Scene One: Curse of the Immortal
I’m coming, Vincent... I’m coming… I’m… coming…
Crimson eyes shot open as Vincent regained consciousness. It was completely black. His coffin lid must have been on. His nose twitched at the stench of blood. He must have been soaked in it. Had he gone on an unconscious killing spree again? No, he’d never let himself get covered in blood. Running his hand over his torso, he felt holes ripped all over his clothes.
“That’s right,” he muttered to himself, trying to wrap his head around the events before waking. “I walked into a firing squad. The bullets must have broken down by now. Why would I do something so ridiculous?
“Chelsea… She went to be with that Shinra officer, but he was standing above me when I was shot from behind. He gave that order, and Chelsea came back. She came back to me! She did love me! How is it that I’ve always held the eye of the woman, yet I can’t tell heads from tails on returned affections?
“Was she injured? I have to find her.” Rising, the love-stricken fool hit his forehead on the coffin lid. Grasping his throbbing forehead, Vincent tried to figure out why his coffin wouldn’t open like usual.
“Sleeping in, as usual, Agent Valentine?” came a familiar voice outside.
Vincent’s blood chilled at the sound of the crisp voice. It couldn’t be. That was impossible. There was no way he could still be alive!
“Surprised to hear from me? I can’t blame you. It has been over one-hundred-and-twenty years since we last were together.”
“What are you doing here...” swallowing the lump in his throat, fear gripped Vincent as he spoke the name, “... Hojo?”
“Oh, I’ve been hearing Operation: Heart-Throb popping up lately, and I realized one of my old specimens was causing trouble back in Nibelheim. Naturally, I’ve come to fix the problem that has the Shinra Company quaking in their boots.” A violent shiver ran through Vincent’s spine at the thought of Hojo ‘fixing’ anything.
“You’ve lived quite a lively life, haven’t you, Agent Valentine? With all the killing and slaughtering, you still made time for intimacy.”
“What do you talking about...?”
“Was it fun, Agent Valentine,” Hojo got very close to the coffin to whisper in a raspy voice, “having such a delicious rag doll to play with? She sounds even simpler than Lucrecia.” Vincent tried to drown out the words he was hearing, squeezing his eyes shut. “Speaking of the lovely doll, I’m afraid Miss Streeter is part of the fixing. I detest recycling plans, but it appears I have little choice in the matter.”
“Repeat?” Something in the old man’s words stung Vincent’s heart. “Repeat what?!”
“I don’t suppose you’ve recall Miss Lucrecia’s passing. You were half awake when I informed you. I must confess that her untimely expiration was no accident.” Vincent’s heart stopped in his chest as he gaped in the dark. “Lucrecia had such a brilliant head on her shoulders, but she was no match for me. She should never have trusted me with her delivery. I mixed something extra into her epidural. I can still see her face during her contractions. It was agonizingly beautiful.
“Once the child was born, the toxin took effect. You should have heard her, Agent Valentine. The intelligent, well-breed Lucrecia cursed me as a filthy soldier would his cold beans, and then, her motherly instincts took hold. She wanted to see our child. The woman suffocated before she could hold him, but I remember that face, streamed with tears, as she gazed at the child. It was a clean kill, so much so, it’s my best method yet.”
Vincent couldn’t seem to find any air. Hojo had murdered Lucrecia, the woman that had captured his heart all those years ago. No matter how stubborn she was - no matter how much she rejected his pleas - he’d given up so much for her, and he would have given more, even his life.
Now, Hojo was going to kill Chelsea the same way. The innocent angel that rekindled not only his will to love but his will to live. He couldn’t let history repeat itself.
“Hojo...” He stammered a bit, “Please… leave the Streeters alone. They have suffered enough. Just let them be, please.”
“I’m sorry, Agent Valentine,” the mad scientist replied after a pause. “She knows too much for her own health.”
“I never told anyone about Operation: Heart-Throb!” Banging his fists against the lid, Vincent screamed, “Why would I speak of those horrors to haunt someone else?!”
“She saw the claw, did she not?” Vincent silenced. “That and the fact that your procedure has been brought up so much leaves me no other alternative.”
“Hojo...!” Tears in his eyes, Vincent cried desperately, “I swear to remain in my coffin even after this world has breathed its last! Please, I ask only that you spare Chelsea and her family! That is all I ask! Please, I beg of you!”
There was a long pause, too long for Vincent’s nerves. Hojo thought over his old toy’s proposition. Finally, a question was raised for the trapped man.
“What guarantee do I have that you will remain? For all I know, you could break out like last time.”
“Seal the coffin! Seal the door again! Lock the mansion!” Shaking his head in frustration, Vincent replied, quickly, “Do whatever you please with me! Just leave Chelsea be!”
Hojo smiled at how the Turk danced in his palm every time he pulled the right strings. The scientist patted the coffin lid he’d been sitting upon. He had missed the bleeding purity in his voice.
