Wincing in pain as the rays of the sun hit her from above the trees around her, Belphegor squinted her eyes as they slowly became used to the light. Holding her left hand above them to block out the rays to keep them from blinding her, she put the palm of her right one down against the surface she was one and struggled up into a sitting position. She could feel her head pounding as before, having continued to hurt her with its constant throbbing; the heat taking its toll on her as the flames fanned her with little sparks that seemed to be hotter than they usually would be, the pain increasing drastically with each one that touched her within herself.
Her heart was barely beating and her pulse was so faint that she couldn't even feel it; nor hear her own heartbeat as her ears were ringing with whispers of the dead and their bloodcurdling screams.
She could feel it all, but why?
Why was she still alive? Shouldn't she be dead?
Or was she indeed dead, and her soul traveling along to heaven where she'd be free of this cursed nightmare she called her life?
It sure appeared to be that way.
Her eyes now clear of the rays; she tried to examine her current surroundings but could only see through a dark fog which blurred her sight. The sound of running water beneath her indicated that she was above it, and by the way everything was moving behind her, she knew she must be flowing along with it; but the sound was very agonizing to her ears, as the whispers and screams seemed to not only originate from within her mind, but also from the very water itself. She could distinguish the shapes of trees, the hills past they were on and were also past them, and the flowers which dotted the landscape on both sides of the stream.
Wait- why had she known it was a stream? This place was totally unfamiliar to her, so she couldn't recognize it at all; but she somehow knew. She knew this place, yet at the same time she didn't.
The question was spoken with fear and confusion as she tried to accustom herself to her environment; however familiar or new it was.
Staggering to her feet, she suddenly felt startled when her weight shifted on top of something; her mode of transportation along the stream as the water carried her to some unknown destination. Trying to regain her balance, she looked down to see herself standing on a blanket as she stumbled back a couple steps; tripping over her own two feet which made her stumble even more, letting loose a startled scream as she nearly fell. The blanket tangled itself around her right leg as she suddenly started teetering backwards on it right on the edge of the blanket; her left leg swinging up in the air as frightened screams of terror escaped from her mouth. Looking back to see what it was that she might fall onto, or into, her eyes widened with the pupils dilating in fear.
She could see nothing below; the only thing being visible was the endless blackness of the pit.
There was no water.
There was no land.
There was no anything.
There was only darkness; complete darkness of a large shadow that was threatening to consume her, swallowing her up as it engulfed her.
Swinging her arms around in circles in a desperate attempt to regain her balance, she thought she saw the faintest flicker of something moving down in that dark shadow. Another shadow, perhaps? Whatever it is was, it wouldn't be friendly; that much was certain.
Something suddenly hit the bottom of the blanket with such force that a huge splash of water sent her flying into the air; screaming in terror as she broke through the surface of the stream and sunk deep into the water. Struggling to swim to the surface, she eventually made it after much effort; managing to pop her head through the surface and gasp for air. However, she had wasted all of her energy and couldn't stay above water for much longer. Looking around to both sides of the stream to find something she could grab onto, she fell into despair when there wasn't a single thing for her to clutch at.
The blanket had been torn to shreds in the watery explosion that occurred so suddenly. The stream was bare of any rocks; none were jutting above the water, and none were certainly below its surface. The two sides of land which had bordered the stream now seemed far away-
Wait, where they floating away from her?
She could see how high they were in the horizon, but then they became nothing more than outlines against the shadowy darkness.
They were moving away from her!
"D-Don't…go!" Belphegor screamed out as she began to sink beneath the surface, "He…help…me!" It was no use. She was starting to drown as the water was pouring down her throat.
Wait just another moment…
It didn't taste like water…
It didn't feel like water…
It felt and tasted like…
Struggling again to break through the surface of the blood in the barren environment, she shut her mouth to hold her breath; but she couldn't last any longer. She couldn't go on anymore.
Hearing her name being called, she suddenly found the little bit of strength she needed to breach the bloody surface. She swam onwards, gaining the freedom she so desperately wanted; freedom from this maddening horror of insanity.
Suddenly something pulled her down deeper.
Its grip was on her left leg, so she kicked at it with her right one.
She swam up to the surface, but was pulled down even deeper.
Both of her legs were being held down as the force started pulling her down to the abyss; its grip now up to her waist.
Her mouth about to be forced open by her lack of air, she placed her hands down on what held her and pushed against it. When that didn't work, she squeezed her hands between herself and the opposing darkness to pry its fingers open so she could squeeze her body out. She was met with success and swam up again, getting even closer to her goal.
But the shadows weren't finished with her yet. They grabbed onto her again and pulled her even deeper so that she was in the abyss, this time making sure that her whole body was in their hands. The only part of her that was free was her head.
Feeling her strength fade away into nothing, she put what little was left in one final effort to free herself. She hadn't reached the abyss yet, so there was time to still act. Even though what she was about to do was suicidal, it was the only thing she could do. Opening her mouth as blood poured through it, she quickly bit down on the shadows when they flowed in too; free again to reach the surface and brake through it.
Swimming up it, she finally made it and breached through.
"SOMEONE HELP ME!" she screamed at the top of her blood-filled lungs as she was suddenly pulled down violently by something more powerful than the shadows which she fought against.
As she was pulled down right into the heart of the abyss, she felt her eyes get heavier and weaker with each passing second. They became blurrier and foggier as some unseen horror approached her while she drowned among the darkness…
And then was suddenly jolted awake on a bed, her whole body covered in sweat as she gasped for breath.
