Monday, October 12, 2015

III 2. Deep Sleep

When Ezekiel opened his eyes, he could only see a blank room. It had only a door somewhere in the far corner and it seriously looked more like a hollow in the wall. It was weird. The other person in the room appeared through the wall. Ezekiel knew he was dreaming but that looked very realistic.

“You’re not dreaming, Ezekiel.”
The human frowned. He could swear he didn’t say anything out loud.
“It’s written all over your face.” The person added.

“Who are you?”
The person raised an eyebrow and took a few steps closer to the human.

“You know already. I got you here for your own safety.”
Ezekiel gulped and took a deep breath of polluted air. He coughed right after and he had to pat his chest in order to make the burning sensation go away.

“This is not air,” He stated, more for himself than someone else.

“Do you want to see how it looks? You’ve been desiring this ever since you met Zoe.”
Ezekiel looked up at the man and blinked. The human wanted to know what he was talking about. When the man walked through the hollow, the human followed.

They walked down a very long corridor that had different paintings on each wall. Every portrait looked scarier than the other but they had something in common: they were all burned or scratched yet the hands were clean.

“Who are these people?” The man glanced at Ezekiel over his shoulder with an expressionless face. It actually looked very familiar. “And why are their hands intact?”

“You have a lot of questions, don’t you?”
The human nodded. The man stopped in front of a door and waited for the young male to reach him before he opened the door widely. Ezekiel’s eyes widened and he took a step forward in amazement.

“T-this is-“He felt a sudden chill run down his spine.

“Hell.” The man continued. “Welcome to Hell, Ezekiel.” The human gulped and licked his lips. He was scared yet at the same time, he was excited. “Do you know now who I am?”
Ezekiel turned his head slowly and looked at the man. His eyes were probably the biggest hint.

“Beelzebub.” The demon cracked a very weird smile that looked either forced either like that cursed Japanese ghost; or maybe like the Joker. Ezekiel couldn’t quite choose. “I-um-” He was speechless.

“You’re alive as long as you don’t enter.” Ezekiel took instantly a few steps back. “This is what some people call the purgatory. The world between worlds where lost souls await for their fate.” Ezekiel frowned.

“What about those portraits?” Beelzebub chuckled.

“Those are the past commanders and inheritors. They never made it this far. That’s why their faces are erased. Only their hands matter, where most had the sign.” Ezekiel looked out of reflex at his arm.

“Where is Zoe?” The human asked as soon as he remembered the commander business. Beelzebub tilted his head to the side and stared bemusedly at the human.

“Your strong connection never ceases to amaze me,” The human wasn’t sure that was a compliment. “She’s here, somewhere. Maybe she is down there.” He pointed at the widely opened door to Hell. “She’s been familiarized with it already. But you have no right to enter just yet. You’re still pure.” The demon prince finished.

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“What does that mean? That I’m pure, I mean,”
Beelzebub closed the door and walked back towards the empty room. He couldn't risk having Ezekiel spontaneously change his mind and jump in Hell.

“You didn’t kill, commit suicide or sinned so greatly that would place you among us. Yet, you wear the sign of the commander. You’re somewhere in between.”

“Did that ever happen before?”
Beelzebub stopped and looked at a certain portrait. The hands seemed feminine but then again. Beelzebub's hands looked like that as well.

“Once but that happened a very long time ago.” Ezekiel narrowed his eyes in concentration.

“It’s the watch, isn’t it? You gave it to her to keep her pure.”
The demon prince laughed. It echoed throughout the whole corridor and it made Ezekiel’s blood boil. He didn’t know why but he wasn’t like other demons.

“Do you know what makes me so different, Ezekiel?”
The way he said Ezekiel's name sounded like a bee. Actually, he looked like a mix of a bee and a man. His skin color was very, very pale next to how he imagined him to look like. Besides, he had hair; it was curly and a bright red color.

“You’re the commander?” Ezekiel half asked half stated since he wasn’t sure. Besides, he still couldn’t grasp the fact that he was in the purgatory.

"No. Unlike the rest, I do remember the time I was an angel. I fell because of my own selfishness but I didn't lose my memories." Ezekiel walked a little faster in order to walk next to the demon prince.

"What about your daughter?" The demon stopped. Ezekiel couldn't explain exactly what kind of expression he had. However, his whole body seemed to have relaxed.

"Did Eneizar tell you that?" The demon asked bemusedly.

"Is it true? The commander is your daughter?" The demon looked at Ezekiel for a moment before he pointed at the end of the corridor.

"That place, the closest to the door-" He started. "-it's an empty spot for a new portrait. This one won't be scratched."

"For Zoe's portrait, you mean." The demon nodded. "She is really the only one who got so close to the door," Ezekiel was genuinely impressed.

