Priceless Gift

There were rumors of a ghost that has been causing trouble to the town of Fatima the last few months. Croix, a freelance demon hunter, was asked to investigate the matter by a personal representative of Fatima. Croix was not a fan of ghost hunting as he liked things he could kill, but he wanted to continue to make amends for his past. He had friends tell him that he did not need to do such a thing and that nothing was ever his fault. But even if a demon was the one that controlled his body, Croix still felt that he played a part of what the it caused: Alouette’s death, the deaths of many other innocent people and of course Angelique’s.

It is the reason why Croix continued to be a demon hunter. He was hoping to find redemption; to find a way to forgive himself. It was not about who or what to blame, it was the fact that Croix felt guilty. In the end, it was his body the demon used, and it was not something that Croix could ignore. It has been a year since he was freed from the demon for good because of Prier and her friends, and Croix continued to be a demon hunter the whole time since. He had no idea what he would find or if he would find anything that would claim his redemption, but he thought that he was at least taking the right step.

Being known as the Demon Prince at one time was covered up thanks to La Pucelle. Father Salade did not think that Croix was a threat and thought it would be wrong to have people know about what he used to be. If word got out that Croix was the Demon Prince at one point, the rest of his life would be a living hell. Keeping it a secret must not have been an easy task, but Croix did not question how La Pucelle pulled it off. As he was wandering to different lands and going to different places, no one accused or even recognize him as the Demon Prince, so it was obvious that La Pucelle was doing their job.

The way to Fatima has become less dangerous recently after Croix and his group of friends traveled to it, partly because of their efforts of pushing through the wildlife and caverns to reach the town. But nature seemed to have played a part as well, for the dangerous currents that surrounded the continent became calm. Since the currents started to slow down, trading with the continent was more common, more people were now commonly using the paths and patrol guards were stationed around areas as well. The continent started to grow and prosper a bit. Even though it has only been about half a year that people started to travel to the continent the progress that it was growing became great; Fatima grew larger, new homes were being built, businesses were opening, trade was becoming successful and there were even plans for new towns at the time. The largest factor for this was because of the large demand for construction. Anyone could get a job at Fatima or anywhere in the continent at this time.

Unlike many, Fatima was one of the last places that Croix wanted to ever go back to though. But a representative from the town personally requested for his assistance. It was one thing when people would ask Croix to help catch or destroy a demon when he was in town, but it was another when someone came by with a request from a town that is in a whole other continent. That was not factoring that Croix does not have a permanent place of home or residency; he is constantly on the move going to one town to the next. It was no easy task to find him. Also, above all reasons, Croix believed the was not a coincidence since he figured that sooner or later some a twist of fate was going to cause him to come back to that land.

The sea voyage took about two weeks to get to the Holy Continent. He liked it better when he could get there in only a few days from Homard's flying ship. Croix was not used to long sea trips like the one he took, so he was happy to finally set foot on land when he did that day. They boarded on the Western side of continent, and even though Croix has not been on that continent for quite some time and the area was slowly changing, he was still familiar with the land. He knew how to get to Fatima from where he stood at the moment. But when the ship finally reached the harbor (that was still under construction) it was too late to travel, so he took a rest with the crew who camped out near the shore. Guards are not stationed outside of cities once it became dark, there were just too few who would be willing since it was too dangerous.

Early in the afternoon on the next day, the representative and Croix were only steps away from Fatima. They walked through the hot and humid forest and the dark and damp cave, the cave being a welcome for the two because it was cool and felt much better to be in than the forest. The cave was more of a relief to Croix since he continued to be stubborn and left on his trench-coat in the heat. They encountered no dilemma during the walk. In fact, if one was to factor out the heat, it was quite a nice hike.

Fatima was not far way now, and Croix was finally showing signs of being nervous; his sweat was not only from the heat of the day. His palms were also sweating and his hands were shaking as he was smoking. Croix has significantly lessened the amount of smoking he has done during his travels, but unfortunately it was this bad habit that kept him from snapping altogether now. He figured the stress would kill him first before the cigarettes at this rate.

The representative stopped in front of the gates. “Are you nervous?” he asked innocently.

