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Seed Blooms in a Strangest Place

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Chaos was everywhere.

Shouting, screaming, and the sound of booming split the earth but no one cared. The peace they sought easily shattered by the appearance of the Festum, a type of alien who'd appeared even before Soushi knew how to crawl, how to speak. As far as he recalled, the only time he ever knew their existence was when he lost his left sight - the day his relationship with Kazuki took an ugly turn. The memory is still vividly embedded in his mind but it makes what Soushi are and for that, he truly felt grateful to his best friend. Though they reconcile about two years before.

And for Soushi, that was the best moment of his life to have Kazuki back - to talk and laugh and to fight along with each other. However, at some point, he thought they already achieved the peace they dream of after sacrificing so many lives.

Yet, here they were, flying in the air in that gigantic robot just to have the taste of peace he longed for.

Soushi opened the palm of the dark metal and in irritation, he throws the worm spheres in various directions, slicing the small festums into two.

"You guys should return to nothingness," he grumbled, focusing his sight through the 360-degree cockpit, searching for something - someone.

"Kazuki!" He caught the sight of the majestic fafner, all metallic white and blue under the beautiful azure sky, swinging its bladed weapon as the festum either small and big loom against it.

"Soushi." His voice sounded calm for someone who was in the fighting for almost two hours.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah. You?"

"Never better," he said amused.

Soushi had to fight the urge to laugh. They were on the battlefield but his mind clouded with the thought of the teen. Though it's a bit useless to worry since Kazuki was insanely the best at fighting, Soushi always kept a small part of his attention towards the brunette whenever they were in a war.

"Should we head to the big one?" Kazuki asked, redirected their attention to a strange and unfamiliar festum ahead of them, currently doing nothing except watching.

"It could be an easy one," Soushi mumbled to himself. But it was heart by Kazuki nonetheless.

"Yeah, like the one in India."

Soushi remembered that. It's the first mission of them together, fighting side by side. Only two of them beneath the azure sky, flying in the gigantic robots.

Adrenaline rushed past through him at the thought. It feels like yesterday they were on the battlefield and without him realizing it, two years had passed. During those times, they rarely entered the war since the task of guarding the island fell to the new pilots. Soushi merely indulged himself in research while Kazuki worked full-time in the cafe as the chef. Also, there's Maya helping Kazuki and at the same time becoming the trainer for the new generation.

Their lives have been peaceful. Festum rarely attacked, the human organization couldn't find their hideout, and the most important thing, Kazuki was there - smiling with the warm brown irises which he loves the most. Listening to Kazuki's honeyed voice feels like a piece of music that calms his heart and feeling the warm, hot body against his own feels like a reminder that he was alive - here, at Tatsumiyajima.

Just when he thought the alien couldn't penetrate their barrier, the creature had proved them wrong. Oh, how they were able to evolve in just a short time. Nevertheless, a tingle of eagerness and curiosity at how far the creature would go fascinated him. He couldn't wait to see their new ability. At least there's something for him to research.

"Hey, be careful," Kazuki reminded him, probably noticing how eager he was to face the new festum.

Soushi gave him an assurance smile. "I will. And if I'm not, you'll be there behind me."

The brunette gave him a displeasure sound which made him chuckle slightly. "I don't want to come back alone," he reminded him again, voice a little bit lower. There's a tremor in his voice and Soushi swallowed hard at the impact of the words.

"You know I won't." It's a promise. A promise he wanted to keep. At least this time. So they both speed up after Soushi instructs Maya to cover their backs.

The new festum was a lean one, slightly smaller than the Azazel type but has the calmness which speaks intelligence and observation. When it appeared after a swarm of festums surrounding the island, it just stood quietly in the air - watching and learning. There's no sharp limb or long tail, just a colossal figure almost three-meter height, resembling a human. The golden body shines under the scorching sun like gold.

'It feels different,' Soushi thought eerily. When he and Kazuki came face to face with the alien, it just stared with the faceless feature. It didn't move nor attack them, which confused Soushi.

"Has anyone detected the type and ability?" Soushi asked, sounded insecure for a second.

He heard the sound of typing and clicking. And then, "It's a new type, never seen before. Both of you better deal with caution," Commander Makabe's wary voice could be heard.

