We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906)

Chapter III
Salty tears of agony…

When the temperature drops several degrees, it could only mean two things. Either your body is currently visiting a freezer or the hour between the sun and moon has clocked in.

However amusing the first had sounded, he would agree with the last.

But letting his mind register what his ears are hearing, the cold freezer sounded much more appealing than this.


"Don't jump into conclusions, Cloud. Even if the description fits Yuffie, she is our friend. She already stole our materia once and she received most of the materia after the battle. Why would she try again?"

Cloud sighed, and his eyes grew tired. "I don't know, Tifa." He replied. True, why would that ninja want them anyways? As far as he knew and experienced, the huge materias had a supreme power but otherwise they were almost useless. They were incapable in battles, despite their size and features. Then again, he was a person that could walk on thin ice rather often.

He glanced around in the mist. The motorcycle stood where he left it but nothing else. Ever since he had reached the slums, the feeling of eyes on his back was quickly growing. Bandits roamed the slums and were always greedy; they would face anything if they could get their sticky fingers into someone's pockets.

"I'll call Yuffie, she could've heard something."

"In Wutai?"

"You never know."

A cold chill ran down his spine and he turned around.

Again, his eyes met nothing but mist and frost.

"I'll call you back, Tifa. See if you could reach Nanaki again."

"Alright Cloud."

With the last word said, he closed the phone. Just as he did, another sound echoed through the empty space and Cloud turned around for a third time.

In one of the corners stood a shadowed figure with short, dark blonde hair and trimmed shades. The man had a smile on his face, like he knew a secret no one else did.

Blue eyes narrowed as his right hand reached for the handle of the sword. This one however was not a bandit.

Since when did they wear black business suits and sunglasses?

The man chuckled as he saw the small movement of the swordsman's hand.

"So this is the soldier then."

Bumping, rocking and swaying, it never seemed to stop. The wagon had seen its better days, but its occupants did not seem to care. Wherever the road led; the wagon followed. But they could at least have chosen a better road!

"What are ye naming then?"

The figure glanced up at the man. Over his thirties, sunburned skin and stuffed over his belt. His gold teeth glinted in the faintest light as his brown eyes glittered with past youth. Dark locks stayed ruffled, trying to cover the bald part that seemed to shine every time the lamp came near.

Still, that unnerving smile, that stretched as a half-moon... didn't his cheeks hurt?


The man seemed surprised, perhaps because the name was familiar to him, or perhaps the fact of gender did its cause. He chuckled, rather embarrassed and scratched an itchy part on his ruffled skin. "Terah huh, got any last name missy?"

Even small words held great meaning and the figure named Terah, answered with a silent glare before turning back to staring outside.

Brown eyes darted away from her and scanned nervously around the wagon. This was the second wagon, one of the oldest and the finest, filled with goods from past decades. The leading wagon was ahead, where the manager resided. Terah had met him; you always had to meet him if you were to work with him. Very nice and true gentleman, however, even he had seen his better days.

The festival was getting nearer by each day and he had to be on time. Father time, they used to call the manager, always being punctual. They were soon there, no worries but setting the place up was the big job.

"So you're this so called harvester I've heard so much about." Again Terah looked up. The happy man, as Terah wordlessly called him when they first met, was the caretaker. Curious was he not? "Where's your scythe, mate?"

Though Terah knew he wished for a better role.

"Beyond your reach."

The caretaker sighed and massaged his temples; she could tell he was getting annoyed. "Listen mate, its nice dat you've got this rough attitude of yours but when I'm in this cart, there'll be respect, ye hear?"

Unmoved by his try of lecturing, she closed her eyes and leant back. "If I were you, then I wouldn't be worried of those who disrespect me. The real matter would be on what day this carnival is at."

He blinked, the puzzlement slowly creeping over his features. "On Halloween." He replied uncertainly.

At this, Terah nodded. "Ah yes, Halloween or All Hallows Eve as it was called in the old days. The day when the dead comes back." she was not surprised by his answer, many people had forgotten the old ways.

