(The Flesh, The Blood)

"And what would you like me to do, Misa Amane? Make all the bad things in your life disappear?" asks the shadowed figure slowly, his scarlet eyes surveying her even as he paces the room.

Not this. Not mock me, she thinks. But it is too late—his mere presence, mere appearance, ridicules every daydream, every fantasy, laughing and jeering in the process. With the jagged panes of a too-thin face to the unbearably theatrical spiked armor that encases his torso, he mocks and scorns her; every glance from his burning, cruel gaze screams with merciless derision, shattering her vision of the graceful immortal, the gentle being. His very existence laughs at her.

All she can feel is horror.

Brutal, she thinks. He's so brutal.

What do her dolls see?

Out of place against her childish belongings, his asymmetrical clothing makes him look even more lethal, more alien; but to the gleaming doll eyes, is he just another one of them—another being, impossible, slipshod, yet perfect in design? He is not tall as she dreamed him to be, but rather of average height (and it isn't his height that makes him so fearsome). To the dolls, though, from their perches on her walls, is he anything more than just another giant come to play?

With their button eyes and their mouths sewed shut—do they see the monster behind the beauty, as she sees? Do they see his bloodthirsty, angry eyes; do they see the way they glow in the twilight? Or are their button eyes blinded by his tanned, youthful face—deluded and duped into thinking him just another human?

But their mouths are sewn shut. How can she have expected them to warn her?

She has summoned him so that she might bargain with the Devil. Never play chess with a demon, never eat their food, never believe a word they say. The Devil is a liar. The frightening, beautiful, ethereal man in her room is a liar.

She says nothing but keeps her head lowered. Desperation summoned him and it will not let him leave again. She watches his dark boots, covered as they are in thousands of polished silver straps, imperfectly mal-aligned. Wearing them would be unthinkable in her own world—too hard to put on, too extravagant even for the height of fashion. The rational side of her keeps droning its observations on his odd appearance—how his hair is too long in parts and too short in others, how he appears far too feminine. It is the rational side that is trying to keep her sane, to save her from the panic that might consume her should she stare into his eyes again.

"Am I to kill the man who took your parents away from you? Stop his life to make you happy?" Even though his face is hidden, Misa can feel his amusement. She is humorous to him; weak and suffering as she is, it does nothing but drive him to the edge of laughter. Not even pity.

And he seems engulfed by that raw fairy-tale magic she once longed for—but reality reveals it to be a childish quality, heightened by his mood swings and glee at her fear. What fool made him a king? Who dared to put the crown of magic upon such a man? Or is it the king that made this creature, the crown that turned him into a monster?

Still she says nothing. After all, that is correct; that is what she has asked of the Goblin King—to take her away from the nightmares, the pain, the loneliness. And here he is, dressed as night, ready to make her dreams come true. She hadn't expected a white knight, but she had also not expected a demon to come in his stead. Can her button-eyed dolls feel her fear, or are their stuffing hearts immovable?

The pacing stops, and suddenly, he is facing her, his red eyes gleaming. He smiles, clasps his hands together. Then she can't think, can't see—his hand is tearing into her chest, tearing through her skin. Bone crunches. Stabbing pain—the flexing of his fingers inside her chest. She can feel them, his fingers as they wrap around the still-beating heart, his hand as it slides further into the hole he made.

And then he is ripping it from her. Everything ruptures outwards in red. The heart doesn't want to leave her—it beats against him, rushes, tries to pull itself from his grasp. He yanks. Something breaks. The heart tears away. (And beats even still.)

The left hand of the king of magic holds all his wrath, all his lies bottled within the bones and sinew. What is in his right hand? (She knows the answer to this question now. She wishes it were wrong.)

She looks down, collapses down, and sees red, a world filled with reds. She can't remember ever seeing so many different shades of the color. What is she looking for? (It must be up, and so she looks to him.) His hand is black—is it a glove? She can't tell. His hand is raised above them both and it is raining down upon him—blood is streaming down his face, blinding his eyes, coating his lips. There is blood on his hand, trailing down his fingers, dripping from his arms; he is covered head to toe in blood that rains from her heart.