"Zoe looks like the person I once loved." Ezekiel's head snapped towards the demon. Beelzebub pointed at the first portrait. They suddenly got on the other side of the corridor. The face was scratched but only slightly. Ezekiel could still make out her face. "That's why I chose her to be the commander. I knew she won't disappoint me. Moreover, she's already created her own little army." The demon prince sounded proud.

"I wouldn't call three or four demons an army," Ezekiel mumbled yet Beelzebub laughed it off.

"You may not see it but there are more demons under her. She has the power to attract demons in her circle and make them depend on her." He glanced at Ezekiel from the corner of his eye. The human was thinking deeply about something.

"While I am here, where is she?" Beelzebub shrugged.

"I don't know," Ezekiel rolled his eyes at the cocky smirk on Beelzebub's face. Of course he wasn't going to tell him anything useful. "Do you know why I accepted you as her legacy, Ezekiel?"

"Because I pushed her towards the dark side?" The demon chuckled bemusedly. The human was funny, the demon gave him that.

"No. No, I don't give a shit about that." The demon leaned in and stared into his brown eyes. He suddenly grabbed Ezekiel's forearm and pressed his thumb on the sign. Surprisingly, when he was doing it, it felt a lot like he was giving him energy not hurting him. "She will never let you become a demon. You are what she's fighting for. A commander needs a reason to fight for." Beelzebub turned Ezekiel towards the same hollow wall.

"What is your reason?"
Beelzebub tilted his head to the side and stared at Ezekiel’s back.

"You already know the answer." He winked before he vanished in a puff of smoke. Ezekiel grimaced. Well, that went better than he imagined. But he still didn't know where Zoe was.

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Zoe opened her eyes in a room full of gold.

"What a pleasure. The thief is here."
She rubbed her head and took a good look around. The room was sparkling because of the piles of gold and diamonds.

"How did I get here?" Zoe was ready to get up when someone forced her back down. She looked at the stranger. His eyes were- she couldn't see his eyes. "Who the heck are you?" She waved her hand in front of him since she wasn't sure he could see her from the hair. It was stuck over his eyes.

"Stop it, you little shit. Is that how you thank me for taking you in my castle?" She narrowed her eyes at the man. He was short, almost the same height as Ezekiel.

"I didn't ask you to."
The demon was probably glaring at her. She could only see his scowl. His face was a scowl, as a matter of fact.

"I am your boyfriend's master. No matter what sign he wears, I created Mehrdir." Zoe stared at the demon. She looked at him from head to toe and rubbed her neck.

"You don't look like I thought you would. Shouldn't you be less aggressive?" The demon was even dressed like a royal.

"Take care how you talk. You're still human Zoe. You don't want me to shove your ass out and make you die, do you?" She rolled her eyes. "You stay here for a while. Don't touch anything. If you do, I will know." He pointed at his eyes. Well, at least his vision wasn't exactly blocked by the hair.

"Why do I have to stay here?" Her eyes widened when she remembered something. "Where is Ezekiel?"

"Stop, stop, stop. You're too loud and ask too many questions!" Zoe was amazed. Mehrdir resembled his master so much. "He's in the purgatory."

"Then, where am I?" She saw him turn his back to her and greet his teeth. He was growing impatient.

"Didn't you hear me earlier? You're in my castle," She sighed and searched for a window. Everything was blocked by the gold. "Stay here and don't touch anything,"
Zoe rolled her eyes and brushed him off. He glared at her before he left the room. She touched small piece of fabric on the ground and inspected it. It looked precious.
"DON'T TOUCH I SAID!" She got perplexed by the loud voice. It shook the ground and made a pile of gold fall.. She threw the fabric away quickly and sighed. It wasn't the Christmas she hoped for.

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“They’re dead.”
Chen’s statement was true yet not exactly. He was panicking even when Lestrade grandma called an ambulance. The demons disappeared and left Chen and Jasper to take care of the bodies.

“They’re not dead. Even the doctors said they are in an induced coma.” Jasper actually listened to what the paramedics said.

Weirder was the fact that Zoe and Ezekiel were impossible to put in two different rooms. Except the fact that their eyes were wide open and stuck on a certain point, once the paramedics tried to place them in two ambulances, they got burned. Therefore, the two have been placed in the same room, which made a complete fuss.

“They’re so creepy. Why didn’t they close their eyes?” Jasper rolled his eyes and walked towards Ezekiel. He closed his lids but a few moments later, they opened by themselves. “That’s even creepier.” Chen mumbled and shuddered. Jasper agreed.

“I can’t feel anything from Zoe. It’s like she’s been transported somewhere without signal.” Jasper added. Chen grabbed a hand through his hair and sighed heavily.

