Summary: "It is a struggle, it is a pain. But at the end of it, it will be alright." He honestly did not believe that. Because he believes in reasons, because there is always a reason. Every cloud, every time it stops raining, has a silver lining – and so they say. Or was it just him trying a new hand at comfort? "We will find a way."

Chapter 1

There he stood; he stood there at the door, taking in the surroundings of the rather spacious room. A sigh escaped thin lips at the sight revealed ahead. He entered, the door closing behind him. He neared the two figures in the centre of the room and made his way.

Of tall and lanky, slightly malnourished, one figure was seated on a single chair. Placed near the rounded windowpane its setting painted a picture, a story, than ever conveying the poignant reality. Forlorn. Yet that little display tales hope. A hope that one day life, precious life, would return. Return and fill those dark orbs with familiar deep blue similar to that of bright skies of springtime.

Long blankets were laid over the soulless man's lap. It pooled onto the pristine floor like velvety curtains, but it gave warmth, and as much warmth it gave, needed. Lay on top of the man's lap was a small figure outlining the uneven surface. Wrapped in an extra set with the face hidden underneath, only black and golden trimmings peeked slightly. Pink hair sticking out was a great contrast however to the faded brown of the blankets.

Toshiro did not stop. Only did two to three longs strides forward he finally addressed. "Kuroyuri-sama," Toshiro called. Sympathy mixing in his voice he barely caught was remedied with a touch of firmness. He said then, "You are needed, sir."

Alas the commander, Kuroyuri-sama, did not answer. Instead the child snuggled closer. Clearly not intending to leave the warmth of his beloved. Toshiro expected no less from deliberate self-pity. Perhaps it was out of spite. He is not impressed with the attitude.

"We will shortly be breaching the border of Antwort airspace in two hours time."

Again, there was no response from the other. Toshiro did not let on. Both stubborn individuals in the room know too well Kuroyuri was not asleep. If the ever the slight shift of shoulder blades was anything to go by.

"Ayanami-sama is about to devise the battle tactics," Toshiro informed for the third time. "Konatsu-san and Major Hyuuga have already gathered at Navigation. It would not start without everyone, you, present."

There was movement normally blind to the naked eye. It did not go unseen. Not to him at least.

Toshiro inwardly sighed at the lack of cooperation. He neared the small coffee table then, purposely taking no notice of the seemingly sleeping child. "Please stop making people around you worry," Toshiro said, voicing the thoughts everyone was refusing to say. He let the silence settle despite feeling a menacing glare boring through layers of his back. With an unperturbed voice casually he continued.

"Comforting; the idea is not something that I am familiar of myself. Of that I am lacking thereof." He paused. Toshiro considered his words. Words that would spite the other, words that would pull him from his self abandon.

"I am not Haruse-san," Toshiro choose to bait. "A waste of time really, to be honest, this… act of console, provided its blatant pointlessness." He cleared some space for room upon the round table, setting the untouched biscuits aside. "But I do know hard times." He stared downcast. "How hard life throws at you in the face…"

For a moment, he allows himself pensive. For a moment, half lidded eyes gazed at nothing in particular but beyond.

A flash of distraught faces in despair and misery, those anguished souls, invaded the calm seas of his shore. In the form of a raging storm they came. Swelling the smooth contours it breaches through inland like a tidal wave, washing and eroding everything else into nothingness until it darkens the world around black. Until there is neither a glint nor an ounce of hope. For there is no salvation. No escape. There is no light seen, no light shed at the end of this tunnel. This eternal tunnel of vacuity.

The bump of a flower vase gently kissing the table made short of the illusion.

Baby blues overtook soft greens as they follow the sways of snowdrops and pansies as the vase was placed atop. Toshiro stared at it, making use of the silence in pretence of ignorance to misinterpret his pause over an answer from Kuroyuri. He turned to face the other – earlier train of thought was not lost on him.

"It is a struggle, it is a pain. But at the end of it… it will be alright."

He honestly did not believe that. Because he believes in reasons, because there is always a reason. Every cloud, every time it stops raining, has a silver lining – and so they say. Or was it just him trying a new hand at comfort?

"I am certain Ayanami-sama plans on finding the means necessary that would help Haruse-san, anything to bring back his soul," Toshiro solemnly stated. "I may be human and that I am weak, but I am no fool. I am a part of this too."

