Chapter 18: The Zero Hour
(Originally posted on deviantART on September 1, 2015)
After what has technically been a three-week long winter break, it was time for the students of Miyamotopolis to return to school. Nintendo High was bustling with activity as students and staff alike were either sharing the events that had taken place for them over the break or showing off the gifts they had received for their respective gift-giving holidays. There was, however, one topic of discussion that kept cropping up, one that did not have any sort of remaining holiday cheer. Something that had happened just two days before they had returned to school.
"Dude, that's entirely messed up," Yoshi said as he swallowed the piece of watermelon he had bitten off. "Even now I still don't get how anyone could kill even one person, let alone three at once."
"That's not even the worst part," Tom Nook said, grimacing in the slightest bit of dread. "It dives straight into creepypasta territory when you get into the extra details."
Yoshi stuck out his tongue in disgust. "Oh yeah, I forgot about that," he groaned. "Yick."
"Wait, what extra details?" Guy asked.
"Didn't you hear?" Zidane asked with a raised eyebrow. Guy shook his head, so Zidane elaborated. "The human and Hylian victims' bodies were completely drained of blood," he said, clearly trying to play up the creep factor of the situation. "The only bit of their own blood left anywhere near them was stains on their clothes where they were stabbed. The Rito that was with 'em still had most of his blood in his body, at least what didn't spill out from the wound."
"Ewwwww," Guy moaned, pushing away his lunch tray. "Do we really have to talk about this while we're eating?"
Ashley shrugged. "I dunno, I find this stuff kind of fascinating," she said as she took a sip of her drink.
Amako gave Ashley a weird look, then wrote out something on the tablet she kept to communicate when Waka wasn't around. She showed it to those sitting opposite of Ashley so she couldn't see what she had written. "Remind me again why we hang out with her?" the screen read. Presumably to not upset Ashley, no one responded aside from Tom, who merely shrugged.
"Wait, what did she say?" Ashley asked, her typical monotone speech having a hint of suspicion in it.
Tom tensed up. "Um...she was wondering where you got your cool rabbit bag!" he hastily replied.
Ashley turned to Amako. "Is that true?" she asked. Amako nodded nervously, taking care to keep the screen of her tablet hidden from Ashley's view. "...okay, then. Sure you did."
Yoshi glanced up at the clock on the wall. "Oh, almost time for class," he said. "I gotta get going. See you guys."
Yoshi got up from the table and left, as did Zidane and Amako as Yoshi's mentioning of the time reminded them that it was nearly time for them to leave as well. The three juniors passed by Bowser and Ivo, who happened to be discussing the same case. "It doesn't even make any sense from a scientific standpoint," Ivo said in utter disbelief. "From the way it's described in the article, it seems that the two human victims were drained of their blood shortly after their death. I can't think of anything capable of pulling that off that'd be found in this area." He shook his head. "And leaving the Rito victim's blood alone seems odder still. If you're going to drain your victims' blood as a modus operandi, why only do it to two victims out of three?"
"I'm tellin' ya, man, it's gotta be vampires," Bowser insisted. "Picky eater vampires."
"Again with your ridiculous conspiracy theories!" Ivo shouted in frustration. "Remember last time you brought one up? We were practically chased out of Junes!"
"You can't deny that Giegue was acting super-suspicious," Bowser reminded him. "And I was right about one thing, wasn't I? He's definitely a space alien!"
Ivo groaned. "Bowser...that was already knowledge in the public record."
"Doesn't change that I was right about part of it," Bowser retorted with a chuckle. "In any case, I still stand by my idea that we've got vampires in Miyamotopolis. And if they're not real vampires, then they're probably a couple rogue members of that subculture of edgy goths that think they're vampires who went too far with a knife and some kinda blood vacuum."
"Whatever you think, just keep in mind that I will have no part in it," Ivo said sternly.
Bowser shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said. "You're practically a shut-in anyway, and vamps can't get in your house if you don't specifically invite them in. ...At least, I think that's how it works." He laughed. "Anyway, you'll be fine, asshole."
Ivo gave him a weird look. "Thanks...?" Bowser patted Ivo on the back, which felt more like a hard hit, then he left for his next class. Alone, Ivo let his head sink into his hands. "...why couldn't I have just stuck to hanging out with the other science kids?"
Over the next few days, the shroud cast over the city by the strange triple homicide made the streets of the night take on an unfamiliar sinister quality. As a large city Miyamotopolis was no stranger to crime, violent or otherwise, but the bizarre nature of this particular incident put many of its citizens on edge. People who would normally feel perfectly comfortable walking the evening streets now took to staying indoors if leaving was unnecessary. The only people who were on this particular street were a trio of thugs; Wolf O'Donnell, an expellee, and drop-outs Panther Caroso and Leon Powalski.