“Agreed,” the old man called in his cheerfully frightening way. “It really was a pleasure to hear from you again, Agent Valentine.” Leaving a stunned Vincent inside the sealed coffin, Hojo turned just before he sealed off the door. “Though our reunion was not face to face, it truly was a heartwarming time for me. I hope the feeling was mutual.” Not waiting for a reply, he closed the wooden door and secured the newly installed locks.
“The young fool,” he monologued to himself, “still always looking out for the innocent bystander that doesn’t give a damn. You always took that so personally, Heart-Throb, and it led to your downfall.” Smiling wickedly, the elderly, mad scientist walked toward the spiral staircase, almost laughing.
“What was I thinking?” Back inside the room, the once again imprisoned Vincent wept bitterly. “I know better than anyone that Hojo’s word is as worthless as his eyesight. Why do I always lose my head to him? Forgive me, Chelsea. I’ve delivered you into the hands of the Devil himself, and Lucrecia, forgive my lack of effort to save you. I am a failure as a human being, much less a monster!”
Continuing to punish himself, he succumbed to more tormenting dreams. They were nightmares that no one could save him from, for he was the root of his own suffering...
“AHHH! Oh my god, Hojo! What have you done to me?!”
“It’s quite simple, my dear.” The old scientist replied placidly at the screaming woman before his eyes. “I poisoned you with a toxin that will eat away at your internal make-up and ultimately crush your respiration.”
“Vincent was right… about you!” Lucrecia’s dark eyes widened as she realized that her partner had planned this all along. “You damn bastard! How could you do this to me?!”
“I had no problem whatsoever removing Agent Valentine from your field of perspective.” Hojo raised an eyebrow, perplexed by her tantrum. “He’s currently in a radiation treatment right now that I had to leave to take care of your untimely labor, and he has you to thank for his misfortune. If it hadn’t been for your playing hard to get, Agent Heart-Throb would have left the Jenova Project well enough alone.”
“Please… Hojo…” The young biologist gasped for air as her lungs started to collapse, staring the old man in the eye. “Let me see… my baby… just for… once…!”
Hojo lifted the screaming child into his arms with a lazy expression, allowing Lucrecia to gaze upon the newborn. As she slipped from the world of the living, she began to cry at the sight before suddenly grimacing and screaming in agony. Slowly, the woman morphed into a younger woman, Chelsea Streeter. She cried as she tossed and turned in pain.
“Vincent…! Vin… cent… help… help me… please… Vincent… please… help… me…”
“Chelsea!” No matter how fast he ran, Vincent couldn’t move any closer to her. “Chelsea, hold on! I’m coming!” Suddenly, it seemed he was beginning to move. With a sliver of hope, he ran with everything in him to the bedside.
“I’m going to make it this time! I’m going to make it! I’ll save her this time! I know it!” He came up to the bedside, just barely in reach of her hand, “Chelsea, I’m here! I’m here for you!” All of a sudden, straps appeared around his arms and legs. They looked hauntingly familiar.
“Agent Valentine,” came Hojo’s voice from above, “it’s about time for your next treatment. Shall we begin?”
“Chelsea!” He cried out to her as she faded from his eyes. Struggling against his restraints, Vincent screamed as she whispered his name with her last breath. “No! Chelsea!”
“Chelsea!” Vincent yelled as his golden claw broke through the casket. Huffing in aggression, he sat up and glared at the door. It was pitch black inside the room, yet his blood-red eyes lit the area ablaze as they burned with rage. Leaping from the coffin, Vincent snapped his fingers.
“Firaga!” The orbs of flame in the center of the room rushed for the candles and scones around the room. Bursting with a light fit for hell, the spell fed off his fury. Opening one of the upright coffins, he pulled out a change of black, sleeveless shirt and matching pants. Dressing with lightning speed, he whistled a high pitched note, summoning Philippe to the door.
“Philippe,” he called, loudly, “I need you to get that door open, now! Do whatever you must! Just get it open!”
Screeching with delight, Philippe called to his kin. The rest of the bat colony gathered at the door. The creatures began to scratch at the wood. At first, it seemed in vain, but after a few minutes, a lock fell to the ground. The little beasts covering the door scratched faster with new determination as one by one the new locks fell. They were so focused they didn’t realize that they were shredding the wooden as well. All at once, the wall collapsed, so the bats retreated to watch the fruits of their labor. When the smoke cleared, there stood their old friend and protector, Vincent Valentine. His face was serious and focused as he walked out of the bright room.
“Thank you all, my friends. I owe you once again. The scent of that pathological menace is still fresh in my nostrils. At last, I may have my vengeance!”
Scene Two: Ramifications
“Get out of my room, you back-stabbing asshole!”
Josh ducked as Chelsea chucked his flowers back at him. He had come in an attempt to apologize for his actions the day before. This turned out to be a bad idea. Sitting on the other side of Chelsea’s bed, Jade, Jasper, and Kyle shook their heads at the young officer’s stupidity. They were in no mood to argue with the angry woman, nor did they hold any sympathy for the nervous Shinra. Chelsea’s sorrowful grieving had morphed into a fury that craved the taste of vengeance. She had meant her threat the other day, and she was more than ready to back it up.
