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Old March 2nd, 2009, 12:54 PM
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JX Valentine
Your aquatic overlord
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Harassing Bill
Age: 26
Gender: Female
Nature: Bold
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Act Twelve: Motivation

It had only been three days, yet for Sebastian, it felt like an eternity. He watched from across the street as the repairmen worked on fixing the front window of Allegro Dolls. Volunteers carefully sorted through the mess inside, discarding the damaged goods and cleaning the dirtied floors. Sebastian didn't have time for it himself. When Viola was there, he kept busy with missions. Now that she wasn't, he was scouring the Database for any sign of her. He'd received little help before that day. Imogen and Toby would look for her of course, but the haunter she kept disappeared sometime during the first mission. Somehow, he wasn't particularly surprised.

"I never thought that little DiAngelo girl would get caught up in this sort of nastiness."

Sebastian glanced to the side to find a plump, older woman sweeping the stoop of her store. Her dark eyes were fixed on the sidewalk.

"To think, that shy little thing, a Knight!" she muttered. "Of course, we all knew she was hiding something. She was entirely too quiet, you know."

For a few beats, an awkward silence descended upon them. Sebastian looked towards the shop window again, and the woman swept next to him. He closed his eyes briefly, trying to will her away. Naturally, she remained oblivious to his discomfort.

That is, until finally, his Master rang. Exhaling, Sebastian quickly drew it from his pocket. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the older woman recoil before turning swiftly and walking into her shop. Sebastian couldn't help but let his lips curl into a satisfied smirk as he heard the door slam behind him.

Finally, he pressed the button and raised the device. Immediately, the display was replaced by an image of Imogen.

"Did you find her?" he asked.

"Hello to you too," she drawled. "No, not yet."

Sebastian frowned. "Where are you?"

Imogen glanced away from the camera. "Lily District."

Immediately, Sebastian's eyebrows raised. "Lily District? What the hell are you doing there? There's nothing but ♥♥♥♥♥houses there!"

Imogen glared at him. "We've looked everywhere else!"

Sebastian straightened. His jaw set, and he closed his eyes. Noticing his pale expression, Imogen softened her own into a smile.

"Look, I know it's taking awhile," she said, "but she's out there. She can't have gotten far. She's still in the Game, and anyway, where would she go?"

Opening his eyes, Sebastian allowed his mouth to twitch. A ghost of a smile flickered across his lips. Imogen noticed and took this to be encouragement.

"We'll find her. Don't you worry. Now, if you don't mind, I'll look in Clematis District. If I don't find her, I'll start again tomorrow."

Sebastian nodded. "Right. Thanks. Take care."

Imogen frowned. "Take your own advice. I can see those bags under your eyes. You haven't been sleeping, boy."

With a chuckle, Sebastian shook his head. "No, I haven't."

She sighed. "Go get some sleep or something. Can't have Viola come back to find you in a mess, now, can we?"

Sebastian forced himself to smile. "No. We can't."

Imogen nodded and offered a grin of her own. "Good. I'll call you after I'm done in Clematis."

She hesitated momentarily, as if to study his face. Sebastian froze, watching her through the screen of his Master. Then, finally, she turned her end over, and the call was cut. For awhile, Sebastian stood in silence with his Master in his hands. A sigh heaved from his lungs as he looked grimly at the front of the store. It wasn't that he was pessimistic. It was simply that he really didn't want to imagine the store without his own partner.

The thought sent a shiver down his spine and a deep frown across his mouth. Sebastian slipped his hands and Master into his pockets and looked towards the sky, as if he'd see an answer overhead. When nothing happened, he sighed again and walked across the street. The workmen barely acknowledged him as he approached the door, but when he reached for the handle, a hand rested on his shoulder.

When he looked up, he expected to see one of the workers. What he saw instead was Benvolio Montague, a face he'd only previously seen in the newspapers. Benvolio's eyes narrowed.

