• ****(Love)
    “He burned out. Stop being a jerk, Raphael.” Katherine shut the door behind her. Alex was sleeping... they had carried him there after they had found him on the floor, sobbing slightly in a daze. Raphael kept chastising him.
    “It’s his fault... he didn’t have to do anything...”
    “He promised to watch over her... he promised to protect her.” Katherine sighed. “He still loves her. Is that so hard to understand?” Raphael sighed.
    “Yes. Six years... Mirari-chama has changed.”
    “That may be... but he’s still in love.”
    “Love is like glass. Deceptively brittle.”
    Love is like a power. It starts out weak, then grows stronger with use – so to speak – but if it isn’t used... it gets weak again.” Katherine sighed. “That’s what I believe, Raphael.” She drew closer to Raphael. “That’s what our Mother told us.” Raphael chuckled.
    “I know... I understand.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “But, then again, I may not know of love as you know it, Katherine.” She sighed.
    “I figured that, Raphael.” He raised his eyebrows.
    Now who’s being nasty?” They both started laughing.
    “Yeah... I’m sorry.”
    “Me too.”
    “Me three.” They both turned to the door Katherine had closed. It was open again, and the slightly grey face of Alex poked around the door. “Ugh... I was so close to kissing her... What if she’s in mental trauma now? Ugh...” And his head vanished back into the dark room. Raphael blinked.
    “Oooookaaaay, he’s gone emo.” Katherine elbowed him. “Ok, ok, he’s just miserable.”
    Next time, I log in and do that.”
    I sat there, looking through my college yearbook. I had even looked through the year above us, and the year above that. No... he wasn’t there. No-one even resembled him. No-one looked geeky enough to magically transform into a hot thing like that. Maybe he was mistaken – I mean, I have changed in appearance a lot over the past six years... I kept flicking through the yearbook... I smiled when I saw Matt standing behind me in a group photo, gripping my hand and smiling down whilst I had a look of sheer terror and apprehension on my face... I remember that... that was the first day I returned to college after the accident.
    The exams had all finished, but our college still required attendance. I remember that Matt had – quite literally – pushed me to return to college. I had healed, physically... but I didn’t really know anyone but Matt. I mean, Matt was the first visitor I had apart from doctors and nurses. He was on work experience, following the doctor that just happened to be attending to me. No-one knew who I was... I had no hospital record, and I didn’t have any I.D. on me... and since I didn’t know who I was... no-one could’ve known. The doctors were trying to figure out why I knew how to speak, and knew what things were, but not remember anything about myself. Many doctors were called in before the doctor that Matt was following was called. And when Matt came in the room... he called my name. He called my parents, who identified me. The doctor laughed and told him how to spend the rest of his work experience – trying to make me regain my memory. And that’s how he spent the next week, with my parents... going through photos, my art and my stuff to try and bring back the memories. It didn’t work, but it did make me able to cope and able to function. And... after another week, he worked up the courage (or so I think) to kiss me. It just seemed natural...
    Back in the present, the phone was ringing. It’s six in the morning. Yeah, an alarm, not a call.
    “...A black wind took them away from sight, and held the darkness over day... that night... And the clouds above move closer, looking so dissatisfied... but the heartless wind kept blowing.... I used to be my own protection, but not now... My path has lost direction... somehow...” It hit me like a brick, then. I don’t know why... but those words had meaning... And then, I thought of the package. I had just left it lying there on the table after examining the addresses. I walked over to examine it again.
    “It’s wrapped in brown paper and string. Who does that nowadays?” I read the ‘Return to’ address again. “That looks so familiar...” I pulled one of the strings on a small bow. After removing the string, the brown paper fell apart elegantly. Like a giant rose opening... Inside, was a box, with a note attached to the top.
    Dear... After receiving your recommendation from your Uni... I don’t understand... We have offered you a job at... Job? Hmm, it’s a government lab... ... for which you must attend an assessment course at... Hmm, it’s near Matt’s hospital... in two days time. We hope you will take this opportunity to join our prestigious research team. Yours Truly, Jessica Jones and Michelle Megumi. My curiosity was building. The box was simple... All I had to do was pull the lid off.