“Chelsea,” Josh said, dodging a lunch tray, “I said I was sorry. I don’t know what came over me. Please, calm down. You’ll reopen your wound.”
“If you care that much,” pitching utensils at her former friend, the patient screamed, “you spineless coward, you’d have left me with Vincent!”
“Not liking the hospital food?” The officer asked, grimacing at the fork in his hand, “It really sucks, doesn’t it? Want me to get you some sushi? The bagel roll was your favorite, right?”
“I’ll hate it if you buy it for me, Shinra dog!” Chelsea picked up the plate she’d been given as she answered.
This continued for another next five minutes as the three onlookers watched for their entertainment. Jade finally sighed, lifting her hand and her middle finger.
“Just give it up, brat. You can’t win.”
Just as the serving table flew across the room, an old physician with salt and pepper hair and glasses entered the war zone. Gaping at the frenzy, he smiled with amusement.
“Well now,” he said in a surprised tone, “I see someone is feisty this afternoon. How are you feeling, Miss Streeter?” The guys stopped her from throwing her IV stand as the doctor approached.
“I’ve been better,” Chelsea replied rather loudly. “If it wasn’t for this pain in the ass standing in front of me, I might be in better spirits!”
“Now, I can’t do much about your hind areas,” the old man patted the young woman on the arm with a smile, “but let’s see what we can do about that bullet wound.” Turning to Jade, Jasper, and Kyle, he said, “I’m here to give Miss Streeter another dose of antibiotics.” They nodded as he switched out the IV bag.
“I don’t want any medicine! I just what to die,” Chelsea glared at the physician.
Jade hid the pained look on her face as she thought about what her sister had said. Josh walked up closer to the woman, who was starting to cry.
“Come on, Chels. This is for the best. We all want you on your feet as soon as you can.” The three protective guests glared at him.
“Joshua,” they yelled in unison, “Get the hell out of here before we start throwing things!” As the four visitors exchanged words around Chelsea, the good doctor stroked his patient’s cheek.
“Don’t worry, little doll,” he said, soothingly. “Your pain will go away very soon. I promise.”
With that, he grabbed Josh’s arm and escorted him out. Closing the door, the physician looked toward the young Soldier.
“The lady is tired. Her loss was great, but she will eventually look for the arms of another companion. Patience is a virtue that must be practiced, lieutenant.”
“I guess you’re right.” Nodding his head, the Josh suddenly furrowed his brow. “How did you know my rank, doctor? You’re civilian, aren’t you?”
“I’ve had some run-ins with the Shinra,” the doctor turned around to leave, “and my son was a high ranking officer in Soldier.”
Something in Josh’s gut gave him a warning about this doctor, yet his mind’s curiosity wouldn’t be satisfied until he knew who this wrinkled doctor was. Running to catch up to the old man, Josh called after him.
“I’m sorry. I can’t shake the feeling I know you from somewhere. Have we met? Maybe I knew your son?”
The doctor shook his head for a ‘no’ as he shuffled down the hall. Josh took a better look at his face. He knew that face, but where had he seen it?
“Young man,” the physician spoke up, “I am a very busy man, so if you don’t mind, I have things to check on.”
Lightning struck Josh’s brain. The fluctuation in the word made him think back to his notes. He’d seen in the Operation: Heart-Throb file the word ‘things’ in quotation often.
“You’re Professor Hojo, of Shinra’s Science Department,” Josh gasped in astonishment. “You were in charge of Operation: Heart-Throb. You’re the one who screwed Agent Valentine, but that means…”
“Oh?” The doctor pulled his hands behind his back and hunched over as he grinned. “So,” he commented on this enlightening event, “you were the one looking into Operation: Heart-Throb. I must thank you for making my job easy for me, lieutenant. Unfortunately for the girl, she won’t have anyone to run to now.”
Josh didn’t get time to respond. A sharp pain in his chest caused him to gasp. Looking down, he saw a syringe sticking out of his chest, in his heart. Hojo turned to look at his victim as he collapsed, revealing two more syringes between his fingers.
“I always hated… needles,” he whispered his last words.
“So sorry, young man, but don’t worry about death. It’s just a part of the cycle of living. You won’t be alone for too long. Miss Streeter will be joining you shortly.”
Scene Three: The Phantom’s Return
“Oh,” Chelsea grimaced.
“What’s the matter, Chels,” Jade asked.
“I don’t know...” Touching her bullet wound, Chelsea mused aloud, “My stomach... hurts again.”
The three visitors made concerned faces. Jade saw her sister’s face contort as the pain increased. It was clear they needed some help. Standing, she walked over to the door.
“I’ll go find a doctor.”
“But you hate doctors,” Jasper commented. The bartender clenched her fists and left her siblings hoping she wouldn’t kill anyone. After about five minutes, Chelsea screamed in pain. The guys shot from their seats.
