There was nothing more peaceful than simple happiness under a blue Texas sky.
That was the idea that Aeris Fairfield had been fed all this time, since the fateful day when she, her Grandma and her four older brothers moved into this lonely little ranch all those years ago.
But for a nine-year old girl blessed with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes, this supposed peace and happiness had soon become boring and stale.
Today was of no particular exception, despite the sunny weather and peaceful air.
Aeris waited in silence, sitting out in their massive field that was their backyard as her legs dangled off the seat of this swing.
It had been built by Isaac and Cory about a year ago, a joint effort between two of her brothers who somehow managed to also turn it into a competition.
Nevertheless, the end result was a beautiful swing set, with baby blue painted wood that contrasted heavily against the crisp gold prairie beyond.
Aeris remained somewhat unsatisfied with her play thing, however, even as she started to swing back and forth in an effort to entertain herself.
She’d demanded more than once to help her brothers build the swing, only to be told she was far too young and to leave it to them.
She furrowed her brow. Those words were horribly mean and annoying to her young mind.
That’s how things always were. She was too young.
That was always what Aeris kept hearing.
She was too young to help them.
Too young to go past the neighbor’s fence a mile away and explore what lie beyond.
Too young to know what really happened to their mother and father.
And worst one of all, she was too young to be a Music Master, and to try out all the cool powers that came with being one.
Her grandmother could be one, and it was a big secret that needed to be kept from her brothers, but Aeris was strictly forbidden to do anything without her permission.
It wasn’t fair at all, Aeris thought.
The boredom continued to hang over young Aeris, even as she skidded her sneakers on the ground and stopped herself from swinging.
Inside, she could hear a blender loudly going off from an open window as Grandma made her famous lemonade.
On a hot summer’s day like this, a cold glass of lemonade would certainly hit the spot. Aeris was already beginning to feel parched, the more she thought about it.
She fidgeted on the swing seat, her pocket nudging against the hanging rope and reminding her of the sacred little object in her pocket.
Aeris’s eyes perked up. Then she looked towards the door nearby, which opened the kitchen to the huge yard outside.
How many minutes did she have before Grandma came back?
Aeris didn’t even think about it.
Instead, she reached into her pocket, pulling out her small light blue music player and headphones to match.
It was a Christmas gift from Grandma, and within it were a myriad of songs that her grandmother had hand-picked for her to listen to.
While Aeris detested the idea of not discovering her own music, she’d ultimately found herself enjoying quite a few of the tracks within this quaint little device.
One of them spoke to her more than any other; and she switched to it within the next few seconds as she placed the matching blue headphones within her small ears.
Aeris made a wide, cute smile as the sound of the opening guitars roared into her ears.
She closed her eyes, and did just as Grandma had instructed to some time ago.
When you were a Music Master, and you wanted a power to come out, you had to focus.
So as best as a nine-year old girl could, she focused. Aeris absorbed the sound of the guitars, the singer’s somber voice, and the the clanging of drums all within her mind.
A flash of blue exploded with visual splendor in her thoughts. This Fragile Breath became a reality in the world a moment later.
She could soon feel rampant energy all around her, and when she opened her eyes, Aeris found herself staring at the most wondrous of things.
Dancing like snakes above her palms, were the slightest hints of blue lightning. They were small sparks at first, which only grew with intensity as Aeris’s eyes widened with glee.
Her voice came out loudly and without restraint.
“Grandma! Come look! I done did it! I’m like one of them fancy music people now!” she announced, but no response came as the blender inside stopped just a few seconds after.
“Just a minute, darlin’!” her grandmother yelled back through the window. She tried leaning leaning up on the swing to get glimpse, but Aeris couldn’t see it her at all.
Not that it mattered all that much, as she was far too excited to care.
Lightning still present, Aeris raised her hands up, moving her fingers curiously as the eletrical arcs grew in size.
The air burnt around them, causing her nose to twitch.
Then the ligthning grew even more in size, and Aeris’s smile got smaller as the energy got larger and more uncontrollable.
When it was big enough to just barely brush against her skin, she felt a sting of static, and her eyes shifted from pure excitement to sudden fear.
Aeris leaned forward, now desiring control as she tried to will herself to make the lightning just go away.
But nothing changed, as the music continued to play in her ears.
The sound was growing louder now. Loud enough that it seemed as if anyone from within a mile from here would be able to hear it.
Aeris shook her hands back and forth, but still nothing changed. In an effort to control this leaking power, she closed her palms, and thus encapsulated the shocking blue energy within each hand.
For a moment, she seemed to be in control.
But only for a moment.
Lightning touched down across her unprotected palms, and the world stopped as real, horrible pain began.
Flesh sizzled and burned, turning black as Aeris screamed at the top of her lungs.
Inside, a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade was dropped and shattered at the sound of Aeris’s tortured cry.
Miriam Fairfield was out of the kitchen in a heartbeat, and she then gazed at the one sight she never, ever wanted to see.
