Disclaimer- No one's mine but the OCs. If the friendly GB people want them, they can have them. I don't want them. Well, most of them....

Goo's Note- In the last chapter someone told me the people who ended up killing Shido's clan had to do with insects. I didn't know when I made up Kikaiko, but if you want to connect her with them you can do so. You'll see her again later in the fic but you don't find anything else out about her or any of the other Goshoku Sisters (they're only shown briefly). Anyway, the Wilhelm leg of the fic promises to be much better than the Jakob one (and maybe slightly longer, though I hope not. I am not losing interest in the fic yet but I never know when I will).

Wilhelm's Manuscript

Chapter Five: Endloser Palast, Inside the Fortress of Wilhelm Grimm

By A Girl Named Goo

Beta'd by Eike

"Wilhelm lives in one of the world's most famous houses," Hevn explained to the group that was following her down the side of the road, mostly concealed by trees and hedges. It was after dark, and the streetlights and lights in a few homes were the only things they could see by, the moon being concealed by clouds. "The original owner, who asked for it to be built, had it designed as a maze. He was obsessed with security. To get to any of the important rooms you need to locate special hidden rooms and corridors. Only the current owner of the house can be given the floorplan of the house. Rumor has it people can walk around it for the rest of their lives and never see all there is to see in it, which is where it got it's name: Endloser Palast."

"Endloser Palast?" Himiko asked. She was walking behind Hevn.

"Endless Palace," Ban translated. He was right behind Himiko, smoking a cigarette.

"I heard about that place," Kadsuki added. "It used to belong to one German family living in Yokohama. Then it was suddenly signed over to someone else and the former owner disappeared. It's believed he was driven out of the country."

Hevn nodded. "Yes, that's true. And not surprising. From what I've heard of Wilhelm Grimm he is known for his shady business deals. Both he and Jakob are notorious loan sharks, and they are both very paranoid and very dangerous."

"How will we find the manuscript in that place?" Ginji asked, a slight nervous edge crawling into his voice.

Hevn sweatdropped. "I hadn't thought that far ahead yet."

The ensuing shouts of anger caused lights all over the block to switch on and people to shout at them to be quiet.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"I thought you said he was paranoid?" Emishi whispered to Hevn from his place behind a bush.

Hevn bit her lip before answering. "He is. He must just be too confident that no one can navigate the house," she finally announced, as if trying to convince herself as well as everyone present. The gates had been wide open when they arrived, and Ginji announced that he couldn't feel an electric current running through the metal. They were now crouched down in a group of hedges surrounding the perimeter of huge, angular house and had yet to see any security devices or guards.

They were all quiet, surveying the property for any sign of opposition. Surely someone as wealthy and powerful as Wilhelm Grimm would have some sort of external security...

"Right there," Ban said at last, pointing to the front of the house, leaning against a pillar that was holding up the front entryway. From where they were standing all any of them could see was a person with black hair, a black shirt, and white pants. "And there is another one nearby," Ban added.

"How do you know?" Ginji asked him, squinting to see the second one.

"Because I think I know who that is," Ban explained. Everyone had turned to face him now, so he sat down on the ground rather than crouching. "If that's who I think it is, then the Tanshoku twins work here, and that's not good. They're both mute, but they have a kind of connection to one another. They are never standing together, and the further apart the more dangerous they are. They work in synch, and if one gets hurt the other gets more powerful to compensate. Your only hope of beating them is to attack them at the same time, hard because they're never together."

Hevn nodded. "And is there any way around them?"

Ban nodded. "We have one chance: they take turns sleeping and neither one is particularly observant. If that one is the one that's awake then it should be no problem slipping past him. If he doesn't see us he can't wake up his brother."

"And what if he's the one that's sleeping?" Himiko asked.

Ban shrugged. "Then we'd better turn around and make another plan."

"Maybe one of us should go up and see if he's awake first," Kadsuki suggested. "If he is then we can all take turns sneaking over there."

"I nominate Ban," Hevn announced. "He knows them the best."

"What?!" Ban snapped, turning to glare at her.

"I second that motion," Kadsuki added. Ban turned his gaze back over to him and Kadsuki shrugged. "It's true. You know more about them than we do and you're fast."

Ban looked around for someone- anyone- to stand up and volunteer to go in his place, but no one did. Even Akabane, usually intrigued by the prospect of a fight, remained still, smiling at Ban as he glared in his direction.

Realizing he was outnumbered (and Kadsuki had a good point) he began to edge around the bushes, darting toward another cluster of shrubbery closer to the house. He leaned forward and looked at the figure leaning against the pillar. When there was no movement he darted over toward the next group of bushes. Unfortunately they were rose bushes, and he grunted as the thorns cut his skin, but still the lone guard didn't move, which was making Ban lose hope that he was awake. He darted toward the last bit of landscaping: a group of low hedges, running along the edge of the white stone steps that lead to the entrance of the mansion. Diving into the hedges, he crawled along the ground on his stomach and looked around the steps, up at the guard. He didn't move, but Ban could see his dark eyes gazing off in the distance. He held up his hand and made a waving gesture, signaling the others to follow his route.

