A/N: Yeah. . . I know I said I wouldn't be updating until I worked on my other fic, and I started to do that, but I just had to post another chapter of this. I'm more inspired to continue this story moreso than anything else at the moment, so I think I'll beg giving it my full attention as far as my fics are concerned. You all have read, review, and give me the encouragement I need to continue so thank you. I sat down one day, and just jotted down ideas for this fic and I think I have a pretty solid direction that I want to go in. With that being said, as long as you all review and let me know you're into this, I'll continue to work on it. But for now, enjoy! :)
Chapter 4: Rather Not Know
He was too slow. His head hit the floor hard and the spider demon leaned in towards his face, saliva oozing from the corners of its mouth. If it wasn't for Noctis' arms holding its head at bay, he was sure he would have been torn into. Legs pinned him down, making movement impossible. The creature's strength was nearly overwhelming, and Noctis didn't think he would be able to hold out forever.
'Fuck!' he thought to himself.
"Use your powers!" Sazh called out.
"I can't! I don't know how!" Noctis' abilities were never under his control. At that particular moment he wished he'd taken time out of his day to gain some basic understanding of them. His thoughts were so preoccupied with Lightning, he didn't care to. 'Fucking pink-haired witch. . . ,' he inwardly cursed. It wasn't her fault, he knew that, but she was easy to blame.
Elbows were bending, his strength slowly collapsing as the demon's mouth inched ever closer. Warm saliva was felt as it dripped onto his skin and slid down the slope of his neck. A thousand showers wouldn't be able to rid Noctis of the putrid stench of demon breath. Then again, he'd be lucky to have a shower if he managed to survive.
'C'mon swords!'Nothing happened. No flash of light, no electricity, nothing. Sweat trickled down his brow. 'Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I'm really going to die!' Noctis clenched his eyes shut as his strength finally gave way. 'Claire. . .'
There was a loud clang and he felt himself released. He opened his eyes slowly, but before he had a chance to process everything. he was being forcefully yanked to his feet. "You, okay?" Sazh held a fire extinguisher in one hand, and the back of Noctis' collar in the other.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Noctis understood why the man hadn't rescued him sooner.
"Sorry for the delay."
"We should probably leave," suggested the teen.
Sazh shook his head. "Can't. Gotta kill it."
The man was right. But with his powers neglecting him, Noctis knew it wasn't going to be easy. His head went left and then right, and he spotted glinting metal. Legs carried him immediately over to a rusted crate. A pole was leaning against it, and he thanked whoever had put it there and wondered if they anticipated his time of need.
"I have a plan."
"Awesome," Noctis said, not taking his eyes off the demon that returned to crawling along the ceiling, "I'd love to hear it."
The afro-donning man ran over to his bag, "Keep it distracted!"
"What?" Noctis couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Me? Why me?"
"Chances are it wants you dead more than me. I'm not as important."
Right. Noctis was the one chosen by Etro to slay Lindzei, not Sazh. "Alright. I'll do it. Just hurry it up." He took off, not detracting his gaze from the spider beast. The creature gave chase. Along the walls it crawled, easily keeping pace due to its number of legs. There was no way to outrun it. Playing it smart was imperative.
Suddenly it threw itself from the wall and at Noctis. Reflexes came to his defense as Noctis swiftly brought that metal pole upward smacking it in the head. He kept moving, hopping over a crate situated in his path. The action slowed the demon for a brief moment.
Noctis swung the pole around and his body with it, whacking the demon. He came to realize that running was a waste of time, he'd never be faster than the creature, so the only option left was to engage it. He blocked an incoming strike, preventing the creature's barbed legs from digging into his abdomen. More fatal strikes were avoided, with a few blows of his own being snuck in from time to time. Unfortunately for the teen, the pole was smacked free from his hand, and he was forced to jump backwards from a vicious slash.
Sazh crept up behind the demon, "Away demon!" the man held up a can of hair spray.
"You can't be fucking serious!" Noctis blurted in shock. "What is that suppose to do besides hold its lack of hair in place?" The old man was definitely going to get them both killed.
In Sazh's other hand was a lighter. Immediately he got a flame going, and sprayed the contents of the canister into it to form a makeshift flamethrower. The demon wailed as it was cooked, flames crawling up it's body. It tried to go in for another strike, but Noctis managed to duck and dive-rolled over the monster and next to Sazh.
The multi-legged abomination ran off in the distance, leaving the two to watch as it came to a standstill. Dead.
"Where did that thing even come from?" The question was rhetorical. He knew that Sazh hadn't an answer or else he doubted the man would have lingered in the warehouse for as long as he had. Noctis turned his attention away from the filleting mass. "Thanks again."
Sazh's head was lowered and his breathing heavy. He dropped the items in his hands and let loose a dark laugh. Noctis noticed a shift in the man's aura. As his head lifted, his eyes were wide and a crazed smile stuck plastered to his face. "Surrender to me your flesh."
So many emotions began to swim through her mind. Snow had came looking for her, and more importantly he'd found her. Honestly, she didn't think she'd ever see him again, not that she didn't want to. "Lightning?" She stopped her sweeping and looked to Stella who was assisting her with the cleanup. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. Just thinking." If it wasn't one thing it was another. To Lightning, it appeared that life just wasn't going to give her a break any time soon. With her ability to wield magic, one would think she'd have the power to make her troubles vanish. Magic or no magic, Lightning Farron was no doubt the unluckiest girl in Tenebrae, if not the entirety of Cocoon. Maybe Pulse, too. Hell, maybe even the universe.
"Is there a reason that this person is looking for you?"
The answer was bound to come out sooner or later, "I ran away from home." Lightning wasn't surprised to hear Stella gasp.
That one question had many answers. "Bodhum just. . . wasn't the right fit for me." Of course there was more to it than just that. "Things went. . . ," she trailed off. "I lost someone important to me." That was the most she was going to say. Talking about Serah wouldn't do any good.
Lightning had given the okay for Prompto and Gladiolus to bring Snow to her condo. Since the lumbering beach bum was in town, she couldn't turn him away. It wasn't like he had any place to go.
"I'm sorry. Death can be a terrible thing."
