Here we are, at Chapter 12.

Woo-hoo!

I'm excited. Are you?

YOU BETTER BE! ^_^

Oh, and don't even think about trying to translate the book. You'll never get the correct translation. Unless you're fluent in Latvian, you won't know what it says until I tell you! Muahahahaah!


Izumi's POV:

Midnight Tales for the Brave Soul.

The Paranormal: Terrifying Accounts with the Other Side.

Urban Legends.

Closing my eyes in frustration, I stopped looking at the books lined up in the bookshelf. What was the point? They all looked boringly cliché.

It was late, probably around 2:00 AM, but didn't feel like sleeping. There wasn't much to do, so I decided that I'd at least try to read something.

Taking a second glance at the books, I noticed that one didn't have a title on it. I pulled it out from the shelf, peering at the leather binding. The first page failed to acknowledge who the author was, and there wasn't any information about the publisher either.

The book clearly wasn't traditional.

With slight interest, I flipped through the last couple of pages, hoping to find some info there. I caught sight of a drawing in the book, the artwork distracting me.

It was intricately drawn with thin, sharp, defined lines. Although it lacked color, you could clearly see blood pooling out from a young woman. A knife's handle protruded out of her back, the blade piercing through her body to the other side. Her face was not seen, as the shot was mostly focused on what was in the background.

A dark figure was walking away from the body, and once again, only the person's back was shown. The person was too far away to make out any details, but they were obviously the focal point of the drawling. Without the light provided by an open door, the departing figure wouldn't have been seen at all.

Slightly disturbed, I turned my stare away from the picture, focusing on the three lines of text on the page before it.

'Viņa nevarēja izlemt to, kas sāp visvairāk. Tas bija zobens, kas lēkāja pa ķermeni, vai bija tā nodevība jūtama sirds pārrāvuma?

Nebija ne, jo to, kas sāp visvairāk bija viņas mīlestību pret viņu...'

Frustrated with the fact that I couldn't read the only interesting book, I pushed it back into its place. My patience was short, and I entirely gave up the idea of reading. Instead, I decided to change into pajamas, catching a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. Unconsciously, it reminded me of something I often used to think: It's a shame that tattoos are permanent.

My tattoo wasn't something I liked talking about, considering that its backstory comes from a shady part of my past. Still, it was gorgeous – a large black dragon with blue eyes. Its tail started at my hipbone; its body curled and twisted across my stomach, travelling up my side. Above my collarbone, the beast's head lay, its features carved into a permanent snarl. The front two legs were stretched out, as the creature appeared to be crawling, and its bottom legs looked as if the claws slightly pierced my skin.

Although it certainly saved me from my taxing career, I can't even count all the things that it has vexed me with. It was his way of branding 'cattle', but not for safekeeping. Merely, it was done so he could tell his herd from the rest. The mark kept us safe… at least, that's what he said. But in reality, it didn't matter whether you were labeled or not. If hunger pains gnawed at his stomach, the closest person became dinner. Being loyal had nothing to do with it. Even if you respected, loved, and worshiped every inch of his filthy being, you would still be at constant risk.

It sickened me to think that his mark of ownership would stain my skin forever. My parents never loaned me the funds for removal, since they preferred me being reminded of my mistake every single day. Perhaps I deserved it.

Deciding to quit moping, I idly got in bed, prepared to be utterly restless. Whenever I thought about him, it always put me on edge.

He was still out there, after all. To make it all worse, I knew that he was looking for me.

I mean, I always used my tarot cards to figure out if he was close, but I didn't have them anymore. Who could say that he wasn't outside my house right now, poised to strike?

A dull knock echoed through my room, originating at my bedroom door. My nerves were completely shot, but I knew it had to be Jellal. He had a habit of visiting me, which typically proceeded to him spending the whole day in my room, somehow entertained by the things I did. However, he'd never come by this late…

"You don't have to knock." Managing to sound somewhat normal, I realized how sweaty my palms had become.

"Ok." He said sleepily, coming through the door.

The moonlight illuminated his ruffled blue hair, an obvious clue that he'd just woken up. Thankfully, the starry sky kept my face in shadows. It was detrimental, because the last thing I needed was him asking –

"I have a question." Jellal stated, serious.

"Oh no!" I whimpered. "Not this late! My mind is scattered! Scattered!" I emphasized, rolling onto my stomach and curling the pillow around my ears.