Kuroyuri was glancing up at him by then, blanket barely leaving the lad's shoulder. The look he gave was doubtful. Toshiro could tell the pink haired was assessing him, wanting to believe the assurance; unsure whether to trust the sincerity in his words. It was, in a sense, a start. At least it is, he considered.

"We will find a way," Toshiro continues, cajoling the child warsfeil. "For now, attend the briefing, Kuroyuri-sama. Let us not make the others wait."

For a moment, it looks as though his effort was all in vain. Crumbles all for nothing. For Kuroyuri closed his good eye and went back to ignoring him. Back to square one. A petulant child – that is what the commander is as a whole. One that does not listen to reasons alone, one that lashes out at others, one that does not understand the implications they done.

Ah, the beauty of naïve youth.

Kuroyuri was not opening up to him. No need for a psychiatrist to point it out. Being the one who committed the past atrocity, it was understandable. Toshiro expected no less from a vengeful seeking juvenile that happens to have an addiction towards snacks and a love of eating. This further reinforces his initial inkling. Though, at the moment, the passion lost its fervour. That is probably why he should weight up his options.

Considering a recompensing gift for the moody child might be adequate as an apology. He thought of chocolate, chocolate chip cookies to be exact, that Kuroyuri would come to appreciate. Perhaps throw in some caramelised syrup, as he would have it. Would that improve their bond? Or would it end up otherwise?

His deliberation broke as soon as he saw movement. Kuroyuri uncurl himself and look up at Haruse.

It had only been a few days, but the damage had been done. The teenager felt a stab in his heart. He watched Kuroyuri mutter words of promise, the soft murmur of "I'll be back", before reluctantly climbing down from the man's lap. Kuroyuri stood tall, chest huffed forward trying to make himself seem big and strong. He headed towards the door. Not once did he spare a look at the blond subordinate.

Toshiro trailed his eyes after Kuroyuri until he left the room. He settled on to look at Haruse. A silent gratitude was passed, somehow. Whether from the unmoving man or the wounded child, Toshiro did not know. The barest tug of lips pulled at Toshiro into giving a small smile. Perhaps he should put a little faith. If not in miracles, in this so called work of "God", then on the Black Hawks. In Ayanami-sama.

Wordlessly, Toshiro followed after his unofficial charge.

Not one word, not even a squeak or a cough, was exchanged between the two. The sounds of their faint breathing and the marching of boots only served as background. It was probably for the best.

With Kuroyuri leading the way, he and Toshiro headed towards the navigation room. They were about to enter, the door automatically slides open, when someone sharply rushed in. Fast enough so a tall person could get inside before the petite lieutenant colonel.

Toshiro could tell, despite the lack of showing it, that Kuroyuri is aggravated. Whoever it was, that person is offhandedly rude. Likely to have no respect for others and often think of themselves superior. Although the awed sounds emanating from inside indicated them more as somewhat… childish, in nature. High pitched and easily excited judging from the tone of voice. Only did Toshiro belatedly realized, one that he was not too keen to hear so soon, it was Shuri.

He regretted ever stepping into this disaster.

The young Oak gushed with animated eyes and a full grin plastered when they entered the scene. Like a giddy child Shuri's darting eyes looked around at the wonder that is Ribidzile. It was supposed to be the military's prided ship. And here was a spoiled brat, loudly comparing and complaining the first class aircraft being smaller than his Papa's ship.

"It's suitable~"

Bright shiny lights with twinkling stars practically sparkle behind him at the statement, ignorant of the overhanging mouths of disbelief and annoyance from those on board.

Toshiro followed after Kuroyuri and stood with the other Hawks. The blond cadet chanced a glance at Ayanami by the corner of his eye. Hidden behind a scroll of drawn maps and geographical locations of the enemy's terrain, the silver haired man's face was a puzzle to many mysteries. Apathetic expression focused upon thin paper. He could have sworn a twitch on that otherwise calm face.

"Speaking so frankly in front of Ayanami-sama…!" He heard Konatsu gasped, engaging with his superior, as they claim their position at the chief's side. "Certainly a rare and endangered species, Lt. Commander!"

"Already on the verge of extinction, Konatsu!" Hyuuga replied in agreement.

Suddenly Shuri twirl at full attention. With a salute and a dazzling smile, he introduces himself. "From today onward, I shall be Ayanami-sama's Begleiter. I am Shuri Oak!" However so, the Oak's fervent mood drastically fell when bright blues met familiar teals.

