"He sospechado alguna vez que la única cosa sin misterio es la felicidad, porque se justifica por sí sola."
"I have thought from time to time that the only thing without mystery is happiness, since it justifies itself."
- Jorge Luis Borges
She closed the book she was reading and set it down. She hadn't been lonely at all; she was used to being apart from her brother. It wasn't loneliness that had settled in on her, but the feeling of... uneasy boredom. Like something was going to happen, but she was growing bored just waiting for it to happen. She gently pushed the book away from her, sliding it on the table as if she were trying to make herself not open it again; it would only make her level of boredom increase even further.
It wasn't long before the message came. It was supposed to be for Rain, but he'd put Raisha in his place. It was her duty to see about who this came from and she was going to make sure of that. With her boredom pushed aside by the signal, she set out through a door, making way through that mysterios entity known as the Dome.
On the other side, a young ghost was leading her very curious friend to what seemed to be an area that was secluded from others. Down a road that had branched off from the main one and lined with trees that had began to lose their green colour. Autumn? Not likely, they were shedding for some reason. The leaves were dropping too early for Fall. As they walked, it felt as if the road itself had begun losing itself; it went from leaf-covered tar, to gravel and then a minute or so later, it became dirt. Leonna kept enquiring about where they were going, but Chanson only encouraged her to move forward.
At the end of the road, there stood a gloomy building. A large, sand-coloured house made entirely of stone and seemingly overtaken by nature. The brush in front of the entrance had grown wildly, almost blocking the entrance gate. The grass was pushed aside as they moved closer to the black gate. Looking through the iron bars, one could easily see the intact, faded wooden front door on the other side of a stone walkway. On each side of the walkway, there were trees and flowers that were left to grow wildly, creeping onto the stone path and up the walls. A faded, red postbox clung weakly to the gate with its rust. The girl gently pulled away some vines clinging to it, revealing a very faded name; 'de Noir'. Her surname.
I looked to the faded letters written on the sagging box, struggling to make out their meaning. The letters themselves made no sense, some "de Noir," and I had to ponder for a full minute before deciding that it was either another foriegn language or complete nonsense engraved there by an illiterate carpenter.
Yes, Chanson was trying to show me something, but I was completely perplexed in a number of ways. The first was that I could see no reason why Chanson would want to show me such a foreboding and large building with dark windows and no sound of life. The second was how the little ghost could be so cheerful in such a place. There was something wrong with the trees here, a sickly twist to their drooping energy that gave me the strange impression that this place... had long been cast out and abandoned. All was dull and quiet here, save for the garden I could make past the gate, which was happily blooming in its unkept tufts and branches.
"Chanson, I..." I looked back to the odd letters, then down at the bubbling girl next to them. "I do not think it wise to linger here..."
Chanson lowered her eyebrows giving her a brief look of confusion. Did Leonna really want to leave? Was she scared? Chanson looked longingly through the iron bars of the front gate, her gaze floating through the air and fastening on the front door. The girl's eyes fell after that, then turned to look up at Leonna.
She shook her head, 'no'. Her lips moved, and Leonna leaned in as if expecting the girl's voice to be heard. But she would never speak, and her lips slowly formed the word she wanted to speak.
"Home." Chanson mouthed. Leonna gave her a quizzical look; but the girl's eyes did not remain locked with hers for long. She turned and gripped the gate, her power flowing into it, possessing it, forcing it to grate along the rusty rails to provide a path for them to walk up to the front door. The gate hadn't moved much, but it was just enough to allow Leonna to pass through. With that, Chanson eagerly floated ahead, not waiting on Leonna, excited to see her home again.
...Home? This was her home? It took a long moment to process the realization. I suppose I had simply imagined her home as being a happier place, something livelier like she was. Her darling clothes, from the laced blouse to the cherry red shoes, spoke of wealth and innocence. It was not at all implicative of a dark and lonely monster that sat in a corrupted forest.
"She has a home... her home is a run down mansion. A place where she herself is haunted by the memories of her death. There isn't anyone who could help her. She's alone... Other than you, I'm the only one who knows and remembers her. No one remembers that girl who used to live in that mansion, the one who used to play her piano on evenings. Or dance in her yard."
