The Depths of Demons Chapter 6
"Come on, Sufur. Wake up. Please." Turning her head slightly, Mylar glanced at Doctor Cleraunce, who stood over her patient, a grim look upon his face. The rough material of her shirt collar chafed against her neck, and dipped two fingers between her skin and the offending cloth, providing some relief.
I really need to change this shirt.
Earlier that morning, when her patient had still failed to waken, shed decided Sufur needed more help than she could give him. So, pulling the itchy brown shirt quickly over her nightgown, shed dashed barefoot through the streets of Junon, curled her hand into a fist, and pounded several times upon his door.
She recalled the cool pavement, the wet grass poking through cobbles, beneath her feet, the way the morning fog had curled her hair. The sky had been gray, the street filled with puddles; it had been raining, and would rain again, soon. That morning had ingrained itself in her memory. The look on Eugene Cleraunces face when hed pulled the door roughly open to find Mylar, dressed in her nightgown and her dead mothers old brown shirt, was something she would remember for the rest of her life. It had been the perfect blend of irritation and surprise, his bushy gray eyebrows pulled together, his mouth slightly open, prepared to rebuke whoever it was who had come to his door so early. But when hed seen that it was Mylar, the expression had turned to one of worry. Hed known that, if she were coming to him, something had to be wrong.
"You should have come to me earlier," Dr. Cleraunce told her, pacing around her as she tried to coax her patient into awareness. "Youre a stubborn girl, Mylar. You have to stop thinking you can bind the world together with your own hands. Everyone needs help some times."
"Wake up, wake up," she murmured again, leaning low to whisper into his ear. Her patient stayed asleep, his eyelids still. She wasnt certain why she felt she could wake him by simply talking to him; after all, shed tried that two days ago, when hed first fallen unconscious. The initial moment of panic shed felt when hed fallen had faded, becoming only a small, tight area in her stomach, which somewhat inhibited breathing, but still allowed her to function. Shed been fine the past few days, tending to him, trying to discover what was wrong. That Eugene Cleraunce was there, however, instilled a sense of urgency within her. Dr. Cleraunce was there when people died. He was the one to which people spoke their last words. But that wasnt the only reason shed waited.
Mylar did not want Dr. Cleraunce to discover the identity of her patient. Raising her gaze to his, she tried to see within his brown eyes whether or not he knew her secret. Seeing nothing, she pulled the collar again away from her skin.
"Mylar!" Eugene Cleraunce snapped suddenly, making her jump. "Stop that, right now; go change that shirt. You dont want to get a rash."
She set her lips into a stubborn line. "This was my mothers shirt. She loved this shirt," she told him, as though that would change the words he spoke.
Dr. Cleraunces brown eyes softened. He sighed slightly, raising his gray eyebrows. "Yes; I know your mother loved that shirt. You know what? She wore that shirt as often as she could. And I treated her for a rash every single time she wore it." A grim shadow passed over his face slightly, and he told her, softly, "Your mother was always like that."
Mylar looked at him, bringing her brows together in a frown, wondering what it was he knew of her mother; as far as her father had told her, Junia Cleremon had paid little attention to the world outside their house, or those in it.
Eugene smiled at her suddenly, nodded his head. "Now go change it, before I do it for you."
She smiled slightly, tilting her head, and nodded back at him. Beneath the shirt, she still wore the light, blue nightgown, soft against her skin. She turned away, cast one quick glance at Sufur, then headed down the hallway into her room.
Closing the door, she pulled the shirt quickly off, tossing it into the large, wicker laundry basket she kept near her closet. Heura blinked at her, laying upon her bed.
Her thoughts upon her mother, she doffed the nightgown as well, went to her closet, pulled open the doors, pulled out a pair of pants and light gray sweater. Then, shaking her head, Mylar replaced the items where they belonged, stretched her arm forward, searching through her cluttered closet. When she felt her fingers graze something soft, smooth, she grasped the material, pulling it out; it was a bright yellow sundress, one she hadnt worn in nearly a year.
