Categories > Original > Fantasy > Ha30 Reviews
Nezui was a somewhat normal person. Still is, come to think of it. She had a brother, a mother, and an aunt. Her father walked away one day and never came back, but that was unfortunately common. ...
/T/he house on the hill had been empty since before my brother or I could remember. My mother would simply ask what we wanted for dinner when we inquired about it, or lunch if it was time (we always dealt with breakfast ourselves, my brother and I). My aunt always said that curiosity was a sin, given by something odd called the d-e-v-i-l, with a Capital Dee. This frequently seemed to satisfy my brother, for he was about nine years older than me, strong, handsome, and smart; and his satisfaction, in those days, was the same as my satisfaction.
He was also a Sick Person, so confessed my aunt one cold, cold night that was so typical of northern New England's late autumn. The heater had broken, and our landlord (a scummy man that would occur to me as the best landlord we ever had later on, during a particular crises) had assured my mother that it couldn't be fixed until Monday, some three days off. My aunt and I had been sleeping in the same room, as my mother was at the hospital, dealing with my brother's doctors. Until that night, I had felt certain that my brother was the shining glory of the family, and nothing I would ever do could make me into something half as exquisite as he.
My brother had cooked, and my aunt had said something about the graveyard by the old house, how it was a shame it wasn't going to be tended to anymore. That had set him off, somehow. He stood abruptly, I looking on with a grim sort of recognition. Nothing had been said at that moment, and I suppose my uppity aunt had realized that she had plucked at a line that really couldn't take any more strain. Those sorts of lines were so easily sensed by my self that I never tripped them... Except about once, and the only result then was my brother squeezing my wrist so hard I thought it would break.
But my aunt..... She had about as much tact and reserve as a bright pink leather couch. That had served her well in the past, certainly, as people mistook her bluntness and appalling lack of common sense for a sort of biting wit (at least, they did in /her crowd/, those mysteriously faceless pictures in her room a testament to time spent among strangers).
My brother had walked, quietly and with a certain bit of catlike grace (despite his immense size, my brother was graceful- lord, was he ever!), to his room. His door had shut, silently, without even a click of the latch. We sat at the table, staring at each other, my aunt, my mother, and I, almost forgotten at the end of our fine table. The food was still steaming, warm linguine covered in home-made Alfredo sauce, one of my brother's most amazing dishes. I poked forlornly at the food in front of me, until my aunt gently pried my fork out of my hand, a hand shaking by now. The only sound was the ticking of the clock, a low, deep sound that seemed to get into one's bones, rather than ears; Even our cat was silent, the minute click of her claws on the wood floors absent.
Silence is ominous, oh, yes, truly terrible, as all the best books will tell you. But I? I will always remember the baying, animal howl that my brother unleashed from his room as the worst sound in the world. How could a human being make a noise like that? We all jumped, so complete had our silence been. The howl was repeated.
Not long after that, we had heard slams from his room, my brother's.
In an even shorter space of time than that, the police were called and my brother was whisked away in a white and red ambulance, my mother following the vehicle anxiously in our family car.
My aunt had later decided that I should sleep in her room, to keep from freezing from lack of heat. And so she poured out her worries to me. The two main threads I caught were that my brother was going mad, and that I was not going to grow up Right (whatever that was) in this environment.
That was around ten years ago, and since then my brother seemed to have gone mad, true to my aunt's deepest fears. It was a funny sort of madness, though, because it was only when he was insane with rage, hearing voices and swinging a metal baseball bat as he paced in his room, that he seemed coherent, my brother again. Certainly, the rage wasn't fitting, nor was the bat in his hand, but something ineffable was back in place at those times of raging, crazed dementia.
Insanity was commonplace in my family at this point, though, and not just from my brother. My aunt had recently been mugged, and she now seemed to think that she had once lived in a clan of vampires as one of many 'blood-donors'.
My mother was certain that she had suffered from a mental injury.
So was I.
I was, and am, intelligent; Reasonably so, even. Due to this intelligence, I was allowed to take my schooling at home, which was rather informal, at best. In fact, I had no idea what I was supposed to be learning, but I was certain it was something. Mathematics, perhaps, Shakespeare, to be certain, and definitely something of Japan.
But alas, I learned none of these things (or so I thought- I would later find out that I was better educated than any of my peers, and certainly more interested in learning than most). As a result, I wandered a tremendous amount, going here, then there, and finally ending up staring, slightly slit-eyed, at the house on the hill.
