This was very good practice for me. I feel like I'm slipping back into my style. I wanted to write something with Ienzo for the sake of practice. The Terra/Aqua oneshot and an in-progress Vanitas one-shot are for the same purpose. Practice for what? You'll see... Yes, I'm just that evil. I dedicate this to Sarehptar and "The Violet Room", for the inspiration.
I recommend looking up "Suteki da ne" off of the Distant Worlds Soundtrack and listening to it for the ending. I wrote it to that. It clashes with the mood so much, but it's for such a beautiful effect. Try it.
Ienzo stared out the window, seated in a chair much too large from him, in a room much too large for him, living an idea much too large for him. It snowed outside, the tiny white flakes swirling around through the air, collapsing in heaps on the ground like armies of skydivers falling without parachutes and slamming themselves fluidly against the windows like flocks of birds drawn to bright interior lights. It always seemed to snow, but Ienzo ignored it. Part of him wanted to open the window and let the cold, snowy air in, just to see if he was really conscious of it or not, but he knew he couldn't. If he wasn't really dreaming, if he was really awake, the cold would destroy all his research… destroy part of him…
The chair he was seated in didn't belong in the room, but Ienzo kept it there for nostalgic purposes and because it was the most comfortable thing he owned. He didn't like leaving his research unattended for too long, so he never got around to owning a bed. The chair was good enough, though it was hideous to look at. It was a reddish brown color, almost orangey in the flickering fluorescent light, with faded yellow and white flowers scattered all over it, faded and dirty with overuse and lack of maintenance. However hideous it was, it was comfortable and Ienzo didn't know where he could get a replacement. He couldn't be bothered to look.
The ends of his long white lab coat hung down under him, splayed out under him and wrinkled from the sheer number of times he'd sat or slept on it. His jeans were in an equally grubby condition, torn around the knees and tattered at the ends. It was improper to wear damaged clothes in a laboratory, his memory recited from the experimental handbook he'd poured over lifetimes ago, any accidents could end up soaking into/burning through/destroying the damaged parts and causing lasting damage to the skin/organs underneath. For some reason, Ienzo no longer cared. His shirt was in ratty condition as well, the once long-sleeved navy fabric now a torn, short sleeved thing he wore under his lab coat. He'd ripped the sleeves off who-knew-how-long ago.
He tapped his foot on the floor and lifted it up, pushing his lick of steel and cobalt hair out of the way of his other eye to observe his shoe. It was in varying stages of decay and felt tight on his foot. He had abandoned the shoelaces long before in an attempt to delay the inevitable, but now his toes were curled up on the inside.
Before he released his hair and let it flop back against his face, he dropped his blue eyes to the book spread across his lap. Lexicon, he reminded himself, not just a mere book. A lexicon. My lexicon… No, his. Despite his internal debate over its previous ownership, Ienzo kept it by his side at all times, the thick volume bound in black leather more important to him than any of his research. It was a relic of a much more eventful time, something he fondly remembered, and it contained all of his research anyway.
Something behind him clicked, but he paid it no mind, knowing it was the timer on one of his latest experiments going off. The experiments were his only joy in life; the experiments and the lexicon. He flipped another page in the lexicon and trailed his eyes over the words until he brought his attention back to the window, watching as the snowstorm outside picked up.
Loud footsteps clicked on the tiled floors, making Ienzo scowl at the grey clouds outside. The constant clicking was grating on his nerves to the point that he wished he had a pair of earplugs. It reverberated in his mind loud enough to push him into the beginnings of a migraine, something he did his best to avoid. He never took medicine of any sort, so he usually suffered through sickness. He didn't trust anything doctors prescribed him because he always found himself analyzing the ingredients and wondering why would I ever think of putting that into my system? It was the backlash of his scientific brain.
The clicking belonged to his assistant, one Lucinda Melrose, and her high-heeled boots. Many a time had he felt compelled to ban boots of any kind from his labs, but he lacked the motivation to do anything at all. Besides, if he had his way, he would throw the girl out by the collar into the snow and leave her to freeze to death. He was forced to endure her by order of the university; he could either accept her as a temporary assistant, or they would cut his funding. He knew they wouldn't dare try, but he decided it would benefit him to humor them, even if only for a little while.