Your mother used to dance like the wind tugged at her heels; shed grasp my hands suddenly and pull me outside, to the shore, and just dance, in a white silk dress the color of moonlight. Your mother was like a wild bird, all colored feathers; when she danced, she moved as though she had wings. She never belonged in Junon. I think we both knew that.
She shook her head, grasping the yellow sundress tightly; how or why the words had suddenly worked their way into her mind, she did not know, but she pulled the dress over her head, tied the small strings at the sides, pulled on socks.
Your mother used to dance like the wind tugged at her heels.
Finding it suddenly difficult to swallow, blinking back tears shed not expected to have, Mylar attempted to pull herself to her feet, envisioning her mother, so grim, so full of sorrow, as a girl who laughed and danced in the sand. She stood jerkily, moved to the door and leaned against it, clutching the cold metal doorknob in one hand. Resting her head against the wood, she tried to breathe slowly.
"Dont think I dont know who you are."
Mylar started, stepping away from the door, then pressed her ear against it once more.
"I know you, no matter what Mylar says."
Oh no. No.
Her hand shaking, Mylar slowly turned the knob, being as silent as possible, easing the door open. She stepped silently into the hallway, stepping first upon her toes, then lowering her heels. With an intake of breath, she closed the door behind her, making no sound.
"I will help you, because I am a doctor, and this what I do, no matter who it is Im treating. But I wont like it. And I wont pretend to like it."
She felt anger well up within her, somewhere deep and impenetrable, bursting forth suddenly through her. Her feet, which had moved with slow, quiet movements only moments before, flew suddenly across the ground; her heart beat rapidly within her.
"You cant tell anyone," she shouted, running at Eugene. "You cant. He has amnesia, and if you tell someone, and if it gets around, and if someone comes looking¾ "
"Mylar! You know who this is. Dont deny that you dont. What in the hell did you think you were doing?"
"Saving a life, thats what," she replied, drawing herself to her full height and glaring upward at Dr. Cleraunce. "That is what I did, and that is what I will continue to do, whether you like it or not. And if you do anything to jeopardize his health, by telling others who he is before he is ready, then so help me God I will make your life hell."
Eugene Cleraunce stared at her a moment, at the fire in her eyes, then nodded slowly. "So like your mother," he whispered softly, then turned toward Mylars sleeping patient. "Lets get to work, shall we?"
Scarlet took a deep breath. She had to find him, but was unable to come up with even the slightest hint of where he might be. No one knew anything, or was willing to share the tiny piece of information they might hold. So she was left with little choice; Scarlet would have to search the small settlements that had popped up along the roads, and work her way to Junon.
If she did not find him in Junon, she was head to Costa del Sol, to Corel, to Nibelheim; Rufus Shinra was alive somewhere in the world, and she would find him no matter what it took. She vowed that, narrowing her eyes and clenching her fists. She bit down upon her lower lip, looked up at the gray, rainy sky, and nodded to herself. The air was thick with the scent of rain, a smell she hated, but would live with. Eventually, the rain would pass.
Eventually, she would find him.
"Rufus Shinra," she said softly, tilting her face again upwards. "I will find you. I promise." And, disregarding the rain, she headed out of Kalm.
"You seem to have been doing well, Mylar; I cant say what caused this relapse in him. Everything you have done has been correct, save perhaps in the fact that you relied solely upon yourself. You should have come to me right away, and you know that." There was a sigh, then the mans voice continued. "I wont waste my breath. Theres nothing you can do about it now, in any case."
He opened his eyelids slowly; they were dry and seemed stuck together almost. His vision was blurry. All he could see was a yellowed-white ceiling above him, and the indistinct image of a hand waving slightly above him.
"Sufur?" Mylar asked softly, pushing the hand away. Her own hands came into view, her body, then her face, concerned gray eyes. Placing one warm hand gently upon his forehead, she turned her head away, sweeping chestnut hair from her back over her shoulders. "Hes awake."
