Chapter Twelve

By Scarlet Fever

I sighed as we walked through the streets of Kaisei. Zell and Selphie kept commenting on how impressed they were with the city’s design. I would have looked, admiring the way the city had an old world feel, how built up it had gotten in such a short amount of time, how much money the builders must have had, that Tifa and Sephiroth had created something wonderful, but my mind was jumbled, clouded. I think the fact that I had just seen Sephiroth and Tifa had just hit me. It had been years, and they still looked the same, something that unnerved me greatly. The fact that I could also hear their conversations through the doors was somewhat vexing. What did it all mean? Maybe we would find answers from the good Reverend. I also wondered what the hell he had to do with everything……

"I know that Tifa gave us this address, but we don’t know Kaisei, how are we supposed to know where to go?" Selphie asked, inspecting the address.

I looked up the street. "Well, we don’t have to look very hard. Esemono’s church seemed to stand out like a sore thumb.

"I guess he doesn’t want to be veiled in secrecy…." Zell muttered. It wasn’t as if the church was gaudy, it just was a rather large building, dwarfing its neighbors.

"So, what’s the plan, Squall?" Zell asked as we approached.

I shrugged. "Just ask him some questions. We don’t need to barge in with laser guns and vinyl catsuits."

Selphie smirked. "That would be a sight to see…." She trailed off as she saw a figure up the street. I looked as well, noting the familiar cocky stride and long brown duster.

"What’s Irvine doing here?" Zell asked.

I shrugged. "Probably a mission."

Zell stuck his tongue out at me. He waved, a lackluster gesture, as Irvine noticed us.

"What are you guys doing here?" The tall man asked, his gray blue eyes widening in surprise.

"On a mission. You?"

"Same thing. Are you on the same one as I am?"

"What are you here for?" I asked, not really wanting to give Irvine the details of our mission.

"I was sent for by Reverend Esemono."

I raised my eyebrows. "Really?"

Irvine nodded, his now chin length hair swinging around his jaw. "Yeah, I figured you’d remember him…." He paused. "I guess the same sort of thing is going on…."

"What?" Selphie asked, her surprise evident.

"Yeah, Esemono’s all worried about ‘monsters’ lurking in the shadows, as he puts it. I guess there are some prominent people in Kaisei that have skeletons in their closet."

"What kind of ‘skeletons’?" I asked.

"Well, I’ve been told that they’ve been practicing some weird religion, and that any disappearances are usually their fault. And, there’s a little bit of the supernatural thrown in, some of which you guys probably won’t believe…."

"Try me." My curiosity was peaked. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we were working against Irvine, working for the ‘monsters in the shadows’, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.

"Night walkers, I guess. I don’t really believe it myself, but Esemono said that about five years ago, their power began to get stronger. Honestly, I think that he’s kinda crazy."

"Sounds crazy," Zell muttered, but there was a hint of some other emotion in his voice, one that I couldn’t put a finger on.

"Actually, I’m sort of curious now. Where is Esemono?" I asked.

"Inside." Irvine pointed. "I take it that you guys weren’t sent as backup for me, seeing as how you don’t know what’s going on…."

"It doesn’t hurt to have backup…." Selphie trailed off. She sounded like she wanted to know what was going on, as well.

"Come on," Irvine said, ushering us.

Once inside the church, I felt a sick recognition, the same recognition as when I saw the gate at Tifa and Sephiroth’s. Like I had seen it before somewhere. The aisles were carpeted with lush red rugs, and the pews were all delicately carved. The interior of the church had the same Gothic feel as the rest of the city, like an old civilization had been plopped down overnight. The Reverend was sitting at the altar, flipping through what I guessed was a Bible. He looked up when he heard our footsteps.

"May I help you?" He didn’t seem any different that he had been five years ago, save some more gray hair. "Oh, my. It’s been a long time….."

I nodded in recognition. "Hello, Reverend."

He stared at me, studying me. What was with me being on display? "You seek answers."

I nodded, not impressed with his fortune telling abilities. "Irvine has said some pretty interesting things that we would like to ask you about."

"What brings you to Kaisei?" He stepped away from the altar, nearing us.

