AN: Thanks a bunch to everyone who reviewed! Since some of you asked, and I can't write one-shots without a sequel in mind, Ambidextrous is now a multi-chaptered alternate continuity.

However, I will still try to fit as many canon facts as possible in my chapters, so expect spoilers for Retraces 75 and 76 in this one.

The original one-shot hence gains the subtitle Baskerville, and this chapter is called Nightray. There will be four in total. Can you guess the last two?

The creaking sound of a door opening woke him up. Gilbert turned his head towards it, and saw his brother standing in the doorway. Night had fallen on his old bedroom. The only light came from the candle Vincent was holding, and the airy dust that clung to his dirty blond hair. Gilbert's mind was still too drowsy to understand the situation.

His brother smiled apologetically. It didn't reach his eyes.

"I let you sleep as long as I could, but we have to go. I just got a message from Pandora Headquarters."

"Pandora…?" Gilbert sat up. "But I thought…"

"The Baskervilles have put Pandora under siege. They are gathering the contractors of the five Black Winged Chains. Your master expects you, brother."

The words were hammering reality into his head, leaving him alert and terrified. They woke the pain in his left hand. Gilbert jumped to his feet and threw on his discarded coat. Someone had hung the cloth to dry on the mantelpiece, but it still clung to his undershirt. He couldn't have slept that long.

Vincent was watching him closely. When Gilbert went for the door, his brother followed in long, even strides. Every move he made sounded composed and deliberate. But whenever Gilbert looked over his shoulder or into the dark glass of a passing window, he would meet Vincent's eyes.

He could feel them boring into his back as Vincent told him everything that had happened while he slept. In order to prevent the chains holding the world from breaking, the Baskervilles needed the power of the five Black Winged Chains. Glen couldn't use the full power of the Jabberwocky with the fifth Sealing Stone still intact, but thanks to Duke Barma's collaboration, they had learnt its location: Count Eyrie's manor, a little further East after the Nightray household.

Duke Barma had warned them against the count's high security, so the Baskervilles had split into two groups: Doug and Lily had gone to destroy the stone, while Zwei, Lottie and Glen – who couldn't go near the stone – had gone back to Pandora Headquarters, as reinforcements for the illegal contractors. They were to take control of Pandora in order to find the five keys to the Abyss, but their main targets were Sheryl Rainsworth's Owl and, of course, Oz.

Gilbert pushed the front door open, and raised his arms to shield himself from the sudden airstream. The rain wouldn't stop. The sultry air was charged with electricity, and the trees bended under the howling wind. But it wasn't water falling from the heavens. No matter where Gilbert looked, golden drops filled his vision. The world was collapsing all around him.

As he ran, Gilbert felt for the pendant under his shirt. The chain was ice cold under the drenched fabric, but the mirror was emitting some warmth. It felt like its contractor's body heat clung to it stubbornly. Like the Raven kept some of Gilbert's strength trapped there. The pain in his left hand got sharper at that thought. He had no idea how to stop it. There was no choice but to ignore it and keep going.

A carriage was waiting. Their driver was struggling to calm the horses, and swearing like a trooper at the weather. Gilbert got in without a word, his mind filled with thoughts of bloody corpses, burning buildings and a bottomless pit. Even if the Baskervilles managed to stop the destruction of the world, the damage already done was probably too great. It would be Sablier all over again.

When he sat down, Gilbert noticed a long, tightly packed-up bundle, which was propped up by cushions on the opposite seat.

"What is this?" Gilbert pointed at the baggage when Vincent boarded.

Vincent sat close to the object, and closed a hand around its wrapping. He kept it safely tucked next to him.

"Only something you are going to need later."

Gilbert wanted to prompt, but just then the carriage started, and almost knocked him off balance. He straightened up, and glanced out the window at the night landscape rushing by. Their speed was probably unwise on these roads and with an upcoming storm, but he wasn't going to complain. They had no time to spare.

"It's only a matter of time until Pandora gives in," his little brother resumed his account. "The Hatter has been caught."


"I heard it just now, from the messenger. They took his blood mirror and imprisoned him."

Gilbert was hanging on the edge of his seat, waiting with bated breath for more, but Vincent had stopped talking. He was watching his older brother in silent apprehension. Gilbert hated how forlorn he looked. The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them:

"Oz. What about him? What have they done to Oz?"

Vincent frowned slightly. Gilbert wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't been looking so intently.

"The Hatter was carrying him when they got to him. Oz was taken as well. Last I heard, they took him to a cell to seal his powers."

"He is alive..."

Vincent's lips were drawn into a thin line. Even in the darkness of the carriage, his eyes were bright and calculating.

"…Does it matter to you?"

"Of course it does!" Gilbert's voice was trembling, with anger or fear, probably both. "What do you think…"

"Brother," Vincent interrupted softly, "I know that you blame yourself for what happened."

He was shaking his head with a fond, disapproving smile playing on his lips. Pieces of golden chains went flying around his unruly hair. There was a childish air about him, which unsettled Gilbert and reduced him to silence. As patronizing as Vincent's gestures were, Gilbert couldn't help but notice how tense his little brother's shoulders looked.

"And if I told you it wasn't your fault, you wouldn't listen," Vincent chuckled. "Still. Your master knew what he was doing."

Gilbert's left hand twitched. It might have been him, or Vincent had put a slight emphasis on the word 'master.'

"Besides," his brother went on after a short silence, "you knew that B-Rabbit was the one who broke the chains. But to you, this Chain was always too human. Not to mention that," his lips twisted into something that might have been a sympathetic smile, or a teasing one. "For a while, Oz filled a gap in your life, didn't he?"

Gilbert couldn't answer. It was, after all, nothing but the truth, things that Glen had already talked him through. Gilbert was perfectly aware of the way he had used Oz. That made his betrayal all the worse. Even if his master ordered it, he had no right to hurt Oz in any way. And now, even Break had suffered the consequences of Gilbert's weakness. He couldn't leave things like this.

"I can't abandon him..."

"You mean your master?"

Gilbert flinched. He had definitely heard it. There was a slight tremor in Vincent's voice; the one he had acquired after Gilbert had scolded him during their face-off in Réveil. It sounded uncertain, and grew more urgent every time he mentioned Gilbert's master. It almost felt like a physical pull...

"Of course. You only live for him," Vincent rested his forearms on his knees, and leaned in. "You told me this yourself: if his life is in danger, you'd kill anyone who threatened your master, wouldn't you? If you think about it, nothing has changed."

Lightning struck and illuminated the compartment. Vincent's eye shone a bright, pained red:

"The one trying to take your master away is B-Rabbit."

"Shut up!" Gilbert clutched at his temples. He didn't want to hear those words. They wormed their way into his skull, niggling at the back of his mind like claws on glass, everything would shatter unless that gravely voice shut up, shut up! "I didn't know it was Oz!"

"You couldn't have known." It took Gilbert a while to realize that it was his brother speaking, and not the bloodthirsty voice in his head. "But you can only serve one master."

Master. Everything was so much simpler when he had a master to serve. Love him. Follow his orders. Simple. Easy. Kill his enemies. Simple, and the servant had still failed.

In order to protect his master, Gilbert should have stopped Jack a hundred years ago. He had been too late, and too naïve. Jack had gotten away and killed Glen. Gilbert had followed the order belatedly, and shot Oz instead. Knowing all the while that it wasn't really Jack he was killing, and that his master was long lost, anyway.

Thunder rumbled in the distance. It was still far. Gilbert barely heard it over the clatter of the carriage wheels against the uneven road, but it was enough to bring him back to reality.

"I know that," he told his brother through gritted teeth. "I know..."

He couldn't use his master as an excuse for what he had put Oz through. The truth was that Gilbert's act had been cruel and pointless. Even if Jack was the enemy, he was well out of his reach. Shooting the vessel wouldn't rid either Glen or Oz of the ghost.

Gilbert had followed the order blindly, but it hadn't brought his master back from the dead. Nothing would.

"I can't ever make up for what I did then. I lost my master back in Sablier."

His voice sounded hollow to his own ears. Yet somehow, his headache was easier to bear after he said it. Gilbert knew exactly where he stood, and how hopeless his situation was. Glen may have forgiven him, but Gilbert had never earned his trust, and he never would. Now, a way out was all he could wish for.

More importantly, Vincent's expression was seriously worrying him. Gilbert had always resented the fact that his little brother hid things from him, and never confided in anyone, when it was obvious that Vincent had troubles he couldn't handle alone. Now more than ever, under all the smooth words and calculating gaze, Vincent looked like he could crumble at the slightest push.

"…There might be a way to undo that," Vincent said. He was talking so softly that Gilbert barely heard him over the storm and jolting carriage.

"What are you saying?"

Vincent seemed to hesitate. He took a slow, deep breath:

"What if you could prevent your master's death? What if you could go back to that time?"

Gilbert's eyes widened.

"You don't mean…"

"I made a deal with Leo Baskerville," Vincent was talking faster, his back very straight against his seat. "He is the Glen of this time. If he obtains the Will of the Abyss, he agreed to grant me a wish. Gil, we can change the past."

What remained of Gilbert's headache vanished at that. He looked at his brother in a daze, his heart hammering in his chest. Change the past. They could do anything. Bring Elliot back. Prevent the Tragedy from ever happening. Save his master. Save Oz…

His train of thoughts stopped short. Gilbert's hope deflated like a bubble, before it was even fully formed. Of course he couldn't save Oz. Not the boy he had served for five years, and followed into the darkness of the Abyss. If anyone turned back time, and prevented the Tragedy of Sablier, there would be nothing left of the Oz he knew.