It wasn't much to look at. Too run-down to be refurbished, too grand to be destroyed, the house also harbored an ancient graveyard. It was in that graveyard that I had walked with my father when I was little, too small to see over a chair. And so it drew me back, each and every day, rain or shine, snow or heat wave. Over the years and the seasons, as I grew and changed from a tiny child to a gawky tween, a gawky tween into a severe and yet oddly capricious teenager, the old graveyard remained the same. Only the rust on the fence changed, consuming more and more of the delicate ironwork . In a way, it reminded me of my brother's madness, in that it consumed everything and left nothing.
It was the fourth day in a row that I had shown up in front of the graveyard at exactly five o'clock, and this time I was leaning against the fence and hoping it wouldn't give, because I was tremendously tired. The fence certainly looked sturdy enough, and countless times had I seen passing High School students kick at the rustiest spots with what could only be described as viciousness.
"Excuse me, but what are you doing?" A soft, low voice with a faint accent of who-knows-where mixed in interrupted my contemplation of whether or not the passing students would kick me, as well as the gate.
"Oh?" I was so startled to hear another person speak that I banged my head on the gate, and felt a slicing pain a moment after. "Ah- Me? I'm just thinking.." I have always taken my time in locating sources of noises, and now was no exception. When I finally did get around to that task, though, I was glad I had taken the effort.
A tall, slender young man with messy, slightly wavy, child-gold hair cropped short met my eyes. His skin was a deathly pale, with just enough color in it to look human. A huge white doctor's coat, patched messily but securely, hung on his bony shoulders, and a pair of tattered black jeans with padding on their knees, tight around the ankles and waist, grasped at him as if they were the only things keeping him alive. His black combat boots (but they were a little too high to be real combat boots) had a near mirror sheen to them, and the laces were wrapped securely around the boots from the ankles up. Despite his.... near-death... appearance, or perhaps because of it, there was something stunningly beautiful about the man. If you've ever read Japanese manga, you would know what I meant- the elegant bishonen, in person.
He smiled at me tenderly, but I could see the flicker of furious suspicion in his eyes, a flicker that I saw every day in my increasingly paranoid aunt, and continuously in my brother. "Thinking? While hanging on to a rusty gate?" He was behind said gate, and at those words he stretched out a hand and laid it upon the metal, the movement almost like a lover's caress.
"Yeah... It's a nice gate." I found myself wondering why he was inside the graveyard, and if his hair was as soft as it looked.
"I agree. It is one of the reasons my companions and I have come to this place. It has a great deal of, ah... atmosphere." He smiled at me again, but I only hugged the gate more tightly. Free smiles are for those you know. Very, very well. "But what is it you think of, clinging to this gate so tightly? If it does not bother you to answer."
I looked at the man sideways. There was something I was missing here, something big. He had a thought about me, maybe, and perhaps it wasn't a good one. Had there been any vandals in the graveyard as of late? Or maybe, just maybe, he was thinking of something far, far worse... If he was, then I figured I had about a minute to run, thanks to the gate.
"I think of insanity and loneliness and hurt." I responded, slowly extricating myself from the iron grip of the gate. The man's expression altered slightly as he took in my words, perhaps to a less ominous one. "And I think of the endless joy that must come with absolute madness, to be at the mercy of whatever your mind comes up with."
"...Not joy, young lady... Not joy." The man lowered his head, and I cocked mine. "Go home. Come back tomorrow. We shall have a key for you." I obeyed silently, but turned before I went down the steps embedded in the hill and bowed deeply. The man, still watching me, bowed as well, equally deeply, to my surprise.
That night, cold winds swept in from the north, running rampant through our rather optimistically opened windows. My brother disliked cold the way a cat dislikes water, and so eventually a tremendous fight rocked the apartment, ending with the slightly smug sirens of an ambulance.
Which left my aunt and I alone together, again. Over the years, over all the time we've spent together, and over all the strife we'd experienced, once more together, we had grown as close as one could while still being a paranoid aunt and a reserved home-schooler, respectively. She cooked, I cleaned, and we were fine that way. In fact, once my brother was out of the home, all became tranquil.
But this tranquility was shattered that evening by the insistent cacophony of our doorbell. I was lazily reading in a chair, my aunt was sewing, and we both had plates of steaming pasta in front of us (yes, we ate a lot of it- and we still do). A particularly fierce gust of wind outside was accompanied by the protracted sound of our doorbell. My aunt shot me a look that spoke of exasperation; We both preferred to be left alone when in our home. To contact us there was to meet with stony silence, be it by phone or the dreaded 'in person'.
"I'll get it." I stood, displacing my cat from under the spine of my book, and padded to the door, a thick oak one that was out of place in our apartment, which was strictly modern. I stood on my tip-toes, trying to see out a peephole that only my brother could see out of, then gave up and spoke through the door's tiny little 'peep hatch', which was barely bigger than the peep-/hole/. "Hello?"
"Hello. Are you all right?"
