There was no movement, but the voice of something still taking refuge in the darkness.
"...You figured it out, did you?"
At those words, the eyes of the "girl" lost their life, becoming two dull orbs set in this doll-like face. The shadow she cast on the ground was shapeless--this was a thing with no life, that could be molded like dough. It had to be given shape--it had been given energy. That energy returned now to the figure in the dark, and the shape it'd been given started to melt away...
"It's not so hard when you leave a trail everywhere to be picked up on," Cadenza replied. She found her words had more of an edge than she expected--this was really cutting her personally, wasn't it? She'd sympathized with Tiffany, not only because she was a child, but because of her specific situation, and now...
A woman's limp body was tossed from the shadows to her and Rain, landing at their feet. Cadenza was about to bend down and check for a pulse, but the black-clad man assured her quietly, "She's still alive."
...Even if she is, it must only be by a thread.
Some time had passed since the real Tiffany had disappeared... what the hidden figure threw out towards them next only confirmed the gypsy's worries. Tiffany's still body landed beside her mother's with a thud! Whatever had happened to the woman had been done to the girl too.
"Humans are food," the voice said, interrupting Cadenza's thoughts. "But they were not enough... so I had you two be led here. Now I can see there is only a single human among you, but... no matter. The woman can hand herself over and we'll be finished here."
“The woman can hand herself over and we'll be finished here.”
The woman? Rain glanced over at Cadenza. At the very moment he did, he remembered what he saw: what she was capable of. Shadows… that was it, wasn’t it? She was a mistress of the shadows; able to move through them as if they were water—they were probably even less resistant. Able to use the darkness almost any way she wanted… if a cloud covered the sun for a few moments, then her immediate enemies wouldn’t last very long.
It was a tiny chuckle that escaped his lips before escalating into a laugh; which then formed a grin. Rain glared into the shadows, his eyes fixed on the being. He could see in the darkness, there wasn’t any problem there: being nocturnal had its benefits.
“You…you want her?” he chuckled, “do you have a death wish? Because you’re in the wrong place if you don’t.”
An angry hiss filtered out of the darkness in response. The Grim Angel lifted his hand to his lips and gently wiped the small smile from them, “I hope you enjoyed your last meal.”
Cadenza could feel the hidden figure's eyes focus on her. They'd been more or less trained on her since they entered, but now they were... different. Scrutinizing... sizing her up again. Trying to gauge if what Rain had said had been true or a joke.
When he'd chuckled before, she found herself easing up. The tension she'd felt earlier, when she spoke with more emotion than she'd meant to... it dissipated then. And she realized that she trusted all along that he was different from this figure that was cowering in the shadows, using the darkness to prey on humans.
I... trust him. I never go in for teams in fights, because I think everyone's just playing with hidden cards, hiding their real hands from everyone else, but... he could've turned on me then and I didn't believe he would, even before he spoke.
"...My last meal?" the voice was speaking again. "I should have you know, if you kill me, the girl and her mother will die too. They're bound to me, for good--we share energy. If I'm slain, their hearts stop. If..."
The voice stopped, as if biting back words. Withholding information for when it was convenient, just as it was still withholding a clear glimpse of its form even now. Cadenza could see through the shadows... it appeared to be just a simple human... but appearances were deceiving. The speaker's shade, deep and dark on the floor underneath him, just a blacker spot in all the blackness, was an indefinite shape. That meant he had yet another layer of a mask, in addition to the darkness and his half-truths...
The gypsy blinked, discovering that the whole time she'd been prodding the shape in the shadows, her eyes had been lingering, unfocused, on Rain, just as her hand had been subconsciously still holding onto Tiffany's. He was moving now.
One step closer, then another, and another. Each step bringing him closer into the darkness; each step forced a small echo throughout the area. It wasn’t long before he stepped into the overlapping shadows, toward the human-shaped demon.
“...They're bound to me, for good--we share energy. If I'm slain, their hearts stop. If...”