"It is possible," Vincent insisted. "I spent years gathering information from Pandora and the Baskervilles. I know for a fact that it has been done before."

In a flash, Gilbert saw Break's completed seal, the way the man's pale fingers fisted his hair and hid his eye from view when he moaned: "I killed her."


"Jack wouldn't be able to open the Gate!" Vincent got up and grabbed his shoulders. "Not without my help! Maybe… No, he would have given up on his plan. That foolish Duke doesn't know anything. Both of us, we knew Jack better than any of the Barmas. You remember too, you know Jack would never…"

"Vince, calm down!" Gilbert pulled at his brother's wrists, but Vincent only tightened his grip. "You don't…"

"Brother, hear me out!" He was too close. Gilbert could even see his lips quivering. This wasn't like him, Vincent shouldn't look so vulnerable, it reminded Gilbert too much of the past. "It can't get any worse than this! Just give it a chance, I know we can trust Jack! I…"

The carriage jumped when a front wheel hit a pebble. Vincent was sent off balance, and Gilbert caught hold of his shoulder when his brother fell on his lap. The man made haste to push Vincent off, make him sit next to him and ask if he was alright, but his little brother hung on to him. He looked flustered.

"Gil. You deserve a past without me," Vincent told him earnestly. "Please… Let me give you that much."

Gilbert was dumbstruck. Vincent's words were soft-spoken, yet Gilbert became deaf from them. It was as though they had swallowed the raging wind and clattering wheels outside. He hoped he had heard wrong. That Vincent would take them back.

"Everything you went through was my fault," Vincent went on, like he was stating a fact. "Our parents abandoned us because of my red eye. Everyone shunned us because of it. It was I who opened the Gate to the Abyss. If I was never born…"

Gilbert slammed his brother against the back of his seat.

"Is that how you planned to 'make me happy?'" he asked, livid. "You want to erase your own existence? Are you crazy?"

"I know," Vincent smiled, unconcerned about the fist clenching his collar. "I knew you would disagree. You were always so kind-hearted. Of course you would never approve of a plan that involved my death. I know you very well, brother…"

"Then why are we having this conversation?"

"Now, be honest," Vincent covered Gilbert's fist with his hand, and looked at him from under his eyelashes. "And answer this: have you never told yourself, not even once, that you would be happier without me? Have you never wished that I would just disappear?"

Gilbert went stiff. Vincent stroked the fist at his throat with a thumb, and waited for an answer that wouldn't come. His smile widened into a grin that reduced his mismatched eyes to slits. Gilbert's fist shook. He couldn't believe this.

"…I have," Gilbert admitted, his grip tightening around his brother's collar. "Many times. Even when we were children, and I had nobody else in the world. Are you trying to tell me that I was right?"

Vincent tilted his head, all the better to see him in the dark.

"That's just the way you are," he said lovingly. "Too sweet and weak to admit your own cruelty. This is why I took things into my own hands."

"Stop that!" Gilbert slammed his brother harder against the seat, in a desperate attempt to knock some sense into him. "You don't know anything! You keep talking about Sablier. Did it ever occur to you that, for most of my life, I remembered nothing of that time? What about the years we spent together at the Nightrays'? Don't they mean anything to you?"

"They hated us," Vincent kept smiling. "And you hated this house. I kept you there because I couldn't live without you."

"It was my decision to become a Nightray, and you know it!" Gilbert yelled. "You always knew that I was using you to get my hands on Raven! And yet you always supported and helped me. If it hadn't been for you and Elliot..."

There it was. The slight widening of Vincent's eyes, that lost look he had never outgrown. Gilbert had both fists at his collar now:

"I would never have made it without you! You always knew what I was planning. And whenever I asked for help, you gave it. So why can't you trust me? You should have told me what you were up to! All these years, you had me worried sick. I drove myself crazy trying to figure out what was going on inside your head! And all this time, you wanted to die?"

The carriage did another jump, and the shock almost made him strangle Vincent. Gilbert released him immediately to check for bruises, but his little brother just stared at him in a confused daze.

"Damn you." Gilbert ran his hand through his hair restlessly. "Things are bad enough as it is. Do you think I want to lose you as well?"

They were both quiet after that. The racket from outside was back, sounding much closer and realer now that Gilbert was done venting. He couldn't hear himself panting above the storm.


Vincent was slumped on his seat. All energy seemed to have left him as soon as Gilbert had let him go. When Gilbert raised his head to meet his gaze, Vincent covered his red eye. A reflex engrained long ago, that made his brother sick to his stomach every time he caught Vincent in the act.

"I am going to disappear anyway."

Vincent's expression was a mere shadow of his usual smiles, twisted in pain and regret. It sent chills down Gilbert's spine.

"Your seal," the man whispered. "How far did the needle advance?"

"My…? Oh. Right. Demios. No, I wasn't referring to that."

Gilbert could have slapped his brother across the face for taking his illegal contract so lightly. Vincent froze him with a look:

"I am a Child of Misfortune."

Vincent's smirk became crooked with self-disgust when he said it. As he stared at his older brother, it seemed to soften slightly.

"It's better that way," Vincent told him. "After the chains are restored, as soon as Glen Baskerville gets all his power back, I will be sent to the lowest level of the Abyss."

Gilbert shivered.

"Did… Did he tell you that?"

"You heard him. Children of Misfortune threaten the peace of the Abyss. This is why your master sent his sister down there. If you had become the next Glen, you would have done the same for me."

There was a fierce glint in Vincent's eyes, the certitude that he deserved no better fate. The way he phrased it, it almost sounded like a favour.

"There was never any proof of that!" Gilbert protested.

He had spent the earliest years of his life telling his little brother that all that talk about misfortune was nothing but superstition. He refused to believe otherwise.

"Who knows?" Vincent said. "It doesn't really change anything. All I want is to let you start over, without me to burden you. Just let Lord Leo erase my existence. Then you wouldn't have to kill me, and there would be no Tragedy of Sablier."

"You would still die! And Jack would find another way! He became an illegal contractor, stabbed me in the back, and killed his best friend! Do you seriously think he would give up just like…"

"What did you say?"

Suddenly there was a fixed stare on Vincent's face. His pupils had contracted so much that his eyes seemed to glow in the dark.

"Jack stabbed you?"

"He used me to get to my master," Gilbert growled. "Then he forced Oz to kill him. Jack betrayed the four of us. We can't trust him, Vince."

Vincent's hands were balled into tight fists. Gilbert bit his lip, and put a hand on his little brother's forearm. He was shaking so hard that it became noticeable in spite of the carriage's jolts.

"I'm sorry," Gilbert told him. "I should have protected you back then."

Vincent didn't seem to hear him. If it weren't for his erratic breathing, Gilbert would have thought he had turned to stone. He held his tongue, deeming it safer to give his little brother some time to recover. They stayed like this for several minutes. When suddenly, a bitter laugh left Vincent's lips.

"I see," he said between snickers. "I see… But it doesn't matter. Your master will erase Jack, too. Yes. I will just take him with me. With the two of us gone, you won't have to suffer anymore."

Gilbert's fingers dug into Vincent's arm: "Are you still…!"

"Rather than killing us now, it would be best to prevent Jack's birth, and mine," Vincent's laughter was dying down gradually, leaving a manic expression on his face. "Since our fate is sealed, anyway…"

"It is not! Master never said he was going to kill you!"

"He will do it, brother. The only reason he didn't imprison me is because I pledged my allegiance. But as soon as this crisis is over, he will be sure to get rid of Jack and I."

Realisation hit Gilbert with the force of a slap. Suddenly he felt cold, unbearably so. His soaked undershirt weighed him down like ghostly hands. The howling outside froze him to the core.

"It can't be..." his voice was hoarse and foreign. "The reason why the Baskervilles kept Oz alive…?"

Vincent rubbed at his face. To Gilbert, it looked like an attempt to erase the grimace he wore. The younger man heaved a long sigh:

"Yes. They are going to throw him into the darkness of the Abyss, along with Jack."

"They can't… They can't!"

"They already tried. Twice," Vincent gave him an unblinking stare. "They couldn't send Oz deep enough with only one Black Winged Chain, however. This is why he could make it back. Even Lord Leo was bound to fail. But this time, the Baskervilles will have the five birds at their disposal."

Gilbert put a hand over his mouth, horror-struck. The Baskervilles needed the five Black Winged Chains to send Oz and Vincent to the lowest level of the Abyss, where no one could save them. They needed Raven.

No. He couldn't do it. His master couldn't ask that of him, anything but that...

"Do you see now?"

He was going to be sick. He wouldn't look at Vincent. He didn't want to hear another word from him.

"It would be better if the two of you never met," his little brother's tone was almost gentle. "If we change the past, at least my death would have a purpose."

"Be quiet," Gilbert pleaded. "Don't say that. Never say that again."

He didn't want to go through this ever again. He didn't want either of Oz or his brother to go through this ever again.

But what could Gilbert do if he couldn't trust himself? His own hands had betrayed him. Gilbert was among the Baskervilles' ranks from the start. Ten years ago, he had stabbed Oz. Just yesterday he had shot him. And this time, it would be his own hand dragging his young master into the Abyss.

"There is still time," Gilbert murmured frantically. "Before the four dukes are gathered..."

The carriage jolted to a stop. The rain was pattering heavily against the roof. Gilbert stood up straight.


His brother raised a questioning eyebrow.

