The full title is, of course, Gaslit Revelation Babylon. Because Original Flavor Word Salad.
So, this is the Victorian Verse I've been rambling on about to anyone willing to lend an ear for awhile. I had a lot of stress that was willing to be burned, so I did it for NaNo. It references a lot of literary tropes of the time and later about the time, but the sheer fact that certain genres apply to this fic is something of a spoiler (for those who can't figure it out knowing Eva), so just think Gothic horror and the period's rise in cults (see Crowley, etc.) and so on.
The thing is that it's not really right to write something about the Victorian Era without the Victorian Era being present, so the following should be a thing:
They were really, really, incredibly nasty people. If you ever need to have your faith in humanity utterly destroyed, studying a non-sanitized history of what the Victorians got up to will do it. We think of it as a genteel era, etc.: no. No. They were just really effing vile.
This is an M-rated fic because it's set in the Victorian era, and these people were incredibly perverted, really sadistic, and enshrined the idea that you could do anything you wanted to anyone who was in your power, and that was your right, and they were bad if they protested things like, eg. being raped.
It says something that in a fic with a human-sacrificing Satanic cult with orgies, the stuff most likely to push it over the line into NC-17 comes not from the demons, but from the Victorians being Victorians.
So I want to establish right here that the opinions in the fic are not the opinions of the author, and when something comes up that you really, really hope the author is kidding about, odds are I'm not, and people really used to think that way. Those things really happened, eg. institutionalized rape of younger students by older students, prison bitches at schools. This is where we get the word 'faggot.' It doesn't mean 'gay person.' It means 'probably straight (given how much of the population is straight) underage male rape victim.'
Now that the warnings are out of the way, despite the time period, there somehow manages to be a loving relationship where both people involved respect each other in the fic. Eventually. There's also references to sex taking place (I may release a slightly more explicit version elsewhere, but it's really hard to have a fic with Victorians in it and keep within the M rating), but this is the Victorian Era, when the only kind of sex that was okay was rape (one of those things you probably wish I was kidding about), so while if you asked the person involved he'd say it's perfectly normal, by modern standards a lot of what's referred to in here is dubcon, and it certainly is dubcon. There can be a significant difference between 'better than average' and 'not actually evil' - think about this when Iruel comes up in the context of those factory workers. When the reality is horrible enough that something like that is a major improvement...
Shinji shivered, bracing himself for the caning. "You know the rules, Ikari," the older boy spat.
He couldn't run away, not with two more older boys grabbing his arms. They'd beat him harder if he tried. The protest caught in his throat: he hadn't meant to be late to class again, but saying that he'd missed breakfast as well, trying to get the soap out of at least one uniform wouldn't help. He knew all too well that if he protested their 'justice,' that was almost as bad as daring to fight, a girly little thing like him.
At least all the marks kept his face from being pretty, he told himself, shutting his eyes tight, feeling the harsh itching of the lye soap still left in the fabric.
If only Kensuke was here, Kensuke would have tried something, but Kensuke was gone. That was why the other boys in the dorm had done this, because Kensuke was well-liked. Kensuke had promised to take them out to his country home to go hunting.
Kensuke's father was in debtor's prison now, and Kensuke had been removed from the school, even though it wasn't proper procedure at all, and everyone knew whose father had pulled the strings.
The little rich boy, jealous of Kensuke's popularity: he must have written home and told his father to ruin him. That was what everyone knew and Shinji protesting that he'd never written that man in all the years he'd been here hadn't helped.
Before, the upperclassmen had looked at him predatorily: he would be almost as good as a real girl, so whoever got him as their little fag would be lucky. He'd only made it this far through the year because three of them had applied to the headmaster to be his mentor, all of them students in good standing and in good families.
The fact that Shinji didn't get any allowance or gifts from home to take hadn't daunted them: he'd heard them laughing and saying they'd convince him to fix that right quick. Once one of them had officially taken him in hand, it would be his word against theirs, and no one would listen to an underclassman who needed to learn proper discipline.
Especially not one who had needed so much discipline in the last month.
Those three were some of the only boys in the school not afraid of antagonizing his father now. There was a small, select group of upperclassmen, all of whom had a tendency to greet Shinji with that same smile, as if they knew something they didn't, or they had orders from their families about him that they were looking forward to. Were their families that much better than Kensuke's? Or had any of them heard and believed Shinji saying that this wasn't for him, his father didn't care what happened to him, and actually believed him. In which case he was a girly boy with absolutely no one who had any desire to protect him, not in the entire school.
He couldn't help crying out when they struck him. At least they sounded more pleased than mocking when they laughed at him.
He was back in class, welts and soap rash stinging equally, when he was summoned to the headmaster's office. He would be leaving the school. His father's manservant had come to collect him. His belongings would be sent after him on the train.