"Yes," the mans voice answered, his tone peculiar. "I can see that."
Who is that man? Her father? No¾
No, thats not right. "My name isnt Sufur," he told her, voice steadier than he had expected. He was surprised to hear himself speak. "Its Rufus." My name is Rufus. Why does she think it is Sufur?
A shadowed look passed over her eyes, one he could not define. Was it fear he saw in the rainy depths of her eyes, or something different?
She opened her mouth, closed it quickly, then opened it again and spoke. "Are you remembering, then?" Kneeling, she placed one hand upon his shoulder, used the other to turn his head carefully toward her.
Irritated, he jerked away, pulling his head back. Dizziness whisked momentarily across his eyes, making him regret his actions. He squeezed his eyelids closed once more, waiting for the throbbing of his head to dissipate. "No," he replied at last, shaking his head slightly. "I dont remember anything else. But my name is Rufus. Not Sufur."
He opened his eyes and saw Mylar cast a worried glance toward the other, the man who stood away, in the shadows of the room.
"You dont remember anything else?" Her eyes were narrowed in concern, her lips brought together flatly. "Are you sure? Try to think. How are you feeling?"
Ignoring her question, he placed one hand on his forehead, closing his eyes. He pushed her away blindly then pulled himself slowly to his feet. "What happened? How long was I unconscious?"
Mylar hissed her breath inward, moving slowly away from him, her feet sliding across the floor. "This is the third day," she told him softly, glancing again at the man who watched them with careful eyes.
Three days? Is that possible? "Three days?"
She nodded, not looking at him. He felt strange, detached, disconnected from thought and feeling. If he lifted his arm, he would not feel it move.
He turned away, toward the window; though he could see little, his eyes still caught the sight of the gray, overcast sky, the slight spattering of rain. Children would be inside, wrapped in clothing, gazing longingly out the windows and hoping for the sun to show itself, as they grew bored of inside games. But Rufus wanted to be out there. He wanted to feel the rain upon his skin.
"You need to sit down." He whirled around to face the man whose cool, measured voice cut through his hearing. Rufus felt a burst of rebellion course through him. Who is he to tell me what to do? Clenching his fists, he simply looked at the man.
"Suf¾ Rufus. Do as he says. Sit. You need to rest. Youve been unconscious for three days. You shouldnt be up and walking around yet."
He turned his gaze toward Mylar. For a moment, he narrowed his eyes at her, then nodded slowly and did as she bade, sitting upon the cot.
"Dr. Cleraunce has come to help me find out what exactly is wrong. Hes going to ask some questions, to find out what happened. Answer him. Its important."
"I already told you, Mylar. I dont remember what happened."
The doctor said nothing more to him; instead, he turned to Mylar, nodding slowly. "You mentioned to me earlier that there were some things you needed to pick up, yes?"
She shook her head swiftly. "I dont think it would be best for me to¾ "
"Leave him alone with me?"
Keeping her head up, Mylar didnt speak. She gazed defiantly at Dr. Cleraunce, hands on hips.
"Mylar, I promise that this is the best thing. You need to trust my judgement. I wont do anything to jeopardize this young mans health."
Rufus could see, in her calm gray eyes, that she was still hesitant. There was a certain tension in her right forearm, as though, in apprehension, she was flexing her arm.
"Mylar, you can believe me. Your father trusted me. Your mother trusted me. You can, as well."
She will, because of that. Because of what he said about her mother. Shes letting herself be manipulated, and she knows it, but she wont do anything about it. Shes leaving me here, alone, with him."
Nodding slowly, Mylar released her breath in a sudden gush of air. She nodded slowly, biting down upon one lip, then slipped a pair of shoes on and grabbed a small bag from a desk as she headed hurriedly out the door.
"Now," the doctor said, turning to Rufus as the door swung closed. "We have some discussing to do. Do you feel up to it?"