"Bodyguard duty. And from what Irvine has told us, there are some sorts of people that we should be watching out for? It doesn’t hurt to know your enemy…."

I saw Zell look over at me as I lied through my teeth. I was telling the truth as far as knowing the enemy, but I wasn’t sure who that was anymore.

"Ah, yes, but you see, trying to protect against these creatures won’t be an easy task. I would say near impossible, unless you know their weaknesses."

"So, what ‘creatures’ are you talking about?" Selphie asked, leaning against a pew. "Irvine said Night walkers. You can’t honestly mean vampires?!"

Esemono nodded.

Selphie snorted. "Come on! You’re expecting us to believe that Kaisei is overrun by storybook creatures?!"

"I wish it was a storybook, my dear. You see, when Kaisei began, the contractors lived far away, and they sent a representative to do all the work with me as far as development went. I admit, when I heard the figures that they were throwing around was staggering, and it was only pocket change to them. I sinned with greed."

I rolled my eyes, but continued to listen to him.

"I don’t know how they got so much done so quickly. They worked day and night, and only after a year or two, Kaisei was flourishing. They appointed the Mayor, but truly pull the strings. They also have many joint ventures that bring in an infusion of money. In actuality, they control everything in the city. Even people’s lives."

"What does that mean?" Zell asked, coming to the same conclusions as I was.

"Kaisei has an extremely high rate of death, disappearances, and other odd happenings. Sometimes, it’s people getting lost in the woods, and dying of exposure, or being attacked by wolves…."

"Wolves?" Selphie asked. "Then, why can’t it be wolves that are killing or whatever, instead of making up gibberish about vampires and goblins…."

"I’m not making it up!" The Reverend became very defensive. "They are vampires! They kidnap innocents and drink their blood! They kill, maim, go against God!!!"

I sighed, losing my interest. "Well, Reverend, we’ll keep that in mind…"

"You don’t believe me, do you? Well, next time you see someone in this town, watch them. Watch for carnal, seductive power, strange, alien eyes that hypnotize with just a gaze, super senses, immense speed, super strength….."

I looked over at Irvine, who seemed as disinterested as we did. He had probably heard this spiel a million times already.

Super senses…. The Reverend’s words trailed in my mind as I thought about the fact that I could hear what was going on behind closed doors. However, my seemingly endless hearing had disappeared. I could only hear us now, instead of everything.

"We should probably go…" Zell trailed off. "We shouldn’t keep our clients waiting."

The Reverend cocked his head. "Just heed my warning. Things that you can’t see can hurt you."

I nodded absently as we headed for the door.

"Excuse me…." Esemono tugged on my sleeve. "I sense something in you….. Please, be careful…"

I narrowed my eyes. "What are you talking about?"

Esemono lowered his voice. "I see a great impasse happening in your future. Please, take the right path…"

I shrugged him off. "You know, you seem more like a fortune teller than a Minister."

The Reverend frowned. "Disbelief will be your downfall."

I turned, leaving. After we had stepped into the cool night air, Zell turned to me. "What did he say to you?"

"Just a bunch of shit. We should probably get back. I have a few…..concerns that I would like rectified…."

Selphie nodded. "It’s kind of fucking strange that Irvine is working against us… But then again, when has he ever done anything for anyone other than himself?"

"Esemono seems a bit overhyped about a pack of wolves, you know…." Zell sighed as we approached the house again.

"He should be carrying a crystal ball instead of a cross." I ran my fingers through my hair, pushing my bangs out of my eyes, but they fell in my view again, anyway. The door was opened for us before we got there, and we were ushered in.

"Thanks…" I trailed off, giving the servant my jacket. He seemed relieved.

"Your rooms are all ready…."

"Actually, I’d like to speak with Miss Lockheart. Where is she?" I asked. I noticed that my ears were picking up far more background noise now.

"Out. But I’ll tell her that you wish to see her." The man motioned to the large spiraling staircase. "Shall we?"

