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The Anatomy of an Anime Mental Breakdown

  • Posted on February 17, 2015 at 11:58 pm

As defined by TV tropes, Sanity Slippage  is when it is apparent that a character is losing their edge, and slowly sliding down the slippery slope to insanity. It may be that they now have a verbal tic they didn’t before, perhaps they’re spouting a Madness Mantra. Perhaps they’re simply not sleeping, or not eating, or maybe, just maybe, they’ve gone off the deep end, and are completely different from the character they were before.

So, how does one define a Mental Breakdown of this sort? How does one describe and even characterize such a thing? After all, nothing is more interesting than the breaking and splintering of a human psyche. Nothing gets us more than the suffering of another. Perhaps it’s Schadenfruede, or perhaps it’s just a need to see how far a person can be pushed before they break.

That's one hell of a smile you got there, Shinji

See, Shinji knows what I’m talking about.

So, we’re going to break down that amazing phenomena that is the Anime Breakdown.

Step One: Stress

So, How do we take a perfectly normal character, and make them into something broken and weeping? First, we have to start with that perfectly normal character! Whether this is your villain or your hero, or both, you need a base line for them. So start them off at their normal. Perhaps they’re a normal high-school student?

Yeahhh, I'd be bored in geometry too.

Take Light Yagami here. He’s a perfectly normal, bored high school student.

Stressors would be required to remove them from this normalcy state, and into something close to the sanity slippage we mentioned earlier. In the case of our example here, Mr. Yagami is introduced to a book titled the Death Note. This Death Note provides him a literal example of how “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility”.

Over time, the toll of his body count, as well as the things he needs to do to keep from being prosecuted, begin to take a toll on his sanity. Light grows paranoid, increasingly so, and emotionally manipulative. He hides from those who care about him, and performs actions that most would consider appalling. He meets people he’d never thought to meet, but can’t really call any of them friends. In fact, he’s withdrawn from humanity so much that he honestly begins to believe he’s a god.

These stressors cause his reactions to become more and more terrifying and odd, until we get this lovely number:

Yeahhhh….

So Stressors. But what happens once stressors take their toll?

Step Two: Symptoms

This is when we begin to show our homework. A lot of this is going to require research, because honestly, every character is going to react differently. Your stressors are different, and while there will be some crossover sometimes, you can’t just slap a sticker on it and call it good.

So, first, take into account the exact stressors. Is your character being spoken to by the whispering voices of dark gods, dreaming in the beyond? Well then, maybe they’d start listening to music, accidentally yell at their friends, maybe they would end up gouging out their ears? Oh, wait. We’ aren’t there yet, are we…

Here are some common symptoms and examples:

Madness Mantra – A character begins to repeat over and over something that was said to them, something they heard, something they thought, some small phrase that means a lot. This could also double as arch words, if the author is thoughtful about it!

Room Full of Crazy – Perhaps the character begins posting pictures of the victims on their walls, writing the connecting facts between them? Perhaps they start carving out a calender, representing all the times they’d lost time. Or maybe they simply don’t control their room any more. Things go missing, they can’t find something, and then it turns up in places they didn’t put it.

Paranoia – They may begin to grow distrustful of those they once loved, and those they cared about. Maybe they don’t quite know who they can trust. Maybe they worry that someone they don’t know at all will turn out to be their downfall? Who knows.

That’s right Shinji, You listen to Evenescence. That’ll fix everything.

Running Away from Responsibilities – That’s right. When a person is pushed to the limit, they often try to escape from the pressures restraining them. In this case, that means they refuse to fight, they hide. There might be a scene in which they lay about, while others do important things, or perhaps the character hides under blankets.

Now these are just a few symptoms, and to be honest, there are as many symptoms as there are characters. Each one is going to have it’s own reaction. But now you have a general idea of what to do.

Step three: The Catalyst

On  TvTropes, this is referred to as The Despair Event Horizon, which basically just means, the thing that pushes them over the edge into complete and utter breakdown. My favorite culmination for this is into what is known as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Which is basically a character who has undergone such a life of misery and woe, that they have decided the only way to end it is to kill themselves and everyone else along with them. It’s a great trope, give it a read!

