Chapter Twenty-Two: Doppelganger?!
"You left him behind?"
Allen repeated the sentence, his expression fully betraying what he felt; incredulous. Nezumi shrugged at Allen's surprise, falling quiet. By nature, Nezumi was not one to blabber. The only times he would get mouthy was when he was reciting, performing, or faced with one Sion. But seeing that Allen was a bit similar to Sion, couple that fact with Allen's curious eyes watching him; the teen could not deflect Allen's curiosity.
"Dying to know?" Nezumi teased, surprising Allen. Allen blushed a little for his poor manners and quickly shook his head.
"N-Not really, if you don't feel like saying it."
"It's alright, I'll tell you. After all…telling someone you used to be imprisoned in a facility isn't something you can do lightly," Nezumi murmured, prompting anew Allen's curiosity. How indeed would Nezumi understand that? Allen would hesitate to reveal such facts each time, because of all the sorts of complicated feelings it stirred when he mentioned such things. Nezumi made himself comfortable on the floor and Allen followed suit; it seemed like it would be a long story.
"I was a kid born in the slums, the types where no one would notice if anyone went missing. When I was twelve, I was captured…brought to a facility."
Allen couldn't stop the gasp escaping him. Nezumi turned to him, a strange smile on his lips. It wasn't anything sarcastic; more than that, it was one that indicated to Allen that he saw in Allen what he felt in himself. Allen looked down to the ground, but slowly found himself asking, "…What did they do?"
"A bunch of nutters, the lot of them. They were developing new drugs, and were looking for people to test it on…Expendable resources, simply speaking. I managed to escape, but they hunted me down. I came out from the lab into this exclusive gated community…which was bad. There were guards, and the rich like to keep their doors closed. I thought I would be killed…but someone opened a window at the time. That person…was Sion," Nezumi whispered the last part, and Allen was almost taken in by his forlorn, yet beautiful smile when he mentioned that person.
"Sion was an elite's child, a genius with high IQ to boot. I snuck into his room through the window, but he didn't raise the alarm. He even treated my wound for me, gave me food and sheltered me…That night was his birthday, and a storm was passing through…I left at the light of dawn. We didn't meet again, until four years later."
Allen gazed at Nezumi, sensing that the teen was harbouring more to be told. "You managed to return to the slums?" He quietly asked Nezumi, who nodded.
"I wanted to exact my revenge on the facility, so I did my research on it while staying low at the slums. Four years later…Sion was nearly caught by the same facility, but I managed to save him. While we decided how to deal with the facility, Sion stayed at my place. He was naïve…still very naïve, I think. He wanted to go to the authorities, but who would they believe? A giant company that probably backs that illegal facility, or two boys?" Nezumi snorted, recalling Sion's naivety.
"…What I didn't know was Sion had already been unknowingly tested…It didn't have any effects, but pure agony for two hours and it turned his hair white, with a long red mark wound around his body. He was fortunate to have survived; almost all of the people they experiment on died of severe complications. But Sion had a bit of a background, so they were probably scared Sion had enough pull to get to the authorities. So they kidnapped his childhood friend, a girl named Safu."
Allen's eyes widened. "To threaten him?"
Nezumi now put on a satirical smirk. "What else? Sion was stubborn and insisted on going to rescue her, so I had no choice but to follow. We managed to do that, and blow up the facility in the process, but…" Nezumi's silver eyes darkened, as did his expression. "They were determined to kill us at all costs to hide their secret. I was almost killed…when Sion took up a fallen gun and shot the man."
Allen felt his breath leaving him. Even in his life as en Exorcist, he was terrified of the prospects of killing a human. But this boy, Sion, had taken up a gun and shot another person. Nezumi's eyes wavered with sorrow as he recounted the event.
"…He killed that man, even though I told him not to. After that, the company went down with the discovery of that ruined facility. Sion was found innocent as it was considered an act of self-defence…But I couldn't stay. I decided to travel away, where I could decide whether Sion was human or not."
"Human, or not?" Allen echoed.