Whilst others were struck permanently with astonishment, unaware of the silent exchange, Toshiro was indifferent. That was when Hyuuga – unintended or not, Toshiro was inclined to believe the former – saved the beginnings of an awkward tension between them.

"Since when were you a begleiter?" questions Hyuuga, head curiously tilted to one side. No different as the other two Black Hawks. It was a fact unknown to them. Even to the well-informed chief himself. Judging from the lack of acknowledgement. "The position's already been taken."

Shuri recovered exponentially. Good old pompous Oak. "What do you mean? Because papa said to be Ayanami-sama's begleiter, of course!"

Whereas the Black Hawks were left to absorb the information, react upon it on their own way, Toshiro stares at Shuri. Turns out those two sycophants were not jesting when they said Shuri is to be the chief of staff's begleiter. Be that as it may, the idiot chose this inconvenient time of conflict to make his proclamation?

As far as Toshiro could tell the chief currently has no begleiter the whole while he joined the crew. Perhaps Hyuuga meant to say it to be considerate…?

Ayanami was silent. He had not said a word regarding the unexpected whirlwind of trouble knocking at their door. Toshiro wondered if the man is in a state of shock. It was highly unlikely; Warsfeil are incapable of it. Of course, showing weakness equates to the lack of self-restraint. But that would make him human. It meant nothing however in these circumstances. In fact, it was unnecessary.

Lowering the scroll in exchange of reading documented reports did Ayanami finally take a good look at his supposed 'Begleiter.' It did not take him long, only a quick glimpse as apathetic purples returned to scan the remaining papers. Not even a nanosecond was spared.

"Who is the one who brought garbage on board?"

All eyes turned to look at the Chief of Staff. It does not need the least unintelligent of individuals on the airship to find out that the fearful man is irked. Demandingly irked.

With just one glance Ayanami could tell Shuri Oak is but a nuisance. The ignorant fool was oblivious of the challenges they are about to face. He doubted the boy would make himself useful. He would not last long, especially if left alone without someone reliable to take care of him.

"Garbage?" echoed Shuri meant to please, none the wiser. "Where is the garbage?!" He looked around demanding for the non-existent culprit to come to light. Little did the Oak know it was he. "Who is it? Who brought garbage on board?!"

Toshiro felt like he should just curl up into a barrel and be thrown off board from Ribidzile. As long as he was wiped out of existence from the Black Hawks' mere presence than afford to give them face.

One way or another.

Yet, at the same time, he felt that, as both a friend and a dignified young man, he should stop Shuri from embarrassing himself further. It was a pathetic sight to behold. It was unbearable. The Oak was making a bigger fool he could possibly be out of himself than simply being the greatest idiot son of Wakaba Oak. He was making a damn scene.

However, the threat that is the silver haired man's wrath has yet to be answered. It held the promise of pain.

Though the quandary Toshiro was in seemed trivial in contrast the moment Hyuuga raises his hand. For the man took a thorough beating. Konatsu and Kuroyuri looked away, leaving Toshiro to witness the act of violence. One that startlingly involves a coiled whip out of nowhere.

"How long until we arrive at Antwort?" A sharp crack in the air followed after the inquiry – the demand – unmindful of the floored subordinate.

The chief was answered with a terrified "L-less than an hour, sir!" from one of the petrified crew members. What fate befalls Hyuuga was forced to ignore despite his whines and the unpleasant sounds of grating. If you want to avoid the same punishment, then it would be wise to stop staring. And yet, Toshiro, albeit the danger he deliberately puts himself at risk, stared at the two men in disbelief and apprehension.

To think that Ayanami-sama… To discover that the leader of the Black Hawks whips – actually whips – his subordinates…! Is that not considered an abuse in power?

Looking at it though the major was rightfully at fault. In hindsight. Having brought Shuri aboard, failing to inform his being here beforehand… The carefree man should have declined the admiral's request. He was helpless in this it seems.

At least, Toshiro considers the bright side of it, Hyuuga is the one at the end of that wire. That unforgiving, cruel and cool coiled wire. He was doing them a big favour.

Toshiro inadvertently met eyes with Ayanami. A touch of something dark – laced with impatience, fury perhaps; or is it a mixture of both? He is unsure – was strange in those deep calculating eyes. Different than the glint the man had once upon a time. Different than the eerie flash of red at the rims of those violet irises. It caught the other's attention. Against his better judgment, Toshiro shivered under the duress. Quickly he looked away.

