Chapter 34.... or 673: Yield to Temptation - After Forever
Sirius looked into the eyes of his love and moved his face towards hers’. Rikku smiled and closed her eyes, knowing what would come next. Their lips met, and pressed upon each other; Rikku was surprised to find how soft Sai's lips were. Sirius's hand slid down Rikku's side, and hers’ touched his face. Sirius had started to remove Rikku's skirt when the chamber doors flew open. It was Kaileena, wearing a crimson dress and looking urgent. By the time she realized what her ‘love’ was doing, she had already started to say, “Sirius, we 'ave a problem. Oh, sorry was I---?”
The One He Fears looked up in disgust when he heard the thick accent hidden under layers of deception and mystery, and he pulled away from the aggravated Rikku. “Interrupting, intruding, making a nuisance of yourself?” He growled, finishing her inquiry. “Yes, you are. Now, Kaileena, this had better be important.” The cold anger in his voice took both women by surprise. Rikku because of the change of mood, and Kaileena because she was still convinced that Sy loved her. Or would.
Kaileena regained her composure, stuttering, “Y-Yes, w-well, you see the Prince and ‘is companion 'ave arrived, and you told me to alert you then they appeared at the Fortress. Please forgive my intrusion...”
Kaileena bowed, and TOHF' face softened. He sighed. Kaileena’s accent became much thicker when she was nervous or apologetic. He stood and turned to Rikku, his fingers leaving the silk-like skin of her hand. “Forgive me, Love, but I must see to this,” he pleaded. “It is very important.”
Rikku’s annoyance was only slightly assuaged, but Sirius deserved patience. “Fine,” she sighed, “but try to be back soon.” She had fixed her clothes as Kaileena stammered, and her new husband thought she looked like an angel. She put on a smile so that he wouldn’t worry.
“Of course,” Tohf whispered softly. “I only want to be with you.” Then he turned back to Kaileena, eyes narrowing. “Well, let’s go, then, Empress.” Kaileena and Sirius left the grand room, leaving Rikku to sit on the bed, twiddling her fingers. Sy looked back one last time with a sympathetic look before turning into the long hallway and glaring at Kaileena. “You enjoyed interrupting us, didn't you, Kaileena? You should know by now that I, of all people, can see through your tricks.”
Kaileena glanced back upstairs at the closed door nervously before turning to The One He Fears as they reached the Throne Room. She pushed him against a bare wall and began kissing him. Sirius forced her off of him and materialized his unforgiving sword at her neck. She looked at him with pain in her eyes. Searching his eyes for an answer, she asked, “Why do you choose her? I would be much better suited to be your lover! And I know vhat you truly want,” she cooed, her voice as smooth as a cat’s. “You want power. And I can give you power. I am the Empress of Time. Come with me and you will know true power, as you've never imagined!”
Sirius slowly withdrew his sword and stared intently at the Empress. Same old argument with her, but it was always intriguing. The ruby-garbed vixen stood up and walked over to him. She held his waist and leaned into him, acting like it was only an excuse to whisper in his ear. “Leave 'er... I can be so much more,” she trailed off.
Her hands slid down farther and she pressed her body closer to his. Again he pushed her away, refusing her offer, though softly this time. His voice was firm, but was there something else there? “No, Kaileena. Cloud_Unchained let his other emotions get the best of him, but I won’t fall prey to that weakness. Now take me to the intruders so I may return to Rikku.”
Kaileena stared at him pleadingly and appraisingly, trying to sum up what was going inside his mind. Then she turned to walk towards the Hourglass Chamber. She purred, “You say that you will not fall prey to that weakness… But this place has a way of… ‘Ow you say... Changing people....”
Sirius merely smiled, disregarding that statement and walked over to the Hourglass of Time. He folded his arms behind his back, staring at it. Kaileena glanced at him through the corner of her eye. He was proud and noble, but he was not strong enough… Yet. Sy was having different thoughts. The Sands would soon be complete, and then Kaileena's job would be complete. “So,” Sy asked, turning to Kaileena, “who is the Prince with? Is he worth my effort or time, or did you simply waste the latter?”
Kaileena resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “I merely know 'is name,” she shrugged, slightly annoyed. “The Prince seems to be calling 'im Gerard.” Sirius' eyes widened in shock as he heard the name slip from Kaileena’s lips, but the look was replaced by a look of satisfaction. Kaileena walked down to the lower floor of the Hourglass Chamber, her fingers tracing the glassy-smooth wall of it.
“So, Cloud_Unchained has appeared. I wonder how he realized to look here of all places. He is good. Not only did he find the Island, he tricked the Prince into helping him.” TOHF strode down the stairs to meet Kaileena. She stared at him in confusion and surprise.
“Tricked, love?” she inquired. Sirius ignored the pet name, but he couldn’t completely disregard it. It was one of the things he called Rikku. If someone else should be calling him by it…
He cleared his throat. “Yes. You see, the Prince trained me. That is why I came here. I asked him when the training was complete to stop a man named Cloud_Unchained from getting here. Clearly, he told him that his name was Gerard. But to get this far, the Prince must have trained Gerard. This makes things different. While I have trained both with the Prince and in the In Between Worlds, Cloud's powers must be close to mine, considering the Demon Wing he was so luckily branded with. I may need more power,” He said, raising an eyebrow. Surely Kaileena would understand and meet this cue. Kaileena smiled and turned to him, not disappointing the silver-haired man.
