Through the Looking Glass Chapter 14
Contemplation and Condemnation
By Lucrecia Marionette
Vincent sat on the lush grassy mound with his knees bent up beneath his chin. It had been barely fifteen minutes since he'd transformed and he had another forty-five before the agony returned to punctuate Hojo's final curse over his head. The form which had, in the past, brought so much agony and torture to him now held his only peace. Amongst his friends and any other people in his 'human' form he felt a hunger stronger than any fury which had driven him as Chaos. As the demon he felt more human than he had for decades.
Decades. . Such a long time. Such a long, long time. Had it really been thirty-nine years since he had been human; since he had last laid eyes upon Lucrecia? The Lucrecia which had enchanted him upon his first sight of her on floor five of the HQ. Not the one which now seemed so devoid of happiness, haunting the planet like a tragic wraith.
He closed his eyes and bowed his head.
Kalm lay in the distance far behind him in contrast to his turmoil and he was well aware that there was no chance he could make it there before he changed back. He could have spent the afternoon flying there and then under the cover of darkness he would have sneaked in to drink his fill from the innocent, sleeping citizens.
Only something had kept him to Midgar. Something had prevented him from leaving. Perhaps it was his own guilt or maybe it was his unwillingness to leave his friends after he had only just returned.
Whatever the reason, he now sat on one of the massive mounds of green which bordered the ring of lifelessness around the once Mako-fuelled city.
From where he sat he had a perfect view over the night-shrouded metropolis. With its many lit candles now substituting the blinking electric street-lamps, it seemed to shimmer and wink at him from across the brown plain.
He let out a deep sigh and watched as the glittering flames from the great distance seemed to dim for a brief second at his breath. He shook his head; perhaps he was going mad. That was preferable over his present existence though. If insanity truly did wish to entwine its demented claws around his mind then he wasn't in the mood to fight it off.
Lucrecia had abandoned him after she had led him to his first atrocity in his cursed form. He had tried to contact her through will and thoughts for every waking second since then without avail.
Had she been so horrified by his form and behaviour she couldn't bring herself to look upon him?
What had Hojo said.?
"What would Lucrecia think of you if she could see you right now?
Do you think that she would welcome you with the same open arms that she did in the past.?
.Or do you think that she'd run away screaming?
Maybe she would throw herself at me as she did with you all of those years back.
.Maybe she would thank me for punishing you for all of your sins.
After all... you do have a lot of them... ."
Vincent shook his head to dispel the despicable voice of the mad scientist from his mind. Perhaps he had been right?
Lucrecia had appeared before him and had disappeared minutes later. She had tried to disguise her horror well but he was good at reading the thoughts of others' from their expressions and actions. He could read Her better than anyone else on the planet and she him. He saw her disgust and she saw the demon in him. It was only natural that after seeing it personified she would leave.
Again he sighed.
He had left his friends to face the gathering crowds who had come to put an end to his 'reign of terror over the city'. That was perfectly reasonable he reasoned inwardly. After all, he had slaughtered, what? Eight men in the space of a week? God knew what else he would have done had he remained undiscovered. Sat uselessly in the corner of the bar kitchen he would have continued to fend himself from bad dreams and mood swings.
No, he mused to himself with a humourless smile. I am much better out of Midgar so I can roam the planet and murder people in other towns and cities too.
He leant back on the grass so that he was looking up at the sky. The moon beamed down to his left and the stars twinkled overhead like silver candles; celestially mimicking the gaudy gold of the city lights.
A breeze was blowing across the side of the hill and he closed his eyes as it blew up the slope below him and then across him, ruffling his hair and tickling his pale skin as it gently passed by. If it weren't for the impending pain of his metamorphosis he would have remained there for the rest of the night and eventually woken up in the morning, fresh and ready for a hike to the nearest town with a library or centre of research.
Thus had been his lifestyle for the past four years only more emphasis had been placed upon the reading. He had wanted little more than to be able to roam free across the world and throw his worries to the delicate breeze which flowed across him now.
