Author's Note: This story is a sequel to Libera Me. Please read all 29 chapters of that story before beginning this one. There. I warned you in two different places, so hopefully I won't get any complaints. :)

When you start reading this chapter, you're probably going to think, wtf? And rightly so. It won't make sense at first, I promise you. I had half of this chapter written when I decided that it was about time I wrote something a little more experimental. That is why I started writing this fanfiction in the first place, anyway: to experiment. Anyway, I hope the experiment proves successful. Don't give up on the weirdness!

Chapter One

Expressions of Loneliness

Air crashed into Amon's lungs, burning against his raw throat and nearly choking him with its rank, stale flavor. His muscles ached as his ribs expanded as if they hadn't been used for a very long time, and his head spun from the surge of oxygen in his veins. He opened his eyes slowly, the action taking more effort than he would have expected. Disoriented by the twisted, shadowy shape of the ceiling obscured by a blinding light far above him, he immediately allowed his eyes to slide shut.

Several moments later, he decided to try again, though he was mildly disappointed to find that the scenery hadn't changed. A rush of panic sent adrenaline pumping through his body as a sense of wrongness struck him. Where was he, and how had he gotten there? His heart flopped in his chest like a fish out of water when he realized he couldn't remember. He had absolutely no recollection of anything leading up to this moment. The last thing in his memory was the feeling of Robin's hand gripped tightly in his own and the curve of the road as he sped around the lake toward Beatrice's location. Beyond that, nothing...

Gradually, he pushed himself up on his elbows, a sharp pain in his back causing him to wince. Whatever had happened, it had hurt like hell. Had they gotten in a wreck? His heart flipped again at the thought. Where was Robin? His eyes darted around his surroundings but his mind could process very little of what he was seeing; it was almost completely pitch black except for the pool of light around him, and whatever lay beyond the light was nothing more than indiscernible, undulating shadows. He blinked and squinted into the shadows, his eyes slowly adjusting enough to make out a shape just beyond the circle of light. It was a heavy block of what appeared to be stone, carved into a grotesque throne-like shape.

A figure was seated on the throne its features hidden by the shadows, though it sat so still that Amon considered the possibility it was merely a statue. Then, it spoke. "So, you're finally awake." Amon peered into the darkness, his eyes straining to make out the man whose voice sounded so chillingly familiar. "Welcome to the afterlife, Amon," the man said, his elbows resting on the arms of the throne and his hands clasped in front of him. He leaned forward slightly and light spilled across his face, familiar lines cast into harsh angles by the light.

Amon attempted to swallow past the dry spot in his throat. "Zaizen," he hissed.

"Don't look so surprised." Zaizen's lips twisted into a bitter smile. "You knew that I, at least, would end up here, didn't you?"

Air escaped Amon's lungs again as he pushed himself into a sitting position despite the cutting pain in his back. "Where am I?" he demanded, his voice hoarse.

Zaizen shrugged, leaning back in the throne, his face obscured by shadows once again. "Where else? Hell."

A fragment of memory flashed through Amon's mind, searing in its intensity but too elusive for his bewildered mind to understand. A fiery, pulsating heat...the sensation of falling--of flying--of being...nothing...Robin's scream echoing in his ears...fingernails digging into his skin...eyes darker than pitch swallowing him whole...

Gasping for air, Amon shook the pieces of memory away, his fingers clawing at the cracked, dusty ground beneath him. When his heart had slowed enough for him to hear the sound of Zaizen chuckling softly above the brutal pounding in his ears, he glared up at the dark figure on the throne. "This isn't real," he said firmly, willing the words to be true.

Zaizen shifted in his seat, the light illuminating half of his face again as he smiled darkly. "You're starting to remember, aren't you?"

Thick, choking fog, a white curtain obscuring his vision...Beatrice crying out in victory, laughter bubbling out of her throat as lightning crackled across the broken sky...a gunshot echoing through the valley, repeating into the silence... blond hair against black leather blurring across his vision... Clutching his head in his hands and digging his fingernails into his scalp, Amon stopped the chaotic rush of memory and panted for air once again.

