Disclaimer: With the exception of a few, the characters of this story belongs to Shoji Gatoh.

Aftermath

By: Dajira

"I'll try it by myself."

Eyes still full of tears, Sousuke looked up in bewilderment, wondering what Al just meant. What could he possibly be trying to do at a time like this? A nuclear missile was coming, and there was no stopping it or escaping it. They were both going to die.

Then he felt something. The very air around and inside the Laevatein started to vibrate, and those vibrations transformed into crackling energy.

"Wha-" Sousuke was cut off when all the energy then gathered around him, forming an electric aura. Placing the tablet PC down and standing back to his feet, he stared down at himself in complete mystification. Again he queried what was Al up to.

"Zero."

With that last word, Sousuke knew he had no more time to think about anything else ever again. The missile had arrived at last. At the same time, a strange feeling came over Sousuke, like he was wrapped up in strings and something just yanked some of those strings from around him, leaving him weakened and out of breath. Subsequently, all of the energy surrounding him morphed into a blue light that flew out of the gaping hole over his head.

The nuclear strike hit the island with a thunderous bang. When the explosion's impact reached the Laevatein, the powerful collision knocked Sousuke down hard enough to put him into a state of semiconsciousness.

Lying there, Sousuke knew with utter certainty that this was it for him. After escaping Death's grip so many times, he had finally been caught. He was really about to die. No longer would he be able to see Tessa, Mao, or any of his other still-living comrades from Mithril. No longer would he be able to see his classmates and Ms. Kagurazaka- no, Mrs. Mizuhoshi. But worst of all, he would never be able to see Kaname again. He would never hear her voice again, or feel her strike him with her harisen whenever he did something stupid. He would never be able to hold hands with her again. He would never be able to kiss her like he promised. He would never be able to live together with her as a normal man.

For a second time, he wished for just one more minute to be able to see everyone one last time.

As his vision began to fade, Sousuke noticed that the blue light from earlier was not only still there, it had intensified, filling up the entire pit. Before he finally lost consciousness, his final coherent thought was that the light reminded him of his Arm Slave's Lambda Driver…

Sousuke slipped back into consciousness, though his eyes remained closed. He found it surprising how waking up after you just died felt exactly like waking up from sleeping when he had been alive. In fact, it even felt like he was laying atop of some kind of hard surface. A bed? No, he knew that was absurd. Whenever he did open his eyes, he fully expected to find himself in the same place that Gauron and Leonard had gone to. Like Leonard had told Kaname, he was a killer that had taken more lives than even he had. So it was only natural that he would spend the rest of eternity in Hell. He could already envision the two boasting about how right they had been about him.

Becoming more and more alert again, Sousuke started to feel that something was amiss. For one thing, in the face of being dead, he could still hear the rise and fall of his breathing. He could also still hear and feel the beating of his heart.

"Is this really how it feels to be dead?" he asked himself, perplexed.

Wanting some answers, he forced his eyes open...and saw that he wasn't at the entrance to Hell at all. He was still lying in the dreary, damaged cockpit of his Arm Slave. Glancing around, he saw the tablet PC as well, though it had been pushed away from him and was now sitting on the other side. Stupefied by it all, it took him some time to find his voice.

"I'm...not dead...?" Sousuke murmured disbelievingly. "H-H-How is this even possible?!"

Sousuke hadn't really been expecting an answer, so it surprised him when he did.

"It was possible due to activating the Lambda Driver in time, Sergeant," supplied an only-too familiar voice.

"Al!" Sousuke gasped. Turning halfway over, he peered towards the outside, and all he could see was a heavy, swirling cloud of smoke.

"Are you okay, Sergeant?"

Sousuke checked himself over. Nothing seemed to be broken on him.

"Affirmative," he sent back.

"I am relieved that you're awake," Al said, much to Sousuke's amazement. "After the explosion died down, you didn't respond when I called out to you. I thought you might have...somehow died. But I realized that you were most likely unconscious after I had to use the Lambda Driver a second time to fend off the radiation left from the missile. If you had been dead, it would have been impossible for me to do it."

So he wasn't hallucinating, that blue light really had been the Lambda Driver!

"But wait a minute, Al," Sousuke said, a thought dawning on him. "How could you turn on the Lambda Driver without-"

Sousuke's words terminated in a soft grunt, as a heavy wave of lassitude hit him as he tried to sit up while he spoke. He flopped back down. It was the same sensation he felt at the same moment the missile appeared over the island, only magnified. What was this? Why did he feel this weak?

"It was all thanks to you," came Al's reply.

"Me?"

"I used your body's natural energy to link myself into the Laevatein's system," Al explained. "That was how I was able to power-up the Lambda Driver on my own. Regrettably, the drawback to this is that you won't be feeling well for a while since you are a human. I apologize for doing this without your consent."

If Sousuke wasn't so astounded right now, he would have asked Al if he was kidding. He would have gladly given up his energy had he known Al was able to use the Lambda Driver without the pilot's direct help. To think that this A.I. had such outrageous perseverance like...like himself. He really had been given the perfect battle partner.

More importantly, though, he was still alive. His desperate wish to live so that he could see everyone again had somehow been granted.

Emotions overtook him again, and just like when he watched the video his and Kaname's classmates had made for them, he started to cry. It was astonishing to him how easier doing something so human was getting for him. He couldn't muster up any tears when Kalinin, the man he had considered his father, died next to him, or when Kurz had died. He speculated that despite how important the two had been to him, he had seen so many comrades die that it had become so that even their deaths hadn't been a strong enough trigger to make someone like him cry.

"Thank you, Al," Sousuke said with gratitude, wiping away his tears.

"No problem, Sergeant."

Getting himself back under control, Sousuke pushed himself up on his hands in another attempt to sit up. He succeed though not without struggling, and moved himself over to the side of the compartment behind him, propping himself up against it. Left breathing hard from the exertion, he took a few moments to catch his breath. Being used as a power conduit really had drained him.

"Al...how long...has it been since...the blast hit?" he asked between pants.

"It's been 24 hours," replied Al. "You slept through the entire thing."

Ensuing a halt, Sousuke then queried, "Since the Lambda Driver isn't on...does that mean it's safe to step outside?"

"Yes, the radiation has dropped back down to tolerable levels," Al assured him.

Sousuke was relieved to hear that. He was about to head out and see how much of the island was left in tact when something else crossed his mind. He had no way off the island! He couldn't use his Arm Slave, and he was very sure that none of his comrades had once entertained the notion that he might have survived. Even he had thought his death had been certain this time.