Even though it should not have, it caught Croix by surprise. “What!? Of course not!”

“But you are breathing very heavily and you can not seem to concentrate-”

“It’s none of your damn business!” Croix said in a matter-of-fact tone. But even if Croix was nervous, he knew he had no reason to snap at the man. He was only trying to be sincere and did not have a clue of why he was nervous. “I’m sorry.”

The representative shrugged Croix’s comment, deciding it was just better not to ask, and made a high pitched whistle which seemed to have notified the guards. In only seconds the town gates opened up, which showed a bursting city inside. Only a year ago the town was very small and isolated with very few people living there. Now it was crammed full of architectures, craftsmen, carpenters, businessmen, all busy doing their respective jobs. There was much construction and many buildings either beginning to be built, in the middle of being built or just recently completed. New stores could be seen everywhere shelving various items and of course there were plenty of new homes, though the town still had some tents set up, so there was apparently not enough. Or maybe those tents just belonged to the workers who were planning to leave when their jobs were done. There were also buildings for training to become soldiers, hospitals for the sick and a new church as well. This was only a small portion of what Croix saw when the gates opened. He could not start to imagine how much the town expanded in the inside.

Finally Croix noticed something he should of earlier, the town gates. A year ago there were none, but now the town was surrounded by huge walls on four sides and guards stationed at each gate. And the way the town seemed to have been growing, Croix thought that the walls would have to expand eventually. But there was something else that he noticed underneath all of this; no one paid even the slightest attention to him. Some people took notice of him, but other than the town gates opening and the apparel he was wearing, there seemed to have been nothing else that interested anyone about him. With the huge expansion of the town and the lack of interested paid towards him, Croix no longer felt like he was at Fatima, even though he knew he was. This made him very relieved and relaxed.

“It is this way to the mayor’s office.”

The two walked through the busy town. There were plenty of noises from construction, people shouting at bazaars and even some music with dancers all around. Fatima now had such a different feeling than it did before. Croix did not just feel comfortable, but welcomed. He was now smiling, waving to a few people and even braved a few hi’s and hey’s. This was something that Croix has not felt since he started his solo travels, and he could not fully understand why he felt this way now.

Croix had not realized when he reached the mayor’s building as the town was too distracting. There was a huge man who sat by the side of the door which anyone would describe with the same thought; being seven feet tall and would snap your neck in a fight if you were unlucky enough to get in one with him. Luckily though, the brute took one look at the representative and just twiddled his thumb, which meant apparently that the two were allowed in. They entered and went down a hall to the mayor’s office. The representative walked into the office and came out a good minute later saying the mayor was expecting him, and with that Croix walked him. When he heard the door shut behind him he realized that the representative did not follow him to the mayor’s small but yet tidy room. There was simply a filing cabinet, a few chairs and the mayor’s desk, with the mayor sitting behind it of course.

The mayor was a chubby man who had a large mustache. He wore nice attire of a suit and a tie and seemed like a cheerful fellow. He had short brown hair that he parted in the middle.

“Ha ha! Richard told me you were here. You have no idea how long we have been waiting for you. Take a seat, take a seat.” The mayor said.

Croix did, and the two talked for awhile, saying basic hello and casual talk about themselves but even though the mayor seemed like a nice guy Croix just wanted to get to the center of the whole matter.

“A-hem, yes, let us get to the point.” the mayor said after a cough. “Are you familiar with the dead Couscous Village?”

Croix nodded. “Yes.” he responded. “I am very familiar with the place.”

“Ha! Good! I was told you would be! Well, since the damn place is nothing but a ghost town, so we decided to try to restore it! Goddess knows we need more homes. At first, we tried to rebuild it, but the town spooked way too many people. After awhile though, we found some brave souls, willing to go in there and rebuild that place from nothing if need be.”


“Well, you see, there is this house that is giving us problems. We want to just tear it down, but we can not. Well, we can; it is just that no one will. It is haunted, by a ghost of course. Well, I mean, the whole town was haunted by ghosts at one point actually.”

“No kidding?” Croix sarcastically replied.

“Yes! And this ghost was like the others; it does not try to hide itself. More than enough people have seen the thing for themselves from this town, including me. You can spot it in the house during the day even. And at night, the house will be lit up by candlelight.”