"You're wondering if they're really your memories," Zaizen said pensively. "You're wondering if this is a trick."

Looking up at Zaizen through tangled strands of black hair, Amon snapped, "Is it?"

"Would I deceive you, Amon?"

"Yes," Amon answered immediately.

"What good would it do? What reason could I possibly have for manipulating your memories?"

Struggling slowly to his feet, Amon glared at him through the murky darkness. "You wouldn't be sitting there gloating if you didn't have something to do with this."

"Don't look at me," Zaizen said, leaning back on the throne again and crossing his legs leisurely. "I'm as much of a victim here as you are."

"I highly doubt that."

"I'm sure you do." Zaizen steepled his fingers in front of him. "But there's no point in arguing. We're both stuck in the same hell together."

"If this is Hell," Amon said irritably, "does that make you the devil?" He turned in a slow circle without stepping out of the pool of light, struggling to identify the other vague shapes in the darkness beyond.

"Does it make you feel better to cast all the blame on me, Amon? Does it ease your guilt?"

Reaching a hand out into the darkness experimentally, Amon replied, "I'm done playing your games, Zaizen. You have no hold on me now."

"That is essentially correct, I suppose. I have no power over you here...other than the power you give me so freely."

Amon spun around to face him again with a snarl, nearly loosing his balance in the process as the world refused to stop spinning around him for a moment. "I have given you nothing."

"Oh?" Leaning forward, a satisfied smirk on his features, Zaizen added, "What about your anger, then? You let me incite you. 'He who angers you controls you.'"

Swallowing hard, Amon closed his eyes and took a step backward into the darkness. The darkness felt no different than the light. Opening his eyes again, he saw the pool of light a few feet away. A rocky, amorphous landscape stretched as far as the dim illumination allowed him to see, but the air felt no moister, no cooler than the stale air in the pool of light.

He returned his attention to the stone throne, and found that it was empty. Fear twisted the muscles of his back and he bit back a cry of pain. He strained to touch his back, his curiosity finally pushing him to find the source of his pain, but his hand jerked away immediately when he felt slick, torn fabric. His hand was damp and he looked down at it in the darkness, though all he could see was a black streak across his palm. Steeling himself, he stepped into the light again, fully expecting to see the red stain of blood.

There was nothing on his hand.

"You can't blame me for everything, Amon," Zaizen said, his voice low and dangerous. Amon searched the shadows for him, his hand clenching into a fist. "You're here because of your own sins."

"My sins are none of your concern."

Zaizen's voice was suddenly right beside him and Amon turned to see Zaizen standing at the edge of the pool of light, half of his body still obscured by shadows. "Ah, but they are my concern. They are the reason I'm here, in fact, since I was sent here to judge them."

Shaking his head involuntary, an edge of hysteria to his voice, Amon heard himself cry, "Stop lying to me!" as he stumbled backward into the darkness.


"Stop lying to me!" Amon cried, fighting against the black suited man holding him back.

An older woman with kindly features and an unkind glint in her eyes patted his shoulder reassuringly. "Your mother's waiting for you in the car, Amon," she said with a tight smile. "There's no reason to fight us. Don't you want to see her?"

Looking up at her with angry grey eyes, Amon growled, "My mother is dead."

"Your mother is very sick, Amon. We came here to take care of her."

"Let me go!" he screamed, fighting to break free from the grip on his arms.

"That's enough," the woman said, straightening and crossing her arms over her chest. Glancing at the street around them in concern, she turned to the man restraining him. "He's going to cause a scene. We'll have to take the risk. Bring him to the car."

Gritting his teeth, Amon fought against the man as he dragged him down the street to the glossy black limousine--but he was only a child, and the men were twice his size and strong. They approached the car one contested step at a time, and he felt afraid at the sight of those tinted windows for no reason he could explain. A fleeting hope mixed with fear swept through his mind. What if they had been telling the truth? What if the nightmare he had witnessed only hours before had only been in his mind? He wasn't sure which possibility frightened him more, the reality that he was a child without a guardian and no rights, or the thought that his mother might actually still be alive.

