qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-10-30 07:11 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 20

20

Emilia's first goal is in navigating the convoluted hallways of the 2nd floor. The white hallways, with torches hung up on the walls beside the tapestries, lighting the way with a diffuse orange glow. Her bunny slippers just solemnly squeak while the servants are fetching documents and freshly prepared snackerals.

At the front, she told the guards that she's looking for a washroom. Strangely enough, she half-expected them to tell her that the washroom is just under the stairs. But instead, they told her to head up to the second floor – "It should be in one of the rooms, and if in case you get lost, just ask one of the servants for directions."

The privacy of a washroom will lend Emilia and Lulu the chance to diviniate the layout of the castle, and find out how to reach the Duke's Archives.

"I smell bacon," Lulu tells Emilia.

Indeed, the smell of bacon and other foodstuffs is in the air, and it makes Emilia wonder who are the lucky ones being served tonight.

Speaking of which, she doesn't remember having eaten anything at all in a long while. As an undead, perhaps you miss the inconvenient sensation of being hungry – the pleasure in eating something delectable.

Emilia contemplates stealing a bite or two from the dinner plates, until Lulu points out a vacant washroom, where they manage to slip inside without anyone noticing there's two in the washroom.

They light the incense candles.

Lulu pulls out a turquoise crystal from her pockets. It bears an eerie glimmer from within.

"Make a wish," Lulu goes, notioning Emilia to hold onto the crystal too.

The crystal lights up, and it is as if old, forgotten memories have been freshly unearthed in Emilia's mind. She understands the entire layout of the castle now, where all the chambers and hallways lead to. Even the secret passageways.

Except..

There is a 'blank' in the layout by ground level, in the chamber ahead of the main entrance, as if something is forbidding her from gaining knowledge about that place.

What could it be?

~

Back in the main hall, Emilia notices the foggy doorway up ahead as she descends down the stairs.

"What's over there?" she asks a guard, pointing at the doorway.

"There? That is a private area," the guard says. "The only ones who can pass through the boundry are members of the Royal Family. I honestly don't know what lies beyond."

Emilia feels her chest tingle inside, just looking at it.

"Do you mind if me and my friend have a look?" she asks.

"Why?"

"Because.. erm, I'm curious," Emilia says. "Just wondering how an enchanted barrier feels to the touch."

"Well.. okay, why not," the guard goes. "I've tried it, it feels like you're touching a repulsive force out of thin air.' He leads the two of them up to the doorway, and the sensation grows stronger in Emilia as the distance closes between her and the doorway, until she feels the energies in her pulsate.

She raises her hand and presses it against the door; her fingers disappear through the fog, feeling fuzzy all over, and she pulls her hand back, taking a little of the fog with it.

"What the.." the guard goes, noticing. "Who are you?"

The realisation hits Emilia – this doorway only permits undead to pass through. She takes Lulu's hand and thrusts herself into the grey mist.

(ta-dum)

On the other side, it is grey everywhere. All the colours seem to have drained away, and the very air is thick with a gut-wrenching tension. It feels like they could be attacked, by something.

"This place is giving me the hiccups," Lulu remarks.

Emilia turns around and sees that the misty doorway is white. She attempts to pass through it again, but to no avail as she feels the mist repulse her.

"Damn, it won't let us out.." Emilia goes.

Apparently, they can only come through it one way. And to escape, they'll have to find another way out – if there is any.

Unnatural daylight sheens through the frosted glass, highlighting the six pedestals carrying stone pieces. Each of the pedestals are marked I, II, III.. up to VI. Up close, the fragments bear faint etchings, wavering contours.

The tension begins to gnaw.

"Emmy! Your skin!" Lulu goes.

Emilia notices the skin on her hands is withering away. The wrinkles develop, and some gashes start to appear over spots, itching.

"You too," Emilia says, noticing Lulu's face sagging.

"What do we do?" Lulu limps around, looking for anything remotely resembling an exit. She prods all the four edges of the room – lingering especially by the two doorways on the other side, which are enveloped in white mist also. "We're doomed!"

Emilia approaches the pedestals and takes the pieces into hand. She notices that they all have a smooth, curved convex side with the etchings, and on the other side, they are very jaggedly protruding. Maybe they are fragments of a whole?

"Lulu—" Emilia coughs, her voice hoarse. "Come, help me with these pieces. I think it's our only chance.."

The fey girl limps back to Emilia's side. But halfway through, she stumbles onto the ground and has to crawl the rest of the way there.

Emilia's fingers quiver; she holds a fragment in one hand while she hastily tries meshing the other five fragments with it accordingly, in hopes that one way or another they would piece together (somehow).

Then it occurs to her to try matching them by their surface etchings.

At this point, her hands are no more than exposed muscle overlaying bones.

It itches all over – it takes Emilia all of her mustered will not to scratch herself. She quickly glances at the fragment's contours, before bringing another piece together and making sure that the contour lines match up with each other.

They connect.

"Lulu--!" Emilia's voice is a grotesque whisper. Poor Lulu is fumbling the other four pieces, so Emilia points out the contours. "Connect them by these lines!"

"Okey-dokey."

By the time they connect four out of six pieces, Emilia's hands are just skeletal bones, and her body collapses onto the ground, limp.

"I can't.. move my hands," Emilia goes, straining out each word from her paralysed jaw. She can only stare at Lulu, making progress with the other two remaining fragments. Hurry..

The whole piece is supposed to be shaped like a sphere.

Lulu just manages to fit the fifth piece together before her hands slacken and she drops the incomplete stone sphere.

"No—!" Lulu squeaks.

Suddenly, Pixy comes out from her pockets. He has been overhearing a lot of noisy desperation from his master – so he flutters over to what Lulu has been holding.

"Finish.. puzzle," Lulu wheezes out to Pixy, and the butterfly with all his might (unaffected by the chamber's strange enchantment) lifts up the last piece and slides it into the gap of the sphere, fitting snugly.

The etchings glow; it is a globe of the world.

The tension in the room dissipates, and colour replaces the greyness.

But Emilia and Lulu are still lying on the ground, unable to move. Much of their muscle and flesh have eroded away. Pixy rummages through Lulu's pouch and finding her estus flask, gives Lulu and Emilia a sip of its energies. All at once, their bodies regenerate back to normal.

"We're alive!" Lulu cheers, bouncing herself upright again. She helps Emilia up.

Relieved, Emilia picks up the stone globe. She examines it, not recognising the geography of the world. Scattered landmasses litter the top hemisphere mostly, while the bottom hemisphere is very concentrated as a super-continent.

"Where are we..?" she mutters, and Lulu answers, "Here!" and points out somewhere on the globe's bottom. "That's the North."

The misty barriers have faded away from the two doorways, while behind them the white mist still remains.

"I have a feeling we should keep the globe with us," Emilia says.

~

Taking the left doorway, Emilia and Lulu descend a tightly coiled stairway – they hold onto the walls for stability. It is quite dark, so Lulu gets Pixy to light up his fluttering wings, providing a violet glow that helps them find the way.

A faint, humid breeze blows up from below. Emilia can feel it on her face. It smells like the moments before the onslaught of a rainy storm.

"Squeak!" Emilia's bunny slippers feel unsteady on these steps.

How far down do these stairs go?

"Lulu?" Emilia feels like making a bit of conversation as an antidote to all the stresses that have befallen them.

"Mm hmm?"

"What's your first memory?"

"Hmmm.. I sorta forgot actually. I remember.. I was playing in the glade with the foxies and flowers and everything was changing colour, from blue to purple to green and orange. I must have been playing for what must be a very long time, and I think it was to chase away the flu I had then. Yes, the flu! I remembered someone saying that if you have a lot of fun, you can chase away any bad feeling in the world. This was before I found my Pixy, mind you.

"I was nibbling at all the berries and splashing a lot of water from the ponds, and it felt like I never wanted to leave. Until I started feeling very dizzy – it was like feeling very thirsty and hungry at the same time, but I couldn't wrap my tongue around it.

"I wanted to come back home so my mama could make me feel better, but I didn't remember where I came from.. or who I am. I was very scared. I ran around in circles, up and down, left and right through the woods, and then I tripped on a vine and splashed myself wet.

"I saw what I looked like from the water, and I didn't look very nice at all. I looked like an old prune! It was an awful nightmare!

"And then I heard shouts. They were men in shining armour, but they didn't come to rescue me, they wanted to slay me! They had their swords and pikes up high, and they called me a monster! So I had to flee. I ran and ran, and if I didn't bump into Shen, I wouldn't know what I would've done. Shen scared away those guys good with explosive smoke and his trusty sword.

"I made good friends with him, and he taught me all about living courteously as an undead. That I should never take souls from living people, but slay the hollows who need a good time-out if we ever needed more."

Lulu lets out a small sneeze.

"Are all the undead like us?" Emilia asks.

"Like what?"

"Well.. we're looking to bring an end.. find the First Flame, and then extinguish it. We don't resort to killing people outright, do we?"

"Emmy.. there are actually some very naughty undead ones out there. And they're not very nice to meet. They pillage people's villages, sucking away all the souls that they have for themselves. A lot of people don't like them, and they don't like us too either."

"Hm."

"Shen calls those types the Darkwraiths," Lulu goes. "They wanna steal the First Flame so they could rule the world, and make everyone bow down to them."

"Do you really know what'll happen once we extinguish the First Flame?" Emilia asks.

"The First Flame has kept life going on for ages," Lulu goes. "I know it seems bad.. if we take that away, everything will be cold and dark again. But if you think about it, it's just like going to sleep after a long, long day. You'll wake up feeling refreshed for a new tomorrow. In Fall and Winter, it looks like all the trees and animals have died, but they're just sleeping away until the new Spring comes."

It's a heavy thought. Emilia tries to imagine an existance without herself – and a dread comes over her, of a vast darkness that could not be penetrated by light, because there is no light. It makes her stomach churn, and she has to pause descending for a second.

".. what'll happen to us?" Emilia goes.

"I'm not sure," Lulu says. "Maybe we'll all fall asleep.."

"Don't you mean dying?"

"How do you die when you're already dead?"

"When you stop existing." The words come out of Emilia like bile. Her eyes are downcast, weighed down by that heaviness building up inside. "I'm afraid.. Lulu. I'm afraid that all the things that comprise me, my feelings, my thoughts and memories.. one day or another, they will all have to disappear. I'll never get to see the sun again, or smile with anyone again, or.. love.. I'm just some damn leaf tumbling in the wind."

"Emmy," Lulu goes, holding onto her hands. "Nothing ever disappears. You've smiled, you've cried, and even though happy times will pass you by, they continue to exist. Because they've happened, even if you forget. That's what matters in the end. And.. maybe, they'll all come back, in one way or another. Even if you can't see it."

And Emilia just clutches onto the fey girl, as tightly as she can, bittersweet tears escaping her eyes.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-10-07 10:33 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 19

19

The entrance to Anor Londo sheens with a radiant brilliance. Two stone lions guard the drawbridge, with their mouths open, frozen in mid-roar.

"Emilia," Lulu goes, huddling up by her. "You should be careful.. I have a feeling they don't take kindly to strangers."

Emilia nods. She crosses the drawbridge, looking down at the shimmering river below, leading the group's way.

Right in front is a guard sitting by the gate, wearing an (oversized) mascot head with painted-on red blushes and bright blue eyes. He notices their presence, stands up, a whistle dangling from his neck.

"Who are you people?" he goes.

"We're travellers," Emilia says.

"Say 'We're on our way up North,'" Lulu whispers.

"We're-- on our way up North," Emilia repeats, noticing the guard's arousal. "We just wanted to stay by here for a rest, and.. enjoy Anor Londo's hospitality."

"Well well!" the guard goes. "What possible reason is it that Anor Londo isn't your destination! Here, you'll feel right at home! Festivities, amusements, and lots of pavilions to explore. But first.." He takes a quick glance at the party. "Are you harbouring anyone who has illness?"

"We're fine!" someone blurts from the back.

Lulu stifles a sneeze.

"Alright," the guard says. "I'll take your word for it. Come right in!" And he opens the gate.

~

It's a magnificant city. Lampposts line the streets, their glow radiating over the plazas and buildings – it almost looks as if it can pass for daylight.

The group is gazing around, on the verge of being disoriented by their awe of the place. They keep huddled together amidst the teeming traffic of aristocratic people and trotting horses, carrying elegant carriages here and fro.

Emilia is caught by the sight of a pampered kitten taking a pee by the potted tree, before its owner shushes it away from doing its business.

This place sure is vast.

She can only imagine what she might be doing – dressing herself up as exquisitely as the natives of Anor Londo, sampling the sources of the sweet whiff in the air, the bakery shops, or just taking a walk and exploring the labyrinthine city's depths.

The guard is right. Their stay here might be the best moments they could ever have.

But alors, all of that is interrupted by a sense of urgency that paints the lively streets with foreboding. Twisted Fate, Vayne and Shen are out there somewhere, either in the midst of escaping or they're caught and they are again trapped, perhaps in the deeper cells of the dungeons..

First things first.

"Let's find an inn to stay at, Emmy," Lulu goes, clasping hands.

"Okay."

An inn..

Emilia wants to ask someone about the nearest inn, but for some reason most of the people look terribly busy, their strides unwilling to be distracted by anyone asking their way around.

"Erm.." she mumbles. She tries an approaching couple. "Excuse me, do you know where the nearest inn is?"

They pause. The young man in the suit says, "Inn? Let's see, I think I saw one by that corner avenue over there, called the Pillsbury Inn. Give that a gandy."

"Merci."

The patterns of the street tiles dazzle the eye.Emilia's vision traces the whorls and spirals the shapes take on. "Over here, this way!" she would shout for the group to keep up, as if she is their tour guide, leading them on. She tries hard to spot any sign of the Pillsbury Inn, all the while her eyes are captivated by the bright lights of the place.

Almost like the city itself is designed to bombard people's senses with constant candy.

When she spots the inn's sign, she tells the others to come.

~

"This is an unplanned stay," the inn's receptionist says. "There's 10 double rooms and 7 single rooms vacant, which amounts to 350 gold."

The inn's waiting room is filled with potted flora and caligraphic hangings. Emilia is standing by the receptionist desk, tapping her feet while the receptionist is checking records. She wonders if she should've done a head count first. 10 double rooms and 7 single rooms, that should fit 27 people.

"How many people do we have?" Emilia whispers to Lulu.

"46."

"46 – 27 = 19," Emilia mutters.

"Will you accept the offer?" the receptionist asks.

Emilia will have to find another inn for the rest of the people. She looks through her pouch, fumbling between the contents for the moneybag, before paying the fee.

~

A firework streaks across the sky, exploding into a morass of red flares that fizzle into smoke.

Emilia is danubing down the street when a boy huddled by newspapers is shouting, "Latest news! Latest news! There's been a prisoner breakout from the dungeons! They're on the loose! Read all about it!"

This perks Emilia's interest. She reaches for a newspaper when the boy stops her. "That'll be one gold piece, please."

Emilia hands him one.

The boy gives her a newspaper.

BREAKING NEWS: Escaped Undead at Large
Quinton Groat, reporting from Anor Londo

In an unprecendented show of force, three undead individuals have broken free from Anor Londo's deepest dungeons. The individuals are said to be described as wearing recognisable outfits:

Individual #1: Twisted Fate
Has a signature ferrato hat, with a long jacket and boots. Special powers include (but are not limited to) card flinging, illusion creation, and short-range teleportation.

Individual #2: Vayne
Has red goggles, sleek outfit with numerous bolt quivers on belt. Possesses a talent for landing precision shots with her crossbow.

Individual #3: Shen
Has a facemask, black garb, and two cutting-edge swords. Powers include chi (energy) manipulation, invisiblity and shielding.

All three are considered armed and extremely dangerous to public safety. If you encounter them, do not engage. Report them to the nearest authority immediately.

Along which, there are sketchings of them in profile. They're not bad renditions, except that their faces verge on appearing generic.

~

After a fruitless search for another inn, the rest of the party decides to camp just outside of Anor Londo's walls.

"Now then," Emilia goes, cracking her fingers. "How do we even begin to look for those three?"

"Let me put on my thinking cap.." Lulu goes, as she puts a hat on her head.

They walk down a deserted alleyway, where it is more calmer than the streets. Clothes hang across the mildewed buildings above, and you can smell fresh dishes being cooked somewhere.

"They've escaped from the dungeons.." Emilia muses. "If I were them, where would I want to go? I wouldn't want to be caught out in the open where everyone can see me.."

Suddenly, an insight hits her.

"I'd be looking for the artefact in the Duke's Archives," Emilia goes. "Where is that, really? Lulu, do you know?"

"You could always ask someone," Lulu goes.

They emerge onto an open plaza. There are lots of spectators, surrounding the platforms where the fireworks are launched.

Emilia is captivated by the people who adjust the springing of the rockets, before lighting each of them up, exhaust smoke billowing from the platform.

"Excuse me--" Emilia taps someone by the shoulder. "Do you know where the Duke's Archives are?"

"The Duke's Archives?" The man thinks to himself. "Isn't that a rumour?"

Emilia shakes her head, not understanding.

"Well, you've never heard of it?" he says. "Lemme tell you this, it's supposed to be by the foundation of Anor Londo's greatness. Besides tons of riches, like gold, mithril, there's a rumour that an actual library has been found underneath, and what it holds on its shelves could be worth more than the entire city itself. There's powerful magicks and items that could convey abilities bigger than you can ever dream of.. But like I said.. it could only be a rumour.."

~

They journey to Anor Londo's castle.

Emilia faintly recognises the layout – looking down from the walkway, she sees buildings and streets on a lower level, with shimmering pools between the gaps. Up ahead, the castle is covered with red and white banners.

They pass by huge armours who guard both sides of the entranceway, their pikes' head high – subtle movements from them hint at their animation.

Inside, the castle's main hallway is beautiful. Every sound made is magnified and echoed through the vastness of this chamber.

Emilia is feeling a sense of deja vu.

She has been here before, in her past life.

But her memory of this place is too fuzzled for her to compare what is different in this version of the castle.

Here, the castle's opulence briefly gives Emilia vertigo. She twirls around, absorbing the sights, the ceiling's vast trompe l'oeil effect, her feet clacking on the polished floor.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-08-16 01:50 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 18

18

In this conundrum, the spectral Emilia's first thought is to attempt to break through the sentinels' ranks, proceeding upward.

Her second thought is to have the party vault over the railing, plunging down into the depths. She doesn't know what lies beneath, if they'll go splat on the cold, hard ground, or if perchance there's a pool of water that can cushion their fall.

But hey, with only one arm left on her body, she's open to anything.

Then she sees Shen dash forward, breaking free from the inertia of stalemate; "Follow me!" he demands. He clambers over the railing, and seemingly leaps down – but he doesn't fall. Instead, he is levitating – floating in an energy bubble that has just appeared around him, carrying his weight.

And he is slowly fluttering upward.

Before the sentinels could react, Twisted Fate and Vayne are clambering forth – Vayne is yanking Emilia by her remaining arm when they all jump, joining Shen in shared levitation. The bubble is unsteady beneath their feet.

"Yee-haw!" Twisted Fate exclaims, pulling off his feathered hat.

The entire prison populace is in a cheer.

The sentinels are seemingly at a loss, regarding how to follow the escapees. Then, in unison, they decide to rearrange formation, so that they're now marching up to where the exit is at the top.

For Emilia, it reminds of the hive-mind mentality of bees; there must be someone, an alpha sentinel or the like who is giving out the master commands, feeding actions for the sentinels to execute. Alors.. she has no voice to communicate this insight, so all she can do for the moment is glare at those armours.

As Shen's energy bubble rises – above them, the sentinels swivel from their forward march, turning inwards towards the railing, then--

They dive, towards them. Bouncing off the shield's barrier that is made tangible upon their impact. Emilia notices how with each sentinels' attempt to land, Shen seems to wince painfully, his meditative pose shuddering, as if their impacts were directly affecting him. And the way it looks, this ninja isn't holding up well to their landing assaults.

Vayne seems to be aware of Shen's wincing also, so in tense readiness, she focuses on taking down the incoming sentinels, shooting bolts on their sides which (just barely) deflects their incoming path away from them.

They're almost to the top. The ceiling is a 30-foot dome of stalactite frost.

"We're sure getting there," Twisted Fate goes, as he joins in with Vayne, tossing hooplas of explosive cards at the falling sentinels, pop! He glances at Emilia. "Just gotta hold on for a little more."

Suddenly, there are more, unexpected jolts in the bubble's rise – from the sides and below, the sentinels are swinging their maces at their energy bubble, and like a balloon, the bubble is swung left and right of the spiralling stairway, as each sentinel gets its turn at swinging at the pinata.

"Can't.. hold it.." Shen mutters under his breath. "Prepare.. to jump..!"

Indeed, Shen's energy balloon is faltering, and its outlines are made visible as violet strands, on the verge of being ripped apart at some points.

Twisted Fate decides to leap forth onto a vacant area, and Vayne and Emilia follow him too – Shen also, a second later.

Two spirals upward is the exit doorway. They're surrounded on both flanks by sentinels.