"Oh, thank god you're awake, Belphegor!" Ange spoke with concern as she took a hand towel out of a small pot of water and twisted it to get the water out; then folding it in half before placing it across Belphegor's forehead, "I was so scared that you wouldn't wake up!" The towel was freezing cold to the touch as if it was engulfed by a icy flame, so in an attempt to reach her hand up to remove it, she found it difficult to maneuver her body.
To become orientated with her current surrounds as she was calming down, the Stake of Sloth tipped her head up just a bit to gaze around at the room she was in. A desk, a few chairs, some wall hangings, a dresser, a wardrobe, a couple nightstands, a couple bookcases, some tables including a circular table in the center of the room with what looked like a potted plant and a tissue box on it, and many other furnishings adorned the room to give off a sense of beauty to it. At first she could only see the outlines of these things, but the blurry fog in her eyes started clearing up a bit so that she could see that her guesses were correct- and that the objects on the circular table were indeed a potted plant and a tissue box; she still couldn't see what color they all were, but maybe she could when the fog cleared a bit more.
Turning her head all the way to her right, she could see a chair next to the bed, and her reflection in a large oval shaped mirror hanging up against the wall; a ray of sunlight filtering in and covering part of the glass with a slight glare. From what she could see of herself, she was in her nightgown while lying above the covers of a bed with Ange's back turned to her; her face looking all pale and flush with a dazed expression on it while her breathing- which she also felt- was seriously weak. The towel had slid down her forehead and onto a pillow her head was resting on, getting it damp as indicated by a dark spot which slowly crawled along around the spot the towel landed on.
As the witch turned around, Belphegor could see there was something which she was holding in her right hand, but the Stake of Sloth couldn't tell what it was because it was rather thin and small. Her master's free hand gently touched her chin and turned her head back so she was facing the ceiling again, then picking up the towel and placing it back across her forehead again. "Can you keep your mouth open for a second?" she asked as Belphegor did as she was told, not saying anything because she felt too weak to respond; her lips trembling as she moved the top one up and the bottom one down. As the object in Ange's hands was placed in her mouth, the Stake of Sloth could see that it was a thermometer.
Why was Ange sticking a thermometer in her mouth? Belphegor could feel her head pounding with the heat increasing by just a bit, but surely she couldn't be sick, right? For some reason she didn't feel sick; just warm.
Belphegor did so and waited for a minute before Ange took the thermometer in her hand again, which let the Stake of Sloth know that she could open her mouth again. When the witch brought it up to her face to look at the temperature recorded on it, she sighed as she let out a breath of relief while putting the thermometer in a smaller pot of water. "One hundred three point three degrees…your heatstroke's now become a fever, but that's much better compared to what you had when we found you unconscious in your room."
"Which…was?" Belphegor's voice was raspy and weak as she struggled to sit up and lean against the headboard, starting to cough as she was wasting energy by trying to get into a sitting position and by talking.
"One hundred twenty-seven degrees." She answered as she placed her hand on her back and the other one on her shoulder to help her sit up. When she had heard her words, Belphegor's eyes widened while her pupils dilated; staring at her master in shock as she couldn't believe her temperature was that high.
"I…" her voice sounded terrified as she spoke, "was that… sick?"
Ange nodded as she withdrew her hands from her friend after having finished helping her sit up. "Yes, you were extremely ill and frail, and had been bedridden under its influence for three months."
Ange nodded again.
Belphegor tried to remember what had last happened to her, but a thick cloud blocked her memory and covered that part of her mind. "What… happened… to me?" she asked as Ange took a deep breath.
"Do you want to hear the truth?" she asked fearfully as she shuddered.
Belphegor nodded as the witch took another deep breath, but before she began to speak, the door opened and…
"Belphe!" the worried cries of Leviathan and her three younger sisters prevented Ange from speaking as the four of them glomped her.
"Oh, we were so worried about you, Belphe!" Beelzebub cried.
"You'll be okay, right, Belphe?" Mammon cried.
"You're much better now, are you?" Asmodeus cried.
"Please don't ever frighten us like that ever again!" Leviathan cried.
Belphegor was being squeezed so hard by her sisters all hugging her at the same time that she couldn't breathe, starting to gasp for air as Satan and Lucifer tried to pry them off her.
"Hey, don't squeeze her too tight!" The Stake of Wrath scolded them as they resisted hers and the Stake of Pride's efforts to pull them away. "You're suffocating her!"
"Ahh, we're so sorry, Belphe!" Asmodeus cried as she let go of their sister while she began to choke on her breath.
"We didn't mean it!" Beelzebub cried as she too backed away while Lucifer sat in the chair on the right side of the bed helped the Stake of Sloth try to breath by gently rubbing her back.
"Its okay, Belphe, it's alright." The Stake of Pride spoke softly as her younger sister started to recover. "Just take some deep breaths…yes, that's it…deep breaths."
"Where…am I…" she whispered out as Lucifer brought her hand away while she finished recovering from the painful hug her sisters gave her.
"You're in Ange's room; she brought you in here after…" her oldest sister started to answer, but hesitated in finishing. Instead, she just gave the Stake of Sloth a comforting smile and closed her eyes while shaking her head; opening them after what she had to say next. "But that doesn't matter." Taking her left hand, she placed it on the side of Belphegor's face and stroked it gently. "You're going to be alright; you'll recover and will be back on your feet after a long period of much needed rest."