“We’re in deep shit if they don’t wake up before the doctors realize something’s fishy.”
The inheritor nodded and glanced at Zoe’s hand. Nothing was glowing, nothing was happening. It was so, so weird.

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Zoe was bored. Mammon left her in a room that had nothing entertaining. She thought about leaving a few times but every time she tried to, a force pulled her back. She sighed and sat in the corner, next to an immense dresser.

She looked at it once and noticed something familiar about it. She leaned closer and touched the mirror. Her reflection was normal; that probably meant she wasn’t dead. But she was curious why she got sent to hell.

“Does he even know I’m here?” She wondered out loud.
The mirror suddenly shifted and showed her the outside image. The whole place was a mess; even more than before. She could see only the vicinity of Mammon and Beelzebub’s domains. They were quite large so she could see enough. In front of Beelzebub’s cave, there were demons. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not because demons looked dangerous no matter what. She also noticed the burning signs on their foreheads. She narrowed her eyes to see better. They all had the greed and glutton signs; some had a dragon, even. She was sure they weren’t there for support; they were there for the war. Suddenly, she remembered the writing on the wall.

The Master is forming an army. The Inheritor will lead it once he’s found and the darkness will engulf humanity forever.

“Was it even about humanity or was it only to scare me?” Zoe wondered out loud. 
She leaned back and watched the events unfold right before her eyes. The one who walked out of the cave wasn’t Beelzebub. No, it was another demon of a high level. He told the demons something and they growled. It felt like she was watching TV on mute.

“Do you wonder what are they doing?”
She jumped in surprise. She didn’t notice the demon walking in.
“You’re Beelzebub’s protégé aren’t you? Mammon told me you’d be here.” She frowned and took a step back. “I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Mepalham and I will be the one to guard your for the time being.” She tilted her head to the side and inspected thoroughly the new acquaintance. He was short and slim but she was sure he wasn’t a weakling. She could feel him radiating some kind of firmness.

“I heard Mammon doesn’t have many demons left in his command,” Mepalham raised an eyebrow but didn’t move from his spot. He was standing in front of the door like a bodyguard. The exception was, well, he certainly didn’t look like a bodyguard.

“That may or may not be true. It is, however, irrelevant.” His response was vague. He was a smart demon; she could see it on his face. Actually, now that she was looking at him closely, he did have a face. He turned towards the image in the mirror and walked towards it. He stopped a foot from Zoe. “The army is still small but Beelzebub gathered the best demons under his command.”

“Are you one of them?” The demon chuckled.

“Maybe. As long as I gain something from this war, I might fight.” She scoffed and rolled her eyes.
Greed demons were known for that kind of selfish thinking but she never expected it to be so big. The war was just around the corner and he wasn’t even sure he wanted to fight.

“Where is Mehrdir?” Mepalham snorted while trying not to laugh. His smug face was getting annoying. “Or should I ask you for answers instead?”

“You know, Zoe-“ He started to pace round her. “You have no idea just how popular you are around here. Maybe I should show you,” His eyes widened in bemusement. “But if I take you outside, you will die.” He started to chuckle when he saw her take a step away from him. “But then, why not? You’re not afraid to die, are you?” She glared at him. He stopped behind her and pulled her closer to him. ”You’re afraid that people you love will die.” He whispered in her ear.

She turned quickly and pushed him harshly into the wall. Her eyes changed rapidly and her face complexion became sharp.

“Well, well. The demon surfaced,” She glared at him and pressed him against the wall.

“You should take care what you say. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a higher level than you.” Mepalham raised an eyebrow and touched her hand. She had a tight grasp on his neck and wasn’t wavering at all. Zoe wasn’t weak but she was still a novice.

“That may be right, commander,” He started. Mepalham was short so he used that in his favor. He leaned back and used her hand as support. He kicked her harshly in the stomach and sent her flying into a pile of diamonds. She got cut on her arms and legs when she fell. 

Mepalham took one diamond –that seemed to be sharp enough to cut like a knife- and drew a line along her collarbone. His eyes were shining with malice and greed. 

“You’re not dead yet, Zoe. You’re not valuable in your recent state; not to me, not to Beelzebub,” The demon mumbled while staring at her with superiority. She glared at him and leaned closer.

“Then what do you want me to do? Die?” The demon stared a her blankly.

“Yes,” Mepalham whispered before he narrowed his eyes and leaned in. "Die." 

Zoe was taken aback. She saw it coming but it was a completely different story when someone was telling her that face to face. 

And Demise Comes From Hatred

"Hey, Kain?" The man stopped cleaning the tables and turned to the guest. "How did you meet Aida?" He looked to the side and tried to get back to work.

Victor wasn't going to leave him. Kain saw him enter the restaurant and sitting at a near table. He leaned back and got comfortable. Kain sighed and took a break.

