Azuma stared out at the star field beyond the viewing window. It had been a month since he'd become a Goddess pilot. A month since he'd been freed from Cain. A month during which things had been better, but worse. He looked down at the small ring shaped burn in the palm of his hand. He clenched his fist and pressed it against his forehead. Why did he feel this way? Cain was gone. It was good that he was gone. He could no longer torture him, beat him, taunt him, or hurt him. It was good that he was gone! So why did he feel so unsettled without him?
He shivered as he imagined Cain walking up behind him and wrapping his arms around his waist like he normally did. It was wrong to miss him. After what Cain had done to him, everything that he'd gone through at the other boy's hands, it was wrong! But he couldn't stop himself from imagining Cain there, watching him. He felt those eyes on him, burning into his skin but leaving no scar, no evidence that they were there. Cain was gone, yet he wasn't. Azuma felt a weight on his shoulders where there should be none. Cain was gone! But he still carried the weight of his secrets, of Cain's true nature. He would never escape.
"That's right Ji-Chan. You're mine. I'll always be with you."
Azuma spun around but found nothing. "Who's there?" He demanded angrily. How dare someone play such a trick on him? Pretending that they were Cain.
"I'm here Ji-Chan. I'll always be here." Cain's voice purred before filling his ears with laughter.
Azuma's eyes grew wide. He put his hands over his ears and ran from the room, horrified when the sound followed him.
"You're mine Ji-Chan! I'll never let you go!"
"No!" Azuma yelled as he ran down the hall. "Get out of my head!" He had to be going insane. That was the only answer. He was losing his mind. Cain could not come back from the dead. He wasn't haunting him. He was dead. Dead!
"Of course I'm dead, but I can't leave my little Ji-Chan."
"No! Leave me the hell alone! Die already! Just die!" Azuma screamed. He wasn't sure where he was running. Where could he escape a ghost? Could he outrun him? He had to get away! His feet carried him down to the hanger. One of the other Repairers was sitting with the Ingrids as Azuma ran in like a bat out of hell. She watched in shock as Azuma ran and flung himself into his Goddess. That wasn't a good sign. Not good at all. She ran to find Rill.
Azuma sank into the gentle embrace of his Goddess. It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket and given a gentle hug. He sobbed as he curled up into a ball. Eeva Leena tried to soothe him. She wrapped her ghostly arms around him and rocked him gently. Her voice was a comforting murmur in his ear replacing the horrifying echo of Cain's voice. In here he was safe. She would always protect him. He was safe. He sobbed his pain into her belly as she rocked him into a fitful sleep.
Azuma slouched against the wall, waiting for his next batch of fresh-faced pilot candidates. Would there be any pilots in this batch? There were a few promising kids in the last one, but then you could never really tell, sometimes they just couldn't handle it. He was getting a little bored with the same old routine. Maybe there'd be a challenge in the next batch of boys. He could only take so many goodie goodie kids. Maybe he'd get someone to whip into shape, give him the pleasure of helping some off track go-nowhere boy turn into something great.
He threw the butt of his cigarette to the ground. He'd get fined for it. He always did, one credit per butt that got picked up. He was always getting yelled at. Why can't you throw them away? Why bother? Someone would pick them up, that's what they were paid for. That answer always got him a roll of the eyes from whatever commanding officer was reaming him out. They couldn't do much about him. He was after all the top Goddess pilot instructor and the best they had. What would they do, take away his cigarettes? Without them he was sure he'd go mad. That cool taste of menthol and nicotine always calmed him down. It was the only reason he could be as easy going as he was with all the stress around him.
He had just stuck another cigarette in his mouth as the doors in front of him. He casually lit up and took in his first big lungful. Savoring the cool burning in his throat he looked up and exhaled. A short purple haired kid strode out with a chubby boy clinging to his arm. The short one was trying to look cool and confident, but he was having a little trouble with the other one clinging so tightly. A silver haired boy followed, he had a mysterious and dangerous feeling about him. He'd definitely be one to watch out for. A gangly boy with glasses was next into the room. He pushed the glasses up on his nose and looked around inquisitively. He would be a brainy one for sure, not a pilot but probably an excellent strategist.
The last boy out the door was yawning and scratching his messy hair as he walked in. As bright purple eyes looked around, he seemed to twitch as if his compact body held too much energy for the small room. Azuma's breath caught in his throat. The boy reminded him so much of himself when he first started. This one would definitely be a pilot. He could see the incredible drive already; nothing would stand in his way. A smile pulled at his lips as he took another drag from his cigarette and let it out in the boys' direction.
"Welcome to G.O.A."
That night Azuma lay back in his bunk. He had gotten his wish. He could tell that this batch of candidates would be a handful, especially Zero and Hiead. Those two were already at each other's throats. Yes, there was definitely a challenge in front of him.
"How about that Zero?"
Azuma started. He sat up and looked around, his heart hammering wildly. It couldn't be!
"Ji-Chan, are you listening to me?"
"Ji-Chan, we have work to do. That little Zero, he needs our loving touch."
"God dammit! Leave me alone Cain!" Azuma yelled.
"You know I can't. I have to help you. Little Ji-Chan can't handle this all on his own. I'm here to help you. I'll always be here for you."
"Don't do it Cain! They're just kids. They're just kids! Don't do this again." Azuma hissed, wishing that he could see Cain's face, just so he could punch the smug bastard.
"I'm hurt. You don't want my help." Cain's voice said in mock pain.
"I told you last time. Stay the hell out of my life you bastard!" Azuma ground out, glaring at the wall.
"You should have listened to me Ji-Chan, that Gareas, he's going to break. He didn't have the care he needed. You should have listened to me."
"He's better off without your help! They all are! I'm better off without you! Go away!"
"Are you really Ji-Chan? Are you really?" The voice faded out, but the words lingered in Azuma's head. He was better off. He was! He stared at the faded scar in the palm of his hand. It wouldn't go away, it was a constant reminder, just like Cain's voice in his head. It would always haunt him. Would he ever really be free?
Next --> Possession