Shuri interrupted. To which Toshiro was thankful for. "Say, say. What is Ant-vort?"

The Oak blinked repeatedly, turning to both Konatsu and Kuroyuri. He seemed unperturbed. Rather, Toshiro muses, he was too naïve to even be perturbed.

Pleasantly courteous without meaning to, although his annoyance was outrightly apparent, Konatsu answered Shuri. "Antwort is the last allied nation of the former Raggs Kingdom," he said. "A snow and ice-covered, strongly fortified country."

Conflict, a lack of better word, between the leading forces of Barsburg and the last allied nation of the former Raggs Kingdom continued to persist for many years now. Sparked by the fear, their failure to retrieve the stone most of all, and the possibility that the lost Eye of Mikhail had been taken to its neighbouring ally, the empire waged war against Antwort.

Forces of Antwort had held on its own successfully throughout the large-scale conquest; mere fancy wording for forced invasion really.

Thousand soldiers sent and tenfold the casualty came back. Neither side would admit defeat; no winner from either side would come out victorious. Chances of them thwarting one another were unwarranted. They but continue to defend. Attack and defend again. Pushing forward yet pushed back untoward nothing. It was a never ending war.

But all that ends today.

Smooth sailing, Antwort's mountainous terrain finally came into view. A winter garden – that is what the land of Antwort truly is. Neither was it meant a praise nor reverence. For not once did those flakes of crystallized ice ever stop showering, ad infinitum spewed from the vast sky like drizzling rain. The earth's soil practically blanketed with that equally pristine, cold essence. Colour of true soil may well be forgotten, lost to a greater extent. And eventually cease to exist.

Toshiro watched frantic crews busying their selves in preparation for battle at the sidelines. The blond had no clue on what there is to do, what is needed from him, what role he is supposed to undertake in this ship. Instead, he had made himself appear useless. He turned his gaze away and looked outside. It cost him unwanted attention. Toshiro could feel the weight of it.

Oh and what great luck it is.

Bright blue eyes, large and hopeful, seek his own mixture of blue. None too patiently. Hesitant at first, braver the second. Shuri Oak is trying to draw out the strength through his bruised ego to face his friend.

While entertaining, Toshiro but limited to no more than let their gaze met. It seemed to upset Shuri when the Oak was paid no further heed. Shuri gave an almost petulant look of outrage. Toshiro noticed, of course. He intended it. The pale blond left the delicate company of the Black Hawks with a bristled Shuri following behind willingly.

"Toshiro," Shuri Oak began once they were afar, tone rather demanding. No need for niceties between them two it seems. "You're not supposed to be here."

Toshiro opts to stare at the open space to save the trouble, this petty confrontation Shuri led them into. And so Toshiro lets him ranted on as he pleases, catching small titbits of scepticism of his being here. Hard to believe a mere foot soldier joined the ranks of the Black Hawks. Again, Shuri was being unreasonable. It was an insult.

Through the sturdy glass wall between him and the outside world, Toshiro could feel the harsh wind currents slamming onto the clear windows. It snubbed the other's tirade. He focused on hearing the soft banging then, the ever slightly, next to none existent quiver. Or perhaps it was his body unconsciously swaying. His concentration broke the moment Ribidzile shook at the brunt of some burst.

Apparently the Black Hawks went over the tactic rather quick.

There was a blinding light with streaks of black and red beyond glassed walls. It died down and smoke rose up from below. What was prided as the strongest shield in Barsburg – a large, anti-battleship shield that encloses the entire country of Antwort; said to be able to withstand the fire power of a fleet of thirty Ribidzile ships – was easily dismantled in an instant. It left their forces vulnerable to open fire. In panic they fired their canons.

"Careful," was the little warning Toshiro managed out before a shaken Shuri clumsily loses his footing. With unceremonious grace he tumbles on the floor, ass high in the air.

The pale blond raised an eyebrow. He refrains himself from sighing in indignation. Shuri should have known better really: The ships were surrounded by a zaiphon shield. It was hardly damaging. For the attack, needless to say, did not go through.

"You're in perfect form today, Aya-tan!"

Said man remains quiet as the area mapped onto the luminous grid set into the floor dimmed. Without waiting for it to fade until it was left blank, he stepped away from the screen. Ayanami turned to the two lowers then.

