Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon, the original character Arei, or the lyrics from the song "Topless" by Breaking Benjamin.
Chapter Warning: This chapter of Hollow includes a character performing cullingus (oral sex to a female). Those who are under eighteen years of age and/or not mature enough to handle this appropriately should either: A.) Not read this particular chapter or B.) Simply skip past said scene. You will have enough warning to avoid it if you so chose. Personally, if this discomfort applies to you, I would still recommend reading the rest of the chapter, given that what is discussed by the characters here has a large impact on the plot.
Author's Note: I daresay I will likely resort to the above method of warning simply because readers are far more likely to notice it, since I doubt many people actually read author's notes (I know I typically never do unless there are bolded or italicized words). In regards to the scene I referred to, yes, after hearing the opinions of a few readers, I decided to try writing it – "try" being the key word, given I have never done such before, at least not explicitly. As such, this means I am extremely close to my limit in this kind of field, so I am praying I do not mess it up somehow and look the fool, because I do not think I could live down the humiliation. However, I will attempt it, as it fits this particular chapter by far more appropriately than traditional sex. Although, I have to admit, the sex here seems completely random to me. Typically, I build up a relationship between the characters until the only place left to go is the physical, and here that is not the case. I daresay that while these two are having inklings of romantic feelings, they are not even close to the…soul-bonded point, I suppose I will call it, as say, the main couples in The Phoenix Rose Saga and in Angelic Shadows. However, in a way I feel this may be more realistic, because, as I have been told by one reader, the best sex is random. So we will just go with this, shall we?
Now as I stated in the warning, this chapter is integral to the plot - and not because of the sex. In fact, as we head into the later chapters of Hollow, sex, which I typically like to hold up on a pedestal as an act to be treated with utmost respect, becomes extremely casual, even largely detached of emotion. For the most part this is due to Arei's previous occupation; those who don't remember what I am referring to should go reread the prologue. Regardless, this chapter is important because it establishes specific issues that Mewtwo and Arei will have to deal with in the future – issues which could very well be their undoing. Now because I need to fit all of this into one entry, this is probably going to be our longest chapter, with maybe one exception down the road. I thought about breaking it in two, but that is exactly what it would be: broken. It would be a pure lemon chapter without the duo facing the potential consequences of their behavior. That should not be done, if only because there should not be a week's wait between the events in real time.
Yet at any rate, I do think I have lectured long enough. I hope you enjoy this week's chapter of Hollow.
- E N T R Y XIII. –
Date – November 2nd-4th, 110 P.A. / 2114 A.D.:
"Fruit on the vine.
You've got yours,
And I've got mine.
Meat on your bones.
They won't know, they won't know . . . "
- Breaking Benjamin, "Topless."
As the festival soared into climax within its final night, the dusk air was pleasantly heavy with the smoky fragrances of gunpowder and incense. Across the wind floated the music of the celebration, which balanced dark and light tones in a haunting mixture of bass percussion, flutes, and ocarinas. Occasionally, the explosions, the whistles, the hisses of fireworks, which lit the shadows with blazes of colors, prevailed over the traveling symphony, and even from here, high in the observation room of the Temple, the sounds of cheers and stamping feet held a constant undertone of noise to the melody. Arei Dovasary, leaning against the stone ledge of the balcony, peered out across the plateau and into the main streets of the capital, which glittered as if seeded with fallen stars. Strewn along buildings and over the paths were paper decorations and orange lamps, and from out of the windows of many shops and homes, denizens of the city tossed petals of brightest scarlet over the parade participants who were slowly progressing towards the grounds. Dressed in elaborate costumes that mimicked the forms of the Holy Children, the headdresses obscuring all but their shining eyes, dancers spun and wove, occasionally beckoning the observers on the sidelines to join in their steps. Perhaps most notable of all the procession's features was what snaked through its center: the sacred Ouroboros train, symbolizing the eternity of the soul, of the empire, and of its God. Gleaming nacreous beneath the lights of the rockets, for tonight only it had released its tail, not only for practicality but also to show that in these hours, so fresh after rebirth, life and death hung linear. Yet tomorrow, the serpent would once again bite down upon its end, and it would circle, ever circle, until rebirth commenced again.
Having witnessed this all before, I leaned back into the cushions and silks behind me, watching her standing there, framed in pyrotechnic light. In hours previous she had entered this chamber after me, robed in her best kimono – a wash of lavender over which birds of purest white flew – and had set out our dinner, a rice dish of numerous spices and strips of sun-dried, salted fish, along with a couple hot bottles of the finest sake, which now were perched near the open fire burning in the center of the stone floor. Above it, the skylight was flung open, providing the smoke and floating embers a route of escape into the cool night air. I watched, a sense of strange peace pervading me (perhaps from the sake the woman had poured me some time earlier, her own cup still clutched in her hand as she watched the parade), as moths flirted with the fiery sparks the crackling blaze exhaled. After a time, the female turned back to me and crossed the space between us, and sat down beside me. Eventually, she murmured, "They all seem perfectly happy with the lie, don't they?"
It was the most she had said to me since we had parted nearly three days earlier. Taking a sip of my drink, letting the liquid float over my tongue before swallowing, I replied, (Yes – and that is why the Rebellion has had such a lack of success. There are few who are willing to believe that this world is such an abysmal place when they can still achieve their dreams if they so desire. Certainty, those belonging to the new order do not agree with every edict passed, but what government in history has had its people support every law and belief it possesses?)
She stared into the fire, considering that. "You are probably right…but they believe in you and your tales so deeply…," she said softly, and poured me more of the rice wine. Then she murmured, "Perhaps reality is in the eye of the beholder; after all, a dream is only a dream as long as its maker realizes it is an illusion. Yet if the dreamer is lost in their imagination, it becomes real to them…and if enough people believe in the dream, well…who can say what is and what is not true?"
I felt my lips twitch in humor. (How strange…I was always under the impression that philosophical contemplation was among my own traits, not yours. I cannot say it is displeasing, however. Still, I must admit, you are growing admirably, Arei.)
That seemed to both amuse and perplex her. "Am I?"
I nodded. (Indeed; in these past few months, you have matured more swiftly than I had believed possible....)
Long minutes passed after that declaration, and we continued to drink amiably, watching the fireworks burst in the starry sky. Vibrant red and emerald, shimmering gold and silver, bright violet and pink all lit the firmament at intervals, their embers trailing downwards like the branches of a willow or the graceful petals of spider lilies. Others mimicked flowers such as peonies, chrysanthemums, and dahlias, creating a garden of fire beneath the moon, while some descended in gentle waterfalls or thick rain, as if to drench their roots. Still others glimmered between them like faceted diadems or fairy rings, while some shrieked as they spiraled upwards into the air, like fish leaping from the surface of the sea. It mattered not to me that I had witnessed this spectacle countless times before: always was it alluring and beautiful in my eyes, and knowing it was the first time Arei had seen it since her awakening, I glanced at her face to note her expression. She had leaned back, her face tilted upwards and her interest enrapt as the finale began. As the explosions burst into one another, the sky overflowing with colored lights, I could feel the noise of the pyrotechnic zenith deep in my breastbone, pounding within my ribs…and she continued to watch until the final blaze faded into wisps of smoke, and the streets beyond the Temple began to quiet.