'You think?' The pain death could bring to the living; however, was significantly worse. So bad was it, that it drove Lightning to commit murder in the very room her new friend was standing in. She could only hope that Serah was now in a much better place. "Yeah."
"Woah! What happened here?" The boys had arrived.
Lightning leaned the broom against the wall. Stella was the first to exit down the hallway. Lightning heard the girl's greeting to their mutual friends, "Hi, Prompto. Gladiolus." There was a slight pause. "I'm assuming you must be, Mr. Villiers. Nice to meet you. I'm Stella." Lightning felt her heart fall. So it was true. He really had sought her out.
"Nice to meet you," his voice boomed in reply. "Where's Lightning?"
'In the room being a coward.' According to Caius, she'd made everyone back at home worry because of her disappearance. Their concern, though appreciated, didn't make a difference to the introvert, and it wasn't the reason she was reluctant to see Snow. A major shift in the girl had occurred. But she wondered, 'Would Snow notice?'
"I'm sure she'll be out momentarily," Stella replied.
It was now or never. Lightning took a deep breath and made her way down the hallway. Footsteps were accompanied by an unseen weight. She felt naked and awkward. Unsure of what to do with her hands, so she curled her fingers inward. Her voice was soft, barely audible, "Hey."
She'd taken the spotlight and all eyes were on her. "LIGHT!" Snow swept her up in muscular arms and clutched her tightly to his body. "You're alright!" Insecurities were eased by his embrace. The familiarity was perhaps something she'd needed. He pulled away from her, "What made you do a silly thing like run away? We were all worried sick about you."
Gladiolus spoke up, "What's up with that?"
Stella lifted a hand, indicating for him to quiet himself for the time being.
"Y-you're. . . cr-crushing me, Snow. . ."
"Oops!" He released her, "Sorry about that."
With an exhale of air, Lightning regained her breath. "Carried away, much?" It was her first time seeing him in weeks, so she kept her fists to herself.
"So. . . ," Snow looked around the condo. "Redecorating?" The destruction was glaring with no way to conceal it.
"Huh. . . ," his roaming eyes relocated her face and he smiled.
"Don't you have school? Why are you here?"
Snow made his way over to the sofa, "You were missing. Looking for you was more important." The ripped sofa prompted him to tilt his head, but he sat regardless.
Lightning gestured for her new friends to make themselves comfortable.
"AAAH!" Thud! Prompto had slipped on a puddle of water creeping from the kitchen. Gladiolus burst out laughing and pointed, "Shut up!"
Lightning pursed her lips.
"Oh my! Are you okay?" Stella asked.
"I'm fine," grumbled Prompto as he stood to his feet. "What's up with the warzone?"
There was no way to explain without mentioning the demon. "I—" a piece of ceiling fell, smashing the glass table situated in the center of the living room. "Angry puppy," Lightning blurted.
"Angry puppy?" Gladiolus detected bullshit.
"Jeez, Light. Were you starving him or something? Looks like he tried to take a bite out of everything," Snow stated.
Three sets of eyes blinked.
A groaning Lightning shook her head, face buried in her palm. "Snow. . ."
She began yelling, "Now, you know damn well—," she sighed. It was pointless, "Nothing." Lightning wondered what it was like to be huge, blonde, and oblivious. Her pondering only lasted a fraction of a second however. When she thought on it, she really didn't want to know. "How'd you find me?" It was time to bring the conversation back.
"T.V. Saw you on the news," the giant answered. "I was worried about you. I figured something like that happening was too soon after. . . you know."
Snow may have been denser than a bag of millerite, but his thoughtfulness more than made up for it. "You don't have to worry about me. I can take care of myself."
"Not to be mean," Prompto intervened, "but your house is falling apart." Lightning glared at him and he put his hands up in a defensive gesture.
Snow spoke up, "Don't worry. I totally got you covered."
Lightning rose a brow, "You do?" Snow could barely take responsibility for himself, let alone another human being.
"Come back to Bodhum with me. You can crash at my place. That way you don't have to be alone."
Go back to Bodhum? It seemed logical. Tenebrae was full of suicidal maniacs, demons, and not to mention an angst-y sword summoning boy. Despite all that, Bodhum was a far from desired locale. There wasn't any way to heal the painful memories. She had to forget them, and the only way to do that was to never return. True, Caius had brought the past with him on his visit, but to go back in that house. . . to walk past her room. . . "No."
Snow was immediately saddened by her answer, "No? Why?"
"I. . . can't. There's nothing for me there."
"Light. . . that's not true. You have people who care about you there."
She wasn't going to give in, "That's wonderful. But I'm not going back. I'm staying here."
"I don't get it. . . what is it that's here that you don't have back home?"
Of course Snow wouldn't get it. He meant well. That Lightning knew. "Here I begin my life anew. This is my chance to start over." But there was more to it than that. Tenebrae wasn't just a means of escape. Lightning felt she was meant to be there. Why? She couldn't possibly say. "Snow, I don't want to talk about this right now." She had recently met Gladiolus, Prompto, and Stella. Being a private person by nature, she wasn't yet able to open up to them.
Snow conceded to her wishes, "Okay."
She wanted to talk to Snow, but it just wasn't the time. "Thank you."
"So," the blonde put his hands behind his head, "What are your plans?"
"Stella and I were just in the middle of cleaning, so I guess we'll finish up with that," Lightning turned to Stella, "If that's alright with you."
Stella smiled, "Sure."
Prompto shot up to his feet, "We'll help!"
Gladiolus clapped his hands against his knees and stood as well, "Where do we start?"
"You really don't have to," it wasn't their problem.
"That's what friends are for," Gladiolus stated, beginning to gather large chunks of debris, particularly that which had fallen from the ceiling.
Prompto pointed to the brunette, "What he said. Besides I'll even help you train that puppy. Where is the little guy anyways?"
Lightning blinked. So it would appear that Snow wasn't the only blonde idiot present. "If you insist." The more hands the better. It was still fairly early in the day, so Lightning hoped she'd be able to sleep in her own place that night.
