"Ne Free, what do you think they're doing?" Eruka said. She hopped up beside Free, who was looking out at the moon.

They could hear Stein screaming again; it reverberated down the hall.

"She is taking it too far," Free said. He shifted uneasily, turning to face Eruka and frowning. "Medusa-sama has her reasons, but I know what it is like to be held captive. The desperation, the solitude. She is torturing that man for nothing."

"You're no fun at all," Eruka said. She made a little half-twirl and skipped out of the room.

Stein screamed again. Free frowned.

He would have to pay a visit to the prisoner himself.



In the cell, Free found the prisoner strung up against the wall. His body sagged, the vectors around his wrists only thing keeping him upright. In the dark, Free could see the welts all over the prisoner's body, ugly large bruises and fresh scars just beginning to crust over.

"Oi, Stein." Free stepped closer, reaching a hand to Stein's face. The man flinched, visibly, turning his head.

"Teme, I'm not going to hurt you," Free said. He dug in his pocket and pulled out a small carton of cigarettes. "It's been a while, right?"

"Thank you..." Stein's voice was hoarse. Free frowned then stuck the cigarette between Stein's lips, then struck a match.

"The fuck did you do to her?" Free asked. He waited for Stein to finish the smoke, then took the cigarette from his mouth so he could answer. "Medusa-sama must have been angry. She's cruel, but she isn't senseless. The hell did you do to set her off?"

"I told her I loved her," Stein said.


Free stared. The man sagged; his hair was matted and stuck to his face. He could see the dried blood around the corners of his mouth. "I don't understand," Free said.

The corner of Stein's mouth quirked. "It is madness," Stein said. His voice rose, sotto voce. "It is insane."

"Oi, quiet. She might hear us," Free said.

"Tick tock goes the clock," Stein said. He giggled, his eyes darting wildly.

Free tightened his jaw, then turned, flicking away the cigarette and locking the door.