If Lucifer thought her reassurance was helping, then she was wrong. Her beginning words had actually started to make her younger sister afraid; the look of fright expressed on her face clearly indicated that. While the Stake of Pride got really worried when she saw how scared she was, she seemed to be ignorant of what it was that terrified her so; not realizing that the answer was what she had just started to say a couple minutes ago.
"After…what?" Belphegor whispered as her voice started getting stronger from fear. When everyone didn't respond, she felt the fear imbuing newfound strength in her to shout as loud as she could if she wanted to. She felt like she could move her body just like normal, as if she was never ill at all. "After what?" she repeated, only to still receive no response from everyone; some of them exchanging nervous glances with each other, the poor Stake not knowing that they didn't know how to tell her.
"After what?" she fearfully shouted the two words again while turned to Lucifer and grabbed the collar of her shirt; the towel falling off her forehead and landing on the covers during her violent start, "After what? After what? After what?" she repeated over and over and over again as the frightened expression on her face was begging them to tell her what had happened. "Tell me! Please tell me! What am I recovering from? Why do I need to rest? Please tell me!" Tell me! Tell me! Tell me! Please!"
Swallowing a lump in her throat before she spoke with great hesitation, Leviathan took a deep breath before she began; seeming to be the only one in the room who had the courage to break the truth to her frightened little sister. "We found you unconscious in your room after hearing a thump on the floor." Turning her head to listen her, Belphegor just watched her older sister speak while the cloud blocking her memories started to slowly dissolve; breaking into pieces to reveal what had been hidden from her mind. "When Ange opened the door," the Stake of Envy continued for a bit before stopping, "you were…"
"I was what?" Belphegor cried out as she let go of Lucifer and grabbed at the damp covers of the bed which was soaked with her sweat from when she was having that nightmare. "I was what? I was what? I was what? What happened to me? Tell me! Tell me! Tell me! Please tell me!" she pleaded as she began panicking, grabbing at the sides of her head as the cloud started clearing away a bit more along with the blurry fog.
"You were…laying face down…in a pool of blood." Mammon spoke next in great hesitation as she began to get frightened herself; terrified tears slowly forming in her eyes while continued to go on as her poor, older sister just watched her through terrified eyes. "When we turned you over, we…you…" She then stopped too, much to poor Belphegor's horrified dismay.
"What? What? What?" the Stake of Sloth's continued to shout in fright as her whole body began shaking uncontrollably, her already pale complexion becoming even paler as her eyes widened with the pupils dilating; the cloud clearing away even more with the blur and the fog. "What happened to me? What happened to me? Tell me! Tell me! Tell me! Please tell me!"
"You had…" Even Satan was having trouble trying to find the courage to finish the dreadful tale. "So many…"
"So many what? I had so many what? So many what?" Everything was clearing up now, and in her own mind, Belphegor could see herself lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Whose blood it was, she didn't know; all she could see was that, as well as the outline of her body, which was still blurry as the rest of the story hadn't been told.
"Gashes…" Beelzebub answered timidly as she swallowed a lump in her throat before continuing the terrifying story. "There were so many gashes all across your arms and your legs; your hands could barely be recognized as they were literally smashed."
Belphegor was nearly over the edge of complete insanity now. She was left speechless at the border of the endless drop down into its dark, shadowy pit, her mind unable to fully process what her sisters were telling her. She could see herself now, lying on the floor in her shared room with Lucifer in a bloody pool with all sorts of gashes and across her body and her hands decimated.
The frightening account wasn't finished yet. There was still one more detail which now haunted her.
"Who did that…to me?"
She waited for someone to give her an answer, but everyone was really frightened to tell her what she wanted to know. After more terrified glances were exchanged, Lucifer took a deep breath and swallowed a lump in her throat before speaking; as if she was chosen to, had to, or if she chose to herself.
Belphegor's heart stopped when those words had passed through her ears and started ringing in them along with the whispers and bloodcurdling screams which had started up again. Raising her hands to look upon them, she could see her own blood on them as her vision started becoming blurry again.
Turning her head to the left to see Asmodeus sitting next to her on the bed, her eyes timidly followed the movements of her youngest sister's arms; the Stake of Lust bringing them up and putting them on her older sister's shoulders. Her voice was soft and extremely worried as she spoke, tears flowing down the sides of her face. "Why…why would you do something like that to yourself?"
Belphegor had no answer- no, she did have one. She was just too frightened to give it.
"Why…" Asmodeus sniffled a bit before continuing, "Why would you want Ange to use the anti-magic and deny your existence?"
Belphegor remembered requesting for that.
"Use the anti-magic on me… Deny my existence…"
She had spoke those terrible words to Ange, but her hopes of her request being granted were crushed when her master refused to grant it, saying that she had made a promise to herself to not do that ever again after what happened when she used it for the first and only time.
She could even remember herself begging the witch to not tell her sisters, or anyone else for that matter.
Ange promised to do whatever she could to help her.
That included not telling anyone of what she had seen the poor Stake go through.
But Ange had told them.
They now knew what was wrong with her.
All of them did.
Ange had broken her promise.
Ange had betrayed her trust…
Just like she had betrayed her and her sisters when they couldn't kill all of the other girls who bullied her at school.
Yet Belphegor could feel no rage rising within her in the face of this betrayal.