As he lay there he felt something oddly cold against his neck. Feeling behind himself with his right hand, he felt his fingers brush against an object. Frowning through puzzlement, he brought it before his face and opened the clenched appendage.
His eyes met with the gleaming silver of a delicate piece of jewellery and realisation dawned upon him. It was the precious item Yuffie had bestowed upon him before he had finally made his exit from the bloodstained streets of Midgar. He still found curiosity grip his mind at her motive for placing it in his palm but the intricacies of the tiny object quickly captivated him.
The many facetted sapphires which made up the coloured detail of the amulet sparkled like the planet's answer to the stars that twinkled above. Every scale upon the lithe body of the serpent that clutched the blue lotus in its jaws had been carved into the silver with astonishing detail. He found even his enhanced vision had slight difficulty at detecting every slight and delicate decoration on it.
He felt marginally surprised at himself. He had kept it in the firm grip of his right hand all of the way from Midgar in his turbulent retreat. The yells and screams of his victims and tormentors had been snapping at his heels like indignant blood-hounds baying for justice (deep down he still didn't fully comprehend why he left).
He had held it for so long he had forgotten its presence. Now that it had once more been brought to his attention it transfixed him more deeply than the niggling images of his departure. The many faces of the bellowing crowd melted from his mind. The taste of blood in his mouth faded from existence. It was as though the gem was dispelling the day's hellish occurrences from his mind. He didn't feel in any mood to stop it.
The young ninja as she pressed it into his palm had described it as 'an amulet to ward off evil spirits'. At that moment it acted as a holy torch to the wicked shadows in his mind, forcing them from view. As much as part of him revelled from the release, another part of him told him to throw it away. Cast it aside and allow him to continue his atonement.
He sat up and moved back his hand, the long thin silver chain tickling his wrist. His arm moved forward and he prepared to open the fingers, hurling the object as far from him as he could so that it would be swallowed in the dark, dark night which had consumed himself so long before. However, he stopped at the last minute and looked back down at it.
The cobalt eyes glittered back at him as though from satisfaction at his reluctance and he snorted derisively. It wouldn't harm to keep hold of it for a bit longer, would it?
He parted the chain and slipped it over his raven hair, tucking it under the neck of his cape which already hid so many secrets. The minute amulet, barely the size of his thumb slipped easily down the inside of his shirt, nestling comfortably against his cold skin. It somehow felt right.
Sighing with an almost contented feeling washing over him, he lay back down resuming his solemn thoughts.
He succeeded in staying like that for a long time almost falling asleep at one point. His many weeks of inactivity had wasted him away until now he felt as though he could barely wield the Death Penalty let alone walk across the continent. The afternoon's sudden burst of activity in his failed battle against Cloud had worn him severely and the transformation had left him weak and weary.
Fortunately whatever vampiric urges poisoned his blood were restrained due to the lack of life around him. Perhaps that was why he preferred to be alone? What is the use in being hungry when there is nothing to eat?
As the breeze continued to blow and he sank deeper and deeper into meditation, on the very edge of his enhanced audible range he heard a faint explosion as though someone had burst a balloon from a thousand miles away. Nonetheless, his eyes opened and he slowly sat up not feeling any great sense of urgency; more curiosity. He scanned the horizon and his eyes eventually fell upon the city again. This time there was something different though.
The light seemed somehow brighter, more vivid. He squinted to get a better look but light was not his medium. His vision was only refined during night when he 'hunted'. Against the illuminance it was no better than it had been as a 'human'. Still, as he continued to watch with mild interest, the breeze carried the faint scent of burning to him.
He frowned. Perhaps it was just a random fire of some kind; maybe even a celebration of sorts? No, that was as likely as the possibility that Rufus had returned just to blow up another reactor. After all, what did the population have to celebrate? Unless of course the absence of their murderous demon had sparked such high hopes. .
He scowled at himself. His mind was wandering again; he had to focus it on more important things. Like what he was going to do now, or where he was going to go.
He had been to every source of knowledge that he could use on the planet where they were likely to even mention his condition or Hojo's experiments. The University of Junon City, the Catacombs of Cosmo Canyon (when Red was coincidentally absent) and of course the Shinra Mansion library. All with neither luck nor avail.
