Scene One: Follow the Gut
“Sir?” Josh looked up from his papers. Sucked into the details of his latest discovery, he was pouring over his notes during a meal break. Anything to get his mind off of last night... “Was there something you needed?”
The captain sat across from Josh at his mess hall table. Looking the lower officer in the eye, the captain appeared deeply concerned. Josh hoped he wasn’t in trouble for digging into strange files.
“Were you aware of the attack on our checkpoint just outside of town last night?”
“It’s all anyone can talk about in town, sir.” Sighing heavily, Josh continued, “Apparently, the Phantom’s demon pet, Chaos, struck suddenly. In the midst of its slaughter, the beast suddenly started wailing. Witnesses said it cried out in pain just before taking off as quickly as he came.”
“Four months of quiet and now this.” The older man shook his head, grimly. “They say none escape the Golden Claw of the Phantom.”
“If that were true, sir,” the younger said with a reassuring smile, “how do we know he has a golden claw?”
“You have me there.” Nodding his head in agreement, the captain glanced at the papers strewn across the table. Smirking at the old school methodology, he asked, “How goes the investigation? You seem to have a lead finally.”
“I think I might have something, sir.” The lower officer looked down at the scattered papers before him, disappointed by the straws he’d managed to grasp. “I’m hardly on hot coals though.”
“Follow your gut, Soldier.” The commanding officer patted Josh on the shoulder, saying, “It may save your hide someday.”
“My gut, huh?” He pondered aloud as his superior walked away. Josh took the words to heart, grateful for any encouragement. “Well, it was my gut that led me to this. It just seems too easy, but I guess most of the questions in life are simple. We’re the ones complicating everything.”
He flipped through his keynotes on Agent Valentine’s file one last time before turning to a new file on his work tablet. It was the main research file that stood out among the Turks assignments, Operation: Heart-Throb. The name had a foreboding sense about it.
Apparently, Valentine was given the assignment from the top to personally participate in the operation. Josh furrowed his brow, reading further into the file’s description. What kind of operation was this? If it bore his call sign, how had he contributed to the project?
Finally opening the digital folder, Josh gaped in shock just skimming the beginning. Agent Valentine had been the test subject of an experimental procedure devised by the infamous Shinra Scientist, Hojo. There wasn’t a Soldier alive that didn’t know the rumors about Sephiroth over a century ago, even if most of the details were covered up.
“What possessed this guy to agree to such a surgery?!” Josh whispered, hoarsely. Within the main file, he found notes from Professor Hojo himself. The young officer was appalled by the horrific details recorded. It read more like a diary than research notes.
“What a sociopath...” The observations of the ‘good doctor’ revealed the Turk had been forced into the procedure against his will. There even an entry where the man admitted to shooting the Turk to drag him in to begin the project.
Detailed descriptions of how the man’s left arm was severed off and replaced with a robotic limb, fully conscious, shook the Soldier to his core. The young officer tried to imagined the anguish the young agent suffered through the hellish operation. Ultimately, the project was reported abandoned, and the subject was disposed of personally by Professor Hojo.
“How could the branches of Shinra allowed this to happen?” Josh shook his head in denial. Slumping backward in his chair, he stared at the tablet, lying on the table before him.
A golden arm, genetic augmentation, radiation exposure, bodily mutations, all the horrific details of the procedure finally pulled together after finishing the file. Glancing at the date, he remembered that Shinra’s Science Department was headquarter in Nibelheim during that time. The lieutenant sat at the table, absorbing in the shock. Suddenly, lightning struck the twenty-one year old man’s brain. He grabbed up the scattered sheets of memo paper before making a mad dash for the captain’s office.
Scene Two: Nightmares
“OH MY GOD!!!” Vincent screamed so hard he thought his vocal cords might rip. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!” He threw his head back with another cry of pain.
“Oh this?” asked a crisp, shallow voice. “I’m just cutting your arm off with a scalpel, Agent Valentine. Now, what was I saying?”
The young Turk trembled - from pain or shock, he didn’t know anymore - as he watched the older man beside his operating table tap his chin. The agent felt the searing pain in his left shoulder as his arm, hands, and fingers throbbed. The still bleeding gunshot wound in his stomach seemed numb compared to the sensation in his limb.
