Loveless – Flawless
‘Loveless’ by Yun Kouga
“Flawless” by Ryuuzaki Kusakurin
DISCLAIMER: Loveless is the creation of Yun Kouga. My name is Ryuuzaki Kusakurin. You add it up. As always, if you don’t like yaoi [though it’s only light here], DO NOT READ.
Warnings: Mild yaoi, het, violence, etc.
Characters: Agatsuma Soubi, Aoyagi Ritsuka, Kio, Gokuraki Haruka, Kain Lafayel, Nagisa-sensei, Ritsu-sensei, Atarai Ichirou, Rikicho-Atarai Ryougi, Dreamless, etc.
Theme Songs: Persona [Blue Man Group], Up To the Roof [Blue Man Group], KI-SE-KI [BeForU], Alumina [Nightmare], Broken Wings [Tomoko Tane], CHANCE! [UVERworld], Cibola [Trevor Rabin], National Treasure Suite [Trevor Rabin], All Star [Smash Mouth], Torukia [Gabriela Robin]
Pairings: Soubi x Ritsuka, Haruka x Soubi, Lafayel x Haruka
This is an original work of fanfiction posted only on mediaminer.com. If another website has it, please tell me so I can ask them to remove it. This may be on fanfiction.net… eventually…
I need to rest, and yet as I lie here, awake, I realise that I have come to a most astonishing – and disturbing – conclusion.
Something has gone wrong, in more than just one way. My partner Haruka and I have long been together, but something within our connection as the first dual-gender Zero unit has become frayed and, to some extent, totally useless. I’ve always told her that she’s too free-spirited, but she will always disagree; she claims that I am too cold and analytical, by my own admission. As dorm-mates in college, we have to be able to coexist perfectly – Agatsuma Soubi is too dangerous for us to take on, so long as we can’t act as decisively as one mind. I think she’s hiding something from me – but why would she if she has nothing to lose? After all, we’re partners – she is my fighter and I am her sacrifice.
“Lafayel.” The college student barely looked up. “Good timing, mind. There’s a Sentouki nearby.”
“Is it Loveless?”
“Perhaps. Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. I’m going to have a look.” That being said, she strode off, her light hair swishing in the crisp autumn air. She dressed in a gothic manner on her days off, her baggy and chained pants normally paired with a corset and armwarmers. Today was no different; her pants were edged with green, and her corset was matching with the same emerald-green lacing. A darker green scarf hung around her neck, and the armwarmers were black with silver buckles shining on them – besides that shining silver, her light blonde [nearly white] hair was the only bright part of Haruka’s body save her milky white skin. Just a few centimetres shorter than Soubi’s, her hair was pulled into a ponytail and a small braid hung down from the front as well as the bangs masking her forehead. All in all, Haruka was honestly quite beautiful, if not mainstream.
On the other hand, Lafayel had tanned skin from spending hours in the sun. He was pretty popular – especially with the ladies – but neither he nor Haruka had lost their ears yet; Haruka was never willing to do much, she was ‘too busy’ to have time, and Lafayel adhered to the code of the connection between the two and wanted no other mate.
“Agatsuma Soubi,” Haruka breathed suddenly, stopping when the setting sun illuminated the willowy Sentouki’s silhouette. “I declare this to be a battle of spells.”
“I accept,” came the ever-calm voice. Loveless – Aoyagi Ritsuka – stood behind him, looking completely uncaring.
“Sentouki system, activate,” Haruka called, entwining Lafayel’s hand with her own.
“Sentouki system on,” the fighter replied.
“Our name is Zero,” both Lafayel and Haruka said in unity. “Ready to fight.”
“We’ll let you attack first,” Lafayel laughed. “It’s not like it can bother us, anyway.” Haruka glanced at her brown-haired partner, sighing at his carefree demeanour. It didn’t matter if he could feel it or not, she would be the one bandaging whatever injuries he received as the sacrifice regardless.
“One thousand leaves, become bladed and slice. Slice into the enemy’s arms, legs, face.”
“Wind, scatter the leaves and send them back to their beds of earth. Set the leaves afire, temperature 1000 degrees. Burn all to ash.”
“A funeral pyre, to be doused with water and well-wishes. Ice, restrain the sacrifice, and water, become as snow and fall.”
“That was a good spell, Agatsuma-san. No wonder Ritsu-sensei and Seven-tan speak so highly of your abilities,” Haruka finished, smirking. Now time to do what she had come for. “Cold, blanket all and freeze all at sub-zero temperatures. Lower body temperatures to zero.”
With a thump, her sacrifice succumbed temporarily to the cold, leaving her to Soubi’s will. But something was wrong about it… like she had almost planned to lose from the start…
“You lose,” he breathed in her ear, suddenly close.
“That’s fine by me. There was something I wanted to ask you, anyway. Lafayel would not approve of me asking this, and would most likely go to Nagisa-sensei and have me terminated. But I must know… are you really Loveless‘s Sentouki?”
“No. You should know that by now – I originally belonged to Beloved. Aoyagi Seimei.”
“Very well; then I have a request to make. Will you take me with you?”
Gingerly pulling her left armwarmer off, the Sentouki revealed her hand. Visible through the blood was a single word:
“So you’re staying with Soubi-san?”
“If he lets me.”
“He will. I told him to.”
“Ritsuka-kun, I’m your Sentouki now,” Haruka sighed.
“We can fight over this, you know,” Soubi replied rather unhelpfully. “I am his Sentouki.”
“Both of you… I’m going home!” Ritsuka ran out the open door, leaving both fighters confused.
“That will need to be considered, Soubi-san. I am not a Sentouki by nature – Ritsu-sensei made me into one. Also, something I’m sure Nagisa-sensei knows – I’m not a true part of the Zero program.”
