Chapter 15: Changes

"There are eight of them left now that Neptune and Vesta are gone. As far as everyone except Ceres, I can only tell you what Heart noticed. She was the only one of us that seemed to care about the changes that took place within the people." Spade sighed as he flicked his blade out and then returned it and began to repeat that motion as he mentioned each name of the Dies Irae. "Neptune gained a thirst for power and control. Vesta enveloped herself in corruption and death (especially that of any mortal she saw)."

"What were they like before?"

"I cannot tell you."

"Oh, right… what about the others?"

"Venus became obsessed with her beauty. Mars became blood thirsty. Jupiter lost all desire to lead. Juno became envious. Minerva began to hate everyone…and everything. Apollo lost his sense of direction. Diana gained an unexplainable attachment to her brother, Apollo, and would not leave his side."

"They are related?" Persephone muttered to herself.

"Pluto, by all appearances, was the worst. He lost his mind and any tie to life."

"Spade?"

"What?"

"Am I doing right?" At her question the card solider was forced to turn away from his master. The last time he heard that question it had come from Ceres' lips.

"I cannot judge your actions," Spade began to walk away in horror of the situation that was unfolding before him. He knew only too well what was to come.

"What about my mother? Spade, you must know how she changed and everything that went on with the Dies Irae, tell me about her…please."

"My answer is the same as the first time you asked me. I cannot tell you."

"Why!"

"Your mother held that as one of her dying wishes that you were to never know about her except that she loves you. I told you about that. I kept her first wish, that I would protect you…I will not break the second one."

"Fine," Persephone pouted, but no matter how much his constant silence on the subject bothered her, she could never ask him to remove loyalty when that was all he had. "Thank you… for telling me something more about the Dies Irae."

"Of course, master."

###

"Persephone you are back!" Sharon could not help herself as she embraced the woman before she had barely made it into the entrance hall.

"Oh!" Persephone let out a slight grunt as the girl almost knocked her over in an embrace. "I am glad to be back," Persephone smiled.

"Really?"

"Yes."

"And I thought we had done a great job to get rid of you," Xerxes Break emerged from under the main staircase with his usual wide grin. "Though, we've heard of your fantastic times in the capital."

"Right," Persephone bit her lower lip.

"Do not push tour luck, clown." Spade growled form Persephone's side.

"What luck?" He laughed back at the card soldier.

"Break, please, she finally came back." Sharon pleaded, releasing Persephone.

"Finally?" Persephone asked quizzically.

"Oh, well, I thought…" Sharon began with a sigh. "I thought you had left for good."

"Oh," Persephone frowned.

"'Oh,' she says. My lady was crushed," Break said. His grin fell for a few moments as he glanced at his master. Sharon had hidden her face from Persephone's gaze by staring at the hem of her dress.

"I was so worried; I thought…I thought…you were never coming back. I thought I had lost my best friend." Sharon was about to cry as she felt two arms wrap around her.

The four cards and Break all watched as Sharon turned and buried her face into Persephone's shoulder and Persephone hid her face under her hair as tears formed in her own eyes. It may not have been long but the girls were connected as contractors and as women.

Heart motioned to her fellow cards as they all began to leave the room quietly. Break watched as they disappeared up the stairs before he departed himself. His stomach felt funny as he watched his master smile into a new friends embrace. She could be such a child sometimes, yet, that one little scene seemed so different. In the way that she was genuinely worried about her and in the way that a killer could care that she was missed.

###

"You have a letter!" Sharon's voice awoke Persephone from her daze at breakfast.

"Oh, thank you," Persephone received the letter from her and opened it lackadaisically. Her eyes saw the first line and she immediately jumped in anticipation.

"Who is it from?"

"Just a minute," Persephone said as she readied herself for the manuscript she knew so well. However, the words on the page were from a much more unique hand.

Persephone,

Echo told me about your adventure with Vesta. I realize you may want some time alone but I cannot hold back my desires to see you again. Please come by Pandora if you ever get the chance.

Till our next assignation,

V. Nightray

"It's from Vincent." Persephone watched as Sharon visibly tensed from across the table.

"I guess that means you are leaving soon?"

