A Promise Renewed
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Wazzah!!! I'm finally back!!!! Yah see, I was on vacation for like five weeks in France visiting my brother. Soooooo..........................
It didn't take as long as she thought when Selphie dropped her a few miles away from Timber. Phoenix waved goodbyes, Selphie wished her luck, and the Ragnarok flew away.
The ride wasn't as quiet as she thought, too. Selphie was a chatterbox at heart, and it was impossible to avoid her questions. Phoenix let Selphie do most of the talking and only answered when asked. It was easier for her that way. Unlike her twin, Phoenix was more introverted. Oh, she loved to have conversations and talk and do so many other things, but after being an assassin for so long, it became...instinct to be quiet.
Most of the monsters, as few as they were, stayed away from Phoenix's path. It was probably because of the first time they witnessed one of their kind so easily beaten. Or maybe it was because of the icy look that Phoenix gave to those that came close to attacking her. She reached Timber in no time. Chaos had indeed erupted in the small city, although it was chaotic before already.
The Galbadian soldiers were too busy trying to put down rebellions to even notice Phoenix stroll into the city. She paused for a moment to open up a map of the city on her watch. Since the Time Compression began, all of the cities were a bit screwed up in location. So, Atamos had informed all of the members active in the Organization to adjust their com-maps to the sequence of the Time Compression.
Her mysterious partner sent her a message to meet him in Timber at the Kroft Cavern. Well, at least Phoenix assumed that her partner was male. She remembered Atamos refer her partner as a "he". Well, she really didn't care. As long as the mission was completed, Phoenix would've cared less of what gender her partner was. The thing that spooked her, though, was that her boss said that the man knew her. Knew her for a long time.
The only two men that she could think of who actually had been with her for a long time were Gene and the one who had promised her that he'd protect her with his life. But she hadn't seen her Knight in a long time, and her partner wasn't Gene because he was with the others.
Lost in her thoughts, Phoenix sauntered through the darkened and thrashed streets of Timber, a city newly independent yet still fighting for its freedom.
A young man sat alone in a secluded booth of a wild and very hectic restaurant. He wanted to remain as hidden as possible, flipping thought a newspaper while eavesdropping on conversations at the same time. Most of them he just ignored because the topics discussed were trivial to his interest. Just a bunch of idiots looking for a way to get out of their hell and they find alcohol to be the solution. Hyne, why the hell did I choose this place out of all places to meet Phoenix?
But he knew the reason why. It was because Kroft Cavern was a place where all those of the Organization met in Timber. Members of the Organization after the Sorceress Wars needed to keep as low as a profile as possible in order to avoid detection from those who survived them. The man known as the Lone Wolf was one of them.
"WHAT?!? YOU MEAN YOU'RE IN BALAMB?!?!?!?" Lily shouted a tthe computer screen so loud that all other noise ceased to be heard.
The projection of Luna that the screen emitted laughed nervously.
"Oh, c'mon, Lily. Alex's hurt real bad and we had nowhere else to go for help. Garden's the only place with a doctor and luckily they parked at the island," Luna tried to explain.
"But, dammit, why the hell didn't you tell us that you left?!?" Lily shouted again, but this time a bit more controlled. "Hell's been breaking loose in the household wondering where you guys left!"
A big sweatdrop appeared on Luna's head. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry...at least you gotta thank me for telling you where we're at so you can fly over here."
"Yeah, but a LITTLE bit too late!" She began to start again, pounding her fists on the table.
Seifer, watching Megan diagram out a map on the computer, turned his head at the noise.
"Who the hell is she talking to?" Seifer muttered.
"Um...Luna, I think..." Megan answered very cautiously.
Luna laughed nervously again at the image of an angered Lily Almasy. Some students in the Library began to stare since Lily's outburst. It was hard enought trying to face Shiguyou, but it was even harder trying to calm her best friend down. She leaned a little bit closer at the screen, putting a hand on the side of her mouth so that the curious Cadets wouldn't know what she was saying.
"Calm down, will you? The kids here are a really curious group, and if you yell anymore, you're going to attract more attention that I need."
Lily slowly sat back in her chair and frowned. "How is he, anyway?"
Luna glanced at some of the cadets by her, and they turned away.
