"Hey, cute kid, where do you want me to pierce you next? Come on, come oooon, where do you want me to pierce you next?"
"Aaaah~ I can't wait to feel the sweet taste of your flesh as I dig myself into iiiit and eat it aaaaall for myself, kekeke~ Human flesh is so nice and delicious; especially when the blood is still waaarm~"
"H-hey, no fair, you two! Y-you're the youngest; y-you should wait your turn! I haven't had a go yet!"
"Yes, perhaps we should develop some kind of orderly system?"
"Oh, you're so boring, Belphe- so boring! The spontaneity of youth is what makes it fuuuun!"
"W-well, um, it was only a suggestion..."
"I like Belphe's idea! I-I want to stake something, I-I want to stake something! Uuwaaaaah!"
"For goodness' shake, shut up, Leviathan! And stop crying. I thought you were meant to be one of the oldest? You're a disgrace to the Seven Sisters of Purgatory! I am surrounded by idiots! Why can't I just stake YOU?"
"U-uguu? B-but, Satan-"
But Leviathan's words were swallowed up by high-pitched, mocking laughter. The three younger sisters were all sniggering unpleasantly at her. Mammon actually collapsed against Beelzebub, hugging her younger sister round the middle for support.
"Kyahaha! Satan sure told you, Levia! Why don't you just cry a whole ocean and drown in it, huh?"
Leviathan's face flushed. "S-stop picking on me! I'm your older sister- leave me alone!"
Satan, meanwhile, was rubbing her temples as though she had a headache, and was trying very, very hard not to slap her younger sisters across the face for being so damn noisy.
"I'm sorry for the delay in your punishment, Ushiromiya Battler… I-it must seem so unprofessional to you. Really, I'm sorry," said Belphegor formally, bowing her head. The Stake of Sloth had always been quite shy, so she couldn't help but stutter slightly over her words when addressing Battler- but she was the only responsible one there who could explain the situation to him. She had a duty to inform him of why his death was being delayed for so long. "My sisters are having a slight, um… disagreement. But I'm sure we'll work something out in due course. Don't worry."
"He… heheh… I can't wait. H-hit me… with all you've got… ihihi…~"
Battler laughed, but it was by no means a laugh created from happiness. His voice was colored with pain, and the laughter soon trailed off into a choked gasp. Laughing hurt.
And so did coughing.
Once again, tremors of pain crashed through Battler's shredded stomach. When he opened his mouth- gasping for air- he felt warm liquid dribble pathetically from the corner of his mouth.
Saliva, mixed with blood.
Maybe he was even being sick- but he couldn't even tell anymore. He didn't have any food left in his stomach to regurgitate.
Battler would have wiped the disgusting, viscous liquid mix away from his lips with his shirt sleeve, but he couldn't.
It wasn't as if Battler was particularly concerned with his appearance; and neither was he obsessed with keeping his clothes clean, as Aunt Natsuhi was. His clothes were a lost cause; they were already splattered with blood.
Why had he chosen to wear white, anyway? It just showed the dirt more. It was a pretty stupid idea, really.
…Not that Battler had thought, even for a second, that he'd encounter an entourage of seven sexily-dressed stake sisters after the family conference at Rokkenjima. Funnily enough, he hadn't factored that into his decision when he chose his formal outfit.
He'd have to be more prepared next time.
The real reason Battler wanted to wipe the blood from his chin was that he wanted, at least, to retain some of his dignity. He didn't want to look that pathetic.
But he couldn't.
He physically couldn't move his arms.
Those seven sisters had been torturing him for the past ten minutes or so; digging themselves into his flesh from all angles- but not deeply enough to pierce anything vital, or give him a quick and merciful death.
This was a long, protracted, drawn out and rather sophisticated form of torture, which was slowly- very, very slowly- draining Battler of a terrifying amount of blood.
Once the seven sisters managed to work out who got to stake what in the next assault, he'd probably die.
Ihihi… it was nice, being fought over by so many cute girls, b-but this type of flirting was maybe a little too intense for Battler to handle… Haha… What the hell was wrong with giving a guy chocolates or flowers? Was that too old-fashioned? Battler was a pretty straightforward person himself, but he hadn't known these ass nee-chans- sexy though they were- long enough to permit them to 'gouge' his poor, innocent flesh over and over.
