The sketches were beyond thorough. Names, birthdates, height, weight, hair and eye coloring...everything was exact. We were all dressed in our assassin gear and even that was precise right down to the tiniest detail.
It scared the fucking shit outta me.
"Us." Aya's usually deep, authoritative voice had been reduced to a raspy croak. "It's us."
Blindly, I reached out and groped for his hand, still staring at the sketches. "Aya...now I'm really scared."
He squeezed my hand. "I know."
"How can this be? What should we do?" The image of the headless woman swept into my mind at that instant and I swallowed heavily, fighting not to gag. "What if we end up like-"
Aya clamped a hand over my mouth. "No." His voice was low and firm voice. "Nothing like that is going to happen to us because we're Weiss and we can handle this. There must be some kind of rational explanation for all this and we'll get to the bottom of it." His eyes were surprisingly gentle in the dim light of the candle as they held my gaze. "Promise me you'll stay strong Ken."
He was right, of course. This wasn't the time to let Weiss down. Whatever this was, who ever had done it had to be stopped. Before anything else could happen and before anymore innocent people were hurt.
I nodded, my voice holding far more confidence than I felt. "I'm fine. But," I waved at the drawings of us. "What should we do about those? Should we destroy them? Or..." My eyes widened as a thought occurred to me. "What if the evil forces are trying to get us to destroy them? And then when we do, we die too because we're part of the sketches!!! Or what if we - "
"Well I guess you're okay now," Aya interrupted wryly. "Now forget about all that because we're going to leave them here."
I blinked. "We are?"
"Yes. I don't like the idea of disturbing anything."
"But Aya, are you sure?" I shuffled my feet uneasily and looked around. "I mean maybe we should-"
Aya's voice was dry. "Ken, we're worrying about nothing right now." He gestured to the table.
The drawings were gone. Absofuckinglutely gone.
I couldn't help it. I flung myself into Aya's arms and buried my face in his shoulder. "Oh man, we're so dooooooooooomed," I wailed in anguish.
So much for my sudden resolve to be a man and take it like it is and save all the innocents. Forget the innocents, I wanted to go home!!! Dammit, wasn't I innocent? Didn't I deserve to be saved? I mean, I can handle killing bad guys and fighting Schwartz and all that. But battling the wicked in a shitty spooksville of a house where paintings looked at me and merry-go-rounds played music by themselves and pregnant women were killed brutally and pictures of us disappeared...it was too much! When had Weiss turned into the X-files? I wasn't Mulder dammit! Although Aya did have red hair like Scully...
"They're playing with us," Aya bit out scathingly, barely containing his cold fury. "Those fucking bastards."
Aya only swore when he was really pissed off so I'm guessing that he was really pissed off. In any case, his ire made me feel safe. He was one mean bitch when riled up. Of course I was tough too but he had the advantage of not being afraid whereas me...well you know.
Aya hauled me roughly from the room, stomping angrily. Yep, he was definitely mad.
A steady trinkling sound was coming from behind the door of the next room. I hid behind Aya, gripping his trench coat tightly and peeking over his shoulder as he slowly twisted the doorknob open.
I held my breath, more than prepared to run like hell. What cold-blooded terrors lay in this room? The door groaned open on whiny hinges and involuntarily I clenched my eyes shut. I was about to ask Aya how bad it was when it suddenly registered into my muddled mind that the trickling sound was water. Running water.
My eyes popped open. In the very center of the room was a huge fountain of a gargoyle spitting forth water. I wrinkled my nose. A gargoyle? How tacky.
The floor wasn't carpeted, unlike all the other rooms we'd been to. Instead, it was marble and our feet made loud thumping noises upon it. I noticed that the fountain's water was a murky brown color and there were dead fish floating in on the surface. At one time, the room must have been filled with lush, healthy plants and flowers. Now, the many pots and vases were either filled with dead sticks and rotting soil or were empty.