Chills ran along her spine. Though she'd had the help of friends and had been reunited with Snow, something didn't feel right. 'Noctis.' The boy's face flashed in her head and a sense of dread came with it. She wondered if he was alright, but quickly dismissed her concerns. 'Like I should care.'
No! There was no way!
Noctis slowly backed away from his mentor. The man leered at him with a haunting soulless gaze. His facial features were twisted in crazed glee, and slowly he advanced. Thoughts of Sazh being under the influence of demons was the furthest thing from Noctis' considerations. The dark man may have been a little kooky according to the heir, but he appeared balanced. 'Guess there's some truth to the saying you can't judge a book by its cover.' And now that book was going to slaughter him.
Sazh's footsteps wavered, and he yelled. Hands were brought to his head and he collapsed onto his knees. "LEAVE ME ALONE!" Noctis immediately noted that he wasn't yelling at him.
"Sazh!" As Noctis watched the man's strange behavior, things began making sense. "Fight it! C'mon!" The demon inside the man didn't have full control. Sazh must have been keeping the entity at bay for some time.
Sazh fell onto his side and rolled onto his back. Spasms commanded his body, his every limb twitching frantically. His back arched and his head thrashed around. The demon within was struggling for supremacy. Noctis was certain that within Sazh, a battle of wills was occurring. The lamps suspended above began flickering just as Sazh's body levitated into the air. Even in suspension, he continued to thrash and rattle about. Blood seeped from his eyes and unnatural wails escaped him. The features of his face morphed, no longer his own, before returning to their originality.
"SAZH!" The lamps' light intensified, bulbs soon bursting. Noctis shielded his face from flying glass shards which began swirling around the room at a high velocity. Though the bulbs were now destroyed, the remnants still emitted a glow, providing visible light.
"R-run, kid. Forget about me!" Sazh managed to call out, exasperation in his voice.
"Shut up! And stop calling me kid!" There was no way Noctis was going to abandon the man in his time of need. Though he'd only been present in his life for a few days, he'd done so much. Without Sazh, Noctis was truly directionless; he was the only one who could advise the teen. There was still so much left for Sazh to teach. If Noctis looked to the other instances of demonic possession that he knew of as examples, then Sazh was going to involuntarily commit suicide. He couldn't allow that.
Another yell was released from the struggling man and Noctis ran forward. The swirling shards stilled with immediacy, before shooting towards the teen. Blood dripped onto the ground, as the glass sliced his ivory skin, each assault stinging. Noctis persisted, resisting the pain. There was no way he was going to back down. Eyes became an unnatural ruby and he lunged forward, his feet leaving the ground. An invisible force shielded him from the barrage, until eventually every bit of shrapnel was blown back in a domino effect. A levitating Noctis placed his hand on Sazh's chest and white light emanated from his palm. "SAZH!"
A demonic yell rattled the metallic crates, the entire warehouse vibrating. Then everything ceased. Shards fell, and Sazh and Noctis did with them. Everything was dark, except for the bit of sunlight filtering in from glass windows situated high above.
"Ow. . . ," Noctis groaned, having hit his back hard. "The hell just happened?"
Sazh was panting heavily, sweat trickling down his face. "I think. . . you just. . . purged the demon from me."
Noctis stood to his feet, "You were fucking possessed this whole time?" he yelled. "You could've at least warned me or something!" He began brushing himself off, but ceased; his outfit was already ruined from earlier. A little dirt wouldn't make a difference. Noctis however did notice the cuts he had sustained were no longer.
"I didn't know how to tell you," admitted Sazh. "I'd been doing so good at keeping it at bay I didn't think it'd be an issue."
"Yeah, well, you thought wrong." Noctis was not in a hurry to experience something of that magnitude again. "How'd you manage to get possessed anyways?"
"From years ago. I was possessed for years, but it wasn't until my wife's death that. . . something in me awoken and I began to have some control over myself. I'd been trying to do right since then, but once it's in you, it's in you," Sazh stood up. "Thanks for the exorcism."
"Thanks for not killing me." It was settled, Noctis would definitely be practicing his abilities. To close had he come to death's net, and he wasn't looking to be snared by it anytime soon. There was so much that he seemed capable of. He wondered if Lightning was capable of the same feats.
"You go on. Find the girl and try to bring her here without getting killed."
"Fine. You wait here without getting possessed."
Sazh chuckled. "Will do."
Noctis walked off, heading down the stairs.
A new door had been acquired thanks to Stella, and Lightning felt at ease once again. Currently she'd been preoccupied with a needle and thread, sofa cushion situated on her lap. "Cool friends you got here." Eyes parted with her task to glance at Snow.
"Yeah. They're nice people," and she meant that.
"Thanks for letting me crash."
"Don't mention it." Snow was always welcome, he had to have known that. "And thank you."
Snow perked a brow, "What for?"
"Thinking of me. Coming all this way to make sure I was alright. You're. . . ," she paused, "a great friend, Snow."
The blonde sheepishly rubbed the back of his head, "Aw, Light," he chuckled. "Of course I'd come looking for you, we've been best friends for ages."
A small smile graced her lips, "Right." She went back to sewing.
"So. . . ," Snow began.
"So?" clearly there was something on his mind.
"It's just. . . ," he rubbed the back of his neck some more, "are you happy here?"
Her fingers slowed on their task. Lightning refrained from regarding Snow. "What makes you ask that?"
"Just that. . . you seem so adamant about staying here. I understand not wanting to return to Bodhum, but why here? This place seems so. . . gloomy," Snow chuckled, "but I suppose that's why maybe you like it."
"If you're inferring that I'm gloomy; I'm not," she corrected.
Booming laughter was heard, "If you say so."
"I'm not," she asserted, her ire rising.
"Okay, Light. Whatever you say," he softly chuckled.
Her head rose so that she could cast him an icy glare. The smile on his face made it impossible to be mad at him for long though. She returned to sewing, "I just felt drawn to this place. Almost like I'm suppose to be here." Lightning was having a hard time understanding her feelings herself. 'Whenever I'm around him I just feel c–.'
Her thoughts were interrupted by an intrigued Snow, "But you're alright though?"
