TAKING CHANCES

Thanks to: The creators of all the Final Fantasy.
Without them, I would've done something creative
with the hours I spent on their games.

Driving down the highway in his convertible BMW is the newly crowned champion on the World Poker Tour. The new king of Texas Hold 'Em, Setzer, just received an invitation from his superstar twin friends to a five year reunion. The gambler couldn't wait to see his friends again, except two he wished to forget. Ever since Locke stole the heart from the woman that he wanted to make his wife, the gambler hasn't been on good terms with either of them.

The car pulled up to an orphanage, where two lovely ladies waited. One of the ladies was the care taker and owner of the orphanage, standing tall and proud, even with her bright green hair shining in the moon light. The other was her adopted daughter who seemed to dress more like a beatnik every passing day. The gambler snickered.

"Ha, ha. Funny. I dyed my hair blonde and made the stupid mistake to go swimming and lie out in the sun. Now you know, please quit laughing," the elder lady explained.

"HA HA HA! Okay, now it's out of my system. I'm sorry Terra. How is it going Relm?" asked Setzer.

"Same old, same old. Come on, we have to get there early," Relm excitedly explained while hopping into the back seat.

Relm opened up her cherry red lipstick and started to apply it on her thin lips. Quickly, the young artist started adding make-up, eyeliner, and perfume. Other then the usual lipstick, which Setzer noticed was half empty, Relm very rarely wore make-up.

The gambler smiled softly at the teenager. He will never know what effect one of the twins Edgar had on women but he definitely had won the young girl's heart. Setzer opened the car door for Terra. Once everyone was in, the gambler stepped on the gas, driving into the night.

"Now I got you," said a gentle voice.

The woman he had pinned to the wall grinned. As the man leaned over to give her a kiss, the woman slipped under his right arm and slammed him against the wall. The gentleman grinned, until he heard a click, followed up by his wrists being bound.

"Correction love. I got you," the woman calmly replied.

"Come on Celes, unhandcuff me!" yelled the gentleman.

"That's detective Chere to you Locke," Celes corrected and spun him around.

Locke was dressed in his usual business suit. He always seemed handsome but it was his calm and loving smile that made the cop lower her defenses and learn to love another. He was smiling now. Before she knew what she was doing, she was kissing him deeply and began removing his clothes. Locke started to murmur in the kiss.

With great agility, the cop pulled out her night stick and pinned her lover, under his chin, to the wall. She began kissing down his neck, down to his now bare chest.

"Celes… detective Chere. Um… I'm still handcuffed," Locke smiled and looked down at his lover from the corner of his eye.

"That never stopped us before," she replied, beginning to remove his belt.

Setzer drove up to the mansion of the martial star, Sabin Figaro and his action packed star, Edgar Figaro. Standing on the porch was the two the gambler didn't' want to see. Still, Setzer smiled, seeing that Locke had his tie wrapped around his waist as a belt. The smile vanished immediately, understanding what he must have been doing, with the woman he loved, to be in such a rush to dress incorrectly.

"Hey! Setzer, Terra, Relm! What took you guys so long?" asked Locke waving his arms.

"Hello thief," Setzer replied, leaping out of his BMW.

"THAT'S LAWYER! Say it right or…"

"Calm down, Locke. Don't let him get to you," Terra interrupted. The green haired woman walked up to her friends, hugging them both.

The gambler and the artist walked passed the trio and into the mansion. They were greeted by an old man dressed like a butler. Shortly after the two stepped into the hall, they were followed by the rest.

"Welcome. This way please," The butler waved to his left.

The butler opened a large door. The party was assaulted by dazzling lights. The room held a large table which could seat a hundred people, was filled with all different types of food and drinks. The chandeliers rotated clockwise, causing a brilliant sparkle across the room.

"Please help yourselves. The masters will be down shortly," the butler announced then shut the door.

"Alright! Leave it to Edgar to make sure we are comfortable," declared Locke sitting down.

