Chapter Fifteen: Divided We Fall
Two Months Later
Mika and Dante joint owned a relatively large house on the outskirts of Dollet and they returned there when they'd been forcibly ejected from Balamb Garden. Dante hadn't taken the impressive implosion of he and Quistis' relationship or the aforementioned ejection well and had left several security guards nursing injuries ranging from a bloody nose to three broken ribs. After that initial reaction though he'd gotten over it with surprising speed and threatened to pin Squall down and defecate on his head if he ever saw him again as a parting shot.
The stereo was blaring "You and I" by Black Mustang as Mika worked up a sweat on the chin up bar. If he knew his brother, and it was one of his burdens in life that he did Dante was working on some form of revenge aimed at Swift, Alexander and Foxton should he show up. He'd probably succeed in dragging Mika into it ergo Mika felt a need to stay in peak physical condition. He wasn't unfit at the best of times but in the last two months he'd been going running and monster hunting every day and spending every available moment pumping iron.
"Can turn it up a little bit?" Dante yelled sarcastically over the music as he wandered in with a glass of whisky in one hand and a book in another. "It's not annoying yet."
"Sorry," Mika grunted sounding far from it. "I like to work out to a beat. What's the problem anyway? I thought you liked Black Mustang."
"I've got no problem with the music itself." Dante replied as he seized the remote and paused the music. "It's just a bit loud and I can't hear myself think." He waved the book for emphasis.
"Okay I'll bite." Mika said as he let go of the chin up bar and mopped his forehead with a towel. "What's in the book?"
"Atrocities." Dante replied happily. "I've got the full story on Swift and Alexander's favourite tricks in this book o' mine. When you've been around as long as those two you're bound to leave behind some sort of trail am I right?"
"Almost certainly not but to be fair I tend to tune out when you go off on your crazy kamikaze revenge mission." Mika growled. "If I were you I'd leave them alone. You're just going to get yourself killed."
"Yeah?" Dante spoke politely, although there was a somewhat ominous edge in his voice now. "Well if you were me, then I'd be you and I'd help your big bro stop Swift and Alexander doing what they did to us to some other poor bugger. No one deserves that."
"Not even your new mortal enemy?" Mika asked lightly.
"Okay reflex." Dante said with a slightly twisted grin. "No one deserves that apart from Squall."
"And why are we supposed to attack those guys and dive headfirst into a certain death again?" Mika enquired offhandedly.
"They ruined my life." Dante said with an ugly look on his face. "You might've been able to adapt to vampirism but I found it a little harder. Even if I could do it as easily as you did I'd still have to deal with the complimentary goody bag of complimentary mental torture that Alexander gave me. That sort of stuff doesn't just go away and when this time is right I'm going to do the exact same to him and then some."
"We picked a fight with them and we're still, for all intents and purposes, alive." Mika pointed out objectively. "Can't we just be satisfied with that?"
"We did not pick a fight with them." Dante retorted. "I did, and you were simply collateral damage. I picked a fight with them so what I say on the subject goes, got it?"
"But of course Mein Fuhrer." Mika muttered as Dante strode into his study and slammed the door. Mika shrugged. Maybe baiting Dante wasn't the best idea. After all, Dante wasn't exactly restrained at the best of times. Mika would never admit it to his brother but they were actually quite similar to Swift and Alexander, except that in their case the more restrained and level headed brother was the older.
"Okay this could be bad." Dante said as he emerged from his study a couple of hours later waving the book. Before Mika could take a look both brothers whirled around at the crash of breaking glass in the kitchen. Mika exchanged a wary look with Dante.
"What the hell was that?" He asked.
"I don't know." Dante growled ominously as he moved towards the kitchen. "Whatever beastie you are, I know you're there and I hurt beasties. Show yourself." He moved into the kitchen properly and looked around. He could see nothing out of place aside from the fragments of a broken wine glass on the floor.
"Anything?" Mika called.