“Ah! That’s right, I was telling you about my splendid evening with Miss Lucrecia,” the man recalled, returning to his work. Vincent immediately started screamed again, struggling futilely against his restraints.
“Yes, we were discussing our Jenova project,” the mad doctor continued. “She agrees with me that we shouldn’t waste time trying to find a host. We’ve decided to create our own test subject. ‘A test tube baby,’ she said. I said, ‘Why do all the work? Why not let nature pull most of the weight?’
“What do I mean by that?” asked the man, almost half way through with the arm at this point, “I told her we should have a child, together, and we’d use the fetus for our experiments.” Vincent, grinding his teeth, glared up at the scientist as he shook with pain. “Why so shocked, Mr. Valentine? Oh, that’s right. You’re quite fond of Miss Lucrecia, aren’t you?”
Vincent fought the urge to cry, hearing the news. Why would Lucrecia even consider copulating with Old Fart Hojo? He’d been afraid something like this might happen after his last talk with her. He’d been against the Jenova project from the beginning. They were playing with an unknown, living creature. The idea went against moral ethics and safe practices, and he didn’t want Lucrecia getting hurt.
“Would you like to know what happened?”
Vincent heard the man’s voice whisper curiously. The insane professor went on and on about how he’d shacked up an intoxicated Lucrecia. He said she was so helpless and distant, like playing with a doll rather than a woman’s body. Vincent tried drowning out the awful words, but it seemed the man was speaking right into his ear. After pulling out a bone saw, the young man made one last cry as his arm left his body.
“Now that that’s over with,” the older man said, cheerfully, “it’s time for the replacement.”
Vincent gawked in tearful eyes as his arm was waved in front of his face. Blood dripped onto his face from the mostly drained veins as the other man laughed maniacally. Squeezing his eyes shut, Vincent rolled his head as far forward as he could as he finally started to weep. Slamming his head back down again, he cried out to whatever powers had allowed this to happen.
“Why?! Why?!? WHY?!?!”
“WHY?!?” Vincent’s crimson eyes shot wide open as he screamed. Gasping for air, he saw Philippe and the other bats watching him, draped on the edge of his coffin. As if trying to help, Philippe screeched repeatedly in worry. He stroked the creature with his trembling hand.
“I’m all right, Philippe,” he spoke shakily to calm the bat, “It was… just a nightmare. I haven’t had them in months, but I suppose that was because I was with…”
He stopped, remembering what he’d seen the past night. He shed new tears while grasping his face. As he rose from his coffin, he stumbled on his way out, gripping his chest in pain.
“Why?! Chelsea, how could you do this to me?! How could this happen twice?! How?!”
He sat up beside the cold candles in the back of the room. Philippe alighted on the candelabra next to his despondent friend. He looked down at him, twitching his head every once in a while. Screeching, the little creature flapped his wings swiftly. The black clad man couldn’t even lift his head to answer.
“I can’t do this… I can’t take this a second time... but I have to see her. She was the only one who could take this pain from me. Still, how can I go back? Knowing she was with another, I don’t know if I could look at her - hold her - where some one else has, and I’ve killed again. I can’t go see her with blood on these hands.” Clasping his hands to his face, he grasped for a reason the gods loved to toy with him.
Philippe descended to the stone floor, toddling over to the man. He squeaked up at his friend as if trying to speak. Vincent looked down at the bat, wearily. The black eyes told him all he needed to know.
“I can’t help longing to see her face, if only for a moment.” Scooping up the animal in his hand, he continued, “I’ve been running, running from myself and my pain. If I truly love Chelsea, I must fight for her. No Shinra will interfere. Though it aches, I must go to her and win her heart back.”
Standing shakily, Vincent grabbed his cloak from the nearby coffin lid. With new determination, he latched the buckles on his collar as he walked out to the hall toward the library further down. Pushing one of the book cases aside, he made his way up to bright world above.
Scene Three: Music of the Night
“Chelsea! Another round, for the Phantom!”
The young lady sighed as she ran for the bar, again. The twins were busy, too, filling drinks by the dozen. They were both working behind the counter to meet the max capacity in the tavern. Handing his little sister a tray of rum mugs, Jasper smirked tiredly.