Although the celebration would continue well into the short hours of the morning, many citizens would choose this time to return to their homes to rest for the following day, when business would resume as usual. The woman and I, already home, need not move from our place in the comfortable silks, though we did stand now to stretch our muscles and takes our empty dishes to the nearby table. Confirming that all of the candles remained alight and chasing the shadows away, I then turned towards the fire and lifted a few logs of cut sandalwood with my telekinesis, setting them in the heart of the blaze. Within a minute, the dry wood caught, and soon its sweet aroma and welcome heat poured anew throughout the observation room. Arei, having already returned to her seat, now nursed another drink of the warmed alcohol. I joined her there, indulging in the same pastime, and after awhile we both grew pleasantly "buzzed," our tongues loosened and our inhibitions relaxing. We began to merely talk, the subjects fleeting and spilling into one another: about philosophy and politics, about human nature and the behavior of the Holy Children. Did the pokémon, she wondered, not interact with humans as much as they once had because they feared that such encounters might encourage mankind to covet them again? Or did they simply prefer to dwell in the wilds, which were no longer being encroached upon by humanity? I provided her with what answers I could give, but I doubted they were entirely satisfactory; after all, I had always found her kind a more interesting subject of study than my own, and as such, I could only guess at their motives.
Eventually, music floated up into the air once more: the parade musicians had joined the choir from the Temple, their songs now carrying up into the night, crying in celebration of the resurrection and of the wonders of life. Such lively and ancient folksong called to Arei, and leaving me behind she stood, allowing her outer robes to fall to the floor, leaving her clad in only a thin dress of the same ashen tone as my fur, whose hue it had been derived from. Then, with me as her only witness...she let go. She danced about the fire, her steps light, her limbs sweeping, her slim form swaying, the hem of her dress and her hair whirling in the fragrant air across her skin, which was honey-toned in the firelight. Her arms lifted into the air, as though beseeching, and she breathed out long, slow breaths, her expression tranquil, her gaze glazed…but within their depths, they burned as she reveled in grace. She was one with the night, vital as the flames, her partner in dance, though neither touched nor kissed, for sacred were their movements, full of feeling and primal energy that neither wished to release. Time stretched as I watched her turn and turn, bringing each detail into perfect clarity: the brushes of her soles to the smooth, stone floor, the folds of the fabric embracing her as she twirled, the gentle curve of her spine as she leapt and fell, chasing the smoke and wind and moonlight.
And there was something so utterly sensual about the dance that I could not help but admire her with a soft smile, intoxicated with the sight of her as much as with the drink which warmed my center.
Eventually, as all things begun must, her motions slowed and halted. Standing beside the fire, she peered at me, her eyes beckoning me to rise. Although I was a feline, and hence one entitled to grace, I nonetheless declined, for the affinity to nature she displayed was one I could not mimic. With a sigh, she wondered aloud, "Why won't you join me?"
Her tone was layered, the words possessing more meaning than one. Taking another sip of sake, I replied, (Did it occur to you that perhaps I do not wish to sully the purity I see when I gaze on you?)
Her eyes gleamed in the dim. "Tell me, my Abaddon, how would you dirty me? You do not care about blood – you are already drowning in it. And as for sin, can pokémon or gods truly commit it, or isn't it simply a human evil?"
Her question intrigued me, but I felt I already knew the answer: anything with sentience may commit atrocity. However, something she had said clung in me: "my Abaddon." Somehow, that use of the possessive was appealing…for, from her tone, I knew she claimed no ownership over me. If anything, it was a declaration of a far more pleasant sort….
(I believe I can commit sin just as easily as you can, Arei…and as such, I have my reasons for not joining you.)
I attempted to say it gently to avoid giving her reason for offense, for I meant no insult by the comment. She was, after all, attractive enough, though by no stretch of the means stunning: her form was too childlike, too thin to be one which invoked wild fantasies in a man, though her coloring was enough to arouse the curiosity of potential suitors. For myself, I viewed her to be alluring, but this beauty was perhaps accentuated by the wonder I felt in regards to her soul. Regardless, the young woman seemed to sober and asked quietly, "…Are those reasons the same reasons why you didn't take me on Spirit's Eve?"
She walked towards me, and swirling my remaining sake in the bottom of my cup, I wondered how long she had been waiting to ask that question. Finally, as she halted before me, I said, (Yes, they are.)
My priestess sat down beside me; her skin and hair radiated warmth and were well perfumed by the sweet sandalwood smoke. "So why did you take Christina? What was your reasoning then? Are she and I so different?"
Gazing at her, I mused on that. (…In ways, yes, you are different. However, as the weeks progress, you are becoming more similar to her. I daresay she might even have likened you to a sister, but I cannot be certain.) And I reached out, touching her jaw, turning her head so I could gaze into her face. (You are, as she was, a creature of tolerance and thoughtfulness. You, like her, chose not to abuse your position in the pursuit of personal ambitions or pleasures, and you, like her, show a deep capacity for kindness. As well, both of you deemed to treat me like a man, rather than a god you dare not voice your opinion to. And as for your differences...well, you are something of an idealist, Arei. She, however, she was a realist. True, she wanted to think the best of others and work towards a brighter future, but she was aware of the darkness of humanity and knew she could not overcome it alone. She was also extremely wary, despite how brave she was, and knew well to take care with whom she trusted. And finally, she was a brilliant orator, better perhaps than I was. You, on the other hand, prefer to speak only when you deem it necessary, preferring the arts as your method of expression. You are also extremely amiable, your soul more open, and you give your trust away freely if your initial meeting with an individual is pleasant. The "Kestrel" is a good example of how dangerous that behavior can potentially be…I fear at times that your naivety will be your death.)
My paw rose, gracing her cheek. She did not brush my touch away. (And then there are the physical contrasts: she was far older than you are, as well as quite a bit taller - you are almost childlike in your stature in comparison. In addition, she also had olive skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes; you have a paler complexion, darker hair, and an exotic gaze. Then there are your behaviors: you both prove rather sweet in nature, but I must confess you are by far warmer than she was, at least when concerning me. She was ever so cool in my presence - I daresay she cherished her fiercest enemies far more than she cherished her God.)
She hesitated for a moment, and then whispered, "…And the thought of that saddens you, doesn't it? Doesn't it bother you, not having anyone close to you?" And surprising me, she pressed a hand to the paw I held to her. Her palm was warm….
...I drew away from her and stared into the dancing flames. Suddenly, the heat of that blaze could no longer penetrate my fur. My eyelids drifted shut, and I commented in a cool, detached voice, (I am well used to being alone, woman. Over the years, I have even found my isolation from others preferable…although, of course, I am not immune to loneliness. Yet when it dares creep up into my soul, I mock it: for how can a creature live with hundreds at his disposal and still feel alone? If I truly wanted company, it is not simple enough to obtain? Are your predecessors not proof enough of that, and proof enough that even choosing your own companions with utmost care may not even insure your comfort? No, beyond your hallowed kind, I find the prospect of establishing bonds to be too wearying, and hence a pursuit better left to more social creatures.)
This conversation had, against my better judgment, edged too close to why I had chosen her and the others, and within the depths of my mind, I waited with dread for her to ask the question…but she never did, not then. Instead, she reflected on what I had revealed about my lifestyle. "That sounds empty to me. With people bonded to you, life can be so…dynamic. Yet without relationships, all you have is yourself, and I am quite sure that would drive anyone mad after enough time had passed."
How ironic…had Kaliesha not uttered the same warning, albeit with a different wording?
I turned back to her, my curiosity perked, and asked, (And what of you, Arei? Do you ever feel lonely?)