His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden noise from outside. Sousuke's eyes widened when he recognized the sound to be the propellers of a helicopter.

"A helicopter?! Could Tessa and the others have actually come back for me?" he wondered hopefully. Then his face hardened into a scowl as another conclusion hit him."But what if it's Amalgam coming to search for survivors on their side?"

Now that would be a real problem. If it really was Amalgam out there, he was going to be in some serious trouble. He had no weapons, and his Arm Slave was in no shape for combat.

"Al," Sousuke called.

"Yes, Sergeant?"

"Identify the helicopter above us."

"It's a Sea Hawk Helicopter," the A.I. answered automatically.

"The Navy!" Sousuke realized at once.

"They've been here before while you were sleeping," Al added.

Sousuke's countenance turned grimmer than usual. If the Navy was here, then he already knew they planned to grill him about what happened. He started to curse his luck when another part of him told him to reconsider things. Hadn't he just been trying to think of a way to get off the island? Whether he liked it or not, the Navy was his best bet right now. Besides, he could always make his escape once they hit land again.

"What do you want to do, Sergeant?" Al asked.

"I'm heading out," Sousuke decided.

Painstakingly, he urged himself back to his feet. After taking a brief breather, he started to climb upward. Sticking his head out of the impaired cockpit, Sousuke took in the sight of his old team's former base in the wake of the missile attack. All that was left of Merida Island now was nothing more than a lump of land. It made it that more unbelievable to him that he had survived. Levering himself out of the hole, he stood atop of his Arm Slave, staring directly up at the helicopter.

It didn't take the people aboard long to sight him. Circling over the devastated island a few times, the helicopter ultimately disembarked in front of the only remaining jungle nearby. A few people dressed in radiation suits emerged from the helicopter infra. They swiftly ran over and stopped in front of the Laevatein, its owner glaring down at them stonily.

"We're with Navy Intelligence," announced the person in front of the group- a man. "Are you all right, sir?"

Sousuke was about to respond when his vision abruptly blurred, and the world around him started to spin at a vertiginous speed. And then everything dissolved into darkness again.


In the reception area of a hospital, a bespectacled doctor in a white coat was flirting with the pretty receptionist sitting at the desk. He was very striking, encompassed by an air of authority. His head was covered in short, silky, lavender hair, and his eyes were as blue as the sky was during sunrise. He held a clipboard with a few papers under its clamp, and hanging from his neck was a stethoscope. The name-tag he wore on his coat read "Dr. Hojima Yamato".

The front entrance doors slid open in the next instant, and a Japanese man and woman entered. One could tell straightaway that they weren't ordinary people.

The man was tall and tan-skinned with black hair tied up in a ponytail. Underneath the suit he wore, it was easy to see that he spent a lot of time in the gym. His most distinguished feature was his right eye; it was completely closed shut, an unpleasant scar running vertically across it. An old battle wound no doubt. His left eye had been spared the same fate, allowing one to see that his eyes were, in fact, black.

The woman was a green-haired picturesque beauty. Her skin was fair, and her cobalt blue eyes were piercing. She looked a lot younger than the man, so much so that people most likely mistook her for his daughter when they saw them together. In spite of how delicate she seemed, at the same time she faintly exuded danger.

Noticing them, Dr. Hojima ended his conversation with the receptionist and went over to greet them.

"Welcome back," he said. "Nice to see you two again."

"So, our little Sleeping Beauty finally woke up, huh," the man said wryly as the three of them were stepping into an elevator.

"Yes, around noon," Dr. Hojima confirmed. "Quite the coincidence that he would wake up on Sunday. Today marks a week since he was first brought in."

"And what is his condition?"

"Apart from suffering from heavy fatigue, he's actually in a lot better shape than he should be," the doctor explained. "Especially considering that he was at ground zero of a nuclear strike. According to the Navy guys who first picked him up, the blast left behind enormous amounts of radiation, but amazingly he managed to avoid it all by hiding inside a wrecked Arm Slave. We've run tests on him every day for any signs of contamination, and they've all come back negative. So, all in all, albeit he still needs more rest and fluids, he'll basically be fine." Dr. Hojima's brows creased slightly. "Physically, that is."

"What do you mean?" the woman inquired, speaking for the first time.

"He seems to be showing signs of PTSD."

"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," she said musingly.

"He's been up for almost three hours now and hasn't spoken a word yet," the doctor replied. "All he's done is either stare into space with this faraway look in his eyes, or just look downright depressed. He also refuses to eat anything. In my professional opinion, physically and mentally, he's in no condition to be questioned right now."

"Even so, we would still like to see him," the man replied, his tone tolerating no arguments.

The elevator came to a stop, and the doors opened for the three to exit.

"Since he hasn't spoken yet, that also means you still don't know his name, correct?" the man asked observingly.

The doctor shook his head. "Do you?"

"It's Sagara," the woman revealed. "Sagara Sousuke."

They all came to a halt in front of a private room at the end of the hall. A prison guard was already standing there, promptly fixing his green eyes on them. He was a couple of heads shorter than the black-haired man, however, he looked like he worked out just as much as he did. He unexpectedly had an easy-going face that looked as if it was always smiling; and his hair, from what could be seen underneath the hat he wore, was bright orange. After a curt exchange, the guard opened the door for them to enter and pulled it back shut right away. He returned to his previous position in front of the door.

Meanwhile, on the other side, Dr. Hojima and company came to a stop near the bed of the room's only occupant. A blank-faced, young man with a distinct cross-shaped scar on the left side of his face. He was hooked up to an IV and a heart monitor. What was most noticeable about him was that his right arm was handcuffed to the bed rail.

Slowly, Sousuke's gaze shifted in their direction.

"Are you feeling any better?" Dr. Hojima said in greeting, pulling up on the right side of the patient's bed. Seeing Sousuke watching the man and woman, he quickly said, "This is Matsuda Suguru and Araki Michiru...they work for the CIA. They wanted to speak with you."

Agent Matsuda and Agent Araki showed Sousuke their badges as proof. If they had been expecting a reaction, they were disappointed.

"They also informed me that your name is Sagara Sousuke," Dr. Hojima said conversationally. "Is this true?"

Sousuke didn't respond.

Turning back to the agents, Dr. Hojima said, "This is what I was talking about. Waking up and finding out that he was restrained to the bed didn't even faze him."

Taking that into account, Suguru left Michiru's side and walked over to the end of the bed. He looked Sousuke squarely in the eye as he started to talk.