Aaah, he was definitely ruined for marriage now, ihihi…
No girl would want to wed a guy who'd let seven cute girls defile them for so long… Not that Battler had let them, per say.
He didn't really have a choice.
Despite his size, these girls were all far, far stronger than he was.
Wincing, Battler coughed again; splattering the white floor with more of his own blood.
It was a wonder he was still able to keep his eyes open; though his vision was slowly becoming hazy. Spots of darkness were eating into his eyesight from all corners. Keeping his eyes open was an effort- and his eyelids kept falling shut, only to be forced open once more. Battler knew it was stupid, but… h-he didn't want to be staked to death with his eyes closed. He wanted to see when it was coming; or the sudden shock from being pierced, unseen, from seven directions all at once would be even more painful.
Not that it really mattered how painful it would be. Every inch of Battler's body felt like it was on fire. Numerous holes had been punctured into his skin; his hands arms, legs, stomach, chest- and these small wounds all burned and stung and twisted his expression into something hideous and pitiful.
Maybe there was a point where something hurt so damn much you couldn't register anything else… so keeping his eyes open didn't even matter.
It didn't matter.
He was just going to die anyway.
Battler had liked it more when the seven sisters, so enraptured with the task of killing him, had eagerly driven into all his vital points at the same time; reducing him to a corpse in a matter of seconds. That way, he'd been able to force an arrogant smirk before they finished him off, and even deliver some cool parting lines.
But, when they killed him slowly, i-it…
I-it hurt so much more… …
Beato had told the seven sisters to play with him more gently, hadn't she? She'd been getting pretty annoyed that the stakes kept killing their new toy every five minutes, so she'd given them instructions; 'play with the victim for as long as possible before delivering the final blow, okaaaay? Gyahahahaha!~'
It looked like those ass nee-chans were taking Beato's words to heart- even if they kept pausing and breaking off to have stupid arguments.
Listening to them bicker cutely like that might have been amusing in another situation- but now just drew everything out even more, and made the act of killing a lot more protracted than it could have been.
Battler was in half a mind to say something like, "Aww, it's so sad when families don't get along. Can't you cute girls try and work together a little? Ihihihi~"
But he couldn't talk. He could only gasp and wheeze and choke on his own blood as it dripped from his open mouth; spreading across his tongue and making everything taste of iron.
His stomach heaved.
It felt like he was going to be sick again.
This was even worse than riding in moving vehicles- this was a sickness way, way worse than plain old motion sickness! If Battler survived this, he'd never be afraid of riding a boat ever again.
Gotta look on the bright side.
A tired smirk tugged the corners of Battler's lips- but it faded away again in a matter of moments.
It didn't stop the pain.
Nothing stopped the pain.
Even when he tried to hide in his own head, distracting himself with random thoughts and odd bits of old memory, the pain would always follow him and drag his mind back inside his ruined body.
H-he really wanted to die… …
Why couldn't they hurry up and kill him?
H-he wouldn't die from just this…
D-damn it, damn it… w-why was he so damn resilient? Why were humans so difficult to kill? If the seven sisters wanted to, they probably could have kept him alive way longer whilst they played around with him; dragging this pain out for a matter of days. S-so, although it felt like the seven sisters were being crueller this time around, compared to some methods of torture it was still rather tame.
This… was 'kind'.
If that was the case, Battler would've hated to see them when they were nasty.
Thoughts circled round desperately in Battler's head, but he no longer had the energy to voice them. Instead, he could only lie there on the ground, like a lump of meat, and think.
But his thoughts couldn't reach anyone.
Hey, you girls… can you hurry up? Please? Can you… stop fighting… and just hurry up? I'd love you an awful lot if you did… Being cute like this, and shyly digging your stakes a few inches into my flesh before delicately pulling out, really isn't like you. I know you think I'm attractive really- a-and you just can't help yourselves, right? Ihihihi… I-I know you want to ram your whole bodies into my flesh in one go and tear me apart in the most brutal way possible!
J-just kill me.
Stop acting coy and just kill me…
"Alright, everybody," said Lucifer sharply, her voice cutting across the sisters' childish arguments. "Let's all take the positions on Battler's body we've been assigned, and stop arguing."
