YOU ARE ALL HORRIBLE AND CANNOT HAVE NICE THINGS.
And so after what seemed like an eternity, you managed to destroy the Zombies and the Mohrg (who mostly went after Makoto) and collect the key. Yaaaay.
The rest of you decided to rest so Mathias could regain his spells. Maybe it was the presence of so much Negative Energy, or maybe it was some Other thing, but for some reason you all did feel a bit tired here, especially Saiza. Couldn't hurt to nap for bit, right?
Ulow stood guard. Hopefully she wouldn't wander off and/or eat Emi.
It is Brookhaven. It is 6 years ago. Pierre Vacher, a local priest of St. Cuthbert and - secretly of course - former Hierarch of the Brookhaven Horned Society, has just been found guilty of the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Sabina, Claudia's parents.
This is one crime he did not commit.
It is the Brookhaven prison. Claudia is visiting the man who is held responsible for her parents murder. She is visibly distraught, weeping heavily, as two guards escort her to a holding cell so she could meet with Vacher. They leaver her alone with the prisoner, who is safely bound in chains and on the other side of a barred cell.
As soon as the guards leave, Claudia's tears stop. She always was quite the actress.
"Claudia - you have to understand! It wasn't - It wasn't me! It was the Dominus! He did this! He killed them! He wanted - he wants - my position! I'm the Hie-"
"Oh, shove it, Pierre. Giovanni - and yes, Pierre, I know all of you - didn't kill my parents. On a related note" she was beaming, "I'm in the inner cabal now, Pierre. Seems He found my offerings more than acceptable and Giovanni - the new Hierarch - was more than happy to have me aboard."
"For fuck's sake, yes you idiot. He got your old job, Raphael got his old job, and I got Raphael's." She turned to face him, and shrugged, smiling slightly as a wave of realization washed across the former Hierarch's face. "If it's any consolation, I'll have Raphael's, then Giovanni's, jobs too, soon enough." She laughed. "Why do you think I helped Giovanni? He's an idiot, just like you, and - as He would have it - Raphael, besides being another moron, has a thing for redheads and big breasts." Claudia gave Pierre a flirty smile while winking and tossing her hair back.
"You won't be able to kill me and get away with it. They'll find out. There will be an investigation an-"
"No, Pierre, no there will not be. Giovanni had nothing to do with what happened to my dearly departed parents. I already told you this. He's almost as much of an idiot as you. I framed you for that, and I'll get this pinned on you too, darling. After all, a fanatic like you would prefer death to imprisonment." A laugh. "All Giovanni did before was help during the trial, what with his position as our fair and just chief judge." Claudia snickered at the irony. "And don't pretend like you suddenly forgot how many people we have working for Brahm here. No one will know but us in the society, and no one else will care, anyway. You're a dangerous fanatic who murdered two people of great wealth and character. I don't think you will be missed, Pierre."
She rose from her seat, producing a key from within her cleavage and a small but extremely sharp dagger from one of her stockings.
"This is the way of things, Pierre, and you should know this. The strong thrive and the weak are trampled underfoot. I won, you lost. All is as it should be. All is as He has willed."
"His will be done."
It is some time later. Claudia is in a torture chamber of some sort within the Asmodean Temple near Brookhaven. There is a man strapped to a table, and a large array of torture implements.
Mathias can smell the blood in the air.
"Why did you leave?"
"I... I wanted to be with my fami-"
Casually and still smiling Claudia dips the man's left hand in the jar of acid producing a horrible scream. She holds his hand there for a few moments before pulling it out.
"You had us, James. You had Him. You did not need a family." Claudia leans over towards him with deliberate and mocking sultriness. "Was it love, James? Did you love her? Is that why you left us for some woman and then proceeded to add insult to injury by getting the whore knocked up?"
He says nothing. Claudia gives an exaggerated frown before suddenly grabbing an extremely sharp cleaver from the table nearby and bringing it down hard and fast on his left hand, severing the appendage. As he screams in pain Claudia continues to speak to him, talking loudly over his cries.
"I asked you a question, James. Did you love her?"
"That is unfortunate, James, most unfortunate. Do you know what love is, James? It is a sin worse than weakness; it is weakness that proclaims itself loud and clearly. It is to shout aloud 'I am weak and unable to manage on my own!' You are a parasite, James. A parasite. There are, in this world, James, predators and prey, and do you want to take a guess as to which category parasites like you fall into?" Another smile. "I bet you loved your little brat, too."
"W-w-what did you do with them?"
"The smart predator, James, learns from their prey. I once dated a butcher. I've been with several alchemists. I've learned how to handle knives, James, and I've learned how to be very precise."
"You'd be surprised how long a person can live without their skin." Claudia gave him a smile as a look of horror washed across his face. "You'd also be surprised what we fed you last." She frowns as he begins to cry hysterically.
"Crying really isn't very manly, James. You can try and have some dignity about all of this." She said plainly, hiding well the laughter in her voice.
Claudia took a seat on a stool besides the large table the man was strapped down to. She removed his unmarred right from the bindings and gently rubbed it once across her face and cleavage before speaking, pausing now and again to kiss or suck on one of his fingers.
