Silence and only silence. So far removed was his room that not even dreams came to visit him. Without the presence of the green eyed wraith, the pain would not surface, but there was a different sort of anguish he could not explain. The rough sheets pressed up against his restless cheeks as he fought for sleep. So distraught was he that he did not hear the footsteps approaching the door of his room.
It opened noiselessly as the complex had no squeaky hinges and Uruha looked up only as Aoi stepped closer to him. "Are you alright?"
"You were right," Uruha murmured, "Elia forced me." He waited for Aoi to scold him, to call him names, and to shout at him, but only quiet greeted his revelation for a moment.
Aoi leaned into the bed, pulling him carefully into arms. Uruha rested his face in the crook of his neck, looking up to see a wall of feathers grouping around them protectively. "We're going to leave here. I won't be a part of anyone else's plan again. Not Reita's. Not Ruki's. Not Kai's."
Uruha smiled slightly against his skin. "Welcome back, Aoi," he whispered. "I was scared they messed with your head."
"I think they did, but it's not done," Aoi responded, relaxing his wings slightly. "I won't stop running with you, unless you no longer want to run with me."
"We deserve a paradise like that island," Uruha announced gently, stroking the side of his face. "We deserve the happiness I can't feel without you." The dual coloured eyes were soft, despite their individual enhancements. Uruha wondered what his vision might be like. They had not changed his appearance like they had Elia, his hair was different, but not overtly so. His skin was strong like his own, but not beautified. They intended for Aoi to be a fighter, strong and obviously so. He reached out further, combing his hands through the soft, tawny feathers. They fit his powerful features somehow; they were not the wings of an angel.
Aoi smiled slightly and there was acceptance in the gesture. He was not going to resist the change, but utilise it to his own desire. Uruha knew this was also the time for him to realise his own strength. For so long after building him to be powerful his creators focused their time on his weaknesses, but he was powerful. He had brought down a Russian mafia leader without a sweat; there was nothing stopping him from escaping with Aoi except themselves.
"I'm starving," Aoi declared suddenly and Uruha shrieked with a short-lived laugh as he was lifted from the bed. Aoi chuckled at the sound and carried him from the room with ease. "We can't be the deadliest weapons alive without supper," Aoi added after a moment, as they approached the hall.
Aoi set him down on a bench and walked over to the counter with the wide array of foods and piled so much on a tray that Uruha doubted either of them could finish the whole thing. He set the tray down with a grumble under his breath that Uruha could not hear despite his advanced ears.
"What was that?" He asked as he started to eat.
"Why do they never give us any meat? Ever? This is bullshit food." Aoi grumbled louder and sat down to shovel the food into his system.
"Animal protein would negatively affect the smartgenes, just like a tumour needs that particular protein to grow," a voice from behind them answered. "They based the smartgenes off of cancer."
"Aki," Aoi murmured and Uruha looked up at his face. Earlier, Aoi must have missed his old squad members' faces. Uruha looked as Aki's features registered surprise—from what he could gather from talking to Ria, Aki, and Roka, their memories were gone. They had undergone the change for much longer than Aoi had, and their change was much more severe than his own. As far as Uruha could tell, they only knew the world of the scientists. "Aki, how're you—" He fell quiet as Uruha nudged him.
The other ex-Japanese agent nodded to him respectfully. "Uruha must have told you my name by now, but it's a pleasure to meet you, Aoi."
Uruha could feel Aoi's disappointment washing over him as his friend played the game, also nodding and giving formalities. They had to save themselves, and he hoped that Aoi would realise that as well, as much as neither of them wanted to admit it. If they were to survive in freedom, they had to do so alone. The bigger the group, the bigger the chance of them being discovered, brought back, and tortured again. After they finished speaking and Aki left to get his own meal, Aoi continued to eat.
Uruha lifted his head as Elia entered the hall. Next to him, he felt Aoi tense.
Elia wore a smirk on his face as he strutted toward them—it gave his face an ugly slant, so much so that Uruha found himself casting his gaze away. He could feel Aoi shaking next to him as Elia approached. The emerald eyed man brazenly ran a light hand across Uruha's shoulders and looked down at what they were eating.
"Sure you don't want to eat with me, sweetheart?" Elia wanted to know.
Anger boiled in his stomach as he swatted the arm away. "Don't think you're some big hotshot who's done something no one else has before, Elia," Uruha snapped at him. "You just made yourself like every other asshole scientist in this place." He caught a sideways glance of Aki's mouth opening in surprise—how dare he criticise their creators?
Elia made a pouting face—his supermodel features curving perfectly, but it only served to heighten Uruha's disgust. "The scientists destroyed you, Elia. Maybe once, you were a great, under-aged agent, and maybe once, you had a great personality, but remember that whoever you were was destroyed by them. If I do have a choice, then I don't choose you."
"You'll be happy to know that you don't have a choice. I won the rights to you. I'm the strongest, I―"
"Are you?" Aoi shoved him to the ground as he stood. "I don't remember you fighting me for that claim. I'm the leader." Uruha smiled slightly as Aoi spread out his impressive wingspan.
Elia jumped back to his feet and the first equally matched fight between the changed nonhumans commenced. Uruha got away from the table and grabbed Aki's arm, whose concerned face as he approached the two tussling belied his intentions. "Let them fight," he growled. The winner would decide Uruha's fate, and then he would make the decisions regardless of the outcome.
A body went flying across the table, sending the tray and dishes scattering to the floor. Aoi lunged forward after him, skidding along the top of the table as Elia rolled back to his feet in time to stop his forward motion. With a quick movement, Uruha watched as the two crashed to the floor, as Aoi's head connected with the bench of the table on the way down. They twisted as they collided with the tiled floor and each struggled to gain the upper hand on the other. Elia grabbed the lengthy black hair of his opponent and cracked his head against the floor, repeating the motion as Aoi struggled to kick him off of him.