She froze…and then with a sad smile, breathed out, "…Yes. My people look up to me in awe, placing me far above them, and so I cannot belong among them. The imperial servants with whom I spend my days educate and humor me, but what we share is far from a relaxed friendship. Then others exist who do not care for me in the least, such as Craven, and, I suspect, the Priests. Of course, there are the exceptions: Marie treats me as a mother might, and Byron as a sibling would, to name the primary two…but the line is always there, isn't it? I am the High Priestess and they are my social inferiors, and as such, because none of us are on the same level, there will always be expectations I must meet in their eyes…expectations that, had I been a casual companion or their equal, they would not dream of asking me to meet."
…She was, I expected, speaking of Spirit's Eve: having the people she cared for most setting her up to be sexually violated was not the behavior of true friends. While I suspected the thought of rape had tortured at least her lead Handmaiden's conscience, the fact remained that the woman had done nothing to stop the potential crime from taking place. She, like her companions, had failed Arei when she had most needed defenders, simply because tradition dictated that they must not intervene, even if their morals called for them to fight for what was right. They had instead chosen to do what was easy: ignore the issue. As such, they had proven the frailty of their loyalty and love for their young empress. Hence, sadly, Arei's observations were correct: she was alone, as I was. We were surrounded by admirers, yes…but in the end, our statuses isolated us from the community – such was the curse of divine privilege and standing.
In my case, I had chosen this fate. She, on the other hand….
"…And perhaps worse is that every day, the only person I have to rely on fades more and more."
My attention regained, I asked, (And who might that be?)
She glanced at me, and then away, and whispered, "…Me. It is getting harder and harder to simply be myself around others, especially considering what I have learned these last few days."
…And somewhere deep inside me, a laugh blossomed inappropriately, for I could not help but feel incredulous: (And what about me, Arei? Have I suddenly vanished from existence and left you alone on the top of the world?) Maybe it was the sake, or maybe it was that her melodrama honesty robbed the sense from me, but I found her declaration entirely comical. After all, she had yet to mention me in her list of people who had disappointed her, and I would have thought, previous to this hour, that I would be at the top of those she would complain about, given I had done her the most damage!
Naturally, my light tone offended her. She was attempting to convey a dire problem to me, and here I sat, scoffing at her. "I – what? No, of course not, it is just that for the first several months of my life, you were not precisely approachable with my insecurities, and now matters between us are such an incredible mess that…," and then she understood what I was saying, and a queer smile crossed her face and she nearly snorted into her drink, "Oh, I see…and of course now we're getting somewhat tipsy and talking about every little thing because we've hit rock bottom! Well how utterly delightful," and she meant that, as if she could now fully relish in the twisted, sick hilarity of fate.
After her shoulders ceased to quake with laughter, she tossed down the cool sake that remained in her cup with a grimace, and said, "Well, I suppose I can always act myself around you. After all, I am certain you could tell if I was behaving in any strange fashion, since I have never been able to fool you or even have anything to hide from you, right?"
(I am quite glad you agree.) She snorted again, muttered something most likely mildly insulting, and seeing her stretch out over the silks, I asked her, (If I may inquire, are you intending to stay here all night?)
As this particular room was only accessible through my quarters, I was curious. She smirked. "Would you let me?"
(I see no reason why not. At this point, it makes no difference where you spend the remainder of the night, so long as you remain in one of our chambers.)
She sat up abruptly, perhaps too swiftly, for she swayed somewhat before leaning closer to me. "Good, because I do not think I could walk back to my room properly if you forced me to leave. Maybe you can be merciful…well, at least when you're a tad drunk."
I was not drunk…at ease, perhaps, but not drunk. Yet there was no need to correct her…and besides, what she had said made me curious. (My, what do you think of me if you believe I can only be warm when intoxicated?) She obviously did not remember much of the other night she had been under the influence – which was not surprising, given her thoughts would have been muddled, but it was somewhat depressing to find that she could not recall the hour when I had treated her with kindness and respect.
Then to my surprise, she began to contemplate an answer for my inquiry, and after a few moments said, "…I think when you chose to stop acting all aloof and arrogant in your power, you can be quite considerate to those you like at least a little. You speak like a poet, which more often than not is something I find pleasant, and I guess I try to mimic that because I admire how easily you find the right words to say. And in many ways, you're a human in a pokémon's skin, given that you seem to mingle traits from both sides, both in mind and body. You're a masterpiece, really: walking between the shadows and light, evil and good, chaos and order, and when you aren't being a jerk, you can be appealing to...er, certain individuals."
(Oh? Who?) Yet from the way her cheeks stained pink, I already knew the answer.
She looked away from me, and whispered, "Me, I suppose...and given what you actually are, what you did to us all, I hate myself for it so much…!"
Yet I set our cups aside and leaned over her, not allowing her to avoid meeting my gaze. Perhaps she despised herself for caring for or admiring a monster - but I was quite grateful for it, and breathing in her scent of lilacs, I uttered, (Well, perhaps you do find that affection deplorable…but frankly, I am pleased to hear that it exists. Maybe there is some hope for you and me yet….)
We were close enough that our breaths mingled, and quietly, she murmured the name she had always known me as: "Abaddon...."
...And suddenly, so suddenly that I did not know which of us had crossed the distance, our mouths had met.
My eyes drifted shut…warmth, softness, the faint flavor of grapes across the tongue, which was spiked with the heady bite of alcohol. Although I had only enjoyed the kiss of one woman before, I concluded almost instantly whose I preferred, moving my mouth against Arei's as she curled upwards to hold the tender contact. I felt the tip of her tongue grace my lower lip tentatively, an act which I returned as her lips parted. Our kiss became fuller, our breaths blended, and an intoxicating heat traveled down my throat, pooling in my stomach as we pressed ourselves closer. This felt and tasted wonderful…her hand cupped the back of my neck, pressing me down against her, her other clutching at my shoulder. I slid a firm arm about her waist, the fingers of my other paw becoming buried in the feathery strands of her hair, fragrant of sandalwood smoke and lilacs. We sank into the silks, moving against one another, allowing the bliss of physical intimacy to comfort us after days, perhaps months of uncertainty…. Eventually, as thought began to reemerge we parted, gazing into each other's faces, contemplating the act which had just taken place. Her gaze was glazed and half-lidded, and there was no hint of a smile on her face. I could glean no shred of comprehension from that expression, but before I could properly ask her how she felt about what we had done, she dragged me back down, her mouth imploring me not to cease…and so I did not. The warmth within me intensified, burning, spreading throughout my flesh, and with a quiet growl of pleasure, I cradled her mouth to mine again. For no matter how my mind might argue now, she was no longer a child. Her innocence had been lost, perhaps longer ago than I had dared imagine….
Soon I felt her palms caressing my face, my necks, my torso, as if savoring the feel of my fur, and taking that as an invitation to do more for her as well, I brushed kisses down her jaw and throat, nipping softly at the pulse beating there, running my fangs along her shoulder. She shivered, and reaching downwards, I began to push at the fabric of her dress, sliding the thin garment upwards until she must lift her arms to free herself from it…which she did, and it was promptly cast aside. All that remained were her undergarments, thin wraps of silk about her breasts and around her waist, both of which I made no motion to unwind just now. Instead, I reveled in the feel of her bare legs brushing against my hips, at the feel of her flat stomach rubbing to mine, the way in which her arms encircled around me. With each motion of our bodies, pleasure flared in the most intimate regions of my flesh, and from Arei's own quivers and gasps, I was certain she too experienced the same sensations. My loins soon ached, and I could smell the perfume of sex rising from between her thighs…but for now, I ignored both, focusing my attention instead up the amulet she yet wore…or more precisely, the skin beneath it. I buried my muzzle against her, my fingers trailing over her sides as I nuzzled at the shallow valley between her breasts. I tugged the fabric away with my teeth, admiring the small mounds before massaging them and running the tip of my tongue across her sweet, hardening nipples – her frame stiffened, a shrill whimper rising from her throat at the contact. Her cry only aroused me more…I chuckled into her breasts, glancing up at her, and lay another kiss upon her mouth. I was uncertain which part of her tasted better to me….