"He's strange. He has the charisma to command a mob to silence, yet he cries like a girl. He's gentle and naïve…but unexpectedly heartless. He's weak, but so strong at times…I'm afraid of him, because I don't understand anything about him…I wanted Sion to stay the way he was…" Nezumi's voice faltered into silence, unexpectedly showing Allen a vulnerable side of himself. It was always like that; whenever it concerned Sion, Nezumi was vulnerable. He didn't however, expect Allen to whack him on his head.
"Are you stupid?!" Allen yelled, cheeks flushed as he stared relentlessly at Nezumi, who was bewildered at Allen's sudden outburst. Allen was shocked and sad to hear of Nezumi's past, but when he saw how Nezumi looked like as he spoke of Sion, and heard of how Nezumi left Sion for those reasons, he couldn't keep his exasperation in check. His own worries were forgotten when Allen rounded up on Nezumi.
"Why do you idiots always think that keeping your distance is the best answer?! I can't believe it!" Allen continued to rant, linking Nezumi's behaviour to Kanda's, and it got him into a greater fury as one who suffered at the result of such stupidity. Nezumi just stared with his jaw slack, not expecting Allen to rant and rage that way.
"You love Sion, don't you?!"
"Wha-Now you're going overboard. Whoever told you that?" Nezumi denied it, but Allen gave him disbelieving eyes.
"Have you looked into a mirror when you speak about him? Please, you have love written all over your face. Stop denying it, okay?" Allen scoffed, now irritating Nezumi.
"And who gave you the right to start preaching?"
"I'm not preaching, yet! I'm telling you to stop being such an idiot before it's too late. Have you ever imagined finding Sion again just to find out he's gone? Doesn't the thought itself scare you?" Allen's voice slowly calmed down, observing Nezumi with a sad frown. Nezumi was almost surprised by the abrupt change, and thought on Allen's words for a while.
It had been three years since he left; with no letters or words exchanged between them. He had promised Sion he would return, though he never specified when. What if he were to return now? Will Sion still be there, waiting for him? If he wasn't, if he could never see Sion's smile again…It was too cruel a pain to endure.
"…I wanted him to stay the way he was…" Nezumi whispered, unable to forget the horror and guilt he felt when he witnessed the shooting, despite the fear of losing Sion. He and Sion could never be together; they were like water and oil. He was the wanderer; Sion was one who stayed behind. They would never work out together. When he had rescued Sion, Nezumi continuously scoffed at Sion's naivety and kindness. But deep inside, he was blinded by it; the capacity of one human's compassion and gentleness. He really loved Sion, brilliant in his innocence and his defiance despite his gullibility. Yet Nezumi had destroyed it.
"Are you stupid? People don't stay the same," Allen answered, somewhat annoyed. Was that Sion person so vulnerable that he had to be protected from himself? That was a rhetorical question however, as Allen believed no matter how weak one was, they had to learn to stand on their own. Allen sighed, reminding himself not to be so harsh to a new acquaintance. "…Why are you so afraid of him changing?" He quietly asked.
Nezumi's own silver eyes grew sombre. He wouldn't open up like this, but Allen somehow wheedled it out of him. Probably because of his looks and personality, somewhat similar yet different from Sion. "I don't know…Maybe because it makes me realise how little I actually know him…that if he changed, I might lose sight of him. Sion is a miracle that happened to me. Without Sion, I would've died that night," Nezumi related, staring blankly at the sky.
"After he…shot the man, did you think he changed?" Allen questioned.
"…I don't know. He still had Sion in him, but he was also unlike Sion."
"…Maybe the parts that you think are unlike Sion are actually parts of Sion that you don't know. Though as a stranger, I shouldn't be saying this since I don't know Sion…"
Allen's smile faltered a little as he said this, recalling Kanda's scathing words that had shown how much he genuinely hated Allen for being a Noah during the time when they fought Alma. Allen had been hurt by those words, but he had also understood that he could do nothing about it. Noahs were despised by the Order and its people; it would be more improbable for Kanda to be accepting of that fact. But everything that he has seen of Kanda is part of the young man, and Allen would take it all in without hesitation. After all, isn't love about accepting the flaws of your partner as part of who they are?