"Vince," Gilbert asked in a rush, afraid their driver would overhear. "You know where Break is, don't you? Take me to him."

A worried crease appeared on Vincent's forehead:

"What do you intend to do?"

"I have to talk to him."

It was the only out Gilbert could see. Ten years ago, Break had burst into his life like a mad genie out of a timeless lamp, and only by following his lead had the young boy found his way back to Oz. If Break couldn't find a solution to this mess, no one could.

Vincent's frown only deepened. Their driver opened the door for them. His top hat was low on his eyes to protect them from the pouring rain, but Gilbert recognized his square jaw and aquiline nose. It was Joseph, a servant of the Nightray household, whom Gilbert remembered as dependable, if rather forgetful. The driver was only carrying two umbrellas, which he held out to the siblings.

Gilbert thanked him profusely, told him to keep his, and ran into the night. He ignored the paved roads, and made a beeline for the side doors.

Water and mud drenched his trousers as he splashed through puddles. His long hair clung to his cheeks and temples. Gilbert shook his head to get rid of the wet strands that obstructed his vision, and realized that he had left his hat at the Nightray mansion.

It was a relief to reach the lit corridors of Pandora Headquarters, although the difference in temperature was trifling. Vincent caught up with him a few minutes later, his moves as languid as ever. He was carrying the long bundle from before. Once he had passed the door, he felt it to make sure it was packed up securely.

"As you wish," Vincent told his brother over the storm. The wind slammed the door shut behind him. "We had better hurry, then. You shouldn't keep your master waiting."

Gilbert made a point to ignore that remark, although his head and left hand still hurt. It wasn't like he intended to double-cross the Baskervilles. As soon as he had pulled the trigger, Raven's contractor had proven that he was on their side. This taken of loyalty had been enough for Glen, and therefore, enough for his subordinates. If Gilbert was a Baskerville, disobedience to the master was inconceivable.

Gilbert refused to fail Glen a second time. He wouldn't betray him. But he couldn't let Oz and Vincent die.

"Will you be fine carrying that?" he pointed at Vincent's baggage. "It looks heavy."

Vincent rubbed at his eyes to rid them of the water and hypersomnia, and took a candlestick off the wall:

"I don't mind. For now, let's pay a visit to Mr Hatter."

He was avoiding Gilbert's eyes, and the man didn't know what to make of it. The way Vincent handled the object seemed exceedingly careful, like he was holding something fragile or precious. But the young man made his way to the end of the corridor without a backwards glance, and urgency was quick to overcome Gilbert's curiosity. He darted ahead of his brother, keeping an ear out for Vincent's concise directions.

Gilbert's steps were quick and unsteady as he descended the stone stairs to Pandora's dungeons; they sounded booming next to the pitiful clinking of the breaking chains. Their echo was a welcome distraction. He could only see four stairs ahead in the faint glow of Vincent's candlestick, but after ten years at Pandora's orders, the man had long since gotten used to the darkness. Besides, from the information his brother was giving him, Gilbert could guess where they were headed.

Even as a Pandora agent, he had hardly ever had to go so deep underground; interrogation had never been his line of expertise. Gilbert had only heard of the place where the most dangerous illegal contractors were held. Their Chains, of course, had to be restrained with sealing stones and pentacles. In this part of the dungeon, however, the contractors were deemed as dangerous as the monsters they summoned. Rather than ropes, Pandora used iron cuffs to keep them in line.

The only ones allowed to visit these high security prisoners were the four great dukes and their closest representatives. In other words, the doors to these cells could only be unlocked by one of their four Black Winged Chains.

Gilbert stopped short. Vincent's heels clicked behind him as he, too, came to a halt. Familiar snickering drifted to their ears.

"You came!" a high-pitched voice cackled in the dark. "Master Glen knew you would come! You are such a naughty boy, Gilbert."

Before he could say anything, the Baskerville came out of the shadows, her usual grin cutting her young face in two. She had taken off her hood.

"What is it?" Echo's face sneered at Gilbert. "Were you expecting someone else?"

"Good evening, Zwei," Vincent said. Out of the corner of his eye, Gilbert saw him put his baggage against the wall cautiously, and step in front of it. "How nice of you to wait for us."

The girl bounced past Gilbert to throw her arms around Vincent. Her smile made her flushed cheeks and pimples very apparent by candlelight, in stark contrast to her former expression.

"I take it the invasion was a success, then?" Vincent put his free arm around Zwei's shoulders, keeping one eye on his brother. Zwei nodded:

"You should have come, Vincent! I had fun with this guy," she tilted her head towards the door she had been guarding. "Did you come to torture him? Can I join in?"

"Maybe another time," Vincent smiled at Gilbert's sharp intake of breath, and lifted his forefinger from the candlestick in a silent sign to be quiet. "I will let Gil do the honours."

Zwei turned into Vincent's one-armed embrace to smirk at Gilbert:

"Ooh, Master Glen won't like that," she giggled. "You will be late for the gathering! And then we will all sink into the Abyss!"

"We are still one duke short, however," Vincent pointed out. "Or am I wrong?"

"That's true," Zwei was grinning from ear to ear, and eying Gilbert greedily. "Zai Vessalius hasn't come back yet."

Gilbert's hair stood up at the nape of his neck. Zai. Of course. As fellow contractors of Black Winged Chains, they would have to fix the chains together. And after all this was over, that man would come back for Oz.

"By the way, Gilbert," Zwei tittered. "He sends his thanks. For shooting his son."

"Out!" Gilbert's yell resonated in the dark corridor until the stones themselves cried out in protest. "Both of you. Leave us alone!"

"Very well," Vincent stopped pinching a laughing Zwei to pluck a candle. He held it out to his brother. "Why don't you go see whether Duke Vessalius has come back, Zwei? I will relieve you."

"I want to stay with you," the young girl pouted. "You're going to fall asleep if I leave."

"You have a point," Vincent chuckled. "It can't be helped, then. Well, brother, try to be quick about it. Zwei, hold this for me."

Vincent handed his candlestick to Zwei, and retrieved the bundle.

"What's that?" Zwei peered at the object curiously.

"Just a little gift for my dear brother," Vincent pulled the chipper girl away by the shoulder.

When Gilbert turned back to the door, he realized that his fingers were clenching the candle so tightly the wax was starting to sink in. The man breathed deeply, and tried to focus on the task at hand.

The heavy iron door and its lone square, tiny window glared down at him. At first glance, it looked like a door like any other in this dark and dusty prison. But upon closer inspection, Gilbert could make out the marks of a seal. The door itself was an illusion. Gilbert followed the pattern with his fingers, the magic ticklish against his gloves. The Raven was responding, and its contractor was quick to find the centre of the pentacle. He took his left glove off with his teeth, and laid his bare hand flat against the centre. When he removed it, he was holding a black feather.

Gilbert held it before him like a second light, and let it guide him through the labyrinth beyond the barrier. The Raven was flying to the contractor of Mad Hatter.

When Gilbert found him, the feather slipped from his fingers and drifted to the floor soundlessly. With every blink, Gilbert saw more golden rain. The drops and candle flame illuminated the prisoner faintly; he looked almost transparent in their light.

Break had been stripped of his coat, and hung to the wall by the wrists like a puppet by its strings. He was just as motionless. He hadn't even stirred when Gilbert had opened the barred door to his cramped cell, or when the servant's step had resounded between the four walls. Frail looking limbs and a bloody hand flickered in the dim light. If it weren't for the white hair, Gilbert might not have recognized him.


Gilbert's voice sounded pathetically weak in the empty room. There was little air. He didn't even hear an echo. Break was as lifeless as ever.


Gilbert took a staggering step forward, his cries frantic this time. The candlelight shimmered. Its flame threatened to disappear with every wild movement Gilbert made. He didn't notice. Break had to wake up. If he died, his last hope would be lost.

"Stop shouting like that."

The icy voice came out of nowhere. Gilbert froze immediately, and stared hard at Break's lips. The prisoner hadn't moved. Gilbert was afraid it had been another hallucination.

"Thank you. This should make it easier for the both of us."

Gilbert breathed a shaky sigh of relief. Or maybe it was exasperation; maybe worry. These were all he could feel around Break lately. Their current situation made it a thousand times worse.

"I'm sorry," Gilbert blurted out, the candle shaking in his hand. There were so many things to apologize for. He had no idea where to start. "I can't break you out..."

There was a short silence. Break hadn't moved from his position. When he parted his lips to speak again, Gilbert could only make out their shifting shadow in the dark.

"Don't bother," Break sneered. "They won't make it in time anyway. This little game was over before it started."

The biting statement confused him at first. Broken chains were falling weightlessly on their shoulders, entrancing and dismal. Gilbert wondered if Break's blind eye could see them. Or maybe the prisoner had heard of those breaking chains, and what they meant. Maybe from Zwei?

If that was the case, she had been taunting Break. Gilbert clenched a fist around his removed glove. He was certain that she hadn't told him everything.

"It might not be too late," Gilbert said. "The Baskervilles have the power to stop the destruction of the world. We might not be able to save everyone, but…"

"How sweet," Break scathed him. "You know you don't stand a chance. Why don't you just sit back and enjoy the show?"

"I can't! I have to do something or..."

Gilbert gritted his teeth, more out of self-loathing than any real ill feelings towards Break. He knew he deserved these stabbing words, and worse. But there was no time for doubt or regrets. There were lives at stake.

