The library had been closed early for the day due to the haunting. A small group of pristine reapers stood on the grand steps leading up to the entrance, two of which with refined coats standing higher up than the rest. All the reapers were in uniform, brandishing their signature scythes folded up neatly on their hips.
The commander with the long flowing ponytail, a red deep as roses, stood tall and proud as she addressed her teammates. She spoke to them as a prince would command his soldiers for battle.
“There is a full house tonight,” she said coolly, “at least ten spectrals have been spotted, along with the phantom haunting the librarian, Ms. Haul.” Beatrice kept a tight focus on her peers as they shifted in their spots. “I recognize this is a big mission for some of you, so it’s best to stay in pairs.”
There were a total of six reapers in all, and as Beatrice made her suggestion, the group broke up, picking their partners without much thought.
“Great,” Beatrice smiled, glancing at her own partner standing next to her. “I believe we have all been to the library, yes? Then remember your directions and call outs. If you find the phantom, call for me and Ray.” She made a light notion at her partner, who stood emotionless behind dark square-shaped sunglasses.
Ray’s darkened face and cold look made the rookies of the group a bit nervous. They couldn’t help but stare, knowing what she was.
“Now then,” Beatrice continued, “you two will take the left wing, and you others take the right.” She lifted a corresponding arm to instruct her command. “Remember,” she waggled a finger, “this is not a field trip, this is a job. So no slacking around and reading the books!” She began to turn towards the building, her coattails swishing behind her. “Besides,” she said, winking at Ray, “we already stormed this place for everything on the king.”
She unhooked her scythe from her belt, unfolding it to its full glory, as the blue blade shone brightly under the creeping moonlight. The other reapers followed suit, some stumbling to pull theirs out as flawlessly as their commanders.
Ray leaned in as they walked, keeping a close and quiet distance. “Thank you for leading,” she said.
“Hey, it’s no problem,” Beatrice smiled warmly. “I know you don’t like talking in groups.” She playfully tugged on her partner’s sleeve, and Ray let a small smile escape her briefly.
The two led the charge as they approached the overpowering library entrance, the old arched doors creaking with age. The last of the sunlight faded behind the reapers as they entered, and the haunting hour loomed upon them.
The Belmus Library was an older library in the country of Atrium, as the city itself was. It was large and cold, full of history and knowledge. It contained old artifacts from ages past, items filled with magic and mystery, tomes from eons ago and maps and baubles for those to examine. Most especially, a priceless collection from now bygone days of Dracula and his old castle. And now, on that autumn evening, the library was full of ghosts.
Books and shelves were toppled everywhere, loose papers fluttered about in the breeze as the reapers entered. There was a hollow silence piercing the air. Gas lamps had been broken, their glass shattered and strewn about to create a hazard. All the candles were blown out, with only their stale aroma left behind. The floorboards creaked with every step, and the walls groaned as if ready to fall down and collapse in.
Ray was ushered forward by Beatrice, who took a step behind. The white-haired reaper took a deep breath, taking in the surroundings. She narrowed her eyes. “More ghosts are in the left wing, some on level two and onwards,” Ray said, looking towards the children’s section. She scanned the library with her mismatched eyes. “I think Miss Haul is on level three, just about.” She turned to Beatrice, and they exchanged a knowing nod.
“Alright then, you four,” Beatrice turned to her peers, “take the left wing, Ray and I will find Miss Haul. This is a good time to practice your teamwork, okay?” She narrowed her eyes at a specific reaper hiding in the back. “That means you, Antonio.”
The reapers split up, and carefully made their way through the shelves and fallen books. No one dared to make a sound. While some of the rookie reapers were stiff, Ray and Beatrice kept their cool as they trekked up the waning stairs.
A grim breeze pushed through, and the duo stopped. They had reached the top of the stairs to the third level.
Ray stepped forward and looked around. From her view, it was darker than normal, but she could see more clearly. There was a haze leading to the back, towards the historical non-fiction section. She motioned for Beatrice to follow her. The two watched their steps to be quiet as possible, Ray ignoring the sounds of ghosts downstairs crying.
With their hands gripped tightly to their scythes, they traversed the bookshelves in the cold dark, side by side. Beatrice kept to the right side, with Ray covering her blind side. They came across a trail of books lined on the floor, each one meticulously having been pushed off the shelves. There was the light sound of books falling, one after the other, not too far from them. The phantom was here.
Ray held a hand up, waiting for Beatrice to meet her. The two held their scythes close to their faces, the embedded blue orbs touching their foreheads. They whispered a short prayer, and a small flame flickered within the crystal, and their ghost orbs came to life.
Just ahead of them was a poor woman mindlessly flicking books away from their homes. She mumbled to herself, not yet noticing the reapers approaching. As she flicked each book, Ray could make out the librarian speaking the name of the respective author.
“Millson…” she said, flicking a book off. “Minthra… Morris…” One after the other, she moved along like a zombie.
Beatrice moved forward past her partner, and reached out for the librarian. “Miss Haul,” she said, putting a gentle hand on her shoulder.
What turned to look at the reaper was not human, but a contorted dried face with dark eyes and horrid teeth. It let out a loud shrill, and a blue light erupted from the body, a force knocking away the reapers and the bookshelves.