“I know of a way to get you more power. But it will cost you.” Once again, TOHF had a cold and evil aura adorning his presence, eager for power and revenge. Was it a hunger that only Kaileena could soothe? She stared into his glaring face. Kaileena could understand why they called him The One He Fears. Even she, the Empress of Time was shaken.
“Do not toy with me, Kaileena. If you know of a way for me to get power, you'd better tell, or so help me...” He trailed off, just to imply what might happen. She got the message, but she closed her eyes and waved away fear.
“Whether you choose to or not, you will pay if you take the power. Until you take all of this strength, you will be.... incomplete.” She stared at him, eyes full of a challenge, sparkling brightly.
“I want to know, Kaileena,” he murmered firmly. His voice was quite soft - he even smiled at her. This jarred her a bit and she stepped back. He walked up to her and took her hands.
“Please tell me what this power is ‘Lena… I will do whatever you ask of me,” purred Sy.
Kaileena blushed and pulled him close, and she smiled at him, breathing deeply. Kaileena tried not to look so taken aback and whispered, “You know 'vat I vant love.
The slightest look of anger flashed in the eyes of The One He Fears, but was gone as quickly as it came. He walked away from her, his steps heavy as he decided what would happen, and stated, “When I get this power, you shall get your love. Do we have an accord?”
Kaileena’s excitement was masked as she agreed, “Yes, of course.”
Tohf was glad that was over. He turned to her again. “Now, what is it? What is this great power?”
Kaileena closed her eyes and recited from memory, with a thick accent once again appearing as she was washed over with adrenaline, “Deep and scattered around 'ze castle are small shrines known as Hydrios Immortalis. Life Pedestals, if you will. 'Zere are nine in total, and 'zey are all over 'zis Island. Individually, 'zey vill heal you and increase your power by a substantial amount. But when you get more then one, 'ze power increase will be stronger then the previous amount given. 'Ze problem is, each time you use one some of yourself is lost,” she stared at him, her eyes asking if he could comprehend what she said.
Clearly, men were too blunt to understand. This was proven when Sy dismissed the thought, saying, “That's ludicrous!! If there are nine, and I lose myself with each one, I'll be gone before I complete the task!”
Kaileena had to resist the urge to sigh in annoyance. She whispered silkily, “No, not your physical self… your personality and… Your mind.”
Sirius stared at her with a grim look plastered on his face. He paced around with a frustrated look about him. “No, then. If I lose those things, I won't have Rikku. I care more about her than I do my rivalry with Cloud_Unchained.” He spat the name of his enemy, and at the thought of losing Rikku.
Kaileena raised her manicured hands and adding, “Before you make that decision, realize you will be returned to your former self once you get all of them. The difference is, you will be 10 times more powerful then you are now. 'Zere is one more thing.” She took a breath before finishing, eyes closed again. “Once all nine Pedestals 'ave been activated, that will release.” She pointed to a large, round circle seemingly carved into the floor of the Hourglass Chamber. Nine dull markings surrounded it, and an indented line came across the circle. It was strange, somewhat intriguing and a little… repelling.
Kaileena continued, “By activating the Pedestals, those markings will glow, and each aura means that a lock has been undone. Once they are all luminescent, it will open.”
TOHF’s breath was hard as he breathed, “What will open? What's down there?”
"Power." She said simply. Excitement flew through Sy’s veins.
~Twelve minutes earlier....
"Ahh, so this is the past. It's pretty fancy!" Gerard said impressed.
"Yes, the castle seems very quaint at first glance, doesn't it?" The Prince responded. He shook his head as Gerard bounced where he stood, humming a song to the tune of a popular birthday celebration song. The lyrics were “La la la Rikku, La la la.” Over and over again.
The prince finished by adding, "But the next thing you know, we'll be dodging rusted blades and fighting creatures no mortal man was meant to see." He looked at Gerard through his peripheral vision, wanting to see Gerard’s reaction.
Gerard frowned, simply walked on past the waterway, and spoke to the Prince. "Way to drain the mood...."
The two walked down the new and improved hall. The once dilapidated and worn halls of the present became the bright and brown marbled palace of the past. The torches burned with a seemingly everlasting flame that luminated the paths. The walls were a calming, creamy, brown. The chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings were glamorous, full of sparkling prisms. Even the floor was elegant, with pedestals adorning it. Vases of flowers were placed in intricate designs. Unfortunately, with these better surroundings came even better traps.
Gerard shook his head. "Well...yeah I don't remember those spinning poles with the blades on them.” He didn’t want to seem scared. “It’d be nearly impossible to dance here!” he added.
"Yes, it is as I said: the Fortress is in perfect shape again. But we have no time to dwell on such things. We must get to the Empress' Chambers. Let us go,” murmered the Prince.