But this didn't please Leviathan. With tears in her eyes, the second oldest wailed childishly, "B-but that's not fair! I-I don't want the stomach, I want a really lethal part! Y-you're all taking the best bits for yourself! U-uwaaaah!"
Battler could hear Leviathan very dimly. Her voice was a vague echo, as though she was calling to him whilst he was at the bottom of a well. It was difficult to hear… a-anything, really, given agony had inflamed all his nerve endings; drowning out all his other senses almost completely.
But… h-he heard enough…
And he couldn't help himself.
Very softly, and very pathetically… he let out a small, broken moan.
He'd been trying valiantly to bite down on all potential signs of weakness he could have displayed- but when Leviathan spoke, Battler couldn't stop himself from gasping.
Leviathan was going to start another argument.
The sisters would never get anything sorted out between themselves, and they'd keep on fighting, a-and they… t-they…
T-they would just leave him there on the floor, still alive but just barely; unable to speak, hardly able to breathe, but still completely unable to just die. He was going to bleed to death very, very slowly, until his skin turned white as a sheet and his veins collapsed in on themselves… … or he was going to fall unconscious from all that pain- but how long would that take?
Why were human beings… so damn difficult to kill… …?
Dimly, Battler heard the sisters launching into another argument. He heard Satan shout angrily; Mammon (was it Mammon?) laughing; Beelzebub whining that his corpse would get cold and unappetising; and Lucifer was trying her best to assign body parts to each sister, but none of them were very happy with her decisions, and so the conversation would just cycle round again and again and-
"Hm… Excuse me for intruding- but that is rather unpleasant game you appear to be playing."
Battler had been slowly drifting into unconsciousness, lulled there by the repetitive background noise of the arguing sisters, but (f-fuck… i-it's useless, it's all useless… … cough, cough) that voice pulled him out of his pain-hazed reverie.
That voice… wasn't a female one.
Battler blinked, trying to clear the black spots that were eating into his vision. His eyesight had been shot to pieces completely- but he could just about make out who the newcomer was; even though they were stood amongst the squabbling seven sisters.
It was that guy.
The one with no concept of personal space, the slightly effeminate hair and the stupid mustache.
Had he come to join the seven sisters with their 'healthy' activity of staking 'stuuupid Baaaaattler'?
Being staked by the seven sisters was bad enough, but at least they were cute. What man didn't want to be fussed over by a harem of pretty girls?~ Ehehe~ But being staked by Ronove sounded… roughly fifty times worse.
What little color remained in Battler's cheeks drained from it.
W-well… Battler tried to be positive (quite tricky to do given he'd lost about one pint of blood, but he was managing as best he could). Although Ronove had made fun of Battler during their first meeting, he hadn't seemed too much of a bad guy. He even served Battler tea and cookies from time to time.
Maybe he'd be kind enough to kill Battler neatly, in one blow?
It was all Battler could hope for.
"Uuu! Ronove!" squeaked Leviathan in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"My, my. Why do you sound so accusatory?" asked Ronove lightly. He smiled. "Are you doing something you shouldn't be?"
Lucifer flushed slightly, and bowed her head. Judging by her embarrassment, Ronove's shrewd guess had been right on the mark.
It was Mammon who spoke; her signature smirk on her face.
"Ehehe~ Well, IIII wouldn't know. I'm only the foolish and innocent younger sister, who simply follows what my elders and betters tell me~~~ I'm totally blameless!"
"Y-you, innocent?" snapped Satan. "H-how dare you tell such a lie, and so shamelessly, to Ronove's face? T-this was partly your idea anyway!"
"Mine? Why, Satan, I don't know what you're talking about!"
"Yeah, that's right," said Beelzebub, an eerie grin spreading across her face. Even though she and Mammon were often at odds, competing over such sisterly activities such as who could eat the most of Ronove's cookies and who could score the highest kill count with Battler, they had a tendency of banding together when threatened. It was a natural survival instinct that came from being the younger sisters. "I don't anything, kekeke~ This was aaaaall Lucifer and Satan's idea."
"I don't know anything either!" said Asmodeus brightly, shaking her head. "I don't know, I don't know!~ And I wouldn't want to stake Battler myself anyway~" She giggled. "I know, from reading fairytales, that you don't get princes to fall in love with you if you hurt them too badly!"