"This place used to be a dump. People from the city would throw their garbage here" Victor nodded. She already told him that. "Me and my brother, we've been thrown here by our family." Victor's eyes widened.

"What?" The guest couldn't believe it. "Do people act like that in the 21st Century?" He mumbled to himself.

Kain sighed and turned his back to the guest. He knew he should keep his mouth shut. He walked into the kitchen and leaned against the table.

"Mommy?" A young version of Kain was standing all alone in the middle of the street. He came with his mother to buy vegetables but he got lost in the crowd. "Mother?!" He screamed once again. He was young and scared. Everyone seemed so big and bad from his height.

He had no other choice but to wander around and hope for the best. He did that for a few hours and it was getting dark. He moaned as his stomach grumbled. He was hungry.

His blue eyes scanned the place for something good. He noticed a man selling different types of fruits. It might not have been enough to satisfy him but he didn't have any choice. Besides, those pears looked really tasty.

He sneaked through people without a problem. Once he got close enough, he hid behind a lady. Her dress was big enough to hide a 5 years old boy. Besides, she was pretty big too. The woman didn't even see him as she was being focused on buying stuff. He reached out for one pear but it proved to be further than he calculated. He grabbed her dress in order to balance. He only touched a pear when the seller noticed him. The woman turned around quickly and left him in the open. The seller glared at the kid and slapped him.

"Is that what you learn nowadays?! Get out!" He slapped the boy once again.

"Kain!" The boy turned towards his mother's voice. "Where did you disappear?" When she got close enough, she saw the mad man scolding her son. "What happened?"

"He tried to steal, that's what happened! Keep a firm hand on your son, lady!" By the time she got a grip on Kain, everyone was staring at them. Everyone was judging her, as a mother. She grabbed his hand harshly and walked away with her head down in shame.

When he got home, Kain got punished by his father.

Kain flinched. He didn't want to remember those times. He was grateful to his mistress and would never do anything to harm her or the hotel. It was the only place he could genuinely call home.
Victor walked upstairs with a lot in his mind. He was still in shock that someone could throw two kids away like they meant nothing.

While he was walking down the first floor, he noticed something very familiar. It was a small portrait of a woman who looked very much like Amelia. His eyes moved on the lower part. The signature was very familiar. He swore he saw it before. The only difference was the atmosphere. Amelia was a beautiful young woman and she was wearing pretty dresses and jewelries. The woman in the portrait was in a plain servant dress from the 18th Century. She looked a little bit younger and her eyes were sore. She wasn't even smiling. She was empty.

"Do you like this painting?" Victor jumped. He didn't expect anyone to come and surprise him. Thankfully, it was Evan.

"She looks familiar." Victor admitted. Evan raised an eyebrow and took a step forward. He couldn't be seen giving hints. He made it look like he was only passing by.

"Read the inscription." He whispered before he left for the stairs.

Victor searched that inscription but didn't find it. He was ready to leave when he noticed something reflecting in the mirror on the opposite wall. It was something on the frame, in a corner. It was small but he could read it.

"Amelia Corelli," He read. His eyes widened and he took a step back. "No way." He checked the year written next to the signature. "A. Valenti. 1765." He checked the year twice and still couldn't believe it.

The first thing he felt like doing was going to Evan. He decided not to since it was crazy. How could Amelia be the same one in the painting?

"Maybe it's someone from her family. Yes. Things like that happen. Right. The name, as well." He tried to accept that idea since it was the most logical but something wasn't right.

He kept thinking about that painting for the whole night. He couldn't even sleep properly. He had a weird dream that woke him in the middle of the night. The strange part was Aida. She was in his dream in a portrait done at a really large scale.

Victor was standing in front of the big mirror. However, instead of the mirror was a portrait. Aida's, to be precised. Victor was amazed by the detail on it.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" The architect looked to the side, at the man who came out of nowhere. The younger man tilted his head to the side and watched the red haired man walk down the stairs.

"It's very detailed. The one who painted it used the same kind of brush for the whole thing." Victor turned his head back to the painting. "It must have taken a lot to finish it."

"Two years." Victor raised an eyebrow as the man stopped next to him. "It took two years but it ended up being above any expectations." The way the redhead was looking at the painting meant only one thing.

"You painted it." The redhead chuckled and nodded.

"For a very good purpose. I never got to see the finished product, though." Victor frowned. He could see it perfectly. The redhead reached out and touched a certain part of it. "The hands." He mumbled.

That was everything before Victor woke up. That dream shook him up for some reason and he wanted answers.

While he was going down for breakfast, he stopped for a few moments and stared intensely at the mirror. He shook his head and continued to the restaurant. It was stupid and he was getting himself worked up over a dream.

