Chapter 3: Hell is Other People

Dammit, let's just move on with this.

Also, I would like it if I could get some more reviews. I mean, I'm not gonna do that attention-whore "I'm not updating until I get more reviews" bullshit, but...it'd be nice, ya' know?

Eh. I can do without them, but they're nice to have.

EDIT: During this whole chapter, I kept forgetting that it was supposed to be at night...

Those three of you who read this story may notice that this chapter is WAAAAAAAYYY late. I know. Family shit, going to San Diego and Los Angeles for a week and a half, AND losing interest in writing does that for you. But, I've gotten back in my groove, so I hope to not always be so late from now on!

/

Enselm...one thing I wish for...is that this world will one day live in peace! One day, we'll get along, no matter how different we all are...please, Enselm, believe in that future, never let go of it!

Even when everything seems lost, please never lose sight of that future, no matter how terrible life seems! Never use violence...please, Enselm...if you build a Utopia with bloodshed and suffering...how can it be a Utopia?

Those words ring through Enselm's mind as he walks back to his house. Mala walks behind him, saying not even a single word.

Ema is dead. He will never get to see her art again, or her smile, or her lovely blond hair sway in the wind as they walk around Stone.

But would he able to look her in the eye after what he had done? He shakes his head, knowing he could not. Ema would never be able to like him again. Not after he became a worthless murderer. He held in his mind her ideal, of a Utopia where everyone got along. It was nothing more than a pathetic and childish dream, but it kept him alive.

But in the end, he basically forgot it. When he became a hired killer, all that was on his mind was eating and surviving. At that moment, when he out-stretched a pained and suffering hand to his first employer, he turned his back on her forever.

Even if she had been alive, what would she have said? She would've shaken her head, knowing that the one person she trusted was nothing more than a fraud.

...No. She wouldn't do that. She would simply break down into tears, and he would be able to do nothing but watch her realize that he had been nothing more than a liar.

He was able to ignore that possibility when he was working. He simply pushed it out of his mind. But Abcde had bewrayed him. She had made him realize what a fraudulent man he really was.

When he thinks of that, he is, for a fleeting second, happy that she is dead. He quickly realizes how horrible that is, and admonishes himself for even thinking of such a thing. Then he focuses on walking forwards and to his old house. It would technically be breaking and entering, but he assumed no one would care. He simply wanted to have a place to relax and sleep in.

Mala continues to say nothing as they walk onwards. He lets his mind drift to other things. Such as why he abruptly left his own home at an early age.

He had done it to find his father. He would make Libro tell him everything. But that never came to pass. He had realized that he had no idea what he was doing, and would've died had he not become a hired killer.

Enselm smiles, but it's a sarcastic, ironic smile. "How pathetic can I be...my life is nothing more than giant fucking soap opera."

/

It takes him a few hours to walk back. He and Mala say nothing during the whole trip. Slowly making his way to his old house, he eventually finds it. It's the same Victorian style of the other houses, but it's obvious that it hasn't been kept in good condition. The exterior is rutted and old, the windows are in a state of disrepair, and the lawn is unkempt and covered in weeds.

Mala surveys it blankly. "Your house is...not in the best condition."

Enselm shrugs. "It's old all right...it doesn't help that my mom left it soon after I did...we never had anyone else around to take care of the house."

"Are you sure you simply can just walk in? You could be arrested for breaking and entering."

"I don't see anyone else around giving enough of a shit to arrest me." Enselm says as he walks towards the door. Mala quickly follows behind him. The front door to the house is opened with a key, but Enselm has long since lost his. He doesn't let this deter him, however, simply kicking it down—it snaps off of its old hinges with almost no resistance.

The interior is barren—a web of complicated rooms, each one filled with absolutely nothing, covered in cobwebs and dust, the floors and walls cracked and busted up. There is not even the smallest reminder of there having been a family of 4 here. Enselm feels a wave of nostalgia washing over him as he walks around the living room right next to the entrance. "It's amazing...how big and lifeless places can feel when they have nothing in them. When they're filled with stuff, they seem so cozy and warm..." He sighs wistfully. "...But when they don't have all that stuff you've come to expect in them, they just feel so...dead..."

Mala has no time to respond to his words, though, as she distinctly feels the presence of a third soul in the house, near the back. Of course...that's to be expected. This is how things played out last time... "Enselm, there's a third soul inside this house. I believe we should investigate."

