Chapter 10 : Same feelings, different thoughts

Nights were never peaceful in this ruined mansion. Long long ago, it was said to have been a vast and prosperous land belonged to the Goldschmidts. However, the tragic incident happening on that fateful Sunday had changed everything. A party to celebrate Joel Goldschmidt’s birthday, the head of the Goldschmidts, had become a feast of blood. Hellish flame had engulfed the entire mansion, leaving no one alive, guests or hosts. Whether or not she, the girl who was Joel Goldschmidt’s precious daughter, had survived that dreadful day, no one really knew.  Some said she had shared the same fate as others, having her body burnt, too distorted to be recognizable among the corpses that had been counted. Some said she had not attended the party, therefore she had escaped and led a quiet life somewhere until she succumbed to her age. Some even said she had died and become a vengeful spirit to roam the land and brutally kill anyone entering her ‘home’. Whatever the rumors were, people living in the neighborhood all agreed to one thing : That abandoned land was cursed and became a hideous lair of devils, where no one dared to set foot on, day or night.

In fact, everything here was not so different from the outside world. The rustling of leaves when a gust of wind passed through leaf canopies, the shrieking of a night owl or the howling of a lone wolf, one would be so familiar with these sounds if he or she had experienced a night in a forest.  But there was something here, something so sinister that it coated this area with an eerie atmosphere. Fireflies scattered around, dimly lit the place with mysterious green beams. In thick darkness, these beams resembled eyes of ferocious monsters, sharp fangs and claws ready to tear their unfortunate preys.

People inhabiting the area around the cursed land had gotten used to rumors about ghosts. One of which was the sound of cello being vaguely heard in the nights, especially nights with full moon. Some claimed the source of the sound was no other than the ruined mansion. Some bought it, others did not but as long as the sound of cello did not threaten their daily lives, they decided to leave it be. So ghostly and yet so genuine, a sound like that was rare in this age. Whether they believed in spirits or not, those who had heard this tune all found it very soothing and enjoyable.

To the pair walking on the trail, this mansion was not frightening at all. One reason was that they knew its past better than anyone living in the neighborhood. The other was they had been through countless real life-and-death situations which were many times more bone-chilling than some obscure ghost scare. Clearly, they were neither two youngsters coming here in a test of courage nor two ghost hunters coming here because of the infamous rumors surrounding this place. Still, they were to search for a certain ‘ghost’, the ghost of the cello sound.

“ This is where I first met Haji. “ Saya pointed her forefinger at the drained fountain. “ Joel told me he had bought Haji at a slave market. “

“ He was your servant ? “

“ That’s what I thought at first. But Joel told me he was my friend and I should treat him nicely. “

“ And you didn’t ? “

“ I was like a spoiled princess back then. This place was my world. Although it wasn’t big enough to be called a ‘kingdom’, everyone obeyed me with a hint of fright… and disgust, I guess. No one came near me unless when I ordered them to. Even the animals were afraid of me. Maybe… I was the only one who wasn’t aware of my nature as a Chiropteran. “ Saya said with remorse.

“ How about Joel ? Wasn’t he your foster father ? “

“ He gave me everything I wanted. When I said I wanted a new dress, he immediately called the finest tailor in town to ‘the Zoo’. When I said I wanted someone to play with me, he introduced Haji to me. Since then, I watched the boy grow up until he looked taller and older than me. That was the happiest time of my life. “

“ You’re wrong. “ Kai corrected. “ That was the happiest time of your past, not your life. You still have a whole life ahead to enjoy, as long as you still breathe. “

“…”

Although Saya did not reply to Kai’s word, her lips curled into a smile, a smile that contained everything she wanted to say.

“ Can you hear that, Kai ? “

“Ah, the sound of cello. After thirty years, our friend is still able to play that beautifully. I kind of envy him since I’m unable to play any instruments. “ Kai grinned, scratching the back of his head.

“ It was me who taught him to play the cello, you know. Eventually, he surpassed me. “

“ I have never seen you playing the cello. “ Said Kai in surprise.

“ I stopped a very long time ago. “ Saya chuckled. “ I doubt that I can still be able to play the simplest piece. “

The closer they approached, the clearer the melody they could hear. Energized with anxiety, their footsteps quickened with every breath. Shortly afterwards, they reached the highest floor, where the roof had been destroyed and the moon was the only light. There they found their answer : the Chevalier was sitting on the nearly broken balcony, facing them with his back, the cello in his lap.

“ Haji… “

Music stopped abruptly as the talented musician dropped his bow.

“ Come back to me to now ! “

Her words were soft but every of them was an order. Aided by her two glowing orbs, the Chevalier found it extremely hard not to give in. He remained silent, not knowing of how to react.

“ Why did you run away from me ? At least tell me the answer ! “

Silent.

His heart was beating so wildly that it hurt. He had gathered his courage to run again, yet, his whole being yearned to hear her sweet voice more.

