|The Man in the Mask|
|Summary: Allelujah receives a new visitor, a man who hides his face behind an ornate mask. What could he possibly want with the Gundam Meister?|
Allelujah Haptism had lost track of time.
Not that he had ever found much hold of it since his capture, of course. It was terribly easy to lose sense of minutes, hours and more when you had no frame of reference for their passage. More so in space, more so in confinment as solitary as the sort he enjoyed with now. Limbs restrained, his mouth muzzled, the chair he was set in had become a prison within the nominal confines of his relatively small cell. He had no clue what they planned to do with him, if they indeed planned anything at all...it seemed poetic that he might just be locked up here forever until he withered and died. Visitor had been few, and the experiences largely left him more confused than before...but it was not enough to undermine his will.
Not when he knew Marie was out there. Not when he knew she'd come back to see him, eventually. He would endure for that, for her sake, he would not let his mind become as imprisoned as his body. Granted, it was easier to think like this with Hallelujah incapacitated, but who know how long the device they fashioned would hold? He wasn't sure how long it had been, but he could swear at time he could almost hear the whisper of his darker half's voice. Hopefully the chip was weakening and he wasn't just going insane...assuming he hadn't been already.
Mercury is kind of a pisshole, as planets go. Mister Bushido doesn't like it, not one little bit; there's no sky worth flying in.
It does, however, have something that is of some interest to him, in the form of an imprisoned Gundam Meister. A constant of the masked ace's current state of mind is his fixation on Celestial Being, though in most particular the pilot of Exia, and the double equipped Gundam. Bushido knows they're the same person. He can tell. He can /feel it/.
And yet... He knows so little about his ideal opponent, a situation he hopes to rectify.
It might come to Allelujah's attention that he's not alone in the cell; it's not clear when the door opened, or how long the other man has been there, but he is /there/. A tallish man, with a shock of shaggy blond hair, and bright green eyes that stare out from his pitiless dark mask. He wears his modified, samurai-stylised A-LAWS uniform, of course, and he stands leaning against the cell door, his arms folded across his chest, his head lowered slightly as he stares at the Meister. He doesn't seem to move. He doesn't seem to blink. He hardly seems human.
"Celestial Being," Bushido says in his deep voice, drawing attention to himself. "A fallen angel, his wings completely clipped. What a pitiful sight this is. I derive no pleasure from your imprisonment."
It is, after all, no fit fate for a warrior.
Oh yeah, it was also far too hot, being Mercury and all that. The Supersoldier hadn't quite been able to make sense of that one just yet, having no clue where he was save that it was somewhere in space.
It takes him a few moments to notice the presence of the other man. Had...the door even opened before? He couldn't be sure...but he was also prone to random bouts of sleep without prompting, he could have slipped in during in one of those...and had watched him all this time? The thought made the Meister shudder uncomfortably a bit; he never knew what to expect of these A-LAWS type. And A-LAWS must be what he is, judging from certain elements of his uniform, modified as it was. The young man didn't know what to make of the mask though, or the burning intensity in those eyes thats prompted him to look away. He was not like the other Meisters in many respects, his heart...was made of a different sort of muster.
But the masked man speaks and the bound man listens, not hesitating then to bear the other's austere gaze with his own heterochromatic eyes. And Bushido may not then, that while he may be bound, humiliated and disgraced...the resolve in those eyes did not belong to a beaten man. They were the eyes of someone who could still envision the thought of freedom, the continued fight. A warrior still, even in a cage.
The pilot's gazed lowered when the man was done. He couldn't talk to respond with this fitting over his mouth, and was not sure he wanted to. What did this odd man want..?
"Hmph," mutters the One Man Army, as Allelujah looks up at him. "Caged like an animal," Bushido says, to himself, his tone disgusted. But he can see that light still in the Meister's mismatched eyes. It's good, he thinks; good that they are not broken so easily. Who knows what Ribbons Almark's other agents have been doing to the boy, left helpless at their mercy here. Arms unfold, and with a heavy booted step the masked ace moves closer to Allelujah, reaching out to release the binding over Allelujah's mouth.
Attempting to question him would be fruitless if he cannot speak.
