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Second Chance

Chapter Text

Even though I had heard stories about Rome being ancient, historical, beautiful, I found the long drive to the research facility to be quite mundane. Growing up interested in ancient ruins should have led me to believe that Rome was some kind of Atlantis. Yet for my visit, it was all but relaxing. My view was the complete opposite of the familiar, lush northwest coast back in the States, but the old city paired with the evening sun was distracting in the midst of my journey’s purpose.

Recently graduating with a degree in archaeology from a top university, I was contacted by a group known as the Speedwagon Foundation. The foundation was famous for its research in science and archaeology, being recruited as a recent graduate was nearly a dream come true. The objective had been classified, but after pouring over the documents they finally delivered to me during the ride over to the facility in Rome, I knew I was getting into something serious. 

 

There was a report on some artifacts that had been found in a Mexican pyramid and an incident that involved someone named a “pillar man” which was detailed as such, “a man carved into the stone, depicted as resting, showed signs of a heartbeat, amino acids, and cells...” and the form had somehow awoken. That word struck me at first, awoken

The figure was surrounded by stone masks that were believed to have turned humans into vampires. The research behind the mask had begun in the 1800’s where that myth became reality for the wealthy Joestar family. The idea made me chuckle, but I couldn’t dispute this scientific fact. I had read about animals being able to consume the blood of other animals but humans? It was fictional, until it wasn’t. 

 

According to the documents the head of the foundation, Robert E.O. Speedwagon, had been betrayed by a friend when investigating the pillar man and was almost killed, the pillar man was relocated to be studied by German scientists, that is how I was contacted. Apparently the Speedwagon Foundation had heard of my aptitude at my university and had me on a list, although I wasn’t sure if this list was good or bad, the reality of it all became more sinister as I continued to read the files.

 

The pillar man who had awoken had been subdued by Joseph Joestar, a descendant of the Joestar family who first discovered the masks. The pillar man was taken back to the Speedwagon facility in Washington D.C. to be kept under surveillance. During this incident, it was reported that another pillar man, or men, had been discovered in Rome where I was headed. 

 

I finished the last page of the report as our car had pulled up to the building.

 

Lined with German military trucks and guards, it was clear that this situation wasn’t entirely in the foundation’s hands. The door to the car flew open and I was met with the stare of a German officer.

 

“Miss Morris, come with me.”

 

I was ushered out of the truck and led into the laboratory, protocols ensued with security checks and evaluations, but I was lead in all the same. During the walk I was debriefed by a German soldier with more decipherable English. These new pillar men were awakening too, but the facility had kept them under the same UV rays the foundation was using back in D.C. but there was only a certain amount of time before they woke. Once I had my name badge, I was escorted to the room where they were kept. 



There were spectator rooms for the scientists to observe the stone without the threat of them awakening, I was lead right to the men themselves. Directly to the large cave where militia were on guard waiting. The cavern had been dug around the pillar, bright UV lights made the reflection off the wall almost blinding; however the men in the pillar itself were much more mesmerizing. Inside were the three men that I had read about, large and muscular, they were asleep in fetal positions. The thought hit me again that they would not be asleep for long, only time would tell. Staring up at them was menacing, they were unworldly, and it was my job to help research their origins.

“Miss Morris, we’ve been expecting you, how was the ride?”

 

Another officer approached me with more regalia to his uniform, one of higher status. He was the definition of condescending, even in the way he walked. I was handed a pair of UV goggles and gestured towards the pillar.


“Fine, thank you,” I retraced my gaze back to the stone, “these men, they’re alive?”

 

“Yes, they are displaying the same signs as the one found in Mexico, pulse, body heat, cells...we invited you here so we could learn more about their history, do you think you can find something for us?”

 

I knew what those words meant, if you don’t find something... we will make you find something .

 

“Yes, I will get started right away...sir,” I fixated my focus to the artifact. The Germans were making progress on extracting the figures, but I was instructed to work around them and take notes.

Once receiving my bags with my reports of the men and my notepad, I began to work on identifying their clothes, jewels, forms, anything that could lead to the history of these “pillar men”. 



----

 

It was now late in the night, I had some scribbles down about the attire of the pillar men dating back centuries, their hair, body structure, the jewels that were embedded near them. I had begun to discern these men were royal, or high ranking in their culture. 

 

“Miss Morris, please step back,”

 

A hoard of the guards on duty came to conglomerate in front of the artifact, scientists and researchers being steered away. It was understood that they were going to make contact with the men and needed all hands on deck in case anything went awry. 

 

Major Condescending (as I nicknamed him) was in the middle of this group, gazing sternly at his company and the stone men. One was equipped with a small ladder to reach the stone man in the center of the pillar, stepping up to observe his crown (of which I had made note regarding their high status). 

 

The cave now was uncomfortably silent as the air settled. We all watched the two officers investigate. 

 

“I can’t see anything, there’s a shadow.”

 

“Take a closer look.” 

 

We all heard the wind rushing to the pillar where the officer was looking, as if an Egyptian tomb had opened and the air whirled in for the first time in centuries. The whoosh of the hole drew the officer closer until- 

 

“I hear something!”

 

ZING

 

AGHHHHH

 

Bursting from the hole came a pike, piercing the officer right between his eyes and sending him back dozens of feet. It shot out from the hole, impaling him until he was left hanging from the pole.

 

Hanging, dead. 

 

“His horn!”

 

The stillness erupted into gasps and yells from across the cavern,

 

“He- He couldn’t be-!”

 

“He’s awake!”

 

The stone around the pillar’s face began to...vanish...melt? Disappear? His face filled with color and his eyes opened, the stones were coming alive. I stood in shock, knowing that I was putting myself in danger by remaining there, but understanding that this was something extraordinary. The man impaled on the horn wasn’t the last to be struck. As the pillar began to move his horn with it, seamlessly cutting across the bodies of more soldiers like scissors gliding along paper. The gush of blood sprayed across the cave, darkening the light of the UV bulbs. 

 

“He’s using the blood to cover the lights!”

 

Shrouded in darkness, the man emerged from the wall. Soldiers were dead or gouged, their blood pooling around them. The Germans, researchers, and me...we all stood in shock. Peeling himself away, he stepped down into the cave. I tried to make sense of how this stone animated and appeared in front of me. It was phantasmal. Yet, it was all too real. The soldiers were armed, but adrenaline and fear kept their feet planted and their triggers unpulled. 

 

The world has changed while I slept.

 

The pillar man spoke, and English too. Who would have thought that someone who had just awakened from stone could speak perfect English and with a voice that demanded your attention too? After what I had just seen, it wasn’t too out of the place.

 

Almost at once, everyone in the room understood that he was the most powerful being in the cave. There were still two pillar men left in the wall, but not enough guns or soldiers to go around. It was a lost cause. 

 

The pillar man darted around the room like a mosquito finding its next meal, screams echoed in the room. Those who weren’t running or dead were pursued by the pillar man for blood. The cave became a sight from a novel, a nightmare…

 

I couldn’t remember if I had tried to run or if I fell where I stood, the last sound I heard were the footsteps of the man striding towards me in the cave before it all went black. 

 

---

 

Wammu drained the soldiers of their blood, leaving them in a deflated chain across the floor. Half of the guards had bolted when he opened his eyes, some collapsed at the sight of him, something he wasn’t unused to with humans. He left a trail of blood across the lights, the floor, and the walls. 

 

After scourging the room for potential leftovers, he halted at the fallen girl in front of him, she wasn’t dead and there was no blood, she must have been one of the ones who collapsed. Wammu left her to assist with with the rest of his kind. 

 

Awaken, my masters! ” 

 

Unlike his own seamless transition, once Wammu pressed his fingers to the face of his masters, they cracked and fell to the ground like newborn birds hatching from their eggs. Yet, his friends had been alive once before, millennia ago. It was their time to be born again.

 

---



The first thing I felt was the hard floor beneath back, pebbles like small thorns jabbing into my shoulders and neck. There were voices, they were deep and silvery and...inhuman, I remembered what had transpired before I hit the ground and shuffled to sit up. 

 

There were three men now, standing as tall as the inside of the cave itself. They were convening and hadn’t noticed I sat up. After my eyes become accustomed to the darkness, I could make out their differences in appearance as I had studied them upon the wall. 

 

What is your plan Lord Kars?

Searching for the whereabouts of the Red Stone of Aja, of course. All we need is the stone and the mask will be complete!

 

But Master Esidisi, the human world has changed much over the years. Long ago, the Emperor of Rome had the stone. But that age has ended, I’m sure.

 

The emperor of Rome? How old were these men? They were talking about periods in human history as if centuries in our world were seconds in theirs. What kind of beings were they?

 

Then we might find out where the stone has gone.

 

They say the emperor cherished the stone, I am sure humans still tell stories of it. I shall find the stone. ” 

 

I staggered to the edge of the wall to eavesdrop, the Red Stone of Aja? So it was real? I had only ever read excerpts about the stone from old textbooks in our university library. It had been transferred over the years and eventually disappeared. Could that stone have any supernatural powers? Or was it just a treasured gem that the men coveted? How would they utilize it with the mask they spoke of? 

 

Only until after the room was silent did I understand now that in the middle of my mental rambling I had caused a rustle of stones to skid across the cave floor. The pillar men were now listening, they heard me. 

 

Their footsteps sent chills up my spine as I tried to feign unconsciousness once again to derail their attention, but it was too late. 

 

“Wammu, it seems you have left one alive.”

 

“Forgive me, Lord Kars, some had collapsed amidst the others I had taken.” 

 

Since it was revealed that I had been awake myself, I opened my eyes to stare up at them. They were...beautiful, as ancient men could have been. I held onto my tongue in fear of ending up like those on the floor around me. I dared not try and move now.

 

“I heard her before I awoke, she is knowledgeable about human history and artifacts, she might be useful in locating the stone, Lord Kars.” 

 

My heart began to beat like a drum in my chest as the three of them studied me like I was the one who jumped out from a thousand year old pillar. The man in the turban kneeled down to my level, still watching me. I tried to meet his expectant glare with one of my own, but I faltered. His eyes were a deep maroon that began to enthrall me more than scare me, supernatural or not, these pillar men were comparable to the mythical Adonis. 

 

As if he could hear my thoughts, he smirked, straightening back to his full stance. 

 

For a moment I was fixated on his eyes, but that maroon gaze soon was replaced with the dark rust of blood on the floor and walls around me. My fright skyrocketing at his next words.

 

“I think she will, Wammu. Take her.” 



Chapter Text

“I think she will, Wammu. Take her.”

My hands were tied, it was too risky to run and if I had fought them, I wouldn’t stand a chance. The one named Wammu heard me study and take notes, so I couldn’t fake my education on ancient cultures. I had no choice.

Now my hands were literally tied. Wammu had plucked me up from the floor and clasped a metal band around my wrists that locked with a deafening zing. When I tried to tear my hands apart, the cuffs clamped down.

“The more you resist, the smaller the bonds become,” Kars chuckled, his eyes sadistic and merciless.

The three of them began to exit the cave and I followed. Before we could make it to the exit, someone bellowed from inside.

“You BASTARDS! Don’t turn your back on me!”

Even without the light, it was evident that the voice was coming from the opposite end of the cave. It was not the entrance I had come from, so there must have been a concealed tunnel along the wall. The echo of the steps faded as they reached the cavern, the Pillar Men turning to the sound.

My face met the ground for the second time that night as Wammu tossed me aside to approach the disembodied voice. Out of the hallway came three men. One I recognized as Robert E.O. Speedwagon, the head of the Speedwagon Foundation. (A face plastered amongst university walls in the anthropological departments). Next to him were two men in pursuit of us. I hadn’t seen them enter the facility or there during the attack, so they must have just arrived. By the look of Speedwagon, he was still in recovery from his Pillar Man encounter in Mexico.

When you’re handcuffed in a cave by supernatural beings, you become slow to remember the reality of the world around you. I was the last one to sense the sudden whoosh of air in the small cave and was afraid that this was another attack from the Pillar Men, but when the direction of the wind knocked me back, I understood that it was an attack on the Pillar Men.

When I was able to open my eyes, all I saw were…

Bubbles?

Speeding through the air were small, speckled bubbles hurtling right at Wammu. The bubbles popped within a foot of reaching his skin.

“He’s defending himself by creating wind!”

They were dueling...and their weapons were the air surrounding us.

“Caesar! Watch out!”

Wammu’s vortex broke off and dashed to split the lip of the young blond with Speedwagon.

“Caesar!”

“They know the principles of Hamon!”

