Summary: Vinyaya's life is hectic enough with keeping peace in Haven. But when fate drops an unwanted burden in her lap, Vinyaya must learn where to draw the line between friends and family, when to hold on, and when to let go. -between TLC & TTP-
Ugh. Guys, I am so sorry for not posting this up earlier! I was actually planning on putting it up last Saturday– and then my life got CRAZY. Without ranting, I leave my house at 6:30 AM and don’t get home until 9:00 at night. Then don’t forget things like homework, showering, and actually getting a decent amount of sleep. Long story short: Sorry about the delay, and I hope that there won’t be one like that again.
Now, READ THIS, IT’S IMPORTANT! There’s a cool feature I’m putting into this story: a soundtrack. Most chapters will have a song to go along with it. I have a Youtube address (just type in youtube(.)com and put in the string of numbers and letters to complete the URL) or for those of you that don’t like links, the title of the video. All of them are also favorited on my Youtube account, ConAffetto. This isn’t required for understanding the story, but in my opinion it really enhances the story. I have cues for when to start (and stop, if you’d like) the tracks to fit into the story. I’m not a mind reader, so I can’t do it automatically. If and how you decide to use this feature is up to you.
Enough with the rambling– on with the show.
Chapter Two: Education
Soundtrack: Final Fantasy VII – Aerith’s Theme (Piano Collections)
Vinyáya’s Flat, The Lower ElementsVinyáya woke with a start, her hand flying to her chest. She could her sounds of a scuffle from outside of her door. But who–? The demon girl! Vinyáya flew to her feet and pawed for the Neutrino nestled inside of her mattress. It was gone.No time for that. She burst from the room just in time to see glossy brown-black hair disappear out the door. Shouts and muffled screams were growing louder; soon, the whole building complex would be awake. Vinyáya scrambled down the stairs, fifty feet behind the kidnappers. She yanked open the door and saw a sleek black car connected to the magna strip. A pair of goblins were fumbling with the starter chip, one holding Tieve under its burly arm.“Tieve!” someone roared. Vinyáya turned to see Commander Root, and her heart nearly stopped.“Julius!” she shouted. The goblins had opened the door and stuffed themselves and the girl inside, already peeling out. “Tieve!”Julius raced for the car, pulling out his signature tri-barreled blaster. It was then that Vinyáya saw the car barreling down the road out of the corner of her eye. She opened her mouth to speak, and nothing came out. Her feet were stuck in the ground, the car was moments away from crushing—“Julius!” Vinyáya screamed.
Her eyes snapped open and the commander drew breath sharply, her hands clawing at the thin coverlet. A dream. It was all a dream. Vinyáya fell back onto the pillow, dragging a hand across her sweaty forehead. Nightmares had plagued her since Julius’ death more than a year ago. She had seen him die a thousand times in a thousand different ways, every time as terrible as the first.
A sound wafted through her door—not the sounds of a scuffle, but delicate keystokes on a piano. In last night’s confusion, she must have left the radio on. Running fingers through her long silver mane, Vinyáya opened the door softly. It wasn’t the radio—it was the little girl. Tieve. Her back was to the door, shining hair falling perfectly to the small of her back. Her feet dangled six inches above the floor from her perch on the piano bench. Tieve’s slender hands meandered along the piano, brushing the keys light as butterflies.
If Vinyáya would have had something in her hands, she would have dropped it onto the floor. Instead, she simply just stood, listening. It was amazing. Beyond amazing, it was as if all the tears and laugher in the world had been stuffed into the piano and then unleashed in music. The melody was sad and hopeful, melancholy and coy, beautiful and heart wrenching. Not words that Vinyáya applied often. And yet, they still didn’t seem to do justice. Vinyáya lingered at the doorway, trying to stay absolutely quiet. And then, she simply listened. The clock ticked on, forgotten in the wake of the music.Tieve lifted her hands from the piano, letting the last chord linger. Vinyáya found that she missed the sound as soon as it was over, as if the music was a soothing balm on some unseen wound that she didn’t even know that she had.