“Really?” Croix asked.

“Yes! Candlelight being lit by that ghost itself! Quite a few of us have seen it do it. Not for long though, the thing intentionally tries to get us out. Throws things at us and starts to scream a bit if we stay too long. There is one thing very strange about this ghost; it only appears to stay inside the house. When the town used to haunted, ghosts were everywhere. Not only did this one not disappear with the others, but it only clings to that place.”

“I don’t see what the problem is. Just don’t build around the house.”

“It’s not that simple and sooner or later it would become a problem again.”

“Fair enough. So what have you tried to get rid of it?”

“The usual method of calling La Pucelle . They did a number of exorcists, but the ghost will still not leave. And as I mentioned earlier, I have tried to get people to tear it down as well, but let me tell you, no one will do it. No one has a problem when they think it is hunted, when they know it is that’s a whole different story.”

“Hm.” Croix said. “You know, even though I am a demon hunter, I have never done exorcists or anything like this before. This…might not be my field.”

“Actually, on the contrary” the mayor replied, all of the sudden in a serious tone. “I disagree. I have gathered information about that town and house and you see, I did not only ask of you because I’m told of what you can do, but also because apparently you used to live there over fifty years ago.”

***** ******

Croix accepted the job. It was now late at night, the best time that Croix thought that he should investigate the house. Not only for stereotypical ghost reasons, but also because he would rather do it without a chance of a crowd.

The town itself seemed more dead then he remembered it being when he was here a year ago. Ironically the town seemed livelier when the ghosts used to live in it. At least then you had a sense of company, and as long as you could get over the super natural, you would realize there was nothing to fear from the ghosts. If all Croix had to worry about with this ghost was it throwing some pots and pans, he knew he would be alright. There was one good change in this town and it was that it no longer snowed here. The place was a lot warmer than it used to be; in fact the temperature was at a perfect balance of not being too cold or too warm.

There was something that Croix did not like about this place. It was not about the ghost (or the lack of) or being alone in the dark but instead just more memories. More than Fatima, he wished he would not have to take another step in this town again. Croix was now in front of the ghost house. There was no mistake about it; this was the house he once lived in. How the mayor was able to gather that intelligence was a mystery that was haunting Croix within these last few hours. The mayor actually thought it was a rumor, but it was the only thing that he could go by, which was why he sent someone to search for Croix in the first place. As far as Croix could tell, the man had no clue of his past.

The time was around midnight, and Croix has been keeping an eye at the house for about an hour. There was no light coming from the house just yet, and he had no plan to go in until he saw some. Anxious, Croix pulled out a cigarette. But at the same time the match was lit though, a light came from the house. It was the signal that Croix was waiting for. He discarded the match, threw the cigarette into his pocket and went to the house.

Croix took out a key that the mayor gave him from his left pocket. The mayor said that the ghost usually kept the door locked (or doors, Croix could not remember if there was more than one leading in and out)-as if it wanted to be by itself. The more Croix thought about, the more childish this spook seemed to be. He put the key in the keyhole, but as he turned it he heard no bolt or click. When Croix twisted the key the other way, he realized that he was actually locking it. This did not seem like a coincidence; the ghost was inviting Croix in.

He turned the knob and slowly opened the door to reveal the most decaying place he has ever seen. It looked bad enough from the outside but it was only a lot worse inside. The place was not only a rotting mess, but there were cobwebs and dust everywhere. There were bookcases and cupboards that were falling apart, if they did not already. Books, clothes, utensils and other trinkets lied around the floor everywhere. He also noticed a fire place that was caved in from bricks that fell from above. And the smell was awful. There was mildew and moss growing around this place (and maybe even fungus), and mixed in with everything else it left a kind of smell that would make you want to vomit.

But there was one place in the house that seemed to have been kept in order. In the center of the living room there was small table and three chairs. They were not covered in dirt and did even look old. There were three sets of dishes on the table each containing one plate, one bowl and basic silverware. In between the three sets of dishes was where the candle was. It was strange, outside the light seemed brighter, but inside it was dim. Last of all, there was a ray of moonlight, because of the hole on the ceiling, which covered the table.