The fighting halted, Caesar’s face now covered in gashes.

“I thought we eliminated the Hamon tribe, now they’re here when we have awaken.”

The two men and Speedwagon were in a brief respite assessing injuries while the Pillar Men had found a new reason to remain alerted.

“Wait, there’s a girl!” The brunet sputtered, paralleling that of a young boy discovering that females existed.

The six of them turned to me, the brunet breaking the silence once again with a rather unhelpful remark.

“And she’s cute too!”

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After languidly spectating, Kars had inserted himself into the confrontation by placing himself between me and the three men. The dynamic of the fight had shifted, and I was now included.

“She is not apart of our fight.” Wammu clarified. The attention was brought back to him as if Kars had not moved at all.

“You killed my friend, I won’t let you take any hostages!” Caesar spat through the blood dripping off the slashes across his cheeks.

“Come and face me again when you are stronger, boy. When we meet again, I want to admire your strength before I utterly destroy you.”

Wammu turned his back to Caesar, facing Kars and I, “It seems there are no other Hamon users.”

 

 

 

...

“AHEM.”

The brunet had interrupted again, this time with a disgustingly fake cough.

“Mmmm….Ahemm…..MMMM!”

The brunet’s arrogance had become almost comical.

“Don’t forget about me! Hold onto your bubbles, Caesar. I have a new technique. Let me introduce myself, I’m Joseph Joestar, the guy who mopped the floor with your buddy!”

This was the guy that had defeated the first Pillar Man! If he was able to kill the first, I might have a chance of getting free. However dramatic his performance, I just hoped it was short.

Two clackers slipped from his palm and collided, the ting sound reverberating into the farthest reaches of the cave.

“Now, before I save the pretty lady and avenge Caesar, I’ll start by filling these clackers with Hamon…”

Ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting

The clackers began to strike against each other, an electricity forming between them that was the color of gold.

Instantaneously, the ting turned to a thud and Joseph fell to the ground covering his head where the clacker smacked against his skull.

“AGH!”

His determination was admirable, but his execution was less than...flawless.

“Jojo! My friend is dead, you’re senseless!”

“I know you mourn the loss of your friend, Caesar, and I feel your anger. But more than that, I cannot stand egotistical jerks like these guys and embarrassing myself in front of cute girls!”

With that, Joseph flung his clackers at Wammu, the pillar man shrugging to the side and dodging them gracefully. The sphere embedding itself into the wall inches from his head.

Wammu laughed in ignorance, but it was short lived. As he made his advance to attack Joseph, the clackers shot back out of the wall and tore through the frontal lobe of Wammu’s head, leaving a glowing trench of flesh across his forehead.

Joseph now had the upper hand, punching Wammu from left to right, it was...unbelievable that for someone who spoke so highly that he was truly outputting such damage. Seeing this opening, Joseph went for the final jab but in a moment of hesitation, Wammu retaliated.

Kars knew what Wammu was about to unleash and shifted his bearings so his posture was somewhat in my line of sight. I didn’t know if he was trying to hide Wammu or protect me, when I glimpsed at Kars to see, he turned away disdainfully.

“Divine Sandstorm!”

The calm before the storm.

First there were tremors, all of the pebbles, stones, shards...all gathered in to the center of the room with Wammu. Spinning and spinning into a vortex around him. Two funnels of wind whirling from each fist as an extension of his own body. The sound his vacuum made was louder than engine jets. The whirlwind shot throughout the room at Joseph, capturing him between the funnels. Joseph’s body flew from wall to wall like a doll, his skin tinting red with the blood spilling from the impacts.

When Joseph fell to the ground defeated, Kars and Esidisi turned to me.

“Heed that as a warning if you try to deceive us.” Esidisi chuckled, the both of them motioning for us to leave while Wammu finished the fight.

The motion of Joseph lifting his head somehow went unnoticed by the Pillar Men, but there he was, struggling to crawl away while Wammu preoccupied himself with Caesar.

Joseph winked in my direction, I felt bad as my first reaction was to raise a brow mockingly.

He couldn’t trick them long however, Wammu heard Joseph scuffling away and soon they all became aware he wasn’t dead.

“Still alive, are you?”

Wammu leapt to Joseph’s side, now inside a minecart. The two went flying down the tracks from the force of Wammu’s landing. They soared back through the tunnel they came. Joseph barely escaping Wammu’s vengeance as his voice came flowing through the cave before disappearing with them both.

“I’ll come back for you, cute girl!”

---
The sound of combat soon hushed along with the shriek of the minecart wheels.

Not worth their attention, the two Pillar Men turned away from Caesar and Speedwagon

“Wammu is too heedless, we cannot waste time. Let’s go.” Kars hissed, staring down at me.

“You can walk, can’t you?”

“Do I have a choice?” I spat, knowing that I would be taken after all and quite possibly at the cost of Joseph Joestar’s life, and probably that of Speedwagon and his friend, Caesar.

Yet Kars snickered, Esidisi and him exiting the facility while I followed. Kars only glanced at me once during the journey out.

“Don’t worry, we won’t kill you yet, cute girl.”

Chapter Text

Kars and Esidisi walked onto the streets of Rome. It was nearing dusk, and they hastened to find Wammu and retreat to their hideout.

“Wammu will meet us at the temple, he knows the plan, Kars.” Esidisi reassured Kars away from his gaze towards the opening of the laboratory.

“I’m concerned about the girl, she cannot know where we are going.”

“Quiet her for the journey, we will wake her when we need her.”

I knew the repercussions of speaking against them, but I couldn’t see how my current situation could grow any worse.

“I won’t talk either way.”

Just as they laughed at Caesar and Joseph, they laughed down at me.

“You will, in time. Kars, I shall find Wammu, get to the temple.”

Esidisi soared like a bat into the night sky, making hardly a sound as he crossed nearly half the city in seconds.

Out of the three Pillar Men, Kars and his silence scared me most of all. It was evident that he was the mastermind of their plan, the Red Stone of Aja, the stone masks, Kars was as its core. His knowledge of things I could only imagine terrified me into submission.

My arms were sore from my wrists being chained behind me. I craved rest and food, and a place to sit down. I wanted to process what was happening, I hoped it was just a dream, or a psychedelic trip from the lack of sleep, anything. As much as any girl wanted a beautiful, supernatural man to come into their life, I’m sure this wasn’t how they pictured it.

---

Kars sighed, humans were always stubborn. It added to his motivation to find the stone as fast as he could. To live not as he was, but as he could be. A soft, pale pink began to climb over the horizon and it reminded him that now was not the hour he could change that. He was running out of time to escape the sun.

“What is your name?”

“Elle.”

After observing her for more than a couple seconds, Kars noticed that as much as humans could be, she was quite appealing to the eyes. If her knowledge proved useless, he would discard her all the same. As far as entertainment, her headstrong nature would suffice for him.

“I think it’s time for you to get some sleep.”

The sun rose, creating shadows around them. Kars lowered his hand to her neck, pressing his index finger up against her jugular. Falling unconscious at this ability, Kars gathered her into his hold and began his trek to the temple, Wammu and Esidisi set to arrive shortly thereafter.

...

 

There couldn’t be anything in the world that were heavier than my wrists when I awoke. There was a cushion beneath my head, so at least I wasn’t on the ground. Lulling my head from side to side I reached for my wrists as my eyes slowly opened. I couldn’t remember my handcuffs being removed or falling asleep, I was just glad I wasn’t dead. With some pressure to my joints, my wrists moved within their full motion quickly.

The room around me was lit with only one candle above a doorway in a far corner. Stone walls, stone floor, a single divan. It mirrored that of a looted tomb or abandoned manor. Cobwebs and knocked over furniture. It even smelled ancient. I remembered Esidisi mentioning the temple, I wondered just how far we had travelled.

Once sitting up from the divan it hit me how cumbersome my head felt. I needed fresh air and water. Guiding my steps to the light, I undid the latch and swung the moldy door. Instantaneously, the transfer of fresher air with that of cobwebs and dust brought relief to my head. It also brought with it low murmurs of voices, one I recognized easily as Kars.

Studying the hallway, I saw no one and decided to step out.

“Keeping a human around will slow us down, but if she can aid us in finding the stone we will use her until she has no more secrets to hide.”

“Once we get the information we need of her, dispose of her.” Esidisi’s voice sounded as ancient as the air in the temple, it was raspier than Kars.

Attempting to eavesdrop, I left the door open in fear of making too much sound by relatching the lock. I crept along the walls, following the mounted torches down the corridor to the chamber where they were in. They didn’t seem to pick up on my footsteps as Kars continued their conversation.

“The stone is my objective, not the girl. Humans have been in our way long enough. Speaking of, any news of Joseph Joestar, Wammu?”

Wammu had made it out alive, that meant that Joseph…

“He has a month before the rings Esidisi and I embedded in him dissolve. I hope he provides a worthy challenge after training for that long. He was entertaining, it will be fun to defeat him.”

Joseph had survived…? But he was crawling on the ground after Wammu’s divine sandstorm, he was covered in blood, not being able to pull himself up to stand, he was as good as dead. But miraculously, he survived. He was able to injure Wammu... So if he had time to train and get stronger maybe he-

“We know you’re there, human.”

My thoughts were interrupted by the three Pillar Men all gazing back at me, a sliver of light from the room shining right across my face. I had crept too close during these revelations about Joseph that I had forgotten I was supposed to be concealed.

I stepped into the room, seeing now the light was from a fire along the far wall. The bruises on my wrists were visibly darker than I had been able to tell in the room I was. With the fire illuminating their back the three of them looked marvelous. Kars was standing near the fire with his arms crossed and his weight on one leg, Wammu and Esidisi across from him. Esidisi was seated while Wammu stood proud. It was hard not to feel unsettled.

It was quiet.

---

Esidisi was methodical to a fault. As if Kars hadn’t had this plan polished before they were forced to hibernate, he knew what he needed to do. The plan was progressing, slowly, but it was still in motion. If he had to hear another complaint from Esidisi, he swore he might put himself back to sleep.

Kars was the first one to hear the breath from beyond the doorway, staring at the crack the wooden panel had left. He knew their human ‘companion’ was eavesdropping.

“We know you’re there, human.”

She looked as anyone who had slept for nearly a day would look. Her wrists were dark from the resistance of the cuffs that had been on them, and her clothes and hair were a mess from the incident in Rome and their encounter with the Germans and Joseph Joestar. She was confused and scared and it brought a twisted smile to Kars’ face.

“That Joseph Joestar wouldn’t shut up about you while he tempted fate, cute girl. He said he would come back and fight for your honor and rescue you. It was amusing, I’m sure I’d be doing a favor for you by killing him.” Wammu chuckled, a dark pink tinting her face.

“Did she give you any information, Kars?”

“Not yet, I was running out of time. I brought her back here and was waiting for her to regain consciousness.”

“Let’s get it over with, see what she knows so we don’t have to waste our time any longer.” Wammu circled her, he was always much more collective about the information he gathered. Appearance, background, personality. For a majority of the time it was frivolous, but if someone were untruthful, he would be able to tell.

“No.”

“No?”

“Besides your rings, she is another reason that Joseph Joestar and his friends will present themselves to us. Perhaps even sooner if they know of her condition. I will get rid of her soon enough, I doubt she knows much on the stone, but we can’t squander any resources.”

Kars saw a strained expression on the girl’s face, torn between relief and panic. Her confusion was still quite humorous.

“If she’s going to be around then, we might as well have some fun.” Wammu snickered, “Joestar wasn’t entirely incorrect in his judgement. For a human she is surprisingly captivating.”

“He was correct in his judgement about you, but there’s not much to say about your face.”

Esidisi and Kars attempted to remain unperturbed by her sudden remark, but it stung Wammu too hard for them not to chuckle. Kars did admire her bold disobedience.

“Take her back to her room, Esidisi. I can’t trust that I won’t give Joseph Joestar a reason to come now.” Wammu laughed, turning his attention away from her.

Esidisi rose, summoning another pair of cuffs to bind her wrists. Her form beside his soon fell back into the darkness of the hallway and the room grew silent.

Kars smirked while staring into the fire this time as he realized, he missed her.

Chapter Text

Three days? Four? I had been locked in the room for less than a week without any visitor. Or at least, I wouldn’t count Esidisi shoving stale food into the room as a ‘visit’. The sounds of rain and thunder were comforting, it reminded me that I was alive and in the real world and not a dream. All I had time to do was think and sleep. Sleep was hard because of the handcuffs, and thinking was useless because the only thing on my mind was escape. I had tried to smash my cuffs against the lock of the door but they only grew smaller. My hands now jutted out at odd angles to make the binding somewhat comfortable.