"I'm not really sure, actually," she answered. "He's been unconscious for quite some time, and Doctor Kadowaki says that he's lost a lot of blood. Not only that, but she also says that he has a really bad cut over his left eye and it's going to leave a scar. Even an elixer can't heal it."
All of the anger that erupted before dispersed as Lily heard her best friend's little brother's injuries. "That bad, huh? Any idea what happened to him?"
"Squall guesses he's been tortured. Whipped by a Save the Queen, nonetheless. There's some marks of Malboro tentacles on his body. Doctor Kadowaki says that it's a miracle that Alex is even alive after days of nothing to eat, dehydration, and infection in his wounds at his age."
"And what about that guy you like? Your Knight, right?" Lily asked.
Luna paused and looked away from the screen for a moment, blinking away the tears that sprung in her eyes. Lily cocked her head questionably, wondering if she asked a bad question.
"He's..." Luna hesitated to answer, "he's dead. Shiguyou died just before the explosion."
"Oh...I'm sorry if I asked---"
"No, it's alright. He wouldn't like seeing me like this," Luna cut her off, smiling sadly." It hurts...but...I know he did what he wanted to do."
"Luna..." Lily began.
"I told you I'm fine. Besides, we've got a mission to accomplish," she changed the subject. "Once Alex recovers, we're outta here." She frowned. "No...wait. Once Alex is back into shape again, we're outta here."
Lily arched an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"There's a training center here that can help people build their levels. Since Alex isn't used to fighting monsters that often, I'm gonna train him a bit so he's stronger than before. Did you find a way to penetrate through the Crystalline's dungeon?"
"Yeah, Megan found out. Hyne, I dunno how she does it."
Luna smiled a bit more cheerfully. "That's good. Any news from Atamos?"
"No, not as of yet. Not even Phoenix, either," Lily answered disappointingly. "I was wondering if you talked to her recently."
"...No, she hasn't replied. Her thoughts were too distracted."
Lily snapped her fingers. "Damn. I'm startin' to wonder who the hell is the guy that requested specifically her to go with him."
"I got no clue, either, Lily. Anyway, I'll meet you soon after Alex is ready."
"No, I'll meet YOU and knock some sense into all four of ya when we're done destroying Crystalline Mansion," Lily countered. "Over and out."
The screen blanked out and Luna turned it off. She sat back in her chair and sighed. This was going to be one long mission...
His ears pricked around as noises of bottles being put away came to his senses. Then his nose picked up the sweet scent of flowers. His body twitched. Finally, Alex slowly opened his eye only to be blinded and instinctively covered it with the back of his right arm. How come I can only open one eye? What's wrong with my left one? He felt the twinges of something stuck in his arm like...like a needle.
"Agh..." Alex murmured. Damn, it's bright.
Rinoa snapped out of her sleep and got out of her chair, leaning on the side of the bed. A mass of black slid over her shoulders as she did so.
"Alex?" she whispered softly.
"Hunh?" Alex replied, trying to figure out who was talking to him in the darkness. It sounded familiar...
"Alex? Do you know who this is?" Rinoa asked.
He thought for a moment, searching through his memory bank for that voice. "...R-Rinoa?"
Rinoa nodded even though she knew he couldn't see her. "Uh-huh. Are you okay?" She gently removed his arm away from his face so that the IV tube was flowing through normally again. As soon as she set it back on his side, Alex squinted his eye.
"It's...bright," he murmured again.
"It is, huh?" Rinoa left his side for a second to flip the lights off as sunlight peeked through closed curtains. There was something in Rinoa that made her feel like her maternal instinct kicked in. "Is that better?"
Alex slowly opened his eye again, only this time he didn't cover them. Semi-darkness was more to his eyesight's liking for now. Even though the bright sun peered underneath the curtains above him, it didn't seem to bother his eyesight. "Uh-huh."
Rinoa sighed in relief as she sat back down in her chair, pulling it closer to the bed. "You know, you've been asleep for quite some time."
He turned his head slightly to face Rinoa's smiling face. His entire body ached, and he looked dead tired in her eyes even though he was only twelve.
"How are you feeling?" she asked him, brushin a stray strand of hair away from his face.
"How come I can't open my left eye?" Alex asked back. Whatever he did, his left eye wouldn't cooperate with his mind.
"Doctor Kadowaki says that your left eye was damaged really badly," she explained. "And you're going to have one really wicked scar once that bandage is taken off. Not only that, I'm glad you're okay."
