The seven children and their parents and guardians arrived at the luxurious Eclipse Hotel in Twilight at different intervals. Barely missing their fated meetings throughout the day, but the 30th had come and gone and now Halloween night had finally come…
It was time to stop prolonging the inevitable and unite the children one way or another.
"Alright Dad, I'm ready," Cole announced, strapping on the finishing touches of his costume. He buckled the black boot covers over his leather boots and stood up from his bed. He strolled over to the full length mirror and adjusted his black jacket with a smile. He had to admit that he looked good in this particular costume and it was indeed inspirational to wear. He was adorned in an exact replica of Michael Jackson's BAD attire, from the red line that traveled down the left of his pants' leg to the numerous decorative belts around his trim waist. He was going as the King of Pop on Halloween night!
Lou soon exited from the bathroom grinning broadly. "Well son, I see you like your costume. Tell me, do you feel the flow of performing energy coursing through your body?!"
Cole ran a hand through his noir locks and smiled back at his father. "I feel great, dad," he said and cocked an eyebrow once he saw Lou's formal dress attire. "Looking pretty spiffy yourself, I hope you and the other Royal Blacksmiths kill it tonight at the Ball."
"Of course, Cole!" Lou replied and performed a Cincinnati timed-step effortlessly. The sound of his tap shoes were muffled due to the carpeted floor of their room, but the rhythm was easily discernible. "They won't regret hiring the greatest quartet of all time! Now, let's be on our way!"
Cole and his father noticed quite a few things the moment they left the hotel and stepped into the windy autumn night. Twilight City was alive with brilliant nocturne décor! Cole's young eyes widened in wonder and awe as he tried to take in as much as he could of the breathtaking scenery. Orange and white lights wrapped snugly around every black three-pronged lamppost as far as the eye could see. And sitting stagnant and haggard upon the limbs of scattered bare Oaks and Maples, were ominous black crows with scarred beaks and beady white eyes that peered at each passerby inertly. He even saw a few black carriages being tethered to frighteningly creepy skeletal horses, their ghoulish appearances as stunningly realistic as their equally ghoulish coachmen, with their tattered and worn tailored suits and blistering black whips. The streets were bustling with activity as all the citizenry, young and old, celebrated All Hallows Eve. It was easy to see that Twilight City was the place to be at this particular time of year.
"Stay close to me, Cole. I don't want to lose you in the crowd," Lou said as the two made their way to the bus stop down the street. Though young, Cole had always been a rather brave individual. It was his little brother, Dante, who had always been the emotional and timid one. No, Cole embraced Halloween like he embraced Christmas, with open arms and a jovial smile. He openly gawked and hooted cheers with other spectators as he and his dad passed a sallow-faced woman in a black satin body suit riding atop of an enlarged black widow. Another reanimated contraption that looked hauntingly real. So real in fact, that some kids who happened to be within headway of "Madame Spider" cowered and cried behind their parents in duress. Kids…
With a pitying shake of his head, Cole waved good-bye to "Madame Spider" when she pivoted her saucy bald head his way with a wink and a small wave of her own.
Up ahead, he could already see the headlights of what had to be the buses that he was going to do his trick-or-treating tour on and as they got closer, more parents with their kids were seen standing in line on the sidewalk beside the curb where they were parked. Endless excited chatter chorused through the ambience as the Belmontes waited in line to board one of the three buses for the exclusive Halloween program.
Cole's father glanced at the ticket in his hand. "Let's see…yes! This is your transport son, the Phantom Bus," he said and handed Cole his ticket. The dark-haired boy looked to the side of the black bus and sure enough saw the depiction of a cartoonish ghost along the side from the doors down to the caboose.
The line moved swiftly enough despite the torrid of caterwauls from the ecstatic children all around, and soon Lou was ushering his son forward to have his ticket stamped by one of the many adult chaperones and bidding him farewell.
"Alright Cole, be good, stay in your assigned group, and listen to the adults," Lou instructed seriously to his eldest son.
