The Phantom of Nibelheim

Act II

Scene One: What’s With You?

A grand applause rose from the tavern guests as Chelsea brought her song to an end. Curtsying beautifully, the young woman smiled to the costumers and skipped off stage.

“Bravo! Bravo!” Josh cheered from a front table as Chelsea came over to him, “Another perfect performance, Chels! That was incredible, but you were singing about angels again. That’s the third straight week, nothing else. Why the sudden focus on celestials?”

“Shh!” The waitress blushed a bit, flipping her notepad open. “It’s a secret. What about you though? You’ve come here everyday, for every meal, sounds a little stalkerish to me.”

“Me? A stalker?!” The lieutenant gave her a hurt face. “Heavens no! I just come for the singing. It helps keep the food down.”

“Cookie!” Jade turned to the kitchen cut out, calling exasperatedly, “Don’t mind the brat. He’s just flirting, poorly.”

While Chelsea served up some orders, Josh took little sips of his sun tea as watched her. He cursed himself for not following up on the flirting remark. Chelsea had laughed it off, but that was exactly what he was doing, trying to at least. Ever since they were kids, he’d had a huge crush on her. After botching his last chance, he’d joined Soldier to impress her. Now was his second time up to bat in the game of love, and the pitcher was brutal. He wasn’t going to foul up again. He had to get over his love-struck nature around her though, or he’d never be able to confess his affections.

“Jade,” Jasper whispered to his twin, “what was with the ‘brat’ comment? Do I sense jealousy?”

“No reason, really,” Jade muttered back, thoughtlessly. Her harsh glare at the young soldier dining by the stage gave a different tone than her voice. “I used to call him a brat when we were kids. What’s wrong with it now?”

Jasper blinked a bit before chiming softly about someone being jealous. Jade bit back a denial as Chelsea approached the bar.

“He’s right though, sis,” the singer commented. “You have seemed a bit edgy lately, especially whenever Josh is around. What gives? He’s a friend of us both.”

The grouchy tender turned to do something that would take up time. Jasper and Chelsea looked at each other, sighing with defeat. Looking at her reflection in a glass in her hand, Jade spoke inaudibly...

“I hope Red gets them all… for good.”

Scene Two: A Sister’s Love

10 o’clock came strangely quickly that night, or that was what the three siblings thought at least. The ritual clean up and stacking flew by just as fast. The twins walked over to their younger sister, but a wave of her hand silenced any question either might have planned to ask.

“I’ll head up, guys,” Chelsea announced.

“Again, Chelsea?” Jasper asked in a whiny tone. “You’ve gone to bed early every night for the past three weeks. Jade,” he suddenly gasped, “could our sweet, innocent, virgin, baby sister have a mysterious lover?! Say its not so, Chelsea!”

The waitress held her breath as her older brother embraced her head tightly against his chest. Right on cue, Jade stormed across the tavern with a balled fist. When Jasper received his usual thrashing, Chelsea smiled and climbed the stairs to their bedrooms.

Opening her door, she entered and closed it gently, as if she were trying to hide something. Dashing to the window, she pushed open the pane to sit with a light sigh. The night gingerly blew her a kiss that rustled her long, dark hair.

“Is that you, my angel?” she called softly. When another soft breeze caressing her face, she smiled sweetly, “I will grace you with my song that you love so much, my dear angel.

“Father once spoke of an angel. I used to dream he’d appear. Now as I sing I can sense him, and I know he’s here…”

“What’re you doing, Chels?” Chelsea spun around quickly at Jade’s voice.

“Jade…! Uh…! I didn’t hear you come in,” she smiled in her cute, innocent way. The older sister crossed her arms, eyeing her younger sister.

“Aren’t you going to bed?” Chelsea nodded innocently. “Then why do you sing to the stars...” Jade walked over to where her sister sat, “... about your angel?” The younger of the two looked away, anxiously. “Come on, sis. You know you can tell me anything.”