"And you chose him over me, why?" asked Setzer. Celes elbowed the gambler in his side.

"He's predictable," she replied, sitting next to her lover.

"So, how's the orphanage, Terra?" asked Locke.

"It's going fine but life has gotten far better when I adopted Relm," Terra smiled.

All the eyes at the table fell on Relm but she was not hearing any of it. The young artist appeared to be daydreaming and sketching the man of her dreams, Edgar. Terra smiled widely at her adopted daughter.

"After the passing of Strago, we been the joys of each other lives," Terra paused, looking over to the love birds, "how about you two?"

"Oh, Locke proposed to me. We're getting married in the fall," Celes answered.

This caused Locke to gag on some steak. Quickly the lawyer drank down some water to swallow the piece of meat.

"H… Hey! I haven't proposed yet!" yelled Locke.

"Will you marry me?" asked Setzer.

"I might consider it, if Locke doesn't hurry up," smiled Celes.

"HEY!"

"What about you Setzer? How's life treating you?" asked the cop, changing the subject.

"I just won the WPT. You're looking at a millionaire," announced the gambler proudly.

"Where is everyone?" asked Relm looking around the empty and silent dinning room.

As if on cue, the chandeliers lights went out, leaving the room in utter darkness. Setzer quickly lit his Zippo lighter and started searching for any candles. The gambler lit five candles in a candlestick on the table. The glow barely covered six feet.

"What the hell!" complained Locke.

"Come on. Let's find those cheap twin brothers," grumbled the gambler.

The group quickly encircled Setzer, trying to stay under the light. The room started getting colder, as if all the walls were paper thin. The group felt it continually getting colder. So cold, they could feel the chill in their souls. The gambler ignored the feeling and walked out of the dinning room, back into the huge hall. Setzer was about to move right, heading for the stairs, until a firm hand grasped his shoulder.

"What?"

"No door."

"What?"

The lawyer turned a chalky white and pointed to the left. The group turned their heads and saw only a wall that covered the southern exit. The gambler wasn't in the mood for any jokes. Setzer reached into his trench coat and pulled out a sawed off barrel shotgun.

"What are you doing carrying around that concealed weapon?" demanded Celes.

"I'll show you the license later. Right now, I'm going to blow a hole into that wall. I'm not in the mood to be trapped in here. The twins could charge me later," said Setzer handing Locke the menorah.

The gambler loaded the gun and took aim. He focused on the center of the wall. This whole situation was disturbing. He leveled the shotgun and pulled the trigger.

BANG

The sound of the explosion echoed throughout the mansion. As the dust cleared, only a hole remained. No light could be seen from the other side. Celes walked over to the hole; something was completely wrong. The cop touched the cavity and felt wetness dripping and flowing from the gap. She took the sample of fluid to her nose, her eyes widening.

"Impossible," whispered Celes.

"What?"

The detective walked back to the group within the small radius of light. The group watched Celes entered, with their eyes lowering to her hand, which has been covered with blood. Relm turned to vomit.

"It seems the wall is bleeding. I touched the wall… and I think… I think I felt a pulse."

"Great."

"Indeed. Welcome my friends," echoed a voice coming from the top of the stairs in the hall.

The group turned to see their old friend Edgar Figaro. The room erupted in ablaze, torches illuminating the hall. The superstar appeared pale and thin, wearing a long black leather trench coat. All he needed was scars on his perfect face and Edgar would be Setzer's twin.

Edgar lifted his hand and snapped his fingers. The torches instantly were snuffed out, replaced with a loud unison of moaning. Stomping could be heard off in the distance, closing in on the group. Setzer ran to the right, hitting a door. The gambler continued to ram the portal.

"Out of the way," barked Locke, shoving the gambler aside.

Celes took aim with her handgun and fired into the darkness, where Edgar was last standing. The gun flashed, lighting the room, only too briefly. The hall was full of women who seemed like walking dead. In fact, they were exactly that. Luck was with the cop, even though she didn't know it. Where she shot, the bullet hit a zombie square in the face, dropping it. She never even saw it.

