The Depths of Demons Chapter 2
The sea was orange. It sparkled; it shimmered. Above, the clouds were painted pink, purple, as the sun sank slowly lower in the horizon, a brilliantly glowing orb against the red of Meteor. Though the sun had not yet removed itself from the sky, the moon could be seen, barely illuminated against a backwash of blue and purple.
As she stood, leaning against her fence, the sea was not orange to Mylar; it was the red blood of her father, who felt so suddenly distant from her, like some connection between them had been pulled taut and suddenly broken. She could not feel his presence. Cursing the ocean, which had swallowed her father within its depths, she dug her bare feet into the sand and closed her eyes.
Why did they have to go fight it, anyway? There havent been any attacks by it, anywhere, in a week. For all we know, its dead already.
The sea wind was harsh, biting, against her face. Salty, tangy, the scent of the sea inundated her, but all she could smell was death. It filled her completely, running thickly through her veins, making it difficult to breathe, to move. Each sensation, the feeling of the sand between her toes, was so much more intense, like the sharp edges of some sea animal digging into her skin. She was cold all over; it was almost as though she were ill, but she knew that she was not.
Shock took her like in that way. It had happened when her mother died. She hadnt eaten for days, or slept; Mylar had simply stood outside their house, leaning against the fence, staring out at the endless ocean.
You dont know hes dead, she told herself, tucking her hair behind her ears. You cant know that. Hell be fine. Hell return. Everything will be fine.
But Mylar knew it wouldnt be. It wont be fine, part of her shouted back. Hes never going to return! Ill be left all alone, without anything, without anyone.
She stared out at the bloody sea, and shivered.
"Hes very good at that. Very brave, he is." His father spoke as though he was not in the room, listening to each word.
Hawson snorted. "A coward is one thing your son is not."
The knife was cold within his hand, yet his hand felt warm, almost on fire, and the knife seemed to him almost alive, with a life of its own. He told himself to concentrate on the task at hand, not to become distracted; despite what Hawson said, he knew he could easily be killed if he didnt do everything just right, if he didnt make each movement precise, perfect.
"Rufus, hey!" his father called at him. Turning, he realized what hed done, what his father had caused him to do. In an attempt to undo the mistake, he whirled back around, moving his knife in an arc.
It was too late, though. He felt the terrible, ripping pain as claws tore into the flesh of his left arm, tearing cloth and skin. In a small, short moment of clarity, he knew that his father had done it not simply to be cruel, but because he wanted Rufus to be strong. But the moment, passed, and the pain enveloped him as his blood, warm and dark, spilled from his arm. Not making a sound, filled suddenly with renewed determination, relying upon instinct he switched his knife from his left hand to his right, ducked and slid away from the creature, then moved back toward it, slashing, burying the knife deep within it.
His blood mixed with its blood, and time seemed to stop. Rufus looked into the creatures eyes, barely hearing his father and Hawson; he was transfixed by the way those yellow eyes glared out at him, looking at the one who had so mortally wounded it, yet holding no hatred, no anger. The beast did not feel emotions, only instinct. In that small moment, Rufus understood it; he understood all the workings of the world.
And then he realized that the creature, in the process of dying, was yet ready for battle, its mighty jaws moving toward him. Gasping, Rufus placed his good hand upon the knife once more, still within the beasts chest, and twisted. He removed the vile weapon with a savage, angry noise and used the bloody dagger to cut the throat of his attacker, of his victim.
"Good job my boy," he heard his father say from somewhere in the distance, but everything was becoming dark. He could no longer feel his body; his skin had become numb, and he could not keep his eyes open.
"You shouldnt have made him do that. Fighting something smaller, perhaps, but a creature you genetically engineered . . . Rufus could have been killed."
Was that Hawson? He couldnt tell. Perhaps he was sinking into the ground, or into the ocean.
"But he wasnt killed."
"He might not make it, yet."
"Mama?" Rufus asked, but no one heard him. Hawson must have been right. His mama hadnt cared about him, at all.