"Ab - Abaddon…!"
A hint of ecstasy raced through us both as my sex slid against the nub between her legs. I gritted my teeth, groaning slightly as the pleasure of the contact flashed through my loins deep into my core. I wanted her to touch me…by god did I want that. If she had been Christina, I might even have ordered that of her, because that woman, for all her disgust at her union with me, would have obeyed any demand I made of her. If I had wanted her to encompass me with the moist heat of her mouth, she would have - but I had been interested in traditional sex, not the offshoots of the act, I had settled for savoring the feel of the silken walls of her genitalia. And as for Arei…I would not request such a thing from her. No, I was enjoying the sharp gasps rising from her throat as I rubbed against her, feeling her pulse and the fabric between us moisten. A soft plea fled her, and with a hiss, I tore at the fabric between us, moving myself forward between her thighs, feeling the wet curls of her sex around me, feeling her flesh hot against my tip….
And in the moment before union, as I clutched at her sides tightly, I made perhaps my first mistake: I looked down into her face…and what I saw stopped me from thrusting forward as my libido demanded of me. For Arei, though her body begged for mine, though she had said no words to protest my advances…was not smiling.
True, I likely refrained from such a silly expression of joy as well, though I was nearly brimming with emotion…yet the eyes that peered up at me seemed strangely empty. For the first time I extended my empathic senses into her, trying to decipher what she was feeling - it was muddled, with no emotion particularly clear to me. However, I could tell what her spirit lacked now: happiness. She was not happy being this close to me. Yes, her core itched desperately with lust, so much so that her mind was held under its sway, and even now, she moved against me as if in a silent plea for me to enter her so she might ride my motions into climax and so satiate her desire. And I ached to do the same; so much of me now declared that it did not matter, for she had consented, and so there was nothing wrong with continuing and releasing the building pressure within me. I could take her now…I could guide myself into her and fill her and finish the act with a few hurried motions. It would be so easy….
And yet…words haunted me now in a way they never had before; they echoed in my mind, making me hesitate….
"You claim to be curious about love, and to humor you I let you take from me the last thing you hadn't stolen . . . after all, all you care about is your own ambitions, your own needs...."
"...You took those gifts from me…you took everything from me…!"
(...it is a sacred place. For your sake, allow no one but the person you love entrance into it…for no one else would be worthy of your gift.)
That was right…I had advised her against allowing someone she did not adore inside of her. And now, intoxicated as she was during the night I had denied her, she was unable to reject her suitor herself. Instead, I must depart from her once more…or at the very least, not slide inside her and, as my once lover had said, take from her the last thing I had not already stolen. With a moan of mingled disappointment and remorse I shut my eyes and released her, pressing my forehead to her shoulder, trying to calm myself…yet her breathing was quickened and her skin flushed…the sight of her, the sound of her, only made me harden more until almost painful. My mind was set on not continuing, yet everything else, including her, was set to drive us into the act. I should have known better than to allow her to drink…she had not the experience I had with alcohol. Then the woman breathed out, "Abaddon...is something wrong...?"
My brow furrowed…and just so, I drew away from the woman before me, brushing her cheek with my fingertips, and asked, (Arei…what do you feel for me?)
Focus seemed to return to her gaze, but it was swiftly drowned with confusion. She tilted her head to the side, not gazing at me, and whispered, "I…I don't know."
And she spoke the truth; she did not know whether she loved me or hated me, or to what degree between those two extremes her feelings rested. My elation sinking, I knew then that I could not take advantage of this uncertainty, as we had with the alcohol and our amiability, and as such, I could not move forward, no matter how I yearned to…no matter how her fingertips trailed over me….
Even after a century, it was likely the first time I had mentally cursed using that vulgar word, and I mused with some irony on how very appropriate it was. I felt my resolve begin to collapse, and I kissed her, pressed myself to her, indulging in the sweet pleasure of her movements against me. Why stop now when we wanted this, when we needed this, why, why, why…? And the answer, so simple, dominated my thoughts: because it was not fair to her. Once again, I would be using someone whose bond with me was supposed to be pure. I would be betraying the trust she had placed in me, even after I had revealed to her what I was. Even now she invited me into her from her faith that I would not hurt her. But in the depths of her mind, I knew what was truly there: she did not want me to claim her body, nor was she psychologically ready for this act. And so, with a terrible groan I backed away, my mouth trailing down across her stomach as I fled, and I mused that this was perhaps the most horrible experience I had encountered. Even Christina, who had mated with me with a cold heart, could not compare to the pain of craving someone so dearly with all that I was, and knowing that I could not have her. I could not take from this woman, for I had taken so much, too much already….
And then the thought emerged: why not give this woman something back? At first, I could make no sense of it, and then the solution bloomed in my mind, a way with which to provide her what she longed for and yet not ravish her selfishly. Yet this would be something I had never committed before, not in over a century of life. Anxiety twisted my gut…but was I not well used to experimentation? Under Giovanni's heel, I had been directed to participate in detailed studies of my being, and in my own scientific endeavors, research into the intimate secrets of my physiology had proven commonplace. In addition, I had run tests in more fields than mere biology, and perhaps this could simply be viewed as another trial, if on a more personal scale. It would not be as if I was doing anything exotic, given that the act had been committed for thousands of years, and even held a place of worship in certain religions of the old world. And she, I knew, was in perfect health, so there would be no risk of contamination for me. Zered and I, knowing her history, had screened her to make certain of that. No, the only harm her occupation had done was leave her with scars deep in her womb - beyond that, she proved unscathed and clean of infection. Reassured by those facts, I inched downwards, my breath rolling across her abdomen, into the small, dark curls of hair between her legs. Her potent scent was an assault against my nostrils, femininity condensed into a perfume which filled the forefront of my mind with fog. My hands cradled her inner thighs as I rested on my stomach, ignoring the ache in my loins, and I leaned forward, her trimmed hair tickling at my muzzle, for a moment amusing myself with the thought of how very alien and unappealing the sight of any sex was, regardless of gender. And then softly, tentatively, my tongue flicked out to run over her flesh….
She coiled, squeaked in shock, and I mused that her taste was somewhat…bitter. Not wholly unpleasant, but it was not as sweet as the nectar or honey that some men likened it to. Though perhaps the flavor depended entirely on the individual, for I doubted not that in some it would be sweet. I brushed aside completely the curls to reveal the flushed, heated inner folds of her sex and the bud above them, and licked gently at the tender flesh, feeling her fingernails bite at my shoulders as I did. Her frame tensed, relaxed, shifted minutely above me, quiet pants and cries rising from her throat at the foreign bliss my touch seemed to induce in her. I wondered to myself if she had every experienced this form of pleasuring before. Given her background, I could not be certain…and yet, I reminded myself, her task had been to provide pleasure, not receive it in return, and for all her supposed experience, her body seemed not to know how to react to the lapping of my tongue against her. Of course, without her memories of those years, essentially this was the first true sexual experience of her life…yet still, I wondered….
