Here we are, friends, the second part of Melody in Black: Esprit de Corps. I feel I should warn you that this one will be completely in first person for the sake that, well, it's the only way it works.
And the title translates to "Light Fate, Dark Times." You'll get it later.
Now that that's out of the way…I sincerely hope you'll enjoy the final installment of the Danny Phantom Melody Series.
One: Phantom Lost, Phantom Found
"Spirit. It cannot be broken and it cannot be stolen away……The physical powers of the body cannot be separated from the rationale of the mind and the emotion of the heart. They are one and the same, a compilation of a singular being. It is in the harmony of these three—body, mind, and heart—that we find spirit……It cannot be broken and it cannot be taken away. This I must believe." –Drizzt Do'Urden, "The Dark Elf Trilogy", R.A. Salvator
I stepped back, admiring my work, and arched my back. It popped and I straightened with a triumphant grunt. I had never been much of a painter but after oh so many years stuck in the same place, well, you sort of pick up on a few things. And I'd picked up a lot of things.
"My Lord?" I turned around, entirely conscious of the fact that I was wearing nothing but a pair of worn out, ripped up, cut-offs. There stood Mack with the familiar look on his face; the one that he used when he thought I was being immature; his silver and black suit perfect without a single crease in it, his blonde hair slicked back, his brown eyes attentive.
"I'm not that busy, Mack." I set the rolling paintbrush back in the tray of emerald paint, looked around for something to wipe my paint plastered fingers on, and settled for smearing them on my cut-offs, knowing how much it would irk the man before me to do so, "What do you need?"
"You're expected at the Hall, sir, in no less than half an hour." Mack shuffled to his left, an obvious sign that he was upset with me, "I thought you'd already left, My Lord, I apologize for the late notice."
"It's alright, Mack, forget it." I switched my gaze to the half-finished study, "I'll finish this tomorrow." Remodeling the study had been my project in my free time, "Do you know what the meeting's about?" I edged out of the room, careful not to touch any of the other walls with my painted limbs.
"I was not informed, My Lord." Mack was back in business mode, walking briskly behind me, "Would you like something prepared after you have finished showering?"
"Uhh," I paused for the briefest moment with my hand on the golden knob of my bedroom door, "Yeah, sure. A Strawberry, Pineapple, and, hm, Watermelon slushy." I grinned at the look of disgust Mack was unable to keep off his face.
"You're tastes have not changed since you arrived here…" The man stated and turned on his heel and marched off. I chuckled and swung into my room, humming no particular tune.
I'd done all my own decorating and even thought the room was bigger than what I had been used to when I first arrived, I had grown accustomed to it. And the mansion. And the garden. And the pool. And the servants. Either way, it had always seemed to me that everything was big. I didn't know if that was just the trait around the parts or if it was just me. Maybe I subconsciously liked big stuff?
The dark blue carpet squished underneath my worn out shoes as I trailed a hand over the pale blue walls. I'd painted this room as soon as I'd arrived, unable to stand the bright, welcome yellows I'd been provided with. Blue made it feel like home. Blue made it all the more real to me. Made me realize just what I had done a scale I never thought I could ever think on. Certainly Mack didn't know my feelings, he thought the "blue thing" was just a phase of my favorite color.
Of course, he's wrong. I thought to myself scooping up some dress clothes from my closet before making my way towards the bathroom, My favorite color is a particular shade of lilac that no paint company in the world could hope to duplicate. My heart thumped loudly in my chest as I turned on the water, But how could he know that…how could anybody know that…?
Because I had no time to walk to the Hall like I usually would have done, I flew. As soon as I stepped out the front door of my home and waved good-bye to Mack, I crouched and let the cold, white light dance across my frame. It was different from my younger years. No longer was it two rings splitting up and down my body but a swirling mist of light that sparkled with stars. Much more attractive, at least in my eyes.
My old hazmat suit was still the same; I found it odd that it had grown with me. Still black with the white collar, gloves, belt, boots, and symbol on my chest. My sleek, long white hair was blown out of my face by the wind whipping around me as I shot over the ground, following the dirt path. A white marble building loomed on the horizon and I dropped to the ground, letting the light flash over me and revert me to my human form.
I let my long black hair hang loose over my shoulders but brushed it agitatedly out of my mismatched eyes as I walked along. The black trench coat I wore over my loose white shirt and taupe pants billowed around the ankles of my dark brown boots in a warm breeze. Bird song drifted through the air and brought with it the smell of newly bloomed flowers, fresh, untainted streams of water, and the cool scent of snow atop the mountains in the distance.
I took a deep breath, relishing the clean air that whooshed into my lungs and then back out again. The air here was wonderful, so clean and pure. My smile dropped for split second. I knew this whole thing was a charade, something to cover up what I was really feeling. I hadn't been truly happy in almost seven years. Then again, I hadn't seen my home in seven years either.