"Sagara Sousuke…a former Sergeant of the now-defunct Tuatha de Danaan's SRT...if you haven't been told, you are currently on the Kadena Air Base. We, the CIA, have taken you into custody as a key suspect under suspicion for attempting to start a nuclear war. So, remember this: while you are a patient here, you are also a detainee. If this is an act that you're putting on, then it's futile. There is no escape for you."

He said those words with absolute certainty, yet Sousuke continued to give him an empty, tired stare. That made the stony-face agent scowl a bit.

Dr. Hojima and the two officers soon left, with the former saying that he would return later to check on him. Right after he heard the door close, Sousuke instantaneously dropped his 'act' and grimaced. No wonder all of his instincts had screamed at him to not say a word as soon as he awoke earlier! After he passed out again, he'd had no idea what to expect when he reopened his eyes, or if he would ever reopen them at all. What he certainly hadn't predicted was to wake up handcuffed to a bed on the Kadena Air Base, and in the hands of the CIA. And, unsurprisingly, they already knew so much about him.

What went on while he was sleeping? Why was he in the custody of the CIA and not the Navy Intelligence? It was the Navy who first found him and Al on Merida-

Sousuke's eyes went wide as his mind quickly backtracked onto Al. That's right, what had become of his Arm Slave? Did they just leave it back on Merida? That didn't sit well with him at all. He thought Al deserved more than just to be discarded on some mangled island and left to rot there like garbage. The A.I. was more than just a machine, he was as human as he was! It was because of Al that he was still alive right now. Once he escaped from this place, he would find a way back there to rescue his partner. Agent Matsuda said there was no escape for him, but he knew he could be off this base by tomorrow if he wanted to. Dismally, though, as much as he wished to prove it, he couldn't right now.

The charade he was putting on wasn't entirely one. Al using him as an intermediary to turn on the Lambda Driver had really taken a lot out of him, and with the way he was feeling at the moment, he felt like he could sleep for at least another whole week straight.

Sousuke needed to be at his best for when he made his getaway, so, for now, he would remain there and use this place to recover for when that day eventually came.


For the next several days, Sousuke got plenty of rest, regaining his strength day-by-day. Every day, tests were run on him, for both his fatigue and to make sure none of the radiation from the nuclear missile had snuck up on him.

Sousuke was also assigned an interesting male psychologist to help him with his 'trauma'. Although it hadn't been his intention to make people think he had PTSD, he used it to his advantage anyway to keep dodging being questioned by the CIA for as long as it took for him to escape from Kadena. The man's name was Chiba Daichi, and he was a USAF Second Lieutenant, but that wasn't what was so intriguing about him. It was because the man looked somewhat like Sousuke would look in his late twenties; one could say the two could pass for brothers. The man's hair and eyes were the same as his, the same height as he was while wearing shoes, and he even had an identical scar on the same side of his face as Sousuke did. In addition to therapy, he was issued medication during the day and at night. Each time, Sousuke pretended to take it in front of the lieutenant, and would spit it back out as soon as he left and hide the pill inside his pillow case.

Concerning the two CIA agents, he hasn't really seen them since he first met them. Sousuke knew they were just waiting in the wings somewhere for him to recover so they could properly interrogate him. As far as he was concerned, they would stay waiting.

It was by next Saturday that Sousuke felt completely like his old self again, meaning he was now ready to make a run for it. Howbeit, an unforeseen turn of events forced him to delay his plans.

"Sagara-san, I want to try something different with you today," Lieutenant Chiba announced when he showed up for another therapy session. "It's called Exposure Therapy."

Sousuke had to use a bit of effort not to let any curiosity about this 'Exposure Therapy' show up on his face.

In the end, the lieutenant's words had led to Sousuke finding himself standing outside for the first time since the day after the missile hit Merida. Handcuffs were locked on both his wrists for this, and he had also been given an orange jumpsuit to wear since he was going out in public. Accompanying him and the lieutenant would be the prison guard who had been assigned to watch over him.

After not regularly seeing the sun as of late, its light naturally stung his eyes when it came into contact, forcing Sousuke to look away and to raise his hands to shield his face. Leisurely, his eyes adjusted and he lowered his hands to try it again. Gazing up into the sky without discomfort this time, he was able to see that it was actually a very nice day. A couple of 44th Fighter Squadron Planes suddenly flew by overhead, leaving behind long, white streaks across the cloudless, blue sky in their wake.

It really was good to be outdoors again.

Placing a hand on Sousuke's left shoulder, Lieutenant Chiba said gently, "Let's go, Sagara-san."

Sousuke obeyed. The airman drove them to wherever they were going in a military jeep, with both the detainee and his guard sitting in the backseat. As expected, Sousuke took advantage of this golden opportunity to get familiar with the facility's layout, though he still paid attention to what the locals were doing. Along the way, he occasionally caught sight of some of the servicemen doing their daily routines. Something in particular he noted were some soldiers carrying a long, wooden crate, which he suspected was full of weapons, into a building he assumed was the base's Armory. He also saw some buildings across a field to the west that appeared to make up the area where those who lived on base, with or without families, stayed. They soon went through a small area where various shops were open for business, visited by both residents, non-residents, and even tourists.

At that juncture, he caught sight of something that really held his attention. A young couple around his age were walking down a sidewalk together. The guy was dressed in a soldier's uniform, and they were holding hands. The two abruptly stopped and gazed lovingly into each other's eyes. After making sure no one was around them, they moved in to share a quick, passionate kiss. They then continued on their way. Due to his own situation, watching them left Sousuke feeling more than a bit envious, and not to mention annoyed. He nearly forgot his present predicament and really had to work to not let his feelings show on his face.

"I need to leave this place at once," he told himself.

They reached their stop- a warehouse across from an airfield. Standing outside waiting for them were Agents Matsuda and Araki, making Sousuke even more suspicious about this different form of therapy the lieutenant wanted to try on him. They all stepped out of the vehicle and went to join the agents.

"Sorry for the wait," Chiba said.

"Hopefully this plan of yours isn't a waste of our time, lieutenant," Matsuda said, his face surly as his dark eye stared down Sousuke. "We need to start questioning this guy right away."

"Please be patient, Matsuda-san," Chiba pleaded. "PTSD isn't something you can force to go away just like that. I'm still not certain that this will even work."

Suguru frowned at the lieutenant, though in the end refrained from replying.

The five went into the building. It was quite cavernous inside, filled with the usual items one would find in a military warehouse. There were people inside, either working or just milling about.

"Why did they bring me here?" Sousuke wondered, growing even more distrustful.

"Even though it can't be seen on your face," said Chiba, guiding the others over to the far side of the room, "I'm pretty sure you're wondering why you're here, Sagara-san."