"Should we wait?" Kazuki asked beside him. He too appeared to be on guard with the new festum. Their surroundings are already calm after most of the festums have been taken care of, leaving only the gigantic ones. "It hasn't moved."

"Let's try attacking it from afar," Soushi concluded, calling out Maya to ready for an attack.

"Alright," the girl answered calmly, positioned herself on the ground. Kazuki and Soushi fly afar from the festum, lingered in the air while the other Fafners watched from the island. They waited with bated breath at the command and as Soushi found the right moment to strike, he calmly ordered Maya to shoot.

The laser beam from her Fafner's weapon went straight to the heart of the festum, penetrate the gold body, piercing through the azure sky above them. The festum wiggled its body, its blank face shook as if it was hurt and in agony. The screech and high-pitched scream wrung it out from the small head, the limbs now started to move, swinging across the calm water of the ocean.

"Be careful!" Makabe's voice boomed inside their cockpits, sending a warning alert to all the pilots.

Soushi flew away from the scene unfold in front of him, panic rose at the unexpected turn of events. The festum looks angry and agitated. It shouldn't bother him since they were always in rage and adamant to annihilate all the humans and yet, something ticks him off in a wrong way.

After waiting for hours without doing anything, the festum suddenly went rampaged just because they shot it. Didn't it predict their movement? Shoushi thought it was a highly intelligent type but was disappointed to learn it wasn't. Still, there's something in his gut that told differently.

"Maya, find the core!" he ordered while he and the other fafners trying to distract the festum. Its body was surprisingly more robust and sturdy than the others, Soushi concluded. When Kazuki swing his sword on the sun-kissed body, it bounced which cause the pilot to staggered back.

"It's hard," Kazuki panted, sweat trailing down to his chin. "I can't see its core. We need to steal more time before - I don't know, using its ultimate move?"

Soushi studied the festum intently. It screamed and throwing his limbs all over the water but not meant for attacking. Maybe he realized they won't be able to penetrate the steel body since the first shot from Maya was already healed. They can't attack aimlessly without fearing the festum might use its last resort which in this case, a walking bomb. It might have been its ability considering its lack of speed, strength, agility, or elongated limb like the other types.

Still -

"Soushi."

The long-haired pilot inhales a long breath, his eyes closed as the festum's movement and reaction played in his mind, trying to detect the unusual act or anything that enable them to fight it. When he opened the obsidian orbs, Mark Sein was in front of him, watching him. There's no much time.

"We need to -"

Suddenly a strange sound, almost like a strangled cry from a constricted throat echoed in the silent sea and sky. Soushi looked up and his eyes widen in fear. They were too late.

The new type already stopped moving but its head tilted upward and at the middle of it - like a mouth opened wide - a black hole formed. It was almost disgusting to watch as the hole slowly widen, devouring the other part of its head.

"Is it making a worm sphere? Or a hole?"

Soushi heard the question from Mimika, wondering himself whether the ability was the same as Nicht. However, he couldn't satiate his curiosity when he knew the danger if it's true the festum creating a worm sphere. If it's making a sphere as big as the island, it will destroy their paradise in one shot.

"Attack the festum!" Soushi screamed, breaking the daze of all the pilots who watched with fascination at the transformation. "Stop it before it makes a sphere that might wipe out the island!"

Understanding dawned on them and they moved instantly, pulling all their weapon and abilities to their best to stop the festum. Kazuki tried to cut the neck while the others attacking in every direction but to no avail.

"Damn it," Soushi cursed under heavy breath. "Where's the damn core?"

He had looked at every possibility of the festum's parts but as the hole getting bigger, eating up the gold body until what's left the lower part, Soushi realized the core might not be inside of the alien.

The black, sphere hole already covered half of the island as the festum stood in the air above Tatsumiyajima. The sound of rapid-fire, weapons clashing against the steel body rang in his ears. What type of festum is that? Before they have encountered festum that can create worm-sphere which Soushi easily defeated and the wormhole is part of the festum ability itself. That's how they can penetrate the barrier and teleport themselves as long as they can detect human life. So why was this festum is different? What is the purpose of creating the black hole? Is it really to wipe out the entire island?