Locke was working furiously at the lock on the door. His father was the greatest locksmith in the west coast but Locke hasn't worked on a lock in years. His father always told him "Practice working with all types of locks. You never know when you lose your keys or need to get out of a jam". Locke never knew he would need to use the second part of that saying.

"This can't be happening!" screamed Setzer, stepping in front of Relm, firing his shotgun.

The gambler shot into the darkness, blowing off two zombies' legs. They continued to advance. In the throng of the mob of undead, a shadowy figure jumped out of the group. Before Setzer was able to reload, a forceful jerk removed his firearm. An undead creature walked into the light. Sabin threw the shotgun behind him and focused his attention on Terra.

"LOCKE!"

"Got it!"

With a click the door opened. The lawyer reached out, grabbing Relm as he charged into the room. Setzer ran right in behind them, followed up by Celes. Terra ran for the door but Sabin leapt onto her. Relying on her reflexes, Terra reached behind her head, grabbed the ghast and pivoted her shoulder in line and threw Sabin. Once she entered the room, Setzer slammed the door shut and Locke barricaded the door with a desk.

"Can someone tell me what is going on?" asked Terra between breaths.

"What does it look like? We're in a haunted, living house, which is infested with zombies! Edgar seems dead too; but he's running the show!" Relm screamed in reply.

"I think she means something logical," said Setzer.

"Relm's right. It's crazy. It can't be real, but it's happening. If we're getting out of this house, we need to remain calm," Celes said, calmly reloading her gun.

SLAM

"IIIIEEEEE…"

Locke muffled Relm with both his hands as another slam hit the door. Setzer walked over to what seemed like a fireplace. Indeed it was. The gambler lit the gas powered fireplace which illuminated the room. The group took in their surrounding. They were in a study with no windows. The walls were covered from floor to ceiling with shelves full of books.

"Great. The closest room has only one way out," Setzer complained.

SLAM

"I have an idea," Locke said, removing his hands from Relm.

"What are you doing?" asked Relm.

Locke began feeling around within his vest. "Decapitation maybe the only way to stop them… I hope," replied Locke taking out some piano wire.

SLAM

The lawyer wrapped the fine wire over the doorframe at shoulder length. Quickly, he removed the desk and gazed over his shoulder. Celes nodded and Relm hid behind Terra. Setzer handed Terra a leg of a chair that he promptly set aflame. After everyone seemed ready, (and the door splintered) Locke unlocked the door, pushing it outwards.

The zombies felt the door open and they dug their nails into the portal, ripping it from the hedges. Locke almost fell through but landed on his back. The lawyer scrabbled to get as far from the mob as possible. Unthinking, only moving the the desire of their master, the zombie women moved into the room, through the twine. One by one, a head was severed from their shoulders.

Locke smiled in triumph. The smile vanished when two zombies without legs started crawling towards the party. Terra threw her flaming chair leg that caught both the zombies and setting them ablaze. Relm screamed in horror, the zombies moaned in anguish. Then all was quiet.

"It worked! Great job Lo…" Setzer paused. The gambler's eyes went wide, that they seemed to be popping out.

Sabin stood outside the doorway, staring at Terra with determination. The ghast stretched his hand out with only his index and middle fingers spread apart. Like a pair of scissors, his claws snapped the twine in two. Then, he received a bullet between his eyes. The ghast dropped hard on the ground, shaking the room.

"Let's get outta here," Locke yelled while running out the doorway, skipping over the pile of bodies.

Setzer picked up Relm and climbed over the mound of dead. Celes wrapped her arm around Terra, guiding the woman out of the room. The smell of death urged them forward. Terra screamed as a hand snapped out and grasped her ankle.