"You probably don't trust me anymore, but I had to come," Gilbert tried to explain, even though words were starting to fail him already. "If this goes on… Even if we succeed, Oz is going to die! Vincent too! The Baskervilles want to send them both into the Abyss! Please, Break, I need your help..."

Another silence, then Break's smirk reappeared. It looked strained and painful.

"I would appreciate it if you would stop crawling like that. Frankly, it's disgusting to watch." The man's voice dropped an octave. "It just makes me want to kill you even more."

"Break, listen to me!" Gilbert pleaded, ignoring the insult. "I know I betrayed you and Oz, but I… I might still be able to help you. I promise I'll get you out of here, but first I need you to tell me what happened to the others! I know you must have a plan, you wouldn't give up so easily!"

Break raised his head at that. Gilbert wouldn't have been able to tell, if it weren't for the red eye peeking behind his light fringe. Blind as it may be, it seemed to pierce right through him.

"How many…" Break asked in a hoarse voice. "How many people do you think I've killed?"

Gilbert was taken aback. But Break didn't wait for an answer.

"And how many died because of me?"

Gilbert's frame shook with unease. His drenched coat felt even colder down here. Black dry-stone walls were closing in on him. They absorbed all the heat and air like silent leeches. Even the echo of their words seemed trapped in the cramped space.

Gilbert suddenly wondered if the prisoner had heard anything he had said.


"Why is it never enough?"

Gilbert jumped.

The candle slipped out of his grasp, and was sent rolling on the floor. Its dying flame cast distorted shadows on the walls. Break started struggling against his restrains wildly. The candle hit the bottom of the wall the prisoner was pinned to. The long shadows made his limbs look like dislocated puppet sticks. With every clanging of the chains against the prison wall, Break's shouts got louder:

"That Will of the Abyss... How many more sacrifices does she want? I don't have the time…!"

"Break, stop it!" Gilbert rushed to hold his wrists in place, lest the man hurt himself. "Calm down!"

The candle flame died. Pieces of chains gleamed in the darkness. They fell like a surreal curtain as Break strove to free himself.

"Don't touch me! Hurry up and kill him, Albus! There is no time left!"

"What's wrong with you?" Gilbert was yelling louder than him, holding strong against the man's relentless shoves. "Who are you talking…"

Break's wide red eye glared at him, but the man didn't seem to hear a word:

"I have come this far… I can't stop now! I need to change the past! Master…!"

Gilbert's breath caught in his throat. The prisoner's screams had gone incoherent. Gilbert tried to call his name, and struggled to hold him in place. From up close, he could see the thick sweat on Break's forehead, the mad look in his eye. How impossibly hot his skin felt in this icy cell.

"You are burning up," Gilbert whispered dreadfully. "You have a fever."

Break broke into a coughing fit. Gilbert smelt blood.

"Bring them back…" the man hacked. "Master… Wait… Emi…ly..."

He had stopped fighting. Gilbert held him up against the wall as best as he could, afraid the handcuffs were putting too great a strain on the visibly sick man. Break's eye rolled back in its socket. The white was bloodshot.

"Hold on, Break…" Gilbert urged him, hoping his voice didn't sound as terrified as he felt. "You have to remember. You're not Kevin Regnard anymore. The Sinclairs are already…"


Gilbert went quiet. He wiped the sweat off Break's forehead in an attempt to help and soothe him.

"Where is Miss Sharon?" Break wheezed, his blind eye looking all over the dark room like a lost marble.

"I don't know," he stared at Break anxiously. "Vincent didn't mention her, she must have gotten away. Break, do you know where youare?"

The red eye rolled some more, and fell shut.

"Well, well, what do we have here?" Out of the blue, Break's pale lips twisted into a wicked smile. "Hello, little Gilbert."

Gilbert gulped. Even if the man seemed to recognize him, he didn't feel reassured in the least.

"Yes, it's me," he said carefully. "Break, you look terrible…"

"Still looking for your young master?" the prisoner snickered, startling Gilbert. "I heard the funniest story about him..."

The look he gave him was impossible to read. Break's eye was sunken and piercing like a fire in a cave. Some golden dust clung to his eyelashes. His cheeks were a feverish red.

"Two poor lost little rabbits stick together," the prisoner sing-sang. "One has been dead for a century. The other is a Chain. Two Blood-Stained Black Rabbits."

Gilbert's eyes widened:

"Alice. Where is she now?"

"Oh, you are going to love this," Break smirked bitterly. "Oz rejected her."

For several seconds Gilbert stared at Break uncomprehendingly. The prisoner's breathing came out uneven. It seemed to take considerable effort for him to keep his head straight. Yet his glare was relentless.

"That's impossible," Gilbert said.

"And you know what's really funny?" Break seemed to have more and more trouble breathing. "The seal on his chest didn't disappear. In fact, the needle advanced right after he rejected Alice. Tic-Toc. Then he passed out."

"What's wrong with you?" Gilbert took Break by the shoulders in a fit of panic. "How can you laugh in a situation like…"

"I wonder what time it is?" Break was looking up at the ceiling unseeingly. "Let me check on your seal, Oz… At this rate, you will miss the grand finale. Do you think you will see the world crumble from the Abyss? That must be a sight to behold."

Gilbert pursed his lips. Break couldn't hear him anymore. He didn't dare interrupt.

"Then again, even if your seal holds on, you will be cast into the Abyss anyway," the prisoner sighed. "Speaking of which… Gilbert, would you be so kind as to finish me off? I'd rather not be sent to another dimension with that sewer rat. I'm sure Oz will understand."

"You… what? What are you talking about…"

"I guess that explains why your little friends didn't just break my blood mirror," Break frowned. His skin felt clammy under Gilbert's hand. "It's better to send me directly to hell along with Mad Hatter. All four red-eyed hindrances in one go. Very clean."

Realization froze Gilbert to the spot.

"You're delirious," he said. He couldn't keep his voice from trembling. "They can't do this. Damn it, not you too!"

"My head does feel a bit fuzzy."

As if on cue, Break's head lolled on his shoulder, like the string holding it had just broken.

"Don't fall asleep!" Gilbert held Break's cheek in a shaking hand. "I'll get someone, please hang on…"

"I couldn't protect you either… Oz. Forgive me," came the prisoner's thick voice. "Emily… Alice… for your…wish..."

Break had gone back to murmuring nonsensical words. His whole body was shivering. Gilbert was scared of leaving him like that, but he couldn't figure out what was wrong with his fellow contractor. He was even more afraid of leaving Break after the few revelations he had gotten out of the prisoner.

But given Break's current state, how many of them could Gilbert accept as facts, and not a part of the man's delirium?

Gilbert loosened Break's collar with shaking fingers, pulled a handkerchief from his front pocket, and used it to wipe most of the sweat off the prisoner's face. He flinched when he moved a wet bang off Break's forehead. The glassy red eye and empty socket glared back at him.

That much was true. Not only was Break a Child of Misfortune, but Mad Hatter was one of the only Chains in existence that could kill the Baskervilles. Just like B-Rabbit. Yet the Baskervilles had let them live.

Vincent was right. Glen Baskerville intended to sacrifice them all to the Abyss.

"I will find another way," Gilbert stuttered. "I will get you out of here, I promise."

He owed Break that much, and he couldn't stand to see him like this. The man appeared so unnervingly fragile that Gilbert was afraid he might sink into the wall.

Gilbert crouched down, and felt for the black feather that would let him out. His extinguished candle had long disappeared in the darkness of the prison cell, so Gilbert just let his left hand wander on the stone floor. His fingers closed around the feather automatically.

With a last apology to Break's slumped form, Gilbert fled the room. As he raced through the labyrinth, he had to rely on the faint glow of the breaking chains not to bump into walls. He heard Zwei's humming before he even saw the light of the candlestick she was holding. He found Vincent slumbering against the wall with the young girl on his lap.

"Vince! Quick, Break needs help!"

Vincent opened his eyes, and greeted him with a yawn. Gilbert didn't even bother to help him up, and made haste to describe Break's symptoms. Back at the Nightray manor, whenever Gilbert fell sick, his little brother had always taken care of him. He would know what to do.

Halfway through Gilbert's explanations, Zwei gave an excited cry of recognition. Vincent blinked back the sleepiness, and held a pensive finger to his chin:

"Oh? So that's where it went."


"Poison," Vincent clarified. "Before I came to fetch you at the Nightray house, I noticed that a drug was missing from my collection."

Gilbert took a step back.

"Break was poisoned? But who… why?"

"It wasn't me."

One of the candle flames went out in a thin curl of smoke. The darkness seemed to be closing in on them, along with the collapsing otherworldly chains. Gilbert felt claustrophobic in the faint circle of the candlelight. Without moving from his position, crossed-legged on the dirty floor, Vincent glanced down at Zwei:

"You didn't happen to borrow from my collection without permission, did you?"

Zwei looked up at the two brothers with a grin, her teeth pearly white in the dark, and shook her head. But that question was the least of Gilbert's concerns:

"Vincent, that poison…"

"It's not lethal," Vincent waved his worries off. "It is a painful hallucinogen that usually causes the victim to lose all contact with reality for several hours. From the description you gave, Mister Hatter was administered a strong dose. Possibly the full bottle."

"What about the antidote?"

"I left it at the manor," Vincent said apologetically. "I should have figured that I would need it, but I was worried about you. I am afraid I wasn't thinking straight. Zwei, are you sure you don't know anything about this?"

The girl kept shaking her head and snuggling deeper against Vincent, her gleeful smirk unwavering in spite of the man's severe expression.