Her flesh parted as I stiffened my tongue, and closing my eyes I slid into her, the bitterness flooding my tongue, hot walls of flesh enveloping me. Over my arms her legs bent, and I imagined her toes curling. I pushed farther in, thankful for being descended from feline ancestors, blessed so with long tongues meant to preen. Slowly, curiously, I explored her, feeling how she yielded, how she clutched as I manipulated the dexterous muscle to see the effects it had on her. On occasion, I caressed a region which made her shiver, but never could I pinpoint where precisely it was. Holding her firm, I simply pleasured her, moving in and out in an act reminiscent of what I would be doing if we truly mated. She seemed to enjoy it, though she did not shriek as a female supposedly would when experiencing this...yet she did occasionally moan softly, and that was enough. At times, my tongue brushed the nub above her folds, and at those times, my empathy alerted me to her mingled sharp pain and pleasure of the contact. She was so sensitive there, but then, that part of her body had been crafted for that purpose. Sliding my tongue from her, I began to lap at her again, and this time moved up to that bud of flesh, silken beneath my tongue. Her spine curled, a sharp hiss escaping her throat. I would finish this there, where bliss sliced into her the most. I continued my lapping at her, increasing the speed and firmness of the strokes, no longer being so gentle, and that, I found, met reward. Her body coiled, her limbs motioning me closer, and I obeyed her will, for this was meant as an offering to her. I encompassed the whole of her in my mouth; the tip of my tongue rubbed beneath the nub, circled it, and lapped against the pulsing tip, her bitterness seeping afresh, and then-.
"Stop! Too much…!" She gasped, her hands attempting to push me away.
Yet as soon as she cried for me to cease, I had flicked at her one final time and had drawn away. She shuddered before turning over on her side, squeezing her legs together as if to press into nothingness her moist and pleasured sex – but even that seemed futile, for she winced, eventually contenting herself with keeping her thighs apart, allowing only air to brush her. The sensitivity was too overwhelming to her…it might even be painful, or so intense she simply feared it, as fresh as she was to the feelings of any form of erotic pleasure. My paw ran over her side as I rose to my haunches, my sex still erect, although my focus on invoking pleasure in her seemed to have distracted me from the drive to satisfy my own needs. Still, she remained arousing, and so I reached for the silks beneath us, covering her form with them, at which she seemed to slacken as if in relief. I then pressed a kiss to her temple, my fingers running through her hair, and I thought to myself that even though she was not a goddess, she was still lovely, this woman of hallowed dance. Her eyes drifted shut, her breathing quieting…and in my chest, my heart beat steadily, and seemed to warm as I saw her relax. I...smiled.
Was she happy?
I…wanted her to be happy.
"Abaddon…um...," she blushed, and then murmured, "...thank you."
…It would be enough.
(You're welcome. Now rest, priestess.)
I stood, intent upon a chilled shower…and when I returned, she was sleeping soundly in the silks. Calmed now, I lay beside her and wove an arm and tail loosely around her. She radiated warmth, her scent of lilacs filled my muzzle and lungs, and her heart pounded steadily as mine did. And for a while, for a short while as her heat poured into me and I began to doze…I felt peace.
Yet it could not last....
Nothing ever does.
...Sunshine, pale and cool as the dawn, trickled over the skylight.
I did not want to open my eyes to it - it blinded, making the pounding pain within my heavy skull worse. No, I would not open my eyes, nor move. Beyond the glow, I was comfortable resting in the sheets, and felt warm and secure. I did not wish to leave this haze to face the brutal edges of reality, for this was safe and pleasant and tender, and far preferable to confronting the day.
Yet eventually I realized that the sheets were encompassing my naked skin, that there was a weight around my waist, and that a surface was undulating against my back. As coherent thought reared from the silver mist, looming dark and unpleasant, a chill sliced through my stomach as the questions formed. Why was I not wearing my robes? What that a - no, who was the person lying behind me, holding me in their arms? I tried to remember what had occurred in the previous night, but there seemed to be nothing after I had consumed dinner with Abaddon. Ignoring the headache, I concentrated upon the fog of the hours afterward the meal: a parade and fireworks…a fire, Abaddon laying out on these very silks, watching me…we had talked…then what? What had happened? The fog thickened, obscuring my memory. Panic filled me, and opening my eyes I gazed into the ashes of a dead blaze. Then, slowly, I turned towards the warmth behind me…and froze as I saw Abaddon lying next to me. My gaze darted to the floor around us. There were my robes and my...my undergarments...? My stomach plunged, and then lurched. What...what had we done last night?
As I scrambled away from him, clutching the silks to my chest, Abaddon shifted and then opened his eyes…which fixed on the sight of me sitting there, staring at him in such dismay. He rose on one arm, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, but I could feel his focus upon me like the tip of a knife pressed to the center of my back. As I whispered his name, he rose to his feet, tossing me my clothes with his telekinesis. After a moment as he starred purposefully away from me, he growled, (There are people searching for you - dress quickly and return to your quarters.)
There was no trace of warmth in his tone, and a shiver raced down my spine. I did not understand. "Abaddon…?"
He head jerked towards me so that he could gaze into my face, and with frighteningly fierce eyes, he snarled, (I gave you an order, woman! Get out of these rooms NOW!)
I flinched away from him, feeling as if lashed by a whip. Trembling, I tried to throw on my clothes as swiftly as possible, but that did not seem to satisfy him: I felt an icy rush as he teleported me into my own quarters, and there, in shock, I sank down onto the rug, shaking. What…what was going on? Why was he being so…? What had I done to merit this treatment? I clutched at the fibers beneath me, trying to remember…and finally, the fog cleared, and the memories of the twilight returned. My stomach lurched again, this time far more powerfully. I rose, discarding my used robes and raced into the washroom. Yet as I hung over the toilet bowl, the contents of my stomach would not come up, though the strength of my nausea made me dizzy and bathed me in a cold sweat. My flesh crawled, and I felt as if I was covered in grime. My decision only half-formed, I stumbled to the shower, turning the water on full blast and not caring that it was freezing as I stepped into it. I screamed as it bit at my flesh, and as the revulsion built inside of me, I grasped the nearest washcloth, impregnated it with soap, and scrubbed at every inch of my skin. I wanted to get his scent off me, wanted to wash away what had happened. I even reached up inside of myself, the pain of it making the tears stinging in my eyes overflow, and the sobs I had been keeping at bay shaking me. I wanted him off me, I wanted him out…! Leaning against the cool wall, the water pounding on my back, I shuddered and gasped. Even as I was rinsed of soap suds, I felt as though I was so dirty that I could never come clean.
Eventually, my horror was lost between fresh, more potent feelings of anger, grief, and weakness. Why had he thrown me out...? Was he ashamed that he had acted so primitively with me? Was he ashamed that my purity had collapsed, and that I had pleaded for him to give me more? Did the very memory of our actions disgust him so much that he could not stand the sight of me? Why, after I had let myself be so vulnerable with him, had he treated it as if it was a vile offering, unfit for even the lowest of beings? And why, why had I let him near me in the first place, knowing the kind of monster he was?