Nezumi became silent for a while, contemplating Allen's words. Parts of Sion that he did not know, huh. The possibilities were all too stark, but Nezumi knew his fear was getting in the way. Rather, it may be from the very beginning that Nezumi did not face Sion honestly. Always turning away when he did not want to see, always standing still when he did see…He had done nothing except talk. He was afraid that Sion would become different from the Sion in his memories, that the teen's dazzling innocence would fade and he would become like Nezumi; cold, cruel and jaded.
"I wonder if he still remembers me…" Finally, a small smile lit Nezumi's lips. Allen, encouraged by that expression, smiled as well. He stood up, stretching his limbs.
"From what I've heard of him, I don't think he would ever forget you. Also…thank you for telling me. This must've been a hard story to tell," Allen mumbled, rather embarrassed but still happy a new friend trusted him enough to confide in him.
Nezumi smirked. "You can repay by giving me some blackmail material next time."
"Where did that moyashi run off to…"
As he grumbled, Kanda scoured the halls for his missing lover. Always a person of action with a severe lack of subtlety, there was no way Kanda would let this stay quiet. To hell with Allen's desire to be left alone; if the boy had anything to say, Kanda was here to listen. The Japanese had sworn to himself that he would not let Allen down anymore, so with great gusto Kanda continued his search for Allen, when familiar white hair came into sight. What was most alien though, was the figure of a girl walking next to Allen.
"He runs from me right to a woman…That idiot is going to pay."
Kanda's mutterings disappeared under his breath as he stalked up to the white-haired boy and turned him around, ready to give him a piece of his mind when the words got stuck in his throat. The cause? The boy staring up at him now was not Allen. The girl next to the stranger stared at Kanda for a while before she seemed to snap out of it, frowned and slapped Kanda's hand off.
"What're you doing to Sion?!"
"…My bad, I got the wrong person…" Kanda barely was able to answer, so strong the surprise was. Height-wise, he was probably slightly taller than Allen. The white hair, upon closer inspection, was closer to gray-white as opposed to Allen's silver-white. His eyes however, were red, of a more intense shade than Lavi's hair. There was a slight red mark below his eye on the left cheek as well.
The boy named Sion smiled. "It's okay. It's rare though, to have someone mistaking me for another, since I look like this," he answered. The boy was staring hard at Kanda, but he was too busy feeling something else to notice. Kanda was getting that sense of déjà-vu creeping up his spine. Didn't something similar occur earlier this week? Shaking off that feeling, Kanda gruffly answered, "I can't help it. The moyashi I'm looking for had white hair too."
Sion and the girl blinked and looked at each other.
Before Kanda could say anything else though, his sight zoomed in on two people walking towards them from one end of the hall. His eyes narrowed and he bellowed aloud, ignoring the two standing right before him. "Moyashi!!" Sion and the girl turned around to see who the so-called beansprout was, and simultaneous gasps were heard.
Allen had been thinking of going to the cafeteria with Nezumi and skipping the whole day's class in the process, when Kanda had spotted them. He was about to lament being spotted by Kanda, of all people, when two people before the Japanese turned around. The girl was not much the cause, the boy was. Allen doubted his eyes for a moment, but saw immediately the other's distinguishing features. At his side, he could practically feel Nezumi tightening up.
The boy named Sion whispered his name, and a most heart-wrenching smile graced his lips as his carmine irises were blurred with welling tears. Allen uncomfortably felt like a third party and slowly tried to inch away from Nezumi's side when the girl grabbed Sion's arm harshly.
"How dare you show up here after leaving Sion like that, you sewer rat?! No matter what happens, I won't trust you with Sion any more! Come on, Sion, we're leaving!" The girl snarled at Nezumi and dragged Sion away.
Despite his struggling, Sion was helplessly pulled along by the girl named Safu, and soon disappeared from their sights. Allen fell speechless at the rather bizarre sight, when a snort of laughter next to him shook him out of it. At the same time, Kanda marched right up to where they stood, arms crossed.
"I guess I had that coming," Nezumi commented, as if he was talking about the weather.
"Moyashi…You were with him again?" Kanda grumbled, staring hard at the both of them.