“Sorry, Chels. That Phantom hit last night must have made the whole town go bananas.” The waitress just smiled in response, just as wearily, and she served up the drinks.
“Poor little doll,” Kyle commented from his reserved bar stool, “she works oh so hard, and all for nothing.” Jasper frowned at his boyfriend’s statement. The designer blinked back at the disapproving visage.
“She’s all alone, Jazz. Who does she have to work so hard for? If we aren’t careful, she’ll turn out like Jade.” The twins fell into each other at the comment. Kyle just shook his head and doodled another dress on his napkin. “Chelsea deserves better than the two of you.”
As if on cue, the waitress draped over a bar stool, sighing from exhaustion. Jade leaned over the bar to check on her. The poor thing wouldn’t last much longer in this rush.
“Hey, sis, why don’t you take a break? Jasper and I can handle things for a while. Go lie down upstairs for a bit.”
“That sounds…” the singer looked up and smiled with hope, “... nice.”
Taking her notepad and apron, Jasper smacked his little sister on the butt, shooing her up the stairs. The trio watched the young woman swayed up the stairway. He then turned to his boyfriend with a wicked grin.
“Kyle, you’d look sexy in a waitress apron. Why not put all that energy to work… at the tables?”
Kyle blinked up at the six foot bouncer and bartender. What was he supposed to say when he made a face like that?
“Maybe a nap would do me good…” Rubbing her tired eyes, Chelsea pushed her door in. She gasped quietly at the scene in front of her open window. A tall, dark silhouette of a man, cloaked in red and black, stood, overlooking the town. “Vincent?”
The figure turned at the sound of her voice. Making his way over to her, the girl just stood, gazing up at him. He reached out and took her hand in his. After closing the door, she embraced his waist, tightly with relief.
“Why didn’t you come last night? I was so worried.”
Stroking her dark hair, Vincent blinked back tears. Her voice sounded so honest. He wanted to believe she missed him so badly.
“That doesn’t matter now, sweet cherub. All we need worry for is what lies before us.” As she nestled into his chest, he denied the tears in his eyes as his soul stirred at his swirling emotions.
“Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation. Darkness stirs and wakes imagination. Silently, the senses abandon their defenses…” He stopped as tears welled up in his eyes, yet he continued to hold them back. Touching her soft, warm skin, he felt the lyrics return.
“Slowly, gently, night unfurls its spender. Grasp it. Sense it, tremulous and tender.” Lifting her chin, Vincent looked into her hazel eyes, pleadingly. “Turn you face away from the garish light of day. Turn your thoughts away from cold, unfeeling light, and listen to the Music of the Night.”
In the late afternoon light, Chelsea thought his pale skin seemed a bit darker. His eyes seemed less vibrant as well, almost reddish-brown. She thought they looked sad, lost even, looking to her for an answer. His voice was lonely, too. Why was he acting this way? As his hand combed through her hair, she felt her heart breaking, caught up in the atmosphere.
“Close your eyes, and surrender to your darkest dreams. Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before. Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar…” Leaning closer to her, he whispered, “… and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.”
Turning her about, he held her shoulders against him and began to sway. Inhaling the scent of liquor in her hair, Vincent continued.
“Softly, deftly, music shall caress you. Hear it. Feel it, secretly possess you. Open up your mind. Let your fantasies unwind in the darkness that you know you cannot fight. The darkness of the Music of the Night.”
Brushing his hand through her hair, he sang stronger as she leaned closer at his passionate words. Was she was coming back to him? He leaned his cheek against her head, trying to keep his voice steady, as the words flowed forth.
“Let your mind start a journey through a strange, new world. Leave all thoughts of the life you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be!” He stopped abruptly and turned her face toward his. “Only then can you belong to me...
“Floating, falling, sweet intoxication.” He took her hand to touch his face. “Touch me. Trust me, savor each sensation.” She turned around and looked at his longing face as he continued. “Let the dream begin! Let your darker side give in to the power of the music that we share, the power of the Music of the Night!”