The stars blinked down upon her. Mylar rubbed her arms with her hands, attempting to warm herself, give herself some protection against the chilled air.
There was something odd about the night, something frightened and wild, almost as if it felt the deep grief, anger within her, and echoed it. Each breath of air seemed so much different, as though Mylar breathed it for the first time. Perhaps it was only her state of mind, but she didnt believe that.
"Im staying out here until he returns," Mylar stated with conviction, staring out to sea.
You cant do that, and you know it, part of her mind screamed at her.
Oh yes I can! another part screamed back.
Sighing, Mylar knew she couldnt, but longed to. She wished she could burn into thousands of ashes and let the wind carry her, scatter her throughout the land, so she would not have to feel.
"But of all of these I choose, not the darker heat of seeing. The greater sense is feeling, oh the greater sense is feeling," she half-whispered, half-sang. Her mother had taught her that song when she was young, but she could only remember one line. She did not even remember the meaning of the song.
Her head hurt. Too much was happening for her to bear it all. Above her, Meteor glared menacingly down, closer than even the night before, eating away the stars she longed to see. Only a few were left to watch her, and she shivered. The end would soon be upon them.
Go inside, she told herself. Go tend to your patient. Forget everything; just let it be, for now.
Mylar nodded, looked once more up at the sky, turned, and headed into her house.
He walked across the cold, hard floor, listening to the sound his lone footfalls made in the huge room. His mouth was pulled into a thin, flat line; his expression was masked with indifference. Hawson had taught him well.
At fourteen, he was strong and quick, as he needed to be, given his fathers frequent testing of his ability. Though it was less often that Rufus was pitted against one of the genetically engineered beasts, he still had daily fights against soldiers in his fathers service. If he didnt win, he would forfeit everything. Rufus had also learned to keep any emotions he might have from reaching the surface, where those emotions might be exploited, and used to someone elses advantage. He knew how to keep himself calm, how to distance himself from everything.
So, when he walked down the long, empty hallway to meet his new stepmother, Rufus was in complete control of himself. His hands were not balled into fists, but free, unclenched, and his eyes were not filled with the anger he had initially felt. The eyes that stared out of the indifferent face were newly polished steel, reflecting thought, not showing.
"Rufus!" his father shouted at him from the room ahead, but Rufus did not quicken his pace. Instead, he continued going as he had, listening to each footfall. "RUFUS!"
When he finally reached the room, opening the door slowly and standing perfectly straight in front of his father and the woman who was his stepmother, his father was in a rage. The mans cold eyes glared at Rufus. "You damned spoiled brat! When I tell you to hurry, you hurry!"
"I was detained," he said calmly. Rufus knew how to outwit his father. He couldnt allow the man to get to him, no matter how he threatened, or how much pain he inflicted. Pain was not important. Those who lived with pain and didnt care about anything were those who could handle power. His father could not handle power, and so would not live long. When he died, Rufus would be ready to take his place, and he would succeed where his father had failed. Perhaps he would simply hire someone to kill the man, when he was ready to take over.
"Greet your new mother."
Rufus nodded at the woman, who looked both frightened and contemptuous at the same time. As hed expected she would be, she was beautiful. Her eyes were cold, like his fathers, and she looked as though she thought she would be able to wrap her husband around her little finger.
Experience had taught him that no woman would be able to do that to his father. What his father wanted, the man got, regardless of who was hurt. This woman would learn in time that, no matter what she did to try to bend President Shinra to her will, she would be the one who ended up breaking. Like his own mother, and all the other wives his father had had since, she would prove to be a weak woman.
"I am pleased to meet you," he told her crisply, then turned to his father. "I will leave now."
"Rufus, you will obey me!"
"I have greeted her. I have things to do. You have me training today, remember?"
The mans face turned an angry red. "Damn you! I am your father!"
"That, sir, has not yet been proven." Before his father could do whatever physical harm he intended, Rufus stepped backwards, and left the room. "Good day, father. Ill be in training."