"S-shut up, Asmo! You don't know anything!"
"No, it's alright, Leviathan. I think Miss Asmodeus made a very astute observation. It is, indeed, difficult to win over people's hearts if you use violence. If only Milady would understand that…" said Ronove, with a small smile.
Asmodeus giggled sheepishly, her cheeks turning light pink, as she elegantly took the hem of her skirts and curtseyed to Ronove.
She was the youngest sister, so it was rare people praised her. Usually, her older sisters just told her to shut up. Ronove was always nice to Asmo, though, so the youngest stake was very grateful towards him for defending her.
"So. I do not necessarily believe that Miss Mammon wasn't involved at all… but, being the oldest sister, perhaps it is only fair to ask you. You are, after all, the representative for your youngest sisters. Miss Lucifer. Were you given permission from Milady to treat her guest so roughly?"
Lucifer's face turned a darker shade of red. She looked down at the floor- unable to meet Ronove's eye. Either she was embarrassed, or she was nervous. Ronove was higher level furniture than her, so he automatically had justification to punish her if she overstepped her boundaries.
T-this… was pretty bad… …
"U-um… Well, no- I-I didn't have Milady's permission, not entirely…" said Lucifer hesitantly. "B-but, Battler was being so rude to me; a-and I thought, as he is only able to be here due to Milady's kindness, h-he needed to learn a lesson about respecting her and her furniture… a-and Mammon told me it would be weak if I, as the oldest sister, didn't try to put him in his place, s-so… s-so…"
"So you became angry and, out of malice, summoned your sisters so you could torture Battler?"
Lucifer couldn't reply. Instead, she could only nod slowly; her whole body trembling.
"Is that why you were attempting to keep him alive longer than usual? So Milady wouldn't find out?"
Another nod; Lucifer's eyes still, shyly, directed at the ground.
"Well… judging by how Battler looks now, he won't be alive for very much longer. What would you have done when Battler really did die? How would you explain it to Milady, Miss Lucifer?"
Lucifer didn't have an answer. Truthfully, she hadn't planned that far ahead. She'd lost her temper- but she had never intended to kill Battler. Things had just got a little out of hand, that was all- and before she knew it, that human was dripping blood everywhere even though they hadn't staked him that much at all, and he was obviously going to die.
Lucifer hadn't wanted to kill him. She really hadn't!
I-it was all his fault for being rude to her, anyway! He got what he deserved!
…Even if he did look so pathetic that even Lucifer was beginning to feel sorry for him. Just a little.
S-she didn't know what to say…
So Lucifer winced, and sniffed softly in shame.
Ronove looked at the oldest sister with some sympathy. Mammon, Beelzebub and Leviathan had all begun to snigger at her obvious discomfort- as they were wont to doing when their other sisters were put into tight situations.
If only those naughty, disobedient girls could get along well together. Then, they wouldn't be nearly so quick to anger- and they wouldn't resort to needless violence to make themselves feel better. It was a little sad, really, that they had such poor relations with each other- and were encouraged by Beato to bully each other.
It wasn't necessarily Lucifer's fault if she'd lost her temper. Beato was partly to blame for raising the seven sisters in an environment where they frequently abused each other. Punishing Lucifer wouldn't really help. It would only make her sisters laugh at her more; and then, in turn she would become more embarrassed and angry; and then she would be more likely to take her out on Battler again.
"Well, I can't condone your actions- but, as long as you've learnt the error of your ways, I see no reason to punish you," said Ronove, smiling gently. "But please, do not harm Milady's much esteemed guest without her permission next time. I imagine it would make Milady rather angry if she learnt you were abusing Battler by yourselves."
Beelzebub pouted. "Eeeh? You're not gonna punish Luci? But she did something bad! You always refuse to give me food when you catch me raiding the kitchen!"
"That's an entirely different matter altogether."
"Well, I think it sucks! You have favorites, Ronove! W-why are you so mean to me, after all the time we spend together? Tsun! I'm not talking to you anymore!"
"I'm sorry to hear that- although maybe it will encourage you to keep out of the kitchen," said Ronove, grinning.