"I will go to Pandora for lunch most likely. Sharon, this is probably a bad thing to ask… but is there something wrong with Vincent?"

"Why would you think that?" Sharon forced the biggest smile Persephone had ever seen as her hands folded in her lap visibly strangling themselves. "I just think he's a bit dangerous."

"That is the precise reason I have a favor to ask of you," at her words Sharon's face dropped into concern.

"What is it?"

"Every time I've been to see Vincent I have managed to slip away from my Chain. However, today they all seem to be on edge for looking out for me. Especially with what happened last night. Is there any chance that you could keep an eye on them today?"

"I can…try." Sharon managed to say while her thought abhorred the thought of Persephone seeing Vincent.

"Thank you," Persephone grinned as she stood to leave.

"No problem," Sharon tried to smile at her friend again as the dark-haired girl left the room. "But…if you are so afraid of them meeting him, why even see him?"

"It does beg curiosity, doesn't it?"

"Break! Do not scare me like that!'

"Pardon me, My lady. I only meant to point out the situation."

"I just want her to realize…" Sharon trailed off as her eyes drifted for the door.

"Her incompetence?"

"Yes," Sharon replied with a sigh as her servant raised an eyebrow. "I think she is trying to hide her conflicts between us and him."

"It's just not healthy."

"Break, stop scheming."

"You know how much I hate to see you worry."

"You could really get hurt if she set her card soldiers on you."

"I'll be…discrete."

##

Mercury, Vulcan, and Apollo were sitting in the entrance hall of the Dies Irae's headquarters. Mercury was twirling a piece of his silver hair in his fingers as Apollo hummed aloud and Vulcan drifted off to sleep. Apollo suddenly stopped his humming and turned toward the messenger.

"Mercury, have you noticed anything different." Apollo asked the youngest member. Mercury dropped his lock of hair back into place.

"Why yes. Neptune and Vesta are gone, assumed dead and I do not think I have ever had this much free time. Something about killing Persephone seems to have solved Juno's dilemma and now she is not so bent on keeping us all alert around the clock. But now it seems another force is out to kill us instead." Mercury smiled at his friend "Besides I find it nice, not to have to worry, it just seems that we have lost our purpose." Mercury shrugged and lay back in his chair. "Maybe it is just me."

"I sometimes feel that way as well." Apollo noted quietly. There was a moment of silence and Mercury took up to playing with his hair again.

"Don't you people have anything better to do?" Pluto glided down the staircase smirking at the three comrades. Apollo immediately stood.

"Because you are doing so much too." Mercury said.

"Ummmm, well I have an excuse." Pluto hummed. "What's wrong Apollo? Cat got your tongue?" Apollo was silent as he headed for the door. "Leaving so soon? Are you off to see if Vesta and Neptune are really dead or if they just faked it?"

"Do not suggest that they would betray us, you know we are not capable of that!" Apollo hissed.

"Why, Juno does not care about any of us anymore, or our real goals," Pluto said plopping down in Apollo's seat. That woke Vulcan up, and seeing Apollo headed for the door he quickly stood up.

"No old friend, I can get the door myself," Apollo sighed and Vulcan nodded sitting himself back down. "You are right about Juno. Too bad we cannot say the same about your sanity." Apollo opened the door and left as Pluto jumped up in a furry.

"Calm down," Mercury cooed.

"Alright," Pluto said smoothing his hair back as he stood and headed for the stairs.

"I would keep that thought to yourself," Mercury muttered. Pluto's eyes widened in shock, but he tamed his features as he faced the messenger.

"Yes, yes I should." Pluto tried to smirk, but the attempt was corrupted by a grimace. "I think I will go look for Jupiter, I have a question for him." Pluto sighed and fixed his facial features putting a shaky hand on the railing as he climbed the stairs.

"Hey, was that Apollo that just left?" Diana appeared, shouting from the top of the stairs.

"Yes," Pluto said with a wry smile. "I'm afraid he was contemplating suicide when he walked out the door." His tone was so serious that Diana flew down the stairs as Pluto vanished into the halls of their headquarters.

"Do you know where he went?" It was not a real question; Diana demanded the answer from Mercury, pointing a finger at him as a silver stag's outline began to appear beside her. Vulcan sat up quietly, awoken completely by the huntress's mad yell. "I need to find him before something happens like it did to the others!"