As if sensing her presence, the girl turned and gasped. “Oh!” She looked down, wringing her hands. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up, I mean–” Her words were rushed, panicked. “Please don’t get mad, I won’t ever touch it again!” Vinyáya tried to process what Tieve had said. “Sorry? Why are you sorry?”Tieve looked surprised. “The noise. I woke you up.”“Noise?”“Yes.” Tieve’s eyes were glued to her feet. Vinyáya drew closer and gently placed a hand on Tieve’s own. She flinched, but didn’t pull away.“Tieve,” she said softly, “that was not noise. That was beautiful.” The girl blushed scarlet—though it was hard to tell under the armor plates. “Where did you learn?”“Learn what?”“That song.”Tieve shrugged. “I don’t know. I just kind of thought it and then I played it.”Vinyáya quirked a brow. “You made it up?” The girl nodded. “Where did you learn to play?”“Right here.”“What do you…” The commander furrowed her brow. “This… this is your first time? You’ve never played before?” Tieve shook her head.Vinyáya rocked back on her heels, thinking. Two possibilities: one, the girl was lying. Two: she was some kind of savant. Genius. Mentally, Vinyáya groaned. Dealing with Fowl, Paradizo, and Foaly was difficult enough, and Koboi had made her want to lock up anyone with an IQ higher than 140.She became aware of someone tapping her on the shoulder. “Yes?” she said absently.Tieve played with her hem. “Do you, um, have… anything to eat?”Of course. The girl probably hadn’t eaten since the capture almost twenty-four hours ago. This mothering thing was harder than she thought. “Let’s go check the fridge,” Vinyáya said, leading the way to the kitchen. She would deal with the piano issue later.
“Ummm…” Vinyáya scratched the back of her neck. “What do demons normally eat?”
“…Oh.” Vinyáya pulled the refrigerator door open. “I don’t have any, er, grubs. How about…” She cast a look over the fridge. It was completely bare except for a few protein shakes, packets of ketchup from Spud’s Spud Emporium, and a head of lettuce that was turning brown at the edges. The pantry fared no better.
Vinyáya turned to see Tieve with an open ketchup packet. “Tieve! Don’t eat that.”
“What is it?”
“Ketchup. Not good.”
“It’s made from tomatoes…” Vinyáya trailed off. “Do you know what tomatoes are?”
Tieve shook her head.
The commander glanced at her watch. She was supposed to start her shift in twenty minutes. Then again, she had been formally charged with the duty of taking care of this little girl. So technically, it was police work. Vinyáya grinned to herself. If Sool was going to use loopholes, than so was she.
“We’re going to go to the supermarket.” Vinyáya grabbed a brush and swept her silvery hair back, tying it up in a quick centaur tail.
“What’s a supermarket?”
Shopping Plaza, Lower Elements
Vinyáya grabbed a shopping cart, wrestling it from its corral. “Why can people never put these things away right?” she mumbled. Part of her irritation was from actually having to do something domestic, like shopping. The other half was from the stares and whispers the demon girl drew. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t a good idea to be parading a demon around Haven. Too bad, Vinyáya thought. If Foaly was right, and he usually was, then it wouldn’t be long before an entire truckload of demons got dumped into the hands of Haven and the LEP.Vinyáya glanced down. Tieve had retreated into herself again, silent and subdued, her eyes glued to her toes. Hesitating a moment, Vinyáya reached out and took the girl’s hand. Tieve was still for a moment, then her small hand tightened around Vinyáya’s. It was awkward and natural.Especially since this meant that Vinyáya had to steer the cart with one hand.“Okay, time to get some grub,” she said, and then winced at the unintentional pun. Clichés, puns—what next? Knock-knock jokes? Pranks?As they wove through the aisles, Tieve’s curiosity began to outweigh her shyness, her eyes roving the shelves. Vinyáya wondered what it would be like—getting ripped out of your world and thrown into another one, everything completely different. Food, people, culture. Vinyáya had already had to explain that growling was not considered polite in modern fairy culture.As Vinyáya wrestled the cart through the produce section, she noticed a small cart with a fairy behind it, sticking a plate of something in the microwave. Free samples—perfect. That way, she wouldn’t spend a bar of gold on something she found out neither of them liked. “Hey, Tieve, they’re free.” Motioning toward the gnome, Vinyáya smiled encouragingly. “Just go take one. You don’t even have to say anything.”
The girl shook her head, mute. Sighing inwardly, Vinyáya grabbed two tiny cups and handed one to Tieve, who peered at it curiously. “It’s cheesecake,” she explained, scooping out a bite with the plastic spoon. “A dessert.”
The demoness took a nibble, and her face lit up. “Can we make some later?”
The last time that Vinyáya had tried to cook something, it had ended with her blasting the oven with her Neutrino, nearly getting kicked out of her flat, and Julius Root ribbing her for three and a half decades. So the commander usually stuck to takeout or kelp shakes. However, all of these logical arguments faded into trivia when Vinyáya glanced at the girl. “Sure. Why not?”