Was she? Thoughts concerning the last few days fluttered around in her mind. The suicides, the nightmares, the demon, Noctis, the men she had murdered. . .
She was pulled forth from her reverie, "I. . . ," she visibly frowned. "It's complicated."
"Complicated?" Snow grew concerned. It wasn't like Lightning to show emotion; there must have been something bothering her. "You want to talk about it?"
Lightning didn't know whether to feel guilty or bask in murderous satisfaction. Her heart was a twisted ball of frizzy yarn. "It's for your own good," was the simple response. Having thoughts of death, blood, and pain was to be her burden; not Snow's. Besides, there was no telling what would come as a result of his knowing. If ever the Guardian Corps were to interrogate her, it was essential that Snow not be at fault simply based on his awareness. Like he said, they were best friends. Just as he had her best interests in mind, so had she his. "How is everyone back at home?" The topic needed to change.
"Alright. Not much has changed since you left. Everyone tried looking for you, but didn't have any leads. I swear, you really know how to disappear," he gave a light laugh. "We all thought you'd at least show up for Serah's funeral to pay your respects, but when you hadn't showed up I knew something was wrong. I mean you'd slipped out from under my nose two days before, but I figured you just needed some time to cool off. I didn't think you would leave altogether. Me, Gadot, and the gang ran through every corner of Bodhum trying to find you. A week later, someone told me about a suicide on T.V. and that they'd seen you in it. At first I thought you had killed yourself, but when I saw the repeat broadcasting later that night I knew you were alive. So, we all scraped some gil together to buy an airship ticket, and I flew here as soon as I could."
Lightning took in all the information. She felt guilty about making everyone back home worry, "I see."
"Uh. . . are you in trouble or something?" Snow couldn't help himself, he was worried about his friend and she was behaving weirdly. The entire situation roused an inquiring mind. When Lightning didn't respond, he stood to his feet. Three long strides brought him close to her, "Light?"
His shadow felt like a blanket of security as he loomed overhead, his blues filled with concern. A large mitt settled on her bare narrow shoulder. "Snow. . . please don't."
"If you're in trouble, just tell me. Say the word and I'll help you."
"I know that." She'd do the same for him.
"The mess from earlier. It wasn't a puppy, was it?"
The situation was too serious for her to roll her eyes or yell at him. "No, Snow. It wasn't," she softly confirmed. "I don't know why it happened other than the fact that," at this point her voice was barely above a whisper, "I killed someone. Multiple someones." She was no longer speaking to Snow, instead she voiced her thoughts aloud.
"Maybe what happened earlier was punishment. I don't know." Her evil deeds had to have been what drew the demon, at least from the way she rationalized it. Before that incident, nothing that intense had ever happened.
Snow blinked and shook his head. He had to make sure he was hearing her correctly. "You . . . d-did what?"
Again, she began to speak to Snow, "Murderers. Serah's to be exact," the needle and thread had already been abandoned. Hands were clasped, situated in her lap. Lightning was seldom insecure, but right then she wasn't confident enough to meet the eyes of the righteous Snow. Without him uttering a syllable, she already knew how he felt. And already her anger began to surface in anticipation of his judgement.
"Light. . . how could you?"
She snapped her head upwards, "How couldn't I? They took my sister away from me! They raped her, and then they killed her! THEY DESERVED TO DIE!"
"No," Snow shook his head. "Listen, I love Serah, too. But you murdered people. Lightning, there just isn't any excuse for that!"
"People?" Lightning was up on her feet. "Serah was a person! Those were animals! Savage and cruel. . ."
Snow backed away from her, "No. No. No!" disbelief became him. He greeted his teeth and pointed a harsh finger in her direction. "The Lightning I knew would've never done something like that!"
"Then I guess you never really knew me, huh?"
Exasperation laced Snow's voice and he lowered his hand, "No. I guess not." He avoided eye contact and made his way for the door, but Lightning didn't have it in herself to stop him. She should've persisted with being evasive. Snow's gentle voice and touches were a false security. He swung that door open, "Bye, Light."
Where was he going to go? She was his only contact in Tenebrae, and it was a long journey back to Bodhum. "Snow, wait!" It was too late, he'd made his exit. When Lightning dashed forward to pursue him, she was met with a familiar face as she rounded the corner. "You."
"Me," Noctis stated. He looked down at the girl in front of him and then craned his neck to observe an angry Snow traveling down the hall. "Am I interrupting something?"
Lightning shook her head. Technically he hadn't been, Snow had already ended both the conversation and his visit. Already she missed him.
Noctis could tell she was sad. Not that her face betrayed her, but he just knew. He wondered if the large blonde storming from her condo was the cause. 'Who is he anyways? A boyfriend?' An invisible force seemed to clutch his heart. He didn't like the idea of that in the slightest. It was entirely possible.
"Why are you here? Haven't you caused enough damage?" She wasn't happy about his return.
The male looked from her to the door, "You got a new one."
"No thanks to you."
Noctis sighed. As much as he would have loved to be anywhere else, he needed her. "About earlier. . . ," he felt her eyes on him. Instead he tried to busy himself with looking at the wall behind her; eventually he gave in. Eye contact was made, "I apologize."
"For breaking my door or kissing me?"
"Breaking your door," he replied absent-mindedly. It was only until he realized his response that he continued, "Besides you kissed me."
"I did not!"
"Let's just. . . forget it. Okay?"
"The kiss or your bad hair?"
"The ki- hey!" Noctis watched as Lightning folded her arms across her chest. "I didn't come here to fight."
"So you came here because. . . ?"
"Because I need your help."
She stared at him. He stared at her. Their emotions were in overdrive. A variety of pleasurable feelings coursed through them. Euphoria. Peace. Serenity. There wasn't quite any way for either of them to describe it. Both tried to fight it, but it was impossible. Noctis placed a hand on the soft skin of Lightning's shoulder, his thumb rubbing the soft protrusion of bone that made up part of her clavicle. Lightning's arms fell at her sides, allowing Noctis' gaze to roam her entirely. Her own hand rose, and she placed it in the center of his chest. Her elbow came to a bend as he stepped forward.