“I’m not sure I follow you,” the Sentouki replied.
“Like hell you don’t,” she snorted in response. “Because of my tolerance for pain, Nagisa-sensei decided that I could be a part of the Zero program. From there, I went through the same training you did; but I went from a supposedly ‘nameless’ sacrifice to a top Sentouki. You were lucky enough to be born a Sentouki.”
“Not really,” came the reply. “I was born as a sacrifice, but made into a Sentouki. Whatever real name I had was erased, and I became Beloved‘s.”
“I think I understand, then.” Looking over at the handsome artist, she continued. “Come on… surely you get it… no? Fine, I’ll explain. We both are two of the strongest Sentouki currently existing. We were both born as sacrifices and our names were erased so we would be interchangeable. You ended up with Beloved and now Loveless, because you have no name anymore – whatever process Ritsu-sensei used on you permanently erased yours, it seems. For quite some time, I was a Zero and had three different sacrifices, but then my real name showed up and I realized that I had a Sentouki of my own, being an unnatural fighter at Nagisa-sensei’s orders. Now do you understand?”
“You’re implying that forcefully changed sacrifices become extremely strong Sentouki,” he replied.
“I just don’t get you, Soubi-san…” she sighed. One minute, he seemed relatively stupid, the next he showed that he was not only intelligent, he was on par with herself.
“At any rate, you’re going to get cold standing out there,” Soubi replied to that, ushering her in.
“Why are you being so friendly with me?”
“Ritsuka-kun told me to be.”
“And you just… obey him?”
“Perhaps you don’t understand. These hands,” he said, raising them, “are Ritsuka’s. This body,” he continued, gesturing to himself, “is Ritsuka’s.”
“Because I am his Sentouki.” The answer was astonishingly simple. The doorbell rang, and Soubi sprung up to get it, catlike in his grace. “This is Kio,” he offered, opening the door to reveal his fellow college student.
“Kon’banwa, Kio-san. I’m Haruka.”
“You’ve taken in another person, Sou-chan?” Kio seemed to be on edge until Haruka sidled up to him, gently grabbing his hand and leading him away from the door.
“So… who are you? You’re pretty cute,” she mused aloud, her demeanour completely changed in the time it took to blink. Smiling slightly, Haruka began giving off a Sentouki aura much like a catlike purr once she noticed the sushi and beer he had brought with him. Of course, Kio was oblivious, but Soubi noticed the change of her fighting presence immediately.
“Aah, anou, I’m Sou-chan’s friend from college…” he seemed a little intimidated by her forthright attitude and so she backed down a little, still offering the same ‘purr’.
“‘Sou-chan’, huh? You two must go back a bit,” she commented, unpacking the food and ushering Soubi to the small table.
Everyone was more than a little bit tired by the time Kio announced that he had to leave. Haruka’s lithe form was curled up on Soubi’s bed, watching both of the men as they bid each other goodnight, and she was falling asleep there. Once Kio had gone off in his car, she rolled over towards the wall and refused to move.
“If you won’t move, I will move you,” the renegade Sentouki warned.
“Aww… c’mon, ‘Sou-chan’, you wouldn’t mind, would you?” She pouted a little, curling up and shivering. It was cold outside, cold inside, and just generally cold.
“If you insist,” he replied, simply laying under the covers as he usually would.
A moment later…
“Oi, oi! You’re taking up too much space, Sou-chan!”
“How long are you going to call me that?”
“I don’t know. I’ll consider stopping if you stop laying on my leg.”
“Ritsuka-kun?” The tone was sweet enough, but since Haruka had snuck up on him, Ritsuka was surprised; he hadn’t known Haruka owned a motorbike and so he hadn’t anticipated her dropping by his school. It also helped that the vehicle was nearly silent; she had a good muffler and a performance engine, it seemed.
“Aah! Don’t do that, Haru-chan!” Growling at his Sentouki, he was about to walk onward until Yuiko grabbed his arm and asked a question.
“Who is this, Ritsuka-kun?”
“Yuiko-san, this is Haruka-chan. She’s staying with Soubi until she finds a place around here.”
“Oh! I get it! So Soubi and Haruka and Ritsuka are all friends!”
“Yep,” Haruka replied, grabbing onto Ritsuka’s arm and hoisting him onto the bike in front of her. “Nice to meet you, Yuiko-chan, I’ll take you for a girls’ day out sometime, okay? We can go to Shibuya.”
“Anou… alright! See you guys! Have fun and tell Soubi-san that I said hello!” Waving in what could only be described as Yuiko-esque, the pink-haired girl bid them farewells.
“Seems like she really likes you, Rit-chan,” Haruka said when they were out of earshot. Turning a corner at breakneck speed, she laughed at the wind whipping in her face and ruffled her sacrifice’s hair – he was sitting in front of her since he had never ridden a motorcycle before. “We’re almost there, don’t worry.”
“Where are we going?” He was irritated at her rather abrupt lifestyle, but really, it was impossible to get really mad at his new Sentouki. She was just so carefree and relaxed that it seemed to affect other people.
“The first part’s a secret, but then I’ll treat you to dinner. It’ll be really good,” she promised, smiling as she made a sharp turn into a nearly unnoticeable alleyway.
“Whoa!” Jarred from his comfortable position on the seat, he grumbled imperceptibly and shifted back.
“It’s not much farther now…” Steering the bike through several sharp curves in the maze of an alleyway, Ritsuka realized that they were now underground. “Yellow ribbon, yellow ribbon, yellow ribbon- here we are,” she murmured to herself, taking yet another turn in the brick tunnel. “Ta-dah!”
“It’s just a door, Haru-chan,” he replied, annoyed.