    I opened my eyes to the dim light of a new day. But it’s not like I have anything to look forward to. I sat up, shuffling to the edge of the bed. I put my cold feet on the floor. There was a knock on the door.
    “Heh. Come in, Raphael.” He hesitated. “It’s not like I’m in the nude or anything.” He came in, opening the door and coming in. He looked tired, and also looked like he had a bruise coming up on his face.
    “Ah, I wouldn’t mind if you were... Alex... Your Libra sent a package to Mirari-chama.”
    “Was there anything in it?”
    “Couldn’t tell. Lead lined box and thick brown paper.”
    “Yeah. She knows what she’s doing. And I think... you have some explaining to do.” I heard footsteps behind him. Kat entered the room behind him.
    “Alex... you need to explain what happened with you and Mirari-chan.” I sighed. Yeah, I expected this.
    “Fine. I watched her exit a club with Reish.” Kat looked ready to pounce. I also noticed she had a bruise coming up on her face. Matching Raphael’s bruise. Hmm. That’s interesting.
    “Right. Then what?”
    “She was taken by a group of thugs. I saved her.”
    “You said that-”
    “I KNOW!” I balled my fists. “But... I couldn’t stand by and let her... I couldn’t let that happen to her! I didn’t want her to-” Raphael smirked.
    “Okay, I get the point. What did you do to her?”
    “I... swept her up onto the roof and healed the larger cuts.”
    “And you spoke to her, didn’t you?” I nodded glumly.
    “You flirted with her, didn’t you?” Raphael sighed. “What did you tell her?” Kat looked like she’d attack, but Raphael held her back.
    “I told her I was in her college. I told her I was The Black Rose. I told her she wouldn’t recognise my alter-ego. I didn’t even tell her my name. I didn’t give her a name at all.”
    “Oh, well... that’s alright then! What if she’s currently curled up and sobbing... the pain of those memories that your face... And what if she- You didn’t go to her-!”
    “I know! I... Know...”
    “Katherine, and you berate me for being nasty?” Kat went to punch Raphael, and he swept himself back, forcing them both to the floor. “Please don’t do that. I don’t want to leave another bruise.” I rolled my eyes. Right, they had been fighting. Well... maybe not over insults.
    “Cut it out... the task at hand is to find out what was in the package Libra sent...” They stood up and dusted themselves off.
    “...And there’s one more thing. Alex... a Government lab has tried to develop a version of the Repa Unit.” Raphael looked confused, but I swore.
    “********!” I sighed. “Can they be stopped?” She shook her head sadly.
    “But, that’s not... that isn’t the worst. Alex... Libra and Light are leading the programme.” I began cussing again... Raphael asked what was going on... and I began to explain...
    “Although the Mod Units were nearly perfect, they had a flaw – the source of them, Athe, had to approve of the new user. After all, they would be very intimate. Naturally, this caused problems when hiring new recruits. Although family members were always accepted... if there is only three people, work gets hard... so trusted people, or, people with abilities were drafted in... but Athe wouldn’t always like them. So, development began on creating an artificial Mod Unit. One that wouldn’t reject people, and so... create an unstoppable weapon... After many years, one was developed. However, people died on its testing – the power it unlocked was too much for the human body to take... the nerves crumbled immediately, or the people went insane and then turned to ashes... it was too dangerous...” I sighed. “However, their potential was great – all they needed was a little restraint system... to do that, our Mother donated some DNA to create a restraint, like Athe’s. It wasn’t to be. She was the only one to be able to use it... she had much greater abilities than anyone, so could handle the power. However... although she survived the initial testing... the use caused rapid neural degeneration. Her nerves were crumbling, bit by bit. And...” Raphael looked down and away. “I was the one to rip the Repa Units out... Mum died by my hands.” Kat looked away. She already knew this... Mum had died because of the Repa Unit’s ability to unlock power... I had to look down as another tear fell...
    “I’m sorry... I didn’t know...”