Sabin placed his right hand to the side and flipped himself upright, turning Terra upside down. The martial artist glared at the cop, turning his head and spitting out her bullet. His grip tightened, tearing further into the soft tissue. How the green hair woman screamed…

Celes took aim but Sabin was the quicker. In a split second, the ghast pivoted to the side and snapped his foot up, back kicking the handgun right out of her hand. The ghast stepped forward only to be stopped by two darts embedding themselves into each of his eyes. The martial artist screamed, punching out in front of him, slamming Celes in the face. The one punch became two, then three, until it became a blurring pummel.

The cop dropped, so did the ghast. Terra slowly removed the useless claw from her ankle. Setzer went over to Celes, whose face was broken and bruised. The gambler opened an eye and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that her pupil was not dilated. Gently, he cradled her in his arms and lifted her from the floor. As a second thought, the gambler kicked the handle of her gun and turned to the right, having the weapon land into his trench coat's front pocket.

Locke ran over to his wounded friend's ankle. The lawyer pulled out a bandana and wrapped it completely over the wound. Terra smiled softly at Locke, he returned the smile.

"Can you walk?" Locke whispered.

"Yes. Let's go," replied Terra, wincing but more than capable of walking.

"How did you know where to hit Sabin?" asked Relm, directing the question to Setzer.

"I didn't. I was lucky," said the gambler. Setzer looked down at his unconscious friend and wondered how lucky he could have been. He snapped out of his reverie, realizing where they still were.

"So. Where do we go to get out of here?" asked Setzer.

"I think we should go upstairs where Edgar is and force him if need be to get us out of this cursed place," snapped Terra.

"Agreed," Setzer responded.

Relm and Locke nodded at each other. Locke ran back into the study and returned with another burning chair leg. "Well then, let's go."

"That's right, fools. Come to me," whispered Edgar.

The dark room was set aflame from an unknown source. The raw power of the lord of Figaro Manor began shaking the foundation. The tremor began small and started to rise. The group of his old friend knew not what they were in for.

Half way up the large stairs, an earthquake struck without warning. Locke and Setzer grabbed the nearest object, the banisters, while Relm fell on the stairs, holding onto the carpet for dear life. The hall trembled and paintings on the wall dropped from their frames, shattering under the quake. The stairs groaned and cracked under the shuddering force, opening a deep cavern, which Terra was kindly enough to be right above. The green haired woman reached up to grab anything to no avail. As she fell, her screams became only a whisper in the violent quake. Then, all was still and calm. Only the breath of those still standing could be heard.

"Terra!" screamed Setzer, coming to his senses. Gently, the gambler laid Celes down at the top of the stairs and went back to the hole that now covered half the stairs and half the hall. "Terra!"

"Save your breath. She couldn't have survived that fall, if there is even a bottom," replied Locke calmly, having his eyes slowly drift down the crevice.

"You don't know that! She could be alive! Terra! Terra! Answer me!"

A piece of glass passed over the gambler's left shoulder and into the deep cavity. The shard bounced off some parts of debris but it took a good minute before the shard sound stop. The piece may have finally hit the bottom or it continued to fall out of ear shot.

"Listen, if she is alive, we'll come back for her. Right now, we need to get out," Locke instructed.

"Locke's right," replied Celes, slowly sitting up. Relm ran up and embraced the detective.

"Fine," Setzer huffed walking up the stairs, "but the second I believe there is a way to escape, I'm coming back for Terra."

The gambler dropped Celes' gun at her feet and turned right up the next flight of stairs. Locke groaned, noticing the other flight of stairs that turned left was in ruin.

"Come on. You should only wait if you're trying to call someone's bluff," yelled Setzer from the top of the stairs.

She tried to move her wrists but they were bound. She tried to move her legs and they too were bound. Her eyes opened cautiously. She didn't want whoever had her to know she was awake. She popped open her eyes and saw only her naked stomach. The room was pitch black and only a hole in the ceiling that was large enough to cover her stomach, shined light from the moon outside. She felt naked, she probably was.