“Key in the following numbers: 18034-75632. Then you’ll see that it isn’t ‘just a door’,” she replied, grinning.
“18… 034… dash… 756… 32. Done,” he sighed, waiting for the door to open.
“Enter name,” the machine suddenly requested.
“L-o-v-e-l-e-s-s,” Haruka responded, typing it in as she rolled the syllables off of her tongue.
“Are you really Loveless?”
“Yeah,” she replied with a hint of laughter, hitting the ‘Y’ on the touchpad. “As if I’d be anyone else,” she snorted.
With that, the heavy metal door swung inward, revealing the best-kept secret in all of Japan – the Under-city.
“So Sou-chan never brought you here?”
“No,” Ritsuka replied. “I guess that I never asked him to, so he didn’t.”
“Huh. Well, sucks for him. That means that I get to register as your Sentouki,” she grinned. “Don’t you get it yet?”
There were various doors leading to condos with decks, all of it in a straight line around a rail system. Below the condos were shops and such, catering to any and all needs or desires a person might have.
“I don’t understand,” Ritsuka replied with a frown. “It looks like an underground city.”
“That’s exactly what it is! But it’s only for sacrifices and fighter units. I lived here too, once… I still have a place here.”
“What’s the point of having a city only for people like us?”
“The main purpose is living arrangements. Think about it; a couple – male and female – living together in a small apartment isn’t much of a problem, right? Think about two girls or two guys in that same apartment. That raises questions, and more often than not, pairings are same-gender. Plus, you can get a lot of sparring practice in.”
“Remember how the machine at the entrance asked for our names?” At Ritsuka’s nod, she went on. “It pairs you up with a random named duo and automatically texts your phone with the location, time, and partner. It’s considered really bad manners to not show up and/or to cancel your battle, so most sacrifices go to their fights rather than cancelling.” As she spoke, her phone buzzed in her pocket. “And what do you know? We just got matched up with…” She trailed off, flipping her cell open and reading it. “…Dreamless. Area 4, 6:30. It’s a half-hour ride either way, so we can eat there – plenty of restaurants around there anyway.” Grabbing Ritsuka’s hand and running onto the train, she explained. “The ride’s free. Actually, this is like a bullet train, so if you have to ride for more than an hour, the servers will also provide you with refreshments and light meals.”
“Oh.” The twelve-year-old remained quiet for the rest of the trip.
“Rit-chan? I hate to interrupt your soul-searching and daydreaming, but we’re here,” Haruka said suddenly, poking the still boy in the ribs and laughing when her young sacrifice slid off of the seat to get away from the unexpected contact.
“Sorry,” the boy apologized, hanging his head.
“Don’t be. In fact, as an apology for surprising you, I’ll take you to the best restaurant here.” Grabbing the grade-schooler’s hand, she rushed him through the crowded streets, into a side street, and then through a well-lit doorway with a sign engraved with the word “Rikki’s” in fancy lettering.
“What is this place?”
“It’s a restaurant. They serve a lot of Western-style food here, and they’re the best place to eat in Area 4. We’re actually under Shibuya right now.” Laughing happily at Ritsuka’s surprised expression, she got a waitress’s attention and more or less dragged the young boy to a table. “Order whatever you want. Tonight’s on me, Rit-chan.”
“I think I’ll get pizza. Is that okay?”
“Sure, I said to get whatever you wanted, didn’t I? I’m not going to get anything, though. I’m really not hungry,” Haruka replied with her infamous half-smile. “Tonight’s about you.”
“It seems that we’ve generated quite the controversy, ne, Rit-chan?”
She was right – the stands [that could seat well over 100] were filled and overflowing. Even Dreamless seemed amazed.
“Is it normally packed like this?”
“Hell no,” Haruka replied. “‘Scuse the French, by the way.” Looking around, both of them failed to notice the one guest that had slipped in uninvited. Said guest was her former partner, Kain Lafayel – a Zero who not only had been her sacrifice, but had all but worshipped the ground she walked on.
“Fighter units, prepare yourselves,” the speaker in the publications box called out. She then turned her attention to address the general public gathered there. “Today’s match features the following: the Dreamless unit – male Sentouki Togashi Kenta and male Sacrifice Yorisuo Kenichi, and the Loveless unit – female Sentouki Gokuraki Haruka and male Sacrifice Aoyagi Ritsuka. This is a freestyle-battle match with no time limit and no restriction, ending in serious injury leading to unconsciousness, forfeit, or death of the sacrifice. At the mark… set… match!” Nearly everyone cheered as the systems engaged, the lights dimming as the entire arena was engulfed in the darkness of the two units’ realms.
“We are Dreamless! Sleep in a night so dark that you cannot dream!” Entwining their hands, the pair’s name appeared on their bare arms.
“We are Loveless; we are the darkness in the heart of mankind.” Kissing the top of Ritsuka’s forehead gently, she raised her hand to begin the series of attacks.
“Loveless! Loveless! Loveless!” The crowd was going wild.
“Want to do another round, Rit-chan?”
“Mmm.” He nodded, always eager to please. Since he had taken no damage, it seemed easy enough.
“Give me that,” Haruka said, turning to her left and snatching the microphone from the nearby announcer, who had come out of the box to congratulate the winners. “Is the Peaceless unit here?” Her voice bounced around the room and was met with silence.
When a slender teenager finally hopped down from the stands, seeming to guide the other person behind him, she nodded and only seconds later, the other boy dropped down from the stands. Both of them wore gothic clothes, and they both also wore black leather collars with their name etched into them. One of the pair also wore wrapped bandages over his eyes and Ritsuka realised that he was blind.
“Ryougi! Long time no see,” Haruka joked, embracing the blind teen warmly.