But there was no ghost to be found. Croix wanted to see this thing, especially now that he was in the house, so with some quick thinking he blew the candle out from the one end of the table he was standing at. After a moment, there was a sound of a flame being ignited from the other end and the candle was relit, but the ghost still did not show itself. Being persistent, Croix blew out the candle once more, and the ghost relit it. And, as if it gave up, the ghost finally showed itself. It was now standing on the center chair between the other two and from the other side where Croix was. The ghost had short red hair, a violet nightgown, had cute wide eyes (though being a ghost, there was no way to tell what color those eyes were) and was holding a teddy bear on its left arm. The ghost was a little girl, looking no older than a toddler.

“Please stop that!” it said, in a young scared voice.

Croix had a wide stare and a dropped jaw for a moment; he was nothing short of being shocked. Now that he thought about it, he never was told what this ghost looked like, but he didn’t imagine it to be a little girl. But in light of this, one thing made sense to Croix. “You’re scared of the dark, aren’t you?” If it was a ghost of a toddler, then Croix thought it might have had a mind like one as well.

The little ghost nodded. It stood there for good moment in silence and then said something very peculiar “Thank you.” It was all it said, and stood silent yet again.

Croix was confused of course. “Thank you? Thank you for what?” Thank you for what indeed, for why did this ghost have any reason to thank him? Did he fall for some kind of trap?

“I have been waiting so long to see you, a very long time. I was here when you came a year ago, but you never came to see me. Why?”

“What are you talking about?” Croix asked, only more curious and confused than before. “Why would I want to see you? I never even meet you before.” Croix did not think it was a trap anymore as much as he thought this was literally a poor lost soul.

“You never wanted to see me? But I have been waiting so long. It is the only reason I waited, the only reason I am here. It is the only thing I am allowed to get from this world; a chance to meet you. I have meet mother many times, but never you, father.”

“What the hell are you talking!?” Croix yelled, but then calmed down, and got a hold of himself. “Sorry, but I am not anyone’s father.”

With that, the little ghost lifted its right hand, and then disappeared, along with the flame that lit the candle. When the light disappeared, the table and chairs were all of the sudden in bad condition as the rest of the house. The plates and bowls were shattered all over the table and floor and the silverware was everywhere. The neat table setting seemed to have nothing but an image. Croix never heard of a ghost that could do that, but it did not surprise him.

But then the whole house was starting to change. First of all, it was no longer dark, the place was filled with light but yet there seemed not to be a source of it all. The house was no longer a mess; instead it was clean and organized, and looked exactly to Croix as he remembered it. There were even little details in the house he noticed that he forgotten about, but these were little things like cracks on the wall or some other small thing that needed to be fixed. Croix knew this whole setting was an illusion, but he had to make sure, so he ran to the nearest window and looked outside. Indeed, he was still at the town of Couscous with no snow and no soul living or dead. He was able to put away his greatest fear of being sucked back into the past.

For an illusion, it sure was good though. The whole house had a warm glowing feeling to it. It gave the Croix the sense of being comfortably at a home as if there were no fears and worries for a single moment. The setting of the room was calm and tranquil as if inviting him to sit down and relax. Part of that was the fire lit in the fire place giving that cracking sound. Another was all of the chairs, furniture, tables, a nice kitchen and other simple house essentials. Even the rotten smell that filled the house was no longer there. Indeed, Croix could relax here if he really wanted to.

But he knew none of this was reality, and to prove it he decided to become picky. He started to open cupboards and shelves, expecting none of them would open, or just reveal nothing. To his dismay though, not only did they all open, but they bared the usual contents cupboards and shelves would have. Croix then saw a random book lying on the floor. He recognized the book, since it was one he read a few times, and opened it up thinking there was no way any illusion could be detailed enough to include a whole story word by word. As Croix opened the book, and turned to its first page, he realized it began as he remembered it. (Or at least, as he generally remembered it since he did not know it word by word). He flipped through pages and skimmed time and time again at the story, and as he skimmed he could remember or at least recognize all of the different parts he read. The book even had the portraits that the real book did. This illusion was truly frightening.