Instead all she felt was fear…
Fear of Maria…
Fear of Sakutaro…
Fear of her sisters…
Fear of Ange…
Fear of everyone…
She didn't feel angry…
Looking around the room at everyone present within, she could feel the terror passing through her whole body as she slowly started backing up towards the pillows.
"N-N-No…N-N-No…N-N-No…" she whispered repeatedly as an expression of complete, pure, horrifying fright came over her face. Insane with that level of intense, traumatic, terror, she reached her arms back to clutch at the pillows behind her; grabbing onto them and bringing them to her front side to use them as shields to protect herself.
Everyone could only stare at her with looks that clearly expressed how worried and scared they had become. Only Asmodeus, still sitting on the bed, found the strength and the courage to approach her. "Belphe…" she spoke as she attempted to crawl closer to her so that she may comfort her older sister, "what's wrong? Why are you acting so scared of us? We're just trying to-"
"GO AWAY! STAY BACK!" Belphegor's frightened scream of terror seemed to echo through the whole house, cutting off her youngest sister as she held the pillows in front of her to block everyone from getting to her. "DON'T TOUCH ME!"
"But Belphe, we're-" Asmodeus tried to continue, but was interrupted by another one of her older sister's frightened screams.
"LEAVE ME ALONE! DON'T LOOK AT ME!"
Stepping back away from the bed, Lucifer rounded up the rest of the Stakes and got them into a group huddle. They all talked amongst themselves before a decision was eventually reached. "Alright, Belphe," the Stake of Pride spoke as she turned around to face their middle sister, "if you want us to leave you alone and give you some space, then that's fine." Turning to Ange, she gestured over for her before whispering something to her. Belphegor couldn't hear what her oldest sister was saying, but her guess was that she was telling or asking her to go with them.
"I'm sorry, Lucifer, but I can't." the witch responded as she turned around and walked over to the bed, "I need to remain here so I can make sure Belphegor's alright."
The Stake of Pride nodded as she then turned her head to look at Asmodeus; the Stake of Lust still sitting on the bed while gazing upon her older sister with concern. "Asmodeus, come on; let's go."
"I'm staying with Belphe, too." The Stake of Lust spoke without turning her head to the group.
When Mammon, Leviathan, and Beelzebub opened their mouths to say something- perhaps changing their minds about leaving and choosing instead to remain with their sister as well- Lucifer held her arm out in front of them to silence them. Closing her eyes, she took a few minutes to think about her youngest sister's decision before finally opening them. "Very well, you may." She said as she then turned to usher the rest of her sisters out the door.
Mammon opened her mouth again to protest, but Satan just placed her hand on her shoulder while shaking her head. "No, Mammon…" she spoke softly as she gently pushed her younger sister out, "let her stay."
As they were all leaving, Maria and Sakutaro had entered the room carrying a tray of food and an ice bag. "What happened?" the little lion boy asked as he stopped when Beelzebub and Leviathan stopped at the door to look back at their frightened sister. "We heard Belphegor screaming after we finished getting lunch ready for her, and came up as quick as we could."
Taking the food tray from Maria and setting it down on the circular table in the center of the room, Ange walked back to take the ice bag from Sakutaro. "Belphegor just feels really uptight right now, so it's best if there weren't a lot of us in here with her at the same time." she spoke as she kneeled down and pet his head while taking the ice bag in her hands, " But don't worry; Asmodeus and I will handle it, okay?"
"Sure, alright." Maria understood as she walked out while Leviathan scooped up Sakutaro in her arms and brought him with her as she walked out side by side with Beelzebub.
When they were all gone Ange closed the door, leaving just her and Asmodeus with Belphegor. Walking back to the bed, she approached the terrified Stake, only to become startled when one of the pillows was thrown at her face.
"NO!" Belphegor shouted again as Ange lost her balance and stumbled backwards, falling flat on her back and grunting in pain when she landed; the ice bag dropping from her grasp when . "DON'T COME ANY CLOSER!
"Sister, are you alright?" Asmodeus cried out as she jumped off the bed to see if the witch was alright.
"Yes, Sister," Ange responded as the Stake of Lust helped her up, smiling at her in thanks, "I'm alright."
As both of them together made another attempt to get closer to the Stake of Sloth, the frightened Stake threw another pillow at them. It was a failed shot since her younger sister blocked the attack; however, she and the witch failed too, in not realizing that Belphegor had thrown another pillow at their legs. That shot too, had kind of failed at first when it hit the floor, but it finally was successful when they came to it.
Both Ange and Asmodeus let out startled cries in unison as they, also in unison, tripped over the pillow and fell to the floor, landing flat on their faces as their legs tangled together; Asmodeus' pigtails becoming a mess as they spread out across herself and Ange. The distraction of their accident gave Belphegor enough time to jump off the bed and run to the corner of the room, right by the desk.
As she whirled around so she could lean her back up against one of the walls, she could see Ghatanothoa slowly approaching her with the malicious intent to make her suffer by tormenting her with endless torture. The riddles of the labyrinth were screamed right at her in her mind, but at a much faster pace than the pace she was used to; for they had always given her less than a second to answer. Now, though, she was given no time at all to answer them; to Ghatanothoa and Y'golonac, the former time limit and having no time at all didn't even matter since she couldn't even answer a single question at all because she didn't have time to think about her answer, let alone open her mouth to say it. So, why not just go with taking away the time and making the questions go so fast that Belphegor couldn't even understand them at all?