"A ghost is it?" Dante demanded of the empty room. "Well go and haunt someone else, there's a good spook." He was unprepared for what happened next. With an animalistic growl a female vampire with long blond hair dropped from the ceiling and threw Dante back into the living room where Mika was facing off another vampire, a well-built male with dark hair and a full beard. The female vampire stepped into the room as Dante clambered to his feet.
Mika's opponent charged forwards but Mika clotheslined him, knocking him to the floor before kicking him in the ribs. The vampire rolled back to his feet and slugged Mika hard in the midriff before knocking him backwards with a nasty front jab to the jaw. Winded but not brought down Mika grabbed his adversaries and violently twisted his arm, trying to flip him to the floor. The vampire however twisted his body and landed on his feet before nailing Mika with a high kick to the temple. Mika hit the ground and rolled aside a fraction of a second before the vampire came down feet first on the spot where Mika had lain. Mika forced himself back to his feet ready to continue the fight.
The female vampire launched a wide kick at Dante who skipped nimbly out of range before blocking a right cross and retaliating with an uppercut. The vampire fell over backwards but she turned the fall into a backwards roll and sprang back to her feet. Dante moved forwards intending to press his advantage but she kicked him in the ribs before grabbing him by the lapels and butting him in the face. Dante stumbled backwards seeing stars. The vampire seized her opportunity and leapt onto a chair before nailing Dante in the face with a two footed kick. Dante was literally lifted off his feet and he hit the ground like the proverbial ton of bricks.
"You're not so tough." The vampire observed. "Guess the mighty Dante Skyle isn't all he's cracked up to be. Come on, get up and give me a real challenge."
"Fuck this." Dante growled as he spat out a mouthful of blood and forced himself to his feet, mad as hell. "Just remember you asked for it."
Mika's opponent swung a punch but Mika grabbed the inside of his elbow with one hand and let the vampire have it full in the face. He stumbled back swearing as Mika threw a trio of punches. A right hook knocked him sideways, while an uppercut snapped his head back and a front jab felled him. He paused briefly. This was a mistake as the vampire recovered quicker than Mika would've thought possible. He forced his body upwards, his feet hitting Mika in the face. Stunned, Mika felt a fist slam into his ribs before he was thrown bodily, his progress halted by a wall.
Empowered by rage Dante had the strength of a lion and the fury of an entire pride. He hurled himself at the vampire like an uncoiling spring and caught her around the neck. He threw her off her feet, nearly breaking her neck and closed her down before kicking her in the face. She tried to scramble away but Dante seized her by the scruff of the neck and tossed her into a corner before landing a hard punch to the back of her head. As she thrashed about attempting to get free Dante landed another brutal punch before jumping atop her. He pinned her arms to her sides with his legs and immediately started to reduce her face to little more than a pound of mince. Dante laughed as he lashed out with both fists, the sheer frenzy of his attack crushing any hope of defence.
"That's right!" He roared jubilantly. "I'm back and I'm a bloody animal yeah!"
It was at that point the male vampire utterly disregarded a still stunned Mika and attacked Dante from behind. He grabbed him by the throat and tossed him backwards, towards Mika before gallantly helping his comrade to her feet. Dante did the same with Mika albeit less dignified. He grabbed Mika's wrist and nearly dislocated his shoulder, hauling him to his feet. They faced each other again but the fight was to be short lived. Before Dante or the male vampire could do anything Mika and the female hurled themselves head on at each other. They crashed to the floor and Mika leapt upright. The female vampire did not, no doubt owing to the wooden stake Mika had just driven through her heart.
"Sileo in pacis." Mika muttered as he made the sign of the cross. Then he and Dante moved towards the male who had gone very pale all of a sudden.
"I really don't like it when people invade my personal space." Dante said in a soft deadly voice. "If I was going to let you live I'd tell you to tell Alexander Obsidian that sending lackey's never works."
The vampire however clearly had no intention of sticking around so he tossed a bottle of whisky at Dante (who caught it easily) and sprinted across the room before diving headfirst through the open window. Dante and Mika made follow but by the time they'd gotten to the window he was sprinting as fast as he could towards Dollet.
"Have you still got that sniper rifle?" Dante asked Mika.