"How can you tell? I thought a person could only read their own soul?" As far as Enselm can remember, distinguishing a soul was only possible if it was your own.

"No...I am trained in soul-reading. It's a lost art these days." Mala calmly deflects his statement.

"I've never heard of it." He gets up and takes out D'Tornade. "Let's get this over with."

"You're acting...rather calm."

He smiles before nervously laughing. "Well, yeah, I'm not afraid at all or worried, because..." He debates whether or not to finish the sentence. "...because I got you on my side."

Mala doesn't smile back, though she wished she could. "Let us go. They are inside the back of the house, roughly three hallways down and on the second door to the right."

Enselm racks his brain trying to remember the layout of the house...from where Mala said they were, it should be in...Ile's room? "Wait, that's not right..."

"Hm?"

"The directions you gave...they lead to Ile's old room. That's strange."

"I assume it is. Let us hurry."

They take off for the room in question, walking through the deserted hallways, with almost no light to help them find their way. You don't appreciate modern conveniences until they're gone... With the hallways being nearly pitch-black, they move very cautiously, in hopes of not accidently getting into conflict without warning. The house has an awful smell from years of stagnant water pooling up on the floor from broken pipes—Enselm has to cover his nose just to keep breathing. "Maybe I shouldn't live here after all..."

After slowly making their way to the door, they carefully crack it open before stumbling inside.

The room inside is barren like all the others, having nothing more than a small crib for a baby inside of it standing in the exact middle. The window at the far end is far larger than the others in the house, resulting in the room being barely lit by the moonlight.

In the center of the room, sits a small girl, no older than 10 years old, with lovely gray hair.

"Hello, big brother".

/

D'Tornade falls onto the ground with a dull thud.

"I...le?! How in the hell..." Enselm can barely spit the words back up as he stares at a girl who shouldn't exist.

Ile smiles brightly at him. "I came back, silly!" She's rather short compared to him, being only roughly 4 feet 6 inches. But their faces are quite similar, hinting at their relations. "Is that weird?" She looks utterly confused at him. Mala says nothing.

"No...it's not normal for people to come back...not unless you're a Revenant."

"Revenant? Is that a Ghost? Because Ile's a ghost, silly! I came back from the dead...someone in the spiritual realm told me that you and me both has this 'great destiny' to achieve...so I was sent back here."

Enselm calms down and sighs deeply. "Well, if you're really a Revenant, then...you're the cutest little ghost I've ever seen..." It's impossible to be mad at Ile for long—at least for him. Maybe it's the familial relation...

"You sure have a dull response to meeting your dead little sister." Mala chides him in the background.

"After all the crazy shit I've seen...I'm ready to believe just about anything." Enselm laughs at his own plight, but no one else does.

Ile comes closer to him, her hair flowing delicately in the small breeze from a shattered window. "Who's she?" She asks, pointing at Mala.

"Uh...that's a good question, actually...I don't really know myself, besides the fact that her name's 'Mala'."

"Well, hi, Mala!" Ile waves in a childish manner to her. Mala waves back, though she looks emotionally pained while doing so, for whatever odd reason. Ile notices this. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing..." Mala returns to her usual stoic self.

Enselm shakes his head in frustration. "You are incomprehensible."

"I aim to please."

Enselm turns his attention back to Ile. "Ile...what magic type are you? I never got to know..."

"I'm Justice type!"

"Oh, so you specialize in healing magic...that could be useful, perhaps."

"All the healing in the world will not save you from death."

Before Enselm can respond, a massive blast hits him from the front and sends him flying through the walls of the house, snapping them like they're made of tissue paper. "Argh!" He finally skids to a halt, his back feeling as if it's on fire.

"Enselm!" Mala starts to run to him, but turns around when she senses the source of the blast. It's a dark figure clad in some kind of cape, holding a rod about his size in length, in the middle of a massive hole blasted in the wall.

"How convenient. I get to kill you both—oh, it's almost as if I won the lottery!"

"You...Grigio Staccato!" Mala quickly takes out her Acies. "Venia Vitiosa!"Within seconds, her familiar armor is back on her body, and her massive black broadsword, Venia, is at her side.

Grigio casts a spiteful look at her, scoffing at her feeble attempts to put up a defense. "I have no need for you. How about you get out of my way, and I won't kill you."

"You'll never...Ile, go over to your brother! Enselm, take Ile and run! There's no way you can handle Grigio on your own!"