“Chelsea,” Jasper said calmly, “Jade should be back any minute with a doctor. Just hang in there, okay?”
“Jason!” The woman cried out as she tossed and turned. “It’s… It’s spreading...! Its… moving up my chest…!”
“Jazz,” Kyle gasped in horror, “what if she tore something after that fit? What are we going to do?”
“Kai, would you just calm down. I’m trying to do something. Just go back to your knitting and calm the hell down.”
Chelsea screamed again, but this time, it was hoarse.
“Help… Help me… Vin… cent…”
Suddenly, the wall exploded, filling the room with smoky dust. Kyle clung to Jasper’s leg as he tried not to scream. Jasper had laid his upper body over his little sister to protect her from the debris. Coughing, he looked up as a figure rushed over to the bed from the wreckage.
“Vincent…” the girl looked up at the face staring down at her, “is that… you…?” Looking at her face and into her eyes, Vincent concluded that she had already been poisoned.
“I’m here. I’m here, sweet cherub. Your angel has come back to you.” Raising his hands into the air and thrusting them down again. “Poisona!”
A green mist emitted from his fingers and swirled around the gasping girl. Eyes squeezed shut, Chelsea could feel something flowing through her body. Just as quickly as it had come, the pain was gone. Opening her eyes, she looked into Vincent’s concerned eyes, feeling tears fall down her cheeks. Sighing with relief, he took her face in his hands and kissed her moist lips.
“I’m so sorry, Chelsea. I should have trusted you. I was so worried when Hojo left me. I thought I’d lost you forever.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. It was too much happening at once.” Clinging to him, Chelsea cried with joy, “You were hurting, but the past is in the past. Now we can move on, together.”
Jasper and Kyle blinked as the two lovers kissed passionately. The innocent image of the woman melted before their eyes. Kyle glanced at his boyfriend, who looked down from the corner of his eye.
“Jazz, why are these two getting more action in five minutes than we’ve had in five years?”
Jasper Streeter blinked, speechlessly, as they returned their attention to the man working his little sister. Suddenly, Vincent pulled himself away.
“Stay in this room. Do not leave. I love you, Chelsea.”
“I love you, too, Angel.” Chelsea stroked his face before watching him take off out the door. Jasper and Kyle sighed after him. The waitress stared at them. “What’s with you gays?!”
“Oh, Chels, he’s a keeper,” Kyle replied in a wispy voice. “He’s hot, passionate, and protective, the ultra dream man. I’ll take him any day.” Jasper glared down at the answer, making Chelsea gulp anxiously.
Scene Four: Revelations
Following the hallway Hojo had taken, Vincent caught the scent of blood from a closed-off hallway. Looking down the dark hall, he gaped at the sight of Joshua Grazer’s body, lying with a syringe in the heart. The phantom plowed down the main corridor with new determination.
“Involving innocents,” he thought angrily, “that bastard has gone too far!” Coming to a back door, Vincent followed the scent outside. He gasped as he saw the mad scientist walking away with a hostage. “Hojo!”
“Well, Agent Valentine,” the two stopped and turned around, “I see you didn’t keep your promise to remain in your casket! Couldn’t help yourself, could you?”
“Don’t judge my word when your own is in question! You promised to leave the Streeters alone if I remained imprisoned! Leave innocents out of our feud, Hojo! They have nothing to do with your clean up!”
“I don’t think I can give up this feisty, young doll here.” Hojo shook the woman beside him, bringing her dangerously close to the syringe in his hand. “She’s more of a souvenir than a hostage. You see, Agent Valentine, this fine woman is Miss Jade Streeter, the sister of your dearly departed doll.”
Vincent glanced at the woman dressed in men’s clothing. She, too, was staring at him. Those eyes were familiar, but why?
“Red?” She whispered with hope. “You’re still alive?”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, professor, but my beloved still resides among the living. I purged her body of the toxin you gave her. I won’t let history repeat itself!”
Jade trembled with relief at the news. Chelsea was all right. Now they just needed to take care of this freak.
“Congratulations on making it in time to say goodbye,” Hojo nodded his head, genuinely impressed, “but unless you removed the IV the toxin will slowly seep into her bloodstream again in half an hour. It may have seemed a victorious battle, but you’re far from the end of the war, Agent Valentine.”
Vincent seethed as he tried to think of a way to get Chelsea’s sister away from the monster and help the unsuspecting woman. He decided to keep him talking, stalling for an opening.
“Hojo, answer me this. How are you still alive after 120 years?”
“Mr. Valentine, I’m wounded by such an insult.” The scientist made a hurt face at his specimen’s question. “You think I would give you the gift of immortality and not take it for myself?”
The phantom silently thanked Hojo for not giving him whatever he had received. The old fart looked worse than the last time he’d seen him.
“I used some of the manipulated Jenova cells from The Jenova Project. Now, I am as invincible as you.”