“I...” Chelsea glanced out of the corner of her eye and smiled. “I’m singing to my angel.”

“I guess you’re not going to tell me then, huh?” Jade shrugged in disappointment, which made Chelsea whimper over her sincerity. The older sister laughed, lightly. “I’m sorry for teasing you. Come on though. Off to bed.”

After pouting a bit, Chelsea went to brush her hair and dress for bed. Jade even tucked her little sister in, mummy-style. The younger giggled at the affection. Jade stroked the silky hair gently as she sat beside her sister on the bed.

“Goodnight, Jade...” A yawn interrupted Chelsea’s train of thought just before she fell asleep.

“It seems like yesterday Mom and Dad brought you home,” Jade whispered, reminiscing about the day they first met. “You were so tiny, for an eighteen month old. Dad said Jasper and I were finally a big brother and sister. Mom never let you out of her sight for the next four years; after that, I became the protective one.

“It’s strange, now that I think about it, I can’t remember a time I didn’t care for you. Sure, when we were younger, it was expected, but over the years, I never would have thought I’d love you so much.” Kissing the sleeping girl’s forehead, Jade looked at the peaceful face. “I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you from all the darkness in the world, kiddo. All I can do is watch over you and help your dreams come true.”

After brushing her fingers through Chelsea’s hair once more, the older woman walked over to the vanity dresser to blow out the oil lamp. She turned to leave, taking one last look before she closed the door behind her.

“Goodnight, little sister.”

Scene Three: Angel of Music

As he did every night the past few weeks, the dark figure sat on the roof of the maiden’s home to listen to her sing. It had been such a long time since music had graced his tortured soul. Not only that, the angelic maiden that had given him this mystic medicine was so beautiful he couldn’t stay away. In his mind, he debated whether or not to see her again, as he did every night. How long could he continue just listening from afar?

“You know you have no right to even enter her presence, Valentine. Just one look at her face, if only from afar, might be enough to let her go.” Covering his face, Vincent Valentine descended before his angel’s window.

Inside the room, it was quite dark, but the darkness held no veil over his crimson eyes. Looking passed the shadows, he gazed on the sleeping woman in awe of her beauty. He scolded himself for being such an obvious stalker, yet he pressed his gloved hand against the glass none the less.

When the pane moved inward, Vincent drew a quick breath in surprise. Thanking the fates responsible for such luck, he entered the room silently. Out of habit, he glanced around his surroundings before approaching the angel’s sacred resting place. Gazing upon her relaxed face, he stroked her cheek lightly.

“A monster,” he whispered, “has no right to be near such pure innocence.” Backing away, the man turned to leave the way he had come. “Farewell.”

The subtle touch was enough to stir the sleeper. Eyes fluttering open, Chelsea saw a silhouette moving toward her open window. Was that a red cloak in the moonlight? She sat up quickly, reaching toward the figure.

“Wait, please wait!” The shadow stopped, as if frozen in place by her voice. She moved from her bed to walk closer. Taking the red cloth in her hands, she buried her face in its frayed ends, weeping desperately. “Please don’t leave again. Please, Angel, don’t go.” When the figure didn’t move, her soul reached in song.

“Angel, I heard you. Speak; I’ll listen. Stay by my side, guide me. Angel, my soul grows weak. Forgive me. Enter at last, master.”

Vincent gaped at her words to him. Him? An angel? He turned his head about to glance at the woman. Looking at her through the slit between his head band and collar, his red eyes widen at her pleading face, begging him to stay. His right, gloved hand reached to stroke her soft cheek with his exposed fingertips.

“That you would call me your an angel is more than I deserve,” he whispered down to her, “for I am fallen if I am such a being. I am unworthy to encroached upon the grace and beauty that clutches to me.”

“Angel,” taking his hand, Chelsea looked up at him, “sing with me and let me judge for myself if you are unworthy. The soul speaks through music, so maybe you’ve come to be cleansed of your pain.”