Ile follows her advice and runs over to Enselm, who can barely stand from the hit. "Brother..." She looks over his body, and takes to summoning her Acies, a small staff that ended in a Rod of Asclepius. "Absolution!" After doing such, she raises the rod in her hands."Sānō!" Enselm can feel the pain leave his body, but only in a temporary way...as if someone merely had covered up the symptoms of a disease instead of actually treating it. "I was only able to stabilize your wounds, not heal them completely, sorry..."

"No, that's good enough..." Enselm pulls himself to his feet. "Grigio!? What the hell are you doing here?!"

"Here to fulfill my duty, and nothing more, dear newphew. And part of that duty involves killing you."

"Like hell it will!" Enselm angrily yells while taking out Epee d'Tornade.

Mala holds out her hand to stop him. "Enselm, as I said, you cannot take him on by yourself. Run away from here, unless you want to die!"

"Bullshit! There's no way I'm gonna let someone blast me and then just walk away!" Enselm gets into position to run up and strike Grigio, but Ile soon grabs onto him.

"Please...listen to her...brother, there's no way you can survive against him!"

Enselm looks from Ile and back to Mala. "...Sigh...dammit, why did you to have to agree?" He takes Ile's hand and starts running. "You better be able to fight him!" He yells to Mala.

Mala turns back to Grigio, who is currently reading a massive copy of War and Peace. "It's just you and me now, Grigio."

"I see. Personally, I didn't want to have to deal with you, but things just never go the way you want." He does not even take his eyes off the book for one second while responding.

Mala observes him. He outclasses her on nearly every level—this battle will not be easy for her. ...But I have to make sure Enselm can escape...

Grigio still doesn't take his eyes off the book. "My my, can't a man intellectually analyze and criticize a book in peace? Oh well, I guess I'll fight you while doing that." He takes out his own Acies. "Cognoscentia!" The Acies in question is the staff he had earlier.

Mala holds her sword steady. "Let's get on with it."

"I am the one who will make those kinds of decisions, dear." Grigio lunges forward and swipes at Mala with his staff. She expertly parries with her black sword, but the power of the blow nearly sends her off her feet. As the two weapons collide, they create a shower of pure magical energy, some of it purple and black, the other part sky blue, showing off their sheer power.

"Tch!" Mala winces from the sheer impact of the hit. There's no way he can be sending me off-balance with that small staff!

Grigio—who throughout this whole time has still been reading the book—takes notice of her confusion. "Well, it's quite elementary." He takes another swing at her, still reading the book—he's not even looking at her as he swings. She parries it, sending both to a neutral position again. "I can calculate every single swing of mine, allowing me to find the perfect spot to hit you and send you off-balance. It's merely elementary physics, my dear."

He's capable of calculating physics, reading classic literature, analyzing it, and fighting me at the same time!? What the hell?!

"Any fighter worth his salt should be able to do such a thing, my dear."

"Argh! Get out of my head!" Mala sends a straight stab at him with her sword, purple and black swirling around to create a "drill" of sorts. He dodges it, barely evading it as it slightly scrapes his attire.

"Hmph. I paid good money for that." His tone barely changes, almost as if it was an afterthought. "But, I guess, if you're capable of hitting, I should give it my all, hm?" He stows the book away in a magical portal, and brandishes Cognsoscentia.

"It's about time you fought for real." Mala holds Venia steady, aiming to go on the defensive. Grigio lunges forward once more and sends a flurry of hits. Mala expertly blocks all of them, though not without difficulty. Dammit... After noticing a gap in Grigio's attacks, she decides to strike, sending a massive overhead strike straight down at his head, using every single bit of strength she can muster. If it hits, it will surely split Grigio's head in twain. However, he blocks it just in time, but the sheer impact of the hit results in both Acies shattering into pieces with a massive crack!, shards being sent everywhere...

/

During all of that, Enselm and Ile are running as far from the fight as they possibly can. They've already gotten three blocks away, and are still running at full pace.

Ile's starting to become tired, as evinced by her slower pace. "Brother...I'm tired...why do we have to run this far?"

"We have to get away...I think this is far enough..." Enselm finally stops, incredibly tired and sore from the running, not to mention Ile's ghostly presence having a negative effect on his body. He sounds hoarse and not in the best shape at all.

Ile feels his forehead—it's incredibly hot and sweaty. "You shouldn't be this tired from only a few blocks of running...are you sure you're feeling okay?"