Cole resisted the need to roll his eyes and just nodded. "Alright, Dad."
The Royal Blacksmith then pulled him in for a quick hug. "Have fun. I'll be back at nine o'clock."
The two separated and Cole clambered onto the bus. Whoa…
he thought, impressed by the grandeur of his surroundings. While the bus didn't look anything but big from the outside, its interior was positively exquisite. Along the dimly lit chrome walkway, Cole noticed lush crimson carpeting underneath the freshly oiled leather booths. With four costumed children to a section, betwixt each booth was an immaculate granite tabletop with a large silver bucket embedded in the middle filled with ice and an assortment of cold beverages. Each stylishly tinted window was lined by velvet red curtains secured by golden tassels and to top it all off, two crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, casting a dividend glow over the multitude of masquerading occupants.
"Geez…thanks, Dad…" Cole breathed, still taken and transfixed by the lavish accommodations his bus provided.
"Hey, move it MJ! You're holding up the line!" Someone yelled from behind him, probably the driver.
"Oh! Yeah, sorry!" Cole shouted back and immediately started forward down the spacious aisle to find his seat among all the prattling children. He glanced down at his ticket briefly and saw he was seated at "20-21". On the way to his assigned seat, he noticed that he was not the only one to go as the King of Pop this year, although he was the only "Bad" era MJ on board. Three others were adorned in the more flashy "Thriller" attire and there were other musician celebrities as well such as Usher, Lil' Wayne, Justin Beiber (Cole got the feeling that kid wouldn't be getting much candy…), and even the entire band of Evanescence. He also picked out more traditional costumes like Wolverine from X-Men, Gambit, Nightcrawler, and other superheroes from Marvel and DC alike. Then he, of course, passed by a whole group of uppity Disney Princesses until he finally reached his destination where three other kids sat.
He couldn't see two of them very well since their backs were to him. All he could see from his perspective was bright blonde hair with streaks of green highlights embezzled in and a tasteful array of colorful feathers on one and the other next to "feathers" had a shock of some mysterious gravity-defying hair, the color looking very unnatural, like a combination of silver and platinum blonde. He also spied two large screws poking out of each side of the boy's neck.
However the third child, he saw very clearly, her top half anyway. A girl with caramel-imbued flesh and the most solid red tresses he'd ever seen! What made her look even more exotic though, were the tightly woven braids that weaved criss-crossed through her scalp. Her costume had to be something aquatic-based if the peach starfish and cream clams fastened along the length of her braids was anything to go by. A crown of white beads sat on her brow, and dangled in trident loops down to her bare shoulders. Her face had a fair bit amount of make-up on it, especially around the eyes and the top of her cheeks. A dazzling shade of aqua deeply embellished the outskirts of her irises in fin-shaped outlines. While further in, her eye shadow and blush became stunning dark cobalt. Swirls of glittering gold spiraled out from the corners. And tiny aquamarine gems followed below the arc of her red eyebrows, stopping where they ended, and when her gaze suddenly strayed upward to meet his, he took into account the lovely shade of grey she possessed.
Glossy butter-cream lips smiled warmly and he unconsciously smiled back.
The seat next to the young enchantress was empty and above her chair, emblazoned on her headrest was the number "20" in neat crimson gothic script. Cole swallowed thickly and suppressed the involuntary need to run a hand through his hair out of nervousness. Calm down, this is no biggie. You've seen pretty girls before…
He chided himself mentally and with a quick breath, mustered up his steel courage and took his seat beside the fascinating sea creature.
She blinked in surprise when he plopped down rather heavily on the leather cushion next to her, gathering her arms from underneath the table to place them on top of it instead. Gold and silver bangles clinked solidly against the surface as she interlaced her fingers loosely together and upon the now closer inspection, Cole could clearly see she was wearing some sort of sequined two-toned halter dress with a diamond-like jewel affixed between the folded layers of her happily developing bust. Most enthralling however, was that amongst the brown-candied flesh, patches of her skin radiated a shiny nuance and were colored to match her dress-Cole's breath hitched when he uncovered the mystery of this particular cosmetic detail…The scattered patches were actually illusions of scales…?
