Weiss Kreuz Fan Fiction / Yami No Matsuei Fan Fiction ❯ Memento Mori ❯ Nevertheless ( Chapter 7 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
“You and your companions have a tendency to make life... difficult for me.” The delicate, bone-white cup tipped, spilling its contents into the empty air that was the Count's mouth. “It seems the number of candles that are put out increases with astounding regularity whenever you or your teammates are in the vicinity.”
“Ah,” Crawford admitted, chuckling. “We do tend to be a bit... enthusiastic. At times we simply forget about by-standers. We get caught up in the thrill of the chase, I suppose.”
Count 'tsked'. “Such a shame, that poor little girl. She was what, sixteen, seventeen? Such a horrible way to die for one so young.”
“Yes, Miss Taketori's death was a regrettable accident.”
“Accident? Come now Crawford, you really expect me to believe that?”
Brad Crawford tilted his head slightly, as if pondering. “I suppose I should have seen that possibility. A horrendous oversight on my part, one which I have no intention of duplicating.”
“You'll make sure your lackey hits the boy next time, am I right?”
“Astute as always, Count.”
It was hard to tell whether the invisible man was amused or not. “Flattery will get you nowhere Crawford.”
Crawford had the uncanny ability to take everything in stride. The undead servant didn't faze him, neither did the fact that he was drinking tea with someone whose only indication of existence was a floating right glove and half a mask. Watson, the undead (but probably better off fully dead) servant, stood on his toes and craned to reach the table where he somewhat sloppily deposited a tray of pastries. Crawford murmured his thanks.
“I would like to point out Count, that Schwartz's counterparts, the members of Weiss, do tend to even out the death rate by eliminating some of the more... habitual murderers. We actually keep quite a precarious balance.”
“A balance that would no doubt be upset should your teams remain dead.”
“That is not my place to say.” Brad ignored the pastries, knowing full well that they were most likely apple-filled. Eating apples from the Count's garden was a guarantee that you would be trapped in the afterlife.
“What, nothing to eat?”
“I'm afraid I must mind my weight. A certain German teammate of mine takes great pleasure in reminding me of every pound I gain.”
“Shall we cut to the chase? Why should I put in a word for you?”
“Apart from the balance that I mentioned?”
The count waved his gloved dismissively. “What's a few more candles a week? I've already delegated the paperwork to the Summons Section. I have nothing to gain from this.”
“You are a reasonable man...”
“You know they're getting desperate when they appeal to your sense of reason, isn't that right Watson?”
From his briefcase, Crawford withdrew an unmarked manila folder. “Would you be so kind as to take a look at this?”
One hand folded under the mask, giving the impression that the Count was resting his chin on his hands. “What is this now?” He leafed through the sheets lazily for a few pages, before suddenly coming to a stop and flipping all the way back to the beginning and going through again, painfully slowly. “Just what is the meaning of this?”
“Rozenkreuz's latest project. They aim to create lifelike artificial duplicates of a specimen, with programmable thoughts, speech and actions. The copy would be almost indistinguishable from the original. And after the initial growth sequence when they are accelerated to the desired age, these duplicate will not age any more until they cease functioning. Imagine,” Brad leaned forward eagerly, “creating a duplicate of someone who in real life barely gives you the time of day. Having your very own duplicate of the person with a mind programmed to your specifications: the single most life-like toy in existence.”
Count eyed the diagrams critically. “Say for example something extraordinary, like purple eyes for instance...”
“CRAWFORD!” The doors to Count's mansion slammed open and a furious Konoe stormed into the dining room, ignoring Watson's squeals of protest. “Crawford your lackeys are destroying my office! Productivity has ground to a standstill! My engineer is in his boxers playing darts! My shinigami teams are either glued to computers or stuffing their faces with cake! What are you doing!”
“I was enjoying tea with an old friend until you rudely interrupted.”
Suddenly realizing just whose house he was standing in, Konoe turned and bowed, apologizing to the Count before whirling back on the smug American.
“It isn't my problem if you were disorganized with my team's papers Mister Konoe.” Unnoticed by all but the Count, Crawford smoothly slid his briefcase shut, hiding the pair of folders clearly marked 'Schwartz' and 'Weiss'. “Until you recover our paperwork I'm afraid you will just have to play host to my team.”
“Wha...” Konoe's mouth fell open, and his eyes bulged.
“Actually Konoe,” Count interrupted smoothly, “it may be in everyone's best interest to restore these fine citizens to their former lives.”
“FINE CITIZENS?!?!” Konoe took several deep breaths to regain his composure. “I mean no disrespect Count, but has this man twisted your mind in any way? Is he attempting blackmail? If he is I can-”
The balding chief looked disbelieving.
“Oh, don't be so surprised. I simply have developed an interest in a certain...project that Mr. Crawford has a hand in. It would be a pity if it were never completed.”
“A travesty,” Crawford agreed. “I don't have the heart to deprive the world of such an enormous gift.”