Enselm collapses onto the sidewalk, sticking Tornade straight into the ground to prop himself up on. "It's not that...I'm sorry, but I think it's you. You're a ghost...I think your presence is having a bad effect on me."

"I'm sorry..." There's an ephermeral quality to the way she sounds as she sits down beside him—she's incredibly light and soft to the touch, a given due to her evanescent existence. "I can't help being a ghost..."

"I'm not mad at you or anything...I'm just not used to being around ghosts."

Ile says nothing for a few seconds. "Well, about that man back there. Who was he?"

"My—our uncle, Grigio Staccato. I guess you never met him. Then again, you wouldn't have remembered him anyway. I never really knew much about him. Other than that mom hated his guts, of course—she'd never shut up about him." Enselm sighs and looks up at the dark night sky, filled with stars. "But I wanna know stuff about you, Ile. Why did you come back?"

Ile ponders his question for a few minutes. "...I came not only to help you, brother...but to help myself. But the weird thing is, when I say 'help myself', it doesn't quite mean what it think it means...but most importantly, I was given a chance...to fulfill mother's dream for me."

"Mom had a dream for you, eh?" He scoffs and spits on the ground in contempt. "She sure didn't have any for me. But I persevered none-the-less."

"Don't say that!" She grabs his arm trying to convince him. "Please, believe me...mother loves us...she wouldn't abandon us!"

"You can say that because you're a kid, too young to really understand the world. Well, I guess most kids aren't dead, but you get the picture."

"Why are you so depressing?" Her voice sounds so disappointed Enselm feels bad for his demeanor. "Let's merely continue on, somewhere."

Enselm, slightly angry at himself for being so callous in front of her, gets up. "Yeah. We should." There's a slight tinge of optimism coming from his voice.

/

"Ah!"

The weight difference from the loss of her sword trips Mala up, sending her into the ground. Grigio laughs at her supposed incompetence as he dodges her. She manages to find her footing at a pace unbefitting of her massive armor set, being able to quickly get up with ease. "I'm not ready to yield just yet."

"Go ahead, take your time." Grigio mocks her, taking out that massive War and Peace book once more, and reading it in a way that attests to his hauteur. "I see no reason to give my all against you anyway."

"You arrogant bastard! Nox coalesco!" Mala punches the air, but when her hand stops, a massive "bolt" of sheer darkness blasts toward Grigio, who's caught off-guard and gets the full brunt of it. "Why you little...you fight for an ending you'll never receive!"

Grigio himself points Cognoscentia at Mala, building up so much energy that the air itself starts to distort and gain a blue tinge. "Hydrodistortion!" Upon these words, a gigantic torrent of water is shot out from Cognoscentia, hitting Mala full-on in the chest; even her extremely heavy armor can't fully take the hit and she's washed away in a what is effectively a small hurricane. This is what he's truly capable of!? She thinks as she's swept away in the massive flow of water—one so large it completely obliterates the house, sending the whole thing to its knees as the water destroys its supports; nothing can be heard except a massive roaring sound. If someone doesn't stop this, the water's gonna hit the houses across the street!

She's slammed into the ground as the water spreads out through the street. At this point, several people have come outside and are watching the battle in confusion.

Grigio calmly strides out of the wrecked house with nary a single care. "I see that we are gaining an audience, Mala."

Mala barely manages to get up, her armor and hair extremely shiny being soaked. "Grigio...you're willing to endanger lives solely to kill me?!" She yells at him as he continues to walk in complete indifference.

Grigio scoffs at her, almost taking a sadistic pleasure in seeing her hurt and barely capable of standing. "Of course I am, dear Mala. Do I look like I give the slightest care about these plebeians' lives?" He's now standing over her, pointing Cognoscentia straight at her throat. "How's about I simply run you through and be over with this?"

"You're that black on the inside...?" Mala asks between gasps for air. She looks around at the people standing by—the fight is starting to attract a bigger and bigger crowd, all of them looking in confusion or disbelief. "These people have nothing to do with this, Grigio." She stands tall, more sure of herself. "I won't let them come to harm."

Grigio lets loose a haughty snicker. "People like you will one day realize that 'right' and 'wrong' don't exist—just power and knowledge. Better that one million may be sacrificed so that billions later on can be benefited." He backs down and stows away Cognoscentia. "I didn't even want to deal with you. If you really wanted to protect that boy, then you've succeeded for now." He proceeds to walk off into the distance. Eventually, he stops and turns to face her.