The phantom lifted its body into the air, cackling as it cracked the puppet’s neck and arms. Blue soul flames surrounded the phantom, and shot at the reapers. Ray and Beatrice swiftly rolled to the side, lifting their scythes up. In unison, they jumped to their feet and lunged at the phantom. The wraith moved about, dodging their slashes and laughing maniacally at them.
Beatrice caught herself, and nodded to her partner. Ray received her, and pushed herself back. Beatrice swiped at the phantom, creating space between the two, pushing the phantom closer to Ray.
The other reaper took out a small trinket, oval in shape and decorated with gold, and opened it to her mouth. She consumed the piece of soul waiting inside, and her body flared up. Gripping her scythe, she jumped and slashed at the phantom’s back. The wraith screeched, the blade not cutting the body but the phantasmal force holding on to it. The phantom turned to look at Ray, and disappeared right as Beatrice leapt to attack it.
Ray sidestepped, ensuring Beatrice would miss her and land safely. Beatrice huffed, not impressed with her own performance.
“Where’d she go?” Beatrice asked her partner.
Ray scanned the area, and saw a faint trail of soul flame leading away. She could hear a light taunting from the phantom, leading her downstairs. “Follow me,” it whispered, “catch me, little ghostling.”
“She’s playing games,” Ray said, irritably.
“Lucky for her then, I’m feeling a bit playful,” Beatrice said. The reaper ran ahead, jumping onto the railing of the staircase and sliding down. She held her scythe out and hopped to the next set of stairs, a big smile on her face.
Ray sighed and jumped after her.
They met at the main foyer of the library, the blue trail ending in a large circle. Beatrice held her guard, scythe pointed outward, as she looked up to see a chandelier perfectly centered above the circle.
“Not a very good trap,” she said to Ray, who was not impressed.
Ray looked around, searching carefully. She could see specks of the other ghosts preying around the library, and heard the scuffle of the other reapers fighting them off. There was no sign of the phantom.
“We can lure her out,” Beatrice suggested.
“Don’t be reckless,” Ray said, swiftly turning her head to look at her partner as Beatrice stepped closer to the soul circle.
Beatrice tapped a foot into the circle, with no results. She looked up at the chandelier, and waved her hand. Still nothing. She narrowed her eyes, thinking hard. Ray tried to meet her and pull her back, but Beatrice brushed her off.
“Nah, nah I got this, watch.” She took a few steps back, handing Ray her scythe and readied herself. She breathed in and took a leap forward, rolling into the circle and quickly back out right as a clank was heard. The moment she brushed past the other side of the circle, the chandelier crashed behind her, narrowly missing her coattails. She stood up and brushed herself off, Ray watching with bated breath.
There was another crack and the phantom appeared, thoroughly pissed off. Beatrice just smiled at Ray.
Ray threw Beatrice’s scythe at her and the reaper expertly caught it in her hands. The ghostly girl gave her a look of “Don’t do that again,” to which Beatrice just winked.
Beatrice stepped up and lunged at the phantom slashing at the waist. The phantom screeched and grabbed its head, crunching over in itself and crying. It opened back up and from its horrid mouth flew spirits as the blue soul flames creating the circle joined with it. In a matter of mere seconds, the two reapers were suddenly surrounded by copies of the phantom.
The specters flew about, meshing between each other and creating an illusion of disguise. The real phantom hid itself within.
The two reapers put their backs together, watching the specters phase about them. They held their scythes out to keep distance, but the phantom’s copies felt frisky.
Each copy spoke to them, spitting taunts and terror into their ears as they passed by. They would slash out a decrepit hand at the girls, only to be waved away by the scythes. Ray watched carefully, her dark eye straining.
“Figured out which one it is?” Beatrice asked, getting tired from the defensive style.
“Almost,” Ray said under breath. She looked for inconsistencies as the wraiths cooed out distasteful heckling.
“Can’t figure it out, little ghostling?” One said, flowing past her.
“Is it me? Is it you?” Another taunted.
“Ooh poor little reapers!”
Ray watched as a phantom flew past her and saw the pulsing of blue on the back. Right where she had attacked before. “Got it,” she announced to Beatrice. She swung her scythe, her body and strength fueled with phantasia from the trinket. Blue energy swirled around her and she sliced at the master phantom. She stroked the gash on its back and the phantom screeched out once more, it’s copies following suit as they faded from existence.
“Curse you!” The phantom cried. “You could have been like me, you filthy rat!”
The two women ignored it’s plight, and readied themselves. Their phantasia was running out, the time to act was now.
Right as Beatrice began to pounce, however, another fighter entered the ring. The reaper Antonio yelled out, flying towards the phantom from behind the girls. His shriek startled them all, but Beatrice saw it. His scythe. She shifted, and sprung in the way of Antonio, clashing her scythe with his.
“You idiot, what are you doing?” She asked him, pushing against his momentum. “Your ghost orb isn’t active!”
Not wanting to waste time, Ray jumped, and sliced at the distracted phantom. The blue from her own ghost orb streaked through the air behind her, lighting up Antonio’s woeful eyes. The blade connected, tearing at the phantom like a thin piece of cloth, and it ripped the specter out from Miss Haul’s body.