Odd... I almost seemed to have forgotten Rain's words before our parting. In fact, I had never imagined that I would see Chanson's home, as I knew my journeys would take me far from the realm I had met Rain in. Yet here I was, standing timidly at the mouth of the gate, surprised to find that the place was indeed haunted by the kindest child I had known.
Guilt quickly followed. I looked out at Chanson floating to her door, nervously fingering the heavy metal grate that stood between us. I had just warned us against her own home, and I could not ignore the eerie feeling that curdled in my stomach when I considered going inside. Just the mere possibility... of this place being her grave...
Would I... ever be able to bear the truth? Yet I had to know, I had to understand her pain. I had already thrown so much of mine upon her, what with my screaming nightmares and nightly cries. And more importantly, this was her home, and she wanted to show me.
So I sidled through the opening, striding past the overgrown path to reach her side with an awkward smile.
Chanson opened the door easily. Just turning the handle. It was left open. It was always left open; no one would be coming to the haunted mansion anyway; it was haunted. There were enough rumors going around about it, about how people had been murdered there. And there were ghost sightings; a girl running through the corridor, or playing on the stone walkway in the front garden. People even heard piano music, or saw eyes staring at them through one of the windows. They believed that this place was haunted by more than one ghost... perhaps they were right, perhaps they weren't, it was up to them to figure it out. At least Chanson knew, she was alone in this place.
The door creaked open, letting light into the dark hallway. There was a single corridor leading straight to the back of the house, on walls were doors leading to different rooms and on the right was the wooden and broken staircase to go up to the next floor. It was the only thing that seemed out of place; the staircase. Everything else was in perfect condition aside from being somewhat dusty; even the long, red rug that ran from the beginning of the corridor to the end hadn't faded. The paint hadn't begun to peel.
It was just dead quiet.
Chanson motioned at Leonna, beckoning her to come inside after taking a few steps in, listening for any sounds to hear if anyone had invaded her home to use for their selfish reasons. The little ghost girl had scared off a lot of people in the past. Junkies and curious people, paranormal investigators, even people who wanted to turn the place into an inn with 'ghostly tours'. She wanted her home to be... her home, that's all. But now, she had a guest after all... where would they go first? She took a few steps forward, passing one of the doors on the right, just under the flight of stairs. The ghost girl did not even shoot a glance at it, going to far as to walking the opposite side of the hall just to keep far away from it.
I watched Chanson for a long moment before I stepped inside, gazing at the dark walls within. It was a blessing that my eyes were suited for the dark, so I could take in the elegant wallpaper, the plush red rug, and the many doors that lined the hall. It was not at all what I had expected; there were no cobwebs, no creaky boards, no spiders, no broken old bottles in the hands of skeletons. No, instead, I found myself in a stylish hallway with tufts of dust clinging to the siding of the floor and in the corners of the ceiling.
Chanson casually strode in, her normal smile showing as she looked about her home. She nearly passed the crumbling stairs before she walked to the other side of the hall, her little red shoes making no sound. I knew that I was expected to follow, but the eerie feeling had only grown at the sight of this shadowed passage.
“Q... Quite lovely, yes.” I kept my voice hushed, hardly daring to stir the silence. This place was important to Chanson, and I owed it to her to be kind. So I took a timid step inside, smiling mildly at the red rug. It reminded me of another floor I had once walked on, and the quiet it offered my feet was comforting.
I began to follow Chanson on her way down the hall, holding my cloak tighter about me as we moved. It was cool inside of this place, be it merely the shade or the lonesome feeling that clung about it. The house itself was certainly rich in its own right, but it pained me to think that such a young, innocent girl should remain here where all was quiet and dark.
She looked back and smiled when she saw Leonna was smiling. Even if it was just while she was looking at the rug, at least she liked something. Chanson thought she should lead her to the kitchen first, yes, that seemed to be the better place to go first. There probably wasn't anything there to eat, but there were the tools to prepare meals.
The corridor ended, opening into a very large room the spanned the back of the house; on the right was the kitchen, on the left was the dining area, complete with a large, wooden table and chairs, all covered with dust. The kitchen and the dining area were in total view of each other, there were no walls in between. The back wall was made almost entirely of glass; large windows that offered a view into the overgrown back yard, complete with a stone well in the exact middle. There was a glass door that led outside; that too was always open.