Jenova cells? He played with those unstable things inside his own body. No wonder his appearance hadn’t improved. From how Lucrecia described their experiments, adult test subjects had rejected the cells, which was probably why they chose to birth a child with the cells. Vincent’s confusion morphed into a grin of enlightenment. Raising his hands into the air, the phantom called one last time in warning.
“This is your final chance, Hojo. Release the woman!” The ruby eyes read the mad scientist’s lips as he whispered a ‘no’. Vincent smiled and dropped his hands quickly, casting a spell.
“Esuna!” As his voice carried over the courtyard, a multicolored sparkle flew from his hands toward the two opposite him.
“Its no use, Agent Valentine. There’s nothing you can do to me-!”
He stopped short of completing his sentence as the mist engulfed him. He dropped the syringe as pain consumed his body, giving Jade time to flip her captive over in front of her. Looking up, she saw Vincent approach the reeling man. Grabbing the weakened man’s wrist, the phantom grinned as he informed Hojo of what was wrong with him.
“You see, old man, the spell Esuna is used to cure the body of all negative influences to the delicate immune system. In my readings on Jenova cells, they are alien to the human body, or in simpler terms, Jenova cells are a negative influence. Especially after the radiation exposure you used on them that killed all those poor men you experimented on before yourself! Your so-called gift to me morphed my very DNA, so Esuna could never alter what you did to me!”
As the phantom picked up the immobile Hojo, Jade blinked in awe of the black-clad hero of the night. After seeing him in Chelsea's arms the day before, she had felt lost. If her own hero couldn’t survive the Shinra, who could? Knowing her sister was in his powerful hands, the bartender felt better about letting Chelsea leave her side.
“Miss Jade,” he said to her, “Please warn Chelsea, for my return is not promised. Tell her nothing of my fate. Only that I love her with all my heart and soul.”
She gaped up at him, hearing his request. Nodding his head out of respect, Vincent turned to leave. Jade swallowed the nervous lump in her throat before she called to him.
“Red! Go get them for us!”
The Phantom of Nibelheim stopped in his tracks. Turning around, he looked at the masculine woman. It couldn’t be. It was too much of a coincidence. Searching her familiar eyes, he realized she was the little girl from sixteen years before. Smiling back to her, he bowed.
“I will... just for you.”
A flushed Jade returned to Chelsea’s wrecked room. The three inhabitants blinked at her. The patient looked well, so she sighed with relief.
“Well,” Jasper said smartly, “so much for getting a doctor, sis.” Jade’s mood returned to normal as her twin started questioning where she had been. Slugging him in the jaw to shut him up, she replied.
“I really hate doctors. Chelsea, disconnect that IV. It’s the poison that doc used on you.”
Chelsea glanced out the broken wall at Mt. Nibel, not listening to her surroundings. Suddenly, she gaped. Everyone asked what was wrong. The young woman pointed at Vincent jumping the rooftops with Hojo toward the mountains. Grabbing her IV, she ripped it from her arm.
“I’m going after him!”
Jasper tried to stop her, but she’d already tossed the tube to the floor. The stand crashed to the floor, breaking the bag. The liquid sizzled on the broken pieces of the wall, dissolving them. The four twitched in shuttered at the reaction.
Swallowing her fear and pain, Chelsea leaped from her bed and headed for the grass outside. The guys gasped in horror at the thought of Chelsea running around in a hospital gown. Blocking the way, the dressmaker declared.
“I know you’re off to bring your man back to his senses and make a happy ending. Gods know we need one, but as a man of the needle and thread, I cannot allow you to leave here dressed as you are.”
Jade snickered at the statement. Jasper nodded his agreement with his boyfriend. Grabbing an extra rob, Chelsea put it on backward, tying it off. Hands on her hips, she asked hotly.
“Happy, Mr. Fashion designer?” Looking down at her, Kyle nodded with slight hesitation.
“Turning him on might get this over with sooner than without the sex appeal.” Clapping, Jasper nudged his lover to the side.
“Go get your man, honey!”
Jade smiled as she watched her little sister chase after her dream. She felt her torch had been passed to Red officially. Shaking her head, the bartender grunted.
“Don’t screw up, pal, or I’ll ram my boot up your ass.”
Scene Six: Rebirth
“Hojo!” Landing in the snow-covered mountains, Vincent rammed the scientist against the mountainside. “I have one last question for you! What became of the child?! What happened to Lucrecia’s baby?!”
“We raised him in the Soldier program and set the standards as he was created to do. After he turned thirty, though, the combination of Mako radiation and his Jenova cells created an imbalance of chemicals in his brain. He went crazy and was killed to save the world from his madness by a Soldier guard when he burned that town behind you. That was thirty-five years after you were sealed away.”
“No...” Vincent trembled with anger, seething between clenched teeth. “No, Hojo, you killed him! You spelled his demise when you first started your experiments on his pregnant mother! You murdered him just as you murdered his mother!” The furious immortal rammed his golden fist across the scientist’s face.