Rain stopped a few feet away, hesitant for a moment.
“What’s the matter?” he said almost under his breath, as if threatening the thing, “Why stop talking?”
The Grim Angel began moving forward again, “I can’t kill you, is that it? That just makes things a little better. I hope you hate pain—I’ll stop attacking when you say ‘mercy’. How does that sound?”
Cadenza watched as Rain's figure disappeared into the blackness.
Stop staring, he's gone... I'm sure he hasn't looked at you this way once. His thoughts are somewhere else, like yours should be.
There was the sound of smashing cartilage and bone, like that of a nose, in the darkness ahead. A shrill voice cried out afterwards, shrieking in pain.
Tiffany's hand started to go colder in the gypsy's grasp.
Damn it, stay with me, menina...
Another smash in the dark, followed by a slam. Then the demon's voice, shaky and hoarse, came, "They... they feel my pain too, vampire. You're only torturing them more. Every strike, every hit... it goes to them just as badly."
She could hear a sound like a cackle start, but it soon faded to whimpering. You couldn't really laugh much with a crushed face. And that made her worry--just how badly was Tiffany and her mom feeling it?
Cadenza squeezed the girl's hand a little, trying to put some warmth back into her. Forgive me for letting myself get distracted a little before... that'll end here. I don't know if healing you two will heal him, so... I'm just going to hope that if I give you something and send you to another world, he won't be able to take energy from you. It'll be in an object, not in your bodies, so... it should work.
The woman removed the amulet from around her neck, feeling the exhaustion and lack of nutrition surge back like the weight of a ten-ton truck on her shoulders. She wrapped the chain around Tiffany's hand, placing the gem over the girl's heart, and then slung one of the girl's mother's arms around her as well.
"I'm going to be in trouble if you don't give that back," she whispered softly, "so you're going to have to promise to make it through this okay so you can return it, all right?"
A hand placed on shadows underneath the two dropped them slowly down, into the realm of shadows. Another cry from the darkness in the room told Cadenza that the demon could feel the girl and her mother slipping away--but still had enough of a bond with them that he could sense they were leaving.
Now, it's just a game of who can outlast who. And while me and the demon are both starving, Rain's just fine...
“You're only torturing them more. Every strike, every hit... it goes to them just as badly.”
Rain gritted his teeth, still holding the monster tightly by the neck. His other hand was raised, ready to strike with a blow that could possibly break a human’s neck. But at the moment the last word left the demon’s lips, the Grim Angel hesitated. Could he be lying? Could he be telling the truth? Either way, it was a method to stop the process of having the living daylights brutally beaten out of him.
If he was lying… but…what if he’s telling the truth?
It was only a few seconds hesitation, but it was enough; enough for the demon to gather up an amount of strength in his arm. In those seconds, his fingers became pointed, like talons. Little openings appeared on his palm and fingers. Those talons found themselves beneath Rain’s skin. He gasped at the feeling of his insides being pulled towards the bloodied hand.
“I’ve never fed on something not human before,” the demon grinned as Rain gasped for air, his hand losing grip on the thing’s neck, “adding one more to my feeding bond..Ooh.”
The demon shuddered as he felt Rain’s strength flow into him. He lifted the Grim Angel off the ground and threw him towards Cadenza, ripping out his hand from under Rain’s skin in the process.
Her legs moved before her mind could catch up, propelling her forward to catch the thrown body. She lunged towards him, her exhausted legs aching in response, and just managed to reach him... but her knees buckled under his weight.
Like a wolf watching its wounded prey, the figure in the darkness started to move closer.
When her thoughts finally caught up with her, they were jumbled up in a dozen different ways, but eventually voiced themselves as, "Rain... you idiot, how could you let that happen!?"
She wanted to hit him for getting himself hurt, and she wanted to beat the pulp out of the demon for doing it... anger was boiling up in all directions. Was that going to be enough to fight off a fully-energized demon now though? There was no telling how much power he could have gained from Rain...
