The timing was perfect. He had already declared his intentions to WAZA, had commanded Meteor G to blast them with its power, the Jamming. Now the only thing left to do was confirm the extent of fear he had managed to spread. King turned to his group of loyal followers that he had called to him for this very moment.
Two of them were missing. Naturally, Rockman was gone. He spent most of his time over at the Neo Mu Empire’s base these days, and King had specifically sent him out to find a way to distract them from his first assault on the public world. But the other one…
“Tia, where is your brother? I know he’s a rather excitable child, always running off and not wanting to listen to his father, but really now, he knows better than to ignore a summons.”
King was surprised when a brief flicker of emotion passed across Tia’s normally passive face, something that looked like…worry?
“So I take it that you didn’t order him to come after me? My, my, this does make things more troublesome.”
Everyone in the room was startled as Rockman himself hopped out of a Noise Wave into the main room, an irritated scowl on his face. Their attention was soon drawn to what he had hefted over his shoulder: Jack’s unmoving body. At the angle he was facing them, only his legs and lower torso were visible, but it was clear that he had been attacked and hurt severely, if he wasn’t protesting over being carried in such a fashion. “Honestly, I thought you had control over your subordinates, King! How do you expect to run an organization smoothly if they keep running off on their own purposes, eh? Geez…” With a grunt, Rockman threw Jack off his shoulder in an almost careless fashion before anyone could move to take the child off him or protest at the way he was carrying an injured comrade.
Tia screamed. Everyone else only stared on in shocked silence as they realized just why Rockman didn’t feel the need to carry Jack more carefully.
Jack’s body was headless, and the severed neck was still leaking blood. Rockman merely looked on at the gruesome sight with a slightly bemused expression, before turning back towards the Noise Wave and reaching in for something. As he turned back around, he nonchalantly tossed it towards the rest of the group.
“Ah, there it is. You’ll need that to properly dispose of the body, won’t you?” The words served to cement the reality of the situation as Jack’s head rolled across the carpet, stopping to rest at Tia’s feet. She wordlessly looked down at his face, frozen in an expression of fear that just looked wrong on Jack’s face. Jack never expressed fear if he could help it…
With an incoherent scream of rage and sorrow, she focused her gaze on the only person in the room who she could remotely pin the blame on for her little brother’s undignified and untimely demise, and before anyone else could speak, she found herself standing in front of Rockman, both hands gripping his neck in an effort to make him face her. The blank, unfeeling expression he looked back at her with only intensified her anger. Jack had died because he wanted to look out for Rockman, and he...he dared to feel nothing?!
“Boy, explain yourself.” King’s voice cut through her haze of rage, speaking the words that she couldn’t bring herself to speak. Part of her didn’t want to hear it, didn’t want to make this real by having a story behind it, but the rest of her burned to hear the truth…
“Unhand me, and I will,” Rockman hissed out in reply, narrowing his eyes at Tia in mere annoyance, which only made her want to tighten her grip on him. But she knew she would never get the truth if she didn’t, so eventually her grip loosened, and she found her shaking hands held in Shidou’s to steady them. Rockman cleared his throat before he began.
“I was doing as you said, gave reports of a possible location for Murian relics and went out with Hollow to excavate them and kept Doctor Orihime distracted with our status reports. You’ll be glad to know that we did find something, by the way, I’ve got the original right here.” Rockman reached into the Noise Wave once more with a single hand, pulling out a spherical device. “Fascinating thing, Noise Wave Generators. You might want a closer look at this later, King, I have reason to believe that this helped the Mu reign over the Earth despite being separated from it in the sky, it could very well deal with the issues you have with being separate from Meteor G...”
Rockman only smirked when King scowled in annoyance at his changing the subject. “Right,then. Anyways, I had gotten back to the hideout where I had been informed that there was an intruder in the maze…Hollow stayed behind to protect Orihime, and I, as a loyal subject of the Neo Mu Empire,” here, Rockman rolled his eyes, “went out into the maze to identify the problem. I found Jack there, engaged in a heated battle with Burai, of all people.”
Everyone stiffened at his words. It was well known that Burai was the ace in the hole for the Neo Mu Empire. Even Joker and Shidou had been cautioned to be wary around the boy. For Jack to confront him…
“Anyways, it’s pretty obvious what happened after that. By the time I got there, the fight was nearly over, and I wasn’t able to get there in time to stop Burai from killing him.” Rockman shrugged. “Turns out he kept asking about me the whole time, so it took a lot of talking to Burai to convince him that I wasn’t still on your side and he wasn’t trying to pick up information from me.”
Rockman sighed and put his arms on his waist, stretching. “He’s gone and caused a lot of trouble for me, let me tell you…” There was a sigh as he put a hand to his forehead, and Tia found herself seeing red yet again as he shook his head. “Really, Jack should know better than that, he nearly jeopardized the whole operation-”
“YOU!” Tia’s sudden outburst made everyone in the room other than Rockman jump. It was rare for her to raise her voice, never mind the anger-fueled shout that she interrupted Rockman’s words with. Rockman merely looked at her with a vaguely confused expression as she strained against Shidou’s hold in her attempt to put her hands around the younger boy’s neck once more.
“You-he-Jack was worried about you! He went out on his own to find you because he wanted to help you! Don’t you realize what he lost because of…because of you!” Rockman merely tilted his head at the emotional outburst.
“Is that so? Whatever was he worried about? It sounds irrational to me…” Tia growled at the lack of reaction and let out a strangled yell.