Anyway, so the Catalyst can be just about anything. From a Woman in the Fridge to a Kick the Dog moment, it really depends. Basically, the final straw that breaks the camels back. This is the thing that will finally cause that “Everything is over” moment that shatters the character’s (and if you did it right, your reader’s) hearts. This should be your climax, the high point in your story, and the culmination of this character’s arc. After this, it’s all downhill, and healing.

So congratulations! Those are the three big ingredients to writing an Anime Mental Breakdown. There are of course other tropes you can invoke, or even revoke, in order to make it more interesting, and more unique, however, these are the three main things you need. I would recommend reading through those pages, if only so that you can get an idea of what’s already been done. You don’t wanna accidentally overlap, after all.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

Darling Mother Dearest

  • Posted on April 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

We know the type. The Mother, The Magdelene, She Who Nurtures, and she is the singular woman who defines who we are, who we become, and what we’re going to do with the world around us. Developmental theory often refers to her as the Female Rolemodel. In Fairytales, her title might be Step-Mother, or Queen, or any number of other things. But in the end, she is that one discerning force that brings us out into the world.

Now, this is where we draw the line. There are many types of Mothers.  Good ones, bad ones, evil ones, abusive ones, caring ones, obtuse ones, demanding ones, mothers run the whole spectrum, because they are, in fact, people. And no matter what your experience with them, or lack thereof, they still define parts of you to this day. Often, it isn’t until we grow up and get our own jobs and move on, that we realise our mothers, good bad or missing, are part of what motivates us in the world.

Three very good examples of mothers include Mother Gothel from Tangled, Eudora, Tiana’s mother from Princess and the Frog, and finally, one we all know very, very well, Wendy from Peter Pan. Now, you may be wondering where Wendy comes into this. Just hold on, and let me get to my point.  All of these fine ladies exemplify motherhood one way or another. Each different kinds, each with their own flaws, each with their own strengths. But beneath it all, they’re all women, down to the bones of it. Beneath the veil of “Mother” lies a woman, and it is that woman who determines how her children will turn out.

To start with, we’ll give you a good example. Eudora, the mother from Princess and the Frog, is a good woman. Married to her husband of many years, she works hard in New Orleans in the 20s. Which, for a woman of color, could NOT have been a good time for her. But she made the best of what she had, and because of that, she raised a resourceful, kind, and determined daughter. Because beneath the Mother, there was a resourceful, kind, and determined woman.

Now, Mother Gothel, as you well know, if you watched the movie for even half of its length, was abusive. Emotionally, and at the end, physically. She constantly belittled Rapunzel under the guise of motherly help. She put her down, and if you watch her most minute actions, all of her affection was aimed towards her daughter’s HAIR. The magic, not the girl. No wonder Rapunzel wanted out so desperately! But, if there was anything she did do right, is that she provided for her daughter. Rapunzel never wanted for anything, not food, not a roof, other than entertainment of course. And she encouraged her hobbies, baking and reading and painting. Even the worst mother can have a FEW redeeming qualities, I suppose.

Wendy, however, is a very special case. She actually wasn’t really a Mother. Not to begin with anyway. But the boys adopted her, and unwilling, she ended up a mother. This is the important part. She didn’t WANT to be a mother to those boys. Peter forced it on her, much the way single mothers are forced to take up both parental roles. However, unlike either of the mothers above, Wendy falls under the pressure. She caves. And in the end, she leaves. This too, has an impact upon her ‘children’. The boys once again only have Peter for guidance, and instead of growing up, they languish in Neverland, playing games forever with their child king.

So you see, no matter who she is, absent, missing, there, loving, nurturing, evil, selfish, cold, the mother has a big influence on her children. And before you get into it, fathers do too, but this is about mothers, so hush.  Mothers are what teach us how to emotionally handle the world. They prepare us, one way or another, for what we’ll find when we leave the nest. Some are good at this duty. Some are terrible. But no matter what, even if you loathe your mother and her actions, there is always something that will bring your mind back to them, something that makes you remember her, absent or not. And that, my friends, is why women become Mothers. That is our immortality.