"The lieutenant is sharper than he looks," Sousuke admitted, secretly surprised. "I can't underestimate him too much."

They pulled up in front of a large, black curtain where a man was already standing there, obviously waiting for them. Sousuke could make out an enormous oddly-shaped lump behind it. Is this the so-called Exposure Therapy? What could be under there that the lieutenant thought would faze him one bit?

Chiba told the employee to pull back the curtain, and he did. Standing there was a dilapidated Arm Slave. His Arm Slave.

"Al!" Sousuke exclaimed in his mind, his face contorting into surprise.

He nearly called out Al's name, but caught himself in time. Regrettably, he wasn't able to hide his expression quick enough from the two CIA agents and the lieutenant.

"Looks like you were right on the money, Lieutenant Chiba!" Suguru praised. "Bringing him to see this Arm Slave of his definitely got a reaction out of him!"

Sousuke swore mentally, irritated at himself for dropping his guard even for a bit in front the enemy. It didn't help things that right now Agent Matsuda looked like a shark that had just smelled blood and was about to move in for the kill. Thinking fast, he knew there was only one way to fix this.

Everyone in the room was startled when Sousuke precipitously let out a blood-curdling scream of terror.

"Wh-what's wrong?!" Araki asked, bewildered.

Clutching his head, screwing his eyes shut, and then dropping to his knees, Sousuke exclaimed, "T-that thing! Keep that thing away from me!"

Chiba, Araki, Matsuda, and the guard gaped at Sousuke, identically taken aback after hearing him speak for the first time.

Snapping out of his daze, Matsuda rounded on the lieutenant.

"What the hell's gotten into him?" he demanded.

Instead of answering him, Chiba dropped down beside Sousuke and gripped his shoulders.

"Don't turn away from it, Sagara-san!" he said in a forceful but gentle tone. "You have to face it head on!"

"I-I...no!"

"You must! Otherwise, you'll never be able to move past what happened on that island!"

"I can't!" Sousuke shouted back, shaking his head. "I just can't! I JUST CAN'T!"

That made Chiba realize that was far as they were going to get with this today.

"He's stabilized now."

That was what Sousuke heard the lieutenant telling Matsuda and Araki some time later after they had returned him back to the hospital. The two and Chiba were standing outside his room right now, discussing what had happened. Listening to them, Sousuke was satisfied that they had been convinced by his performance, all the same, he had more important things to think about right now.

Al.

He had believed his Arm Slave had been left behind on Merida Island, and yet it had been here on the base with him this whole time. Ironically, this threw a wrench into his plans. If it was just him, breaking out of this facility wouldn't have been a problem at all. He had already come up with a sound strategy or two thanks to the trip to the warehouse today. But trying to get both him and an impaired Arm Slave out would require more careful planning.

Sousuke sighed, resigning himself to the reality that he wouldn't be leaving the Kadena Air Base as soon as he'd hoped. No matter how much he hated it, though, he just couldn't leave Al behind.

"I hope this doesn't keep me from making it in time for the graduation," he thought worriedly.


Because of the result of Lieutenant Chiba's Exposure Therapy, he opted to keep using the same method. Thinking it might be too much for him to see his Arm Slave in person right now, Chiba used pictures of the machine instead, never once suspecting that he was being manipulated. Every meeting, Sousuke would make it seem like it was still too painful to look at the pictures of his Arm Slave or talk about it in general, while simultaneously showing that he was gradually becoming able to face the sight of it with the lieutenant's help. Simultaneously, he was also able to persuade Dr. Hojima that he still wasn't fit enough to be discharged from the hospital.

Sousuke was amazed at how good his acting was during all of this. The old him could never make this work. But at the same time, he was really starting to grow tired of keeping up these pretenses. It only made Sousuke want to make a run for it that much more. Consequently, he would then repeatedly remind himself that this was all for Al, this was all for Al, this was all for Al...

It was in the middle of the second week after more therapy with Chiba when Agents Matsuda and Araki came to his room. The two asked if he was well enough to answer a few questions, with Araki quickly assuring him that this wasn't a full-on interrogation, they just wanted to hear his side of the story for now. She even said that Lieutenant Chiba could stay to monitor them in case they got out of line. Reluctantly, Chiba told them it was okay as long as Sousuke agreed to it.

Surprisingly, after doing his best to evade inquiry, Sousuke did consent to it. It was chiefly because he knew he was in control of the situation. Although he was on his way to full recovery, in the eyes of Lieutenant Chiba and Dr. Hojima, he was still deemed medically fragile. Also, Sousuke thought this was his chance to get the CIA straight about the accusation that he tried to start a nuclear war, and to also tell them about Amalgam.

"Now, tell us what happened," Michru said encouragingly.

Sousuke told them. He made sure not to mention Kaname or anything about the Whispered. He merely told them that he and his comrades had been fighting Amalgam, a group that was the opposite of Mithril and supported terrorism. He finished up by telling them that it was the Amalgam group trying to initiate a nuclear war.

"That's quite some tale," Suguru commented, sounding as cynical as he looked. "But why does it feel like you didn't tell us everything?"

"Furthermore," Michiru cut in, drawing everyone's gaze on her, "we were informed that your group disbanded from the rest of Mithril during the midst of this incident. That's very suspicious, don't you think?"

"Not really," Sousuke answered. "We were all just tired of fighting and watching our comrades die."

Michiru stared back at Sousuke penetratingly, but she didn't say anything further. Her partner was a different matter.

"Even if you tell us that, how can we believe you?" Suguru demanded, impatience rising in his voice. "How do we know for certain that you and your comrades weren't the ones that nearly caused a worldwide-"

"Agent Matsuda..." Lieutenant Chiba spoke up warningly.

Suguru glowered exasperatedly at the man for interrupting him. Nonetheless, he was forced to back down due to the agreement they made with Sousuke and the lieutenant before this began.

The lieutenant let out an inaudible sigh of relief.

"Believe what you want, but I have no reason to lie," Sousuke said unwaveringly, looking both agents in the eyes. "I only tell you the truth!"

"Damn it! We're not going to get anywhere like this!" Suguru was complaining as he and Michiru entered the elevator shortly. The two were heading home, an apartment they were staying in during their business on the base.

"I understand how you feel, Matsuda-san," Michiru replied sympathetically, "but because of his condition, we can't be too forceful with him. What if he relapses? Now that would really be a pain."

He looked at her in annoyance. "Well, shouldn't you know when we would be able to interrogate him? That is why a brat like you has such a high standing in the CIA in the first place!"