“He considered you a friend!” Everyone other than Rockman gawked in surprise. Jack, considering someone a friend? And that friend being the volatile Rockman…it boggled the mind. “Jack has never considered anyone else in this organization a friend, ever…it doesn’t make sense, I can’t understand it, but he did! And he wanted to save his friend! How is that irrational?!”
Rockman frowned, and for a brief moment, Tia thought that maybe she had finally gotten through to him.
“…It’s like you said, isn’t it? It doesn’t make sense. Why would Jack do something so irrational on something as fickle as emotion? He let his heart rule over his mind, like he’s always done. It’s only logical that those actions would have led to his death at some point in the future, if not now, then at some point. You’re a logical person, Tia. You should understand this.” Rockman shrugged. “Unless you’re letting your emotions get the better of you too…”
Those words enraged Tia like nothing else had before. How could he spit on Jack’s actions like that? How could he have let Jack die for…for nothing?! With strength she didn’t know she had, she wrenched herself free from Shidou’s restraining grip, pulling her arm back to strike the younger boy.
She found her hand caught in Rockman’s own, him barely having to exert any force to keep her from hitting him. Despite that, she reached back with her other hand to strike him, only to find her other hand caught in his other hand. Rockman snorted disdainfully at her efforts.
“I was right; you are letting your emotions rule your actions. Pity that, you were once a rational human being…the normal you wouldn’t have dared to strike me even as Queen Virgo, considering you couldn’t best me in battle, and yet now as a mere human, you dare to lash out at me?”
Tia let out a wordless scream of rage and grief, even as tears gathered at the corners of her eyes and her hands shook in his grip.
“Enough.” Suddenly, Rockman’s expression grew furious, the first display of raw emotion she had seen from him, and his hands suddenly tightened their grip on hers to a painful degree. She let out a scream of pain as he continued to tighten his grip.
“I’ve made it no secret that I dislike emotion. It interferes with one’s natural abilities, and only serves to cause eventual pain to others. But,” and his grip tightened further as his face grew angrier, his expression almost feral by this point.
“The one emotion that I can’t stand is grief. It is the ultimate result of all human interaction with others. Grief represents all that results from the efforts that humans throw themselves into, day after day, as they continue to fruitlessly struggle for an eternal happiness that they know that doesn’t exist, but attempt to find anyway. And then they dare to feel upset when, in the innermost depths of their being, they knew all along that they would eventually fail to reach what they strive for. They dare to let the frustrations overwhelm them and stop their normal functioning, to bemoan their sufferings that they would never, should never, have had to deal with had they behaved logically and had reasonable expectations for nothing permanent.”
The silence was deafening, the only sound echoing through the room being Tia’s stifled sobbing as tears continued to fall down her face, and Rockman’s heavy breathing as he tried to steady himself, but failing. His expression only grew more furious.
“You bothered to get attached to a young boy who constantly threw himself into danger. You let your worry and fear for him rule your actions, and you let his death affect you to this point…”
Finally, Rockman seemed to get control back over himself. With one steady breath, the angry expression faded back into the normal indifference he usually bore. His expression was cold and unfeeling, even as he looked up into Tia’s tearful eyes. The only thing that betrayed his anger was the tightening of his grip on her hands yet again, to the point of nearly cracking bones.
“You brought this grief onto yourself, Queen Tia. Don’t forget that.”
“Enough, boy! Unhand her this instant!”
And Rockman did so at King’s demand, only huffing as Tia sunk to her knees. He looked up at King impassively as Shidou lowered himself to pull Tia into his arms, where she finally dissolved into a sobbing mess, her face in her hands even as she was pulled close to her lover’s embrace. For a few moments, no one spoke, only letting her grief-filled sobs echo through the room. Rockman broke the silence first with a sigh as he stretched, before turning to leave.
“And where do you think you’re going, boy?!” King demanded, his fists tightening. Rockman merely looked at him with a dismissive expression.
“Think, King! What Jack has done has severely endangered my influence in the Neo Mu Empire! I might have managed to convince Solo of my ‘loyalty,’ but Doctor Orihime is another matter entirely! With this event, combined with you finally launching your assault, I’ll have my hands full with trying to assure her that nothing has threatened her plans! If you don’t want Doctor Orihime on your back now that you’ve finally got the rest of the world focused on you, I’ll have to work quickly to keep her calm! Honestly…” And here, Rockman sighed. “Does no one think with their brains instead of their emotional outbursts in this organization?”
With that, he hopped back into the Noise Wave before anyone else could stop him. The room was quiet again, save for Tia. It was a few minutes before anyone could bring themselves to try anything.
“…Shidou. Escort Tia to her room, please, before going off to check on WAZA.” The young man looked up in shock.
“I imagine Tia will want some time alone, child. Do not imagine that I do not feel anything from this…”
Even King could express grief when it was necessary, and losing one of his strongest children certainly was an appropriate situation for it. It was a few moments before Shidou brought himself to nod, before gently nudging Tia to her feet and slowly supporting her out of the room. When they had finally left, he turned to Heartless, who had been watching the events unfold with an expression that barely hid her own grief.
“…Heartless. Please…dispose of the body.”
“…Hai, of course.”
Once she was gone, and he was left with only Joker standing guard in the room, King retreated into his own thoughts. He had questioned his own decision to take in Rockman many times over the past few months, but never before had he wondered about the boy’s apparent lack of proper emotion. King may have regarded his subordinates as merely a means to an end, but even he could worry about the lack of allies. Rockman apparently had no such qualms about it.
Not for the first time, King wondered what Rockman really was.
[A/N]: Hoo boy. People are starting to wonder about Rockman a little more. But it's too little, too late, isn't it? Ha.