To her, they all seemed like gibberish in any other language other than Japanese. So how about increasing the speed; making the questions be given really fast by fast forwarding them as if they were a VCR with a movie in it? The questions would be spoken like gibberish because they were spoken too fast, and the next question would come right immediately after it at the very same gibberish speed.
Unable to handle all the pressure and fear put on her mind, Belphegor's legs buckled as they didn't have the strength to hold her up any longer. Sagging to the floor, she brought her hands close to her chest and closed them into fists; timidly staring unblinkingly at Ghatanothoa with insane fright as he came closer and closer to her.
She had to find a way out of here. Any way would do.
But how could she do that when there wasn't an avenue of escape?
She could make on herself! And she knew just how to do it!
Using what little strength she had left, Belphegor got to her feet and frantically open drawers; finding a pair of scissors in the second one.
Taking them out, she ran her fingers along the twin blades to feel how smooth they were.
They, like the last pair of scissors she had touched three months ago, would do the job perfectly.
And she knew just what job that was…
With the scissors in both hands, she whipped her head back to see Ghatanothoa slowly inching forward.
He wouldn't get her! She wouldn't let him have her!
Whipping her head back to the scissors, she quickly raised them up in the air with the blades pointed at her while they were closed!
Then she thrust them towards her neck!
"NO BELPHE! DON'T DO IT!" Asmodeus shouted as she and Ange tackled her.
In her fright, Belphegor started screaming and dropped the scissors to the floor during the struggle; accidently stepping on them. While she was lucky that she didn't get cut, she slipped on them while she tried to get free and stepped on a strap of her nightgown which was dangling to the floor. Losing her balance, she screamed as she stumbled into Ange and Asmodeus; all three of them falling backwards to the floor with the Stake of Sloth landing right on top of the other two.
"NOOOOO! HE'S GOT ME! HE'S GOT ME! HE'S GOT ME! LET ME GO! LET ME GO! LET ME GO!" she screamed as her younger sister and master both got into sitting positions while bringing her up with them and embracing the poor, frightened Stake in a hug in an attempt to calm her down.
"Shhh…Its okay, Belphegor, its okay;" Ange spoke soothingly to try and comfort her now-wailing friend while she gently rubbed her back, "you're safe now. You're alright; we've got you." Getting to their feet and pulling the Stake of Sloth up with them, they led her back to the bed and helped her lie down on it before they both sat on both sides of the bed with Belphegor in between them.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Belphegor cried as tears flooded down her face while she held her head in her hands, repeating her timid apology over and over and over again. Her fingers fumbled around her hair in great distress as the sides of it became messy, strands becoming loose and sticking out in every which way; some curled, some straight, some bent. Becoming unable to untangle her fingers after they had got caught in the strands, her sobs turned to frantic cries of terror as she struggled to get free.
"Belphe, it's okay; you don't have to apologize to us." Asmodeus said as she and Ange helped the Stake of Sloth separate her fingers from her hair. "You've done nothing wrong at all."
"Yes, I have! Yes, I have!" her older sister choked out another sob as snot began dripping from her nostrils and going down her mouth. "You both have to take care of me because I'm sick! I'm just wasting your time!"
"No, Belphegor, you're not." Ange spoke sincerely as she went over to the circular table to bring the tissue box back, picking up a pillow and tossing it to the Stake of Lust so she could place it behind her older sister's head. "We want to take care of you; you're my friend and Asmodeus' older sister. You mean so much to us that it's worth it to help you get better." Picking up the remaining two pillows and tossing the first of the two over so Asmodeus could put between Belphegor and the pillow that was already there, the witch returned to the bedside and took out a tissue; wiping the poor Stake's face while the younger one went to get the garbage can by the dresser and bring that back too.
Belphegor didn't respond to that. Her choked sobs were the only sound that came from her mouth as she wailed, closing her eyes as she eventually stopped; still sniffling with the tears still flowing like waterfalls of sorrow.
Not knowing what to say to her, Asmodeus and Ange exchanged glances with each other while the former took the thermometer from the nightstand. Her older sister seemed to hear the little clicking sound it made against the metal pot it was in, since she opened her mouth to let it be stuck it. After leaving it there for a minute, the Stake of Lust took it out again and looked at the temperature recorded on there. "One hundred four point seven degrees…" she spoke as Ange looked at her with a worried expression her face.
"One hundred four point seven? When I last checked it, her temperature was a hundred three point three."
"So it went up a bit, Sister?" Asmodeus asked in concern while putting the thermometer back in the pot. "Does that mean that Belphe's going to get heatstroke again?"
Ange shrugged as she took a deep breath. "I don't know, Sister, but at least it's a fever for now; so it's good that she's starting to recover, but we need to make sure she doesn't get any worse." Standing up to pick the ice bag off the floor, she brought it back and placed her free hand behind Belphegor's back. "Help me get her at a diagonal." She said as Asmodeus assisted her so that the poor Stake was lying down with the upper part of her chest and her head at a forty-five degree angle, the pillows having to be readjusted in their positions to make them comfortable for the Stake of Sloth to rest on. Placing the ice bag on Belphegor's forehead, Ange then picked up the towel and handed it to the Stake of Lust. "Here, Sister, dip this into the big pot and take it out after a minute or two."
