Chapter Fifteen

By Scarlet Fever

Selphie, Zell and I stood outside of the looming church, slightly hesitant.

"I wonder if I’ll burst into flames if I go in…." Selphie muttered.

I smirked. "That would be a sight to see." I brushed some lint off Seifer’s old coat. "Do you want to find Irvine first?"

Selphie nodded. "And I’ve already planned what I’m going to do…." She stuck her lower lip out, quivering it slightly. "He can’t resist a damsel in distress."

Zell rolled his eyes as she clambered up the steps. "He’ll just try to get some….."

I smirked at him. "What, like you did?"

He scoffed. "Whatever, Squall…. We should be watching for Selphie’s signal…."

"We should be hiding so he doesn’t see us…." I pulled Zell into the shadows. I teasingly made a purring noise in his ear as his back pressed against my chest. I felt him sigh angrily.

"Squall, stop teasing me…."

I shrugged, watching as Selphie and Irvine walked down the steps. He was holding her elbow, looking concerned. She was giving an Oscar winning performance. She then threw her ‘tearful’ body into Irvine’s arms, sobbing. Zell and I moved quickly so we wouldn’t be seen, racing quietly up the steps, throwing ourselves into the church, much like Selphie had done to Irvine. Once inside, the sheer echoing silence was deafening. I didn’t even know if Esemono would be around. There was a solitary man in the corner, wearing robes that were similar to the Minister’s, but less gaudy, less lavish. I nodded to Zell, who went over to him. I used this chance to silently weave through the pews to the back rooms. I heard voices coming from one of them. They were too muffled for me to hear. They stopped, and I heard footsteps. I realized that I was standing on a creaky part of the floor.

The door in front of me swung open, and I was face to face with Esemono. He blinked a few times. "It’s you…."

I stared at him. "Am I interrupting anything?"

He paused, thinking of an answer. I frowned. It’s not like I asked him about quantum physics. "No," he finally replied. "Actually, I would wish to speak with you…." He motioned to another room. It was a small study. I sat in a small chair, while he sat behind the desk.

"What do you want to ask me?" I asked.

"I don’t want to ask you anything. I want to warn you."

"Warn me?" I raised an eyebrow.

He nodded. "You are playing with fire, Squall. The people you are working for are not to be trusted. I know you do not wish to believe me, but you shouldn’t let them use your emotions against you to cloud your judgement…."

I frowned. "Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about…."

"There is so much that they aren’t showing you, so much that you don’t know. It may look glamorous and civilized, but it’s truly far from that… Far from that…." He sounded wistful, regretful.

"Why do you sound so regretful?" I asked.

He waved a hand. "Never mind. I sense attachment to them, to one of them in particular. Don’t be fooled. Things can never be what they were. You’re just seeing what you want….."

I moved to stand, but something in his eyes caused me to pause.

"They mean to kill you."

I narrowed my eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Some things cannot be helped, my boy. You will die if you do not leave…. Die by their hands…."

"You are a lunatic…."

"Think what you wish, but the hands that seem gentle will be the ones that cause your downfall…."

I stood fully, turning on my heel. I totally forgot about our mission. As I passed the room Esemono had previously come out of, I saw movement. A long, black velvet coat with small dragons on the hem. It looked antique, one of a kind. I shook my head, heading back to where Zell was.

He was standing over the man, who was slumped in a pew.

"What did you do to him?" I asked.

"Nerve pinch. I guess I overdid it…." He looked behind me. "What about Esemono?"

I snapped out of my funk. "Huh?" I realized I hadn’t done anything about him. "He wasn’t alone. It’s a bit dangerous to do anything now….."

Zell furrowed his brow. "What did he say to you?"

I shook my head. "Nothing. Let’s find Selphie and go…."

"Don’t brush me off, Squall. Tell me!" Zell demanded as we left.

"Just something he said brushed me the wrong way. But he was talking with someone, so maybe we’ve found an accomplice….."

"Who was it?"

I shrugged. "I didn’t see their face. And I wasn’t about to pop my head in and say ‘Hello. I don’t mean to interrupt, but why are you in cahoots with Esemono?’"

Zell smirked, pointing to where Selphie was. She was alone.

"Where’s Irvine?" I asked.

I said I was feeling better, and he was all in a rush to make sure things were going ‘smoothly’ or whatever…."

"Probably Esemono’s client….?" Zell asked.