"So, you mean, I can't ever open my left eye again?" Alex pointed out.
Smart kid...Rinoa thought. Phoenix and Luna taught him well.
"Uh-huh. At least not for a while, hopefully."
"...Where are we?"
"Balamb Garden. You were hurt so bad that this was the closest place where we could stop and rest."
"...that bad huh?" Alex muttered. "Sorry for being so much trouble."
"Don't be sorry," Rinoa reassured. "Besides, we couldn't leave you behind. You're one tough kid, you know that?" She smiled and brushed her index finger lightly on his bandaged forehead. "Worried us all sick."
Alex smiled faintly, closing his eyes. "Hah, you sound like a mother."
"Maybe I am, maybe I'm not," she answered enigmatically, chuckling lightly to herself. "Is it okay if I ask you some questions, Alex?"
"Huh?" He opened his eye again to look at her. "Oh, uh, sure."
Kroft Cavern wasn't that hard to find. Even with the com-map that Phoenix had, it was easy to tell where the bar was. It looked like a dump, badly in need for repair, and paint chipped off the walls. As Phoenix entered, the men couldn't help but stare at her beauty. Usually she wouldn't mind, but the majority here were drunk as hell so it made Phoenix a bit nervous. But she ignored them and continued walking, her dark strands of hair able to cover her sapphire eyes. With her eyes, she looked around. He said to meet here in the last booth...
She paused in midstep at the young man sittling alone in the last booth reading a newspaper. No doubt about it, she knew this man. He wore the usual attire of the organization: all black, but there was a sheathed sword on his side. Even in nearly eighty degree weather outside, members of the organization were to accustom themselves in different environments of their traditional uniforms. Black was the color of the Organization and nothing else. Lily was an exception because she never liked following under someone's orders.
Midnight thick strands of hair covered his eyes as he read, but Phoenix already took a glimpse of them. Emerald green. Those eyes, she would never forget those eyes. The eyes that had promised her long ago that he'd protect her with all his might. The eyes that said goodbye to her so many years ago now returned to her.
Stepping a bit closer, water began to fill her sapphire eyes as Phoenix smiled softly at the man and slid into the booth.
Hearing his name, Kenji looked up from the paper to meet Phoenix's eyes. He smiled back, setting the paper down and wrapping his cutoff gloved hands around hers.
"Hey there, Kajimi (AN: It means fire...something...I THINK ^_^)," he said softly. "Long time no see."
A nick name that she rearely ever heard anymore, Phoenix smiled even more. "But how? I-I thought..."
"Well, then, who do you think told Atamos to take you guys off of the assassin's list and live in Esthar?" Kenji answered in a question, his smile getting even wider.
Phoenix's eyes widened. "You mean, YOU..."
"Took your guys' place?" he answered for her. "Yeah, after I was done here in Timber, I decided to take your jobs as well."
"What? What do you mean that we're taken off of Deling City and the outskirts?" a younger Luna shouted.
Atamost looked out the window, ignoring the younger girl's outburst.
"One of our members finished his duty in Timber earlier than we had expected. Hearing of your troubles, he volunteered himself to take the remaining areas on his own," he answered calmly and turned back to face the Leonhart twins. "That's why I'm meeting you here personally. He'll only take it if your willing to give him consent."
"It's because of the mess-up in Deling City and our sister's death, isn't it?" a younger Phoenix simply pointed out. She stood alone in a corner; darkness was her ally. Unlike the current Phoenix, the past Phoenix held a mysterious and cold appearance. She had her hair up in a high ponytail, the crimson streaks seemingly glowling brightly in the darkened room. Locks of red and black covvered her icy eyes that betrayed no emotion.
Luna turned around to her sister. "Phoe..."
"I want you two to help Lily in Esthar," Atamos answered. "She's been having some trouble maintaining the army. You two are our best skilled and can help train more. Besides, I don't think you want Alex in any more trouble than what he's bargained for."
Luna's dark violet streaks constrasted her sister's as she blew some strands away from her face. "So, you're not going to get him involved?"
"You've been training the boy, haven't you?" Atamos countered. "I've noticed the past few times I met him. He's been getting faster and more skilled with the Gunblade. Just like his father."
"...." The twins glanced at one another. Phoenix closed her eyes as if nodding in agreement.