"Most torturers have a habit of going straight for the genitals or face, James. That's silly. I'll get to those," she said with a laugh, "don't worry, but that's no place to start."
"Our hands," she explained, "are enormously important. Such sensation in them! And they are, after all, one fifth of how we experience the world, and the greater part of how we interact with it." Another smile.
Claudia reached for the thumbscrews on the table besides her.
Makoto sees Kusanagi-to. It is roughly 3345 years ago. A great plague is sweeping across the city. In the more densely populated areas, the streets are literally flooded with corpses - some of which haven't stopped moving yet.
The Emperor, Narihito, himself has fallen victim to his plague. He is nearly constantly surrounded by his attendants, physicians, and consorts. This Makoto sees.
His favored consort stands out immediately to Makoto. Sogi Shiranui. She's an ancestor of Rin's, apparently, but Makoto would think it was her, if she didn't know any better. Or her twin. But not some distant ancestor from a few thousand years ago. She even radiates the same aura of irresistable sexuality, beauty, and effortless grace that Rin does.
But also something darker. More predatory.
Her, dress, too, is far more ostentatious than Rin's. Much more showy and flashy. She clearly enjoys the material benefits of her favored status.
In the palace harems, surrounded by several other consorts (most of whome are also Shiranui clan, judging by their golden eyes and Rin-esque physiques), Sogi is confronted by Yasuchika, one of Narihito's court Onmyoji.
"I know what you are, witch." He states simply, almost without malice.
"Oh?" She smiles.
"Yes. I'm giving you your first and last option to end this peacefully. Leave this city - this country - and never return. I don't care if you go bother some other nation, or go back to whatever Abyssal pit you crawled out of, but you will leave this nation and you will take your she-demons and your plague with you."
"Yasuchika, dear," she purrs, "I have no idea what you are talking about. Perhaps you are ill? I understand mild delirium is not an uncommon symptom of the plague. Should you really be out and about? Why, you risk contaminting myself and these other fine ladies!"
"Play coy all you want, Demon, you had your chance." He states simply before leaving.
After a few moments have passed, one of the other Shiranui women turns to Sogi. "Shall I kill him?"
"No." Sogi smiles. "He has a wife and small child."
The other woman is already on her way out when Sogi calls out to her.
"Be creative." She laughs.
Veldan sees St. Melinde.
It is before Therion's plan involving his towers was put into motion.
The party had already been assembled and traveling together for some time though. Long enough that Melinde and Yumi have already become lovers.
This Veldan knows.
The party had been fighting an Abyssal Cult and had tracked them to the abandoned castle that was their headquarters. Yumi had went on ahead into the castle to infiltrate it and report back.
Except she got captured.
"We'll kill her! We'll kill your exotic little harl-"
"No you won't." Melinde says simply and without a hint of fear or anger.
"Wh-what?" The cultist is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a bit confused.
"You won't kill her. If you kill her, you will have no leverage left. If she dies I will suffer, and I will suffer terribly, but in time I will come to understand and to accept that her soul is safe. And you and your associates will all die. I will see to it that those who killed my beloved are brought to account. Not vengeance, but justice. I will find out who they are, I will track them down, and I will see them pay for their crimes.
Nothing will stop me. Not oceans or deserts, not storms or wildfires. No matter what stones they may hide under, or holes they may crawl into, the light of my righteous cause will fall upon them and they will be found and they will be punished. I will fill my heart not with fury or rage, but with steadfast determination and unyielding tenacity. My faith in the Archpaladin will nourish and sustain me, and he will ensure that my purpose remains pure." Melinde gave a little smile, leaning in now on one knee. "So do you still wish to try my patience, or will you cooperate?"
It is later. The party is relaxing at a tavern, their heroism for the day behind them.
"Gods dammit, Grignr, I'm not a faggot!" Is Ischaldir's response, taking the troll-bait.
"Nay, lad, I'm pretty sure ye are."
"You never call Melinde a faggot!"
"Aye. The lovely lass is a homosexual. Ye're a faggot. S'different."
Grignr's teasing is cut short when Melinde calmly walks over and proceeds to punch him hard in the shoulder. "Quit teasing Ischaldir, you." She says calmly before sitting back down and returning to her drink.
PALADINS, FUCK YEAH.
Something in Ischaldir, dark and ancient, laughs at the Elf.
And Veldan knows it.
It is not unique to Ischaldir.
It is ancient and sick, terrible and alien.
The Truth will make you free. It purrs.
Saiza was falling.
Saiza was falling through time and space, through darkness and through memories.
And he was, as always, alone.
Not alone. As always.
Always alone - but never alone.
It was with him. Always.
It was was with him.
It was watching him.
It could see him.
But he could never seem It.
Could not look at It.
Would not look at Them.
Never could look at the Truth.
Never never never never never.
It sees him.
Saiza is no longer falling.
He is sitting down. In a chair.
There is a table in front of him. With a setting.
It is tea time.
Sitting across from him is a woman. She is like an Elf, but paler, her skin a pure white, and taller, at least six feet.
He is dreaming. He knows this. Nothing has ever felt so surreal, so dreamlike.
He is not dreaming.
He is dreaming?
"Oh, hello Saiza." Her voice was soft, somewhat monotone, and with odd stresses. "You're just in time for tea."