The Depths of Demons Chapter 9
"If all of the strength and all of the courage
come and lift me from this place,
I know I could love you much better
than this. Full of grace."
--"Full of Grace" by Sarah McLachlan
It was little, having been so many years ago, but it was so great to her. Something that couldnt be pushed aside by her anger, her hurt, by the way she moved her fists through the air in a slow, soft arc, closed her eyelids and breathed deeply.
There. It was said. To him, as well as to her.
My father is not my father.
Just a little touch of things, a splash of white upon a grey canvas, one truth shed learned in what shed discovered was the hazy years of her parents past. Her mother had become a ghost of what she once was, Eugene Cleraunce had said, and there was a reason, a pale spiderweb shot through with sunlight, capturing small lies, but there was a reason.
Mylar didnt want it to be her.
She didnt want to be that reason.
But, as she sat, listening to her clock slowly tick, listening to words pour slowly from her mouth as she recounted the past moments, she felt the reason become herself.
"My mother was unhappy. I wasnt a very observant child. Maybe she was more unhappy than I ever knew, and I never noticed. You seeit doesnt matter." She turned in slow circles, hands in fists. It doesnt matter. Nothing. No. It doesnt matter. I said it wouldnt change things. "My mother and father didnt meet in Costa del Sol. My mother grew up here, in Junon, not Nibelhiem. Like my father did. Likehe did. I dont know why they told me that. I dont know all of it, even, just a little, just what I heard before I didnt want to know more. Maybe Ill ask him later. Maybe. My mother was rich, I guess. And she never spoke with my father then, and he was so much older than she "
"Are you all right?" How many times had those words come from his mouth? But he had to keep asking her, because he couldnt tell. Because he wasnt certain if she was all right, or if he could help her, even if she wasnt, but he had to ask her.
"My mother was nineteen when it happened. There wasan accident, involving her family. Junon was in flames, and chaos, and, andmany people died. And horrible things happened to others, who survived. My father had a wife and son who died in a fire that night, one of the fires that lit Junon. Eugene said hed been riding away from the town, and hed looked back, and it was red, red all over, glowing. And there were explosions. Only the Shinra building remained intact. It still isnt known precisely what happened. I knew that there had been something that happened, but I hadnt dwelled on it. Itd happened before I was born. It was so distant from me. I mean, I knew my father had had a wife, and a son. Id been told that, and that they died three years before he even met my mother. I suppose they changed the date so that it would not seem so odd to me that he married my mother so quickly after their deaths. But I suppose it was necessary. My mother was two months pregnant with me. And she had to disappear, because it had been her familyher family, her fatherdealings with a scientist, and the Shinra building, and more I cant remember. Eugene told me so much; I cant remember it all. He said he turned and rode back into town after the explosions had stopped, and found my mother lying on her back in the sand. She was talking about ghosts and phantoms and people who rode in the night, or something like that. I cant remember."
She swept one hand across her forehead, wiping away non-existent sweat, turned her back to him. He had murmured something, but she couldnt hear it. She could see the night she spoke of in front of her, as though she could remember it, as though shed been born. She could feel the heat of the fire upon her. She could feel her mothers fear.
"But it was more than thatit was something more. Why my mother was trapped. I can see her, lying there in the sand. With her hands over her eyes, blocking something out. And Eugene picked her up and carried her out of the city, set her in the grass, then went to help others. Half the city burned to the ground that night.
"Dr. Cleraunce went back and brought her into the city, but he said she was different when he found her again. She seemed fine. She wasnt wounded, but there was something wrong withwith her eyes. Yes, he said there was something wrong with her eyes, I think. He said that she was so full of everything before then. He isnt sure what happened, but her entire family was gone. Not dead, necessarily, but thats probably what happened to them. They were gone. And she had been left. And I didnt ask to know more, except that she married my father before I was born, my father who had always been in love with her, my smiling mother. He didnt tell me who my real father is. I didnt ask him. I guess it isnt so much. And I dont know why they didnt tell me. I dont understand why they didnt tell me, exceptNo, I dont know why."