One by one the group dove into the various bushes (letting out interesting grunts, cries, and exclamations as they found the rose bush the hard way), joining Ban behind the hedge and forming a line (as the gap between the bush and the steps was too narrow for them to get into a group). They were all looking disheveled as they appeared, with cuts on their skin and twigs and leaves in their hair. Only Akabane seemed unscathed, which lead Ban to believe he'd taken an alternate route.

Ban looked back at the others and jerked his head toward the steps. The others nodded as he leapt from behind the hedge and up the steps, the others following him, knowing that if the guard was awake then they'd have a very narrow window in which they could make it to the door. Ban put his hand on the doorknob and began to turn it, but before he could open the door a white stream of light hit his hand, stunning him and sending him tumbling to the ground. They others turned around quickly to see the guard had turned around, a long silver rapier in his left hand. Everyone immediately reached for their weapons of choice when they noticed a second figure coming out from behind a tree in the yard, holding a matching silver rapier in his right hand.

There was really no way to tell the twins apart (besides what their dominant hand was). They were both short and thin, rather delicate looking. Their skin was pale, and both had young, androgynous looking faces. The one on the steps had a rather sad expression on his face, reaching his dark eyes, while the one near the tree had a self-satisfied smirk on his face, nothing but malice in his eyes. Both had neat, short black hair and wore tight white silk pants, black Chinese-style tops with white trimming and white buttons, and black Chinese-style shoes.

"He wasn't...awake," Ban finally choked out, shock wearing off as he slowly sat up. "He was....sleeping with his eyes open. His brother saw us." The twins nodded simultaneously, even though the sadistic looking one was too far away to have heard what Ban said.

"So what do we do now?" Kadsuki asked, not daring to move. He could easily trap the one that was closest to them, but then the other would only become more dangerous.

Ban seemed to seriously consider this. "One of them is too far away. If some of us tried to run toward him the other would get in our way and we'd have to attack him. Unless they are attacked at the exact same moment they'll just keep exchanging power."

Akabane smiled. "Then there is a simple solution to this."

Realizing what he was about to do, Himiko shouted "no!", but at the same moment Akabane said "bloody rain". Several scalpels rained down, landing on the twin that was standing near the tree....but narrowly missing the one that was near them. A stream of black fog shot from the unmoving body of the fallen twin and was absorbed into the body of the other, whose face contorted with rage.

White light surrounded the remaining twin, who had dropped his hands to his sides. As he quickly raised his hands the light burst as if it were made of glass, sending burning shards raining down on the group. They all immediately ducked down, trying to shield their faces and other sensitive areas from the shards. When the shower was finished they slowly stood up. Out by the tree the other twin was slowly climbing to his feet, the enraged look appearing on his face as it melted off his brother's.

"This isn't good," Emishi observed, looking between the brothers. "So what now?"

Ban seemed to think about this for a moment. "Well, the way I see it, we have two options: we can jump between them, attack, and hope for the best, or we can run for it and hope for the best."

No one seemed pleased with either of these options. Himiko was the first to speak up. "We have to get in there somehow. So..." She held up one of her perfumes and looked at the brother that was standing right beside her. She waved it under his nose, and he passed out. Everyone looked surprised by this, not least of which being the other brother. "I just put him to sleep," Himiko explained. "Because he's not hurt he can't transfer power over to his brother."

"Smart thinking!" Emishi exclaimed, jumping off the steps and onto the yard between the brothers. He brandished his whip and made to attack the brother who was still standing. With a wave of his hand, Emishi was sent toppling over. "What the...?" he asked, looking at the group on the steps in confusion.

"You stepped between them," Ban explained. "That's where you are most able to attack both. Because it's their weak point they increase their power and defense when people are there."

"Fascinating," Akabane said, stepping off the steps and walking slowly to the place between the twins where Emishi had been tossed aside. The twin he was approaching only watched him curiously as Akabane stepped right up toward him, brandishing his scalpels. He easily reached out and slashed the young man's cheek.

He let out a silent cry, and on the steps his unconscious brother suddenly leapt to his feet. The others, realizing what a delicate situation this was, stepped off the stone stairs and down into the space between the twins. The one with the bleeding cheek backed up slowly as the one who had been knocked out stepped forward, both holding their swords out in front of them menacingly.

"I think we're in trouble now," Emishi observed, getting back to his feet.

Shido whistled, and a flock of crows descended onto the brothers, who raised their swords in perfect synchronization. Black energy from the brother by the tree and white energy from the brother near the steps poured out and formed braids all around them, then forming a dome around them. The light dissipated, and the birds hit an invisible barrier. The brothers lowered their swords again, pointing them at the group.

Ban gritted his teeth and whispered "Ginji, Himiko, Thread Spool, Monkey Trainer...you go that way when I give my signal. The rest of you, follow me."

"What are we going to do?" Himiko asked, her hand already behind her back, fingers feeling the tops of her bottles of perfumes.