He nodded, a slow sense of dread creeping over him.
She walked slowly through the streets, breathing the rainy air as she focused her attention upon her task. She could not allow her thoughts to stray back to her patient, and to Dr. Cleraunce.
He said my mother trusted him. But my father doesnt; I know that. Father hates him. So why did I trust him now?
Her mind warred.
No, Mylar. Keep your thoughts ahead of you. Go to the store, buy what you need. Then return. It is that simple. Thinking about everything will only make it worse, when there is nothing that can be done. Dr. Cleraunce means only to help. You cant go rushing back there, intent upon rescuing Rufus Shinra. From all youve heard of him, he needs no protecting.
But that isnt Rufus Shinra in there. That is a hurt, frightened, confused young man who needs my help. And what if I shouldnt have trusted Eugene Cleraunce? What if he has some reason to hate Rufus, or his father, and tries to hurt him?
Eugene is a doctor. He cannot purposely hurt someone. It is against all he believes. You know that.
Here. The store.
Closing her eyes, Mylar nodded, ending the battle with in her. A light sprinkling of raindrops fell upon her, curling her hair. She took a step forward, placed her palm upon the wooden door, and pushed it slowly open. It creaked slightly as light from within spilled messily onto the gray morning ground.
"Good morning," the woman behind the counter, Sharren Ryc, intoned, turned away from the door. She stood, pushed upwards by her toes, pinning a price tag to an item upon a shelf.
"Good morning," Mylar echoed, moving halfway into the room, stopping upon an old, worn rug. She brought her feet together, left her hands hang at her side, and willed herself to unclench her fists.
"Oh hello, Mylar," Sharren said, turning, with a soft smile. She moved to the counter, leaning forward over it, the palms of her hands pointed outwards. Her graying hair tickled her shoulders; her brown eyes danced. "How may I help you this morning?"
With a deep breath, Mylar walked forward.
"Now," Doctor Cleraunce said again, looking intently at Rufus. "Tell me what you remember about what happened."
He brought his brows together, frowning. "I thought Id told you. The first thing I remember is waking up, with Mylar tending to me. Nothing else."
"Oh, mmhmm. Mhmm mhmm mhmm." The doctor nodded, averting his eyes, suddenly. "Well, well come back to that later. How are you feeling, Rufus?"
"I told Mylar. I feel fine."
"No dizziness? Nausea? Do my words sound indistinct? Can you focus effectively on one specific thing?"
"No, no, no, and not while youre asking me so many questions," Rufus replied wryly, taking a steadying breath. He placed his hands upon his knees, squeezing his skin slightly. Lifting his eyes, he gazed evenly at Dr. Cleraunce, awaiting the mans next question.
"Im going to have to look you over now, young man. Strip."
Rufuss eyes widened.
"If I were you, Id do it quickly, so that you can have all of your clothing back on by the time Mylar returns." The doctor lifted one white, bushy eyebrow, awaiting Rufuss actions.
Heading back to her house, Mylar took slow steps. Although she had been hesitant to leave, she dawdled on the way back to her house. Though she did not know what caused such uncertainty in her, she still moved at an unhurried pace, clutching her bag tightly against her.
As she passed Priscillas house, she turned, saw the open door, then changed directions. Quickening her steps, she dashed across the street, ran up the steps, and arrived, breathless, in Priscillas room. Eyes wide and wild, she grinned at her friend as she placed her bag upon the table.
"Come with me, Priss," she commanded then, before the younger girl could answer, Mylar caught her by the hand and pulled her outside. Her feet flew down the steps, down the street, dragging Priscilla. They ran swiftly down the streets of Junon, laughing like they hadnt since they were young children, ignoring the looks given to them by the citys inhabitants. Past shops, past Shinra soldiers appearing miserable in the rain, past children peering through windows, they dashed madly through the rain, and out of the city into the endless green plains.