Lucinda was an enigma in herself, something Ienzo wanted to study in more detail, to study personally. She wasn't the type of girl that usually pursued sciences; he was overly excited and loved to socialize, bordering on preppy, but he noticed that she had a timid voice and could recite formulas for complex chemicals off the top of her head. Ienzo wasn't too surprised by the formulas, as he'd been able to so at a much younger age. The curious thing was that this fact and the rest of her personality offset each other so drastically that he'd become more and more suspicious of her with each passing moment. Also, she was too curious for her own good. She seemed to enjoy snooping around his things and asking him personal questions.
She also had a knack for snooping around his personal space, something that displeased him even more. She liked standing very close to his side while he worked and was constantly looking over his shoulder when he was writing notes. Also, she seemed to love breaking laboratory dress code even more than he did, wearing an immensely low cut top and a very short skirt. She often leaned too far forward for his comfort whenever she talked to him, compounding onto the fact that he was half a head taller than her and had to look down, and he had it on good authority that she - more often than not - wasn't wearing underwear.
It baffled him why the girl was so insistent on flirting with him when he clearly wasn't interested. She was eighteen, a university student working on a degree, and he assumed that she had boys who liked her. He, at twenty, was too old for her and, compacting it with his mental age, much too intelligent to deal with someone of her caliber. He did his best to deflate her attempts at anything, shooting her down blankly when she asked him to join her for lunch, dismissing her early when she seemed close to asking for extra hours, but nothing worked. She kept up her ridiculous behavior.
Ienzo had escaped here, hoping to find peace, but this world had just as many annoyances as his last two homes, the two homes that his previous two lives had once occupied. At least none of my annoyances are trying to kill me…
Ienzo thought back and instantly regretted it, his hand straying to the lexicon as he did, the thick, bound volume that was his and not his, belonging to his other life. Zexion. But I'm neither Zexion or that Ienzo anymore, he mused, I'm different now. I'm something slightly more than nothing, but that doesn't really make me anything at all… The lexicon was proof of that; the original Ienzo had never been able to call it, but Zexion could, and the Ienzo now could. The illusions were the same. I'm stuck between something and nothing, and I can't seem to decide.
Somehow, it didn't really matter. Like the lexicon and the illusions, the feeling of nothingness persisted, even though he was sure his heart was there. He felt the emotions, but he acted as though he didn't. He's, in the process of retrieving his heart, forgotten how to use it.
Ienzo had given his heart willingly to achieve nothingness. Zexion had his non-existence stolen from him before he could retrieve his heart. Somewhere along the line, body, heart, and soul had been reunited, and the new Ienzo had been born.
He figured that some of the other Organization members might be in the same boat as he was, but he never saw or heard them, and he liked keeping it that way. Ten years had passed since that day in Castle Oblivion and he had never looked back. He figured that no one cared about him, so he had no reason to care about them.
He had ended up on this world, a world seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but it had suited him perfectly. The residents had been suspicious of him at first, not trusting the intellect a child of ten should not have possessed. None of them aware that the Ienzo they saw had been a Zexion of twenty less than a week (in his memory, at least) before. He quickly ascended the ranks of their community, though, as more and more people began to admire his brains. At fourteen, the university had granted him the lab and a teaching opportunity. He accepted the lab with reverent thanks; he declined the position at the drop of a pin.
Not all the people had accepted Ienzo. A few of them had endeavored to kidnap him from his room in the middle of the night and burn him at the stake for witchcraft. The next morning, Ienzo woke up refreshed in his own bed, and those particular people were never seen again. No one questioned when there was a bloody shirt in Ienzo's trash a few weeks later. It was after that incident that Ienzo had moved into the lab permanently, feeling much safer with his research behind titanium-plated double-locked doors.
But now, with his nosy, noisy assistant poking around his lab, Ienzo felt his safety slipping from between his fingers.
"Professor, you experiment finished," Lucinda said quietly, lightly tapping his shoulder.
He glared up over his shoulder at her, thankful that she wasn't leaning over far enough to see down her shirt. "I'm well aware of that," he snapped, turning slightly so that her view of his lexicon was obstructed.
Something akin to annoyance flashed in her eyes, but it passed like an illusion, replaced with her usual sunny look. The change hadn't escaped Ienzo's notice; illusions were his business. She walked to his side and he sifted again to keep the lexicon hidden. "Why won't you let me see it, even for a second, when I've read through all your research notes? What's so important about that book?"