"The Burning. The massacre in Junon twenty-two years ago. Its documented in all sorts of texts. An experiment had been going on in the city, having to do with two Shinra scientists, Morris Hedgeling and some woman with the last name of Semley. These scientists were working without the approval of the Shinra Corporationagainst it, I believe. And theyd been assisted, funded, by the Mylaret family in Junon. Theres something more than that, but I cant recall."
Mylar stared at him.
"Eventually, things progressed to an unacceptable degree. There was a purge. Those would be the riders of the night, I believe. Experiments of Shinrahuman weapons that were disposed of a decade ago when they became unstable. But they were used often, when the job was too big for the Turks. About a dozen smaller cities were completely destroyed by these, which were originally a project of Gasts, I believe. These were some of Shinras first attempts at genetic manipulation. They were used to eliminate the trouble in Junon, resulting in the capture of the two scientists and the Mylaret family, save one. One family member escaped the Riders and is still at large. Except that, if she is your mother, shesnot."
She continued staring. "Rufushow do you know that? Have you remembered?" She felt she should be concerned, but somehow was not; she could tell that she was crying, and she was concentrating upon the warm, wet feeling of her tears upon her cheeks.
Shaking himself, he said, "No, I dont know where that came from. I must have read it somewhere."
Hes Rufus Shinra. Of course hed know that. And much more. But why has he remembered this?
Suddenly, Mylar became a doctor again. She moved swiftly too him, lifting herself onto her toes and pressing the back of her hand against his forehead as tears continued to roll slowly down her face. "Are you certain? Think. Is there anything else you remember? How are you feeling? Any dizziness, nausea? Do you smell anything wrong, that you didnt smell previously, that perhaps should not be here?"
Laughing softly, he shook his head and pushed her gently away. "Im fine, Mylar. Mylar, hmm? Mylaret I suppose it would be safe to say it was your mother who named you."
"Actually, my father did."
He shrugged. "Well, we know where your name came from."
Mylar gave him an odd look. She couldnt quite understand him, the way he was acting. He seemed different. Or perhaps the difference was she. "Are you certain youre all right?"
Cocking one eyebrow upward, he said, "Im fine. Im simply marveling at the fact that youre twenty-one and still living with your father."
For a moment, she stared at him again, eyes wide and unblinking. Then she laughed. And she laughed, uncontrollably, through her tears, and she laughed, at herself, at life, at being twenty-one and still living with her father. "I never had a reason to leave," she replied when she could speak.
His face turned somber. "For most people, its the other way around. They cant find a reason to stay."
She shivered in the warm room, as though some wind had brushed across her shoulders, and she turned, looked outside, through the window, out into the street. Where, long ago, strange creatures had turned Junon into hell for a night.
"Youre pretty tiny for twenty-one," he said. And she laughed again, but she felt hollow.
Outside, the wind howled.
She had the strange, terrible feeling that something was about to end.
Back. The past. Touching lightly a mirror, only liquid, a finger in a pool of water. A pond glowing in moonlight, and slowly showing. There, the past, as it glimmered.
Jem had told her to remember everything. Every moment, even everything that was painful, because no moment would happen again.
The trouble was, Sair remember the wrong moments more clearly, the painful moments, the dark moments that kept her awake in the night.
No, not dark moments. There had been few of those, past the time she escapedthat one dark night, when shed discovered what pain was.
When shed discovered what hatred was.
The snow hypnotized her, falling quietly, softly, smooth patterns. Snow wiped everything away. It wiped away years of fear, not quite knowing if she was safe. It wiped away all those years since Jems death, of being on her own with her child, of the dreams of blood. Sometimes, those nightmares had been so powerful, shed woken smelling blood, tasting its rust upon her tongue. Sweating, heart beating wildly, shed pull herself from her bed on those long nights, find Millie and cradle her in one arm, hold Jems gun in the other.
In the years since his death, shed learned to shoot that gun, well. Shed learned how to hide herself, make herself disappear on crowded streets. To make herself a wisp of a person, unnoticed be those passing by, a ghost perhaps, on the street, upon which eyes land only for a moment, then quickly move by, unless, by chance, those eyes catch the emeralds planted in her face, and look for a moment. Then the person would blink, and she would be gone. Shed learned how to take care of herself, of Millie, of those who could not take care of themselves.