"Knight Tide," he said. "Sebastian Cross, co-owner of Allegro Dolls. I presume that is you."

Sebastian tried to shrug the hand away, but it remained firm on his shoulder. Realizing that, he frowned. "You'd be correct."

Benvolio nodded and held a disc in front of his companion. "We need to talk."

"Do we?" Sebastian furrowed his eyebrows as his voice took on a sharper tone. "About what, if I may ask?"

At the sound of Sebastian's voice, Benvolio removed his hand and took a step back.

"Were you aware that Viola DiAngelo is not your partner's real name?" he asked.

---

On the other side of the city, halfway across one of the many bridges spanning the Gold River, Viola stood with her arms on the metal barrier between herself and the edge of the bridge. Her chin rested on her arms, and her eyes were fixed on the brown water running under the bridge. She sniffed. It didn't occur to her that it'd been three days since she ran from the warehouse. It also didn't occur to her that she hadn't slept more than four hours during those three days, and she only stopped to eat twice. She couldn't quite decide if it was worth it or not to continue – not just the Midsummer Game but in general. Yet, at the same time, she had already cried, already despaired over her lost friend, and already gotten over the shock of watching her other friend kill. At that point, she was empty, almost indifferent to everything. All she really wanted to do was to lay down and never move again.

In her coat pocket, her Master beeped. Viola closed her eyes and tried to will it silent. Still, it buzzed somewhat more urgently the more she tried to ignore it. Finally, she drew it out of her pocket and, without looking at it, threw it off the bridge.

Seconds later, a dark purple, disembodied hand reached to catch the device. Crooked fingers on its twin brushed the screen, and a moment later, the beeping stopped. Viola shivered as she sensed the cold of Haunter's body behind her. His hands rose to present her with the silent PDA. In response, Viola turned her head.

"I don't want to, Haunter," she muttered.

He growled.

"What?" She frowned. "You want me to be just like them?" She stuck her fingers between her face and her glasses to rub her eyes. "Mercury's dead. Did you know that? They killed someone else too."

"Haun."

As soon as Viola drew her fingers from beneath her glasses, the ghost shoved the Master into her hands. She glared at him.

"What? What is it?"

He said nothing. Instead, he hovered in front of her with his mouth curving into a twisted frown. His eyes took on a strange glint, an expression Viola couldn't read. Not that she ever could read his expression in the first place, despite the years that they had been together and despite the fact that he could read her perfectly. He was never her family; rather, he was close enough to know her and love her but too far for her to do the same completely.

"You don't think I should quit the Game. Is that right?" Viola asked.

Haunter smiled and nodded.

She frowned. "Why should I? It's not worth it. What do I want from all this?"

For a moment, Haunter floated. He brought his fingers to his mouth in thought before grinning and reaching for her glasses. She shut her eyes as he pulled them away from her. Holding them to his face, he waited until she turned and regarded him with a raised eyebrow.

"Papa?" she whispered. "What about him?"

He narrowed his eyes. "Haun!"

The wind blew across the bridge. Viola stared at Haunter for a long moment before, slowly, her eyes widened in realization.

Haunter grinned. "Haun!"

Viola's mouth twitched. She reached for her glasses and slipped them on, feeling the familiar weight on her face. Slipping her Master from her pocket, she tapped her way past the warnings and demotions to the actual assignment.

Go to Daisy District. Retrieve Mercury Prince's Key before Knight Saturn. Rewards: Two ranks, 1000 points.

At once, Viola narrowed her eyes. The thought of someone stealing from the dead – much less Mercury – left a cold sensation in her stomach.

"Come on, Haunter," she said. "We've got work to do."

The ghost floated closer, but his master didn't move. He sent her a curious glance.

"Haunter?" She paused briefly. "Thanks for reminding me."

Her partner hesitated for a moment. Then, his crooked mouth smiled, and he nodded once.

"Haun!"

A small grin crossed Viola's face as she turned and walked south.
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Anima Ex Machina (Chapter 20 now available)
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