It was Aeris sitting on the swing, hunched over, pain on her face as the use of a random song effect threatened to electrocute her.
Miriam ran forward undeterred despite her age, her granddaughter’s safety being the only thing on her mind.
Pain coursed through the nerves of both of Aeris’s bare palms, the skin frying until the volts of electricity burnt said nerves away into nothingness.
All feeling in both palms was then gone, and Aeris would feel neither pain nor pleasure through them ever again.
Her headphone wire was jerked away, headphones tumbling out and shutting off the song effect abruptly as Aeris fell back off the swing from the shock.
She cried out again, agony still in her mind as the burnt skin reached all the way to the base of her fingers.
Her grandmother’s pleasant voice was the only solace in a cursed time such as this one.
“It’s okay, Aerie-bird. I’m here. I’m right here.”
Tears blurred her vision, and all she remembered was seeing her grandmother above her her, and feeling her warm and protective embrace, before the entire world went dark.
“…and then Sirenia tries to pull this Bond villain shtick with me, and I just say, no, I think I choose option number three, dear sister. I gotta show you Angel in the Night sometime, for real.” Calvin explained, prompting a snorting laugh from Aeris nearby.
He said nothing further, seemingly admiring his own wit for a moment as she reached for her ring of keys in her pocket.
“I am one hundred percent sure it did not happen that way at all.” Aeris said flat out, opening the door after a few moments of searching for the right key.
Calvin walked inside first, clearly comfortable enough to forget his own manners if only for a moment.
“Michael will back me up. I mean, he knows literally everything about what happened with the Purebeats, so I can’t lie to you even if I wanted to.” he assured, before remarking at the surroundings of this very large apartment.
Fit for five people or more, it was a stark contrast to the low-key atmosphere of the Sound Loft. The furniture was more modern, the decor more colorful and pleasant, and most of all, everything seemed to have a Southern flair.
From the calm wood furniture, to the tan loveseats and decorative fireplace, finally to the portrait of a large stallion above said fireplace; it appeared that the design favoritism of this place was clear.
“Nice place.” Calvin said, as Aeris entered and locked the door behind him. “Pretty big too. How many brothers do you have again?”
“Four. I love them, but sometimes it feels like four too many.” Aeris replied, tossing her bag on a seat nearby as she called out loudly.
“Cory! David! I’m home!”
There was no response. Calvin sat down, silent as Aeris looked around in confusion but still continued to call out.
Still nothing. Aeris raised an eyebrow.
Cory had no job, and supposedly didn’t start college until next year. He was rarely anywhere that wasn’t home.
But when she checked his room, she found the door open, and his things left just as unorganized and messy as they always were. She soon closed his door, heading into the kitchen next as she yelled for the next brother on her mind.
“David? You here?” she said, louder now. Aeris poked her head inside the kitchen doorway, seeing a carton of eggs and milk left on the counter, but no David Fairfield to be found.
Aeris walked forward with apprehension, putting the eggs and milk away but no longer feeling at ease.
She closed the fridge shut. Something was clearly off here.
Cory being out might not be that out of the ordinary, but David was another thing entirely.
David lived for being at home.
He’d said more than once how much he preferred cooking dinner for everyone when Spencer came home from tutoring and Isaac worked days at the local precinct.
For him to not be home was almost unprecedented.
But then again, not impossible.
Aeris shook her head at any paranoid thoughts.
In all likelihood, he was probably out shopping, she thought.
And who else besides Cory would leave things out and neglect to put them away?
It all made sense, she convinced herself, before making her way back to the living room so as not to leave Calvin completely confused and alone.
Her thoughts shifted, as she came back to Calvin and went over everything he’d told her about his run-in with the PureBeats in her mind.
It had only been a single day since Calvin had returned to them.
Consequently, it was no big secret how angry about it all Kim still was. Aeris left her mostly alone, knowing that any attempt to come to his defense further would only make things worse.
But as she sat down next to him, Aeris had still yet to truly think over how she herself felt about it all.
Calvin smiled at her, and she wanted to trust that look in his eyes. She’d liked holding his hand like that, and Aeris had entertained other warm things in her mind, thoughts which only became stronger now that it appeared they were truly alone together.
He seemed to read her thoughts, much to her candid surprise.
“So.” he began, still with the sly smile. “You want to show me the bedroom? We might as well get an early start.”
Her eyes widened with surprise, before gaining an angry gleam as Aeris raised a closed fist and she just about punched him.
Calvin gasped loudly, putting his hands up in laughing defense. “Hey, I meant for sleeping! I just want to know where I’m staying so I can put my stuff!”
Aeris kept her black-gloved fist up, only to put it down a moment later, muttering with slight annoyance.
“You know what you said.” she told him, to which Calvin shot back a more honest smile, before his eyes turned just a little somber.
“I’ve said a lot of things. And if Michael didn’t vouch for me, you guys would have no reason to believe me on any of it.”