But she hadnt taught herself to forget. She hadnt learned how not to be afraid.
The white coat of snow wiped her away.
She closed her eyes, and she smelled blood.
No, not bloodcoffee. Coffee, on a table, and the sound of a mug being slowly slid across the smooth tabletop.
"Be careful; its hot," Jem told her, smiling. She loved his smile, the way it spread across his face like the sun across the meadow, lighting up his eyes.
She pulled out a chair, sat down across from him, carefully stopping the mugs progress with one finger. Wrapping two fingers around the handle, she pressed two fingers and her thumb of the opposite hand upon the mug, brought it slowly to her lips. Her eyes watched Jem, watching her.
She laughed, jerking one shoulder toward him. "Mmph."
The eyes remained steady.
"Would you stop? Its unnerving, Jem."
It was a game. He kept his eyes upon hers, but couldnt keep the smile from his face. Those golden orbs lifted with her mug, his own coffee forgotten near his left hand. She shifted her eyes to that hand, the fingers curled slightly, because he always won at this game. She simply felt silly.
"Jem," she said again, trying to make her tone serious and reprimand him, but she ended up giggling. She placed the mug on the table carefully, clutched the edge of the table tightly with the tips of her fingers. Slowly, carefully, she shifted her weight so that she was leaned forward in the chair, ready to flee.
He grinned, and, with deliberate movements, stood, keeping his eyes upon her mug, as though it was his target.
There was no way she could win, of course; though hed been training her somewhat, he was still the Turk. As soon as she made her move, hed turn himself into a cat. Or, thats what she guessed. Thats what his eyes resembledcat eyes, ever so cunning. And she was his prey.
There, like lightning. She jumped from her chair, not stopping to see if it would fall as it rocked backwards, teetered precariously upon the back legs. In a flash, shed darted from him, seeking some sanctuary.
But, of course, he caught her, as theyd both known he would. He wrapped one arm around her waist, hoisted her into the air, and used the other hand to tickle her mercilessly.
Giggling, she murmured, "Noticklingreally Jemplease" She squirmed, elbowing him in the ribs. He didnt relinquish her.
"Do you surrender?" he teased.
And then he stopped, and she stopped, hearing some noise neither could explain. They turned toward the kitchen, to the table, where Sairs coffee mug was perched at the edge of the table.
He set her down gently, making certain she had her balance, and moved slowly toward the coffee mug, as though it would sense him coming and commit suicide. There was a seriousness in the air suddenly, something tangible. It had seeped in through the open window and clouded around them, strangling them almost. Jem was at the table, his hand reached toward the coffee mug.
The knock startled her. She jumped and a strange, squeaking noise came from her lips. It was likely her yelp, not the knock itself that caused Jem to turn swiftly, his hip hitting the table as he swiveled. Somehow, her vision was split. She caught both the look upon his face, startled, and something else, golden eyes troubled, and also the mug as it fell, tipped in the air, bleeding out its contents even before it struck the ground and shattered.
Shed heard that some people knew the moment of their death, or the day. And if there was someone who would, someone with the ability, the precognition, it would have been Jem. Because two months later, lying in her bed in the hotel in Costa del Sol, Sair remembered that look upon his face as the mug fell, she was struck with the sudden feeling that that was when he knewhe knewthat he was going to die that day.
Before answered the door, hed moved toward her, ignoring the cup, wrapped one arm around her waist, and whispered in her ear that he loved her. And shed been frightened, so frightened when he relinquished his grip and opened the door to Scarlet, who was making certain they remembered the party that night.
The knock on the door nearly made her scream once more, as she had that morning, and for just a moment, she felt panic surge through her, nearly ran for Jems gun. But Sair knew better than that. It wasnt Scarlet at the door, coming to kill her, to finish what shed started with the scar that still ran across Sairs belly.
It wasnt Scarlet.
It was Shennie Rainers, whose mother ran the only inn and tavern in the tiny, snow-covered town. Smiling softly and blinking away snowflakes, she murmured, "Im sorry to trouble you, Sair, but my mother needs you."
For a moment, Sair hesitated, glanced backward at Millies room. "Youll stay here to watch Millie?"
