Author's note: Sorry, I know it's been a while since my last update. I've been really busy lately, but I really don't want this story to go under. I'll try to post more often.
Chapter 3: Nightmare Therapy
Sometimes our scars run so deep we cannot reach their bottom
Magi's Prison Blocks
Imperial City of Tyrannus, Light Realm
The Magi's prison was not a prison at all. Well, at least not in a natural sense of the word. In fact, the Magi's Prison was a series of interconnected towers, reaching high into the sky. Each bronze tower was home to up to a hundred so called "prisoners," their living compartments were organized in a simple manner. The more dangerous you were, the higher up in the tower you stayed.
But the fact of the matter was that most people within the Magi's Prison were not villainous at all. Mentally insane many of them, yes, but not villainous. They were detained here simply because the Tyrannus Empire didn't know what else to do with them. Warp barriers were a lot more effective at holding back the criminally insane than cells, which, contrary to their purpose, seemed to only drive their inhabitants even crazier. Here in the Magi's prison, the so called "tainted" were free to roam, so long as they never left the perimeter.
Of course, there were always outliers. Dangerous Magi who could not be controlled in a normal prison environment, malicious criminals who used their powers for state-of-the-art crime. These few were detained in a sort of stasis field, unable to move even their own bodies, much less escape. But Vincent Kahn was not here to see them. No, he was here to see a one Rufio Nuntius.
"Not so fast there." The guard commanded. His silver armor and yellow hood indicated him as a battlemage, a member of the Imperial Circle who had enlisted within the Legion. "Ya' can't just walk in here without a reason." He said with youthful vigor.
Vincent's onyx eyes narrowed, he didn't have time for this. "Out of my way. I'm here to see a detainee. Rufio Nuntius."
The guard laughed, "of course, of course. Because ya' know, here at the Magi's prison we let everyone in to chat it up with the criminally insane don't we?" He said sarcastically. "Sorry boy, but I can't let you in without clearance."
Vincent drew for his scimitar. Within seconds, the tip of the blade was pointed at the man's throat. "This enough clearance for you?" He threatened.
The guard took a shallow gulp, with a blade less than an inch away from taking his life, he didn't want to make any unnecessary moves. "You do realize I'm an enlisted man don't you?" He tried his best to sound confident, "killing me will get ya' in a whole hell of a'lotta trouble."
"You do realize I don't give a shit right?" Vincent smirked at the changed look on the man's face. "The names Vincent Kahn, I'm sure you've heard it. And whenever you know the name of someone from Fire Realm, well..." He laughed, "that's not such a good sign now is it? Now I'll say it one more time. Get out of my way."
The battlemage backed off quickly, his voice stammering. "S-screw this. I-I don't get paid enough to get butchered by an ex-warlord. J-just don't cause any trouble in there will ya'?"
Vincent laughed as he passed through the door. "I'll try not to. Though, trouble does have a habit of coming my way."
"How can I help you?" Asked the woman, her eyes not looking up from her paperwork. How the hell I got stuck here in the prison blocks filling out provisions reports I'll never know. She thought.
Vincent smiled, "I'm looking for a man named Rufio Nuntius."
"Ah, yes. Rufio. He's just up-" The woman paused, looking up. "V-Vincent? What the hell are you doing here?"
The ex-warlord laughed, brushing back a loose strand of charcoal colored hair with one finger as he spoke, "nice to see you to Aria." He said, mocking hurt.
The girl smiled, her perfectly white teeth standing in sharp contrast to her well tanned face. She bit her bottom lip lightly in a tinge of nervousness, "sorry." She motioned, pushing aside her paper work and flicking around her long locks of auburn colored hair before speaking in a half-joking, half-flirtatious tone, "why, hello there sexy. Long time no see, how bout we chat it up over a glass of wine and say...a night under the stars?"
"That's more like it." Vincent said cockily, "all I'm asking for."
Aria smiled shyly, "Sorry...it's just been so long. I didn't really expect to see you around."
"I can leave if that'd make you feel better." Vincent joked.
"No, no, it's just...what are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same question."
Aria sighed, eying her paperwork, "and I'd have no real answer for you."