"Dat's just a story, mate. Dat's what me mother once believed as a child."

"Your mother was very wise then." The corners of her mouth stretched into a smile as her eyes glowed mischievously.

"Ever heard of All Hallows Bloody Eve?"

Elle sat on the green, worn-out sofa, not really caring about the musty smell of age. The TV flashed with sudden images of terrified people and a wreckage of a town in the background. People of all different kinds, small and big, thin and thick, light and dark, Elle could not count them. Everyone ran like a horde of frightened animals.

…….how funny could you get?

She was no person to give sarcastic comments and see the fun in it. To her, it was the truth.

…….again…two within seconds.

Tifa would have cried.

The sound raised in volume as two kids ran through the living room. Unaffected, Elle continued to watch the news.

A man dressed in linen blouse and pants dashed through the crowded plaza, eager to escape the danger that crashed against the shore. Against the fact that his voice couldn't break through hundreds of other people, the man yelled for all what he was worth. "Donde está mi hija!"

He was a father…

A small girl with black hair and once colorful bathing suit now smudged with dirt and sand, screamed and cried top of her lungs. "Madre!"

Seven years old…

The reporter caught another man, probably one of the staff members at the inn as for the outfit. His eyes were red and dirt stuck to his face. The short black hair was drenched in water and sand. Still he took time to speak a few words. "La onda... acaba de venir...Dios!" His voice failed him as he broke into shock once again.

The reporter let the man go and turned back to the screen, microphone close to her face. "Solamente dos horas después del terremoto que entró en erupción esta mañana, los ciudadanos de la ciudad elogiada sol han estado bajo otro acontecimiento, hecho por la furia de la naturaleza."

Crimson eyes stared at the news, totally aware at the burgundy eyes staring at her.

Tifa watched as Elle paid full attention to the TV. A frowned crept over her brow. She did not know Elle understood the language of the sunny town. But then again, Elle never shared any of her background with someone else.

A dark mystery.

Reminds me of Vincent; dark, pale, and moody.

She inwardly smiled when the thought developed.

Maybe she is from his later lineage.

New images flashed and caught Tifa's eyes. Turning back to the screen, her eyes darkened.

"No words can describe their feelings right now."

"…nor the joker."

Taken aback, the fighter turned to the girl. That girl must have eyes everywhere or a sensitive hearing, she could have swore that the whisper was inaudible. She let that slip though, it's rarely Elle continued with a reply of a conversation someone else started. "What?"

Elle stood up and walked towards the screen, letting a pale index finger touch a small form of a human near the building. "There."

Burgundy eyes followed the finger and frowned at the figure. Dark blue cloak with an equal blue hat that was divided in two sections, like two tails, danced in the wild wind. Nothing much could be seen though, but indeed it looked like a joker they used to fight in the open plains. Yet, it was too small and it seemed to stand on its own feet, not levitating on cards.

Odd things get stranger. Yes, it was true. Things change by time. Just like what Elmyra had said one time. "Time passes, people move. Like a river's flow, it never changes." A flow never changes its path, and in time, history repeats again.

Coming back on the rail, Elle had disappeared and so had the joker. Her ears caught the sound of a closing door and presumed that Elle was in her room. She must have been in a very deep thought; she never noticed the girl walk pass.

A tired sigh escaped her lips and she turned off the TV. She slumped down in the armchair and closed her eyes. On every channel, there was news about either the earthquake or the tsunami that hit Costa del Sol. Many people had died today. So far, over one hundred corpses have been found in the city and thousands in and outside Costa del Sol. Nevertheless, many more were to be found.

Tifa turned her head to the small table were the radio stood. The silence drew her mad but she did not have the strength to listen on more sad news of death and still missing people.

The clock on the wall ticked, echoing through the house.

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

Stubborn; she was stubborn and she admitted it.

Tick, tock, tick, tock…


Tick, tock, tick, tock…

I'm not gonna do it!

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

I'm not interested!

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

I am interested.