"Our only hope is to attack them at the same time with all we've got," Ban explained. "We can't work in unison like they can. When I first met them I heard a rumor they aren't two different people, they're one mind in two bodies. That's why they can work together like that and compensate for the other's injuries. They know that only people with that kind of connection, that kind of ability to work together, can harm them. So we had better hope that fate's on our side tonight."

Everyone nodded, waiting for the signal. "Now!" Ban suddenly cried out, and two groups rushed to either of the twins: Ban's group heading for the one near the tree, and Ginji's back toward the steps. The shield around them crackled and faded as the two were caught off guard. Clouds of black and white energy floated back and forth as their exchanged power as quickly as they exchanged blows. Hevn had jumped back onto the steps to get out of the way, edging slowly toward the door. She put her hand on it, ready to fling it open as soon as the others were finished.

Himiko took out her flame scent and waved it at the twin she was attacking as Shido slashed at him with tiger claws, Ginji tried to shock him, and Kadsuki tried to bind him with strings. On the other side of the clearing Jubei was holding his orb in his hand, launching needles at the twin they were trying to bring down as Akabane dove toward him with his bloody sword, Ban reaching out and grabbing his arm and squeezing with all of his might, breaking it easily. Emishi had twisted his whip around his midsection, and with a pull he was down on the ground.

The twin in front of the steps suddenly fell forward, grasping his shoulder and gasping. Everyone stopped for a moment to look at him, including his brother. Much to their amazement, the brother by the tree's sword dissolved and he closed the space between them, rushing over to the other twin, who had pulled his hand from his shoulder. Those standing around him could see what he had been concealing: an iridescent white tattoo, shining in the dim light from the steps, on his left shoulder blade. His brother crouched down to examine the damage, then looked up at the others and glared. The rest of the group was walking over now, amazed by this display. They were making themselves completely vulnerable.

"They don't share a mind," Kadsuki said at last. "They are just connected to each other. That mark on his must be where their connection is. The other probably has one as well."

Akabane smiled. "Then this should be easy to take care of," he said, holding up his scalpels.

"Wait!" Himiko snapped. "It's not just about their powers. Those marks connect them. They can't talk because they don't need to. They only have to communicate with each other. They'd rather be separated from the world together than join the world apart."

Akabane looked undaunted as he continued to aim his scalpels at the mark on the boy's shoulder. Ginji stepped in front of him, shielding the twins, a determined look in his eye. "Don't do it!" he ordered simply.

To this, Akabane finally retracted his scalpels. He still had no sympathy for the twins' plight, but was motivated instead by his reluctance to go through his current business associate to get to them. "You always ruin my fun," he said in response, turning to look away from the twins.

There was a collective sigh of relief, and Ban looked down at the twins. "If we let you go, do you promise to let us inside the house?"

They nodded in unison, and the group looked at each other, before leaving the pair sitting in front of the steps, walking through the door that Hevn held open.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The first thing they encountered was a wall. They were standing in a thin corridor, barely wide enough for two people to stand in side by side, with a wall directly in front of the door. It was nicely paneled, and the carpet on the floor was very soft and expensive looking. The wall stretched very far to both their left and their right, with a few lighting fixtures evenly spaced to give it a strangely warm feeling.

"Which way do we go now?" Emishi asked, leaning over and looking down the left corridor.

"I don't know. I don't have a map," Hevn snapped.

"Great. We're going to wander through here lost for the rest of our lives," Ban muttered, lighting a cigarette.

Kadsuki shook his head and smiled. "Theseus."

"What are you babbling about now?" Ban asked him, narrowing his eyes.

"Theseus," Kadsuki repeated, removing one of his bells. "In Greek mythology Theseus defeated the Minotaur, which was half man, half bull. But first he had to navigate the labyrinth, a giant maze. Before he went in the girl who had fallen in love with him, Ariadne, gave him a ball of string so that he could always retrace his steps and find his way out."

"Oh! So Kadsu-chan can use his string and we won't get lost!" Ginji finished excitedly. Kadsuki nodded, holding the bell down by his side.

"In this carpeting no one will be able to see the string unless they are looking for it, so no one can follow us," Kadsuki added. "And perhaps we should split up. We'll cover more ground and if one group finds the manuscript then they can find the other group easily."

"But how can we do that when you're the only one with strings?" Jubei asked uncertainly.

"I can handle it," Himiko said. She held up a bottle. "With my tracking scent."

"Now it's just a matter of who is going with who," Ban said.

"Why don't we just split up into the same groups that we started in?" Ginji suggested. When no one seemed to argue, Shido, Emishi, Akabane, and Hevn stepped over to the right with Himiko while Jubei, Ban, and Ginji stepped over to the left side with Kadsuki.

"We'll see you later!" Ginji called behind him as Kadsuki started walking, bell by his side, releasing a fine thread as he moved.

"Right! Later!" Himiko called back, holding her bottle out to the side of her near the wall as she lead her group down the other path...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kadsuki pushed on the wall lightly, still holding his bell to his side as he walked. Behind him, Ban was pushing on the opposite room. So far they had discovered that the only doors in this place were disguised as normal walls. After making this discovery they had so far found four closets, a bathroom (which they all gratefully used), and more corridors.