Michiru glared sidelong at her partner.

"True, however, this time the situation is too murky for even me to see what's really happening."

Matsuda made a disgusted noise. "I'm not going to keep waiting forever. If I have to, I'll take things into my own hands!"

As the sullen agent turned his gaze back to the elevator doors, an indistinct smile spread across the face of his partner.


The days continue to pass by, and as it entered the third week since Sousuke was brought to the base, he was more than ready to break out of the facility. He mostly had everything figured out, but the only thing keeping him from initiating his plan was finding a solution to getting Al out of there as well. And Jindai High School's graduation ceremony took place next week!

It was also around this time that Sousuke started to get an unsettling feeling. Due to the harsh life he's lived, he knew when the eyes of an enemy were upon him. Okay, technically everyone on the base was his enemy. Still, the impression he got from this undetectable gaze was that of a bloodthirsty killer who was lying in wait for the precise moment to strike him down. Grievously, due to having to stay in a hospital room the majority of the time, it was hard for him to figure out who it was since he was being watched by a lot of people. It would also be even harder for him to be able to defend himself with just one arm to use.

"Perhaps I'm just imagining the whole thing," he ended up telling himself.

Given his track record, that conclusion wasn't exactly improbable. Look at all the trouble he caused at school whenever he thought an enemy was about to attack Kaname, and almost all those times ended up being false alarms, with Kaname usually thrashing him afterwards.

One day, Sousuke told Lieutenant Chiba that he was finally ready to face his Arm Slave in person. In reality, he just wanted to go to warehouse again in hopes of finding some inspiration there that would aid him in his mental block.

"Are you really sure about this?" Chiba asked with concern.

Sousuke nodded, not a shred of doubt on his face. "Affirmative."

So the two and the guard outside Sousuke's room took another trip over to the warehouse. This time when they pulled up in front of the building, Agents Matsuda and Araki weren't there to greet them. Just as the three stepped out of Chiba's jeep, something immediately caught Sousuke's eye. Lying abandoned on the ground up ahead was a bobby pin that no one seemed to notice, as they walked right by it.

"That could be useful," he thought. After all, he was going to need a key to unlock the handcuffs that restrained him to his bed.

When they reached it, he deliberately tripped over, imperceptibly clasping his cuffed hands around the pin as he hit the ground.

"Sagara-san!" "Are you okay?" Chiba and the guard said at the same time.

"I'll be fine," Sousuke assured them.

"Could you give me a hand, Hui-san?" the lieutenant asked.

"Sure."

As the two helped him back up to his feet, Sousuke was privately surprised when Chiba called him by name. So the prison guard was Chinese? Hui's features didn't give him away at all. And whenever he heard him speaking to someone outside his room, Hui spoke Japanese like it was his native language.

They then went into the warehouse, where Sousuke found something unexpected yet still expected. Like before, the Laevatein was standing against a wall...but it was now missing its right arm. Even now, some engineers were in the process of removing the left one.

"Sorry, Lieutenant, but now isn't a good time," said one of the engineers, probably the one in command there, as he came over.

"You're taking it apart?" Lieutenant Chiba asked.

"Yeah, the woman from the CIA requested it," he answered. "Something about the CIA planning to study it as soon as they got it to the US, and this would make it easier for them."

"I see..." Chiba said. He looked apologetically to Sousuke. "Sorry, Sagara-san."

Sousuke said nothing, gazing at his Arm Slave. After what the engineer just said, it only asserted for him that time was running out and he needed to act soon.

"Hold out just a little bit longer, Al. I'll definitely get us both out of here!"


Before he knew it, it was already the beginning of Week 4. It was on Tuesday morning when he was visited by the CIA agents and Lieutenant Chiba did Sousuke receive some disagreeable news.

"I'm being relocated to California?" Sousuke echoed.

"Yes. Dr. Hojima informed us yesterday that you were healthy enough to be released from the hospital," Suguru replied, looking unmistakably smug. "The lieutenant here has also told us you've made a lot of progress with your PTSD, and all of that means we can finally cross-examine you accordingly. Even if you relapse, we have psychologists at our own base to help you."

Sousuke didn't bother to hide the sullen scowl he flung at the obstinate CIA operative. It was clear as day he was behind this.

"When will you be leaving?" Lieutenant Chiba asked inquisitively.

He subsequently coughed onto his fist. Almost everyone around him had noticed that he had been doing that a lot these past few days.

"We head out tomorrow," Michiru told him.

Truthfully, Sousuke wasn't really worried about this announcement in the least. Tomorrow was Wednesday, the day of the graduation ceremony, so he planned to be long gone when the agents came to take him to the US the next day. It was now or never. The time to say farewell to the Kadena Air Base had finally arrived.


That Tuesday evening, on the balcony of an apartment, Michiru stood there alone; in the background, Suguru could be seen inside drinking from a cup while watching TV. Above her, the sky was going through a shift in colors as the sun was starting to set.

Taking out a cigarette and lighting it up, she inhaled it and then slowly exhaled it back out. Folding her free arm under her breasts, she rested the elbow of the arm she held her cigarette with atop of it. Looking skyward, another unfathomable smile curved her shapely lips.

"Even a weakened Amalgam won't go away so easily..." she murmured, "...Sagara Sousuke."


Lieutenant Chiba usually made his final trip to the hospital after sunset to give Sousuke his night medicine. However, today he returned earlier than expected succeeding a sudden call from the hospital that Sousuke needed to speak to him. Seeing that the teen was still his patient until morning, and he had to go there anyway, he didn't mind.

As Sousuke's guard, Hui always kept up with the length of time when anyone went inside his room, and he observed that the lieutenant had been in there for three minutes now. He wondered if the Sousuke kid had started to have a relapse and that's why he sent for the lieutenant, or maybe he just wanted some final counseling since he would be leaving tomorrow.

Hui had brought a hand to his mouth to repress a yawn when the door behind him opened. He turned and stepped aside so that the lieutenant could come out. The airman's face couldn't be seen, as his head was lowered while he coughed harshly on his right fist. He didn't even stop to say goodbye to Hui like he usually did and started up the hall.

"Um, Lieutenant Chiba," Hui called, closing the door to Sousuke's room. "Is everything all right?"

The airman paused, turning his head so slightly that the only part of his face Hui could see was his scar.

"Sorry, but I'm not feeling very well right now," the lieutenant answered in a deep, raspy voice. He turned his head away and coughed some more.

"Yeah, you really need to take care of that cold," Hui said, giving the older man a sympathetic look. "It's getting a lot worse."