As they made their way down the darkened side street looking for trouble, they noticed an odd figure coming toward them. The figure approached, revealing itself to be a young boy dressed in white and red, with white hair draped across most of his face. He shambled forward with a wobbly gait that made it seem as if he were somehow intoxicated, drugged, or otherwise taken out of his senses. "What's a little runt like you doin' out this time of night?" Wolf asked the boy smugly.
"Yeah, don't you know?" Panther added with a sly smile. "There's a bloodthirsty killer on the loose in these parts."
The boy kept walking past them, mumbling something under his breath. "What'd you say, kid?" Wolf growled.
"Not human," the boy murmured, just at audible levels. "...Not worth the effort."
"What the hell?!" Leon shouted. "Racist little punk!" He lunged at the boy, a switchblade in hand, but was shoved away into a nearby wall with surprising strength. "Augh," he moaned, grabbing his head where he had hit the wall. "God, what even are you?"
"...You guys said there was a bloodthirsty killer on the loose, right...?" the boy asked ominously. His face gained an unsettling grin. He reached behind his back and drew a pair of swords, their blades stained a dull red. Without the slightest hesitation, he slashed his swords at both Leon and Panther.
"Oh god—!" Wolf screamed. Thinking quickly, he pulled a concealed blaster out from under his jacket. He fired at the boy, but with superhuman speed he reflected the weapon's beam with his sword. The reflected beam shot right into Wolf's eye before he could even process what had happened. He grabbed at his eye and howled in pain.
"Think I should finish them off, then?" the boy asked, though the person he was supposedly asking was nowhere to be found. "...Huh," he finally said after a pause. "Guess you're right." The boy sheathed his swords and, no longer showing any of his initial weak façade, leapt away into the night, leaving the three thugs to their own devices with their injuries.
"God dammit, Ivo, I swear next time you ditch me at the midnight showing I'm gonna break your favorite laser cannon!" Bowser growled to himself as he ran (well, as best a Koopa of his size can run) down the nearly empty streets. "Crap, man, you were supposed to be my ride home! I can't afford another damn late arrival!" At that moment, a person landed in front of Bowser. It was a boy dressed in white and red, a single large, red eye visible through his messy white hair. "Hey, watch where you're landing', ya little runt!" Bowser shouted. "I'm havin' a bad enough night as it is!"
The boy looked up at Bowser, his single-eyed stare boring into Bowser like a creepy laser. "Another one?" the boy muttered, drawing his swords.
Bowser glared at the boy. He may not have been one of the smartest Koopas he knew, but he could always see the signs of when a fight was about to start. "You don't wanna do that," he said with a cocky smirk. "You have no idea who you're dealing with."
The boy said nothing, instead choosing to swing one of his swords at Bowser. The Koopa blocked the sword strike with one of his wristbands, punctuating the first strike with an angry growl. "What's your deal, punk?!" Bowser grabbed the sword and threw it aside, along with the boy holding firmly onto its hilt. The blade left a shallow cut in his scaly palm, though seeing it caused him to wince more than the pain from it would have.
Seemingly unfazed, the boy jumped back up and ran at Bowser, screaming, swords outstretched at his sides. "Back for seconds, huh?" Bowser laughed arrogantly. He took in a breath and released it as a long stream of flame in the boy's direction. The boy dodged all of Bowser's fire breath shots with unbelievable speed. He had almost reached Bowser again with enough range to make a decent strike with his swords when a side door opened beside them and a man in a bathrobe and slippers stepped out.
"Hey, you rowdy hooligans!" the man shouted, shaking his fist at Bowser and his opponent. "If you're gonna fight in the streets, take it somewhere else! I've got kids sleeping in there and I'm not afraid to call the police if you keep up the disturbance!"
Immediately the boy stopped his attack, one of his swords mere inches away from Bowser's face. Confused, Bowser could only stare as the boy's face developed into a twisted, sadistic grin. "You're human, aren't you?" the boy asked, turning his head to face the man but otherwise remaining perfectly still.
The man was unnerved by the boy's mannerisms. "Uh...y-yeah, what does that have to do with anything?" he shakily asked.
The boy's smile grew wider. "Perfect." Before either the man or Bowser could react, the boy leapt at the man and plunged one of his swords straight into the man's heart. Bowser could only watch in horror as the man keeled over, dead on the spot. However, the truly gruesome event still had yet to take place. The boy took his other sword and impaled it into the corpse as well, both blades absorbing the blood from his kill like sharp metal sponges. Once he was sure all of the blood had been completely drained, the boy removed his swords from the body, their blades now entirely crimson red. "This'll be enough for now, right?" the boy asked. A long pause, then his smile faltered. "...Well, I can't do much more tonight, I have too many witnesses..."
Bowser stared at both the boy and the dead man, stunned from what he had just witnessed. "V...vampire...?" he choked out quietly.