"I suppose we'll just have to wing it," Twisted Fate says, before he tosses a detonator card forward into the midst of them, which in an explosion sends the sentinels flying from the zone of impact – either tumbling down the shaft, or being wedged along the wall.

The walkway ahead of them is fractured, and taking a step, the group finds the walkway portion collapsing down in crumbles. The resultant gap is just barely a leapable distance.

Twisted Fate doesn't falter. He yanks out from his entire deck to lay down and fill the gap with a bridge of cards, and everyone crosses it – stepping on the card surface is surprisingly sturdy, Emilia finds. Once everyone has crossed, Twisted Fate retracts his cards back into his deck, and proceeds to throw another detonator card into the foray of sentinels; this time, aiming more upwards so the walkway does not collapse.

Eventually, they make it to the exit, without pursuit.

"Brrr.. it's freezing in here," Vayne comments. They're ascending the icy stairway, their breaths like mist in the refrigerated environment. "Are you sure this is in Anor Londo?" she asks Emilia, before they emerge into a much warmer hallway. "I guess it's time to find out.."

For some reason, Emilia finds it hard to focus on her surroundings – everything is starting to look blurry to her vision. Then she sees her ghostly hands and arms start to melt. Her spectral form collapses onto the floor, and she emits a muted screech of terror before--

Back at the bonfire, Emilia's real eyes snap open, seeing Lulu.

"Emmy!" Lulu exclaims. "You're awake!"

"I know where they are," Emilia says. "They're escaping from Anor Londo's dungeons."

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-07-23 02:57 am
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 17

17

there she holds onto her mother's breast, clutching onto it, so soft under the harsh light. Suckling onto her milk. It's

Ta-dum.

It feels groggy behind the blackness, like a daze. She isn't sure if her eyes are open, but she tries blinking and she sees the petite embers fluttering up to the night sky of stars, the clouds aglow with a slightly orange haze.

Like this, she lingers for a while, absorbing the sight. They are beautiful constellations upon the night canvas. The stars with their neon glows, scattered over the spaces in a vast pattern.

"LeBlonk!" she hears; it's Lulu's voice. "You're back!"

She pulls herself up. It's a bonfire that's just been set up by the edges of the forest – it seems the entire travelling group is here, soundly safe and resting, and the notion comes to her that they just materialised out of thin air because someone lit the fire. Mm, and Lulu is very cheerful, wandering over to her side with Pixy fluttering about her head.

"My name's Emilia," she tells Lulu, glancing at herself on the grass. "LeBlanc is my last name."

Lulu pauses. "Emilia.. so you actually have your old memories?"

"I don't think.." she says. It's still a fuzzy blur to try to recollect anything before. "Well, if I had any friends, I suppose they'd call me Em for short sometimes."

"Em.." Lulu goes, getting excited. "Emm-- Emmy! Emma! How's about I call you Emma? It's cute!"

"Sure," Emilia goes. "'Emma LeBlonk..' hehe."

"Did you slay the foxy lady?" Lulu asks, sitting down like a child awaiting a tale.

"I think I did.. you died though, right?"

"Mhm." Lulu nods. "But luckily, I didn't get trapped in one of those pesky asylums – I woke up here by this bonfire, me and Pixy. And then you came along."

"Huh." Then Emilia looks around the roiling crowd for those familiar faces; Twisted Fate, Shen, Vayne.. where are they?

"They're.." Lulu goes, pausing for a bit. "I dunno actually. I found you here."

"After I killed Foxy Lady--" Emilia says, "the icy forest was collapsing around us, and we all got sucked into the lake. It's the last that I remember.. it looks like everyone made it out of the Foxy Lady's realm alive."

"I guess so," Lulu goes. "Hey, my biggie spell worked!"

"Yep."

And Emilia glances beyond the crowd – beyond them, that dirt pathway meanders towards an orange glow in the distant horizon. Maybe that could be.. to her, it suggests a lively, bustling city whose light shines eternally bright under the night, blighting the clouds with that orange glow.

"I think we're close to.." (what's the city's name?) "--Anor Londo," Emilia goes. She notions at the signs that hint to the city's presence. "You see it, oui?"

"Yep," Lulu pips.

"Bien." Emilia's bunny slippers are still snug on her feet. "Bien.. I hope when we get over to Anor Londo, we'll be able to find Twisted Fate.. and the others."

But her skin, now that she notices it, it is starting to look a little decomposed under the bonfire's flickering light. Her arm is ghastly white, as if blood has stopped pumping through the veins, giving the flesh some vitality. She..

"I died.." Emilia says, pulling her sleeves back. "I died drowning in the lake's tunnel." She vividly feels that sense of panic, and the lingering image of the bubbles under the shimmering light.

"Did you really?" Lulu asks. Then the fey girl notices the state of decay of Emilia's body, and she gives out an, "Oh. Lemme fetch you some fresh humanities, hold on--!" before skipping over, mingling amidst the other travellers, before she comes back with the bottomless box at hand and--

Emilia still has some humanity, found in her pouch. "I have some already," she tells Lulu, smiling, showing the soft gels in her palm. She heads over to the bonfire where she allows the raw humanity to transmute her back into liveliness again. Then a thought hits her.

"I don't think the others made it out alive," Emilia suggests. "If they've died like me, they should've come back here, but they aren't here.. wait-- Lulu, do you know how to find them? You have more of those red crystals.."

"I do.." Lulu says, albeit hesitantly. "But I dunno if you or I could use the crystals properly – don't you gotta be a cleric to use it? Or else you'd go tipsy-turvy."

Emilia pauses. She's gotta take that chance. "I don't care," she goes. "Give me the red crystal. There's always good time for learning."

So Lulu plops the box on the ground and rummages through the contents, rattling various trinkets. She eventually pops out of the box, holding onto the ruby crystal – the same crystal Odette tried using before.

Lulu's fingers are wrapped around the crystal's facets. Its redness almost seems to shine with a life of its own within.

"What're you waiting for?" Emilia asks, her hand open.

"Emmy.." Lulu goes – her usually giddy eyes seem downcast. "Before you go, I wanna tell you how it works, so you don't rush in blindly."

"Alright."

"I've only seen Odette use it.. you have to picture with your mind's eye what you want to do," Lulu goes. "If you want to find Twisted Fate and the people, you conjure up their essences; the impressions that they've left on you, and it will help bring you to where they are in this world. You'll be like a ghostly spectre, skittering through places. And others can touch you, but you can't touch others, so be careful in that regard."

"Mhm."

"Ready?" Lulu asks.

Emilia nods, and with that, Lulu hands the crystal over – she kneels down as she remembers Odette doing, and closes her eyes.

(focus)

Nothing seems to happen, as she can still hear the chatter outside. She wonders if she might be doing something wrong, but then the images start to pour into her awareness, the outside sounds dissipating away, and she almost imagines that she's right by in their presence.. Twisted Fate.. Odette.. for some reason it's so vivid an experience, and it starts to feel suffocating on the inside – it's the beautiful suffocation when your heart begins to grow overwhelmed by those things beyond, and you start to choke..

ta-dum

In the plaza, there were the birds under the blue sky blotted with silver clouds. They were flying, orbiting, dancing with an awestruck frenzy.

It's so.. hard to breathe.

Little by little, a warm, distant light appears from the heart of the darkness. Its rays reveal an obscure tunnel, shiny and damp in parts but with darkened edges. The white light at the far end draws her towards it. A few blue rays even seem to reach her through the tunnel.

She heads slowly and steadily towards the light, turning in a spiral through the endlessly dripping tunnel. The harsh, ceaseless rushing of wind rumbles oppressively through this tubular space.

As she gets nearer to the exit, the rushing noise gets louder and the walls brighten. She discovers that they are lined with a colourless organic texture.

She walks slowly out into the light.

The wind becomes a calm, majestic breeze, and the light gets brighter, increasingly beautiful. Up to a totality of brightness.

Light particles and filaments suddenly appear, in motion, but amidst the blinding whiteness they can hardly be defined.

In this storm of light particles, all kinds of micro and macroscopic spatial figures bond and split apart, following a chaotic, random, never symmetrical order. As an entirety, they make a kind of visual music that is quite fascinating to absorb.

She thinks she can see all kinds of images, both familiar and strange, constantly shifting in her vision. They form on the periphery of the white light, appearing so fast that it's very hard to identify them.

But a bitter breeze blows from her, disrupting these hypnotic circumvolutions, that vortex losing coherence. The edges of that white is gradually invaded by a light blue; the whiteness takes on a fluffy texture--

She is floating now amidst clouds in the sky. The whole world seemingly before her, visible and clear in sight, everywhere and anywhere within her possible reach. She's drawn towards one particular location – she gravitates down below the clouds, where it suddenly becomes as black as night, before she catches the orange glow of the majestic Anor Londo.

It's a bustling civilisation, where it is constantly lit so brightly that the very darkness seems to quiver before its presence. The exquisite buildings dwell, and the majority of the streets are scattered with people. Pools of shimmering waters reflect all the opulance into the sky, as if waiting for the Gods themselves to acknowledge its beauty.

She finds herself rushing through to the central core of the city, the cathedral and skyscrapers, where she moves through the stone walls into the labyrinthine interiors--

She transforms into a rapide spirit, suddenly picking up great speed in her motions and her presence begins to resemble the tumululous rapids, where she spreads in through every room, searching those confines, the libraries, the bedrooms, the all-encompassing dining hall – never minding the stewards who wander the halls, or the mechanical wolves who await like statues by their guarding posts.

Eventually, she makes it down a claustrophobic icy stairway to the open dungeon below. This subzero environment, where a walkway spirals down the cylindrical depths.Armoured sentinels walk along the path, meticulous with every step, mechanical wolves by their sides like bloodhounds – it's so hard to see the bottom, the winding path almost seems endless..

Her presence hovers down the path, feeling like in a hypnotic trance. She notices prison cells that line the walls – where behind the crystalline glass, there are undead, with the petite bonfires set-up in each of those cells. They'd glance out the glass, maybe waiting for anything interesting to happen in their confines, but mostly to bore themselves by their captors' walking routines. Or they'd be waiting by their bonfires, looking dejected about their fates. Some of them are in more advanced stages of decomposition.

And there is Twisted Fate, along with Vayne and Shen, held all together in one of the middle cells. They're playing cards; Vayne is holding her hand close to her chest.

Emilia passes through the glass without a hitch; nobody seems to notice her.She becomes aware of the instinct to materialise herself into visible form.

So she does.

It feels like attempting to wake up from a dream. A loud whirr occurs in her ears while she lingers by the space beside.First she feels her feet touch the ground, then her knees and torso grow solid – up to the rest of her body.

"What's that?" she hears Vayne ask. "Is that.. LeBlanc?"

She is a pale spectre.

"LeBlanc!" Twisted Fate exclaims, joyeous about her appearance. "How did you..!"

Their voices sound as if they're coming from a distant dream, amidst a howling gale. She tries to talk back to them – but no sounds come out of her lips. Lulu wasn't kidding then; she could only observe and learn with the ruby crystals, and not really affect anything.

She tries jumping up and down, also making no sound whatsoever upon landing.

"You're using one of Odette's ruby crystals, aren't you?" Shen goes. "Just nod for yes, or shake your head if it's a no – you aren't able to speak."

She nods.

"Is everyone alright? The travellers are out of the nine-tailed demoness's realm?"

She gives another nod.

"And you're with them? You're not in the prisons here?"

Mhm.

"Okay," Shen says. "I'll make this quick before the guards notice. We've died and found ourselves in this 'cell.' Odette isn't with us.. There's numerous other undead who are also trapped here, some of whom have tried to kill themselves in hopes of escaping, but are brought back into their cells. I suppose the artificial bonfires do the job of shackling us here. Where is this-- do you know?"

Emilia nods. She wants so badly to tell them it's Anor Londo, but it looks like she'll have to play a game of charades.

"This is.. Anor Londo perchance?" Shen asks.

(Maybe not, hehe.) Emilia grins.

"Really?" Shen says.

She eagerly confirms with another nod.

"At least it's some hope," Twisted Fate goes, rousing from his bum. "You should get everyone to make it to Anor Londo – if you know where we are, it'll be all the easier for us to retrieve the artefact once you can get us all out. But tread carefully; I think this place is why the other explorers didn't make it out."

"Alright," Emilia mouths.

Then she notices something strange by the corner of her eye; she turns her head to the glass door, and one of the sentinels is standing just by outside – he isn't moving.

Twisted Fate and the others follow Emilia's gaze,also noticing this fact.

"Oh.. no.." he says.

If the sentinel has a discernable gaze, it would be either cold or amused about Emilia's presence. (Or a tinge of both.)

Emilia is paralysed; all she wants is out of here – but she doesn't know how to recall back to the bonfire.

The sentinel steps towards the door and holds out its hand against the surface. A kind of electricity jolts through the door's entirety, making it vanish, and the sentinel storms into the cell – it reels its arms up as if to lunge at Emilia, and when it swings its arms forth (so fast) she is slammed onto the ground. What now for the poor girl?

Emilia is pinned by the shoulder and she emits a scream from her lips and only wind comes out while the sentinel lingers, its weight sadisticly unbearable.

"Hey!" Vayne exclaims. She pulls out her crossbow, swiftly cocking its mechanism and plants three shots into the chinks of the sentinel's armour plating. This disorients the sentinel – it wobbles, losing its focus upon Emilia, wavering left and right trying to maintain its balance. "You get off her!"

Twisted Fate also has something to add to that. With a flick of his wrist, he pops a card in hand from his sleeve – it was supposed to be his ace in the hole during Texas Hold 'Em, but now it shall flood the sentinel with stunning charge. He swishes the card onto the sentinel, and it cuts directly, embedding into the armour, and the sentinel crashes against the cell's wall, collapsing there, sending a resonating tremour that makes frost tumble from the ceiling. "Nobody touches our girlie," he goes.

You can hear the entirety of the dungeon go wild as the inmates begin to cheer, noticing the spectacle from this very cell. In a way, it's hopeful and a break from the terrible monotony.

The sentinel lies inert. A little smoke withers from it.

The other sentinels break from their routine patrolling; it had been a slow and teady march, their footsteps pounding in unison along the spiralling path (a thump that is felt more than heard), but now their steps are a shambling chaos as they start converging upon this very cell.

"Now's a good chance to make a run," Twisted Fate goes, notioning for everyone to come. His gaze lingers upon –"LeBlanc.. I dunno how your being a ghost is supposed to work, but I suppose 'tis better if you roll with us outta here. You might know the way."

She is in the midst of recovering, and she's trying to get up to a stand. The arm by her crushed shoulder is very limp though, and with a little effort, leaning on the limp arm – plop! Her entire arm severs, scissoring by the shoulder joint, bouncing onto the ground where it vaporises (with a flash of light) into nothingness.

The one-armed, ghostly Emilia offers her remaining arm for Twisted Fate to help her up with. "Sorries about your arm," he says.

"Shall we go?" Shen asks.

"Well hells yeah!" Twisted Fate goes. "We go."

So they pour out of the cell. On both sides of the walkway, the sentinels have gathered in two-column formation. Their arms are up and ready to land disabling blows upon the escapees. They're standing by though, idle and patient, as if wanting to say, "Go ahead, make our day." Maybe that would intimidate them back inside the cell.

"Damnit..!" Vayne mutters – she isn't equipped to deal with the onslaught.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-07-17 10:30 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 16

16

In the beginning, there were her hands. The five petite digits connected to her palms. They could flex and bend at her behest. They have touched and been touched, by others, in an endless variety of moments – tender, sweet, sour, lonesome, curious, entranced.

She remembers holding onto someone's finger when her own fingers barely wrapped around it. Holding onto the plastic and soft fluffiness of her toys and dolls, vrooming her pink bunny in the air like he's an airplane, a superhero – or having a crushed ladybug's stickiness on her fingers, one summer, when her parents were taking her out for a walk.

She remembers clutching onto her knee scrapes when she'd trip on the ground, crying, how it hurt and the grown-ups would bring her along for some band-aids, and she would feel all better after.

Those hands.

She remembers touching and feeling that boy's cheeks, her fingers slowly gliding over to his lips, where she gently and delicately rubs them, left and right to her own content, like skirting the top of creamy yogurt, and soon he would be sucking on the edges of her fingertips, and it would feel good and tingly (how does he find her?), and a little residue of his saliva would be left when she takes her fingers from him.

She'd caress him by the neck; it was quite a hot summer day, and his arm is over by her back, holding her there, and she'd gaze into his eyes – wondering what sort of things she could discern from his pupils, his blue irises.

And slowly, inching closer, they would at last touch their own lips, locking together.

His name is Marcus. She must have been aged 14 at the time, and it was when she was on the verge of graduating from secondary education. In that month, it felt like it was truly summer – the anticipation of the two-month long freedom, and maybe it was the heat in the air that was getting to her. Maybe it was the sparkle the other guys were barely hiding in the last days of classes. Whatever the reason was, she'd felt like kissing someone as a sort of goodbye parting, and it happened to be Marcus. He was somewhat popular, yet had the right sort of a modesty – he wasn't too involved in getting himself liked by others, he kept more to himself, while the girls were picking who to fawn over.

It was a spur of the moment thing, when after she'd finished her Mathematics exam that he was also leaving the exam room, and in the lonesome halls, she went over to him with a sudden fire and cajoled him to touch and kiss.

She had a strange fascination regarding sensuality. When she was in Lycée, she found the school uniform to be seductive in a way she couldn't discern – it was black with white stripes, including a pair of stockings that went beyond her knees. The fabric felt stiff against her breasts whenever she tried turning her upper body around, but she didn't really mind.

It was one day, when she was eating lunch alone outside under the tree,that she spotted a girl, looking around, as if not wanting to be seen. The girl didn't notice her sitting in the shadows, and so the girl went into the brick gazebo – the place usually reserved for outside band practise, or theatre rehearsals.

After she quickly finished her sandwich, she snuck over – what was that girl up to?

She took a peek. The girl was being pressed against the wall by one of the substitute teachers, deeply kissing each other, allowing their passions to go wildly as they moaned in their motions. The instinct was recognisably felt, and she watched the scene as long as she could, without them ever noticing her (she hoped). How tantalising. But the girl never met with the teacher here again afterward.

Amidst civilised society, the base human instincts would occasionally reveal themselves from the facade of politeness. She always adores this truth for some reason. There's a genuineness, a realness that touches her when she gets to see people reveal their naked selves, however briefly in their extreme moods and the sharp reactions that follow.

She's never been one to actively try and get along with others through the stilted courtesies. She knows the need to say hello or goodbye, but where they'd normally want to talk about mundane stuff like "I'm dancing to this overplayed song on the radio by such-and-such, it's so bubbly and addictive!" or the tidbits from daily moments such as "So, my friend apparently is into this game, and his bum is attached to his couch while he's beating this level--"

Instead, she'd perk her ear when the interesting things happen.

Whenever the dramatic moments come, they are treasures. There was a hustler who got onto the same bus she was riding, and started freestyling about Tony Montana and Travis Bickle, and how Anarchy should reign freely over the country, with free love and pot. The bus driver had to force him off at the next stop, even though he made things more interesting than just staring out the window. Then another day, the hustler came on the bus again, this time dressed as a priest, and he quoted passages from the gospel of John, vividly describing the resurrection of the lord Jesus the Savior, and it made the bus riders applaud with tears.

But nobody seemed interested whenever she got her chance to tell her own interesting stories; it always seemed a little off-putting to them, like she would lose people partway through her telling because it was too ludicrous or unusual for their tastes.

She would also have the sudden urge to start dancing, skipping down the hallways where other students would just walk and shuffle to their next period classes. And that was no good, as she started attracting the not-so-goodly kind of attention from people; the jockeys, uber-nerds, generally the sorts of people who had this brotherly love, cliquey instinct running through their very veins. She'd overhear conversations about herself, about how she might have SIDA, or having been loosed from the mental institutions, taking medications with side effects, and that someone should at least have the courtesy to fuck her so to bring her back from the clouds. She was a weirdo, an eccentric.

She had no intention of ever wanting to fit in, and be like them. If that was supposed to be the norm, and where poking at anyone strange was a goodly (as long as teachers weren't looking), then those chivatos and maricons, Tony Montana would say, they'll be meeting his little friend in hell.

Actually, she remembers having to throw punches when two of the debate club members tried shoving her against the wall, and they sniffed her over, all the while smelling like cheap body wash and hair gel. She tried poking one in the ribs with a closed fist, but it seemed that all that did was make him smile, like she'd merely tickled him, and he told her that proper punches involved putting your chest into it, the upper body strength – that which she didn't amply have, and so. She wound up giving his sidekick a nosebleed, before she was reeling on the linoleum floor, just freshly waxed, and she coughed blood while the jocks were running to the mens' washroom.

There was simply no point in trying to report it. One of the other outcasts suffered worse than she did, and when he went the lengths to seek justice for himself, the rumours spread about it, and he eventually landed several of the cool students onto probation – only to have himself effectively excommnicated from most of the other people. He'd mysteriously get poor marks in the class group projects, and the others would come up with nice, rationalised explanations to the teacher.