Cole's ticket crumpled in his hand. Forget pretty… This girl is beautiful…
He innocently wondered how the turquoise-cobalt scales felt in comparison with her skin. Would the texture be flaky like real fish scales or smooth?
He was just about to introduce himself properly when a delicate giggle and the sound of shifting ice interrupted him. With an embarrassing jolt, he swiftly averted his gaze to the other two children across the table that he had rudely ignored.
"I told you you're costume was very eye-catching, Sasha."
Cole stared transfixed at the sun-kissed girl stationed across from the red-head next to him. She, the one who he had dubbed "feathers", was the one who spoke. Her looks made her appear wild but gentle, with her naturally unkempt bright blonde mane and benevolent irises.Whoa…did she lose a contact or is that natural?
Fascinatingly so, the girl's eyes were not mirrored by color, with the left being a fair sky blue and the right a cool mint green. Her golden-tipped eyelashes fluttered as she blinked and gave a 100-watt smile to Cole, further enhancing the green, white, and black butterfly facial design that painted the top portion of her face beautifully. The thin straps on her shoulders were twined with vine and pliable braided twigs, and segued to a lively shade of forest green which covered her upper body. More flexible kindling with sunflower flower heads circled and twisted around her green cloth-covered wrists and forearms, and looped around her neck was a white choker decorated with more lavish feathers.
"As is yours, Ayane." The boy across from him said, his pale finger balancing a single ice cube on top. Pure hazel eyes glanced briefly at Cole before moving to the girl beside him. "Out of most of the children I've seen tonight, I say I have the most humdrum and generic costume."
Cole had to cock an eyebrow at that. He had to admit that there wasn't really anything spectacular about the boy's outfit. Aside from the convincing stitch work lining his forehead and the large silver bolts on his neck, the rest of his front looked ordinary. A regular white shirt with the number "03" printed in black, and a ruby and onyx Twilight Panthers school sports jacket made up the majority of his attire and Cole was willing to bet he had on a pair or ripped blue jeans and red Converse tennis shoes.Kid Frankenstein.
Cole guessed straight-away.
"Oh Zane, your costume is good," Ayane praised earnestly. "If it's any consolation, you're probably the smartest Kid Frankenstein out there," she ended with a light blush ghosting her cheeks.
The boy named Zane chuckled before popping the ice chip in his mouth. "I wasn't degrading my costume, Ayane. I was just stating the facts…" He eyed her with a substantial amount of approval. "…You and Sasha are both very bewitching and believe it or not…there is a lot of irony associated with my costume. My father has a healthy since of humor."
Not knowing how to respond to that, Ayane bowed her head still wearing her blush though she did shoot Zane a glance of curiosity.
"Bewitching, huh?" Cole mused out loud, speaking for the first time. "That is a rather fancy word."
Zane rolled the ice cube in his mouth, clearly enjoying the chill of the solidified water. He sent Cole a smile. "But befitting, right…?" His eyebrows lifted expectantly.
Cole took the hint, once again feeling abashed that he had yet to introduce himself. He'd been raised better. "Cole," he said finally. "My name is Cole. It's a pleasure to meet you guys…" He spared each child a nod in turn. "Zane, Ayane…" However, when he turned to his booth mate, he couldn't help but blush again. "Sasha… And yeah…" He breathed. "You and Ayane…very bewitching. What are you two suppose to be?"
While Ayane's face reddened further enough to resemble a butterfly resting on a hibiscus, which Zane observed with acute fascination, Sasha looked a bit startled and confused.
"I-I'm a wood sprite," Ayane stuttered out, her eyes keen on staring at the half-empty bottle of Sunny D in her hand.