Realization dawned on them, and both sported sets of widened eyes. They were entirely too close. With immediacy, they backed away from each other. Noctis didn't understand it. He felt so at ease around her. All problems were forfeited, allowing joy and security to stand as victors. He hungered for her; craved her with every fiber of his being. None of it made sense to him. Being close to Lightning was both familiar and thrilling. Despite this he wanted to shove her away, yet touch her all at the same time. "Can I come in?"
Lightning didn't know if she should allow him entry. She didn't want another repeat of having her personal space invaded by him. "Make it quick."
Noctis walked in as she stepped aside. He noticed the place was clean, but no amount of cleaning would get rid of the physical damage the walls and ceilings sustained. "We're not safe," he blurted.
"What do you mean, 'we'?" The door was closed and locked. If anyone was in trouble, it was Lightning. While she listened, she leaned back against the door.
"I was attacked when I left here. Demon. Not only that, the guy who had been helping me and told me to find you, was possessed so I ended up removing the demon from his body. Not exactly sure how I did it, but. . . ," Noctis looked at the sofa. "Mind if I sit?"
"Whatever," Lightning pushed off the door and went to do the same, though making sure she placed herself at a comfortable distance from him. She was interested in hearing more about Noctis' encounter with a demon. Normally, she would have disbelieved him, but after nearly being ripped apart herself she knew he wasn't joking. But there was something that caught her attention, "A man told you to find me? How creepy."
"Totally," he wasn't going to argue with her there. Creepy was the only way to summarize Sazh's entering of his life. "But he knows a lot more about what's going on than I do. I actually came back as he requested I bring you with me. It's up to you whether or no–."
She didn't give him the chance to finish, "I'll go." Lightning wanted answers. If there was some way to stop the weird supernatural phenomenon and live in peace, she was all for it.
'That was easy,' thought Noctis. He was expecting Lightning to be a lot more defiant. "Is it alright if we leave now?"
Lightning looked around her apartment. Her mind drifted to Snow, "Yeah."
The sun sat much higher in the afternoon sky. It's radiant glow provided her skin with a desired warmth, but despite this she walked with her arms crossed over her chest. Noctis was at her side, his hands in his pockets. They'd been avoiding each other as much as two traveling companions could. They wouldn't look at each other, and words were reserved for situations that mattered.
Seagulls flew overhead, and the sound of ocean waves reminded Lightning so much of Bodhum. It was soothing, and sleep threatened to creep up on her. After all, she hadn't gotten any. A soft yawn was released, a hand coming up to cover her mouth.
"Tired?" It was the first word Noctis had spoken to her since they departed her condo.
She didn't say anything.
"Whatever," he was curious as to whether a bad dream was the cause, but since she was ignoring him, his assumptions wouldn't be confirmed.
"No sleep," okay so maybe she wasn't ignoring him. . . entirely. "Not since the night before last." She wasn't going to tell him why. It was none of his business. Plus, she doubted he'd care.
"Any particular reason why?" So maybe he did care, or maybe he was just making small talk.
"Don't want to talk about it."
"Okay," he wasn't going to push. Her business was her business. 'Did something bad happen? Maybe that would explain that weird dream I had about her.' Strangely, he was worried about her, someone who was practically a stranger to him.
Simultaneously they glanced at one another, but quickly snapped their heads back. Lightning's heart was tapping rapidly against her ribs, and she fought the smile that wanted to form. He evoked strange feelings within her. She almost felt. . . happy. She hated it.
Their shoe-clad feet continued to thump against the boardwalk. Soft breezes caressed their faces, the smell of salt permeating the air. Had their reasons for being at the wharf been different, Lightning was scared she may have enjoyed the moment.
"This way," Noctis stepped ahead of her and guided her over to the warehouse that sheltered Sazh. He pulled open the door and stepped through, making sure to keep a hand on it to allow her entry. It shut behind them.
Given how dark the place seemed, it would've made sense for her to fear for her safety. But with Noctis present, she knew there was nothing shady going on. But why did Noctis being present have to be the determining factor? She was far too comfortable around him. So easily she'd given him her trust. With most people, that took years to attain.
He walked ahead of her and again she followed. Glass crunched beneath their feet. Clearly something had happened, and Lightning remembered Noctis telling her that he'd been attacked by a demon that morning as well. Was the scattered glass the remnants of that encounter? Something told her it was.
Noctis lead her up the stairs and towards the back. "We're here," he said.
Sazh turned his attention away from the television. "Welcome back!" His eyes fell upon Lightning and he squinted. "So, she's the one?"
"My ruined outfit says yes," answered Noctis.
"Well, whaddaya know," a hand was outstretched. "I'm Sazh."
Lightning looked at the hand, disinterest written all over her face, "Tch." Sazh looked completely crazy to her. He had all the makings of a psycho: rundown apparel, weird hair, living in an abandoned warehouse, and he was old.
"Careful, your lack of people skills is showing," muttered Noctis.
Lightning rolled her eyes, "You're one to talk."
Sazh cut in, "If you ask me, you're both socially inept."
"No one asked you," the teens said together. They looked to one another and glared.
"Okay, okay. Settle down," mediated Sazh. The pair looked away from each other, "You two really don't like each other, huh?"
Noctis snorted, "That obvious?"
"Not entirely," stated Lightning. "You did kiss me after all," she finally looked to Sazh who looked at Noctis with a grin. "I'm Lightning."
"I did not kiss you!"
"Yeah, just like you didn't break my door. Just so you know Nauseous, the feeling is not mutual."
"Did you just call me Nauseous?"
"That's your name ain't it?"
Lightning dismissed him with an eye-roll, "Irrelevant, actually."
"Whew!" interjected Sazh. He turned and spoke to Noctis, "I think you may have just met your match with this one," the man laughed. "I didn't think you two would be so similar."
They both groaned.
"But," all humor left Sazh, "we have important things to discuss." The man gestured to the only available chair.
Lightning shook her head, "No thank you." Caution was the word of the day. For all she knew, once she sat in that chair Sazh would leap at her to bite her or something.
"Suit yourself. I already told Noctis all that I'm about to tell you."