Vincent smiled warmly, his eyes scanning over his old friend. She was right, it had been a long time. Too long. They had grown apart it seemed, she had grown older. Vincent had gone to war. He still remembered vaguely the days they used to spend together, back before all the Homeworlds started clawing at each other's throats. Childhood memories filled his head, they were pleasant, warm. Vincent's heritage had changed all that. He had chosen the path that all those from Fire Realm were expected to take, the path of the warrior. The thought of returning to her had occurred to him only a few times before. His heart had changed. His soul knew he was only alive on the battlefield. He could have come back. He could have rekindled their once strong friendship. He didn't.
It had been too long. Aria had grown in to a successful, competent woman. And she was downright beautiful, not that Vincent would ever admit it. "I'm here to see the man that seemingly caused all that ruckus in the throne room. Rufio?" He changed subjects.
"Or, right." Aria said sheepishly, wanting nothing more than to catch back up on old times. "As I was saying, he's just up the stairs. Second floor."
"Second floor? He must be pretty easy to handle..." Vincent laughed, there were twenty five levels to this tower.
"Vincent...he's an old man who experiences nightmares every once in a while. He hardly even belongs in this place."
"You don't believe what he says is true?" Vincent asked, surprised.
"Not my place to say. So what if it is? What am I supposed to do about it? I'm just one person..."
Vincent's smile dropped. "As am I. But every result is created by an action. I want good results. The galaxy needs them more than ever right now."
Aria laughed quietly, "you haven't changed much you know that? Grown, matured, yes. But you're still the same old Vincent, thinking he can come along in his shining armor and save the world."
Vincent laughed cockily, "the galaxy Aria. Not the world."
Aria looked up to him with a pair of dazzling blue eyes. "That reminds me, you know, I never managed to thank you for saving me back there. So...thank you Vincent."
He smiled again, "right then. Well I should get going."
Aria's smiled slowly dissipated as Vincent walked off. He had just arrived, they had so much to talk about, so many experiences to share. But he was on a self-set mission. It seemed as though Fate would always have it be that Vincent would be on a journey greater than himself, greater than her. No. Fate would have it be that Vincent would be responsible for great things, but he did not have to do it alone.
"Wait up!" She shouted. "I'm coming with you."
Vincent smiled wryly, "couldn't stand one second away from me huh?"
"You know it." She said sarcastically. "Besides, you'll need someone to lower the barriers for you."
Vincent looked at her in surprise. "You put a warp barrier up for an old farmer?"
"A light one, but yes. It's protocol." She replied as they made their way up the stairs. "Now stand back."
Vincent watched as Aria closed her eyes, her brow furrowing slightly as she pushed the invisible wall out of her way. He couldn't see anything happen, but he could feel warm air rush over him as it escaped from its confines, behind the invisible barrier. "Good to go." Aria said.
Vincent was surprised to find another man already talking to Rufio when he arrived. It seemed almost like a therapy session. Rufio sitting on a couch, fidgeting awkwardly, grinding his crooked teeth back and forth as the man spoke.
"Look...Rufio. I can't let you out of here until you start acting normal." The man gave a fake smile, brushing down his beige colored robe. "Now then, I'm sure you're absolutely dying to see your family back on the farm. So stop it with these awful delusions so I can let you go."
"Never! I speak the truth! Why won't anyone listen? This whole world is mad!" Rufio shouted, placing his hands atop his bald head in anxiety.
"In Fate's name." The man spat. "the only one who's mad is you!"
Vincent let out a loud cough, interrupting the conversation. "I don't think insulting your patient will do much good."
The therapist threw the ex-warlord a menacing look. "And who the blazes are you?"
"Vincent Kahn. I believe your patient is acquainted with me?" Vincent sent Rufio a reassuring look, who was backed up to the corner of the couch nodding his head back and forth. "I want to talk to him about the return of the demon-gods."
The therapist drew up a face of pure hate, "absolutely not! There are no demon-gods!" He ignored the incessant objections sputtering our of Rufio's mouth as he said so. "I will not have you interfering with my work! I am almost finished returning the patient's mind-state to normal. You will not disturb him!"
Vincent laughed, "the only one disturbing him is you." He pointed at Rufio, who was now rocking back and forth, murmuring nonsense. "In fact, I think he's even crazier than how I left him."