"I will. Thank you," the lieutenant replied. Then he sauntered off.

Hui's eyes followed Chiba worriedly. He hoped it wasn't anything serious. The lieutenant had always been such a nice person to him ever since he started at Kadena, so he would hate if something bad were to happen to him. When Chiba vanished from sight around a corner, he resumed his last day as the young Japanese man's guard.

Unbeknownst to him, the person he was guarding over right now was Lieutenant Chiba himself. He was out cold on the bed, now dressed up as a patient, and handcuffed to the rail.

In the interim, the real Sousuke was taking the stairs to get down to the bottom floor So far, his breakout was going well. For a second, he feared he would be found out by Hui as he was leaving the room, though thankfully that proved to not be the case. It had been quite a stroke of luck for him that the psychologist he was given was someone who shared most of his features. Even back to their first meeting, switching places with the lieutenant to get out of the hospital has always been his plan. A part of him felt a bit guilty for having to get rough with the sick Lieutenant Chiba like he did back in his room. In spite of everything, Sousuke thought he was a good man. Nevertheless, he was still the enemy and comforted himself in the fact that no matter how good of a man Chiba was, he was still an officer of this base who would have tried to stop him had he known he was trying to flee.

Walking through the door at the bottom of the staircase, Sousuke reached the reception area. Now it came time for his final test there: getting past the receptionist. He was prepared to start imitating Chiba's coughing again just in case she looked his way, only to see he wouldn't need to. She was too engrossed in the conversation she was having over the phone to pay attention to who was entering or leaving, let alone a patient/detainee that was making his escape. Resisting the urge to shrug, Sousuke simply walked out of the building.

Outside now, Sousuke made his way over to Chiba's jeep. Getting in and closing the door, he put the clipboard down in the backseat next to a flashlight, and then put on his seat belt. It was at that time that he finally allowed himself a quick sigh of relief over that part being over. Now it was time for the next step.

He set out, taking the same route that led to the warehouse where Al was. If memory serves, the Armory was just up ahead, and there was something in there that he needed. He parked the jeep on the on the side of the road across from the building and turned it off. Sousuke surveyed the premises for any guards or just anyone in general. Luckily, there didn't appear to be anyone around. Unbuckling himself, he grabbed the flashlight and stepped out of the car.

Making it to the door, he saw that light on the electronic lock was red. Thankfully, there was another benefit that came from Second Lieutenant Chiba being his psychologist: his all-access pass key card. Sliding the key card through the slot, the red light shifted to green, and Sousuke gained entry inside. Pulling out his 'borrowed' flashlight, the former Sergeant hunted down the thing he had come for. He stopped when he came across some hand grenades beside a stack of a variety of guns and some C-4 plastic explosives. It took all of Sousuke's willpower not to grab no more than just the C-4 he needed for his decampment.

Before long he was back on the road, driving towards his final destination. So far, things were going well for him, and he quietly prayed that it continue that way. He would really like for this to end without having to resort to violence. He passed by several cars while going through the downtown area, with a patrol car or two being among them. Like all the other cars, he drove past them looking straight ahead, relying on his resemblance to the lieutenant. Clearly he didn't do anything to trip the officers off, as they continued on to wherever they were going.

Halfway to the warehouse, Sousuke heard a loud 'boom' sound. Initially, he thought with that old paranoia of his that he had been found out and someone was shooting at him, so he reached down for his signature gun. Then he realized two things: he no longer had his gun, and the noise he really heard was one of the tires blowing out as the car was slowing down. Acting fast, he managed to guide the jeep off the road before it came to a stop inches away from a stand of trees.

"What a bother," he sighed with some irritation. Nevertheless, he knew this wasn't even a very minor obstacle for him. He would just have to advance on foot.

Grabbing the C-4, Sousuke abandoned the vehicle and broke out into a run. When he got to the warehouse, he was surprised to find that a cargo-truck was now parked on the side of it. This was perfect, Sousuke thought. He could definitely use this vehicle. But what he was really relieved about was the fact that he saw there were no guards standing there as well. He could get inside as easily as he had the Armory.

Or so he thought.

Just as he started to head into the building, it was at that time that two soldiers came around the corner and spotted him.

"Who are you?" asked one of the men.

"Shit!" Sousuke swore. So much for him being able to escape without getting violent.

"Hey! That's that guy they brought in a few weeks back!" exclaimed the other soldier.

Not giving them the time to properly react, Sousuke was already charging towards them. He caught the first one that spoke in the chin with a hard punch, easily knocking him out. The other soldier tried to attack with a punch, but Sousuke moved quicker, catching him below the jaw with a roundhouse kick, rendering him abed as well. Before anyone else could show up, he quickly went to work to getting them out of sight, dragging them both over to some nearby bushes while muttering, "What a bother."

Having no further interruptions, Sousuke used the key card to get into the warehouse. Switching back on the flashlight, he swiftly though carefully made his way over to where he recalled his Arm Slave being when he last saw it. When he drew up in front of it, he was unruffled when he saw that the people who worked in there had already finished disassembling his Laevatein. Now all of its parts were sitting in large individual metal crates. Sousuke looked through each until he came across a particular part in the middle one.

Al's core unit.

...And he smiled.

Good! When he first saw the engineers taking the Laevatein apart, he had to struggle not to laugh out loud in realization. It was at that time the answer to his Al problem had finally hit him: removing Al's core unit from the Arm Slave's body was the best way to get them both off the base. But first, he needed something. When he was first brought to this warehouse, during his performance of "trying to face his demons under Lieutenant Chiba's guidance", he had saw a power supply sitting not too far away. Putting the C-4 down, Sousuke turned back on the flashlight and went to go search for it. Now where had he seen it again? Ah, over that way! Sousuke walked off in the direction of the machine, hoping that it hadn't been removed. It was still there! Just as he was about to pick it up, he spotted what appeared to be a high-tech speaker sitting beside it. Yes, he could use this, too!

Hurriedly getting those parts back over to Al's core, along with some tools, he went to work putting everything together. In a matter of minutes, Sousuke had finished at last. With bated breath, he switched Al back on.

"Al! It's me, Sousuke!" he shouted. "Can you hear me?"

There was a lengthy pause. Then, ultimately, a beep followed.

"Sergeant?" Al said. "Is that you?"

"Yes, it's me," Sousuke replied, smiling in relief.

"Where are we?" Al inquired. "And mind explaining what happened to my body?"

Sousuke told Al.

"I see. Thank you, Sergeant," the A.I. said gratefully. "I knew you would find some way to get us out of this situation. Oh, and by the way…"

"Yeah?"