The room was an art studio. Paintings of scenery decorated the walls and there were countless numbers of unhung paintings stacked about. A table in the back, behind the fountain, was jumbled with paint brushes and paints and sketchbooks and other assorted art supplies. Several easels stood nearby with unfinished paintings resting upon them.
Aya lifted the candle to an easel in the corner. The painting upon it was of a quaint mountains and forest scene, the sky blue and the sun shining. Defacing the sunny little scene were thick, vivid strokes in red, spelling out 'Help me'.
It had been recently done. The red paint was still wet, dripping down the smooth canvas. The paintbrush lay on the floor, drenched in crimson goo.
Beautiful, isn't it?
A breathy whisper, brushing upon my ear.
I whirled around. There was no one there.
"This was just done," Aya muttered unnecessarily. He stepped closer to examine the mess.
Scared of me Ken?
My heart was leaping frantically as I scanned the room. There was no one and yet the voice was speaking right in my ear.
They always are
"Stop it," I hissed, backing away and bumping into the edge of the fountain.
The voice grew louder and became guttural.
Your fear tastes delicious
"St-stay away f-from me," I gasped, my body shaking ferociously.
"Ken?" Aya moved away from the easel and looked over at me.
Will he be able to save you Ken?
I shrank back, petrified out of my mind. Someone was talking to me and they knew my name!
For the umpteenth time that night, I threw myself into the safety of Aya's arms, this time barely biting back a sob.
Four moldy, smelly, creepy rooms later, Omi and Yohji finally found the dragon door. It was inside a rather barren room that kept only a few sofas, some tables and a shelf filled with tattered books. There was a door on the far side of the room and engraved on the doorknob was a delicate dragon.
"About damn time," Yohji grumbled.
Omi grinned. "I knew we'd find it sooner or later."
Yohji leveled a stern look upon the boy. "No matter what happens Omi, I want you to stay by my side. Understand? I don't want anything to happen to you."
"Of course," he replied, taking the opportunity to step closer to his older teammate. "Let's go."
Yohji reached out slowly turned the doorknob. The heaved open and he shone the flashlight into the murky darkness. Stairs were the only thing he could see. Lots of stairs going down into the dreaded basement.
Yohji blanched. This was exactly the sort of cheesy cliché that freaked him out. He really did not to go gallivanting about in the bowels of this house. God only knew what shitty-assed horrors lay waiting for them.
"Yohji-kun?" Wide blue eyes were peering up at him expectantly. "Are we still going down?"
He took a deep breath. "We're going," he responded determinedly. For the sake of Omi he wouldn't wimp out. He was older, it was his job to protect the younger boy. Aya would take care of Ken and he'd look out for Omi. Simple.
The stairs spiraled and there were many. It took about ten minutes to get to the bottom since the flashlight wasn't all that powerful and it was difficult to see that much more ahead. Also the steps were uneven and badly crumbling.
After what seemed like an eternity, they finally made it to flat ground. The hallway was classically cheesy. All made of stone with wooden torches that were hung on the wall. The hallway stretched out to the left and on the right was an enormously gigantic door.
"Door or hallway?"
Omi bit his lip as he thought for a few seconds. "Door," he decided.
Yohji, who'd been secretly hoping that he'd pick the hallway, sighed. Facing danger head on in his mind was great. Facing danger in reality sucked like crap.
They walked towards the door and before they even reached it, it swung open. Thick swirls of grey mist drifted out.
"Oh jeeze" Omi muttered.
Yohji grabbed the younger boy's hand. "Don't say anything and don't go anywhere," he cautioned sternly.
They cleaved through the mist and entered. Behind them, the door closed with an abrupt thud.
"Stuck again," Yohji mumbled wryly, shining the flashlight through the wispy fog which was dissipating.
Before them were a few of steps, leading down into an enormous, dark room. The walls were made of broad slabs of stone, the floor nothing more than muddy dirt. The haze weaved its way through the heavy coffins and crosses that were scattered throughout the entire room.