Beelzebub glared. "Oh, you are so not funny. Now I'm seriously gonna ignore you! And don't come crying to me when you miss my company!"
"Thank you for your concerns- but I'm sure I can manage, pu ku ku~"
And with that, Beelzebub stuck her nose up in the air, and vanished in a cloud of butterflies.
The other sisters saw Beelzebub's departure as their cue to leave as well. They really weren't needed anymore- and, in any case, they all knew they had done wrong, and they were anxious to leave quickly before Ronove changed his mind.
Soon, Lucifer was the only sister left. She was still looking down at the floor, blushing- but… slowly, tremulously, a rather awkwardly… a very tiny smile rose to her face.
It was a smile of gratitude.
"U-um…" Abashedly, the Stake of Pride- who wasn't used to being treated kindly- said, "… …I-I appreciate… that you didn't punish me. Um… T-thank you very much! I-I won't touch Battler again; I-I promise!"
And, bowing her head profusely, blushing like a shy schoolgirl, Lucifer too disappeared in a haze of golden butterflies.
Ronove laughed softly as he watched the seven sisters depart. It was such a shame. They were all such nice girls in their own way- but, given their short tempers, and the role Beato had assigned to them in her game…
Their best qualities weren't really allowed to shine.
That much was obvious when Ronove turned about… and saw the truly pitiable state they had left Battler in.
The smile soon faded from the demon butler's face, and his eyes softened.
Battler was still alive- but just barely. His white suit was stained with patches of blood that kept blooming outwards- just like deadly roses unfurling their petals. His face was a horrible chalky white; perhaps because so much of his blood was now no longer on his insides. It was streaked garishly across the white floor and walls, and it colored his clothes. No longer was that blood able to breathe the subtle hue of life into his skin. Battler's skin looked waxy and corpse like. One of his arms had been bent back at such an impossible angle it was obviously broken. His eyelids were fluttering erratically, like a doll's. His mouth opened and closed slowly, but no words came out. His cracked lips were stained with a mixture of saliva, blood and his own vomit.
He looked so different from the confident, headstrong Ushiromiya Battler Ronove had first met it was almost impossible to believe they were the same person.
Even though he was a demon, who had witnessed scenes like this before, Ronove… couldn't help but feel compassion for Battler. Only a person without a heart would have been unmoved by the brutal scene the seven stakes had created.
Even if he was a demon, he still had a heart, after all.
And he did not enjoy seeing other people in pain.
Not like that.
"My, my… Those naughty sisters really have been enjoying themselves, haven't they…?"
Ronove refrained from making any teasing comments about Battler's state. Although Ronove did enjoy gently poking fun of Battler (it was oh-so-entertaining to see his reactions), he was above tormenting people who were in no state to defend themselves.
Ronove walked across the room to where Battler lay, slumped against the wall, and sat down beside him. He didn't care about the blood; he could clean it from his clothes later.
Now, he and Battler were at eye level.
But Ronove soon began to wish he hadn't bothered.
It… really wasn't a mistake.
Ushiromiya Battler, Beatrice's opponent, shouldn't have been pulling a face like that.
He shouldn't… have looked so sad, or lost, or despairing.
But… he did.
It was impossible to deny.
Ushiromiya Battler's eyes were filled with tears.
Stubbornly, Battler had been holding back those tears the whole time. He hadn't wanted to seem weak- although, in the end, it might have been a useless endeavor. Tears weren't needed to prove just how helpless he was. The fact his whole body was slowly giving up on itself, vital functions failing, face stained with his own blood and spit and vomit, already said that plainly enough.
He was completely helpless.
But, just as he had tried to hold onto his gasps of pain, so, too, had Battler tried to stop those tears.
He didn't want to give the sisters the satisfaction.
He wanted to at least try and pretend he'd been able to fight against them.
Now the seven sisters were gone- but that horrible, crushing, wrenching pain that ran through his whole body, again and again, was still there; it wasn't stopping; it felt like it would never stop.
It wouldn't stop until somebody killed him.
It really was all useless.
Battler couldn't keep his tears to himself anymore. He couldn't stop himself from breaking down… and he couldn't stop himself from crying.
Ronove felt himself wince on Battler's behalf as he watched those tears drip down his cheeks. There was something incredibly unsettling about hat scene…
According to Beato, Battler had borne out the seven sisters' torture before without ever losing his challenging smirk.