“Of course. You look good,” he replied, his smile making it clear that he, too, was speaking in jest. “How’ve you been, old friend?”
“I found my sacrifice, to simplify things,” she offered, ruffling the boy’s hair.
“Good. Nagisa-sensei needs to be disappointed occasionally. I’m glad that Ritsu-sensei was right all along,” he muttered.
“What about Ritsu-sensei?”
“Before I left, he told me that you wouldn’t be able to be broken by Nagisa-sensei’s ‘games’, as he called them. I believe that he knew you were Loveless all along; he said that I could find you near Septimal Moon’s area of current interest.
“I see. At any rate, are you up for a round? It’s been years since I fought you two, and you’ve only grown up.”
“Seriously, I’d like to see your face without the bandages once in a while, you know. What about your side?”
“Let’s see… Dinner for two, you and me, at your place.”
“Rit-chan, is that okay?” She turned to her sacrifice and crouched down to meet him at eye level.
“Yeah,” he muttered, staring off into space again when she bounced back up and bounded over to Ryougi.
“My sacrifice approved it, so we’re go for a round,” she replied, speaking to the announcer now. “It’s going to be Peaceless versus Loveless this round, Blitzkrieg rules, alright?” When the young woman nodded and stepped into the elevator that led her back up to the box, she took her place in the arena once again, Ritsuka standing right beside her.
“Fighter units, prepare yourselves. This match features the previous round’s winner, Loveless, with female Sentouki Gokuraki Haruka and male sacrifice Aoyagi Ritsuka. Their opponent is the world-acclaimed tournament winner Peaceless, with male Sentouki Atarai Ichirou and male Sacrifice Rikicho-Atarai Ryougi. This is a Blitzkrieg-freestyle match, so the first team to accumulate three hits on its sacrifice loses. There is no time limit and no restriction on attacks. At the mark… set… match!” Once again, the lights dimmed to create the dark environment that was their battle zone as the systems engaged.
“Our name is Loveless; we are the darkness in the heart of mankind. Systems engaged.”
“We are Peaceless. We are the war-ravaged destiny of nations and hearts. Systems engaged and ready.” The two teenagers entwined hands and their collars glowed white in the maelstrom of whirling energies.
“Blind and weary, we cast a spell of sleep on the target. Darken and hide the sacrifice with heavy-laden eyelids of exhaustion,” Ichirou’s strangely hypnotic voice murmured, filling the stadium at the same time. It was strange, Haruka reflected, that one so well-versed in language would resort to a basic spell of sleep.
“Denied! Counter with light so bright even the blind may see it!”
“Raise and defend. Create a boundless trench so deep that no light can reach it – stretch it between us.”
“The bloodlust in man will always overcome that which is able to be surpassed. Fill the trench with crawling corpses, bodies of those men slain in war.”
“Indeed. Spirits, return from where you came.”
“Now!” The spell she had been quietly chanting as he had been speaking came into effect immediately, ripping through their automatic defences and piercing Ryougi in several different areas.
“A type-three spell! Impressive,” the announcer called. “This counts as two hits.”
“You’ve gotten better,” Ichirou admitted, a wry smile on his striking face. “I remember when you could still barely string spells together.”
“Yeah, so what,” she muttered. “Ice cold daggers of words and spirit, ignite with passion,” she continued, barely blinking an eye for a spell of that strength. “Restrain the target in the crystalline binds of the frozen heart.”
“Needles borne from that self-same ice, rain down upon them.” Ritsuka cried out in pain as the senbon-shaped ice darts rained down on his arms.
“Rit-chan, are you alright?” She couldn’t afford to look back at him; that was what Ichirou was waiting for.
“This… this is nothing. I can handle it,” he insisted, ignoring the blood welling up from his various small punctures and holding back tears.
“Hmph. Needles become crystal daggers and pierce the bleeding hearts of the world. Shatter as you near the target- tens, hundreds, thousands of little blades,” she called out, smirking. She loved the ice, and as a result, it was her best element. There were so many words to describe the frozen shards… so many spells.
“A net then, Ichirou,” Ryougi told his Sentouki quietly.
“Yes. A net, to sweep forth and catch them all; leave no single shard forgotten.”
They went on like this for several minutes until Peaceless was too slow on the uptake and suffered a minor blow. Regardless, it was their third and thus they suffered a loss to Loveless. The medical team tended to both sacrifices: Ritsuka would be fine; it appeared that Ichirou had gone easy on them, and Ryougi would be unconscious for a few hours due to the massive strain of their prolonged fight.
“Good job, Haru-kun,” Ichirou said with the faintest trace of a smile. “You’ve really improved your wordplay.”
“You, too,” she replied with one of her half-smiles. “You can rest at my apartment and when Ryou wakes up we can catch up on old times. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you.”
The rest of the ride back to Area 7 was spent in silence.
Ritsuka lay in the twin bed across from Ryougi, resting. They had arrived at her apartment, which was colourful and bright, and it reminded him of one of Soubi’s paintings he’d seen a few weeks ago. Her entire apartment was bathed in shades of blue and green, though her bedroom was the outlier, it seemed; the walls were coated in deep blues and violets. Staring over at the teenager across from him, he silently wondered how the sacrifice had lost his eyesight and resolved to ask him later.
Only minutes later, the blind boy began to stir. Ritsuka remained stock-still, watching out of curiousity. Ryougi sniffed the air, seeming to realize where he was, and turned to face Ritsuka.
“Did you want something?”
“Anou… I… nothing.” He blushed, knowing the teenager couldn’t see it, and felt rather embarassed to be caught staring… by a blind man.