But that wasn't what Guillermo was thinking. The young boy noticed the few seconds Victor spent in front of the mirror and noticed the way he was looking at it. Actually, that was the thing.

"What's wrong?" Evan was passing by when he saw the expression on Guillermo's face.

"He looked at the mirror." Evan raised an eyebrow and leaned against the reception desk.

"And?" Guillermo looked down at his papers before he looked up at the older man.

"He wants to leave." Evan sighed and glanced at the restaurant. He could only see half of Victor's face but it was enough. He could see him take everything in but also scanning the room.
"It's about time he figures it out." Guillermo frowned. 

"What if he dies?" Evan chuckled. He couldn't believe how innocent the boy was after all the time spent in there.

"He's been dead from the moment he got here." Those words meant more than any of them could think. Those words didn't go past Aida. She knew everything and the moment was approaching. The moment for a new portrait.

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Abel was outside, staring into distance with those cold blue eyes. Winter was a harsh period in terms of weather but it was perfect for the business. He looked up at the sky and remembered the winter he and Kain entered the hotel.

“We have no choice, Peter. We need to leave.” Abel wasn’t supposed to hear anything that night. He was supposed to be asleep.

“Do you understand what that means? Leaving with children?” The woman sighed and rubbed her forehead. Abel’s blue eyes were staring intensely through the little space between the door and the door frame. Those big eyes were much aware of what their parents were planning.

“Then let’s leave them here. We can even sign them into the church. They have an orphanage, don’t they?” Peter wasn’t talking like a father. Then again, they never acted as parents to their children. If anything, Abel and Kain were born from a mistake.

“That costs money, Elena! We can’t afford that!” He screamed at his wife. Abel flinched at that sound. He heard it a lot before and it usually led to beatings.

“Then let’s just throw them. There’s that place on the outskirts of Rome. We can leave them there.” Elena’s eyes were shining with a glint of hope. She was genuinely thinking of throwing her sons into a dump. “I heard Theodore threw his old servant there and no one asked him anything. It’s normal in these days. We’re poor and we have the collector coming after us.” The man narrowed his eyes at his wife.

“Whose fault is that?” He asked calmly. “Whose fault is that, Elena?!” He screamed and pulled her closer by the hair. “You let Kain wander around and he stole! That’s how they found us! You little bitch!” He spit on her face and threw her on the floor. He didn’t leave her in her misery, though. He started to kick her harshly under the gaze his son.

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“Abel.” The boy turned quickly when he felt the warmth of a blanket placed over his shoulders. “I’s getting cold. You should enter and we will talk about the new guests tomorrow.” He looked into those green orbs and nodded. She didn’t let him go until they got in front of the stairs. She smiled kindly and ruffled his hair before she walked away.

With slow moves, he placed his hand on his head. With the other hand, he grasped the blanket. The comfort and safety he was getting from her was something he will never forget. Dying for her was worth it. Becoming part of the hotel staff was worth it. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Because Suffer Comes From Love

“Andrei Valenti was an architect at the Royal Court. He was working directly under the emperor and that made him a very rich man, at that time. Patricia Valenti was actually a French woman, who got rescued from slavery by the architect. They were very happy and lived a wonderful life together.” She started.

Aida led Victor down towards the lake. This time, though, they were riding horses. He remembered the path. When it forked, she led him on a different direction than Evan. She was taking him elsewhere.

They rode for a few more meters before she stopped and jumped off. She grabbed the harness and started to walk by foot. Victor copied her actions without a clue what or where they were going. In the end, she stopped in a clearing. It didn’t have anything special, from what he could see. But for her, it had a meaning. 

"You've been living here as a kid, right?" Victor asked. He was genuinely curious to find out more about her. No one seemed to have the desire to share information; at least not with him.

"I did. When my parents bought this place, it was worse than you can imagine." Victor raised an eyebrow and followed her closely. She patted the horse and sighed.

"A dump?" She looked into the eyes of the horse and saw her reflection. She could see the same empty body, roaming the world without an aim.

"Worse." She continued. "It was the place where people in Rome were throwing the thrash. They would throw things, animals and even people." Victor frowned.

"How-" He stopped when he saw her look to the side. She seemed deep in thought. "But your father bought it anyway?" She nodded.

"Yes, he did. He invested everything he had into this domain. He made it into what it is today." Her voice had a tinge of melancholy.

He blinked and kept his mouth shut. If he wanted her to open up to him, he had to be patient and never interrupt her. Who knew when he could ask again?

"How was it when you used to be a kid?" She chuckled and glanced at him over her shoulder.

"Lively." That word was probably the best way to describe her childhood. "You're being terribly obvious, Mr. Abbot." Victor's eyes widened. He got caught without doing much. She chuckled and walked towards him. "Curiosity is tricky, you know. It can lure you towards dangerous situations." There was something about her that made him feel thrilled.