Chanson motioned at the kitchen, showing Leonna the sleek marble countertops, and the cupboards and shelves hanging on the wall, as well as the varios devices that she seemed to be surprised by. There were the stove and refridgerator, even a microwave. The stove was powered by a large gas canister, it wasn't connected to a network or line of any kind. Eagerly, she opened the cupboard near to the stove and crawled into it, flicking on the switch for the gas. She crawled back out and switched on the stove; a blue flame appearing on one of the burners.
"Fire...!" Leonna exclaimed. Chanson looked up at her and shut it off, and then turned it back on again, showing her that she could turn it on and off whenever she wanted. The ghost floated over to the fridge and opened it, grinning widely. It was only a moment before her shoulders dropped and the grin faded; there was no power, it wasn't running or cold. The girl floated away, leaving Leonna behind, her mind seemingly engrossed by her own decisions. She paid Leonna no mind--it was as if she forgot her guest were there. Chanson floated into the corridor and moved along it until coming to the door under the stairs, the one she had avoided looking at. This time, she was staring intensely, her hand over her chest. She wasn't sure if she should open the door to the cellar...
It was truly a difficult sight to describe. Everything was simply... strange, new, and wondrous. I glanced at the immense dining room, its lovely furniture (if somewhat dusty), and the handsome features of the walls and floor, but none of these were so great as the wall of glass. I had never before seen such an immense window, this transparent crystal that revealed all outside. The sight was truly lovely, what with all the blooms, the vining leaves, the delicate well in the midst of all it. Certainly, the space was large enough to house its own little village.
But that was just the beginning. The kitchen was full of all kinds of strange things, most shiny, save for the dust. I eyed the strange objects curiously, running my hands over the smooth stone countertops and smiling at their cool touch. Yet there was even more. Chanson could make fire with the click of a strange device, creating a warm little flame almost instantly. Her enthusiasm only faded when she reached a tall metallic box.
The sudden seriousness was almost alarming. Chanson moved quite purposely out of the room, and I followed with uneasy curiosity. I watched her pause near the stairs, and had to debate whether or not I should call out to her. Something here was not quite right, and the morbid feeling struck me again. What else would make Chanson so reluctant in her own home, save that it was... that distinct possibility...
I could only watch, fingers clinging to the door frame, as the dear girl looked at the room before her. My voice was barely above a whisper, but it was only decent to find the source of the phantom's unease. “Ch... Chanson?”
The girl stared at the door. In her eyes, it grew bigger compared to everything else and even more and more twisted, contorting as if it were about to open up and swallow her whole. Her hand moved from her chest and slowly inched through the air towards the knob. Slowly going forward, even the silence was getting tuned out by this time.
The phantom jumped, her hand on the doorknob, her head snapping to look in Leonna's direction, eyes wide with fright. She wasn't able to think right then; her hand turned and she opened the door. Her form changed to a mist as she swiftly descended the stairs into the dark cellar, as if running from the one who called her.
That was not like Chanson at all, running off like a frightened little doe. But I did not pause for one moment. I ran immediately after the familiar white smoke, worried as to what had spooked her into disappearing. What I could make from the doorway she fled through was very little, for there was nothing more than a small, dark corridor with stone steps descending to some room down below.
I took a careful breath before I stepped through the portal, feeling the cool air of the cellar brush against my cheeks. In that soiled dampness, I could almost make out some forbidden scent, a kind of decay that was not meant to be in a little girl's basement. At first, I was alarmed as I continued silently down the steps, but I reassured myself with the thought that I was merely being superstitious. Perhaps it merely was that Chanson had seen heard down there and gone after it... yet... that terrified light in her eyes when she had looked back... something was wrong, and it could not be denied.
I stopped on the bottom step, looking about the room for some sign of what was going on. "Chanson?"