“This is for Lucrecia’s child!” Hojo gasped as his jaw bone split. Thrusting a balled fist into the psycho’s stomach - sending him to his knees -Vincent yelled down to him, “This is for Lucrecia!” The old bag of bones tried to pull himself up. When he didn’t succeed, the angry man yanked him up, only to send him flying with his fist. “That was for all the innocent lives you’ve destroyed!”
Walking over to the motionless lump, the phantom watched the helpless fool as he tried to crawl away. Yanking Hojo up by the collar, he stared into the eyes of the man that could never be frightened.
“This...” He hissed over the cold winds of the snowy mountain, “This is for trying to kill the woman I love. This is for Chelsea Streeter!” Punching the scientist in the chest with his real hand, Vincent dodged the blood that splint from the old man’s mouth.
He dropped the old fart as he realized what he had done. Looking at the pitiful excuse for a human being, Vincent locked onto the eyes. The cold grey eyes that had haunted him for over a century were still just as cold and numb.
“I can never escape him,” Vincent mused quietly, “He’s rooted himself inside of me. Even if I kill him, I will still be bound to the fate he created for me. I thought I could avoid this, run away from it to be with her, but the past just won’t die.” Kneeling before his creator, the immortal raised his gold hand between their faces.
“The only way to kill you,” he said to Hojo, “is to purge this world of your soul, and your soul is in your work. This is for me. This is my revenge for what you did to me all those years ago. Let’s go to hell, together!” Raising his hands high, Vincent brought them down quickly, “Death All!”
A black cloud swelled around them before spiraling inward, engulfing Vincent and Hojo. When the cloud faded, Hojo was gone, diminished to nothing by the spell. Vincent unleashed a blood-chilling cry as a pain he’d never known engulfed him. Using the mountainside to help him stand, the man gaped as he began to feel his airway shrink. His legs were struck with searing pain as he started to walk up the mountain. The muscles of his stomach cramped up so tight it felt as though his torso were being crushed. Though his mind spilled over with pain, he still thought about how his end would come. He fell as a sharp pang in his aching chest began to throb along with his heart.
“Now I see,” he hissed through his pain. “The four beasts that feed off me as parasites must perish before me. All well and good, Hojo will truly die before I do. Death… I may, at last, feel your sting.”
As he felt the first creature taking over him, an odd comfort settled in. He recalled a song from his childhood. A song that he felt was all too relevant to his current straights. Screaming in pain, Vincent’s mind faded into a female’s voice singing to him.
He barely recalled his mother, singing him the lullaby. The first woman that he wanted to protect in his life, so much so, he’d joined the Turks to become strong enough to protect her. Such a fragile woman, Vincent didn’t remember very much about her, even her face was an unknown to him, but he did recall her beautiful voice. That voice could brighten his spirits from anything. Now, his soul turned to the voice for comfort as he walked to his painful end.
Child of the Wilderness, born into emptiness, learn to be lovely; learn to find your way in darkness. Who will be there for you, comfort and care for you? Learn to be lovely; learn to be your one companion.
Never dreamed out in the world there are arms to hold you. You’ve always known your heart was on its own! So laugh in your loneliness, Child of the Wilderness. Learn to be lonely; learn how to love life that is lived alone. Learn to be lonely. Life can be lived, life can be loved, alone.
Coughing up more blood to stream in the rivers running down his chin, Vincent pulled himself to his feet once again. Continuing up Mt. Nibel, the host prepared for the last of his parasitical beasts to perish, so his suffering could finally end.
“Chaos,” he said, coughing again, “die...! Please… just die!” At that moment, his legs had gone as far as they could in the frigid climate. He collapsed in the snow, reeling in pain. He cried out as the pain in his chest began to throb its last time.
“…cent! Vincent!” The man looked up sharply. It couldn’t be! It had to be a lie! “Vincent, I’m coming!”
“NO!” Pushing himself to his knees, the dying legend saw his love run up the path. Vincent cried out to her in warning, “Chelsea! Stay… back-!”
Chelsea stopped at the sight of Vincent’s body morphing into the demon Chaos. As the man’s sanity faded into the devil’s madness, she tried to remain calm. However, her heart broke to learn the cruel truth of the legendary phantom.
“Vincent,” she whispered, “those monsters, the pets of the phantom, were you all along.”
“The great Chaos cannot be destroyed!” The gargoyle screeched in agony. “I will not perish with your pathetic angst, Vincent! We must… consume human flesh if we are to survive!”
“Host? What have you done to Vincent, demon!” The beast turned at Chelsea’s voice. In its madness, Chaos charged the woman.
“Yes, yes, my host, this vixen will serve as our savior! Feed my hunger, mortal!”
Under the weight of Chaos, there was nothing she could do to escape. The young woman grabbed her bleeding arm, still flowing, slowly, from her IV puncture. Vincent had said he wasn’t a vampire, but that didn’t mean his other selves weren’t above drinking blood.
“Vincent! Oh, Vincent,” she cried out as the monster closed in on her neck, “I know you can hear me! Don’t give in! Don’t – AHHH!” She screamed as the beast punctured her skin. Chaos lurched back.
