Chapter 6

Chapter 6

A Chapter by Rocki-san

The three of us sat in General Sebastian Bennett’s office back at Headquarters, waiting for the General to meet with us. He always kept us waiting, some times longer than others. It was a way for him to remind us that no matter how good we were, he was higher up, and he was our boss.

Logan had somehow acquired a paper toy that consisted of two pictures and a string that created one complete picture after spinning. Needless to say, the flapping of paper was obnoxious.

It had been half an hour at least before he finally came in with files in hand, walked straight past us and into his room. Finally the door opened and we were allowed to enter. We sat in the chairs as the General continued to read his files, as if we weren’t even there.

He was a tall man, not as tall as Keno but tall enough. His hair was a deep wavy brown, almost black and his skin a light caramel. His eyes were an earthly reddish-brown; he was part Sa’harielan that much was clear just from his skin and hair. How he’d made it to General was a mystery to us all, it involved a lot of sucking up and hard work, that was for sure.

After several more minutes of being ignored, Bennett looked up with a glare at Logan and slammed the spinner onto the table. “Must you always find ways to infuriate me when you come to my office?”

“Yes,” Logan said honestly. The General sighed and leaned back in his chair to look at us. He slid a file towards Keno.

“You’re lucky you boys are good at what you do,” Bennett said. “Because many people would lose certification for all the messes you boys seem to get in.”

“Well, stop giving us cases and let us do some real work!” Logan muttered.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “What messes?”

“I told you to leave the explosives at home,” Keno sighed and looked at Logan.

“What? Oh, come on! I was only doing my job!” Logan said.

“By demolishing half of an abandoned city and blowing a hole in some civilian’s wall?” Bennett asked.

“I told them to request the CCOR to reimburse them,” I whispered to Logan who only glared. “Well why should they have paid for it?”

“Anyway,” Bennett said. “I have no new cases for you at the moment, but when I do have a case, please, please be a little less… efficient.”

 “Don’t hear that everyday,” I said.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Bennett replied sarcastically. “Now, tell me what you found on your latest case.”

From the grin I could tell he’d taken much enjoyment getting that file on his desk. He was probably here laughing the whole time we were in Sodgrove Valley. Both Keno and Logan narrowed their eyes.

“We found that our home town had nearly been wiped off the map and the Regime did nothing about it.” Keno said.

“Neither did you,” Bennett retorted, only rising higher on Keno’s list. “I mean, did you get any information on the demons?”

Bennett had always known our mission, always known our secrets and plans and he had much interest in it too. It could land him a promotion someday if he played our cards right. He was a mysterious character, right from the get go. He’d found us in an old town in the middle of nowhere far to the west that I couldn’t remember the name of.  We were heroes then too, we helped people without a price, without the paperwork. I guess the news spread all the way to the General’s office.

We didn’t know how he’d found us, all we knew was that he was offering us a job. At first we were skeptical, Keno was only sixteen at the time and still suspicious of everything and anything and I was ten and still taking names. Just my age was enough to get a little fame from the locals, who’d ever heard of a child being a successful hunter? Well, the CCOR did and they wanted to utilize it.

We’d turned him down that day, we worked better without having the leash and responsibilities that came with the certification. We could handle ourselves, do things our own way, or so we thought. One thing led to another, dead ends lead to more and we then found ourselves at the General’s front door three years ago.

Keno wanted to join alone, he didn’t want Logan and I selling ourselves to the military. That was when the ties between the three countries were bad, when the CCOR was about to fall apart. It couldn’t be a coalition without Caeld, luckily it all evened out as usual. Unfortunately for Keno, Logan and I both joined regardless, it was easier to stay together that way. Unfortunately for all of us, Bennett’s smug and devious nature ended up being a set back.

He’d wanted to know our story, wanted to know everything about our past and the night our mother died. Apparently he’d been there, he’d organized the search for us, and he’d left our town to rot. What else could we do? He could’ve rejected our applications, Logan and I were minors and he could’ve come up with some excuse as to why Keno couldn’t qualify.

“They want someone,” I said and sighed. “Who or why we’re still trying to figure out.”

“What about your father?” Bennett asked.

“He’d left Alddell long before we arrived,” Keno sighed with irritation. “We thought he went home but apparently not.”

“Hey, you were an old friend of his,” Logan said. “You haven’t heard from him?”

“No, I haven’t, I only got wind of someone matching Niall’s description in Alddell and passed the information along.” Bennett said. “Besides, if I had heard from him, don’t you think I would’ve said something?”