"Okay then," she replied, and headed out, into the snowy day, toward the inn, leaving soft indentations where she passed.
She headed again to Junon, but she couldnt shake the feeling that had come over her.
It clung to her, wispy in the ways it reached its hands to cup around her throat, riding her back, like a coat, a cloak.
And she ran. In spurts, hollow little bursts of energy, the way shed done everything. Rush forward, then pull back, dont let fear overtake you. Hold yourself together now, Scarlet. Keep yourself moving. Thats all that counts in the end, that you keep moving.
Without a chocobo, it would take her longer to reach Junon. But she would make it by morning if she walked all day, all night. If she did not allow the past to overtake her.
Some things seemed so much nearer since the night before, nails driven in, spliced into her bone, and growing there, offshooting with tendrils of memory. So much, shed forgotten, all the ways in which shed moved through night. But they came back to her now, everything she remembered.
Everything shed learned during those long nights in Tur-Ah, when the night became eerily silent outside her windows, when nothing in the jungle stirred save her own fears, and whatever might be lurking just beyond the great glass panels.
Shed found the codes she needed, the access codes to all the files in the Tur-Ah Systems Computer. The database of all the information it had collected throughout the years. Things that had been stored there, ready for anyone to see, waiting, but overlooked.
Partly because Tur-Ah had needed Jem so desperately then.
Partly because no one who had the ability to look ever had the incentive to do so.
Thousands of reports had been filed, none of them meaning anything separate, but together creating a terrible piece of evidence, of something that had been going on without even the presidents knowledge.
Simply because Scarlet, staring at the computer monitor, typed in one single word, and searched the database for it.
It was the last name of a girl who had crossed her path years ago.
A name she couldnt forget, though it was a common enough last name.
Five letters. B-L-A-K-E
Blake. Hundreds of files shot up, most of them about the girl shed wanted. Darra Blake, who had been part of a group that infiltrated the Shinra HQ and had been eliminated. But shed been kept longer than the others, because shed been important to the president, and to his son.
Shed read all about Blake and the tiny group, and about the one member whose identity theyd never been able to discover. The one member who was possibly still lurking around the Shinra Corporation, working on his or her own.
And that was when shed pulled up one of the tiniest files, one shed planned to skip over, but had not. It was a picture of Darra, taken when she was captured, and beneath it, a list of names.
Darra Blake. Danielle Morgensth. Rayel Whith. Maradin Mirs. Kristin Buckley. Sera Khiled.
She hadnt been able to believe itbut even then, shed not been certain it meant anything. Not until she searched the database again and found Jems own file. Both parents deceased. Two siblings. Both deceased. Charelte Buckley had died more than a decade ago of a childhood disease. Kristin Buckley, whereabouts unknown.
Except that her whereabouts were known. Kristin Buckley, last known as Darra Blake, was dead.
And Scarlet had helped kill her.
She took deep breaths. She looked up at the sky, at the clouds, spilling snow down and down and down, covering everything. She took deep breaths.
She willed the sky to break, for the snow to destroy it. Breach the sky, break it, pull out and toss it all upon the ground, just as dawn seeks unsteady footholds in the darkness.
It split the skya shot of lightning through the air, unseen by most, not believed by those who did witness it. Theyd never seen lightning in a blizzard before. Sairobi, head bowed, saw only the snow beneath her, and felt the thunder that followed as though it were a part of herself, not of the sky. Shennie had stayed to watch her daughter, but she still felt that same familiar fear whenever she left the house, or her daughters side, as though some part of her had been made vulnerable, weak.
Pushing the door to the inn open, she took careful steps inside, being careful to stomp the snow from her shoes before stepping onto the wooden floor. She stood there for a moment, scanning the room, then saw whom she sought.
"Kailyn," she called, watching the girl with guarded eyes. Sair knew this girlshe knew her, as the girl herself did not. "Your mother needed me?" Are you the same as he is? Are you the same? Or do you even knowthat you arent who you are.
The girl had a far away look in her blue eyes. "Hmm? Oh, yesshe needs help with one of the maids. The girl has locked herself in one of the closetsMom figured youd be able to coax her out of there, like you did when Shennie"
Sighing softly, Sairobi nodded, headed toward the interior rooms of the inn.