"Here's one," Ban announced, pushing in the panel. His eyes widened before he hesitantly stepped in, causing the others to stop and follow him. Noticing how reluctant he was to step inside, the others were also slow to follow him into the room. It didn't take long for Ginji and Kadsuki to see why Ban had been reluctant to step into this room: the room had been paneled to resemble a thatched cabin, and instead of electric lights a fire was lit in the fire place. On each wall was a door, and in a circle around the room were twelve coffins. Next to each coffin was a raven on a perch, untethered, squawking and preening their feathers. Each coffin bore a brass plaque with an inscription:

Wenn das dreizehnte Kind, was du zur Welt bringst, ein Mädchen ist, so sollen die zwölf Buben sterben, damit sein Reichtum groß wird und das Königreich ihm allein zufällt.

"'If the thirteenth child which you are about to bring into the world, is a girl, the twelve boys shall die, in order that her possessions may be great, and that the kingdom may fall to her alone'," Ban translated as he read one of the coffins.

"What...is this place?" Ginji asked at last. Jubei had edged around one of the perches and was running his hand along the top of a coffin, Kadsuki and Ban had found their way to the center of the circle, and Ginji was still in front of the door they had come in through.

"I think it's supposed to be based on a fairy tale," Kadsuki observed, looking around. "But I can't tell which one..."

Ban side and pushed his sunglasses further up the bridge of his nose. "The Twelve Brothers," he supplied. The others turned to face him as he spoke. "In that story a woman had twelve sons when she became pregnant again. Her husband announced that if the child was a girl he'd kill all of his sons so she could have everything, and even had coffins made for them all. The mother warned her youngest son, who took his brothers into a cabin in the woods. The mother had a girl, and when she grew up she discovered twelve men's shirts too small to be her father's and asked who they belonged to. Her mother told her about her brothers, so she took the shirts and went into the woods to find them.

"She found them living in the cabin. At first they wanted revenge on her for forcing her out, but she was so beautiful and kind they decided they couldn't kill her and let her live with them. She tended the cabin while they hunted and one day she saw twelve flowers. When she picked them her brothers all turned into ravens, and a witch came to her and told her the flowers she had picked had been her brothers. The only way to save them would be if she didn't smile, laugh, or speak for seven years, no matter what."

He stopped there, and no one moved, waiting for him to finish the story. Finally Ginji said "So then what happened?"

Ban shrugged and lit a cigarette. "A king found her and married her and married her, but the village spread rumors, saying she was a demon and a witch and that only those who have no souls can't laugh. It was the old witch who started the rumors, and the king didn't believe them at first but his subjects were so panicked he had no choice but to sentence her to death.

"She was tied to a stake and the stake was lit on fire, but just as she started to burn the seven years were up and twelve ravens swooped down, beating out the fire with their wings before turning into men. The sister then told her husband the whole story and her brothers came to live with her and they lived happily ever after."

Just for the sake of closure, Kadsuki asked, "And the old witch?"

Again, Ban shrugged and took a drag off his cigarette. "She was sentenced to death, thrown into a pot of boiling oil, and then fed to venomous snakes."

The others shuddered, and Jubei and Ginji finally walked into the center of the room, comforted by the knowledge that the coffins were furniture and not sign of something more ominous.

"Which way, Thread Spool?" Ban asked, dropping his cigarette and stepping it out. Kadsuki seemed to be giving this serious consideration.

"Let's see where they all lead to first," he suggest. Ban edged between a perch and a coffin to open the door to the left of where they had come in, Ginji took the one to the right, and Kadsuki walked over to the one directly across from it. They all opened the doors and said simultaneously, "Hallway."

Ban shut the door, and Ginji followed suit. "We'll use your way," he said to Kadsuki. "You've already got a string leading there, and it's best to just go in a straight line if we can."

Kadsuki nodded, and they all left the room of the Twelve Brothers.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Himiko suddenly paused in leading the way down the corridor and looked behind her. Something was definitely off. One moment Hevn had been trailing behind, muttering about how this job was turning out, and the next she had suddenly gone silent. Looked in the group, Himiko came to the realization that Hevn was gone.

"Did any of you see where Hevn went?" Himiko asked, pushing aside the men in an effort to find the vanished negotiator.

"No," Emishi said, sounding equally startled as he helped her look. Shido and Akabane also began to survey the corridor. Himiko began knocking on walls, shouting Hevn's name when she suddenly fell forward, releasing a startled grunt as she did. The others turned to look in her direction and immediately saw what happened: she'd fallen through a hidden door.

Himiko stood up quickly, brushing off her pants and picking up her bottle of perfume that she had dropped. She looked into the room and widened her eyes. The others followed her inside, Akabane closing the door behind them.