“That’s what any other decent human would do,” Logan muttered.

“Well, was there anything in his past that would make the demons go after us?” I asked.

“Kid, you think I’m an enigma? Your father is the definition of mystery,” Bennett said. “We were partners for a week, worked a few simple cases together and that was it. All I got from him was that he had a family in Sodgrove Valley, that he was after something and he was a damn good hunter.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Keno said. “He was after something?”

“Why do you think I asked for your business three years ago?” Bennett said. “As soon as Noir went off the map his case file ended up on my desk. I was the last person to see him and had a remote idea of what he was doing. I thought you three knew something.”

“The man left without a trace sixteen years ago,” Keno said.

“I had to check all the skeletons in the closet,” Bennett shrugged. “Here’s his case file if you’re interested. I’ll let you have the week off to work on this.”

“Thanks General,” I said. “For everything.”

If it weren’t for him we’d still have nothing, but now, now we had a place to look. Who knows? Maybe the demons were after revenge; maybe dad had made a deal and owed them something.

“Hey, Sebastian you didn’t tell me you had company!” We turned to see a man standing in the doorway. He was just as tall as Keno, his hair a light brown and his eyes obnoxiously cheerful. He ran over and shook my hand vigorously, I was beginning to think my arm was going to be pulled from the socket. “You must be Oskar Noir, the youngest hunter this country has ever seen! I’m Colonel Darryl Stokes, it’s nice to meet you three!”

“You… too?” I said and felt my numb arm as he moved on to Logan and Keno.  

“Stokes, I thought I told you not to barge in when I have a meeting and to stay out of my itinerary!” Bennett said with annoyance.

“Yeah, yeah,” the Colonel waved him off. It was obvious they were close friends, just from the way Stokes was acting towards the higher up. He wrapped an arm tightly around Keno and my shoulders pulling us close. “So what bring you boys to town?”

“Business,” Logan said with amusement at our predicament, Keno’s in particular. Keno was baffled, it wasn’t everyday that someone took Keno by surprise. And it was also strange to see someone… touch him without having an arm chopped off in the process. Keno always emitted a dangerous air of authority but it seemed to go unnoticed by the happy-go-lucky Colonel.

“Really, well, do you have a place to stay?” Stokes asked. “Please, come and stay with me and my family!”

“Wha-?”

He started dragging me by the hand behind him. Keno and Logan actually had to run to keep up. “Colonel, you really don’t have to.”

“Nonsense! My house is your house we’ve got the room!” Stokes said proudly. “My son’s a big fan of you boys, and little Mary’s going to be so excited!”

“I can’t feel my arm,” I muttered to Logan.

“Hey, free food and free lodging, suck it up!” Logan replied. I glared at him as the Colonel continued to drag me along.

 

I had barely set one foot in the door when the Colonel’s son and niece pulled me away to play. They were both around the same age, Peter being five and Mary being four. It was strange how simple board games that all kids (supposedly) know, I didn’t. I didn’t get to play much with other kids, if at all. We were always traveling and after awhile I learned that we were too different for me to make friends because as soon as I made them we’d be on the move again.

I stared at the game that lay in the grass, in deep thought. I ignored the grins on Peter’s face before finally losing my last piece.

“Checkmate,” Peter exclaimed and took my last piece.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“You lose,” Mary giggled and I sighed and looked at Peter.

“Are you taking advantage of my ignorance?” I asked as Peter held out his hand. “You’re a devious little child. I bet your not even five.”

“Five and a half,” he replied and took the five Sapphire pieces from me.

“I knew it,” I said while trying to suppress a laugh.

“Even I know how to play chess,” I looked up to see Kotori leaning against the fence. “And it’s not even a game my country plays.”

“What are you doing here?” I asked with a hand on the hilt of my gun.

“I came to say thanks again.” He shrugged.

“Okay, you realize that you’re at the house of a ranking officer, right?” I said and he looked over to Peter and Mary. “This is Colonel Stokes’s house.”

“Which one’s the colonel?” Kotori asked and both Mary and Peter jumped up with raised hands.

“Me!” They both shouted with glee. I stood up and walked over to the Sa’harielan. I’d known that we hadn’t seen the last of him, he seemed way to interested in us for that. He knew who we were, by reputation at least, and because we knew little of him that made him a threat. You always know your enemies, Keno had always said.

He was still wearing his traditional clothing which meant he either didn’t care what the people of this city thought or he took to the shadows. I was betting on the latter. Logan was right, Sa’harielans were fighting machines. It was what they were known for because they perfected it.