"Let him go," Mika waved a hand dismissively. "I guess he's too terrified to be a deadly threat to humanity. Should be burn his girlfriend or bury her?"
"Who cares?" Dante snorted. "That was bracing though. It's been a while since I had a decent tussle."
"Is that what you call it?" Mika enquired. "You beat her to a bloody pulp. I wouldn't call that a tussle."
"Pardon me Ghandi but who killed her again?" Dante enquired brightly. "You can't preach to me about overdoing it. While we're on the subject do you mind enlightening me as to what the whole "sileo in pacis" thing was about?"
"It means rest in peace." Mika explained patiently, although he mentally added "you dolt" to the end of the sentence.
"She just tried to kill us." Dante exclaimed aghast. "Who cares if she rests peacefully or not?"
"Just because we're not human that doesn't mean we shouldn't exhibit humanity every now and then," Mika said reproachfully. "But to business."
"Yes, I like the subject change." Dante cheered. "What say you we find out where Alexander's hiding out, break the door down and annihilate the ape that just attacked us?"
"You know before Sid and Nancy attacked?" Mika continued. "You said something might be bad? Would you care to enlighten your poor, in the dark little brother?"
"Okay, you know how I was reading up on Swift and Alexander's past glories?" Dante proceeded to explain. "I encountered a passage that led me to believe that Alexander loves mental torture a lot more than I thought he did. One of his favourite tricks is to destroy his targets not by destroying them himself but by manipulating them into destroying each other. He gets off on it."
"So he's a sadistic, manipulative, calculating sociopath?" Mika carped. "Big whoop. We knew that already."
"You don't follow me." Dante replied. "Can't say I blame you because in the course of my enquiries I've learnt that Alexander's developed a bad case of Lord Voldemort envy. He's apparently got into Dark Magic, as if all the advantages he already has aren't enough. He has a favourite magic trick. It involves removing a human beings soul, meaning his sense of compassion, remorse and his conscience." A beat. "Bad times. The drawback is that it takes time. Oh and whatever poor sod is targeted starts to act drastically out of character."
"Really?" Mika said. He was fairly sure where Dante was going with this and the picture his theory was forming was one of potential disaster.
"Isn't that bloody interesting?" Dante nodded. "Looks like all the people that rejected us, including Quistis and Rinoa are living with a brunette, gun blade wielding time bomb. Life's an ever loving bitch innit?"
"We don't know that Squall's being affected by this." Mika reasoned. "He was drinking a lot."
"Alexander's always had delusions of world domination." Dante spat. "If you're going to take over the world who better to be your sidekick than the world's foremost swords man. The so called Hero with No Fear. I may Alexander but I know exactly how his warped excuse for a mind works. I frequently wish I don't but hey, what can you do?"
"Okay let's say for a minute you're right." Mika said. "What do you suggest we do about it?"
"Who said I should do anything about it?" Dante growled. "We risked our lives for the holier than thou members of Balamb Garden. I was shot four times, you ended up fighting a building full of terrorists and then they tossed us out like we didn't matter. Let them reap what they sow that's what I say."
"And what about Quistis?" Mika demanded. "Don't you at least care about what happens to her?"
"You'd be hard put to find something I care less about." Dante sighed. "I knew Quistis would find out what I was sooner or later. She found out and she couldn't deal. How's that my fault?"
"How predictable," Mika observed loftily. "Something goes wrong in Dante Skyle's little world but perish the thought it could be his fault somehow."
"You're not funny." Dante stated glaring threateningly at his brother who held his gaze unflinchingly. "It's not my fault Quistis ended things because she couldn't handle what I was."
"Dante," Mika sighed heavily. "In think you may well be the most insensitive wart I've ever had the misfortune of coming across. If you continue acting like you don't care about anyone or anything you'll just end up pushing people away."
"And that's bad because?" Dante glowered. "I don't trust anyone because it's safer that way. The last person I trusted was Swift and we both know how that ended. If I push everyone away, that's tough. I think I'll cope."
"I don't know why I try to talk sense into you some of the time." Mika bit off. "It's becoming ever more obvious that you are well beyond help. I'm going to bed."