Doing as she was told, Asmodeus took the towel from her and put it in the pot, letting it get cold for a couple minutes before taking it out and wringing it to get any excess water out. Stepping back over to the bed, she laid it across her older sister's forehead when Ange lifted the ice bag up a bit before placing it above the towel. As Belphegor was cooling off, she walked over to the circular table and took the tray of food off it. Coming back to the bed, she handed the glass of ice cold water on it to Ange and then placed the tray on her lap as she picked up the spoon in her left hand and the bowl in her right one. "Here, Belphe," she stuck the spoon in the bowl of macaroni and cheese and held it up to her older sister's mouth, "have some of Maria's homemade macaroni and cheese; it's really good."
Opening her eyes to see the macaroni being offered to her, Belphegor felt so humiliated because she was being fed like an infant. Just when her reputation couldn't become any more tarnished and sink to new lows, it had with this simple act of kindness on Ange's and Asmodeus' part. She couldn't help but feel ashamed as she took a bite of the macaroni as Ange held the glass up to her lips so she could take a small sip of water to wash down the cheesy noodles.
"I-I could do th-this myself." She stuttered a couple of her words in embarrassment as her younger sister just held more macaroni up to her mouth; her crying having stopped and had now been reduced to mere whimpers as her tears didn't flow as fast anymore.
"No, Belphegor," Ange politely, and gently, spoke while the Stake of Sloth took her second bite, "you just rest so you can recover. We'll feed you as we've done while you were under the influence of heatstroke."
The poor Stake didn't even want to argue with her master, so she just kept her mouth shut; though she kept opening it to eat the macaroni and drink the water. When she was a quarter of the way done, she turned her head to Ange to ask her a question. "What time is it?"
"Twelve forty-seven." The witch simply replied while turning her head to take a quick look at the clock, turning it back to give the Stake of Sloth another sip of water.
When she was halfway done five minutes later, she addressed them both. "Ange…Asmo…"
"Yes, Belphe," her younger sister responded sweetly as she gave her another bite of macaroni, "what is it? Do you need something?"
"Am I-I…" her older sister began timidly while swallowing a lump in her throat to clear it, stuttering out the 'I' as she became really nervous about something which seemed to bother her. She sniffled again as she took a deep breath, a glint of hesitation in her eyes for a few seconds before finishing up her question.
Dumbfounded, Ange and Asmodeus just stared at her in confusion as they stopped giving her macaroni and water. "Normal?" the former of the two parroted as she cocked her head to the side, "I don't understand-"
Belphegor's stuttered voice cut her off as they both became more confused and concerned. When they both didn't respond to her words, she swallowed another lump in her throat and took a deep breath before repeating what she said. "I-I'm s-sick."
"Where?" Asmodeus asked while giving her another bite of macaroni, "What ails you?"
After chewing the noodles, Belphegor raised her right arm up to her head and closed her fingers into a fist; leaving only her index jutting outward, pointing towards her head. She would've used her words to say it, but she was really afraid to talk about it; hoping that they understood what she was getting at.
"Your fever?" Ange guessed as she gave the sick Stake another sip of water. "Yeah, it'll go down and you'll be better soon." She gave a small smile of comfort to her as she finished speaking, but neither it nor her words made the Stake of Sloth feel any better.
"You're not getting it!" Belphegor cried out as she held her head in her hands and brought her legs closer to her chest, nearly knocking the tray to the floor. "You're not getting it at all! You're not getting any of it!" Her eyes closed as her whole body started trembling, going a little pale as she began to hyperventilate just a tiny bit.
A little startled by her sudden outburst, Ange and Asmodeus exchanged worried glances before turning back to the Stake of Sloth.
"What do you mean?" the Stake of Lust asked as she put the spoon in the macaroni with the handle sticking out, "What aren't we getting?" To answer her questions, which obviously showed how completely ignorant and oblivious they were, Belphegor pointed a shaky finger at her head again; only this time to make them be enlightened of what her meaning actually was, she held the finger right up next to her forehead and made sure that it was so close that it was almost touching it. She then whispered in a soft voice that was still loud enough for them both to hear her words.
It took them a few minutes of staring at her, still dumbfounded, before her meaning finally became clear to them. The expressions on their faces slowly changed from confusion to pure shock and concern as the realization hit them.
"Oh my god…" Asmodeus whispered in shock as her body began to softly shiver in fear. "Belphe…why didn't you tell anyone about this?"
"I-I couldn't…I-I'm…" she struggled to finish her answer, but couldn't because she was too frightened to. Noticing her terror, Ange- whose body also started shivering- placed a trembling hand on Belphegor's shoulder to try comforting her.
"Its okay, Belphegor, its okay." She smiled as she spoke gently, "We understand you're scared to."
The Stake of Sloth's head perked up with tears slowly sliding down her face. "Y-You d-do?" she stuttered her words as she whispered while her younger sister nodded in response, softly speaking with a warm smile on her face.
"We do; we do understand."
Belphegor didn't even know what she was feeling right now; relieved, or nervous.
A huge weight had definitely been lifted off her shoulders, so was she feeling better now? Could she tell them about what disorders she had without fear of them laughing at, or ridiculing her?
"It's alright, Belphegor," Ange seemed to guess correctly as she removed her hand from the Stake of Sloth's shoulder and placed it on one of her hands, "you can confide in us if you want to talk about it now."
"Um, I-I don't have to…uh, talk about it all…right now…right?" Belphegor shyly asked as she looked back and forth from her master to her younger sister, the latter of the two placing her free hand on top of her older sister's other hand while speaking gently.