“You didn’t tell me there were two of ‘em!” Kotori said with a smile.

“Sorry,” I shrugged. “So, did you really come here just to say ‘thanks’?”

“Maybe,” he said and jumped over the fence. “But I also know nothing about this country, I have no place to stay, and I need to get a hold of the priests in my village.”

“Keno and Logan aren’t going to like seeing you here,” I said.

“I know, that’s why I came to you,” he said. “They like me better when you’re around.”

I sighed and opened the gate to let him in and he stared at me as if he couldn’t believe I was being serious, as if I were letting in the enemy. I didn’t know him, but I could tell that he was acting strange. He was uncomfortable around me, that much was obvious, but why? I’ve helped him for God’s sake!

“I’ll show you where the phone is,” I said. “We should be getting ready for dinner anyway. And then I demand a rematch!”

“Double or nothing?” Peter asked as I followed him and Maria inside.

“Alright, this time I won’t let you win though,” I smiled but watched Kotori closely. He was wary of me and that only made me wary of him but who knew? Maybe Itaraeans weren’t the only ones who feared other ethnicities?

“You let him in the house?” Keno asked as we looked down the hall to watch Kotori speak in a language we didn’t understand.

“’Do to others what you would want done to you’” I quoted. “Isn’t that what you’ve always taught me?”

“Not when it’s a Sa’harielan that could be plotting to slit our throats while our backs are turned,” Logan muttered.

“You know, maybe it’s not a bad thing to have him tag along with us,” I said and they both looked at me as if I belonged in a mental institution. “Well you guys were worried about him getting into trouble but if he’s with us then we can watch him. He’s obviously a good fighter so maybe he can help us.”

“I hate it when the munchkin is right,” Logan muttered.

“I’m taller than you,” I said, taking offense to the munchkin comment it worked up until my last growth spurt.

“Well, it’s obvious that we’re not getting rid of him anyway,” Keno said. “He looks like he’s here to stay.”

“I wonder what he’s saying,” I said. He seemed concerned and lost as he listened to the priest he was speaking to. He was standing straight, not a single muscle relaxed but tensed. Jeez, you didn’t want to mess with these guys by the look of it.

“Yes, elder,” he said, this time in a language we understood. “Yes, I understand, yes.”

He hung up the phone and we all scattered back to our seats as if we’d been there the whole time. Kotori walked in and there was no trace of the stressful call on his face. He sat at the table with us and leaned back in the seat his bare feet resting on the table and in Keno’s face. Tempting fate was something this tribesman seemed to do a lot.

“So,” he said. “What is the game plan? Are we here for a few days? Just the night?”

“We’ll be at Headquarters for a few days,” Keno said. “Filing reports, doing research, and waiting for our next case.”

“Wake me when that case comes,” he said and stood up.

“It could be days from now,” I said.

“Yeah, I know,” Kotori turned to look at me. “It is called praying and extensive meditating.”

We waited until he was gone before turning to each other. “I don’t like the way he looks at you.” Keno said.

“What looks?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Keno sighed. “He just looks at you like you’re different.”

 

“Please, have some more,” Penelope, the Colonel’s wife, handed me another plate.

“Penny, I don’t think they can eat another bite!” Jayne was the Colonel’s sister-in-law. Not only did the Colonel’s family live in the house but his brother’s family as well. Leroy and Darryl had always lived here, this had been their childhood home and they decided to raise their own families there together. Jayne was heavily pregnant, a new addition to the happy family only weeks from arrival. 

“So, what made you boys want to join the CCOR at such a young age?” Leroy asked. When the three of us were quiet he looked up. “Ah, something tragic, I see?”

“Well, I’m sure that either way your parents must be proud,” Jayne said and we were quiet again. She gasped and covered her mouth with shock.

“Oh, you poor dears,” Penelope touched my shoulder. “What happened?”

“Now, now, Penny,” from the look on the Colonel’s face he’d read the reports or Bennett told him. “They came here to relax, not reopen their wounds.”

“No, it’s alright,” Keno said. “It was a long time ago.”

He said that, but really he could remember like it had just happened a day ago. No one could remember the day like Keno could, it was the day he truly had to grow up, the day he not only stopped being a child, but our sole protector. The only thing we had. It was a long time ago, but not long enough to heal the wounds. The saying “Time heals all wounds” was nothing but a lie, time only dulled the wounds, hid them under scarred skin but they were still there. Wounds were temporary, scars are forever.