He sighed deeply, as Aeris held back her every urge to attack him for being so reckless and selfish.
“And Kim still doesn’t believe me. Not that I’m surprised.” Calvin added, chuckling in an attempt to make himself feel better about it.
Aeris looked away, just for a moment, before speaking.
“I’m not sure I completely believe you.” she stated, meeting his gaze and showing the seriousness in her blue eyes. “You left Michael to die. If you didn’t call him, and you two didn’t fuse like that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”
Calvin contemplated over her words, imagining if circumstances were different up to and including Jimmy killing the both of them.
“Then what’s this all for? Why are you doing all this if you don’t trust me, Aeris?” he then asked quite frankly.
Many possible answers quickly rolled through Aeris’s thoughts.
Part of her just wanted to say all of them, but she knew better. Instead, she picked them apart one by one.
She was doing this because she liked him.
Or, she was doing this because he was one of the Audio Knights, and Michael could barely hold in his excitement of having their merry little band back together.
Maybe she was just doing this because she felt sorry for him. He’d lost more than he wanted to admit, from what she’d heard. Even his one-liners couldn’t hide that.
But as she stared back, absorbing every part of Calvin’s question, she came to her answer quite quickly.
“I want to trust you, Calvin.” she revealed in a pleasant tone. “More than anything, I want to know you’re with us, and not against us.”
A bit of a half-truth, of course, but the important part was still there.
“I promise you.” Calvin replied. “I’m with you guys, now and forever. Everybody can count on that.”
He took her hand in his, a bit of risky move all things considered.
“You can count on that.”
Aeris just smiled back at him, a gentle warmth growing in chest at the sensation of his hands as she and Calvin moved closer.
Time became almost irrelevant, and they were much closer within a few heartbeats.
Before she knew it, his lips were pressed against hers, and Aeris could feel her mind descending into a pleasant fog as the two of them kissed.
They were about ten seconds into it when Aeris put her two gloved hands on his shoulders, nudging him back gently in an attempt to calm him down.
He shook his unruly hair, somewhat surprised.
“What? What’s the problem? Is it my breath?” he asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
Thankfully, that was far from the issue, as Aeris soon stated.
“No, not at all! I liked it.” she assured, trying to sound as confident as possible.
Calvin seemed to read her easily. He smiled at her sudden shyness even as she continued.
“Let’s just slow down a little bit. I feel kind of weird doing this here. Plus I don’t even know where everybody is right now.” she admitted, and Calvin looked around.
He wondered for a moment with slight paranoia that her brothers might have cameras installed here; and thus had recorded him snogging their little sister so brazenly.
A ridiculous thought, but the possibilty of her four brothers coming for him for that wasn’t any less scary.
“Sure. Whatever you want, Bright Eyes.” he said, brushing some of the hair away from her cheek as his mind descended back down from a brief hormone-filled rampage.
Aeris laughed sweetly, until her eyes widened as she suddenly remembered something.
A better way to pass the time lest her brothers walk in on them at a most inopportune moment.
“Oh, that reminds me! Spencer got me a couple of live CDs of the Charlie Daniels Band in concert. They’re so good, I’ve been dying to share them!”
She was up and on her feet in the next instant, hurrying to her room as Calvin said nothing further and waited diligently.
He didn’t even want to so much as purse his lips in the slightest.
That first kiss was definitely a memory worth savoring for as long as possible.
Inside her room, Aeris moved spare checkered blazers aside as she searched for the objects in question.
When she couldn’t find it, she checked to her desk, but her attention was diverted as something not belonging to suddenly caught her eye.
There, sitting alone like some black monolith, was an unknown and solitary music player.
It looked to be years old, and it was sitting up straight on her desk right next to the stand that held Aeris’s prized violin.
She approached it as a strange sensation grew in her chest, picking up the neatly written note that was akin to a business card.
The words written upon it were uncomfortable, to say the least.
– To my beloved Ms. Aeris Fairfield. A song selected just for you. From a great admirer. –
She put the card down, picking up the black music player within her hands and turning it on with the central button.
Something warm was on the back. Aeris flipped it around.
The red liquid was unmistakable. Nothing less than blood.
Aeris flipped it back around, her mind running a mile a minute as she clicked into the music library and found the first and only track on it.
The title sent a shiver through her very core, made only worse by the fact that her other hand was already trembling as she reached for the headphones in her pocket to listen.
She didn’t want to listen to it. Anything but that.
In fact, she wanted to take the music player and stomp it to dust beneath her foot.
She wanted to throw it out the window, go back to Calvin and relax, and wait patiently until her brothers all came home.
But reality seemed to have something else in store.
She’d read the title almost five times now, but the fact that it was in front of her never changed.
Aeris reluctantly pressed play, holding back tears as she listened and hoped for some minute clue as to what the hell was going on.
She hoped this wasn’t some sick swan song; for all four of her brother’s sakes.