"Go find Chere," he tells the footman flippantly. "And her commanding officer, whoever that is."
The man leaves, and Kefka turns back to his prize. It is sitting on the table in the corner, looking quite innocent; he's set it on top of a length of silky-smooth white fabric, and it looks more like the sort of thing a courtly lady would wear: simple, stylish, gleaming. Kefka has done good work, hasn't he? He slips on the gloves; he doesn't dare touch the Crown without them. His magic might... well, that's what Chere is going to find out.
The gloves are his own work, too. The fabric has been specially treated to insulate: steeped in an infusion of rowan and amaranth's-bane, over a large piece of amethyst and the remains of six crushed Wall Ring stones. This was his first step, to protect his own magic from the slender piece of metal before him, done before any of it even started. It isn't so much magic as intent, but Kefka knows his own particular intent - in this case, anyway - and he isn't really willing to take any chances. Not with this. Not with his Esper. Not with himself.
He folds a flap of the silky white fabric over the Crown, so that it's hidden from view.
There's a knock at the door. It's Chere, with some dull-looking man behind her -- must be her commanding officer; Kefka hasn't even bothered to learn the man's name. Chere is going places, and soon she'll be out of this loser's grasp and into a better position. As long as she plays along, that is. But he thinks she will.
"Chere." He eyes her up; she stands, rod-straight, at attention. Technically, Kefka's not even sure who outranks whom, but with Chere it never matters: she's an impeccable soldier, in every situation. "Thank you for coming so... quickly."
She nods. No words; but that's just like her, now, isn't it?
Kefka turns his attention to the bland soldier at her side. "I'm going to need a little bit of Chere's time. I need help in some of my Magitek work, and since she's our best Magitek Knight available at the moment, I've chosen her to be my assistant." Chosen. Yes, this is an honor, isn't it, Chere? He knows how much she values honor.
The man looks disgruntled -- not that Kefka blames him; he's about to lose his best soldier. Permanently. "How much of her time will you need?"
"Well," Kefka says, turning his gaze back to the woman before him. "That depends on Chere, mostly." He leans in. "It's very important that she's willing. To help, that is."
Her eyes snap to him like a salute. "What sort of help would this be, sir?"
"Research." He doesn't blink as he meets her gaze. Her eyes are so blue, cornflower blue, blue like the sky. "I'm working on something that will... help our Esper girl. But I need to examine the prototype. You're the best candidate, really." He smiles at her, with teeth. "I need to see how it works with your magic."
The boring man coughs, to bring Kefka's attention back. "And you can't just look at it yourself, Palazzo?"
"Ah." Kefka raises a gloved finger in the air. "And if I did, how would I see the effects, now?"
The man's lips purse in thought, but Kefka has already dismissed him. He turns back to the faint scent of magic wafting off of Chere. "I'll say again, Chere, for the record." He smiles again. "I wouldn't want to involve you if you're... unwilling."
"That's quite alright," she says, straightening her stance -- as if it could get any straighter already. "I am willing to assist you for today, sir. We shall see afterwards whether or not it is worth my time."
One day is all he needs. His smile tightens. "I very much appreciate it, Celes." He bows, and moves aside so that she can enter the workroom.
Her commanding officer lifts a hand, saying, "Hey, wait a minute!" -- but Kefka has already slammed the door in his face, giggling.
The room already smells like magic. Magitek. He's grown accustomed to the presence of his own magic, bubbling under his skin, but Chere's infusion took much better and it fills the room with a scent like melting snow. He can barely take it. Kefka checks himself, mentally, fisting his hands inside the magic-resisting gloves.
Chere is still standing by the door, so straight it almost hurts to look at her. "So," she says, in that cold voice. "What exactly does this experiment entail?"
"Sit down," Kefka says instead, gesturing at the chair he has so carefully placed for her. "Relax. It isn't going to be anything... difficult."
Her cold, blue eyes flick to the chair and then back to him again, so fast. "I'll stand," she says.
He shrugs. "As you wish." He watches her, for a minute. She's glancing around the room, taking everything in as best she can -- but she doesn't look suspicious. He's proud of her.