"Uh…" Sasha gave pause and noted the pleasant smile on Cole's lips to go along with the faint redness on his olive cheeks. Remembering her father's conversation with her while on the Hispaniola, she bit her bottom lip nervously before giving a small but appreciative smile. "I'm a water nymph and…thank you, Cole."
Over the rambunctious chatter of the other children, a joyous chuckle permeated the air originating from the booth adjacent to Cole's party.
"Wow Sasha, kinda easy to forget about Carlos now, huh?"
Sasha had splayed her palms on the tabletop and leaned over to glare heated daggers at the one over yonder. The other three pivoted their heads to the neighboring booth as well.
Roxanne. A girl adorned in complete green camouflage army uniform sat at the crossing booth on Cole's left flank, nearest to the aisle. With standard black and green war paint streaked aggressively across her grinning face, she unstrapped her combat helmet to let the strings dangle. Her legs swung with a jaunty swagger across the leather seat until her perfectly tied army boots planted themselves squarely on the chrome walkway. She then pointed a finger of ridicule at the red-head, the silver specks within her green irises twinkling mischievously.
"Ha! We haven't even left the bus stop yet and already you have a MJ, a mummy, and a monk coming after ya! A MONK! Sure can't wait to tell falcon-boy 'bout this when we get home!" She tsked with a finger wag of reprimand.
Sasha sneered angrily. "Why do you always have to start stuff, Rox?! Those boys, including Cole here, just like my costume! Not me, you dolt!"
"Yeah right! You the dolt! Just look at this guy's face!" She declared, nodding at Cole. "He's redder than a candy apple!"
While Cole's face was indeed red, it was more out of the embarrassment of being called-out than infatuation at the moment. Sure he was attracted to the girl seated next to him, but that wasn't any of this nosy chick's business!
Cole's slack jaw clicked shut into a staid frown.
"Hey, anybody else wish this good ol' hammer of mine produced real lightning right about now?"
Cole looked passed Roxanne to the boy beside her who was tauntingly waving a large steel model of Thor's Hammer around. Shoulder-length blonde hair, the beginnings of a vibrant red cape, remarkable silver-plated armor and chest guard, and eyes so blue they rivaled the likes of actual sapphires. It was blatantly obvious who this kid was masquerading as.
Roxanne huffed indignantly. "What are you quacking on about, Jay?" She snipped, giving a side-way glance at the boy over her shoulder.
The boy dubbed "Jay" shrugged. "Just sayin' even I know when to stop. If MJ there wants to hook-up with the Little Mermaid then let 'em. Mind ya business and go do some push-ups somewhere, G.I. Lame," he said, playfully boinking her on the head with his hammer which caused her helmet to sink lower and cover her eyes.
Another boy with spiky brown hair sitting across from Roxanne smirked. "I hear ya, Jay. And if that doesn't work, I could always use my tongs to pinch your mouth shut, Roxy."
Since he was stationed in a designated aisle seat too, Cole could see the other boy's clothes fully. Though the top two buttons were undone, a white long-sleeved dress shirt fitted loosely on his torso and was tucked-in a pair of belted maroon pants. A lengthy apron of dark orange suede covered his front and pocketed a vast arsenal of authentic blacksmithing tools and brown loafers snuggled his feet. And to accompany the devilish smirk were sharp eyes imbued with the rare shade of golden-amber.
"You can try Kai, but I'd soon snatch those tongs and pinch something of yours that you may need in the future…" Roxanne's own smirk plastered teasingly on her lips as she pushed her helmet back up to glare triumphantly at the brown-haired youth, "…or…maybe not!"
Kai's face twisted into red-hot outrage and soon a two-way insult match commenced between the blacksmith and the army girl. As that was going on, Jay snatched a package of Capri Sun from the center of their table and gestured to it. His eyes fastened on the person sitting opposite of him. That's when Cole finally noticed the dark armored being sitting beside Kai at the window seat.