"Youll be in training all right!" his father shouted after him. "Ive told them to go easy on you so far, but no longer!"
Without answering, Rufus walked away as slowly as hed approached, not commenting when Hawson emerged from an office and walked with him.
"You should not taunt your father so. It angers him that you are more controlled than he is."
Laughing slightly, Rufus shook his head. "That is hardly my fault. The man has no control at all! And he goes through wives too quickly. How long do you think this one will last?"
"He needs a strong woman, someone not afraid to stand up to him, like you do." Rufus snorted. "Of course, if a woman ever did stand up to him, hed likely kill her on the spot." Hawson shook his head, chuckling quietly. "It also bothers him that he cant get to you anymore. When you were little, he knew exactly how to make you angry, how to make you scream and shout and struggle. He cant do that with you anymore," Hawson told him, his tone becoming serious. "Be careful, Rufus. Hes going to work you much harder now, try to make you break. You and I both know you can withstand anything of the physical. That is why, when he discovers it as well, he will find another way to get to you, and he will find a way to do it. Eventually, Rufus, he will find his weapon, and then he will make you bleed. I know your father. He will do it."
Making his mouth into a grim line, Rufus continued walking. "I wont let him."
They walked for a few minutes in silence, both intent upon their own thoughts, both thinking of the man who killed simply because he could.
"Half a year," Hawson said unexpectedly.
"I give her half a year. Shell be dead or gone after that."
He laughed again. "That one? Shell never make it half a year. Two months at the most. Two months."
"We shall see," Hawson stated, his words suddenly having an edge to them.
Thinking of Hawsons previous warning, Rufus replied, "Yes. We shall see."
Flicking the light-switch upward as she closed the door, Mylar looked about her house. It was clean, as it always was, because she took pains to keep it so. It was also empty. The absence of her fathers loud voice and roaring laughter left the place bare somehow, and cold.
For a moment, she simply stood there, and leaned back against the large wooden door, closing her eyes and taking deep breaths. Her house always smelled slightly of salt, herbs, and lilacs. She couldnt explain it; lilacs rarely bloomed in Junon, and when they did, it was only for a short time in the early spring, and already it was mid-summer. The effect of the three scents made breathing in her house somewhat difficult, especially in summer, when heat and humidity seeped through the walls and clung to the air.
Mylar had lived in that house all her life. Shed grown up with the scent and sight of the sea, with the sounds of the waves and the shouts of Shinra officers. Often, shed been woken in the middle of the night by loud crashes, then screams. During those nights, when she woke frightened, her father would sit in her room with her, rocking her soothingly, and sing lullabies, showing a different side of a man whod learned to be tough his entire life. It had been difficult after her mother died, but theyd come through it.
And now her father was gone.
Something brushed slowly against her leg and meowed. "Heura," Mylar crooned, dropping to her knees and carefully stroking the calico, one-eyed cats back. Heura began to purr as Mylar pulled her into her arms and walked slowly down the hall to where her patient lay unconscious on the cot.
She didnt know how, but the cats shed saved, Heura in particular, seemed to know when something was wrong, and tried to make it better the only way they could. Only Heura was yet left, though, out of all the animals shed saved, the others having left to find their own lives. Mylar knew that they would leave before she helped them, and tried to keep herself distanced from the animals, but she always grew an odd attachment to them. Her animals were some of the only friends she had, just as Priscilla had her dolphin.
As she sat, placing Heura in her lap, and closely examined her sleeping patient, Heura dug her claws into Mylars knees.
With a yelp of surprise, Mylar stood, dropping Heura to the floor. The cat ran quickly away, darting into Mylars room. "What was that for?" she called after the departing cat, then rubbed the sore spot on her knee with her left hand. "Heura, you bad kitty" Mylar stopped speaking as something caught her attention. Intrigued, somewhat frightened, Mylar moved from the young man toward a window, and gazed out at the night sky, where something strange was happening.
Whatever it was had frightened Heura badly enough to cause her to scratch Mylar.