"Why would anyone poison him?" Gilbert's voice was still shaking from the sorry state he had found Break in. "He was already imprisoned… What's going on here?"

"It is rather strange," Vincent nodded. "Zwei, if you have no answer to give, I will have to ask Echo."

The girl's smile vanished. Gilbert's ears perked up:

"Echo?" he asked hopefully. "She's still here?"

"But she doesn't know anything!" Zwei slammed the candlestick to the ground in a fountain of fire and molten wax, extinguishing three flames out of the remaining four. She turned round to face Vincent, her voice rising in protest: "She's completely useless!"

Vincent put a hand on her head, and hushed her softly:

"It doesn't hurt to ask, does it? Now move aside."

Zwei clenched her teeth. She was clenching Vincent's robe so tightly her knuckles were turning white. Her cheeks flushed a deep red as the man stroked her hair.

"I don't want to go," she pouted. "I want to see the gathering. Master Glen told me to stay here..."

She trailed off when Vincent kissed her forehead:

"But unlike Echo, you would do anything I asked of you, wouldn't you?"

It was certainly a trick of the light, but for a second Zwei's eyes seemed to shine with repressed tears. She closed them tightly, and inclined her head in a slow nod.

Gilbert held his breath. After several seconds of heavy silence, the young girl raised her hand. There was a spark when the sole remaining candlelight hit jewellery; the silver ring that held back a strand of hair at her right temple. She removed it sharply.

"Echo?" Gilbert called gently.

White bangs hid her eyes from view, and her shoulders were shaking under the Baskerville's cloak. The young girl wouldn't look at either of them. At long last, without lifting her head, she answered in her usual toneless voice:

"Noise told the truth. I don't know who took the poison."

"Oh well, it was worth a try," Vincent sighed, and pushed her off his lap.

Echo stood up immediately, and pulled her coat-tails away from the candle flame in a swift sweeping motion. She was still refusing to look at Gilbert. Vincent picked up the candlestick, and leant on the wall to get to his feet. The light wavered after him.

"What do we do now, brother?"

Gilbert looked back at the labyrinth he had left Break in. It was pitch black save for the occasional golden drop. The man clenched Raven's feather in his fingers. If someone had taken Break's situation as an opportunity to poison him...

"I have to check on Oz!"

A small hand clasped his forearm. When he looked down, Gilbert met Echo's steady gaze. With her wide grey eyes, she appeared incredibly young in the Baskerville's cloak. The incongruity of it dispelled some of the man's panic. It was the very first time he saw fear on her face.

She shook her head once.

"You know we don't have much time, brother," Vincent stepped up to them, and glared warningly at Echo. "Zai Vessalius will be here any minute now."

"Exactly," Gilbert told him in a firm voice, though he could still feel his arm trembling under Echo's grip. "Why would anyone poison Break at a time like this? There's something wrong, Vince! I have to make sure Oz is alright, and warn my master!"

"In that case, Master Gilbert," Echo said, her eyes burning into his. "Would you allow me to keep your pistols for you?"

Gilbert gasped. Echo's gaze was clear and unwavering, and still her face was white. He could see his own worry reflected in those eyes. Suddenly Gilbert remembered her distress from the day before, when Oz had been shot. When he had shot Oz.

"No…" Gilbert shuddered. "That's not enough. I can't see Oz like this..."

But he had to. Gilbert had to confirm how much of what Break had told him was the truth. And there was the threat of the poisoner. He couldn't leave Oz alone.

"Brother," Vincent put a hand on his shoulder. "Is this worth trying your master's patience?"

The gloved hand was heavy with weariness. Something about Vincent's jaded tone lit a spark of inspiration. Gilbert turned round.

"Vince," he whispered. "The Dormouse. Would its power work on a Baskerville?"

Vincent's hand stilled.

"Yes," he answered. "I experimented on Zwei in the past."

Gilbert took a sharp breath. He decided to leave the scolding on Vincent's relationship with both Zwei and Echo for later. The immediate situation called for drastic measures. He stared intently into Vincent's mismatched eyes:

"Then come with me. I'll leave my pistols with Echo, but when I see Oz, I'm not sure how I will react. If you think I'm about to hurt him, put me to sleep immediately."

Echo let go of his arm. Vincent lowered his gaze to look at the dying flame on the candlestick. It made the rings under his eyes more apparent. His reluctance was manifest.

"Please, Vince," Gilbert insisted. "I have to find out what's going on. It's not just about Oz… This might be my only chance to save you and Break."

Vincent took a shaky inspiration. The candlestick changed hands. Then the contractor took his left glove off listlessly, one finger at a time.

"You don't need to justify yourself, Gil," he said. "I would do anything for you."

Gilbert bent his head to remove his holsters, and to hide his embarrassment. He really needed to have a long talk about co-dependency with his brother after all this. Right now, he had to make sure there would be an after.

"Echo, would you look after Break?" Gilbert asked as he handed his weapons to the young servant. "Make sure he doesn't hurt himself..."

Echo nodded. Gilbert gave her Raven's feather, and briefly explained to her how to use it. As soon as he was done, she told them the location of Oz's cell in one breath. After a short bow, the young girl turned on her heels, and disappeared into the black maze, leaving a faint trail of twinkling drops on her wake.

In the meantime, the mysterious bundle had found its way back under Vincent's arm. Gilbert barely took notice. He put his left glove back on as he ran through the golden rain, and climbed the first set of stone stairs four at a time.

Vincent followed close on his heels. The race put out the remaining candle flame. Darkness flecked with gold fell on them. There was a clanging noise when Vincent discarded the useless candlestick. Gilbert made sure he could still hear his little brother's steps right behind him, and made a V-turn to the right.

They had just reached the foot of Pandora's West Wing tower, and had run into a winding corridor. Unlike the one they had just left, it was faintly lit. That made it easier for Gilbert to ignore the breaking chains, and focus on the growing light ahead. He had to bite back the urge to call for Oz. The image of the boy's broken body in the rain was still fresh in his mind. His guilt and apprehension only made him run faster.

Oz was alive. Vincent wouldn't lie about this. But Gilbert had to see him. Somewhere in Pandora Headquarters, there was a poisoner, whose motives were unknown. Oz was alone and defenceless.

The corridor opened onto a small, square room. Gilbert froze in his tracks.

Oz was here, huddled up on the floor behind iron bars with his hands tied behind his back. His eyes were glazed, and his white undershirt was stained an angry red where Gilbert had shot him. In front of the boy, wan like the deathless man he was channelling, stood the young vessel of Glen Baskerville.

He turned slowly to face Gilbert, showing no sign of surprise or reproach. Yet his ageless stare seemed to pin the servant down.

Gilbert's eyes darted to Oz. He saw his terror mirrored on the boy's face; sickly pale, desperate, and so vulnerable Gilbert wanted to scream. He felt his master's eyes boring into him, the incontrollable pull in his left hand.

The servant heard Glen take a breath. He wanted to cover his ears, but his body wouldn't move.

When suddenly, Gilbert felt gloveless fingers sink into his hair, and heard the faint swelling sound of a plump Chain materialising above his head. The bowed tip of the Dormouse's tail hovered close to his ear.

"Lord Glen Baskerville," Vincent said respectfully. "Give my brother an order of any kind, and I shall put him to sleep."

Glen furrowed his brow. His wistful gaze seemed to embrace both siblings, heavy with regret and compassion. The ghost's presence was pouring from Leo's very being, spreading like wings until it filled the room. The red cloak he was draped in made the vessel look unnervingly imposing. The sight of the small prisoner at his feet made it nigh unbearable.

Gilbert didn't dare move a muscle. Behind Leo, he could see Oz's eyes moving from one captor to the other, and get brighter as the boy processed the situation.

Glen sighed:

"We don't have the time for this…"

"Gil!" Oz interrupted. Gilbert flinched when the boy crawled to get closer, regardless of his wound. Vincent held him in place. "Please… Save Alice!"

"Oz, I…!"

"Don't," Oz hissed, urgency and pain clouding his gaze. "You don't owe me anything. Please… This is the last thing I'll ask of you: save Alice."

Gilbert wanted to protest, but his master beat him to it. The servant recognized Glen's resigned tone from the previous evening. The ghost's stentorian voice made him shiver:

"Alice is dead."

The words were truthful rather than harsh. There was no resentment in Glen's eyes when he looked down at Oz. Only patience and pity. The boy looked at him with distress, and screwed his eyes shut.

"I know!" he was doubled-over on the floor, gasping in fast, desperate cries. "She died because of me. To stop Jack. Then, Alice… Her soul came back for me… She..."

Oz had to swallow a shuddering breath before he could continue:

"…She took my powers so I couldn't destroy anything anymore. She became a Chain… because of me..."

Gilbert stared at Oz's shaking hunched form, flabbergasted. Break's words rang in his ears. "One has been dead for a century. The other is a Chain." Gilbert's heart was beating erratically, in synch with the mad pulse in his left hand. "Two Blood-Stained Black Rabbits." If it was true, did it mean that Alice still had the power to…?

Oz raised his head to look at them through the bars. His expression was so heartbroken and determined the servant felt it like a punch to the gut.

"This is why I broke the contract," Oz said. "So Alice could be herself again, rather than B-Rabbit. She is no longer a threat to you. I'm the only one who can break the chains. I beg of you…" he was talking to the three of them, but his eyes were looking straight at Gilbert: "Save her."

Gilbert could only stare helplessly. He had no idea what to say, or if there was even a way to bring Alice back.