Smiling behind his collar, the man wondered how long it had been since he had sung so much as a bar of music. He had once been proud of his voice, but he was hardly the inspired youth he once was. When she reached to caress his hand at her cheek, a strange sensation stirred within his heavy chest.

“Flattering child, you shall know me. See why in shadow I hide. Look at your face in the mirror. Vincent turned her toward her vanity, pulling his headband up to reveal his eyes in the reflection, “I am there inside...”

The faint crimson glow in the limited view of his face surprised Chelsea. The sound of his voice sent a tingling wave through her entire body. It was the same sensation she felt when she sang on stage. The young woman felt her soul move to sync with his woeful song, flowing after him with a spark of hope.

“Angel of Music, guide and guardian, unveil your true glory. Angel of Music, hide no longer. Come to me strange angel.”

“We are bound to each other by the bonds of music.” Glancing up at him, Chelsea smiled at the words he had inspired from her heart. “Nothing can ever sever that, my angel. Not light or dark, nor good or evil.”

Gaping as she leaned against him, Vincent allowed her to pull his arm around her in an embrace. She wanted to be with him. Some one actually wanted to be with him, of their own free will. He was so moved he dared to ask her a question.

“Would you come with me, tonight? Now?” He felt her nod a yes.

“Let me change a minute, ” she whispered.

He returned to the window, allowing her some form of privacy. She dressed quickly, surprising him when she walked up behind him. Pulling her close, he stepped up to exit the window. Chelsea gripped tightly around his waist at the sight of the ground below. His eyes met hers with a reassuring expression.

“Don’t be afraid,” Vincent said calmly. “Your angel will protect you.” Suddenly, he leapt into the air and flew into the night with his angel gasping in awe.

Scene Four: The Phantom of the Aria

Chelsea gawked at the ground speeding past. The man ran through the town, jumping from the rooftops to the streets and back as if he were a bolt of lightning. He truly is an angel in her eyes. It was a shame he hid most of his face. She just knew he was unlike any man she’d ever known.

After passing a few landmarks, Chelsea noticed that they were headed for the old Shinra Mansion. The whole town knew the eerie building was haunted, and it was rumored to be the home of the town guardian. Her musings were confirmed when he descended before the front door.

The old house had been build centuries ago when Shinra had first occupied Nibelheim. They had once occupied the residence, but some time afterwards, they had abandoned the old building, locking it up. Her heart trembled at the thought of the militant force.

“Are you with the Shinra?” Chelsea asked warily.

“No.” Setting her down, Vincent felt rage fill his chest at the word. Remembering the woman at his side, he narrowed his eyes as he opened the door with a quiet sigh. After he didn’t say anymore, the man walked inside.

Chelsea ran to catch up to him inside the musty mansion. She couldn’t help clinging to his arm as they walked along the tattered rug toward the grand staircase. Recalling the haunted rumors, the young woman cowered at the sight of the creatures glaring in their direction. Her protector must have sensed her fear, pulling her under his cloak.

“Don’t worry about these lost souls.” Vincent spoke in a calm yet tired voice. “They seek only the sanity stolen from them. Shinra is all they think of, the object of their hatred. They look at any who enter this house as Shinra. I am the only being they trust. They would never harm you, lest they face my retribution.”

The grip on her shoulders and the calm in his tone convinced Chelsea to believe his words. Her fear faded as she clung to his shirt. Though an ache rested in her chest, thinking of the cursed fate of the poor creatures.

He led her down the right corridor at the top of the stairs, leading toward the bedrooms. Releasing Chelsea to open a door, a sudden screech jilted them both as a bat flew into Vincent’s face. Chelsea screamed, but he simply yelled at the creature.