To his surprise, she looks straight at him and speaks. "Is this regarding my comments to the Emperor last week?"
Ah. He tries not to look surprised. "My dear Celes, this has nothing to do with anything other than my personal magical research." Of course he still remembers the way she questioned him in front of all of the Emperor's tables and made him look a fool, but that doesn't really matter, now, does it? Not now. He'd almost forgotten it, in the excitement of finishing the Crown. "I simply need your assistance if I am going to develop a tool that can help Terra. Nothing more -- and nothing less."
"Nothing less." Her blue eyes narrow, icy slits in her pale face. "What sort of game is this, sir?"
He folds his fingers into each other, feeling the mesh of the magic-rejecting gloves crush against his skin. He must keep his composure. "It isn't a game at all, Chere," he says, his voice soft and low. "I am merely willing to make sure you are... compensated for your efforts."
"Compensated." It isn't a question; Kefka actually approves, a little bit, of her composure.
He can't help but smile. "The Emperor is fully behind my research," he begins, and then adds casually: "Do you know you are on track to become a General?"
"Of course," she replies, cooly.
Kefka glances at his clasped hands, casually, playing one finger against the other. "I mean in a much more... efficient way than your average soldier." He pauses. "In a way that the Emperor is aware of."
She looks away. "I see." Her posture is still rod-straight; Chere is hard to read. He isn't sure whether any of this is getting through to her, or if she even cares; but Leo said she was quite serious about advancement, didn't he?
"Anyway," he says airily, "let's get to work, shall we?"
He turns to the small table, with the innocent soft white fabric lying in its rumpled pile. "What I've been working on is a tool which will... help us control Terra's magic. You understand that one of the Emperor's main concerns involves Terra's... unknown powers: she poses a dangerous threat to all of Vector if she were to..." He gestures wildly, with a giggle. "'Go rogue'. Many people would suffer."
He watches her response for sentimentality, and sees none. She nods. "I understand."
"And yet Terra is no good to us now, locked away as she is with Cid's Silence Ring." Kefka lets the phrase drop to the floor, and flexes his fingers again, in his insulating gloves. "You know the girl is a weapon," he continues, trying to provoke her.
She narrows her eyes. "What do you think I am, Palazzo? I'm a soldier, not some weak-hearted floozy." Her voice is sharp. "I am fully aware of the opportunity the girl Terra presents to the Empire."
"Good." Kefka dramatically flips the top layer of fabric away, revealing the thin slender edge of the Slave Crown. The sight of it fills him with glowing pride; he suppresses a delicious shiver. "I've been developing this to use with Terra. It will allow full use of her magic, but only when... suggested. This should help to keep her in check as we begin to make use of her."
Chere's looking at the Crown. Her face is expressionless. "So it dampens the will?"
Kefka smiles. "Something like that." He looks at her, feigning concern. "Are you afraid?"
"Curious," she snaps back, and he approves of her attitude. "What will you have me do?"
A dangerous question; his sense of approval grows. "The Crown is currently keyed to me. I'm the only one who can command it." He glances down at it, feeling almost fatherly. "You'll put it on. I'll tell you to cast some spells. I want to see how it interacts with your magic -- whether it interferes with your natural... efficiency."
Chere woodenly sits down in the chair and clasps her hands in her lap. "Very well," she says, her tone curt.
Kefka peels away the remaining layers of the white silk, revealing the Crown in all its glory. He's actually nervous, eager and nervous, excited to be finally placing his work on someone's head. He can feel himself unraveling, slowly, and checks it again: his magic is too excited, and Chere smells like Blizzard, and it's not helping.
He picks up the Crown. It buzzes against his protective gloves, but that's all: a light hum, the very faint tinny feel of life. Gently, so gently, he places it on Chere's head, sliding it over her pale hair, tugging it firmly into place across her temples. Chere, to her credit, doesn't move -- but he expected as much, didn't he?