The night, once filled with bloody Meteor, was suddenly streaked with light green, glowing rivers that shimmered and sparkled as they flowed through the dark sky. It was the most beautiful thing shed ever seen. Mylar moved to the window and slowly pulled it open, leaning her elbows on the wooden ledge and gazing out into the night as it grew brighter.
Hed left his father speaking with Hawson, stalking quietly out of the room as soon as his father entered, eliciting an angry look from the man. Despite Hawsons warning two years before, Rufus had not given his father the weapon he craved; each day, Rufus did exactly what he was ordered to do in training, while being quietly contemptuous of it all at the same time. As a result, he was quicker than any of the soldiers in his fathers service, save perhaps the mighty Sephiroth, but Rufus held only scorn for that man. He would have made an excellent first class SOLDIER, but his father was going to place him higher, once he could find Rufus weakness and exploit it. His father had mentioned making him Vice President in a few years.
"Not if you continue to anger him like this," Hawson had warned him when Rufus told him. "You must obey him, Rufus."
"I do obey him. I simply dont let him rule the way I think."
"Rufus, were friends, right? Right. You see, your father needs to believe that you are an exact copy of him, you know? Yes, you know. If you go against him at every turn, hell continue to do everything in his power to change you. So at least pretend that you think like he does. Listen, kid. You have to do this, or he will hurt you."
Hed scoffed at that. "I think Ive already proven he cant hurt me."
"Why are you so stubborn?"
Blinking, Rufus had answered immediately, "You taught me to be."
A sudden, crashing noise, then a yelp from behind him caught Rufus attention. He turned quickly and looked backwards. A girl sat awkwardly on the ground, one leg tucked beneath her, a pained expression upon her face. Her short blonde hair fell in front of her face, obscuring her eyes.
"Are you alright?" Rufus asked, walking slowly toward her.
The girl edged away. "Im fine," she told him, gritting her teeth. "I just fell. I landed badly."
"I can see that. Where did you fall from?"
Turning her face toward him and tucking away her hair, she said, "From the, eh, the . . . I fell from the ledge." She was pretty in an odd sort of way, her mouth crooked, her eyes large and brown.
He frowned. "Ledge?"
Lowering her voice, she told him, "The window ledge. Outside of that room."
Glancing toward the specified room, he frowned once more. "In that case, I suppose youre lucky the window was to the inside of the building, rather than the outside, though I cant figure out why. Were pretty high up, you know. What were you doing?"
"Youre Rufus Shinra, arent you? The presidents son?"
"Much to my consternation. Now, what were you doing?"
Shrugging, the girl gave him a sheepish smile. "Thats my mothers office."
"Oh? She works for my father? Whats your name?"
"I went to my moms office to grab a file, but I got locked inside, so . . . I opened the window and let myself out. As I was coming out, I fell."
Rufus gave her a skeptical look. "You got locked in? How exactly did you manage that?"
The girl grinned guiltily. "I didnt tell my mom I was going there to get a file. She came by and locked her office when she left. It can only be unlocked with the key, whether youre inside it or outside of it. But the window unlocks from the inside."
"Whats your name?" he asked, walking alongside her as she headed away from her mothers office, the file clutched tightly against her.
"Darra. Im Darra."
"You forgot to close the window, Darra," he told her, laughing as she stopped suddenly, turned, and rushed back toward the office.
Following after her, Rufus saw his father look at him for a moment, then quickly disappear through a doorway, a grin upon his face.
As she looked out the window, as the streams of green light continued to grow and wash the night sky of darkness, Mylar had the sudden feeling that someone was watching her; her back had the burning sensation that eyes were glaring at her, seeing through her.
She turned swiftly, almost expecting someone to be standing there, looking at her, but no one was. Her house was still silent.
The young man on the cot made a noise, then turned. His eyelids, having rested for so long, opened quickly, revealing eyes of a clear, dark blue.
Startled, Mylar took a step away from the window. The young man slowly sat, a look of confusion upon his face, and turned toward her.
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