"Well, we saw an ambulance coming from this house, and I was worried, so-"
"We're fine. Um, thank you."
"Oh.. I see..." There came a long silence, in which I tried to see our visitor.
"Who is it, Nezui?" My aunt had come up behind me apparently unnoticed, and I jumped, banging my head on the opened peep-hatch.
"That is the second time you have injured yourself today. Soon, you will have no brain." I recognized that voice instantly, and opened the door without thinking. My aunt peered down at me, then up at the three men clustered in front of our door.
"The only reason I'll have no brain is if you keep on startling me when I'm around that gate." I retorted. "Therefore, it's your fault." A quietly pleased smile touched the man from the graveyard's lips, but it was his companion, a red-head with wavy locks and dusky purple eyes, that responded.
"I apologize for our lack of manners-Ah, this is Faust," This man, too, had an untraceable accent, but one different from Faust's. The person in question had not taken his eyes from my face, and as I rubbed at the spot on my head that had been maltreated, he reached out a hand and laid it on that spot, over my hand. His fingers were brutally cold, but I connected that with the fierce winds of the night.
"Pleased to meet you, sir... ah, do you know my niece..?" My aunt looked as if she had been dumped into a bucket of cold water at one o'clock in the morning; Shock was outlined in her lovely face. After a moment, in which Faust's fingers closed over my own, I realized that our family touched infrequently, and I less even than was normal for our family. The third man, hidden partially by shadows, noted her look even as I pulled away from Faust's touch. He didn't let me get away, though, twining his fingers around my wrist in a startlingly tight grip.
"...I am Mantic...." The man with red hair motioned to himself, looking lost.
"And I am Kain." A thick transylvanian accent made my aunt start.
"Gah!" I sat up and blinked at the shy tendrils of sun leaking in my window. What the hell...? My aunt would never allow me to open the door to three strangers, and the man in the graveyard had been alone when I met him.. No evidence of anybody else... Actually, he had said that "we will have a key for you". Which meant that he was there with companions...
Pah! Ridiculous. I had just been overtired, and had strange dreams of visitors in the night. True, my brother was now in the hospital, but everything else had been a lucid sort of dream. My aunt, neurotic as she was, would never have opened the door.
"Oh. A key, huh?" What the man had said to me yesterday suddenly hit me full force, and I hopped out of bed, elated. A key to that gorgeous old graveyard! Wow!
A moment after that, I realized I was only half-dressed and ran around my room, hurrying to get clothed.
"Ah...?" I found myself staring at a gate locked even more tightly than ever, with delicate-but-strong-looking chains wound tightly around the iron. I plucked at them half-heartedly, all pleasure dissipating. My earrings chattered in the wind, which was hot and dusty; It promised a day of daunting heat. The iron was hot to the touch this morning, and I sighed. So, had it all been a hoax, a joke played on me for no reason...?
"Who are you? Get out of here! Away!" I glanced up at the figure dashing towards me from the house, looked away, and then did a double take. Red hair, shining in the early morning sun, wavy as though curled partially, and dark, purple eyes the color of the sky a bit after sunset.
Yes, indeed. This man was real. A real-life dream?!
"Mr. Mantic." I watched him run up, eyes flashing, hair seeming to wave in absent wind. The moment I said his name, he made a motion as if to grab me, but instead rapped the fence.
"That is my name! Now get away from here, you trespasser! Or I shall call those who enforce the law!"
"Policemen. And I'm not on your property. I'm on a public road." He had the same accent as in my dream, but he seemed to be a lot more tense than even my aunt. Even as I said that, about the police, his expression changed, and I found myself facing a very frightened-looking man.
"How do you know my name...?" He whispered, his accent making the words tinkle gloriously, as though he was humming. I sighed and shook my head.
"Faust said he would have a key to the graveyard for me today. Where is he?"
"Faust-! How do you know his name?" I narrowed my eyes against the sun.
"I met him yesterday. Is he here or not, Mr. Mantic?" Mantic snarled at me, and the air around him sort of... wavered. Like a heat wave above hot tar, really.
"Oh....?" Was all I got in before Mantic snarled at me and slammed a hand into the fence, a slight dagger in his grip. I shrieked and leapt back, fear momentarily shredding my wits. When I came back to my senses, Mantic was snapping and snarling, and I had the lurking suspicion that all was not well with Faust. "You wuss, trying to intimidate a little innocent blonde!" I squeaked, hoping I sounded brave. In reality, my knees were shaking and I was still sitting on the ground, in the dirt.
"Oh yes, we should be so terribly sorry to intimidate a sniveling little girl!" Mantic stared down at me. I growled.