"Your performance the other day was the most horrible acting I have ever seen," Al opined. "I couldn't believe that those other humans fell for it."

Sousuke frowned down at his partner in mock offense.

"Yeah, well my horrible acting is about to get us both out of here," he crowed back uncharacteristically.

"The two of you won't be going anywhere!" a new voice intruded.

On the heels of that, Sousuke spun and the lights were suddenly switched on. He briefly had to close his eyes, due to the precipitous shift in light in the room. Able to see again, Sousuke looked over to where he first heard the voice. He stared, befuddled, at the very familiar person he found standing by the entrance.

"You?" he said as the man walked fully into the light. "...Hui?!"

"I had a feeling I'd find you here, Sagara Sousuke," said Hui, his mouth curving into a smile that was far from nice. "You know, it wasn't nice of you to make me chase you down all the way here."

"And here I thought I had completely fooled you, Hui," Sousuke said, his eyes narrowing. Just by looking at the older man, that disquieting feeling he had been experiencing lately was starting to come back. "I guess you're going to haul me back to the hospital now, right?"

"Take you back?" the Chinese man repeated. Then he burst out in wicked laughter. "Far from it! You see, boy, you and your pals at Mithril cost us a lot of trouble at Amalgam, especially with the deaths of Mr. Silver and Mr. K. So, I've been ordered by the new head honcho to take you out personally. When I snuck into your room, I nearly killed poor Chiba. It's a good thing for him he was talking in his sleep."

Sousuke glared at the man, drawing back into a fighting stance, his fists clenching. So, his instincts had been right this time. This was the enemy that had felt watching him!

"You have no idea how fucking irritating it's been for me to wait for this day to come!" Hui griped.

"Actually, I do," Sousuke deadpanned.

Hui ignored him and continued on. "I could never get the chance with those CIA twits, Hojima, and Chiba!" A very nasty grin twisted his face. "But thanks to you, I can finally get down to business!"

Trailing those words, Hui removed his jacket and hat afterwards, and then pulled out a wickedly sharp combat knife. He then lunged across the room at Sousuke, his speed surprising the younger man. He nearly ducked a second too late when the Amalgam agent took the first swing at him, with the only casualties being the cap he stole from Chiba and a couple of strands of hair. Sousuke immediately followed with a quick barrel roll to put some distance between them.

A part of Sousuke was really kicking himself for not bringing at least one gun with him.

Hui surged again, repeatedly taking swipes at him with his knife. It was all Sousuke could do to evade them.

"What's wrong, little Sagara?" Hui taunted. "Is dodging all you're good at?"

Fate was once again good to Sousuke, for right after he leaped back to avoid another slash from his opponent, he caught sight of a metal pole leaning against the wall. Unfortunately, it was on the other side of the room. Having no choice, he lunged forward as his muscular attacker swung at him again, surprising Hui. Seconds before the blade could reach him, Sousuke threw himself into a slide across the floor to evade it. Rolling back onto his feet, he made a desperate dash for the pole.

"Oh no you don't!" Hui said as he spun. He flung the knife after Sousuke.

Hearing the blade approaching, Sousuke swiftly threw himself to the side on the floor, the knife plunging itself into the wall next to very pole he had been aiming for. Well, at least things were even since neither of them had a weapon in their hand- that was Sousuke's thinking as he stood again and turned back to his opponent. However, when he engaged the double agent in hand-to-hand combat, he was swiftly proven wrong, as Hui easily had the advantage in strength and fighting skills, landing a few hits on him straightaway.

"Hey, now, are you really the Sagara Sousuke I've heard so much about?" Hui asked after knocking Sousuke down on his rear with a palm strike to his chest. "Without that Arm Slave of yours, you're noth-ooof!"

Hui's words were cut off when Sousuke caught him in the stomach with a kick. Pushing himself off his hands, he kipped up to his feet, kicking his enemy in the face as he did so. The blow buffeted the older man backwards, and Sousuke moved in to continue his attack, landing a few punches to his face. But when he attempted to knock him out with a kick like he did that soldier earlier, the Chinese man surprised him by catching his leg and then easily flipping him to the ground.

Sousuke laid there stunned, seeing stars before his eyes. Naturally, the enemy didn't give him the chance to recover as he quickly pounced on him, his heavier body pinning him down to the floor. Hui strangled him with both hands. Sousuke gasped for breath while weakly and desperately trying to claw at his opponent's face in an attempt to get free. Hui only laughed at his efforts. It wasn't long before he started to taste blood in the back of his throat.

"Goodbye, Sagara Sousuke!"

In the next instant, the sound of some kind of gun being fired pierced through the air. Then, Hui's green eyes flew wide, his body freezing over Sousuke's. After a few moments, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell forward on the ground beside his target while half of his body was still on him, a tranquilizer dart jabbed into the center of the back of his neck. Sousuke quickly shoved him off and sat up, rubbing at his throat as he gasped sharply for breath.

Once again, Death had almost claimed him.

Sousuke opened his eyes and immediately became on guard when he heard footsteps approach. He was surprised by who it was.

"Agent Araki!"

Lowering her gun, Michiru rushed over to him.

"Are you okay?" she asked. "Luckily I made it in time to stop him."

"Yeah," Sousuke replied, standing back to his feet.

Michiru turned toward the comatose Hui. Kneeling beside him and placing her gun on the floor, she removed the tranquilizer dart from his neck and checked his pulse. Seeing that he was fine, she took out her handcuffs and locked them around his wrists. It was right after that she noticed the C-4 Sousuke had taken from the Armory on the floor, but she pretended she didn't see it all.

"What's going on here?" Sousuke demanded, wanting answers. "Did you know about this?"

"Yes," Michiru confessed, turning to look at Sousuke as she rose. "For some time, the CIA had heard rumors of a secret organization that engages in terrorist acts, but we could never find out their name or any real info on them. Talking to you really helped us fill in some blanks. I knew-no, I predicted that someone from that group, a Chinese, would appear and try to kill you. The reason why I volunteered myself and Matsuda to be the agents they sent over to bring you in for questioning...to protect you and to capture this man."

"Agent Araki, what do you mean you predicted all of this?" Sousuke asked.

Michiru smiled that enigmatic smile of hers again. "It's because I have the gift of Predictability."

"Predictability?" Sousuke said, realization sinking in. "You're a Whi-"

"Yes, or rather I used to be," Michiru answered, her brows creasing in genuine puzzlement. "Before we were sent to Japan for you, the whispers stopped speaking to me. I wonder if others like me are experiencing this problem."