The boy sheathed his swords and turned away from the gruesome sight as if it were no more interesting than a bag of trash on the side of the road. "Zero," the boy said.
"That's what he calls me."
The boy walked away, disappearing into the shadows. It took a while for Bowser to finally snap out of the shock that the situation had put him in. He took out his phone to call 911, but his cell phone battery was dead. He cursed under his breath. A commotion was heard from inside the building and a woman exited, shrieking upon seeing the man's body. "Mike!" the woman sobbed, falling down to her knees and grasping the body of her husband. "Oh god, Mike!" She looked up and noticed Bowser standing above them. "What happened to him?!"
"What does it look like happened to him?!" Bowser shouted. "Call the cops, my phone's dead!"
The woman nodded, going back into the building. Shortly afterward, a couple of police cars and an ambulance arrived. The EMTs loaded Mike's drained body into the ambulance, but because it was obvious that he was beyond saving they didn't bother to turn on the siren or lights. The police took Bowser's statement, not batting an eye when he mentioned the possibility of an assailant being a vampire or vampire-like entity. "Thank you for your cooperation, young man," one of the officers said. "Now we're going to need you to come down to the station with us."
Bowser was understandably confused. "What? Why?"
"Don't worry, you're not in trouble," another officer told him. "We just need to iron out the details of your statement in a safer location."
Bowser groaned in annoyance, but complied with the officers and squeezed into the back of the squad car.
What had been described as "ironing out the details of the statement" had soon been turned into a full-on interrogation. The chief of police, Captain Strong, and another officer were in an interrogation room with Bowser, and Strong was doing his best to grill him. "And you claim the victim was murdered by some sort of...vampire, was it?" he asked, the disbelief clear in his voice. "You do realize this is the real world and not one from a horror film, right, Morton?"
"For the last time, yes!" Bowser insisted. He wasn't as frustrated as he normally would be from being called his birth name because he knew there was no reason for cops to know his preferred handle even if they looked up his record of misdemeanors, but the annoyance of his account not being taken seriously by this old man with a badge trumped that regardless. "I don't know if he was an actual vampire or just screwed up in the head, all I know is that the kid stabbed the guy and his swords drained out all his blood."
"And what of the scorch marks on the ground?" Captain Strong asked. "Your record shows that you have fire abilities, I don't know the specifics but the point still stands that there was burning involved. Explain that."
"I already told you," Bowser said, trying his best to keep his frustration from making itself noticeable. "Me and the kid were fighting before the guy showed up."
The other officer in the interrogation room, a humanoid dog by the name of Officer Copper, groaned, sensing that this was getting all three of them nowhere. "Geez, Captain, give the kid a break," he told the captain. "He just witnessed a murder, for crying out loud."
"Witnessed?" Captain Strong scoffed. "Are you entirely sure that he was just a witness?"
"Of course!" Officer Copper insisted. "Strangeness of the identity of the assailant aside, Captain, you need to look at the facts." He held out a finger with each fact he reminded the captain of. "We took his prints and there's no evidence of him ever touching the victim's body. No burns on the victim, the only clear prints being his own or those of his wife. There's no blood on this kid, no records of him being capable of draining blood from a body. The stab wound on the vic is way too deep to have been caused by anything other than a sword, like he described, or an abnormally large and difficult to conceal knife, neither of which were found at the scene. Not to mention the statement he gave corroborates with the details of an assault case that came in earlier tonight."
"Are you challenging me again, Copper?" Captain Strong asked, his tone having a dark seriousness to it.
"If it keeps you from trying to incarcerate an innocent teen, then yes, yes I am," Officer Copper said.
Captain Strong growled in annoyance. "Fine," he said in annoyance. "Get his parents on the phone. We're done here."
Captain Strong left the room. Officer Copper sighed, then turned to Bowser. "Don't take it personally, okay?" Officer Copper said, giving Bowser as warm a smile as he could manage given the tense atmosphere. "The captain's a bit...old-fashioned, if you know what I mean. He does this kinda thing to a lot of non-humans, especially if they've already got a record." He sighed. "I really wish he'd retire already when he starts up with this nonsense. But in all seriousness, we'll keep an eye out for this white-haired vampire imitator. Thanks for the cooperation, Morton."
"So I'm free to go, then?" Bowser asked.
"As soon as we get your parents to come pick you up, yeah," Officer Copper said. "If your story's true, and to me it sounds like a lot of the major elements are, it'll be safer for you that way." Officer Copper left the room, leaving Bowser to sit alone until his parents arrived half an hour later.
The next morning, Ivo sat in class next to an empty desk, tapping his notebook nervously with his pen. He was concerned that he hadn't heard anything from Bowser the previous night. He knew his friend had been at the movies and had every attempt to come pick him up at the end as planned, but his parents had unexpectedly come home early at his intended time to leave, and when he called to explain it had gone straight to voicemail. Halfway through class, the door opened and Bowser slowly shuffled in, handed a late note to the teacher, and made his way to his seat. "What the hell happened last night?" Ivo asked.