Noctis wandered off while Sazh retold everything to Lightning. As interesting as everything was, he had no desire to sit and listen to the entire thing once more. The information was overwhelming, and he already knew that Lightning would be asking Sazh multiple questions.
The young male hopped up on a burgundy crate, it's paint chipping off. He turned his body to sit on the edge, feet dangling. Hands were clasped in front of him as he watched the two talk, with mostly Lightning listening. "Are you being for real?" he heard her say. He watched as Sazh explained himself clearly, making sure that everything made sense to her.
Noctis yawned and dropped his gaze towards his lap, his lids slowly closing. Sazh was long-winded, so it was likely he'd be talking to his companion for a while. Thoughts began to drift, and consciousness with it.
The voice was as clear as day.
"Join her, Noctis. Embrace oblivion. Invite the abyss."
Exactly who was speaking to him? It wasn't a voice that belonged to any of the people in the warehouse. He didn't know what to make of it. The voice was cotton-candy persuasion, tempting him into sweet descent. Into what? He didn't know.
The sound of swaying treetops alerted him, leaves rattling and brushing against each other. A wind was present, or so it sounded. It was peaceful.
His head snapped up and he looked at Sazh who was standing in front of him. Was he sleep that entire time? Given how Lightning paced, apparently deep in thought, their conversation was over. It felt like he'd only closed his eyes for a few seconds. "Yeah?"
"Come over. I have something to show you, two."
Noctis hopped off the crate and followed behind the man. His eyes met Lightning's and she walked over. It seemed like she had something she wanted to say to him, but Noctis wouldn't force her. He was still annoyed with her, so he was absent the desire to engage in conversation.
The sound of clicking stole Noctis' attention. Sazh was on a laptop. "Exactly what are you up to?"
"There's something I need you two to hear," the man said. "I need you two to really understand how serious all this is."
Lightning folded her arms, "I believe the demons trying to kill us is persuasion enough."
"Not that," Sazh corrected. "Remember, it's not just demons you have to worry about. You have to worry about everything around you. Like I said, the cult controls the media. Mostly through the use of subliminal messages. Difficult to find, so the average person remains clueless. These hidden messages are designed to impact your subconscious, making it so you're more prone to behave negatively. Watch this." A final click and Sazh was stepping away from the computer.
A woman with a round face and long brown hair appeared.
"Lenne? The popstar?" Lightning recognized the woman immediately. Serah always listened to her. "You're saying she's evil?"
"Not necessarily. Just that she made Lindzeic pacts for fame and fortune. Just listen."
If ears had enamel, the song that played would create cavities. It was sweet sugary up-tempo pop, the kind that both Noctis and Lightning hated. Noctis felt as though a unicorn was going to crash through the ceiling at any moment and offer them a ride along a gorgeous rainbow so that they could prance about an enchanted meadow with the pixies on the other end of it.
Oh baby, believe me it's true
I'll travel to the edge of the world for you
Cinnamon on your lips, yeah, sugar in your kiss
I'll give anything just to listen to you hiss
Your love is a drug, and on you I'm so high
I don't care what they tell me, for you I'd die
If it weren't for the lyrics on the screen, both teens would have remained oblivious. "Wait. . . ," Noctis began. "I don't think she's singing about a guy."
"But most people don't realize that," stated Sazh. "To her young demographic, she's singing about being in love with a guy. In reality, she's singing about being in love with Lindzei, and is basically proclaiming that she's appreciative of all she's been granted and that she'd rather be doomed than to part with the god. An unhealthy co-dependency is being advocated. Little kids listen to this stuff and it becomes a reality in their relationships as adults, particularly those of young girls. 'I don't care what they tell me, for you I'd die' could be interpreted as parents and friends advising Lenne to end an unhealthy relationship, with Lindzei, but she can't do it, because remember she's high. She's addicted to the love," Sazh began clicking some more. "But this is the same song played backwards."
They waited a moment. All that was heard was unintelligible gibberish. That is until. . .
Praise Lindzei, the serpentine sovereign
My black soul is yours
Rot in you forever
Chills ran down Lightning's body. Is that what her sister had been unknowingly listening to? As she sang the lyrics, was she secretly surrendering her soul to an evil god? It couldn't be. Lightning took a few steps back. If that was true then. . . 'Is her soul. . . rotting for eternity?' Tears welled up in her eyes. All those years she'd thought she'd been protecting her baby sister, being her guardian when there was no parent to fulfill the role. It was all a falsehood.
"The words don't say that spelled out backwards or even when spoken, but they do when sang in the correct rhythm," Sazh turned away from the computer to look at the gifted two. He frowned as he observed Lightning. She was a beacon of anger; clenched fists and twisted facial features. She was trying to hold it together.
Noctis looked to her. He could feel her anger, but most of all her sadness. "Lightning. . ." Surprised clasped him as he saw tears visibly drop onto her cheeks and trickle down her face. He didn't understand why she was mad. Noctis didn't like her, but it pained him to see her in such a state. A hand extended, and he touched her shoulder. It was the wrong move.
She flinched, and shrugged him off. Steps were taken back, before she turned and bolted. It was all too much to bear. Her sister was suffering in the after life at that very moment, her soul probably calling out to her. It truly was a fate worse than death. The blood on her hands was for nought.
"LIGHTNING!" Noctis called out to her.
Feet made quick work of the stairs as she descended them. She pushed her way out of the warehouse and disappeared into the light. Noctis rushed after her. 'What's gotten into her?' Her behavior was odd. As much as he hated to admit it, her demeanor was similar to his own, so to see her crumble was a surprise. Perhaps it was all too much for her, and she wasn't prepared to handle their apparent fate.
Lightning was the wind, and Noctis didn't think it was possible for a girl to be so fast. She was definitely in shape, and it made him embarrassed that he was struggling to catch her. It wasn't that he was slower; her distance wasn't increasing, but the gap between them wasn't lessening. They were matched.
She ran along a dock, and collapsed before she even managed to make it to the end. Back home, the dock on Bodhum's beach was Serah's favorite location. She'd spend many hours gazing outwards at the calm sea. "Serah. . . ," Lightning sadly panted. A hand was felt on her shoulder. Without turning, she already knew who it was. Noctis didn't speak, and he didn't need to; she didn't want him to. Her actions were sure to have left both him and Sazh confused.