Chelsea was entranced by the lyrics she was hearing. She ran her hand from his face, slowly, toward his chest and rested her head next to it. As much as she wanted this, the sorrow in his voice told her the man needed something from her, but her weary mind couldn’t fathom what.
The feeling in his spirit overflowed into his body, leaving Vincent breathless. The tingling in the tips of his fingers gave him a strange sensation he didn’t understand. The sound of her heavy breathing and the warmth of her breath only made it worse. Gazing at her intoxicated face, he stroked her cheek as he sang a verse he’d wished he’d sang to her last night.
“Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime. Lead me, save me from my solitude.” Chelsea looked up at him as he sang the words she envisioned him singing the night before. Tears fell from his eyes as he went on, “Say you want me with you, here beside you…”
Chelsea’s hand went for the buckles on his collar. The words before had rendered her dumbfounded, but her fingers conveyed what was going through her mind. Draping his cloaked left hand on her shoulder and his right on the other, Vincent sang out in desperation and tears.
“Anywhere you go, let me go, too! Chelsea! That’s all I ask of-”
He stopped when he felt his cloak fall from his shoulders. Gasping, his eyes swelled, locked on her face. The woman’s eyes traveled to his left arm. There was no skin, only pure gold that shimmered in the sunset light. Vincent lifted his hands from her shoulder, taking a step back. She gaped at the golden stomp with five bending stems branching off of it. Trembling, he stammered, trying to think of an explanation.
“Chelsea… Chelsea, I… I…” She looked into his red eyes.
“That hand…” Vincent gawked in panic as he realized she was finally understanding what he had tried to tell her all along. “It’s a claw, a golden claw.” He took another step back. “Its the Golden Claw. Then, that means that you’re-”
“Chelsea!” Vincent cut her off. He didn’t want to hear her say that infamous title. Grasping her shoulders, he said, desperately, “I would never hurt you! I could never cause you harm, ever! I…!”
The door suddenly opened with a flustered Kyle, panting from exhaustion. The two looked back at him quickly. Without looking up, the young dressmaker whimpered.
“Chelsea, I’m swamped from waiting on these hooligans. I hold a new found respect for waitresses and waiters across the world! Now, could you please come back and…” The town dressmaker trailed off at the sight of Chelsea being held by a strange man. A strange, attractive man he’d never seen before.
Panicking as his survival instincts returned to him, Vincent grabbed his cloak and took Chelsea in his arm. That was when the Kyle saw the golden arm.
“The Phantom...!” Kyle cried as the two disappeared out the window, “The Phantom has Chelsea! The Phantom has Chelsea!!”
Panic engulfed the tavern as the people wondered if the Phantom had gone mad. Jasper turned to help his shocked sister. She’d collapsed instantly at Kyle’s declaration, left dumb. Josh had arrived just as the hysterical man fell down the stairs.
“What do you mean the Phantom has Chelsea, Kyle?” The officer asked darkly. The fashion designer had a sudden cool down at the look on the Soldier’s face.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“There’s my ice prince…” Jasper swooned at Kyle’s control of the mood swings.
“Regardless of how you feel about Shinra’s presence in Nibelheim,” Josh vowed through ground teeth, “we will deal with the Phantom, today. I will bring Chelsea home.” He left on that note without giving them a chance to reply, pulling his phone to called base at the threashold.
“Sir, I just need fifteen minutes inside, please. He has a girl from the town as a hostage.” There was a pause as he listened to the other end. “Thank you, sir.”
After he tore off for Shinra Mansion, Jasper and Kyle turned to Jade. She was finally coming out of her daze. The shadow cast on her face was far darker than the visage Josh had just made.
“Jasper, this doesn’t add up. Why would the Phantom take Chelsea? Unless...” She paused as an epiphany struck her. “Follow him. I don’t trust anything to the Shinra.”
Scene Four: The Clash
Inside Shinra Mansion, Vincent and Chelsea stopped in front of the false brick wall. The waitress was holding onto him, desperate and confused by his impulsive reactions. Pushing the wall aside, the panicking man bellowed.
“Down once more to the dungeons of my black despair! Down we plunge to the prison of my mind! Down that path into darkness deep as hell!!!”