Following another nap I propped myself up from the bed, seeing a plate of food had been left inside the door. I didn’t know if it was breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I hadn’t been outside in days. I felt hunger settling in and took the plate of food back to the bed. It was the same as every meal, bread, fruits, never enough to suffice. I started with the grapes, eating them quietly. It was a bit odd lifting both hands to my mouth at once but I grew accustomed. The small portions never gave me enough energy, after this I figured I would be tired enough to sleep again.

“I’m surprised you’re still eating that food. I told Esidisi to give you more than scraps.”

Kars’ voice didn’t startle me as much as it made me shiver. I never exactly feared the Pillar Men, their presence just happened to make me very anxious. I knew straight away that he had been concealing himself in the darkness of the far corner. It was surprising to see Kars reveal his change of attire and just...himself in general. Instead of a loincloth and sandals he wore an overcoat with heavy boots, his hair still wrapped up, a single purple strand falling out. He looked less like an Aztec god and more like...a person. He had been outside the temple. It shouldn’t have shocked me, I was simply jealous.

Kars stepped closer to me and dissolved the binds on my wrists within seconds. It was the second time they had come off, but the first time I had seen them removed.

“I unbound you when I first brought you here. After your insult, Wammu thought best to keep them on. However; I do not think they are necessary.”

My wrists were now a deep purple, it was evident even in the darkness of the room.

“Thank you.” I was grateful for them to be removed. Yet, there were many boundaries I had to break before I could escape.

It was about time Kars had come to question me about my knowledge of the stone. His entrance wasn’t as pompous as I would have expected Esidisi or Wammu’s to be. Kars always seemed more practical and focused.

“What do you know about the Red Stone of Aja?”

I had been thinking about the stone since they first mentioned it back in the laboratory. They expected me to aid them in finding it, but I doubted that I had any information that would help them. If my life depended on it, I would make up something.

“All I know is that a Roman emperor collected it around two thousand years ago. He did well to keep it hidden, I’ve heard stories about what’s happened to it since then...but I don’t know it’s exact location.”

Kars rested his weight against the wall, looking rather impartial. Esidisi and Wammu must have already discovered this, since they weren’t locked up in a room.

“I’ve learned that you call the study of your human history ‘archaeology’ and that is why Von Stroheim summoned you. What did you study about us while we slept?”

That question came as a surprise, my notes on the Pillar Men? It couldn’t have been accurate now that I knew they weren’t humans at all. They had a cultural identity but when you were dealing with a super race, it became a lot more foggy. I was hesitant about what I could say.

“I made notes about your...clothes, jewelry, your horns. You were ancient...you are ancient.”

“We have been here longer than the human race.”

“Where are the rest of you then?”

Kars’ glowered when the questions were aimed at him. His eyes strained as if they had seen too much for even one in his own lifetime. There was no doubt he was determined and impassioned, but impatient.

“I had a vision for my kind. They disagreed, and now they’re dead. Wammu, Esidisi, and I are the only ones left. After all this time, I intend to execute my plan. I couldn’t waste any resources. There are people in our way. Sadly, you have given me information that I have already received from Esidisi.”

From the time I had been taken to now, I didn’t cry. Now, knowing that I proved that I was useless to them, a knot built up in my throat. Frustratingly, I couldn’t release my confusion. Why did he come to ask me about the stone if he knew I would be useless? I figured a 10,000 year old god or whatever he was would be more preoccupied with his ‘ultimate plan’ than humiliating me while I sat in a room all day in chains.

“What do you need me for? You’re wasting your time.”

“You are a token against Joseph Joestar. He’s got one month, it is unlikely he will defeat Wammu and rescue you. I wouldn’t count on it. I also can’t have you share your knowledge of our history with the enemy more than you already have.”

He was twisted, no wonder no one of his race agreed with his plans. They were delusional and full of grandeur. It was written through history again and again what happened to overzealous leaders and their predictable downfall. I could see in his eyes that the passion for power was only kindling still and that it would engulf him soon enough.

I could feel the warmth of my tears as they ran down my cheek, tickling my neck. I was silent, my exhaustion releasing itself in the heavy droplets surrounding my eyes. He was a tyrant. He had abilities, wisdom, experience only gained by living tens of thousands of years. What did anyone have to stand a chance against that? Joseph Joestar paled in comparison to their strength. I didn’t even have that. I brought myself back to reality, taking a deep breath and straightening myself out. I didn’t sniffle or cough, I resisted every urge to show him...or myself...that I was weak.

“Elle.”

Hearing my name from his lips pulled my mind in two directions. The fact that he only now addressed me by name enraged me, the other was that it felt that from some dark place he was trying to understand...to help.

“What is it, your majesty?” I bit back, absentmindedly massaging my wrists where the handcuffs had been. Kars’ deep laugh echoed in the room, he lifted himself away from the wall and stood upright.

Even as his back was to the light, Kars’ eyes seemed to glow. From their usual dark red to a swirling scarlet. I wasn’t sure if this was a trick of the light, or if Kars was able to manipulate his own irises. It didn’t seem out of the question. They were unnerving...enticing.

“You don’t have to stay in this room any longer. Come, I’ll show you around the temple.”

There was a pause, and a ticking. Not an audible ticking, but one I felt inside my chest. After Kars had offered to show me the temple there was a silence that followed. My heart had begun to beat, there was a shift between me and the Pillar Men. I couldn’t cry or sulk, I had to take him at his word and at least follow him through the temple and maybe find my way out. Kars’ had shown more mercy than Esidisi or Wammu, but he was far from being trusted. Maybe if I couldn’t make it out of here as an enemy, I could as a friend...or a pawn.

“Why are you being so forgiving all of a sudden?”

Kars rolled his eyes and turned to the door, unlatching it and beginning to exit, not even worried if I chose to follow.

“You insulted Wammu, it amused me. Not everyone can say they’ve insulted Wammu and lived.”

I let out a chuckle as I followed Kars, I guess I did have an inch over Joseph Joestar. I might have let the confidence get to me however, as soon as I crossed the doorway I already pestered Kars for requests.

“Your majesty?”

“Yes?”

“You don’t happen to have a change of clothes do you?”

Chapter Text

Since Kars was being...less Kars than usual and I had been allowed out of the room, I remembered my torn and smelly clothes, wondering if maybe someone could get a clean set while they were out. I doubted there would be a pair of comfortable trousers in this temple.

“You don’t happen to have a change of clothes do you? Or a bath?”

Kars faced me with a quizzical brow.

“Are you assuming we don’t bathe?”

“No no, I just know you have...other priorities?”

Kars sighed and resumed his walking, taking a sharp turn down another hallway before coming to a set of doors. He swung them open and stepped away to show what was inside. In the room there was a large, freestanding tub with tapestries hung like curtains for privacy. Beside the tub were pitchers that likely contained soap and what smelled like different oils. Pieces of the tapestry hung across the lip of the tub, presumably as a makeshift towel. It was a bathroom I imagined Cleopatra taking a bath in. There was steam rising from the water in the tub and I suddenly became more aware of the aches and pains in my wrists, back, and shoulders.

“You may wash up here. As for garments, I will see what I can do.”

He didn’t stay long after. I suspected that Esidisi and Wammu should be arriving soon since I had not heard their voices already, so I hurried with my bath. The last thing I needed was someone walking in on me.

The water was hot. I had always liked taking hot, burning baths. I swung the tapestry around so I was concealed and proceeded to pour some of the oils into the water and immerse myself. From the smell I guessed it was a seed oil, the color was much too light for an olive oil. After swirling it with the water, I dunked the rest of my body in, scrubbing the dead skin, dried blood, and dirt away. Following a thorough wash, the only mark left on my skin were the bruises from the handcuffs. They would take weeks to heal.

I stepped out from the tub and wrapped the split tapestry around my frame, soaking in the excess water and oil from my skin and hair. The feeling of clean hair was something I never imagined myself being so grateful for. It would continue to dry, growing slightly wavy near the ends. I no longer smelled like dirt and cobwebs, but had a pleasant fragrance and sheen to my skin.

My only choice was to put back on my dirty clothes, hopefully I wouldn’t be in them long. Otherwise, I would wash them in the tub and let them dry. Slipping back into the outfit, I laid the strip of tapestry aside and squeezed the excess water out of my hair one last time before leaving.

I still wasn’t familiar with the layout of the temple. There were numerous corridors and rooms and open spaces that I’m sure if I ventured throughout the entirety of it, it would take hours. I retraced the steps back to my room, the chance unlikely that Kars would be in there. It was empty, save for the plate of food and a mysterious bag on the divan. I latched the door and scuttled over, undoing the drawstring on the burlap sack and reaching inside. I pulled out a soft piece of cloth, rubbing it with my fingers. There were a multitude of differently cut squares of the material inside the bag. Holding it to the light I saw that it was navy blue, dense, and glossy like silk. After a couple moments of staring at them laid out I realized what they were.

Clothes.

Sure, I didn’t expect Kars to find a nice wool sweater and corduroy trousers but this...they weren’t meant to be clothes. Just scraps. But they were clean scraps. With the way they were cut I’m sure I could fashion a dress or top. There would be skin to show, but with what the Pillar Men had awakened with, I’m sure they weren’t opposed to it.

Double checking the latch, I stepped out of my clothes again (saving my underwear) and began to wrap the first piece of cloth around my torso. It was long enough to cross one shoulder diagonally before being wrapped around my breasts and waist before I had to tie it off above my belly button.

The next fabric had more to work with, and I could wrap it around my hips and tie it off as a skirt ending above my knees. I didn’t expect to do any heavy lifting or bending, if I had to run for it I still could manage. The last thing left were a type of leather sandals that had a flat bottom and straps that I tightened around my calves.

I imagined I looked like I had also awakened from the pillar alongside Kars, Wammu, and Esidisi. It was far from their loincloths and bedazzled headbands, yet with the straps and sandals it looked like I had adopted their style.

After finishing my left over plate of food and my hair dried, I decided to find Kars. It wasn’t hard, as soon as I left my room I could hear voices coming from the previous room that I had been summoned to. The fireplace illuminated the corridor so there wasn’t a chance I could eavesdrop again. As I approached, I could tell by Kars’ voice that he was irritated, his sentences terse. Wammu and Esidisi were interrogating him.

“You said if she had no information, you’d get rid of her!”

“She can be used against Joestar, I promised I wouldn’t keep her around longer than we needed.”

I truly despised all this talk about me, but they had not seen yet that I entered the room. I made my presence known, cutting off their condescending words.

“Believe me, I don’t want to be here at all.”

On cue, their heads turned to my figure in the doorway. The wrinkles in their brows flattened out as the three of them began to...laugh? Their argument had gone out the window and they smirked, turning away from my presence.

“Are you turning her into one of us, Kars? I thought I was the one who would keep her for some...entertainment.” Wammu shot me a crude look which I instinctually balled my fists at.

“No wonder Kars sends us out so much, maybe he is trying to keep the human all to himself?” Esidisi pondered, the focus shifting from me to Kars. Had I really looked that ridiculous?

Kars didn’t seem to hear them and continued to stare at me, his eyes glowing with that same ferocity again. His irises a vivid crimson. It was terrifying and alluring, I couldn’t look away until he was blocked by Wammu standing right in front of me.

“You definitely seem to have distracted Kars, what makes you so special?”

“Probably the fact that I’m not afraid to remind you that you’re sick and twisted.” Wammu had always irritated me, I wasn’t hurt, I was never one to take trash talking calmly. Again came the laughs from Esidisi and Kars.

“Don’t be in a rush to be locked away again, human.” Esidisi reminded, Wammu looking as if he would like to do nothing more.

“She’s stubborn and I must admit her bickering with Wammu is the only entertainment I need. She is no longer to be fed scraps or bound in that room. She may eat with us and move freely, I can guarantee she won’t flee.” Kars stood with his declaration, eyeing me over rather immodestly. The same shivers went up my spine like when I heard his disembodied voice in my room.

Esidisi and Wammu knew they couldn’t contest, so they gave up their fight and resumed to relay their information on the stone. Back to being ignored, I decided to stay and nabbed a spot near the fire, warming up my skin and hands. I had gone from being a prisoner to being a... privileged pawn? If I wasn’t able to flee, perhaps I could work out a way to be let go with their permission. After experiencing the mercy of Kars, I could start with him. Out of the three, he was by far the most captivating and strong. I noticed after he unchained me earlier that I had been thinking about him more often. In a less fearful way. I was interested and felt even a little smitten.