“What is this foul taste?! What manner of being are you, vixen?” As the woman fell limp in the snow, the monster howled in anguish, falling to the spell. “No! No! NO! Curse you, Vincent! Damn you to the hells with me!”
With that, the creature flew into the sky and disappeared in the snow clouds. Only the howl of the mountain whistled where madness had been. Chelsea suddenly regained consciousness with a scream.
“My eyes! My eyes are burning!”
As she grabbed her face, her entire body began to tremble. Her bare feet twitched as the feeling returned to them. Rising to her knees, she cried in pain as her eyes continued to sting. Throwing her head back, Chelsea yelled as she opened her eyes, revealing her hazel eyes fading into ruby red irises. The snow fell onto her eyes, soothing the pain. Rubbing the white flakes into her face, Chelsea finally relaxed.
“Lucrecia… farewell, forever.” The faint words caught the woman off guard. Where had the soft voice come from? Looking skyward, she saw Vincent’s body falling, miles above the ground.
“Vincent…? Vincent!” She watched in horror as he fell quickly to the ground with a crash. Running over to the place, the waitress gaped at the body of her angel, lying in the snowy crater. “Vincent, oh Vincent, don’t leave me again!”
Dropping beside his body, she clasped her hands to her mouth. How could the gods be so cruel? This poor man had suffered for almost a century and a half. Punishing himself every day for his fate, he lived in everlasting Hell on Earth without relief.
As she looked at his tranquil face, she remembered the agony she’d witnessed him in just before he had transformed. She cried at the thought that his death had freed him of all his pain. Tears fell onto the hospital gown. The cold didn’t bother now nor were her arm and feet in any pain. All these eluded her mind as she stroked his peaceful face.
She thought about the time they had had together; she recalled how happy he seemed when they sang their songs of love together. Mulling it over, she decided to sing to him as her goodbye. His helpless face stirred her grieving soul to song, and as she remembered their songs, she began her tribute.
“In sleep, he sang to me… In dreams, he came… That voice which calls to me… and speaks my name…” A pang of heartache struck her as she recalled their duet and the memories that can with it. Swallowing the lump in her throat, Chelsea began a new verse.
“He’s voice filled my spirit with a strange, sweet sound. In that night, there was music in my mind. And through music, my soul began to soar! And I heard as I’ve never heard before…”
Tears fell from her eyes at the memory of his pleading song to her the day before. The image of his face just before she’d removed his cloak was oh so clear, so clear, words poured from her lips in description.
“Yet in his eyes was all the sadness of the world. Those pleading eyes that both frighten and adore…”
Chelsea trailed off as she remembered her last moments with him the day before. She couldn’t do this. She believed in selflessness, but right now, she wanted to be selfish. She couldn’t let him go, again, not after he had just returned to her. Taking his metal hand in her own hands, she sang, pleadingly.
“Let me share with you one love, one lifetime. Let me lead you from your solitude. Let me stay with you each night, each morning…” She cried out in a loud voice that could reach his departed soul, “Anywhere you go let me go too! Angel! That’s all I ask of you!”
Suddenly, the golden hand began to glow a light that engulfed his entire body. Chelsea watched in amazement as a great wind swirled about them. As she gaped in awe, his ruby eyes opened, slowly.
“I’m alive?” Chelsea dropped his hand in shock. Blinking, Vincent looked over at her wide, red, eyes. “Chelsea… you survived?” A hand smacked him over the head as Chelsea yelled.
“Don’t do that to me, you idiot! If you’re going to die than die. If you aren’t going to die then don’t play dead!”
Rubbing his head, Vincent apologized for whatever he did with a nod. Sitting up, he looked at her again and gaped at the ruby eyes.
“Chelsea,” he whispered, “your eyes are red.” The singer blinked at the statement. “How did that happen?”
“That demon bit me... He said I tasted bad, but I lost consciousness after that.” Chelsea made a face as the comment sunk in. “Anyway, when I woke up, my eyes were burning, and I felt like I was on fire. The snow in my eyes was my only relief until I heard your voice up there.”
The restored man looked at her arm where blood had dried into a crusty mess. He pointed at her wound and glanced at her neck.
“Oh, that’s where I ripped out my IV,” she said calmly. As Vincent’s eye twitched, she finished, “It was pumping me with that phony doctor’s poison! What did you want me to do?”
Vincent had a moment of enlightenment that took nanoseconds. Staring at the fuming girl, he realized what had occurred. “
Chelsea,” he said, “I’m going to make this as simple as possible. You now bare the mark of the immortal, as I do.”
Pointing to his eyes, Chelsea blinked, utterly confused. Massaging his temples, the man tried to think of how to explain the toxin’s reaction to Chaos’ poisoning bite had morphed her DNA as his was. That would only confuse the poor, woman even more.
“We’re going to live forever, Chelsea.”
“We’re never going to die?” Vincent hung his head in exhaustion.