Allen shook his head. "Wait, I can't process this many things at once! Yu, our troubles can wait, I'm busy with this for now!" Kanda glared indignantly at the response, but Allen was already turned to Nezumi, asking, "Was that Sion, and that girl Safu…his childhood friend? He seems happy to see you, but that girl…"
"It's natural that she's angry. After she's entrusted Sion to me, I walked away on a journey. Plus, she's liked Sion longer," Nezumi replied nonchalantly.
"…You both were rivals…?" Allen felt uneasy, as he recalled the rather discomfiting memory of Alma, though the boy is now a mutual friend of theirs. Nezumi suddenly smirked.
"She confessed to Sion by asking for his sperm. And got shot down too, since the little natural was too innocent to actually understand," Nezumi answered. Allen and Kanda looked at each other and sweat-dropped. Sperm? That Safu girl sounded quite intense. Nezumi savoured their looks of shock and continued, "Of course, you can't exactly say we're rivals. For one, she was the one who willingly gave up on Sion and voluntarily entrusted him to me."
"But you still received with open arms, didn't you? Anyone would bless you both once they've seen how Sion looks at you," Allen nailed Nezumi with a deadpan answer. Nezumi scoffed, pulling his scarf around himself.
"Don't be ridiculous. I was just repaying a debt to Sion for saving me before."
"Nezumi…I've only known you for two days, but I don't think you're a tsundere. Why don't you give up on trying to hide your feelings?"
"Sorry, but I'm not the bare-all type like you are."
"I'm not that sort as well, just concerned for your future."
"I'll worry about my future myself, thank you."
It was too much to bear. Before Allen could get another jab in, Kanda had swept Allen off his feet literally and threw the boy over his shoulder. Even Nezumi seemed surprised at the abrupt action. Kanda could not endure the friendly insults thrown between Nezumi and Allen; it was too…too intimate! Before either could say a word, Kanda rounded on Nezumi and declared, "Only I get to argue with this idiot! Go find your own!" And proceeded to walk away, fuming as Allen yelled at him. Nezumi shook his head.
"So his is someone like that. No wonder he's got a sharp mouth."
Allen was fuming. Who wouldn't be, when they're being hauled like a sack of potatoes?
"Yu, put me down before I knee you in your face!"
"As if you'd dare!"
When Allen really attempted to hoist himself a bit higher to aim his knee at Kanda's face, the latter placed Allen to his feet but he did not release his hostage. Allen knew what was going to come, who didn't? He immediately slapped a hand over Kanda's mouth before he could say a thing, exclaiming,
"Yu, stop it. Just stop it. This routine is like an excruciating Korean drama, and I don't even like those shows! Stop asking questions! Stop trying to make me answer!"
Kanda grimly stared at Allen for a while, and slowly pried his hand away from his mouth. His voice was low, but Allen heard him clearly.
"Don't you trust me?"
Allen's gut shrank at the words and a wave of guilt washed over him. His decision to stay silent had made Kanda insecure. But still he hesitated to tell Kanda the truth. Kanda's hand had been holding his, and he gripped back softly. Silver eyes looked up in undisguised worry, and Allen softly admitted, "…I don't want to hurt you."
In response, Kanda rolled his eyes. ACTUALLY rolled his eyes. "You were worried about that? Now you're being stupid. Tell me. I won't run or hide."
Allen was scared, but he did trust Kanda. He just couldn't trust himself, but Kanda trusted him. As if coming to a decision, Allen nodded to himself. "…Alright, I'll tell you. It's true that apart from the orphanage and the facility, I haven't experienced much of anything else. But…I remember my moments of insanity. Much of my memories now are made up of my past memories. I don't really possess a memory of the present."
Kanda was confused, but Allen wasn't done explaining. As the boy stared off into space, he recalled those memories as if on auto pilot, "Like a child, I knew nothing when I was at the orphanage. I had no awareness of my own situation, no yearning for parents whose faces I don't know…Just the fact that I am alive. But when I was five, a great yearning awoke inside me. I couldn't understand it, but I was always unconsciously reverting to my old self. It scared the orphanage, so they had no choice but to send me away to the institute, where I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia."
That fact, Kanda knew from reading Allen's original patient profile. Allen smiled a little, but the words he spilled could not have evoked any positive feelings.
"Three years later, I met Road. The insanity quelled a little…And then I remembered something very clearly. You."