Once they were free of the city, Mylar threw her shoes into the air, watching them fall quickly into the grass, then removed her socks and tossed them away from her. Priscilla, slightly hesitant, mimicked Mylar.
With a grin, she felt the splashing of the rain against her skin. She looked up at the beautifully gray sky, felt the coolness of the wind touch her, and through her hands upward, tossed her head back. The rain came faster and streamed down her with its gentle fingers.
Laughing, she cartwheeled farther into the plains, again and again, then stopped, out of breath, and lay in the grass, gazing upwards, while Priscilla stood nearby, caught up in Mylars storm of life.
It was nearly night by the time she arrived home, her bag reclaimed, the rain and sky having cleared. She opened the door to her house quickly, away that her dress had dried strangely, and that her hair was clinging to her face, curled and unmanageable.
"Mylar!" Eugene Cleraunce exclaimed as soon as she walked in, a worried look upon his face. "Where in the world were you?"
"I went onto the plains," she told him, not letting him stare her down. "Im sorry. I shouldnt have kept you waiting. How is he?"
The old man sighed. "He seems to be fine. His wounds are healing perfectly, and I cant find anything else physically wrong with him. And I am certain that he truly does not know who he is, or why he cant recall anything. Im not sure what caused his relapse, but I dont know that there is anything I can do. Continue on as you have been, and if it happens again, come get me immediately. Do you understand, Mylar? No more of this waiting till the last moment. Now, if you dont mind, I am going to get back to my wife, who has been checking up on me every few hours, and wondering what the devil Im doing. Good day, Mylar." He nodded at her and headed for the door.
"Dr. Cleraunce," she said softly, pulling money from her small pouch. "Thank you, and again, Im sorry for not coming back sooner. I just got caught up in the day." She moved her hand forward, thrusting the money at him.
He pushed her hand back slowly, a soft smile touching his lips. "I was glad to be of service, Mylar. no money is necessary. And dont fret about making me worry. You look as though you needed to be caught up in the day. Youve finally got some color to you, girl." He moved past her, to the door, opened it, and stepped into the night. Before he closed the door, however, he turned back to her. "How like your mother you are, Mylar. Dont let her fate become your own."
Before she could answer, hed shut the door, and she did not have the will to yank it open once more and demand what he spoke of. She was not certain she wanted to know.
Placing her bag of purchases on the table in the kitchen, she walked back into the main room of her house and gazed speculatively at her sleeping patient. She wondered if Dr. Cleraunce had fed him.
Although she willed them not to, her thoughts strayed back to what Eugene had said about her being like her mother. And her fathers words drifted back to her.
Your mother used to dance like the wind tugged at her heels.
She glanced once more at Rufus, decided he was asleep for the night, then ran to her door, pulled it roughly open, and stepped outside. The nighttime surrounded her, embracing her with cold arms. The winds breath tickled her arms, and she hugged them to her, but she did not head back inside. She turned her face upwards, gazing at the brilliantly clear sky, so different from what it had been earlier, and felt the stars gaze back down at her.
She headed to the beach.
One hands slowly caressing Dark Nations sleek, blue-black coat, Rufus kept his eyes trained upon Sair and Jem, sitting near him, too busy watching each other to notice anything else.
You remember this, Rufus, his mind taunted him suddenly, words entering his ears from some unknown source. But he didnt react to it; could not react to it. He had the sudden feeling that he was reliving the past, but paralyzed with the knowledge of the present. While knowing, he could do nothing, simply watch. What had happened would happen again, as he watched. You remember this day. Oh, you remember it well, dont you?
No. I dont want to remember this afternoon, and later this night. Look at them. I cant remember it. Not yet. I dont want to remember what happens. They are so in love. How can such things happen?
You wait too long. You waited too long.
No, I dont want to remember this just yet.
And suddenly, he was no longer sitting before them, watching them and writhing in jealousy. It wasnt time for that. Not yet. Dark Nation became smaller, teeth and claws bared, still ripping into his flesh because she had not quite learned to trust.