“Philippe! That’s enough!” The young woman opened her tightly closed hazels. Amazement filled her eyes as the little, winged animal alighted onto Vincent’s right arm as if it were a pet. “Philippe, this woman is a friend. You and your kin must protect her, not frighten her away. Go tell the others that your protector has returned home.”

As the bat screeched back, Vincent pushed against a hidden, brick wall. It gave way, moving to the side. Philippe flew through as Chelsea blinked in awe. Her guide motioned for her to come closer. She nodded and approached the trap door. She gasped at a spiral staircase leading deep underground.

“You are just full of surprises, aren’t you, Angel?” Chelsea smiled up at him.

Vincent gulped nervously. Her smile sent a heat through him. Thankfully, his face was still mostly covered, concealing his flushed cheeks. Taking her in his right arm, he jumped down the hallow center of the staircase. Chelsea squealed with delight, clinging excitedly to him.

He landed with grace on cracked stone floor, leading her down a sconce lit basement. Bats screeched as they walked passed. Vincent couldn’t hold back a laugh when a few sat on his shoulders and hair, greeting him home. Chelsea gaped at the animals that had always frightened her with new wonder.

“Bats are misunderstood by mankind, shunned as evil by society,” Vincent explained when he noticed her face. “They are truly creatures of rebirth since the time of the Ancients. I share a bond of understanding with them, and we have become friends in own isolation.”

“That’s amazing,” Chelsea’s voice was honest, fascinated even. “I never imagined bats could be so affectionate, but then again, I’ve never seen this side of them before. They’re adorable!”

Vincent watched her as a few of the creatures flew about her. He was impressed at how quickly they accepted one another. She truly was an angel. In his awe. he didn’t notice Philippe zoomed in on his headband, snatching it right off his thick locks. He gawked up at the ceiling, calling to his mischievous little friend

“Philippe! Give that back now!”

As he yelled above, Chelsea glanced up at his face. Suddenly aware of his exposure, the man gasped in horror, trying to cover his face. Chelsea’s hand reached for his cheek before he could though. He waited for some form of delayed reaction as she brushed his wild, black hair from his crimson eyes. All she did was gaze at him with wonder.

“Angel, you’re more beautiful than I dreamed.”

Blinking wildly at the comment, Vincent’s vision blurred. She was unafraid of his face. The fiery red eyes and pallid complexion didn’t faze her at all. Tears almost fell at the sight of her enamored face.

There had only been one other person in his accursed life that had remained unafraid of his demonic features. He had never dreamed that a woman could find his face beautiful though. In the back of his mind, Vincent couldn’t shake the feeling that Philippe was laughing at him from a sconce with his headband.

After the stillness, Chelsea realization that they were standing before an old wooden wall built into the stone. She turned to see an aged door the figure was staring at. Tilting her head, the woman wondered how a door could birth such sadness in one’s eyes.

“Angel, why is this wall and door here? Why isn’t it stone like the rest of the basement?”

“This room was added after the mansion was built. The wall and door were made quite quickly, yet they have held strong for quite some time.” Reaching toward the door, Vincent reached with his right hand toward door, opening into a dark room. As Chelsea squinted into the darkness, his face went cold. He called forth with a commanding tone.

Fira All.

Several orbs of light sparked inside the dark room, darting toward the walls. Each burst into flame on a sconce candle, fully illuminating space within. Chelsea entered, along with their nocturnal friends, a room of coffins, four along the walls and one in the center. Watching her admire the beds of the dead, Vincent waited for a reaction of some sort to his revelation. Surely, this woman has a limit to her tolerance.

“Angel...” Chelsea said softly as she approached the center casket. It was different from the others as if it held some importance. She stroked the polished, black wood finish before turning to look at her angel. Seeing the innocent gaze, Vincent’s eyes locked with hers.

“Are you…” He braced himself for the worst. “Are you a vampire?”

The man’s knees gave way as he gaped in shock. She blinked at his reaction, waiting for an answer. Vincent began to wonder how innocent she really was to imagine such a thing. Shaking his head for a no, he stood upright again.