"Excellent, you're awake," came a voice in the darkness.

Terra closed her eyes quickly. How did he know I'm awake? I can't see a damn thing.

"Please open your eye,s Terra," asked the voice gently.

"What is it that you want from me?"

"My dear, it is time for you to know what love is. You will bear the child of my lord and master."

"Who's he? Forget I said that. There is no way that I'm going to be pregnant from anyone. I have many children."

"HA HA HA! None of which is yours. Don't you see? What year is it?"

"Two thousand five, why?"

"And put that in Roman numerals, hee hee."

"MMV, so what?"

"Don't you see? Venus, the brightest star, can only be seen in the horizon. Tonight, at exactly midnight, will Venus be behind our moon," a hand reached out and gently touched Terra on her stomach. She tried to move out of the hand's reach to no avail.

"I don't care about any of this. It doesn't make sense!"

"OF COURSE IT DOES! MMV backwards is VMM. Venus Morningstar behind the Moon! Morningstar, as in Lucifer Morningstar! Tonight will be the beginning of the life of Lucifer's son. Who better to carry his seed than a virgin woman? Quite similar to God's choosing, don't you agree?"

"Ha. Satan is no more than a copy cat."

The hand touching her stomach vanished into the darkness. The hand snapped out and grabbed her by the throat. Edgar moved his head into the moonlight, where Terra could see him. He was smiling, fangs bared.

"You will carry the Antichrist, my dear."

"I reject the Devil."

"HA HA HA! Just like Mary you… don't… have… a… choice."

"Finally!" Locke bellowed as he smashed the window open.

Taking off his coat, Setzer took out several pieces of what seemed like a weapon. Piece by piece, the gambler assembled a gun. For the ammunition, he loaded it with some rope and grapple. He stood up and fired at a nearby tree on the manor ground. As soon as the grapple hooked around a branch, the gambler tied the other end tightly around one of the bookshelves in the library. Finally, Setzer took out a few zip line hand holders.

"What the hell are you doing with a zip line?" asked Locke skeptically.

"I got in trouble with the Mob sometime back. This baby got me out of more situations than I care to count," replied Setzer with a grin.

"And you call me a thief," Locke shot back.

"Well, who's going first?" asked Celes.

"I will. Then Relm, then you, then Setzer. We'll come back with some back up," said Locke grabbing the hand holder.

A scream came down the hall, freezing Locke in his tracks. Setzer through on his coat, heading towards where the sound came from, Celes hot on his trail.

"Wait! I thought we all agreed to be gone from this place!" cried Locke.

"In a game of blackjack, one should always double down with an eleven hand," Setzer looked back.

"But this isn't a game. Double or nothing Setzer. Let's go."

"Then go love but I will not leave a friend behind. Ready Setzer?" asked Celes. The gambler grinned and nodded. Together, they left for the sound of Terra's cry.

"Fine! Relm, get on. Once you're down and safe, I'll follow okay," Locke said handing her the hand hold. Relm smiled and nodded, grabbing the hand hold. The young artist zipped down the line, letting go before she hit the tree. She turned around, scowling at the lawyer.

"Go and get help. Please, Terra would've wanted you to do such!" Locke shouted before he disappeared into the mansion.

Walking down the hallway, the lawyer turned a sideways glance into a room where the door was ajar. Locke stopped, noticing his friends were inside, looking down at a bed. Curiously, the lawyer snuck up to the two to see what they were staring at. Peering over both their shoulders, the lawyer saw a book opened half way and a passage that he couldn't make out with the little amount of light in the room.

"So… what's that?" asked Locke.

Locke regretted saying that when Celes turned around, pointing her gun in his face while Setzer had a large dagger at his throat. Both the cop and gambler looked puzzled. The fear in Locke's eyes was enough for the two to put their weapons away. After taking a breath, which Locke was holding, he asked his question again.

"Relm is getting help. So, what's that?"

"I'll read it to you," Celes replied with a hint of dread in her voice.