"First of all, it's not a book. It's a lexicon, a specific kind of book. Second; it's not your business. It's… personal." He hated using the word; it always brought up more questions than it answered. In this instance, however, there was no other word to accurately describe it. It was a personal thing, a piece of him that he didn't want to share. Somehow, after all the agony that Zexion's non-existence had brought, being a Nobody was the one thing that he wanted to keep to himself, a small segment of the past that he alone could analyze and reflect on.
Lucinda sighed, seeming to get the point, but the smile never disappeared from her face. "Yes, a lexicon. A dictionary; an encyclopedia of knowledge. But what's so special about that particular lexicon? It's not like it contains the wisdom of the universe, right?"
Ienzo fixed her with a stare, visible eyebrow raised, that asked silently you think it doesn't? She didn't seem to notice, or rather, decided that she didn't want to notice. With her clicking step, she walked back to the table and turned to the notes she was reading. He watched her as she sat down, tucking her chocolaty brown hair behind her ear so that he could see her eyes, hazel gaze turned to the page but daring him to think that she wasn't watching. He didn't mind either way. She wouldn't find out anything about him from watching him and she wouldn't get a glimpse of the inner workings of his mind by reading outdated notes. He had already updated his findings and recorded the modified versions in his lexicon, where they would be available for later use and modification.
He turned his attention back to his reading, not worried too much about her sneaking over to check. He would hear her boots on the floor if she tried, and he had switched from his notes to a novel, something he had added to his massive collection but never had time to read over. His lexicon was an endless library, pulling information he wanted from literally nowhere and storing it where he couldn't find it. Only the lexicon could access it all and he, Ienzo, Zexion, was the only one it heeded.
"Professor," Lucinda called a moment later, breaking his concentration.
He internally groaned. He hated being called a professor when he wasn't. He had never accepted the position, but the girl persisted in calling him that, probably realizing that it irked him. There was no real hate in it; only unbridled impatience, though Zexion had been full of it. Of course, Zexion had grown up in different surroundings, surrounding that didn't involve obnoxious teenage girls (Larxene and her sadistic nature never fell in to that category).
What annoyed him more was being interrupted, losing his train of thought. Thought was important in his line of work, in being a scientist, and in being a part of Zexion. For wielding a lexicon, Zexion had to have as much knowledge at his fingertips as possible. Knowledge is power, and that made a lexicon ideal for the job.
"What is it?" he asked, keeping his irritation in check.
"Who is Zexion?"
Ienzo toyed with the idea of lying to her, but he knew the girl was more perceptive than anyone gave her credit for. It was tempting, for a second, to weave an elaborate lie, or, even more tempting, to throw her into his lexicon and leave her to the mercy of his illusions. As tempting as it was, he settled for a half-truth. "Zexion is a name I used a while back, when I felt my notes weren't safe. I used that name, knowing that anyone who stumbled across notes with my own name would probably destroy them."
Lucinda didn't stop with the questions, his voice sounding hollow. "And why are some of these notes… in your handwriting… dated twenty-three years ago?"
He blinked. I never thought about that. Everything Ienzo wrote down was from memory, and he had unconsciously dated everything. It was a habit, so he knew how old his theories were and in what order to place them. The notes she was reading over were from his previous life, his previous being as Ienzo, back before this current Ienzo would have been born. Zexion's non-existence had cut into Ienzo's existence, and the time where they should have overlapped was never there.
He sighed. Now the lies came. "I guess I must have dated them wrong." But she knew. And he knew she knew. He resumed staring out the window, not even flinching or blinking at the loud click he heard behind him. "You know that's not going to work. I doubt that you're prepared to do it."
"What makes you think I'm not?" Her voice wavered; that was one sign.
"Because I know you better than you'd like to think I do," he answered, looked back at her over his shoulder.
She was standing in front of her station, face grim and determined, the hands gripping the gun unusually steady, considering that her elbows and knees were shaking like crazy. The gun was pointed straight at his head. He blinked calmly, looking her over once.
"I know you can't do it. I know you don't have what it takes to take a life."
"I do if you do. I bet this 'Zexion' person is someone you killed. You stoles his notes and have been using them to further your own twisted research. I know what you did to those people that tried to attack you. You killed them."
He let out a long sigh. "One of the few truths I speak and it's the one thing you don't believe. Still, my point stands. You can't kill me, no matter how much you try to convince yourself that you can."
Lucinda's lips were a straight, pale line, making it clear that she no longer wished to speak to him. There was a dark fire in her eyes, something that struck him as new and original, something that piqued his interest.
