Eterno's eyes were wide enough to get lost in.

"Legend of the Heartbreak Spirit," the Puppeteer's voice came from a violet orb. It sounded like she was eating something. "The real one. Get it now?"

"It…" His voice was almost a croak. "It makes… sense, now."

"Wanna know something funny?" The Puppeteer asked, the orb bouncing around like it was sharing her excitement. "That Heartbreak Spirit… she's in here."

"In… here?" Eterno said, his eyes still unblinking and his voice still slow. "You mean… Old Central? She's still alive?"

"Don't ask questions two at a time," she said, "but yes, Old Central, and yes, she's still alive. Are you thick or something?"

He could hear her grinning through the way she spoke.

"She's a Vampire. They don't age, y'know?"

vvv

It was definitely a track, no doubt about it. It was also definitely deadly, no doubt about it.

When Miki's insight had hit her about the track, the thought of danger just hadn't been there. As it turned out, the moving parts were a very big worry she should have stopped to consider.

There was about a meter between Miki's face and the next room below, and it was like she was looking inside of a giant clock between the rooms – there were huge black gears, ratchets, pendulums, a million different things to get caught and crushed in, and actual openings were only there for a second or two at a time. There was a sound rising from it like she was staring into a giant clock too, all the grumbling and latching and shifting sounds, everything minus the ticking.

"U-um, maybe there's another way?" Miki offered, laughing uncomfortably. Clear gave her a blank look that made her feel almost like jumping in just to get away from him.

"No."

His response was eloquent, and he turned his gaze back down to the hole.

"The openings are long. No. Not long. Very short. Long enough for us to get through, though. I think. We should go at the same time."

"Eh? Wh-why?" She gave him a strange look. "Then we're bigger… and we need a longer opening to get both of us through."

"I can help while I'm down there. With you. I can get through easily. I think. You are a problem."

Miki scowled just for a split second, an odd face that would have looked funny if it weren't for the circumstances. "How are you going to help?"

"It's." He paused. "My Talent. It's my Talent. I can slow it down for a second. When I pass through. I think."

"Is there anything you're sure about?"

He thought about it. "Yes. Maybe."

She couldn't tell if he was joking or not.

"Anyway, I go and you go as soon as I've jumped. Go headfirst. Better to lose your feet than your head if you're too slow. Humans have their central nervous system in their heads, right?"

Miki stared at him for a long time. "R-right."

"Okay. Make sure to catch yourself when you land though. Three-two-one go."

And before she could react, he had flung himself into the gap. Before she even realized what she was doing, she followed, headfirst, with a shriek that she lost the breath for halfway through.

She saw the gap open all the way through, and for that crucial second, Clear reached out and grabbed into the mechanisms with one hand, and that was all Miki saw before there was a horrible screeching sound, everything ground to a mighty halt like a train being pulled by an unbreakable rope, and Miki slipped through past him.

Her last thought before everything crashed into disorder was that the room she fell into smelled like lemons.

vvv

It was carpeted, thankfully, but Miki was not prepared for a full-story fall onto her shoulder anyway.

It was a throbbing pain screaming in her shoulder, and she put three fingers in her mouth and bit down, hard, somehow a relief from the ache.

"Ih huffs…" She mumbled through her hand as best as she could, willing herself not to make any noises that were too pitiful.

"Well. We made it through. That was certainly exhilarating. If I were to describe it in emotional terms."

Why did he have to talk like that!? Was he trying to be weird!?

- Miki found the pain turning all her thoughts into acidic ones, and decided to look around instead of talking.

Red carpet – blessedly soft but not soft enough – and white walls, with paintings hanging off, lots of paintings. Tables running along the walls made of something a lot like mahogany with marble surfaces, glass display cases on top she couldn't see inside from her position curled up on the floor. Statues were scattered through the room, as well as more tables running from place to place, more display cases.

No matter how she looked at it, it must have been an art gallery.

Also, it smelled like lemons.

She looked up at the ceiling – white panels, with three of them missing to reveal the deathtrap she had just fallen through. She shuddered and turned her gaze away, finally taking her hand out of her mouth and pushing herself up into an awkward sit.

"You appear to be hurt. I think. Humans are hard to gauge. Are you hurt?"

Clear's voice from behind her still didn't have any emotion. She turned around and –

She gave a strangled scream at the sight.

His arm was missing. The one he had thrust into the gears – there was a great big nothingness in its spot, stray torn bandages fluttering around it.

He blinked his musky gray eyes and spoke flatly as usual. "Is something wrong?"

"Cl-Clear, y-y-y-" She found her voice gone, and she pointed. He looked down at it like someone looking at a stain on his shirt.

"Oh. My arm's gone."

She wanted to scream at him, but her head started to feel hot, her vision started to blur, and the world went black.


A/N: This story's come a long way since the beginning, hasn't it, nya~? In prose and in concept c'x

Of course, it's going just along the path I planned for it, nya, hohoho~ /bigger mastermind than whoever's the real mastermind in this arc :'D

By the way, expect all my other stories to come down this week, except for Heart of Dragon~! Reorganizing my side stories (and cleaning out all the ones I've left behind) -w-

Twin Guns, Freebody 17, and BlackWhite will make a return as a single story~! And a highly experimental fourth piece called InterDimensional is also planned, a freeform story that will follow the paths the readers want to see, nya x3

So look forward to all that, nya~! In the meantime, enjoy DZ! as its weekly installments continue, nya cx

Hope you liked the chapter~! Until next time, Kisho, out~! /salute