As he morosely pondered his fate, a sudden thought struck him. He had lied to his companions about many things he had done during his four-year disappearance, but trying to find Lucrecia had not been one of them. He had indeed visited the cave behind the waterfall where she had resided during the Meteor Crisis many times and found no trace of her divine being.
He had in fact eventually presumed that she had finally returned to the planet but his conversation with Sephiroth had informed him of otherwise. Lucrecia had visited him many times as he wandered the world in search of answers. Now that he knew this for certain and now that she had actually visited him visibly in Midgar he knew for sure that she was not at peace.
He stood up and brushed down his cape to remove the blades of grass which had stuck to him. Lifting his head and tilting it West towards the Western Continent he knew his next course of action.
She would be at her cave, he knew it. He was sure of it. Her visit to him for whatever reason had been an invite, asking him in unspoken words to come to her. Perhaps that was the reason for her sudden departure?
Perhaps it wasn't, but he didn't have the chance to stop and think as a terrible pain gripped his stomach as though someone had shoved a knife into his gut and were slowly twisting it. He gritted his teeth to prevent crying out but it was futile and he fell to his knees again choking back a strained wail.
Closing his eyes tightly to avoid witnessing the catastrophic event, he let out an agonising scream and felt the wings of Chaos fold in upon him.
To Nibelheim, and to the cave. To Her, he thought to himself as he struggled to distance his mind from the pain. Yes. perhaps I can find the answers I seek there. Lucrecia.? Luc, my love. I'm coming to see you. I, I'm sorry. but. but I have no other choice. Please be there. please. .
A light knock on the door rudely awoke Reeve from his sleep and his head lifted sharply, twinging his neck painfully. He rubbed it whilst peeling off the sheet of paper that had stuck to his cheek. He had been writing out rough drafts for his speech the following evening. As was obvious by the many screwed up balls of white paper which decorated his rich red carpet like snow, he was not doing a good job.
He glanced over the latest attempt which he had fallen asleep upon and pulling a face, he crumpled it up and threw it at the waste paper basket in the far corner of his office. It missed and rebounded off the wall, landing in the scattered soil of a potted plant which had fallen over from some of his earlier attempts. Out of fifty-six throws, none of the paper missiles had gone into the bin.
For a brief second he considered standing and picking them all up and straightening out the large, plush and very modern room. But his lethargic muscles were less eager to co-operate. He reached for his coffee mug and attempted to take a swig, knowing full well that it would be cold. However, he was disappointed to find nothing.
Great, he thought to himself irritably. I haven't got a speech, I feel like hell and worst of all; I have no caffeine.
Muttering numerous obscenities to himself, his annoyance was furthered as the light rapping on his door was repeated.
"Come in," he sighed as he leant back in his chair massaging his temples.
The action was repeated, only louder and it hammered into his skull furthering an already irritating headache.
"I SAID COME IN!!" he yelled in fury, an emotion which rarely came over the executive.
The door of his office was opened after a few seconds delay and a blonde head peered around tentatively.
"I, I'm sorry, Sir," said Elena making sure to keep the most of her body behind the door in fear of a stray book or object thrown in her direction. "I can come back later if you prefer. Only I have some important information that you may be interested in. ."
"I'm sorry," Reeve apologised quietly, muttering more to himself than the female Turk. "I've just been a bit high-strung recently, what with Sector Two, Vincent going berserk. ." he looked up after seeming to realise that it appeared as though he were talking to himself. "Please, come in."
He indicated to a chair which stood opposite him on the other side of the large desk. She walked in with feminine grace which he knew had captivated many-a-man but he also noted the pistol which interrupted the line of her uncreased, navy-blue jacket. He couldn't help but suppress a smile at the contradictory nature of the woman.
When she had first joined the Turks, they had often spoken although he knew well that her loyalties were with the Shinra. If she had found out that he was actually sided with AVALANCHE he didn't doubt that she would be among the first to turn him yet. Despite that, they had always had an understanding friendship and he suspected that she was the main reason the Turks had become his personal guard.