"No, you don't have to if you don't want to; if you want to tell us just part of it, and some more another time, then you can."
Feeling a new sense of courage with their words giving her the strength she needed to do what she had been frightened of doing for her whole life, Belphegor took in a deep breath; inhaling and exhaling as she cleared her mind. Her complexion returned to normal, although her body still trembled softly, but she would allow that since she was still nervous about telling them.
But who said that it had to be with words? She could orally confide her problems, though she thought it best to begin it in writing. "U-Um, may I-I…have some…uh, paper, p-please?" she asked as Ange nodded while standing up.
"Sure." The witch responded as she walked over to the desk, picking up the scissors on the way, and opening the top drawer to put them away. "How many sheets do you want?" she asked while kneeling down and opening the middle drawer.
"Um, one for now, I-I guess." The Stake of Sloth shyly answered as Ange took one paper out, along with a pencil, and pushed the drawer back in; then stepping over to the bookcase next to it to slide a book off one of the shelves.
Setting the glass of water on the table as she came back, she sat down where she originally was and placed the book across her lap with the paper on it. "Okay, ready."
Belphegor swallowed a small lump in her throat as she nervously held her hand out to take the paper, book, and pencil from her master. "Uh, may I-I, um…" she started to ask her question, but stopped when the witch exchanged a really concerned glance with her younger sister.
"Um, Belphe," Asmodeus spoke with a small hint of fear in the tone of her voice, "We're sorry, but we don't think we should; not after you had attempted to commit suicide three months ago."
"We were all so frightened when we saw you like that, in that state. We just don't want that to happen again." Ange nodded fearfully in agreement. "But if you still want to write it yourself, then we'll have no choice but to restrain you if you point that pencil towards yourself."
Their fear for her life was easily understood, and deep down, Belphegor felt happy that they were worried about. It was a huge relief to her that she could trust and rely on them when she needed to. She could feel secure in their presence and not have to worry about too much when they were around. She never felt this sort of way at all when her mask was on, but now that it had shattered she could see that nobody was laughing at her. At first she had thought of the world as a terrifying place with people who were equally scary; but now she could see that there were some people who she could feel safe with and places where she'd be protected.
For the first time throughout her whole life, she had looked upon everyone and everything with her real self; and not through the mask she created. The senses of the mask had altered her perception of the world around her, with all the people in it. True, there were some people who hadn't been kind to her- Eva-Beatrice being one of them- but there were others who had shown her kindness and cared for her.
They all had shown kindness to her.
They were her friends and sisters.
"Um, I-I'll…I-I'd like to, um, write, please…" she shyly requested as Ange handed her the book with the paper on it first, giving a nervous glance at the pencil before letting the Stake of Sloth have it. As her master- no, her friend; or maybe she could call her 'Sister' too, like Asmodeus did- and younger sister were watching her nervously, she spent a minute writing a short list of all the mental disorders she had- putting a dash by the second one to answer the question of what specific ones she had.
Phobic Disorder- all of them; every single phobia known…
"P-Please don't, um…say them out loud, or uh, whisper them." She requested as she handed the list back to them. "I-I get, um, uncomfortable when I-I…hear them spoken or, uh, whispered."
Listening to her request, they kept silent for the seven seconds it took for them to look at the very short list. "Belphe," her younger sister asked in concern when they both looked up at her again, "does anyone else know about you having these?" The Stake of Sloth shyly shook her head to answer her question.
"Asmo…do you, um, remember those books I-I'd, uh, always read?" she asked as her younger sister looked up at the ceiling for a few seconds to try remembering the books.
"Those Kutlu Mythos books you always had your face buried in whenever you had some free time? Yeah, I read some of them just to see what they were about since you always seemed to be so interested in them."
"Cthulhu Mythos." Belphegor corrected her as she shyly nodded.
"Oh, you read those too?" Ange asked as the Stake of Sloth nodded shyly again; a bit surprised that her friend- sister- read them too.
"There's this, uh, one story called 'Out of the Aeons', and, um…"
"The one with Gah-something in it; what was it called again?" Asmodeus asked in confusion as she tried to think of the name, surprising her older sister by how she must have read that story too.
"Ghatanothoa." Ange corrected her this time. "Yeah, I read that story too; it was my favorite one, actually."
"U-Um…" Belphegor felt awkward as she wondered why they were having a conversation like this when she was telling them about her problems.
"Oh, sorry, Belphe." Her younger sister apologized as she and Ange returned to the topic at hand. "Anyway, you were saying?"
"H-He…frightens me…" the Stake of Sloth whispered fearfully as she wrapped her arms around herself and shivered some more, looking down because she felt embarrassed to be terrified of a fictitious deity-like being.
"Who?" Ange asked in confusion, neither she nor Asmodeus knowing who 'he' was.
"G-Ghatanothoa…" The name seemed to roll off Belphegor's tongue with great difficulty as she feared to speak his name.
"Oh, you don't want us to talk about him?" the Stake of Lust asked as she considered dropping the whole subject so not to scare her older sister. "If you don't, that's alright; we can stop and talk about something else."
"I-I know what he, um, looks like…but…"
"Does it scare you when we talk about him?" Ange asked as the Stake of Sloth nodded timidly. "Alright, then we won't talk about him anymore, okay?"
"Th-Thank you, but I-I need to say this…I-I have to."