"Soushi!"

Kazuki's voice which was usually calm and collected sounded panic. The scream of Commander Makabe and the other pilots heightening the tension in his body. He couldn't let their home be destroyed. Not now, not ever. Kazuki was staring at him as he used Sein's ability to assimilate to stop the rapid growth of the hole but the emerald crystals shattered, dropping into the sea. There's no way stopping the festum.

But that's not possible, Soushi thought. Every festum has a core - its brain and heart. Furthermore, this festum is a Mir type which was proven when swarms of festum circling the new type.

The core must be somewhere inside the already-half-body festum -

The pitch-black eyes widen as his brain caught something totally impossible but still possible in all illogical ways. He lifted his head to see the black sphere that looks empty - like a dark paint on the cerulean sky. No one dared to approach since they didn't know the consequences or what might happen if they get too near. Soushi clenched his fists - the thought of their home finally gone, Kazuki's smile disappeared, his family's memories and his sister, Tsubaki's hope and dream shattered at this final moment left him wrung with turbulence emotion. He knew he's the one who's able to stop the festum.

But his promise to Kazuki -

Soushi took a painful deep breath, exhaling as he shook his head. Nothing was more important than the island. If he could save his home and hundreds of lives, he would it again in a heartbeat. A wistful smile tugged on his lips. Guess he needs to apologize again to the brunette.

Searching Kazuki for the last time, he saw his friend shooting the sapphire laser rapidly, screaming with frustration when the skin easily parried his attacks.

"It's no use! I can't pierce its armor. Soushi, how about we attack at the same time-"

"No, Kazuki," he quietly said, his eyes blazed with determination. "The core is not inside the festum."

The brunette frowned. "What do you mean?"

His amber eyes followed Soushi's line of sight above towards the cloudless sky. It took no genius to understand what the long-haired teen was about to do so before his friend disappears on him, Kazuki gripped Nicht's steel arm tightly.

"You can't."

Soushi smiled. He wanted to see Kazuki's face for the last time but refrain to do so. His resolve might be crumbled if he saw the sadness in Kazuki's eyes.

"I'm the only one who can do this. Nicht can teleport inside the black hole-"

"No!"

The anguish and broken yell froze the pilot on his seat, heart squeezed painfully as he imagined what kind of expression Kazuki was wearing. The brunette might already be tearing up at this moment, he always has. Whenever Soushi was involved, the calm and cool facade easily broke and he'll become the child he was once before.

"Kazuki," Soushi carefully started, he put his hand above the one on Nicht's arm and grabbed it, his cheeks flushed as if he could feel the warmth of his friend seeped into him. "We need to save the island. We can't be selfish. You know that, don't you?"

"But you promised me," he murmured, lowering his head.

"I know, and I'm sorry I had to break it again but-"

Kazuki quickly retorted like a child throwing a tantrum. "I've waited for you long enough and now you're gonna leave me again? No. If you want to save the island, fine, I'll let you go. But this time I want you to make a promise and if you refuse it, I won't forgive you. I'm telling you, Soushi. I'm serious this time."

Suddenly the weight of his decision became heavier than before. Kazuki was serious, he could tell. His voice was stern and steel with a slight edge of fear and anger. If he made a mistake, his best friend will slip from his grasp forever.

"What is it?"

"Promise me first," Kazuki stubbornly said.

Soushi let out a sigh, pinching the bridge between his brows. Sometimes Kazuki could be frustrating to deal with, even his father admitted that one particular trait that he inherited from his mother. When he truly desired something, he won't take a no for an answer and will get through without caring about the consequences of his action.

Twice Kazuki was almost willing to lose his life just for Soushi. The first time was when he was captured by the festum and according to Commander Makabe, Kazuki insisted to avenge his death not caring about his safety and the father he left behind. Thank God Soushi was alive but the ending still left the brunette suffered for almost two years before Soushi returned into his arms.