Now I wasn’t sure if I was scared more of never being let go, or in the future I wouldn’t want to be let go.

Chapter Text

My lab coat, pants, and shirt were now clean and folded on the divan in my room. I continued to adorn the blue silky wraps, finding them more comfortable and lightweight. A few days had passed since Kars “released” me from my imprisonment, but the endless wandering around the temple grew tiresome after a couple of hours.

I had a layout of the temple in my mind now, I even knew where the exit was, yet I never once attempted escape.

A majority of my time was spent in the room with the fireplace, staying warm on the divan and waiting until meals had arrived. Kars would seat himself at the table nearby, occupied with his plan and fiddling with a small red gem. He explained that it wasn’t the red stone of Aja, but it was the same type of stone.

Esidisi and Wammu had left for a trip to Venice, deciding to “pay Joestar a visit” as well as uncover more information on the stone. They had left hours ago and I was settled by the fire, my eyes weary from staring endlessly into the flames. Instead of sitting at the table, Kars was pacing along the back wall, the gem between his fingertips. It would be us two for the upcoming days.

Kars had been the most forgiving in every aspect, he didn’t talk down to me like Esidisi or pick fights like Wammu. All three had their sights on their ultimate plan and didn’t pay me much attention. Yet, even in the long hours sometimes bickering with Wammu seemed favorable. I had spoken the most with Kars and felt protected with him in the room if the others grew impatient. He was the one to keep the mood peaceful, but now with this pacing it was anything but.

I quit poking at the fire and gazed over my shoulder, Kars’ shadow like a ghost tracing the wall back and forth.

“Kars, are you okay?”

“Quiet.”

Since I had become their prisoner, I refused to surrender my attitude, gods or not, I didn’t let any of them give me lip. Kars had admired when I stood up to Wammu, so he should have expected to be on the receiving end of it eventually.

“Your pacing is annoying, what are you thinking about?”

“The stone.”

Yeah, no shit.

“What about the stone has you this worked up? I thought you had tracked it down.”

Kars realized he couldn’t ignore my questions and halted, striding towards the table and taking his usual seat. He remained vexed as I pulled out a chair at the other end. I seated myself and faced him across the table. My chin rested in my palm calmly, juxtaposing his distressed stare.

“You lost the stone, didn’t you?”

“No. We know the location, it’s just a matter of retrieving it.”

“Where is it?”

“It is in Venice, with someone close to Joseph Joestar.”

It only made sense that the one with the power to harm the Pillar Men had ties to the stone’s location. Joseph Joestar became more irritating of an obstacle because of this. With a month of training, he would pose a bigger threat. Kars now had to worry about the stone and defeating Joestar to retrieve it. It reminded me that as long as I was under their control, I could be used against Joseph. I worried that I would be dragged more into this than I already was. It hadn’t come to that yet, but my anxiety had rekindled.

“Esidisi and Wammu are headed there now to see Joestar and the stone, are they at risk?”

“Unlikely. They are strong and experienced, Joestar is still training. He would be defeated rather quickly.”

Kars set down the red gem, clasping his hands together in front of his face. His nerves had settled as his eyes peered into me, something mischievous in his gaze.

“So anxious to see Joestar again?”

Truth be told, I hadn’t thought of Joseph shortly after arriving at the temple. I was glad someone who had power or “hamon” had promised to save me from this place, but I had to rely on myself. There was no guarantee I would be freed, or left alive. I couldn’t place that fate on someone who might be killed themselves. After acclimating to my situation, I grew accustomed to the temple, Kars, and “imprisonment”. Currently, I was more intrigued by the Pillar Men than I was afraid. Their history would be a breakthrough for archaeology, and I was at the center of it. However, Kars was causing my own internal conflict. When I slept at night all I could see were his maroon eyes, staring back at me as they were now across the table.

I deflected his question, appearing unphased.

“Maybe I am, since you are keen on getting rid of me and he at least wants me around.”

Kars huffed and his eyebrows lifted in shock, my response had caught him off guard.

“Of course we want you here, you’re our tool against Joestar, that’s why we treat you so well.”

It was the first time I had heard him laugh in days, it was a lovely sound. The words they accompanied, not so much. I scoffed and left the table, sitting on the floor in front of the fire. I understood his jest, but this was still imprisonment all the same.

 

---

“Maybe I am, since you are keen on getting rid of me and he at least wants me around.”

Kars stiffened, his heart stopping for a beat until he remembered the lightness of the conversation. As jokingly as she had said it, her words held truth.

Kars would never admit that her companionship in the long nights in the temple had kept him comforted when his friends were away.

Kars would never admit that in the short time she had been around, her stubborn resilience and beauty had occasionally distracted him from his plan to conquer the sun and become the ultimate human.

After she had appeared washed up and in the garments he had found, they all knew she had looked as though she had awakened from the pillar beside them. Kars’ breath caught in his throat whenever he remembered it, but he would never admit that.

“Of course we want you here, you’re our tool against Joestar, that’s why we treat you so well.” Kars chuckled, knowing that they were doing the exact opposite. She didn’t take it as light-hearted and returned to her spot near the fire.

She had sat there whenever he, Wammu, and Esidisi would discuss their plan. Only joining them to eat and even then she was silent. Once it was just Kars, she was more willing to start a conversation. Tonight, he was stressed at the journey his friends were embarking upon in order to secure the stone. She had disturbed his pacing, and annoyed him while he sat. Now she was back at the fireplace, and his chest felt heavy with guilt.

---

Kars moved to the divan, I could feel his eyes on me as I messed with the extra firewood, tossing small twigs into the flame.

“Where are you from?”

“What?”

I exchanged the fire for his eyes, the bright orange inferno reflecting in his irises.

“Where were you born?”

“The United States, on the West coast. Why?”

“Did you like it there?”

“Yes, it is beautiful. I love my hometown.”

I thought about how far I was from home, from my own bed. I had come to do research, but now I was a prisoner with centuries old men guarding me. The past couple of days were foggy and bizarre. After my time with Kars I was starting to see things differently. Occasionally I would become absorbed by his appearance, all three of the Pillar Men having the faces and bodies of gods. It was easy to feel inferior but also enamored when you were near men with biceps bigger than cinder blocks. I was distracted from my daydreaming by another one of his questions.

“Have you ever been to Switzerland?”

“Switzerland? I haven’t, how come?”

“We are going there soon, it will be nicer than this place. You and I will leave tomorrow to the manor where we are staying. Then once Esidisi gets the stone, he will send it there.”

It was the most hopeful news I had heard all day, getting to leave this ancient temple for something that sounded...not ancient. It would be the last stop for the stone and quite possibly a battleground. The sooner Kars got the stone in the mask, the sooner I could escape alive.

“Come sit with me, you’re wasting firewood.”

Kars rested against the arm of the divan closest to the fire, and I sat opposite of him. My head was growing heavy and I brought my legs up to my chest, savoring whatever warmth reached me from the fireplace.

It was silent. The crackling twigs sending embers up into the night. Kars looked radiant in the outline of the flames. He was lost in thought with his eyes set on a corner of the room. I wasn’t sure what provoked me, and it seemed ironic to think it, but I felt an urge to verbalize my gratitude for his gentle countenance in my situation.

“Kars?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you... for keeping me alive. Things could be worse.”

My head fell to the arm of the divan and my eyes fought to stay open. It was a losing battle. Kars’ faced me with some surprise, his eyebrows furrowed in thought. There was a slight pause before he spoke, his voice deeper and slower than usual.

“No more harm will come to you, Elle. I promise you that.”

Whatever Kars might have muttered after that was lost to the moment as I drifted off into sleep.

Chapter Text

Kars promised Elle no more harm would come to her. He would use his power to guarantee she wouldn’t suffer at the hands of Esidisi, Wammu, or anyone else. He no longer enjoyed toying with her as a prisoner and thought of her as a friend in the time he had gotten to know her.

She was asleep beside him, curled into a ball on the edge of the divan. If she didn’t wake up soon she might fall and wake up on the floor.

Kars sighed, knowing what he should do. It’s not like he didn’t want to carry her to her bed, but he felt like he lost a sense of himself as he started to care for her. Before he was forced into his own slumber, he was determined to find the stone. Now, Elle was part of this plan and he was struggling to work around it. She was more than an instrument to use against Joseph Joestar. Kars...wanted to be around her, talk to her, admire her.

Slipping his arms underneath her frame, he lifted her gently to his chest. Kars was aware she was a deep sleeper as she had always awakened late in the day. He made his trek down the hallway, taking the corridor to his room instead of hers. In his room was a much larger bed with tapestries hung around it and a lush rug on the floor. Two to three candles burned on tables beside the bed and there was a window, dark clouds giving the night sky a murky look. Kars laid her down on the bed, draggin the blankets over her shoulders. Her face was calm, he wondered what she dreamed of. Tonight she wouldn’t sleep on an uncomfortable divan. Tonight...she could rest.

His job at present was to prepare for the journey to Switzerland in the morning. They must arrive there safely before giving Esidisi and Wammu the signal to approach Joestar. Those two would be observing the movements of Joseph, Caesar Zeppeli, and their trainer Lisa Lisa. No contact was made until Kars allowed it. First, they had to reach the manor in Saint Moritz.

Looking at her one last time, Kars felt his heart tighten at the sight of her resting peacefully in his bed. Elle was different from those around her. Not only was she highly educated and witty, she saw the humanity in the Pillar Men when it appeared like there was none. Although they were powerful and had special abilities, she wasn’t afraid to be stubborn. She saw right through the thousands of years they had been alive and was still concerned when one of them seemed even a bit distressed. Kars didn’t prioritize his emotions, but he knew what he felt for her was worth paying attention to.

“Goodnight, Elle.”

He left the candles to burn, shutting the door behind him. It was time to prepare for St. Moritz.

---

The hum of thunder interrupted my dreaming, forcing my mind awake. How long had I slept? I couldn’t recall falling asleep. I had been talking with Kars near the fireplace when…

The softness of the pillow and blanket around me enveloped me in warmth, far from the hardness of the archaic divan in my room. Where was I? I sat up, thunder continuing to rumble outside. I was in a grand bed, tapestries, candles, a lavish rug… This was Kars’ room. I turned to my side instantly, seeing the bed empty. Did Kars also sleep here last night? The multitude of questions that plagued my mind only made me want to go back to sleep, that along with the warm blanket.

I stayed in the bed for another half hour, a part of me hoping Kars would enter the room and crawl in beside me. I thought hard to remember the feeling of him carrying me here and tucking me in, but I had been in a deep sleep.

When I didn’t think of Kars, I stared out the window on the wall. It was the first time I had seen the sky in over a week. There was a dark storm overhead, so there were more clouds than sky, but it was clear that it was early morning.

Did I want to escape? I valued my freedom and safety, but my feelings for Kars had taken a turn once I got to know him. He was annoyingly beautiful to start, but we were growing closer and a part of me didn’t want to leave. I was unsure of his plan for the ultimate life and I was even a bit scared for the outcome...and yet, now I felt safe with Kars instead of needing to stay safe from Kars.

“Oh good, you’re awake.”

I sat upright in an instant, Kars in the doorway wearing his turban, long trench coat and boots. He strode to the bedside, looming over me as I was tucked away in the blankets.

“How did you sleep?”

“Really well, thank you…Where did you sleep?”

“I didn’t, I was preparing for the trip today. I do not need as much sleep as you do.”

So he didn’t sleep in the bed...I was a bit disappointed.

“When do we leave?”

“As soon as you get ready. I got these for you.”

Kars undid his coat and retrieved a bag from the right breast pocket, handing it over. Opening it revealed a hooded parka, sweatshirt, thick trousers and some boots.

“Thank you, Kars!” I felt the soft hood of the parka, dying to put it on.

“I’m glad you like them.”

The thought of new clothes excited me, as well as the thought of leaving the temple. I was eager to get changed so we could depart. I threw the blanket off of me, Kars chuckling at my impatience. Knowing I was going to change signaled his exit and he began to leave, about to close the door behind him when I called out.

“Um, what should I do with my clothes now?”

Kars peered back in, giving me a once over in the handmade Pillar Woman outfit, the maroon in his eyes ablaze.

“Keep it. You might need them again.”

The door shut, my cheeks growing warm at the thought of what he could have meant by that.

---

Our trek to the manor had begun. It was about six am when we left the temple and headed to the city to find a driver that could take us a few hours into the journey. It didn’t take long and soon we were in a car bound for Saint Moritz. We’d have to make a few stops along the way for supplies, but we were on track and that’s all that mattered.

