A/N: First SC fic, and, as with all fics I churn out at four in the morning, I'm not entirely sure what I think of the end result. I'm more than open to constructive criticism, except where the pairing is concerned. It's light Raphael/Cassandra. If the thought of that doesn't exactly thrill you, do us both a favor and skip this one. Anything else, feel free to open fire. Frankly, I'll be happily surprised if I get a single review on this one.
(And just in case anyone asks—I have thought of expanding upon this idea a bit. We'll see what happens.)
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to NAMCO. You guys know that.
Her steps, so light and soft upon the forest paths leading to this forbidding structure, echoed loudly in her ears as she moved carefully through the otherwise silent marble halls.
He was here. Somewhere, watching her with red-tinged, hateful eyes, was the cursed soul she had come to call her enemy.
Cassandra felt the searing heat and quickening pulse of the demonic shard in her knapsack even through its thick leather binding. No doubt, then, she thought, suppressing a fearful tremor. It had exhibited the same behavior in the Carpathians, when she had first seen the source of the evil influence draped over an innocent mountain town.
A soft footfall sounded at a distance. Cassandra instinctively tightened her grip on the hilt of her newly-forged sword, then turned to face the newcomer.
His eyes were darker now, she noted with a slight twinge of pity. The evil energy was spreading. Even as she felt a slight sense of annoyance at the amusement playing across his noble features, she faintly recalled the words she had once heard her sister utter to another accursed creature after a fierce battle… You too deserve to be saved…
"My dear Miss Alexandra, don't tell me you've followed me halfway 'round the world for the sake of those peasants." His tone was equally tinged with mockery and admiration.
"Those so-called peasants don't deserve to be pawns in your crazy scheme just because it's all perfectly justified in that corrupted mind of yours," Cassandra retorted, holding her gaze steady.
Raphael merely afforded her a slow, unrepentant smile as he continued towards her. "I do believe I elucidated my reasons at our last meeting, however briefly. It is rather difficult to elaborate on such a brilliant plan while in the midst of battle, particularly when one is fighting such a charming adversary."
He drew nearer, and Cassandra fought the insistent urge to give ground. "I know you're under the influence of that sword," she said, unconsciously holding her shield a bit closer, "but I know you can be cured. I—I've heard of it happening before." She hoped he didn't ask her for further details; she'd be forced to mention that she'd heard of it from the drunken travelers at her family's bakery. "And besides that, you can't seriously plan to infect the entire world just to bend it to your desires!"
"It's quite simple, really," Raphael responded dismissively. "Amy can no longer carry out a normal life in this world—therefore it must be suitably changed so she may."
Then, more to himself than to her, he murmured, "And to save her is enough, regardless of what fate befalls me."
Cassandra stood silent for a moment. Raphael's devotion to his foster daughter had become clearly apparent during their fight in the heart of Wallachia. She remembered Sophitia's stories of the ravaged creatures wholly infected by the Evil Seed, remembered her own encounters with that hellish golem and the clearly possessed knight who had rained destruction across Europe. Their actions had been driven by rage, hatred, undiluted evil. She couldn't imagine that they had held any unselfish motives in their quests to gain a power stained with the blood of innocents.
That Raphael did rekindled within her the faint hope that some vestige of humanity might remain within his cursed mind.
"My, so deeply entrenched in thought. Don't trouble yourself on my account, my dear," Raphael's voice sounded next to her. An arrogant smirk had reappeared upon his lips, any trace of his earlier pensiveness gone.
"You're still there, aren't you?" Cassandra asked quietly. "Who you really are—not what that evil sword's made of you. It's still there."
"I believe travel fatigue may have begun to wreak havoc upon your mental faculties, Miss Alexandra. I am the man you see before you—no more, no less. Most certainly no less."
"You wouldn't care so much about your daughter if it wasn't," Cassandra continued, ignoring his words. "There's still some humanity left in you after all; I knew there was. Why won't you—"
"Cassandra." Her name was a solemn rebuke on his lips, and she was silenced. Raphael merely watched her for a long moment, his eyes flat and emotionless. At long last, he spoke, his tone familiarly cool and imperious, yet now edged with a faint sense of exasperation. "I'd heard stories of you from several alarmed villagers before you so rashly invaded my fortress with little more than a broken sword and a misguided sense of morality. The younger sister of the warrior who shattered the cursed sword…I admit I imagined either some thin scrap of a girl who could barely hoist a scabbard or Pallas Athena in mortal guise. I'd hold that the reality falls neatly between the two."
Cassandra, unsure whether his last remark was intended as a compliment or an insult, remained silent.
"And then you came rushing into the castle, raising quite a fuss, if I may say so, carrying on most unbecomingly and using language that, although I admit that my Greek has fallen into disuse as of late, I suspect was not entirely flattering. And throughout our encounter, then as now, underneath your crazed behavior and aggressiveness lay a desire to save the innocent and protect the weak. I couldn't help but grant you a begrudging admiration. Such an intriguing juxtaposition—your fierce-tongued fury alongside your unfailingly pure heart. Wouldn't you say so, my dear?"
"Almost as interesting as your acting like a cold, arrogant bastard while literally trying to change the world to help someone you love."
Raphael glanced sidelong at Cassandra, who firmly met his gaze. "Stop what you're doing," she continued, her voice strong and full of conviction in the stillness of the cathedral's halls, "and I'll help you. I swear it to the gods I will."
She felt a sharp twinge in her chest then as Raphael merely smiled sadly at her. "Ah, Cassandra. In a different place, in a different time, I have no doubt that we would be quite a pair, you and I." He bent low and swiftly kissed her hand.
Cassandra closed her eyes briefly and swallowed hard. Damn him for making this so difficult…
"As delightful a distraction as this has proven," Raphael announced then, straightening and placing a hand at his rapier, "I fear that I must continue on towards my intended goal, which I may in fact have endangered by engaging in so long an interlude…however worthwhile the company may have been."
Cassandra grit her teeth and inhaled deeply, steeling herself against her weakening nerves. "I won't let you." Raising her chin defiantly, she raised her sword. "If you insist on destroying yourself, you'll have to go through me."
Raphael did not respond, but his elegant blade appeared suddenly in his hand, the thin steel glinting in the light. A beat, tension thick in the air as their eyes met in silence.
Suddenly, his words, threaded with scarcely-concealed admiration.
"That's my girl."
The harsh dissonance of steel on steel sounded throughout the cathedral.