It struck him how quiet his master was. Gilbert glanced sideways at Glen.

The ghost was staring at Oz in silence. He seemed to have forgotten everything, from the two siblings who had burst into the room, to the breaking chains all around him. Leo's bangs were casting shadows into his eyes. They wavered in front of the dilemma. For a moment, they looked like Oswald's, on that fateful day in Sablier, when Jack had told him to lower his sword.

When suddenly, Oz's upper body hit the floor with a faint thud. Gilbert took a step forward, but the Dormouse was looming overhead. Its stitched eyes stared right at him, like a reminder of the bullet wound that had reduced Oz to this state. Gilbert didn't dare go further.

Looking back at Oz, for the first time, Gilbert noticed the four sealing stones and pentacle inside the cell. Their sharp edges caged the boy more efficiently than any metal or injury could.

The hard floor scraped Oz's cheek when the boy turned his head to face them.

"Please… Use the pocket watch," Oz panted, and tilted his chin towards the thin chain dangling from Leo's left pocket. "Alice will recognize the melody. She will come to you."

For a long minute, there was nothing but the clinking of the chains, and Oz's heavy breathing and occasional pleas to fill the silence. Gilbert wanted nothing more than to reach out, wrap the quavering boy in his coat, and take him away from here. He thought he could smell the blood from where he stood, a tangible reminder of his betrayal. The metallic smell was turning his stomach. Its essence weighed down on Gilbert, and kept him rooted to the spot.

At last Glen spoke in a deep, strained voice:

"I will… consider it."

"I will!" Gilbert interjected. "I will do it!"

Glen turned to him with a sweeping of his cape. This time, Gilbert held his gaze. The young vessel had a noble bearing, his every movement filled with purpose. Yet his face was full of doubt. It was creased with a hundred years' worth of mourning.

Gilbert understood. As leader of the Baskervilles, Glen couldn't choose to spare such a dangerous Chain so easily. Not without any proof that she was no longer a Chain. Regardless, Alice was his treasured niece. Furthermore, she was Oz's friend. They shouldn't hesitate.

"I will save Alice," Gilbert repeated. "So..."

He couldn't help but look back at Oz. The servant thought he saw a spark on the boy's eyes. A fragile hope, like a candle in a storm. Oz mouthed "thank you." The gleam was gone in the blink of an eye.

Gilbert was paralyzed. He was dying to say something, anything to bring some life back into Oz. But no apology could ever convey his regrets, the extent of his shame and self-loathing. No apology would change a thing. Whatever Gilbert did, he would always be a traitor.

In the end, only three words made it out of his lips:

"Wait for me."

Oz gave no reaction. His head had sled close to one of the sealing stones. He just lay there with his golden hair sprawled around, his eyes taking in Gilbert's face like he was seeing it for the last time.

"We should go," Glen said softly.

Gilbert called out Oz's name. Glen seized his servant's arm, and pulled him away. Vincent's fingers dug into his other arm in warning. Gilbert didn't break eye contact with Oz until they pulled him through the corridor, and the young prisoner disappeared from view.

The Dormouse vanished in the same moment. Vincent let go of his brother's head.

"Actually, my lord," he said over Gilbert's cries. "There was a small matter my brother wished to tell you about."

The offhand remark made Gilbert gasp. How could he have forgotten…

"The poison!" Gilbert turned terrified eyes towards his master. "We can't leave Oz like this! Someone poisoned Break, we have to…"

The possessed boy glanced at them without slowing down, his long cape flapping about his back as he ran. Vincent did most of the explanation, as Gilbert was too agitated to be coherent. Besides, his little brother knew more about poisoning and plotting than he did.

Glen's gaze turned sombre:

"There is no time to investigate."

They came upon two red-cloaked figures guarding a grand wooden door. As soon as they saw their master approaching, they moved as one to open the door for him. The outside wind filled Glen's cape like blood red wings, and seemed to amplify his next words:

"We have to put a stop to the breaking of the chains now, or it will be too late."

"But what if Oz gets poisoned?"

"Are you still fretting over that thing?"

The voice alone was enough to freeze Gilbert's blood in his veins. Before he knew it, they were back outside, their boots sinking deep into the wet grass, face to face with Zai Vessalius. The Griffon's contractor sneered at the servant:

"And here I thought you had finally opened your eyes to the truth. You were there both times the little abomination nearly destroyed the world, weren't you?"

"You…" Gilbert growled. "How dare you…!"

He felt a small hand rest on his forearm. Glen's deep voice enveloped him from behind like a nocturnal fog. Its overpowering influence was unclenching Gilbert's fists, leaving him lost and harmless in front of his sworn enemy.

"It is meaningless to blame a Chain for what its contractor orders it to do," Glen looked at Zai steadily. "And this isn't about the Black Rabbit. Our priority is to restore the balance of this world."

Leo's features softened when Glen glanced up at Gilbert:

"I will send Charlotte to look after Oz."

Zai snorted. Gilbert threw his master a fleeting grateful glance, and his eyes turned saucer wide. Next to Charlotte Baskerville, whom Glen was now addressing, stood Duke Barma. The latter was pushing the wheelchair of a very unharmed Sheryl Rainsworth.

"Madam Duchess!" Gilbert exclaimed. "Are you alright? Sharon said you were…"

"It looks like Duke Barma took us for fools, Master Glen," Charlotte scowled at the aforementioned duke. "His supposed 'attack' on the duchess was nothing but an illusion."

Her remark didn't seem to faze the duke in the slightest. He was busy studying the golden rain with unsuppressed excitement, and didn't even spare the young woman a glance when he answered:

"Is this reproach I hear?" He shrugged. "I honoured my commitments. Not only did I give you the Rainsworths' key as promised, I even went through the trouble of revealing my precious information about my ancestor's notes and explaining the whole truth about the Tragedy of Sablier to the Pandora staff. Furthermore, I was helpful enough to participate to this most tedious…"

A paper fan slapped him across the face, effectively cutting his ranting short.

"I wanted to uncover the truth as much as you did, Ruf, but you went a little far," the Duchess gave a tight-lipped smile. "We both own my granddaughter an apology."

Gilbert looked from one to the other. He tried to read the duchess in particular, but her wrinkled face was ever frozen in her perpetual smile. It was impossible to guess what was on her mind. But she couldn't ignore the fact that Break had been captured, nor that the Baskervilles and their allied illegal contractors were tracking Sharon.

"I would also like to make one thing perfectly clear, Lord Baskerville," she turned her pleasant smile towards Glen. "I will be lending you the power of the Owl for this task alone. The fates of my servant, Oz Vessalius, and Lord Nightray here present, are another matter entirely."

Gilbert's heart swelled with hope. Since Leo had barely had time to get used to the Jabberwocky's power, his body wouldn't be able to handle a contract with the remaining four Black Winged Chains for years to come. With things being as they were, no one could be sent to the deepest level of the Abyss unless the four Great Dukes and Glen Baskerville all agreed on it. And it sounded like the duchess, at least, would be against it.

Charlotte Baskerville glared at the duchess, but Glen simply inclined his head in acknowledgment. The young woman bit back her disapproval, and with a bow to her master, she was gone.

Gilbert promised himself to go over and talk to Glen as soon as their current mission would be over. Back in Sablier, his master had had no time to think of one, but there had to be a way to free Oz of Jack's influence without killing him. Gilbert also needed to convince him to reconsider the beliefs surrounding Children of Misfortune.

Glen had walked to the centre of their circle. Bathed in golden light in the hour before dawn, the possessed boy looked like he had stepped right out of the Abyss. He glanced up at the sky, and for a second Leo's eyes looked like twin doors to the universe. Now more than ever, Gilbert felt the overwhelming power that bound him to this being. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once.

"This situation is different from Sablier," Glen's voice seemed to come from all around them rather than Leo's body, vibrating along the breaking chains. "With one contractor for each Black Winged Chain, it becomes possible to control them all at the same time. We are going to stop the breaking of the chains that hold this world. But after that, I want each of you to guide your Chains as they recreate the chains that the Black Rabbit already destroyed. If we succeed, even the epicentre might be saved."

Gilbert's hand flew to his chest, where the blood mirror was heating against his racing heart. They might be able to prevent another Tragedy after all. He hadn't dared to hope for that much.

But then, if anyone could pull it off, it was his master. All traces of doubt had vanished from Leo's features, and Glen was entirely taken up by the current crisis. He pulled the watch out of his pocket, and held it out for all to see.

"In order to control them at such a distance, please hold on to your entrusted key. On my signal, open the doors, and summon your Chains."

Gilbert looked around him. Duke Barma and Duchess Rainsworth were holding matching earrings in their outstretched hands. While Gilbert's attention was distracted, Zai Vessalius had assembled a square three-footed device.

"That's Lord Oscar's camera!" Gilbert exclaimed, outraged.

"This is the Vessalius' key," Zai retorted with an indulgent smirk. "In these times of crisis, it belongs to the contractor of the Griffon."

"You stole it," Gilbert growled. "Lord Oscar would never have parted with it! What did you do to him?"

"Will you stop this squeamishness, young Nightray?" came Duke Barma's shrewish voice. "You have duties to fulfil."

Only then, still half seething from Zai's impudence, did Gilbert notice Vincent's presence next to him. His little brother had unwrapped the long bundle he had been carrying all evening. He held it out to Gilbert with both hands, like an offering. Golden drops fell on a long, evening black blade, and the curved shape of its dark hilt.

"This is yours."

Gilbert's throat felt constricted. He couldn't breathe.