Beauty and her Beast

  • Posted on April 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Beauty and the Beast Vs. Taming of the Shrew

Both iconic tales, although for very different reasons. Long, well-known, articulate, and fascinating, both tales are considered love stories, usually of the romantic variety, with sweet connotations, underneath everything else. The humor in Taming of the Shrew is considered a finer point of William Shakespeare’s works. The “song as old as time” of Beauty and the Beast is famous for it’s sweet romance, persisting through the ages as a love story to be emulated.

However, both stories have deeply troubling issues within them that few enjoy looking at. Truthfully, I don’t enjoy looking at it. Like any little girl, I absolutely adored Beauty and the Beast, wanting nothing more than to find that kind of adventure and love so easily. And my teenage self really enjoyed Ten Things I Hate About You, which is roughly based off of Taming of the Shrew. Both were funny, quirky, beautiful stories that made me think that maybe, just maybe, love was out there for everyone.

Now, break it down, by role. Let’s start with the women of each example.

Beauty, whose name literally describes her both inside and out, is a sweet, dutiful girl, who is obedient, intelligent, and (in the original tale) respectful. The disney version added a firey backbone, which was quite nice, actually. Her role in the story was to meet and be enslaved/captured by the beast, and then, despite being cruelly abused, verbally, and physically (he occasionally throws her around even in the disney movie) is supposed to fall in love with the Beast, once he exposes his true, good heart.

Katherina, the infamous Shrew, is an obstinant, firey woman with a temper. She is determined to have her way, and will not be told what to do. She chooses not to marry. During the course of her play, she is psychologically tortured by her soon-to-be-husband, through various methods such as removing her clothing and food, by saying it isn’t good enough for her, and deliberately misinterpreting what she says. She, in the end, also falls in love with a rude, obstinant man, whom has proven to be a rather cruel fellow.

Both women seem to be intelligent, well-thought out women, for all that they’re a little… one dimensional. Beauty is beautiful in all that she is, and Kate is well… a shrew.  But both women are forced, quite against their will, to be in the company of a man who is downright brutish.

The Beast is just that, a monstrous beast both outside and in, with claws that have rended the entire castle. Belle must have lived in fear, for I know I would, were I surrounded by stone gauged by such talons. Not only that, but he treats her as though she were a servant, a slave. He yells, demeans her, and as illustrated before, throws her a few times. He is brutish, boorish, angry, frightening, and supposedly, deep down, has a heart of gold. Belle just has to endure until it begins to show itself. Meanwhile, Beast is just waiting for the right woman to come along and teach him proper manners. How demeaning is that, as an allegory for the male gender? Hear that guys? You have no choice but to be an ass until the right woman comes along and *FIXES* you.

Petruchio, meanwhile, had the benefit of being raised in Italy. Meaning he’s an ass too. Also, he’s psychologically manipulative, and uncaring of Katherina in a personal sense. All he wants, as is stated in the play, is to marry a bride. He too is cruel, wooing a woman who obviously doesn’t want marriage, and basically talking her into marriage with the most backwards sweettalk in existance. He knowingly enters the relationship set to break down Katherina’s spirit and make her docile, accepting, and obedient.

Both men are the worst sort of examples of mankind one can think of. I personally am embarrassed to even call them men, for I’ve MET good men, and they do not act this way.

Now, you ask, at what point do these two stories even coincide with each other? Well, think about it. Beauty and the beast is a story about a woman taming a man. Taming of the shrew is about a man taming a woman. They’re the same story, only with the genders reversed.

What’s worse is, instead of the man showing the woman kindness, as Beauty showed Beast, and finally revealing the heart of gold inside, in Taming of the Shrew, Katherina is instead browbeaten, psychologically tortured, and in general treated as a problem, something to be beaten down and changed.

Both stories have problematic elements, Beauty with her stockholm syndrome and Perchutio with his cruelty, however, when looked at, it is clear what the commonality is. In both stories, women are clearly a means-to-an-end. Nothing more. Katherina is refused her personality, changed by the man in order for him to gain a bride and her sister to be eligible for marriage. Beauty exists for her father to trade off, for the Beast to gain back his humanity. Nothing more.

THIS is the problem with these two stories. When you are writing, consider the women in your story. Consider what they do, who they are, WHY they are in the story. If they are nothing more than a means-to-an-end, then you are doing them, and yourself, a disservice. After all, Misogyny is often internalized, and it’s time that women became women, and not just a catalyst.