Uruha winced as Aoi visibly began to lose, but a small smile touched his face as Elia fell back against the table and Aoi sprinted away from him to give himself some space. Elia was on him before he could much get his bearings, but just as the emerald eyed man reached him, Aoi moved, slamming the slender yet muscular form into the wall. Elia kicked him off and Aoi dodged to the side, aiming a punch at his skull. Uruha was observing a fight between two highly trained, highly skilled, dangerously powerful individuals, and had he not been one himself, he might have felt afraid.
They continued to trade blows, tussle on the floor, scream and shout at each other, until chests were heaving and Uruha's head started to spin. There was a loud, sudden thud as Aoi forced Elia's head into the floor. A soft sound of pain escaped the young, enhanced agent's lips as he continued to struggle, but Aoi was holding him down with his superior size. He cracked Elia's head against the tile repeatedly, until the struggles lessened, and he flared his wings out once more, doubling his size.
"Admit you've lost," Aoi demanded. In that moment, Uruha no longer recognized him. It was as though the smartgenes had built their own personality within his friend.
Elia's gaze was hazy, and Uruha could almost see the fight physically leaving his body. He looked away toward Uruha, who bit his lip and stared him down. Uruha wanted Aoi to win: no matter how badly Elia wanted Uruha. Elia moved his eyes back to Aoi's and his mouth moved in a silent whisper. Aoi got up to his feet and crossed the room to Uruha, his eyes picking up on the scattered food and dishes, and the frightened look on Aki's face.
"We have order again," he murmured softly.
"You're speaking like that matters," Uruha muttered as Aoi took his hand and led him from the dining hall.
Aoi smiled slightly. "Part of me is telling me that it does, at least until we get out of her, away from the others."
"Where're you going?" A soft voice asked from behind them.
Aoi spun around sharply, letting Uruha's hand go as he faced down a face he had recently only see in nightmares. The nightmarish version of the face differed in that the gaping, bloody hole in her forehead was still there as fresh as the day it was rent. Her eyes were a fiery colour, which matched the streaks of ruby they had sewn into her hair.
She dipped her head a little and his eyes drifted down to where her hand was lightly spread over her stomach. He narrowed his eyes slightly—she would not have gotten pregnant on the job, but it was obvious that was what made her shirt taunt across her middle. Ria, Aki—they were all victims of Ruki's ambition, but he knew they were not the only victims. The USB Kai had given to him to protect, the one he had lost to Robin, had depicted a room full of beds full of victims and that was where he wanted to locate.
"Don't worry about anything, Ria," Aoi commanded gently. They had to listen to him and he could feel it. Even Uruha—Uruha was not as immune as he pretended he was to the foreign things that had set into their brains, that had built into their bodies. "We'll take care of you. Go rest."
"Just because you still have your mind, doesn't mean I don't have control over what they've done to me, Aoi," she answered lightly as she turned and walked away.
Next to him, Uruha shuddered slightly. Aoi sighed and continued onward, taking his friend's hand again. "We can't do anything for her."
"If we could find a place to hide for awhile, we could return for her," Uruha answered quietly, and mentioned it no more.
Along the hallway and toward its end was a flight of stairs they climbed to their top before making their way across a high ceilinged room. The entire far wall was a pane of glass and as they approached Uruha began to tremble. Something in the very air of the room was triggering a memory that was buried, half-eaten, within his mind of a crazed man running and of a gunshot, of a needle and of a pair of hungry eyes.
Aoi pressed his hands and looked down. The room was now sectioned with a makeshift wall, with beds lined on one side half filled with occupants and equipment and machinery being set up on the other. The machinery looked scarily similar to their training equipment in the Russian laboratory, and by Uruha's semi-reflection on the glass, he knew he was not only one who thought so. He was, however; comparably relieved by the amount that the victims had seemingly dwindled to—in the videos he had been given of Uruha's transformation, many more beds taking up most of the room had been occupied.
"What do you think," Aoi wondered aloud, "are they downsizing?"
Uruha chuckled a little, which Aoi thought was a strange response, until he looked at the torment apparent on Uruha's usually blank face. "No, Ruki doesn't downsize. They're just changing stages. He has all the weapons he needs right now, it's time to harness their power."
Aoi looked at his friend's reflection in the glass as Uruha stared out into the room that for him held so much anguish only loosely covered by a veil in his mind. His head was starting to grow heavy, though he was trying to ignore the creeping feeling.
"Step one of the Human Weapon Project:—"
"Complete," Ruki finished from the other side of the room. "Good job, Uruha, I'm glad we didn't addle your brain while we were enhancing your looks," he hummed as he walked over to them. "Are you excited to put your strengths to the test, Aoi?"
With a roll of his eyes, Aoi nodded his head. A strange dizziness was beginning to roll over him. The sound of Ruki's voice reached his ears as if through cotton. "Of course, we're really just wasting our time right now, aren't we?" He sank down against the glass a little. "What's…what's wrong with me?"
"Aoi!" Uruha shouted, and though his voice was flat despite its volume, Aoi could hear his panic.
"The smartgenes have probably started to eat away at something," Ruki observed, and Aoi felt fingertips pressing his eyes open by their lids. Although he could no longer see, he could picture Ruki staring into his differently coloured eyes and observing any changes that might have been occurring. "It's best if you rest."
"Don't you dare tie me down," Aoi snarled at him. "Uruha, help… I am not to be tired down!" His voice sounded faint to him, but when he felt Uruha's hands on his arm, pulling him up into nothingness, he knew at least Uruha had heard him.