There, ahead of her. A break on the horizon, hazy and blue, colors running together. The very edge of a city, made dark metal and salt water. She couldnt quite see it, yet, but she could feel it, sense its nearness. She was almost there. She had not gauged the distance correctly.
Even though shed stopped to walk, unable to continue running, she knew she would be there, soon. Shed make it before nightfall.
JunonScarlet knew he was there. She was certain. Her prey was near; she could almost hear, feel against her cheek, the soft edge of his breath. What she would do when she finally found him, she was not sure. But it would be enough to see the fear in his eyes when he knew shed come to kill him. She would see the fear shed never been able to find in his father, the fear that even Jem had refused to show her, going into death the same way hed moved through life.
Damn you Jem. And damn you, too, Rufus.
And she continued walked, but she damned herself, most of all.
Sand and darkness, pouring over each other upon the beach. A glimmer of light just at the edge of the horizon as the sun at last disappeared, and it was nightfall. But she could not think about night, or about anything else, for that matter. Her mind was on sand, and footprints in it, footprints her mother had left long ago, like a shadow, a path to be followed.
She placed the dish on the table, then the other; shed seated him next to her, unable to place him in the vacant spot her father, who was not her father, had once filled. Mylar stared across into that empty space, the withered wood of the chair, the scar in the back where, long ago, shed traced a knife along its surface. If she placed her hands upon that wood, she might feel the faint echo of his heartbeat, the warmth of his breath, hear the sound of his laughter that had seeped into the wood of the heavy chair.
And she wondered who her real father had been, what he had been like.
Her heart jumped. Already, shed betrayed him, the father who had once sat across from her and laughed, telling his stories, the same stories he always told.
Barely watching, she placed the food on each plate, sat, stared at that empty chair.
No, thats not who I am. I dont know who I am. I am something else; I do not belong here. I cannot be who I was.
Why not? Nothing has changed. Nothing; you simply know something now that you did not know, but it has been true all your life.
"What?" she snapped. She turned her head, anger and something else, something strange, within her. But she sighed when she saw the look on his face, as though shed slapped him, rather than spoken a single harsh word. "Im sorry. I dont feelI cant understand things."
Rufus continued looking at her. She shivered beneath his steady gaze.
"You will be all right," he said at last.
How can you say that? You dont know. You. Dont. Know. And you cant know, and you cant understand. You arent me. I wont be all right. Nothing will be all right. Im alone in the world and I dont even know who I am anymore.
She said nothing, turned her face away, continued looking at that empty chair, as though she could form her father within it, make everything okay.
"Mylaryou will be all right."
It was like something within her snapped, burst, and flooded through her veins, all fire and anger and hurt. "No!" She stood with such force, such abruptness, that the chair shed sat upon fell backwards, crashed to the floor. "Noyou dont know! You dont understand, Rufus, and you cant, and you cant say that Ill be all right, not when you dont know, and you arent me. You cant help me, not when you dont even know who you are. Just leave me alone!"
He stood, a dark look in his eyes. For just a moment, she was afraid. She remembered who he was. He was not simply Rufus, her troubled patient. He was Rufus Shinra, a man not to trifle with, a man not to anger. The president of Shinra moved toward her.
Mylar prepared to scream; she braced herself, ready to run.
He placed his hands upon her shoulders and jerked her slightly, so that her head rocked backwards onto her shoulders. It didnt hurt; it simply startled her.
"You will be all right," he told her.
And she believed him.
"Shh!" he hushed her, cutting her off, tilting his head suddenly, as though he had caught a slight sound at the edge of his hearing.
"What is it?" she inquired in a whisper, barely breathing.
Something flashed in front of his eyes, and hed released her, was running out of the kitchen, out of the door. Frightened, though she did not know why, she followed him into the night in quick, breathless steps.
He stood, in the center of the narrow street, hands on hips and face tilted upward.
And she could hear it, too.
It was the low, steady hum of a motora huge motor. Shed heard it before, but never this close. It was an airship, landing just outside of Junon. Mylar could see the great metal outline of its hull as it slowly descended, down and down and down into the fields that surrounded her city.