He squinted his eyes curiously as the kid shook his or her helmed head from side to side in a polite "No thank you."
gesture. All Cole could clearly discern from his position were the polished royal violet and noir of distinguished samurai battle armor. Affixed on the shoulder pads were fierce golden dragon heads and decorating the sturdy plate mail was a depiction of a flaring eagle of purple and gold. The large and prominent crescent moon ornament sat proud atop of the forehead protector of the helmet and was matched in splendor by the yin-yang encrusted gauntlets. But the grotesque mask of insane bulgy eyes and protruding fangs the individual wore kept the person's gender imperceptible. All in all, it was a truly elaborate costume.
"Hmm, I do believe we are in for titillating good fun," Zane said with an easy smile and Cole couldn't help but agree with him….after remembering what the word "titillating" meant. Still absorbed in the antics of his neighbors, Cole reached blindly for a drink from the center only to retract his wondering appendage when he brushed another's. He quickly turned his head to apologize and came face-to-face with Sasha's bashful smile.
"Sorry." They both said simultaneously, though Sasha's apology was more for Roxanne's rudeness earlier than accidently touching him. Nonetheless, it resulted in a quick rush of blood to fill their cheeks. Recovering first, Sasha handed him a bottle of blue Hawaiian punch while she took one for herself. Her platinum orbs roved his figure admirably before she allowed herself to speak.
"So, are you just a Michael Jackson fan or are you an avid performer yourself?" She asked politely.
"Both honestly," Cole admitted. "I've always loved MJ's music and my dad is teaching my brother and me how to sing and dance. He wants us to make it big."
"Really?" Sasha awed, genuinely surprised at his words and just as intrigued. "I want to be a professional performer when I grow up too. It's my dream as well as my passion."
Cole didn't bother on correcting her about his own wants and desires in life simply because he didn't know what they were himself. The whole singin' and dancin' thing was more of an inconsequential hobby to him than an actual ambition. But regardless, he offered her a smile of encouragement at seeing the resolve and fortitude shining in her eyes.
"Wow Zane…that's so cool! You have really steady hands!" Cole and Sasha heard Ayane gush and turned their attention to the other two across the table to see the blond gawking at Zane as he balanced five ice cubes, one on the tip of each finger.
"How are you even doing that? And look! They aren't even melting!" Ayane exclaimed, entranced.
And indeed they weren't. If anything, it looked as if the cubes were getting colder with the appearance of water vapor forming a wispy column from each one. Not only did Sasha and Cole ogle at Zane's balancing-ice-cubes-while-not-allowing-them-to-melt act, but the other four from the neighboring booth gaped at him as well.Yeah…
Cole thought as Zane calmly flicked each cube into his opened mouth one by one. …I'm surrounded by some pretty interesting folks tonight.
After all five buses were safely loaded and the chaperones calmed their charges, the Twilight exclusive Trick-or-Treating Event officially began. Much was learned and discussed between the eight children aboard the Phantom bus: hometowns, family, hobbies, aspirations, and the like. None of them originated from Twilight and lived countless miles apart from each other. Sasha and Roxanne were both from a port city situated on a vast peninsula called Poseidonia and Kai introduced that the small samurai seated next to him was actually his little brother, Nobou.
As it turned out, the event was handled with an almost military-type precision and tandem. Although the buses separated to venture to different parts of the city, there was a synchronized rotation utilized to allow them to get the most out of each visited area, from fantastic sights for the rides in between traveling to different neighborhoods to be exciting and joyful, to reserved routes for the buses to move at a reasonable pace. Whether on or off the bus the adults monitored the children with an alert discipline and made sure no child strayed too far from the group while going trick-or-treating. However, this orderly conduct did nothing to dissuade the children from having fun going from house to house. They laughed, joked, teased, and commented on the variety of candy they accumulated.
With eleven houses in and only an hour left before nine o' clock, Jay gave a jubilant whoop and rushed to join his clique of eight.