“It’s about my eyes, isn’t it?” When Ritsuka shifted uncomfortably, he sighed and shook his head half-heartedly. “Would it be easier for you to talk if I took these off?” He indicated the bandages covering part of his face, and Ritsuka once again shifted. “Just nod or shake your head. There’s a difference in sound.” When the grade-schooler nodded, he slowly began to uncover that part of his face, hissing softly when his eyes were finally uncovered.
A jagged horizontal slash ran across his face, marring the otherwise perfect features. Opening his eyes, Ritsuka saw that they were white, probably due to damage he had suffered in that particular incident. It looked painful, though Ryougi simply ran a cautious hand across it to feel it out, as if he didn’t know that part of his anatomy; it took Ritsuka a moment to realize that the young man probably didn’t know what his face looked like since it was usually kept under the gauze.
“How… how did that happen?” He sounded shocked, and even scared, though he didn’t make any move to leave.
“When Haruka was still one of the many Zero, this happened. It was a few years ago; there are some days I think I haven’t quite gotten used to this,” he replied, chuckling darkly. “I took this damage for Ichirou. We were attacked by the strongest of the Zero unit; at the time it was Lafayel and Haruka,” he continued. “They were amazing together,” he sighed. “We didn’t stand a chance against her… she was too strong. Ichirou blocked most of the damage to me, but one of the blades got by him and slashed my eyes. I remember thinking that I was going to die when I saw your Sentouki wielding her spells as well as she did. Later she told me that if Ichirou hadn’t blocked as much of it as he did, I would have been sliced in half instead.”
“How can you be friends with her then?! She made you blind!” Ryougi sighed at this, clearly thinking back to when he could see.
“Ichirou was in horrible shape after trying to get me out of the area when the battle was over. He almost died of blood loss and such, because he decided to fight auto to spare me any more pain. Hours later, she came back, this time without Lafayel, and took us in. Your Sentouki hid us from her own sacrifice at risk to her own life, and she arranged for medical treatment here in her apartment. Later I also heard her telling Ichirou to just ‘let me think that I was alive because of him’. She had weakened the spell just enough to be effective without killing me. In essence, she spared both of us because of her compassion towards Ichirou, her childhood friend. How could I hate her?”
“What’s so important about a sacrifice being in control? I don’t understand! It’s their life! Why are we suddenly better than anyone else?”
“Because we take the damage,” Ryougi replied quietly, tracing his scar with a single finger. “It was particularly dangerous for her – every Sentouki save Haruka that her former sacrifice, Lafayel, has controlled, has died at his hand for disappointing him. Nagisa-sensei doesn’t particularly care, as long as she can pretend that she doesn’t know what’s happening. He’s most likely trying to hunt Haruka down now, to kill her for leaving him… that, and insolence in general. She has many wounds and scars because of him.” Rising and walking easily to the door, he extended a hand to Ritsuka. “Enough talk, it smells like Ichirou made dinner. You won’t want to miss it.”
Ryougi was right; dinner was great. All of his favourite foods were laid in front of him; well, maybe they weren’t his favourites at the start of the meal, but by the end they were. He didn’t have to worry about eating the right foods or getting the right drink, or even making small talk. The conversation was provided and engaging, tonight they were busy trying to explain the origins of the underground city to Ritsuka.
“Well, you see, apparently a rich man – who happened to be a sacrifice – realised that the matches in Japan were getting out of hand. Innocents were getting involved and such, though most of them didn’t know what was going on. The instant they were pulled into the Sentouki’s realm, they only could see bright lights and such. All of those cases were either killed to keep the secrecy, as was the custom in that day and age – which wasn’t too terribly long ago – or it was chalked up to be alien abductions,” Ichirou began.
“Chalked up to that by the government, no doubt,” Haruka scoffed.
“Anyway, he decided that he would build a city for only Sentouki and sacrifices, where they could live and battle qithout interruptions from the outside world. The only problem is the constant usage of land here in Japan, so he built the initial area of the city and then, when the supports had been laid and he could begin construction on the city itself, he built buildings and businesses above the area so there would be no suspicion, and so the only enterance would be a security door – one you’d find on the back of a factory and such. Also, to protect the entry, a maze of buildings was built around the entry.”
“That makes sense,” Ritsuka murmured. He had thought it a little odd to try and enter a solid steel industrial door after going through a maze of buildings.
“Not only that, but the entry panel records and catalogues every unit that enters the area. It’s pretty advanced. But in his haste to create the areas, he never named them, even as he expanded and made 12 areas much like this. There are only three entrances other than emergency lifts, though,” Ichirou finished.
“So these areas don’t have names?”
“Pretty much,” Haruka interrupted. “We call them ‘Area 1’, ‘Area 2’, ‘Area 3’, etcetera. Although some of the areas have… acquired… names through popular nicknames. For instance, my home, this area – Area 7 – is called Rozen Kreuz. That was the name of a German gang of Sentouki a while ago, and when they visited, Area 7 was their favourite because of the Western-style shops and such. The name kinda stuck,” she continued, a smile on her face. “I remember being just a child when they visited. That’s actually why I chose Rozen Kreuz as my home. Ryougi’s apartment is in Area 10, also known as Cabaret, or Nightclub. It’s where all the dance halls and alcohol shops are.”
“Yeah, right… Somebody happens to have an addiction to sweets, not to mention that her house is directly above a chocolate shop…” Ryougi laughed and kept on nagging her, “And there’s a coffee shop right across the tracks. I’m surprised Ritsuka-san hasn’t figured you out yet.”
“I can show restraint too, you know,” Haruka replied, mildly miffed at the comment. “Then again, if I put a plate of melon out in a room with you, there’s no telling what you’ll do,” she jabbed. “Rit-chan, this guy,” she said, pointing her thumb at Ryougi, “ate a melon I had set out as a decoration on a table.”
“It’s not nice to point, Haru-kun,” Ryougi interjected.