Tears burned my face, and from misery I turned to rage, which was at once rasher and safer than self-pity. I felt used, violated, and now discarded like an embarrassing toy. I seethed, for what right did he have to treat me so harshly when he had been the one in control of the situation? I did not deserve this! I was his companion, not his…not his…! And ice crystallized in my chest, for I remembered well what I had once been told my position as empress entailed. I was meant to surrender to him, to give him carnal pleasure whenever he craved it: as his personal servant, that was one of my entrusted duties. He could demand anything of me, and still I was expected to obey him! As my fury soared, I leapt from the waters, striding into my rooms and rummaging through my belongings for my most plain robes and cloaks. Throwing them on, I raced from my rooms and left no note. I ran through the halls, down the stairways, and finally turned to leave the Temple itself. Save for my footsteps, the grounds were quiet at this hour, and as I descended ever downwards from the plateau, pain knifed in my side and my throat from my sharp intakes of breath. Saliva, thin and metallic tasting, trickled past my windpipe and made me sputter as I fled into the capital, not truly knowing or caring where my feet took me. I raced into the districts, bumping past countless early risers, though our eyes never met and I remained unnoticed, until finally, my legs succumbed to spasms and gave out. Stumbling, I collapsed in an alleyway of the entertainment quarter. No one on the streets noticed my quivering form, as busy as they were in clearing the area of festival decorations.
When I had regained some strength, I stood, kept my hood lowered, and began to wander deeper into the back alleyways. Why I did this I knew not, but in my apathy, my caution and fear for where I had strayed was minimal. I knew that I was walking into the territory of gangs, of sexual predators, of violent fiends, and yet it was as if I purposefully sought to destroy myself in those moments, to allow blackness to swallow me completely. Passing brothels and bars, I drew closer to a destination which had no name or face, until the sounds of terrible, shredding music poured into the streets, causing me to pause. A wicked siren's song blared from a pub dubbed, "The Elysian Fields" where Lucario, the god of the downtrodden, was said to search for his lost companion. Considering it fitting for me, who felt worth as much as the dust clouding its windowsills, I stepped forward and entered into the bedlam. On one side of the room, where tables had been cleared, a lightning pokémon – an Electabuzz, if memory served – charged the musical machines to create the eerie noise of the bellowing drums, the electric guitars, and the delicate keyboard. Above their harmonies rang male vocals, the language of the lyrics he sang foreign in my ears. However, his angelic tone and the harsh instrumental notes blended well, and were exciting enough that many listeners danced and screamed with the music. I shied away from it, for though enticing, it seemed barbaric compared to what I encountered in my daily life.
Of course, I knew that this music was not so different from what was popular in the last century. Although much had regressed after the Apocalypse, music had not. True, many of the technologies employed to create what had been known as "modern rock" and "metal" had grown scarce, but books compiling the recordings had been presented to the public and refined decades ago, for Abaddon had enjoyed the driving melodies and had sought to have the genres continue to evolve. As the thought of him entered my mind, I shoved the contemplation away, merely allowing the pounding beat to pulse through my chest…and then a slower, haunting song began, and in the ensuing hush I walked over to the bar and sat on one of the stools, ordering red wine which, unlike sake, I had far more experience with. Drinking deeply of the sweet alcohol, my nerves began to settle, and the music synchronized with my mood. I ordered a refill after a few more moments; the bartender eyed me warily, but did as requested. Hours passed and the wine lost its taste, so I settled for watching the other customers playing cards and gambling and singing. By noon, any worry I had for the Temple servants finding me had slid into nonexistence. Abaddon must have held them back, for I imagined the news of my disappearance would have traveled into even this little hole by now if he had not. Should I be offended by his lack of concern, or grateful that he was giving me some time and space? Did he think me childish for running away...?
The bartender, by this point, was keeping a sharp eye on me and kept filling my glass with water rather than alcohol, and I remembered vaguely that I had no money with which to pay him for the wine. However, he did not seem to seek coin, for as the crowd filtered out to attend to their jobs, he said to me, "You drink that water up, High Priestess. I'm giving you no more wine, otherwise you'll be sick on my counter, and while it might be a blessing to baptize it with the contents of your stomach, it would be a sour-smelling mess to clean up all the same."
I had to smile wryly. "So I have been recognized - how wonderful."
He noted my tone. "I take it that even you have your bad days?"
"Yes," I moaned, "Being on top of the world means you have a lot you can trip over."
His eyes twinkled in amusement. "I suppose so - may I inquire as to what brought you here?"
I drank some of the water, finding it pleasantly cool. Pressing the glass to my forehead, I admitted, "Abaddon can overstep his bounds at times…so I needed to get away for awhile. With that in mind, my feet brought me here."
He turned away, and when he turned back, he slid a plate of fried fish and potatoes in front of me. "Well, feel free to relax here as long as you wish. The meal and wine are free, so enjoy, my lady."
Only as the aroma of food hit my nose did I realize how famished I was; having not eaten since the previous evening, I devoured the meal and ignored the nausea that threatened as I did so. After I had swallowed the last bite, I pushed the plate aside and leaned against the counter, weariness enveloping me as my stomach settled. I asked the man if there was someplace I might rest for a time, and taking care not to touch me, he led me into a back room where I might sleep undisturbed. A woman, his wife, laid out a mat for me, which I curled upon with a murmur of thanks, and shut my eyes. When I opened them next, it was to the sound of breaking glass and shouts. A bar fight amongst the night crowd had broken out in the main room; the hour was past midnight. Staring at the wall, I wondered distantly why I was still here, although I knew it would be foolish to wander the streets after dark. Rolling over, I found the woman sitting beside my pallet - she was reading a romance novel. When she spied me peering at her, she smiled, snapped the book shut, stood, bowed, and asked me if there was anything she could do to make me more comfortable – food or drink, perhaps?
I shook my head. The only thing I needed was to relieve the pain in my bladder. "Could you show me were the toilet is, please?"
With another smile the woman led me to the bathroom; again, Abaddon's unwillingness to let go of the past was evident, for adequate plumbing and sewage disposal were required in all buildings. Once I had finished and scrubbed my hands nearly raw, remembering where they had touched the monster, I joined her for tea. Over our cups we discussed her lifestyle and business for a couple of hours, until exhaustion settled in again, and I returned to the mat they had provided…and thankfully, during that night under their roof, I never dreamed....
After their son had closed the bar and had retreated into his room for the night, the spouses remained wakeful. Sitting in their kitchen, they stared into their empty cups of tea, as if searching for shapes in the dregs from which they could divine their fortunes. Now that their distractions had resolved themselves and the morning had drifted into the dead hours, they allowed themselves to speak about the creature resting in their spare room. The bartender broke the silence first, saying, "I would not have thought she would have any residual memories. Considering her past, I was certain her mind would have been wiped clear - what other option would he have had? But damn…what if she had strayed over to the Madam's?"
His wife ran a fingertip around the rim of her cup. "I suspect the woman would have driven her away as fast as she could manage. It would have been too dangerous for Ora if she were recognized by one of the regular customers. We were fortunate she came here, rather than her old home."
The man sighed, and murmured, "Are we so lucky...? If she regained her memories, might she not bow to the cause again? Her position in society is more than ideal for-."
"No; she cannot be swayed back. Yes, she is angry with the false god for some reason, but I believe she retains her loyalty to him. Unlike Ora, this Arei is fond of the creature, and that is why his actions can hurt her so."
A bitter smile crossed his face at that. "How cruel...Ora would be infuriated if she could see herself now, serving that creature."
His spouse nodded. "Yes…but that is not to say that Arei cannot have her own use in our plans."
Her husband stilled, and glanced at his companion with suspicious, narrowed eyes. "…Sabrina's prophecy? You think Ora might be the bearer of the Prince? My dear, you know she is incapable of-!"
She cut him off, asserting, "The fated child is meant to be born of a miracle…and besides, the timing would be right. However, it could always be the next, so I cannot be certain. We must watch how events unfold. Still, you cannot deny the circumstances are ideal."
