Overcome with both fear and anticipation, I slide the bottom panel of the window open and peer down. Black suits pour from the front door, braving the harsh winds to point their guns at the people on the other side of the gate. The slender girl at the front of the group steps to the side, ignoring them.
The group splits in half as the rumbling of a motor sounds from the road. Two large trucks blast their floodlights onto the gate as they tear through the snow, crashing violently through the gate. Shards of iron bounce across the snowy surface, trailing the skidding trucks as they advance in the direction of the black suits, followed by the horde of people.
The first shot comes from the suits, who scatter as the trucks crash into the mansion’s forefront. The ensuing tremor nearly ejects me from the window, but I’m too engrossed to leave my position.
A storm of crossfire breaks loose in the yard as the group charges up the hill. She seems to have blended in with them as they advance, slinging smoke bombs around the yard. The visibility, already blurred by the snow, worsens.
Suddenly, I’m thrust away from the window by a cold wind, just in time. Bullets streak by my face and ricochet off the ceiling with ferocious velocity. The window shatters as the gunfire spreads, glass raining around me.
I stagger toward the door but lose my footing just as a small object falls through the window and rolls into my door before bursting. White light overtakes my room as my sight turns to static and my ears are pierced by a deafening sound. I cover them, but it’s too late— I can’t hear anything aside from a sharp ringing.
Gritting my teeth, I stand to my feet. Deaf and blind to everything around me, I feel my way across the room and find the door. My hands ache as I swing it open and stumble through the doorway. Not thinking to close the door behind me, I hurry down the hall as my vision slowly returns. A bullet screams across my shoulder, forcing a scream that I can’t hear. Lowering my head as I grasp at the grazed flesh, I continue down the red-velvet hallway.
Upon turning, I stop to catch my breath. I don’t know what my father is doing, or if he’s even here— so I’m lost as to what I should do. I can’t fight that violent mob, so escaping is the best option. If I can make it out of here, that is.
I still want to see her, though. Even if she’s the fake who purely wants her heart back. I feel like it’s the only way forward. Maybe I should just give up and offer her my heart— rather, her own heart.
My hesitance earns me two visitors from the direction of my room. They aim their guns at me, but before they can fire, they are fired on from the other end of the hallway. The NPCs turn their guns on the black suits and fire back— resulting in a dead draw. The suits turn to shadows before vaporizing, while the two attackers lay motionless.
I vomit at the sight, tears running down my cheeks. The blood drawn from the glass on my arms and neck becomes apparent as nausea fills my head. My delirium prevents me from comprehending the severity of the wounds, so I stagger through the hall and down several flights of stairs, driven only by fear.
Mary’s words come to me, reminding me of what I’ve always feared more than anything. Whether or not giving up my heart is the right thing to do, I’m simply too afraid of what it will mean to go through with it.
I traverse the red carpeted hallways mechanically, the memory of the mansion’s layout coming to me with every step. Just before I reach the door leading to the main lobby, it’s broken open. Through it, a man dives, crashing into me. We hit the floor violently and roll away from each other. As I attempt to sit up, he crawls toward me.
It’s clear he’s on the verge of death, numerous bullet wounds making a mural of spilled blood on his trench coat. However, his mad fixation on me is apparent in his eager face as he lunges at me— gun in hand.
My fear overflows from within, and I scream. This time I hear my shrill cry, my ears waking from their sleep. The sound of beating wind reaches me, and I glance to the main room to see a gaping hole made by one of the trucks. The destroyed walls around the truck allow snow and wind inside, bringing a hard chill to the air inside. The winds seem to respond to my piercing cry, exploding around the room. As a result, the cold air pours into the hallway I’m in.
My cry doesn't tire, and the air wraps and freezes around the man before he can pull the trigger. As if the oxygen itself had been sucked from him by the weaponized frozen air, he stops moving and goes blue, before collapsing. The freezing air dissipates, and I’m compelled to vomit once more.
My eyes pulsate, and I feel a warm liquid seeping from my ears and nose. My skin throbs, the cold air infiltrating the numerous wounds. I feel my blood harden and my bones stiffen. Fighting the cold, I stand back to my feet and cross the threshold into the main room. The snow flurry has invaded the room. The sounds of gunfire continue outside, but another sound steals my attention— the flickering of flames. I can’t tell where it’s coming from exactly, but the accompanied dripping sound leads my gaze to the truck.
Just as an idea strikes me, so does another bullet. My leg is pierced, flooring me. I shriek once more as I look up to see the figure of a slender girl appear beyond the flurry. Her long black hair shines brilliantly with the snow’s fragments as she bares vicious eyes at me.
“Mary… please, this isn’t the right way—”
My plea is cut short by another shot from her pistol, this time aimed at my head. The bullet blasts through my left ear, leaving a crater. My scream grows in volume, blending once again with the screeching winds. As the fake Mary closes the distance and takes hold of my bloodied hand, the air stagnates again.
She ignores the unearthly phenomenon and begins dragging me toward the truck. She must be struggling to breath, but she isn’t showing it. I wonder why my cries, which are somehow manipulating the air itself, aren’t compromising her.
Also, my father should be the last one to disappear at a time like this, so why hasn’t he come to answer my cries? He’s always taken care of everything, and he even assured me he would help me defeat Mary and win— so why? Mary and JC were on my side, and there’s my father and his men. Above all, I have power in this shifted world, so why am I still doomed to die when everything should be working in my favor?
Mary coughs blood into her hand as the oxygen decays further. It’s finally starting to affect her, but I’m unphased by it. Rather, my senses are more attuned than ever, despite the tortuous pain searing through my body as ice begins to form a coat over my skin, compelled by the air itself.
“Mary, don’t you… hear… the fire?” I mutter through chattering teeth, my lips struggling to move. She glares at me with a raised brow, and turns around— just as it happens. The truck implodes, flames erupting from it. The blast catches us both, flinging us across the room in pieces.
The numerous sensations assaulting me compound into a craze of pain as I watch the walls of the mansion crash down around the conflagration. Exposed to the outside, I hear the thunderous storm overhead. Ice, rain, snow, and thunder assault the property, joined by the flames to create a horrendous cluster.
Mary, reduced to a limbless torso some meters away, watches me with silent tears, the rabid determination gone from her expression. Her quiet distress surges my own despair as I mourn her plight, and curse my own.
Snowfall pours over us as I cry, eventually blanketing the raging fire. The bulk of her distorted figure, too, becomes blanketed by snow and ice. I attempt to drag my own flayed figure in her direction, but I’m encrusted with ice faster than I can comprehend. My heart isn’t slowing its toll, but my consciousness is fading fast. The only light remaining comes from the miraculously unblemished face of the girl who came for my heart.
She reminds me of my wish to live, a wish that was originally supported by just one person. As white light envelops my freezing soul, my mind forms the image of my father’s face.
I awake to a comforting sound, one so routine I’m compelled to answer it, no matter what.
“Father?” I mumble, rubbing my eyes.
“Mirei…my precious girl…” his rigid voice quivers as tears swell in his eyes. “You’re safe now, okay?