The second time - he almost disappeared into the nothingness but thanks to Misao and Koyo, they managed to pull him out and at the same time, refrained Kazuki from following him. How the man could be so fearless when dealing with him, sometimes Soushi couldn't comprehend. And sometimes he wondered whether their relationship was a platonic one or Kazuki just loved him as a friend too much. He never asked the question, though. The fear of their relationship crumble by that one question forced him to deal with the unwanted feelings alone. It's okay as long as the brown-haired teen still smiles and looked at him as if he was the star and moon because, for Soushi, Kazuki is his sky and earth - the things that grounded him into reality.

So when Kazuki asked (blackmailing) him to accept the promise before hearing the details, he knew he was doom to give in. There's no way he'll live if his friend doesn't forgive him.

"Okay, fine. Tell me what do I need to promise," Soushi relented, shaking his head in defeat.

"Promise first," the other pilot insisted and Soushi realized he's not yet to accept his condition.

"I promise I'll do anything you ask."

It's like he could see Kazuki's smile when he said, voice serious despite the jovial tone. "Then I, Minashiro Soushi, promise with my life that I will stay by Makabe Kazuki's side despite any circumstances that may occur in the future. I will not leave him alone and act on my own without discussing the matter with him and if I do break the promise, I will gladly accept any punishment by him without any complain."

Soushi blinked as the words uttered by his best friend sounded familiar to something he could relate to a vow. His mouth opened in shock when he heard Kazuki's chuckle over the line, somehow pleased at the idea of tying him to him probably without realizing the meaning behind those promises.

A promise of a lifetime together.

Like a marriage vow.

Did the brunette just confess his love to him?

Heat spread on his cheeks, Soushi opened his mouth to confirm when the commander's urgent voice cut through their line to alert the change of the festum. He tore his attention away from the brunette's voice and pinned his gaze on the almost-devoured-festum. Now, only its calf left before the hole consumed it whole.

"Kazuki, we're going to do it," he decided, not caring about the possibility of they might not coming out alive. As long as the island is safe, he'll sacrifice his life no matter how many times the cycle is repeated, and as long as he's together with Kazuki, he could endure it - the pain, the loneliness, and the struggle.

He won't leave Kazuki's side again.

"I'm waiting for that. I'll go if you go, Soushi."

A smile tugged on his lips. Me too, Kazuki. Me, too.

"Kazuki-kun! Minashiro-kun!" Maya screamed when she saw both of them lunged towards the festum. Side by side, they turned their head towards their friends and to the island.

"We will save the island," Kazuki declared, firm and not an ounce of fear. "I will not let your dreams died today."

"But you will, Kazuki-kun!"

"Soushi will have my back, don't worry Toumi." Kazuki tilted his head playfully, suddenly feels energized than before. The thought of being together with the blonde gave exhilarating feelings which he couldn't experience when he's fighting alone and Kazuki gonna take advantage of the promise he made at the spur of the moment to tied the pilot to him as long as they live.

He will not let Soushi die alone.

"We'll be back, Toumi. I promise," he said, waving slightly at the magenta fafner. "Take care of my father for me."

With that, Kazuki and Soushi took off, plowing through the clump of clouds. The Nicht's purple and green body contrast against the cerulean sky while Sein almost blends into the background. They stopped track a few meters from the growing hole, both fafners standing side by side.

"How should we do this?"

"Hold my hand," Soushi instructed, fighting the warmth crawling into his skin. His friend wordlessly gripped the metal limb tightly, as if his life clung to it. A smile formed on his handsome face actually pleased at the obedience. He returned the gesture, linking their limb together as he formed a short plan in his head.

"I will teleport inside and then we will look for the core. Destroy it and that's it."

"Alright, Soushi."

Within a second, the ambiance change - from the sunny and clear atmosphere to a dark and gloomy and cold. They looked around and found nothing except darkness. Soushi stared down to the bottomless pit and couldn't think of where it might lead them if they fall down.

"I think we need to trigger it," Kazuki said, already pulling Sein's laser toward one spot in front of him but Soushi stopped him.

"Wait." Closing his eyes, Soushi sharpens his focus and hearing, listening to their surrounding. His labor breathing echoed softly, heart thudded frantically but he calmed it down, counting one to 10. Opening the dark irises, he calculated all the possibilities, check the wave and vital, the temperature, vibration, and space phase until he detected the uncanny alien feels in the dark pit.