One of the men yanked open the door of the limousine while the other shoved Amon roughly inside. He was horrified to find that his mother was inside the car just as the woman had said--though in a state no child should ever have to see his mother in. She was in a coffin. This was not a limousine; it was a hearse. Amon shrunk away from the long, black-lacquered box, his hands gripping the edge of leather seat beneath him.

The woman in the lab coat had taken the seat across from him, one of the burly men in black sitting down next to her. She flipped open a cell phone and pressed it to her ear. "We have them both," she said coldly, her eyes focusing on him with indifference. "Do you have the test results yet?" Her eyes narrowed. "I see. We'll be there shortly."

The car took off down the street, and Amon looked out the window as the dilapidated house that should have been his home disappeared from view. He pressed his fingers against the glass, trying to still the storm he could feel stirring inside of him; it was the first time he had ever felt this sensation before, but it terrified him. His mother had talked about storms when the sun was shining and the sky was blue from horizon to horizon, and he knew that the wind and thunder she had heard then were only in her mind.

"He's a Seed too," the woman said, and Amon turned back to look at her again in fear. "His powers haven't awoken yet, but we should sedate him just in case. Emotional trauma could trigger his craft."

Shaking his head, Amon tried to melt into the leather upholstery when he saw the woman leaning toward him, filling a syringe with thick yellow liquid. The man sitting beside her held Amon down when he tried to squirm away and he felt a stinging sensation in his arm a moment before the world began spinning and finally faded to black.


Amon was in the pool of light again on his hands and knees sweat dripping from his chin along with tears. The temperature in the room--if it could even be called a room--had risen considerably and the air seared his lungs with every breath. "That's... not how it happened," he managed to say between gasping breaths.

"Does it really matter?" Zaizen asked, his polished black shoes crunching on the sandy dirt as he walked around him in a slow circle, following the edge of the pool of light. "It's close enough to the truth, isn't it? Your mother committed suicide and agents from Solomon took you away. They ran tests on you and studied you until they were satisfied that you weren't a threat. They stole away your childhood and made you into the cold, mechanical soldier you are today."

Amon looked up at Zaizen's shadow-obscured figure. "No. You did that."

Zaizen turned too look at him, a conceited expression on his face. "How can you condemn me? I saved you, Amon. I gave you hope. Solomon was interested only in using you to hunt as many of your own kind as you could before you became unusable--before they had to hunt you instead."

"And you?" Amon asked sadly, slowly sitting back on his heels. "You intended the same thing for me, didn't you?"

"You would have been lost far sooner without my orbo, Amon, and you know it. I extended your life. How dare you judge me?"

Shaking his head to clear it, Amon asked, "Why am I here? What are you trying to do, Zaizen?"

"I already told you," Zaizen answered with a frown, "I am here to judge your sins."

"How did I get here?" Amon demanded.

Zaizen's frown turned into a mocking smile. "The answer is in your mind, Amon. I'm not allowed to tell you."

"Not allowed? What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Amon struggled to his feet again, prepared to set off walking through the dim landscape as long as was necessary to find out if this space was confined by walls and if there was a way out.

"Are you just going to run away?" Zaizen asked suddenly from a few feet in front of him, only his face illuminated.

Amon blinked, his suspicion that he was only dreaming gaining validity. "I'm not playing your games."

"That's the problem, though, isn't it? They're not my games. They're yours." Zaizen gestured toward something behind Amon, and, though Amon hated to follow any indication made by Zaizen, he turned to look anyway.

Fear clawed at his chest like a bird clamoring to break free from a cage when he saw the whirlwind at the center of the pool of light. Frigid air whipped through his hair as the torrent of wind spiraled in on itself, coiling tighter and tighter and growling like a monster about to strike. His eyes stung as he stared at the tornado of wind and power, recognizing it for what it was: a part of him.

"That is the greatest of your sins, the craft you have sacrificed so much of your life fighting."


"Are you sure this is what you want to do?" Nagira asked, sliding into the seat next to him and closing the car door.

Amon watched the couple walking down the front steps of the building, a baby bundled in the woman's arms and tried not to feel what he was feeling. Gripping the steering wheel fiercely with gloved hands, Amon swallowed the lump in his throat. "Yes," he answered, his voice sounding empty, even to his own ears.