Understanding that she wanted to feel better by confiding in them, they let her continue without interrupting her; gesturing for her to continue. As the Stake of Sloth told them all about the labyrinth and the riddles, Ghatanothoa and Y'golonac, how she felt when Eva-Beatrice was ungrateful to her and when Ange used the anti-magic to deny their existence, and many other things; Ange stood up to get the glass of water off the circular table and bring it back. Whenever Belphegor got a bit hungry or thirsty, the witch would let her take a sip of water while her younger sister would give her another bite of the macaroni.
The ice in the water had already melted by now, but it was still cold; and the macaroni had gotten a bit cold as well, but she didn't mind how that affected it taste. Occasionally in her narrative, the witch or her younger sister would readjust the towel above her head or soak it back in the pot of cold water; taking it out to wring the excess water out before returning it to the Stake of Sloth's forehead. The ice bag would also have to be readjusted too, but the ice was now starting to slowly melt, so it would be taken off soon.
Finally, after an hour and a half of her long account, Belphegor had finished. She had told them both of everything that bothered her; The riddle-infested labyrinth, Y'golonac, Ghatanothoa, her constant nightmares, being self-conscious and extremely shy, Eva-Beatrice, whatever her sisters had done in the past- or still did- which bothered her, Ange's betrayal, and many other things she could think of; but mostly those things in particular.
During that time, she had finished her macaroni and water, so her younger sister took the latter of the two from their friend and put it on the tray with the bowl and spoon. The ice in the bag had melted away, so it was placed next to the bowl; along with the pencil which was also taken away as the Stake of Sloth handed it back to them.
When she was done, Ange and Asmodeus could only look upon her with concern, and she returned their gaze; though hers was apologetic and fearful.
Turning her head to her younger sister…
"Asmo…I-I'm so sorry for saying that you're too loud…
Turning to her friend next…
"Ange…I-I'm so sorry for not forgiving you because I was too terrified to…"
"Belphegor, its okay;" Ange accepted her apology while taking one of the poor Stake's hands in her own, "I forgive you."
"I do too." Asmodeus added as her older sister just hung her head in shame.
"Please don't forgive me; I-I don't deserve it. Everything's all my fault; I'm the only one who's to blame."
"No, Belphe, none of it's your fault." The Stake of Lust took her older sister's other hand in hers as she tried to comfort her. "We're to blame for not doing something sooner when we noticed something was wrong."
"No…" Tears started flowing down the Stake of Sloth's face faster now as she began to weep again. "No…No…it's all because of me." Taking her hands away from them and burying her face in them, she cried over how unfortunate she was. Maybe it was a bad idea to speak about her problems. "Why me?" she wept as Ange and Asmodeus just watched her in silence with concerned expressions on their faces, "Why does this have to happen to me?"
Exchanging worried glances with each other, they both got closer to Belphegor and embraced her in a hug; her tears leaking through the spaces between her fingers and dripping onto their shoulders, getting their sleeves a bit wet. "There, there, Belphegor; its okay, it's alright." Ange whispered soothingly. "Let it out; let it all out. That's it; everything will be okay."
"I-I can't take this anymore." The poor Stake sobbed while she sniffled a little. "I-I just want to die."
"No, Belphe." Asmodeus whispered to her older sister. "That won't solve anything; it's not the answer."
"But I-I don't know what to do anymore. I'm all alone; nobody else among us has what I have. It's only me.
"No, you're not alone." Ange spoke as she put a warm smile on her face while she moved back a little so Belphegor could see her face. Removing the sad Stake's hands from her face, the poor Stake stopped crying for a few seconds as she listened to her. "You have us; Maria, Sakutaro, all of your sisters, and I. We're all here for you; we'll help you in any way we can."
"Ange's right;" Asmodeus agreed as she moved back so Belphegor could look at her too, "we're your sisters and friends. We'd do anything to help you."
Belphegor's eyes looked watery as her tears continued to flow. "Do you…really mean that?"
"Yes, we do." Ange and Asmodeus closed their eyes and answered in unison while Belphegor embraced them in a hug after a short time of silence had passed.
"Th-Thank you Sisters…" she wept and sniffled as they put their arms around her again, "thank you…"
For the first time throughout her whole life, Belphegor was truly happy.
She was shown that she had everyone; that they all loved her and would do anything to help her.
They were a family; a family she felt comfortable and secure with, and one that she was so happy to be a part of.
With help from Ange and Asmodeus, she felt like she could tell the other members of her family about herself without fear of being ridiculed by them.
They were her family after all, so she could freely be herself around them.
The self behind her mask…
Her real self…
The story ends here for two reasons:
I was running out of ideas to use for the story.
I wanted to get back to my Umineko-Amnesia: The Dark Descent series, as well as Terror Beneath the Sands.
I don't have anything else to say, other than that I hope you enjoyed reading it. I wasted a lot of time working on it without getting much done for my other two stories I'm working on too, but in a way it was kind of worth it so that I could think of more ideas to use for my other stories. So basically, this was just a fun project to work on, and I'm glad it turned out that way.
Also, to answer why Ange and Asmodeus (and Belphegor, though she says it only once) are calling each other 'Sister', I must say to read the first chapter. The answer to this question is right in there, so if you forgot what the first chapter said, go back and read it to get the answer. I'm just saying this because I don't want to be bombarded by so many comments/questions about why they call each other 'Sister', so I kindly ask you to please respect this request. I mean no offense towards anyone by saying this, but this is just my reason for saying this.