The room was dim, painted with gray rainclouds on the walls, as well as grass bent over in a wind and old cottages appearing to be in the distance. But the highlight of the room was a large, sturdy looking juniper tree, it's berries nearly ripe despite the only light in the otherwise dreary room was a single weak sunlamp. At the base of the tree, leaning against it, was a large, thick, circular stone with a hole in the center, not unlike a wheel. A pair of dainty little red leather shoes rested in front of the wheel, and a gold chain was laying across the shoes. A small, brightly coloured bird suddenly dropped from the branches of the tree and landed on top of the wheel, cocked it's head, and began to chirp sweetly. In one corner of the room was a very old-looking, very large chest full of shiny red apples.

Emishi whistled lowly. "Wow. This Wilhelm guy sure has some strange tastes."

Akabane stepped away from the door and toward the wheel-shaped stone propped up against the tree. Himiko noticed there was something written on the door behind him:

mein Mutter, der mich schlacht,
mein Vater, der mich aß,
mein Schwester, der Marlenichen,
sucht alle meine Benichen,
bind't sie in ein seiden Tuch,
legts unter den Machandelbaum.
Kywitt, kywitt, wat vör'n schöön Vagel bün ik!

"What do you think that means?" Himiko asked, note understanding a bit of it. Emishi shrugged, Shido now had the little bird perched on his finger, and Akabane was kneeling to examine the gold chain.

"The Juniper Tree," Akabane said, standing with the gold chain in his hand.

"Yeah, that's a tree all right," Emishi agreed, reaching up to feel the branches. It was an evergreen tree, so the flat little "leaves" felt oddly rubbery.

"No, the story," Akabane corrected. "The room is supposed to symbolize the fairy tale of the Juniper Tree."

Himiko picked up one of the apples. It seemed to be real, but she didn't dare taste it. "Do you know the story?"

Akabane shrugged and laid the gold chain over the shoes again. "I know enough of it. It's a rather unpleasant story. A man's wife wished for a child more than anything, and when she finally had one she died. The man remarried and had a daughter with his new wife, who was jealous of the son. So one day, while her husband was gone and the boy was at school, the daughter asked for an apple and the wife had an idea. She told her daughter she couldn't have an apple until her brother got home, and when he came home from school she told him to get some apples out of the old trunk upstairs. When he opened the trunk and reached in his step-mother slammed the lid shut and decapitated him."

Himiko immediately dropped the apple in her hand and began to eye the trunk suspiciously. No, there wasn't a little boy's head inside it. She sighed with relief and turned back toward Akabane, who continued the story.

"The step-mother didn't want to be blamed for killing her step-son, so she propped the boy up by the door with his head on his shoulders and gave her daughter an apple, telling her to give it to her brother. When she tried to give it to him his head fell off, and the daughter thought she had killed her brother. The wife suggested they hide what they had done by baking the boy into a pie, and after the pie was made they fed it to the boy's father. But the daughter was so distraught that she collected all of her brother's bones and buried them beneath the Juniper tree.

"That night the soul of the boy turned into a beautiful bird and flew from the branches of the tree, and by morning it had reached the village. It first flew to the goldsmith and began to sing beautifully about what had happened to him as the boy. The goldsmith was moved and asked him to sing it again, saying he'd give him the gold chain he was working on if he did. The bird agreed, received the chain, and flew off to the cobbler and sang again. This time the cobbler offered him the red shoes he was working on if he sang it again, and the bird did and took the shoes. Finally he flew to the mill, where he sang the song. All of the millworkers were so moved, they gave him the millstone they were using. Then the bird flew back to his house and began to sing again, loudly, and a ferocious storm sprang up.

"The wife tried to ignore it, but finally the whole family went outside. When they did the bird swooped down and dropped the gold chain around his father's neck, dropped the shoes down into his sister's hands, and dropped the millstone on top of his step-mother's head. When she died, the boy came back to life and they all lived happily ever after."

No one spoke for a few moments. Finally, Emishi announced, "This place is giving me the creeps. Let's get out of here."

"Shouldn't we look for Hevn-san?" Himiko asked, although she wanted nothing more than to get out of this room as well.

Akabane started walking toward the door opposite the one they came in. "You have been using your tracking scent. If she is all right then she will find us."

Deciding that was true enough, Himiko walked out the door that Akabane held open for her and held out her tracking scent again, Emishi close behind, followed by Shido, who still had the bird on his shoulder. Akabane closed the door behind them and they continued to make their way deeper into the labyrinth of the mansion.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It took another twenty minutes for them to find the next room, and it was actually Jubei accidentally falling into it that revealed its existence. Once it was exposed, however, they all walked into it with a sense of awe and none of the apprehension they'd had when entering the other room.

The one was a huge ballroom. Although it was completely empty of people, there were musical instruments set up on a raised platform meant for a band and long, empty buffet table. Crystal chandeliers were hanging down from the high, dome ceiling, illuminating the floor's gold-tone finish. On three dress dummies on a platform in the center of the room were gorgeous ballgowns: the first mostly silver with gold accents, the next equal portions silver and gold, and the last almost entirely gold. On gold cushions next to each of the first two dresses were a pair of elaborate-looking silver slippers, and next to the last dress was a silver cushion with a pair of gold slippers.