"I have questions." Mister Bushido says, letting his hand fall to his side, and standing there, looming ominously over the Gundam Meister. "I wish to know everything that you know about the sword-wielding pilot from Celestial Being. The boy with the two-drive Gundam." He tilts his head a bit to one side and says, with absolute certainty: "You will tell me everything you know of him."
'Who are you?' Might be the first queston from the lips of most people in Al's situation, but he thought it was worthless exercise here, doubtful that he would get the man's real name anyways. He doesn't seem to be much offended at being called an animal...likely because he did see himself as one to some extent. Part of him, at least.
He'll instinctively reach to rub his jaw upon being freed, only to instantly be reminded that he is still restrained. A wince of frustration, and the question come: an interrogation after all. But not about him...this man wanted to know about Setsuna?
The supersoldier gave the one-man army a careful, flat look. What reason could this fellow have for wanting to know about Setsuna in particular? He seems to remember that there was a certain pilot...someone who seemed particularly focused on battle with Setsuna over all of them, but the battles were so chaotic, he couldn't afford to focus on the problems of the other Meisters, most of the time. "I'm not sure what I could tell you that would be of any use." It's true, he didn't know terribly much about Setsuna, same with all of the Meisters. Their pasts were their own to keep unless compromised, an intentional design of Celestial Being, "Why would you want to know about him, anyways?" Answering with questions of his own, what insolence!
Though Bushido is disgusted at the very idea of this imprisonment - a warrior should be allowed to die in battle, enemy or otherwise - he's not stupid enough to let the Super Soldier loose more than necessary to talk. Were Allelujah to escape because of him, there would be repercussions even beyond the usual ones he faces because of his arbitrary and possibly insane behaviour on the battlefield, repercussions he would likely not escape unscathed.
"It is well that you still have spirit, Celestial Being," Bushido says, seemingly undeterred by Allelujah's relative insolence. "Sadly, it will serve you little in here, but..." He shrugs, faintly. "In this world, all things are possible." Does he expect Allelujah to escape somehow? Or is he merely hoping? Is there, after all, any value in destroying Celestial Being if they're already weakened?
The One Man Army turns his back on the Super Soldier, folding his arms again and bowing his head, eyes closed; why he does this, only the madman himself could say. "I wish to know because that boy is my chosen enemy," Bushido explains. "It was his Gundam which I could not overcome. It was his Gundam that defeated my Flag, enhanced with the very power that gives your Gundams their strength, and left me... Like this. It is his strength that has ensnared my heart, Celestial Being." As he talks, Bushido's voice becomes louder, angrier, more frantic. "That boy... I will face that boy when the two-drive Gundam is truly complete, and I will pit my sword against his, in a true duel! One of us will live, and one of us will die! But first..."
Eyes open, and he looks back over his shoulder at Allelujah. "First I must know about him. I must know how to ensure that his whole heart is invested in our duel."
"I have a name. It's Allelujah Haptism." Something struck him about this man's affectations, but there was no connotation of annoyance in the Gundam Meister's voice, only a calm and neutral tone, like a teacher's gentle correction. Not that he would presume to teach this man anything, or anyone else to be found in A-LAWS.
But some trace of recognition does come into Allelujah's eyes as the the masked pilot relates his story, "You're..." He recalled now, that there had been such a pilot who seemed particularly focused on Setsuna. And this was the same man? "That's..." He looks away, unable to bear the sight of their sin. And it /was/ a sin, for a man to have fallen onto such a singular path of vengeance and destruction as a result of their actions. They had to set out to create a world without war, but in their wake were left only the shattered remains of that noble ambition. Were men like him the only legacy Celestial Being could create after all? Would holding onto those ideals only create greater suffering..? Despair gnaws at the Super Soldier's heart once again, and he feels the righteousness of his current fate heavily on his shoulders.
But....there was Marie.
Gold and silver eye alike look up with renewed vigor at the man then, Al's heart a bit more at ease. It may be pointless, but he would try to convince this man. "I think you're going to be disappointed." The admission is sullen, but steady, "Setsuna-that's his name-he doesn't live for battle, none of us do. Like all of us, he's trying to create a world without battles. A world where warriors will no longer need to exist." That was the belief, but something told him the flag pilot would not accept this answer. Telling him, the Meister supposed, wouldn't really compromise Setsuna in any way, as he would likely have to fight the man no matter what, "Setsuna believes in that world more strongly than any of us. I don't think his heart will be able to answer a desire like yours." Calm and quiet though he may be among the Meisters, Al often made up for it with a deeper sense of insight. With any hope, it would help him now.