The rain and fog only gave the roads a good thirty to forty feet of visibility. We had to cross the Alps so it would take a couple of hours to reach St. Moritz by car, but it was our safest option. We were about two hours into the trip, our driver suspiciously eyeing Kars and I in the backseat every few seconds. The sheer presence of Kars was enough to keep him quiet. The rain pounded against the windows and the sound of the windshield wipers furiously tapping back and forth filled the silence in the car.

“H-how long have you two been married?”

The driver coughed in hesitation at the question, overcoming his fear to start a decent conversation. Kars didn’t look pleased, but I interjected before he could scare the driver more than he already did.

“About 3 years, we thought of taking a vacation this weekend but chose a bad day to leave.” I laughed, Kars turning to me with an annoyed glare. I rolled my eyes at him, seriously why were all Pillar Men like this?

“That’s alright, it happens. You do not sound as though you are from here Mrs….?”
“Morris, my last name is Morris. And no, we are originally from the States.”

“Ah, lovely! Any special reason for the trip?” The driver was a bit more jovial now that he wasn’t haunted by Kars’ eyes in the rearview mirror.

I stuttered, looking to Kars for an answer. It was clear he wasn’t interested in the conversation and looked back out of the window. The idea came to me and I grabbed his hand, entwining our fingers.

“It’s our anniversary, looking to get away from the city for a bit. Just spend some time with each other!”

“Wonderful, the rain will clear in no time! You two will have a lovely time in St. Moritz, quite cold, but that’s why it is so lovely.”

I laughed and decided not to answer. The driver was still bothered by Kars’ reluctance to speak, but was happy to have a conversation nonetheless.

After parading our fake marriage, I loosened my grip to let go of Kars’ hand only to feel his grip tighten. I did a double take and saw that he refused to move his eyes from the rain outside. His hand wouldn’t budge and I dare not ask to let go. No matter how old he was, Kars couldn’t hide the slight pink color on his cheeks. I turned away with a blush on my own face, not one of us saying a word. With our hands like this, I secretly wished our driver would take the slowest route possible so I could continue to enjoy the warmth of Kars’ hand on my own. Or at least ask more about our “marriage” so I could pull another move.

However, nothing could come before the goal. For Kars, nothing could come before the stone, not even me. Whatever time I had before he acquired the stone was all I needed and I would savor it. Thunder crackled around the car as we ventured on. Our trip had only begun.

Chapter Text

The weather had lightened by the time our driver announced we were in the town of Domaso, about an hour and a half outside Saint Moritz. Kars kept a tight grip on my hand until the very last second, only letting go to open the car door. We tipped the driver a good fare and he wished us a happy anniversary before heading back to the city. 

 

We stood on the side of the road under our umbrellas. Domaso was a small town, not a single person out on a day like today. There was a post office, a couple cafes, clothing stores, and government buildings. Nothing you wouldn’t find in any other town, but it provided the privacy we needed for our trip. 

 

Kars hadn’t spoken a word during the drive, an irritated look on his face. I also felt the worry he did about his friends in Venice and the stone. Aside from that, I was probably the only one to recognize that we needed a bite to eat. 

 

“Should we head into one of the cafes? I’m starving.”

 

“Make it quick.”

 

I huffed, feeling like I was travelling with an annoyed teenager or in his case, a grumpy old man. 

 

The closest cafe was quite small, but for a simple sandwich and coffee, it would suffice. The plate arrived not long after I ordered. Business was slow on a day like today. We sat at a round table near the window without much discussion. I couldn’t tell what had continued to bug Kars since we had left the temple. I knew leaving made him anxious, but this was concerning. I figured I was at fault. 

 

“Look, I didn’t know what to tell him okay? No one would believe we are siblings and you scare everyone so no one would believe we were friends. Being married was the only realistic scenario.”

 

I swallowed my gulp of coffee and set the cup down with a rattle, crossing my arms. I began to feel a blush crawl up my neck, Kars bringing his gaze to meet my own. His eyebrows furrowed and I could tell I was about to be subject to one of his characteristic lectures.

 

“It was smart. I went along with it.”

 

The words flew out of my mouth before I could stop them. 

 

“You didn’t have to hold my hand the entire time. You were the one who wouldn’t let go.”

 

Kars scoffed and turned away, the same dark rose reappearing on his face as it had in the car. Now he was annoyed. It was hard for me not to smile so I hid my face behind my sandwich as I finished it.

 

---

 

The sun dipped below the horizon as we finally made it to Saint Moritz. There weren’t many drivers in Domaso willing to take us which caused Kars’ to grow impatient. We just reached the road leading up the manor in a stolen car that I was being forced to drive. I don’t know if stolen was the right word for it, since when Kars threatened the man he simply ran away leaving the keys in our grasp. 

 

Another couple of twists and turns lead us down a backroad, merging right onto the driveway of the manor. I thought we took a wrong turn, about to end up in the middle of a forest left for animals to devour. Yet, after another 10 minutes the house came into view. The eerie building asserted its dominance in the middle of the snow-covered spruces surrounding it. The forest was dense and no other building could be seen for miles. It was ideal for hiding the Red Stone of Aja. 

 

The car was parked and unloaded, my skin tingling in the cold night. Kars looked up at the house with satisfaction, another step had been completed. Our boots crunched the snow as we made our way inside.

 

It wasn’t unlike the temple before, there were cobwebs and layers of dust. Instead of stone walls and tapestries, there were embroidered curtains, candelabras, broken mirrors, and elaborate furniture. There were a multitude of rooms and parlors and that was just the first floor. 

 

With the matches we got back in Domaso, I found two candles and kindled their worn out wicks. Small flames came to light and we decided to scour the building, making sure it was safe.

 

“I’ll start upstairs.” I nodded, both of us breaking away to get a layout of the house and to bring matches to the fireplaces to warm up the rooms. It was absolutely freezing.

 

I felt like I was in a storybook, the ones where there was a haunted mansion and things that went bump in the night. The manor felt...lonely more than it did haunted. I got lost in the old architecture and historical appeal of it, forgetting I had to stay on guard. 

 

I was upstairs in what seemed like a parlor, thick curtains blocking the windows, a couch and card table. The wind howled outside and even inside the room I could see the fog of my own breath. The candle I had didn’t illuminate more than step in front of me, which is what I soon realized was my disadvantage. 

 

Wack .

 

A door slammed behind me. I was about to exit when suddenly a hand wrapped around my mouth, a scream coming out before it was blocked. My arms were suddenly twisted behind my back, I was trapped. 

 

Three men entered from an adjoining room, dressed in all black with switchblades in their hands. I didn’t catch a glimpse of the one behind me, though I assumed he was in the same attire. They started to shout in their Swiss German language that came across as gibberish to me. I tried to kick and shout, but they came close to me with the tip of their blades. I assumed they were part of a gang, criminals at the least, and they found refuge in the secrecy of this manor. 

 

They talked among themselves, sharing a laugh as I struggled to move my arms. Where was Kars? Did I not have enough time to scream? I wasn’t sure if they would kill me and just leave me here or mug me first. They kept their blades up as if I could possibly fight while being held back. 

 

They heard Kars and I enter the manor and remained hidden in a room, waiting to pounce. I shouldn’t have gone upstairs on my own or at least armed myself with a pocket knife. I never considered myself in danger when Kars was close, but I was lost in my own delusion thinking that he would always be there. 

 

They were growing impatient, one of them coming close and running a hand along my side, his friends cackling. His hand dragged along my breast and down my waist to the wallet in my back pocket. His hands retrieving some of the cash that was inside and waving it around triumphantly. My struggled breaths came out in huffs. He began to tease me by dragging the edge of his blade along my neck, my heart pounding. 

 

“Get out.”

 

The power in Kars’ voice sent shivers along my entire spine. I was no longer the center of attention as their blades went to him. The man holding me whirled me around to use me as buffer. Kars’ eyes were as bright as the candle in his hand. It extinguished, leaving his blazing red eyes and black silhouette remaining in the doorway. I had not seen this look before, and if I hadn’t known Kars I would have feared for my life. The men shared confused looks between themselves, but refused to back down. 

 

He scoffed at their stupidity, making his way in.

 

Kars’ threw his hand in an arc, the two men flying back against the wall. Smashing against some old picture frames before landing on the floor. Dust was sent whirling into the air by their impact, clogging their lungs. There was a beat before they gained a sense of what happened, rushing back to their feet and dashing towards Kars. 

 

Whoosh .

 

Kars unsheathed a curved blade of his own. Using the momentum of the men running at him, he sliced across their chests in one fluid motion. They slumped to the ground, finally silenced. 

 

When he faced me and my captor, I saw his blade covered in blood and flesh. It resembled a scythe and it was...attached to his arm? Not with a bracer or cuff...Kars’ skin molded around the blade as an extension of his own body. There was no light in the room, but it glowed and shimmered like a diamond in the dark. I couldn’t take my eyes off it, and neither could the man holding me back. He was not perturbed however, still using me as a defense. Releasing his grip on my mouth, he fetched his own blade. I panted when he pressed the edge against my chest.

 

Kars was far from amused.

 

“Let her go.”

 

The sting of my skin breaking brought forth another scream from me. The man dug the knife into my chest. The warmth of blood soaking into my coat. He would let me go, but not unharmed. I was twisted and shoved into the wall, my head hitting the wood before everything went black. 

 

---

 

Kars watched Elle’s unconscious body fall to the floor, her skin torn by the blade held by this scum. He wasn’t as advantageous as his friends and tried to make a run for it. Kars reached out and grasped his collar, like a dog on a leash. It really wasn’t a smart idea to think he would be left alive. He was lifted into the air by Kars’ steel grip, no amount of struggling breaking his hand away.

 

“You shouldn’t have hurt her.” 

 

Tightening his fingers around his neck, Kars dug his nails into his skin and drained him of the life in his body. All that remained was the shriveled husk, but for him that wasn’t enough. Lighting the fireplace in the room, he burned the three bodies unceremoniously. 

 

Kars swore that she would not get hurt, and he already broke that promise. 

 

The rest of the manor was free from any intruder, he made sure. Assessing her wounds, there was a stab wound on her neck and a gash above her eyebrow where she was thrown into the wall. She would be unconscious for awhile. Kars lifted her up and took her to a bedroom downstairs, the fireplace already kindled and warm. He would have to go out and find some bandages and blankets to keep her warm. The blood was still seeping through her clothes. 

 

He hated to leave her alone, but in order to keep her from freezing to death or bleeding out, it must be done. Untying the turban at the back of his neck, Kars undid his wrap and let his hair fall loose around his shoulders. Tearing the cloth in half, he unbuttoned her coat and wrapped one across her chest to restrict the blood. Another around her skull for the same purpose. His trench coat became a blanket that he bundled around her to keep the icy chill from reaching her skin. 

 

Kars was stripped of his clothes and pride, his fault being that she would be safe alone. Even in this manor far from the city, there wasn’t a guarantee. She knew this, but he had failed her in his promise to keep her from harm. The blame was on him and now he was emotionally paying the price.

 

Holding her hand in the car to Domaso awoke in him something he hadn't remembered feeling since the time of his people millennia ago. The thought of a life partner was never a priority for him, love was an obstacle to his power. Now, Elle's smile, her wit, and courage had made him feel alive. He wondered if he tore that connection from those he slaughtered before being forced to sleep. Meeting her gaze, holding her hand, it made him want more. Kars wanted to protect her, but what else could he offer if he couldn't even do that? 

 

There wasn’t time to lose. More preparation needed to be done, Kars exited the room with two tasks on his mind. The first was for supplies to treat her wounds, food, and firewood. Second, Kars would search for weapons. With this incident and the impending battle for the stone, Kars decided it was time Elle learned how to fight. 


Chapter Text

The ringing...what was that ringing? My eardrums pounded with that unending sound. Accompanied by the ba-dum, ba-dum of my own pulse. What happened?

 

...

 

The manor, the intruders, Kars...it all came back to me. The thrum of my pulse in my ears caused my head to spin. I remembered blacking out after being slammed against the wall. There were three of them, Kars killed two, but I was unconscious before I could see what happened to the third man. Opposing Kars, he must have had a fate worse than death. 

 

My chest burned as I went to sit up, jolting my memory of the blade that pierced it. Instinctively reaching my hand to it, I felt the softness of fabric stretched over the wound. Kars must have patched it up along with my head after eliminating the rest of the intruders. Where was he now? Did he leave the manor?