"I may be pathetically weak, and startled easily, but I'm no coward!" I shot to my feet suddenly, anger coursing through me. "I'd like to see you face up to someone raving mad that's way taller than you!" Mantic bristled at that.
"Oh yes, you're so brave! Who have you stood up to? Your idiotic brother?" I slammed a foot onto the gate. Rust fell to the ground, covering the dandelions blooming there.
"Don't you call my brother an idiot! He's smarter than you ever could be!"
"Oh, yes, so very smart. Smart enough to be hauled off to the hospital every few weeks-"
"Shut up, you blackguard! You don't know anything!" I flew into a craze, my entire body shaking with repressed aggression. "How dare you say that when you're sealed up here, all alone!" Mantic stood back with a small smirk. I wondered exactly how he knew about my brother, then chalked it up to Aunt and her gossip.
"Maybe I choose to be alone. You don't, you're shunned." My laugh echoed in the early morning air.
"And maybe I choose to be shunned. Hm, what of that?"
"Perhaps you do. But I don't think so. Faust doesn't seem to think so. That's why he talked to you." Oh?
"Oh, right. Take pity on the frickin' loony-girl, huh?" I laughed again. Great. Just great, my new neighbor pities me. Time to go home and lick your wounds, girl.
"Yes." Mantic's eyes glowed faintly, and he bowed. I bowed back, much to his surprise.
"I want to see Faust." Mantic kicked the ground.
"No! Go home, you selfish child! Things that you do not understand have occurred! /You are not welcome/!" I sighed, blew a bang out of my eyes, and made myself comfortable. "What are you doing?"
"I'm not leaving until you let me see Faust."
"How do you know his name!"
"Maybe he told me."
"But he would never tell-" Mantic shook for a moment, a brief spasm that passed as quickly as the wind. "You should not know his name. And sit there for as long as you like, but I will not invite you in!" And with that, he stormed away, up the winding path through the graveyard, to the house. The doors slammed, and I watched the curtains pulled opened briefly a few minutes later. A flash of blonde hair, then red, and the curtains shut.
The sun was setting, and I found myself contemplating the dust and pollution that went into producing such a sight. I have never been the romantic type, and I suspect I never will, so doing things like that comes naturally to me.
The question was, should I go home now? I could, and my aunt could scold me for missing lunch, or I could get into terrible trouble for staying out all night, possibly have the police on my case, and be grounded for a month.
I went home.
The next day, bright and early, I was sitting at the gate, starting /Romeo and Juliet/. It was good, I felt, but a little hard to follow. Thank heavens for those handy little footnotes! I had the lurking suspicion that the plays were actually all about context, and so was thinking about looking into renting a movie version of the play.
Nothing happened. I sat there all day, and read, and cried when Romeo died, and proclaimed that both of these people were fools, and went home.
On the third day, Mantic was digging something up in the graveyard when I first walked up. He saw me, spat, and went back to digging. I sighed and sat down, pulling out /The Odyssey/. Once again, tremendously wonderful, but a tad hard.
The Odyssey lasted me until the sixth day. I finished it around noon, and when I looked up, Mantic (who had been digging for three days straight), was watching me. He refrained from releasing any type of bodily fluid until he realized that I was watching back. When he did, though, he released the mother of all sneezes (I'm not sure this was intentional).
On the eighth day, Aunt began to ask why I was coming in at exactly sunset. Not sure what to say, I twiddled my thumbs.
"Do you have any friends?"
"None?" My aunt's tone was incredulous.
"But you're such a pretty thing." She looked me up and down. I felt, momentarily, like a prime cut of lamb.
"Hmm... Perhaps you should go into town, meet some local children your age." It was not a question, and I got goosebumps. The last time that my aunt forced me to do something, I ended up with a fractured wrist and a hatred of any and all martial arts.
"Yes! That's what you should do! I'll drive you."
"You don't have to." So what if I sounded desperate? So what if I felt like the proverbial deer in the headlights? I had to look after my mental and physical health before I could mind my pride.
"I want to." And that was that.
The ninth day was actually not. I spent all day sitting on the curb and roasting.
The real ninth day was spent dozing and contemplating the fact that I had seen several girls my age yesterday, and all of them were dressed in clothes that I would be ashamed to wear into the bathtub. As the sun set, I prepared myself to stand and leave, but Mantic surprised me.
He grabbed my shoulder in a crushing grip, and I went to bite his hand. He cursed, I rubbed my shoulder, and we glared at each other. Weren't we cute?
"Faust will see you tomorrow."
"Why tomorrow?" I inquired, my mind stumbling to follow Mantic's words.
"Simply because. He also desired that I give this to you, so here it is." He handed me a beautiful key, clearly made for the front gate. I accepted it, and noted how Mantic kept his distance from me. "Do not bother me for directions a second time. You go in the door, up the stairs, up the steps, and enter the room on the left of the bell." He walked away, and left me to my protests at his terrible directions.
