01:27 AM
great chapter as always

I really dislike Zane he's so arrogant XD but I guess he is really the best leader for now
the Ameratsu scene was great he is such a b***ard