"My following years were filled with only thoughts of you. Nothing calmed me, no one could control me. I just wanted to find you, to see you…to hear your voice. I tried anything and everything to get away, but it didn't work. And each punishment just got worse when they captured me. It didn't stop me from trying though. Until Tyki and the others came along…And when Lenalee first came by, that was when I really stopped all attempts of escape. I thought…if Lenalee would come, then perhaps you might. Even though it was such a small possibility, close to a miracle, even…I decided that I would wait until I die."
It was quite a depressing thought, actually. Allen had not wanted to say it aloud; he heard from Alma how guilty Kanda felt when he Awakened and realised what he had said to Allen. When he thought back on it, his entire life was centred on his memories of Kanda, as if it was the cause of it all. It might have been a simple precaution, but he didn't want Kanda to be burdened by the feeling of guilt again.
Before Allen could protest to being insulted, Kanda pulled him into a hug. Startled by the sudden motion, Allen stiffened, but he slowly hugged back. The snow-haired lad was a little scared of looking to see what Kanda was feeling, but Kanda buried his nose into the soft white locks in a rare gesture of tenderness.
"It was a fact that I made you wait. You have nothing to feel sorry for, and you aren't hurting me by telling me…You saved me," Kanda muttered, just loud enough for both of them to hear even though there was no one else around to listen. Allen hesitated a little; but to deny Kanda's words was to deny Kanda's feelings and what he had thought of the situation. But Kanda's words were yet to be over, as Kanda's hold on Allen tightened.
"…It was always my fault, moyashi…Ever since that day…"
"That day…?" Allen cocked his head in confusion. He frankly had no idea as to which day that Kanda was referring to, but the man in question quietly pulled away in favour of looking at Allen's face, his thumb gently rubbing Allen's birthmark.
"When I fought Alma. Because I was a coward who couldn't face my past honestly, you had to step in to protect Alma from me. And I hurt you without bothering to care for my destructive actions, accusing you for being a Noah when I should know that you didn't choose to be one," Kanda slowly mentioned, his fingers travelling downwards and coming to rest somewhere on Allen's abdomen. The lovers knew; where Kanda's palm rested was where Allen once had a scar from Kanda's Mugen piercing him.
Allen's worried frown scrunched up further. He had hurt Kanda's feelings despite trying to so hard to avoid it, and was about to protest, but Kanda silenced him with a kiss, as if knowing what Allen was about to say. Now the young man was gently caressing Allen's hair, speaking on, "Don't try to deny it, moyashi. I've done it, and even if we're alright now, I won't be able to sit still in good conscience until I own up to what I've done. I've made you cry when I hit you for not telling me about the Fourteenth then…But it was my fault, wasn't it? The Fourteenth may not have awakened if I had never hurt you."
"You were branded a traitor by the Order, for protecting me and Alma…I found you again, but because I was stupid we fell apart…This time, I won't let go. No matter what happens, that's why…I will give you all that I have. So don't hide from me, Allen. Confide in me no matter what…Or else I won't have the confidence to stop myself from mindlessly hurting you. One lifetime was enough for those mistakes," Kanda whispered, now pressing a kiss to Allen's forehead.
All of a sudden, large droplets just started rolling down Allen's cheeks. The boy himself seemed startled and quickly tried to wipe them away, but Kanda was faster, his thumb slowly stemming the flow. He quietly pressed kisses to the corners of Allen's eyes; shocking his lover into silence as his rare smile was on display for him to see.
"You thought of me. No matter how long or how impossible it was, you held onto me. Even after all that I have done to you, you still wanted me. I'm not beating myself up for anything if you're worried about that…It's selfish, but I'm glad. You waited for me. Thank you, Allen."
At that point, Allen couldn't do much except to bury his face into the crook of Kanda's neck and cling onto the taller man; it was so unfair that when Kanda tries, he really can make anyone go weak at the knees. "You impossible asshole..." Allen's voice could be heard grumbling, but he was only more shocked when a baritone chuckle answered him instead.
"Being an asshole is just fine by me, as long as you're here."
For the umpteenth time of the day, Allen was lost for words.
Feeling a heavy burden lift off his chest, he could only hope that the same would happen to Road and Tyki soon.