The next morning, I was irritated and slightly homicidal, enough so that I boldly made to enter the graveyard, in my thoughts, at least. My doubts about the whole thing, especially entering a strange man's house, were quashed by my aunt. Who knew?
"Oh? Faust? And Mantic? Yes, I met Mantic the other day in the grocery." I stared. My aunt continued to chop the carrots. "A very nice boy. Did you meet him in town? He's so pretty... And polite. Very elegant, if you ask me." She flipped her hair, ink black with a shine, and smiled. Her mouth was a slash of color.
"Aunt... Why are you wearing lipstick?"
"Oh? Well, I, you know, met a very nice teacher in town today. He's coming over soon." I stared, again. "You should meet some new people too. Go over to the boy's house, say hello, you know."
"...Aunt, you're thinking about dating a /teacher/?" Now, I saw nothing wrong with this, but my aunt normally would have.
"Oh? There's nothing wrong with teachers, dear. Go meet your friends." I declined to correct this inaccuracy in favor of noting the fact that she had failed to deny the 'dating' part.
"What does he look like?" I smiled, laughing a little and expecting her norm:
"Oh... Curiosity is a sin, dear." I shook my head and left my love-struck aunt for Faust and Mantic.
The gate to the graveyard was wide open, as was the door to the house. Inside, it was dark and musty, in a sort of natural way. All the windows were opened, and the curtains were blowing gently, if a tad ominously, in the breeze. As I stood looking into what must have been the living room, what with the half-finished paint job and peach carpet (very out of place in a decrepit old mansion, but I could see what the owner was planning to do) I realized that there were steps going up from the front door. So, that meant that I only had to climb one flight of stairs, instead of two. Possibly.
I looked at the spiral staircase, muttered to no-one in particular how useless Mantic was proving, and began to climb. When I reached the second-floor hall, I wanted to cry. The hall twisted away to the left, no room visible on either side of the hall. However, the twist could be hiding a door further along the hall. As for the stairs? This house was a four-story monster, and the stairway went up. I had the lurking suspicion that Mantic would drag me out of here by the throat if I got lost, if not bodily throw me out altogether.
If Faust hadn't given me the key, I would have ditched, no problem, and run back home with my tail between my legs. As it was, I was clutching the elegant old thing and wondering if I could anyway. But... That didn't seem right. He had made the effort to get me a key, as promised, and my accepting it indicated that I would make the effort to see him.
"Hello?" My voice was quavery, if only for the fact that, despite the house being flooded with summer light, it held a wintery feeling of death. I wouldn't have been surprised in the least to have seen a skeleton walking down the hall ("Oh, hello..." It would say, distracted. "Hello." I would surprise it with my manners, and we would go our separate ways, each musing vaguely about the other).
"Oh, hello..." A breezy voice answered me, and a hand was clapped firmly upon my shoulder. The resulting jump and scream made my mystery person laugh.
"Oh, my... I, ah, you started me. I mean, startled." I put my hands over my heart and shook my head. Great. Guess who it was?
"Allow me to mention my name."
"Okay." A brief silence followed. Kain, for it was surely he, broke it first.
"I am called Kain."
"But... Are you Kain?" I was trying to be silly, perhaps a little mean to this stern person for whom English was not a first language. Instead, he looked as if I had punched him.
"Ah. My, er..." At a loss, he simply nodded.
"Hi. I'm Nezui. I'm looking for Faust." Kain shook off his bewilderment then, and shook his head.
"Faust is asleep right now. You may come back later, if you wish." Geh. No thanks, Mr. Kain. Aunt's teacher will be there.
"Thanks. I will." I turned towards the stairs.
"Or, you could have some tea with Mantic and myself and wait for Faust to come down." I cocked my head. It sounded nice, and was a good chance to meet the neighbors, but Mantic's presence alarmed me enough to bow and shake my head. "Are you greatly certain? I will make Mantic be nice." He wheedled. I blinked at Kain owlishly, and ten minutes later was sitting in a nice little area in the back of the house.
The ground was set with sky-blue tiles, most of which were broken. This allowed waist-high weeds grew through the gaps, and a few times I almost tripped before we reached the table. It was low, just high enough for somebody's knees to fit under, and seemed to be of Asian design. On it sat an iced pitcher of green tea. The condensation looked slightly smug as it rolled its way down to the tabletop.
"Please, sit." I thanked Kain and did so. A moment later, Mantic emerged from the house. He scowled when he saw me, but kneeled and sat on my left. Kain smiled, peaceful and serene, and arranged himself with the grace of a swan.