With that said, he jumped down the middle of the staircase with the frightened young woman. Landing, the bats parted way for them to his room. Once there, he released her, heading for a corner. He dropped his cloak, grasping his head in frustration. Standing near the open, center coffin, Chelsea finally dared to speak.
“Vincent… are you really The Phantom of Nibelheim?”
“Yes! Yes, I’m the Phantom!” Jumping at his exclamation, the girl’s expression asked why he never told her. “Why? Why you ask? Because of the look in your eyes when you saw it! When you saw this,” he lifted his clawed limb, “you looked at me like everyone else! I knew that would happen, so I hid this from you...!”
“Vincent,” Chelsea walked over to him, reaching for him, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m just trying to understand why you’re so panicked. Remember when I first came here with you? I was afraid of bats, but that was only because I never knew their true natures. When I first saw you on the roof top, I’ll admit that I was frightened, but since I’ve been with you these past few months, I’m not afraid anymore. In fact, I’ve grown to…” He grabbed her shoulders, quieting her.
“I’m not as innocent as you believe! I am stained with blood I was cursed to wallow in long ago. I am condemned to walk in misery because of my sins. Even the gods have forsaken me!”
“Vincent,” Chelsea took her angel’s face in her hands, “there is nothing, not even the gods, that could ever make me condemn you.”
“What of betrayal?” asked the phantom. As she stared up at him in confusion, he continued, “I believe we have a guest, my dear.”
The two leaned their heads out of the doorway to see Josh swatting at bats. Chelsea’s mood dropped drastically.
“Oh god, Josh...”
“Phantom! Agent Valentine!” Hearing her voice, the lieutenant called out, “Release the girl! She has nothing to do with Shinra!”
“Your lover makes a passionate plea.” Vincent looked down at the waitress, disapprovingly.
“So you did come last night! Is that what you’re so worked up about?” Chelsea muttered as she glared up at him. “I thought he was you till I noticed the height difference!”
Josh glanced at his watch, still under bat fire. He was running out of time. Panicking, he called out again.
“Please, I love her! Show some compassion. I beg of you!”
Vincent’s soul burned at the comment, stalking into the hall. Flashing his arm at the young man, he glared with hatred.
“I was denied compassion! Why should I give that which Shinra doesn’t deserve?!”
Chelsea smacked her face at the men’s argument, turning back into the room. Wearily, she climbed into Vincent’s coffin to get the sleep she missed. Surely his scent would relax her enough to think clearer.
“Please, just let me see her,” Josh begged. Vincent motioned the bats away at the request.
“Be my guest, Shinra.”
Josh finally caught a clear sight of the tall figure. He had imagined that Vincent Valentine would have aged over the years, a little, but he looked just like his file photo - save the red eyes and pallid complexion. Walking past the phantom, Josh looked in to see Chelsea lying in the coffin. He sighed with relief that she was unharmed, walking inside. Vincent grab him suddenly.
“Damn you, bastard! You tricked me!” Josh yelled.
Chelsea rubbed her eyes as she looked over the coffin’s edge to see Josh held high against the wall by Vincent’s clawed hand. She gaped in surprise at the level of anger in Vincent’s posture. What was going on here?
“Vincent? I don’t understand. Why are you doing this?”
“It’s quite simple, my angel,” Vincent replied with malice in his tone. “You are this Shinra’s last hope. Either, start a new life with me, or you send him to his grave.”
“Don’t lie to save me, Chelsea!” Josh tried to move the claw around his throat. “Both scenarios, he’ll win! Don’t throw your life away!”
“Make your choice,” Vincent sneered, looking at her, coldly, “Angel.”
“Why make her lie to save me, you spineless bastard?!”
“Angel,” her voice cracked at the expression on his face, “who really deserves this? You said you were stained with blood, but it doesn’t ease your suffering. Why cause more pain?” Crawling out of the coffin, Chelsea approached with open arms. “Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known? I pray the gods give me the strength to show you… that you’re not alone!” Reaching up, she pulled Vincent’s head down and met him with a tender kiss.
Confusion flooding his mind, the lost soul felt tears once again fill his eyes. He’d never been kissed, nor had he ever kissed anyone. He felt weightless for the first time in ages. After all he’d done, she was still forgiving. The tears fell to her face, and her lips finally released his as she looked up at him. Seeing her smile, he dropped the captive Josh. Then, he heard it.
