Chapter the First: And We Disappear
Theme the First: Introduction
What made him think that coming here was a good idea again? Demyx shakes his head in disbelief and wraps his wiry tanned arms around himself, though the cold he feels sinking into him is more psychological than physical.
He gazes at his surroundings warily, as though at any moment something will spring out at him, even though the white, sterile room is nearly devoid of any hiding places. There is a doorway just ahead of him that is flanked by two large snowy urns bereft of the topiary one might expect to find in such things. Demyx marvels that in all the time that the pink-haired man had spent here, that Marluxia had done nothing to remedy this situation. It seems almost unnatural to Demyx. Were the other Nobodies assigned to this place really kept too busy to decorate, to somehow relieve the nearly oppressive absence of colour and ornamentation? He somehow doubts it, but he had never been here, so he cannot say for certain. Perhaps they did not live long enough to do so. The thought disturbs him deeply, and he pushes it away.
It is not just the complete and utter lack of personality that bothers Demyx. The unrelieved white stretches out in front of him in a seemingly endless and featureless plain, making it all but impossible to tell where the room begins or ends. Perhaps that is intentional. Demyx cannot tell. All he knows is that it makes his self-appointed task far more difficult than it should be. He really does not need this right now.
He summons his sitar, Arpeggio, to hand just to have something to look at that isn't the bleak non-colour closing in on him on all sides. It feels good and right to have it on him, the cool smooth sea-blue wood against his rough warm tan skin. It feels natural to have a vanguard against the unrelieved starkness that surrounds him.
It is vaguely reminiscent of a mausoleum in here, the silence crushing him. Demyx has no idea why he would think of such a thing at a time like this, yet now there is no way for him to think otherwise. His booted footsteps echo far too loudly down the vacant sepulchral corridors, and he winces. There is little Demyx detests more than silence, particularly the oppressive, unnatural quietude that inhabits this space like a living thing. He starts to play a tune by Circle Takes the Square, his favourite band for the time being. He changes bands like most people change undergarments. It does precious little to alleviate his feelings of unease.
There is no reason for him to be here, not really, and yet... He knows intellectually that Sora, Riku, and Axel have long since destroyed anyone who worked here and in the Castle That Never Was, leaving him the sole survivor. Still, there is that small nagging hope that maybe, just maybe, there was someone else. Demyx hopes against hope that it remains that way.
But who? Who exactly does Demyx wish to find here? He was never truly liked by anyone, if he is being honest with himself, despite, or perhaps because of, his rather amiable and sanguine personality. Certainly no-one here. He had never met Namine, as far as he knew. He had dim, intangible impressions of a slim sylph with startling icy blue eyes and pale blond hair gowned in blinding white linen or cotton, (Demyx is no expert on fabrics) but no true memories of her. Vexen disturbed him, Lexaeus ignored him, and the less said about Larxene the better. Axel was (is, and will forever be) a traitor, as was Saix, Marluxia was...Marluxia, and Zexion....
They had never really spoken back at the Castle That Never Was, if in fact they ever did. Demyx cannot remember any interactions they might have had. It was only natural. The slate-haired Nobody venerated hard work and progress, and Demyx had a phobia of sweat and a near fetish for nostalgia that did not nearly reach the noble heights that the title “antiquarian” afforded, since his interests were far from academic. That, he understands, the other youth could theoretically respect, if not necessarily agree with. He sighs. Super. They would get along so well. Still, it is better than the alternative: travelling the worlds alone, trying his best to not get killed by Axel and the Keybearers. (Which is not a good name for a band. Even Demyx knows this.) Two can survive better than one, he tells himself. Besides, it would be a far better thing indeed to hear someone else's voice other than his own whilst sojourning through endless expanses of time and space for who knows how long. He has serious doubts whether he would be able to keep much of a grasp on his sanity, should he be forced to wander the multi-verse alone.
He allows himself to uncharacteristically scowl at this thought, even though it causes his face to hurt slightly, his slim jaw to ache a little. Why did they get to decide who lives and dies? Demyx refuses to admit that perhaps his moral stance is off, and that he is in no better position to judge than they.
Maybe I wanna be a good guy, he thinks obstinately. Maybe, just once, I wanna be the guy that everyone looks up to. (Okay, he tells himself, it's “the guy up to whom everyone looks.” If he is going to travel with Zexion, he had better use better grammar. The guy is a fanatic for that kind of thing. He will definitely need to watch that, if he is going under the impression that Zexion is the one who is still alive. (Admittedly, it is the best and most likely scenario.)