"Wow..." Ginji said, looking around the huge ballroom. "What's this place supposed to be?"

Ban surveyed the room some more. In each corner was a small, obviously fake tree. In the lower left and upper right corner was a gold one, and in the other corners were silver ones. "Aschenputtel," he finally said. Before anyone could ask, he translated. "Cinderella."

"It's...empty in here," Jubei observed, from the way their voices echoed in the ballroom and how it felt to him.

Kadsuki walked over to Jubei. "It's really pretty, though," he told him. "But a little creepy."

"Hey, Thread Spool, I think those ballgowns would just about fit you if you two want to have a moment," Ban suggested, his voice serious although he was obviously joking.

Kadsuki glared at Ban, but Jubei tightened his grip on his shoulders. "Let's just get out of here," he suggested. Kadsuki nodded, but when he crossed the room, followed by the others. But tried to open the smooth, mahogany door he was shocked to find that he couldn't get it open. He looked at the door for a moment, then walked over to another door, snaking the string around the bandstand. That one wouldn't unlock, either. He yanked the string back around and walked to the last door, pulling the string around the buffet table. That was also locked. Not one to be discouraged by this, he began to retract the string as he walked back to the door they had come in through...to find it was also locked.

"We're locked in," Ban observed, lighting a cigarette. Kadsuki just sighed and nodded, looking down. Then he noticed on the floor, in front of the door, was a bronze plaque. He knelt down to read it:

Ihr zahmen Täubchen, ihr Turteltäubchen, all ihr Vöglein unter dem Himmel, kommt und helft mir lesen, die guten ins Töpfchen, die schlechten ins Kröpfchen.

He examined it closely, trying desperately to translate it and failing. Ban had kneeled down by that point.

"'You tame pigeons, you turtle-doves, and all you birds beneath the sky, come and help me to pick the good into the pot, the bad into the crop'," Ban translated, taking a drag off his cigarette and standing up.

"What does that mean?" Ginji asked, examining the plaque for himself now.

Ban seemed to give this some thought. "In Cinderella that's what she would say after her sisters threw lentils into the fireplace for her to pick up. Then the birds would come in and pick them up for her."

"So she was like Shido-kun," Ginji observed, giving up on the plaque.

Ban shrugged. "Lots of people in fairy tales had the ability to talk to animals and ask them for help if they had helped them in the past or were exceptionally pure of heart."

Kadsuki seemed confused by the oddly-placed plaque. He placed his bell on top of it and walked across the room and looked down. Sure enough, in front of the door opposite the one they had come in through, there was another plaque on the floor. Ban came up behind him and leaned over to examine this one:

Bäumchen, rüttel dich und schüttel dich, wirf Gold und Silber über mich.

He took another drag off his cigarette before he translated it. "'Shiver and quiver, little tree, silver and gold throw down over me.'"

"And that means...?" Jubei asked, coming up behind them with Ginji in tow.

"In the story that's what Cinderella said to her tree made from a branch her late father gave her so that it would make her a dress. She did it three times, once for each day of the ball. I assume the dresses over there are supposed to be copies of those dresses."

Kadsuki had already moved on to the door near the bandstand, and Ban ran over to examine the plaque on the floor there.

Rucke di guck, rucke di guck, Blut ist im Schuck: der Schuck ist zu klein, die rechte Braut sitzt noch daheim.

Ban once again took a drag from his cigarette before he translated. "Turn and peep, turn and peep, there's blood within the shoe, the shoe it is too small for her, the true bride waits for you'. When Cinderella left her slipper, the prince traveled all around the country looking for the woman that it fit. When he got to Cinderella's house her stepmother cut off a piece of each sister's foot to make the slipper fit. Two pigeons shouted this to the prince, and he would notice the girl's foot bleeding and take her back."

There was only one door left, and all four traveled together over to it.

Rucke di guck, rucke di guck, kein Blut im Schuck: der Schuck ist nicht zu klein, die rechte Braut, die führt er heim.

Ban stepped out his cigarette on top of the plaque before translating. "'Turn and peep, turn and peep, no blood is in the shoe, the shoe is not too small for her, the true bride rides with you.' That's what the pigeons shouted to the prince after he found Cinderella to let him know he finally had his true bride."

"So how do we get out of here?" Kadsuki asked, a bit bitter that he didn't have the answer this time. Ban just shrugged, and with a sigh he crossed the room to retrieve his bell. On the way he noticed there was another plaque in front of the three dresses, this one on a pedestal in full sight. Changing his course, he approached it. The others seemed to notice it as well, as they also turned to see what was written on it.

"Es hilft dir alles nichts: du kommst nicht mit, denn du hast keine Kleider und kannst nicht tanzen; wir müßten uns deiner schämen."

Ban seemed rather confused by this one, but he translated it anyway. "'All this will not help. You cannot go with us, for you have no clothes and can not dance. We should be ashamed of you.'"