Red-handed, ha, she caught him red-handed. She sees his face, and the drops of blood on his skin almost match the color of his eyes. She sees him raise his bleeding hand to his face and she watches as his tongue darts out and licks one of his blood-covered fingers. Is he drinking her blood? Maybe. He smiles like he enjoys it. (She remembers reading a story once where someone lost their heart…. She can't remember how they got it back)

Blood, whose blood is it that paints the floor? Whose blood is it that covers her furniture? She watches as he grins down at her (surely he wasn't this tall when she was on her feet?). He stands as if he were a god and she can see the light shining behind him, obscuring his face from her view, obscuring all but his blood-covered hand.

(Gods of Death have red hands.)

Pain, the room is spinning with the pain. Her mouth opens; she feels blood gushing out of her lips, down her face (and she shouldn't be bleeding from there, but she is—without the heart to direct them, her veins make choices of her own). She is falling deeper into the floor, feeling the hole he made in her chest, the deep hole that reaches to her empty heart. Cold—it is cold. She feels lighter and heavier all at once. Her eyes drift up towards the man sneering down at her; he does not kick her, but instead looks carefully at the heart beating desperately in his hand as if it can fly back to her, back into her chest where it belongs.

"I will not be your knight in shining armor. I will not whisk you off your feet and bring you to my castle." She can not see his face through the blood that pours through her eyes. "The Labyrinth demands penance; it is the price for bringing something to me. You wished yourself away—therefore, I took the essence of what you are. Your heart. You have thirteen hours to complete the Labyrinth and retrieve it. The clock begins ticking now."

He is beautiful to Misa, and yet he is hideous to look at—he is lopsided; his face remains crisp and clear while his clothing blends together. His hair is long on one side of his face and short on the other, and yet he is beautiful. He is some childish monstrosity, some horrible painting she would sneer at in a museum. He is his stead-fast eyes that stare through her soul, the monster in the closet, the childish nightmare she should have grown out of.

Everything she has been taught condemns him. His face is spectacular, but his eyes are too sharp for the camera—they would break the lens if he stared too long. His hair is too long for a man, and he is too feminine, far too woman-like—even for a model. He does not look his part, but even in his twisted, deformed fashion sense, he is beautiful in a way that she will never be beautiful. She covets his dark beauty, the lightning in his eyes as he holds her heart aloft, a beacon to the world. She wants that lightning for herself.

There is blood on his fingers; the minute hand spins, lands on thirteen. It rests there, waiting for Misa to get up from her bleeding mass on the floor. He is gone, the man is gone; he stole her heart. He stole her goddamn heart, and he is going to keep it.

"Someone take me away from this awful place!"

She stands slowly, her right arm feebly grasping at the branches of a nearby tree. The pain is everywhere and nowhere—it is intangible as she stumbles towards the looming walls of the Labyrinth. The pain is made of the stones; it rests in her chest, and yet it spreads through her body with every absent beat of her heart. Her world is a blur of colors—she sees none of them but red, the red of her missing heart. She can hear it crying, wailing as the Goblin King strangles it into silence.

Her knees are scraped as she falls and climbs up again, feeling nothing—not the rocks in her flesh, not the hole in her heart. The pain still lingers between here and there, under her fingernails, behind her eyes. The walls grow larger as she approaches, stretching far above her head, brushing against the orange sky. She hears laughter through the still-beating of her heart. It reminds her of a jackal cackling madly in the night, teeth bared to rip the bones from a dead man's flesh. It is dark and sinister and she feels a pang of fear before it is gone amongst the agony that consumes her.

She notices the structure of the wall, the faded inscriptions and the fraying sculptures—like an old monument from Europe. She watches the chipped statues of goddesses, of angels, of demons, all motionless and silent. They are delicately wrought, but have grown old and eroded with time. Bits have fallen to rubble along the path. She walks amongst them and wonders if she is stepping on their marble fingers as she makes her way towards the Labyrinth's gate. (And the laughing continues, builds, even as she stumbles towards the looming gateway.)

She sees the owner of the laugh dancing among the statues eagerly, his black form flickering in and out of sight. He takes the guise of a demon; he stands at a height far greater than any normal human, floating on crooked, spider-like limbs and tattered black clothing. Hanging from his waist is a frayed notebook and a ring of silver keys—and she hears the keys tinkling with the laughter.