Vincent’s ears twitched at the sound of footsteps. There were so many even the bats were disturbed. His eyes gawked in shock, realizing why this Shinra was really here.
“Vincent, what’s wrong?” Chelsea asked, touching his chest.
“They finally returned for me,” he mumbled. “It’s over. She wouldn’t survive.” Turning to the uninvited guest, he snarled down at the young man.
“Take her! Forget me! Forget all of this!” Chelsea blinked in confusion, reaching out to him. “Leave me alone,” he begged. “Forget all you’ve seen.”
Josh saw his watch, realizing his time was up. Seeing the two young people just standing there, Vincent screamed in agony.
“Go now! Don’t let them find you! Swear to me never to tell the secret you know of the angel in hell!” Josh nodded out of fear, but Chelsea just shook her head in disbelief. “Use the secret door in the library. please go now.” Josh grabbed the shocked woman, dragging her away.
“No! No, Josh, please! Vincent?! Vincent!!!”
“Go now!” Grabbing his headband, he wailed, “Go now and leave me!”
Opening his eyes, Vincent could hear Chelsea pleading for the officer to let her go. Falling to his knees, he let it all come together in his mind. The Shinra were coming. He had lost Chelsea forever, so there was only one thing left to do. After all, he had hoped this day would come someday...
“Philippe...” He called quietly, “My friend, you’ve been true to me, and I thank you. You must lead and protect the creatures of the mansion now. I bid you all farewell.” The bats went silent as he returned his cloak around his neck. Pausing in the doorway, he looked toward the library as he sang, sadly.
“Chelsea, I love you.” He then walked in the opposite direction up to the mansion.
“Wait!” Halfway up the stairs, Chelsea finally stopped Josh. “I have to go back! Vincent thinks I’ve betrayed him!”
“Chelsea, he’s a monster, a product of a truly tragic crime,” Josh gripped her wrist, trying to make her understand. “One day, you’ll thank me for this, but for now, you just have to trust me!”
“No! You don’t understand Josh!” Ripping from his grasp, she screamed, “He’s been so alone for so long. I gave him hope. I’m his reason now. I have to go back…! I love him, Josh!”
“Damn it, Chelsea!” Grabbing her, the officer shook her with venom in his voice, “I’ve loved you all these years! Everything I’ve done was for you! Hell, I’ve worked my ass off on this Phantom case, so I could get promoted to get you out of this cursed town!”
“Phantom case?” Chelsea gaped back at him, “You mean Shinra’s after Vincent? I have to warn him.”
“No,” Josh shook her again, harder from desperation, “I will not lose you to an old, science project reject!” Chelsea slapped him hard enough to release her, running back down the stairs.
Scene Five: Tragedy
Standing before the front door of the mansion, Vincent could hear the voices outside. The beasts inside the house were hiding, snarling and hissing with anxiety. His mind was on other things though.
“He truly loves her to move her heart. I only hope he brings her happiness that I never could.” As he thought about their duet, he could hear their voices in his ears again. Closing his eyes, he cried out loudly in his last song.
“You alone can make my song take flight. It’s over now, the Music of the Night!”
Broken in spirit, he pushed the doors open to see a Soldier Firing Squad standing a few yards away. He wasn’t afraid. He knew it was time. Chelsea reached the top of the stairs, screaming as he walked outside. It was too late.
“Vincent!!! It’s a trap!”
“Fire at will!”
Vincent met a round of bullets as he walked forward. Gasping a the bullets punctured abdomen, he took another step or two as he collided with another wave in the chest. Coughing up blood to mingle with his tears, he continued to walk into the rain of ammunition until he couldn’t advance anymore. The townspeople cried out at the carnage they were witnessing. He finally collapsed to his knees and then his face as blood pooled around him, begging for death to embrace him at last.
“Why did you stop?!” Josh pushed through to the squad leader. “We’re suppose to kill him!”
“With all due respect, lieutenant,” the officer pointed to the gasping man, drowning in his own blood, “he’s no threat anymore.”