“Yeah, but the funniest part… is that the ‘melon’ was actually plastic,” Ichirou stepped back in to the conversation, laughing. “Remember that, Ryou?”
“I happen to know a certain white-haired teenager that actually tried to eat burning – not burnt, but burning – fish on a dare,” he replied calmly, sipping his drink. Ichirou, being the only white-haired teenager any of them knew – turned a bright shade of red and muttered something about not feeling good. At that, Ryougi laughed, “if you can’t take the heat, don’t play with the fire.”
When Ichirou came back, a few more hours of laughter and merriment in general ensued.
“Haruka?” He quietly entered the kitchen where Haruka was doing domestic chores – it just seemed odd that the eccentric fighter would actually play at being a normal person.
“Yes, Rit-chan?” Ichirou and Ryougi had retreated to the guest room she had shooed them into, telling them that they looked exhausted, which they did indeed.
“Your body… you have scars from your last sacrifice, don’t you?” A short pause followed before anything else was said.
“That… that’s not really of your concern,” she murmured, stiffening. She began to clean the dishes from their meal together, though Ritsuka knew she was just avoiding the question.
“No.” Another dish was dropped into the sink to be washed.
“That’s an order,” he growled, not realizing the words that slipped out until they actually did. “Tell me what happened after he found out that you saved Ryougi’s life.
“It’s… nothing…” When Ritsuka continued to glare, she softly began to speak, all the while washing dishes. “He cut into my body with a knife. That’s all, really. There are scars all over,” she replied with a harmless frown. “I wish Ryou hadn’t told you about that,” she sighed.
“It’s okay,” he declared, reaching over to help her out. “It’s okay, because you don’t have to see him anymore.” Quieting down at her startled reaction, he took a deep breath and continued. “That’s what Soubi and I are for,” he whispered.
He didn’t see the faint tears that ran down her face, didn’t feel the same strong emotions she suddenly felt, but he understood.
And perhaps that was the most important part of all.
It was only five AM the next morning when Peaceless left Rozen Kreuz for their own home area of Cabaret, and only seven when Haruka woke Ritsuka up and told him quite simply, that it was time for her to get him home. Hopefully Soubi wouldn’t have noticed his absence, and he was not to tell Soubi unless it was necessary. So it was eight-thirty by the time Ritsuka was ready to leave, having showered, brushed his teeth, combed his hair, and gotten dressed.
“You don’t think Soubi knows, do you?”
“Nah, he has a life of his own, too. He probably hasn’t even noticed,” she yawned widely on the way back, weaving her way through the maze of buildings once again and emerging on the city streets. “Yuiko and I are going shopping today, anyway. If Soubi has a problem with me taking you to have some fun for a change, then he can just tell me later.”
“When did you call Yuiko?” He looked confused until she dangled his cell phone in a hand.
“I got her number out of this, and I called her this morning. Her mother said it was alright, and Shinome-sensei also agreed to come along. We’re going by tram,” she explained, arriving at Ritsuka’s house only moments later. “Here you go. Don’t get in trouble with your mom, and go to Soubi if there is any trouble. You can also always call me,” she called, waving. “See you later, Rit-chan!”
“Whatever,” he replied by way of a goodbye.
“Oooh! These are good!” While Yuiko squealed over the chocolate treat that Haruka had bought for her, Shinome-sensei was talking to her.
“So you really like Soubi-chan, huh?” She was interested in the older woman and her attraction to the insufferable but kind Sentouki.
“Anou… yes… I mean, no…” She seemed kind of embarassed, so Haruka eased up and gave her a friendly push in the right direction.
“Make up your mind,” Haruka responded good-naturedly. “It’s not a sin to like someone, for kami’s sake.”
“I suppose I do, then…” She blushed and her ears twitched. “How do you know Agatsuma-san anyway?”
“Through Ritsuka-chan. Ritsuka and I are like siblings, and I’ve been living at Soubi’s house while I’m looking out for the kid. He gets into a lot of trouble outside of school – it’s not his fault, either. He always ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, you know?” She took a sip of her smoothie, seeming thoughtful.
“Really? He always seems so polite,” Shinome-sensei remarked.
“Yeah, the kid really is, I gotta hand it to him-” She was abruptly cut off when she felt Ritsuka screaming out for her. She had to come up with an excuse to leave, so she picked her phone up and hurredly began talking into it. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.” When both females looked at her in question, she explained, “I have to go. One of my friends was in a car crash.” With that, she ran out, worried for Ritsuka. She could feel his pain – someone was attacking him – and she followed the strand of power that was Loveless.
“I declare this to be a battle of words.” Ritsuka trembled slightly at her side, cold and hurt from the Zero‘s unprovoked attack. “Systems ready.”
“We accept,” Lafayel cried, reaching a hand out to order his fighter unit to begin the battle.
“Our name is Zero.” The fighter was smart enough, it seemed, but Haruka’s lips twisted into a grim smile as she assessed the power of the young woman – the girl wasn’t powerful enough to worry her.
“Sentouki systems activate. Our name is Loveless.” The landscape was plunged into the black-and-white colours of their powers as Zero and former Zero.
“Bring it on, Lafayel,” she called to him, completely ignoring the fighter. “I’m fighting itari-auto.”
“I – I can still take damage, Haruka-san,” Ritsuka protested. He didn’t know what itari-auto was, but he assumed that it would get her hurt… for him. He remembered Ryougi’s words from earlier.
“…Every Sentouki save Haruka that Lafayel has controlled has died at his hand for disappointing him… he’s most likely trying to hunt Haruka down now, the kill her for leaving him.”
“I know, Rit-chan,” she murmured. “I’m sorry, but just this once… This is my battle.”