His reply was muffled to the point where I couldn't make out a word he said. Whatever needed to ask me must have been important, given that he walked over to my bedside and stole my pillow from me. I frowned, hoping that I wasn't acting suspicious.

"Do you know where the extra blankets are?" Serious, Jellal watched intently as I pivoted onto my back again.

"No. Why?" I questioned him, slightly curious.

The blue-haired man sighed. "Because I'm freezing."

My reply was stunted with shock. "You? Freezing?! You mean to say that you're actually human?"

"Geez, Izumi, I get cold too." He brushed off my sheer surprise.

"At any rate," I started, moving on, "you won't find the extra blankets by talking to me."

"That's true…" Trailing off, he reached forward to touch my bedspread.

"What the hell are you doing?" Responding quickly, I felt the weight of his hand slightly displace the blanket.

Jellal pretended that he hadn't heard me. "You have a warm comforter, Izumi."

"Umm… and?" I sputtered, offset by his behavior.

"It would be a shame if I didn't take advantage of that." He continued.

"No." As soon as I caught onto what he was getting at, I firmly denied him permission.

"Share with me." Jellal insisted, starting to gently tug at my blankets.

"No!"

"Share!"

"No!"

"Please?" Frowning, the blue-haired man tried to appeal to my emotions.

I stared back into his amber eyes, surprised by their intensity. "No." Sticking with my side of the argument, I watched as he remained unfazed.

"Izumi, what if you were cold? Wouldn't you want me to –"

"When I get cold, I make a fire and sleep on the couch." Since he decided to play the 'what if' game, I told him exactly what I would do.

"Making a fire is so difficult though." Jellal whimpered.

"Are you serious?" I scoffed. "You were a member of the Ten Wizard Saints, but you can't make a fire?"

"Aww, don't flatter me. I may start blushing." He retorted, showcasing his advanced sarcasm.

"Jellal… I think you can survive until tomorrow." I confessed, staying honest.

"You're so cruel." He said accusingly.

"Hey!" I exclaimed as he slid under the covers, ignoring everything that I had just said.

"Your bed really is warm." He stated in happiness, wearing a look of smug contentment and settling down on my mattress.

"Jellal!" Protesting, I scooted to edge of my bed, trying to get as far away from him as possible.

"Hmm?"

"What the hell?" I was unable to formulate a better reply.

"Is something wrong?" Jellal asked innocently.

Before I said anything stupid, I stopped myself.

Aren't you overreacting? My inner voice spoke up. It's just Jellal.

Just Jellal? What, does that give him clearance to do whatever he wants?

It has nothing to do with Jellal, however. He's only reminding you of him.

Silently, I knew that it was true. I didn't want to be reminded of him, the one who branded me, but Jellal seemed to be a mirror of that man. The only hope I had left was for Jellal to be slightly different. Even the smallest modification would be a blessing.

"Izumi?" Uncomfortable with my silence, the blue-haired man sidled closer. "Are you ok?"

Don't tell Jellal anything about him. You know better.

I followed my conscience's advice. "You know what, Jellal? I'll go make you a fire."

"I'd rather sleep with you."

"And I'd rather you sleep on the couch!"

Jellal crept closer to me. "How can you be so mean?" He whimpered. "I never did anything to you."

"I'm not giving you a choice, Jellal. I'm going to teach you how to make a fire." Sitting up in bed, I pulled back my covers, getting out of bed.

"Can't it wait for tomorrow?" The blue-haired man mumbled.

"No."

"Fine…" He exhaled slowly, reluctantly leaving my bed's warmth.


Mystogan's POV:

People say that when you gain consciousness, you're confused, delirious, and woozy. That was not the case for me. When I awoke, my mind was as sharp and perceptive as ever. The very second in which I opened my eyes, I knew where I was – the castle's retention cells. It was the place where criminals stayed until it was time for a public hanging.

My father, back in his heyday, discontinued the use of this place. However, I was aware that his bond with the people of Edolas had soured. I wouldn't have been too surprised if he had gotten the gallows back up and running, just so that he could punish anyone that challenged his authority.

Rising to my feet hastily, I stalked over to the barred door.

"Hey!" I snarled upon seeing the closest guard. "What the hell am I doing in here?"