The taste of magic in the air changes, slightly, and Kefka feels his own tickly-bubbling magic rising to the surface in response. It's too soon, he thinks, clenching his fists around the gloves again: they are not just to protect him from the Crown. They are to protect him from himself as well, from his own botched infusion. If his magic is allowed to emerge, it will interfere with the results.
"Chere," he says. She is staring into space, just past his shoulder, and the look on her face is even more expressionless than usual. She blinks as he speaks, but nothing happens. "Celes," he tries, and the s at the end of her name is a long slow hiss as she turns her vacant face to look at him. Her eyes are still so very blue, but as they meet his, he feels a surprising shock of heat: she is not there.
"Do you understand me?" he asks as a test. She nods, once, slowly, with none of her usual snap-jerk efficiency or icy-cool edge. Her pale hair falls into her face as she moves, pinned there by the crown along her forehead. Kefka kneels and tenderly brushes the hair from her face with his knuckle; she flinches a little, against his glove.
"Too much, my dear?" he croons, and strips the glove from his hand. He will put it right back on, but he can't help: he's curious to see, to touch, without the barrier. Her face is soft and smooth and her hair is thin and cold, and her magic buzzes against his fingertips as he tucks the strand behind her ear. She hasn't even blinked. Her eyes remain on the wall, across the room. Kefka, experimentally, runs his fingers down her silky cheek -- but he has to pull away, hastily, putting the glove back on, because his magic is fizzing and his body is growing warm and he's getting a little bit dizzy.
Chere hasn't moved. If he'd tried that in real life, tried to run his fingers across her smooth cheek like a lover, she would've bitten him. Focus. It isn't just the magic -- his infusion isn't as efficient; he knows this -- it's the fact that Chere is his, sitting in a chair with all of her stick-straight attitude and her rule-following and her shutting him down before the Emperor himself and she cannot do a thing. The power is electrifying.
Focus. He takes a few steps away; her eyes do not follow him. From across the room, he says, "Celes, I want you to cast Cure on yourself."
Her hands rise in the automatic motion she uses to call it forth, he's seen her do it before, and something tightens in the air -- and Kefka realizes her magic is linked with his as she casts, through the Crown, the feeling tensing in his body as graceful sparks of Cure shower down upon her soft skin right where he just traced his fingers--
"Now cast Cure on me," he says, before he can help it, and her hands lift again. She gestures, and the healing spell traces electric lines across his skin as it settles over him in a shower of sparkles and shimmering green. Kefka tries to hide the way it makes him quiver. He is tingling.
This will be the test, then. "Celes," he says, trying not to drag out the s simply because he likes the way it tastes like ice in his mouth. "Cast Blizzard on yourself."
Her hands lift, her mouth whispers, and the sharp electricity of the casting hits Kefka a second before the spell itself hits Chere, sitting in the chair. It's a direct hit. She barely moves as the ice strikes, clutching onto her skin. As the spell fades, there is the distinct scent of snow in the room, and the temperature drops.
Kefka casts Scan with shaking fingers. Yes, she has been damaged by her own spell. Kefka realizes he could order this again and again, until Chere lay unconscious in the chair before him. And she can do nothing about it.
She does not move. "Celes," he whispers, for this is the true test, whether she can still find a target for her attack spells that is not herself. This is what he wants for Terra, and his heart is in his throat. "Celes, cast Blizzard on me."
Again her hands lift, and again her lips move, and Kefka watches them for a moment too long: the ice comes to him like a thunderclap, clings to him, sharp and cold and hard and cold and pressing against his skin like pin-pricks and -- and his own magic rises in defense, a wave of red cutting across his vision, and --
The spell fades, and he simply feels the familiar warmth of his infusion, in uneven and ragged waves. "Celes, heal me." His words are lazy, now.
She does. Cure is like a warm shower, like a series of soft fingertips along his arms and under his gloves and down his chest. It tickles and tingles down his spine and through his bones and makes his vision rosy-happy. Kefka removes the gloves. He doesn't need those any more; he's proven his little toy will work. His little toy for his little Esper.