"Alright, we agree. Tell whoever that guy is that it's okay," Luna replied to Atamos.
<end of Flashback>
"Five years, huh?" Kenji murmured. "That's how long Sakura's been gone?"
Phoenix looked down at her hands. "Yeah, but...I'm not sure if she's REALLY dead. Luna's the same. We both feel...as if she's still alive. Her aura's still around, just very faint."
A few moments of silence lingered. Then Kenji smiled for reassurance. "Well, it's possible. Wherever she is..."
Phoenix smiled sadly. "I missed you."
"Hey, c'mon, I don't want any tearful reunions now," Kenji teased, his smile breaking into an all out grin.
She frowned, letting go of one hand to lightly smack his. "You..."
He chuckled lightly. "Still haven't changed."
"The same goes for yourself."
"So, how is everybody?"
"They're fine...at least I think so. The last thing I heard from any of them was from Luna. She just got Alex back and is in Balamb Garden now."
Kenji arched an eyebrow. "What happened?"
"I'm assuming you know about our mission right?"
"Destroy all of Ultimecia's ten castles to reveal the one floating somewhere in the sky. Yeah, I was filled in."
"Well, trying to destroy the first one, we got discovered somehow. Princeton Delin's men were after us and tried to take Sakura and Alex. Sakura escaped, but Alex got captured. He was taken over to the Silkeh Mountains in Balamb Island. Apparently, from what Luna told me, Alex was heavily injured when they came to his rescue."
"So that's why he's at Balamb Garden because it's one of the few places with a qualified doctor," Kenji finished for her. "How bad was he hurt?"
"Pretty bad. I don't really know the details, so I'm not sure what his injuries are. All that Luna told me was the he'll have a permenant scar over his left eye and it'll never open again."
Kenji let that sink into his head for a bit. He hadn't seen Alex for a while, but he knew about scars that would never heal. And having an eyesight injury was going to make Alex practice even harder.
The kid's gotta be one helluva Gunblade wielder, Kenji thought.
He snapped back into reality. "Huh? Oh, sorry...um, did you wanna ask about anything?"
Phoenix looked at him strangely, but tossed the thought aside. "When do we leave for Obel Lake?"
He smiled wickedly at her, leaning in closer. "Tomorrow morning. Or afternoon depending on what time we wake up."
Lily paced around the home like a dog lost in a big city. The two sisters were gone and now she was in charge of deploying out the destruction of one of Ultimecia's freaky castles. Hyne, that was no problem with her, but since when was the last time she was in charge of a group? Five years? Or was it six? Well, whatever the number was, it was a really, REALLY long time ago. To her anyway. She was never good at taking charge much. Dammit, they leave for one thing or another and now I'm stuck with these guys! Lily brooded. Hyne, they're all going to drive me crazy if we don't get the mansion soon and go to Balamb. Wait a minute... she paused in midstep. HE'S going to be here, isn't he?!? After punching a wall to ease her frustrations, she continued pacing. That's just great. I leave the orphanage just to get away from the old man and now I'm stuck back with him! Not only that, he's even more of a jackass than before!
"Why do these things always have to happen to me?!?"
She continued to brood, punching through walls and so forth before setting out the plan to destroy Crystalline Mansion while her comrades nervously watched on.
Zell was so happy to be back that the first thing that he did was go straight to the cafeteria to munch down on a bunch of hotdogs. Sakura and K-chan watched him in awe. Squall went around in his usual brooding self. Once in a while he'd check on Alex to see what his condition was, but that was mainly it. Luna cooped herself up in the Library, so fascinated with the books inside and sending messages to Lily back in Esthar periodically. Rinoa, well, Rinoa watched over Alex like a hawk. She stayed in the Infirmirary for so long that Squall had to coax her to eat. He couldn't understand why, but he too felt a feeling of protectiveness over all three Leonharts. It was strange. He felt as if he knew them from somewhere...but just couldn't place it. They had the same last name as he, DNA similar to both him and Rinoa, the twins looking exactly like Rinoa with a few exceptions and Alex looking exactly like him with few exceptions as well. Hyne, even the Twins adopted to having highlights in their hair like Rinoa's.
But what about the third sister? The one who had supposedly died five years ago? What did she look like? Why was she dead? When Squall asked, Luna didn't want to explain. Even Phoenix wouldn't tell why their sister was dead. So, he went to do some researching.