My boots thudded on the marble steps as I made my way up them towards the double wooden doors. They creaked ominously as I pushed them open and stepped into the cool, dimly lit interior of the Hall. It was one room; polished wooden floor from one cold marble wall to the other, lit by dim yellow lights on the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and a long, elegant wooden table in the middle. Several people dressed mostly in black sat around the table, fingering glasses of wine or plates of food.
I strode forward and slid into a seat next to a tall, blonde woman with welcoming brown eyes and a flowing black and silver dress. I smiled at her but let it slip away when it wasn't returned.
"You're late, Lord Phantom." Rumbled the man across the table from me, his spiked blonde hair seeming to glow in the dim lighting and the silver edges of his black suit sparkling.
"Only just, Lord Grim." I replied, waving away the servant who'd been offering me food and drink, "What's this about?"
"It's about you, Phantom!" Lady Darkness chuckled from her seat down the table, "All about our precious Lord Phantom!"
"Quiet!" Lord Sorrow snapped, his voice vibrating in my chest.
"Reapers!" Lord Grim called out, "To order! Enough of this arguing!" He leaned back in his chair as I swept my gaze down the table. It was only the higher ups, the Lord and Lady Reapers. I switched my gaze back to Lord Grim as he started speaking,
"Lord Phantom has been with us for seven years now," Way to go Captain Obvious, "And he's done his part as we have done ours." Those cold brown eyes, like frozen blocks of chocolate, bored into me, "But it's time he was returned to where he belongs."
"WHAT!?" The entire room shook with my cry as I leapt to my feet, knocking my chair over, "What do you mean I have to return!? I can't go back! You can't—! I can't—! What about—!?" Words failed me. I gaped at him, mouth flapping like an old Chinese movie where the words don't match with the lip movement. He just sat there, looking at me impassively. My hand automatically flew to my chest, clenching on the top of my shirt.
"No, Lord Phantom, we're not going to take that away from you." Lady Grief put in monotonously and I glared at her. What right did she have to speak? What right did any of them have to push me around!?
"Phantom," Lady Grim put a hand on my arm and I turned my icey gaze on her, "Sit down and let us explain."
"Explain what!?" I snapped, yanking my arm away from her, "You've gotten sick of me!? I've done my best! I've done everything I was told to do!"
"We agreed to teach you all we know so that things would be the way they were supposed to be!" Lord Odium growled darkly, "And so we have done! There is nothing left for you here!"
"Silence!" Lord Grim snarled, pushing himself to his feet, "Lord Phantom! Take your seat again!" I let my breath hiss out between my teeth, black hair falling into my face, but rightened my chair and sat down with a thud. Lord Grim knew he'd pissed me off but continued talking like it was a normal conversation over lunch, "As Lord Odium said, we have nothing left to teach you. It's time for you to go back and pick up where you left off." His flashing eyes narrowed, "You know what you have to do."
I sighed, realizing that it was no use to argue, and straightened in my chair, "When?"
"Now?" I gave them all the pleasure of a sad smile, "Well, someone's going to have to tell Mack that I won't be able to finish the study." I stood up and Lady Grim stood beside me.
"Clockwork's waiting for you." She took my hand and I stared at it, "What's the matter, boy-o? I haven't seen that look on your face since you first came here seven years ago."
"I feel like I did when I first came here." I muttered and then shook my head, "Alright, Lady Grim, I'm ready. Tell Mack I' sorry about the mess I left him."
I suddenly felt like I was being squeezed into the neck of a glass bottle head first and closed my eyes, cringing at the feeling. I'd never get used to it. Never. It's hard for someone who's still alive to travel between dimensions.
"Does this have to be here?"
"I'm taking that as a stupid question."
"Well I feel like Ironman or something."
"What's so funny?"
"You. You have the amazing ability to crack jokes in the most dire and heart wrenching situations."
"Yeah, I have that affect on people."
"So you're really sure this is the way you want to do this?"
"Well, it's like you say: 'Everything is as it should be'."
Lady Grim left me in Clockwork's screen room and vanished back into her own dimension. I stood there alone, knowing all the while that Clockwork was watching my every move, and pretended that I didn't notice the screens showing my hometown or my bedroom. Instead I picked my teeth with my fingernail.
"Really, Lord Phantom, that's most undignified." Came a smooth voice from the shadows and a smile crept onto my lips as the Time Ghost floated into the room in his young man form.
"Hey Clockwork, good to see you!" I threw my arms around him and gave him a big hug, just to tick him off.
"Danny…" He muttered warningly and I backed off, laughing. When I noticed he wasn't smiling like he usually would have, I stopped and sighed.
"I know." I muttered, "And quit looking at me like that, do you have any idea how much this is going to hurt me?"
"Do you have any idea how many times you've said that to me over the years?" Clockwork replied, his form shifting so that he resembled an old man, "Now, let's see what those Reaper's have given me to work with."
"A lot more than I used to be, Clockwork." I said with a grin but stood still as he moved in a slow circle around me, warm red eyes flickering over my wiry frame. I'd grown up from the sixteen year old boy who'd left home seven years ago.