"Cotton candy! Cotton candy! Finally, some cotton candy! I was starting to get worried!" He cried, falling in step beside Kai.
The others watched amusedly as Jay tore open the bag and immediately plucked away a fluffy piece to insert into his eager mouth.
Roxanne rolled her eyes. "I hope someone here knows the Heimlich Maneuver…" She mumbled.
Jay grinned cheekily after he swallowed his mouthful. "Aww, worried about me Roxy?"
"Don't flatter yourself, blue eyes. I just don't want to be caught near a person who died of cotton candy inhalation. Wouldn't look good for my family's image."
"And what image would that be?" Kai asked snidely. "Superior crankiness?"
While the others continued to talk and joust amongst themselves, Ayane peered heavenward to the full golden moon. She didn't know why but as the night carried on, she had been getting more and more compelled to look up at it. Almost to a point where it became an instinctual yearning.What's going on…?
She wondered. Being a purebred country girl, Ayane appreciated and loved the splendor of Mother Nature and her children, but she had never felt such insistent tugging at her soul before.
"Maybe it's just the city…" She mused aloud in a subdued tone. "This is my first time being in one…"
A sudden stray nor'easter howled down on the group and although most of them were properly clothed, Ayane was not. She had traded the green and white decorative jeans her costume came with for her much preferred yellow shorts. With a miserable sigh, she pulled the handle strings of her treat bag further up her arm and hugged herself in a futile attempt to ward off the abrupt chill. Her shivering didn't last long though, for a warm jacket was soon placed on her shoulders.
She looked up at Zane like he was God-sent. "Thanks. I really should've tried wearing pants like my uncle said despite how constricted they make me feel. Pretty silly of me, huh?" She asked with a blush, but did a double-take once she got a good look at Zane's profile. His pure hazel eyes were narrowed as he looked down the crudely lit sidewalk, his face pensive.
Ayane eyed him worriedly. "Zane?"
"Ever since my father and I entered Twilight airspace, I have felt uneasy. And now that feeling has increased ten-fold…"
The pale boy's gaze scrutinized the dark distance relentlessly with the wariness and caution of a hunter. Ayane was reminded at that moment of the grim faces of her village's Hunting Pack right before they entered Asuta Jingu for an evening hunt.
"You sense it too, do you not Ayane? Something is trying to disrupt the natural grace of nature… Something…ominous…"
Zane's grip on the petite blonde's shoulder tightened and he deliberately brought Ayane closer to his side.
"Whatever happens…stay close to me, alright? And we should warn the others before it's too late."
Apprehension pricked at her spine like needles and her heart began to thud quickly in her ribcage in response to her escalated anxiety. Her body trembled regardless of the warmth instilled in Zane's jacket.
"W-What? W-What's happening, Zane? Warn them about what?"
"Did you guys find it weird that the house before last gave us pancakes and packaged syrup instead of candy?" Cole questioned. He and the others were completely unaware of Zane and Ayane's sense of dread.
"Yeah, what's up with that? Me and Ny—Nobou have never celebrated Halloween this way before, but I still thought it was odd." Kai divulged, quickly saving himself from a blunder when the little samurai beside him pinched the skin on the back of his hand. He gave a subtle once-around at his group of friends to see if anyone caught on, but luckily they hadn't noticed.
"People improvise when they run out of candy, right? But I have to admit, I've never seen or heard of pancakes being a substitute," Sasha added with a thoughtful expression.
Roxanne shook her head. "Baked cookies? Maybe. But pancakes? That's ridiculous."
"Hey they were blueberry," Jay supplied after swallowing his final mouthful of cotton candy. "That makes it more than okay." He finished with a wink.
Just then, without warning, the glare of the full moon was obstructed completely by darkness. The sound of the other children around the group of eight dissipated until even the whisper of the wind was mute. The houses, the streets, the sidewalk underneath their feet, the entire landscape vanished into shadows and each child was thrust into their own individual abyss.