I didn’t know about Logan, but I missed everything Keno had said when retelling our story. It was only when I felt the touch on my shoulder from the concerned woman that I came back to reality only to drift off again. There was a reason I didn’t remember much from that night, it was because I didn’t want to know. Keno may have come up with a censored “don’t-pity-us,-this-is-our-life-and-we’ll-deal” version but even that could bring back some repressed memory.

When Keno had finally stopped talking the room was silent. Peter and Mary had run off to play before and now I was heavily considering just running from the table to join them. Pity, it was something that the three of us didn’t take well. It took away all our glory. We were still here, we we’d made it and were alive, and we were together. It was a victory for us. There was no need for pity.

There was, however, those times where you wished to just have someone hold you and tell you things were going to be okay, it was one of those things that anyone missed when losing a mother and it was exactly what the Stokes did.

It was good for Keno, in my opinion at least, to have the pressure taken off his shoulders if just for the night. Sure, be just as wary as he’s always been, that was just his way, but we weren’t alone, there were others here watching out for us. A family that was accepting us as our own, it was new, and it was great.

Once dinner was over I went to find Peter and Mary, I was getting my Sapphires back from the little con.

I was walking by the backyard and stopped suddenly when I looked out the window. Kotori was outside, a long katana drawn and Peter and Mary were within striking distance.

I went outside with a heavy beat of my heart, Kotori looked peaceful but with that much experience wouldn’t anyone? It paid to be careful. The two children were only watching the strange man stretch and lightly swing his sword with closed eyes.

“Katas?” I asked. Kotori didn’t break gait but continued on.

“Yes,” he said. “It’s my form of meditation and prays. You are familiar?”

“Keno does them every morning and every evening,” I said.

“He is wise, ‘know thy sword’ as my teacher once said.” Kotori said. “The better you know the sword, the more reliable it is in battle.”

Before I could blink, Kotori had tossed another katana in my direction and I caught it by the hilt. I tested the weight of the steel with a few swings as he turned to look at me.

“You are good with a sword?” His accent seemed to be heavier now, either he no longer cared about hiding it or he just didn’t care if I heard it.

“More or less,” I said. “I prefer the quick and easy guns myself.”

“Ungraceful toys,” he dismissed with disdain. “There is no skill.”

“It gets the job done,” I said and caught his sword on mine. “And keeps me alive.”

“Hmm,” Kotori stood back and looked at his sword. “Never thought of a fight like that. It has always been about honor and skill.”

“I’m sorry to say that I don’t know much about Sa’hariel and your ways, only what I’ve heard from others.” I said and we continued the fight.

“Well, we are not blood-thirty killers,” he said. “We have heart, we have peace; we are just really good at fighting.”

The devilish quirk of the lips told me that this was the honest-to-God truth. Again our blades caught on the others.

“You can do it Ozzie!” Peter cheered.

“Go Kottry!” Mary said.

“You were listening to my phone call,” Kotori said seriously as his blade struck mine harder. “Did you get anything from it?”

“No,” I smiled. “Unfortunately we don’t know your language.”

“That is not what I meant, I knew you would not understand my words.” He said. “My tones and gestures, you were watching, what were your interpretations?”

“Well, you weren’t happy,” I said and stepped back as he thrust lightly. “What did they say?”

“I had told them that I was not sure about my mission here,” he said and sheathed his sword.

“Why not?” I handed him his sword back.

“Because I am not sure,” he said with a frown. “If it is the best thing, I do not know if I can do it because it doesn’t seem right.”

“I sometimes think the same thing about our mission,” I said.

“With your mother?” he said and explained when I quirked an eyebrow. “I listened to your story over dinner.”

“Yeah, sometimes I really don’t want to know,” I said and leaned against the house. “I don’t want to know why the demons came, I don’t what to know what or who they were looking for.”

“Ignorance is bliss,” Kotori nodded and leaned with me as we watched Mary and Peter run around and play. “Do you tell your brothers?”

“Nah,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Because I want to stay with them and that’s what they want,” I said with a shrug. “They’re all I have and I know that, at the end of the day, it’s my life and my fate. I get to decide what happens in my life because I’m the one that has to live it. Any day I could decide not to go further and the same goes for you. If you don’t want to do your mission then you shouldn’t have to, your fate is in your hands. I don’t know how the whole priest thing works in your country, though, so I might not even be one to talk.”

“Every ten or so years,” Kotori said. “Five newborns are selected to become priests and are taken from the families. That is their whole life, they do not know their families, the people are their family.”

“So you’ve never known your parents?” I asked and he shook his head.

“You are very lucky, Oskar Noir,” he said. “You have family.”