 

My eyesight cleared and I sat upright in a bed with the fireplace ablaze across from me. The jacket Kars wore on the journey now rested on my body as a blanket. He was nowhere to be seen. If my head didn’t feel brick-like, I would have rushed to find him. However, any movement from my end had to be slow and precise. 

 

My makeshift gauze was a black fabric that I was positive I had seen before...I couldn’t place the memory. It must have just been scraps Kars found in the manor, tearing it in half to wrap around my head and chest.

 

I wasn’t able to gauge how much time had passed since I was thrown unconscious. The clocks in this house probably stopped decades ago. The ache in my wounds were fresh, the fight couldn’t have been more than an hour ago. Where had Kars gone since then? I had so many questions.

 

No matter his promise, Kars couldn’t protect me. Just as Joseph couldn’t guarantee he would save me. I had to stop relying on others to ensure my safety, no matter how close or how powerful they were. Even if I wasn’t equipped with the best weapons or strategy, it was every man for himself. Kars had his mission, I had my freedom. We couldn’t prioritize both. 

 

The chill in the air crept underneath the coat once I sat up more. I would fall back asleep for the night if I could rest in front of the fire. Here, I would freeze to death. The pressure in my head, the sting in my chest, I had to fight it to reach the fire. 

 

What should have been ten steps became fifty. It was a miracle I made it out of the bed standing straight. The loss of blood made the room morph around me. I gripped Kars’ coat close to keep the warmth I had, the chair a few feet away. The fire breathed its warmth onto my skin, my bones and muscles relaxing at the heat. All I had to do was turn and sit.

 

The vibrancy of the flame distorted my vision and soon my feet became unsteady. My energy was draining and I felt my head start to drag me down. My body collapsed. 

 

“Elle!”

 

Instead of being knocked unconscious for the second time that night, I fell into a pair of arms. My vision fading in and out. I glanced back and saw a wave of purple hair, shock and adrenaline taking over my pain. 

 

“W-who are you? Get off me-!”

 

Those maroon eyes stared back worryingly. 

 

“Kars?”

 

I was lifted into the chair. My mind felt like a pendulum and it took me a few seconds, but I came to. The room coming to a standstill with Kars’ form settling in front of me. His wine-colored hair draped down his shoulders in loose curls, three horns adorning his forehead. I was already struggling to regain my breath, but this “new” Kars was making it harder than it should have been. 

 

My wounds...he unwrapped his turban to create a makeshift bandage for them. That thought alone brought a warmth to my cheeks that even the fire couldn’t give.

 

“Kars...your turban.” 

 

He looked perplexed, he clearly wasn’t expecting those to be my first words after being unconscious. 

 

“Don’t worry about it, you were bleeding and needed a bandage. How are you feeling?”

 

The pressure in my head began to subside once I had been seated. I couldn’t look away from him. If he was beautiful even with the turban on, now he was...ethereal. 

 

“It hurts. I’ll be okay, it was just a cut and knock to the head. What about you?”

 

Kars kneeled by my side and chuckled, reaching up to press a hand to my cheek. Who was this? This sensitive Kars was the polar opposite to the menacing killer from an hour ago. I didn’t reject his touch, I welcomed it. I wished for this closeness between us. It was depressing that it came after one of us had gotten hurt. 

 

“You don’t need to worry about me. I took care of them...”

 

Kars’ eyes wandered to the fire. There was a pain in his expression that pulled at my heartstrings.

 

“I shouldn’t have left you. I promised to keep you safe. I’m sorry.”

 

“It wasn’t your fault,” I leaned forward to draw his attention back to me, “Even if I got hurt, you still saved me from what they could have done. You wrapped my injuries and made sure I had a warm place to rest. If I was on my own I would have been dead.” 

 

It wasn’t going to remove the guilt he felt, but I could try and reassure him that I would make a full recovery. Kars informed me of the bandages he bought and extra blankets and food. There were some more gentle touches exchanged as he helped me rewrap my cuts with a gauze and medical tape. A comfortable silence settled in the room. There was guilt hanging in the air, but the best we could do now was to heal and move on. 

 

Throwing more firewood into the hearth helped the warmth reach the corners of the room. Coat aside, I reached for one of the thick blankets Kars retrieved. We let the time pass, still unsure of how many minutes had slipped into hours. 

 

~

 

Kars stayed beside me on the sofa facing the fire. There wasn’t much else we could do before the morning when he would alert Esidisi and Wammu to move in on the stone. It was difficult for me not to stare at his features now that I could see them with his long hair. The turban emphasized his facial symmetry, and now with the hair added, he looked godly. 

 

“Why do you hide your hair? It’s beautiful.”

 

Kars smirked, the bloodied turban resting in his palm. 

 

“I hid my horns, they are symbols of status. Not everyone deserves to see them.”

 

“And I’m only seeing them because I am hurt.”

 

“I do not mind you seeing them, you are special to me.” 

 

The heat in my face paralleled the flames again, my mind a whirlwind of emotions (as well as physical pain). It was hard enough to keep my head from spinning, once Kars said that ...I was practically brain dead. 

 

“Either way, you have really excellent features. If the men in your race looked anything like you, Esidisi, and Wammu...Girls now would go crazy.”

 

Laughing caused some pain, but if it meant seeing Kars’ blush again, it was worth it. 

 

“I won’t leave this room for the rest of the night. We can’t risk anymore intruders. I’ll be here if you need any help.” 

 

I sighed, laying my head back against the sofa, the lull of pain dragging my eyelids down farther. 

 

“Why now?”

 

Kars lifted a brow, waiting for me to elaborate. 

 

“You have always been so distant. I’d say I’m the best treated prisoner there has been. You can be quite intimidating at times, but I’ve experienced your mercy. I’m nothing more than a pawn. But now, I wonder if I truly left that you wouldn’t stop me…”

 

A couple beats passed. I wasn’t sure what I was meaning to say, let alone have him make sense of it. It must have sounded ridiculous. 

 

“I wouldn’t stop you, but I do not want you to go. I don’t see you as a tool against Joestar any longer. You are too stubborn. My goal is the stone, but now that includes you.”

 

“Includes me?”

 

His gaze shifted to me, and his eyes were the deepest shade of rose I had ever seen them. 

 

“Not as a pawn, as my own.”

 

As my own.

 

The words echoed in my thoughts. Even if I wasn’t hurt, I don’t think I could process them. I had grown close with Kars and given the chance at freedom, I would think twice about leaving him. He was unique, powerful, and handsome. We got along well, but we were just as different. Kars was thousands of years old, had supernatural abilities and knowledge. I was in my twenties, just starting my life. What sort of relationship could come of that? 

 

There was something about his presence that kept me roped in. I hadn’t dated much throughout high school or college, so I wasn’t an expert. But with Kars beside me, I felt like I was the only person in the world in that moment. My body felt relaxed and drawn to his, wanting to feel the tenderness of his touch. Our conversations kept me on my toes, whether we were joking or bickering. Everyday was a new experience with the same Kars. My reasoning was at war with my emotions. My short life couldn’t compare to his, so I weighed against reason. I let my heart do the thinking. 

 

What I couldn’t predict was my heart leading me to scoot closer to Kars, still staring at me and expecting a response to his last statement. What he got instead was my face beside his. I imagined how weary I must have looked from the attack, but nothing could stop me from what I was about to do. 

 

I fell into the kiss. Quite literally. 

 

I wasn’t the most stable in my condition, so inching closer to his lips meant I toppled against his chest. Once my mouth landed on his, the rest just followed. Kars’s arms encircled me to hold me steady, his kiss intense. I felt a bloom in my chest where my heartbeat began to speed up. Before either of had to make the next move, I pulled back. My palm remained on his shoulder where I had been holding onto him. Kars was absolutely flustered. As much as he attempted to look impassive, he failed. 

 

With what I felt during that kiss, I couldn't leave him now. I wanted to be with him. I was only a second compared to his millennia, but time stopped during our kiss. I wanted to keep it like that as long as I could. 

 

I made no motion to escape his grasp, instead I settled in. Resting my head against his chest, the weight of tonight drawing me closer to sleep. Kars pressed an extra kiss to my head and his arms tightened around me. 

 

We laid like this for awhile, the firewood crackling providing enough background noise. 

 

“I hope you recover soon.” Kars whispered, my blush coming up again. Did he really care that much?

 

“I will, don’t worry.” 

 

“If I’m teaching you how to fight, I can’t have you throwing knives at me half unconscious.” 

 

“Wait...what?”

Chapter Text

The chill of the early morning bit at my toes. Quickly, I drew them under the blanket where the warmth resided. No more firewood was crackling, no more howling winds, the night was over. 

 

The heavy curtains masked the dawning sun. Thin strips of light still making their way through, casting a blue tone over the room. My head pain dulled to a chronic tenderness and I was able to move about more freely upon waking up. It was hard to pull myself away however, since I had woken up on Kars’ chest as he slept peacefully on the bed beside me. 

 

Once again I couldn’t remember falling asleep, only recalling that I had been close to him when I did. He must have moved me to the bed afterwards, and I was curious if he chose to sleep beside me or happened to pass out as I did. I had no preference for the truth. Waking up with him next to me was all I needed. First, he was a thousand degrees. Secondly, I felt more safe with him here and asleep than far away and awake. Last night had made me more cautious, Kars’ teaching me how to fight was necessary. Lastly, I could stare at him and not feel weird. His hair was a mess, but he made it look good. 

 

I was scared to make myself more comfortable, already snuggled up next to him. It’s not like reaching my arm around him would hurt...would it? Adjusting the blankets, I snaked my left hand across his torso to hold him at his waist. I felt like I was attempting to cuddle a boulder, my arm barely reaching his other side. I gave it a few seconds to see if he would try to escape my grasp.

 

Awake or asleep, I was no match for Kars’ strength. His giant form shuffled around and I was beginning to lose my grip. I bit my lip, holding onto him before I simply couldn’t. Before I knew it, his arms were around me instead. It might have been cuddling, but it could easily be seen as a bear hug. I was pressed closer to his chest than ever, two warm arms securing me. My forehead fit right under his chin and the sound of his heartbeat almost put me right back to sleep. 

 

I murmured some expletives about him abusing his power, wanting to simply cuddle him but was instead being suffocated. 

 

“I don’t have to hold you, you know.” 

 

I wondered if it was bright enough in the room for him to see how red my face was. I was a mix of embarrassed and flustered. Peering up, I saw his eyes open lazily, a smirk tugging at his face.

 

“I thought you were asleep.” I grumbled, wishing I hadn’t moved at all. 

 

“I was, but I had the privilege of waking up to you cursing my “stupid, barge-sized arms”’. 

 

“I didn’t mean it.” I huffed. God, wasn’t he so pleasant in the mornings?

 

“I’m not offended, you couldn't fight back. Although, it was fun to see you try.” 

 

I loved how it felt to have his arms around me, but I felt the more I held on the more I was giving in to his stupid games. With another huff, I settled in, feeling his demeanor relax to the coziness of the morning. Our banter had always been like this, insulting and with me always on the losing end. He was always ready to remind me that he was a superior lifeform, which only made my need grow stronger to call him a total dick. 

 

I was unsure of how Kars felt after I had kissed him last night. There was no resistance on his end, and for someone who wanted me “as their own”, I figured a kiss wouldn’t be out of line. We didn’t speak much afterward, so I stopped there. If Kars wanted to achieve omnipotence, I didn’t think he was focused on kissing. 

 

He interrupted my thoughts by inquiring as to how my wounds were healing, and if I would be able to move about on my own today. 

 

“I feel a lot better, I needed the rest most of all. Within a couple days, I’ll be back to normal.”

 

“I am still going to show you how to defend yourself. When Wammu and Esidisi make their move on Joestar and the stone, I want you to at least have some training. The fight will likely reach Saint Moritz.”

 

“I should have learned sooner. It’s becoming more dangerous now that you are so close to the stone. What if Joseph has really mastered hamon?”

 

“Wammu knows what he is doing. He is a great warrior and has never lost a battle. This will just be another victory for him.” 

 

“What about you? How can I protect you?”

 

Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum . The echo of his heartbeat filled the silence as he chose his words. 

 

“Once I have the stone, I will become invincible. Before I get it, I will not let you put yourself in harm’s way for my own sake. If something were to occur and I couldn’t fight, you need to run. No matter what happens to me.”

 

His words weighed down my heart, the possibility of him being hurt plaguing any rational thought. If he couldn’t defend himself, there was no way I could. Joseph had been able to scar Wammu’s head and that was before he was given the opportunity to train. After a month, it was plausible that Kars could be defeated before he reached the stone. The power it would take to defeat Kars would make me a snapped twig if I were to intervene. I had to trust him. 