"…True," he nodded, "The change is tangible...but we must not jump to conclusions! For now, we will wait."
And throughout their entire discussion, the empress in the other room did not stir, and remained oblivious to all that had been said....
…When I awoke, dawn had bleached the sky into the palest shades of turquoise, pink, and lemon yellow...and Abaddon, still and silent, cast a shadow over the mat, blocking from my eyes the heavenly light. Lifting my torso with one arm, I did not look up into his face, instead wondering vaguely how long had he been standing there, watching me slumber. And as the unnatural quiet filled into my ears, more inquiries formed in my thoughts: where were the man and his wife? Were they awake at this hour, and if so, had they left to attend to business beyond their pub? Or were they simply leaving us alone, as I was certain their God would have desired? I could not know, and after several uneasy moments, I realized that Abaddon was growling at me. (…I am half-surprised you are still alive, considering you wandered into the home of Rebel sympathizers. Tell me, has speaking with them given you any of the insight you have been seeking, or-?)
Interrupting him while rubbing sleep from my eyes, I questioned him. "Insight…? What are you talking about?"
He fell silent, and when he spoke again, he did not answer my inquiry. Instead, he said, (If you were aware of what I was referring to, you would have a clear answer to my question. I had merely wondered if the fissure of your mind would have split apart completely when interacting with the likes of them…yet it appears that no damage has been done. Now, are you ready to return home, or will you persist in acting like a child?)
"…Why? Why should I go back?" My voice came out softly…and carrying some agitation. Beneath my numb exterior, I felt a prickling of frustration.
(…Because I desire it of you,) he whispered.
Bitterness swelled in my chest, burning like acid. Hints of the anger I had thought soothed in the twilight seeped into my tone. "I see…so you want me to return to a place where I am forced to posture as a figurehead on a ship built from blood and deception. You want me to return to a place where I can barely differentiate between friend and foe, and where, eventually, I may be destroyed and my bones stashed away with those of the women who came before me. You want me to return to a place where I cannot have a soul, because if I do it will be used against me! You want me to face all of that, because what right do I have to deny you, who the world revolves around? I am merely a glorified servant to you, am I, a possession you can do whatever you want with-?"
(Yes! You belong to me; that much should have been evident from the beginning-!)
"And in the end, my reward for my services to you will be a gruesome death and nothing more?" My voice was cold, for I knew there was only one reply that he could give me. For hadn't a bloody demise been the fate of any woman he placed beside him…?
After a moment, he snarled, (What is it you want from me, Arei?) Rage began to pour from him as he inquired, (What more could I provide you with that you do not already possess? Do you want tenderness from me, declarations of love, or simply to be the subject of my blatant affection?)
I stared at the floor. No, that was not what I wanted; the entire notion repulsed me, if only because such behavior did not fit any version of the male before me. He waited for my response, and when finding that I had none, he lashed his tail violently and snarled, (You foolish girl...do you have any idea what would happen to you if I treated you so warmly? Do you know what would have happened if those servants had found us together yesterday morning?)
No...no I did not. I lifted my head and spied the hard glint in his eyes, the stoniness of his face. A hiss escaped him, and he stepped back. (The woman in the position of High Priestess is meant to be a white light which counterbalances the darkness of my being. She is meant to be a pinnacle of faith and devotion to her God, and most importantly of all, pure. In short, she is the equivalent of a virgin bride, who upon special, sacred occasions is allowed to consummate with her intended husband. You are meant to be my consort in all ways…but you cannot be bound to me in holy law, or rather, matrimony. Yes, in theory, this is a viable option, especially if it means you can produce legitimate heirs for the empire. Yet in practice, you would be signing your own death sentence.)
His muzzle wrinkled, and his fangs gleamed in the glow of sunrise. (Right now, you are being ignored by the factions around us – do not scoff at me, it is true! You have yet to develop into an individual who can be used to the advantage of either side, and as such, you have not felt them begin to encroach upon your life! However, if you rose to be by my side, they would pursue you like hunting dogs after wild game. On one side would be the Rebellion, who would seek to use you to destroy all I have worked to build, and then publicly defile and murder you because of what you stand for. And then, even more threatening, is the side which you belong to, for in their eyes your new-found title as my spouse would threaten the balance of power. If you were to become my lover, my wife, it would imply that you have become more than a mere woman; that, in fact, you are being made into a member of the Parthenon. This would be unacceptable. In theory, it would mean you could wield your power against any who crossed you - you could single-handedly ruin what they have worked so hard to build! In addition, your ascension would be a contradiction to their belief that a mortal, a true mortal, cannot rise to divinity! Already you offend them with your past as you pollute the sacred office with what you were, and if you were to overtake them utterly…! They would not stand for it, Arei, if only because they could not tolerate the thought of me being swayed by one so unworthy-!)
"And what precisely was I that they viewed me to be so vile?" Fury blazed in my voice as I remembered how he had treated me in the previous dawn, as if I were a worthless thing. Did he concur with their views that I did not belong among the likes of them...?
He peered at me with narrowed eyes, and then laughed. (Do you truly wish to know?)
I nodded. His gaze swept over me as if I wore nothing, and he said, (...You were among the most base of beings, among the murderers, the thieves, the traitors, and you served them in the only way a woman without wealth or family could. Your body was their temple, and your mind was tainted with a hate which made you susceptible to the plight of the Rebellion. In short, you were a whore with ambition…and as such, your rise in status was one that those around me protested forcefully. Yet I chose you regardless of their disgust, I freed you from that wretched life...and you respond by fraternizing with my enemies!)
...It was as if a blade had gutted me, spilling out my innards, and I stared up at him, abruptly overcome by the sensation of being sullied. I...I had been a whore...? No…no, that could not be...! I could not have been such a sad creature...and yet, what reason did he have to conceal the truth from me now, when we were caught in the dark fire of animosity? Suddenly I remembered all of the whispers that had been spoken as I had passed through the halls of the Temple, remembered the ambiguous comments that had been made in regards to my true nature, and remembered all of the hints this very monster had given me. All had suggested that I, more so than any other being in the empire, had once possessed the greatest need to be cleansed of sin, and this, I realized, was the reason why. Against my will, tears stung in my eyes, and bowing my head to hide them, I gasped out: "I don't...I don't understand! If I disgusted you so much, then why did you choose me? Why...why not someone more appropriate for the task...?"
He approached, towering over me, and said, (I chose you for a multitude of reasons, many of which I doubt you could fully grasp. Yet in part, I was curious to see if someone so corrupted could return to a pristine state, if given the opportunity to begin anew.)
"...So I am merely the result of a social experiment...I am little more than a test subject in your eyes?" I whispered, my arms woven around me to hold at bay my trembling. I felt so cold, so hollow, and there was an ache in my chest that would not dissipate....
Slowly, softly, he replied, (…Yes. That is precisely what you are, Arei.)
And for a second, the memory of what had occurred between us during the eve of the festival arose in my mind. "Then during that night, why did you…? After I asked, why…? If I meant nothing to you, why would you do that?" For I remembered well how indescribably enjoyable the lapping of his tongue had felt, even though they had mutually confused and somewhat revolted me….
(…There was no other merciful option. I could not have mated with you.)
My fingertips dug into my arms. "But why…?"