"You. You said you're Shuri?" the chief said, piercing eyes looking down at a half-dazed Oak. It held onto teals for but a brief flash, betraying none, as he said; "It's appropriate for my begleiter to act on the front line."

It took a moment for Shuri, and Toshiro, to register the assertion.

Suddenly, with an incoherent reply and a small squeak close to a whimper, Shuri was uplifted from the cool tiles. Apparently someone had slid open the door. Within seconds they were exposed to the biting cold air. The sharp hiss made thin hairs rise.

From where he stood Toshiro could hear his Oak friend struggling to free himself. Hanging precariously by one man, it was not the best of idea to wiggle free. Even if it means he was going to fall either way. Hyuuga then, full of himself in his upbeat, releases his hold onto Shuri's collar. He was dropped – thrown, so to speak – overboard. Hyuuga was thoughtful enough to throw in a winter jacket along with the falling 'begleiter'. His screams were muffled.

Toshiro counted for two heartbeats before finally voicing out, "Was that necessary?"

Hyuuga is a simple man. A simple but an unpredictable man, Toshiro amended. Borderline erratic in all probability. It would be foolish not to be wary of this seemingly harmless shades wearer. Frankly, if he were to be manhandled, Toshiro would prefer hopping down willingly like a damn rabbit into the waiting mouths of enemy sharks than caught unprepared in the rush of adrenaline-

And then he saw it.

That confused look, that tilt of the head; that clueless blink…

Toshiro had forgotten one vital thing. One that should made him start second guessing. One that should made him tremble like a bloody baby. One that should scared anyone, running away with their tails between their legs, off witlessly.

Warsfeil could not – and never would – understand the consequences the fall, to which they could survive perfectly unscathed, had upon a mortal, untrained human. They might not even take it into consideration.

…At least, not with Hyuuga anyway.

"Well. Someone has to," was said as though it makes sense. As though it is common sense. "It's easier that way. Oh, and quick!" He grins. "Don't worry," the man then said, waving a dismissive hand. "He'll be fine, I bet. Won't it?"

Toshiro followed Hyuuga's gaze. It landed on Konatsu. And the begleiter, as his eyes revealed to him, was frowning. Looks like he is not too happy about it.

"Why do you have to put us in trouble?!" Konatsu was close to exasperation in his ire. He forced himself to exhibit self-control. Toshiro has to commend his perseverance.

"Fine." A tired sigh escape Konatsu. "Either I'm doing this or it'll be both our heads."

"Good luck out there Konatsu!" cried a waving Hyuuga as his begleiter strode onwards the merciless current. And Konatsu, not bothering to even acknowledge it, leaps from Ribidzile into the open.

Toshiro blinked once, then twice. He stared where Konatsu had once stood seconds ago. Unbelievable, his brain supplied. Are the people here mad? The least they could do was bring a parachute along. Thickly snow covered surface is not always soft than what is often depicted. It did not matter, apparently.

"You're going too?"

Toshiro glanced down and saw Kuroyuri. The commander, silent as a mouse, was standing beside him. Their gaze held still. 'Well,' he found himself reviewing on their current situation, 'this is a surprise.' The action was clearly not the kind of behavior anticipated by particularly the commander. Not necessarily unwelcome either.

Curiosity stirred within than the alarm ringing in the taller boy's head. Is Kuroyuri-sama beginning to accept him?

Toshiro searches for the fault in the other's intention – there was a catch to it, there must be! – but, alas, found none. The lad was trying too hard at this, Toshiro realized. Perhaps he is missing the bigger picture here. Because that innocent curiosity, no matter how trifling, how trivial and how insignificant it is, was a sign of vulnerability.

'Oh, Kuroyuri-sama. You are such a child indeed.'

The snow was beginning to fall harder, the flakes glittering in the sparse sunlight. With the wind picking up speed, the temperature had nearly fallen below zero degrees. It would be nice, almost pleasant, to feel the cold seeping through wonted skin and bones one more time. Like the old days, like he used to. Perhaps. It had been forever.

"…I suppose," Toshiro meekly answered. It is, after all, a simple enquiry. "I do not trust Shuri-kun to be alone by himself quite yet."

He made the first move following after Shuri and Konatsu to their share of action. Before he could even take a step forward, before the air could properly leave his lungs, Toshiro was pulled back at the collar. Taken by surprise he is. The tug slightly chokes him but not as much as to made him slip and fall. The blond glared at the person behind the jolt. Toshiro openly scowls when he saw Hyuuga.