A set of stairs that seems never to have seen footprints, gleaming as the sterile, colourless surface is, greets him. It is flanked both sides by another set of gleaming white urns of some unknown substance, similar to the previous pair from before. The material from which the vases are crafted is seemingly marble of some kind, though even he knows better than to simply assume such a thing to be true. He turns away from them skittishly. They remind him far too much of when he had first arrived at Castle Oblivion, and needed the toilet. It truly is a hassle to kill Heartless on the off chance that they had a lavatory card. He shakes his head at this. Really, what was Xemnas thinking when he had implemented that system? Not to mention the fact that one simply could not purchase lavatory cards from the Moogles, no matter how many Moogle Points one had. Of course. He marvels at the fact that six other Nobodies somehow managed to live and survive here with such a convoluted system in place.
They didn't survive, a sardonic voice in the back of his head reminds him, and he bites back a groan. He does not need this kind of thinking right now. He really doesn't. Not now, not ever.
He dismisses his sitar and claps his hands together. The noise is all but deafening in the charnel space, and he grimaces. He forces himself to ignore this and remember his purpose in coming here.
Now, if I were trying my best not to be dead, where would I be? He asks himself. Not here, he thinks, but he knows that kind of thinking is not going to get him anywhere.
Every fibre in his being is telling him to mount the stairs going up, daunting though the act may seem. He knows better, however. As much as he dreads it, he must make his way down to the Basements. Of course, there is the small matter of locating them in the first place.
It should be dusty in here, Demyx muses, as long disused as this place has been, and yet there is not a single speck of dust as far as the eye can see. The tow-haired youth would give his eye-teeth to see something, anything, on the colour spectrum. He marvels at how the Castle Oblivion crew retained their sanity in such a place. What sanity, one may very well wonder. One would not be wrong.
It would be a far greater feat indeed had they kept their lives as well, that same voice in the back of his mind reminds him. He scowls darkly, his boyishly handsome features twisted for the briefest of moments. Again, he really does not need to think of such things, not now, not ever. Not that it ever stops him, of course. He treks on, the sounds of his heavy black work-boots (Doc Martins, always Doc Martins, but no relation to the television series or the movies that inspired them) breaking the funereal hush that has long since fallen over the castle. It is difficult to remember that this place once bustled with activity. There should be some evidence to prove that this location had once been occupied, and yet...
No. He shakes his head. He cannot allow such morbidity to distract him from his self-appointed task. He trudges on, all too aware of his own intrusion in this tomb. He shivers, though not from cold, and a hysterical bubble of laughter is ripped from his fear-parched throat.
I could be anywhere by now, he thinks. Anywhere in the worlds where no-one would ever find me. And yet I'm here, on the off chance that Sora, Kairi, Riku, and Axel might have missed someone. Right. He laughs bitterly, knowing full well that he would never forgive himself if someone were here, yet had been left to die twice, first by the Keybearers, and then by Demyx himself.
And I'm not using a Corridor of Darkness here why? Demyx wonders. How foolish. He hopes time is not of the essence, as he has wasted far too much of it by now, trying to figure out how to find the stairs going down to the Basements. In theory, it should be a simple process. But this is Castle Oblivion, where nothing is as easy as it should be.
He opens up a portal, a writhing column of swirling aubergine and onyx, and steps inside. Within seconds he is whisked off to his desired destination, and he breathes a sigh of relief. Perhaps his new surroundings will prove more satisfactory, though he doubts it. At any rate, he certainly does not intend to spend much time there.
It's dark, unbearably so, and Demyx nearly curses his luck. The only thing that stopping him from so doing is the fact that the chamber currently housing him is not that horrid white that left him feeling snow-blind. What little he can view seems to be some dark ashen stone of indeterminate origin. There is furniture of some kind here; that much he can sense, but what it looks like he can scarcely hazard a guess. Considering the people who had lived and died here, he is not entirely certain that he really wants to know. Not that he has much knowledge of them; all he knows he has gleaned from half-remembered rumours and darkly whispered conversations held in his presence.
From what he could recall, Vexen was the worst of them, indoctrinating the other two in arcane rituals and unspeakable experiments in the name of Science. (You keep using that word, Vexen; it doesn't mean what you think it does.) He had taken Zexion on as his protégé, irrevocably corrupting him in the process, so that the slate-haired youth was little more than a young version of the former, deranged to the point where pain was pleasure and pleasure pain. Still, Demyx has no proof of any of this, and is not certain what to believe of them, having had no real interaction with any of them before. He placed no stock in malicious gossip, preferring to see with his own eyes the truth of the matter. Still, he cannot help but wonder how much of the rumours is true and how much has been hyperbole.
Well, he muses, you'll get to find out if you ever find one of them. He both dreads and longs so to do.
There is a long wooden table turned onto its side in a far corner of the room, from what he can see in the dim lambency streaming in from an unknown source. Here he can see some dust motes floating by, and it gives him some small comfort that the laboratory is not so sterile as the Castle itself. Then again, that is the one room one would rightly expect to be antiseptic, and the mere fact that it is not should give anyone pause.