He was back in comfortable memories.
But, throughout his life, no memories were comfortable.
His own dark thoughts pervaded even the sunniest day at Tur-Ah, because as he ignored that which he told himself he should not care about, those same things haunted him and clawed at him with icy cold fingers.
Fingers, fingers on the floor.
Feet fell coldly down upon the smooth floor as he walked with icy enchantment, detachment, toward the elevator. Scarlet had called him, so early in the morning, into her office. And he, because he was bound to the woman by some force that ran so deep within him that he would never be able to explain it, obeyed. Dark Nation padded along with him, glancing up at him, ready to bolt. She made small noises deep in her throat.
Rufus remembered this day, too.
How he longed to forget it.
Dont let me remember. Oh God I dont want to remember dont let me remember. No, dont keep walking, turn away, dont keep walking, let me run. Run run run far from here. Turn around. Turn around. Close your eyes.
But he did not hear himself on that cold morning¾ it would happen because it had happened.
Dont go any farther stop stop stop.
But then he saw her. He saw her, crawling toward him, hair all in curls and matted with blood, tears falling from her eyes as she scraped fingernails across the ground. The sound echoed through him. She was crying out at him, and he couldnt do anything; he stood and he stared at her, that woman whose name he would never know, her beautiful dark eyes dying, screaming, crying for him to help her. He could not help her.
He couldnt even help himself.
He moved past her, because he could not bare to see her, while Dark Nation watched with golden eyes and bared teeth.
Pressure on his ankles, a grip too tight for a girl who was dying, and he almost screamed, jumping away, but she held on tight, tight, and she looked up at him again, curls falling across her face, painted with blood and sweat, salt water tears that stung. Their eyes met with a lightning bolt, and he felt himself paralyzed.
They did this to her. I did this to her. We did this to her. He could feel his thoughts running through the open hallway, falling over her. She pulled them to her mouth and filled herself with his emotions. It didnt matter how shed gotten there, or who it was who had hurt her. He was the one to hurt her now.
He shook his foot, shook her bloody fingers away, but she held on. It was her last bid at life, holding on with all the strength left within her crushed being. Her lips were moving, but no words, not even whispers, came out. He kicked at her, trying to get her fingers, away, and something happened.
She moved her fingers away.
His foot came down upon them.
He would never forget that sound. Bones breaking, fingers crushed to the ground and she let her head fall finally, her forehead plunging into the hard, hard floor. He could not stop to look down at her. Dark Nation had moved ahead, and Rufus could not breathe, so he walked forward and let her lie there.
But he felt the panic building within him. If he turned around¾
Rufus woke, sweat pouring down his forehead, soaking his shirt. The night sky fell through the windows around him. He was alone in the house, and, though he could not remember what he had dreamt, there was still a dark, blood-red terror coursing through him. He could not stay there.
He stood, turned his head around wildly, and took deep breaths.
Where had Mylar gone?
Somehow, he knew without knowing. He moved to the door, pulled it open, and entered the dark night of Junon.
Bathed in moonlight, she danced near the churning sea waters, clothed in her sunlight-yellow dress. She felt the material swirl around her knees, her ankles. Sand climbed upwards, over her feet, imbedding itself between her toes.
She was not paying attention to anything; her arms were spread outward, and her legs, her feet, moved without her permission, bringing her in soft circles, dragging her along the beach. Her hair flew out behind her, and breath came in gasps, but the air was cool and calming. If she closed her eyes, she would feel the air fall over her face like water, streaming a waterfall of wind. Some part of her asked her what she was doing, but nothing answered. Her heart and mind were too caught up in the movement, in the feeling: in the sensation of the night around her, the sand beneath her, the wind rushing through her.
If she laughed, as she longed to do, to throw her head back, her arms out, the sound would rock through the night. It would cause earthquakes and tidal waves. The sea would swallow itself and the night would lose itself to darkness. So she did not laugh out loud, but let it dance through her veins and she danced through the world.