“Haruka…” He looked down to the ground, masking tears and hiding his weakness from the woman who had defended him from the moment she came into his life. “I trust you, Haruka.” This was the best he could do for her. “Fight as you want to.” Letting go of the usual restraints he held over her, he had told her to kill Lafayel… or do whatever she wanted. Those five little words meant the world to her, and he knew that there would be a price to pay for it – there always was.
“Do you even know what itari-auto is, Loveless?” Lafayel asked it in the same sing-song tone as always, taking a slight drag on his cigarette. When he received a glare from Haruka, he smiled and leaned forward, smiling cryptically. “It means the pain from our attacks will be amplified all over her body while she fights – that’s why it’s called itari-, or pain, auto. She’s the only one who can do it, too; that’s part of why she was so valuable to Nagisa-sensei.”
Her jaw set in a determined line, the dark Sentouki grimly replied, “I’m making myself into my own sacrifice and fighting like I have a sacrifice to use. It hurts terribly, but it’s the only thing I can do to raise my overall power in order to fight these two. Go on and fight, if you’re going to, you fools.”
“A thousand metal shards! Pierce her!” The girl’s sudden attack was shouted and immediately deflected when she raised her left arm. “Wha…?”
“Don’t get disoriented, Chiyose. She’s using her control over the battle zone to project her commands mentally. If you decide to hear them, you will.” As he spoke, splinters of shrapnel soared past their defence and lodged themselves in Lafayel’s upper left arm. As soon as they lodged, they revealed themselves to become links in a chain leading to the sacrifice’s neck. “You always were one for dramatics, Haru-chan.” Smiling bitterly when his former Sentouki stiffened at the use of the name, he stood from his crouched position and looked at his partner. “Don’t worry about me; it’s not like I can feel it. I can take care of it… after we bring her back to Nagisa-sensei – dead or alive makes no difference to us.” The last part had been addressed to the Loveless fighter unit.
“You mean nothing to me.” Cold air filled the realm of the battle, though the oxygen near Haruka seemed to crackle with unreleased energy and heat. Ritsuka stayed at her side, no longer shivering as the heat energy surrounded him like a warm blanket.
“Oooh, harsh,” Lafayel replied, turning to Chiyose and silently ordering her to attack with everything she had.
“Wings of fire, break through the ice. We reject your existence and burn it to ashes.” The girl’s cool, level voice killed any doubts that he might have had about his new Sentouki. She was talented, smart, and literate, nearly everything a sacrifice wanted in their fighter unit.
“A good spell,” she murmured, casting it away. Seeming to strain to listen, Chiyose apparently had begun to hear her commands echo throughout the space.
‘Call forth cold Shiva to counter this raging Ifrit, halt the advance of flames with frozen fire in return.’
Chiyose heard the command mentally and shivered inwardly. This Sentouki was stronger than she was, she knew, but she would rather go down fighting then withdraw and die. Lafayel had been her idol, and she would do her best for him. How could this girl have deserted someone as great as the most famous Zero?
‘Black night, shroud and blind.’
It came without warning; there was no change in the opponent’s stance to warn her of the attack, though she warded it off quickly.
“A blinding flash of light shields us!”
‘Even in the darkness there is light. Clever girl.’
“Pale lightning, crash down!” The attack hit her unguarded, though the Sentouki managed to block a bit of it with her silent spells.
“Grrr…” She showed no pain, just annoyance.
“Wha…? That was enough to take down a regular person! Lafayel, is she a Zero like us?”
“No,” he replied, looking at her. “She has a tolerance to pain beyond Agatsuma Soubi’s. That alone made her useful to Nagisa-sensei – not even this style of attack was this helpful.”
‘Bind this one’s insolent mouth.’
She couldn’t do anything to stop it, and she knew that she couldn’t warn Lafayel in time, so he was bound and muted.
“Are you okay, Lafayel-sama?” He nodded, and then she turned to Haruka, her rage palpable. “You hurt him. You will die here. I don’t care about bringing you back alive anymore.”
‘As leaves blow and wind whistles, shield me within the razor-tipped edges of each.’
“Fire! Burn the leaves and spread on the wind!”
‘Rain, fall upon the infantile flames and spread the smoke and steam in the eyes of my opponent.’
“Spread gasoline on the water and force it to burn, temperature ten thousand degrees. Melt the skin off of her body. Make her blood boil. Go!”
‘Even an unnatural fire can be halted by the advancement of a natural river.’
“Bind her! Steal away her mental strength!”
“And in return, steal her ability to move.” It must have hit, Chiyose realized, for the Sentouki was speaking clearly now, rather than in her mental projection.
“Hah! Got you!” she cried, laughing as she sent spell after spell at the bound Sentouki, who was struggling to keep up now that her best technique was gone.
Minutes later, a small explosion rocked the alternate world of black and white, finally signalling the halt of her onslaught. She waited eagerly to see the body of the rebellious Sentouki, but…
She stood there, one arm completely useless and dislocated. Her face was bloodied and decorated with various slashes and cuts. The other arm was bleeding profusely, as was her neck. But her eyes were still bright and awake.
“Hmm. I thought that you were good, but I guess I was imagining things…” Her taunting smirk drove the other fighter unit to desperation.
“You should be dead!”
“Perhaps. I still have something left to do before that comes, though.” Raising a hand wearily and pointing it towards the pair of Zeroes, she murmured a single command phrase into the howling wind of the attacks from mere seconds ago. “Destroy.”
“No!” That was the last thing Chiyose had time to say as the damage from her sacrifice was transferred to her. Blood vessels burst, filling her visage with red blossoms while her muscles strained to hold the breaking body together, tensing just enough to shatter bones in the Sentouki’s arms.