"Relax. He left because Pluto was here," Mercury stated simply as his own chain poked its head out from behind his head.

"I have to find him." Diana made for the door as he chain disappeared. Vulcan stood again but Diana waved him off. "No, Vulcan, I can get it, you just relax." Vulcan sat back down and muttered to himself.

Once the huntress was gone Mercury turned to look at Vulcan.

"That was unusual." Mercury smiled as his hand instinctively stroked the turtle that had moved to rest in his lap.

"No, that was usual. That was how it always used to be with Jupiter in charge, and then Juno came in..."

"Please do not finish your statement." Mercury begged as he took back up the process of twirling a strand of his golden locks.

"Why, you would report me to Juno?" Vulcan droned with a coughing laugh.

"How did you know?" Mercury said with bright eyes as even the tortoise seemed to perk at the hunchback's words.

"It happens when the leader thinks you are to slow to notice anything of importance." Vulcan said. "And you can tell her I said that, but you and I both know she will not believe you. She barely thinks I can make complete sentences." Mercury let go of his hair and stood quickly. The turtle fell from his lap hovering above the ground as he cowered into his shell. Mercury ignored it as he made for the hallway beside the stair case. He stopped only for a moment.

"What was it like under Zeus' leadership?" Mercury asked.

"Better and worse. I just wish you would have gotten to meet Ceres...she would have taught you a lot."

"You said that before…"

"Because if you would have known the old goals you would be just like the rest of us…" Vulcan closed his eyes.

"My old friend, I could never be like the rest of you."

###

"Ahem…" Break cleared his throat in Persephone's doorway. Four pairs of eyes focused on him.

"What do you want?" Spade hissed out in his usual manner.

"Well if you're going to be mean about it I might as well leave," Break shrugged and turned around.

"Wait!" Heart called. "Why did you want to speak with us?" Break grinned mischievously.

"I was just wondering if you knew where Persephone was?" he left the question hanging in the air as the cards exchanged glances, and thoughts.

"Of course! She's with Sharon!" Club laughed.

"Are you sure? Last I heard she went to Pandora to meet with a very dangerous individual."

"You must be erroneous," Diamond replied.

"What!" Spade leapt toward the man and grabbed his shirt collar. "Who?"

"A certain Nightray with one yellow eye and one red one." When he referred to the red eye Break pointed at his own and Spade dropped him back onto his feet.

"Why would you tell us?" Spade snarled.

"Because, I know you want to protect her."

There was a tense moment where the man and chain stared at each other.

"We have to go help her!"Club thought franticly.

"Let's go!" Heart asserted and the other card soldiers moved for the door. Spade broke eye contact with Break and rushed out in front, leading the way as the cards ran for the front door.

"You exist as a peculiar fellow." Diamond had paused to confront the one-eyed man.

"Do I?" Break said with a laugh.

"Affirmative, you fancied safeguarding my dominant individually."

"Maybe I just 'fancied' you four protecting her." Break grinned as the card studied him for another moment before running after the others.

"Break!" Sharon's shrill voice traveled up the staircase. "This is not discrete!"

"Time to disappear," Break sang to himself, knowing a certain fan was clutched in his master's hand.

"Let's go to Pandora!" Emily squealed from his shoulder.

"That is an excellent idea, Emily."

###

Persephone set her tea glass down as a gloved hand pulled at her waist. She moved closer to the Nightray as he whispered into her ear something about her being his "fallen angel." She was encompassed in his seemingly loving touches.

This was how it had become between them. All of these touches and caresses that made her feel…wanted. Vesta's death was barely a thought in her mind as he "comforted" her. She knew being with him had become a habit that was hard to break, especially when he held her like this and made her forget…everything else.

"What?" she asked surprised when he pulled his hand form her waist. He did not answer but placed his hand on hers and lifted it to his mouth. "Vincent…"

"What?"

"I asked first."

"Oh?" he kissed her hand lightly. "What was the question?"

"Forget it," Persephone sighed as his other hand moved to her chin and beckoned her closer.

"Forget what?"

"Would you pay attention?"

"No," he breathed onto her face before capturing her lips with his own. She did not resist.