“You, you, you, and you,” flashing his clearance badge, Josh barked with a mad look in his eye, “with me!” The four gunmen walked over with Josh toward the suffering man. Red eyes trembled up at Josh, who returned a cold glare. As Vincent coughed up more blood, Josh commanded, eyes never leaving Vincent. “Surround him and fire till he’s dead!”
Screams cried out in horror from the crowd as the four Shinra closed their eyes, pulling the trigger on their automatics. Vincent cried a bloodcurdling scream as the bullets ripped through his back, splattering blood, cloth, and muscle on the ground the gunmen. Josh watched with satisfaction as blood peppered his face and uniform.
“Oh my god, Vincent!!!”
One of the gunmen jumped at the scream coming from the mansion. Thinking it was one of the bizarre creatures, he lifted his gun for the doorway. Josh realized Chelsea was inside, gasping as he returned to his senses.
“Cease fire! Cease fire!”
When the shooting stopped, the once great phantom quieted, choking on blood and dirt in his throat. The young woman came running out of the mansion, crying for her angel. Kneeling beside the blood bath, Chelsea rolled Vincent’s limp body up onto her lap, lifting his head.
“Vincent...! Vincent, just hang on, please! I’m here,” she wept, bringing his right hand to her cheek, so his chilled fingers could feel her warmed. The dying man stared up at her, whispering,
“Chel...sea… you… came... back...?”
“Yeah, I came back to be with you,” Chelsea replied, nodding a shaky head. “Now, you just have to stay with me. Please, Vincent, don’t give up.”
“You... came… back... to... me...” he whispered. Softly stroking her cheek with bloodied fingers, Vincent whispered, “You… came… ba-” His red eyes drained as his voice died.
“Vincent?” Chelsea whispered. His eye lids closed slowly as his head rolled against her belly. Lying his head down gingerly, she felt his hand slip down her cheek. “Vincent, come on. Open your eyes,” she said shakily, “Let me see those beautiful, red…” She stopped when the word left her lips, seeing the blood on her hands and dress.
“Not again. It's everywhere… just like last time. They did it again. Vincent! Don’t leave me, too! Please!!!”
Jade, Jasper, and Kyle finally made it to the center of the action. The barkeeper was upset enough at the gunshots, but nothing could have prepared her from the sight before her eyes.
“Jazz,” she gasped, “that’s Red with Chelsea.” Before the guys could stop her, Jade ran over to her grieving sister. The boys held off the Shinra as she knelt beside the hysterical girl. “Chels...” Jade started.
“They killed him, Jade! They murdered my Angel of Music,” Chelsea cried turning to look up from the body, “They murdered him just like Mom and Dad!” Throwing her arms around her sister, Jade fought back her tears as she tried to express how sorry she was. Clinging back, Chelsea screamed, “I hate them! I hate them all! Murders! That’s all the Shinra are, but none are worse then that traitor, Joshua Grazer!”
Josh gaped down at her. Why was he the bad guy in this? He’d just saved her from The Phantom of Nibelheim. Couldn’t she see that he’d done it all for her? Struggling against Jade’s grasp, Chelsea bit hateful words up at him.
“Joshua, you killed him! I heard you give the order! I saw it all, you damn murderer!” Breaking free from Jade, she rushed for Josh only to be stopped by a regretful Kyle. “I swear, on my parents’ graves and Vincent’s body,” she threatened, “if I ever see you or another Shinra, I will kill you with my own bare hands!”
“Chelsea…” The lieutenant gasped at the venomous visage on his love’s face. “Jasper... talk some sense into her-” He was cut off as a fist rammed into his jaw. Jasper stood up straight again.
“Jazz, we all wanted to, but you need to keep a lid on that temper of yours.” Kyle scolded with a half-heart voice, holding Chelsea close.
“Sorry, Kai, but I can’t stand to hear a filthy dog of Shinra talk about my sister that way, let alone call me by my name. You’re no friend of ours, Grazer. Get out of my sight before I tell Kyle to let Chelsea go.”
Gawking in shock, Josh ran off into the crowd. No one got in his way. He knew he’d made a mistake. How could he lose his head like that?