He smiles, a slight crook of his lips barely perceivable in the gloom. There is clearly just enough space behind the table for someone to hide behind it. If I were hiding for my life, I would hide behind there myself, he thinks.
Which is all very well and good, but if there is someone in here, then they had to have survived for at least a year on something, and Demyx could find no remnants of food or water anywhere. Nor was there any other evidence of life. Demyx does not know how long one can live without food or water, but he assumes it is far less than a year. He has not seen any evidence of any provisions anywhere in the Castle, much less in here. Still, he is here anyway. There really is no harm in looking, he supposes. The worst that will happen is that there will be no-one here, and he has wasted his time.
Or, it is a trap set by the Keybearers who want to finish the job they started, that irritating voice from before reminds him. Or maybe Axel is hiding behind that nice, sturdy, heavy wooden table instead of Zexion or Vexen. (Even the nagging voice cannot imagine Lexaeus cowering in fear behind furniture, a point in its favour, Demyx has to admit.)
After becoming acclimated to the Stygian surroundings, he thinks he can make out a faint scratching sound coming from the corner. He is all but positive he can hear breathing now laboured with fear from the same direction. He heads toward the sound.
“Um, hello? Is there anyone here?” He rubs the back of his head, embarrassed to be overheard in conversation with an unknown, invisible entity. It reminds him too much of those paranormal television shows he had always ridiculed. And just like those programmes, it really is asking far too much to expect any actual response to his query. And yet, he just cannot help himself.
There is no answer, not sound at all, save for the same harsh breathing, which he supposes he is to ignore. The sound makes his own throat hurt; he cannot imagine how much the unknown person is feeling right now. He winces and rubs his throat.
“Hello?” he tries again. Surely Zexion cannot mistake him for Axel. They sound nothing alike, Demyx's voice being a higher pitch. Just to be on the safe side, he decides to introduce himself.
He can see the table move the merest fraction of a centimetre. It is the best he can hope for at the moment. “Demyx?” The voice, raspy from thirst and disuse, is still unmistakable. Not that the blond had had much cause for discourse with the other Nobody, but he had heard him scolding the Lesser Nobodies, as well as the lower ranking Organisation members. Even Roxas, the golden child, had received its censure a time or two. Demyx had avoided his sharp tongue only by luck. Zexion's distaste for acedia was near legendary, as was Demyx's own sloth. “Is that you?”
Demyx bites back a sarcastic remark, and says that it is so.
The dense heavy slab (Demyx dares not venture a guess as to its purpose prior to being used as a makeshift fort.) moves out ever so slightly, and Zexion peeks out from behind it. His slate hair is dingy and dull, his bangs falling in lank, greasy strands over his face. His complexion, never the healthiest at the best of times, is of a near corpse-like pallor, and Demyx cannot dismiss it as merely the result of spending all of his time in the basements of Castle Oblivion, as much as he may want to. There is a dark shadow like a bruise under his visible eye, and Demyx wonders whether there is a matching one under the eye covered by his hair. Then he wonders briefly whether Zexion even has an eye under his hair. He discounts this thought as mere fancy or whimsy, or tries to, at least. Having spent as much time in re-con missions as he has, he is aware that there are worlds where such a thing would be true more likely than not. He has not seen them, but he knows that they are out there, beyond the scope of their realm.
At any rate, Zexion's features are not diminished in any meaningful way, though his cheeks seem a bit hollow from the angle from which he regards the other.
He can see Zexion crouched behind the thick wooden slab, his slender fingers tightly gripping the cold, damp stone beneath them. He cannot tell what kind of wood the table is made of, but decides it does not matter. It looks strong enough to survive many an attack, and thinks that is what matters most. “Is it safe?”
Demyx nods. “Yes, it's safe.”
“Is it safe?” Zexion's grey-blue eye is wide with fear.
“Yes it's safe. It's very, very safe. It's so safe you wouldn't believe it.” Even as he says this, he wonders whether this is actually true or simply what he fervently wishes to be so. He stretches forth his right hand. “Come with me if you want to live.”
Zexion rolls his eyes. “I cannot believe you said that.” He shakes his head. “Seriously, I cannot believe you actually did that.”
Demyx smiles sheepishly, more a grimace than anything. “Yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time.” Lots of things do, he reflects. “Still, it's gotta be better than being holed up in here waiting to die, right?”
Zexion regards the flaxen-haired youth suspiciously, as though he doubts the veracity of this statement. After a few agonising seconds, in which Demyx feels as though he is trying desperately to coax out a skittish cat, the other boy takes his hand.
“I suppose,” he allows.