Your mother used to dance like the wind tugged at her heels.
She wanted to capture some part of her mother. She wanted to see the laughing girl her mother must have been so long ago, before life had changed her.
"Are you all right, Mylar?"
Her chin tilted upward, arms spread outward, she almost laughed, but she turned and looked at him. She let her smile light up the dark night. Her hair was a wild dark halo around her face, but for once she did not tug it away with restless fingers. Instead, she traced one finger across her mouth, wiping off sand, and nodded. Her eyes were wide gray oceans.
"Im fine," she told him, keeping her eyes focused upon Rufus. She moved toward him, one leg forward, then the other, arms swinging, fingers spread like palm tree leaves. "Do you dance?"
Clearly, it startled him, and he took a step backwards, but she did not allow him to escape. She grasped his hand and pulled him onto the sand, keeping him far from her, but his hands clasped within her own.
He should be at home resting.
Your mother used to dance like the wind tugged at her heels.
He could dance, and he did, a concerned look upon his face, and Mylar moved more on her own, keeping her arms, and his, far from her, too intent upon her thoughts.
"My mother used to dance like the wind tugged at her heels," she whispered to him, keeping her gaze steady.
His eyes met hers, and he kept his gaze focused upon her. An uncomfortable feeling moved over her, a cool wind brushing past her shoulders. He said, "Tell me about your mother."
And she was about to; she opened her mouth to do so, to tell him all those little things about her, about who she was, but she found no words came forth. "I dont think I knew her," she told him suddenly, breaking away, stopping the dance. She had not known her mother, and did not.
But she knew someone who did.
"Will you go back to the house? Please? Ill be back there . . . Ill be there in a moment. I have something to do."
He nodded; he said, "You are going to speak with Dr. Cleraunce."
She did not ask him how he knew. Instead, she dashed from the beach, kicking up clouds of sand, leaving him to bend and pick up her sandals, then slowly return to her house.
Mylar did not bother to knock. She pushed the door open, threw it open, and strode in, knowing she should not, but unable to help herself.
It was late, but she had to know.
Eugene Cleraunce was yet awake, sitting in the kitchen upon a chair, watching with a strange detachment as she entered his house and moved quickly toward him.
She pulled out another chair, moved it toward him, and demanded, "Tell me about my mother."
Scarlet shivered. She adjusted the ankle straps on her high red heels, scraping one long fingernail against her skin as she followed her ankle upward, straightening her stocking, until her hand met her skirt, then pulled the silky material slightly downward. She needed to be ready. Shed been made head of the Turks. She needed to be prepared.
All inside her, beneath her skin, she ached. If she closed her eyes, she would still remember. It had hurtGod had it hurtbut she knew that she deserved it, and, near the end, shed felt a strange sort of violent pleasure, intense, deep, in a way she had never felt before. But still, she ached, and she hated herself for that emotion shed felt.
And somehow, she knew she was losinghad losta part of herself.
She could still hear the scream of the girl she had killed, and it ran through her veins, tingling her skin, a sort of vibrant, intoxicating feeling. Tilting her head back, she concentrated on that scream, then upon her own scream. Pleasure and pain had been so mixed, she could no longer tell which emotion she had felt.
"Miss? Were almost there."
As though she couldnt tell. She could feel the helicopter, losing altitude, moving slowly toward the ground below. Beneath her, outside, green swirled against green, the forest stretching on forever, save for the large white building set in the center, nearly as large as the Shinra Building in Midgar, massive and imposing.
"Tur-Ah Compound," she murmured, moving her tongue across her lower lip.
"Aye," replied Chandra Emson, the younger woman, also a Turk, who was returning to Tur-Ah, after spending two years in Midgar. Unlike Scarlet, Chandra had been trained, and was truly a Turk, not merely in name. But, despite the fact that she was a skilled killer, there was a deep, shining innocence in her oddly shaped brown eyes. "Tur-Ah Compound, the Righteous Hell."