"Conversation with you has become a lot harder lately," she said pulling away.

"Did you not enjoy that?" He asked and she pressed her lips together in thought.

"It was…alright."

"Lying is a bad habit."

"You should know."

"Would I lie to you?" but before she could answer his terrible question his lips were on hers again.

"Persephone?" Liam's small voice interrupted. The couple broke apart.

"Yes?"

"I have a letter for you," Liam pulled at his collar nervously when Vincent shot him a crippling gaze, quickly replacing it with a blinding smile.

"From who?" Persephone inquired as she took the letter from him.

"I…" but as Liam adjusted his glasses, deciding whether or not to tell her of the letters writer, Vincent had already read the signature that filled most of the short parchment.

"What does he want?" The words came out cold and venomous to Persephone's ear.

"What…oh…"

Persephone, your cards have become rather upset. They MAY have gotten away from the Rainsworth household and MAY be on their way to Pandora. Also you MAY want to stay away from Vincent. He is not a very nice man.

Xerxes Break

"Damn," Persephone muttered, crumpling the note in her hand as Vincent tried to read over her shoulder. "If you boys will excuse me, I have a certain someone to destroy."

"Wait…" Vincent reached out his gloved hand to grab her, but she was too far for his reach. "Fine." He turned back to his tea.

"Where are you going?" Liam asked as he awkwardly sidestepped out of Persephone's determined path.

"To deal with this." She held up the note. "I am sick and tired of him getting into my business and thinking it is okay. I am sick of his meddling." As Persephone marched inside Liam followed.

"Persephone." Liam said when they entered the main entryway.

"What!" She rounded on Liam who jumped slightly and adjusted his glasses again. "Well? If you have something to say than say it!"

"I know Xerxes is annoying you…"

"That is an understatement."

"However, he means well. Vincent is not the best man to be in complete cahoots with even if he does have his moments."

"Are you lecturing me?" Persephone's voice had become softer as she stared into Liam's concerned eyes.

"No…" He said quickly. Persephone rolled her eyes and he responded in a small voice, "yes."

"So what is your story than."

"I just do not want to see you with him."

"Excuse me?"

"He is not someone you should be with."

"Why are you concerned with my relationship?"

"Because I am your friend."

"Well," Persephone tried to think of something to say, but he had been so honest with her and she really had nothing else to say. In the back of her mind she knew he was right. "I just…"

"Master!" Club interrupted when the Card Soldiers burst through the doors. Club tried to throw her metal arms around the woman when she came bursting into Pandora. Persephone quickly ducked and avoided Club, who ran directly into Liam. "Liam!" She hugged him anyway and the slender man was trapped in Club's embrace. Persephone now turned her feelings toward Spade before any of them had a chance to react.

"Who told you where I am?"

"Break." Heart answered.

"Well," Persephone looked at her cards as they all stood around her. "Go find him."

"No, we are taking you home," Spade said. "Whether you want to go or not." Spade bent over and picked her up.

"Put me down!"

"No," Spade replied as she beat against him savagely. Spade turned and nodded in Liam's direction before making his way to the front door.

"Greetings Liam," Diamond nodded. "I anticipate that you are thriving?"

"Uh…" Liam stared at the card, remembering how he was never able to understand him.

"How did she know we were here?" Heart interrupted.

"Xerxes sent a letter a couple moments ago."

"Really?" Club's eyes narrowed.

"Yes, he was here, I'm not sure where he has gone to." Liam had broken eye contact with the chain as he spoke.

"I see, goodbye Liam." Heart nodded.

"Goodbye." The startled Pandora member adjusted his glasses one more time as he watched the Card Soldiers all leave. His frame relaxed when the group was gone…until he heard that one familiar voice.

"Good job Liam!"

"Xerxes, you know I hate lying."

"Consider it part of our friendship," Break grinned.

"I will." Liam just pulled at his gloves absentmindedly. "Now where are you going?" Break had begun to follow after the goddess and her chain.

"To make sure Persephone doesn't get away…just yet anyway."

"You could be nicer to her!"

"Why would I do a thing like that?"

"Because…" Liam smiled slightly. "She is another valuable pawn."

"I guess she is…"