Lycéewas supposed to be a nice time for young people to get along and learn, to get prepared for the universities and real world. She thought of it more as a human zoo by any other name. It's the kinds of behaviours you'd see gorillas doing in the wild – in an atmosphere of competitiveness, of a kind of terrible insecurity actually, the males would rump their chests, trying to be the alpha males of their declared territories (cliques), so that all the ladies and beta males would flock over and give them groupie love. Those who don't connect with the tribe's norms are scapegoated and rejected; either ritualistically murdered out of example, or left to die outside. Nobody would ever mourn them. They are the same principles that underlie the world of prison inmates and crime organizations.

Even though she wound up withdrawn, and having to hold all the pain and tears inside (nobody would ever understand, no matter how much she'd explain) – she knew not to take it too personally. For they did not truly know her – it was more a projection of their insecurities onto her, that which they feared and loathed. And perhaps her so-called strangeness, that which separates her from those duckies.. it isn't strange.

After all, this ugly duckling was sheltering within herself a beautiful swan, while the other duckies grew to be plain yellow ducks, off and ready to join the corporate world at society's behest. If only there was a beautiful haven in the world for a swan to go to.

The only few people who really seemed nice were the kids that came over during house parties – when family friends would visit during the holidays, summer and winter. There, while her parents would be chatting with the other grown-ups, she'd be showing the kids the interesting things, like her tale on the local bus with the anarchist turned preacher. They had a sort of innocence. They were more open and jovial than the other people at school.

There was petite Pierre, who was five years younger than she – and Andre, who was one grade before her. They were mostly always there whenever the house parties were happening; she didn't really know the others' names – for some reason, she's not good with knowing (memorising) people's names, but she knows their faces and their general sensibilities though.

So she'd acquaint them with her collection of sample perfumes, those small, portable vials of captured scents, from which she'd obtain from the bouquet stores.For the hommes, she'd show them the eaux de toilettes (masculine scents) – one spray upon the neck is a nicely, while the fille counterpart is the eaux de parfumes (the feminine sweetness more suited for women). The kids, they would act like they were in a candy shop, and it delighted her so to be able to find their favourite scents from her collections.

Then Pierre would have his portable game system, where he'd be stuck trying to beat one of the Johto gym leaders in a decisive Pokemon battle. His face would be glued to the little, glowing screen. It's quite cute when he's laying on her bed. She'd practise giving him some back massages –while the other kids were either playing a game on her computer, or she'd put a movie for them to enjoy. Maybe it was no movie theatre (the default speakers had poor bass and tonal quality), but if it kept them enlivened, it's fine. She'd imagine this is how substitute teachers feel like when taking care of somebody else's class – it was actually fun to be able to watch over them.

Her first day in school, it was during the last days of summer, and it happened to be a substitute teacher watching over the class. When she came in, the teacher made her come to the front by the blackboard.

"Who are you?" the teacher asked.

She paused, feeling hesitation as their faces glanced at her. There was a quiver in her lips when she said, "Emilia.. LeBlanc."

And the teacher made her write her name down (so the others won't forget it), and the chalk felt dusty in her fingers as she made it screech over the blackness, and there her name was in shaky handwriting. She had to wonder if she could've wrote her name larger, more legibly, but her name was left on the blackboard for the duration of the class, like an embarassing scar, while the teacher wrote her stuff all around it.

And her cheeks felt blushy when her mama drove her home.

But at least.. it was a very pretty day, and she remembers the railway, the LRT train that always seemed to go by faster than her mama could drive – there was the music that came on the radio, and it would feel soothing just to be able to relax in the seat, seeing all the people on the sidewalks and the vendors, the mime tickling someone by the elbows.

When she rolled down the windows, the brush of wind was very nice, making her hair dance along with it.

Later on in life, she would search up those early songs over the internet – it would surprise her about how much she missed, like who the artists were and what the lyrics were really all about, like love and enjoying the most out of each day, like being misunderstood and gluttonying up on sweets at the store, hehe.

Oui – she'd delight in picking out the nice and goodly sweets from the counter, but as she soon discovered, it gave her a few holes in her teeth and she had to visit the dentist just so he could repair her cavities, as she'd lay down and the buzz and whirring of his drills was unbearable, and it always made her mouth feel a little stiff afterward, though lemony fresh. (She hated it whenever she had to get her gums numbed by injection; that meant it was a major crisis in her mouth, and the pain verged on being unbearable for a few days afterward.)

She'd tell these stories to the kids in her room – even opening her own mouth for them to look. A few of them might be a little grossed out, but the rest were fine with it.

And then, she would take them outside.

"Have them back by 10!" her parents told her, and that gave around two hours for her to take the kids down the neighbourhood.

The sunset.. it reminded her of the ranch on the outskirts of town, where her parents would visit occasionally to discuss some investment opportunities, and she would run through the endless field of grass, her arms wading, outstreched as if they were birds' wings, and she would close her eyes and feel the wind and the air through her velocity – without any fear of tripping or falling upon some obstacle. It would be beautiful.

Here, the sunset rang throughout the homes of her neighbourhood, and the rays would pass through the trees' branches, and she would be telling some light jokes with them while skipping along on the sidewalk. Pierre was still immersed with his portable game system, but he got into the mood of jogging with the others; it was a sort of race they were in now, and they were headed towards the galleria, that mall where there was an assortment of things to see, bouquet shops to visit, and an arcade bustling with young people getting feisty with the controls.

She told her parents that it would only be a walk to the park, but really – the park, there was only so much you could do over there. She'd save it for last, when she could have a bonfire lit and tell the spooky stories under the night.

"Alors!" she said to the kids, when they were by the galleria's parking lot. "Stay close with me, and be sure not to get lost inside."

The mall had a different air; she would usually visit by herself, or when her mama forced her to go shopping for additional clothing and flowers. But with the kids, she felt like she was the teacher who was overseeing the students during a field trip somewhere. 'Tis an exciting feeling, but it also made her more self-conscious of other people seeing her as a doofus.

She would be their tour guide, their leader, and the first thing she took them out to was the Belgian chocolate store – 'La Belgique Gourmade' the sign said above in red lettering. The store was nice enough to give samples of their chocolates, and she told the kids to keep more hushed, as she led them over to the section with hazelnut and almonds.

"Wait, are any of you guys allergic?" she asked them. "Like to peanuts? Chocolates?" and one of the filles told her, "I don't like peanut butter."

"No peanuts for you?" she went.

The store manager said, "If you're worried about peanut allergies, any chocolate without nuts is safe to eat. We make the nutty ones in separate facilities."

"Ooh," she went. "Goodie!"

She wound up paying 20₣ for the chocolates purchased; they'd already fattened themselves up on dinner earlier, but some of them wanted to immediately delight with their purchased sweets, so everyone went over to one of the tables, where they opened the boxes wrapped with gold ribbons, and she took it as an opportunity for a brief rest.

There was something delectable about the taste of chocolates; when they enter your mouth, and you chew them, it makes music upon your tongue. It wasn't just the sweetness though; the same sensation existed when you would kiss someone nice.

And perhaps.. subconsciously, she was acquainting them with the niceities in life – the niceities she'd find herself, that other people didn't seem to be aware about, so that the kids wouldn't grow up to be as dull and repressed as much of the adults she encountered. They'd think of her like a real life faery, with the good moments she could make with them, and it would insulate them against the pressures that would eventually deny them happiness.

She didn't want them to turn into the ugly duckies that populated her school. She wanted to preserve their unbridled joy, that happiness she saw radiating from them. Their innocence. Like Holden Caulfield from the novel Catcher in the Rye, where he would promise to catch the kids who fell from the cliff – they were so beautiful, playing in the rye, and they could fall down the cliff into that grey and dreary world they called adulthood.

At that moment, she was almost verging on being an adult herself. There was the independence – no one could really tell you what you could and couldn't do. There were deeper realms in relationships; what once was cuteness as she cuddled with her teddy bear, it turned into lust and longing for that one someone she could pour herself into, wanting to touch them all over, and be touched herself in ways she'd never imagined.

But there were also the pain and disappointments. Some of the people she once thought she liked, she turned out to loathe them as she saw that their niceness wasn't their true self. There was social pettiness – the rumours and gossip that would shame a person into isolation. There were neurotic people who instinctively hated her presence, for no reason other than perhaps that they find her strange and out of touch with their sense of normality. There was the inevitable boredom of following through imposed instructions, for the assignments and exams, the sake of getting passable grades out of fear of failing and being left behind.

But no matter what, as long as her heart kept beating on, she would promise to live her life through as long as she could. Behind the greyness and ugliness, she felt there were ounces of happiness and beauty to experience, no matter how rare they may be, no matter how obscured those treasures were beneath the facade of dust.

For her name is Emilia, and that is her. ("Emilia.. LeBlanc.")

Even if she has died in the hospital at Germany at the age of 24, forgotten her memories inside another realm, her body a mere replica of itself, she is Emilia, now and always.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-07-14 01:51 am
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 15

15

Real pain is that landscape marred by holes, in which you fall into one and you fall for what feels like forever into that sensation, suffocating, only to plunge back up to the surface, shaken, afraid to drown in it again.

(after the rain comes sorrow, after the sorrow comes rain again)

LeBlanc's neck threatens to cave in, sandwiched between the giantess's hand and the ice crackling underneath. No air can enter her lungs. Her right arm is pinned down, and her left is feebly clawing at the giantess. Dark spots are starting to pop in and out of her vision, marring that cruel face content with giving her pain.

It is beginning to go silent.

She thinks (imagines?) she sees Vayne's bolts striking the giantess – though it seems like the giantess won't give.

I'm going to die..

("Swishy-swishy!")

The knife is still in her pockets, her last chance for survival. In the midst of drowning, LeBlanc hurriedly gets her free arm to (feel the knife's sharp blade, now get the handle) grip the knife and pull it out – lunge forward at the giantess's general direction.

It stabs.

Her own throat doesn't feel immediately relieved, but she takes in a breath of that cold air anyway. It enters her lungs, and right away she is gasping, gasping--! Sparks are dancing with each intake of air, along with sputtering it out her mouth and nose, the opaque mist spilling out into the open.

She's holding tightly onto the handle of her knife with both hands, and it's wavering all over – she feels something slick pouring over her naked hands; it's the giantess's silver blood geysering from her puncture.

The giantess shrieks with terrible pain, and LeBlanc realises where she's stabbed; through the giantess's chest, through her heart. Now every one of the giantess's heartbeats makes her blood erupt over the lodged blade, dripping down LeBlanc's arms, the wet silver scathing and burning coldly, the ice giving way to numbness as the blood congeals into permafrost, freezing and freezing her amidst icy vapour.

But LeBlanc never lets go. Not even the worst of the painful sensations makes her want to let go – and like a petite child desperately clinging onto her mother's nipple, she keeps holding onto the knife's handle, and the rapid, frenetic twitches of the giantess seem to haul LeBlanc's body with it from the ground, shoulders and torso.

Until she starts to feel her arms shatter and break by the elbows – she doesn't feel it, but she hears a sharp clink and sees her own hands and forearms clinging onto the protruding knife, independent from her.

What a strange sight..

Gradually, the giantess slinks, the life slipping away from this nine-tailed beast. Until she remains motionless, slumping onto her backside – her tails crushed by her body. A brief twitch on one of her tails.

LeBlanc's hands are surreal over the giantess's heart. She notices for a first time how beautiful they can really be, in a desperate struggle's end.

Her thumping chest is beginning to relax, and she scrabbles over to the dead giantess – fumbling over the ice with her shortened arm stumps. She'd better find a way to pry her hands off the knife somehow. If Lulu can..

There's only the red bloodstain where Lulu was.

She finds Twisted Fate and the others (they look like dolls) gathering by her, cheerful at the giantess's defeat.

"..you're.. was.. truly.." LeBlanc hears Shen say – gee, it's kinda hard to hear him properly like this, being so big. Maybe that's why that foxy lady seemed to be able to stand loud and proud over everyone.

"Eh?" LeBlanc goes.

Then she sees the ground and everything suddenly rising before her; she's shrinking back to normal size.

"A courageous battle," Shen says, by the time she's just below his height. "It is a shame about Lulu; I hope that fortune will have her reviving by a friendly bonfire instead of the asylums." He chips off a piece of snow from his face shroud, before glancing at the giantess. LeBlanc's giant hands attached to the dagger seem to have gone. "About your hands," Shen says, "shall we ge--"

The ice begins to rumble deeply as Shen says his last word; a light is shimmering from the giantess's body – she is disintegrating into mere frost that vaporises into the air, snowflakes humming up to the moon before they seemingly disappear.

And what is left is a shimmering orb, like a distilled white dwarf that lingers mid-air for a moment. It soon starts to move, hovering towards the group – towards LeBlanc.

"It's the giantess's soul," Twisted Fate says, seeing LeBlanc hesitating, if she should be running from that light. "I told you how undead thrive and gain abilities. Who destroyed her? You, LeBlanc."

The light orbits around LeBlanc, her waist and her neck, swirling ever closer to her body. She can feel the same vie from it; that life and vitality of consuming a tangible soul at the bonfire. So she reaches out for the giantess's essence with her stumps, but instead the orb finally settles through her ribcage, directly into her beating heart.

And for a second, nothing seems to happen.

Then inside, LeBlanc feels the energies flood her, through her arms and legs and shoulders, like the heat of scaldingly hot water. Foreign memories pour through her mind, one infinitesimal moment of feeling extreme vanity and the next extreme futility, passing before she could fully apprehend it, like water through a sieve.

She is on her knees now, uncontrollable gasps escaping her, while the energies swirl and swish through her nervous system, undulating towards a comfortable equilibrium.

She feels her arm stumps sting, and she sees the tendrils start to grow out of those ends – the icy vines are twirling, coalescing into recognisable skeletal bone, overlaying muscle and the tissues and surface skin. It is her hands, good as new!

"My hands.. they're back again!" LeBlanc goes. She checks her other wound by the shoulder, and it's also healed too. Now all she needs is a nice vacation to go along.

"Excellente," Twisted Fate remarks, grinning. "I guess you could thank Lady Luck's good fortune."

"Thank her? I suppose.. hmm--"

Suddenly there's an eruption of ice; from the lake's centre hole, the waters geyser with such force that the icy boundaries fly apart into shards, and the waters spill through the resulting, spreading cracks.

It's happening far too fast for everyone to react.

The lake's water splashes over LeBlanc, all at once, an oceanic wet coldness that envelops, and the cold intensity pummels her with a whirling current. Her eyes are tightly shut, and behind the eyelids it seems there's only a noisy blackness (or are her eyes actually open, but somehow her vision has gone?)

Then she decides to risk it; allowing the cold water to touch her eyes, maybe freezing them with the badly sensation of ice picks.

She discovers she's hurling down an underwater tunnel; inside this blue vortex, its bottom seems to be a pure whiteness, shimmering. The light promising that there is some end, a surface. Some distances away, the others drift and spin at the mercy of the currents; their clothes rippling and their own selves struggling to move about properly, their arms and legs flailing like they're attempting to swim in the heavy space.

When LeBlanc catches a glance of the upward direction, there's only blackness. As if the lake and forest has never properly existed. Maybe it is the giantess's illusion collapsing with her death.

Her own lungs are aching; she's been holding her breath in since the splash, and now the urge to gulp in breathable air is irresistable.

She can't..

She tries making sure if this is actually air around her (that happens to be cold), or if it's a continuation of the lake's waters. The forces upon her feel crisp on her bare skin, more like wind than water current.

She can't hold her breath any longer, time to let it out and in again--

Bubbles erupt from her mouth, the bottomy light gleaming through their transparency. It almost seems Time itself has slowed for her to see her last moment alive. She reflexively breathes in, but there is utterly nothing. It's a vacumn, and her lungs feel totally constricted, unable to expand, and very soon it feels like her chest is collapsing upon itself.

And in her tumbling, she sees the shimmering light again. The others' forms are shadows upon it.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-06-30 10:10 am
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 14

14

Eventually, Odette's body finds a clearing, where the glade bears a frozen lake – the surface is sheening under the moonlight. Her body walks onto the ice and her feet burn through, steaming the ice into liquid, making her touch the water below.

"Oh no!" Lulu goes.

The white maiden leaves a trail of bubbling, hissing water as she wanders deeper down the lake; knee deep, waist deep. Then with a shudder the rest of her body plops down the cold depths, and fresh ice rapidly reseals the exposed portions amidst the mass of steam – the open wound closing.

"Whoa," LeBlanc mumbles. It's so cool to see, and at the same time unnerving. The knife she's tucked on her belt comes to mind.

"This must be it," Twisted Fate says.

The steam dissipates, simmering up and out. Instead of the bare ice though, what seems like an illusion at first has emerged in place. It is a giantess – looming at least twice their height. The steam erupting around her pale, contoured body. Nine white tails blossom behind her; each of which gleams with a silver sheen, each wavering and contorting like a whip on the verge.

"Who art thou?" she asks.

"'Art thou?'" Twisted Fate goes. "We're just travellers wanting to get to Anor Londo. Only question is, what happened to the path? The last time I went, there wasn't any blockage, or a forest that deep."

"Tis an accident thou hast misstept into my world?" she says. "If that is true, plunge down into the lake and hurry back safe. Else, if thou art seeking for thine witch-thief, thine desires shall be requited not, for she hast dishonoured herself so in her attempt to puncture a hole in this realm."

Ice seeps away from the lake's middle, leaving the clear waters lapping at the hole.

"No.." LeBlanc says to the giantess. Something just doesn't feel right about it. "That's Odette, and she just wanted to see if there's something going on with the path."

"Not true," the giantess replies, a grimace starting to show on her face. "Thine witch-thief despite all my warning has chosen to venture into the void; does thou knowest not of her use of red eye rock? It is poison. She would steal my vitality and claim it for her own."

LeBlanc is at a loss for words.

"Thou ought to returneth whence thou came," the giantess says. "I desire nothing more than peace, and thou truly does not belong."

"If you're not willing to return Odette," Vayne says, readying her crossbow, "I'm not going back.." She glances at LeBlanc, at the others for any sign of agreement. It's going to get very ugly.

"I beg of thee – do plunge down into the waters!" A desperate tone permeates her words, and her tails are fluctuating tensely.

Twisted Fate pulls out his deck of cards. He nods at everyone to get ready. Shen has his hand on his sheathed katana, while Lulu crowds by LeBlanc – Pixy fluttering in-between them.

"Pick a card miss."

And four encharged cards come out of Twisted Fate's fingers, flying in the giantess's direction. But a swift flick from one of her tails deflects the projectiles--

they're coming back,

"Watch OUT!" Shen yells as the party runs away, and LeBlanc just hears the whizz of a card past her head before it strikes the snow beside, and a jolt she feels pushing through her body, staggering her. She lands hard upon the ground, sliding – her left shoulder taking the brunt of the impact.

Straining her neck, she sees the others scattered all over the snow, having left skid marks where they've landed.

And then there is the giantess coming from the lake, gleaming. "Why dost thee hurry toward thine deaths? Thine bonfire hast been put out. Thou hast nowhere proper left to revive."

Pain throbs where LeBlanc has landed – her shoulder, her back. She brushes the hair from her face, feeling the chill of the snow over her. It seems like attacking the giantess is a terrible mistake – she could just easily swat away anything that is thrown at her; her tails are like fly-swatters. Unless someone here still has aces up their sleeve.

What about..

LeBlanc glances at where the giantess is standing – the frontal portion of the lake where it's still covered in ice. Maybe she can make her sink in the water somehow.. is the water actually a way back to reality, or is it..

(Odette's body trudging down into the lake.)

Is it actually a trap, designed to steal away the soul essences? That seems to be it.

The giantess is now wielding a large scythe in one hand, waiting, tempting everyone to try her again. The razor-edged blade looks as though it can cut through an entire body in one fell swoop. Better be careful.

LeBlanc and the others pull themselves up.

"Hey," LeBlanc goes. "I have an idea."

"What?" Vayne says.

"I think the lake is actually a soul receptacle," LeBlanc goes. "It's not an escape; if we can get that foxy lady into the water, we can get free of her."

"Hmmph." Vayne and the others ponder the notion for a bit. "Let's do it."

"Okay."

"I think I'll be doing the distracting.." Vayne aims her crossbow at the giantess, who seems ready to be tickled by the oncoming projectiles.

In the meanwhile, circling around seems to be a good way to approach. LeBlanc starts to strafe squeakily to the left, with Lulu deciding to follow her. Twisted Fate is strafing the other way; Shen lingers by Vayne's side – he'll help shield the crossbow artiste from any incoming danger.

The giantess can only laugh at their attempting. "Does thou truly thinketh I may find defeat by thine hands?"

Vayne unleashes her first volley of bolts; the silver bolts pierce through the air, arcing down to the giantess's torso and chest. A whiplash from her tails shatter the bolts – the giantess winces with pain as burn marks appear where they've been touched. And another volley is coming.