“You haven’t changed a bit, Red,” Jade mused as she stared down at the man she’d met so long ago. “Who would have thought you were the Angel of Music all along?” Her thoughts were interrupted as Jasper came around the body, scooping Vincent up as gingerly as he could.
“Chelsea,” he said calmly, “I know this is difficult, but where do you want his body? I don’t think the Shinra will handle it with as much care as us.” Looking at the tranquil face, hot tears flowed again as Chelsea nodded.
“Philippe and the others will be heartbroken...!”
Scene Six: Wishing
Chelsea led them upstairs to the room with the secret door. With help from Jade and Kyle, she pushed the rusted mechanism open. Vincent had made it look so easy. A creature flew at them defensively.
“Philippe!” She called out to the bat, “It's me, Chelsea! Please don’t scare my family!”
The bat stopped at the sight of Vincent’s bloody, limp form in Jasper’s arms. Screeching sadly, the creature landed on his friend’s chest, poking in disbelief. Shattered at the sight, the waitress showed them the way to Vincent’s room. The three newcomers gaped at the caskets and candles. The stone, underground room felt cold without Vincent’s fire magic.
“That coffin,” she directed her brother to the open, center one. “Lay him in there. He can sleep forever.”
The young man set the victim down as gently as possible. Seeing the old, bloodstains on the edges of the lining, Jasper realized this was the place the Phantom crawled to for sanctuary. Finally, the events hit him square in the chest.
“Oh god, Chelsea, I’m so sorry...!”
“He can’t sleep in a blood-soaked cloak.”
Kneeling beside the coffin, Chelsea pulled the cloak off, lying it next to the coffin. While she continued to fret over his appearance, the others watched over her, imagining how much pain she was enduring. Using her handkerchief, she cleaned the pale, tired face. Removing the blood spots and dirt, she didn’t notice her own tears, streaming down her face.
Jade’s heart shattered. She had failed to protect the fragile happiness she’d always cherished. Touched a hand on the girl’s shoulder, Jade wrapped her sister in an embrace from behind.
“I’m so sorry, Chelsea. I’m sorry I can’t fix this, like always. I’m sorry.”
Chelsea felt something inside her move. Words came to her. Words she had wanted to say, but now it was too late. Stroking his face, Chelsea sang quietly.
“You were once my one companion. You were all that mattered. You were once a friend and lover. Then, my world was shattered. Wishing you were somehow here again. Wishing you were somehow near. Sometimes it seems if it, I just dream, somehow you could be here.” Moving her thumb over his lips, she continued.
“Wishing I could hear your voice again, knowing that I never will. Dreaming of you helped me to do all that you’d dreamed I could!”
Slowly, bats flowed in past the guys toward the singing. Chelsea looked up at them for a moment before returning her eyes to her fallen angel.
“Passing bells and sculpted angels, cold and monumental, seem for you the wrong companions. You were warm and gentle.” Grazing her fingers around his face, she felt tears forming as she sang.
“Too many years fighting back tears! Why can’t the past just die?!” Grabbing his shirt, she buried her face, crying out to her deaf love. “Wishing you were somehow here again! Knowing we must say goodbye! Try to forgive. Teach me to live. Give me the strength to try!” Raising slowly from his chest, Chelsea looked at his unmoved face.
“No more memories! No more silent tears! No more gazing across the wasted years!” She took his right hand in hers and brought it to her cheek as she wept. “Help me say goodbye. Help me say… good...”
“Chelsea!” Jade screamed as her sister fell backward in her arms, “What’s wrong, Chelsea?! Chelsea!?!” Jasper and Kyle ran forward. Finally, Kyle noticed fresh blood on the stained dress.
“Oh my god,” the dressmaker gasped, gripping his mouth, “she’s been shot! Jasper, Chelsea’s been shot this whole time!” As Jasper tried to calm his boyfriend, Jade held her precious sister close to her.
“Please, don’t take her. Please, God, don’t take her from me, too. Please...!”
Despite the panic around her, Chelsea went numb. Even the pain in her stomach eluded her. All she could see was the face of her angel, reaching out this hand to her. Smiling somewhat, Chelsea spoke hoarsely.
“I’m coming, Vincent... I’m coming...”