"Now, now don't be hasty!" Toshiro wished he could wipe off the grin on that blasted man's face. "Konatsu's more than capable in watching over your little friend. Besides," Hyuuga lets go of Toshiro then, "someone has to keep an eye out for our dear Kuro-tan here!"

The man should not have said that.

Kuroyuri narrowed his only eye dangerously. Both at the ridiculous calling and the portrayal of some weak child. He sure as hell isn't someone's damn possession. "What did you say?" he challenges. "Say it again, I dare you. Say it again."

Hyuuga was unperturbed. "Aww… Don't be like that Kuro-tan~ Shiro-chan here's gonna take good care of you!"

Suddenly Toshiro, often got dragged and pulled in the middle of it all, found the spotlight shine itself upon him.

The blond stood there, dumbly and numbly. He alternated between Kuroyuri and Hyuuga. They were staring in attention, Toshiro could basically see the tension bleeding out from their gazes, albeit their differences. Unsaid pressure reigned heavily over him.

"I do not mind." It is as honest a confession as Toshiro would be willing to admit. Trust and respect is what we do this for. "If Kuroyuri-sama so wishes. I do not wish to impose. If I ever do become a burden to the commander, I have no excuse but to blame my incompetence."

That earned him a pleased grin from Hyuuga. Kuroyuri however went agape. It eases for no more than a fleeting second before forming into a straight line, thin-lipped.

"And there you have it!" asserts Hyuuga, quite smug. "You heard the boy, Kuro-tan. Play nice."

He nudges Kuroyuri encouragingly as a brother would to his younger towards Toshiro. The major was rewarded with a kick at the shinbones, despite the simple gesture, and a pinch of insult to his questionable intellect for a grown man.

One officer working behind rows of terminals calls for everyone's attention. "We are in close proximity with Antwort's Royal Palace. Ayanami-sama!" He alternated between looking at the screen and facing their leader. "Target Plaza is on sight. Nearby enemy foot soldiers are scattered, readying weapons to attack. Should we engage?"

The chief was seated for the most part with closed eyes. Vivid amethysts were revealed when it did not. "Don't bother. Proceed on," Ayanami ordered with a cool grace. He sets his gaze onto his subordinates then. The verbal and physical lashing, if their actions were to be called that, terminated at once. While accusing eyes burns on Hyuuga, he said to Kuroyuri; "Take the boy with you."

Kuroyuri opened his mouth to protest, but Ayanami's tone left no room for discussion. He held it back, reluctantly nodding his affirmation; much to Hyuuga's delight.

"Airspeed, stabilized; angle of descent, good – all clear! Crossing Antwort's Royal palace's threshold in sixty seconds…"

Aware of his surroundings Toshiro noticed that he was being stared at. Knew it was Kuroyuri's doing, having experiencing it a number of times now. He caught him looking though the pinket did not avert eye contact. Toshiro wondered what Kuroyuri was thinking about; the commander had an unreadable expression on. He dares not pry.

The lower assent his consent one more time through a nod. "Let us make haste," Toshiro said. "We have a war to win, after all."

"Don't push your luck, Toshiro," the commander tried a condescending tone, warning. But he fails to bite back the smile lighting up his face. And Toshiro would not have it any other way.

Ayanami's eyes were on the latest reports he received when Hyuuga spoke.

"He's a good boy. Don't you think so, too?" He did not need to look up to see the other watching Kuroyuri and Toshiro (his subordinate's growing interest on the blond was barely a hint of subtlety) until they were out of sight. "Hope he won't be scarred for his first time. Now that'll be a problem!"

The silver haired gave one critical look. Hyuuga paid not much mind. His lost for understanding naught he offer.

"There is no gain without pain," Ayanami drawled as the papers were lowered. "If he cannot come to terms with our line of work," he crossed one leg over another in a regal manner, "I don't see any reason why we should let him stay. Children are not meant for the battlefield."

There was an intake of air. "Oh my… How very cold of you, Aya!"

But then Hyuuga chuckled, a light smile playing on thin lips after. His eyes held mischief. "We'll just see. Won't we?" He gave Ayanami a knowing look, to which the later did not return. Not that he was expecting him to. "Anyways, I'm going on ahead. Wait for me?"

And Hyuuga jumped off board before Ribidzile was successive in its landing.