As the demon crept closer, with the sound of talons scraping against the floor, Cadenza held onto the vampire and dropped down into the shadows underneath them. Not too far off, Tiffany and her mother were still laying against the featureless, dark violet ground of the realm, little ripples stretching out from them and skittering across the shadowy hall. The gypsy let Rain down beside the two, slipping the girl's hand into his. She doubted the amulet would do very much for all three of them together, but... at least it would keep their hearts beating and their bodies running.
I'm like a car running on empty here... I may not be able to come back to get them right away. I hope they stay asleep until I do... this place isn't the most comforting-looking one to wake up in.
The gypsy turned to leave, feeling her breathing getting heavier the longer she spent here, but she couldn't help glancing back over her shoulder at the three before she did. They all looked so cold... with a little wave of her hand, tiny shades of delicate, purple flowers sprouted underneath them, making the ground a little softer than before. It couldn't bring them back warmth... not here, where everything was cool and lonely and dark, but... it made her feel a little better anyway.
Cadenza made a fist, wiping the hint of a smile from her face, and returned herself to the material world, reappearing where her shadow had been.
The demon was only a few feet from her.
"I don't know how you keep disappearing, human, but I can tell you you won't be able to do it for much longer."
He lashed out with an arm, but she leapt away, landing beside a wall to lean against for support.
"It's going to take more energy to catch me than you'd even get back from draining me," she said flatly.
"Maybe so," he said, appearing before her quickly enough to nearly earn a gasp, "but it also means I'll have eliminated the last threat on this boat and can feed to my heart's content."
He scored a light hit before she rolled away from the blow, evading the talon that followed. The woman sprung back up to her feet, wishing she hadn't done that right after when the pain shot up her tired legs. She'd never been in a fight where she wasn't supposed to attack before--it was a weird concept. There seemed to be no winning. Ideally, you kept on dodging until your opponent got worn out, but you were the one who was taking all these hits so... what were the odds of that most of the time?
There's gotta be some spell that won't hurt him, but'll slow him down... Enchantment would paralyze him, but wouldn't that paralyze the others too? Would it stop their breathing?
"No time to be lost in thought, woman."
A talon smacked Cadenza across the face, sending her sailing into a wall.
"I'm having trouble with this sheet of strange white metal you're wearing under your clothing, but that won't last long. Consider yourself lucky for now."
...Oh, thank the bloody gods for that mythril armor, the gypsy told herself, wiping the small trail of blood from her mouth and trying to stand again. It's saved me more times than I can remember.
It may have saved her, but the armor was only making the demon more annoyed. That too, though, was a double-edged sword--because wouldn't he use up more energy if he was angry? He'd strike more carelessly and often. She just had to try and keep moving one step ahead.
It was only a short breath's time before the creature was upon her again, trying to dig his claws through the mythril, using his teeth now even to break through. He was too busy working on the armor to notice that the gypsy was quickly chanting some spell, the sounds of grinding metal drowning out every other noise in the room.
Hold out... a bit longer... my eyes want to shut so badly... how long has it been since I've slept? However long it's been... it needs to be just a bit longer...
The demon was oblivious to the dome of shadow magic that was beginning to materialize around him. His grip on Cadenza became looser and looser, until eventually he had to release her, finding himself being pushed closer and closer to the ground under some kind of pressure.
"What is this?" he demanded, "You're trying to hurt me with magic?"
"No..." Cadenza murmured, slumping against the wall, "it's magic, but it's not hurting you. It'll just keep you there... the normal pressure's not being put on. We'll see how long you can last without food..."
"You're drained yourself, human--this can't last long. When you lose consciousness, as you seem about to do... I'll break out."
"Maybe... but right now, I could still go get food. I can move. You can't. That might be the deciding factor here."