Zane held fast onto Ayane when she shrieked in terror. "Everyone! If you can hear me listen!" He shouted, trying to manually augment his neuro-optics so he could see but unfortunately finding it difficult. "Do not panic! Do not move! Grab onto the person next to you and take heart!"
"Take heart!?" Jay countered incredulously. "What does that even mean!?" He had dropped his treats bag altogether and grabbed blindly for the person next to him, who he hoped was Kai and not a zombie.
"Zane!? Jay!? Does that mean we're all here!? Everyone say something!" Cole commanded tersely. When the moon was suddenly blotched out, his first instinct was to protect the girls thus he hastily grasped Sasha's hand and pulled her close. He would've reached for Roxanne too if she had been near him, but she was on the opposite side of Sasha.
"Yeah! I got Nobou!" Kai confirmed, feeling his sibling's gloved hand grip his tightly. "And…" Kai rolled his eyes. "…Jay is clinging onto me like a sticker bug so yeah…" He deadpanned. "We're cool."
"I-I'm with Zane!" Ayane called out shakily, clutching the surprisingly hard body next to her. However her brain couldn't focus on how peculiar that was, only on holding onto him for dear life.
Sasha's voice was locked in her throat. She had been grasping at thin air on her left ever since Cole had grabbed her. She could not feel Roxanne anywhere. It was like the girl had disappeared completely along with the environment.
"R-Rox…Roxanne?" She whispered, her voice quaking terribly. "W-Where are you? Where are you?"
Sasha was becoming frantic. She began to struggle against Cole's hold. "Roxanne!? Roxanne!?"
"Sasha, you have to try to stay calm!?" Cole warned and tightened his hold on the panicky girl. "What… Oh crap…"
"She's gone, Cole! Rox is gone!"
At once, sight returned to the children as well as the landscape. Only, their surroundings were different now…much different. The residential area they were in had been replaced by a wide open meadow inhabited by eerie lightning bugs. The shadowed grass tickled their knees as it swayed gently in the whistling breeze. The place was barren, isolated from civilization and the sky was completely starless. Like the field they were in, a blood-red moon hung in seclusion in the hovering darkness.
The gathered children slowly released each other and gaped up at it.
"How…?" Ayane covered her mouth and shook her head at the impossibility.
"Okay… Pretty sure there isn't supposed to be a lunar eclipse tonight…" Kai breathed, also taking into account just how cold it was getting.
"More importantly, where are we?" Cole questioned warily. He surveyed the otherworldly terrain with a hard frown. He was at a loss at what action they should take since it was obvious they weren't in Twilight anymore. At least, it didn't look like it to him.
"And where is Roxanne?" Sasha put in, clearly fretful.
"And where's our candy?" Jay added, equally terrified. "That's not cool! It's just gone! Sure I dropped my bag, but—"
"JAY!" Cole and Kai exploded.
"Your friend was taken during the schism."
All seven children turned in unison in the direction of the new voice and reflexively took a step away from the strange girl now before them.
All except Kai…
He simply stared. Is she real…?
The night wind screamed and beckoned long snow white hair to dance to its will. Half of her face was obscured by a curtain of white, but Kai marveled at the ethereal visage that was revealed. With skin as dark as bronze and just as finely polished, he locked-on to the piercing russet garnet eye that calmly challenged him.
He swallowed and narrowed his eyes, not permitting her gaze to intimidate him.
Covering the length of her body was a black tattered cloak, her legs and feet concealed by the long grass. And encircled around her neck on a silver-linked chain was a large crimson amulet surrounded by translucent quartz.
It was beautiful…
Almost as beautiful as the girl…
"Only one was needed. So only one was taken," she finished stoically, her tone low and matured despite her young age.
Kai braved a step toward her. "What do you mean by that?" He asked.
The girl's half-mast eye slowly lowered fully to perform a blink. The delicate crimson within the iris glowed most unnaturally amongst the sallow light the fireflies provided.
