As I sat down near the frost-gripped window of my motel in Polaris City, sipping my peppermint latte, I watched hard raindrops pelt the cold cement. The clouds in the sky darkened into deeper shades of grey and blue as the evening slowly grew. Dim, golden lamplights and violet neon lit the rather unsettling outskirts.
It was here that I decided to stay on this wintery evening, by this cold window, drinking in this lonely evening and unable to leave the city to visit my family. My reliable transport had busted during a storm two days ago, and thus stranded me here in the outskirts of the city. But before I begin to sing about how utterly boring it is being here, I should probably introduce myself.
I am Cecilia Adaire, and I'm considered a renowned Gaijin, mostly for a restaurant I started up named Toki no Hi- "Time of Day." I know, it's an odd name for a restaurant, but my sushi has been named "The Bomb" for a reason. I see a thousand people a day, many I know by name and appearance. I am also a Grandmaster of World of Monsters, the popular game created by the famous Mr. Mayura.
But let this all sink in...
I didn't try to become famous, but it just sort of happened. The life of a celebrity is rough. I'm consistently being chased by the press, either about my restaurant or my skill at World of Monsters. It's frustrating to have the hungry media lusting after your image, and dying to have an answer to their questions.
Yes, I have some respect for the more reputable news stations- the ones that portray me as the WoM Grandmaster with a flair for subjects in the liberal arts, ancient history, classical music, and literature; but, there's always those tabloids that cry out "Will Cecilia Ever Find a Man?" Ultimately, whether respectable or trite, I am the same to the media. Just a big money-maker for them.
Oh, and don't even get me started on the fan clubs.
My skill at World of Monsters has given me some reknown over the V-Net. I hate being on the pedestal of fanboys and fangirls, being looked at like some superior idol, though I could never walk away from playing the game either. Say what you will, but I wear the title of Grandmaster with a stubborn kind of pride. But then I think of the forums where people have disgusting fantasies about me.
Kill me now.
Anyway, let me explain why I'm stuck at this dump of a motel. You see, I've got another line of work, aside from running the Toki no Hi. Not many know about it. The proper term for it is "divination," though most folks refer to it as fortune-telling. In this shady business, I'm referred to as Madame Cecilia.
Today, I was called by the most curious client I've ever met.
She was a young woman with a French accent who claimed to need my help. She was willing to pay... a lot. Enough money to keep my restaurant open for twenty-three years and sixty-five days, if I included all of the funds I've raised from the business itself. Trust me, I did the math.
So here I was, shivering in a dingy motel when I should've been at my family's manor, or in my cozy bed in my room above the Toki no Hi. But my client said that I absolutely had to be at this specific motel, and that she couldn't appear at any other place.
I sipped my warm peppermint latte, my only comfort during this cold, rainy night.
A knock at the door distracted me from longing thoughts of the fireplace in my family's manor.
I opened the door, and was greeted by a woman who, at least from my fashionable expertise, looked as though she were wearing a black sheet. Her black hair was plastered to her face from the rain, but she stood alert and erect, unfased by the weather. She brushed her hair out of her face and I could see a five-pointed star tattooed on her angled cheek.
Wordlessly, she made her way to the table by the window and sat. I allowed her an audience and took the seat opposite. Her narrow eyes studied my face, as if searching my soul. She spoke, in the same French accent I had heard over the phone:
"Cecilia Adaire. I know you know why I'm here. We can skip the pleasantries and get on with the issue."
No amiability. No impatience. No emotion in her voice. I swallowed, trying to find words. "Ha- R-right. Okay. If you can just give me your hands- firmly grip my hands, if you please." I outstretched my arms and opened my palms.
For a moment, she hesitated, as if mulling over second thoughts. Her scrutinous gaze had moved to my hands, looking to them as if they were poisonous. Slowly, she placed her palms into my own.
"Close your eyes," I instructed. "Don't think of anything. Keep completely still and do not question anything I say. I must have full concentration." She closed her eyes, and I followed suit.
In silence we waited. For the first few moments, I saw nothing. Nothing, but the blank void behind my eyelids. No visions, as if there were no future... as if my client were about to die right now. But that couldn't be right. No one had ever died right in front of me. Besides, I probably would've seen it beforehand. I was about to give up, baffled. Just as I began to think of what I would tell my client, images flashed before me, so fast that I could only make out a few details.
A monstrous being, massive and formless.
Four or five teenagers, whose faces I couldn't discern.
The destruction of a tower, crashing down upon a bewildered city.