It would have felt like a relief, if he hadn't known his father.
The one blessed relief was that there would be an overnight stop. A bath. Maybe he could even get clean clothes, or ask Kozo to wash these for him. Even though Gendo didn't approve of a mere boy asking anything of a superior servant, Kozo was sometimes distantly kind, in the same way as Rei.
He hoped Rei was still there.
Rei was still there, alright, standing with her hands folded primly at the foot of the stairs, face blank as always.
His father was standing up on the balcony, over the statue of the tree with its grasping branches that seemed to reach up to him, imploring pity that did not exist. His face was hidden in the shadows. Shinji hadn't seen him there for a moment. Someone must have spotted the carriage coming up the drive – Rei?
His father was here to welcome him? His father wouldn't possibly stand around just to welcome him. Shinji had expected to at least get to his rooms, have a few moments to clean up a bit, even though his father would either glare or ignore him no matter what he did. At least making sure he was presentable would have made things go a little less badly. Hopefully.
He didn't dare look to Rei for help, or back at Kozo, who was closing the great door. He should have expected that something was up when he was brought to the front door. Shinji swallowed. "Father?" he asked timidly. His voice echoed a bit in the room with its hard stone walls and floor, and otherwise he might have hoped that his quiet, fearful words might not have reached him.
"It's time," his father said, looking down at him. On him. "For you to fulfill the purpose for which I raised you. Ten years ago, I lost my wife. Your mother. You're going to get her back for me." Gendo's voice echoed too, in the dark room, deeper and much louder than Shinji's pathetic attempt at a greeting.
Shinji didn't dare say anything like 'What?!' He was too scared even to squeak. Not when the wounds from his last beating still smarted, even if Kozo was kind enough to pick up ointment for him at a chemist's, and his father was never reluctant to have Shinji caned. What he'd do if Shinji dared imply that he had gone mad, it didn't bear thinking about.
"Tonight, we'll be driving to a place outside London where they hold Black Masses. I promised your soul to the devil two years after she died, and you're finally old enough for him to collect his payment and your sainted," was there just a little emphasis on that, "mother to return to us." Did those terrifying eyes narrow in the darkness. "Don't stand there like a fish. Do you understand what you are to do?"
"Father, but… is that even possible?" he asked, lowering his eyes, unable to look at Gendo, the tree reminding him of the trees where witches were hung. They'd learned that in class. They were rarely burnt. Peasants couldn't afford to waste the wood, just like the poor often didn't have enough coal to stay warm. Just like the students didn't, because coal was expensive and they weren't worth it, just like his life was worth nothing to his father. Shinji might have made a joke, if he had Kensuke's courage. Something like 'at least it would be warm in hell,' but the words died on his lips.
"It is," Gendo said in tones that brooked no argument. "Fuyutsuki, make him presentable. Get rid of those cuts and bruises on his face. Shinji, for once in your life, you will be presentable and not disgrace me, is that understood? If your mother remains dead because of you, boy, your life will not be worth living."
"But, but what if she doesn't come back?" Shinji almost pled. What if this was a hoax, which it had to be, and he took the blame for the failure. He found himself taking a step back, out of fear of his father's expression. It wasn't rage, it was absolute coldness, utter distaste for Shinji's existence.
"All you have to do," Gendo said slowly, almost spitting, "is sell your soul in exchange for hers. It should be simple enough for even a disrespectful little fool like you. If you prove incapable, then I will cut you open then and there and use your guts for an augury of what else the devil might accept. I will have your mother back, do you understand me, boy? You'll be able to see her again too," Gendo added grudgingly. "She always spoiled you. I suppose she'll be grateful to you, even though I'm the one who's arranged all of this."
"My, my mother?" Shinji remembered soft hands and a warm voice, but this was all happening so fast! His father had to be kidding, or that was what Shinji would have thought if this wasn't his father.
"Haven't you listened to a word I said?" You disrespectful brat. "Go to your rooms. Fuyutsuki will get you ready, and the four of us will leave this afternoon."
"The four of us?"
"I was created to serve as a replacement body for Lady Ikari," Rei answered Shinji. She was the only one who ever would.
"What?!" Shinji squawked now, even as he shook with fear. "Father, you can't be serious!" He took a step forward now, a distant part of him amazed at his own daring as he looked up at the balcony. "You can't!" he begged, reaching out to Gendo imploringly, even knowing that like that twisted, dead tree, he couldn't reach him. Rei was just a servant, but 'she's my friend!' he wanted to say, but his father wouldn't care, he just wouldn't care!