 

“I understand.”

 

Our banter had taken a turn, both of us realizing the very uncertain ending his mission could have. One of us, or both, could end up dead. 

 

The day had yet to start. We remained tucked in the bed, close to one another. Savoring moments like these were my priority, knowing that if they never happened again, I could remember this fondly. 

 

~

 

“That was too slow. Are you sure you’re up for this?” 

 

A couple days passed without word from Wammu or Esidisi, Kars grew impatient. I had healed enough to move on my own and offered that he begin training me. It helped pass the time in a productive manner. His irritation grew worse at the delay of the red stone, but there was some distraction. 

 

“Sorry I’m not exactly comfortable with trying to stab you Kars, I can tell you from experience it’s not fun.”

 

We were in a large chamber near the back of the manor. Pushing all the tables and chairs to the wall left a good strip of flooring that was ideal for training. It was around two in the afternoon and Kars was demonstrating ways to strike with different grips on a knife. He had picked up a small blade for me the night I was attacked. I was grateful, some security resting in my own hands. 

 

Since Kars had superhuman capabilities, there was no need for him to wear armor. My aim was to attack in the structured moves he taught me, but I kept my blade from fully striking him. 

 

“You cannot be afraid to injure someone to protect yourself. Resisting an attack is the first step, but you cannot always stop your enemy.” Kars repeated, both of us standing at the first position again. I nodded, carrying the blade in a reverse grip. Closing the distance between us, my right arm went up, and then down, the tip of the knife heading towards Kars’ chest. His left arm came to dodge, and I maneuvered so the knife went under instead of over his dodge. As soon as I felt the pressure of the blade touch his skin, I halted.

“Good. That’s better. I promise a small cut won’t hurt me.” 

 

His smile of approval made me blush. I was delighted more at the fact that I was learning how to fight. It was a practical skill. It elevated me from some useless girl to someone who could at least fend off others. I wasn’t a match for the Pillar men or Hamon, but I could steadily hold my own from now on. 

 

“Once more, surprise me this time.” Kars laughed, returning to his starting position. We mimicked a scenario where my attacker was walking towards me. My main goal was to avoid the fight if possible, but then to disable the opponent's ability to fight if there was engagement. 

In reality, if I saw a figure like Kars approaching me, I’d sprint the other direction. 

 

We paused, sizing each other up. That dumb smirk still lining his face. We began to walk.

 

Our footsteps neared, and the intensity of our gazes grew. We spent hours training, he could have expected a number of attacks. He was three steps ahead, but I created a new move. 

 

We were a foot apart and I began to draw my blade. His eyes registered where my hand was going and began to fortify himself. The sharp edge was revealed and I wound up my arm, committing to the strike.

My hand descended, the knife flying across the room. 

 

My hand came down, grabbing Kars’ face and bringing it towards mine. I attacked him with a kiss. He made a small “umph!” sound when my lips touched his. A part of me dared to bite his lip as I stepped back, his expression the definition of rage. Underneath it all was a pink tint on his cheeks, which I could tell only made him more upset.

“You told me to surprise you.” I cooed, returning that smirk he taunted me with earlier. I brushed past him coolly, going to pick up the knife. 

 

“You can’t just kiss your enemies.”

 

“You’re not my enemy, Kars. We’ve trai—”

 

My arm was pulled behind me and I spun around to face him. Kars’ inched his face up to mine, the vexation still painting his features. 

 

“I could be.” 

 

Something changed then. His rage was replaced with what I could only describe as...hunger. My heartbeat quickened. I was at a loss for words, but I didn’t want him to stop. His lips came closer. A breath away from my own...he let go. A hearty laugh erupted from his throat. 

 

“Another lesson, don’t become enamored with your enemy either. I’m sure Joseph Joestar would love to kiss you, but if that ever happens, use that knife.” 

 

“Who knows, if Joseph kisses me, I might not fight back.”

 

The shadow on his face killed my joke, I had crossed a line. I slipped away awkwardly to retrieve the weapon from the floor. 

 

“But if you ever pull a move like that again, Kars, I’ll use it on you too.” I warned. We ended training for the day and began to exit. 

 

Teasing aside, Kars was always careful to point out his power over me. 

 

“Like I’ve said before, you can’t fight back...but I’d love to see you try.” 

Chapter Text

Seven days, no signal.

Something had gone wrong. Esidisi and Wammu couldn’t have been posted near the stone this long without acting. They could be anywhere...the stone could be anywhere. 

 

A blizzard ravaged the landscape outside the manor, sealing all the doors and windows was the only way to keep the warmth inside. It was early evening, the living room an echoless chamber. Kars and I had been waiting anxiously for any sign. The gentle moments between us had paused for a time. The fight was surely drawing close, and things began to unravel. 

 

“I’ll go get more firewood.” 

 

Letting go of the pole I was mindlessly tapping the fire with, I retrieved a spare coat from the rack and swung it over my shoulders. At the door, I looked back at Kars. His maroon eyes were emotionless, staring into the wall of the room. 

 

The manor had the same feeling I remembered experiencing the day we arrived, lonely. With the tension and impatience building up, every step felt heavy, each passing moment became slower. 

 

The front door was in my sight now, and I bundled up for the harsh wind. 

 

Thankfully when I stepped outside, it died down momentarily. The bitterness of the temperature stung at my cheeks and brows, which were uncovered. I had reached down to pick up the wood when I heard the door slam back open. I feared it was the wind, but footsteps crunched the snow behind me. 

 

“Kars? Where are you going?”

 

“To get the stone.” He didn’t halt his walking, forcing me to drop the wood to keep up with him. 

 

“But what about Esi-”

 

“Esidisi is dead. It’s up to Wammu and I now. You need to stay here.” 

 

What? Dead? How could he...Kars was getting farther away and none of my questions had been answered.

 

“Like hell I’m staying here, I’m going with you.” I had managed to catch up with him and placed myself right in front of him. He stopped in his tracks, lowering his displeased gaze to me.

 

“I taught you how to fight for defense, not for attack. You wouldn’t be of any use.” The tone of his voice was mocking, this is the Kars he showed his enemies. No more hidden smiles or jokes. 

 

“I wouldn’t be of any use staying here either. Isn’t the point that I haven’t been of any use since we came here? You could get hurt. I’m going with you.” The edge in my voice set me back, I was never aggressive. Yet, with this impromptu mission I snapped at his command for me to stay behind. I didn’t care if I was still healing from the intruder’s attack or if I have never been in real combat, I wasn’t staying here. I wouldn’t budge. 

 

Kars never responded, only continuing to walk past me. 

 

I crossed my arms and rolled my eyes. It was quite amusing to see him walk away so boldly, knowing he made already messed up the first step. 

 

“We might want to take the car, it’s faster.” 

 

---

 

The talk on the ride was minimal, Kars telling me where to turn and drive. The drive lasted only 10 minutes at most, we were farther into the forest now. I was told to pull off the road and stop the car in the middle of practically nowhere. Although I assumed wherever we were headed, we couldn’t make our arrival obvious. I sensed that Kars knew he was about to get himself into danger, even embracing it. 

 

I slammed the driver’s door shut and followed him, he didn't wait until the engine turned off before he got out and began to walk. 

 

“Where exactly are we headed?”

 

“A lodge where the stone is being kept.”

 

“How can you tell?” I skipped a few steps to catch up with him, his aura tense and ready for the unexpected. 

 

“I’ve been looking for this stone for thousands of years, once it’s close I am able to track it.” 

 

I nodded, shutting my mouth. The cold wind whipped at my skin, our trek reaching into the night. The last I had checked the time it was about nine or ten at night. My eyes watered from the temperature. I tried my best to keep my composure. My knife was tucked safely under my coat, never too far from my palm. I had to be on guard, most, if not all the fighting would be left up to Kars, but I had to prepare mentally. 

 

The lodge came into view, two cars parked outside. 

 

“Stay here, Elle.” Kars gestured to a cluster of trees a good distance away from the lodge itself. I didn’t contest. Wrapping my coat tight, I hid away in the darkness of the forest. From a distance, I observed Kars as he approached the side of the lodge and placed his hands against its exterior. He had powers that I had yet to see in action, this must be one of them. His head lowered in deep thought. Suddenly, with his blade of light he seamlessly sliced the outer wall of the lodge. The ‘S’ shaped scratch was made with no difficulty. Kars abandoned the mark and leapt the window above it, standing on the windowsill like a doorway. I wasn’t sure what the mark did, but knowing him, it had to have been deadly. 

 

The light was on in whatever room he stepped down into, but that was the last I could see of him. I waited. 

 

---

 

The stone was in his grasp, the only barrier between it and him was the mechanically enhanced German soldier named Stroheim. It would be an easy fight. 

 

“Hey, rifleheads!” 

 

As if Kars’ stand off with Von Stroheim couldn’t get any worse, the familiar whine of Joseph Joestar interrupted their fight as he entered the room. He shouted, seeing the blood that coated the walls. 

 

“Kars! Von Stroheim!” 

 

Following his reconciliation with Stroheim, Kars warned Joseph that he would take the stone and end him. 

 

“I can’t allow a Hamon user who could defeat Esidisi to live.” 

 

Stroheim called Kars’ attention back to him, the blade from his arm being held by Stroheim’s robotic hand. 

 

“Over here, Kars! I will be your last opponent!”

 

Kars dragged his stare back to him, his proclamation humoring him. 

 

“No machine can stop me.” 

 

“You think so?”

 

---

 

I was beginning to freeze sitting behind the trees. The wind picked up, stinging my eyes more. I hadn’t seen Kars reappear in the window and began to worry. I spotted the army truck outside again and wondered if there was a possibility that guards were posted outside the lodge. Maybe they already saw me hiding in the trees. Without second guessing, I began to stomp through the snow towards the window. 

 

The handle to my knife was warm in my palm, ready to strike. The light from the window came into view along with a wave of voices. Before I could get any closer, the wall exploded with a boom. 

 

Rubble came flying from the window, the sound of bullets whirring past me. The blast of the gunfire roared over the wind. I dove for cover and turned, seeing Kars’ standing in the middle of the debris. 

 

“Kars!” I shouted, pulling out my knife from my side, waiting for any sign of the enemy. 

 

The bullets shot through him, not deterring him in the slightest. If I hadn’t been knocked to the side, I could’ve seen who was firing the gun. The sound of my voice alerted Kars and he noticed me to the side of the rubble. He ignored me and his voice erupted during the madness, his blade beginning to shimmer. 

 

“That stone will be mine!”

 

With the light of his blade, I finally saw the silhouette of a German soldier across from him, holding a machine gun at his hip. Squinting my eyes, I realized the machine gun was his hip. He looked like he was half man, half machine. The brilliance of Kars’ blade blinded everything. The ringing of the bullets started again, Kars’ deflecting them all faster than they could shoot. THey ricocheted in every direction, forcing me under cover again. The gun ceased firing, Kars charging him. 

 

Once slicing the German soldier with his blade, he fell in pieces. His arm, then his torso, landed amongst the bits of wall and bullet shells in the snow. 

 

Kars picked up the torso of the German soldier, the cyborg was still alive. “Santviento was nothing but a child! Now I’ll take the stone.” 

 

The stone was in his reach! Kars patted the pocket of the German soldier, pulling off the pocket and pulling out the stone. I knew it instantly when I saw it. A bright, glimmering red gem. The red stone of Aja. It was set in a necklace, smaller gems surrounding it. Kars walked away, stone and soldier in hand, heading towards an icy cliff to dispose of the cyborg. The brown hair of another individual caught my eye. It was Joseph! He looked stronger, more in tune with his surroundings as he followed Kars. I stood, pulling out my knife. I had to protect Kars, so I followed Joseph silently. 

 

The three (and a half) of us neared the edge of the cliff. Joseph hadn’t picked up that I was pursuing him so I hid behind, waiting for the moment I would have to present myself. 

 

“UV Laser!” 

 

In a second, a ball of light shot from the cyborg’s eye, piercing Kars’ hand and cheek. Two deep holes scarred Kars’ skin, the wounds already healing. I reacted out of instinct, making my presence known.

 

“Kars!”

 

I jumped while yelling Kars’ name, rushing over but maintaining a distance between the fight and Joseph Joestar. It was too late. The hand that held the stone was hit, the stone flying from Kars’ grasp. 

 

“Elle!” Joseph’s attention turned to me, completely stunned. Was he always this slow?