But that had been a different kind of torture, wasn't it?
The seven sisters had killed him quickly before.
They must have drawn it out for quite a while this time, to break Battler down so thoroughly.
Really, Ronove was somewhat impressed. He'd never before imagined those girls would have enough willpower to keep their victim alive for this long.
Hm. The length of time Battler had been left there, slowly dying, was probably more to do with their constant bickering than any real, cold-blooded desire to cause him pain, though.
"Ah… Please don't mind me, Battler."
Ronove reached towards Battler very slowly, just as one would approach a small animal that was easy to startle. He didn't want to make Battler feel any worse, after all.
Very gently, Ronove grazed his gloved fingertips under Battler's eyes… and wiped his tears away. Battler shivered slightly at Ronove's actions, but he didn't say anything. He wasn't able to.
It… hurt too much…
"Don't worry," said Ronove, in a voice just as gentle as his actions. "I'm not tastelessly violent like the seven sisters can be. I promise, I have no intentions of hurting you."
Battler blinked at Ronove, eyes narrowed. Their faces were now inches apart... and Battler didn't really trust any guy who would willingly get that close to him. Especially not a friend of Beato's.
It took a few moments- his chest heaving up and down (why were his lungs burning? W-why did it have to hurt so much?)- but, very slowly, the shadow of his usual smirk crossed Battler's face.
His voice was strained, and very feeble- but still, Battler was able to weakly retort, after gathering together all the willpower he still possessed, "Ihi… hihi… L-like… hell you don't… …"
Ronove looked at Battler in some surprise; astonished he was still able to talk, given how much blood he had lost. It was a wonder he wasn't unconscious yet- but, no… despite his tear-filled eyes, and blood-stained cheeks, there still a faint challenging spark in his eyes… and that self-confident smirk twisting his lips.
Beatrice had been right.
Ushiromiya Battler… really was an incredible person.
But he wouldn't be a 'person' for much longer if Ronove didn't give him a helping hand… … and the thought of all that determination, and resilience being bled away- splashed all across the floor- was nothing short of heart breaking.
Even to a demon.
By this point, Ronove wasn't helping Battler just because he was Beatrice's opponent.
He was helping Battler because he was honestly impressed, and intrigued…
And maybe just a little enamoured by refusal to give up.
Even if he had been crying.
"Alright, have it your way. Don't trust me. It's probably wiser if you don't… but I certainly won't leave you die. That would be incredibly rude of me, pu ku ku~"
"Heh… heh…" Cough, cough. "T-thought… you were a demon… ..."
"Yes, but I'm also a gentleman. Now, please, Battler… don't talk anymore. Just let me handle the rest. I assure you, I will do a wonderful job. You can just relax… alright?~"
Amazingly enough, despite the sharp, overwhelming pain in his poor, fragile skull, and his ribcage, and his stomach, and- fuck it, his everywhere- the ever so slightly flirtatious nature of that comment was still enough to make Battler's cheeks flush light red.
H-he'd lost all that blood, and he still had enough to spare to blush?
W-what the hell?
Useless, it was all useless… …
Vaguely, Battler heard Ronove muttering something… sounded kind of like an incantation; the same one Beato used to revive him; 'come, remember what form you used to have…' or something like that, Battler didn't know…
He really did know…
He didn't know all that much.
His eyelids felt heavy… so heavy… …
The last thought Battler's mind registered, before his eyelids slipped shut and engulfed him in a darkness, was; ahaha, if I go to sleep now, I'm gonna end up in that damn demon butler's arms aren't I? It'll like a scene from one of those weird BL comics that were real popular with some girls at school… ah, some people are into some really odd stuff...
Useless, it's all useless…
And then everything went black.
When Battler finally awoke, his body felt incredibly heavy; almost as if somebody had cut him open, and stuffed his carcass with rocks. His head still hurt- but it was a dull pain quite unlike the sharp one from before, and it seemed to be fading.
Breathing didn't hurt nearly as much. No longer did it feel like something heavy was weighted down on his chest- and the painful grip that had been crushing his throat, twisting it like a bent straw, was gone.
