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Allen had mostly been unresponsive.

Mostly.

When Madam had asked him simple enough questions, he responded, but questions like, 'What were you doing out there?' and anything pertaining to the gravestone he sat by that night went unanswered. She decided, or rather after a couple of mistakes, not to trample on that side of the field for the moment to avoid Allen completely shutting her out.

On the night that Madam brought him home, the poor boy had suffered a high fever, she had foresaw it coming though; She took into account that the boy would've been outside much longer than what his frail body could handle. Thankfully, her skills as one of the best doctors had made Allen's recovery shorter than most fevers. Although it has been almost a week, the memory was still fresh in her mind.

Madam opens up several kitchen cupboards as she searches for the suitable bowl, one that was just the right size to hold enough water. Opening up the second to the last drawer on her left, her eyes lit up in relief as she finds what she had been looking for. She grabs the bowl and places it in the sink, filling it up with just the right amount. The female doctor takes some towels and carefully makes her way back to the guest room.

As she entered the dimly lit bedroom, small puffs of breathes from the bed caught her attention. Setting aside the bowl of water and towers in a small table not far from the bed, she calmly approaches the small form of the feverish child and brings her hand to his forehead. Unlike the temperature that he had given off when she found him in the cemetery, the child was radiating of heat. Pulling back her sleeves, she sets to work and damps one of the towels, squeezes off the excess, and gently lays it on Allen's forehead.

She tucks him in with the comforter to keep him warm, and fixes the position of the pillows under Allen's head to give him a much comfortable rest for his neck.

On her way out, she hears faint whimpers of distress.

"Mana...please don't leave me..." murmured the unconscious child through shivering teeth. Madam looked back surprised, had she just heard the boy call for his mother? She once again approaches Allen, hoping that he would repeat what he said. She didn't want to be accused of stealing someone else's child when it was their own fault for leaving their children unattended.

Allen stirred in his sleep and mumbled again.

"Mana..." he mumbled. Madam relaxes her shoulders and sighs, 'Mana', he said. Not 'Mama'. At least now she knew that the boy was not searching for his mother, but who is this Mana? Since the boy had not called this person a specific title, she assumed that the person was not a parent to the child.

'Brother, perhaps?' a thought passed through her, 'Or perhaps sister? The name sounds to be lenient on both sexes.', distressed, Allen continues to whimper and squirm in his sleep. Madam, who was worried, decided to stay by the boy's side, despite her own exhaustion. As Allen continued to have a nightmare, Madam pulls a chair by the side of the bed and caresses the boy's hair.

"Shh.. It will be all right. I'll be here with you. Rest well, little angel." she murmured comfortingly to the boy, who slowly stopped his distressed actions, feeling safe with the presence next to him.

Next thing that Madam knew, the sunlight shone down on her and she woke up, the memory of last night slowly resurfaced and she looks at the bed to see Allen, sleeping peacefully and the color of life back in his skin.

--

After Allen became conscious, she had introduced herself and was able to acquire his name. For the most part, Allen had been very closed off and silent. By the time their first day together ended, Madam had observed that Allen was a very obedient and polite child, he didn't do anything unless he was prompted to do so and he didn't go wandering off to places. He had been practically glued by her side, which oddly, she didn't mind at all. The redheaded woman wanted to learn more about Allen and possibly help the boy track down his family.

Their second day together was no different, Allen stayed by her side even when she had mostly spent it on her office. She had offered him a chance to roam around the manor but he shook his head and just sat by the window, knees drawn to his chest, and stared at the outside world.

The third day was when she made the mistake of bringing up the subject of parents to Allen. Allen's company was welcomed, but the Madam couldn't shake off the feeling that someone should be searching for him. The last thing she needed was to be accused of being insane and stealing other people's children because she could not have her own.

As Allen helped her sort out the bookshelves in her study, Madam innocently asked him where they could locate his parents. Out of the blue, Madam somehow felt the smaller redhead stopped his actions; she glances down at him and saw his right arm that was about to put away a book, shaking. Worried, Madam climbs down the ladder and drops down to Allen's eye level. She gently grabs the book he was holding and places it on the shelf before turning back to him. The boy looked as if he was about to burst fountains of tears, but none of the droplets forming in the corner of his eyes fell. Madam had gently asked him what was wrong. Allen replied in a small voice.