Squall flipped a couple of keys on the keyboard before entering in the Online network. After that, things were pretty basic from there:
Welcome to Balamb Online! Please select a Destination:
Balamb Garden Festival Committee
About Balamb Garden
Please type in keyword: Esthar
ESTHAR! The city where technology grows! What would you like to do today?
Estharian Online Guide
Government Database [click]
Why would they put the government database out there in the blue? Squall thought as he looked through under the name "Leonhart" , but shrugged. Whatever...
He began to read out loud because the silence in the office was starting to kill him:
Name: Luna Leonhart
Blood Type: AB
DOB: Unknown, possibly between April 1 to May 3
Well, those seem about right...except for the date of birth part, Squall thought. "Parents unknown...why is that?"
He brushed the fact aside and continued to read, "Entered into Angel's Orphanage at the age of seven and left at the age of fourteen when the Third Sorceress War erupted. Involved as an assassin under the name Red Blade over the outskirts of Dollet Kingdom during the Chaotic Wars that happened around the same time as the Sorceress War. Both wars combined together was called the Global War." Hmm...Red Blade? I remember Deling using that name. So that's why.... "A member of the Hawk's Eye under the command of Shiguyou Tojo and of the Organization in Esthar." So, that's where Shiguyou comes in, I guess...."Organization"? What's that? I'll find that out later....
Name: Phoenix Leonhart
Blood Type: AB
DOB: Unknown, possibly around April 1 to May 3
Okay, so that's nothing new... He continued on. "Entered in Angel's Orphanage at the age of seven and left at the age of fourteen when the Third Sorceress War erupted. Involved in the Global War as an assassin under the name Kajimi Kodai. Hired as a mercenary in Deling City by the National Democratic Party for Independence (NDPI), but also working for the Organization of Esthar."
There goes that Organization again....Squall thought. "Disappeared two weeks before the end of the Global War under unknown circumstances....that's odd."
He continued to the next person:
Name: Alexander Leonhart
Blood Type: AB
DOB: September 2
Why is there a date of birth for Alex, but not for the twins? Squall asked himself. "Entered into Angel Orphanage at four months and later accompanied Luna and Phoenix Leonhart in Deling City during the Global Wars. Graduated Sakeiah Academy in Esthar at the age of eight, the youngest to graduate." So, he has no need for education use. "Parents: Deceased."
There was nothing new to him. So, Squall scrolled down further until he found the Leonhart that the twins refused to talk about. His eyes narrowed at the name: Sakura.
"You mean you have another sister?" Rinoa asked incredulously.
Alex looked at Rinoa with one curious eye. "...Yeah. She's only a few years older than me, but she died five years ago."
"I'm not really sure. All I remember was that one day she's here and the next day she wasn't."
"I think I got some of my abilities from her," Alex replied after a moment's silence. "I mean, my only natural ability as a part of a sorceress's blood is speed. But now I can sense things 'n' stuff like that."
"You're sisters are different from you..."
"Yeah. Since they were first born, most of Mom's powers transferred to them. They're not really half sorceresses. More likely almost sorceresses. If one of them died, then the other would become a sorceress."
"Do you remember your parents?"
"No." That was all he replied and then, "They died a couple of months after I was born. I don't even remember what they looked like. Only from pictures."
Rinoa remembered that last picture in the photo album. "...."
"Hello!" Luna's head popped in. She was smiling happily, much like her old self. "I see you're awake now, Mr. Troublesome."
"Yeah, whatever," Alex mumbled.
Rinoa past Luna as if looking for someone. "Hey, where's Sakura and K-chan?"
"She and K-chan are walking around with Zell," Luna answered, shaking her head. "That girl's gotten attached to him already."
"Well, I don't blame her," Rinoa answered, smiling. "Zell's a very likeable person."
Luna took up a chair and slid it across the room, sitting on the opposite side of Rinoa.
"Hey, kiddo, how's it going?" she asked.
"I'm fine if you don't include all the masses of bruises, cuts, and tears on me," Alex replied sarcastically.
"Hmm...once you're better, we're gonna start training."
"Huh? Training for what, Luna?" Rinoa asked.
"No, don't tell me..." Alex said.
"The thing about Alex's body is that it can't heal quickly," Luna began to explain. "I'm the same, but after two days, my wounds heal while Phoenix can heal in just mere seconds. And also, him being cooped up so long in bed isn't that great on his body. That's why we had to teach him the basics of martial arts."