His face was no longer covered in that horrible mixture of blood, saliva and vomit. Somebody had carefully washed his face clean, so the disgusting, think scent of blood and his own stomach acid was no longer assaulting his nose.
And… he wasn't alone, either.
Somebody was holding him very gently, and very carefully; pressing him against their chest, and their arms were wrapped around him, and… a-and…
Urgh, maybe Battler was getting a little sentimental there- but that was exactly how his mother (not Kyrie- definitely not Kyrie) had used to hold him after he had a nightmare when he was a little brat… … But, come to think of it, it must have been a while since somebody hugged him like that.
Kyrie would never do something like that. He was way too old- and anyway, Kyrie didn't view him as a son anyway. To Kyrie, he was just some weird tall kid who had forced his way into her family with Rudolf and Ange. They weren't all that close.
Battler hadn't had a mother for six years; and he hadn't been held like that in so long. It was making him feel kind of like a small kid again- and, even though it was pretty pathetic, his heart was thumping just a little too fast, and his face was turning light pink.
Being held like this… was nice.
At least somebody cared.
It was so different to how the seven sisters had been attacking him just moments before…
Y-yeah, those seven sisters had… T-they'd…
Battler didn't really want to think about it.
Just like he didn't want to think about who was really holding him.
It was that guy, wasn't it? Beato's weird demon butler. The one who had made those… 'comments', and gotten too close, and teased him mercilessly with that weird smile, and, and, and… …
And also saved his life.
There was that, too.
Battler sighed softly.
Why did everything have to be so complicated?
If he let Ronove know he was awake, he'd have to- as a matter of male pride- shout, and pretend to be incredibly angrily, and throw that damn demon butler away from him.
Battler… didn't want to.
Not when he still felt so weak, and not really like his usual self… …
A soft laugh roused Battler from his thoughts. He heard Ronove say, through laughter, in his teasing tone of voice, "My~ Are you awake now, Battler?"
Battler's eyes were still forefully closed, so he couldn't glare- but he did manage to pout.
"Shut up. I'm still sleeping."
"Of course. Whatever you say..."
"D-don't talk like you don't believe me, idiot! I'm asleep, okay?" said Battler hotly; voice tainted with embarassment. "A-and, anyways... I nearly died; so if I'm acting a little weird, or clinging to you when I should be shouting in disgust, it's because I lost a load of blood and I'm not thinking clearly, okay? D-don't misinterpret this as something strange."
"Why, I would never dream of it, pu ku ku~ I certainly don't want to cause you any unecessary pain."
"Heh. Fine... ... I'll hold you to that."
"Pu ku ku. I do hope so. After all, I'm already holding you~ I deserve some form of repayment."
"N-ngh..." Battler winced- but, despite his mock irritation, he couldn't stop himself from grinning. "That's an awful joke."
"I know. It's not one of my better ones. However, I did spend the last half hour trying to patch you together with my admittedly sub-par ressurective magic, so I myself am probably not thinking clearly. Don't tell anybody else about that, alright?"
"Ihihi... okay. I'll keep your secret, and you keep mine. Sounds like a fair deal." A frown. "With a demon, at least."
Battler sighed- and there was a small pause. He couldn't believe he was going to say something so sappy, especially when cradled in somebody else's arms (a man's, no less), but... Battler couldn't ignore this small act of kindness. Ronove really had saved him.
"H-hey, demon butler..."
Battler paused, giving himself enough time to better collect his thoughts. He didn't want to open his mouth and then say something stupid, as he was incredibly prone to doing. All the awful English lines he'd used on girls when he was younger... It was so embarassing he wanted to curl up and die when he thought about it now.
Well, maybe not- but still.
"Um... Well... ... Thank you. For helping me out. Oh- and, um... thank you, in advance... for not telling anybody about this."
There was a small silence.
Then, Ronove smiled- and said, in a slightly abashed, surprised voice, "Oh, no... It's fine. Please don't worry about it. Besides, I wouldn't want to share this precious moment I'm spending with you with anybody anyway~"
Battler's face turned red at this. "H-hey, t-this isn't a 'precious moment' or anything- s-stop laughing at me!"
But it didn't help. Ronove continued to snigger regardless.
Battler pouted in an uncannily similar way to Ange when she was sent to bed early. He even started to speak a little like her, too- but Battler blamed that on his headache.