Konoe had never before had a feeling so stereotypically ominous. “But... the higher-ups...”
“All owe me a few favors. Never you mind about the details. Just be sure to get all the release forms for these gentlemen filed out and they can be on their way.”
“Mister Konoe,” Crawford interjected, his silky voice and evil smirk more than slightly frightening. “Last I heard your secretary was summoning several people who are quite notorious for their ...rebellious tendencies. If he and Farfarello have been conversing then I suggest you defuse this before he forms an entire rebel army.”
The Summons Section Chief turned a delightfully amusing shade of yellow and tore out of the Hall of Candles.
Behind his mask, Count's invisible face was probably smirking. “Well done Mister Crawford. Now about this project...”
“You may have your pick of the lot. The process may take a few years to perfect.”
“I am nothing if not patient.”
Gracefully Crawford rose and bowed. “I look forward to dealing with you in the future Count.” He turned to leave.
“Crawford. I'm curious. I can understand Schwartz's folder. But why would you take Weiss' as well?”
'You're not going to leave them, right?'
'Shut up Schuldig.'
'Crawford, life without Weiss would be... boring.”
'Schuldig stop including Nagi in our conversations'
'Bringing assassins back to life will make God angry!'
'ALL OF YOU SHUT UP. Schuldig, my mind is NOT a four-way telephone to be used as a discussion forum.' He felt Schuldig reluctantly withdraw the hold connecting Nagi and Farfarello's minds to theirs.
'Who will I play with if not the kittens?'
'I'm sure you will find other lives to ruin.' Crawford slid the Schwartz folder into his briefcase and turned to leave.
'Hang on.' He paused at Schuldig's mental call.
'What is it?' His eyes snapped with anger as Schuldig opened his briefcase and slid Weiss' folder in. “Give me three good reasons why I should take their folder.”
'One: the only thing that distracts Farfarello from his vengeance against God is hurting the kittens. Peace and quiet Bradley, every evening you could think because Farf was busy plotting kitty demise will be gone for good. Two: without Bombay to compete against, Nagi will slack off and spend the rest of his life playing video games and eating junk food. Three, if you EVER want anything from me again, and I do mean ever, you'll take the damn folder.”
Crawford walked out with both folders.
Crawford smirked mirthlessly. “Peer pressure.”
“From now on we are back to being enemies.”
Aya nodded, fully agreeing with the Shwartz leader. “We'll never speak of this again.” He snatched Yoji's lighter and carefully set fire to the Weiss folder. For a brief moment it was a flare of orange in the dark alley-way. Crawford smoothed the collar of his jacket unnecessarily: apparently not only was it impervious to blood, sweat, falling debris and salt water, but also to life-death planar leaps.
Crawford and Aya turned to go their separate ways. It was a full three steps before they stopped and scowled back at their teammates.
“The download speed was incredible! Meifu servers are... a beautiful, beautiful thing.” If one didn't know better, one would assume Omi was swooning. “Serves you right for running off.”
Nagi sniffed, feigning disinterest. Finally: “Exactly how fast is 'incredible'? Just an estimate. For curiosity's sake. Not because I care or anything.”
“Prodigy... have you ever heard of trigabytes per nanosecond?”
“Good. I made it up.”
And Omi and Nagi weren't the only ones lost in their own little world.
“So that little dingy one on Eighth street? With that one dancer who's got all the right talents?”
“Ja. I just have to sneak out before Braddie makes me bring Farfarello. He thinks I'll get into less trouble if I'm the one chaperoning...”
“Bring him. Ken can babysit.”
“What? I've got a game! Besides, even if I didn't...”
Farfarello smiled and Ken quickly moved so that Yoji was between them.
Crawford cleared his throat loudly.
“In case you have forgotten, we are not best friends. There will be no sleep-overs, play-dates, shopping sprees, salon trips or any form of general outing consisting of people from both teams in civil situations.”
Six pairs of eyes stared at him blankly. Ever-faithful Ken broke the silence. “Meaning what exactly?”
“Meaning,” Aya chimed in, “the only time Weiss and Schwartz see each other will be when we are trying to kill each other.”
“Oh. That sucks.” Omi sighed.
“But Braddie, we were going to get our nails done!” The German sniggered. Crawford did not dignify that with an answer.
“So Aya-n can I have a sleep-over with Shuldig's third cousin who just happens to look and sound and act exactly like him?” Aya simply glared. With a snicker and a jaunty wave, Yoji fell in step behind the red-head. The teams parted ways, once again bitter enemies.
“When I say no interaction I also mean no mental interaction.”
Schuldig jammed his hands deeper into his pocket and hunched his shoulders.
“Later kitten, Crawford's PMSing.”
“Aya too. Must be that time of the month...”
The German paused for a moment to listen to Nagi's mental whispers. “And Prodigy wants you to tell Bombay he'll leave the CD under the loose brick on the right side of the park fountain...
Well... sort of. I have an epilogue planned and I should have it up by Friday.