He'll have to thank Chere; congratulate her, somehow. That sounds like a good idea, now, doesn't it? She has been most helpful.
He walks towards her. His vision is still fringed in red, a little; it makes her face look flushed. "My dear Celes." He cannot stop hissing her name because he owns it, now; his veins are still ringing with her power. "However will I thank you? You've been such a help."
But he isn't quite done... researching, now, is he?
She's still staring at the wall, a little past him, her eyes vacant and bland but still so very, very blue. "Cure me again," he orders, and she does, instantly, the rush of white magic creeping up his neck and down his legs. His own magic is teeming, at this point; the red fringe is creeping into his vision in little tendrils. Kefka tries to shake it off, but not with very much emphasis.
He approaches her and bends down, until his lips are right next to her ear. His breath stirs her hair. "You can't do anything, can you?" he whispers. He is right next to her face, watching for something, anything, but she does not move. She does not even flinch. Chere's ramrod straight at the best of times, but there's no way she's faking this.
Nevertheless: Kefka moves the final fraction of an inch, taking the outer lobe of her ear into his mouth; he sucks on it, hard. He flicks his tongue against it. She does not move.
"You can't do anything, Chere, can you?" He closes his teeth on her ear, now, nibbling along the edge; he sucks dramatically on the bottom lobe. "Nothing you can do. You can't move, you can't fight, you can't even yell, can you?" He peeks around to stare directly into her face. Her eyes focus on him lazily, but that is all. Kefka wonders how aware she really is; does she know what he is doing? Is she somewhere inside there, screaming? Or is she truly gone, leaving him a magic-casting shell of a soldier to suckle? Her eyes are so empty; Kefka guesses it is the latter, although he cannot decide which is the more delicious thought.
He cannot stop looking at her; he can't stop laughing.
His gaze falls to the lacing up the sides of the bodice of the strange armor-top she wears, and something twists and tightens in his loins. Fire roars in his ears.
"Unlace that," he says, quickly, almost as a test, because he hadn't thought this far when making the Slave Crown: enslaving magic, yes, but will? Enslaving an entire person? Would it even -- but her hands raise, dutifully, as obediently as they did when she was casting, and her slender fingers make casual work of the lacing up the side of the armored top, slow but deft. How did she know which --? But yes, the Slave Crown is tied to him, to his thoughts, and so she would know exactly what he meant--
The rush of heat this time is incredibly physical, like an ache, as she lets go of the top; it hangs crookedly from her shoulder, awkwardly, and he can see the curve of one breast through the gap on the side. Her arms sag at her sides. Her eyes are vacant as she stares at the wall across the room. If that worked...
He is king.
"Take that off," he says, with an imperial wave of his hand, and crosses the room to lock the door. He doesn't even need to watch to know that she will obey.
Kefka can't stop laughing as he turns around. Chere is sitting in the chair, straight-backed, her silky pale hair just brushing past her pale nipples -- her gaze still expressionless towards the wall. The sight of her, motionless, will-less, empty, torn down past the usual defenses of pride and arrogance: even her clothing has been stripped from her. It's a rush, swelling his head and his loins, to know she can do nothing. Kefka is high on the power. His magic is swarming in from the outside, out from the inside, and he can do anything he wants.
"Oh, my," Kefka says to her playfully. "I bet no one has ever seen you like this, have they?" He pauses. "Except maybe Leo, but he's devoted and you probably thought you'd get a promotion, so that doesn't count." He brushes the hair back from her shoulders, letting his fingers linger; she is as still as a statue. "No one has ever seen this, have they, my precious princess? And yet here you are, right here, removing all your defenses because I told you to."
He leans in, his hands still on her shoulders, talking to her directly as if she can hear him: "And this is your punishment, my sweet, for the things that you say to the Emperor when I'm not around." His hands slide down, slowly, until they cup her breasts; his fingers dig in. "This is what happens to people who talk dirty about me behind my back. Dirty punishments for dirty people."