There's crossable ground by the lake's border, and LeBlanc and Lulu hastily traverse the snow before the ice. Their legs are quivering from the need to get into position, while struggling against the loss of sensation from the coldness. Whilst in the distance, the giantess moans from the scathing pain that Vayne's bolts deliver.

Sch-vroop!

The next volley slices directly through her burnt tails; white blood streaks out from the wound, jetting over onto the ice in droplets. The giantess screeches out, her howls deafening in the very night.

"You hit her!" Shen exclaims. "You might even be able to take her down single-handedly at this rate!"

Vayne is loading a fresh batch of bolts into her crossbow. Before she readies herself to shoot though, she sees the giantess beginning to glimmer. A smug grin comes over the giantess's face, and she swishes her wounded tails in front of her, and the tails rapidly wave up and down. At first it is the blood that trickles out – then thick mist joins in also, obscuring her, and it billows out from her in a slow explosion.

"What's.." Vayne mutters.

What the mist touches, you briefly see covered with a veneer of frost before it's hidden.

"It's gonna freeze us to death!" Vayne goes.

But Shen is already dashing in front of Vayne, and he erects an energy shield that surrounds them. A poof of smoke comes beside – Twisted Fate also joins them inside the bubble.

On the far side of the lake, Lulu gets her Pixy to put up a shield of his own for herself and LeBlanc; the outside noises are muted.

The mist gets close, and LeBlanc finds herself holding her breath as she sees how the mist is composed of numerous little snowflakes, before it envelops them and they are plunged into an autistic darkness.

Ta-dum.

The only light now is from Pixy's wings, as he seems stuck in place mid-air. The only noise LeBlanc hears is that distant rumbling, and her own quivering breaths with Lulu's.

"Are you there..?" LeBlanc asks.

"I'm here," Lulu goes. "It's kinda scary, huh?"

"It is."

Then LeBlanc feels something touch her fingers – the warmth of Lulu's hands clasping tightly around hers.

"I'm c-- cold.." LeBlanc says. "I'm freezing. I don't know if you are, but I wish I had an extra coat on me."

"Same."

Then a faint crackle in the dark. The mist is passing them by, and gradually more light sheens through until they can see the lake and trees once more, now transformed into a pure glassy, chalk whiteness.

The giantess seems to have gone.

Pixy flutters back to Lulu's shoulder – he's weak, he is shivering. Lulu pets him – "You did great," she tells him, and she gently puts him in the comfort of her pockets.

Back over there, LeBlanc notices the other three (Shen, Twisted Fate and Vayne) recovering from the blast of mist. Phew, they're fine too, at least.

"Hey," LeBlanc says, "where'd the foxy lady with the tails go?"

"I dunno," Lulu goes.

"Hm, why don't you send Pixy over to find out?"

"Pixy needs his nappy time," Lulu goes, frowning.

"Oh, right-- merde.."

LeBlanc glances over the frozen lake, looking for any sign of the giantess. Where's the last spot she was at? Then, on a closer look, the lake's frost seems to show a pattern that points towards an epicentre. That's where.

Then she looks down at her feet. She scrapes the frosted ground across, and sees how she leaves a visible indent.

Then she glances back at the epicentre and notices how there's alternating marks, like footprints, in a direction that is coming straight towards her.

And another footprint has just been made, by an unseen foot.

"Oh merde--!" LeBlanc goes. "She's still here..! There's footprints, foxy lady's turned invisible!"

Another footprint; the giantess must be pretty close already – a few more steps and she could easily swoop her scythe.

"I see footprints too!" Lulu pips.

"We gotta run," LeBlanc goes, and she takes Lulu's hand and starts to bolt away from those footprints. "Run!"

She hears a whooosh just then, and the loud slice through the place that they once were. Glancing back, LeBlanc almost imagines that she's seen the visage of the giantess post-swing, before flickering into invisibility once more.

Squeak squeak squeak.

For some reason, Lulu is dawdling behind, and LeBlanc feels the lag of having to pull the fey girl with her.

"It's so slippery," Lulu goes, in-between pants. Her feet slip and slide on the icy ground.

"Really?"

Squeak squeak squeak! LeBlanc's bunny slippers seem to squeak with a newfound desperation.

"My slippers must be weatherproof," LeBlanc says.

Slice! The giantess's scythe chops a section of the ground behind into bits; shards of ice fly up from the impact, while the giantess flickers into hiding.

"She's gaining on us!" Lulu goes. "Some stuff got on my hair."

Up ahead is the watery portion of the lake. It's the exposed hole, surrounded by that solid ice. LeBlanc only makes it some more steps before--

"Waaahh--!" Lulu's been struck by a lightning; the redness spills from her back from the scythe's cleave, and she tumbles onto her belly, sliding a little from inertia. LeBlanc notices her scream and the slackening of her grip, and she glances behind.

The giantess is visible – her scythe's point has deeply embedded itself in the blooded ground by Lulu, and she is trying to yank it back out with two hands. The calm, assured smile on her face wants to suggest that their deaths are an inevitable fact, embedded scythe or not.

"Run.. I'm done for.." Lulu half-mutters on her face. As she glances up at LeBlanc's eyes, you'd notice the tears verging on pouring down her cheeks. The bloodstain on her back is ballooning.

The giantess tugs on her scythe's handle, and the ground cracks a bit.

"Please.." Lulu goes, her voice already growing weaker. "Run away.."

LeBlanc blinks.

Lulu's eyelids droop, and her tears run free.

..

"NON!!"

Suddenly an almost supernatural willpower is flowing through LeBlanc – she scrambles over to Lulu and finding a hold under, she strains, lifting the bleeding Lulu in her arms, don't let your damned knees buckle.

The ground before the scythe splits open in a hail of ice and snow, and already the giantess pulls the scythe back to swing.

It almost seems like the scythe itself is swinging in slow-motion.

All the other sounds are pushed away as the surge of heartbeats rushes through LeBlanc's ears, beating and beating, her pulse like an erratic drum under the waterfall.

Ta-dum ta-dum--!

The very air seems to sizzle around the scythe's incoming trajectory – directly towards her abdomen.

(move!!)

With all might, LeBlanc hurls herself to the side, away from the scythe, tumbling down to the ground, Lulu huddled in her arms. The scythe manages to shear the cloth of her forearm, passing over her.

The ice catches her hard on her sides, making her spit out air, and she slips down an additional distance before resting.

She is wheezing. Sweat is all over her skin (mon coeur est sur le point d'exploser), and she's feeling the uncomfortable dichotomy of her inner heat merging with the outer freeze.

"Ouchies.." Lulu quietly goes.

LeBlanc realises the warm, coagulating redness that's been dripping down her hands. "Ouchies.. indeed," she goes.

The giantess is approaching.Her scythe scrapes along the ice. It's Death's scythe, signalling their death knell.

For LeBlanc, it feels like all the life and energies have been sapped out of her. It's so hard to will herself just to move even an inch. Her body is aching, even while adrenaline is being forced through her blood.

All the while, the scraping feels deafeningly loud.

"At least.. I tried," LeBlanc says. "Hehe."

Pixy pokes his head out of Lulu's pockets.

The invisible giantess must be leering over them now. Like a buzzard over its prey, she circles around their forms – the bottom of her scythe is scratching over the ice. It's unbearable to hear.

When the scratching comes in front of them, it stops. There's a loud clang on the ground by that spot, and the giantess flashes visibly for a bit, having slammed her scythe down.

And another clang.

And another.

Each clang sends a jolt through LeBlanc, as all her attention is on the place of impact. The curved blade pointing up. On the third clang, the giantess remains visible against the backdrop of the pale moon.

"Witness," the giantess goes. "Thy future's end."

She swoops her scythe up.

Ta-dum.

LeBlanc can only see the light fading in Lulu's eyes, before seeing it descend upon her.But suddenly, she sees a quick movement – Pixy flies right up, and in a blinding flash of light he intercepts the scythe mid-air.

Ta-dum.

The giantess struggles to get the scythe down against the butterfly's resistance. The blade's point wavers, sparks exploding out from where it hits Pixy's hastily-improvised shield.

"What is this trickery?" the giantess asks. "A mere butterfly, being brave?" The briefest moment comes when she slackens the exerted pressure on the scythe, to pull back for another blow – but instead, Pixy uses this opportunity to carry the scythe forth with its momentum, pulling the giantess's arms back and tripping her away, and getting the scythe out of her hands.

The scythe is flung up into the air, with Pixy following in the weapon's wake. The weapon gleams under the moonlight, before it starts to glow red hot, white hot; finally it explodes in a dazzling thunder. The shattered figments seem to dissolve away into thin air, like steam.

LeBlanc can't help breathing a sigh of relief.

"Le.. blonk.." she hears Lulu go. Lulu's so weak – her face has gone so pale that it almost looks like a different face entirely. Her fingers wiggle with the slightest movements. "In my pockets.. sprinkle.. dust.. on yourself." She coughs a high-pitched cough.

So LeBlanc struggles to Lulu, pulling herself to her, and she reaches inside Lulu's bloody clothes, feeling for that dust. Right away, she catches a whiff of that sweet scent – bingo. She pulls her hand to herself, and haphazardly she pats the dust on her chest, her abdomen. It feels tingly, as if littered with an electric charge.

"Do you want.. biggie?" Lulu sputters.

"Biggie?"

Lulu takes it as a yes; mustering the last of her strength, Lulu intently glances at LeBlanc (with a mischievous grin), and pips out, "Hugeify!"

Suddenly that latent electricity surges. It's a rush of air and coarsing energy, and LeBlanc's feels something loosen in her ear canals as Lulu seems to shrink into a petite, injured toy. The ice rumbles underneath her; it feels a little fragile to be on.

She has been made into a giant. The forest trees are just slightly taller than her. And nearby, the other giantess is lying prone on her back – a short distance from the lake's watery pit.

"Hey—" LeBlanc goes, her voice booming. She takes a step forward, and her movement feels slightly cumbersome, as though her body is weighed down by something, with the inertia of being underwater. (Still, now she can take on the giantess on better terms.)

Squeak!

A few more steps, and LeBlanc gets a better hang of giantism.

She approaches the giantess. The ice almost seems to bend under their combined weight. What can LeBlanc do with her? The watery pit looks like it could just barely fit one giantess as it is, and maybe she'll have to jump down on her if she and her tails get stuck somehow in the hole.

But the giantess is actually still awake. She's recovering from her daze, and she is perking her head up at LeBlanc--

A swift, squeakykick to the giantess's abdomen knocks the wind out of her. There's very little time, as LeBlanc hurriedly tries kneeling down and dragging the giantess's arms to the hole – the slippery ice makes it somewhat easier to do.

The giantess starts to tense under her grip. Time for another thrashing!

As LeBlanc aims a punch at the giantess's nose, her fist is stopped by the giantess's grip on her wrist.

"Thou cannot," the giantess goes.

"I will," LeBlanc retorts, trying to haul her wrist away.

"Thou will not."

The giantess's grip on LeBlanc's wrist tightens very hard in a deathgrip. It hurts. And with the other hand, the giantess lunges for her throat. The ferocity of it strikes her by surprise – she gags, and the giantess rises from the ground, while plunging LeBlanc onto it.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-06-30 10:09 am
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 13

13

The first raindrops pour down through the trees, timidly at first, and then more and more until it is a light drizzle, and the scouting party is waiting under a dry spot, sheltered by a mass of rearranged twigs, waiting for Odette to reappear.

Hiss..

"How long is this supposed to take?" LeBlanc asks.

"A few hours," Shen goes, kneeling, pressing his hands together meditatively.

The overcast afternoon turns into a dank evening, and no one says a word as they wait, glancing out at the glistening trunks, the mushrooms that have turned pink and lively as they emit their own light in the dark.

Then, LeBlanc sees a faint visage shift from behind the tree. She blinks, perking her head around – is it just a trick of the eye?

"Did you see that?" she asks. "Anyone?"

"What LeBlonk?" Lulu pips.

"Something moved there," LeBlanc says, getting on her knees. "I think I saw.."

The white visage shifts out of cover, and it is much more clearly visible this time. It seems to slowly shuffle.. towards the party.

"Yeah, there it is," Twisted Fate says, as he puts his cards away. "Let's check it out. It might be Odette."

So they get up and advance in the rain's trinkle. Vayne readies her crossbow at hand, expecting to slice some foe's hide with her bolts the next second. They head towards that crooked tree trunk – towards that white form, with her white robes and drooping hair.

"Odette!" Twisted Fate exclaims.

Odette's eyes are glancing with a distant daze, unfocused on the party. Her head wavers around, swaying in the rain, as if that centre of her which keeps her stable has been torn apart.

"Did she go hollow?" Vayne says, clutching harder at her crossbow.

"Her skin's lookin' fine," Twisted Fate goes. "I'm not sure.."

Then those strings holding the Odette marionette are severed, and the cleric lifelessly collapses onto the ground.

"Odette!" Twisted Fate clambers down to her body, where he holds her head in his hand and tries tapping her cheeks. "She's.. gone."

A beat.

"How can this be..?" Shen asks, with a restrained tremor. "If you try killing her, will she return to normal back at the bonfire?"

"Let me lookie," Lulu says, and everyone gives her a little room. She whispers something to Pixy, and the butterfly flutters down to the tip of Odette's nose, and he inches over her skin, pausing every second or so. Then Pixy flutters back to Lulu's shoulder. "He says Odette's soul has been taken," Lulu says. "If you make her reappear again, her body will go hollow."

"Does he know what happened?" Vayne asks. "That wonderland stuff really did wonders on her.. I wanna know if there's something my crossbow should hit."

"Hmm.." Lulu whispers sweet somethings to Pixy, and this time the butterfly heads over, burrowing into her robe by the collar. Then after a while, Pixy emerges and tells Lulu his findings. "He says it's a good chance that somebody did it," Lulu says, "and that somebody might be around here. We might be able to recover her soul from him."

"Best be treadin' cautiously," Twisted Fate says.

"What do we do with Odette's body?" Shen asks.

"Hmm.. why don't we carry her with us?" Twisted Fate goes. "In case we need Pixy to scrounge up some more dirt from her body."

"Actually," Lulu says – pondering. "It might-- it might be possible to-- because souls are drawn to fire, I wonder if I can make a fire that can lead us to her soul."

"Can you do that?" Twisted Fate says.

"Let's make a goodly!" Lulu pips. The fey girl pulls out some sparkling dust from her pockets (the same dust that seems to emit from Pixy's wings) and sprinkles it all over Odette's form. LeBlanc watches her perform, all the while hearing her hum throughout, and then Lulu asks Twisted Fate to throw one of his volatile cards onto Odette.

He does, and with a jolt Odette's body is alight in flickering white flame, glowing and illuminating the place around – it's almost blinding to look at. There's violet steam from the flames, rising and dissolving into the air.

"You're sure this isn't going to turn her body to a crisp?" Twisted Fate asks, before seeing Odette's body start to rise itself up, standing with a borrowed liveliness.

It stands still.

Lulu is holding her hands together. Then Odette's body begins to head forth, marching steadily to its destination. They follow the not-quite-alive Odette, as the white flame meanders around the trees, glintering reflections coming from their wet surfaces.

It begins to feel quite chilly. No longer does the rain feel like tickling dewdrops; it feels like a numbing drench, and LeBlanc resents having her own clothes stick to her, soppily dripping, as her breath visibly jets out her lips. She decides to keep close to the burning Odette, holding her hands close to the flames, appreaciating what radiating warmth she can get. Her feet are still dry; the squeaking bunnies seem to be waterproof.

She feels like a wanderer, running through the unknown darkness – lead by holy light. It's an invigorating feeling. With bated breath, butterflies tickling her tummy, she feels like she could stumble across the greatest moment around the next corner.

The woods seem steeper and gnarly. The ground is terribly uneven, with jagged rocks now protruding from the dirt. Amidst the faint sky, the trunks seem to twist and curve like overlong fingernails. Odette's body trudges on.

"Brrr.." Vayne says. "Anyone else getting the shivers? I don't like this.."

"I hope it'll be a nice, warm, cozy den we'll be winding up at," Twisted Fate goes. "Maybe it'll be a hermit mage, and once we deal with him.. we could.."

"Squeak squeak squeak!" LeBlanc's slippers say.

Crusty snowflakes are falling amidst the rain, and they soon find patches of freshly laden snow – Odette's steps on the snow makes it hiss and evaporate. And then there's the icy flowers, like various signposts littering the woods – a white luminescence emitting from them.

A flower is a very pretty thing. To look at, absorbing the vivid colours of the rainbow from its petals. To smell, finding the places where the rainbow can take you. LeBlanc is entranced by the flowers – an urge comes over her, and she quickly skips over to the nearest ice flower, where she picks one up in her fingers.

Suddenly she finds herself surrounded by blue. It's an icy land that stretches all over, in a barren landscape, under a cloudless sky that has no sun. She strains to see the horizons – it isn't visible, but hidden from her view like in a blind spot.

(behind clouds)

Her skin is numbing already from the subzero air, and she struggles to make a forward step on the ice, before she loses grip and tumbles onto the cold, unsympathetic surface.

Lying there inert, she sees visible forms, coming towards her. What are they? They look like they belong with this icy wasteland – their thin, vaguely humanoid bodies seem to almost merge with the ground, and their tendrils seem to shimmer, wavering like streams of living water.

"LeBlanc!"

In front of her, as vivid and clear as her eyes can see, the icy flower awaits – white light gleaming on the petals. And she blinks; feeling disoriented, she realises she has fallen down onto the ground. She looks up, and sees Shen and Twisted Fate, who pick her back up, the snow clufts tumbling from her clothes.

"Are you well?" Shen goes, his eyes quite concerned.

"I.. saw something," LeBlanc says. The snow is falling from above in sheets; some of them are glowing brighter than the others, before fading to darkness – Odette's glowing visage is getting away. "When I touched the flower, there was an icy landscape," she says. "With icy beings."

"Hmm – that's mighty interesting," Twisted Fate goes. He glances at where Odette is. "You better tell us about it later-- we've some catching up to do."

When they make it over to Odette, there's Lulu and Vayne still pacing with the flaming cleric. "She alright?" Vayne asks.

"Said she had a vision of an icy land, with icy beings," Twisted Fate goes. "It might have something to do with Odette's captor. Stay frosty."

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-06-25 12:43 am
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 12

12

LeBlanc notices violet mushrooms littering the dirt around the roots, as if they are nourishing themselves from the trees' strength. She almost wants to pick one for herself, but the harried pace of the scouting squad has her almost jogging just to keep up. Her bunny slippers seem to squeak to a musical beat. It only makes her feel more of an outsider – run, or you'll never keep up with us.

Then one of her feet get caught on the roots, and she slips and stumbles face-forward onto the ground. Peh.

"Come on." Twisted Fate helps her back up, and she is panting, exhausted. She dusts off the dirt and other debris on her robes.

"What's the hurry?" LeBlanc asks.

"Hm?"

"It's like.. you're having to run for a race.. or something," she says between breaths.

"To save time in explorin'," Twisted Fate goes. "You'll get used to it."

(A memory resurges from the depths: she's running or skipping down the hallways whilst the other children prefer to walk there. Why, you would ask? And she would answer, she simply likes the feeling of running, of skipping. It's enlivening.)

"I recommend skipping!" Lulu pips, before gallivanting forth on her little legs.

So LeBlanc tries skipping – lightly hopping over the roots, and she finds how easy it is to do.

And as it turns out, Odette the cleric is suspecting that the nature of the path blockage may be due to extrinsic forces; the dense trees are there unnaturally, and that something has made it so. She tells the group to wait, while she kneels down and pulls out a ruby crystal. Of which, she closes her eyes, shutting herself to her surroundings and entering a seance – her eyelids seem to bulge with rapid eye movement.

A subtle aura develops around Odette's languid form. She starts to fade in and out of existance. You can start to see through her form, until at once she is gone. LeBlanc heads to the spot where Odette once was and tries waving her hand through the space, feeling only empty air.

"Where'd she go?" LeBlanc asks.

"To wonderland," Vayne flatly says, picking at her sharp fingernails.

"What's wonderland?"

"It's a place of chaos, underlying the current reality here," Twisted Fate goes. "Sometimes, there's special, indescribable forces that can drastically change the way things are.. though they may not be obvious at first.

"We stumbled across this one time; our entire camp was travelling in circles by a lake, no matter which way we went. Even when we tried walking away from the lake, we'd just come by it again. It was perpetually day. Until Odette suggested to explore the lake itself, to dive underwater, in which.. it was an illusion, and we emerged on the other side, where it was night. But we were still trapped by it.

"That crystal you saw Odette hold – it's a red eye, which pierces into the formless void, underlying the surface. Sometimes, when you have the feeling that you just know something, but what it is, it's hard to explain, but you feel it nonetheless.. on the edges of awareness.