"What, Rufus, what is it"
"An airship." His tone was low, filled with something she could not comprehend.
"I know that, but, why is it here?"
"Its come to find me."
"But why? That doesnt make any sense, Rufus. Why would they be after"
"Because" She checked herself. She caught herself. She didnt say it; maybe he wouldnt know what it was shed meant to say. Because youre the president of Shinrabecause you are Rufus Shinra. Because they would want to find you, whoever they are.
"What did you say? Mylar, what were you going to say?"
He turned to her, his eyes wide and suspicious, and knowing. She hadnt caught herself in time. And he knew, he knew who he was and he knew that shed known for a while.
"Are you remembering something?" she asked him softly, taking a step backward.
Both turned, suddenly, startled and snapped into reality from some other world theyd been in, back into the darkening Junon night, to where a blonde-haired woman had shrieked his name and was slowly moving toward them. No, not slowly, quickly, incredibly quickly, like lightning moving across the sky. She was running barefoot through the street.
But Rufus turned back, toward Mylar, the ocean of his eyes on fire with more anger shed thought a person could possess and still breathe, and still walk, still exist. He took two strides toward her, and then his hands clamped down upon her shoulders again, roughly, hard, fingers biting into flesh. This time, when she shook her, it was not gently. Her head snapped forward, an earthquake of shocking moving through her, and she told herself not to cry. She bit down upon her lip.
"How long have you known?"
She didnt want to cry. But she felt the tears, creating slow waterfalls, rivers down her cheeks. She could taste blood where her teeth had punctured the skin.
"Damn youdont cry! How long have you known?"
"I didnt think you were ready! I wanted to give you time to remember on your own!"
"How long have you known?"
Whether it was blood or tears she tasted on her lip, she didnt know, but it was salty. He continued to shake her; maybe he meant to kill her. Maybe he meant to shake out of her everything he was feeling, as who he had been merged with who he had become.
"Let me go, Rufus!" she shouted at him, kicking outward.
He stopped shaking her, but his grip tightened. Narrowing his eyes, he moved closer to her, so that their faces were only inches apart. "HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN?"
"LET ME GO!"
And he released her suddenly.
For a moment, she was falling, falling through air into darkness, into emptiness, and nothing was below her, no ground for her to reach, nothing for her to hold onto. But then she felt the ground break into her, felt herself break into the ground. Her body met the hard, paved street, and her breath left her. Gasping, she closed her eyes, opened them, struggled to keep conscious, but still could not breathe.
He stood over her, but she did not recognize him. He was not who she had known. He was Rufus Shinra.
"Even you betrayed me."
It was a whisper, but harsh with hatred, the only emotion that Rufus Shinra knew. Mylar struggled to move herself, but her elbows had sunk into the ground and were swallowed there. She might never move again.
The woman had reached them. She stood over Mylar as well, sneering down at her.
Even you betrayed me.
"Who is this, Rufus?"
"Its no one," he told the woman, turning and clutching her arm, slowly dragging her away, down the street, toward the Shinra compound.
She watched them, for a moment, as they departed. But her strength left her. She lay her head upon the ground, closed her eyes. For a moment, it was dark.
And then she heard them. Footfalls, quick and light and coming toward her. She opened her eyes, struggled through darkness, lifted herself onto her elbows, which were not trapped, much to her surprise.
Even you betrayed me.
Had he come back?
"Are you all right?"
Someone had bent near her, an arm reached out, a hand offered in assistance. It was a woman, with long dark hair that fell down in front of her, nearly touching the ground as she stooped.
Mylar reached her arm up, felt the hand warmly encase her own.
"Was that im?" Someone else clutched her from beneath, heaving her upward quickly, someone who smelled like cigarette smoke and oil. She winced, leaning on the womans shoulder when she had been placed upon her feet.
"Be careful, Cid! Dont be so rough. Shes hurt."
No, hes hurt
"Im sorry, miss. Was that who I thought it was, Tifa?"
Mylar felt dizzy; she clung to the woman, fearing shed lose consciousness. Darkness swam in front of her. "Were youwere you here to find him?"
"Shinra? Ah, so it was the man. Nah, were here to find"
"Please," she whispered, and let the darkness come, sagging against the woman.
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