I tried to focus harder, but in vain. The clouded images each disappeared almost in the instant they revealed themselves. It was as if some force were blocking my view. Something didn't want me scrying into this person's future.
A number. Five-hundred and sixty-four. I knew what this meant.
Flashes of energy and light over a battlefield of rubble.
A dark building of glass and machinery.
Then, the images stopped, like a cut in a movie. I saw the woman lying on the ground, her eyes glazed and wide, on the open streets of night. An earsplitting, monstrous roar resounded and I found myself flying back out of my chair and slamming into the wall.
The woman appeared startled for a moment. Her eyes narrowed once more, staring at me as if she had expected this to happen. She didn't move from her chair, but asked me, "What did you see?"
I stood up, dusting off my fur-lined coat. My voice was grim. "You've got about a year-and-a-half to live."
"Very well," she said, writing down numbers on a check that she signed off to me and placed on the table.
Very well? VERY WELL?!
How could she be so nonchalant about this? Five-hundred and sixty-four days was almost no time at all.
"We'll be in touch, Cecilia."
"I'm sure..." I said, not entirely there. "Um... what's your name?"
"Sorcellei. My first name is of no privy to you. I must be going. Au Revoir." The woman walked out swiftly and quietly, like a ghost.
I stared at the check on the table, unable to compute all of this; why would she hide her first name from me? It allows me to see a stronger vision if I'm closer with them, or at least have an amicable relationship.
I sighed, and opened my duffel bag, which held all the necessities on my constant travels; and boy do I say, if I didn't have one, I'd have gone insane. I grabbed and shuffled a deck of playing cards. I placed a card in front of me, face-down, another across from me, repeated this once more, and waited.
I knew what was to come soon. A second visitor, one who held high respect for me. A woman, who looked much like Sorcellei herself, though the purple-dyed cybergoth hair was certainly... different. She had appeared in the room as if melting from thin air, but unlike most people, I'm too used to this.
She addressed me. "Cecilia, it's been awhile."
"Indeed, Kalena-chan," I said.
She looked at the cards that were already prepared for play. "You knew I was coming. Your skills of foresight are incredible; never in my lifetimes have I come across someone as gifted as yourself."
"You flatter me," I said, grinning slightly. "Come, sit down." I gestured to the opposite chair, and she took her seat. "Ever wish you could change the future?"
Kalena was silent as she looked at her cards. Something about my question bothered her.
"The problem with divination is that the future can't be stopped, no matter how much it sucks," I said, looking at my cards. A King and Queen of Hearts.
"I believe," said Kalena, "that you told me long ago that even trying to avert the future results in worse circumstances?"
"Yes, and I-"
"I know my sister stopped by," she said, interrupting. She never liked my slow segues and games to lead into a discussion; not many enjoy it anyways. I can't help but sate myself with a little game before things get serious.
"Yes, she did." I took three cards from atop the deck and placed them face-up: a Jack of Hearts, a nine of Spades, and an Ace of Hearts. "She seemed strangely calm with what I told her."
"And that would be?"
"That she has about a year-and-a-half to live. Shall you continue or forfeit? I see a Royal Flush coming up." I smirked and looked up at her with my blonde bangs covering my left eye- it gave me a mysterious and intimidating look that I was fond of.
"What did you see?" she asked.
I brought out another card- a Queen of Clubs. "Her death at the hands of what I would assume to be teenagers. Probably very gifted teenagers. But there was something else. It felt as though something were blocking my vision. This has never occured before. Just this one time with your sister, things haven't been clear."
Kalena seemed to mull over this for a moment. "I have a hunch," she said, "but I'm pretty sure I know the source." She stood up. "The game will need to be put on hold, Cecilia. I must go now."
"Back to SABLE, I assume. Tell Cyrus-kun I said hi." I turned over the last card to reveal a ten of Hearts. A Royal Flush, just as predicted. "You would've lost anyways."
She turned to look at me with her purple eyes, narrowed, eerily similar to the analytical gaze of her sister. I shivered, but not from the cold.
"There's much more that is going to be lost in due time, Cecilia. I know you hide much from me. I can see when your sight activates, and around me, you appear to have it active more than half of the time. Be sure to fess up when the time comes."
I grimaced, but before I could speak another word, she vanished, leaving me with a number of questions.
I sighed, gathered my cards, and stuffed them back into my bag.
There's little that can be done. What is destined to come will happen, and it cannot be stopped, not even by me. Much change will come to Polaris City; though the end will be strong and painful.
I grabbed my peppermint latte, disappointed to find that it had grown cold. I should probably leave this dump... and get a fresh latte while I'm at it...