As Allelujah corrects him by giving his name, Mister Bushido simply watches him silently, hardly seeming to breathe or blink or react at all. "Names are irrelevant, Celestial Being," the One Man Army says, quietly. His own he abandoned, his current moniker one that was given to him in mockery by others, others who did not understand his newfound dedication to what they saw as an out of date, useless ideology. Let them call him what they want; let them think what they want. Nothing matters but the end of the road.
"Then he seeks a world that will have no need of him either. Or of you, for that matter," the blond man says, eyes hooding faintly behind his mask. "A world that will have no need of me. So, if he wishes to create that world... He will have to purge me from it."
There was another time, another man who used to live behind those green eyes, who would've debated the existence of Celestial Being on a completely different level. His arguments would've been well-reasoned, they would've dealt with the inherent contradiction of the independent armed organisation and their Katharon - then Orb - allies. But that man is not this man.
Instead, what Mister Bushido says is: "Many of my friends and closest comrades died because of you and yours, Celestial Being. They were not warmongers, they were not men who sought to conquer others by force of arms. They were men and women who fought for love of country, who fought to protect their loved ones and their way of life. Darryl Dodge and Howard Mason. Professor Aifman. These men and many others were /your/ victims. And on the field of battle, I will avenge them. One way or another, the boy in the two-drive Gundam will have to face me. Only then can my heart be free."
Isn't it weird, Allelujah Haptism, when you're locked in a room with a madman, and /you're/ the one in a straightjacket and restraints?
Someone like Allelujah should be able to agree with that sentiment, having never known his true name in the first place. Instead, the fact that he had received his name from the kindness of someone else gave the Super Soldier a unique appreciation of their importance. Even his name, nothing more than the product of a child's naive fancy, could have meaning if he chose to imbue it. But he was going to argue with this man, the Meister didn't have the soul for it. He hardly felt had the right to ask anything of him in the first place, now.
Likewise, he has no argument for the logical conclusion he carries Celestial Being's goals towards. Only a conciliatory nod of his head words barely spoken, "I know." Allelujah had never been unaware of the contradiction, nor, he suspected, had any of the other Meisters. They were not trying to create a world for themselves live in, but for the unblooded generations yet to come. The nobility in that idea had allowed him to forget his own sins, for a time...but no longer. Reality would not be denied, and face with the naked result of their attempts, the Meister would offer no defense.
So instead, he listened. Heard the names of the fallen, felt them like bullets in his chest. They had been this man's friends, his comrades, taken away from him. Likely they'd not been bad people, nor had he...but Celestial Being had killed them. No...Allelujah Haptism had killed them. His head had been bowed in what may have been silent prayer while those names passed over him; now he looked up, and his eyes opened with their differently hued clarity. Very well, he would take on that burden if he must, and why not? They weren't the only lives whose blood stained the Meister's hands.
"Darryl Dodge. Howard Mason. Professor Aifman." He repeated them one after another, in the same flat tone he'd kept throughout their surreal conversation, "I will remember their names. Thank you." It would never be enough, but it was all he could do. "I've lost friends as well, because of your allies." There was no cut to his voice; since they were talking about the dead, it just seemed fair, "Joyce Moreno and Lichtendal Tsery. They weren't fighters, but they died all the same."
Truth be told, this is not what Mister Bushido had been expecting from a meeting with one of Celestial Being's pilots.
He had anticipated, perhaps, some sort of brazen defiance, a willingness to defend the beliefs and actions of the independent armed organisation, and their allies among the former Orb nation, Mithril and the AEUG. Though he can tell that Allelujah Haptism's spirit remains unbroken, the only defiance the younger man seems willing - or able - to muster is the quiet kind. Why, if he didn't already know about the young man's actions, he would never have guessed Allelujah was an infamous terrorist at all.
"When one declares war on the world," Bushido says, "they must be willing to accept the likeliest result is their death." But, he can't help it. The masked ace's temperament and beliefs are such that the idea of fallen comrades is one he can sympathise with, even if he shouldn't. 'Joyce Moreno' and 'Lichtendal Tsery' are names that will, for good or for ill, live on in the part of the One Man Army's mind that is still Graham Aker.