Scarlet gave the girl a curious glance, but did not comment. Theyd spent three hours in a helicopter together, after having landed in a smaller Shinra airport, but had had little to say to one another. She didnt like the way Chandra kept giving her a knowing glance, how the young womans half-smile seemed to be mocking her.
Reminding herself that she was now the girls superior, Scarlet gave Chandra a look of disdain, and waited for the helicopter to finish landing.
Two people were waiting for them at the landing area. One of them was dressed as Chandra was, in the customary Turks outfit, blue coat, grim expression. The other was obviously an executive, an older, balding, overweight man. Scarlet didnt like his round face and chubby fingers. He reminded her of President Shinra.
Shinra, Shinra. Rufus Shinra, who would be sent to Tur-Ah in a few months. She had to remember her true reason for being at Tur-Ah Compound.
Her gaze moved on, to the tall young man in the blue coat, who had the most stunning eyes she had ever seen in her life. They were a deep, incredible gold color, a color she had never seen before, and large, staring out with gleaming intelligence from that handsome face.
"I am Jem Buckley, and this is Jenais Madison," the young man addressed Scarlet, not glancing at Chandra. "Jenais will show you around Tur-Ah, show you where your office is, and tell you everything you need to know. I trust you will be able to adjust well to your new position?"
She blinked in confusion, looking to the executive, Jenais Madison, then back to Jem Buckley. She could not decide which one of them held the power. But she felt the icy hint of Jems words. "I am completely qualified for my position as head of the Turks."
"Good," he said, nodding, his grim expression fading slightly. A hint of a smile crept across his face, and he brushed one hand through his dark hair, which was tangled and blown about by the helicopters wind. He turned his attention to the girl at Scarlets side; he smiled and the sun came out.
Without saying a word, the man moved to Chandra and pulled the short, slight girl into a hug. "Were all very glad youre back, Chan." He drew back and looked at the girl. "You were fine in Midgar? Tseng didnt give you too hard a time?"
A foolish little grin crept across the girls face. "I told you Jem. I was fine. ImI know I told you how glad I was to get out of here, but when I was in Midgar, I really missed Tur-Ah. Im so happy to be back." She smiled, wiping a tear away. "Shall we?"
Jem nodded, turned toward Jenais, then toward Scarlet, and nodded once more, leading the way from the landing pad.
Scarlet watched him, keeping her eyes on him. She did not know what it was that drew her attention so. There was something about him, something mesmerizing. Yet, she knew right away that they would not get along.
President Shinra never told me about him. But, then, why would he?
"Jem has this affect on everyone at first. Dont worry," Chandra whispered to her, her brown eyes dancing. But, as she spoke, a shadow crossed over her face. "Hes taking it very well. His sister died recently, only about a week ago."
She was not certain why, but she felt a deep, terrible anger rise up within her. She moved away from Chandra, wishing she could do something to the girl, pull out her hair, make her bleed. And she looked at Jem once more, her eyes following him as he moved easily through the jungle. She wondered what pleasure it would give her to make him scream.
"YOU! OUTTA MY WAY!"
Scarlet jerked suddenly, pulled out of her reverie. She looked at the man blankly for a moment, blinking, then realized where she was, standing in an alley in Kalm. And burning rage filled her.
With an angry snarl, before anyone could say anything, she pulled her dagger from its place of concealment, lunged at the man, and slit his throat savagely. Kicking him backwards so that he would not bleed on her, Scarlet ignored the gasps, the screams of the onlookers. A slow crowd was forming, and Scarlet turned wild eyes at them, wiped the blood off her blade with her forefinger and thumb, then moved toward a young woman, blonde-haired and brown-eyed, looking so similar to another Scarlet had known it was incredible.
She pulled the girl by the collar, yanking her forward. In one swift movement, she had her knife pressed against the girls neck.
"Someone here is going to help me, or this girl is going to pay for it."
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