She was a person who knew a lot about men and could subdue him; but she wasn't. She was playing with him. Sometimes, she would be the leader while sometimes, she would let him lead.

"I'm not afraid." The grin on her face was creepy. She was a beautiful woman but she had something dark; something scary, like a ghost. He walked closer and stared deeply into her eyes. Those green orbs were amazing up close. "Is now my turn?" He asked bluntly. She waited a few seconds before she responded.

"People like you, Mr. Abbot, have always roamed these lands." She started. Her gaze moved down to his lips. "Beautiful, rich and smart. But is that enough to survive?" She raised an eyebrow and moved behind him. She did it in such a seductive way. "This world is nothing but an orchard. True perfection is found in death." Her voice became a whisper. She stopped behind him and leaned in. "Do you want to die, Victor?" The way she said his name sent a chill down his spine.

"Would it be worth it?" He could hear her breathing on his neck. It felt cold; like a chilly wind.

"That is entirely up to you. Do you want to be perfect?" He froze. Hearing her ask that out loud was different from thinking it. Now that he heard someone else say that, it sounded childish.

"I treasure life, Miss. Valenti." He took a deep breath and turned around to face her. Her eyes were cold, her face was expressionless. It was really hard to decipher what she was thinking. "Do you?" His question ran deeper than he intended. Her eyes narrowed and he felt a sudden threat.

She smiled before she started to laugh loudly. He took a step back and watched her laugh as if he said something really funny.

"Life, Mr. Abbot, can be the best gift or the worst curse. It can never be both. You choose." She seemed to have come to normal.

"What was it for you?" She walked to her horse and patted his head fondly.

"I don't know. I didn't choose. Someone else chose for me." She got up and glanced down at him. He was still registering her response. As realization dawned, his eyes widened and he looked at her surprised.

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After that interesting conversation, Victor got on his own horse and they paced back to the hotel. On the way, Victor glanced a few times at her. She was staring ahead but her eyes weren't focusing on something.

It was one of the few times she would remember. Remember that amazing summer of 1845.

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Aida was at the perfect age to be married. Her father was getting old and he needed someone to take care of everything for him. Someone had to take care of the domain.

That was how Aida started to meet men. Some of them were rich and ugly but a majority was formed of rich and old. It was a complete disappointment.

Until she met him. The boy who got lost in the forest. The boy with brown eyes that reminded her of a puppy. The boy with cute dimples and an adorable smile. He was perfect, in her point of view.

Without thinking, she walked over a branch. The noise grabbed his attention. In the process of avoiding being seen, she fell on her side. She looked down at her ankle and tried to see if it was fine. She flinched. She sprained it.

"Are you alright?" It was really bright outside. However, she saw the hand stuck in front of her. That helping hand was someone's. His face was enlightened by the sun, since he was practically in the way.

She blinked and the face of Victor appeared in front of her. She was confused.

"Sorry. It's just- you suddenly became pale and looked sick." His voice was nothing like he's. It was manly and soothing, but it wasn't genuine. Victor was a person who had seen enough and lived his life in a certain way. The other one was from a different time. The other one was the first one and that was never going to change.

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She was silent for the whole way back. Victor didn't pry into her memories. It was obvious she was remembering something very important for her.

Abel was waiting for them at the stud farm. He helped them down and took the harnesses. His eyes moved from his mistress to Victor. He glared at the man before he left.

"He hates me." He mumbled.

"He doesn't." He turned to her. She was standing aside, watching the sight.

When they arrived at the hotel, it was already time for dinner. The twilight was amazing. Watching the sun fall under the forest made him miss his parents.

"Has he been like that from the beginning?" She cracked a small smile and smoothly threw him a subtle glance.

"He is very protective." Victor rubbed the back of his neck and followed her to the front door.

"Why? It's not like I am going to steal anything from him." Her smile fell quickly.

"You have nothing to steal, anyway. He has nothing but his twin brother and me." Victor frowned. For some reason, the atmosphere became awkward again.

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Once they entered the foyer, Aida walked straight upstairs. She left the handsome man in the hands of her trusted staff. They weren’t allowed to talk about their past. Truthfully, it didn’t even matter anymore because their souls were already hers; the hotel’s.

She stopped in front of the piano. That magnificent piece of art inherited by her father was the only thing she held dear. No matter how many centuries passed, that piano never grew old and neither did her memories. The one who taught her how to play wasn’t her father. It was him.

She closed her eyes and started to play a melancholic tune. It was Beethoven’s Sonata in C Major Opus 2. She could never forget that song. The beginning was an allegro con brio that could make you remember your childhood and the amazing time you spent with family. It would make her remember the summers at the Royal Court. While her father was working, she would play around with the children at the court. 