What is the meaning of this illusion?” Croix wondered. He could not understand why the ghost was showing this, what did this child have to do with him and his old home? “And does that child think I am its father?” It was another fair question to ask, because as far as Croix could truly remember, he never had any children. Him and Angelique wanted to have one and even tried but she never bore any.

Croix tried to strain from that thought. He did not want to think about anything that related to Angelique, not right now. This illusion was too much for him already, he did not need the ghost to take it any further. But just as it seemed like the ghost was reading his mind, there came an image of Angelique. She had her back turned to him, but Croix recognized the red hair and the particular dress she used to wear. And even from her back, Croix could tell the similar appearance to Prier. She turned around and smiled at him and disappeared.

She kept reappearing and disappearing doing casual things: walking around the house, smiling, laughing, cooking, cleaning and even acted like she was talking to him. It reminded him of why he loved her so much. But she disappeared again though, and reappeared again with about three guards taking her into custody and forcing her outside. She never showed any restraint or fear, she just accepted her fate. Croix could hear the screams and protest of people demanding to take her and yelling to put her to death. The claims and accusations he heard from the townspeople were insane. They were just a mad crowd putting an innocent woman to death for no reason. “Why did you kill her when it was me you were after?” Croix asked himself, starting to get a bit angry.

The house became dark, but shortly was lit up again by an illusion of a tree on top of hill, where Angelique was tied up to a post and was only moments away to becoming executed. Croix was now outraged.

“What the hell do you want!? Don’t you understand that it is not inside me anymore?” He yelled. He felt like his heart literally sunk and he did not know if he could keep himself from actually getting sick. If he had to watch anymore of this he thought he would go insane. Was this its plan, to make Croix go insane, hoping to release the Demon Prince? Did it not know that now it was impossible? “There is no point to this torment!”

For a third time Croix was watching Angelique about to die. A knight raised his lance and lunged it right into her gut. But when the lance pierced her, the scene stop and everything turned black except for Angelique. And around her stomach there was a glow, dim at first, but then the light began to grow and shimmer. Angelique disappeared along with the glow but then she reappeared again smiling and then vanished. She continued to disappear and reappear again all over the place with her doing various chores and activities, exactly like how she was disappearing and reappearing earlier. But every time her image appeared, there was some sparking glow around her stomach. She appeared for a final time tied up on the post, dying, and as she was withering away so was the light.

Croix finally understood what this light was. The light did not signify Angelique, but instead another life; a life inside of her, one that was taken away when she was. It was a life of child that was not even born yet. Either Croix had forgotten or never knew about it, but his wife was pregnant.

The house lit up once again, new scenes began to play. But these were not scenes of the past but instead those that seemed to be from a wish. The images showed Angelique and Croix around a crib, looking down at a baby girl. The next images showed the parents trying to teach the kid how to walk, then images of trying to feed her, images of holding her and more. The scenes then began to show the girl become a toddler, eating dinner with her parents. This was all just a show of a girl growing up with her family, particularly a family of Angelique, Croix and herself. To Croix, he thought that girl might have been jealous of everyone that was able to go through that phase of life.

The house went dark, except for the ray of moonlight that shined in the living room; the moonlight being the only true source of light that was in the house. The unborn child appeared in the center of the ray starring at Croix and Croix’s eyes reflecting back to hers and him eventually breaking the mold of silence.

“I…understand now.” He said. “I don’t know what to say. Your greatest wish was to be with a family, but it seems you never had that chance.”

“That was my wish many years ago. But I have come to the terms of want I am. For years I only wanted to meet you dad.”

“Sorry I took so long.” Croix responded. “So, do you have a name?”


“Natalie.” Croix gave a smile. “It’s a great name for you.”

Natalie gave a smile back to her father. Slowly Natalie was becoming more and more transparent, as if she would vanish and not come back this time. “I have to go now. I got what I wanted so I can not stay any longer.”

Croix had a disappointing look to his face now. “So soon? But we only meet you!”