"Shirt." He muttered, turning his back to me to tinker with his staff, "Take it off." I didn't comment, just tossed my coat on the floor and tugged my shirt over my head, ruffling my black hair. Then I shivered; the Ghost Zone was freezing when I wasn't transformed. Clockwork turned back around, turning into his toddler form as he did so, "And how's this little number doing?" He asked, tapping the end of his staff lightly against it and I felt it vibrate through my whole body as a sharp "ting" rang throughout his lair.
"Fine," I said in a low voice, putting a hand over it to stop it, "I've gotten used to it."
"Mm," The Master of Time replied and I was sure he was sensing the lie in my voice, "Well, in any case, you know what you have to do when you go back?" I nodded, not trusting myself to speak, "Alright then…this is going to hurt. You might want to sit down."
I nodded again and sat cross-legged on the cold stone floor, taking deep breaths to calm myself down. Clockwork himself still stood (or is that floated?), holding his staff over my head. I thought I saw his hand shaking before I closed my mismatched eyes. I felt his spectral energy swirl around and me and it took a lot of will power for me to not lash out. Then it seeped into my skin and the pain started.
In all honesty it wasn't as bad as when the Ghost Portal had shocked me but it still burned worse than anything I had felt in a really long time. The thing on my chest burned the worst, though; it felt like it was on fire and melting against my skin.
I don't know how long it lasted but when it finally faded away, I was laying on my stomach on the floor, panting like I'd run for miles. I pushed myself into a sitting position, rubbing my face in my hands. Then I stopped and looked at my hands. They were slighter, smaller, and less callused. My gaze traveled over the rest of me.
My arms were thinner, as was the rest of me, but I didn't feel like I'd lost any of my adult strength, my hair was considerably shorter and so scruffier, and there was no dark stubble on my chin. The only thing that remained was that gleaming ever prominently on my chest. With a grin, I grabbed the top of my pants and was about to pull them forward to look down them when—.
"Danny!" Those scolding tones told me everything, "Here, you'll need these." Clockwork still hovered over me but was now holding out a bundle of folded clothes. I stared at them sadly for a moment or two and then took them. The Time Master turned his back on me as I changed into the slightly-too-big blue jeans and the baggy, dark blue, hooded sweater that would easily hide the anomaly protruding from my skin.
"You will never be ready for pain, Danny Phantom." The ghost said to me, the sad look in his red eyes sending a pang through me as I looked at the guilt etched onto his young man face, "All you can do is wait for it to pass." He pointed his staff at the screen showing my bedroom, "You remember where you left off?"
"Yeah…seven years ago, I…" I bit my lip harder than I meant to, forcing myself to smile, "Look, why do I need to tell you? Let's just go."
"Good luck, Danny." Clockwork briefly rested a hand on my shoulder as I stepped up to the screen.
"Thanks." I whispered back and jumped.
I wasn't stupid. I knew how much it would hurt to come back after being gone for so long. But Clockwork was right, I wasn't ready for it.
To tell the truth, when I landed on my hands and knees on the soft carpet floor of my bedroom, I thought someone had carved my heart out with a rusty knife and replaced it with a spiked, steel ball.
I really wanted to sit there and cry. Imagine, a twenty-three year old bursting into tears. Then again, I looked sixteen to anyone else. Clockwork's powers saw to that.
I heard the front door open and jumped to my feet, my mind flashing back to what had happened seven years—no, two seconds—ago.
"Danny!" I felt another wave of mixed emotions; nausea, guilt, pain, and happiness, "Danny, where are you!?"
"I'm coming, Jazz!" I tried to make myself sound as irritated as possible as I stumbled around my bed, stubbed my toe on a pile of books, and finally made it to the door. I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen, hands in the pockets of my jeans, "What?"
"Danny, what is this?" Jazz pointed in an irritated fashion to the mess of papers, books, a few scattered pens, two empty cans of soda, a bowl and spoon with the dregs of milk and cereal at the bottom, and an abandoned I-pod that covered most of the dining room table.
"Uhhhh…" I rubbed the back of my neck and remembered I was supposed to be "sick" and staying in bed, "A mess." I said lamely.
"Clean it up before Mom and Dad get home." My sister said but not in an unfriendly way, "If they find out you've been faking sick again just so you can skip school they're going to ground you for life."
"Psh, I was studying ghosts." I muttered sullenly, sweeping most of the mess into the trash can where I fried it into ashes with a well balanced ecto-beam.
"And chugging soda." Jazz added with a smile and I returned it, holding back the tears as best I could. I'd grown up in a world that had never taught me to stop being a kid. I think, on the inside, I would forever be sixteen.
Well there's the first chapter in all its shrouded glory. You guys have no idea what's going on and I intend to keep it that way for a while. Don't worry though, explanations will come in due time. For those of you who read the sneak preview I put in the first half of MIB, you already know that one can of beans gets spilled big time.
So, anyway, I'll see you guys in the next chapter…
…if I get some nice, juicy reviews.