"I don't have any parents.." her eye's widened at the response and felt remorse for the boy. Neither uttered a word to each other for the rest of the day, except for the small goodnight they exchanged before retreating to their rooms.

Today was the fourth day since they have met, and Allen was back to how he acted on their first day together; overly polite and reserved. Earlier today, while they were having breakfast, Madam had decided another alternative of asking questions. Looking back, she should have thought about her plan more thoroughly. Regardless, this morning was when she had asked him about the graveyard, unfortunately. Allen just looked down on his breakfast and bit his lip, giving the same expression like in the library the day before. Madam apologized to Allen, following with a change in subject about the food.

Time went on that day, and soon Madam realizes that it was already the afternoon. Placing one of her medical books back to its right shelf, she sighs and slowly leaves the study. Madam trudges through the hallway and stops in front of Allen's guest bedroom. Knocking, calls out to Allen in a soft voice.

"Allen?" she heard shuffling for a few seconds, the door then opens to reveal the still forlorn Allen. She gives him a smile to ease his mind.

"It will be evening soon, why don't you go take a bath? I'll give you the towels in a minute." Allen nods back at her and responds with a small okay. Madam steps away from the door and turns down farther into the hallway, all the while hearing Allen close the door with a silent click. Soon she reaches the end of the hall, and enters a room filled with toiletries; specifically towels, bed sheets, table cloths, and curtains. Madam proceeds to gather what she had came for and continues to turn to leave, closing the door as she turns her back to the end of the hallway, padding her way back to Allen's room.

When she knocks on Allen's door she expected an immediate response since that was how Allen had been, but instead the woman in red gets nothing. She raises her eyebrows in surprise and gives another knock.

"Allen?" she calls. Nothing. 'He must have went ahead to the bathing room already.' she thought and off she went.

As she approached the bathing room, she notices that the door had been left open; she smiles. No matter how mature Allen's behavior seemed in front of others, a child was still a child, and he was one after all. Madam chuckles lightly to herself pushes the door open lightly.

"Alle--" the rest of his name went unfinished, more so, she couldn't. For the first time since she had became a doctor, she was shocked to her core at what she was seeing.

Allen had his back to her, his white button up shirt in the laundry basket not to far from him. But that was least of her concerns. All she could fathom was the crimson red left arm Allen bared. His whole left arm covered in a horrifying rooted red skin. The red skin stop hallway above his elbow and the rest after that were roots that seemed to crawl near the center of his back, and she can only assumed it can only be the same to his chest. Madam stood there speechless and questions whirling around her mind. 'What in the world happened to his arm..?' Allen seemed to have noticed the presence behind him and turned around in a split second. The same emotion of horror etching in this face. He slowly backs away against the bathtub and hyperventilates.

"N-No.. Go away.. I'm not.." he stutters, attempting to crawl backwards but the bathtub still stands in the way, Madam slowly approaches him trying not to set off any alarms to the boy.

"Allen... I'm not going to--"

"NO! Stay away!" he shouts, cutting her off. She steps back, surprised by the rise of tone from the smaller boy. Madam composes herself and keeps a steady pace of nearing Allen.

"Allen? What's wrong? You can tell me anything!" she says in a soft determined voice, the boy in question shakes his head frantically, as tears flows down his reddened cheeks.

"Please... I-I-I'm not a monster.." the scared boy muttered. Madam continues to get closer to Allen but her mind stopped. '..Monster...What?' she thought to herself.

"Please don't hurt me... I'm not a monster!.. I promise.. I'm not..!" Allen barely choked out his words, his body had since long hyperventilated and Madam stood there once again frozen in shock. Her heart ache at the words that he muttered. The boy was clearly traumatized and it was affecting her just as much. Next thing she knew she dropped to her knees and scooted to where Allen is, pulling him in a tight embrace, Allen squirms in her grasp as she whisper words of comfort to him.

"I think of you as no such thing, Allen! No such thing!" she whispered, fiercely, hoping to get her point across. Allen slowly stops his struggles, and begins listening to Madam with wide tear ridden eyes.