The dark age has come and gone,
And will return without the dawn,
The child of darkness born of light,
Will bring chaos and peaceful flight.

She who lost her mother to fate,
And not a mother from mate,
She'll bring forth a life anew,
To bring the evil to the Jews.

On the night, where Venus rise,
For Satan will wear his guise,
From sin to sin do they lie,
And an overcast to cover thy sky.

The death of she, mother green,
Can come only when she is clean,
The three points of the Lord's pain,
Will invoke her, the only bane.

If the failure to protect is nay,
Then evil shall rule a thousand years and a day,
To forever the Antichrist will remain,
Woe to those, the Antichrist reigns.

BONG…

"What's that?"

BONG…

"It's midnight! Terra!" screamed Setzer, rushing out and heading towards the hole.

BONG…

"Prepare my dear," whispered Edgar, moving his head to Terra's throat.

BONG…

"The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

BONG…

"He maketh me lay down in green pastures… Green?"

BONG…

Edgar's fangs came down hard, puncturing her throat. The vampire began to drain her of her innocence essence, causing Terra to spasm. How great she tasted, how wonderful she moved under him, how delightful her screams came.

The group managed to get down the hole without much difficulty. Another rope, though none asked the gambler this time why he would carry such things on him, helped them on the climb down. They heard the sixth toll from a bell, followed by Terra's screams. By the ninth toll, the screaming stopped. After the twelfth toll, they knew they should leave but they continued onwards.

They entered into a dark room with a pentagram drawn on the ground with a candle at each point. Evil was felt in every fiber of the trios' beings. Ahead and to either side was a door. Terra was behind one of them, the group knew, but which? The door behind them shut tightly, while the other three blew open. Across the room, Edgar and Terra walked in. Terra was completely naked while Edgar was still wearing his trench coat.

"Ah, the saviors have arrived," Edgar said in his echoing voice, bowing low.

"Can it, Edgar! I don't know how you did it but the army of undead you had was simple to dismember. Your brother was tough but I easily brought him down."

"I don't care," Edgar replied with a shrug.

"Terra, come on. Relm is waiting for you," Celes said calmly, holding her hand out.

"My dear Celes, why would I care for that which is not of my blood?" Terra smiled.

"Damn, we're too late. Look at her stomach," Locke pointed out.

On Terra stomach was a light pentagram etched into her flesh. She also appeared fuller, as if carrying a child for a few months. Setzer, carefully reached into his coat for his dagger. Edgar grinned with his fangs touching his bottom lip.

"Can we talk, Celes?" Edgar said, waving his arm.

A gust of air blew the cop right into the room on the left. Edgar bowed low again and began stalking Celes. Locke and Setzer tried to cut him off but Terra leapt right in front of them. With a kick, Locke went flying, leaving Setzer before the woman. The gambler grinned.

"So, God. You give me a pair of jacks but she's showing an ace. I wonder if I can get any insurance?" Setzer said with a chuckle and slashed his dagger out.

"Oh… Celes. Where forth art thou?" Edgar called.

The detective went quickly into hiding, with what little cover there was in the wine cellar. Celes reached into her vest slowly, feeling for a bullet. Her hand couldn't stop shaking. She closed her eyes, forcing herself to remain calm. She found the bullet. Glass bottles shattered behind her as the mere presence of the vampire were too much for the compressed bottles of air to handle.

"Come out, Celes. I can grant you anything you desire. I'll even spare Locke's life if that'll make you happy. Come on out, my dear."

Celes held the bullet tightly between her fingers, while grabbing a piece of broken glass. She began scratch the shell without trying to make much sound. She heard laughter behind her, thinking that time was up. She continued to make a cross on the bullet.

"HA HA HA! It's pointless you know. It's over. My lord's son is here. Why fight when you can enjoy the pleasures that I can give you?"