She hasn't even twitched; Kefka imagines that Celes is still in Chere's body, somewhere, somehow, screaming and cursing and twisting. He imagines as he plays her breasts in his hands what this must be like for someone like her, who prides herself on control and untouchability and -- and posture. Posture. He could fix that, too.
"Let's see what you look like a little more relaxed," he sing-songs, more to himself than anything. Kefka looks around the room for opportunities; his eyes fall on the white length of fabric. Slowly he spreads it across the floor, smoothing the wrinkles with his hands, enjoying the silky-smooth feel of it. "Fit for a princess, my darling," he says. "Come lie down."
Chere gets up off the chair; her top slides down her arm and lands in a puddle of pale yellow on the floor. Her walk has none of its usual crisp efficiency; she is slow, dreamy, calm, as she sits down on the smooth white silk; as she lies back, her eyes staring blind at the ceiling, her hair pools in pale puddles on the cloth.
"Nicer, isn't it." Kefka crouches down next to her, reveling in the power -- anything he says, she will do. She will do it willingly. "What other dirty things have you done, Chere?" No response, so he hisses her name again: "Celes." Her dull eyes look at him, but when he says nothing else they slowly slide back to the ceiling, vacant.
Kefka's vision flares red again and there are spots in his eyes as he scrambles on top of her.
"You all think you're so much better," he snarls, and his hands tangle in the laces on her leggings, not as efficiently as hers -- "Take those off," he orders, and her obedient, diligent fingers descend to undo the lacing in slow steps. "You think you're untouchable," he growls as she works, his own tugging motions somewhat impeding her progress, but he likes the way she doggedly continues to obey his orders even as he hampers them himself. He likes it a lot. He tangles his fingers in with hers, and she continues to work around them, her bland eyes on the ceiling. Her mouth is even open a bit, as if she's unconscious.
"You think you're special. Your magic makes you special. Your infusion makes you special." His own magic is making him pant. His vision is red-black and little spots gnarl in and out of focus as he watches her. It isn't fair that her magic is straight-on and his is so crooked, but who has the power now?
She's doing it herself. That's the best part of the whole thing. She's taking it all off herself. Chere is helping her own destruction.
"That's enough." Her hands still and Kefka roughly tugs the leggings off, down, leaving them bunched around her ankles like shackles: Chere, lying there, naked and bound with her head lolled to the side and her empty gaze on the ceiling like she's a corpse. But she's not, she's simply his, powerless to do anything, and she said she was willing. She's lying there, his to take.
"I can make you do anything," Kefka breathes, into her ear. "I could make you--" He could make her want this. He could order her, tell her she enjoys this. Would it work? Would it matter? It's just a test: testing the boundaries of the Crown. How far can he go before Chere wakes up? Comes back to herself? Before her eyes start screaming in rage and terror?
Kefka almost wants it. He wants her to remember who made her like this. The thought is heady, warm, heavy, and the red haze of magic settles over his eyes again. "Cure me," he orders, and the white tendrils of Chere's magic caress his skin once again and he's tingling and high again but all he can think of is getting every last inch of himself on that magic, the magic he doesn't have, it isn't fair--
"You're nothing," Kefka spits. "You may think your magic is all high and mighty, but who has the power now?" He clambers back on top of her, sliding his own trousers off, the magic pulsing at his temples now as if his head's going to explode -- pulsing in his groin, hot and hard and sharp. "You don't know what real power is, you fool, you sit at the high table with your sword and your simple little spells like you own the world." he's fumbling at her, now, at himself, eager with the thought of what he's about to do -- what he's able to do --
"You -- you -- you're not even pretty," he snarls, as he thrusts into her. It feels good, like a thousand spells going off at once all around him. He does it again, and again. And again. His vision erupts into black and red, fiery flowers blooming in front of his eyes, and he realizes he's thrusting into her so hard he's shaking her entire body as he does it, the tendrils of her hair tangling as her head flops back and forth across the floor.