Slowly, he closed the lexicon with a snapped that echoed through the empty lab and placed it beside him on the chair. In one fluid motion, he got to his feet, Lucinda shifting her aim from his head to his chest. He smiled softly and started his explanation, taking slow and deliberate steps towards her as he spoke.
"You want to know the truth, don't you? You think you're deserving of it? The truth about who I really am? You know of Organization XIII?" She nodded weakly. He took a step forward. "Well, it seems this world isn't as backwards as I first assumed it to be. Yes, Organization XIII. Those notes, Zexion's notes, are part of that Organization. Zexion, a member of Organization XIII, a founding member." A step. "Number VI, the Clocked Schemer, wielder of illusion. A tactical person, efficient and conservative in his actions." Step. "That was me. I was Zexion, a Nobody, a creature without a heart, something not meant to exist. I fought for the Organization, setting Nobodies and Heartless alike against innocent, unsuspecting people, using my powers to satisfy the Organization's purposes." Step. He was halfway to her. "I was betrayed by the very Organization I helped found. I was defeated by a child, gravely injured, and then had my non-existence taken from me by a creation of one my comrades. An experiment." Step. "I had my heart returned to me and I reverted to my original form, the form that I had before I lost my heart. Those notes were from my first life, the first person that I was, back when I was still using the name of Ienzo. I may be physically twenty, but my mental age would be around thirty… if I didn't have the intellect of someone three times my physical age to begin with." Step. His voice was growing louder by the second, echoing off the bare walls. "I threw my master into darkness. I ripped my emotional heart out with my own two hands. I've harmed hundreds of defenseless, spineless people. I had my very soul torn from my body by a failed experiment. I've killed people to assert myself in a position where I could find peace in which to continue my research. Now…" He took another step, the gun pressed up against his chest, and his voice dropped into nearly a whisper, "Do you really think you can kill someone who's not afraid? Can you kill someone who's been to Hell and back? Someone beyond death?"
Lucinda was shaking in her boots, unable to move away from him, unable to respond in any way. Her eyes were wide with fear. The gun was digging into his shirt. If moved, if she pulled the trigger, he knew he would die. But he knew that she didn't have the fortitude to go through with it. If there was one thing Ienzo knew how to do, it was reading people and being able to manipulate them to do what he wanted. Zexion's title wasn't for show; illusions or not, he knew how to get what he wanted with the least amount of work on his part possible.
"Tell me, are you afraid?" She let out a little whimper against her will and he took that opportunity to move, lifting the weapon so it was pointed at the ceiling and pulling her close, holding her chin in one hand, locking his one visible eye with hers. "I did kill those people, the ones who tried to kill me. You call it murder; I call it self-defense. But I won't deny that I did it. I killed them… and I can just as easily kill you. So tell me, are you afraid of death? Are you afraid of me? I won't blame you if you are. Illusions are often more powerful than death, because death runs on the finite, the real. Illusions aren't bound by the concrete. They run on imagination, on possibilities. And I, in control of that unbound reality, can make anything come true. I am your worst nightmare incarnate.
"Now, will you stay still?"
"Will you stay quiet?"
She nodded again, making sure no sounds escaped her lips.
He looked into her eyes again, slowly easing the gun from her grasp. "Very good. I can't have anyone spilling my secrets, you know. It would look bad on me if my research was threatened, and so… You'll have to die."
Before she could register what he was saying, he gripped the gun in his hand and brought it to her chest. The gunshot was louder than it should have been, filling his ears and reverberating off the walls. The girl swayed on her feet before she collapsed limply against him, and he held her for a minute before dropping her unceremoniously to the floor, still holding his hands out like an annoyed teenager belligerently taking out the trash. He stared at the gun, cradling it in his palm, and then dropped it on top of her, leaving both where they rested.
The blood on his shirt and pants didn't matter. Neither did anything to shift his blank expression, the natural apathy that suited him so well. Not another thought wasted, he returned to his chair and flopped himself down in the ragged cushion, pulling his lexicon out from its position and picking up from the where he left off - the very word - as though nothing had happened. It's no matter, he mused, I could use the parts for something useful, and it's not too difficult to clean blood off these floors. A fitting explanation shouldn't be much of a challenge, either. Now all I need is a replacement…
The snow outside continued to swirl, the clear white floor inside splattered with blood, and Ienzo's pale floor clean of emotion. Yes, today is a good day. And without further distraction, he resumed his reading.