"When a newborn is born, the world around him is a muddle of light and noise," Twisted Fate says. "As he grows, he learns more and more about the world – language, morality, ideas, and other people. But at the same time, he forgets more and more of life. Because the very things he learns, they imprison him too. He forgets the idealism he once had as a child, which animates the dolls and toys he held. He forgets the unbridled joy of the unknown, learning to fear it as an animal fears the vast ocean. He becomes crystallised. 2 + 2 can only mean 4 to him, and nothing else. And often.. some of those crystals just don't seem to fit neatly so right, no matter what, and so, the paradoxes exist that make it possible that war is peace, death is life, hate is love. Where people seem peaceful and content with war, even if given the choice, they would choose peace. Where people don't live a day without anxiety and trepidation of the future, and they say they are happy to be alive. Where acts of the greatest hatred are easily done with the name of the greatest love.

"But sometimes.. in the little cracks that show, the formless void whispers inside us, even if briefly, nudging us awake from the imperfect definiteness that we grow inured to, as a fish remembers the very water that it swims in."

"Why is this happening?" LeBlanc asks.

"Because existence progresses as a heartbeat," Twisted Fate says. "Life in its many forms swells and fades, like the seasons of the year, like the tides of an ocean wave, searching for a perfection it can never truly attain, and so it continues. Where every end it finds is always a new beginning."

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-06-20 12:22 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 11

11

When LeBlanc holds up the fractured handmirror, it reflects a young, almost naive face. She glances at the reflection, honing in on her features, her complexion – the faint possibility that it could be viewed as unattractive, or boringly trite.

She's in the tent, where a divider shelters her form while she finds an outfit to wear. Some woman has been kind enough to share her clothes ("I hope they match your size!") and that one ornate handmirror.

It's surprisingly enjoyable to look through and try out each piece of clothing, to see if it fits her, making her more of herself in a musical way. She finds some rags, jewelry – putting them on at first before taking them off if she doesn't like it.

In the end, she has on a light dress; a robe, a skirt, and gloves. They're softly made, silk-thin and easy to wear.

And then she applies a tangy lip balm – badly chapped lips are no good.

When she peeks out of the divider, Twisted Fate is sitting cross-legged on the carpet, dealing out cards. He spots her, pleasantly happy to see her refined appearance.

"Very nice, very nice," he goes, tipping his hat. "You look like a pretty maiden. Say, why don't you come join me for some divination?"

LeBlanc kneels down by him. There's a set of cards that's already arranged in a cross, faces down, with one card overlapping another at the centre. It looks familiar to her for some reason.

"Divination?" she asks. "That's fortune telling.."

"Fortune telling.. haha. I haven't heard someone call it that in a long while," Twisted Fate says. "You see, legend says that everyone has within them akind of destiny. The sorts of paths they're inclined to follow down the road. And like all paths, they intertwine and collide with one 'nother – and it often so happens that the colliding paths get changed afterward.. various sorts of changes. You following me so far?"

"Like how people can meet each other in life," LeBlanc says. "They make relationships – friendship, romance, rivalry.. and how in the end, they leave impressions upon each other that would come to affect their future, one way or another."

"Right-o. You got it." Twisted Fate places four more cards beside the cross, bottom to top. He licks his lips. "Let's see what Destiny's got in store for all of us."

And with a flick of his wrist, the cards are flipped face up. Their faces almost seem to glow with a light of their own, bearing vivid, fantastical imagery. It's almost hypnotic to look at, as if you could find yourself falling into a lull.

LeBlanc finds Twisted Fate's intent concentration amusing. He hums to himself with greater and greater intensity until at last he lets out a grunt of relief, like an insight has just popped into mind.

"It's a story about you, LeBlanc," he goes. "Reborn as an undead, you are thrust into a life of uncertainty and chaos. You wonder about your past life – what it must be like before this. To have memories, to have a history. You're like a newborn child again, wanting to find out how this life is. And yet at the same time, you are condemned like the rest of us to an unwinding clock spring. Where every tick of a second, Life is progressing closer to Death.

"You long for answers to fill that emptiness within, but you will never feel satisfied – for no one can fully provide you with them. No one knows everything about what is going on. What we have are only shreds and fragments of elusive truth.

"What I know is.. more of the undead are appearing, branded with the darksign, and the living are feeling resentment about our existance. They don't yet realise that our fates indeed are tied together; we are two different sides of the same coin. And that coin is going to eventually rust away.. life and beauty itself, because the Angels are afraid to let their flame burn out. You met Oscar, didn't you?"

A beat. "I did," LeBlanc says. "He brought me out of a hole."

"Never thought Oscar would actually find new undead there," Twisted Fate goes. "Or at least.. an undead who hasn't gone out to hollowing yet. I guess he got lucky."

"Oscar went hollow," LeBlanc tells him. "He did just after he told me stuff."

"I see. Sorry about him." Twisted Fate packs up his cards, sliding them away into the pack. "You know, that pit you came from is a holding asylum – one out of many. When someone once alive dies with the darksign on them, the asylum captures them and leaves their body to rot and decay. It's a tragic fate."

There were bones littered all over in that place, LeBlanc recalls. She shudders, imagining how she could have been like that.

But then.. what was that whiteness?

"What's your first memory?" she asks him.

"My first memory?"

"Of being here."

"I guess it's waking up and smelling smoke and embers." Twisted Fate rubs his eyes. For a moment, he strains to recall the root of his existance. "It was the feeling of disorientation – like I was a fish struggling to breathe air through its gills. When I opened my eyes, I saw two things at once; there was myself lying down, seeing the ceiling with others' faces all over me. And there was myself.. in an overwhelming vast whiteness. It's the closest I've ever gotten to being in two places at once, I guess. But anyways, the image of the ceiling faded away for me.. until only the whiteness was there."

"Oh," LeBlanc goes.

"Yeah. Did you see that whiteness too?"

"I did," she says, piqued. "What is it?"

"I dunno." He shrugs. "I reckon it's supposed to be heaven or somethin'. Whenever your body dies, you always come back to that whiteness, before reappearing somewhere. You know-- the asylums are a recent thing; them mages dug those places and enchanted 'em – it makes it so that undead would spawn there instead, and nullifies whatever abilities they have. It's their way of holding back our numbers. But it doesn't do any good when more people are coming up with the darksign – they're dying to be like us, hehe."

LeBlanc nods. She has been picking at the fabric of her sleeves for the last minute; it feels soft, running her fingers over it.

"Ahh, I must be boring you," Twisted Fate says. "So I'll keep it to the point. Right now, all of us in this camp are just heading for Anor Londo. It's one day away at our current pace."

Suddenly LeBlanc lights up-- "Anor.. Londo?" she repeats, groping at the words. Something inside her has awakened to the name, as if a moment from a dream has been briefly evoked into awareness.

"Anor Londo," Twisted Fate says. "The one and only. Our mission is to delve into the Duke's archives beneath – there's a rumour that an artefact lays within, which will finally allow us to reach the First Flame's location. The only problem; others have been attempting the same, and it is fraught with guardians and barriers. They never managed to make it down there, yet."

"I think I remember the place," LeBlanc says, grasping through that muddle in her mind. "Anor Londo.."

"Did you know about it before you came here?" Twisted Fate asks.

"It's that abandoned kingdom.. isn't it?"

"Abandoned?" He pauses for a moment. "Oh.. maybe it's abandoned back in the material realm. But here, it's a bustling citytown. People come and go there for riches; it's rife with that mithril material that makes life there ever enchanting."

"Huh," LeBlanc goes.

"Imagine a place where the walls themselves are glimmering," Twisted Fate says, "where every street you walk down is rife with radiance, with trees and flowers and the feeling of richness. The people you see walking beside you are dressed in them fancy outwears. Sure would love to live there, if I'm alive. I've been there once or twice before – there's so much to do that you'd sure as hell won't ever get bored."

"It already sounds wonderful to me.." LeBlanc says.

~

It is a little later when the camp mobilises and the bonfire flames are snuffed out. The materials – tents, beddings and the like – are all packed into one little box, easily carried by a person.

"How did..?" LeBlanc is glancing at the box.

"It's bottomless," Twisted Fate explains. "The nice things we find along the way, we can always put inside."

The grass swishes in the gentle wind. It tickles LeBlanc's bare feet as she walks by, and it would smell sweet when she'd step on it. After a while, her feet begin to feel pleasurably soothing and light. And above all, it's never boring. The meandering valleys and flora are always beautiful to absorb yourself in.

She would hear some of the people mutter and chat to each other in hushed tones – this party of travellers has been quite quiet. Maybe there's only so much to talk about, or they are saving their energies for the trip itself.

Then someone begins to hum a folk song, in hushed tones at first, then more and more people join in until everyone's singing along. It's a simple medley. LeBlanc only listens along, allowing their music to whisk her mind into motion.

For her, it is a kind of wonder that she's never experienced before.

She walks with them through the sunrise – it's faint at first on the horizon, with purplish hues in the sky preceding the glow.

My first sunrise..

She feels the sunrays casting upon her, that dim yet palpable radiance of heat. It's with a kind of awe when you see that beautiful sun.

~

When they encounter a forest of trees, the ground they walk on is gnarly with fallen pine needles and protruding roots. It doesn't feel as pleasant with bare feet, so LeBlanc asks the cutsy box holder if there's some spare footwear she could wear.

"Tut tut!" The holder lays down the box and opens the lid. "Not here.. not this one.. ahh! I got it!" It's a pair of fuzzy bunny slippers. "These should do the trick!"

LeBlanc blinks, holding those pink slippers. They're cute. They slip on her feet as snug as a glove. Then she finds out that they squeak every step she makes. Maybe in case she gets lost, but when she needs to be sneaky..

Squeak! Squeak!

She'll have to find better footwear later, just in case. In the meanwhile – she squeaks her way along through the woods. The tree trunks seem to stretch forever into the sky; it's dizzying to take a look at where they end, amidst the clandestine branches which droop and hang with the sorts of cones and acorns that a squirrel may fancy. Here, the air is moist and cool, and you can hear the voices of a million insects and animals filling the ambiance.

By late afternoon, the dirt path becomes treacherous. It is made indistinguishable from the roots that complexly protrude from the ground, and the trees which bunch together in thicker and thicker density.

So the party decides to rest for a moment.

A few of them would get firewood from the box, where they arrange them in a bundle to light up as a bonfire.

"The reason why we light bonfires is mostly in case one of us dies," Twisted Fate goes. "If something happens for example, when we scavange for treasure and we get lost or killed, we can come back here, instead of the asylums or anywhere else in the world. Fire's a natural beacon for our souls. Otherwise, when we all travel, we'll just have to take our chances."

"Mm mm," LeBlanc says.

"Speaking of which--" Twisted Fate heads towards a band of travellers, who are just obtaining weaponry and trinkets from the box. "I'm gonna scout a way around with these folks. If you want Miss, you can come along too, or you can stay and help tend the camp."

"I'll go--!" she blurts out without a second's thought. (It might be very boring to wait around.)

"Right-o," he goes, and then he shows her to the box.

LeBlanc recognises the box holder from earlier – she's short and stout, with a hearty face that reminds of home, where you could eat those homemade snacks and steamy lunches made to your content. "Hello!" the holder sings. "Ahh, those bunny slippers..! You must be the new one here! I'm Lulu. What's your name?"

"LeBlanc," she replies.

"Mm-hmm! LeBlonk!" Lulu excitedly grins, before plunging herself into the box's depths, the items shaking and rattling at her behest. "I'mma find something appropriate for you. You'll need a weapon against the badly creatures!"

"What do you have?" LeBlanc asks.

"I'm thinking you're more of a swifty-knife type," Lulu goes. "Swishy swishy!" Her petite feet are wiggling up and down. "Were you thinking of something else?"

LeBlanc glances at the other travellers for reference. One of them has a crossbow hanging on her back; another has an elongated wood staff, in white robes with white drooping hair. The third, dressed up with dark cloth and a shroud over his face, has a curved sword – it's a katana, if she remembers right.

"Shen," the third guy introduces himself. His handshake is soft. "I shall promise to protect you."

"The crossbow-wielding girl is Vayne," Twisted Fate says, notioning to her. "And that one there is Odette – our cleric."

"Hello, LeBlanc," Odette goes, nodding.

Vayne simply gives a "pffft."

"Ahaha!" Lulu pops out of the chest – it's a very curved knife, almost rusty in appearance. "Here you go!" She thrusts it into LeBlanc's hands, and the first thing LeBlanc notices is how light it feels in her hand. When she makes a slicing motion, it almost seems as if the blade is guided by the very air itself.

"Do you like it?" Lulu asks.

"It's fine," LeBlanc goes, barely hiding a frown. She wishes she could go for a classier weapon than a rusty knife. But she supposes that in actual combat, the last thing you could care about is how pretty your weapon looks – as long as you could do some real damage, mwahaha.

"Excellente!" Lulu shuts the box lid, and waddles with the group. She taps her pocket; a butterfly flutters out of it, wavering around her head. "Pixy! You're awake!"

"Who's that?" LeBlanc asks.

"Pixy's my closest friend!" Lulu says, as she lays a finger out for the butterfly to rest on. "He found me when I was looking for my daisies, and now we play fey games together! Hop, skip, jump! The best way around is upside-down and inside-out! Woo--! He'll be on the lookout for anything nice or interesting – his eyes are much more dandier than mine. Heehee."

Pixy seems to emit glitterdust, and LeBlanc suddenly smells a sweet, tangy scent.

"Oh, don't forget—" Lulu gives LeBlanc a.. bone? "That's when you want to come back to the camp right away," Lulu says. "Just rub it three times, and there you fly! But use it wisely. We only have a few of those left in stock."

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-05-01 10:34 am
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 10

10

Into the forest she goes. She hears rushing water in the distance, but it is mostly serene silence. The tall trees would glow blue with an eerie brightness, and the fireflies linger over the mossy ground, those petite, lively lights.

The sudden desire comes for her to pick one of the fireflies up – she kneels down, and quickly tries cupping her hands around one, but when she opens her hands, the firefly seems to have vanished. Then she realises how her hands seem to be covered with glowing residue, like she had somehow crushed the poor insect. Oof.

She thinks of the water, and she wanders over to where the sound is from, weaving her way between the trees.

When she sees the river stream flowing in its meandering path, she steps forward – she stumbles upon a loose root, and crawls the rest of the way over to the water, where she gazes at the shimmering surface momentarily before dipping her hands into the gentle wetness, and it's soothingly warm, washing away the residue and the slight itching.

Then she cups the water and splashes the water into her face, feeling the moisture as sanctuary. She dabs some of it on her arms, and on her legs, and it would feel good, and then tries laying her feet in the stream.

She rests and closes her eyes. Maybe that bonfire can wait until she feels better.

~

Into the open field she wanders. You can better see the stars and the moon from here, and she hears her steps crunch upon the grass. She adores the serenity of the sky. A faint blue where the sky ends and the expansive horizon begins. It almost reminds of the underwater ocean.

So she sits down, feeling how comfortably warm the grass is, and lies back, and absorbs herself into beauty, gazing upward and getting lost.

She just breathes in and out the crisp air. Who knows what lies beyond? And an innocence seeps into her, and she cannot help but smile, for herself in this moment, for her forlorn existance.

"Beautiful, ain't it?" Someone's suave voice interrupts her, and she looks around and sees a man, lying down beside, with his hat over his head. "I reckon you can catch all them little stars and put 'em in your pocket, if they weren't so far away." He picks up his hat, and starts fanning himself in the face – he has a very nice beard, and calm eyes. "Oh, don't worry," he says, grinning. "I ain't here to make a ruckus. I'm just another undead, gambling against time for a livin'. Before that, I used to gamble for a lotta money. Sure got away with a hell'va lot, I did."

"Who are you?" she asks.

"People these days call me Twisted Fate," he goes. "Wherever I go, Lady Luck is always smilin'. About my other name, I don't have much to say; memory's a bit of a bitch these days. Hey, you got yourself a name yet? Or should I just call you Missus?"

She can't help feeling charmed by this Mister, and she wonders to herself – searching through the remnants of her thoughts and memories for anything pertaining to her name.

She finds something.

"Le.. Blanc," she mutters to herself at first, as if getting the feel of the word on her tongue. "I'm LeBlanc."

"Ooh," he goes. "That's a pretty lookin' name. What's your specialty?"

"What specialty?"

"Every undead has one," Twisted Fate explains, proceeding to stand up. "Lookie here, here's mine!"

You can see his outfit more clearly – he has on an embroidered jacket that droops down to his knees, and within are some casual trousers and boots. He reaches inside his jacket pocket and pulls out a hand of ornate cards. Then he swoops his arm, tossing the cards out in an arc, and they glide forward like paper airplanes, until he gestures and the cards suddenly change direction, whirling up and around in dazzling motion. He flicks his wrist towards himself and the cards converge back into his hand, as they were before.

"That's one," Twisted Fate says, tapping his feet. "Now here's another." He puts his cards away, all except three, and with a flourish of his hand, the three cards are charged with energy. He leaps into the air and throws the cards beneath him.

They pop, exploding in a cataclysm of sparks and smoke, and for a moment LeBlanc sees only the smoke disappating, while Twisted Fate seems to have disappeared entirely. The smoke smells like ripe cherries.

Then she feels a tap on her shoulder, and she sees Twisted Fate giggling behind her, up close to her now. He holds her by the back, and says, "When I'm not makin' magic, I always love a good game of poker. Or a good dance in the fields."

LeBlanc smiles at the opportunity, and he notices. "A simple andele, or a mooning waltz. I think for you, a waltz will do."

So he takes her hands and they take gentle steps in the night, a step here and there, and she lets him carry the weight of her body, and it would be wonderful.

~

The bonfire burns with a modest intensity, granting the camp some much needed warmth and light. LeBlanc had followed the gambler into the open area, where other people gather around the fire – sleeping in cots, checking their items, or chatting beside the flames. One of them plays a pleasant melody on the lute.

"You said you needed a bonfire?" Twisted Fate goes, mingling with the chatting ones. "Make yourself at home."

LeBlanc seats herself on her knees and clasps her hands, rubbing her fingers in her palms. The bonfire's warmth is good. Its energies soothe her body, but not her soul, and her memories are still lost in the dim.

"How do you remember?" she says, looking at Twisted Fate reshuffle his cards.

"Remember what? That I have a knack for this stuff?"

"I mean, your past life," she goes. "You seem to know who you were, the life you'd lived before you were undead."

"I don't," he says. "Sometimes you get flashes of memories – images, words, and I guess it's the important stuff that comes back to you first. I remember there were cards and money and the like. I just spin my own tale with the threads I already have. It's not something that really bugs me, though I see others getting worked up about it."

"Hm." LeBlanc unfurls the pouch she's taken from Oscar and pours out its contents into hand. First, an empty little glass flask, where she rolls it amongst her fingers, feeling the glass, and then opens the lid. Suddenly the flask begins to glow, and she sees a tendril of light extend from the fireplace over to her flask, filling it with energy to the brim. After the flask has filled, she tries drinking the contents, and feels that same soothing feeling of the fireplace pouring down her throat. Then more of the bonfire's energies pour into the flask until it's filled again.

Next, she pulls out some soft beads from the pouch, black and white and shimmering. They feel gelatinous, almost squishy when she tries squeezing them.

"Whoa there," Twisted Fate goes, reaching out for her beads. "You wanna be careful with those. It's 'humanity.'"

"Those things?" LeBlanc asks.

"People are always sayin' how everyone has a unique soul," he goes. "Well, this is what a soul actually looks like. When you crush one, you absorb it and your special powers are brought out. Here's the tricky thing – when you take one of these babies and use it with the bonfire, it'll make yourself all pretty again. That's how you keep yourself from being one of them zombies, actually."

LeBlanc picks up one of the beads, and tries to really crush it in her hand. It's quite hard at first, but with some effort, the bead gives in and it pops, and a tantalising liveliness enters her – like a feeling of love. "Whoa," she goes, feeling energised. "My skin still looks worn out though."

"You gotta stick your hand into the bonfire," Twisted Fate explains. "Don't worry, it won't bite. You'll be feeling a little pinch.."

She gazes at the bonfire in wonderment. The other visitors are staring at her now in expectation, and with a gulp, she inches closer and closer to the flames, the warmth feeling more hotter and intense as she extends her hand.

Finally touching the fire, an icy jolt shoots through her body. She shivers, and she can't help shutting her eyes – it's like a sneeze.

She feels her body rapidly transform, her skin growing smoother, the ache in her joints seeping away, and then she feels something new.

In her chest a new heart begins to beat, and blood begins to flow through her veins. Inner warmth spreads from her core, into her legs and arms and head.

When she opens her eyes, she sees everyone's expressions of bemusement, and she recognises the human being that she has once been.

"My, my," Twisted Fate goes, "you are quite the beauty. We better get some clothes on you fast."

But the emptiness is still inside her though; her memories are still as clouded as before.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-04-29 09:10 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 9

9

She finds herself lying prone in a dark, expansive chamber. The first thing that hits her is the smell – the air is rank with such a sourly odour, and it makes her eyes sting, yet no tears come out. When she sits up, she notices how dimly lit the place is, moonlit from a distant hole right above. Velvet curtains drape over a large portion of the wall, and mounds and shapes pop through the folds, their general outline revealed in the folds.

The floor is so dusty and dry. When she moves her legs, the dust billows from her movement, and she coughs a terribly achy cough.

There is distant murmuring from a place she cannot tell where. She glances around, looking for anything interesting. But all there seems to be is the curtains and the stone walls.