Zell, Selphie and I followed the small man up the stairs. My eyes passed over the Xepampelinae painting once again before it disappeared. I looked up as we stopped climbing. The upper hall was absolutely exquisite. The wallpaper was richly brocaded with a faint, yet ornate design, textured almost lovingly. It was a dark green shade, and against the rich cherry paneling, made it look very naturalistic, like a forest. The thick, chocolate brown carpet absorbed our footsteps. It felt extremely soft, and I wanted to stand barefoot in it, let my toes sink in. We stopped in front of a door.

"Miss Tilmitt, this will be your room." The man opened the door, ushering her in. Before Zell and I were led away, I got a view of a large canopy bed and more plush carpeting. Man, a bed seemed like such a good idea right then. Zell was shown to his room next, then me.

I couldn’t help but whistle at the lavish décor. The bed was huge, much larger than any bed I had ever slept in before. It looked like it was at least a hundred years old, with well-worn wood that looked as if it had been recently refurbished. I heard the door close behind me as I ran my palm over the bedposts. The sheets were expensive looking satin, in the deepest crimson colour, much like Vincent’s coat had been. I noticed that the room had only one window, which was odd, considering the size of the room. The curtains were open, swaying gently in the breeze which was coming from the open panes. I touched the fabric. It was extremely thick and dark fabric, which would block out any rays of light during daylight hours.

I sighed, sitting on the edge of the bed. The mattress was soft, my ass sinking in. I reached over, pulling the cord to turn on the desk lamp on the nightstand. I wasn’t really that comfortable just sitting in the dark in a strange place. I kicked my boots off, thoughtful. Esemono’s words spun around in my head as I wiggled my now bare toes. I couldn’t believe that I was giving that fucking idiot a second thought. I wondered why I seemed so interesting to everyone here. I leaned over so I could look into a blackened doorway off to the side of the bed. It was a bathroom. At the moment, I didn’t care to look in, so I flopped back on the comfortable mattress.

Vampires? What was Esemono smoking? Maybe that’s why we were called. I was sure that Tifa and Sephiroth were probably getting persecuted because Esemono thought that they were vampires. I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t mention it. It wasn’t really worth mentioning it was so ridiculous. I removed my soft black v-neck sweater, so that I was just wearing a wifebeater and my baggy black pants. I sighed. Actually, I was confused. What did Esemono see that was so conflicting in my life?

"It’s too quiet," I muttered, sitting up slightly, so that I was reclining, using my elbows to support my weight. I began to wonder where Tifa was. I wanted to talk to her, and I didn’t feel comfortable talking to Sephiroth. Esemono’s statement about hypnotic eyes made me think of Sephiroth, made me think of Vincent….. of Seifer. I shook that thought out of my head. Seifer’s eyes had been hypnotic because I was in love with him, not for any stupid reason like mystical creatures of the night or anything. But, if it was so impossible, so unfeasible, why did I keep thinking about what he had said?

I suddenly sat up when I heard hushed voices in the hallway. One of them was the servant from earlier, and the other was Tifa. I got off the bed, as silently as I could. If she couldn’t ‘sense’ me or whatever, I didn’t want to give myself away. I went towards the door, but heard someone just outside of it, so I waited in a darkened corner. The sliver of light that penetrated the darkness seemed to actually hurt my eyes. I squinted as the door was opened. A figure slowly came in, searching the darkness ahead of it. I reached out my arm, grabbing their shoulder.

The figure jumped, gasping noisily. "Jesus Christ!"

"Why are you sneaking into my room, Tifa?" I asked.

She whipped around. "Squall?! You scared me! I didn’t…."

"You couldn’t sense me?" I asked sarcastically.

"Wh, wh…. What do you mean?"

"Don’t act stupid!" I hissed. "I overheard you and Vincent, and you and Sephiroth!"

"But…. How?"

"I don’t know. You better tell me what the fuck is going on!"

Tifa cocked her head. "You could hear us?"

"Yes! But that’s beside the point. What are you talking about? What do you mean, sensing me?"

She sighed, looking at me. "Yes, I can see it now…."

I was about to open my mouth to curse her out, when I heard something, as if from the back of my mind. "What was that?"

"What?" Tifa asked innocently, but I knew better.

I heard it again, a cry of surprise, fear and pain. I went towards the door, but felt Tifa’s hand reach out, grabbing my wrist.

"I don’t think you should go…."