Her feet bring her to the locked, closed doors and she turns to the ragged laughs.

"Please, help me," she says, hesitating at the sound of her own voice frayed beyond recognition; devoid of heart and spirit, it is no longer the voice of an actor and a model. It isn't her voice, she wants to cry—her voice has emotion, love, joy. This voice has nothing but words and the lost beating of her heart.

The creature continues to cackle madly, taking joy at the sight of her slumped against a wall with blood pouring from her chest in a great flood of liquid red (and she doesn't know how she's still bleeding—it should be gone, drained; she should be empty). She grits her teeth as the thump of her absent heart sends another gush of blood out of her body. Soon, she knows, there will be nothing left to bleed. How will she recover her heart if she is dead? How will she drag herself forward when there is nothing left but an hollow body?

"Please, sir…. Open the door, let me in." Her words are empty, like the space where her heart once existed.

The creature doesn't move to open the door, doesn't even deem it necessary to speak to her. He simply laughs away at her pain.

"So what did Kira do to you?" he says as he stares at her half closed eyes, his own bulging out of his pasty face like two glass marbles painted in bright orange and dotted with red's insanity. (And his grin is split, gaping—black as the rest of him but for the faded yellow of his jagged teeth.)

She falls to her knees at the name, crushed beneath it as she hacks to clear her lungs of its sound. She stares up in hatred at the demon-creature. (And at least she doesn't need a heart to hate, she thinks.)

"He stole my heart. I have to go in and get it. Could you please open the doors?" How odd, those hateful words she speaks. To steal one's heart is to love them—the Goblin King did not steal her heart. She feels no love for him. He has stolen her essence; she hates him, loathes him, wants to rub the taste of his name from her tongue.

(What do humans know of love and hearts?)

"So you're Kira's new plaything? You're a bit different than the other victims; you aren't dark. This is going to be fun." The demon addresses her in a too-intense manner, one that makes her feel as if she were examined as a thing and not a person—not even a guinea pig. It offends her, but not as much as it should have. The pain blocks out the anger and only the contempt remains.

"The doors, please."

Thirteen hours isn't long if she goes at this aching pace; for the Labyrinth is a mass of twisting crevices. She saw it as she stumbled down the hill, and she knew she would fall to her death, buried in its convoluted depths before the hours passed. She feels the clock ticking but she can't run; it is as if all her limbs are failing. Only her mind remains. Her panicking, dying mind, disintegrating like the stonework that stands before her is all that remains.

The demon cackles again before flying and hopping over to the doorway, unlocking it, and pushing through to reveal a path of molding stonework that stretches to the horizon in two directions, buried in fall leaves and bare, tree-less branches. She stands still, looking right, then left, turning back to where the demon is laughing.

"This isn't a labyrinth…. It's too big." She makes no move to choose a direction in the maze; to her it seems impossible. The Goblin King won before she started—she will never find his castle… she will never find her heart.

"You're just taking that for granted."

Misa turns right and sets off, stumbling down the path, closing her eyes to the endless horizon ahead. It can't last forever. Even the Goblin King doesn't possess such power. He can't possess such power. No creature can be so like a god and a demon. Kira is not a god. She thinks.

(And blood follows behind her, soaking through her shirt, seeping down her legs, dripping off her feet—her own bleeding trail of bread crumbs, to be eaten away by the carrion crows.)

Scourge's Note: There will be no fluff. Thank you. Good day.

(And believe me, we're doing you a favor. Our fluff would be like carrot-flavored cotton candy. EW.)

Also, we would quite adore reviews. Y'know, just… if you have some time on your hands. And stuff.

As to the updating status of this.... Writing project positions are as such: Mors Vincit Omnia is written through chapter nineteen, posted through... eight, nine, I don't remember; Whispers in the Dark is written through five, posted through two; Shadow of the Valley is complete, but needs the final two parts put up. This is our "post as soon as edited" work, so it's... right where you just read.

Disclaimer: Labyrinth and Death Note are not mine. The characters belong to the latter; all setting-breaks are property of the former and chosen.