Next, it would slowly go into adagio. The memories with him were most pregnant on that part. He taught her that part first. He would stay with her from morning to dawn, never speaking about their lives or their dreams. It was only about music and their souls becoming one while playing.
Then, the scherzo. A tune that would remind her of the trouble she got into when she ran with him. They got lost in the forest but that didn’t matter. She taught him how to dance and introduced him to a life of rich and selfish. Her father never approved of him as a possible groom.

“Aida, I want you to stop seeing him.” His voice was soft but it held that firmness of a father. She shook her head.

“I love playing with him. I love hearing him tell me stories about the outside world. You never let me see it. You never let me travel. It feels like I’m captive in this house.” Andrei Valenti narrowed his eyes at his daughter.

“It used to be so much easier when you didn’t care about men.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest and glared at her father.

“Do you want me to be unhappy?” Her accusation surprised and angered the old man. “I don’t want to end up like Amelia, father. I want to love and be loved”

“That doesn’t exist, Aida! Not in this world! Not in this century!” She jumped on her feet and leaned up to her father.

“I don’t belong in this century!” Her father watched her run out the house in anger. He was sure she was going to see him. He couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t let some freelancer deprave his daughter. She was everything he had. If anything were to happen, she was his only treasure.

Andrei ran to the reception desk and opened the last drawer. He took out a beautiful revolver, never used before. He took a deep breath and searched for courage in his heart. He got an image of Aida being deprived as a woman in a dangerous world and that encouraged him enough.

The last part of the sonata was allegro assai. As her fingers danced along the keys, she opened her eyes and remembered what happened that night. How the accident occurred and how she gave her life for love.

Aida and Vincenzo met at their usual spot; a clearing close to the lake. It was the place she first saw him in and it was the place they could easily find if they got lost. Her legs were driven there by a divine force. When she got there, Vincenzo was on the ground, watching the sky.
She walked closer with small steps.

“What are you doing?” Back then, she didn’t have anything dark. She was innocent, as much as it concerned her soul. She didn’t kill and didn’t hate. She only knew love in that moment.

“The clouds,” He started. “It’s up to us to decide what shape they create. For example, I see a child running to her dog” She was a curious woman. She raised her head and looked at the clouds. Vincenzo looked at her. “I also see two eyes. They are beautiful and kind. They don’t know what they shouldn’t know. They are entrancing. They’ve never seen evil but they are full of love.” He continued. 

“Those amazing green eyes; I love looking at them.” He finished. At that moment, her eyes were searching for that cloud.

“I don’t see any cloud that would look remotely close to a pair of eyes.” She commented. He chuckled and grabbed her hand. He pulled her down and she fell over him.

“That’s because you don’t look in the right place.” He whispered. Her eyes softened as the distance between the two was decreasing. He grabbed her neck and raised his head in order to kiss her. That little touch sent fireworks throughout her entire body.

She let him do whatever he wanted with her. But he wasn’t an innocent. He had seen a lot of things in his life yet nothing was as surprising as her.
Nothing, except her father.

He found them cuddling on the grass. He waited in the shadows and saw him touch her from time to time on her legs or on her back. He saw them kissing and when he saw how much it was evolving, he interfered. He shot one bullet that went straight past his arm. He jumped up and surveyed the place. She did too.

“What was that?” She wasn’t half as scared as he was. It never happened before to him but he had seen it happening to others.

“You should go home, Aida.” He helped her up and patted her head. He smiled in order to make her feel better and safe. She blushed and leaned in. She gave him a small peck on the cheek and became even redder. “You’re a sly fox, aren’t you?” He narrowed his eyes at her playfully. She chuckled.

“I might be. But only around you.” Andrei rolled his eyes. He couldn’t understand how Aida was so blind to what Vincenzo was. She was young and foolish. He waited until she left before he shot another bullet. Vincenzo’s eyes widened and without realizing, he turned towards him. Andrei was ready to shot him dead and throw his corps in the lake. That didn’t go as planned, though. Aida suddenly appeared in front of Vincenzo right when Andrei shot. He couldn’t see right and didn’t know if he shot correctly so he shot again.

When he opened his eyes and walked out of hiding, he saw Vincenzo on the ground, crying. But he wasn’t hurt. The one shot was his daughter. Andrei’s eyes widened and he felt his heart stop. He pushed Vincenzo away and grabbed Aida’s hand.

She was shot in the abdomen and straight in the forehead. She died instantly.
“No.” He breathed out. “NO!” He started to cry and pulled her lifeless body into his arms. “NO! no, no, no!”

He killed his daughter. He killed her with his own two hands.

