With much luck, pushing and lots of cash, Omi was able to secure the entire rebuilding process by the end of the sixth night. He did a round-about final check in the basement of the mansion, the only place large enough to host all of the equipment, replicas and originals, and made sure every bit of hardware and software ran as smoothly as possible. The room itself was almost a replica of the ‘Hell Hole’, with the exception of a luxurious viewing area and one test room instead of two. Manx was present alongside Omi, insisting that since she had contributed her manpower and intelligence to this, she had the right to witness the process. But Omi knew better. She was also extremely worried about the two victims of the last battle with Takatori.
Since Nagi was the one that fails to respond to all of the outside senses, with the possibility of brain death, no matter how much Crawford had resisted, the boy was decided to be the first one to test the system since Aya could still function fine. As Omi finally called all the residents and guests within the mansion down to the basement, he looked exhausted but excited at the same time, if that was humanly possible.
Crawford carried Nagi carefully in his arms, the boy had thinned tremendously over the past years and looked even paler than before. Omi asked Crawford to put Nagi, his counterpart in Schwartz, on the large operating table and winced at the smallness of the boy. With Omi’s instructions, Ken and Youji quickly attached the necessary tubes and needles onto the sleeping beauty, and within minutes they were done, with the attachments mainly on the boy’s head causing the others to cringe at the sight.
The sight that they had first found Nagi in.
Schuldich walked down with Aya in his hands just when they finished preparing Nagi, and when the redhead saw the environment around him, his eyes widened in fear. No one expected Aya to remember anything, especially the time he had been in the Hell Hole, so when the boy screamed in such agony that could wrench any hearts, they realized what a fatal mistake they had made.
Perhaps the two of them still, in the very depth of their subconscious, remembered everything. The environment looked too similar with what it was back then, and it would damage their mental health once more if they were to see it again.
Schuldich held Aya tightly when the boy began to flee, and dived into his mind to block his visions. Manx took this time and used a cloth to cover Nagi’s eyes, while Omi and the other two ex-Weiss hurried to cover some machines that could be covered so it won’t, hopefully, look too painfully similar. It took Schuldich a great deal of energy plus a strong sedative to calm Aya down, limp in the German’s arms, tears still running down his face.
At this point, no one in the room wanted to continue with the experiment. The excitement had been covered with uncertainty and fear, along with the strong depression that most had had since three years ago. Schuldich held Aya tightly in his arms, his chin rested on Aya’s head, and he trembled slightly as he looked at the site. Slowly, he voiced his opinion, soft and actually fearful, “…..I don’t want to do this.”
Crawford looked up, his deep dark blue eyes glaring into the very soul of the German, “You will. We have nothing to lose anymore.”
Schuldich shook his head furiously, backing away, “What if…. What if I fail to protect Nagi? The same way I did Aya?”
“You already failed Aya. You pay for that by stopping this cowardice and not failing.”
Schuldich swallowed, looking back and forth between Nagi and Aya. Never had he thought of his powers as such a heavy burden. Never had he expected himself to be so afraid. For too long he had disregarded fear, laughed at others’ fear, and even manipulated too many of them. But now, the great Mastermind was cowering, and he couldn’t stop wanting to get away with his love. With more than a half dozen pair of eyes staring at him, waiting, he bit his lower lip firmly as he handed the sleeping Aya to Ken, and walked over slowly to sit next to Nagi, his fist clenched in nervousness.
Omi whispered the instructions to him, telling him what to expect and what might happen based on the salvaged reports, and looked over to Crawford, since the man has the most at stake and therefore has the right to say when to start. Crawford took one long, last look at Nagi, and kissed the boy before nodding to give his permission.
The machine started with a loud whirling sound, and Schuldich held Nagi’s hand tightly as he concentrated into the boy’s mind. The monitor connecting to the machine started with static first, with images flying so fast that it was impossible for any human mind to understand what was going on. Then, pitch black, and as if a train going through a dark tunnel, there would always be a light exit at the far end.
A heavenly light.
“You’re misbehaving. A bad kid needs to be punished….”