Her hand flew to the power button and her head chanted for anything besides news.

A small tune soared pass as her hand rotated the small wheel. She turned back.

Hearing the tune again, Tifa strained her ears to listen.

A beautiful symphony of several violins, all of them playing together as if they were one. With the intro done, a woman's voice almost floated in, like a bird in the sky. Tifa closed her eyes, enjoying the music with heart and soul.

Quando sono sola
sogno all'orizzonte
e mancan le parole,
si lo so che non c'è luce
in una stanza quando manca il sole,
se non ci sei tu con me, con me.
Su le finestre
mostra a tutti il mio cuore
che hai accesso,
chiudi dentro me
la luce che
hai incontrato per strada.

Time to say goodbye.
Paesi che non ho mai
veduto e vissuto con te,
adesso sàli vivrò.
Con te partirò
su navi per mari
che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono più,
it's time to say goodbye.

The man's voice, that joined in made the song even more beautiful. She never heard anything so beautiful.

Quando sei lontana
sogno all'orizzonte
e mancan le parole,
e io si lo so
che sei con me, con me,
tu mia luna tu sei qui con me,
mio sole tu sei qui con me,
con me, con me, con me.

Time to say goodbye.
Paesi che non ho mai
veduto e vissuto con te,
adesso sàli vivrò.
Con te partirò
su navi per mari
che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono più,

Together they sung with grace. She loved opera singers, they could sing alone and together, just like these two did now. All together with the orchestra.

con te io li rivivrò.
Con te partirò
su navi per mari
che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono più,
con te io li rivivrò.
Con te partirò

Io con te.

Time seems to flash by and the song played its end. Another small tune soon came and a male's voice jumped in, young and eager.

"'Time to Say Goodbye', sung by Sara Nightingale together with Anders Minnelli. Don't forget to buy the tickets to their glorious opus in Midgar. We wouldn't want to miss that now do we? By the way, Susie you hear the ruckus out there?"

"In fact I do, Roger. The earthquake really rocked the city big time in a way that would have even put Alex Copper to shame. I hope it doesn't delay this year's Halloween festival."

"Oh dear I hope not. The yearly rumors of the festival are quickly growing, as usual and it speaks of a certain storyteller, am I not right Susie?"

"Right you are, Roger. Not much is said about this mystery figure but I guess we have to wait and find out do we?"

"Ah yes, and don't forget the wanted rock legend Samael is performing LIVE when the clock strikes midnight. Hehe, I can hear that there some fans in the studio too."

"Can't wait to hear him on stage. The clock strikes two in any minute now and we will be back with more music."

"More news."

"More gossip."

"And more entertainment."

"This is Mix Midgar."

Tifa turned off the radio and thought of the upcoming event. The kids were anxious about the festival, playing games, watching magical performances and eating candy until they are about to explode. She had to admit, it sounded fun this year. Every time, new events occurred and the festivals grew better and better.

But the opera sounded wonderful.

"A new era have begun soldier, your time has passed." The woman's voice spoke with amusement.

The man's green eyes glinted with excitement. "Indeed, why keep a locket you can't open when you have all pleasures you could get in front of your eyes."

Cloud's eyes darted between the two. The man and the female, both dressed in black suits and shades were people on the same level as assassins. Experienced as he was, two against one, armed and dangerous in a slum valley with no chance for possible backup, did not bode well. With one last glance at them, he dashed to the abandoned vehicle and climbed on. Within seconds, he sped off.

Both assassins stared impassively as the blond swordsman drove off, neither of them making the slightest move to stop him.

The woman sneered, gracing her steel claws against the metal wall. "Oh, how did I know there would be complications?"

The bed was soft and comforting, but Elle was not tired. Something was on its way. Crimson eyes stared of into space, ever so slightly moving as if catching obstacles moving in the air.


Elle's eyes blinked before she turned to the window. She gazed out into the city's looming buildings that looked like high spears. One building caught her eyes and they traveled upwards.

Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down

The figure disappeared.

To be continued