His half-brother turned to look at him with concern in his eyes, but Amon did not meet his gaze. "You're sure you won't regret it?"

Shifting his focus to the dashboard, Amon started the car, a frown twisting his lips. "Thank you for your help, Nagira," he said coldly. "Do you want me to drop you off at your place?"

Nagira shook his head and Amon could see his half smile out of the corner of his eyes as he put the car in gear and drove out into traffic. "Smooth evasion, Amon. I could almost believe it if it weren't for the tremble in your hand. Listen, I know you want to protect her... but has it ever occurred to you that maybe you need her? Maybe a child is what you need to get your act together and stop blaming yourself for--"

"You don't know anything about me," Amon snapped.

Nagira laughed softly. "I know you're an asshole. And I know you can barely tolerate me, but you're right. I don't know much about you--but that's not for lack of trying. You won't let me know."

"As I said," Amon said firmly, "I appreciate your assistance in this matter. I don't need your opinions as well."

Sighing, Nagira turned to look out the window. "What are you going to do now? Are you going back to Europe?"

"It doesn't matter." Amon could feel his craft stirring inside of him again; it was seldom silent anymore and he was starting to lose the will to fight it.

"Maybe it doesn't matter to you," Nagira said angrily, "but it matters to me, dammit!"

Amon didn't reply, knowing that Nagira wouldn't like his answer. He was going away, and he was never coming back. Nagira didn't say another word on their trip to his apartment, but his anger was thick in the air, and his eyes were burning with it when he opened the door to leave.

Glancing back at Amon, as he climbed out of the car, Nagira said, "It's true that I barely know you, but I still know you well enough to know what you're thinking. It's not the answer, Amon. It's a chicken shitty way to get out of your problems, and I will never forgive you if you go through with it. I know you won't take my help, so I won't even offer it, but please, Amon... get some help somewhere. I don't want the next time I see you to be at your funeral."

The door slammed and Amon sat in the car silently, watching the empty road before him.


"This is not happening," Amon growled, backing away from the torrent of energy slowly and shielding himself with his arms. "This is not real."

"So you're just going to deny it all, then, Amon?" Zaizen growled. "You're going to deny that you're in Hell? That I'm here? That you've allowed your craft to consume your soul? That you failed?"

"I don't remember anything!" Amon cried in response, burying his face in his hands.

"You're the one lying, Amon--lying to yourself. Your beloved Robin died in your arms and you refuse to even remember it."

"Robin," Amon whispered despairingly, his hands dropping to his sides as the pain of the memory came back to him in a rush.


Robin's body went limp in his arms and a roar of raw emotion tore from Amon's throat. He rocked back and forth slightly holding her like a baby to his chest, but he knew it was over; the connection between them was severed. Brushing damp hair from her face gently, he felt her skin already cooling beneath his fingers and he whimpered softly, the sound barely more than a moan.

A week ago, he would have fervently denied that he had any feelings for this girl, would have pretended that her death meant nothing to him. But in one short week he had allowed her to slip into his heart and make a place for herself there--and he knew that there would be a gaping hole left behind forever because of what she had done to him in that single week. The process had started before that point, of course, but he had not allowed her to get close enough to him until recently for him to build an attachment. If it had only taken a week for him to lose this much of himself to her, what would have happened if they had been together longer?

Amon wasn't sure how long he sat there no longer feeling anything at all. The sounds of battle filtered into his mind distantly, and he slowly lowered Robin down to the ground, his hands turning into fists when he pulled them away from her. The demonic scream of a creature echoed in his ear, but he didn't react--not even when it was followed by the sound of gunfire and the metallic whoosh of a blade. Amon heard the sound of heavy boots crunching against the ground as they approached him, but still he did not move.

"Amon?" a gruff voice demanded. Amon made no reaction. Dante did not respect his silent plea to be left alone, though, crouching down beside him and pulling Amon's head up by his hair. "What the fuck happened?" Dante's expression was fierce enough to penetrate the protective shell Amon had created around himself to dull the pain, and he finally focused on the half-demon's eyes, struggling to find a response.

"She--she's gone," he murmured.