"I don't think of you as such thing..." she whispered, in a much softer voice, making the tears of horror from Allen's face turn into overwhelmed joy of tears. The two stayed there for goodness knows how long, but one thing was sure in Madam's mind. The walls that blocked her out were torn down.

With it, her walls also slowly disintegrate without her knowledge.

--

Madam gently combs Allen's still slightly damp hair, the action seems to soothe both of them; In the end, She had help him take a bath and also clothed him. The silence between them during that whole process had been obvious, but this time, it had been different. It was comfortable silence, not a single second did the quiet atmosphere made them feel uncomfortable. It was the silence that was proof of a growing bond between people.

Tying a small ponytail, Madam gives Allen's hair one last swipe to settle strands that were out of place. Frowning slightly, Madam sighs as she stands up and drags the intricate wooden chair she had just been sitting on, to face Allen. The boy looks up as Madam sits across from him.

Madam brings both of Allen's hands to her own tenderly.

"Allen, I want to help you. But in order for me to do that, you have to tell me everything that you can." the boy looks down the carpet as he bites his lower lip. Nonetheless, he give her a meager nod.

"Okay."

And he had told her everything about him; unexpectedly. She had presumed he would only share a small part of who he was, but to her relief the boy didn't plan on hiding anything from her.

Allen told Madam about his life in the circus, the treatment that he received because of his arm, how he had met Mana, how the man had practically adopted him as his son and traveled the world with Allen prior to his death. Even as Allen's tears flowed down his cheeks, Madam held his hand firmly as he retold her about his life. She felt connected to him from the undesirable feelings that he had experience all his life and the small happiness he attains for a short amount of time that was taken right from his grasp.

For the second time that Madam had met him, she had stayed up the whole night with him. Having a strange urge, she also shares her story to Allen. His eyes fell when she had told him about the lost of her husband and unborn child to an accident, resulting in her being unable to have anymore children. Madam didn't know why she opened up to a child such as him; she could not even confine some of her problems to her own family. The time they spent together that night sharing their life's story was a whole different feeling; even as Allen had already fallen asleep she stayed up next to him, watching him sleep peacefully, while occasionally brushing strands of hair falling on Allen's face.

'Is this what it feels like to be.. a mother?' she thought to herself. Madam bites her tongue lightly.

'No. What are you thinking Angelina? You have never been one to make hasty decisions.' she argued to herself but a small snore from Allen's direction softens her far-off stare. With a hopeful tone in her thoughts Madam Red sighs.

'I... don't have a child of my own, I can never will, but.. Allen does not have parents of his own, maybe...' Madam shakes her head.

'No. He will experience just as much cruelty and inhuman treatment amongst the noblemen.' She balls up her fist as she lays on her back. Closing her eyes, the redhead doctor evens out her breathing, attempting to clear her jumbled up mind. What did she want to do? There was something there that she couldn't put a finger to. It was either her own self denial or it was something she was not familiar with. She sighs and turns her head towards the sleeping form of Allen. Madam caresses Allen's unblemished cheeks lightly with her knuckles, he crinkles his nose in response making her chuckle.

Madam decides to give the boy his space and peels herself off from Allen's side. Stretching her back, she decides to push aside her worries for the night as she slowly walks towards the door.

"Mother...?" a soft mutter sounds. Madam swivels towards Allen with widened eyes. The smaller redhead remains unconscious, snoring softly. Tears threatened to fall on Madam's cheeks; Covering her mouth, she staggers back to her own room. Closing the door as she let's out a choked gasp.

A feeling of overwhelming happiness swelled in her heart. A million thoughts ran through her head as she trashes her drawers, looking for what she had needed, tears flowed in her cheeks without any care. This was it. It was as good enough of a sign to her. A plain white business card in the midst of old papers she had kept, stuck out. Madam grabs it in haste, reading the label and grips it tightly. She clutches the card towards her chest, as she looks around the room.

The Baroness barely got any sleep, but she didn't care at the moment. Her heart had already decided and every risk she will take will be worth it.

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[Red like The String of Fate]
Prologue

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August 2015

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