He groaned, his eyes were half open, but his vision was a tad blurry. His arm brushed something soft at his side; he turned his head, and blurry eyes fell upon the little girl and her mother. Rain was right next to them; had he been thrown there by the demon? He rubbed his eyes and looked them over. That amulet…is Cadenza’s, he observed, and quickly lifted his shirt to watch the handprint-shaped scar fade away.
He then looked at his surroundings; all of it was doused in shadow, either completely black or dark purple in some areas. It seemed to be a hallway…but he couldn’t be sure. Rain struggled to his feet. Every move he made sent lit ripples throughout the world, getting dimmer as the spread out, moving further and further away.
“ ‘denza?” He looked around again; the shadow-world already reminded him of her.
Immediately, he began flitting around, zooming from one end of the shadows to another. It was a while before he finally gave up and moved back to where he had entered—if he had entered from there in the first place.
He plopped down next to both of them and sighed softly, “She’s probably okay up there…or out there. Or….wherever.” A small smile lit his face for a brief moment.
A tiny bead of light, like a firefly dancing in the night, fluttered into the darkness of the stage, unseen by the demon who was pounding on the walls of his cage. Behind the softly-glowing violet, it was just another speck of brilliance, but the woman slumped against the wall had come to focus on it, following its swirling path with her tired eyes.
"Look--you can't even move anymore. You're just a human--you shouldn't have forgotten your place."
"Just a human...?" the gypsy repeated, a soft, dreamy smile on her lips.
It occurred to the demon now that she was paying attention to something else, but he couldn't see what. But even now, when she was on the verge of passing out, and he'd be able to break out, she seemed calm.
"You have limits, woman... magic or not," he said a little more carefully, his eyes darting around to see if anything reacted. What was she looking at?
The firefly did one last loop, and settled gently on one of Cadenza's knees, which she'd be holding to her chest as she sat. She relaxed a little when the light came to a rest, holding out a hand for the creature to crawl onto... if the demon squinted very hard, he could see there was something there, but he had no clue what.
Even if he could see the firefly, though, he had no way of knowing what it really was.
"I saw you take off the amulet, Shadow. You had me worried."
Its voice, light and musical, was something you didn't hear out loud. It was like a quiet little song and only you had the headphones to listen.
Cadenza whispered, her words coming out in soft breaths, "When I saw you fly in... I knew I'd be okay. I'd have seen a different Spirit if I wasn't, right?"
The firefly swirled around her bandaged fingers, as if looking over the wounds, and lightly touched upon each knuckle like it were kissing each one. "Think of me as... an angel of mercy. I came before Death could, because I saw why you'd parted with the amulet for now. And you know... I wish for all my children to stay with me for as long as they can. You always try your hardest to."
The demon was becoming infuriated by this point. It was bad enough that his prey looked calm, but now she was outright ignoring him? He battered the magical walls of the dome with his talons and feet, screeching at the top of his lungs when his attacks did no harm. The gnawing emptiness within him was starting to return... he needed to feed. And this woman would not faint yet...
Hunger overpowered his other urges--and so human skin began to peel away, revealing gray flesh and longer talons, an extra set of arms, and stronger muscles. Teeth lengthened into fangs, nails into longer claws, and eyes into darker slits. The dome of magic began to shake a little with all the energy.
As the demon changed, Cadenza watched the firefly flitter away into a corner somewhere, leaving the room pitch black yet again. Only she had seen that the gypsy Spirit of Life had come to this room, and even as she could hear the dome she'd created beginning to crack, that put her at ease. She finally let her eyes close a little, as the magic walls around the demon shattered...
She saw why I did, huh...? And that was the important thing...
Minutes masqueraded as hours; he was down here long enough, he felt as if he were growing older, even though he was immortal and had looked this way for centuries. Rain sat cross-legged, close to the little girl and her mother. His elbow rested on his leg, and his hand was propping his chin.