"Whaddya mean the basics?!? Fifty-two stances for the Basic Technique, three weeks to be able to master it, seventy-three stances for the Advanced Technique, and an entire two months to master that. That's the basics of martial arts?!?" Alex exclaimed.
"Wow..." Rinoa murmured in awe.
"I'm surprised you remember the number of stances," Luna complimented, a teasing glint in her eyes.
"How COULD I forget when you two practically killed me while training me?" he muttered.
Rinoa laughed. Hyne, not only does he look like Squall, he acts like him, too! The thought of an injured Squall lying in bed and her and Ellone fussing over him without him caring made her laugh even harder. The laughter was so contagious that it caught onto Luna while Alex just sighed. I'll never understand women, I swear...
A woman in a sleek red outfit sat on her throne, dousing herself in pre-victory. Her black wings flapped in the darkness as mist surrounded her palace. It was exactly the way she wanted.
In a mast of violet smoke, a woman appeared before the one on the throne, kneeling on one knee. This woman had flaming red hair and smoky, pupiless eyes. She wore an outfit that was even more revealing than the woman on the throne.
"Yes, Mistress Ultimecia?" the woman asked politely.
Ultimecia's cold green eyes glanced away from her glass of wine. "What has happened to Deling, Allundia?"
"Mistress, Deling has failed," Allundia replied. "He underestimated that half sorceress's powers. Also, he was never able to capture the ones who had destroyed your previous self. Princeton Deling is dead, Mistress."
"That pathetic fool kouldn't do anything useful," Ultimecia sneered. "He boasted too much about power. Useless."
Allundia smirked. "What would you like to do, Mistress?"
"Take kare of those pathetic SeeDs," Ultimecia answered. "I don't kare how you do it, just get rid of them. And make sure that the children of Griever are dead before they realize their true abilities. Bring Kaen with you."
Allundia smiled evilly, her pupiless eyes showing nothing but pure delight. She bowed her head respectively. "Of course, Mistress. Leave everything to me."
With that, she disappeared in a violet smoke. Ultimecia continued on staring at her glass, eyes concentrating so hard that it was beginning to crack. Those children...I must krush them...
The glass broke into pieces, the wine spilling over her slim fingers as she crushed the remaining broken pieces of glass.
Phoenix looked out of the window, staring into the night sky. Although two different bodies, their minds were one. She could never hide anything from him. Nothing.
"So that's what happened, huh?" Kenji asked. "Why do you blame yourself?"
"Because I couldn't do anything about it. I wish I was as strong as I am now so I would've gotten out of those restraints," Phoenix answered.
"Even so, it couldn't be helped, Kajimi," Kenji explained. "I don't think she would blame you, so don't be thinking about it that much."
"But you don't know how it feels to see your own sister die right before your eyes!" Phoenix pointed out, her voice close to cracking.
"You're right. I don't know," Kenji agreed. "But...but at least you HAVE a family. Even if one dies, the others grow closer. It's like how the leaves fall during autumn. One by one, everything falls down, but in the spring, they all come back together. I don't think Sakura blames you, Kajimi. It's because I think she knows that she'll see you and the others again, no matter how long it takes."
Phoenix stopped, too shocked to say anything else. He was right. Sakura had saved her back then. She looked down at the ground. "I-I..."
Kenji wrapped his arms around her for comfort. "Sshh, it's okay. You've been through a lot and I wasn't there to be with you." He smiled. "I guess I broke our promise, huh? Well, since we're together now, I'll fufill that promise. I'll protect you...and never leave you again."
It was true. What he was saying to her that night was true. She missed her Knight so much, and now he was back again.
Okay, boring chapter, no? Even I was falling asleep! I'm just kinda building up the mood to the next couple of chapters, so don't worry! Some action coming in the next chapter! R&R!!
WHAT'S TO COME
Allundia opened her eyes as the sound of a Torama's howling disrupted her small nap. She flipped her hair back and stood, smiling evilly. In front of her was a small house made of stone. Vines entangled the walls, as if trying to hide the home from view. Mountains dusted with snow surrounded the area as protection. Children's laughter and a woman's voice were heard inside. A wooden sign hung in front of a tree reading: Angel's Orphanage.