"Let’s just get back…" I whispered. I didn’t really take to heart what Esemono had said, but something about it was causing me distress. I just wanted to get back, and curl up next to Seifer, maybe have him drink from me again…..

As we approached the house, I got an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It curled painfully. Selphie put a hand on my shoulder.

"I feel it, too," She murmured. Maybe her senses were all out of whack, like mine were. But at least hers was explained. I began to cut across the front lawn towards the woods that encroached onto the property. I felt Selphie and Zell begin to follow me, but I motioned for them to stop.

"Please," I commanded, "Just go inside…."

Selphie shook her head. "I want to come, too. I can feel it just as strongly as you can." She turned to Zell. "Go inside, sweetie."

Zell was about to protest, but Selphie must have looked at him in a certain way, for he shut up and went into the house.

"What do you think it is?" Selphie asked.

I sighed, not really knowing what to expect. "A little bit of the truth," was the only response I gave. Selphie and I walked as quietly as we could, but a few branches still snapped under our feet. I felt strange about going so deep into strange woods, but I had to see. A little part of me knew what I was going to find, but my eyes had to see it, too. As Selphie walked a little ahead of me, I heard some noises. I reached out, grabbing her arm.

"What?" She whispered, then stopped. She must have heard it, too. We paused, listening for it again. It was the same sort of sound I had heard when I first stumbled upon Seifer, the same noise the dead girl had made. A frightened gasp before dying. But this time, it was more magnified, echoed. There was more than one voice crying out its dying last breaths. Selphie and I looked at each other, bolting towards where the sound was coming from. After what seemed like forever, we stopped at a clearing. There was so much movement, and it was going so quickly that I could barely see it. I waited for my breathing to calm, and concentrated. As if by magic, the blurry movement came into focus. There were four men, all trying to run, but failing miserably. All they could seemingly do was run around in circles, trying anything to get away from their lightning fast attackers.

I heard Selphie gasp. She must have been able to slow the motion, as well. We looked at each other, then looked back. The attackers were none other than our clients. Sephiroth was nowhere to be found, but Tifa and Seifer seemed to be heartily enjoying their little hunt. I found that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the expressions on their faces. Both were twisted in ecstasy. I wondered if that’s how I looked in the throws of sex.

"No, please!" One of the horrified men screamed as Tifa pounced on him. I heard the awful sound of bones breaking as his spine went limp over her knee. She hastily sunk her teeth into his exposed neck. It wasn’t a gentle suckling, like I had experienced from Seifer. It was totally cruel, animalistic. In one fluid motion, she ripped out his jugular, splattering his blood all over her clothes, all over the trees, all over everything. His cries were silenced. He was dead.

I looked away from Tifa to Seifer, my horrifically beautiful lover. He was embracing one of the men, who looked like he was actually enjoying it. His face, however, was a frightening colour of whitish gray. His eyes rolled into the back of his head as his body went limp in death. Seifer then tossed him away like he was a rag doll, the limp body hitting a tree with a sickening crack. The bark went flying from the sheer force, and I heard the ribcage crack. With movements that defied all speed, Seifer then began to chase down one of the men who was running away. I had to look away when the hopeless man was caught. There was no way he could have run fast enough to get away from Seifer. His screams were deafening, and I was surprised that there weren’t more people around to stop it. I was surprised that I wasn’t stopping it. I couldn’t even move, my feet almost glued to the leaf covered ground. My voice seemed to have disappeared on me, as well. All I could do was helplessly watched as Tifa and Seifer continued their massacre.

The man that Seifer had chased down was now laying face down in a pool of blood. Seifer brought his heel down with force, smashing the corpse’s skull on impact. He smirked triumphantly, looking over to Tifa. She was drinking from a huge hole in the last victim’s throat. Or what was left of it. It was more like bloody pulp, torn and weeping. I tried to choke back a defeated sob, but failed. It came out as a pathetic whimper.

"Squall?" I heard Seifer say. It sounded so strange, my name coming from his murdering mouth, sounding so gentle, but he had been so cruel…… Is this what he planned to do to me?