"The King ordered that you stay here until morning, when you both can have a proper meeting." The stuck-up man relayed the message.

I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration. "God damn it, I don't have time to sit around and wait to have a 'proper meeting.' Let me out of here!"

In a tightlipped manner, the guard began to repeat his previous sentence. "The King ordered that you must stay here until morning, wh-"

"This is bullshit!" I exclaimed in annoyance as I checked my coat pockets, hoping that I'd placed the x-balls in there by some miraculous occurrence. My unusual streak of bad luck was still in full swing, as there was nothing in my pockets except the black pilling from my worn jacket.

Silently, the man paced back and forth outside my cell, likely to keep watch all night. I tried to calm myself down, because there had to be some way to break out. Having no magic was a downer, and having such a robotic guard was even worse! Still, there had to be a way…

While I thought, I observed the man's movement. His quick, repetitive steps and sweaty brow led me to believe that he was extremely nervous. Upon peering closer at his face, I was struck with a profound sense of remembrance.

"You! I know you!" I called out to the guard. "You were the one that got me out of here as a kid."

He stopped, searching my expression. "I've taken many kids to safety after they venture too far into the dungeons."

"You remember me, don't you?" I prayed to god that he did, because if I could get any kind of response out of this man, then I could control him. "I was with a small girl."

"I shouldn't be talking to you! The King warned me about this. He said that you'd find a way to trick me." He murmured his worries under his breath, walking at a faster pace.

"Hey! Where are you going?" I skirted the length of the cell, trying to keep him in sight. "Wait!"

"This isn't good, oh no, this isn't good." The man talked to himself quietly, trudging back and forth. "He's getting into my head. I can't… no. The King said he'd reward me if I could keep this one under control. Ha-ha. 'Just ignore the man', he said. It's not that easy."

"Her name was Izumi." I stated, cutting off his ramblings. "I know you remember."

Stopping in his tracks, the guard faced me, pale as a ghost. "No… no… it couldn't have been you! That was the prince!"

"I am the prince." I said, watching as he started backing up.

"No! No! No!" He repeated, shaking his head. "Impossible!"

Tilting my head to the side, I narrowed my eyes. "You owe me."

"I don't owe you anything!" The man shouted, on the verge of tears.

"You betrayed me!" I hissed, my early memories rushing back.

Crumpling up in a ball, he rocked back and forth, sobbing. "I'm sorry… I'm so sorry!" He wailed over and over.

Our conversation had become so loud that it attracted attention. The walls became alive with shadows as other guards poured down the stairway.

Damn. I blew it.

Idly watching as two of men carried my guard away, I leaned against the cell door.

"What did you do to him?" An old looking sentry stepped within arm's length of me, which was a mistake only rookies made.

"We were only talking… but I don't feel like talking anymore." Slipping my hand right between the bars, I latched my grip onto the man's crisp collar, lifting him up into the air. "Just open the damned door!"

Gasping for air, the guard jabbed his hand towards me. I felt a sting, and looked down just as he injected a needle's fluid into my body.

"Ah!" I jerked backwards, dropping him onto the dirt floor. "What… did you…?" Staggering, I felt the room around me start spinning.

As if it wasn't bad enough already! My knees gave out, and sleep overtook me without much of a fight.


Izumi's POV:

"How's that?" I asked, confident that the fire was flawless.

I had spent the last fifty minutes teaching Jellal how to make a fire. It was definitely an attempt and feedback kind of a thing, including multiple mistakes. I wasn't sure he'd even remember what he learned, given that he was borderline unconscious the entire time.

"Perfect." Jellal confirmed, scooting towards the warmth automatically.

Standing up, I rubbed my eyes. It was already 4:13am. "I'll get your blankets." Casually, I turned around, starting off in the direction of the stairs.

Jellal reacted swiftly, twisting his upper body to snag my wrist. "No." His voice echoed off the walls, allowing me to hear him clear as day.

"What?" Confused, I lightly pulled my arm towards my side, hoping he'd let go. He didn't let up one bit.

"I don't want my blankets." Explaining, Jellal extended his fingers, gently doodling on my delicate skin. "I want yours."

"W-why?" I sputtered.

"They smell really good." He clarified, unfazed by his odd request.

I shuffled my feet nervously. "But then… I won't have blankets!"

"You can have mine." Offering so, Jellal acted as if negotiating wasn't an option.