"Why must she-"
"Hush." Kain quieted Mantic with a light pat to his arm. "She is a guest, and Faust, of all people, is fond of her. She has earned the right to be here. Think of her as a young boy, if you must."
"A boy?" I blinked. This was new. Was I really that flat-chested? Surreptitiously examining myself, I almost missed Mantic's groan.
"Mantic comes from a society in which women are indeed viewed with much value, but not when they bare their legs and wrists."I studied said body parts for a bit, decided that Mantic must come from a rather chilly country, and accepted some tea.
"Women should guard that which they possess, not flaunt it." I eyed Mantic as he spoke, seeing that he flashed a glance at my wrists.
"I don't have anything much to flaunt." I pointed out, and in fact literally pointed at myself.
"Perhaps for you!" He exclaimed. His red hair fluffed into the air in a light wind, and he uttered something in what was presumably his native tounge.
"'Your wrists flash in the sun like pale jewels, and you say you have nothing to flaunt! The nerve!' Is what he has said." Kain sipped at his tea gently, ignoring Mantic's glower.
"My wrists?" I blinked at them. They were rather pale, I supposed, but nothing to stress over, unless... Oh. Like the nape of the neck in Japan, the ankle in olden times, and bared midriffs now?
"Um, gee." I pulled my hands under my legs. "Is that better?" Mantic cast an approving eye over my legs before shaking his head.
"No!" I sighed and flopped down.
"If you think I'm going to wear a full-body ensemble like you, you're very, very wrong. I'd roast to death!"
"Well, you could at least show some modesty!"
"It's summer. It's hot." I blinked at him. "Aren't you hot?" Mantic paled in much the same way Kain had when I asked him if he 'was Kain'.
"No. I.... My country is very warm."
"So why all the warm, hand-made clothing you're wearing?"
"Ah, I.... er..." He looked miserable, and so did Kain, so I shrugged and looked up.
"There's some person around here that says they can divine the future from clouds." Kain and Mantic traded glances, and Mantic regained some color.
"I don't see how this woman could do such a thing. Is it only coincidence?" Kain's inquiry made me perk up.
"Yeah, she's pretty vague. It's just the whole clouds thing that's interesting. Not many people use..." I put down my tea with an almost imperceptible 'thump'. "How did you know it was a woman?"
"How did you know Faust's name?!" The rage that had been simmering in Mantic suddenly boiled over. "How?!" I stood to meet him. "He would not tell you his name, and you knew me when I approached you!" Kain looked between us with no little confusion.
"You didn't tell her his name? Or yours?"
"No! I would not! I am young, but not foolish!" I screwed a finger in my ear as Mantic launched into his glimmering, sliding language again. Kain and he argued for some time, until I was ready to leave.
"Thank you for the tea. I'll come see Faust another time." Kain winced.
"I don't think-"
"And what," For the second time today, somebody clamped their hand down on my shoulder, and I flinched, "is going on?" Faust was painfully thin, his face was hollow with sickness, and he was trembling. Nevertheless, he looked strong and, at the moment, angry.
"We are simply having a bit of an argument about our lady guest." Mantic bowed low, and I considered doing the same, but Faust stepped next to me and pulled me a little closer. His arm trembled and his legs quivered, so I hesitated, but then wrapped my arms around his waist and held tight. Part of his white coat flopped over me, and for a moment, I felt safe.
Faust smelled of antiseptic and orange-scented cleaners, a cold combination. There was nothing cold about his expression, though.
"/I have spoken to her and given her my key/," He hissed, "And you feel the need to do /what/?" Kain swallowed, and I began to quake. The temperature had abruptly dropped. Looking over at Mantic, he clearly felt it too.
"She... she knew your name without being told. Mantic's, as well."
"I told her my name, you silly fool. Mantic's as well." Mantic dropped to his knees.
"Because." He leaned upon me heavily as he shifted his weight. "You must sate your fury with another, Mantic. Touch not this one, or you will never sleep again." Mantic shuddered. At that moment, as if to add to the drama, a crack of thunder split the sky. The heavens had become steadily darker as the moments passed, and now they decided to share their foul humor with us.
"Do you need a towel?" Mantic offered me said cloth with a look on his face that I couldn't quite place. I blinked at him, then shook my head and looked at Faust.
"Faust got wetter." Faust pointed at a towel he was using to scrub his dripping hair.
"I have one." I looked at Kain. He was drying off his hair as well. Abruptly my vision was cut off, and I felt a gentle scrubbing on my head. I froze for a moment, then peeked out from under the fluffy fabric. Mantic was still looking at me in that way, his eyes a little clouded, and was scrubbing at my hair.