    “That’s okay... it needed to be known, Raphael.” I sighed, wiping the tears away. “They were called Repa Units, and there was just one set made. I have no idea where they are. They are very dangerous, and we don’t know where they are...” Raphael narrowed his eyes.
    “Yeah, a play on ‘Grim Reaper’ because they are powerful and so many deaths...” Raphael gasped.
    “And the government’s got a hold of them? Okay, we’re screwed.” Kat shook her head glumly.
    “No... it’s because Libra and Light are with them that we’re slewed.” I shook my head.
    “It’s because everyone’s beginning to remember... that we’re pwned.” Kat looked at me.
    “What... do you mean?” Raphael furrowed his brows.
    “Mirari-chama’s wish... was it not effective?”
    “Yes, it was. Her wish was to get us out of the circle, and to stop us fighting – and to clear up my making us forget. It was mine that wasn’t effective... or, should I say... it was effective... somewhat.” I sighed. “I wanted us to all remember.”
    “So... why didn’t you end up...?”
    “Ren paid my price. Athe made a wish, and paid it herself.”
    “And... what was Athe’s wish?”
    “No idea.” I laughed sadly. “I never knew.”
    “So... we’re screwed because no-one could let go. And Libra’s experience...”
    “ETHER, mark two.”
    “Yeah, pretty much. And guess who’ll be caught in the middle?” Kat and Raphael looked uneasy. They were reluctant to admit that we’d have to step in.
    “Mi-chan.” A chorus of discontent.
    I pulled the lid off. The box was surprisingly heavy... what was making it like that? Never mind. Inside the box was a little ID bracelet, a watch and a map. There was a little note inside, explaining everything. The ID bracelet was so that I had my identification, the watch was just a nice little gift and the map was marked with the location of the assessment centre, and of the lab in which I would work. There were also details of what I could expect if I did manage to get the job. Hehehe It’s quite a lot for a research job – all travel expenses, a paid-for home nearby, £25k per year... and a car. It sounds like a setup... I left the box and its contents on the table. As usual, my parents left the house at around eleven. About an hour later, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to see two women standing there. One was a short, athletic looking redhead, with green eyes. The other was a slightly older, black haired woman with seemingly world-weary eyes. They were both in suits.
    “Hello. Can... I help?” The older woman smiled.
    “I certainly hope so. Are you the potential applicant for the research position?” I nodded. She giggled. “I am Jessica Jones...” she gestured to the redhead. “...and this is my research partner, Michelle Megumi. We are your potential bosses.”
    “Oh!” I blushed. “I-I-It’s a pleasure to meet you! Please, come in... the kettle’s just boiled.” Jessica laughed.
    “No, that’s alright, thank you.” Michelle smiled.
    “We just came to make sure you’d received our package. We also came to ensure you were our applicant – you see, your university highly recommended you for this position.”
    “Yes. Your doctorate project on nanotechnology was very interesting. Especially the parts on DNA intergration into nanocomputers. We feel your... expertise could serve our project.” I smiled, if nervously at them.
    “Yes, I received your package yesterday afternoon...” I laughed uneasily. “...I only got around to opening it this morning... the events of the day before left me a little worn out...” Jessica smiled.
    “Ah, yes. We were informed about what happened.” I flushed a little, but she continued. “You were lucky to fend them off. It was that tenacity and inner strength that made your case stronger.” Jessica looked down to Michelle, who nodded at Jessica. “...Yes.” She turned back to me. “Yes, I think we’ll take you on. Right. Forget the assessment in two days time. You can come straight to work... it’s marked on the map.” I was a little stunned, and was a little speechless. Michelle giggled.
    “Aww, she’s sweet. But... is there any questions?” I smiled, still flushed.
    “...Is there any uniform, Mam?” Michelle shook her head.
    “No. We’ll sort you out with all that. Any other questions?” I shook my head.
    “No, that’s fine, thank you.” They smiled at the same time.
    “Alright then.” Jessica reached out to shake my hand. “We’ll see you in two days, then.” We all shook hands, and they left. I had this funny feeling that I couldn’t shake... I knew them... And... how did they know of the attack? Ugh... something’s not adding up here. But, I think The Black Rose has something to do with it...