Even if it had been, there was no way I would have struck a deal. I was absolutely exhausted; all I wanted to do was sleep.

"All right." I agreed reluctantly. After all, I'd rather just get it all over with.

It didn't take long to deliver my blankets to Jellal. He was beyond elated, for some reason. I didn't understand it in the least.

Then came the daunting task of collecting his blankets.

I trudged up the stairs, dragging my feet as I entered his unlit room. Fumbling around in the dark, I, by some miracle, managed to locate his comforter without much difficulty. As I gathered the abundant cloth, I noticed something about Jellal's blankets.

Jesus… Christ!

They smelled like fresh, amazing spearmint. It just so happened that I absolutely loved the scent of spearmint. By loved, I mean completely and helplessly loved.

Humming quietly, I waddled back to my room, thankfully able to balance all the blankets in my arms. I belly-flopped onto my mattress, lazily covering myself with Jellal's blankets. Something fell out of them, making a metallic 'plink' as it came into contact with my wood flooring. I leaned over the edge of my bed, scooping up what had fallen.

It was one of Jellal's black jackets, boasting silver piping and an orange logo. Perhaps it had been on top of his bed, and got carried in along with the comforter. On a whim, I lifted it closer to me, confirming that it also smelled like spearmint.

Was that just how Jellal smelled? If so… that was just unfair. I wish I smelled like spearmint.

Regardless, I set the jacket down on my bed. I could always just give it back to him tomorrow… well… maybe.

I kind of liked it.


Mystogan's POV:

Not all those who wander are lost. Izumi was never a wanderer, rather, she was far from being one. As long as she had something to keep her occupied, something to put her back up against, then she could manage. But how was being busy any better than wandering?

It really wasn't. She only thought it was. Whether a person is stopping to smell the roses or consuming themselves with work, they could still be lost.

I was a natural wanderer, especially if you consider my childhood. All those years aimlessly shuffling by Pantherlily's side definitely wore off on me. I wasn't fond of time and responsibilities. They didn't concern me. Because of that, I was lost. Meandering around for too long left me in shambles.

As for her, she was always busy. I think it was her only way to forget what happened. In her eyes, time was money, and money paid for repayment. She believed that she was in debt to everyone, and rarely spent her money on anything but gifts… gifts for people who didn't deserve them. This reflected on how Izumi never cared about herself, her actions, or her future. If anything, she was selfless. Because of that, she was also lost.

We complemented each other as opposites, and we should have been perfect together. Two wrongs should have made a right, and yet, it didn't happen that way.

I couldn't help but remember a fragment of the past…

The dungeon seemed to stretch a mile long, and the ceiling and the ceiling span, up to twenty feet high. My childish calculations were greatly exaggerated, but considering my small stature, it was understandable that I came to such conclusions.

Cobwebs littered every crevice, corner, and crack, adding to the eeriness of the empty room. However, that wasn't what was scary.

The room wasn't as empty as I had presumed it to be.

Taking small, cautious steps towards the sound of scrapping, I unknowingly kicked up little clouds of dust.

At this point, my memory lapsed, and skipped to when Izumi was standing right in front of me. She was frail, so small, but only a couple years younger than me. Her bob of purple hair was matted with a thick rusty red substance. The same liquid was caked on her clothing, her legs, and her hands. Some was even smeared on her dusty porcelain face.

"A-Are you hurt?" I asked shakily, unsure.

She shook her head, staring back at me with wide lavender irises.

I knew that look. It was the look someone had when they'd seen too much at a young age. My heart stirred in my chest, igniting a blaze of my rarest emotion – pity.

"But there's blood all over you!" Disbelieving, I looked for any signs of damage, but Izumi had nothing more than a couple minor scratches.

The purple-haired girl was brought to tears, and I felt bad for mentioning her current state.

"It's mom's." She sniffled, her bottom lip quivering. Falling into my open arms, the purple-haired girl clutched onto my shirt, sobbing into my chest.

And all the while, I hadn't noticed the small hole dug up in the far corner of the room...


Well, readers, the hell do you think the hole was for?

I'll give you a hint... it starts with a 'B' and ends with a 'L'!

If you haven't figured it out by now, then you'll have to wait. The next chapter will be almost solely focusing on Mystogan, and what's going down over in Edolas - AKA: Operation Venom!

Review if you feel up to it! :D