“Ugh…” Haruka fell to her knees as the backlash of the spell hit her and did much the same to her body. The damage was still survivable with proper care, though; she had ensured that the Zero Sentouki she had just defeated would never be back to challenge Loveless. “Ritsuka-san, get Soubi…”
And then she passed out, the weight of her injuries finally catching up to her.
“Haruka!” Ritsuka dove forward to the fighter’s unconscious body as she fell, Lafayel doing much the same to catch Chiyose as she lay dying. “Stupid!” Ritsuka was frozen there, his subconscious desperately crying out for Soubi as he worried over his Sentouki.
“Finish the mission first,” Chiyose coughed, blood dripping out of her mouth and nostrils. Lafayel nodded, drawing his leg back and kicking his former Sentouki’s unmoving body.
“Bitch! Liar! Traitor!” Each syllable uttered translated to another kick to the wounded woman. Finally Ritsuka found the will to move, throwing himself in front of the furious kicks aimed at his Sentouki. “You know Loveless, I’d thought that she was taken away by you and Agatsuma Soubi, but it turns out that I was wrong. I thought that we could bring her back with us, you know? Either way, I’ve been waiting for this for a while,” he explained, his face twisting into a cruel smile as he lunged forward and closed his hands over his former partner’s throat.
“Ritsuka!” Soubi was already there – he’d probably been nearby, waiting on the outcome of this battle. Drawing back and lashing out at Lafayel, Soubi found himself quickly gaining the upper hand, though once the male sacrifice had been effectively beaten, the damage was still done to Haruka. “You. What happened?”
“The backlash… it’s killing her. Good thing, too… my mission…” The attractive Zero male coughed blood and laid there, having blacked out.
“She s-said ‘destroy’ and f-fell,” Ritsuka coughed, trying not to cry at the scene of death around him. “That’s – that’s all I know.” Soubi picked her up surprisingly easily, and toted her to Kio’s car.
“Kio. My house, quickly.”
“What happened this time, Sou-cha… whoa! What’s wrong with her!?”
“I don’t know,” he replied grimly. “That’s why we’re going to do everything we can to save her.”
Once they were back at Soubi’s home, all of them, even Kio, worked quickly to save the dying teenager. Her wounds were quickly and neatly bandaged and they stopped most of the bleeding. It was not until later that she began to cough up blood.
“Sou-chan. See this? Her internal organs are bleeding. You have to get her to the hospital or she might die.”
“Do you know the way?”
“Do you know the way to the hospital?”
“Well of course, Sou-chan, it would be stupid to live in a city this big without knowing… What are you doing?!”
“She needs to be at the hospital,” Soubi replied in a maddeningly calm voice.
“Put me down,” a small, choked voice whispered. “Don’t move me anywhere… just let me stay here.”
“Haruka,” Kio said gently, “trust us. You were hurt and need to see someone more qualified than… him.” He pointed to Soubi as he spoke, though only Ritsuka seemed to care.
“Soubi… Ritsuka… I need to talk to you alone,” she whispered, ignoring Kio. Soubi firmly led his college friend out of the house whilst Ritsuka thanked him for his help, playing along.
Once Kio was gone, both of them began to question her.
“Why won’t you get treatment? Do you want to die?” That was Ritsuka.
“You know, if you die, it becomes Ritsuka’s duty to die as well, and if he dies, I will.” That was Soubi.
“Shut up, both of you,” Haruka rasped, a trickle of blood coming from the side of her cracked lips. When they obliged her, she continued. “If I die, Ritsuka, you should stay alive with Soubi. He can protect you from Nagisa-sensei. She thinks… she thinks-” Haruka was interrupted by a fit of coughing. “Nagisa-sensei sees this as a game to try and beat Ritsu-sensei. Ritsu has no faith left in me, I’m afraid,” she finished with a wry smile. “But if you look in my bag… there’s a bottle of pills… get those for me, Rit-chan.”
“What are they?” Soubi asked once the boy left the room.
“Medicine for the Zero-series. They’ll heal me, if they don’t kill me first. They’re designed for the physiology of a Zero-class fighter or sacrifice. They hurt terribly to use – in other humans they’ve been fatal – but-” and she coughed again, then continued, “…but they’re designed to speed the healing process up enough that a sacrifice can survive a fatal injury, if given a day to live. These were designed by Nagisa-sensei because you kept beating up on the Zero units sent to get rid of you.”
“You’re sure that you’ll be alright?”
“No.” Speaking in hushed tones, she handed something to Soubi with a quiet nod, and when Ritsuka entered the room holding her bag, he seemed confused. “Thanks, Rit-chan,” she murmured, flashing him a smile. Pulling out three small capsules, she swallowed them and bid them goodnight. Soubi remained, stroking her blonde hair until he fell asleep.
“Soubi-san?” Ritsuka entered the room quietly. It was early in the morning, and the sun hadn’t risen yet. Soubi was sleeping lightly, and woke up immediately when he heard his sacrifice’s light footfalls.
“Come here, Ritsuka.” He took the boy into his arms, pressing a small package into his hands. “Haruka wanted you to have this,” he murmured in Ritsuka’s ear. “Open it.”
The box contained a leather necklace band with the word ‘Loveless’ engraved into it, much like the ones that Ryougi and Ichirou wore. Hanging off the front of it was a charm of a butterfly with blue wings… Soubi’s butterfly. A picture of the three lay underneath the small gift – it was before the fight in the Under-city, before Ritsuka knew that there were people after them again. A tear slid down his cheek as he looked at the body on the bed, unmoving and cold. It looked like she was just sleeping, though he knew otherwise – she was dead because of the damage she had caused.
That one word hung in the still air for minutes that stretched into what felt like hours, until Soubi found his voice to reply.
“Because she loved you.”