He walked towards me, but stopped. There was something preventing his ascent on me. I felt something cool against my arms. Looking down, I saw that the crosses on my, Seifer’s jacket were glowing a strange pale blue, radiating softly. Seifer was looking at me, like he wanted to touch me, press his body against mine, but the blue light made him keep his distance. Tifa also hovered, not daring to approach. I had never been gladder to be wearing Seifer’s jacket. I never thought that I’d need protection from him. I looked slowly over to Selphie, who was looking at the bodies strangely. I could see the lust in her eyes. The bloodlust. I scanned all their faces again, then looked down at my feet. Before my gaze rested on my boots, they saw the flutter of Seifer’s velvet jacket, black against the night. The only light thing was the small ivory dragons encircling the hem. A flash of the guest in Esemono’s church flooded my mind. I made a noise that sounded like a gag, looking up at his face again, the face that I had looked at so many times before.

"Squall….." He whispered, reaching his hand out to touch me, but he shakily stopped, the crosses stopping him.

I looked at all of them again, each face looking like a stranger wearing the mask of a new friend, an old comrade, a beautiful lover. I began to feel sick, the trees swaying around me. I gave one last look to them……

And ran.

I gasped, stopping to catch my breath. I leaned against a lamppost, my chest heaving painfully. I slowly sank down on a bench. I looked around. I was in a cozy section of the city, more residential than commercial. I hugged my body tightly, the blood and cruelty the only things I could see. I actually felt somewhat protected with Seifer’s jacket on, like he wouldn’t be able to do the same thing to me that he had done to those men……

I sobbed bitterly. He wasn’t the same as he was before, and finally realizing that hurt. Terribly. What I really wanted was for Seifer to come up from behind, wrap his arms around me, and tell me that what I saw was a horrible dream, and kiss it all away. And what about the dragons? What was Seifer doing talking privately to Esemono? How did he get there so quickly? I thought about the sheer speed he possessed while running down his prey, and that question was answered. So, what was with him talking to the man who was supposed to be his enemy. There was so much that I didn’t know. Were Zell, Selphie and I just being used?

"Seifer…." I whispered, dejected. I got up, wandering aimlessly. I didn’t pay attention to my surroundings. I wondered if Selphie had joined them in feasting on those bodies after I had cowardly run away. Probably. There was so much that was different now, and even if I ran forever, they wouldn’t go back to the way they were. And it wasn’t like the way things were going were that great. I sighed shakily. I wanted Seifer again. I needed him. But how could I ever feel at ease in his embrace again? I stopped when I saw a figure on the road ahead of me. They were just standing there, not moving. As I approached, I saw them tense. It was Sephiroth.

"What are you doing so far from home?" He asked, his voice sounding liquid.

I just glared at him, feeling the same cool glow against my arms that I had felt around Tifa and Seifer.

He approached me. I raised my eyebrows in surprise, wondering why the crosses weren’t having an effect. "You’ve seen it, haven’t you?"

I said nothing.

"Our true faces? You’ve seen Seifer feeding. It isn’t pretty, is it?"

I looked down at my feet again, feeling a bit frightened.

"Don’t worry, Squall. I won’t drain you. Your crosses can’t protect you against me, but I do have a little dignity."

I continued to stare at him, not saying a word. I didn’t think that I could.

He smiled at me, his fangs out. "See you later, my dear. That is, if you have the courage to return home….." He strolled off. He turned back, giving me an ambiguous look.

I just stood there, bathed in the pale light from the lamppost. I wondered what his look meant. It was so full of hidden meaning. Why wasn’t he affected by the crosses? I would have to ask Seifer…. If I ever could muster up the courage to face him again…. I stopped, looking around, getting my bearings. I noticed that there was a small hotel down the street. I sighed, realizing that I still had some money. I walked in, slowly wandering to the desk.

"May I help you?" The man asked.

"Are there any free rooms?" I asked.

He nodded. I flung some gil on the table, and he gave me a room key. I slowly went up the stairs, cursing my curiosity. Why did I have to run into the woods, why couldn’t I have been satisfied without really knowing what Seifer’s true instincts were? Once in my room, I flopped on the comfortable looking bed. I may have felt a little safer, but that didn’t make the emptiness in my heart disappear. I may have been away from the death and bloodshed, but I was also away from Seifer. Even though he was a monster, I still loved him, still wanted him. This bed was so lonely, so empty…….

I looked out the window. The sun was starting to come up. It was painting the dark sky a deep mauve, creating yellow bands of buttery light in the navy ink of the night. I sighed, shakily. I decided not to risk removing my coat, even if the sun was up. Before falling into a fitful sleep, I heard the cracking of bones and the horrible screams, painted with Seifer gently saying my name…….

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