"But… this is…!"

"The Nightrays' key," Vincent told him with a bitter smile. "One of the many burdens that our dear father let Elliot carry in his stead."

Gilbert could hear Duke Barma clearing his throat behind him. He took the hilt in a shaking hand, and lifted the blade vertically. The black metal reflected the broken chains in a cold glimmer.

Elliot's sword. It was heavier than he expected, with the ease his adopted brother used to show whenever he drew the weapon. Gilbert could still see the teenager holding it to his chest like a faithful companion.

"This sword has been entrusted to me by my father as a symbol of my place in the Nightray household. That's why I have to carry it with me all the time."

Gilbert's eyes stung. He turned his head away from Vincent, and met Glen's even stare through the rain of broken chains.

"Are you alright?" the possessed boy asked.

It was hard to answer straight away. Gilbert saw the bottomless compassion in Glen's haunted eyes, how tightly Leo's long fingers were clenching the pocket watch. This tiny object was the sole memento Oswald had of his past friendship with Jack, and of his long lost sister. To be sure, the Baskervilles' key held its fair share of memories, for master and servant alike. Gilbert thought of Oz, and shut his eyes tightly.

This watch had turned Oz's world upside down. Jack had used this very object to transcend time and get to him, so he could use Oz again to destroy the world. It was up to the Baskervilles to reverse it, using this very watch.

Gilbert took off his left glove, and presented arm:

"Yes, master."

Glen smiled. With a flick of Leo's finger, he opened the pocket watch.

The first notes of 'Lacie' drifted along with the black feathers. Next came the cries of the giant birds. A pair of wings spread behind each contractor, swallowing the lit night in an ocean of darkness. Gilbert felt the heat of Raven's blue flames burning at his back, and in his deepest being. He thought he heard the heart of all five birds beat as one, each pulse shaking him to the core. The servant brandished the sword.

With a raise of the contractors' arms, all five Black Winged Chains took flight.

It felt like a storm had started in the creatures' wake. The golden flakes went flying in a wild dance all around their contractors. Long after the birds had disappeared in the night sky, and the wind from their take off had been brought down, the lights kept twirling madly. They were clinking together, twinkling and chinking in a chorus of light and sound.

The sword heated in Gilbert's gloved hand. He felt the drain of his contract with renewed intensity, the blood mirror red hot against his naked skin. The man held on to the sword like an anchor in the storm, and kept it pointed straight at the sky, towards the eye of the cyclone.

He could hear Zai's deep throaty breathing close by, and gritted his teeth. It made Gilbert sick to feel a connection of any kind with that man. Yet all five contractors were breathing the same stormy air, reaching for the heavens, with the hearts of their Chains beating in synch against their chests.

Far above, the giant birds swooped down on the swirling lights, and disappeared. The sword quaked in Gilbert's hand, but the contractor held strong. The smell of drenched feathers and fire was everywhere, and fiery dots invaded the man's vision.

Gilbert felt the pull as the Griffon soared through the sky, dragging a set of golden chains with its talons. He heard a sharp intake from the duchess when the Owl separated the chains with a flap of its wings, and sent them swirling in all directions. Gilbert hunched his shoulders, and the Raven's flames lit the night sky a bright blue.

The Dodo was flying in circles above the three birds. Its long wings were throwing golden drops into the furnace. With each flapping of its wings, Duke Barma's fingers tightened around the back of the duchess' wheelchair, but the man kept his head held high, enraptured by the sight above.

Only Glen appeared unaffected, save for the beads of sweat on Leo's face, which glinted under the fire. The possessed boy was breathing deeply through his nose, and staring into the blaze. His melancholic eyes had turned bright gold. Gilbert felt a pang at the sight. In spite of the heat, nostalgia chilled him to the bone. Up above, the Jabberwocky was flying from one Chain to the other, guiding their moves, shooting fire at the broken chains that escaped their hold.

Gradually the clinking was changing, culminating into a strangely familiar tune...

Gilbert's eyes widened when he recognized it. Among the chinking pieces of broken chains, he heard excerpts from the melody 'Lacie.' The contractor heard more than he saw the chains coming together. When the Raven seemed about to get out of control, Gilbert redirected the sword, and pointed in the direction where the melody was faintest. Little by little, it filled his ears, in tune with the five birds' flapping giant wings, and Gilbert felt like he could reach out and touch the chains.

There was a small smile on his master's face. Gilbert grinned back.

Under the guidance of the Jabberwocky, his Chain was dragging the chains from the Abyss, through the Nightray door, and into their world. The Raven breathed fire on the broken chains, melting them into countless links, connecting them with a clicking of its beak. On the five Chains went, and with every flapping of their wings, Gilbert felt more air leaving his lungs. The feeling was too overwhelming for the man to care.

All of a sudden, the pressure loosened. Gilbert took a sharp intake of breath, and fell to his knees. He was shaking like a leaf. He tried hard not to pass out, hanging on to the sword for dear life. The hilt still felt warm, and he could feel the mirror burning him. Yet for some reason, the Raven's efforts seemed focused rather than wild. The Chain had stopped struggling against its contractor's control.

Gilbert looked up at the sky. The rain had stopped. Stray black feathers drifted in the wind, black against the navy blue of the ending night. As far as the eye could see, there was a long string of entwined chains glinting under the stars. And somewhere far away, the echo of the tune that had inspired Glen to compose 'Lacie.' As Raven's blood mirror thumped against his heart, Gilbert wondered if his master had witnessed the birth of the world.

A wet thump distracted the contractor from his thoughts. When he looked down, Gilbert realized to his horror that Glen Baskerville had collapsed on the grass. Overtaken by an awful sense of déjà vu, Gilbert got up and staggered to the possessed boy's side, slipping every three steps.

Vincent beat him there. He crouched down to help the vessel sit up in the muddy grass. Gilbert knelt next to them, and called his master, but no answer would come. The servant held a shaking hand before the boy's face. He was relieved to feel a puff of hot breath on his skin.

"Calm down," came the exhausted voice of Duke Barma.

When he turned towards him, Gilbert found that the duke had all but collapsed against the duchess' wheelchair. The contractor of the Dodo was using the rest of his strength to enlighten them on the situation:

"The worst is over," the duke heaved, a drained self-satisfied smirk plastered to his face. "We have successfully reconstructed the foundations. Our Chains can handle the rest on their own. As long as none of them loses its contractor, nothing can hinder the reconstruction of the chains now. Even if we… pass out..."

To Gilbert's amazement, with this last sentence, the man proceeded to do just that. The duchess' wheelchair seemed to have gotten stuck in the mud, and the back of the chair broke the duke's fall. He was now slumped precariously across the hard wood, with the duchess fast asleep next to him.

"In that case," Vincent chuckled. "I suggest that we escort the good duke and Lady Rainsworth somewhere they can rest."

"Your reinforcements are on their way," Zai Vessalius said.

To Gilbert's eternal dismay, the man appeared to have taken the experience rather lightly. His cane supported most of his weight, and he was sweating profusely, but none of it had been enough to make him lose his composure.

Right on cue, the two red-cloaked figures that had been guarding the door rushed to their side. Glen stirred at their touch:

"No," he breathed.

Gilbert started.

"Just take care of the two Lords and the Duchess," the possessed boy went on. "Vincent… escort Gilbert and I somewhere we can rest."

Vincent sent Gilbert a pointed look, and the latter resolved to obey without comment.

"Keep this with you," Vincent gave the sword case to Gilbert, and helped Glen to his feet. "You might need it again if Raven gets out of control. Can you walk?"

Gilbert nodded. His hands were unsteady as he sheathed Elliot's sword and buckled it under his coat, but it looked like his legs could hold on a while more. With the poisoner on the loose, Gilbert couldn't afford to show any weakness.

As he followed Vincent back inside, he threw a backward suspicious glance at Zai. Gilbert wouldn't put it past that man to poison Break and keep his own agenda. If he decided to strike again, would Echo and Charlotte be enough to stop him? Whoever the poisoner was, this person had to be resourceful to have walked past Zwei once. They had to unmask the culprit, and fast.

Gilbert had to lean on the walls for support as he followed Vincent through the corridors, and paused every twenty seconds to catch his breath. The more he walked, the more the contractor suffered from the aftereffects of Raven's powers. It came as a huge relief when Vincent finally picked an empty room and helped Glen to a sofa.

As soon as the boy was comfortably sat, Vincent rushed to help Gilbert sit next to him. Gilbert sank in the plush cushions, and tipped his head back. For several seconds, the two Baskervilles just sat motionless next to each other, and tried to catch their breath. Gilbert listened as Glen's breathing slowly evened out. He turned to look at the vessel closely.

The boy was screwing his eyes, his face bathed in cold sweat. When Vincent held out a handkerchief to wipe it, he batted his hand away. Even Glen's voice sounded smaller as the boy struggled to stay awake. Gilbert sat up straighter:

"Are you…Leo?"

Leo's half-lidded eyes seemed pitch black as they stared back at him. He looked like he had just been rescued from drowning: exhausted, yet determined to breathe and talk. Gilbert could read half-formed sentences on his lips, but deep gasps were all he could hear. Vincent advised the boy to take it easy, but the latter just gritted his teeth in frustration.

"Gilbert," he wheezed. "What are you trying to do?"

Gilbert felt his features relax slightly. A strange mix of relief and apprehension settled in his chest. This voice was nothing like his master's; he was positive it was Leo talking to him. The boy had recovered after all. Probably due to the excessive use Oswald had made of the Jabberwocky's powers, Leo had been able to take control again.