“No, no, I’m not undead.”

As if on cue, Chelsea gasped with surprise. Vincent had to assumed things reality was finally hit her. She bowed low from the waist though, confusing him further.

“Please forgive my rudeness! I haven’t properly introduced myself!” Still bowing, Chelsea missed the display of the red and black clad figure falling to the floor. His anxiety had run high with worry for nothing, and he felt foolish for stressing over being rejected the entire night. Once he stood up, the waitress touched her chest as she rose to her full height as well.

“Let’s start again. I’m Chelsea Streeter.” Extending her hand toward him, she asked sweetly, “Who are you, my angel?”

Gazing at her soft hand, Vincent followed the path back to her face, taking her in again. Perhaps he had overreacted to her openness, assuming she would reject him when he revealed his true self. Slowly reaching out, hesitantly, he took the hand in his right, turning it about to kissed it.

“When I lived in the light, I was called Agent Heart-Throb.” Chelsea blushed a bit, thinking she agreed. “But,” he continued, “My name was Valentine, Vincent Valentine.”

Chelsea thought his elegant speech and manners mixed with his mysterious appearance gave him the air of a phantom. Words began to flow together in her mind. She gripped the gloved hand as the tingling sensation returned to her chest. He looked up with those ruby orbs, feeling the same reaction. Rising to his full height, more bats spilled in from behind him, swirling around them. The batting of their wing and the screeching of their voices became music to the singers ears. Gazing into his eyes as he closed the gap between them, Chelsea began to sing.

“In sleep he sang to me. In dreams he came. That voice which calls to me and speaks my name. And do I dream again, for now I find, the phantom of the aria is there inside my mind!”

“Sing once again with me, a strange duet,Vincent voice followed after her. Your power over me grows stronger yet. And though you turn from me to glance behind, the phantom of the aria is here before your eyes!”

Stroking his soft, pale visage, Chelsea felt the music between them strengthen when he responded to her. She had never had a duet partner resonate with her before. The music consumed her soul as her voice reached out him.

“Those who have seen your face draw back in fear. I am the mask you wear…”

“It’s me they hear,” Vincent finished the bar. Embracing each other, their voices blended in perfect harmony.

“The spirit and the voice in one combine. The phantom of the aria is here…”

“… before my eyes!” Chelsea’s voice finished the verse.

The bats around them spaced apart as Chelsea backed away from Vincent. Her eyes never left his, holding their connection in the separation. Inspired by the muses of song, an verse drifted from his throat, carrying his longing and love.

“In all your fantasies, you always knew that man and mystery...”

“… were both in you.”

The two reached for one another, yet fear was far from their hearts. It seemed the distance intensified their tension and desire. Whatever power was at work pushed them to cry out together again.

“And in this labyrinth where night is blind, the phantom of the aria is there...”

“… before my eyes! He’s here, the phantom of the aria!

Chelsea’s crescendoing voice echoed throughout the basement, flowing into the mansion. As her cords reached the creature’s above, a unified howl escaped the mansion into the surrounding town. The bats left him to revolve around her, crying out as well.

Vincent watched the scene before him, feeling the primal tug to join the animalesque high. Her divine voice had become a drug to all of them. The man couldn’t let her stop, but he didn’t want to lose his mind either. He didn’t want this warmth in his soul to die again. He called out to her, desperately clinging to his own mind.

“Sing, my angel of music!” She rose an octave in her aria as she closed her eyes and lifted her head toward ceiling. “Sing my angel!” She rose another octave, quickening the bats’ speed about her. “Sing for me!” Another octave and the woman was unnaturally still holding out. He whispered to himself, “Sing my angel... Sing for me!”

Chelsea’s eyes shot open as she hit a note higher than she’d ever reached before. It didn’t hold long. She fainted from the lack of air, descended into the open coffin behind her...

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