"Uh. . . ," Noctis didn't know where to begin.
Lightning wouldn't allow herself to sob, despite the stinging of her eyes. Her throat ached as muscles constricted. Her chest was heavy and ultimately she just wanted to die. When she already thought things were bad, they just continued to get worse. More and more, being gifted by Etro was beginning to resemble a double-edged sword. Was she to be forever cursed with misery? Noctis' close proximity wasn't enough to cheer her as it usually did (despite the fact she disliked him).
"Don't call me that," she hissed. "Just leave me alone."
Noctis removed his hand from her shoulder, "I'm only trying to. . . help," he didn't know with what. It was impossible for him to help if he didn't know what the problem was.
"Get away from me! Stay away from me!" She stood to her feet and moved away from the male. He was a bad luck charm in human form. It was true what they said about ignorance being bliss. Had she not followed him to meet Sazh, Serah's fate never would've been known. Perhaps she could have finally made peace with her passing, but there was nothing peaceful about knowing her little sister was enraptured by agony.
Her words hurt him, more than he let on. His expression was blank as he spoke, "Sazh says we're suppose to stick together. What part of that do you not understand?" Yes, that was the reason he bothered with her, not because he actually cared to be in her company.
"I don't care! Fuck our supposed fate, and fuck Etro! If she gave a damn about us at all, she wouldn't have two teenagers fighting her battles and she'd do it herself! Some goddess she's suppose to be," Lighting's shoulder roughly brushed Noctis as she stepped passed him.
Maybe Lightning was right. Noctis too had the feeling that they were nothing more than pawns in some cosmic war. It was hard to argue her feelings when his were the same. All he wanted to do was live as normal a life as possible. Truth be told, he hadn't a problem with the sinister agenda of Lindzei's followers. His only issue was the fact that no matter what happened, dark entities would come after him and his friends. An entire world was set on them being imprisoned within the belly of a snake for eternity. Everything witnessed so far confirmed that, and that wasn't a fate Noctis wanted for himself or Lightning. He however, wouldn't tell her that.
Noctis' hand snapped forward and curled around her wrist. He yanked her back towards him, "Get a hold of yourself!" He didn't know what was running through the girl's head, but she was being reckless. "Whether you like it or not, it doesn't change the fact that demons are trying to kill us. To ignore that is foolish."
"What can we possibly do?" she yelled at him. "It's not just demons. It's the entire world! We're screwed regardless. We can't win even if we tried!"
His grip loosened on her wrist, and she snatched her hand away. They did get the short end of the stick, didn't they? Humanity was being herded to their doom, and in their blind ignorance they hadn't realized it. The very people they looked up to were the very ones praying for their damnation. As the years passed, they sank further into hidden indoctrination. "Maybe we can't take on the entire world, but we can still stop Lindzei."
"That's Etro's problem. Not mine, and it shouldn't be yours either." With that she walked off, leaving Noctis to gaze at her retreating form.
Water pelted him from behind as he stood, eyes downcast in observance of toed feet and the white marble of the shower floor. Soaked locks clung to the sides of his face. He hadn't realized how much his body ached until he placed himself under the warm spray of the shower-head. Sore muscles relaxed and his breathing calmed. Ever since he returned home, Lightning occupied his thoughts. Exactly what made her flip out like that? The more he thought about it, it couldn't have been the song. A demon was way creepier than that, and she handled that with no problem. He sighed. He'd only end up hurting his brain if kept searching for an answer.
His hand clasped the shower knob and twisted it. The raining water came to a halt. Noctis stood still for a few moments, water dripping from his hair and the tip of his nose. He shook his thoughts away and slid open the shower curtain before stepping out. A towel was removed from a hook and wrapped around his waist. He hadn't bothered closing his bathroom door, to allow the heat from the shower to escape into his bedroom.
It hadn't taken him long to dry and freshen up. Eventually he stood in nothing more than a shirt that mirrored his hair in color, and grey sweat pants. His hair was still slightly damp, absent their usual spikes for the time being. Socks were opted out of, with Noctis deciding to go barefoot. If the house staff done their job, then the floors should have been clean.
He stepped out of his room, on a journey towards the home theater. When his duties were seldom, Noctis would often occupy his time with movies, provided he wasn't asleep. Most people his age would have enjoyed a night about the town with friends, but that wasn't Noctis' style. He liked the time he spent with his friends, but he was independent by nature, and thus preferred solo activities.
The expansive theater was entered, and automatically those lights came to life. There were rows of comfortable red velvet seats lining the room, and a large screen situated at the base. It wasn't quite as large as an actual theater, but surround sound and a popcorn machine made it just as good. There was even a small little concession stand situated outside the room, which the staff was responsible for making sure was fully stocked. Noctis didn't need any of the lavishness, but he wasn't going to complain. How his father chose to spoil him was his prerogative.
A wooden door was placed to the right of the large screen and Noctis stepped through it. Automatic lights provided illumination, revealing shelves upon shelves of movies. The bored teen walked over to one, eyes scanning meticulously in an effort to find something of interest. He had to get his mind off Lightning. Noctis hadn't been able to watch every movie, but he made it a goal to do so someday. Cases were plucked free from their positions, and held in the crook of his arm to be carried into the main theater.
A small red button caught Noctis' attention; it was barely noticeable and situated at the very back of the shelf. He'd never noticed that before. What was its purpose? For the sake of curiosity, he pressed it. A silver glinting disc popped out from the edge of the wood. 'Weird.' He removed it and looked it over. On its surface was written a simple word in black ink "Ortus". It wasn't a movie he'd ever heard of. He carried the disc away with him.
He left the room, staring at the newly discovered disc. He already decided that it would be the first movie of the night. Below the large display, was a wooden cabinet. Noctis opened it revealing a player. He ejected the tray and placed the CD inside, closing it soon after. Swiping the remote, he headed to the top row and placed himself down in a seat. The screen became active. The video itself looked like some sort of home movie given the poor camera work. Noctis automatically assumed it to be for stylistic purposes more so than anything else.