His pupils dilated into slits. (If you became pregnant, the consequences would be most…unpleasant. And yes, despite the differences between my form and that of a man's, my ability to breed with your kind is a viable possibility. I discovered that much when I studied my physiology over the decades, searching in vain for the key to curing my illness. I found that I possess a pair of chromosomes specifically designed for the task of siring children outside of my own race, which I am certain would have proven handy to my creators once I reached retirement age. Once branded "lame," they may have found it pleasing to regard me as a horse, used for its seed or meat. Given the lack of members of my own species, providing me with optimal breeding capacities - akin to that of a Ditto - would have been a most efficient tweak to my design. Or perhaps they had nothing to do with it; the Mew, after all, were said to be the ancestors of all pokémon, so perhaps the ability to sire hybrids was among their many gifts. I cannot pretend to know, and it is not as if the truth behind the ability is consequential. What matters is that if I am capable of mating with a creature, there is a high likelihood that I can father offspring upon it. As such, I counted it a blessing when Christina's womb remained empty after our union.)
What did he mean...? "I thought an heir was desirable?"
He stared, and then tossed back his head with a chuckle, though the sound was harsh and derisive. ('Desirable,' Arei? Did I not say the notion of you becoming pregnant was an unpleasant one? Yes, it is 'desirable' to certain factions in this world, but I certainty would not wish for a child, and you should be very pleased that we did nothing that would potentially make you the mother of one! If we had, and if you had become pregnant, we would have only two options. We could declare the child as my own - that is one path. However, if we chose that route, we would condemn it to be a target of the Rebellion - who I assure you would manipulate it as they saw fit - or condemn it to become the plaything of the Temple, raised away from its parents and preened into something altogether deplorable. It might even murder its parents to assume a position of power. And then there would be you, expected to endure multiple times what you would have already suffered through once. You would be made into little more than an incubator for my heirs, an additional duty upon the role which already burdens you. Then we have the other path, in which I would instead deny the child as mine. Yet if we were to walk down that road, in the eyes of the empire you would become exactly what you once were: a whore, sullying everything and everyone you touch. The Temple would conspire against you, not celebrate you, and perhaps, for a time, the child would be safer. However, it too would eventually be gutted at the altar, its blood spilled along with yours.)
...It was too much. Above the chaotic whirl of emotion howling within me, I said, "I see…and would you even lift a finger to stop it?"
He glared at me, his irises flashing sapphire. (Do you believe I would not? Do you believe I would wish those fates upon my potential sons or daughters or you? I have attempted to protect your kind in the past, for I had chosen the women before you to remain by my side for far longer than two winters! I would not have willingly allowed them to be murdered! I have ordered for them not to be touched, I have warned the factions to leave them be, I have even made examples of those who dared defy me! Still my priestesses died, and after nearly forty years of seeing my chances for companionship being snatched from me, I have forcibly detached myself from them and have allowed events to unfold as they inevitably will. Yet I am not so cruel as to do nothing to help them survive. I try-.)
"And you fail! Is that why you touched me as you did? Were you attempting to provide me with some pleasantries before my execution, or was that just another perverse experiment of yours…?"
The words came out with more bitterness than I had believed myself capable of conveying…and he responded to my tone with equal ire: (Perhaps I simply wished to know what a whore tasted like – but she proved no sweeter than I imagine any other woman would be.)
...This would be the first and last time he would ever call me that, for as he utterly the vile word, I rose to my feet and swung. My palm smarted sharply after it had struck, as I imagined his cheek did; his skull had turned upon impact, reflecting the force of the blow. And then, seeing his stunned expression, all of my negative feelings, my pain, my horror, my fury, my grief, my confusion, my fear, my sense of feeling dirtied and betrayed, all blended and erupted within me. My mouth opened, and they condensed into one short, venomous declaration that conveyed all of what I felt for him in three simple words:
"I hate you!"
Feeling my eyes sting, my throat clenching, my form shaking, I stared at our feet, unwilling to show him any sign of frailty. Through the blur of saltwater, I saw him still, his tail hang limply, and his paws flex ever so slightly. He was quiet for a long time, painful minutes passing between us. My vision sluggishly cleared, and when I glanced up again, his expression was blank, calm, and his eyes seemed glazed with frost. Then, he murmured in a crisp monotone, (…That is fine. Your occupation by no means requires you to care for me in the slightest. As long as you honor your duties, it matters little what you feel for me. Now, if you are quite finished, we must return to the Temple. Your absence has caused something of a panic, and I would prefer not to prolong the distress of the servants, given that they have trouble functioning when routine is interrupted, and that, in turn, results in trouble for me.)
The conversation was over; nothing more would be said. He grasped my shoulder, rather harder than he needed to, and transported us from the place that had, for a matter of hours, been my shelter from him and my occupation. Reappearing in the hallway between our quarters, he released me and turned his back upon me, entering into his own rooms immediately and closing a door between us. Minutes passed, and eventually I heard a voice calling my name. Attendant Byron, a relieved expression on his face, walked over to me from the stairwell, evidently pleased to see that I had returned. Others soon followed, ensuring that I was well taken care of with warm food and tea...and still I stared at the door, noticing suddenly that no one went to Abaddon to see how he was. Yet why should I care about the fact that the monster was being ignored? He likely preferred it that way, and he by no means deserved company, especially when he felt all humans were beneath him. And given what he had called me and done to me when I was supposed to be his "consort," the one whom he was meant to cherish above all others….
He did not deserve our concern, nor did he need it. However, even as I turned away, in someplace deep inside myself something needled at me, as if in disagreement. I had said I had hated him....
And only later would I realize that in the moment, I had crossed a line I had never strayed over before:
For in that moment of anguish…I lied.
That was all I had felt when she had said the words I knew would inevitably come. As I sat upon the edge of my bed, I focused upon the painful ache within my ribcage, attempting to adapt to it as a simple animal might, for they did not deny pain but embraced it, and as such, coped with it. And yet…I remembered well her sweet scent and bitter taste, remembered how tender her kisses and touches were, and remembered the little sounds she had made in response to my caresses. I remembered well the peace that had pervaded me when I had watched her sleep so soundly, remembered the wonder that had come from watching her dance, and remembered the joy that had come from truly speaking to another being again and feeling an inkling of connection. And most of all, the memory of how she had felt in my arms, providing me with solace, lingered.
A lamp, its glass colored and embellished by one of the finest glassblowers in the land, levitated from my table as if lifted by invisible hands…and those invisible hands threw it against the wall, causing it to shatter into a hundred pieces. Razor sharp and gleaming, the shards glittered on the floor, and in the end, that lamp would be but one of the valuable possessions I destroyed that night. However, I did not care for their loss, for what did material things matter…? I peered out of the window at the rising moon, and then lowered my face in my hands....
"I hate you!"
…The echo of warmth in my arms faded. For nothing, not even the moment that you treasure the most, ever lasts....
Author's Note: ...And I think I filled my angst quota for the month. About seventy percent of what you just read was completely new to this chapter; yes, I kept the basic celebration, the dancing, Arei's collapse, and her journey into the city and pub the same…but beyond that, most of this was from the top of my head. The most important part, of course, was the argument and this last segment by Mewtwo. Suffice to say this will make matters so much clearer in the next chapter, and I am now comfortable with saying that Mewtwo has lost the battle not to feel affection for Arei. Despite some of the nasty comments he made (not to mention the lies), he cares far more for Arei than she gives him credit. Anyhow, please review with your thoughts!
Until next time,
P.S. - I am uncertain as to how many more chapters I can release this summer, considering the circumstances with the computer. By my calculations we have about eight more chapters left, but that may change as I fiddle with where which chapters begin and end. Thank you for your continued patience with me.