“…..But I’m not a bad boy!! I’m a good kid!!!! Don’t do this!!!!!”
The child was abandoned. In a small, rural, farming village in the southern part of Japan, a child born with great beauty and great intelligence was considered the Devil’s work. When the child showed his telekinesis talent, in hope to attract scraps of love from his parents, not only did he fail, but he was tossed out to the streets and abandoned forever. The village punished him, regarding him as an animal, beat, raped, and bullied the boy at will. When the child gained enough strength to leave the village, he did so by using his body to hitchhike out of the village and into a larger city.
Life had not became better; in fact, it had only gotten worse. The boy continued to use his body to get what he needed to survive— food, shelter, drugs. He lived in the slums, the darkest of the streets, and only came out at night to ‘work’. The river close by was his bathing place, and sometimes when he could find a rich customer he got to stay at a hotel to take a good shower. Rarely had he any cash on him, only some scraps of food that people threw out, and enough money for him to get some warm clothes when sometimes they were torn apart.
Then, the slums he lived in were raided by a group of bloodthirsty people. He had just gotten into a fight where another prostitute found him a nuisance since he was taking her customers, so her man came and beat him up. He tried to defend himself without using his power, knowing that his power would attract unwanted attention and would only be bad for him in the environment. But just when that bitch’s man was having a blast beating him up, a group of preppy-look-alikes came and practically killed everyone in sight. When he thought his turn had come, it never did.
Come with me.
Because, my visions say that you will be a good addition to our team.
…..I’m not worthy to anyone….
You are. To me.
Schuldich breathed as it was time to take a break. He snatched the device off of his head, and ran to the nearest basin to throw up as much as possible, from that evening’s supper to the morning breakfast. Never had he been overwhelmed in someone’s mind so deliberately, and while he enjoyed touring in others’ memories, he knew that Schwartz’s was the last one he wanted to touch, even more than his own.
Now he was forced to, and he never thought the little boy in them had this horrible past. The pain and the suffering he felt as he guarded and guided Nagi through the early part of his past almost swallowed him, and Schuldich constantly thought about his redhead’s smile to maintain his sanity. It had almost became impossible at one point, but he pulled the little boy through and forced him to go on. He could feel Nagi’s soul trembling and refusing to relive the memories, but a strong desire, that Schuldich didn’t know yet, had urged the feared boy to continue walking.
“You okay?” Schuldich turned, and almost fell into the towel that was offered to him by Youji. He took it with a small nod, his hand trembling furiously, and he half-stumbled across the room to the couch Aya was sleeping on. Crashing next to his own angel, he curled up, and held Aya’s hand tightly in his hands to try to calm his over-stressed nerves.
Crawford stood next to the operating table, wiping away the sweat that formed on Nagi’s forehead and cheek. His gestures were careful, and his facial expression could not be read by anyone. He had been the only one that knew Nagi’s past, and the boy never wanted anybody else to know. That’s why Schuldich was never able to penetrate the wall Nagi had built around his past, with the help of Crawford, not that the German ever wanted to. But now, everyone knew, and his fists tightened as he thought about Nagi’s reaction when he wakes up. What should he tell the boy? That it was necessary? That it must be done? That he did it without his consent to save him? What?
“Crawford-san…” Omi stood next to Crawford after finishing adjusting some minor technicalities in the system. He had been studying Crawford for a while before approaching, and millions of words had flown through his mind, and he decided to say the only thing he could think of.
Crawford glanced at Omi wearily. Bombay sighed heavily, and patted Oracle’s back, “Just tell him you love him. I think that’s enough.”
“And what do YOU know?” Crawford retorted.
“Enough to know that you are the only reason that Nagi’s going through all this.”
Crawford turned abruptly at the word, gasping and his eyes wide at the comment, but Omi had already left the room to care for Schuldich. The Oracle turned back to look at his beloved, and his knee gave out as he slowly kneeled down, still holding Nagi’s slender hand in his. “……Is that true, Nagi? Will you…..? Will……. you…?” he whispered softly, almost desperately, to himself.
And to the Sleeping Beauty.
—To be Continued…