"You do that." Dante muttered as he stalked into his study and closed the door with more venom than was strictly necessary. He waited five minutes before pulling out his mobile phone and dialling a number. The person on the other end picked up instantly but didn't speak. "It's me." Dante said simply. "We need to have a chat."
Christmas at Balamb Garden was frequently very busy and hectic but that didn't stop more or less the entire population enjoying the festivities as much as possible by decorating every inch that they could reach. Perhaps inevitably the decorating wasn't exactly trouble free.
"Try hanging tinsel when some junior class men have got the other end and are trying to strangle you with it." Zell said one afternoon. "I suppose we should be glad they're developing a killer's instinct."
"You know you love it." Rinoa teased him gently before nodding approvingly. "I reckon this will do."
"Stand back." Zell advised as he fired up a chainsaw before bellowing at the top of his lungs. "I am the god of hell fire!"
"There's no way this can end well." Rinoa sighed as she retreated to a safe distance as Zell raised the chainsaw and advanced much in the manner of a conquering hero towards the large conifer they'd chosen in one of the forests on the Alcauld Plains. Selphie had delegated the task of locating, felling and moving a Christmas tree to them. The diminutive magical specialist had proclaimed herself "Chief Christmas Coordinator" and was seemingly intent on working everyone to death. The tree finally crashed down and they hooked it up to one of Balamb Gardens armoured personnel carriers which was pretty much a transit van, albeit armour plated and powered by a turbo charged Lamborghini V12 engine developing nearly six hundred brake horsepower. This gave it a top speed that no van should ever have and easily enough power to drag an articulated flatbed trailer carrying a large tree.
"So what's Selphie got you doing this evening?" Rinoa asked as they started the drive back. "I'm wrapping presents for the junior class men."
"Irvine and I are supposed to hang fairy lights all over the main building." Zell muttered morosely. "I'm still trying to work out how to tell Selphie that I'm not doing it without crampons, ice axes and carabineers."
"You're on your own there I'm afraid." Rinoa said brightly. "You've got to admit though, her whole obsessive personality is a little endearing."
"We're her best friends." Zell grumbled with a face like thunder. "We're obligated to admit that her whole obsessive personality is a little endearing. It's Irvine that's pissing me off."
"How so?" Rinoa enquired.
"Selphie's too busy to deal with the individual little things so she's pawned them off on her illustrious beau who's got it into his head that his word is law." Zell muttered. "He had me shifting eighty crates of baubles yesterday."
"I think I can explain this." Rinoa said. "Irvine being Irvine has gotten Selphie a certain present. It's a collection of costumes."
"Costumes?" Zell echoed wondering as he did so if he really wanted Rinoa to elaborate.
"You know." Rinoa shrugged. "Schoolgirls, nurses, cheerleaders and so on. I guess Irvine's making with the blind loyalty to soften Selphie up."
"And to think I got her a Jack Daniels mixing kit." Zell sighed. "Some guys are just cooler you know."
Dante screeched to a halt outside the smart restaurant in Dollet's upper class area. It was probably the last place anyone would look for an impulsive vampire who rode a badly outdated motorcycle and had an alarming tendency to shoot first and ask questions later (or not at all) but that was the whole point. Dante wasn't looking forward to this particular meeting in the slightest but it was a necessary evil. If Squall really was a ticking time bomb Dante was fairly sure that bad things would ensue when he blew. If Dante had to stop the mayhem by killing Squall…well life did have its little bonuses. Dante stepped inside the restaurant and headed for the table where his contact was waiting. A waitress scuttled over.
"Yes I'll have the heart healthy omelette." Swift said before looking to Dante. "And you'll have?"
"Just a pint of cider." Dante nodded at the waitress a she took off his jacket and hung it over the back of his chair.
"You sure?" Swift asked Dante, all the while scrutinising him closely. Dante felt uncannily like an insect under a microscope.
"I'm trying to keep this as quick as possible." He replied evenly, holding Swift unblinking and uncomfortably intense gaze. "Also your company without alcohol is like having my teeth drilled."