Then she notices something on her chest, lit and glowing like embers of a fire. A circular mark over her chest, and she glances at it, touching it and feeling the tickling sensation.

Eventually she gets bored of touching herself there, and the awareness gradually comes to her that she is empty, in a way. There's something missing in the way she is, though she cannot put her finger on what exactly. It is.. What are those things called, memories? People should have them, but when she tries to remember, all she recalls is that white void, and this place.

She hears a rustling. The moonlight is interrupted, and above, something is blocking the hole, and then the light returns, and that something falls down – she reflexively jolts backwards, and the thing lands in an impact of billowing dust.

It's a shrivelled body. She glances back up, seeing the shadow of someone looking down at her, before disappearing into the night. Hm.

The body is clothed in tattered rags, with dark stains over where the cloth has been torn. The notion occurs to her that this could be someone like her, all shrivelled up too, and that this is how she winded up here. Some guy drops her into this room. (For what?)

She has the feeling though that the mark on her chest has something to do with it, and she hurriedly checks the body, peeling away the old rags to see if there's anything like it on the body's chest.

But she doesn't see the embering glow. Though upon a closer look in the moonlight, the body does have the same mark, but it's worn out, hard to distinguish in the wrinkled skin.

What's going on?

The moonlight is interrupted again, and looking up she sees someone lingering over the hole (is it that same somebody?), and then an unnatural light emanates; a heavenly ray shines down over an empty spot, almost touching where the fallen body is.

She gazes, not comprehending what is going on – she only notices how utterly grey the chamber is with the added lighting, and how skeletal bones are spread all over where the darkness used to be.

She waits, tensing up, preparing for something that might happen. Then the lighting begins to shift like a spotlight searching for something, and it catches her in the sights. It's so blinding, her eyes sting and her ears buzz, and then she feels herself growing weightless, and opening her eyes she sees herself floating upward, up to the hole, getting closer and closer to the source of the light-- that mysterious someone.

When she is yanked up over the hole's ledge, the brightness goes away and gravity makes her crumble down to the side – she feels like a delicate ragdoll that has just been gripped.

In the starry night, the damsel and her rescuer in knight armour – with his grated helmet obscuring his face. He's pulled her from this mere hole in the grassy clearing, where nearby, a lake shimmers in the breeze.

"You're no hollow, are you?" he asks her, slowly approaching her sprawled form, with his hand over his sword's hilt. "Can you speak? If you can understand me, give me a sign."

"..oui--!" Her voice is raspy and hoarse, surprising herself, and she almost covers her mouth afterward. "I do understand."

"Oh, thank goodness." The knight relaxes, and sits himself down beside her. "I was honestly afraid I've come here for nothing."

"What do you mean, hollow?" she asks, getting used to the sound of her voice. She brings herself to sit in a more comfy position.

"I know this will be hard to take in.." The knight pauses. "You must be feeling very disoriented right now-- you have died. And now you are an undead."

"..an undead?"

"You have recently died as a human," he goes, "and it is by virtue of that darksign you possess that you are still alive – here, reanimated in that ugly body you have."

She glances out at the night.

"That lostness you are feeling," the knight continues. "You must be trying to remember what it is like before.. you came here."

"Why can't I remember anything?" she asks.

"When you died," he goes, "you left behind all your experiences from your old body, stored in the brain. The body you are in has been created out of the nether. To contain your consciousness before it disappears. This is your spirit body. It is decaying as we speak.

"I don't have much time to explain – I am undead too, like you, and soon I will turn hollow. When an undead turns hollow, they lose their soul – their heart and conscience, and turn into a zombie. What will remain is just an intelligent automaton, living on murderously until death.

"If you may, hear me out. I've regrettably failed in my mission, but perhaps you can help carry on from here, to help extinguish the First Flame and bring an end to this madness."

"What madness?" she asks.

"The realm we are in is changing. But the current masters of this world do not wish for change – they fear it.

"In the beginning, there were dragons roaming in the unformed darkness, amongst grey crags and archtrees. And then came the First Flame which sparked humanity and disparity: heat and cold, life and death, and light and darkness. The duality exists within everyone's heart. There were some people who resented the dragons, and they sought the power of the Lord Souls in that fire. Those few become Angels, and they swiftly took down all the dragons.

"And with the dragons' demise, humanity flourished. To signify their victory, the Angels immortalised the First Flame in a bonfire, and separated reality into two realms. The material and the spiritual. But like all fires, the First Flame was never meant to burn forever. When the fire threatened to fade away, one of the Angels sacrificed himself so to prolong the fire for another era.

"And as if in terrible answer, demons arose from the shadows, tearing at life. Amongst the living, are the undead who are doomed to inhumanity. The world is decaying, and yet the selfish Angels still wish to reign, afraid of the inevitable. If the First Flame is not yet extinguished, the decay will spread to the material world. Look, it has already taken you!"

The knight grabs her by the arm, and his grasp is so painful that she yelps, as he snags her closer to him. "I could only imagine.. what it would be like to have met you before," he says, barely hiding his melancholy. "When I would dream, I caught the briefest glimpses of you on the other side – when you smiled, when you were talking with your friends, when you were alone.. before you were turned into this. You were a maiden. I did not hear your voice, but if I did, I think it would only make me melt."

And she begins to tear up – somehow his words have touched her, and.. she has the feeling that she looked like a real somebody in her past life. What does she look like now? She stands up, walking over the grass to the waters, where her reflection ripples under the moon, but it is as strikingly clear to her as if she was staring at herself in the mirror.

It is an old woman's face, unnaturally worn; the skin is ashen, the eyes sullen and grey, and the hair white and wispy. But still she could almost manage to see the beauty that it had once been.

"Was I always this old..?" she asks.

"You were young," the knight goes. "The spirit body is a poor, hasty recreation of the original – it can copy the semblance, but it cannot recreate the liveliness. At least.. not initially."

He takes off his helmet, and now she can see his face – it's not like hers, it's much more human, recognisably handsome. The stout, green eyes and the golden hair. Still, there is something a little off about it, something sickly, as if a certain malaise is affecting him underneath.

"Are you alright?" she asks him.

"I told you I'm going to go hollow soon," he says, glancing mournfully at the waters. "Normally, I would easily replenish myself at a bonfire, but.." He reveals his neck, where a large bruise bulges on one side. "I've been bitten by a basilisk a few days ago. My doom is certain; I don't know how to get rid of the bite effects with what I have. And so I came here to where the newly unborn are trapped, hoping by luck that I would find someone who can carry on the mission when I'm gone. And I found you."

She doesn't know what to say.

"I don't know what your name is," he says, "or whether you even remember yours, but I hope you manage to remember mine. I'm Oscar, of Astora. Once I had a family, a beautiful wife and a son. Then I served on a quest, alongside others, to invade the fortress of Anor Londo for the location of the First Flame. It was a failure, and as punishment I was condemned to the spiritual realm, never to come back home. May you remember me long after I'm gone.

"Before you go," he says, reaching for his pouch, "take this. Inside is an estus flask – an undead favourite, and some pieces of raw humanity."

Hesitantly, she takes the cloth pouch at hand – it feels almost weightless.

"If you manage to make it to the bonfire, in that direction--" Oscar points the way directly opposite of the lake. "You can manage to restore the liveliness in your body. Hopefully you'll meet others like me, who will offer you further guidance. And also, as a last request.. give me a kiss?"

She wonders if she had been kissed before she lost her memories. If she had ever been kissed once. Her fingers reach at her lips, and she feels how chapped and dry they are. She licks her lips with what little saliva she has on her tongue.

"Okay," she goes, and she leans in, holding Oscar by his face, and gently presses her lips onto his, feeling a little tenderness.

..

It's a little kiss, and yet.. in it, whispers the feelings of a river flowing onward, seeping through every crevice. In it, is the joy of dancing vivaciously to the music with someone, and smelling the crisp scent of blooming roses in the summer evenings. A kind of happiness in knowing you are alive.

It would make her cry inside, and she senses how she must have cried inside a million times over, to herself, no one else understanding the feeling. Her eyes would linger on people, and whenever they catch her gaze, she wishes she could glue them to her, and they would break the gaze and it would always hurt a little, inside.

But always, it's beautiful too.

In the pauses between conversations, in the empty spaces between herself and others, there is the unsung music that only she hears, and would dance to in the sanctity of her imagination. And sometimes she would ask in those longing gazes, would you come and dance with me here? It's wonderful, I know it, we would waltz between the stars and you would feel it.

~

When she opens her eyes, Oscar is gone, and all that remains of him is the way he touched her in the kiss, and his salty taste in her mouth. She gazes at the space where he once was, at the pool of water under the moonlit night.

Her first memory.

She would cherish it as long as she has it.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-04-29 09:09 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 8

8

And then it is over. No more breath. No more life. There is only total silence – a wonderful soothing calm.

Yet somehow, she still is.

A faint thought crosses her awareness, but it slips away just as easily into that obscurity.

Then the sensations return to her, gradually and surely, and she is able to feel the semblance of her two legs first, and then her torso, her upper body – it's cold, it's so numb and cold, and her very flesh feels tender to the touch.

Finally, her neck and head exist, and with that, her sight.

She is inside a beautiful void. The sheer, overwhelming, undulating whiteness all around. She's already standing, and looking down at herself, what she finds horrifies her.

Her naked body is shrivelled; a pruned simulacra of herself as she ought to be. Her arms are terribly rough – the veins visibly protrude out the skin. And her delicate hands with the petite fingers..

They were beautiful once, she imagines. They were the warm hands that have touched and been touched by many things, with different feelings that had gone into the touching; like softness, immediacy, curiosity, hate, and tenderness. Now these hands are old and flaky, with the fingers like little bones extending from her palms. Touching herself just leaves a stale feeling.

Who is she? Who was she? She feels intonations of earlier memories, but as soon as she tries grasping at their threads, they disappear, eluding her reach like mist. Like a dream that had once been, but upon waking up.. it would fade away.

And for some reason, it makes her sad.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-04-26 10:31 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 7

7

"Surgery..!?" Emilia can hardly believe it; the notion is outrageous! "No.. nobody is going to cut me open! Not with those buzzsaws! I-- I just got here!" Already, she is imagining one of the surgeons, grinning at the observing audience every 15 seconds while his screeching buzzsaw slices into one of her vital veins. (Icky.) "That scanning machine must be broken!"

"Nonono—" The technician laughs. "We're not rash, if that's what you're wondering. Something about that region inside your chest isn't picking up in the scan – so it seems the option is to do a physical examination on the area. You have that strange scar on you, right?"

"What about it?"

"May I have a look?" he asks, gesturing for Emilia to come closer. She does – and the technician unbuttons the middle portion of her gown, pulling the fold aside to see her ribs, the scarline which circles around her heart. "Inside that circle is where your results are affected."

("It is the darksign!" the guide says.)

"..have you ever been to Anor Londo?" Emilia tries asking him.

"Eh? I have – it's interesting, what about it?"

"In the legend of how Anor Londo got invaded," Emilia goes, "by those mysterious people-- the guide over there told me I have the same mark as the invaders. He called it the darksign. It gave the invaders special powers.."

"Hmm.." The technician seems to be pondering this. "Darksign."

"I didn't.. the mark-- scar wasn't there when I got dressed this morning," she goes. "I felt the weird chest pains back then, but it wasn't until I was by Anor Londo's castle that the pain began to really hurt, you know."

A beat. Then the technician says, "Emilia – if this is actually true.. it could mean that we could unlock the mystery behind the invasion-- we're in the hospital, we can--"

"Wait.." Emilia pauses, trying to remember what she was going to say. "I had a very strange nightmare last night – I drunk some water and I.. began to turn into ice. And my friends, they saw me convulse, like I was having a seizure of some kind. They called a family doctor, who told me nothing should be wrong with me. I seemed fine, she checked me with a stethoscope."

"Emilia.." he begins. "I will print out the scan results – you'll carry this to the operation rooms, and they'll check on what's there. Most likely they could do something about it, who knows?"

"When I saw the monitor, I felt like a tumor is eating me alive from within," she says.

"Maybe it's all the more reason for you to get checked up on," the technician goes, proceeding to print her scan out to paper. "This is something I've never seen before. It's like a.. Sci-Fi movie. Don't worry, they don't use buzzsaws in surgery here; we're not in the dark ages anymore. We have lasers."

The technician gives her a printout to hold onto, which he's signed with his signature and written some remarks over the diagrams. He tells her to visit the fourth floor. That's where the surgeries are performed.

When she steps outside the room, Medic #1 and #2 are just coming back with cups of coffee. "Just in time, ja," Medic #1 says, and his eyes glance at the scan results in Emilia's hand.

"I'm going for a diagnostic surgery," she explains to them.

"Is it that urgent?" Medic #1 asks. "What is the matter, what he told you?"

Emilia shows them the results on the paper, pointing out her 'lack of heart and lungs.' "The machine couldn't see what's there, so--"

"Ooh," Medic #1 says, taking a sip of coffee. "That's really odd.."

"Good luck with your surgery, Emilia," the usually stoic Medic #2 pips, smiling. "And have fun too if you can."

"Yea," Medic #1 goes. "Well, when you're done, we'll be in touch for your stay in this hospital. Now come, we will take you up to the operating rooms."

~

Her chest itches, and she can't help herself scratching through her gown along the way, and she'd notice how the other people in the elevator seem unnerved by her compulsive scratching. By the time the elevator reaches the fourth floor, her inner self begins to feel heavy, dense. The itching has gone away, replaced by this unfeeling numbness. And then she trembles, feeling a wave of utter nausea, and almost falls down in the quaint green halls, where patients are rolled in and out from the operating rooms.

Medic #1 hoists her up. "Alright – whatever your illness is, I have a feeling we don't have much time."

Emilia regains her composure, feeling her eyes water from the unpleasant sensations. Looking around makes her feel dizzy, and it would feel like things aren't really in focus – indefinite.

(it hurts!!!)

"Oauughh--!" The scream from her is primal and terrible, and she finds herself scattered on the floor before she knows it. The greatest pain stabs inside her chest, yet at the same time, all the sensations of her body are drowning away.

"EMILIA!" she hears from someone, but he sounds muffled and dull, as if his shouts are from across another place, another time,

and she's in a vast ocean of water, in the darkness, crushed by the immense pressure all over. Yet something deep inside her is pining for the air, wanting to breathe it so desperately.

"Help!" she heard from someone, but he sounded muffled and dull, as if his shouts were from across another place, another time,

The sound of a muffled wave above lures her energies, and little by little, in the midst of the darkness, a warm and distant light begins to shine through from the oceanic heaven. Its rays beckon her, and she is gravitating towards it like a fish towards a lure, and it feels so calm and beautiful. No moment in her life has ever prepared her for such bliss.

Ta-dum.. ta-dum..

She heads slowly and steadily towards the light, and the rushing noise gets louder, rumbling oppressively through her being, and it seems as if a great beach is awaiting her above the surface. She just has to break through first.

As she almost reaches the threshold, she sees that the water is composed of a complex latticework of all her memories, her emotions and thoughts. Thousands of images and sounds from her life – her birth, her childhood and adulthood. Everyone and everything she has ever known. Her mother and father. A large perturbation fills her as she approaches to touch it all, her hopes and dreams, her pains and sadnesses. The boundaries and limitations of her whole existance.

Ta-dum.. ta-dum..

She stares at it for a while, almost afraid to touch it, afraid of being overwhelmed by herself. But that innate drive for breath makes her break the surface.

And then she is assailed by everything, these images and memories, in a rush of blinding intensity – and intense amazement and joy suddenly runs through her, astounding her, delighting her. In rapid sequence, her lifespan is summed up in a gestalt; many years in mere seconds. A bizarre, poignent, melancholy parade. She manages to recognize all these memories, some of them significant, some of them banal, but even with the memories she'd thought were lost and forgotten, there is something about all of them that is infused with the purest life and joy. Even the most painful moments would resonate with vital force.

Ta-dum..

It almost seems as if.. this could last.. forever..

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-04-24 01:40 am
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 6

6

There's a knock on the washroom door. From behind, someone says "Hello?" and then Dietrich's voice, "Johan! Emilia! They've come!"

Emilia glances at the door where Johan opens it. A clattering sound, and in waltzes two large guys in red and white oversuits – they look more like firemen than paramedics. "That is Emilia, ja?" one of them says, kneeling down to her side. "You are fine right now? You are able to walk?"

The pain has gone for now, and yet, it is quite a long way over to the roads. (Besides that, she's a little wet.) Briefly she wonders to herself if she can make it, as the two medics are noticing how unclothed she is, and that circular scar.

"How did you get that?" Medic #1 asks (he has a scruffy goatee), as he reaches, about to touch the scar. Medic #2 (having dorky glasses that magnify his eyes like a cartoon) – he is rapidly scribbling notes into a petite notepad, at a distance.

"I don't know how that scar appeared," Emilia answers, glancing at Medic #1's hairy hand. "It wasn't there this morning, when I was getting dressed. I didn't scrape myself on anything."

"Will it hurt if I touch?" Medic #1 asks.

It looks a little painful. "I don't think," she says.

So Medic #1 gently rubs the scar's outline, running a few fingers along. Emilia had imagined it to sting at first – instead it tingles. She feels him press around, squirming a little from the strange sensation--

"Does it hurt?" Medic #1 asks.

"No, it's.. tingly," Emilia goes, tugging her shoulders up. "It's fine."

"Do you need a bandage?" Medic #2 asks.

~

The trolley is a nice way to go. The two medics help her onto this bed on wheels, with her sweater and coat now on her, and the world passes her by as she rests, holding a hot pack onto her bare chest – its gentle heat soaking into her like water into a paper towel. She has to wave goodbye to Johan and Dietrich; it seems that the ambulance can only carry so much.

"It's a beautiful castle," Medic #1 remarks. His voice echoes in the vastness of the main hall, along with the wheels moving over the floor. "I've been here twice already, just not while on duty. Hehe."

New visitors are arriving by the entrance, glancing at her, Emilia. Oui, she is royalty, all hail your Queen! She's tempted to stick her tongue out at them, hehe.

Then she recognises the tour guide who was leading her group earlier. His eyes stop on her, as if transfixed by something, and his face seems to transform into astonishment. "Who, me?" Emilia wants to say, but all she could do is linger on his gaze, as she hears him telling the visitors to wait, before skimpering to her with hurried steps. "You! Wait--!" he yelps at her. "Wait--!"

Noticing him, the medics stop her trolley. "Is anything the matter, Harrn?"

The tour guide takes a moment to recover breath. "That mark on the Fraulein.. I need a look, if you may allow a second."

Might he know what it is? Emilia parts from her hot pack for a moment, and the guide inspects her scar, up and down, like it's one of those exquisite artefacts you just can't get enough of. "Is this a joke?" he says. "Did you carve this mark on yourself?"

"I didn't," Emilia goes.

"I don't believe it! We've been endlessly talking about this in research-- it is the darksign!" the guide pips. "The invaders of Anor Londo, they would brand this mark on themselves. To pledge their souls for eternal damnation and acquire the daemonic abilities!"

And what is Emilia to make of this?

"Harrn," one of the medics say, "this Fraulein needs to be looked at fast. We've heard she has suffered like this earlier before, and she may suffer yet another attack. If you want to discuss with her the significance of her scar, she will be driven to Marien Hospital -- Rochusstraße 2 in Dusseldorf."

The guide scoffs in frustration. "What's your name, Fraulein?" he asks. "You want to know what is happening, right? The strange feelings you may be possibly feeling? I need your name!"

Emilia pauses, before telling him, "Emilia LeBlanc."

"You're French.." the guide mutters to himself. "Well, I will have one of our researchers make a visiting! If they tell you that you have visitors, you say yes, okay? At the hospital!"

Her gaze briefly lingers with the guide's as the medics pull her trolley away, before all she can look at is the castle's gothic exterior under the golden hues of the setting sun.

~

Time passes where all Emilia can do is glance silently at the medicinal units hung beside her, as the ambulance rattles on, and the radio barks out notifications of other incidents happening nearby. The two medics jest to one another, like in those buddy cop shows where the viewers are expected to be amused by the dynamic between the stout cop, and the other level-headed cop. Except here, Emilia feels more like being on the fringes of it – listening to inside jokes alien to her.

So she dwells on an inner image, of flying up in the clouds as an angel amongst birds, before the planes have polluted the very air. Even though if it weren't for the planes, she likely would have never realised that vastness, that heaven up close that she would never be able to touch, before landing in a place a great distance away from the start.

Then another image comes to her, where she is up in the Eiffel Tower at Paris, at the nighttime when she sees all the glittering lights of the city. When she was young and still revelled in that youthful innocence, and she held hands with her parents as the fireworks bloomed. It must have been a summer festival.

Suddenly it's cold. The frost touches her cheeks and bare hands, and she sees the sight a few years later on the tower. Where the dense clouds are faintly underlit, and the numerous snowflakes in the air, dancing down, some of which have gathered on her, melting as they touch, and each feels like a little wet kiss. It's beautiful. But it is a different kind of beauty, a more haunting, ethereal one. The same face lit under a different light.