Even, even being cut open might be better than going back to school, it would all be over, right? And maybe his father wouldn't get away with it. Maybe there would be questions, although Shinji knew that wouldn't happen. It would be hushed up. His father had too much money, and power. The police wouldn't dare.
But, but Rei! "Let me go!" he pleaded with Fuyutsuki.
"Hurry up and use the drug," his father ordered. "You don't have all day to get him ready, and I won't wait another month because of a childish tantrum." That voice pressed into him, echoed in his head, the contempt making him curl up and die a little inside as Fuyutsuki's pitiless hand clamped over his mouth, as Shinji's vision grew blurred and the hand that had reached out to his father (even though he knew better, oh how he did) fell in utter defeat.
Smoke swirled around them, churchly incense without a trace of tobacco or opium smoke. The Master disliked them, and there were other pleasures available to the circle, but he was here for far more than mere earthly delights.
"And why should I bring her back for you?" Behind a stern expression, a mask of iron, he remembered those words, several years ago now. "What do you have to offer me? Your soul? Don't make me laugh. Why should I bring back a soul already in my possession, in exchange for another soul already in my possession?"
"I haven't sold it yet," he'd said through gritted teeth, his fists clenched as he stood in the pentagram before the throne of the devil that looked like a youth.
"But you've already damned yourself… how many times over now? How many workers, dead in your factories before the bargain with Iruel was made? How many rivals eliminated for the sake of your greed and desire for power? Even if it was the sorceress you married who made those bargains, you knew of them. You cannot lie to me. Your soul is mine."
"God can redeem anyone," was his reply, glaring now at those laughing red eyes.
"Oh? Is that what you really believe? But the redeemer is not your God, now is he? Your God is Yui. In order to be redeemed, you would have to open your heart to God, and we both know there's no room in there for anyone except her." A warm chuckle then, as it rested its chin on a delicate hand, looking at him with disdain. "Even if you had a prayer of escaping eternal torment, I wouldn't give tuppence for a soul like yours."
"Then what would you accept?"
"Your Radiance, I apologize for his disrespect. Allow me to have him removed," he'd heard from behind him. So Lorenz Keel was here, draped in one of those robes. Here to gloat that his traitorous daughter was dead. "A dead witch's puppet has no right to stand in your presence."
The devil raised that death-pale hand. "He's no puppet, not anymore. The spell she used to enslave him vanished with her death, as all such things do. He's here of his own will. He genuinely came to love the witch that used her power to bind him to his bed and force him to drink the love potion she made with his own mother's blood, spilled on one of the altars… And when you found that out was when the seed of love sprouted in your heart, even in soil poisoned by hatred of all mankind, even, no, because she was a monster like yourself, incapable of loving you as you were anyone but her. Since you despise humanity, and she was far less human than any demon in my court. How… special." That smile might have seemed approving, if not for the mocking edge. "Love. Isn't it supposed to be the one power that can rescue a soul from hell? If someone who truly loved the witch Yui – not you, someone with a worthy soul – comes to stand before me and freely offers themselves up for her return, then I might just accept."
They'd both known who Gendo was meant to think of. Professor Fuyutsuki, a researcher in dark and arcane tomes, who had been enslaved by Yui well before she met Gendo, even if she'd used subtler means. A bit of manipulation, a bit of the charm she'd gained by her own compacts with the devil.
She'd never allowed the Professor to make his own pact with the devil, even though that would have given her two sorcerers under her power. The devil's blessing might have included freeing him from her spell: it had happened before, once when Gendo was here as Yui's familiar slave. The young witch suddenly granted freedom and power had triumphed over the 'loving husband' that had drugged and enslaved her. Unfortunately, for her, the leaders of the cult were so afraid of the idea of a woman triumphing, when they'd surrounded themselves with enslaved young ladies, that they'd intervened.
Keel, no doubt thinking of his own daughter, had stood over her with his staff and pronounced that this was a 'sentence,' for raising a hand against her husband, her owner, when it was not this Kyoko's place to do so (a mere German wench he'd picked up on the Continent when he went looking for someone with a bright mind and some money that he could use to handle the magic and the finances for him while he debauched himself – Gendo would like to believe that he hadn't met those criteria himself, in Yui's eyes).
The devil had cleared its throat, and said that he had granted the woman her freedom, and was Keel claiming that he had the right to declare null and void a bargain made by his own infernal Master?
He had bowed his head, backed down, but while the woman had bargained for her freedom, she'd failed to ask for her tormentor's death. He'd found another, English this time, very, very quickly, and everyone knew it was just a matter of time before the two of them fought again.
Even though his father was a member of the circle and he'd been ordered not to defy their Master, he wouldn't let it go, and even though she was just one witch against the circle, hatred had to burn in her heart. Rendered barren by the magic that enslaved her so there wouldn't be any inconvenient bastards, she'd bargained with Armisael for a child of power.