“ Was what you told me back then, told me that you loved me, a lie ? “

“ It wasn’t. “ He heard himself murmuring those words as he swiftly jumped out the balcony. Having his attention entirely focused on Saya, the Chevalier did not recognize another’s presence. Once his feet touched the ground, Kai was already standing behind him.

“ Not so fast, my brother. “

“ Haji, I won’t allow you to run from me this time. “

With a  Chevalier behind his back and a determined queen whose eyes were burning red in contrast of the blue light of the moon in front of his face, Haji wondered if he could escape this time.

“ I’ve thought you’re stupid but I never know you’re this big of a moron. “ Kai sighed, raising his right arm, which had already become a sharp red scythe.  “ This is my power as a Chevalier. Ever since I became a Chevalier, I have never had a chance to use it in real battles. Unfortunately, today, I have to use it against my fellow. “

“ Please don’t ! “ Saya shouted.

“ You stay out of it, Saya ! This guy seriously needs a lesson. Prepare yourself, Haji ! “

Red scythe launched a fierce attack on Haji right after Kai finished his line.  Somewhat startled by the sudden blow, Haji raised his hand instinctively and merely blocked it. Metallic noise caused by two weapon clashing at each other stirred the quietness of the night. The fight between two Chevaliers had inflicted some damages on the surrounding area. While Kai stroke with all his might and spirit, Haji, who did not intend to fight, only defended himself.

“ I’m gonna show you that I’m no longer the brat who couldn’t stand a single blow of yours ! “

“ As long as it’s not for Saya, I have no intention to fight ! “

“ ‘For  Saya’ you say ? If it’s ‘for Saya’, why didn’t you come to her when she needed you most ? “

“ You don’t know anything about me ! “ Taking a hold of Kai’s wrist, the sour Chevalier replied in a dark, almost murderous, tone.

“ It’s true that I know nothing about you but I do know one thing : you have betrayed her ! “ Much to Haji’s surprise, Kai’s left hand swiftly turned into another sharp scythe, so sharp that it easily tore off his cloak, along with his skin. The cold ground was soon warmed up with hot blood oozing out from the wound.

“ That’s enough !! “ Saya shouted and quickly stood between the two, shielding the injured Chevalier. On the other hand, Kai, who had already stopped, stood idly in front of his opponent, eyes staring at Haji’s exposed body. Having noticed his abnormal expression, Saya also turned around.

A chill sensation shot down their spine as they saw Haji’s figure. Even though it was really cold at night, they found themselves soaked with sweats.

“ You… “ Both were speechless.

Having known so well what the meaning of their reaction was, Haji could not help but letting out a bitter sigh. With his back now facing them, the Chevalier said sourly :

“ Now you knew why. Kai, please take Saya home safely. Protect her with everything you have. You are the only one worth being her Chevalier. “

A delicate hand grabbed his cloak, forcefully turn his face back. His cheek experienced a sharp as it was slapped across by that same hand. The hand belonged to no other than his queen.

“ Idiot ! Idiot ! Idiot ! Idiot ! Idiot ! “

Each word came out of her rosy lips and the same pain repeated itself. Each word came out of her rosy lips and two streams of tears watered her face. While she kept cursing, slapping and crying at the same time, he kept suffering under her wrath. If hitting him could lessen her agony then he would not mind bearing a little pain.  That was the way he atoned for his sin of betraying her. Kai, on the other hand, silently watched his sister vent all sorrows she had been keeping in her heart since her awakening.

A drip of blood started to form at the corner of his mouth. Exhausted from all the hitting and crying, Saya clung onto him, burning irises met his eyes.

“ You think I would abandon you because of the way you look ? You think I would abandon you even though I knew it better than anyone that it was all because of me that you look this way ? What kind of person do you think I am ? “

“ I didn’t… “

“ Liar ! If it isn’t true, the what reason you have for avoiding me ? You want me to waste all my active period trying hopelessly to find you ? “ Buried her face in his chest, her sobbing became louder and louder.

“ No matter how you look like, no matter what you become, I always want to be with you. Because… I love you. I won’t be a coward and suppress my feelings anymore. Tell me, is that enough for you to stay with me ? “

“ Saya, I… “

Deeply touched by her bold confession, Haji was speechless as a tidal wave of emotions flooded his heart, swept away all his long sufferings.

“ That’s right. She’s been in somber since she awoke to find that you weren’t by her side. Come back with us, Haji. “ Kai patted his shoulder gently. “ Keep refusing and I’ll beat the sense out of you and drag you back. “

He should have said something or at least  nodded his head in agreement but instead, he felt dizzy all of sudden. His feet weakened and his body began to deprive of any sensations.

“ Haji… Your wound… doesn’t heal. “ So horrified Saya was as she found his blood stained her cheeks.

“ It’s been quite a long time since I got injured. I don’t know when my healing ability ceased. “

“ Haji ! “

She called out his name but he did not answer. Darkness had claimed his eyes as he collapsed into her embrace. Under the moonlight, his human skin was as pale as a sheet.

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