"You're soaked." He was around my age, I realized with wonder. Of all things...! "Do you need a change of clothes?" He was only four centimeters taller than me, even! Faust peeked out from under a curtain and surveyed the sky. Kain picked a small, silver cell phone off a table with three legs.
"I will call your aunt and enquire of her if you may stay the night?"
"Um, okay..." Mantic tossed the towel over my eyes again, but not before I saw Faust leaning on the wall, watching us with half-lidded eyes, a slight, contented smile on his face.
In the end, my aunt said yes. The only reason this occurred was because there was a flash flood watch in our town, and it was thundering and lightening so fiercely that her teacher had to stay with her for the night as well.
Mantic offered me dinner, and Faust gave me some anyways when I refused. Kain simply smiled and shook his head.
"Young ladies should eat well." Mantic informed me.
"Young men should too." I sniffed. He shot me a triumphant look as Kain spooned out some kind of soup that was a light yellow color.
"I'm not going to starve if you have some. Kain makes too much anyways."
"Kain makes plenty." Faust settled into a high-backed chair heavily. "Especially for cases such as this, I believe."
"Faust!" Kain gasped, almost dropping the ladle.
"What?" He snapped, looking irritated. "I said nothing obscene."
"No, no... Can she eat this?" Huh? What the heck? Why couldn't I? Faust apparently didn't see a problem either, but Mantic did.
"Why couldn't she?" Faust prodded my forearm with a finger.
"The-...the spices!" Kain exclaimed. "They may be too great for her!" Faust thought for a moment, until his expression abruptly darkened.
"They will undoubtably be. For now, at least, I think we had best give her something else." Mantic looked faintly relieved, and my suspicions rose to the surface again. What kind of spice would make Faust's expression go that black? No explanation was offered, and I got another type of soup that was red and tasted of fish. It was rather spicy.
Eleven o'clock at night, and it was still an incredible storm. I was in a spare room, watching lights flash and cuddling in a long shirt that smelled strongly of Faust. He had given it to me when I was shown the room, as a nightshirt, and now it was vaguely comforting in the old, moaning house. I was still shivering, though, and often had to force myself to relax.
Footsteps could be heard outside my door from time to time, but I didn't have the bravery to see if they belonged to anyone. A few times, a sound like dragging wood had echoed down the hall, and I had snuggled even more deeply under the blankets and coat, squeezing my eyes shut and focusing on the howl and roar of the storm.
This house, I decided rather quickly, was not a fun place to live in. It was drafty and cold at night, and the windows leaked. Wind charged through the corridors from who knows where, and most lights didn't work, due to bad wiring. It was, indeed, a fixer-upper, Kain had confirmed, with a twinkling smile, but they liked it.
Kain had walked me to this room, and shown me in. In a soft, conversational tone, he recited that if I ever came back, he would find some very unpleasant things to do to me. "This one night I will accept, my dear," He fingered my hair, "But never again. Mantic will do anything to please Faust, even be polite to you," I somehow doubted that drying my hair for me fell under the bounds of 'being polite', "However, he will obey me when it comes to it." And with a firm yank on my hair and a gentle pat on the head, he left. I found myself trying to mesh Mantic's behavior before Faust's reprimand and after, and realized that Kain was probably the driving force behind the former. What power he had over him, then...!
Faust and Mantic had shown up a bit later, and then I had eventually gone to bed (not before locking the door though), but I was still no calmer than when Kain grasped my hair. It seemed that Kain was extremely protective of Faust. Why? And why was Faust so weak and sickly so suddenly? It didn't make sense. I was missing something.
Lying in a bed wasn't going to help, I decided, and sat up. Some water had collected at the bottom of the window, which had leaks in the sides. I brushed it off and looked outside.
My life wasn't going to get any easier, it seemed. Despite Kain's warnings, I knew that I wouldn't stay away from Faust. The man had an almost ethereal air to him, like he was a spirit trying to live with humans, and I was drawn to that airiness as strongly, I suspected, as Kain was. The window offered a nice view, actually, ignoring the rain, and there was some sort of huge long-limbed wolf in the graveyard.
At second glance, it wasn't a wolf, it was a mishmash of every type of carnivore I knew of. A crocodile's jaws, a cheetah's long limbs, a cat's fur, badger's claws on the hind legs, and a dinosaur's scything claws on the front feet met my eyes. The eyes weren't clearly defined, but they glowed a color of all, not brown, not white, but all the colors. A wolf and lion's ruff around the neck made the animal seem even larger, and it had the deadly thin teeth of an anglerfish. As I watched it look around, sniff the graves, this animal a little smaller than an elephant (how was it physically possible?), I sank to my knees, unable to look away. This thing was horrible, and made me know the meaning of fear, but at the same time, it held an unspeakably divine beauty. Abruptly, as if it could feel me watching it, or even worse, see me watching it, it turned and looked straight at me. I began to sniffle, like a little girl, and yet still couldn't look away.