“I wonder… if I had kids, would I be alive long enough to see my great-great-great-great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren?” He thought all of this out loud, and chuckled. No one could actually hear—that’s it! Rain perked up, standing to his feet. This was her realm, so she must have the ability to hear, or at least sense what’s going on, maybe she could…you know, pull him out—because it wasn’t like he was going to die from the bond with the demon or anything…right?. Rain didn’t know what to shout out right then, but the moment he started thinking, he let out the first string of words that came into his mind.
Nothing—either she didn’t have the ability to hear what’s going on in this place, or she was ignoring him. Or she was unconscious…or worse.
“Let’s hope she’s ignoring me, at least. That sounds like her.” He was talking to the little girl there, but she was still unconscious. Rain frowned slightly, wondering what would happen if something happened to the demon if something were to happen to them—or if the bond was just one-way.
With that train of thought, he summoned his long sword, Night, and put the tip to his chest. He wasn’t going to die if he did something like this…but if the bond wasn’t one way when the monster wasn’t feeding, then this would cause some serious pain. If not…well, survive, find an alternate strategy, move on.
He pressed the tip a little, causing a trickle of blood. Rain thought he would give calling out one last try.
“Wake up, Latina!”
He only waited for a few seconds before plunging the sword straight through his body. He grimaced, the pain causing him to go weak in the knees. He slumped over, just gasping for breath, finding himself unable to pull the weapon out for the moment.
Somewhere between the utter blackness and reality, words were echoing faintly. Her mind was floating between the two states, jerking awake at the sound of screams from the demon, drifting off again when exhaustion reared its head. Between dark and light. The words that she was hearing... they seemed to be coming from a similar kind of place.
She just wished she could stay awake enough to figure out what they were.
The sounds of the demon's breathing, which had been a constant background noise before, had stopped. There had been movement a little before the sound stopped... but where, she couldn't tell. Cadenza couldn't discern between the shadows and light at the moment... there was just the feeling of the wall behind her, the gentle rocking of the ship.
Her eyes fluttered open to a light before them, not bright or stunning, but twinkling like gentle starlight. The "firefly" from before had settled on her nose to wake her, its touch like a sudden jolt of energy, and seeing that it had succeeded, it darted away to direct her gaze to a shape on the floor.
"The...demon?" the gypsy managed to say, when she could find her voice again. Her entire body felt numb, especially her head, her thoughts fuzzy and still mostly about sleep--but the surprise of seeing the demon that had been prepared to attack her, now reduced to just a heap on the floor, was enough that it could snatch her attention and run with it.
The creature was laying on its back, legs splayed, once hand clutching at his chest. When she crawled over to have a closer look, she could see the whites of his lifeless eyes like two headlights in the darkness. They pronounced, quite clearly, that he was dead.
"You... didn't... you can't, right? As Life, you can't... take away..."
"It wasn't me."
The Spirit hovered over to a shadow as an answer, flapping its crystalline wings.
Cadenza rubbed the back of her head, fixing the firefly with a weary look. "Listen, I'm only half-awake here and not exactly doing my best thinking... can you just explain what you're trying to tell me?"
"Think, my child--who's in your realm right now? Who might have had a way to harm the demon?"
The woman blinked. "...Rain? But... what would he have..."
Realization dawned slowly, replacing exhaustion and puzzlement with ugly, uncertain worry. The Spirit of Life could almost see the gears turning as Cadenza had put two and two together and her expression froze, and could only sigh when the gypsy dropped through the shadows.
I... hope what I've given her's enough to help.
Cadenza landed in the realm sloppily, her knees buckling underneath her as soon as her feet hit the ground. Her hands were shaking--it was because of adrenaline, she tried to tell herself. She couldn't be that concerned...
There was no time to run around searching for him--so she reached out magically, every inch of the shadows running through her mind's eye at once. There.
He was still near Tiffany and her mom. Maybe he was just sleeping now, and was fine?
I really wish I could believe that.
Shadows blurred as the halls flew by the woman, moving so quickly that it was as if they were bringing where she wanted to be to her. A shape stood out amongst all the purple and black... and the realm halted to a sudden stop when she spotted it, springing back to its normal, relaxed state like a rubber band.