“I’m sorry. Without either or reason or purpose for us to be in this world, we are not allowed to stay. I do not have either, but that is because I am finally happy. You see, you have accepted me as your daughter.” Natalie had said, still keeping the same smile. Her image was very transparent; the last glimpse Croix saw of her was her hair that shined from the moonlight. The hair disappeared in just mere moments though along with Natalie herself.

Everything fell silent for moment, but just as Croix thought he was along in the room he heard a voice. The voice sounded more like a passing breeze though, but yet familiar. He was not able to make out whose it was; it could have been Natalie’s or Angelique’s or maybe it was just in his head. But wherever or whoever the voice came from did not seem important compared to what it said.

“Above the fireplace.”

Croix could not remember anything significant about the fireplace at all, but he listened to the voice and went to the living room where the useless fireplace was. Above it was a shelf that still stood. Croix was surprised it was still there considering how everything else was falling apart. On top of the shelf was nothing but a small box, small enough to hold on his palm, and it was wrapped by some sort of flimsy material. Since there was nothing else worth taking, Croix took the little box on top of the shelf. When he grabbed the box his whole body froze instantly. He could not move a muscle no matter how hard he tried. Then, as if it came from the box, something sprang right into his head, playing scenes that seemed like memory. But this memory played in Croix’s head and not in the house.

It was right after Croix lost control of himself the first time. He saw himself back in the house, wrapping something up in this same box. But was it the demon that was controlling his body wrapping the box, or was it Croix himself able to gain control, even for mere moments? Croix did not know, but he did remember the feeling he had as he wrapped the box; guilt. There was a guilty feeling he had in himself, maybe even strong enough to gain control of himself again. Or maybe the demon just allowed him to do this, since emotions like hate and guilt would only have helped it at the time. Since all of this was in his mind, the memory and his thoughts all took less then a second to transpire.

Immediately he knew what was in the box. Before Croix realized he was able to move his body again he grabbed the small box and ripped apart the wrapping. He opened it to reveal the single greatest gift he got from Angelique; his wedding ring. It was a simple gold round ring, and because Angelique was poor just like Croix, she could not afford it to be solid gold. But to Croix it was still precious. He was shocked. He thought it was a possession that he would have never laid eyes again; never thinking it would be right back at this house.

But there was something else in the little box that Croix missed at first. It was a small folded piece of paper under the ring. The thing that made it stand out in Croix mind was that he knew he never put that it in the box, but it was folded in a way with the intention to fit preciously in the box. Croix took out the piece of paper and unfolded it. He could tell there was a message, but it was too dark to read it so he took out a match he had in his jacket and lit it.

There was no mistaking the handwriting was that of Angelique’s and there were only two words that said “Be happy”. Croix was wondering when it was written and how it could have gotten in this little box. But the mysteries behind that were not as important as the actual message itself; his late wife wanting him to be happy. Croix extinguished the fire and threw the match on the ground. He took the gift and put it on his left ring finger. After one last glance around the house, Croix knew there was no longer a reason to stay. There were no more ghosts, no more voices and no more images. There was nothing haunting the house anymore except dead silence and an awful smell. Finally, Croix was the only soul in this house. With that acknowledgement he left.

***** *****

Croix spent the rest of the night in an inn at town. He slept well past noon, took a bath, had a late breakfast and was on his way. He informed the mayor, without getting into details, that the house was no longer haunted and collected a good sum of money for his troubles. Croix ended up donating most of it towards the town’s construction under an anonymous name though.

To most people in Fatima he was just an anonymous man who donated a huge sum of money towards the town (a huge sum for one man that is), not knowing what took place in the house. Eventually the town of Couscous was rebuilt; some of the houses were actually able to be restored instead of destroyed as well. Croix’s old house, of course, was not one of those houses but he would not have cared either way now. Because Croix never allowed people to know who it was that solved their ghost problem, no one ever knew who to thank, except the mayor, who always swore he knew nothing about it.

In fact it is not known if Croix ever told of his little endeavor that night, but he did not have to. Most of his friends only noticed the sudden change to him that practically took place overnight. He started to smile more often and his mind seemed clearer; as if a huge burden was finally lifted from him. The thought of living a good life amongst friends the way he wanted finally did not seem wrong or selfish; on the contrary it seemed right, as if it would have been a sin if he did anything less.

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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