After a moment, Bushido shakes his head. "Clearly, it was an error on my part to come here. I respect your resolve, Celestial Being... However, know this: One way or the other, the boy in the two-drive Gundam /will/ face me, in a true duel. And only one of us will survive."
The Super Soldier was full of contradictions, he this would not deny. He had accepted a reckoning for his crimes, but in the same heartbeat would flout it for the sake of freeing Marie from the mental prison they had constructed for her. Acknowledged the effects of Celestial Being's actions, but still believe in their purpose. If they were now to blame for the world's present state, then it fell to them to correct those errors, it seemed only right.
Nor will he dispute the masked man's words, only nodding his head silently. Every member of Celestial Being knew the risks, it was true...but he believed those names still deserved to be spoken. And, he suspects, the madman still agree in some broken, fragmented way though which he now views the world...and re-asserts with the dedication to death in battle.
Al can only offer a sad frown at that, both for this man's predicament and whatever awaited Setsuna at his hands, "I can't stop you from here...and don't think I would. It's Setsuna's fight." He could understand that much, just as 'Soma Peries' was his battle, "Instead I will choose to believe in him." And in Aeolia Schoenberg's final gambit, the twin drive system. Belief that with it, Setsuna would be able to find another way.
IT doesn't sound like there's another more to so, but something gives the Super Soldier pause, "Wait." He hesitates, knowing he shouldn't ask anything of this man, but the heart made one bold, "You asked me about Setsuna, and I told you. In return, I would like to ask you about someone as well." He won't wait for the man's response, but continue to dissemble in a hurry, "Her name is Marie Parfacy..." He shook his head, sighed, "Or...you might know her as Soma Peries. I haven't seen her for a while. Is....is she alright?" He had no idea if the man even knew her, presumed far too much in asking, but the way he spoke those words could only have come from a heartfelt concern.
It's rather presumptuous of Allelujah, to think that his captors owe him anything; with the way he's been treated since his capture, locked away in a prison on a hellish planet close to the Sun and generally treated in a rather inhumane fashion, why would he expect them to do anything for his sake?
Of course, Mister Bushido is not like many of those responsible for Allelujah's current predicament.
Stopping half turned away, Bushido watches Allelujah sidelong as he asks his question, his posture and what little of his expression can be seen betraying nothing. There is a sort of vague curiousity, in the One Man Army's thoughts; what is the connection between this pilot and Peries? What's with this name that he gives her instead of the one she answers to? Curiouser and curiouser.
"Lieutenant Peries was shot down while sortieing in the Psyco Gundam," Mister Bushido says, his tone bereft of any human feeling whatsoever. "We believe she was captured... By your allies." Who knows how reassuring Allelujah will find that revelation, particularly as he can probably imagine exactly how well Soma Peries would take such captivity.
With those words, Bushido turns fully towards the cell door, heading towards it to knock to be let out. He doesn't bother replacing the Meister's gag; no doubt one of the guards will do that.
For one terrifying moment Allelujah feels the cold plunge of the abyss, the absolute bottom of a despairing well from which no escape could be perceived. Nevermind what she had been doing in something like the Psyco Gundam, but shot down? Dead? It was impossible to believe, they'd only just been reunited. Was God that vengeful, to punish Marie so that he would suffer?
Fortunately, the Super Soldier chose the right mad man to expose a bit of his soul to, for the revelation of her capture lifts his spirits back up on a cushion of hope, "By Katharon?" That was...good, maybe? They wouldn't mistreat her, perhaps they would be able to understand...if only he was there to explain it to them! He was more worried about she would do as Soma Peries, but he was too happy she was alive to worry much about that right now
"I...thank you." It was all he could really say, not daring to speak anymore, knowing he'd already been too fortunate by half. He'll wait for the masked man to leave...and appreciate what time he has left before someone re-applied that muzzle.
"I know you can hear me, Hallelujah." He'll speak once enough time has passed, feeling the muffled presence of his other half somewhere in the recessed of his mind, "They have Marie. We can't stay here. We have to find a way...some way out." He looked about the oppressive walls for some kind of absolution, any kind of answer. But he saw only his hunchaed shadow in the sim light...and although there nothing to discern it, he felt as if it smile at him.
'Not yet.' The dark reflection seemed to say. 'Not yet, Allelujah.'