The breath caught in her throat when what she was seeing became clear to her.
You can witness a lot of injuries, and a lot of death, and after a while, you became jaded to it. It doesn't affect you deep down anymore, because if it were to shake up your world each and every time, it would be too much for any person to handle. You'd feel as though someone had punched you directly in the heart.
But things change when it's not just another body you're seeing. There's some significance to it... there's a sentiment attached to the person who's wounded. And that feeling like you've been socked right in the heart comes back to you, even worse than before, because you aren't expecting it anymore...
Cadenza could only shudder at first, her entire body going cold--but just as quickly as that feeling came, she was kneeling down beside Rain, dissolving the blade sticking through his chest into the shadows.
She wanted to say something to him, at least to make sure he could hear her, but everything just got tangled up before she could get it out. She instead focused on quietly singing the song for Healing Sonata, holding her hand over the stab wound and trying to assure herself that he'd be okay.
Eyelids need to close—I can’t let them. Don’t want them to close. Sleepy, no yawning, stretching. Ice cold…Exhale…I can’t feel my finger tips. Wha-what? Eyes going dark—eyelids are open, stay open. Inhale…Ahh…that hurts… I can’t feel my finger tips but I can feel the handle—can’t pull it out…can’t put my fingers around it.
Exhale… I’m not going to die—I just want to rest…but something tells me that I should keep my eyes open. I-I can’t, not anymore…they’re too…heavy…And…
I…I’m hearing something…Wh…What’s that…?
The weight on his chest lifted, and a beautiful melody flooded his mind, dissolving all the desperate strings of thought. The voice was easily recognized after his breathing returned to normal—he wasn’t hearing his heart in his ears anymore.
Latina… he exhaled calmly, and blinked open his eyes which still had that sleepy kind of look; they were half-open.
“That was beautiful…” he whispered up to her, a soft smile forming on his lips, “Good morning, Hard-boiled.”
Rain clung to her gently, pulling himself up. His shirt felt heavy—no longer light gold, but soaked in crimson, especially the front and the back.
“Are you alright..?” he whispered again, looking at her face for a few moments before turning to the little girl and her mother, frowning slightly, “Is it dead? Are they alright?”
The words came out slow and soft, as if she was afraid that this too was some dream, and if she spoke too loudly she'd just wake up and find herself laying exhausted as the dome shattered again. She couldn't take her eyes off Rain... his bloodied shirt, his little frown that faded again when she assured him they were okay. She'd been so worried about him... her stomach had been tied up in knots while she healed him. When he'd sat up, holding onto her lightly for support, her mind had gone blank, and her cheeks pink.
Cadenza was so relieved... and emotion came surging back now that worry could finally be laid to rest. She was still upset with him for putting himself at risk like he had, but... she was happy too, when he'd opened his eyes and spoke. And then, well, he'd heard her singing... she never openly sang for anyone in such a long time, and the thought that he'd listened to her made her feel a little embarrassed...
That, she tried to convince herself, was the only reason her face was still reddish when he looked at her again.
"We... we should get going," she said, standing up to walk over to the girl and her mother. She didn't watch to see if Rain's gaze followed her as she moved... she was already feeling self-conscious enough as it was.
Scooping Tiffany into her arms, the gypsy felt the energy of the amulet run through her again, and breathed a thankful sigh. She gestured for Rain to hold onto Mrs. Miller's hand, and once he had, she took the woman's other one, and summoned up what strength was left in her and in the amulet that wasn't being shared to carry the four of them back up through the shadows.
"They can rest in my cabin," Rain suggested when they reappeared.
Cadenza nodded, hefting Mrs. Miller's petite body up so that the woman leaned against her shoulder. Tiffany and her mom altogether were going to be a bit of a challenge to carry given how tired she was... but there was no chance she was letting Rain see that. Partly because he might consider somehow trying to carry one of them then, and there was no chance she was letting him put himself under that stress now.