Quickly he shared the location with his friend, preparing his own weapon to attack. "Now, Kazuki!"

Without wasting time, Kazuki powered up his Luger Lance, the emerald crystals blooms beautifully on the handle as he pointed the tip in the west direction. An explosive exploded causing both fafners to staggered back but Soushi let himself be alert at any changes of the festum.

"Nothing happens," Kazuki muttered, looking around. "Are you sure it's the core?"

Kazuki was not the one to doubt Soushi's ability because all of his life, Soushi's words and acts mean absolute and right. Whatever his friend said and decided, Kazuki will follow without question. Just like a moment ago. So when he asked, Soushi was lost in words. He was never wrong before.

"I - Let me trace it again," he concluded, focusing back on all the elements but found nothing. It's like the bizarre feeling he just felt minutes ago was a fluke and a trap by the festum. But how could such creatures think ahead of them? It makes no sense. Even though it had proven festum is a changeable species and have the intelligence to learn from human, however to such extent was nothing heard of. Soushi looked down at the bottomless pit.

Is this a trap?

"Shit, Soushi! It's getting bigger!"

Soushi's eyes widen. Kazuki's attack didn't do anything to deter the festum's movement. Without a second thought, he formed multiple worm spheres and threw them towards the bottomless pit, putting all his force and might in the throw.

"Soushi!" Kazuki's tense voice pulled him back but it was too late. Their surrounding had changed - no longer calm, quiet, and serene. Soushi's attack seems to trigger whatever the festum had inside of it and now the creature was screaming, the air turned wild and violent.

"We need to get out!" His best friend screamed, grabbing his fafner's metal hand in an instant. Soushi nodded, imagining the cerulean sky as a landmark before forming the wormhole. As he tried to create the dimensional circle, something disturbed the Nicht ability - or more precisely, the hole he tried to create.

"There's something tampered with Nicht," Soushi said anxiously. No matter how many times he tried, the dark circles continued to decrease in size before vanished into thin air. "Damn it."

"I'll try breakthrough!" Kazuki already powered up Sein before Soushi could retort. The white-blue fafner fly towards the endless top at a terrifying speed with its lance point forward in an attempt to break whatever contains them and yet, it only spurs the festum's rage.

The turbulence went ballistic, sharp, and strong along with the long wailed like a screech on the chalkboard. Although Soushi had prepared himself with an unexpected turn of events, it didn't prepare him with the excruciating pain in every part of his limbs as the strong wind tried to squeeze his fafner.

"Argh!" His eyes shut, his teeth grind painfully to withstand the impact of the tempest. His eyes searching the brunette, wanted to fly towards Kazuki and hold him tight. If this is the last moment of his life, he wanted for Kazuki to be by his side as they drowned in the darkness. But before he could locate his friend, something had grabbed Nicht's feet, tugging him harshly.

"What the -" Soushi stared down, searching for any festum's limb around his body but found none. His panic increased when he realized the void had sucked him like a vacuum, pulling him down.

"Kazuki!"

"Soushi!" His friend's voice boomed in his fafner, loud with fear and rage. "Let Soushi go!"

The pilot storms his way through the violent whirlwind, biting his lips to endure the pain until droplets of blood trickle down his chin but he won't give up until he reaches Soushi. He held his hand forward, pushing all his might as he screamed, vein-popping out to grab the awaiting hand. He pushed himself forward, his eyes locked onto the titian part of Nicht as if his gaze could penetrate and meet the dark orbs he loves so much.

"Don't let go of me," he cried, tears already pricking at the corner of his eyes. "Don't you dare give up and leave me alone."

Soushi chuckled, the soft manly laughter vibrated in his cockpit, warming his heart to its core. Knowing the long-haired pilot didn't give up on his life and holding their promise well meant so much to him and Kazuki will make sure they both lives to see the world they had dreamt of. Screaming, he used all that left of his strength and finally succeed, holding the claw hand tightly, intertwined their fafners fingers. He barely could sigh out a relief when suddenly an invincible force pulled both of them into the dark vortex, his scream or Soushi or his friends and family deafening his ears as his vision went black.

 

23/09/2021