There was a dark room with a set of stairs leading to a throne. Large white columns were on either side of the regal chair. Ingrained on the throne was a lindzeic insignia. At the base of the stairs were tall skinny candle holders with nine hands each. Black candles sat in each one, giving the appearance that the flames were floating given the dark environment. Various animal skulls rested on white altars.
About thirty figures cloaked in black robes entered the room, reciting an eery monotone chant, "Deditionem carnem." The words were repeated over and over again. The camera shifted and a white marble tub came into view. Rattling heralded the arrival of live human bodies, suspended from hooks. Each was blindfolded, and their sobs of sorrow filled the room. The chanting persisted.
More rattling brought a body above the tub. A tall muscular figure clothed in black stepped up, rubies decorating their neck and gloved fingers. The figure's build alluded that it was a man. He outstretched a hand to his side, and the metallic handle of an axe was placed within it. His fingers curled around the weapon. From the video, the axe was definitely ceremonial in its nature. The hilt resembled the scaled body of a snake, and the blade itself was crafted in a way that it seemed like suspended liquid.
The man stepped forward his arms splayed as he still clutched the axe. The woman hanging above the tub cried, unable to say anything due to the gag in her mouth. The bejeweled hooded man clasped the axe with both hands and held it overhead. In one fierce swoop, the blade parted the woman's thorax. A red river of life flowed from her, and puddled into the tub like a waterfall emptying into a basin. When her body would no longer produce any further liquid, her body disappeared only for another to replace it. This time the victim was male.
The act was repeated until all bodies delivered were milked of their blood. The tub was filled to the brim, and the man handed the axe off to another cloaked figure. With a snap of his fingers golden doors were thrust open. Two anonymous figures each held an arm of a woman with long black hair. Her facial features were stunning, if one had to guess, she was at the height of her youth. A robe of a vibrant red was draped over her. Sweat ran down her face, and she constantly looked up at the ceiling whispering to herself as she was guided barefoot down the aisle leading to the tub.
She groaned, pain written all over her face. If it wasn't for the figures holding her, she was sure to have collapsed. A high shrill escaped from her, and the men struggled to pull her along. When they finally reached the tub, they pulled the robe from her body. Her hands grabbed the lip of the tub and she pulled herself to a stand, revealing a pregnant belly. On wobbling legs she stood, and threw one into the ruby pond before settling down in it.
Her hands clutched the outer edges as her breathing became increasingly labored. "It's all for you! My body is the shell! I surrender to you my physical vessel! Take it! TAKE IT!" She let loose another scream, her back arching. Her fingers tightened their hold on the tub. Her screaming persisted and she groaned.
The chanting continued and before long she released a gasp and sat back in the tub in exhaustion. The blinged executioner stepped forward and dipped his hands into the dub. When he removed them, he clutched a baby who wailed after two smacks to the bum. A knife was pulled from the pocket of his cloak and he severed the umbilical cord. "Welcome into the world, Noctis Lucis Caelum."
Noctis gasped. He knew that voice.
The baby was taken from the man, and his hood was pulled down revealing none other than his father himself. The woman in the tub closed her eyes and leaned back, "I surrender. . . I surrender. . ." She didn't get a chance to repeat herself as the knife from earlier was plunged into her chest, eliciting a gasp from her lips. It was dragged down, and Noctis watched the screen as his father became a butcher. His tool was discarded and instead he plunged both hands inside of her, and began prying apart her ribs, sickening cracks heard. The woman's heart was yanked free and Mr. Caelum dove his face into it, teeth puncturing the organ as he began to cannibalize the mother of his child.
Noctis turned his head away from the screen, unable to bear the sight of any more. Tears were welling up in his eyes.
"Remember, do not trust anyone. No matter how close they are to you."
"It was through this group that I eventually met your father."
Sazh's words played back in his head. Noctis cursed himself for not realizing sooner. He was a filthy rich kid, heir to billions. His family had strong ties to many affluent and influential people. Of course his father would have connections to the lindzeic cult. This whole time, he was being sheltered and fed by the enemy, brought up to carry out some hidden legacy. The facts were blaring, but the idea of his own father being involved hadn't occurred. He was foolish. Fun and games were over. For someone prophesied and granted with unnatural power to usher in the betterment of humankind, his birth certainly seemed to be one big lindzeic ritual. Everything was fucked, his perfect life was nothing more than a facade. Why even bother anymore? Everyone around him probably knew what had happened, and what was happening. And besides Sazh, no one stepped up to right things. Not one person cared about the fate of the world, and least of all him. For religion to be real, not once did a divine hand provide intervention. Instead the heavens themselves seemed to have turned its back on him long ago. No one up there cared, yet his hand was needed to slay serpentine malignance.
Tears slid down his face and his eyes gleamed red. Lightning was right. Fuck Etro.
That concludes another (hopefully amazing) chapter. I felt I was veering off course a bit, so I decided to go back to its dark and mysterious roots. I'm going to leave the demon slaying alone for a bit and flesh out the cult some more, by actually giving them a name for starters. I just haven't figured one out yet. But ultimately, I don't want this to become too action-y, if you know what I mean.
If you have any questions, do ask them in your reviews and I'll either answer them in the story or in a note such as this.
In case you all are curious as to what the lindzeic symbol is, it's the symbol used by the Sanctum on Cocoon which is the same as a Cocoon l'cie's brand. So hopefully that clears that particular thing up. I got the inspiration to use Lindzei as the antagonist based on the Pulsian analects found in the game. Many inhabitants of Pulse kept referring to Lindzei as a viper and used the metaphor of Cocoon being his/her nest. From the way the god was depicted, I got the feeling that Lindzei was definitely something evil.
Fal'Cie are non-existent in this story. Everyone is currently in Cocoon, though it's operated solely by human ingenuity, sort of like how Bhunivelze was set out to be in FFXIII-2. It just worked better that way for the concept of the story. Being that enough of Versus isn't known to us yet in terms of their world, I just placed them all in Cocoon.
Lightning and Noctis have many more interactions to come, and naturally that means more insults and arguments, and more importantly sporadic bouts of affection.