Those huge, too-long jaws containing too-thin, too-sharp teeth opened, and the head was flung back to release a sound that literally shattered the window. I screamed, and ducked, but the sound remained, and all my clawing and screaming couldn't stop it.
"Nezui! Open the door if you are breathing!" Faust pulled me to consciousness easily, his normally chilly voice now laced with concern. "Nezui!!"
I dragged myself to my feet, feeling oddly light, ignoring the broken glass, and shuffled to the door. I opened it with care. It seemed rather pointy and painful to grasp.
"I'm up. What's wrong?" Faust quickly dragged me out of the room, looked in, and began to lead me down the hall. "Faust?" He looked back at me quickly, as if he couldn't bear to see me for long, then simply tugged me downstairs. As I descended, I began to feel pain in my hands, and in my legs, and even, god forbid, in my head. I wobbled on a step and was swept up by Faust. It was as if I was a swooning maiden!
"Faust, I can walk. I woke up like, what, a minute ago, so I'm a little wobbly-" I caught sight of my leg and fell silent, blinking foolishly. We swept into the living room, where the demure cell phone from yesterday sat in a place of honor.
"All over town, the Grim has caused injuries and death. Every pane of glass within a mile has shattered violently." Kain cast an experienced eye over my bloody leg, bandaging a wound on Mantic's head. Some of his wavy hair was matted with blood. I shut my eyes and looked away as Faust deposited me on the couch. "The emergency room has flooded, and some with less severe injuries are being sent to the next town." I opened my eyes and reached out to touch the piece of glass embedded in my leg. It cut my fingertips, and I recoiled. The mad desire to flee my body, get out, get out!, made me try to curl into a ball, but my head throbbed too powerfully to succeed. My hand hurt, too. I looked, and yes, oh wonderful, there was glass in my left palm. Actually, it went straight through my palm. "The electricity also malfunctioned, so people got electrocuted, but it's working again. Don't drink any water. The Grim will have poisoned it with its call."
"G-Grim?" I tried to quell my shaking, recalled the beast from the night, and began to rock back and forth. "Aunt." Mantic looked between Kain and Faust, then lightly patted my head. It hurt. "What's wrong with my head?" Kain made shooing motions.
"Go find some bandages, and some more disinfectant. I will tell her." Faust and Mantic left, and I quivered visibly. Kain sighed.
"You didn't do this as a warning, did you?" His eyes flashed up from studying the floor, surprised.
"No! Why-How could I? And besides..." He sighed and picked up a pair of gleaming tweezers from the now blood-stained couch. "Mantic got hurt also. I would not do that to him." He began to edge the glass out of my hand. "We shall have to replace our nice new couch... Faust is a doctor, and he has given me some training. Hold still." I tried to, failed, and then shut my eyes. "The Grim has come because of you." I slit an eye opened, saw the blood-slick glass, and shut it again.
"Why because of me?"
"Because you are awakening the soul of a necromancer. It has been sealed for a reason." Necromancy? Like, raising the dead? Feh.
"Necromancy, huh." Kain set his eyes on my hand.
"This was the reason I wanted you to stay away, little girl. Faust was sealed a long time ago, in a place very different from this sleepy town but not so far away." I resisted the urge to bang my head against the couch, because it would probably hurt even more. "His soul was sealed to the music of death, and the song couldn't stay alive in a deaf soul. So his powers are gone."
"His soul is deafened...? Like, um, music...?" I was fading in and out, sleepily, and didn't really believe it, nor get it.
"Necromancers use musical instruments to call the dead and undead. To others, these instruments are cursed, and sap their lives away, but in the hands of a corpse musician, the instruments instead allow them to near death and gather their servants." I groaned and started to cry silently. My head was really starting to hurt, and I wasn't sure whether it was all this 'corpse musician' talk or a head wound. Kain finished my hand, looked at my head, and shook his. "You have a strong song in your soul. That song has roused Faust's, and broken some of his seal. At another time, we could train you, but now the Grim walks...." I was getting more and more tired, but the Grim held my attention.
"I saw it." He smiled and shook his head.
"The Grim is invisible. The secondary form of the physical manifestation of ChaOs. You cannot have seen it, little girl. And if you had, you would have gone as mad as Faust once was."
"B-but I d-d-did..." I began to shiver. My voice was so weak ... What was wrong with me? They wouldn't bother to bandage me up if I was going to die, would they? Kain looked at me for a long moment before I blacked out, and if he said something, I missed it.
Hmmm..... What an emo angst story.
Anyways...... review if you want. I hope you do, for I am a review whore....