If You Feel Better
"It hurts, doesn't it?"
"I'm hurting you, aren't I?"
"Answer me. Can't you even do that? Ha… Pathetic pawn."
"N-no! I-I-I'd do anything for you, Master! A-anything! I-I'll answer!"
Erika's face was contorted in pain. Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes, streaming down her puffy, red cheeks. Her face, arms, legs- everything- was a mess of dark purple and blue bruises; like paint flicked carelessly about a white canvass. One of her pigtails had come loose. Her hair was a ratted, tangled mess, mixed with dried blood from her aching, split-open scalp. Four diagonal lines ran down one cheek, slowly oozing blood. It looked like she'd been scratched by a cat.
Furdo Erika, child prodigy and genius detective, lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. She was crying like a baby. Ugly red welts mixed with black bruises covered almost every inch of her flesh.
In that moment, the 'prodigy' part of her title held no significance.
She was merely a child.
…Not even that.
She was barely even human.
And it was in this humiliated, bedraggled, abused state that Furudo Erika sobbed and said- more like shouted, but some words were too loud and others too raspy, and it hurt to talk- it hurt- "Y-you're hurting me! Y-you're hurting me, Master!"
So please stop…
But she didn't say that out loud. She didn't dare.
As a mere 'chess piece'- a stand in for the great witch, Bernkastel, on Beatrice's chessboard- she didn't have any right. She couldn't oppose her Master. If her Master wanted to humiliate her like this, again and again, without showing mercy, until she cried and bled herself into a state of dehydration… Then she would have to accept it.
She had to listen to her Master.
She was blessed that the Witch of Miracles had even acknowledged her as a 'piece'. To complain would not only be out of line- it would be nothing short of an insult.
An insult to Bernkastel's kindness.
If Bernkastel wanted to use her in such a way, it didn't matter. She should be honored Bernkastel devoted time to her at all- this was another blessing.
But why did it hurt so much…?
Any other person would have been moved at the sight of Furudo Erika, reduced to a sobbing pile of blood and bruises, crawling about on the floor like a fly snared in a spiders' web- but Bernkastel only watched with those dead, cold eyes, and a small smile twisting her porcelain face.
"Good. And what do you have to say to me?" Bernkastel asked. Her voice was devoid of emotion. She could just as easily have been staring at a cauliflower.
"…T-thank you… My Master…"
Erika screwed her eyes up as she said this, curling herself into a small ball. She didn't want to see her own humiliation. This wasn't Furudo Erika, the great detective- this was… this was…
"Pathetic. Truly pathetic."
Erika let out another gasp of pain, as she felt fingers curl about her hair, pulling so hard she felt her scalp scream- but her mouth screamed even louder.
It hurts… I-it really does hurt…
A-aren't you satisified yet, Master?
A-aren't I fun to play with?
"Open your eyes."
Erika blinked, opening on command; she couldn't disobey her Master, no matter how much she wanted to. Her scared, helpless eyes, misted over by tears, could only see a dull, violet blur.
It was the wide-eyed, emotionless stare of Bernkastel, Witch of Miracles.
"Why are you thankful?" Bernkastel asked. Her words were almost naïve, innocent- like a child asking where babies came from. But there was a mocking undercurrent to her voice, and her eyes- which were normally nothing more than empty holes poked out of her face- were laughing at her.
Bernkastel's grip on Erika's hair became even tighter. She pulled, hard, twisting her hand around. Her free hand came to slap Erika roughly across the face.
"Come on, come on," Bernkastel taunted. Her eyes widened slightly with intrigue. Entertainment. Insanity. "You're meant to be a detective, little Erika-chan! You're my twin, my double! Surely you can think of a better response than 'ngh'? If you can't, I'll be very disappointed!"
Maybe crying wasn't such a bad thing… Whilst it was humiliating- even more so than being beaten around in such a cruel way- it meant she couldn't see the look on her Master's face with complete clarity.
She didn't have to see… Just how heartless her Master looked.
And just how little love there was in her eyes.
"I-I'm thankful t-that you're teaching me this lesson, Master!" Erika stammered. She would never say such things to anybody but her Master- they would never hear her surrender like that. But… Bernkastel was different. Erika had no pride around her at all- she didn't have the right to have pride.