The cellar was large, and largely empty at that. There was a small window on the wall near the ceiling, but that hardly let in light, due to the fact that the grass had almost covered it. In the dim light, one could see that the cellar was moist, creepy--cobwebs everywhere on the ceiling, covering it and lining it. The ground was bare and brown concrete, rough and not smooth. The stairs lead down to the exact center of the room. On one end of the room was an old, broken piano. Covered in dust, it's cover was open, some of the strings pulled out, missing. Two of its legs were smashed, and the instrument was tilted to one side.
On the other end was a thick curtain, drawn to fully cover the wall. Nearby was a metal box attached to the wall. That was where Chanson was. She seemed to be panicking, eyes wide, and her form seemingly unstable, forming smoke and then going solid the next moment. She fumbled with the panel on the metal box before it was opened. There, she flipped a large, red switch before putting on the smaller black ones. A loud, mechanic whir came from behind one of the walls as the web-covered lightbulb hanging from the center of the ceiling flickered on, illuminating the darkness.
"Chanson?" The voice came just before the lights turned on. The girl jumped again, startled. She swiftly moved in front of the drawn curtain, spreading out her arms protectively as she stared with shimmering, frightened eyes at Leonna.
The sudden light made me yelp, my hand slapping to my heart. I took in the room for only a moment—Chanson was my true concern here. She stood blocking the curtain against the wall, her face so very panicked and her form trembling in its phantom-like manner. I took a slow and careful step towards the frightened girl, soothing my own worries within me to stay calm for her.
“Chanson... Chanson, it is alright. Everything is fine. You needn't fear anything.” Yet, even as I spoke, my eyes went to the curtain behind her. Chanson was hiding something; that was obvious. And I could not honestly say that I wanted to know what it was.
I carefully moved towards the girl, finally kneeling in front of her. When I reached out my hands to touch her face, I could still feel her trembling. “Chanson, please, it is going to be alright.” I kept my voice as calm as possible, gently stroking her soft sand-colored hair.
The girl's eyes became softer as Leonna knelt in front of her, stroking her hair. There was less panic, less fright. Her eyelids slowly descended over her eyes. Her arms dropped silently to her side and her body leaned into Leonna's. Their cheeks brushed as their arms hugged each other tightly. Chanson closed her eyes and nuzzled into her caretaker's shoulder.
Raisha was approaching the manse from outside. She looked up at it, her eyes exploring all they good from that distance. Old, stone, gloomy, was all that came to her mind. With her strength, she eased the gate over more, allowing herself to pass through, silent and unhindered.
"Yes, everything will be alright." It felt almost natural in a way, cooing that soft and gentle voice to soothe a child. I continued to hold Chanson even as I stood, picking her up into my arms. For a moment, my eyes flickered to the curtain behind her, curious and afraid. There was a secret here, a secret that this small girl had carried since the day of her death. My hand wandered towards that single clue, but stopped only inches away from the harmless fabric.
Chanson was already frightened; it would be too cruel to investigate when she was already so upset merely by the sight. No, this would have to wait, perhaps after I put Chanson to sleep, or a time where she would not be forced to relive her cruel experience. So I turned away from the haunting wall and its eerie beckoning, moving instead to walk back up the stairs.
That was when I felt it. Like the breeze from the cellar, another chill breathed into me. It was not the same as before, that haunting and blood tainted air, but it certainly was similar... and very much alive. Almost immediately, I was certain of an aura, one that was almost familiar in scent and density. It had a gloomy feel to it, something weighted by time, by darkness, by blood...
I paused halfway up the stairs, holding the ghost a bit tighter as I strained my ears to listen. "Chanson... I was not aware you invited any guests."
"Chanson... I was not aware you invited any guests."
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Raisha gently knocked on the wooden front door and waited, letting her hand drop to her side. She looked the door over, her eyes wandering over it. It seemed to be an expensive type of wood, well varnished and kept. For a run-down place, the door wasn't even rotting, and neither was the elegant frame.
Chanson heard the knock and lifted her head quickly, immediately leaving Leonna's arms and darting up the next half of the stairs, heading straight for the door. Leonna called out behind her, and followed swiftly in time to see the ghost girl open the door to the stranger.
"Hello." Raisha greeted the little girl, waving once, "You're... Chanson."
Chanson nodded, looking straight up into Raisha's gold eyes. "And Leonna?" Raisha looked over at the fairy, waving again. "I'm Raisha. Raisha Seraph."