"Let me guess: what Cinderella's stepmother told her when she wanted to go to the ball," Kadsuki said. Ban nodded, and Kadsuki examined the plaque again. "I think it means that the doors will only open to someone who is wearing one of these dresses." As soon as the words were out of his mouth he became accutely aware of Ban, Ginji, and even Jubei staring at him. "What? Don't look at me that way! I'm not-"

"You're the only one they would fit," Ban pointed out.

"Please, Kadsu-chan? So we can go?" Ginji begged.

Kadsuki looked at the three dresses, swallowed, then stepped up onto the platform and took the third one off the dummy, unzipping the back and putting it on over his clothes. He slipped off his shoes and put on the golden slippers, stepping briskly off the platform and to the door near the bandstand. It didn't open. He walked to the door opposite the one they came in through. It didn't open, either. Giving the others a look that said if they said anything he'd kill them all, he went to the door behind the buffet table. No luck. He finally walked to the door they had started at, but that was also locked. He yanked off the dress and tossed it bitterly to the floor, picking up his bell and approaching the platform again.

He repeated this process with the second dress and slippers, but had no luck, and finally picked up the silver dress and slippers. Much to his relief it opened with a resounding click. He held the door open as the others rushed out of it, and shed the dress and slippers before shutting the door behind him, glad that the experience was now behind him, and put on his regular shoes.

"You know, it probably would have worked if you'd just held the dress," Ban pointed out.

"Shut up," Kadsuki snapped.

"Or Ginji or I could have-"

"I said shut up!"

Ban smirked. "Admit it, Thread Spool: you just wanted an excuse to try on those pretty dresses."

Jubei had to hold Kadsuki's arms to restrain him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After the discovery of the Juniper Tree room (and the mysterious disappearance of Hevn), the remaining members of Himiko's group were being much more careful. Akabane had been elected to bring up the rear, being that he would probably be the most difficult to abduct. Emishi and Shido stayed in front of her to press on the walls in search of doors, Himiko remaining in the middle as she continued to mark the wall with her tracking scent.

"Found one!" Emishi announced happily. Everyone paused at that announcement, then turned to gather around the hidden door Emishi had found, expecting another corridor. Instead, inside was a huge room that looked like a barn. Inside it were three giant stacks of hay and a single spinning wheel in the corner. After they had all walked in Emishi released the door, which promptly slammed shut behind them. Out of curiosity, he tried to pull the door open again. Nothing. It was locked.

In front of each stack of hay was a bronze plaque. The first read "Wenn du diese Nacht durch bis morgen früh dieses Stroh nicht zu Gold versponnen hast, so mußt du sterben." The second read "Darauf ward die Kammer verschlossen, und sie blieb allein darin." And the last siad "Das Mädchen wußte sich nicht zu helfen und weinte, da ging abermals die Türe auf, und das kleine Männchen kam und sprach 'was gibst du mir wenn ich dir das Stroh zu Gold spinne?' 'Meinen Ring von dem Finger' antwortete das Mädchen."

"What the heck is that supposed to mean?" Emishi snapped, stepping on one of the plaques as if it would magically be translated if he did so.

"I think this is the Rumpelstiltskin room," Himiko observed, looking at the stacks of hay and the spinning wheel. "Straw into gold and all that."

"So let's just get out of here," Emishi said, reaching for his whip.

"Wait," Akabane instructed, and Emishi froze. "Perhaps we should try playing the game first." He smiled then. "It could be entertaining."

"But none of us speak German," Himiko pointed out. "How are we supposed to read those plaques?"

Akabane, still smiling, crouched in front of the first plaque. "I may recall enough from the original fairy tales to provide a loose translation." He examined the plaque. "I believe this one says if this straw has not been spun into gold by morning, then we shall die." He moved over to the second plaque and examined it. "This one says that the room is locked." And he proceeded to the last plaque. "And this one says that the girl gave the little man the ring on her finger."

"Well, that was helpful," Emishi said sarcastically.

"Do you think we're supposed to find a ring?" Himiko suggested.

"We should probably try to find something," Emishi muttered. He jumped into the closest pile of straw. Himiko eyed another pile of straw warily before wading in. She looked at Shido, expecting him to take the last, but instead he stroked the breastfeathers of the bird. When he removed his hand it flew into the last pile.

"Isn't that cheating, Shido-kun?" Emishi asked, poking his head out from the pile of straw.

"I asked Jonah if he knew where it is. He went to find it," Shido said simply.

"'Jonah'? Did he tell you that was his name?" Emishi said with a snicker.

Shido nodded. "That, and the tag on his ankle says that's his name."

Emishi dove back into the pile, and Himiko began to kick around the straw in her own pile, trying to find it without actually having to dive in. Suddenly, with an amazingly loud whoosh, Jonah flew out of the last pile of straw and over to Shido. The gold ring was in his beak, and Shido took it from him, stroking his head.