"A lost soul needs a vessel and most likely the one that was chosen was a kindred spirit, someone who the soul could take with little resistance. And since you all were with the chosen vessel when the schism occurred, you were brought through the tear and placed uncaringly here."
"Okay, so we aren't supposed to be here," Kai deduced and scratched the back of his head idly. "But what about Roxanne? Where is she?"
The white-haired girl turned slowly and the others followed her lead. "Somewhere…in there…"
"Oh dear God no…" Jay lamented and placed a hand on his face miserably. "That is not
what I wanted to see..."
In the distance, sitting on a hill, a dark Victorian-style mansion loomed in the encroaching darkness. Its presence chilled the hearts of the youngsters. Its gothic grandeur tormented their souls. Were they really going to have to venture inside there to find Roxanne?
"I must say…that place doesn't look entirely welcoming, does it?" Zane inputted needlessly.
"All of us are only granted one life and once that life is over, there are no second chances. There are two spirits wailing from within, one for salvation, one for vengeance. And time is of the essence…" The mysterious girl moved her gaze upward and once again the others mimicked her action.
"If we cannot exit the mansion with your friend before the lunar eclipse ends and return to this field…then she will be lost to possession and we will be torn asunder."
Cumulative gasps filled the air, but before hysterical uproar could start, Cole peered at the girl dubiously.
"Wait, how do we know we can even trust you? Sorry, but this has trap written all over it."
The girl kept her eyes forward. "I guess you don't and your instincts are probably right. Inside the mansion are most likely heinous traps and paranormal conundrums. All I can advice is for you all to come inside with me because despite what's in there…it's much safer than being out here."
The boys glanced around quickly.
"Wow, how consoling…" Jay mumbled.
Sasha squared her jaw in determination and attempted to move forward, but Cole held her back.
Her head whipped around to level Cole with a glare. "I'm going in there with her, Cole. I have to find Roxanne. She may be a pain-in-the-butt sometimes, but she's still my friend."
"I know, but this…" He struggled with his words and looked around himself again, his eyes catching the ill-omened mansion on the hill before returning to hers. "…This is just too damn eerie." He concluded hopelessly.
"I don't think we really have a choice," Ayane whispered solemnly. "It would take a long time for her to search the mansion by herself and we don't know how long the eclipse will last. We have to help rescue Roxanne."
A russet garnet eye evaluated Ayane critically and after muttering something under her breath, the girl started walking forward, her cloak fluttering noisily behind her.
Kai took a deep breath but before he could follow after her, Jay's voice stopped him.
"So let me get this straight… Not only are we willingly
venturing inside a haunted mansion that is most likely
littered with booby traps and ghosts, but once we get inside, we automatically
have to split up!? Are you serious!? That's like the two biggest "no-no's" you don't do in a horror movie! And do you guys want to know what number one is?!"
"Not really…" Kai grumbled.
"Trusting a necromancer!" Jay finished, pointing an accusatory finger at the retreating girl's cloaked back.
Kai whirled around. "So what are you sayin', Jay?! That we should take our chances out here?! Exposed!? Just waiting for Ifrit knows what to come eat us!? If we're inside then at least we have walls around us and we might even find something for protection! So c'mon! Roxanne is in there, we can trust her!"
Kai started forward again while the others pinned him with looks of concern before trailing after him.
Jay blew a few blond strands out of his eyes in exasperation. He looked over at the one who chose to stay by his side…Kai's little brother, Nobou. The samurai took his hand gently and tugged slightly in the direction of the others. Jay's eyebrows lifted in shock at first since he thought he saw a glimpse of soft chocolate orbs within the dark eye sockets of the mask. But shook himself mentally and gave the younger kid a lopsided grin.
"I hear ya, Nobou. We can't stay out here because the Children of the Corn might come get us." The samurai's hand squeezed his assuredly.
"Okay…" He sighed and started forward. "Let's go to the haunted mansion to find a mean chick."