"Cure yourself," he snaps, not really thinking about anything except getting rid of evidence, but as Chere casts her body tightens around him sharply like -- the magic tensing around his length, warm and tingling and it's almost over right there, red-orange firespots in his eyes. Kefka lowers his head onto Chere's shoulder, and takes a deep breath, but he does not stop moving - he cannot stop moving. His breaths come long and shuddering and they all feel icy-hot; his lungs are on fire with her chill. He's never fucked someone with magic before.
He lifts his head - it feels heavy; it takes hours; his hips continue - to look at her. Chere's eyes are blank, her gaze locked somewhere beyond the ceiling; her head lolls with each thrust, but gently, much more gentle than he feels. "Cure us both," Kefka says, and it comes out a growl. Chere lifts her fingers to her mouth around his moving body, and the spell traces tendrils down his spine and along his arms and up, through Chere: through Chere right into his groin, right into his core, her magic speaking to his and the red flowers bleeding across his vision, across Chere's pale blank face as it erupts in silver-red fireworks and Kefka comes, shuddering, gasping, triumphant.
The feel of her still body intrigues him almost immediately. He cannot control his shaking as he pulls away to look at her. She is still, prone, lying on the floor as if in open-eyed sleep. She is beautiful. She is empty.
She is his.
"There, there, my dear," he says, and he takes the white silk and cleans what he can. It's clinical, it's caring; his magic is crooning to hers. He dabs at her with a potion, and then says, "Cure yourself one last time for me, Celes."
Kefka looks at her. His vision has gone pink, a silky and contented rose, like flowers under moonlight. He wonders for a moment whether she'll wake and remember any of this; he cannot bring himself to care, at this point. He's been accused of untasteful things before. He will get out of it like he always does: he holds the Esper girl, and the key to her use, and the Emperor will always need him because of it.
Besides, there are so many things that can happen. A training accident. An unfortunate malfunction. Perhaps she reacted badly to the Crown and died here, on the floor. Such a tragedy that would be.
He helps her back into her clothing and lets her tie all her own knots, though, because this is even more delicious if she never remembers it.
Eventually she is sitting back in the chair and Kefka allows her to sit as he rearranges the room. He hides the silk in the bathroom, and brings out a single valuable Ether. Her magic will be nearly depleted at this point, and it would be ungentlemanly to allow her to leave that way. He puts the gloves back on and notes the way they grate against his palms; the fabric is scratchy. The touch of the gloves mutes the buzzing in his head; his vision clears.
She has sat, motionless, for these few minutes. Kefka bends down before her and tries to look into her blank eyes. It's hard to meet the gaze of someone who isn't there.
Delicately - so delicately - he reaches out and removes the Crown from her head.
It takes Chere a few minutes to come back to herself. Kefka remains crouched before her, watching intently as her breathing becomes more erratic, her blinking more rapid. Finally she closes her eyes, and draws in one long shuddering breath -- and as she exhales, she straightens herself in the chair, iron-straight.
When her eyes open, they are cold.
"What are you doing?" Chere asks, and the small bit of her voice that deigns to show emotion is puzzled.
Kefka realizes they're still close -- breath-close, lover-close, and he backs away hastily. "My apologies," he says, trying to sound concerned. "You'd worried me."
Chere frowns. Her eyes narrow, and she draws her stiffness about her like a cloak. "Did you get what you needed?"
"Oh," Kefka says, and he turns his pleasure into surprise. "You don't remember?"
She shakes her head, the jerky movement very unlike her usual controlled grace. "I recall nothing. You set your toy on my head, then removed it."
"It was a very successful trial," he offers. "Invaluable to my research. We will be able to use the Esper girl much sooner than I thought."
"I am glad to have been of assistance," Celes says, but she looks uncomfortable, and distant. He watches her for a long moment, trying to see whether he will need any sort of damage control -- trying to see whether she has any inkling of what just happened, any lingering memories or worries he'll need to lie away. But it seems that Chere is just being Chere, a statue of ice.
"Here." He hands her the potion. Their fingers do not touch. "For your magic."
Chere looks at it, and then looks up at Kefka. "Thank you," she says, and she sounds surprised.
Kefka giggles. "Oh, my dear," he replies, and bows to her. "No. I thank you."