"…What do you mean?" Gilbert asked, his own voice weak from the experience.

He wasn't sure what to expect from Leo. Gilbert had no idea what had happened when Oz had gone to face the other boy, aside from the fact that Leo had been badly injured. His midnight eyes were piercing through Gilbert, in search of something the man couldn't place.

"You know what I mean," Leo said in a rasping tone. "You went to Xerxes Break. You came back for Oz. You even had Vincent summon the Dormouse so you wouldn't attack him."

Leo clenched his jaws and rubbed at his temple furiously, in a strangely familiar fashion. Gilbert's heart skipped a beat when he realized what this reminded him of: he always reacted like this when foreign voices invaded his mind.

"You defied your master's orders," Leo said curtly. "Why?"

"I… I didn't!" Gilbert protested. Suddenly he realized he had put a hand to his own temple, in what was turning into a frightening habit. "I wasn't trying to hide this from master! I wanted to find a way to get rid of Jack without killing Oz! I meant to talk to you…to master about it. About the Children of Misfortune, too. But first…"

Leo sniggered. It was barely noticeable with his erratic breathing. But his humourless, self-depreciative smile spoke a thousand words:

"Ha ha… No wonder he was so worried..."

"I am serious!" Gilbert insisted. "I will discuss this with him, but first we have to find out who poisoned Break!"

"Glen did."

Whatever Gilbert had been about to say vanished from his mind.

There was a fixed grin on Leo's face, and a glint in his surreal eyes. Something akin to pity.

"The one who was controlling my body," the boy added. "I think his given name was Oswald? He stole Vincent's drug, and used it on Xerxes Break after Zwei captured him."

In his peripheral vision, Gilbert saw Vincent nod with a bitter smile of his own. He didn't look remotely surprised.

But that couldn't be right.

"It's ridiculous," it almost sounded like the gravely voice from his past speaking through Gilbert's mouth. "Why would master…"

"Because he was afraid you would go to Break," Leo answered. "That you would start to question his decisions, and rely on other people instead. Moreover, on his enemies. Why do you think he relieved Charlotte to guard Oz?"

Suddenly the boy winced, and started rubbing at his forehead, the nails of his other hand digging into the sofa. A short bark of laughter escaped his lips.

"Oh yes, keep telling yourself that," Leo grumbled with a fixed stare. "'It's for his own good.' You're saving him from the Destroyer's evil clutches. This is how things are meant to be. Gilbert belongs with you. Don't make me laugh..."

Leo was hissing and clawing at the sofa like a furious cat. Gilbert had his back to the arm of the couch, too scared to move. He looked over at his brother to seek for help, but Vincent just held up a hand:

"Let him vent," the gesture seemed to say. "It will pass soon."

But Leo showed no sign of calming down. Without warning, he started to yell at an invisible offender. The golden specks in his eyes shone with a morbid glee:

"Just admit that you want your servant for yourself! You would sacrifice everything but Gilbert's loyalty, because he's all you've left! You're just as bad as I am!"

The boy's shaking hand travelled from his forehead to his chest, and started clutching at his clothes. Gilbert sat up straight:

"Your wound…!"

Leo froze. Gilbert couldn't form another word. He had even gone numb to the burning touch of the blood mirror. The boy turned to smirk at him, in a nightmarish version of his master's soothing smiles:

"…Should that really be your main concern right now?"

Gilbert clenched both fists on his knees:

"What you said… It can't be right. Master knows I can't betray him."

"Yet you betrayed Oz."

Gilbert shuddered. Just hearing it made him want to retch.

"Oswald did it on purpose, you know," Leo sighed. "Order you to shoot Oz, I mean. Because he couldn't bear the thought of you having another master, let alone a Chain he intends to destroy."

"He is…" Gilbert's voice broke. "He really is going to kill Oz."

"Yes…" Leo's pale fingers lingered above his chest wound, and a ghost of regret flickered in his eyes. "'To restore the Abyss to its former stability,' or so he claims."

"And he doesn't believe there is a way to save Miss Alice, either," Leo let his hand drop. "Oz broke the contract because he knew she would share his fate. According to Glen, since they are the same Chain, their bond is impossible to break. As long as she lives, she will always hold a destructive power of some form. We would have sent her into the Abyss too, in the end."

"But…" Gilbert protested feebly. "Master said he would consider it…"

"Oh, he did," Leo said sardonically. "That hypocrite. He's not nearly as unfeeling as he likes to pretend. Of course he considered saving his niece, even if he knew she would die anyway. The same way he helped me 'fix' Elliot."

"It didn't take long, though," Leo snarled. "Those who become Glen know their priorities. According to the order of things the Baskervilles are trying to preserve, Chains that can destroy other Chains shouldn't exist. Even if she can't break the chains that hold the world, Miss Alice still has the power to kill a Baskerville. Therefore, she has to die. When did a single person's feelings ever matter next to that?"

Gilbert held his head between his hands. He was shaking all over, at a loss as to what to do.

Was this what his master was thinking? All these deaths, the world almost sinking into the Abyss, the madness brought by time travel... If the Baskervilles restored the former order, would it all really be fixed?

Would it be worth sacrificing generations upon generations of children born with red eyes?

"It won't solve anything," Gilbert fisted his hair. "It just means more deaths..."

His master had never wanted to sacrifice Lacie. He didn't want to kill what was left of his niece, either. And if he did, there was no guarantee that the stability of the Abyss and the world would be restored. It was absurd. Gilbert had had enough of this.

He wished Oz were here.

Oz would know what to do, what was wrong with the situation, and how to fix it. With this sharp mind and emphatic nature of his, his young master had solved many puzzles before this one. If only Gilbert still had his insight...

"I have to save Alice," Gilbert said.

He didn't see what else he could do. Even if Oz had only been driven by his own feelings, Gilbert would keep the last promise he had made him. Until the servant found a solution, he would protect Alice with everything he had.

Vincent sighed, clearly disappointed:

"Is this alright with you, Lord Leo?"

"It is alright with me," Leo said with a hollow laugh. "I can't say I speak for all Glens, though."

"It's okay," Gilbert rubbed at his temples to try and clear his head. "I'll take full responsibility. If any of them has objections, we will talk this through. But we can't keep things like this."

Silence fell, and for a short while Gilbert relished the quiet. His headaches were getting scarcer. Then twin howls of laughter made him jump out of his skin.

"Wh-What is it?" Gilbert looked from Vincent to Leo, afraid they had gone into hysterics.

"My dear brother," Vincent said between helpless giggles. "Ever the diplomat. You are so adorable."

"Indeed, he is. I can see why Oz and you get along so well," Leo's shoulders were shaking. "That's just the kind of naïve speech that would drive Elliot up a wall."

Gilbert bit his bottom lip, confused and a little hurt. Leo wiped at his tears. His face was quick to turn serious again. He held out Oswald's pocket watch.

"Make sure not to rush into this unprepared," he warned Gilbert. "Think of a way to go into the Abyss and make it back."

The servant pocketed the music box, and made sure its thin chain was safely hidden from view.

"…I know where Sharon is," he said. "There might be a way…"

"Don't tell me," Leo cut him off sharply. "Glen mustn't know."


"That's an order, Gilbert," Leo glared, the golden specks bright against his black eyes. "Carry out your plan, and keep me in the dark."

Gilbert could only nod. The boy bent his head, and put a hand on the sword at Gilbert's waist.

"I am leaving things in your hands," he said in a hushed voice. "I think… that's what Elliot would have wanted. You are as foolishly kind as he was."

Of its own accord, Gilbert's hand clenched the sword's hilt. He didn't know what to say. That he didn't deserve these words and sword. That he was sorry. That Elliot hadn't been foolish.

But Gilbert hardly knew Leo. He had no words of comfort to offer. Once again, he wished Oz were here.

Leo lowered his hand in silent farewell. With his hung head and unruly hair, he looked nothing more than a young boy who had lost his best friend. The gesture came naturally. Forgetting that this was Glen Baskerville, leader of the Abyss messengers, and his master from another time, Gilbert patted him on the head. Leo's shoulders tensed. But when Gilbert let go, the boy seemed to breathe more evenly.

Vincent offered to help him walk. Gilbert was too tired to decline. He leant heavily on his little brother's shoulder, and let him guide him through the corridors of Pandora Headquarters.

"Take me to Reim," he whispered as soon as he was sure Leo was out of earshot.

"Of course," Vincent chuckled. "Who else would know where to find Miss Sharon?"

"I'll need her help to get back from the Abyss," Gilbert kept talking into his brother's ear, to keep his head clear and stay awake. "The problem is how to get there. I can't wait for a distortion to open a path... And Raven might not come back in time..."

"You should go back to the Nightray manor," Vincent said. "I told our driver to keep our carriage ready, just in case. You should save your strength and use the Nightray key to open the Gate."

"Joseph?" Gilbert asked, startled. "But how would I explain to him…?"

Vincent laughed outright.

"He won't ask. Just tell him to take you to the Nightray manor by the shortest roads, and you will be there in no time. You are a very agreeable duke, after all."

"What?" Gilbert stared sideways at his brother in confusion. "No, I am not. Duke Nightray's will…"

"As you are probably aware, servants don't worry so much about details," Vincent said lightly. Incongruity aside, it was a small comfort to see that his mood had improved, if only slightly. "You might not have been to the manor in a while, but they all remember you as their kindest master. You even bothered to remember each of their names. As far as they are concerned, you are Duke Nightray."