The memory overwhelms her and the tears well in her eyes, and in the silence afforded to herself she briefly weeps, before she realises that the ambulance is slowing down – and that she has arrived at the hospital. Her hot pack has turned lukewarm.

~

There, she huddles with them into the hospital's reception, where the noise and bustle of other medics, shepherding patients in and around the modern complex, prepares her for the kind of atmosphere that will bombard her during her stay. There are a few people sitting down by the chairs, reading newspapers – and then most of the other visitors are being wheeled in, hooked to IVs, quickly being moved to the appropriate floors.

Her two medics are asking which floors with X-rays are available, and the receptionist mutters something that Emilia can hardly make out amidst the noisy chaos. She catches a colour-coded layout of the hospital, visible on the wall behind.

"Send this guy into room 442, stat!" she hears an orderly say.

"Emilia, let's go," Medic #1 goes, nudging her shoulder. "We will be making a scan of your body first."

She follows them through the milky hallways, and the rank of antiseptic stings her nose a little. She manages to toss her lukewarm pack into a disposal before entering a large elevator, where she shares it with a cleanly bald boy, resting comatose on a trolley. If they shaved her hair off..

"Luckily, you don't have brain damage yet," Medic #1 says, chuckling a bit with Emilia. "If you did, it wouldn't be any nice to lose your wonderful hair."

If that bald boy could laugh too. You have to wonder what sort of hair he had; blonde, brown.. or if he had short, curly hair. Hm, you can tell because his eyebrows are still there – they're blonde and thick, almost verging on being a unibrow.

"Poor kid tripped on the sidewalk," his nurse says. "I hope he's gonna turn out fine afterward."

"Yeah, how awful," Medic #1 says, while #2 is tsk-tsking.

Emilia frowns a little – then the elevator beeps on floor 3. "That's our floor Emilia," Medic #1 tells.

And she walks with them in those pink-flavoured halls, passing by other patients and doctors, until arriving at a room no. 305. It says 'C.A.T. EXAMINATION ROOM #4,' as if Emilia is about to head into music theory testing, except the subject of the examination happens to have something to do with cats and kittens. (It would be something Emilia could easily excel at. Cats are way better than those slobbering dogs, don't you know?)

But instead of kittens, it is an entirely white room, a ghostly white, and someone in uniform is standing by a bed that slides into a hole.

"Emilia LeBlanc, is it?" the uniformed guy says, looking up from his notepad, with a professional grin on his face. "Feel free to make yourself comfortable. I will be performing the scan on you, and what I would need you to do is to get properly dressed."

There's another door, with a frosted window by it. "Ja," the guy continues. "Inside, you can pick from the blue gowns, once you take off everything, underwear included. The gown should be easy enough to put on, and you put all your clothes in a bag for later."

Emilia blushes for a bit, feeling shy of the preparations, before Medic #1 pips, "We won't peep! The window is to check if you're still breathing in there."

She enters the room, where she makes sure to put herself so that the peeping tomcats won't see her – the window's quite frosted, and she can hardly make their figures out. Hmmh. She picks a plastic bag from a dispenser, and after puffing the bag up, stuffs her jacket inside. Then her sweater and shirt go off, and she's in her bra again. It feels sorta relieving – she's lightened up.

After filling the bag with all her clothes, she makes her way to pick one of the gowns hanging, and she buttons it up on herself. Now she's a model hospital patient, wearing a paper bag. (Though she wishes the colour could be more violet.)

She goes back out, carrying her clothesbag at hand.

"You got your gown backwards," the technician goes. Emilia reflexively goes to fix her gown before he says, "It's alright, nevermind that – now lie down on the bed, with your head out."

And she foists herself onto the cleaned leather, where she stares up at the white canvas. She hears some beeping and then feels the bed whir as she gets enveloped into the dark, claustrophobic hole.

And all there is for a moment is her breathing, in and out, alone in black space, before a faint humming occurs and the tube is lit up electrically, bathed in a milky glow.

"Now the scanning itself will take around two minutes," the technician goes. "Do try to relax, there's a call button by your right side if you need to stop for any reason."

Emilia swears she can feel the CAT rays, like a very faint murmur running the hairs of her skin – a spring breeze through grass. A very long time seems to pass, listening to the machine rumble, and her mouth grows dry and parched.

"Is it over yet?" she says.

"One more minute," the technician goes. "There's something about your chest Emilia – I just need a minute to capture it in the scan."

Gurgle.

She scratches an incoming itch around her chest--

"Stay still, bitte bitte!" she hears.

~

Emilia glances dumbly at the display showing her CT scan; the greyscale, seemingly amorphous blobs that rapidly morph and dissolve as the technician moves a slider. "What exactly did you scan from me?" she asks him.

"Your whole body," the technician goes. "Muscles, organs and all-- from head to toe. It's cross-sections, like in biology class with those tissue slides. I think this is about midway down your throat."

She faintly remembers back in high school, première year, when she had to share microscopes with her unwilling lab partners. After dying the strips, she would put them underneath the lenses, and then the painstaking process of focusing them so she could see the tissue structure of frogs. All the while, her partners would breathe down her neck, and she could smell bubblegum-tinged air, with that faint cologne scent. There was that boy – he would always have that understatedly elegant scent. What was his name? She forgot what he'd looked like, since she never saw him outside that one class in Fall semester.

But damn, that biology teacher was sorta nerdy. She remembers his grey moustache and oversized glasses; how those green eyes were accentuated behind them, as he'd rapidly blink while telling the class about his visits to Zurich laboratories – the top secret projects that he isn't allowed to talk about in detail.

So why mention it? Maybe it's to pique everyone's interest, beg him for more and more details, and he would eventually speak of raising what was once dead, quantum teleportation.. and other strange things. It almost sounds like magic. What was that quote he'd said? "Any sufficiently advanced technologies are indistinguishable from real magic. The lines will blur between them to the unprepared observer."

Most of all, she remembers how if she had the biology class during the afternoon period, the sunlight from the nearby window would just strike her in the eyes where she's seated – and the teacher would pick on her more often when she'd rather daydream or sleep, bah. I can't help it, I'm not one of those front-row geeks who easily get entertained by Sci-Fi babblespeak.

"You are still with me Emilia?" the technician says, winking, as he almost conceals a look of astonishment. "Wakey-wakey now."

"Mm mm." Oui, she's never zoned out!

With a pen, the technician points to those two kidney-shaped dark blotches, surrounding a black void. "Your twin lungs. And your heart. Or where your heart is supposed to show up." He scrolls the slider back and forth, and the display shows only faint smudges in that void. Then he presses another button and it switches to a front view, where her own body is more recognisable. Except, it seems like her chest is partway swallowed up in an unexplainable darkness.

"This is very very weird.. did you eat anything like seafood recently?"

"I haven't," she says.

"Hm.. well, it's.." the technician says, rotating the CT model around, and it seems as if the darkness will be eating her alive from within. "Something's definitely not right."

The notion of utter fragility suddenly hits Emilia, and wordlessly she takes steps back from the monitor, that ugly foreteller of her predicament. Her arms slowly hover over her chest, as it starts to feel more like she is sucking wind into her lungs.

"No.." she weakly whispers. "Maybe.. maybe that scan isn't right! I was scratching an itch while it was still scanning, maybe that's why—"

"The scanner's designed to take multiple passes for accuracy," the technician explains. "Scratching yourself isn't why your heart and part of your respiratory system aren't there." He scratches an eyebrow. "Emilia.. I will have you checked out ASAP – I will be sending you to diagnostic surgery right now."

 

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-04-19 02:50 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 5

5

Along the way, Emilia almost trips herself on a protruding root, and another one. The pathway swerves and slopes downhill – until at last, she spots a gap between the trees which she peers through.

Anor Londo is much more bigger than she could have ever imagined. A labyrithine layout, of wandering alleyways and embedded settlements, of walkways that veer over deep chasms, of cathedrals which have remained beautiful over centuries, and at the centre apex, she can spot the inner castle that leers over all. If it were that perfect kind of storybook castle, with a king and queen, and a prince who longs for a princess from the general populace. But Dietrich's words still linger in Emilia – the battle of 1594 had raged on in these grounds, and now it is a museum exhibit. Why don't they make renovations here, so people can still live in royalty?

"People used to be afraid," Dietrich says. "They say that like Macbeth the play, the place is cursed. Up until the 1920s. Even then, some people are wary of visiting because of this, while other people come here to disprove the mumbo-jumbo."

"Do you guys believe in it?" Emilia asks.

Dietrich pauses, wondering what sort of answer to give. "I don't think so. It's like ghost stories, and it turns out to be something else."

"I wish it could be real.." Johan goes. "You did sound like you believed in it, that dinner."

"One of my family was involved, so I can't help it. I usually like telling people on that I'm related to the battle, so it's better to brush up on things."

Bah. He really is a snob! Emilia imitates a mock-phantom from those horror movies. "Oooh! Spooky!" She makes them grin. "But really, Dietrich.."

"Erm?"

"I don't think you should use your connection to Anor Londo as some kind of.. credential. I feel it's like you're trying hard to show off, in every way."

This makes Dietrich turn around with a bang. "And what do you know, Emilia," he says, "about showing off?"

Now she's got him miffed, like she has set off that stifling tripwire that had been gnawing away at the back of her mind. "It gets obnoxious for me," she goes. "I don't like it. Because you're infinitely more than what you can spit off a sharp tongue."

Johan looks like she'd slapped him in the face.

Then Dietrich approaches Emilia, his intent stare on her almost intimidating. It almost feels like he is going to pounce on her. Then he says, "You're right. I think what counts also is what is left unsaid – after all, mysteries can be enjoyable too."

To drown in Dietrich's sense of 'mystery' is to buy in further into his guise. There's an insincerity in his words, as if Dietrich has taken Emilia's suggestion to add up further into his own pride. Emilia can't help frowning with this. But she says no further.

~

They enter one of the courtyards, where vines have overgrown the pillars and empty fountain. Once you could sit down on the benches and watch the water bloom from the knight's trousers. Now tourists sit down to scratch their worn knees and snack on Sauvage Love, the chocolate bar.

And a lingering mist, faint but still visible, and you can feel the dew condense upon yourself, your cheeks and hands. It gives a faerytale feel.

And while Dietrich checks the descriptions provided on the stands, Emilia is checking upclose the worn stone of the fountain – the etched, faded runes around the knight. Though Death may hold rein over your Lives, your Nobility and Goodness will persevere throughoutEternity. She looks up at the once-urinating knight, holding on to his crotch.His sword parked aside him, he is having a victory leak after an exhausting battle. Emilia lets a smile show on her lips from the amusement.

"Emilia! Dietrich!" It is Johan, running down here. "You guys gotta check this out!"

"What is it?" Dietrich goes.

"It's amazing! You won't believe it!"

~

Emilia and Dietrich find themselves sprinting with Johan's pace, down the streets and inside chambers until they reach what looks like a large gazebo at the edge – it overlooks the vast vista of Anor Londo's cityscape. There's a long lineup of people along red ropes, waiting to enter, while another line has people walking out chatting amongst themselves.

Johan is squealing. "You.. get to visit the main castle!" he exclaims to the two. "Isn't that sweet?"

"How long is the waitup?" Dietrich asks, and as if in answer the entire lineup starts shuffling inside, and before they know it they step onto a large circular pedestal, bunched together. Their stomachs churn as the pedestal spins around as it swiftly descends down to the bottom level, and they climb down a freight of stairs spiralling below the elevator, until they come to the walkway outdoors.

"That was the original elevator," a tourist says to another. "Shows how much ingenuity they had back then."

Ahead is the castle, with elaborate spires at the top and windows of frosted glass.

What gets Emilia is the cliffs behind the buildings, the cliffs where all the trees are and where they came from before. It seems like a mile away, even though it hasn't felt like she'd walked far. Not only that, but the black depths to which one can fall into if you get pushed overboard the walkway.

Not only that – a very faint sort of buzzing somewhere in her body, like that phantom pain she felt before.

Everyone clambers up a set of stairs into the first gates, where the giant doorway of the castle is open, guarded by two giant suits of ornate armours, too big for normal people to wear – they are statues, oui?

Inside, it is like a cathedral's solemn atmosphere, as everyone's murmurs echo in the giant hall, lit only by scattered sunlight from the orifice above.

"Gather round, people, gather round!" A tour guide's amplified voice booms amidst the people. "I welcome you to the castle! Please, stay close as I take you around the available rooms the castle has."

"What is that over there?" Emilia asks, pointing to the large doorwayup ahead – covered perfectly by what looks like mist. Just looking at it makes her fuzzing worse.

"That's an inaccessible area," the tour guide goes. "I will be showing you why in due time."

~

They journey up another flight of stairs to a second floor, where the tour guide leads them from room to room. One room has a long table with utensils and chairs, with a lit fireplace giving it a nice ambiance. Another room beside it is a lavish bedroom; it must have been where one of the royal highnesses have slept, cupboards and all. Emilia feels like landing on the quilt bed, but "no touchie."

The bedroom leads into an antechamber where stairs climb up to outside, on one of the roofs. A romantic night could be spent here, watching the stars while the kingdom sleeps. (You just need to bring chairs.)

The most interesting thing though is the misty doorway back in the main hall, which a few intrigued tourists stare at. Around it are a few windows into a room, but they're too high up to properly see inside beside the ceiling.

"Now, the impenetrable barrier!" the guide says. "I know what every one of you must be asking: what secrets lie beyond the barrier? Why haven't we gotten past yet? I'll share with you a little story – one of the researchers used suction cups to crawl up to the windows like Spider-Man, ja. He took some photos and shared it with the rest of the excavation team. From what we can tell, it is a very opulant room, much like this one, with the sun lighting beautifully through the frosted windows. But it appears to be all but empty, except for doorways that lead to places unknown.."

The guide's voice fades away for Emilia; the strange sensation is bursting inside of her now, like a searing heartburn. She doubles down onto her knees, clutching at her chest, a pained groan escaping from her throat.

Johan hurries to her side, and carries her away from the crowd to a more private corner – Dietrich following them a few seconds later.

"Emilia!" Johan goes – he is really panicked.

"It.. hurts.." she strains out, her eyes growing unfocused with the spreading pain. "Johan.. call an ambulance.. please.." Her mouth quivers. "Please..!"

"I'll get the ambulance, do not worry," Dietrich says, with his phone already out for the calling.

"Where does it hurt?" Johan asks.

"It's my chest," Emilia half-whispers, letting Johan part her arms and lift away her jacket for a closer look. Wait, what is he doing? "No, no," she says, "take me to the washrooms first." You can see Johan's cheeks flush with a sort of embarassment, as the other people are staring at him, wondering what must be going on between the two.

The tour guide is strutting over. "Excuse me, is everything alright?"

Johan and Dietrich pause momentarily; this needs to be handled with some tact. Dietrich says, "Our friend is having some chest pain. It could be an ongoing heart attack – we need some space."

"A heart attack!?" The tour guide stomps his foot in exclamation. "Call an ambulance please!"

"We just did," Dietrich goes. "They're coming right now."

"Oh, okay," the guide says, wiping his brow. "That's good. You need some room, ja?"

Emilia looks the guide in the eye and nods.

"Let me help you to the nearest washroom then," the guide says.

~

The nearest washroom happens to be just underneath the staircases, and it's also for the handicapped with the changing tables. While Johan takes Emilia inside, Dietrich decides to wait outside and click text messages, so it is just the two of them in there. Someone seeing Emilia and Johan entering might imagine they're there for an intensely sensual makeout session – it's good to be able to clear up misunderstandings.

Inside, Johan flicks the light switch open and lays her down against the wall. Emilia shoves away her own jacket onto the floor. Her breaths are panicky, as her vision begins to black out for a second. It's like a giant hand writhing, trying to stretch her out from within.

"Em! Stay with me!" Johan goes.

She never got to tell him how cute his voice sounds sometimes. He is nudging up her sweater to reveal her naked belly-button; it feels a bit ticklish, and it makes her tingly inside.

And halfway up, he pauses. "Oh my--" Johan goes.

What?

"What the.." Johan's staring at something, and Emilia nudges her head down. It's hard to see at first. But it is there, just above her belly-button – a deranged, red scar that seems to be arching higher up to her chest.

"Do you mind if I can pull your sweater off?" Johan asks – a petite shyness in his eyes that he would be seeing his friend in a new, intimate light. Suddenly, Emilia almost forgets about the chest pain as the tingling inside her grows. Her cheeks flush and she nods, and with her arms all the way up, Johan gently pulls away her sweater and shirt, leaving her exposed with only her black bra over her breasts.

Her breaths are shaky as her heart flutters, beating and beating with the sort of excitement you would get from running after a long while. She has this urge for Johan to touch her, an urge she did not realise could happen between her and him. And what must Johan be feeling about her? Like this, in this washroom?

He is quite close to her, and she feels his warm breaths over her – that glimmer in his eyes.

But then, to break the silence, this comes out of his mouth: "What happened to you Emilia? That scar there.." (Damnit. She almost frowns.)

She glances down at herself, and sees that the scar extends up to her neckline. It's a perfect circle, with the circumference going just around her breasts – as if something had made the scar with a fine blade, rather than being an accidental hard scrape. It wasn't there when she'd gotten dressed this morning.

"I don't know.." Emilia says. Her hand reaches at her chest, over the spot where it was horribly aching.

Then a vague flash enters her mind. A fog that had been clouding her is lifting, as if an earlier dream has come back, and she remembers the water pitcher under the flourescent light. She remembers how the water tasted, icy sweet, with its invisible flavour.

And then she realises, upon drinking it, she had taken an irrevocable step into darkness. The ice she would eventually become.

"I have something to tell you Johan," Emilia goes. "Last night, I remember going out for a drink, and something weird happened. The water tasted.. it tasted icy, and then my arm began to freeze. It turned into ice. I ran back upstairs, and I saw that I was still at bed, shaking, and you were seeing me like that."

Johan is taking it in, trying to find what to make of it at first.

"I don't remember.. what happened after that," she goes.

"I think you must have been dreaming," Johan finally says. "You were dreaming when I found you having a kind of seizure. You couldn't have actually gone downstairs.."

"It's a dream?" she asks.

"It must have been," he goes, pausing for a bit. "But I don't think it's an ordinary dream – it must have something to do with your chest pain, that scar over your body.."

"How do you know?" Emilia says. "I mean, I've never been like this before I came here. I was perfectly alright then."

"I'm just guessing right now," Johan says. "I'm not really sure. But whatever this is.. I don't think it's the ordinary flu. It could be something different." He lets out a smile.

The possibility that what she's having could be something utterly new, she finds tantalizing for some reason. But also a little frightening.

(it hurts!)

Then Emilia's aching begins to surge once more. She doubles over, clutching at her chest, and a gasp escapes from her lungs. "Oh god!" she exclaims, and then she reaches for Johan almost out of reflex, holding him by his wrist. "Hold onto me-- I-- I can't-- it hurts so bad.." She is hyperventilating, her breathing in rapid pants, and all Johan can do is squeeze her hand as much as he can, maybe hoping it could help take away some of her pain.

His eyes though linger on her scar, and he grows horrified. "Your scar's moving!" Emilia's afraid to have a glance, but she does, and she sees the scar – it is a writhing snake.The sight makes her tummy ill.

"Why aren't the medics coming..?" Johan mumbles. Then he glances at the sink. "Emilia, would some water help?"

She can only nod.

"Cold water or hot?" he asks.

There's two types of constant pain; the cold pain, and the hot pain. Hot pain is the stinging, inflammatory kind of pain, like bruises and gashes, that need to be cooled down with ice. Cold pain is when you have something like stomach pains, akin to the aching numbness after being under freezing weather. "Ho-- hot water!" she pants out.

So Johan yanks paper towels from the dispenser and turns on the water tab, waiting a moment for the running water to go hot. He soaks the towers under the water and then hurries over to Emilia, the steaming water dripping onto the floor.

"Let's hope this helps!" he goes, and presses the towels over her chest.

It's like feeling scorching fire over the numbness, and yet the fire doesn't burn, it soothes and drowns away that numbness – a beautiful relief. All the water trickles down Emilia's abdomen onto her pants and the floor. It feels good. She holds Johan's hands there.

He can feel her heartbeats through the paper.

It's wonderful.

And so, she closes her eyes, absorbing herself in this moment. She realises it smells like cherries, the air.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-04-05 10:44 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 4

4

Emilia feels herself swaying back and forth. Something cold and moist rests over her forehead. When she opens her eyes, she meets face to face with the morning sun's rays, blinding her momentarily before she can see a woman's face, looking over her, with those slight wrinkles around the welcoming eyes.

"Good morning," the woman goes.

"Morning," Emilia says.

"You're by the balcony outside," the woman goes. "We figured that a little fresh air would give you vitality."

Emilia then notices Johan and Dietrich are also there – she hears them whispering, "She's awake!" She almost lifts her head up, but the woman discourages her against it. "Not yet, I want to do some checks on you first. You were having particularly violent spasms last night."