They continued on in silence for a few minutes. Steering a shopping cart is much easier with two hands, Vinyáya mused. Then, what is that crunching sound?
She turned to see Tieve eating the spoon.
Frond help me.
Operations Booth, Police Plaza
“So, this is the infamous demon?” Foaly crossed hairy arms over his chest, watching the girl through the one-way mirror. She was currently reading children’s books in the LEP interrogation room. “Doesn’t look so scary.”Vinyáya rolled her eyes. “Hardly.”Foaly cantered over to his keyboard. “Excuse me if I’m being cynical, but I doubt you’d come over to Police Plaza for a casual chat. So tell me, what can I do for you?” Foaly’s eyes twinkled mischievously, hungry for a challenge. True, he was swamped in demon work. But, number one: it was mainly number-crunching, which could be done just as well by techies and was mind-numbingly boring. Two: Sool had ordered him “to keep his civilian nose out of demon business.” How could he resist a dare like that?Vinyáya crossed to the screens. “To be honest, I think there’s something… unique about her.”Foaly snorted. “Really? Besides the fact that she’s a member of a species that was thought extinct for years? The armored plates? The hexes all over?”“If the LEP wanted a smart aleck, we would have replaced you with Mulch Diggums a long time ago, Foaly. He would work for less.”
The centaur pulled back, wounded. “No need to get touchy. So what’s so strange?”
Vinyáya leaned in slightly. “I woke up today to my piano. And it wasn’t the radio—it was Tieve.”
“Ah.” Foaly gave her a sidelong glance, as if to say, There’s no use naming a pet you can’t keep. Vinyáya pointedly ignored him. “And what is so strange about this?”
“It was amazing,” Vinyáya said frankly. “Like a professional recording. And when I asked her about it, Tieve said that she had never played before and had just made up the song.”
Foaly raised a brow and turned to the screens, tapping the keyboard. “Just a minute, let me hack into your security cameras.”
Foaly’s screen split into smaller boxes as the video feed downloaded. “Please. I probably designed the system you use.”
Vinyáya crossed her arms. “Make this a habit and I’ll be designing the biggest pay cut you’ve ever seen.”
Foaly whinnied. “You’re just like Julius, you know that?” He immediately regretted the words as soon as they came out of his mouth. Vinyáya and Root had been close friends up to his death, and the pain of losing him was still fresh. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine, Foaly,” she said shortly. “Now, what were you saying?”
“Ah. Yes.” He fast-forwarded the clip. “Yada, yada, holographic sunrise, demon wakes up. Looks around. Goes to the piano.” Foaly pressed play.
It took Tieve a few times to hoist herself up onto the bench. She ran her hands over the keys, humming to herself. Foaly, the more musically inclined of the pair, realized what she was humming first. “It’s the chromatic scale. She’s humming each note.” He leaned in closer, now genuinely interested. The clip played on, and the serene music was exactly how Vinyáya had remembered it to be.
Foaly stopped the tape, leaning back in his swivel chair. “I would say that she’s lying about never having played before,” he said, “but I seriously doubt that they teach demon music lessons in Hybras.” Foaly adjusted his tinfoil hat unconsciously, which he had gone back to wearing ever since Koboi came out of her coma. “It’s much like Mozart’s behavior as a child.” He tapped his fingers against the keyboard, thinking. “How about this: we give her an IQ test. I’ll analyze it and we’ll go from there.”
“You’re the expert.”
Foaly sifted through a few files. “Have the girl come in here. I’ve got a quick one that should only take about two and a half hours.”
“You have no idea.”
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan
When Billy Kong had finally escaped Green Island Prison, there were two things on his to-do list. Number one: buy a mirror. Number two: hunt down Minerva Paradizo and her demon friends, then kill them all in the slowest and most painful way he knew. Billy Kong knew more than thirteen hundred ways to kill a person. So he wasn’t too worried on that front.Kong was sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair, angling the small mirror slightly to better see his multicolored hair. Number one– buy a mirror– had been fulfilled at the airport convenience store. So, Billy Kong reflected, teasing his hair into tiny spikes, that left only number two.“Now boarding flight I-364 to Chicago.” The annoyingly peppy announcer repeated her message in several different languages. Kong ignored her, pulling a fake passport and an address from his bag. He studied the address for the hundredth time. It had been one of the last things he’d managed to suck from the Paradizo brat’s computer before the rest of the data had mysteriously vanished and every computer had crashed.\
Chicago Read Mental Health Center
4200 North Oak Park AvenueKong stuffed the paper back into his bag and allowed himself a grin. Minerva and her demons had better watch out. Because he was coming for them.