That Gendo's case had turned out so differently, that even freed he longed for his Mistress to return and enslave him again must interest the cult enough that the rest of them had eventually overruled Keel, who most certainly did not want his daughter to return. It had taken him two years to gain this audience with the devil, two years and all the bribery and blackmail the alchemists he'd enslaved and that too-suave reporter could manage for him, and was it granted only so that the creature could mock him?
Because this was clearly another trap. The word 'freely' proved it. Even though Yui lost control of their teacher when she died, Gendo was ready and waiting to retake that control, and it had been necessary. If the old man had any power to fight him off, any at all, he would have used that sacrificial knife before Gendo could force him to kneel and submit. He'd plucked it from feeble old fingers as despairing eyes peered up at him and smiled: this was the man who had dared look down on Gendo as new money, merely Yui's pet, a stray she'd picked up and lower than the mud Kozo's manservant brushed off his boots.
It had amused Yui to make the 'dear professor' Gendo's manservant, once they married, although she kept the professor busy in his laboratory most of the time and had ordered Gendo never to enquire into what was done there.
Although he'd recently been very pleased by one of the products…
Who knew what Fuyutsuki could ask for, when his mind was restored to him? Nothing that Gendo would want. Yui had many other admirers: she'd made full use of all her powers, but did any among them love her?
Someone else, who loved Yui even without the witch's magic?
After it occurred to him, it was obvious. He'd watched her with the boy, after all. How it amused her, how easy it was to make him adore her, see her as his goddess, the sun at the center of his universe.
Gendo had hated him for it, and his jealousy amused Yui, he knew. She'd told him that she was merely raising the boy as a slave (just like Gendo), so, when the time came that he was old enough to stand before the devil and sell his soul, he would wish only to please and serve her.
Raised to have no will of his own, he would never think to rebel against her, the way Yui had sought power superior to her father's. Lorenz Keel might be first among the Circle, but he was only the second to bargain with the devil, after they'd released it from its frozen prison.
Despite the deference his spawn showed him, Tabris had never claimed to be Lucifer himself. He hadn't declined Lucifer's titles, either, and Tabris was a lesser angel, the domain only of dusty old scholars like the ill-fated defrocked Father Katsuragi. It was clearly a pseudonym, or merely one of his names, given that fallen angels of far higher rank hailed him as their lord and master.
Yet where there was one, there might be more… even if not in Antarctica.
Normal children loved their mothers. "You want the boy?" he asked.
"His mother and grandsire both possess considerable power, and both of them bred themselves carefully. There's power in his blood, and also darkness. The witch bore him as a sacrifice: have him brought to me on the summer solstice of his fourteenth year, as well as a suitable vessel for Yui's soul."
Did he know of the homonculous that Professor Fuyutsuki's researches had finally produced? No, Gendo told himself. Their home was well-warded. Yui's wards might have failed with her death, but even if it was difficult to gain an audience with the devil himself, who only appeared before an assembled Circle, the others were more willing to deal with a lone warlock. He'd offered up seven children to Sahaquiel, one to blind each of the seven eyes.
The others might have more trouble acquiring children now, but Gendo's factories kept him well-supplied. The parents would bring them to him themselves, with their minds ensorcelled. Thankfully he was the one to make the bargain with Iruel, with Yui's assistance. They would labor in the factory until they died.
Gendo nodded his acceptance of the devil's terms.
"Then, provided the conditions are met, we have a bargain, Sir Gendo," the devil said, and gestured forward the cupbearer.
Gendo had never been permitted to take Unholy Communion before, not as a mere ensorcelled familiar. This would mark him as a member of the circle, if the outer circle. Killing him before he could bring Shinji here would be interference in their master's affairs, and anyone who tried to annul another's bargain risked the loss of Tabris' favor.
His title was only a few years old now; Yui's doing, although before now the Circle had referred to him as 'Ikari' or Mister Ikari at best, knowing that he only had the title because he was Yui's lapdog and she had helped him make his fortune, not on merit or blood, like most of them. Now that Tabris had used it, however?
Bowing over the cup and its bearer at their Master, he reached down to take it with a feeling of satisfaction. He just had to ensure that Shinji had nothing but Yui to love, not even his own soul. That was simple enough.
The darkness in the boy's veins: if he'd inherited his parents' near-heartlessness, then no one else without similar charm would be able to break past that innate selfishness. If anyone showed any signs of trying, it would be easy for Gendo to deal with them.
And what was a little matter of… ten years, maybe as little as eight? How old was the damn thing, again? Well, no matter. He would advance Yui's plans in her absence, and once she achieved her ascendance, he would have the rest of eternity to spend kneeling at the feet of his Mistress.