Oui, she does remember; fetching herself some water in the kitchen, and then.. and then.. what?

(it hurts)

"What happened?" Emilia asks.

"Dietrich heard noises coming from you, Emilia-- you're lucky he's a light sleeper. He saw you foaming by the mouth once he'd turned the lights on. You looked very pale. It gave everyone such a dear fright! They wanted to call an ambulance, but their arrival times are dreadfully slow. So they got me instead." She smiles. "I'm Elise. The family doctor, on call."

~

"There's nothing wrong with you physically," the doctor goes, "as far as I can tell." She puts her stethoscope away, before glancing at everyone else who's come. "But I'm afraid I'm going to need a little privacy, please."

And so, the doctor and Emilia are left alone under the sun's rays. The birds chirping in the swaying breeze.

"Now I'm going to ask you a couple of questions," the doctor says with an intent glance, a notepad at hand. "Some of them may seem strange at first. I would appreciate if you would answer them as honestly as you could, ja?"

"Sure."

"Do you tend to have feelings of paranoia? Where you imagine there's someone out to get you?"

"I'm not the type."

"Have you ever had uncanny events happen to you? Such as feelings of deja vu?"

"Doesn't everyone?" Emilia goes. "Sometimes I get deja vu whenver I'm heading out for dinner, back at the dorms. It's like.. a quaint sky that you just get absorbed in, whenever it comes."

"Interesting." The doctor jots something down. "And why do you say it's a 'quaint sky'?"

"Because.. on some days, the weather feels more prettier than others. It's hard to explain – I guess nobody really smells the roses along the way."

"So it is akin to-- you feel gloomy on rainy days, and when it's the right kind of sunny, it lifts your spirits up?"

"It's kinda like that," Emilia goes, beginning to feel herself blush. "Even rainy days, they don't always have to feel so solemn. They can be very wonderful, to indulge yourself under every raindrop and smell the wetness in the air. It's.."

You can see it on the wet surfaces. Each raindrop splashes with a unique intensity, and a million of these intensities shimmer and sing, as the leaves drift along from the trees in the wind current. In the air hums a little mystery and a little delight with the smell of spring rain, and you would feel invited to dance along to the unseen tune of nature. Don't you know how it is?

The doctor flips to another page in her notepad. "Huh. Here is what I've surmised so far: I think the problem is that you seem more sensitive to the environment than others – and sometimes, on the rare occasion, it leads to sleep paralysis. You're not the first one it happened to; I remember handling another case earlier ago, where another guest has visited this house from out the country. He also reacted like you, his first night sleeping over. He was quite fine afterwards, and he also seemed affected more by.. the mood of the place he's in. I dunno. Maybe you folks aren't used to baroque mansions?"

~

"I don't think there's any problem with your stay here, Emilia," the doctor says. "But if you ever feel there's something wrong, or if it should happen again, I'd suggest you get to a hosptial to check things up."

"I will." Emilia smiles.

"Take care."

After the doctor goes, Emilia begins to take in her surroundings. Some dried leaves scattered on the floor. A musical clinking from an unseen wind chime. When she rouses from the hammock, Johan and Dietrich have brought her breakfast – scrambled eggs alongside sliced sausage, bacon, and some Caesar salad. She smells the rich flavours before she sees them.

Suddenly she realises how much she's hungry, and her inner nerves are rattling for some nourishment. Damn, that night must've taken its toll.

"Breakfast.. is served!" Johan exclaims, laying the tray on a nearby counter. "What did the doctor say Emilia?"

"She said I should be fine," she goes. "Well actually.. she said that there's something about this house, and that I'm sensitive to it for whatever reason. I'm not sure."

"Like what kinda 'sensitive?'" Dietrich asks.

"Environmental sensitivity," Emilia goes. She's feeling shy of the subject. "Maybe it's seasonal affective disorder? She mentioned that something like this happened before, in this house."

She munches on the eggie-wegs first, going through its fluffiness.

"Hmm, now that you've mentioned it.." Dietrich says. "I think I remember there's something that happened, ten years back. My mum had a few guests staying over the summer, and one of them she said had quite the reaction his first night. The guy wound up staying at the hospital where the doctors found out there was nothing wrong with him."

"Like me.." Emilia says.

"But there was one thing that lingered eerily with me," Dietrich goes, "when he managed to recount a nightmare he had months later, where everything was encased in ice and there were angels floating all over and tormenting the few people who lived. We haven't heard from him for a long while."

(it hurts)

Emilia winces. Like a stab in her heart. The fork in her hand clatters on the half-eaten plate.

"Emilia! You alright?" Johan goes – and Emilia recognizes that same expression of utmost worry on his face. She finds herself in his warm, consoling arms before she knows it, and everything is alright.

"I'm fine.." she whispers to him, and to Dietrich. "I felt something inside of me."

"What is it?" Johan asks.

A beat.

"A coldness," Emilia finally says. She almost manages to recall that exact feeling, of brief uncanny pain. "I don't know, tell me it is nothing, please." She is glued to them with wide eyes - afraid of having to be hurt. If she only knows what really is wrong inside her. "If anything happens.. you know what to do, oui?"

~

She manages to finish her breakfast. It's quite filling – almost fattening in a way, because she feels that bloated sensation in her stomach she would get in buffets. How could she have eaten so much? It tasted so wonderful that she didn't notice until after she was done.

Dietrich decides to drive them, first for getting groceries at the local market (how dull – there's a lot of waiting around while Dietrich compares expiry dates), and then, to see the ruins of Anor Londo by foot.

Anor Londo! Dietrich says the name like it is magnificant, a place you'd be proud to share with others. He has provided a little brochure paper where you can see a bite-sized image of a cathedral top.

With rich engravings upon the walls, admirable tapestries and authentic period pieces, visitors will surely enjoy getting immersed in this gothic environment. A dense forest exists behind the ruins where within, visitors may explore and discover places of interest such as the Forbidden Gardens, the graves ofnoble knights, and more.

Reading this makes Johan giddy – he's always been an enthusiast for the fantasy things.

Anor Londo, as it overlooks a reservoir of mithril and gold, has endured many assaults and sieges from times on end for its precious resources. Two stone walls studiously guard the kingdom's inhabitants from intrusion..

It is only during the famed siege of 1594 that the kingdom fell to ruin by mysterious forces, with the survivors scattering all over the land of Germany..

After dropping the groceries back at the house, Dietrich takes them partways down the main pathway surrounded by forest.

"You mean, we're actually right by it?" Johan exclaims.

"It's around ten minutes walk," Dietrich says. "Down this way."

This dirt pathway, where a few tree roots poke out from the fallen pine needles. The smell of fresh sap and moist moss makes the air refreshening, as the occasional sun ray would glimmer from the cascade of trees.

A petite squirrel climbs down one of the branches into a hole on a trunk.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-04-05 10:44 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 3

3

Emilia is in darkness. It captiates her, it lulls her. When she wishes to open her eyes, it smiles and whispers, with a gentle nudge – only pain exists out there.

Ta-dum.

A castle over the chasms.

Ta-dum.

Angels frolick over the ruins.

Ta-dum.

Those angels, she wonders, where do they go when they finish mourning the dead? What kind of heaven exists for them? Above the dark clouds where no sunlight passes through? They don't look like doves, they look like black ravens.

They dance in certain flight until one lone man stands up from the hoard of corpses and rubble, still drawing breath. He wheezes, clutching on what seems like a gashing, fatal wound at his torso. Then they descend around him, looking at him, and through him.

They tell him something, but Emilia only hears hushed tones behind those black wings.

Ta-dum..

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-03-14 12:07 am
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 2

2

She's thirsty. Emilia feels a yearning for water in the blackness, and so, she opens her eyes to the dim room. The fatigue of sleep still lingers over her, a general aching over her body. Johan lightly snores beside her.

A chill over her naked face makes her hesitate about getting up from the warm comfort of her blankets. But her thirst eventually makes her shuffle out of her sheets. She scuffles in the dark for the bunny slippers beside her mattress, and after she slips them on her bare feet, she feels a little more comforted about getting water. Behind the door, a faint light is shining through the cracks. She tip-toes over, not wanting to interrupt their wonderful dreaming.

The hallway seems very different, so late at night, as if there is an unnatural feeling in the dim chandelier light. What time is it--? She forgot to glance at the clock-- oh, there's one by the wall. It's around 3:30.

She slowly heads down the rocco hall, allowing her senses to absorb the decor – the wax figurines on the stands, and the full body armours of warriors long gone. Would she be able to fit inside them? They look weighty. It's strange how she only really notices these things in a time like this; sleep-deprived, alone, in the dark.

Clambering down the spiral staircase, she feels the smooth balustrade over her fingertips. It's really chilly – she can almost see her breath. She wishes she could have brought along her nightrobe with her.

Where is the kitchen? She's forgotten where these hallways lead, the way they look so eerie, like in a historical museum where they immerse you in a given setting.

I wonder where the maids are..

The thought comes to look for a light switch. Emilia sees a faint green glow by one of the walls, and she inches towards it, her fingers exploring the contours. It's a dimmer. She slides the switch up and makes the halls showered in that evening light once more.

~

In the kitchen, Emilia picks up an empty glass atop the counter, and pours herself a drink from the water pitcher. As she is about to gulp down the water, she starts to feel a strange tingle in the hand holding the glass and her legs.

She manages to drink the water anyway, and the first thing she feels is how icy the water is in her mouth, feeling especially fulfilling down her throat.

She wants more.

She pours herself another glass, and a little water drips from her lips, down her chin it rains and when she breathes out, icy vapour jets from her nostrils.

She goes to put the glass in the sink. It doesn't come off her hand. It has become crystalline; and when she tries peeling it off with her other hand, it feels so unbearably cold she yelps.

But the hand holding it doesn't feel anything.

An uncanny, unvoiceable fear shoots through Emilia and she desperately tries shaking away the glued cup from her hand, to no avail. She slams the glass upon the counter's edge until it breaks into a thousand pieces, which clatter onto the linoleum floor.

Something's wrong. Under the florescent lighting, she sees her entire arm is white with frost-- her heart thumping, she staggers to the sink, hoping to indulge her arm with hot water. Foisting her arm in the empty basin (she feels absolutely nothing, it's like a statue), she tries pouring water from the tap, and when the stream hits her arm it hisses, turning into billowing mist. Like wintery air as it dissolves around her arm.

"Help--!" she moans.

When the faucet stops running, the basin is littered with a layer of ice – her arm seems irretrivably stuck in it.

Emilia begins to sob. This isn't even happening. She's stuck, hunched over the icy sink.

"Help me!" she screams, pouring all her effort into her voice. "Someone! Anyone!?"

Alors, the only thing which seems to answer is the hum of the fridge. The hum gradually seems to grow louder. And louder. Almost rattling the very air.

Then in the sink the ice and frost begin to spread, very gradually yet certainly – up the stainless steel. Up her trapped arm. It's so cold.

She has to escape.

She holds her legs against the counter and strains herself pushing back against it. At first it seems like her arm will never give (a painless, numbed tugging on her shoulder), but one more push and--

Clink! She tumbles hard on her back, seeing the counter above her like a building. The frost is going beyond the sink – it's pouring over the edge.

Emilia glances at the stump on her shoulder, where her arm had once been. Now she knows what amputees feel like. But there's no time to mope; she tries getting up with her one remaining arm, fumbling on the floor, before managing to stand and start running.

It feels awkward to move with only one arm.

She runs through the abyssal halls, her footsteps mute and desperate over the floor, her panting breath making her lungs burn. She finds the staircase where she clambers up. Midway through, she has to stop. The stairs seem to spin-- she is feeling inexplicably dizzy.

The dizziness won't go away, even when she manages to get to the upper floor. Instead, it has become a stunning headache, a soreness in her mind that makes her lose her sense of orientation. She wonders if this is even a hallway, or if she's wandered somehow into a forest, holding lost dreams and memories.

No--! She has to keep focus. Get to Johan and (what is the other guy's name?) Dietrich, fast! She runs to where the room is – she swears the suits of armours look like gargoyles.

"Emilia?"

The light inside the room's already on.

"Emilia?!"

The door handle is hard to turn.

"Oh no, Emilia!!"

She opens the door. There, Johan and Dietrich are already up – kneeling over her cot.

"Dietrich!" Johan shouts. "Call somebody! A doctor!"

There, Emilia sees herself, lying unnaturally open-eyed with foam coming out of her mouth. She wordlessly reaches out to herself, stumbling forward on weak legs, but all she sees are icy tendrils curling like vines from her shoulder.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2013-03-06 01:07 pm
Entry tags:

Demon's Paradise / 1

1

Emilia drinks scathing black coffee in her styrofoam cup as she sits by the waiting benches, watching the taxis dropping by in the waiting zone for passengers – waiting for any sign of that red VW beetle, where her friend Johan would be waving for her.

Germany's air smells different from France. She'd noticed when she first stepped foot outside the plane's pressurised cockpit, when the briskness of the air had hit her lungs, as if in keeping pace with the more staccato locale awaiting her.

So she'd bought this large-sized coffee to keep her up to grips, at least until she's nice and cozy in Johan's seat. Complete with the sugar sprinklings. It's been a five-hour flight where much of her time was on worrying that she's forgotten to pack something important, a toothbrush or her phone charger, or even worse, that her stayover with Johan wouldn't be that much fun or exciting.

While her knees bounce up and down to their own rhythm, she catches someone's eye – a nice boy with too much eyeshadow who gives her a friendly smile.

But before a cliched newbie tourist conversation can take place, Johan's beetle arrives, honking through the myriads of departing taxis. All Emilia can do is give him a good wink before she catches the dapper looking Johan, opening the passenger door for her.

"Bonjours!" he greets. "Feel good?"

"Salut!" Emilia goes, readying her two luggage bags. "Can I put this in the back?"

"Oui!" His mock French is quite adorable, laced with his lightly brusque accent. Ever since she studied at Lyon University, he has made her feel welcome in a sea of a million other faces, and now she is about to have a two-week long stay at a 'fancy home of his friend's.' An old gothic mansion, he described it, inherited down from a long line of heritage. She's never met Johan's friend, but he said while he could on the snobbish side, he is also very faithful and handy when it comes down to the worst of times. (Like doing a paragraph or two on a report in his spare hours.)

She strains with effort, lumping her bags behind the seats, and soon she can relax her derriere as Johan pulls them away from the airport. The roaring engines disappearing behind.

"How was the flight?" Johan asks.

"I'm pooped," Emilia goes. "I wanna get some shut-eye for a while. The airplane seats are horrible for sleeping, they're stiff. It's like eating a bag of pretzels for dinner."

"Aww-- I was thinking of playing music.."

"Sure, go ahead." Emilia brushes away some hair before letting her eyes droop. "How far away is your friend's mansion?" she mumbles.

"It's about 40 minutes away, near Dusseldorf."

She feels as if she could sink into the leather seat. Briefly, she wonders what sights she might miss along the way. So tired..

And though she can feel the reverberations of drum n' bass through her bum, she doesn't mind, it's bass massaging.

/

"Hey, we're here already!" She feels his pokes on the shoulder and already she is opening her eyes. The manor gates greet her, where the grilles are barbed at the top. It's overcast, a grey and solemnly contemplative sky.

Johan unfurls the window and waves – and the gates swing open. Hm, it must be a hidden camera somewhere.

As the beetle drifts down the pathway, Emilia is awed by the luscious forest. The old gnarly trees, and the dark shadows in-between you can imagine getting lost in.

Eventually, she can see a clearing where the mansion lies. A baroque residence. The chestnut walls with its leering windows, and close to it by the entrance is a white, faded statue of a gentleman, with a classy hat. Emilia can imagine that must be one of the ancestors.

Someone is there, a guy waiting by the steps, who approaches the beetle. He's adorned with a rouge vest, looking like one of those bookish nerds with a more confident poise.

"Johan!" the guy goes.

"Oii!" Johan goes. He nudges at Emilia-- "That's Dietrich." Unfurling the window, he greets Dietrich with lively chatter and kisses.

"Is that Emilia?" Dietrich eventually asks, glancing at her. "Hello there, madamoiselle. Hope you make yourself at home."

"Every chance I get," she says. You can tell he's already a little flustered about her, and maybe that will make things interesting.

"Let's get you folks inside," he says.

/

Dietrich leads them to the garage at the back. Beside the space where Johan's beetle gets parked, there is a black mini-SUV which the beetle gets squeezed by. Emilia has to gently inch herself out the door, lest she make an unfortunate dent, and she catches the whiff of lingering oil and grease, making her feel dizzy for a bit. Dietrich puts his gentlemanly charm to use, carrying some of Emilia's heavier bags along the way inside.

They enter into a hallway, a brightly lit stretch of gold chandeliers overhead. Already, Emilia begins feeling that the house is much more ornate and exquisite than she could have imagined. Cinnamon incense makes her nose tickle, as Emilia follows Johan's friend past some working maids in the kitchen, and upstairs over to a nice bedroom.

"You can unpack your stuff here," Dietrich goes. "Usually my parents want guests to put their stuff in the basement, but it's stuffy down there. You'll be sleeping with me, you two."

It's quite roomy, and there happens to be two mats laid down beside the comfy bed. There are pics of Dietrich on the shelves, alongside trophies and literary novels like Jane Eyre. What a snob!

But the view out the window is nice, you can see the nice gardenhouse at the back, along a horizon of forests and clearings.

"I brought my sleeping bag over, hehe," Emilia goes.

/

At dinner, the maids have cooked bolognese spaghettti, with meatballs and a side helping of salad served on silver platter. They come in like King's servants, putting the plates and utensils on the table like it's choreographed ballet.

"Dinner is served!" one of them announces.

The dining room is fairly modest compared with the rest of the house. Along the walls, there is a dark portrait of a magnificant, labyrithine kingdom and fighting warriors.

"That's one of my great-grandfather's," Dietrich goes. "The siege of Anor Londo, 1594. I think one of my family took part in that."

"How interesting," Emilia remarks, sipping a strand of spaghetti. "It must've been a glorious battle – were they--"

"Defending? Yes, of course. The way I heard it from my papa is that those who they were fighting against.. weren't at all human. They fought more like cold madmen than hot-blooded barbarians, and it's only because of reinforcements that Anor Londo was saved, by a hair's width."

At once Emilia imagines the adrenaline rush of having to preemptively slash through a knight before he could land a killing blow on her. The atmosphere of desperation with the feeling you're not going to last the night. It's so exciting, that she doesn't quite make out the rest of what Dietrich is saying about--

"..one interesting legend is that the Nordic invaders had deliberately cursed themselves with a ritual, to draw out the human warmth which gets in the way, leaving a cold, indifferent visage that could conquer foes like they were playing a game of chess. No fear, no pain."

"Reminds me of that one RPG I played," Johan goes.

"Which is?"

"Darn, I forgot the title - Dark.. Something."

"So Emilia," Dietrich says, "what're you expecting to do for the sleep-over?"

Now questions like this bug her for some reason, because she usually has no answer about what she wants to do; it is like when she goes out for shopping, and besides the obviously missing groceries like milk and cooking oil, she doesn't prepare a shopping list – it depends more on what the store has on stock that she encounters.

"I dunno," Emilia goes. "Are there any castles we could visit? Or burlesques?"

"Sure, I got some castles in mind already-- we can see the Anor Londo ruins, the one I was telling you about. But what's a burlesque? It's like a--"

"It's a kind of show at nightclubs," Emilia says. "They have jokes, magic tricks on stage, music, and erm.. strip tease."

"Ohhh! That thing." (Emilia's wondering if he's exclaiming 'Ohhh' especially because she mentions strip tease.) "I've never been to one of those, actually. It's not like a pub or anything, is it? But I think there's something like it in town. I'll have to go see, but sure. I add burlesque to our to-do list."

The atmosphere inside a burlesque is tantalisingly immersive, magical in a sort of way. The first step inside the lobby room and you can already feel the tingle. Video games and movies can be enjoyable, but burlesques allow you to utterly forget mundane realities for a night, so you can be astonished by the performances, the drinks, the lights.. everything. Sometimes Emilia would take Johan along for a ride – ticket prices could be outrageously demanding on the wallet however.

And maybe one day, Emilia could dance and sing on stage like those fey faeries.

/

For the rest of the night, Dietrich gets them familiar with the main rooms of the mansion – where the nice washrooms are, and where they can grab a snack or drink in the kitchen.

"Do you mind if I can shower?" Emilia asks, thinking of the washroom.

"Go right ahead."

Johan is the first to be brushing his teeth, and Dietrich takes a long shower. When Emilia gets her turn, she stares at the ornately framed mirror, at her face behind the layer of steam after she finishes rinsing off.

Inside, there is an angel in hiding.

She dresses up in her pink pajamas and bunny slippers, and heads over to Dietrich's room. The light has been turned off, and Johan and Dietrich are just busy blabbing about stuff. Basketball. Shooter games. Funny stories.

(Once, Emilia tried a match of Counter-Strike, but the guns all seem so wonky when you're trying to aim. Gah.)

She listens to them, pretending to sleep, musing to herself about how distant she feels from their mundane topics, and yet the things she wishes she could relate to.