"I'd prefer to stand," she said softly then adding "No disrespect, Sir."
He shook his head. "None taken. I thought I'd asked you not to call me 'sir' anyway."
"Yeah," she responded scratching the back of her head thoughtfully and perhaps, he thought, with a touch of embarrassment. "But it is procedure and everything."
He smiled and stroked his goatee with a silent laugh. "Right, right," he returned. "Whatever makes you happy." His tone became serious though as he noted the forced, sad smile he received from his companion. A frown furrowed his brow. "So what is it that you wanted to tell me?" he questioned as casually as he could.
"Perhaps I will sit down," she said quietly and his expression of puzzlement was furthered. Her soft brown eyes raised and looked into his deeper brown ones. "It's ah. . It's about Sector Six," she stopped and glanced out of the window behind him as though she could see what she was describing. "There's been an incident. Reports of a mob and arson at Tifa's Seventh Heaven."
Reeve stopped breathing in horror as he leant forward in his chair. Finding his voice again, he attempted to regain his composure, but his eyes remained wide. "D, Did the others. A, Are they. alright?" he asked uncertainly and Elena studiously avoided eye contact with him.
"We don't know as of yet," she responded in the same hushed tone. "Right now Reno and Rude are out taking a look around. From what they've told me over the phone it started off as a mindless attack, begun by the conflict earlier yesterday afternoon. It seems as though local people originally started the blaze but the crowds have increased until now there are about two hundred people milling around.
"Things have started to get out of hand, and I'm not just talking about the mobs. The fire quickly spread from the bar and has now destroyed about forty-five percent of the buildings along that area of the sector from the most recent estimates. A few casualties have been reported but there's been no sign of any members of AVALANCHE or even Sephiroth. I don't mean to sound rude, but that bunch are not the kind of people you'd walk past in a street and forget about in a hurry."
"So there have been no confirmed sightings?"
Elena hesitated. "Not. not yet. But rest assured, if indeed they have survived, they're not about to leap out in front of the mobs and make their presence known. They're not stupid; they're sure to have found a way out and away from the trouble."
"Just as long as they didn't fight back," Reeve mumbled. "Otherwise there would have been no way to keep them safe. They're in enough trouble as it is without fighting themselves. A demon is one thing, but for the leader of AVALANCHE to start decapitating civilians over a minor revolution won't look good in the papers-"
"They've probably gone to another sector. The violence seems to be restricted to Six. I hope they had the intelligence to keep to alleyways. I wonder if Cait is bringing them back to the Offices as I speak-"
"Sir!" Elena interrupted loudly and Reeve stopped to look at her. "Sir," she began once more in a softer tone. "As likely as it is that they will have found a way out, it's also a possibility that they haven't been so lucky."
Reeve stared back at her emotionlessly with a look on his face she had never seen before. It eventually faded away however to reveal his usual, tired visage. His dark-brown hair which was normally so neatly gelled back off his face now sat dishevelled with a few large bangs hanging down over his face. The exhaustion in his eyes was emphasised by dark smudges beneath them and his cheeks seemed somehow sunken. His overall appearance was the personification of stress and weariness.
"Maybe you should get some sleep," she suggested kindly. "I'll wake you up as soon as we get any news off Reno and Rude. Turk's honour," she ended with a hint of a smile.
He shook his head. "No, it's all right. Just get my secretary to make me a pot of coffee, will you?"
"There are no more staff in the building apart from us two," she reported, the slight smile on her face broadening marginally. Reeve was infamous to everyone he knew for his late nights and poor time-keeping skills. The Midgar Office's weren't like a second home to him: they were his home.
He started to stand but she stood with him and shook her head. "I'll get that pot. Try and write your speech; but with all this coffee you're taking in, try and keep it calm, huh? I'm not sure that the population of Midgar will be wanting to hear about the 'wacky world of Reeve Jameson on a caffeine high'."
He laughed and nodded. "It's a deal," he grinned and she left the room with a curt nod.
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