"He's simply entering the denial stage. I'll have him fixed up in no time." The man reassured.
"No." Vincent sneered. "You won't. Because there's nothing to be fixed."
"Are you suggesting that what this madman is saying is true?" The therapist laughed.
"Are you saying its not? Listen, I was in the throne room. I watched and listened to this man and his words very intently. All I found, was an honest man who was, quite truthfully, scared shitless." Vincent paused. "And then we were warned of the truth in his words. They say its the Haedules Empire playing tricks, but I'm telling you, I was there. This man, whoever he was, held power greater than that of anyone I've ever encountered before. Far too much for a Haedules assassin."
The therapist paused, his frown deepening, but his mouth saying nothing. "So tell me." Vincent continued. "If Rufio really is telling the truth, if the demon-gods really are returning, do you want to go down in history as the man who denied his warnings? Who betrayed his empire, nay the galaxy, at the expense of a narrow mind?"
"Do not dare to accuse me of treason." The therapist growled, "you may have your words with Rufio, but nothing will come of it."
Vincent nodded, stepping over to the old man on the couch. "You remember me right?"
"Of course." Rufio said, his shivering put to a halt momentarily. "You're the man who fought alongside Kreiger." The old man turned to Aria, "and you're the only person who seemed to find some sense in my warnings."
Aria gave an awkward smile as Vincent spoke, "that's right. Now can you tell me exactly what happened?"
"I-it's not easy." Rufio said, his hands starting to shake. "I-it's like...like when I try to tell people, when I try to warn them. S-something pulls me back."
Vincent frowned, "what do you mean, holds you back?"
"I-i don't how to explain. I-it's like...whispering, e-except you don't hear it in your ears...you hear it in your head....i-in your soul..." He paused, his hands trembling harder and harder as he spoke. "A-and then you start to feel it...like...like something is clawing at you from the inside...trying to drag you away, pull you away from....from your own thoughts." He let out a slight whimper.
Vincent casted Aria a worried glance before turning to the therapist. "Is there a possibility." Vincent paused, "is there a possibility this man is possessed?"
The man frowned, "I don't like what you're doing here."
"Answer the damn question doc."
"No." The man paused. "Doubtfully." He corrected. "People only become possessed when they've been in the presence of a Tear-zone, a place where the Warp Barrier between our universe and the next has been weakened or damaged enough for something to pass into our plane of existence." He paused again, "even being in the presence of an insignificant tear would leave heavy Warp residue. Magi could sense it from a mile away. Hell, you could sense it from a mile away." He nodded reassuringly, "when we evaluated him upon entrance we did not sense anything of such nature. I still do not."
"What if he was never in the presence of a tear-zone?" Vincent whispered. "What if a demon was already in our plane?"
"Impossible. Unless there was a significant disturbance in the Warp Barrier a demon would not be able to cross over without assistance. And there is no disturbance."
"What if there's a loophole? Another way?"
"Please." The man scoffed. "Possessions are rare enough as it is. What your suggesting is outright pseudoscience."
Vincent turned to face Rufio again, the man's fingers were beginning to tap anxiously on the arm of the couch. His eyes then turned to Aria, "can you give me some help on this?"
"All right then." The girl nodded hesitantly. "Rufio, I know it might be hard, but I want you to cooperate with me okay?"
The old man nodded.
"Okay, I'm going to put you under a trance, very light magic."
"Okay." Rufio agreed.
"Close your eyes. Relax." The man did so. "Now think back, focus on the memory, tell us exactly what you saw. What happened that made you break into the Imperial Palace?"
Nothing. "Well." Aria sighed. "I gave it my best shot...
"Wait." The voice was Rufio's. "it's working...I-i can see." His eyes were still closed.
Aria jutted back to attention. "Okay, tell me what's happening. Where are you?"
"Southerngrass Fields." Rufio noted.
"Okay. Where in Southerngrass?"
"The farm. My farm." He paused. "I'm going inside. It's hot, very hot. I'm sweaty, I need water."
"That's just part of the memory. You're not really thirsty."
"I need water." Rufio repeated.
"No Rufio. Focus on the memory. Focus." Aria encouraged.