Once the gypsy had the two Millers securely in tow, the group started off slowly down the hallway, Rain stumbling along in the lead and using the walls for support. It was hard for Cadenza to watch him... she almost wanted to offer him a hand, but both of hers were more than full at the moment. She busied herself instead with making sure she didn't drag Mrs. Miller roughly as they walked along.
After some minutes of unsteady travel, they reached the cabin, and Cadenza could finally ease the mother and daughter onto Rain’s bed to rest. She gently took her amulet from Tiffany’s hands, and dropped it back over her head around her neck, turning to see the man leaning against the doorway.
“Ah… you should really change out of that shirt… I-I’ll leave of course, first. I’m thinking I should get myself something to eat… maybe… we can just meet up later. You need to get some rest…”
“No rest…that’s not what I need.” He leaned against the doorframe, his eyes closed and a soft smile on his face. He was facing her, he was sure, but he couldn’t see if she was looking at him.
Rain shook his head slightly, “I’ll go to dinner with you; that might be all I need. I’ll treat you.” He grinned. Without waiting for her response, or for her to leave, he began pulling off his bloodied shirt, almost tearing the thing off because it was heavy, and clung to his skin.
“Looks like I’ll have to take another shower,” he chuckled as he wandered into the bathroom, pressing his hand against the walls for support; as a final note, he poked his head out of the door and narrowed his eyes at her, smirking slightly, “No peeking.”
He closed the door behind him and undressed. The water from the shower was warm—just right. It went down the drain, taking all the bad memories of today with it; but the good ones remained—Rain smiled to himself, leaning against the cool, tiled wall as the droplets washed over him.
Her eyes had been fixed on Tiffany sleeping the entire time Rain spoke, only glancing back once or twice at him when something in his tone caught her attention and she couldn't help it. She could feel her cheeks burning rosy-pink the whole time...
She almost had to make herself shut her eyes completely when he'd taken his shirt off.
"Looks like I’ll have to take another shower," he said afterward, and his chuckle rang softly in her ears. She couldn't get the sound out of her head. "No peeking," he added, before disappearing behind the bathroom door.
Cadenza was left alone, with the feeling that butterflies were in her stomach and that her head was spinning...
I need to get out of here, she thought, fidgeting with her bandaged hands. The sounds of water pattering down on tiles in the next room filled the silence as she looked from the bathroom door to the hall, debating what to do.
It would... be rude to just leave when he offered to take me to dinner. But if I keep staying around him... The gypsy reviewed the events of the past hours, recalling all the ups and downs, and the flustered feelings that kept coming again and again... there was the strong concern she'd felt too, just minutes ago... could she really stand to be around someone who made her feel this vulnerable all the time?
She knew she was either going to get hurt, or...
...or what? Do I really want to hang around and find out what could happen?
When the sounds of running water stopped minutes later, the woman was sitting out in the hall, healing up some of her minor wounds. She didn't want to think too deeply about why she had stayed, but... it seemed obvious. She assured herself, though, that it was just to get a free meal.
The creak of the valve to turn off the shower echoed in the tiny bathroom, and filled his ears, reverberating in his head. He grasped a towel and tried to dry off, leaning against the wall for support. It was sort of relieving when the water was falling on his head, and in an attempt to keep that feeling, he kept his hair soaking wet; the strands stuck to his forehead and hung lazily over his eyes.
Rain was stumbling just trying to keep his own weight up—he didn’t want to add to it: he donned a light, white kurta; a long-sleeved shirt of East Indian design. There was a small, silvery, vine like pattern on the left side that started at his heart and moved to the middle of his stomach.
He moved toward the exit, running his fingers along the wall just in case he needed the support. Rain leaned on the doorframe, and looked at the woman in the hall. He couldn’t focus on her properly, and his eyes seemed to wander…
“Latina,” he smiled, shutting his eyelids, “why are you out here? Did you peek again?”