One airship after another made each clear descend on land after the Black Hawks' little stunt. Near four hundred Barsburg militias dismounts the ships with full force at Ayanami's command, leaving only their pilots and technicians and medic teams stay put. Half of the platoons stormed the Plaza while the rest of the squadron breaks through the Royal Palace's fort.

The chief rose from his throne and stepped outside unescorted. Most of the enemy guards were already taken care of, neutralized by his men. Even as we speak. They are too far gone in the deep to withdraw from attacking Antwort. Orders no longer compel him. He ripped the papers in his hand into small bits – really, whenever did he agreed on abiding by their rules – and let the wind do its work. Like colourless confetti. They amalgamate perfectly with snow.

His crossing was a short one.

Bodies, dead and bloodied; mutilated, disfigured, maimed, hacked – you name it – in the worst possible way. There were streams of blood, its warmth easily gone cold and dry. No empathy, no pity: He cared not an iota for fragile creatures. Their fault for being weak. Their mistake for getting involved. Pandora's Box is the whole, the sole, reason they are here. Nothing will stand in his way. Towards that one thing he desires most.

Zaiphon ever encircling his hand Ayanami wrecked havoc and blew open many doors to smithereens in his wake. That is, until he finally found what he came for.

"As I thought, it's here. Searching all of the allied nations thoroughly was worthwhile."

Ayanami stepped into the chamber room. Under heavy weighted sturdy boots, broken glass and bits of concrete and splinters of wood were crushed mixing with the already turned rubbles. There was no doubt in his mind as the dust petered out. It cemented everything.

"I should have realized when you left the Raggs Alliance, King Antwort."

He stood face to face with none other than the King of Antwort himself. Between surprised and antagonistic and fearful, pushed like a cornered rat; the man was, quite frankly, furious.

"You were the one who stole Pandora's Box from the Kingdom of Raggs." It was not a question. It was a statement. A testament – a revelation – to the truth that tends to be left omitted until it was way too late in the game.

"As you can see," he came close, the other backing away only to ineffectually protect the black coffin-like box behind glass casing, "it took considerable skill to get here. Quite the hassle."

"Y-you Barsburg dog…!"

Ayanami was not impressed. To witness the old king has reduced to such pathetic state, resorting to a play of insults and spewing profanities towards the countryman and his country, was distasteful. What little respect Ayanami had for the king is slowly sinking.

"It's not that I don't understand your feelings," the military man admitted. "The content of Pandora's Box is the God-created Verloren. Who would refuse the opportunity to obtain the world's knowledge?"

But King Antwort thought differently.

"You won't open this box!" the Antwort King bite out vehemently. He was shaking with nothing but rage. Rage, rage and more rage. With anger comes rudeness, and with rudeness comes verbal offense. But he wasted his breath on nothing. Its receiving end was hardly affected at all. "To open it you need the Eye of Mikhail that which the Barsburg Empire has searched for ten years! To think a low-born warsfeil like you could-"

Blood, bold red and crimson, splattered like explosion on canvas painted the bleak room with ephemeral life before it lost its bright afterglow. The man-king should have lived for a few seconds, possibly for a few spare minutes, if he had had watched his mouth. A slip of the tongue it may be, doubted it was anything but, but Ayanami was unforgiving.

With a flick of the wrist the showcase shattered, Pandora's Box dropping with a thud. Verloren's vessel stepped forward. After years of searching, at last he will regain his immortal body. The Eye of Mikhail in hand, Ayanami unbound Pandora's Box only to discover a single rose laid inside; not the grand skeletons that which of the death god's.

Ayanami's face was vacant, void of emotion. Without a word he picked the flower. He should have been outraged, livid. But oddly, he was not so much as angry as he ought to. What was the word? At the tip of his tongue- ...Intrigued?

Ah, yes. He was… intrigued.

Ayanami felt the remnants of old magic, an influence. An old seal of some kind was left behind from the rose. Ayanami uses his power on it decidedly then, and it reveals to him a form, hooded and skeletal, and a young boy not more than five years of age.

An uncharacteristic, maniacal smile stretches across the calm man's face. 'Interesting.'

The rose was crushed in his grasp. It was a cheap trick, substandard illusion, as it reverts into its original form of fleeting smoke and mist. As is that Seven Ghost protecting the boy no doubt Teito Klein; that set of emeralds was a dead giveaway.

It was a challenge. A mighty good challenge it is. Just to spite him; just to provoke him. If those death gods are going to interfere, let them. There is no harm paying back the favour in full now, is there?