She was alive because of Bernkastel.
And Bernkastel was the only one who could kill her.
"Good. Go on~"
"W-well… Y-you're teaching me to be strong! I-it's a lesson, from a… a… loving Master… N-ngh… A-and you will make me a better person! N-next time, I-I won't make a mistake in my reasoning! I-it will be flawless! I-I'll defeat that… t-that horrible child who opposes you, my Master, a-and I will do it with… joy… b-because I am m-making you happy…"
Bernkastel stared at Erika for a few moments. She didn't blink. Erika wasn't sure if she needed to; Bernkastel seemed so very much like a doll- some cold, clockwork creature- that it was almost inconceivable she needed to eat or drink or breathe or blink like a normal human being.
Master isn't a normal human being.
She's much, much more special than that.
The pause dragged, broken only by Erika's occasional sobs, which she couldn't quite keep to herself.
Then, with a disgusted expression, Bernkastel let go of Erika's hair. The detective- who had never felt less like a 'detective' in her life; in this situation, she was the defenceless victim- fell to the floor like a marionette with cut strings.
Without her Master's support… she was nothing.
Her head hit the floor with a sickening crunch, and Erika could feel soft, weak cartilage in her nose breaking, breaking- how many times could it break?- and then there was a sharp pain in her stomach, as she was kicked over roughly. Lying on her back, a discarded pawn- no, less than that - Erika stared up at her Master.
Her Master looked back down at her.
Then, she pressed a foot against Erika's chest, fixing her in place- a butterfly pinned to a board. Even if Erika could have escaped, her Master would not have allowed it. She did not have the right to try and escape.
Her Master was… so strong. So powerful.
And she was so weak.
A cruel smile twisted Bernkastel's face. Her eyes became wider, still, like twin black holes; devoid of any emotion other than a crazed, soporific joy.
"'Happy'?" Bernkastel repeated. "You think you're making me happy? How funny! How cute! How delusional! Gyahahahaha!"
She brought her foot up, and let it hang over Erika for a few agonising moments.
The suspense hurt more than being kicked in the stomach did.
"A-argh! …Ngh… H-haa… Ha… M-master… M-master!"
She couldn't stop crying.
Emotions are useless. They only cloud your judgement!
Throw them all away.
B-but I can't.
I-it hurts… M-master…
A-am I a fun piece to play with? A-am I making you happy? If I am, then… I'm glad… I'm truly glad!
T-thank you for spending time with a lowly pawn like me!
I-I'm glad, I- I-
I'll keep responding! I-I'll keep crying! I-I'll do anything to keep you amused, so don't… D-don't get bored of me…
And then Erika turned over, heaved- her whole body racked with tremors- and was sick, expelling the contents of her stomach onto the floor.
Bernkastel's words cut through Erika more sharply than any blade of red truth.
"You think you're making me happy? Haha… Don't make me laugh. As if a lowly creature like you could ever influence my feelings."
"You see, Erika-chan~ Don't think too highly of yourself, my cute little piece~ In the end, all this is… Is a cure for boredom."
"Disgusting. Pathetic. Ugly. Useless!" Bernkastel laughed, punctuating each taunt by giving Erika kick to the stomach, head, chest- she didn't much care where. "You better get your act together, or you won't even be able to stave off my boredom anymore! Then what will you do, hmnn? I wonder! Where do pieces go when they've been thrown off the chessboard? Gyahahaha!"
As Erika watched her Master- her beloved Master, who had brought her into existence; whom she owed her life to- disappeared before her eyes, she couldn't hold back a tormented scream.
She fell back onto the floor, chest heaving, still feeling ill- still feeling sick- and she couldn't stop crying or hurting, but most of all…
She had never felt more alone.
B-but if it makes Master feel better…
I-I don't mind.
Yeah, Erika's a bitch, but Bern is doubly so, and I felt a little sorry for Erika D: She existed for her Master's approval. And her Master really doesn't give a damn about her.
I do… like Erika. Sort of. Her existence is pretty tragic, I guess?