...Seraph? Yes, I had heard that name before, and not too long ago. The conclusion it implied would have been questionable had it not been for this woman's remarkable resemblance. The gold eyes, the pale skin, the dark aura... the sense of blood... it was very possible that she held some relation to Rain.
And indeed, there was the frightening fact that she knew both Chanson and me by name. She had greeted us with such perfect calm, as if we were familiar acquaintances that happened to meet on an evening stroll. Such a thing was so peculiar that few circumstances could explain it... circumstances that pointed quite distinctly at Rain. Had he been the one to send her here? Had she come on her own? How could either of them have found us?
I merely stared as the questions came to a boil, able to do little more than puzzle at the sight before me. Raisha was a woman taller than I; her straight golden hair was bright in the sunlight as she gazed down at us. She wore a plain white blouse sparsely buttoned over a black one, her legs covered in a tight black fabric hardly covered by a short black skirt. Certainly a most perplexing set of clothes... but then again, this was quite a different realm than the one I was familiar with.
In a way, I was reminded of Rain's exotic coat and the strange impression he had made when I first saw him. Both he and this woman had that same powerful presence about them, a mysterious strength that hinted at abnormal abilities. I never had quite figured out how Rain had avoided my attacks without hardly seeming to move...
“R... Raisha, is it?” I finally managed to stutter, eyes still wide and staring at the peculiar sight before me. “Er... if you do not mind the inquiry... do you happen to know Rain Seraph?”
"Yes." She responded quickly and softly, not wasting a second between the end of Leonna's question, but she didn't do it to be rude, it was something she'd expected and quickly responding to whatever she expected was one of her strengths. Her lips curved into a small smile, "He is my brother." She looked down at Chanson, whose eyes had never lift her.
"You called me here, didn't you?" Raisha leaned down, staring directly into Chanson's eyes. Chanson returned it, putting her hands on her hips and pouting her lips, as if accepting a challenge. For a few moments, they both stared in silence.
"There, you see?" Raisha smiled softly, winking once. "I win." The ghost girl grinned, nodding, turning to Leonna and smiling softly, letting her know it was okay. "Rain's caught up in something..." Raisha added, "I came instead; you called me here, didn't you?"
Chanson nodded, her form darting off to the back where the kitchen and dining rooms were. She returned shortly, with some items floating along behind her; brooms, mops, pails even cleaning liquid.
"You... want me to help clean?" Raisha asked, slightly bewildered. The girl responded with a nod, looking at both Leonna and Raisha, moving her lips. "Home." she mouthed again.
All of this was... somewhat perplexing. Raisha was so much like her brother already, abrubt, polite, and playful. How Chanson had managed to "call" her, I could not begin to imagine, but it was clear that the ghost had some of her own plans in mind. There was a good deal of cleaning here to be done, but I... I could not help but wonder how long Chanson meant to stay...
"Ah... yes, right, of course." I smiled timidly as I grasped one of the floating brooms, staring between Chanson and Raisha. It was difficult to say what either planned to do now that there were three of us there for the sole purpose of cleaning.
"Just cleaning?" She asked again. Chanson shrugged, then followed the action with a nod. Raisha looked around the hallway she was standing in, even peering up the stairs to the second floor. It was a large placed, where should they start?
Raisha took a few steps inside, "Should we start from the bottom go up?" she asked, mostly to herself and no one else in particular. Her eyes fell on the cellar door and she knocked the broom handle against it.
"Here?" she asked, turning to the ghost.
Chanson stared for a long while before nodding quickly. Her smile had faded, and she was more serious now; all the more eager to sweep the dirt under the carpet. Raisha opened the door and began going down.
"Er... right." My hands tightened on the wooden shaft of the broom as I watched Raisha walk down to the cellar. It was a curious thing that such a stranger would so willingly accept Chanson's wishes, but like Rain, Raisha seemed to know many things merely by the way she looked at the world about her. It made me all the more uneasy to follow her down the place where a dark reminder of Chanson's past still remained.
I walked over to the ghost with a gentle smile, putting my arm about her shoulders as we faced the cellar. "Chanson... I believe we both know what this means. You do not have to go down with me if it makes you uncomfortable."