Dante's eyes darted down to look at Robin sorrow and dread contorting his features. "No," he whispered faintly, his hand hovering over her knee. "No, she can't be."

Looking past Dante, Amon saw Beatrice standing in profile against the roiling pillar of light, looking back at them with a victorious smile. Fury consumed him as he looked at her, and he suddenly knew what he needed to do. Rising to his feet slowly, his eyes were still focused on Beatrice though she had turned away, and he had already taken a step in her direction before he heard Dante screaming at him.

"Amon! Dammit, listen to me!" Dante grabbed him from behind, strong arms wrapping around his chest in a vice-like grip. "This is the last thing Robin would want you to do," Dante growled into his ear.

"I'm going to kill her," Amon snarled, clawing at Dante's arms and trying to twist out of his grasp.

"Take a look around, Amon. Beatrice has kept us so busy that we didn't even get near the ceremony before it was over. The door is already open, and Beatrice used Robin's power--and our power--to open it. She didn't even have to break a sweat. You think you're going to bring her down now?"

Kicking back at Dante's shins, Amon said, "I think I'm going to take her down with me."

Dante grunted in surprise as Amon elbowed him hard in the gut, and his grip eased just enough for Amon to twist his wrist brutally and slip out of his reach. Amon was running toward Beatrice a moment later, not even shifting his gaze to look at the witches that tried to step in his way, firing his orbo gun at them haphazardly as he sprinted toward the column of light and the demon who had taken Robin away from him.


"Guilty as charged." Zaizen's fist landed firmly against the arm of the throne.

Crouched in front of the throne, the whirlwind still roaring behind him, Amon looked up at Zaizen slowly. "I lost, didn't I?" he asked reluctantly, uncertain if he really wanted to know the answer. "I tried to kill Beatrice, but she killed me instead, didn't she?"

A smile gradually spread across Zaizen's face. "At least you're in good company."

"Answer my question!" Amon demanded, the roar of the tempest reaching a deafening pitch. "What happened? How did I get here?"

Zaizen did not respond at first, his expression coolly detached as he shifted an unfocused gaze to the darkness at his right. "When I attacked Beatrice with my new orbo, I thought that I had saved the world," he said, changing the topic without batting an eye at Amon's glare. "I thought I could destroy her and prove the worth of orbo to Solomon in one blow." He shifted his gaze back to Amon with a sour smile. "Then she revived, and one of her witches captured me. She said I would be a sacrifice, and I realized she meant to use me in her ritual to open a path to the demon world. I was horrified. But the ritual began, and she spilled the blood of the other sacrifices, but did not touch me. I allowed myself to hope that she didn't have a use for me--that I would be allowed to live."

Slowly, Zaizen leaned forward and rose from the throne. Stepping fully into the light for the first time, he said, "She used me, but not in the way I expected."

Amon gasped in revulsion when he saw the gory remains of Zaizen's body; half of his chest was missing, muscles and bone shattered and jutting out into the gaping hole where Zaizen's heart should have been. Doubling over as he felt bile rising in his throat and nausea sweeping over him, Amon turned away from the horrific sight. His stomach heaved and he bent over, his hands braced against the dusty ground as he emptied the contents of his stomach.

The winds of his craft tore at him, bringing the rest of his memories of the battle flooding back.


Amon clawed past the witches in his path, his gaze unwaveringly fixed on Beatrice. Bellowing in pure rage as he leapt toward her, he watched her turn, but stumbled to a stop in horror when he heard the sound of a gunshot ring out, reverberating through the valley. The bullet ripped through the air toward her far faster than he could have moved; the aim was perfect, hitting her just left of the center of her chest, splintering on impact and tearing her flesh to shreds.

Amon was wordless with rage. He didn't know where the bullet had come from, but the way it had fractured when it hit indicated that it had not been shot by any of them. As far as he knew, Trish hadn't bought any ammo with that particular property, and he knew they didn't have bullets of that caliber at the STN-J. His eyes scanned the trees around the perimeter of the clearing, shock blinding him for a moment; whoever had deprived him of the satisfaction of killing Beatrice himself would be eternally sorry for their mistake.