"I'll tell you later," Bowser said.
After class, Ivo and Bowser hung around the classroom entrance for a bit. "Okay, seriously, what was up last night?" Ivo asked again.
"You're one to talk, ditchin' me like that!" Bowser growled.
"I tried to call and explain but you wouldn't answer," Ivo said. "Did your phone crap out or something?"
"Believe me, that's not the only thing that happened." Bowser shook his head, then lowered his voice. "I ended up having to spend some time with the cops."
Ivo groaned. He was used to hearing stuff like this by now. "Not again...what stupid thing did you get in trouble for this time?"
"It wasn't anything I did!" Bowser insisted. "Though the way the cop was grillin' me it would make you think otherwise..." He sighed. "I ran into the person behind those weird blood-draining killings. I saw him get another guy."
A slight bit of the whites of Ivo's eyes could be seen around the darkened lenses of his glasses, indicating just how unsettled this statement made him. "...Seriously?"
Bowser nodded. "Yup. And I was right about it being a vampire!" he half-exclaimed, though he tried to keep his voice down so as not to alarm anyone else. "Or at least...his swords were vampires somehow? I dunno how it works. Either way, I watched him drain the dude! It was gross. Zero out of ten, wouldn't watch again." Ivo said nothing, merely staring at him in shock. "What's wrong?" Bowser asked. "No comeback about how vampires are stupid and my theories don't make sense or anything?"
"I don't think now's really the time for that," Ivo said darkly. "Actual vampire or not, there's no doubt that what you witnessed was incredibly messed-up."
"Yeah." As the time between classes grew shorter, the two parted ways to their next respective classes, with Bowser left pondering one strange detail of the previous evening. "But why did he give me his name?" he muttered to himself. "What kind of asshole names their kid 'Zero', anyway?"
The white attire Zero wore did little to conceal him in the darkness as he wandered through the night. However conspicuous he may have been, he didn't seem to attract any unwanted attention. He made his way down an alleyway with his typical seemingly-drunk walk, approaching a man dressed similarly in white, his face hidden in shadow. Zero looked up at the man, an odd bit of apologetic fear present in his only visible eye. "Sorry, Zycra," he said, somewhat nervously. "I couldn't find any more tonight."
The man stepped out of the shadows, revealing himself to indeed be Masterson's estranged brother. "I know, and it is no fault of yours," Zycra told his young charge. "People are good at recognizing patterns. They've probably wizened up and stayed hidden in their homes."
"Do you think I'll still be able to get enough to become an angel like you said?" Zero asked.
Zycra put his hand on Zero's shoulder and smiled, a sinister gleam in the eye that was not obscured by his eyepatch or similarly-positioned hair part. "Trust me, my boy. I've got an alternate plan that will take care of everything."
AN: Welp, I've finally gotten all the chapters posted here caught up to what was already available on deviantART. Yay! This was my favorite chapter to work on thus far, as it finally reached a point in the overarcing plot that I'd been wanting to get to for some time, and even all these months later I'm still really proud of how it came out.
Now to get to some things that I've been meaning to address for the FF reviewers that I've honestly been forgetting. To the people who had been asking about Lucas, he and Claus will be appearing in the next chapter, though the chapter doesn't focus on them and as such they will only be making a brief appearance in the beginning. I'll likely find a good time to have more focus on them later. To Ender2142 in regards to the identity of Ivo and Vivi, you are correct in assuming that Ivo is this story's equivalent of Eggman (using his full name of "Ivo Robotnik" rather than his ovoid alias), though as for Vivi he probably technically shouldn't be here. In technical terms he is this story's equivalent of the Black Mage from the Final Fantasy series, though his name and personality is largely taken from Vivi Ornitier from Final Fantasy 9. I had kind of a standard for character inclusion in that if they weren't in the Smash Bros. series they had to appear in a game on a Nintendo console (be it original release or a port), but I couldn't resist making the Black Mage be Vivi. (Though now with the announcement of Cloud being in Smash 4 as DLC I'm going to have to figure out how to dance around that as this universe features the PS1 FF games as actual games...)
So yeah, after this updates aren't going to be nearly as regular on this end as they have been. All of the chapters up to this point had been pre-written before I even rebooted my FF account, so there was no lengthy period of actual writing process for you guys to have to wait through. Rest assured, though, you guys will be getting the release of all forthcoming chapters the same day (or at least roughly in the same 24-hour period, to account for my occasional forgetfulness and easily distracted nature) as they go up on deviantART. I'd still recommend checking there for extra stuff (username PuppyLuver), such as appropriate musical selection and character bios. And with that, I'll see you guys in the next chapter. Jess out!