The smile turned into a grin as he attempted to hide his body’s state. He needed nourishment and he doubted that he would get it from her—he wouldn’t have taken it, anyway…Just hold on until the boat docks…
She looked up at the sound of his voice, and wished she hadn't the second after. He was standing there, grinning weakly, his hair still wet from the shower... which only made her mind wander to remembering seeing him in the...
...stop stop stop. The minute he opens his eyes he'll see the dumb stare on your face. Quit letting your mind wander off.
Cadenza stood, trying desperately to just focus on his face instead of letting her eyes trail down to notice how good he looked in the new shirt he'd put on. She was finding it more than just challenging.
"I-I just stayed out here to get some fresher air," she said, finally remembering he'd asked her a question.
She saw how he nodded sort of sleepily, leaning against the doorframe heavily for support as if it were a trusty cane. Even though she had healed him... the fight had taken a lot out of him. Blood loss must have been much more serious for vampires...
...No... I can't offer him any. I won't... not after everything I've gone through with Cain, and Sylvestre, and Erkunde and his Brotherhood and how hard I tried avoiding becoming food to any of them. I do it this once out of pity... and then it'll become a habit.
The gypsy wanted to leave the matter settled at that, but she couldn't. Just one glance at Rain, and how he couldn't even keep his eyes focused, or open... it tugged at her heart. But her distrust of vampires was still there to back her up.
"Here..." she said, taking off her amulet and holding it out to him, her eyes darting away before she could see his reaction, "...I don't know if it'll be enough help, but... that's all I can lend you. So...er, please, take it. I... can't have my business associate passing out on me suddenly."
I remember that… his mind immediately flashed back to Tiffany and her mother in the Shadow Realm. They had that same amulet on their bodies…She had it now so that meant that she was being…protected by it? It…served some purpose when it was with the two. Was it protecting them from harm? From the pain that the demon would feel when Cadenza was with it. So…what would it do for me? Prevent me from feeling this way…? It might…but…
Rain looked at her, she was looking away, still holding out the amulet toward him. He smiled a little and took it from her. He looked at it in his hand for a few moments and then at her. She was still looking away.
With a small smile, he moved closer to her and gently put it back around her neck. “This is yours,” he whispered, “Let’s go get dinne--” At that very moment, an announcement whined through the P.A. system. A loud wheen preceded the message, “This is the captain speaking: we’re almost at our destination. If we keep our current speed and course—I estimate about an hour, or so.”
Ah, good… A soft sigh of relief. Rain turned away from Cadenza and began walking—slowly, trying not to stumble—toward the dining area.
The woman glanced down at the amulet around her neck, and back up at Rain fumbling his way down the hall, holding words back as she bit her lower lip. He... he clearly needed something to help him, like the amulet would have done, so... why hadn't he taken it? He'd rather struggle along than accept that from her? Could it be because he knew it was something important that helped her too?
That... that was stupid of him. He needs the energy more than I do... I can just eat and sleep a little and be okay...
He just continued on, like he assumed she was following behind.
"Hey, wait...!" she called out, "I... ah, well, I still owe you for borrowing these clothes I've probably ruined so... can't you take the amulet for now so I feel like I've paid you back?"
Rain chuckled weakly, she’s persistent, he thought. She’d make a good mother, he let that thought jokingly slip through his mind and let out a slightly stronger chuckle.
“You saved me—that’s enough,” he smiled, closing his eyes so she won’t look into them. If she saw how dull they looked, and how he couldn’t keep them focused on one thing, he was afraid that he might upset her more. And besides…he was supposed to be showing her the ropes, right? How would it look for the teacher to appear ‘unable’ to the student?
“And those clothes wouldn’t have looked good on me anyway,” he added as an afterthought, chuckling the way through. “We’re going to miss dinner if we don’t hurry…Italian, maybe?” Rain pondered, “I could use a pizza…or some pasta…” He began walking away again, stretching out his hand and lightly brushing the wall with his fingers as he moved past.