"Found it," he announced. Emishi poked out of the straw again, saw the ring in Shido's hand, and walked out completely, brushing the straw off of him and not quite getting it all. Himiko gratefully left the pile she was in, more successful in ridding herself of the straw. Akabane just smiled as he edged around the haystacks and over to Himiko, who had taken the ring and used it to open the door directly across from the one they came in through. Himiko tossed the ring back behind her as she left, just in case anyone else came into that room and needed to get back out.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

To say that Kadsuki's group had been traveling in uncomfortable silence was an understatement. Kadsuki was still seething about having to needlessly humiliate himself, Ban didn't dare speak because he was in no mood to get into a fight with him, and Jubei and Ginji didn't say anything for fear either one would snap at them or get violent (although Jubei and Ginji now conspicuously stood between Kadsuki and Ban).

"Hey, Thread Spool," Ban shouted suddenly, causing the tension between the group to snap like a dry twig.

"I don't want to hear it," Kadsuki shouted back.

"You might want to hear this," Ban told him. "We've got company."

The group all froze and turned around. Behind Ban, with sword-tip placed on the small of his back, was the angry looking twin.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Didn't we tell them to buzz off?" Emishi asked as the twin with the sad looking face pointed his sword at the group.

"We told them to let us in the house. We never threatened to do anything to them if they didn't leave us alone once we got inside," Himiko pointed out. She knew as long as only one twin was present (and they had no way of knowing where the other was or what he was doing) then attacking him would be futile. It might even place the others in danger.

"Semantics," Akabane said simply, a smile spreading across his face.

"I think we should follow him," Shido added. Jonah seem a bit upset as he saw the boy in front of them. "We don't have much of a choice."

The boy nodded slowly, then turned and began to walk away, casting looks over his shoulder as if checking to see if they were behind him. Reluctantly, they all followed the twin down the corridor.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Kadsuki's group was already in the room when Himiko's group was forced in, the twins standing on either side of the room so as to be as far apart as possible. The room was at least as big as the Cinderella room, and appeared to be a converted music room from the looks of the grand piano near where the angry twin was standing. Opposite the entrance to the room, the wall was completely replaced by clear glass, exposing the grounds of the estate and the sun rising in the distance. A large mahogany desk was in front of the giant window, as well as a high-backed leather chair that hid whoever was sitting in it. The only thing that betrayed a person was sitting in it at all was the single pale hand holding a cigar. To either side of the desk were six perches, upon which the twelve ravens from the room of the Twelve Brothers were now currently perched.

No one spoke for a very long time. Not even the person at the desk, although occasionally the cigar would disappear around the front of the chair and then return to it's place beside it, smaller than it had been before. At first the tired retrievers were angry. Then they were just annoyed. Finally, Ban snapped, "What do you want with us?"

Slowly, the chair spun around. Ban looked at the lone figure, rather confused, a sentiment seemingly shared by Ginji and Kadsuki. He noticed that Himiko, Shido, and Emishi seemed rather pale, their faces displaying varying degrees of surprise. Jubei remained nuetral, unable to see the source of the others' shock and confusion, while Akabane merely smiled. Sitting in the chair was a woman, pale with long limbs and very short, very slick black hair. Her face was attractive, aristocratic, highlighted by a pair of amythest colored eyes behind silver glasses. She was wearing a simple black pant suit, tailored for a woman with it's low-cut jacket that accentuated her trim figure and her silk blouse, which had no tie but was tight enough to show the curve of her bust.

The woman stood up, still holding the cigar, and walked around to the front of her desk, eyes surveying the group before her. "Yes, you are quite a bunch," she announced finally. She had a very thick German accent. Ban noticed something particularly interesting as she began to pace in front of them: on the side of her glasses was a symbol that looked like a tiny blue eye. A traditional anti-Evil Eye charm. Did she know about his jagan?

"Who are you?" Ginji finally asked.

The woman paused in front of him, taking a drag off of her cigar and blowing smoke into his face. "Impatient, aren't you? All in due time." She turned and walked back over in front of her desk. "But very well. Although I must say it is very rude for you to break into my home and not know who I am." She laughed then. It was a hard, wild sound, rather frightening to hear. "I am Wilhelm Grimm."

End of Chapter Five

Last Note- The German is actually from the original Kinder- und Hausmärchen, so if anyone speaks German and doesn't quite understand that then it's probably because it's very old German. The translation in the Cinderalla and Twelve Brothers rooms actually comes from the popular Hunt translation of the Grimms' fairy tales (what most English-language collections of the Grimms' fairy tales use). If people are wondering what the door of the Juniper Tree room says, it'll show up again later. Here's exactly what the plaques in the Rumpelstiltskin room say:

1.) Now set to work, and if by to-morrow morning early you have not spun this straw into gold during the night, you must die.

2.) Thereupon he himself locked up the room, and left her in it alone.

3.) The girl knew not how to help herself, and was crying, when the door opened again, and the little man appeared, and said, "what will you give me if I spin that straw into gold for you." "The ring on my finger," answered the girl.

*Cue Goo's Stupidity*

Next Chapter of Get Backers: "The Woman Named Wilhelm". Look forward to it!

Any similarity between anyone living or dead is purely coincidental unless other wise noted.