"...Humph. You're really mean, you know. You're even worse than those seven sisters."
"The seven sisters aren't as bad as you may assume, you know," said Ronove lightly.
"Ha? Are you kidding? They might be hot, but they nearly killed me."
"Yes, that is a slightly problematic hobby they have... but they're very charming girls in their own ways. Miss Belphegor is a rather soft, shy-spoken girl... and Miss Asmodeus really is very sweet and innocent underneath the mask she wears whilst following Milady's orders. And Miss Lucifer may have a quick temper, but she's not a bad person. All of them, really, are nice girls... And, Milady is not really as cruel as she likes to pretend to be. None of them are. It's just a shame you don't have a chance to see the softer side of their personalities..."
"Tch. If it's anything like your softer side, I'm not interested."
"Oh?" Ronove raised a brow. "And why not?~"
Voice deadpan, Battler said, "Because you keep flirting with me. It's really weird. Please stop it."
"Ah, but how can I help myself, when you're willingly lying in my arms like this?"
"I already told you. I don't know what I'm doing, I lost too much blood. Or I'm asleep, and I'm sleep talking. Take your pick. You're just taking advantage of me, really."
"Is that so..." A small sigh. "Well, I'll just try to permenantly embed this moment upon my memory then, pu ku ku~ Though, it is a shame... I did help you."
"Yeah, you did." A sigh. "Please don't remind me about that. It's incredibly embarassing, and I just want to forget about it."
"Certainly. I can imagine."
There was another small lull in the light conversation; Battler still resting in Ronove's arms, too drained of energy to push himself away. It took a few moments, and his throat was beginning to close itself from sheer humiliation that he was going to say (or do) something so stupid, but still...
Battler thought, maybe, Ronove deserved some form of repayment for all his help. Rescuing him from the seven sisters really was the nicest thing anybody had done for him in Purgatorio, after all...
And Battler really didn't want to be indebted to a demon.
"Hm... but, you know... I guess... you're not that bad, really... Ihihi... S-so..." Battler's voice trailed off for a few moments- but he soon found it again, in a new wave of determination. Damn it, he'd faced worse than this already; he wasn't going to back out now- not when he'd already decided it. "Here. Take this. And then shut up and stop picking on me."
And, with that, Battler opened his eyes... and lifted his head...
And, very quickly- cheeks flushed bright red with embarassment- gave Beato's butler a very small, chaste kiss on the side of his mouth. Battler wasn't quite prepared to kiss another guy (and one he didn't know all that well, to boot) on the lips; but... he could at least manage something like that.
As a way of saying thank you.
Without you, I'd definitely be dead.
To Battler's amusement, Ronove's eyes widened slightly at that unexpected kiss- and his own cheeks reddened, ever so slightly. Eheh~ Well, seeing Ronove- who usually smiled that impenetrable smile- getting flushed like that was kiiind of worth it~ Ihihihi~
Ronove had actually been shocked into silence.
Heh. Well, that was one way of dealing with annoying people who didn't shut up.
"Don't mention it," said Battler, with a teasing grin. "After all, you're feeling quite tired, and I'm definitely tired... so that was just a mutual daydream, okay? It never happened. Anyways... I'm meant to be asleep."
Battler was beginning to think this had all just been easier when he really was asleep.
And yet, even so...
He still didn't want to move.
This atmosphere... was the most peaceful one he'd experienced in Purgatorio thus far; even if it was with another man... and Battler didn't want it to end.
Was it really so bad that he wanted just a little comfort?
He didn't think it was that bad.
It wasn't... ... right?
So he squeezed his eyes shut even tighter- and melted into that warm, comforting touch.
He could always push Ronove away later.
a/n: This fic was meant to be cuter than this, but it got too gory ._. Haven't you ever had that really horrible feeling where you're in so much pain you actually want to die? I have /fond/ memories of experiences like that... ... ._.ll So the fic got daaaark. But it really is literal hurt/comfort, I guess XD I really tried to force it back into 'cute' with the last section though, kekeke ;3
Writing the seven stakes is always fun. Beelze, all my love goes to you :3 But I like Asmo a lot as well. And Luci. And all of 'em, really XD~ They make fantasy scenes a lot more fun ^_^;;