He turned his attention back to Beatrice as she fell, her eyes widened to an impossible width and her mouth open in a soundless scream. But as she collapsed, half of her upper body gone, she underwent a metamorphosis. Her body changed, became older and masculine...and very familiar. Then, as the eyes of the ruined figure somehow found Amon in the chaos and focused one last glare on him, Amon recognized the dying man as Zaizen.

Beatrice's untouched form emerged from the nothingness of the air behind Zaizen's crumpled form a moment later, looking down at it sourly. "He was a poor puppet, anyway," she said, kicking his body over the edge of the abyss and into the inferno writhing below. "He served his purpose at least." Amon didn't know where to begin being angry; Beatrice was still alive, but Zaizen--the one person he wanted to torture to death even more than her--was dead and gone.

Beatrice shifted her gaze to him in surprise when he screamed in rage. He had barely moved a step when he heard Trish's voice cry out behind him. "Amon! Duck!" He didn't have time to react before he felt something very sharp cut an arc across his back. Pain erupted in his mind and he stumbled to one knee, black spots dancing across his vision.

An unearthly scream shattered the air and a ragged, skeletal figure bearing a scythe appeared before him, emerging from a cloud of darkness. Screaming again, it swung its sharp blade toward him and he could do nothing but watch the scythe plummet toward him, unable to move. Blond hair against black leather blurred across his vision and he squinted into the lightning surrounding the lithe figure he finally recognized as Trish. The creature screamed again and disappeared into another swirl of dark fog.

Trish knelt down next to him and pulled one of his arms over her slender shoulders. He cried out brokenly as the movement gave him the impression that his back had just ripped in two. "I'm all out of green orbs," she informed him flatly, pulling him out of the way of another scythe.

"It doesn't matter," Amon managed through clenched teeth, his gaze snapping back up to where Beatrice had been standing moments before. The figure he saw standing at the edge of the gate was not Beatrice.

"This battle is over," the man said in a deep, silken voice.

Trish spun around, pulling Amon with her, though Amon thought she had nearly torn his arm from its socket as she did so. "Who the hell are you?" She snapped, glaring at the man.

Amon had never been attracted to a man before, but this man was so beautiful he might have actually considered the possibility if it weren't for the hollow glint in his ashen eyes. Hair darker than night shadowed his pale, ghostly skin in feathered tendrils, hugging his sinewy neck. His clothing was as dark as his hair, but glistened in the macabre light of the glowing abyss pulsing behind him. "It's time for you to go," he said in that gossamer purr of a voice.

"We're not going anywhere," Trish growled, releasing pressure on Amon's arm. Amon had to fight to keep his balance as he realized she was freeing herself so she could fight.

The man raised an eyebrow at her before shifting his attention to Amon. The very weight of his gaze made Amon's craft roar to life. He hadn't thought his craft had anything left, but it felt stronger than ever, the wind deafening him in its fervor. Trish immediately turned back to look at him in surprise when she felt his power detonate the air around them like a bomb.

Waving a hand dismissively, the strange man turned away and Amon's power choked off suddenly and completely. Trish supported him as he lost his balance, shocked by the sudden absence of his craft. When he looked up again, he saw Beatrice standing next to the man, gazing up at him in awe. "Master," she breathed.

Glancing down at her, the man murmured, "I have something to attend to." He glanced at Amon and Trish, and Beatrice followed his gaze. "Take care of these for me."

"I will, Master," she cooed and Amon's need for revenge consumed his thoughts once again. The man glided away, his feet barely touching the ground as he walked, but Amon wasn't concerned with him; his eyes were focused completely on Beatrice as she turned to face them with a slow smile.

"Do you have a plan?" Trish whispered to him.

"Kill her," Amon spat.

Chuckling under breath, Trish said, "Nice plan." She pressed one of her guns into his free hand and reached down, pulling a long knife out of a sheath in her boot. He fired off rounds of both normal bullets and orbo when he felt Trish leave his side, but the sickening crack of breaking bone made him pause. Trish's knife arm hung at her side, the bones twisted at an unnatural angle, but she had still managed to bury her knife in Beatrice's stomach.