“That’s right, Angel. We’re never going to die.”
“Are we going to get old and wrinkly like that phony doctor?”
“I’m eternally 20.”
Chelsea tapped her chin as she let the completed puzzle come together in her mind. Out of nowhere, she burst into laughter. The recovering angst king wondered what was so funny. Rubbing her teary eyes, Chelsea replied.
“I’m 21! I’m eternally older than you! Ha!” Falling back on the snowy ground, Vincent told himself that he would have to get used to her sense of humor. Leaning over him, Chelsea said, seriously, “As long as I’m with you every day of forever, nothing else matters.” As Chelsea moved in for a kiss, Vincent couldn’t help but agree. Reaching his hand around her neck, the couple embraced in their bed of white.
“Wandering child, so lost, so helpless, yearning for my guidance.”
“Angel or father? Friend or phantom? Who is it there staring?”
“Have you forgotten your angel?”
“Angel, oh speak. What endless longings echo in this whisper?”
“Too long you’ve wandered in winter, far from my fathering gaze…”
“Wildly my mind beats against you-”
“Yet the soul obeys!”
“Angel of Music, I denied you, turning from true beauty.”
“Angel of Music, do not shun me. Come to your strange angel!”
As the recording ended, Jade grinned at another one of her little sister’s successes. It had been almost a month since the event that had come to be known as The Shinra Mansion Murder. So much had happened.
The Shinra had dished out money to The Midnight Star for all the pain and suffering caused. Jade had been sworn to silence at the table by Kyle and Jasper, but the panicked looks on the faces of the Shinra seemed to suffice her. The press had been all over the story of The Phantom of Nibelheim. There was even talk that Shinra would be dissolved again as it nearly had the last century.
The citizens of Nibelheim concluded that the young man killed outside of the mansion wasn’t the legend. He had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, only making Shinra’s popularity skydive. That suited Jade just fine. Looking at the picture of her parents, she thought they could finally pass on. Their killers had finally been brought to justice.
“Hey, Miss Streeter,” came the young voices of Chelsea’s fan club, “Chelsea’s gone again, isn’t she?”
“How would you know if Chelsea’s gone or not, you little stalkers,” Jade blinked at the statement. “She could be sick?”
“Chelsea doesn’t get sick, and you’re playing her album.” The teenaged fans of the Singing Waitress shook their heads. “You only play that when she’s not here.”
The bartender glared at the smart-ass kids. Chelsea’s fans all did their homework. Those teens were one of Jade’s biggest excuses for not reproducing. Sighing heavily, she refused to admit she didn’t know where her sister always disappeared to. Turning to the kitchen, the woman called for her twin.
“Hey, Jasper, where are you?! The little groupies are back looking for Chels! Are you back there?!”
Suddenly, the closet burst open, and Kyle fell out onto the floor. His hair was a mess along with his shirt. Standing quickly, he cracked his neck and asked.
“Jade, did you need Jazz for something?”
Though he had a bright smile on his face, he was met with stares that he ignored. He was breathing hard and soaked in sweat. With his shirt buttonless, the numerous hickeys on his chest and neck were open to the public. His belt dangled under his untucked shirt. The entire tavern was showered in shock, but Jade was unaffected by her twin’s handiwork; at least, it wasn’t what she’d seen in his room earlier that week.
“The fan club wants to know where Chelsea goes when she’s not here.” Huffed at the interruption, the young man turned to the teenagers.
“You see, young adults of tomorrow,” he answered in his tawdry tone, “dear little Chelsea acquired a tutor several months ago, one of those mysterious, handsome hunk types. She became completely smitten with him, and they started singing together. He’s the mystery guy on the album. Anyway, they’re lovers now, and he has a habit of whisking her away on trips. So little fanboys who have crushes on my little sister-in-law… she’s got a boyfriend.” As the boys gasped, Kyle smiled innocently at them, unaware of the hand emerging from the closet.
“You think I’m going to let you go that easily? Think again, my little Kylie!” Kyle gasped as Jasper yanked him back into the closet. Smiling a bright grin at the bartender, Jasper waved to his sister as he closed the door on his boyfriend’s squealing. Shrugging, Jade turned to the fan club.
“Sorry guys. I guess the gigs up. Now, if you’ll excuse me?” The teenagers walked away shocked, and the woman smiled with satisfaction.
Out of the blue, the reality of that year hit her at last. That was it. That was all anyone would know about her sister’s amazing adventure. No one would ever hear of the trials they had had to endure. The pain they experienced would forever be a secret. Vincent and Chelsea would never be truly free of their secret lives.
Looking down at the picture behind the counter, Jade stared at the happy couple on the beaches of Costa la Sol. Vincent was kissing Chelsea’s cheek as she tried to take the picture. They were happy. Their spirits were unbound. Jade chuckled to herself, realizing she was over-thinking.
“They’ll be fine,” she said to herself. “I guess I did what I’d set out to do. I protected your happiness, and I couldn’t be any happier.”
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