"A graveyard," Omi breathed, looking on in morbid fascination.
Yohji was not impressed. When a house had a friggin' graveyard in the basement, that usually was not a good sign!
They stepped down, the ground squishy and mucky beneath their feet. Moisture clung to the walls, the sound of rats scampering echoing. The caskets were large and stark, spread out randomly. Simple wooden crosses were tucked here and there and all along the far side were neat piles of dirt, shovels standing erect on the top of the heaps...recently covered bodies.
"There sure are a lot of dead people down here," Omi remarked offhandedly.
Yohji, who was on the verge of going into cardiac arrest, gaped openly at the younger boy. How the hell could he be so casual about all these dead bodies? Why wasn't the kid scared? The coffins could hold vampires dammit!!! The mounds of dirt could be the last victims they sucked dry!
"That's all you can say?" Yohji finally managed. "There are a lot of dead people down here?! "
Omi patted his arm. "Calm down Yohji-kun. It's just probably just a family mausoleum."
"WHO THE HELL HAS A FAMILY THIS BIG!!!"
Yohji's yelling immediately woke the entire brigade of vampire bats that were sleeping overhead. In a huge whirl of flapping wings and high-pitched shrieking, Yohji and Omi were instantly swarmed by furry, flying rodents.
"GGGGAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! My hair!!!"
Omi sighed, shaking his head. The pack of bats had flown off to another part of the ceiling, and Yohji was still shrieking and thrashing around.
"Get away you filthy flying rats!"
"They're gone Yohji-kun."
Yohji slowly straightened and saw that, indeed, they were. "Miserable shitty assed fuckers!" He rubbed at his cheek. "One bit me!"
"Bats are generally timid animals," Omi informed him, the zoologist in him aroused. "But these are vampire bats so that's probably why you got bitten. They need a tablespoon of blood a day to survive. Did you know that bats are the only mammals that can fly?"
"Do I fucking care?" Yohji snarled, harassed. Omi was an exceptionally smart kid but there was a time and place to go sprouting off biological knowledge and the cemetery of a haunted house was not it! "Vampire bats, that's a sign if I ever heard of one!"
Omi knew it was futile to try and calm Yohji down in his agitated state so he tried to be logical. "Vampires need to feed in the night so chances are they're probably not here."
"Unless they're the bats!" Yohji looked at the plethora of bats hanging upside down from the ceiling. "They're all vampires waiting to make their move."
"We'd be sucked dry by now if they really were vampires. Now come on, let's go check out the coffins. I'm sure they'll give us some clues."
Yohji glared. "Forget it! I'm not touching those things with a ten-foot pole!"
Omi shrugged, unconcerned. "Suit yourself." He snatched the flashlight from Yohji's hand and moved towards the nearest casket.
"Oh fuck." Yohji grumbled heading after him.
Aya comforted me in a very unlike-Aya way. He didn't ask me to explain anything, instead he let me cling to him and he stroked my hair. In any other situation I would have demanded to know who he was and what had he done with Aya. But alas, this was not any other situation.
Someone...or something was talking to me. They knew who I was. Needless to say, I did not have a good feeling about this.
We left the artist room and much to my joy, as well as my sanity, the voice didn't start talking to me again. We soon came to a split in the hallway. Straight ahead of us was a curling staircase, most likely leading up to the attic. To the left as well as to the right were hallways with more rooms.
"Which way?" I asked, trying to keep my voice from shaking too badly. Either way we went, unspeakable horrors were bound to find us.
"The attic," Aya answered tersely.
I nodded and then I saw it. A trail of wet, muddy footprints marking the dusty carpet of the stairs. "Aya look!" I cried, my voice hoarse. "Footprints!"
Violet eyes gleamed violently. "Now we've got them."