"So long, for now. Sooner or later, that boy's going to have to learn your true identity."

He then disappears into the pitch-black night.

/

While that is happening, Marx and Abcde are investigating around the neighborhood nearby.

"How exactly is this going to lead us to anything?" Abcde asks, twirling her hair in her fingers as they walk around and question various people.

"It doesn't. But it makes us look like we're working" Marx responds, observing a nearby flowerbed with far too much intensity. "And that's the important part. Us governmental agencies don't do jack shit but we gotta make it look like we actually know what we're doing." He takes a small flashlight from his pocket and shines it on the ground.

"Such negativity."

"It's part and parcel of the job." Marx puts the flashlight away and continues to fake looking like he actually cares about the assignment. "I still wanna just go to Enselm and kick his ass. Wasn't that idiot looking for his dad...?" Marx sighs. Abcde tenses up for a slight second, prompting an odd response from him. "Huh, what's wrong?"

She holds her head in pain for a second before regaining her composure. "I just felt two really strong surges of magical energy in the nearby area! They're only a few streets down!"

"Shit, let's go over there then!" Marx starts to run but is stopped by Abcde gripping his collar. "Hey, let go! Don't you wanna get over there and see!?"

"Rushing will not help us."

Marx can feel those words slamming into him like a carefully lined up sniper bullet despite their simplicity. "You...you really are hard, you know that? You choose your words so carefully."

"It's a habit of mine I picked up from years of dealing with Enselm." Abcde lets go and proceeds to put on her usual indifferent look. "The only thing that makes him pay attention at all is austerity."

"...Geez." Marx shrugs in annoyance, mildly and frustratedly kicking the ground. "You drive one hard bargain. You're just like him, you know? You're both cold assholes."

"Really?" Abcde twirls her hair indifferently. "I'd say we are quite different. He's just an idiot. I'm have intelligence."

Marx sighs, barely believing the egotism laid bare for his eyes. "Have you ever been called a narcissist?" He asks rhetorically.

"By many." Abcde's answer is as direct as can be. Marx is legitimately surprised that she responded at all.

"Man, you're a pain to deal with." He taps his feet, irritated at her slow pace. "Can we do stuff at something higher than a glacial pace? It's bad enough that Rytria and Enzo still haven't shown up."

"I'd say we should go there calmly and try to see what is happening from afar..." Out of the corner of her eye, Abcde manages to catch something in the dim streetlights. "Wait, what the hell...?" She runs past Marx, who's starting to get interested.

"What do you see?"

"It's..Enselm?!" Abcde sees it as clear as day—Enselm is running down the street intersecting theirs...and he has some strange little girl with him. "Who's that little girl? Marx, come on, we gotta get to him!" She shouts.

"Is that Enselm? Steinschwert!" Marx barely wastes any time before immediately going for his Acies. "I've been meaning to kick some ass!"

"You complete idiot!" Abcde runs back to him and punches him in the gut hard enough to slam him into the ground with a thunderous crack as the sidewalk itself buckles. The hit feels like a truck just smashed into him at high speed, but he's more worried about the desecration of his clothes.

Marx quickly pulls himself to his feet and points Steinschwert at her for the unexpected hit"Ah, what the hell was that for?! This shirt cost good money!" He looks down, saddened at the small tears his shirt has received.

"Because you see that man and the first thing you do is try to fight him, dammit! Do you have any sense of tactics at all!?"

"I can't help being his rival...nor can I help being drawn to him in a way you'll never understand! Bodenschwert!" He takes out his second sword with a smooth slash, enraged. "Me and him are destined to fight each other!" He's bent over—almost like an enraged animal, poised to strike at any time without warning.

Abcde takes one seriously worried look at him. "You have issues. That's all I'm going to say. But I shall urge you to take proper precaution-" As she says this, he bolts past her towards Enselm, at a speed so swift Abcde has trouble believing it. "-Hey, stop!" She proceeds to take chase after him, but he runs far faster, making it pointless. "Hey, stop, dammit!" Tch! I can't believe I may actually come to Enselm's aid... She buries the shameful thought in her head and continues to chase after Marx. "Get back here, you impulsive idiot!"

/

I kept trying to extend this chapter but seriously, there's no goddamn point. This chapter already has enough stuff happening in it to be worth even more stuff. Gotta pace this shit out, you know.