"No need for that," Beatrice laughed, grabbing the hilt of the knife in a fist and flinging the blade back at Trish. Amon didn't get the chance to see if Trish had dodged the attack before a wave of heat accompanied by a burst of flame seared his skin and his vision clouded. He rushed toward the place where he had last seen Beatrice, but she was suddenly behind him, whispering in his ear. "You're not needed here anymore."

Amon cried out in pain when she dug her fingers into the wound on his back, caught off guard when she shoved him toward the boiling inferno of the door to the demon world. He stumbled and the hellhole rose up to swallow him. "No!" he screamed, turning and reaching for the distant, dark patch of starry sky he could see falling away from him as he plummeted into the chasm. As he watched, the opening contracted slowly, the night sky disappearing from view and Beatrice's figure at the edge of the gate along with it. Despair gripped his heart, but he could do nothing but watch as his world turned upside down and the sensation of falling began to feel very much like rising, as if he were soaring up into a sickening red and yellow sky.

He gasped in surprise when he felt fingernails dig into his arm suddenly, and he struggled to see past the chaos of color and light to make out the figure clinging to him. "Trish," he whispered faintly.

"Just hold on to me," she said, easing her grip on his forearm and hooking his arm around her waist.

"She closed the door," Amon said urgently. "We're trapped!"

"I know." Trish gripped his belt at the small of his back, her other arm hanging uselessly at her side. "But there's nothing we can do about that right now. Listen to me, Amon. You need to focus."

He looked down at her with a twinge of fear, hearing the gravity in her voice.

"This gate leads to the demon world. As far as I know, no human has ever entered it while still alive, so I don't have a clue what it's going to do to you. You need to trust me. And don't let go of me, whatever you do." They were increasing in speed as they fell and Amon was starting to get dizzy. "Hold on," Trish repeated, but he was loosing consciousness fast.

Then the angry red light turned to black and Amon saw nothing more.


Amon was standing inside the whirlwind at the center of the pool of light, air roaring past his ears. "Where is Trish?" he demanded, but Zaizen could not hear him over the wind. "Why am I alone?"

Zaizen gripped his arm and stepped close to him, whispering in his ear. "You are alone because you have always been alone."

about to strike: This is an obscure one for sure, but I'm mentioning it as much for myself as for anyone else. I didn't think of this when I first wrote it, but it certainly came to mind when I was rereading it. There's a ride at the local amusement park in my city called the Mamba, and the last thing the recording says before you get on the ride is to "Fasten your seatbelts because the Mamba is about to strike!" There's just something oh so cheesy about those recordings they play before you get on roller coasters that cracks me up...

Here we are at the end of the first chapter of the sequel. I know this is not really any less of a cliffhanger than the last chapter of Libera Me, and for that I apologize (while laughing evilly in my head). I had a lot of fun writing this one (could you tell?) because I absolutely love psychological introspective craziness. When I planned this chapter I hadn't expected to include any of Amon's distant past, but the strangely surreal scenes just slipped their way in anyway.

Let's see...a couple things...

First off, I had no idea that Zaizen would be played by John deLancie in this chapter, but it just happened. For anyone who is not a Star Trek: TNG fan (which might be all of you for all I know), I'm referring to the character that actor played on the Next Generation: Q. Zaizen had a very Q-like quality in this chapter, though I didn't see it coming before I started writing. Not that I'm complaining. Q is awesome. At least he didn't say, "What a pity," though or it would have been too obvious.

Secondly, you should all be happy now. I killed Zaizen. Hee hee hee... but I couldn't just leave him "dead" though, could I? And does everyone appreciate the irony that the Hermit's bullet ended up being the one that killed Zaizen? (Hope that made sense to people.)

Thirdly, I know you're all wondering about Robin. Hahahahaha. Oh, I mean... Yes, it's very serious indeed. Robin seems to be quite dead. But things are not always exactly what they seem--just look at Zaizen's crazy ass.

And last of all, some of you might have wondered why Amon got no POV in the last chapter of Libera Me. Well, after reading this Amonlicious, all Amon all the time chapter... Now you know. And knowing's half the battle. GI JOE!