"Others like her? Could the same thing have happened to Kaname and Tessa?" Sousuke pondered. He then recalled his situation, and watched the officer with a confused stare. "I don't get it. Why would you care so much about my life?"

"Because of a life debt..." Michiru told him following a suspension. "The one that I owe you when you were known as Kashim."

Sousuke's face turned back into surprise. "When I was Kashim?"

Michiru nodded. "You probably don't remember this, but years ago in Afghanistan, you saved me and my family from some thieves." She smiled, remembering that day. "I had never forgotten you or you name. So, consider this my way of repaying you for that day."

"Does this mean you're not arresting me?" Sousuke asked.

"No, you're free to go," she assured him. "Matsuda and I were ordered to bring you in for questioning and to be a possible link for us to Amalgam. But now that we're bringing in an actual agent of Amalgam, I don't think my superiors will make too much of a fuss over you getting away."

"And what about your partner, Agent Matsuda?" Sousuke inquired. "I doubt he'll agree with this."

"You have nothing to worry about from my partner," Michiru assured him. She thought back to the sight of Suguru sleeping soundly when she left their apartment earlier; he became that way shortly after he drunk some tea she made for him..."Matsuda won't be waking up until morning."

As if he knew what she meant, Sousuke's mouth turned into a slight smile.

"Sergeant?"

The two immediately turned in the direction of Al.

"Al?"

"Sorry to interrupt, but I think we should be leaving now."

"Right."

"We need to hurry before people notice that you're missing from the hospital," Michiru said urgently.

Sousuke nodded. Moving quickly, both he and Michiru worked together in pulling Hui out of the warehouse and into the car the CIA agent drove over in. After asking Michiru to drop off those soldiers he knocked out earlier somewhere, and her accepting, the two got them in the backseat.

"Thank you," Sousuke said appreciatively. He and Michiru then briskly shook hands.

"My pleasure, and good luck to you!" Michiru answered.

Hit by another recognition, Sousuke said, "I heard you were the one who had Al dismantled. That was to help me, too, wasn't it?"

Michiru simply responded with yet another smile. Getting inside her car, Michiru drove off with the Amalgam agent and the two soldiers.

Wasting no more time, Sousuke went back inside the warehouse. While putting the temporary 'body' of Al inside a wheelbarrow, he thought about Michiru. "So, Araki Michiru and I met back in Afghanistan...Come to think of it, I do vaugely remember saving a girl who looked just like her and telling her my name when she asked for it..."

Sousuke stopped thinking about it entirely, as he wheeled his partner out of the warehouse and around the side of it where the cargo truck was. He loaded Al up on the back. They were almost ready, howbeit, he had one final thing to do. Running back inside the warehouse, Sousuke found the C-4, and proceeded to set it to the desired time. Running back out to the truck, he got inside on the driver's side. He was hardly surprised to see that the keys were still in the ignition switch. On a military base like this, crime was probably nonexistent, so he wasn't very surprised that the people there would be this lax. He strapped himself in his seat and cranked the truck up, its engine roaring to life. Now they were officially ready to go.

Sticking his head out the window, he called, "Time to go, Al!"

"Roger!" came Al's response.

A little while later, the peace on the Kadena Air Base was disturbed when an explosion abruptly went off on the northwest side. Alarms almost instantly started blaring loudly over the facility.

During all the chaos, the one who had triggered the explosion made his getaway in a cargo truck, successfully driving off the base. Sousuke guided the truck up the road at top speed, knowing the police would come chasing after him soon enough.

As he turned a corner, he took a quick glance at some people inside a military light truck sitting on the side of the road. Sousuke got almost halfway up the road before he realized that he actually knew those people. Making an abrupt stop, he put the gear in reverse and went back, stopping directly beside the vehicle. Putting the truck in park and keeping the engine running, Sousuke stepped out of the truck, looking at the occupants of the other vehicle with his usual sullen mien.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

Inside, Melissa, Wraith, Clouseau, and a still-very much-alive Kurz gawked back at him in equal bafflement.


Following a terse goodbye, Sousuke sped off in the Humvee he 'borrowed' from Melissa and company, leaving behind Al and the cargo-truck in their care. Even as he heard the sirens of the police cars from Kadena get ever-closer to the spot where he left the others at, there was no doubt in his mind that they would get away safely. Despite not having enough time to show it on his face, after almost losing his life twice recently, Sousuke really had been glad to see his comrades again. Even Wraith.

His mouth shifted from its usual upside-down position and into a small smirk as he thought about Kurz. He had truly been annoyed with the older man after seeing he hadn't died the heroic death everyone thought he had, because it basically ruined the oath they had all made to avenge him. But now Sousuke couldn't be any more relieved and happy to see that his friend had survived. Remembering how Melissa cried to him over Kurz, Sousuke knew his former team leader must have been quite elated when he reappeared in front of her.

Sousuke's face turned serious again as he reflected on what Wraith and Melissa had told him about Kaname. What he had speculated after what he heard from Michiru had been confirmed- Kaname had also lost her ability to hear the 'whispers'. First Michiru, and now Kaname? Did this mean that Tessa, Mira and all the other Whispered who they still didn't know about were going through the same thing? He suspected the reason behind it had something to do with the original Whispered, Sophia, being gone now.

Frankly, that wasn't the main issue here for him. The problem he had with this was hearing that Kaname had declined any further protection since she was a normal person again. Did that mean she would reject him as well when they finally reunite?

"Like hell I'll accept that!" Sousuke blurted rebelliously, his hands tightening on the steering wheel.

He didn't care if she was a Whispered or not! After the year-long ordeal he's been through trying to save her and get her back home like he promised, there was no way he would let her decide that. And there was also no way he was going to let her get out of the pact they made to each other in Mexico. He had so much to tell Kaname that he had actually been a little nervous about what he should say when saw her again. However, now he knew exactly what he needed to tell her.

It wasn't only the Kadena Air Base he had just escaped from. He had also escaped from his old life. All of it.

He was free from his life as the assassin Kashim.

He was free from his life as the mercenary "Urzu 7" Sergeant Sagara Sousuke.

He could now just simply be Sagara Sousuke, a normal man like he was always supposed to be. Before, the only life he saw for himself was the bleak one of a hired killer who only followed orders until the day died. Now that he had taken control over his own destiny, his future looked brighter than he ever imagined it could be. Thinking about it brought a smile of pure joy to his face that might have frightened those who knew him.

"Wait for me, Kaname!" he whooped excitedly as the first few stars appeared above him in the sky. "I'm coming home!"

The End