Rufio nodded reluctantly, sweat began to form beads on his forehead. "It's dark. I've been working late, trying to plant the rest of my seeds before the rain comes in. They need their water too." He paused. "my wife left me a drink by the bedside." A smile crawled up his wrinkled face, "she's in bed...sleeping."
"try not to wander off." Aria mentioned.
"right." Rufio's brow furrowed as he tried harder to concentrate. "my muscles are tired, but I don't want to go to sleep. Not yet. I move into the living room. I sit down next to the window." He paused. "Somethings watching me."
Aria shivered a bit, she tried her best to not let anxiety escape from her lips. "What is it?"
"No." Rufio whispered. "No it's just a bird. A hawk. Just a hawk. Its in the treetops." He paused again. "I reach for a blanket. It's cold."
"You just said it was hot." Aria mentioned, trying not to throw him off focus.
"No, it's cold. Freezing. It's cold, I'm shivering beneath the blankets. I can't stop shivering. Why?" he took a deep breath, gasping for air.
"What is it?"
"Somethings watching me." He repeated again. "No, no just a bird...just a bird." He let out a forced laugh. "I'm tired. I must be. All day on the field. No rest. My muscles are sore, I'm sleepy. I just don't know it yet." There was a sudden silence. "somethings watching me." he repeated again. "somethings watching me. Somethings watching me."
"What's watching you?" Aria urged.
"Hawks aren't nocturnal."
"What?" Aria asked, confused.
"Hawks aren't nocturnal... It's not a hawk." he mumbled, "it's not a hawk. It's not a hawk. No! No! It knows I see it! It's watching me!"
Aria was beginning to hesitate. Rufio was trembling like mad, his hands were shivering harder than she thought possible. "What is it? What is watching you?" She urged.
"G-g-g..." He stammered. "Gargoyle."
The three gave each other nervous looks. Gargoyles were dangerous creatures from the Warp, they didn't belong in this universe.
"What is it doing here?" He asked, his eyes forcing themselves shut. "What does it want with me? I-i-it's cold."
"We know that Rufio." Aria assured, "what about the Gargoyle?"
"It's cold." He repeated again. "why is it cold? I thought it was hot..." He paused, "it's watching me..."
"the Gargoyle?" Aria asked, "its still watching you?"
"No." He whispered. "Not the Gargoyle." He paused, his body beginning to tremble. "Something else." He shivered. "There's something out there."
"The field." He paused. "It's looking at me."
"What is it?" Aria asked.
"It's looking at me! Oh god it sees me!" The three watched as the old man's body tumbled to floor, spazzing wildly.
"What the hell are you doing?!?" The therapist yelled at Aria. "Break the trance. Now!"
"I'm trying! He won't let go!" Aria screamed. "Rufio! Rufio damn it! Calm down! It's okay! It's just a memory!"
"It's cold! Gods, it so cold! Why is it so cold? No! No!" Rufio was screaming at the top of his lungs, "how did it get inside? No! No its coming for me!"
"What?" Aria screamed. "What's coming for you?"
"Night-" Rufio's voice was cut off. The room fell into an eerie silence. The old man's body lay limp on the floor.
"Rufio?" Vincent asked. "Rufio you okay?" He gave Aria a concerned look before stepping closer. "Rufio?"
There was no reply. "Oh god." Vincent said. "I think he's dead."
"Impossible." the therapist assured himself.
Vincent knelt down, pulling Rufio up. For a scrawny old man he was heavy. "Rufio?" No reply. He was till breathing. "Rufio?"
Creeeeaaaaaaak. Rufio twisted his neck. Bones weren't supposed to make that noise. The man was shaking inhumanly, his eyes were wide open, and then....
Snaaap! The old man's jaw dislodged itself, hanging agape like a corpse caught mid-scream. Hhhhyaaaaaaakkkk! The scream was ghastly, evil, pure evil. "You are miiiiiiiine!" the hiss-like whisper reverberated throughout the room.
Vincent drew his scimitar. Something obviously wasn't right.
"Too late." Then something came out of the old man's body and, with an eerie scream, rammed into Vincent's chest...
Author's Note: Well, I hope I set up enough suspense in that chapter. It was my first attempt at ever writing something like this, and I've never really used onomatopoeia like that before so please tell me how I did. Anyways, hope you enjoyed it. Review please.