For the hundredth time I thanked whatever God was looking down on me for pairing me up with Aya. The guy was a mean son of a bitch when pissed off. If anyone had a chance against the powers of evil, it was Aya.
Aya stalked up the stairs, his katana matching the ominous glitter in his eyes. I hurried after him, constantly glancing around. The last thing I wanted to be confronted with was that sinister voice of that sinister...whoever it was.
The stairs were creaky and I jumped whenever we happened to step on one. I thought I was going crazy. I mean, I was scared shitless coming here but now I was beyond scared. I had entered new levels of fear. I was petrified.
That you are my pretty
I whirled around and nearly went sprawling back down the stairs. Grabbing, hold of the banister, I managed to keep upright. Aya was still stomping up the stairs, oblivious. Frantically, I looked around, trying to get a glimpse of this vile mind-raper.
You should know by now that you can't see me
"Stay away from me!" I shrieked silently. My fingers were ice-cold inside my gloves as I clutched the banister.
"Ken, what is it?" Aya looked down at me, worry marring plum eyes.
At another time I'd have been boggled that the Iceman himself was showing concern. But at the moment, I had other problems on my mind. Like how I was ready to flee to another hemisphere.
Surely you don't think he could help you
"Aya," I croaked, trembling. "Someone is - "
The window beside the stairs shattered as a solid branch, propelled by the wind, struck through the glass. Shards showered upon the filthy maroon carpet, the frantic wind swirling into the house with a shrill shriek. It was raining bitterly outside.
I still ended up nearly leaping out of my skin, my heart racing like some kind of crazy locomotive. I know I screamed and even Aya looked...well he brandished his katana anyways.
"I don't know how much more I can take of this," I muttered, waiting for my heartbeat to slow down.
"Did you hurt - "
I stopped paying attention to Aya when a white slip of paper wafted in through the broken window and fell down at my feet. I shrank back against the banister. Who knew what the hell the innocent-seeming paper contained. Some kind of demonic incantation or death threat of more pictures of us...I shuddered.
Aya came back down the stairs and bent to pick the paper up.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," I gulped out, wringing my hands apprehensively.
"Ken this paper just fell at our feet," he informed me calmly. "I doubt it was a coincidence. We're obviously meant to read it."
I sighed, brushing sweaty bangs off my forehead. At this point nothing could surprise me. Scare me, oh hell ya. Surprise me, not really.
Aya read the note silently, his expression grim.
"Well?" I finally asked, biting my lip. "What is it? Is it evil? Are we going to die?" I started to get frantic. "I'm too young to die dammit! I wanna go home! This sucks!"
"Let's go," Aya muttered, crumpling the paper into a ball and tossing it out the broken window. "I don't think you want to know what's on the paper."
No, I probably didn't.
I scrambled around the shattered glass and followed him up the stairs.
"Ken, what happened before?" he asked me gently as we made our way up the squeaky stairs.
"It really happened Aya," I warned him seriously. "It wasn't a figment of my imagination or any crap like that. I wasn't being stupid either."
"What happened?" he asked me tersely.
"Someone's been talking in my mind." Inwardly, I winced. It sounded lame even to my ears and I was used to sounding lame.
Aya arched an eyebrow in silent question.
"It's true! They said that they knew I was afraid of them and that you wouldn't be able to save me! I'm not lying, I swear. Someone really is in my mind!"
He sighed softly. "I believe you Ken."
I blinked "You do?"
"After everything else that's happened, mind games don't surprise me."
"Stupid mind games," I muttered. "Sounds like that bastard Schulderich."
Suddenly Aya stopped, mid-step. His gaze clung to mine. "Schulderich," he spat out.
My eyes widened. "Schwartz? You don't think..." I frowned. "They'd have no way of knowing that we'd be here. They don't know who Persia is. Hell, we don't even know who Persia is!"
Aya grabbed my hand. "There's only one way to find out."
We raced up the remainder of the stairs.
Part 4 | Fanfiction