"Legato, report," he blonde ordered. Knives sat behind his desk, legs crossed, eyes steely. Legato bowed stiffly.

"They have been imprisoned, master. Each has been informed that the others are dead, and that they are to be executed next." Legato saw the satisfied smirk cross his master's face, and felt satisfied in turn. "What are your further orders?"

Knives pushed a ream of high-quality paper and a gold-tipped calligraphy pen. "You know what to do."

Legato bowed, took the writing utensils, and retired to a small table in the center of the circular room. He knew. Setting himself up, right hand poised with the pen, he closed his eyes and allowed the echoes beyond hearing to surround him.

I am afraid, he wrote dutifully in loose characters, of death. Everyone else is gone…even Mr. Wolfwood. Who was the blue-haired man that captured us? He had a skull on his shoulder…this is his entire fault. I know it. And Meryl was so brave, I know she can't be de-…she can't be gone. And Mr. Vash will be furious with me for letting Meryl get hurt. He told me. He told me not to let her get hurt. He trusted me, and I failed. They'll all be so mad…and Mr. Wolfwood might go away for good. I don't know what I'll do…

He paused for a moment, took a breath, and resurfaced to look at Knives. "This one seems to be skirting the issue of her own termination. Habitually timid, yet simultaneously stubborn in maintaining her innocence and gentle misunderstanding. She will not hesitate to defend an ally."

Knives regarded him with a piercing stare. "And which of the four is she?"

Legato cocked his ear for a moment to be sure. "Millie Thompson, master. The taller of the two women."

"A risk," Knives passed his judgment on her. He waved his hand at Legato with sharp grace and ordered, "Again."

The handwriting was thin and spidery, but legible, as the gold tip of the pen slid across the paper. Oh no, Millie just couldn't take care of herself. I should have looked out for her. Now all of those relatives of hers will be out for me. That Vash couldn't keep that creepy man away for just a little longer? No, no, don't blame him, girl, if you have any bad thoughts it'll be too late to set it right. Vash…Mr. Wolfwood, and Millie… Oh god…they're gone…and I'm next! The pen wobbled tearfully, then ground to a halt.

"She is crying, mourning her friends. She presents a strong, plucky façade, but she is only a woman. Fiercely protective, always stands for what is right. She is…" Legato hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to say. His words would condemn her to death, most like. Knives had fixed his servant with a piecing glare, and Legato endeavored to appear as though he had just been confirming his suspicions. "She is in love with Vash the Stampede."

He could actually see the dark cloud pass over the infinitely calm eyes of his master.

"She will be destroyed immediately," he spat, and wrote something down to remind himself. Legato said nothing; it wasn't his place to argue with Knives. Mortal man has no right to question the wisdom of God. "Do the priest next, minion."

This writing was, at best, chicken scratch. Damn, damn, damn! I'm dead. I'm beyond dead, I'm going to be tortured to death by that weird Bluesummers with the hellish glint in his eye. So, so, so worse than screwed. They're probably thinking up the best way to draw it out longer even now. I'm going to die slowly, that's why they've kept me alive and locked up longer than anyone else. But there's no way that Vash is dead. They don't want him dead…they never did. So there's still hope. As long as that warped bastard is alive, there's hope. Are you there, God? It's me, Nick.

"There is a slight difference between the Nicholas Wolfwood that we sent after Vash and the one that we captured. He still believes in his God, but more strongly, more comfortably. And he is," Legato's lip curled, "hopeful. So long as Vash is alive, he will remain so. It seems the Humanoid Typhoon has engendered the same respect as my master."

"It runs in the family," Knives snorted happily. "The priest knows too much to be set free, and his failure prevents any further use. He will be terminated."

"Yes, master," Legato bowed his head. "Shall I attempt the god himself?"

"I don't see why not. Will it not be difficult for you?"

"I will never know for sure if it is your or his mind that I access. Your perfection is very similar."

"Try it, then, minion."

The pen touched the paper, and Legato struggled to find the consciousness that was so different, so refreshing compared to all the useless, stupid spiders he was perpetually surrounded by. It was like scaling a mountain.

And now he looks like he's found it. He looks very peaceful, solemn, silent. The perfect servant, I believe. And sexy… A stabbing pain hammered its way through Legato's soul. Knives watched him wrathfully and said, "Wrong one. Never enter my mind again, on pain of death."

"No, master," Legato gasped, both from shock at his master's words and the strong defense that had pinched his ambient mind. He focused and tried again.

They haven't killed them. They haven't killed them, they're just trying to torture me mentally. They haven't killed…Legato! Get out get out get out! Another pain, not so strong or sharp or disciplined, poked at the back of the blue-haired man's skull. It was enough to repel him from his exploration of Vash's mind.

"He discovered me quickly. I recommend that you release him to continue his attempt at a normal life, to break his will further. He believes in his 'love and peace' too strongly even now."

"Very well, Legato. After all, that arm of yours surely knows my brother better than I do. I'll just pay him one little visit first…"

The dazzling smile of the man he loved told Legato that there would a brief period of intense mental turmoil in store for Vash the Stampede. But it was not his place to pass judgment.

What right do unworthy mortals have to pass judgment on the gods?