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He closed the hotel for the weekend. Actually, from that moment, Andrei Valenti became a ghost. He couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep. The only thing he could do was paint. He painted a dozen pictures of her in just a few months. His body started to crack as his heart was already broken. As soon as he would finish the sketches, he would rip them off and throw them into the fire. The staff left him and he ended up all alone in a big and lonely house.

One day, a woman entered without a clue. It was raining outside and it was cold. When the woman entered the foyer, he found dust and misery. No one has been taking care of the hotel for two years already.

“Hello?” She asked but no one responded. She could only hear her echo. She walked upstairs and found the portraits. Everyone who died on the domain; everyone who ever entered the hotel and from diverse reasons didn’t make it outside; everyone who Aida met; everyone was there. 

As she walked down the second floor, she noticed an empty spot. It was really spacious. She could only wonder who it was reserved for.

“Who are you?”  A deep husky voice asked. The woman turned around quickly and met an ugly sight. The man standing in front of her was tired of life. She could sense it. His eyes were red from crying and avoiding sleep.

“I am a guest. I need shelter from the storm” The man narrowed his eyes at her. He heard thunder and understood her reasons.

“Alright. You can choose whatever room you want. You don’t need to pay. Leave whenever you want, I don’t care.” He rubbed his forehead and stumbled to his room.

“Your daughter died.” She said in a quiet tone. He froze.

“Everyone knows that.” He responded. Everyone in Rome and around knew that Andrei Valenti lost his precious daughter.

“Do you want her back?” The man scoffed. He turned around and leaned against the wall. He was a little drunk and the images were swaying slightly to the side.

“Is this a joke? Do I look that miserable and gullible?” She nodded bluntly.

“You look even worse. But that’s not the point. I can help you bring her back if you offer me your services.” Andrei raised an eyebrow. He thought for a few moments while staring at the empty spot on the wall.

“What do I have to do?”The woman tilted her head and touched the empty spot. She caressed it softly and smelled the wood.

“Make a portrait with her. The biggest, the better. Make it as realistic as you can.” The man was on the verge of giving up. He was easy to influence and manipulate. He was the perfect prey.

“And what do you want from me?” She chuckled and took a few steps towards him.

“Make me a mansion as beautiful as yours. Come and work for me in France.” He frowned.

“But what about Aida? If she comes back then-“ She shook her head.

“There is a price for everything. I get her soul back, you leave with me. That’s the deal. Accept it or not, you choose.” She stood there for a few more minutes but he didn’t move nor talked. He turned her back to him and started to walk to the stairs.

She was on the stairs when Andrei came running from the hall.

“Deal!” He screamed. The woman chuckled and nodded.

It took him two weeks to make it. From the smallest details of her face to the way she used to smile, he painted everything. Her long fingers and the ring she used to wear as memory from her mother, it was breaking his heart. But he continued to paint. He painted her from waist up. She had her back straight and her chin rose up and slightly to the side. She was proud and smart. She was sly and knew how to manipulate people into doing what she wanted. She was above everything and everyone in the whole world. She was right. She wasn’t from that century.

The next day was a Sunday. He finished it and ran after that mysterious woman. He found her in the restaurant, drinking tea.

“It’s done. Now what?” She raised her head and looked into his eyes.

“Place it on the empty wall in front of the stairs. That way, everyone can see it from the foyer.” He nodded.

He hired a few men for that. In a few hours, the portrait was hanging proudly at the end of the stairs. It was big; it took almost the whole wall. He was happy with his work. He smiled softly and caressed her hands.

“My precious Aida.” He mumbled. He could feel himself start to cry again.

“Now, move aside.” He heard the woman whisper in his ear. He jumped in surprise and moved aside.

“Ubicumque estis,
Let vocem meam vos ducet
Ad finem persequi tenebrarum
Et venite ad me, Aida Valenti.”

She continued her spell to the point where Andrei heard something about the Devil. Suddenly, the woman’s appearance changed. Her eyes became longer and her nails became claws.

“Wait! Just bring her back! Don’t do anything else!” The woman hissed and pushed him down the stairs.

“You have no idea how much you have to give in order to have her come back!” She screamed at him. He fell down the stairs and hit his head. It wasn’t serious but it was bleeding. He got on his hands and knees and looked at her.

“Audite me, Diabulus!
Venire ad hoc mundi
In forma et figura magicae
Resurgere a profundissimum inferni
Veniat ad me, Aida Valenti.”

The architect’s eyes widened when he saw the woman rip the flesh off her fingers with her bare teeth. She placed them on Aida’s hands and left her bloody prints. Nothing happened afterwards. Andrei had to leave with the stranger and he never returned to see the result.

He died two years after he left. He died in France and never found out if Aida came back or not.

“But she wasn’t the same.” Aida mumbled as she played the last note.

That was her story.