Chapter XVIII: Respect

“Ow, ow, ow!” Lucy yelped as Vaan shoved her into a large wooden area.

“You will not disrespect me before your peers as well as mine,” he growled to her.

“Well, if you don’t respect me, why on Earth should I respect you?!” Lucy snapped back, rubbing her sore shoulder.   She glanced about the room, carefully taking in the emptiness of it all with its high windows and echoing floor.  Afternoon sunlight streamed in to give the area a golden hue against the red walls.  “Where are we?”

Vaan did not answer but simply slammed the door shut behind him, locking it.  The young girl grew pressingly nervous.  That didn’t sound like a simple metal mechanism.  More like a heavy impossibility.

Lucy’s heart skipped as her nerves crept up her back.  This was not a man to be taken lightly.  He could fight off phoenixes, he could talk to dragons, and he was far better than she in speed and attack.

But it was much too late for that now.  Lucy had sparked a storm.

“What are you doing?” the nervous redhead asked as the cloaked man crossed the room to a nearby gate, the light glaring off his glasses.

“Teaching,” he simply stated, putting a gloved hand on the wall.  A green flare jumped to life from his fingertips, igniting a web of subtly carved vines about the wall.

“What exactly is the lesson?” she asked, struggling to keep her voice leveled.  Her eyes darted to watch the flames settle – watching but also waiting.

“Respect,” hissed the Top Hat as he slammed his other hand onto the iron gate.  It groaned before creaking open.

Lucy’s stomach dropped as she searched the dark cove behind the metal opening.

“Your smell. . .” a voice crackled, “You smell so delicious…so delicious,” the guttural groan repeated as a drenched claw stepped into the light.

Vaan rested a finger against his cheek.  “I should warn you,” he clicked. “She bites.”

And without hesitation, a hideous demoness lurched forward, her crocodile grin snapping out as her jagged body crack to life.

Lucy shrieked as she leap to the side just in time.  What the hell was a demon doing in the Clock Tower?!

“Your soul,” it crackled. “Give it to me!” The female demon’s skin melted and harden like constantly changing clay, never quite keeping form.

Lucy quickly scanned the room for a weapon of any kind.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

“Give it to me!”the demoness shrieked, jumping at the girl once more.

Lucy stumbled back trying to conjure up her magic, she knew resided in her.  Yet, all she could feel was the icy worry of becoming the demon’s next meal.

So she did the only thing she could think of: she ran.

The demoness threw it’s body into the air and landed directly in front of Lucy.  “Do you think me aft, girl?!”

“Gah!” Lucy screamed, falling back.  She raised her arms to find a weak spiral of blue fire popping to life around her wrists.

“A Lady?” the creature spun it’s head like a curious owl. “Even better.”

“Please, stop.” she cried, trying to find her courage in the mess of her emotions. “I’m not afraid to fight.”

“You are practically quivering, my Lady.  Do not fear, you shall do quite nicely. . .in the pit of my stomach!” the demoness threw a claw out.

Lucy closed her eyes, awaiting the worse.  But then, the voice returned.

Do not fear them, Lucy.

Lucy felt her breath slow as she opened her eyes, split seconds passing like minutes.

Always look them in the eye, for what they truly are.

Her gaze darted up as her lips parted.  The fire inside her burned, but it moved much too slow.  It was too new, too fragile and chaotic.  And she knew it.  She understood now.

Never fear them.  

Before the nails could sink into her, a black fire sliced the entire claw off.  The demoness howled in anger as it turned it’s gaze to the Top Hat, as if it had noticed it only for the first time.

“You,” it growled. “Do not interfere Top Hat.”

Vaan didn’t reply but simply threw his arms wide. Lucy blinked incredulously as a steel disc, larger than a man’s head, materialized into Vaan’s hand.  Just as quickly as it appeared, Vaan spun twice around before launching the large disc with terrifying speed.  It slammed deep into the creature with a sickening crunch, sending the demoness sprawling back.   Before it could launch any sort of retaliation, Vaan was plucking at invisible strings, lighting molting red fires at the demon’s feet.

“Your heart is mine!” the once woman yowled as she ran, opening her mouth to reveal layer after layer of jutting teeth.

With the demoness only inches away, Vaan opened his jacket and slammed his unsheathed dagger straight into the creature’s heart.  Lucy watched as the glare from his glasses faded for a small moment to reveal a solemn yellow eye staring straight into the eyes of the demoness.  Only when the creature convulsed and began to fall apart into pieces of moor, did the bright reflection return to complete his mask behind his glasses, scarf, and hat.

There was a stillness between the two, while Vaan carefully wiped away the marsh on his dagger.  He bent down look at what remained of the female demon, finding a small sac made of what looked to be leather.  He carefully carved it open, releasing a weak pulsing light into the air.  It hovered for a moment, before fluttering into one of the beams of light and then vanishing.

Lucy didn’t have to ask.  She knew it could only be a soul.  A soul set free.  And Vaan had given it its freedom without even breaking a sweat.

“Teach me,” she whispered, breaking the silence.

Vaan turned to look at the renewed girl.

“Please,” she asked, her voice gaining strength. “Teach me.”

 

2016 E. M. Vick

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