 

The splunk of the stone hitting the packed snow echoed. All of our eyes watching the red gem slide down the cliff towards the edge. A deep abyss lay in the stone’s tracks, Joseph and Kars running after it. 

 

I watched in shock, only running a few steps behind them before giving up. Realizing I couldn’t match their speed and that I might fall off the cliff myself. I could only hope that Kars would grab the necklace and survive the fall. 

 

Kars leapt, Joseph pulling a cheap trick that caused the stone to come flying back to him. With a blade extending from his leg, Kars pulled Joseph with him. They were gone, I ran to the edge, skidding right before the drop off, watching them fall. 

 

“Kars!” 

 

To my left was Stroheim, or what was left of him, watching the edge in just as much anticipation. Three others ran behind him, one I recognized as the blonde who was there when Joseph tried to take on the Pillar men by himself. It had been so long since then, he looked like he trained and had grown as well. Another lady and man were next to him, our eyes all fixed on the cliff until they noticed my presence. The blonde one turned, his eyes widening in recognition and surprise. 

 

“It’s the girl! You’re alive?” The blonde asked, his name coming to my mind...Caesar…

 

My knife was beginning to slip from my palm, I couldn’t possibly take them on alone. They were masters of hamon. If they knew I was on Kars’ side, they would have no trouble tossing me over that cliff behind him. I had to think of a plan. 

 

Looking down and seeing Kars’ form fade into the icy darkness, I felt the sting of tears that weren’t caused by the wind. 

 

“H-he wouldn’t let me go. He brought me here to use as a bargaining tool, but he…” I choked up, putting on quite the show. Caesar’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, offering me a hand. 

 

“Don’t worry, you’re safe now. We can protect you.” 

 

I stared up at him with large, doe eyes. I saw a pink tint line his cheeks and I knew I had convinced him, Caesar helped me away from the edge and positioned me near Lisa Lisa. 

 

She didn’t look as moved, keeping a watchful eye on me. 

 

Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing

 

Caesar was leaning over the side of the cliff, his voice echoing below. 

 

“If Lisa Lisa is up there, tell her the stone is safe!” I heard Joseph call out, meaning Kars was gone. He had fallen to the bottom. 

 

I had no clue what the next step would be, I had to make do until I could escape or he would come for me...Would he come for me?

 

Once Caesar had pulled Joseph up from the cliff, Lisa Lisa took the stone and kept it close. 

 

Everyone settled down in a moment of reconciliation, all of their eyes on me. 

 

Joseph looked intrigued and relieved to see me alive, Caesar still had a small blush on his face. Stroheim couldn’t seem to care less, and Lisa Lisa and her minion still looked at me apprehensively.

 

“I don’t trust her, restrain her.” 

 

“She was kept by Kars as a hostage, how could she be dangerous?” Joseph defended, throwing me a lazy smile. 

 

“She could know information we don’t and we can’t let her escape with it.” 

 

Finding no fault in her argument, it was Caesar who clasped my wrists together. It was a familiar feeling, but instead of being locked away with ancient demigods, I was being taken by their enemies. I had a role to play now, and I better play it well for my sake, and for Kars’. 





Chapter Text

We stepped away from the cliff, a gloomy feeling masking everyone’s face. Kars had fallen to the bottom, but we all knew he was alive. The fall would only deter him, it wouldn’t finish him. Not letting their guard down, Caesar kept my wrists together and forced me to start walking back to the lodge. 

 

“He would be foolish to make a second attempt at us, we better get going.” Joseph muttered, rubbing the back of his neck and giving the stone to the woman named Lisa Lisa. 

 

The rest followed silently, Joseph picked up Stroheim’s torso and head to carry. Lisa Lisa held the stone protectively, a relieved but stern look coating her features. It suited her. I had heard from Kars that she was the hamon coach for Joseph and Caesar, she was the one training them in their month long agreement to defeat Wamuu or Esidisi…

 

“Wait…” Breaking from my silence, Caesar turned to me, his interest piqued. 

 

“Is Esidisi really dead?”

 

“Yes, he was banished by the sun.” Joseph muttered, nothing less and nothing more. I sighed, a new fear arising in my gut. If he could speak of his death so trivially, they really must be more prepared for their fight against Wamuu and Kars than I thought. No one else answered as we continued to walk.

 

Once we reached the lodge, we went up to a floor that still had a wall remaining and gathered in the room. Here with the small fireplace, it was like half the building wasn’t turned to dust. The room felt like a shell, ready to crumble at any moment. It was warm and quiet, no one saying much at first. I felt back at square one. I almost laughed at the small irritation I felt from Caesar restraining my wrists behind me, reminding me of the first few days I spent with the Pillar Men. 

 

The door slammed shut and Caesar left my side to join his coach and Joseph. They were murmuring and sharing glances between Stroheim and I. The other foreign looking man guarded the door, not including himself in their business. Even without Kars in the room, the air remained tense with his energy. 

 

Joseph cleared his throat, excusing himself from the group and swaggered over to me, throwing out his right hand. 

 

“Sorry if we started off on the wrong foot, I’m Joseph Joestar, you’re savior.” He winked. A devilish grin appeared on his cheeks naturally, so he was a womanizer. If only he knew he was the complete opposite of my ‘savior’. 

 

I shook his hand, introducing myself as Elle and nothing more. 

 

“I think the first thing we should ask is...Are you okay?” Joseph rubbed the back of his neck anxiously, everyone’s attention was on me now. Lisa Lisa even seem like she had been meaning to ask me the same question.

 

“I’m...alright, it could have been much worse.”

 

“You’ve been trapped by Kars for nearly a month, all of us were rather...surprised to find out you were still alive. Esidisi mentioned you when we last encountered him, saying you were a pawn of Kars’. We were worried about how long it would be before he…”

 

Killed you.

 

Joseph didn’t finish, but I knew those were his next words. I slouched down onto the couch, letting out a deep sigh. In the span of a night I had gone from being Kars’ prisoner to being claimed by his enemies. They must think I have been tortured and beaten for the past month, starved and treated as a slave. That’s what they wanted to hear, but they couldn’t know the truth. I was training to fight along side Kars if necessary, we shared nights together talking about our pasts and lives. For two people so different, we had a lot in common. Kars knew a lot of the ancient world, and I had studied it. He was a living textbook to me. To him I must have been the same, he would try to grasp the world as it is now as I tried to understand how it was during his time. 

 

I couldn’t share in Kars’ aspiration to become the ultimate being, he was already stronger than any human, even ones with Hamon...or so it seemed. He was capable of becoming a god, I wasn’t born with any power like that. The only advantage I had was that I was able to face the sun. Such a minor thing, but it kept him from reaching immortality. With his almost possession of the stone, he’s missed his chance again. 

 

“Well, I am alive. I’m surprised Esidisi mentioned me, he seemed to not have time for me.” I chuckled. I realized after that talking about them jokingly didn’t sit well, they saw the Pillar Men as man’s greatest enemy. I saw them as three annoying fossils. 

 

“We know where Kars is located, we were able to track where Esidisi meant to send the stone. But we know you have information on his defenses and plan of attack, what are they?” Lisa Lisa scowled, once again I thought it suited her. It seemed that she was always in a state of irritation. 

 

The gears in my mind worked rapidly. They already knew his location, so I couldn’t deceive them there. I could fake my depth of knowledge on his plan. 

 

“I- I don’t know. He only ever spoke of becoming the ultimate lifeform. I was kept in a room most days, I was hardly a pawn. He told me I was a token to use against you. I couldn’t speak unless spoken to, or else he would…” 

 

I pulled back the shoulder to my jacket, the old bandage from my stab wound appearing in the firelight. They didn’t have to know Kars’ saved me from the robbers, instead they could believe it was him who harmed me. I remember his maroon eyes glowing that night when he saw their blades pointed at my neck, Kars protected me. He promised no harm would ever come to me. I acted like those words were never spoken. 

 

Caesar rushed to my side, inspecting the bandage. 

 

Fa male? ” 

 

The confusion written on my face caused him to laugh apologetically, he repeated his question again in English. His thumbs gently brushing the worn edges of the bandage. 

 

I faked a smile. “No, it doesn’t hurt. Not anymore, it was a deep wound at first, but it’s healed quite well.” 

 

Up close, I could see the pain in his green eyes. He had to have been around my age, but the weariness in his gaze was unmistakable, it aged him. It was the look of someone who was forced to mature at a young age, and with having to deal with Joseph Joestar, I’d imagine he would be the mature one. I caught myself staring and turned away, clearing my throat. 

 

A pink splash of color painted his cheeks as he excused himself and backed away from me, Joseph laughing at our awkward moment. 

 

“Don’t start making moves on her now, Caesar...at least not before I can!” He winked again at me. For all his stupid comments, there was an undeniable comfort in Joseph’s light heartedness. He was a magnet, I could see why these people stayed with him. 

 

I wanted to hate them, to keep my guard up. But it was hard knowing how genuinely worried they were for me, for one person. I had seen the merciful side of Kars, and had been protected from harm, yet at the same time he was capable of extreme destruction. Joseph, Caesar, and Lisa Lisa were powerful Hamon users who were just trying to stop Kars’ from unleashing mass destruction. I was between a rock and a hard place. Deep down in my heart, I cared deeply for Kars. I found him beautiful, powerful, and kind at times. But again, I was just one person. Because he was merciful towards me, it didn’t guarantee his mercy for the rest of the world. I was shrouded by a curtain of ignorance when it came to Kars, and slowly that curtain was dissolving the longer I was in the company of his enemies. 

 

“If we are introducing ourselves then, I’m Caesar Anthonio Zeppeli, it’s nice to make your acquaintance...again,” He smiled, offering a polite bow instead of a handshake. His charm came from his reservedness, I found myself slightly blushing at this. 

 

“You can call me Lisa Lisa, I’m their coach, though I’m sure you already know this.” 

 

I nodded, the only two left in the room were the foreign man by the door, and the half cyborg German soldier named Stroheim on the chair across from me. 

 

“That’s Messina, he’s one of my men.” Lisa Lisa answered for him, a small bow coming from him. 

 

“I’m Colonel Stroheim, Germany’s best soldier. I have much to ask you about the Pillar Men. The Germans are very interested in their capabilities.” 

 

Stroheim adjusted in his seat, irritated that he only had half a body to work with, mechanical or real. Some other German soldiers came in after we arrived to tend to him, but he stayed to introduce himself. 

 

Kars had told me about Santviento’s encounter with Stroheim when he awoke, and how Stroheim had already died once and was back again to defeat the Pillar Men only to use their power. Joestar and his friends wanted to put an end to the Pillar Men and their power for good. 

 

I never responded, thinking silence would suffice. 

 

“It’s best to stay here for the night, at least we know Kars won’t come back for her. There are rooms upstairs. Tomorrow she can lead us right to his hideout.”

 

Lisa Lisa excused herself from the room, the sound of her heels echoed up the stairs. The rest of us didn’t take long to follow after.  

 

I found a single room with a simple four-poster bed, a fireplace already lit. It looked clean enough, a step up from an abandoned manor. Shaking off my shoes, I sat on the bed, the first time I had been able to relax all evening. Just when I thought I could lie back and take a second to breathe, a knock interrupted. 

 

“Yes?”

 

“It’s Joseph, can I come in?”

 

“Sure.”

 

The door swung open and Joseph stood between the door frames, his broad shoulders nearly fitting. 

 

“I came to make sure you have everything you need?”

 

“Oh, yeah I’ll be fine, thank you.” I stuttered, Joseph had a glimmer in his eyes that he didn’t before and I didn’t like it. 

 

He stepped to the edge of the bed, standing right in front of me. That mischievous look faded away and he let out a low sigh. He must have thought better of himself than to say something flirtatious or witty.

 

“I’m sorry we couldn’t save you when they woke up in Rome. We’ve been worried about you since, I’m glad to see that you’re okay. We’ll take care of you now, we are a lot stronger and have the power to defeat them.”

 

Joseph placed a simple pat on my head, giving me a kind smile that was contagious. I thanked him and he left, making sure I would be fine for the night. 

 

As I let the fire die, I thought of that evening I shared with Kars. Our accidental kiss. Suddenly I felt foolish, when it was the two of us, it felt like there was no one else in the world. But now things have changed, and feeling of pity sat low in my stomach. 

 

The light dimmed and I tucked myself under the blankets, waiting for sleep to hit me. The silence inside the room was unsettling. The only sound was the hum of the wind outside scraping against the frosted window. I bundled myself deep into the bed, closing my eyes and forcing myself to catch even a second of sleep…

 

Little did I know I would get anything but.