I looked down at my wrist. "Let go…."

She narrowed her eyes at my tone. "No." She squeezed harder, causing me to yelp. She was so strong, so strong…..

"Let go," I repeated, none of my pain coming into my voice.

She seemed to find something interesting in my gaze, and loosened her grip, which gave me the perfect opportunity to disentangle myself. I yanked my arm away from her vice like grip, bolting for the door. I could feel that she was moving quickly behind me, but I was one step ahead. I didn’t look back, running towards the noise, thinking only of Esemono’s words, about innocents dying. Why the hell was I staking any claim in what that fucker said? All I knew was that something strange was going on, and I had to find out what. I didn’t really care about the person in seeming trouble, only my insatiable curiosity.

"Squall…." Tifa called, threatening me.

I didn’t look back, running as fast as I could. I didn’t know how I was finding where the sound was coming from, but I knew that I was getting closer. It was becoming louder than my eardrums, but now, my heartbeat was competing with it.

"Squall!" Tifa called again. I could feel her getting closer. I gasped as I felt her fingertips brush my shoulder blades in a vain attempt of grabbing me. My eyes noticed a door that for some reason stood out to me. I collapsed against the door, twisting the knob. The sheer force of my body sent it flying, and I bound into the room.

"Squall!" Tifa cried, grabbing me from behind in a bear hug. Her grip was forceful, to prevent any kind of escape again. However, I didn’t notice. I was mesmerized with what was before me, my stomach sinking in defeat. A young woman was sprawled on a long table, which looked as antique as everything else in this house. Her long hair, the colour of ebony, was fanned out behind her head, covering most of the table. I swept my gaze across her face. She was staring blankly up at the ceiling, probably because she was dead. Her face had a gray pallor, and her eyes were so vacant. She couldn’t have been more than seventeen or eighteen. A child. But, then again, I was only twenty-three, so I wasn’t that old, either.

I gasped softly as I looked at her throat. Two faces were pressed against it, feeding from her pale neck. One of them looked up, as if seeing me for the first time. He tucked a lock of long silver hair behind his ear casually, pulling away from his meal.

"Squall? Don’t you know it’s rude to barge in to people’s private chambers?" He gently wiped the corners of his mouth with calm fingers.

I just stared. I couldn’t believe Esemono had been right…. Well, maybe Sephiroth and Tifa were just blood freaks, and not fairy tale monsters. I narrowed my eyes, staring into the aqua sea of his. He frowned slightly.

"My, my," he muttered, stepping away from the body. "You are a strange one, aren’t you?"

I just glared at him. "You’re killers…."

Sephiroth snorted, but he still seemed miffed that I wasn’t falling under his whim. "Don’t pretend that you care about this girl."

I just continued to glare, my weight slumping against Tifa’s body behind me. I looked back to the body, back to the other creature who had his teeth buried in the corpse’s flesh. I tilted my head, watching the blood run onto the table. I gasped as he looked up at me. Those eyes……. They were so endless, so drowning. My lungs seemed to burn as I drowned in them. It was a familiar feeling. He blinked slowly, standing to full height, which was slightly taller than the already statuesque Sephiroth.

My body completely collapsed against Tifa’s as I felt sick. His face looked so sad as he tilted his head at me, apologetic. He blinked a few times, but he didn’t lose his hold on me. I just stared into his perfect eyes, studied his perfect face, like I had so many times before. I then found my bearings, breaking free from Tifa’s grip. She reached out for me again, but the subject of my study motioned for her to stop. I slowly made my way to the man, careful in my steps, because I felt like I was going to fall over at any second. I stopped just in front of him, so that I could practically feel his breath on my face.

My eyes finally darted away from his, breaking the trance. I now looked at the rest of him, the lines of his face, the way his eyebrows arched seductively, his gold hair, a halo surrounding his beautiful face. I reached my shaking fingers up, touching the ribbon scar between his eyes. I choked back an agonized moan as my fingers hit actual flesh, cartilage, bone. It wasn’t a vision, it was real.

I closed my eyes as he gently whispered. I could feel it rattle my frame, move over my flesh, stop any motion completely. I snapped my eyes open again as he repeated what he had said.

"La Mer…."

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