"There's not a dentist's drill in all creation that could even scratch a vampires tooth," Swift replied. "But that's irrelevant. Very well what would you like to talk about?"
"Your brother." Dante said diving straight in. "I hear he's got a few tricks up his sleeves and I was wondering if you can expand on what I've hear."
"Sorry mate," Swift said coldly. "You'll have to give me more than that. Which brother are you talking about? I have three."
"I'm talking about Alexander and you know it." Dante replied evenly. "I've seen him, and quite recently too."
"You have?" Swift kept his voice neutral but even with his rigid mental control Dante could see he was interested. "Where? When?"
"A little over two months ago I was helping Balamb Garden track down and kill you." Dante said. "I followed a lead to a warehouse here in Dollet where your friend Marcus Foxton shot me."
"I had nothing to do with that." Swift said, deciding to pass over the subject of Foxton's mysterious resurrection. "Cut to the chase please."
"Okay so there I am on the floor, bleeding from four bullet wounds and all of a sudden there's Alexander." Dante grimaced. "He rips Foxton's head off and then takes me back to his where he lights some candles, puts on some Marvin Gaye and some sexy lingerie before he pulls the bullets out of my legs."
"Where was this?" Swift demanded.
"Come on Swift, he'll have moved on by now." Dante laughed humourlessly. "What I really want to know is it true that Alexander has moved into the black magic side of things?"
"Just the odd parlour trick." Swift said dismissively. "Nothing too heavy though, relatively speaking. It's mainly mischief making."
"That's odd because I've heard that Alexander has a favourite spell," Dante pressed relentlessly. "And I don't think even you could deny its well beyond mischief making. When he did what he did to me, I assumed that was a one-time thing but the way I heard it he's really making with a bad case of Lord Voldemort envy."
"You'll find your references to modern popular culture tend to be lost on me." Swift deadpanned. "Tell me, what else do you know about this so called favourite spell of Alexander's."
"You first," Dante growled. "I am very interested in offing Alexander and I need reassurance that you won't go running off and tell him that I'm onto him."
"You think I would align myself with Alexander?" Swift spluttered. "Are you out of your mind?"
"Wait a second," Dante cut in, noting Swift's tone and posture. "You're not down with Alexander but here's my question; Why? He's your brother."
"He wasn't my only brother." Swift replied with an almost murderous look on his features. "I had two other brothers and a sister. Over the last hundred or so years, Alexander hunted them down and killed them. He scattered their bodies across the oceans and sooner or later he'll come for me."
"Oh my god," Dante murmured. He could see the pain in Swift's eyes and found himself feeling in spite of himself, sorry for the other man. "That's it isn't it? You're after revenge."
Swift didn't reply verbally, but by the other mans look Dante was completely sure he'd hit the nail on the head. He sighed theatrically and honoured whatever higher power was controlling him with a silent symphony of verbal abuse.
"Will you help me?" Swift asked quietly, his voice uncharacteristically haunted and subdued. "Will you help me take him out of the world."
"I'll help you."
Author Commentary: More is revealed and things are going to kick off massively in the next few chapters with Swift's whole revenge storyline. There will also be flashbacks coming up when you might meet a few of the other Obsidian siblings. The next chapter will focus on Swift's back story and why his relationship with Alexander is so turbulent. My personal highlight of this chapter was just that little scene between Zell and Rinoa. They're characters that don't interact much but I needed a small break from Dante and Mika causing mayhem left right and centre. The line about the junior class men trying to strangle Zell with tinsel holds particular significance to me as that was the very first line of fan fiction I ever wrote and only now I've had the chance to use it. I'm hoping to throw some serious emotional weight into the next chapter. I have said that Swift was based on two characters from modern popular culture, one of which is Lindsey MacDonald, played by Christian Kane in the TV show Angel. The other character I based him on is slowly becoming more and more obvious. If you don't figure it out I will let you know who exactly I'm on about. As ever thanks to my reviewers and readers, especially Dee and Bebedora. To all my other readers who don't review I have this to say. If you don't leave a review I can't send you a grateful fruit basket. Maybe that'll finally galvanize them into action. Thanks again to all of you. See you soon.