Celes breathed softly, regardless on how long she held her breath. She opened her top chamber and loaded her gun. She closed her eyes and held her breath, concentrating on her heartbeat and the steps of the vampire. She needed him at point blank range. She couldn't afford to miss. The steps stopped.

Her heart began to race. She needed to take the shot now. With as much strength that her legs could handle, the cop stood up and spun around, revealing herself from behind the wine shelf. She took aim at his chest but he was too quick. The vampire grabbed the gun, crushed it, and threw it behind him.

"Pity."

With a wave of his hand, an invisible force blew Celes through another wine shelf. The detective felt the wind knocked out of her. With all her effort, she refused to accept the comfort of oblivion. The cop tried to regain the loss of oxygen. Celes felt Edgar edging closer. She reached out for anything that could help her. A rough, square, solid instrument was clasped.

"It ends for you, my dear," Edgar said, leaping at the fallen police officer.

Celes turned over on her back, holding the object to her chest. The vampire landed on top of the cop, right on the broken piece of wood in her hands. As if the act of God guided her hand to the wood and followed it up to her chest, the vampire heart was punctured. Edgar glared down at his chest in disbelief.

"Heh, this is ironic," Edgar could only say.

Gritting her teeth, Celes pushed with all her might to thrust the stake through his heart. Edgar's mouth went wid, but no scream came forth. Instead, blood poured forth by the pints, drowning Celes from both his mouth and chest. She closed her eyes and refused to scream.

After a long moment had passed, Celes opened her eyes. Edgar remained above her but the vampire was motionless. The once handsome movie model was no more then an ugly shell of his former glory. Celes moved the body off of her, wiping her face off with her hand.

"You never were a ladies man."

A flash came before the eyes of the damned. Two daggers per eye. The gambler jumped back, looking away at what he just done. Just like Sabin, he aimed for the windows to Terra's soul. But she was still his friend. Keeping his eyes off his enemy, he never noticed his two daggers impaling themselves in his shoulders.

Locke shook his head. Terra nonchalantly, took the daggers out of her eyes and then appeared as if she never even had an eyelash in her eyes. She remained flawless and just for fun; Terra threw the cold steel into the gambler.

How to defeat such a monster? Locke thought.

"Locke!" called Setzer, removing the daggers and tossing one at the lawyer, "Any idea where the three points of the Lord's pain is?"

With hearing that, Terra leapt at the gambler, snapping her foot out. Setzer went flying into the room on the right. With her back turned to the lawyer, he now had a chance of opportunity. The lawyer grabbed Terra's left wrist and thrust the blade right through her tender flesh.

The mistress of darkness howled, turned around, and double punched Locke in his temples. Even though the fight took five seconds, it was enough for Setzer to understand what Locke was thinking. She needed to be wounded as if she was crucified.

Terra kicked the unconscious body up and then kicked it again in mid-flight. Terra began to walk to her plaything but was held in place by a strong grip. She slowly gazed to her right, just in time to see another dagger rip into her other wrist. She screamed but the gambler ran back into the room she threw him in. She followed blindly into the trap.

Come on, Terra, thought the gambler.

Once Terra rushed into the room, Setzer leapt out from behind some armor in the armory, grabbed Terra and run with her in his grasp. Caught off guard, the mistress of darkness ran with her captor. Setzer saw the spear sticking out from the hand of another suit of armor. He began to spin, to throw her onto the spear. Terra turned the momentum against the gambler and threw him instead at the weapon.

"A shame, Setzer. We could have made beautiful music together," the mistress purred. Setzer grinned.

BANG BANG BANG

Three bullets went into her back; three bullets came out her stomach.

"No," Terra whispered, pivoting 180 degrees, giving Celes a better shot at her stomach.

The detective unloaded her gun into the womb of the demon spawn. Terra, the real Terra, smiled in thanks, before her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she dropped.

"I'm sorry, Terra," Celes eyes raised above the carcass and having them fall on her dying friend, "Oh God! Setzer!"

The cop ran to her friend; the room began to shake.