“I know,” I said and I did know. While Logan may have cursed luck because we had none, not a day went by when I felt lucky. I could’ve been like Kotori, alone. No brothers, no family, just completely alone but I wasn’t.

“But I like what you have just said,” he smiled. “It is my life and my fate is in my hands.”

“Whatever you decide to do, do it for yourself.” I confirmed, patting him on the back and then went over to play with Peter and Mary.

 

A few nights later, the three of us pulled a late night of research. It wasn’t anything new, we’d done it many times since this whole thing started. I tossed another book to the side, the “Possibilities” pile of books dwindling while the “Useless” pile grew.

“There is nothing in any records indicating that dad did anything other than destroy demons.” Logan muttered.

“Keep looking,” Keno replied as he read a journal that dad had left in the office. “There might be something.”

“Can’t we just keep looking for him and ask?” I sighed and picked up another book.

“We’re not going to find him,” Keno said. “I don’t even know why we tried.”

“If only we had one of the journals from the house,” Logan said. “That would probably have all the answers.”

Keno said nothing, as if he was drawn into the book. Logan and I both watched him for a second, hoping that he’d found something. He glanced up at us, realizing we were watching him, before shutting the journal and putting it on the table beside him.

“Did you find something?” I asked. He hadn’t put it in either pile but one on its own.

“No,” he said dismissively and grabbed a new book.

“You boys pulling over another all nighter?” We looked up at the Colonel.

“Yes sir,” Keno said politely.

“You’re looking for whatever killed your mother and why, right?” Stokes said thoughtfully.

“Yeah, unfortunately it’s a lot harder than we thought,” Logan sighed.

“Well, I can pull a few strings at HQ,” Stokes said thoughtfully as if running records through his head. “I’ll look into it, just give me the claim and I’ll know what to look for.”

“That’s generous of you, Colonel,” I said. “Thanks.”

“Of course,” he shrugged. “There’s a rise in demons so we’ve got to take priority. If there’s an alpha out there running other demons then we’ve got to find it and take it down.”

“Well, here’s the file,” Keno said, handing Stokes the folder. “Thanks a lot, Colonel.”

The Colonel waved us off and smiled. “Well, get some sleep, Sebastian said he’s got a new case for you tomorrow.”

He closed the door quietly behind him and we immediately went back to work. It was quiet for several minutes until Keno broke the silence.

“I saw you talking to Kotori earlier.”

“Yeah?” I said, absentmindedly flipping the page of my current volume.

“What were you talking about?” Keno asked. Keno didn’t have a real problem with the Sa’harielan, of course he was cautious, anyone would be, but he didn’t have a deep reluctance to have him around like Logan did. He was curious, curious about Kotori, his culture, his angle.

“This and that,” I said.

“Anything about his mission?” Keno asked.

“Not much,” I shrugged. “Just that he didn’t want to do it, he said that it didn’t feel right.”

Keno nodded and stood up to look out the window and I knew Kotori was below. He’d volunteered to sleep outside in the yard, said he’d be more comfortable out there than in here. I didn’t know if he’d be sleeping, exercising, meditating or praying but whatever it was Keno was interested.

“I’ll be right back,” Keno said and headed for the door.

“Why? What’s wrong?” Logan asked but Keno shut the door on the question. We both looked out the window to see Kotori sitting on the fence, playing some kind of flute. Keno came out seconds later and started talking to Kotori, even if we’d opened the window we wouldn’t have heard what was being said.

The cerulean eyes glanced up at our window before looking back at Keno, apparently our big brother was laying down some kind of law. Kotori only shrugged and started playing again, the peaceful melody penetrating the glass as Keno stormed off.

“Has he been acting strange? Or is that just me?” Logan asked before Keno came back.

“He’s definitely been acting strange,” I sighed. He acted like he had a secret, like he was hiding something, but that couldn’t be true. We’d all promised never to hide things from each other, it made it hard to protect each other when there were secrets among us. No, Keno wouldn’t hide anything from Logan and I… Would he?

 




© 2010 Rocki-san



Author's Note

Rocki-san
Not the best chapter but I'm moving on and going to fix it later. Working on the next chapter, enjoy :D

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Added on May 2, 2010
Last Updated on June 16, 2010
Tags: ANWA saga, sci-fi, supernatural and occult


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Rocki-san
Rocki-san

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Hey, I'm Rocki! I live on a 14-mile long island where there isn't really anything to do so I write. I'm an Anthropology major and willing to read your stories or books if requested as long as you give.. more..

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