"Get outta here. Don't you watch any vampire movies? Every time you kill… the lord… the… castle… falls," Setzer forced out.

"I'm not leaving you here," snapped Celes, working on getting him out. Setzer rested his chin on Celes's shoulder.

"I loved you… you know," the gambler whispered. Celes took a step back, seeing her friend's eyes glazing over.

"Heh. Remember Celes, always fold and leave when aces over eights you… see," was the last words that left Setzer Gabbiani. Celes felt the mansion shake even harder. Kissing Setzer on the forehead, the cop turned and ran out of the house, with Locke over her shoulder.

Sirens could be heard in the distance, coming closer to the lovers. They watched as the earth opened underneath the mansion, like a dragon opening it's maw to some simple traveler. As strange (but very real) night it's been, the earth closed, leaving nothing on the surface. Nothing remained, except the trees and grass. Gone was the mansion. Gone were their friends.

"Sabin… Edgar… Terra… Setzer," stuttered Locke, dropping to his knees.

A gentle hand touched his shoulder. The lawyer gazed up to his lover with tear filled eyes. Celes couldn't match those eyes. She continued to hold her battered head up high.

"Don't worry, Locke. Even though the mansion went straight to Hell, our friends are safe."

"How do you know that?"

This time, she looked down at her love with equal eyes, flowing with tears but she held a genuine smile on her face. She knew. After seeing both Terra and Setzer before they died, she knew that they would be safe. That was all Locke needed to see, before he smiled himself.

"Detective Chere, what happened here?" asked an officer.

Before Celes could answer, she was hit hard by an unexpected embrace. Relm looked up at her, crying hard.

"Celes… where's mama Terra?"

Nothing could break the cop's heart more then those words. Celes held Relm close, whispering that she was with her dead father and grandfather, in a place of joy and happiness. Surprisingly, Celes couldn't help but say "you can stay with Locke and me."

Looking back at Locke, the lawyer smiled and nodded.

Epilogue

Always fold and leave when aces over eights you see.

Those words haunted Celes for days. She had no idea what that meant or why Setzer would waste his last few precious moments saying that. The answer came to her, a week after Setzer's disappearance, at least to the media. A fellow lawyer came to her house with Locke, with a will from Setzer.

"Hello Detective Chere. I am Jack Black, Setzer's attorney. I'm sorry for both of your losses. This is the last will and testament of Setzer Gabbiani. Here it is said that you, Celes Chere, would inheritance all of his assets, which includes his newest winnings from the World Poker Tour. This totals $8,659,455.00," Jack let it set in.

Locke was rubbing his hands. Of course Setzer's death wounded him greatly but leaving them with such a fortune sat well with him indeed. Celes, on the other hand, didn't care for the money. The World Poker Tour was the last big event that Setzer had done before his passing.

"I'm not finished Locke," Jack interrupted Locke and Celes out of their respective reveries, "You Locke Cole is now the sole heir of his debts. These total $2,650,000. Of course if you can pay off the debts, the assets will be your, minus one missing BMW."

Locke's jaw hit the floor in an instant.

That bastard! Even in death he's a pain in my ass!

"Excuse me, Jack. What is aces over eights?" asked Celes.

Jack closed and locked his briefcase. "Ah, well. That, Detective Chere, is what in poker called a 'Dead Man's Hand.' Ha, it's ironic. That's exactly the hand he won the World Poker Tour with. Why?"

"Forget about it," Celes answered.

Celes couldn't believe what she heard but then again, nothing about last week's encounter made any sense at all. First there was undead in a living house that was ruled by a vampire lord who took an old friend and made her into the bride of Satan. Now, Setzer told her that he was a dead man walking. Was it fate?

She wished that she would wake up from this dream, that all of her friends were alive and well. But she couldn't. Regardless of the outcome and the strange occurrences that lead to the climax of the mansion falling into Hell, this was reality. You just can't wake up from it, no matter how hard you try.

END.