Thinking About His Companions – A deleted scene from The Sorcerer and the Swordsman

  • Posted on March 21, 2014 at 2:51 am

((This scene was deleted due to it’s repetitive nature when combined with other scenes in the book. However, it was a unique perspective and look at the characters from Yumil, the Sorcerer’s, point of view. Have a look!))

That night, Yumil did not join the large group for dinner, sitting apart instead, and eating a summoned apple. The silver haired princess clearly disliked his separating himself, as she stormed over to him pretty quickly. Looking up, he realized she had a bowl of food in her hand. Raising an eyebrow, he muttered a quick spell, freezing the food solid. She made an indescribable sound, glowered at him, and huffed her way back to the group.

Good riddance. Yumil didn’t exactly want to deal with her anyway. The smell of the sausage and hastily cooked rice was making his stomach queasy. He wasn’t sure if it was hunger or sickness, and he wasn’t taking a chance. His summoned food was more than enough for him.

Watches were established, and luckily, they had enough people for three per watch, two if Dirk excluded Jorgan, Lette and Yumil. Nights were dangerous on the plains, if one was unaware. Usually, dangerous beasts avoided fires and the sounds people made. But at night, when the fire is banked, and no one is moving about too much, some get curious at the smell of food, and come closer.

They never did have that problem. Yumil knew it was because of the creatures sleeping inside him. No self respecting animal would attack something more dangerous than itself unless it had to. And in this case, everything under the sun could tell that he was far more powerful than he appeared.

For his part, Yumil was attempting to avoid as many of the group as possible. Large groups made his skin crawl, almost as much as being alone with someone. He much preferred solitude, and this was not the place to get it. Luckily, few of the warriors they’d brought wanted to speak to him, his atrocities too near in their memories. That didn’t stop the child from staring at him, during the long trudging walk the horses took them on. Yumil raised a raven eyebrow at the male, and the child ducked his head. He couldn’t be more than twelve. Perhaps younger, even. His eyes though…. Something about them was familiar.

Taking another deep breath, Yumil turned away from the green eyed child, and towards his book. He had taken up reading again. During his apprenticeship, his master had instilled in him a love of books and all things to be read. Yumil had always had a natural sort of curiosity, something that made his horrid existence worse and better at the same time. Knowledge truly was power.

He couldn’t help but notice the princesses looking at him as well. The priestess obviously shared her mother’s view on his personality, since she kept sending him pitiful looks, and attempting to feed him of all things. Princess Lette was beginning to become a sore in his side, and he was attempting to think up ways to make her life hell without actually harming her. A bit of honey on her skin was good for her, and it would also attract ants like nothing else. Perhaps a few layers applied to her skin while she slept. Yes, that would work.

Princess Eamon was a whole different story. She was dangerous. Warrior through and through, Eamon would not hesitate to kill him. The only reason she had not killed him yet was because he was useful. God how he hated that word. But for now, it was his armor, his shield. They would not kill him, and that would give him time to break this damnable binding. He would foil that God one way or another, and have his revenge.

The voices in his blood spoke whispers of tearing him from his throne and rending his godly limbs into dust. Another hissed that he should do the same with these pitiful mortals. A third reminded him that he was immortal, infallible. He would be doing them justice.

He quieted the voices, the demons he’d taken into his heart, and settled them with whispered promises for the end of the world, the destruction of all those wicked souls they craved so much. He remembered his master whispering so to the darkness that was darker than his skin, the shadow shapes that swirled across his thin limbs like wraiths. Yumil was too vain for that, so he kept them in his heart, his blood, instead of his skin. Master hadn’t liked that. But he was dead, so what did his opinion matter?

Catching Dirk looking at him however, that was unsettling. The large man held his fate in his hands, and honestly, Yumil wasn’t sure whether he should cozy up to the man, or if he should make him more of an enemy. One way, he could end up worse even than he was as a child. The other, he might end up losing every ounce of freedom he currently claimed. Either option was enough to send chills down his spine and make him retreat into books rather than think on it any more.

The only point in Dirk’s favor was that he was clearly still the innocent that Yumil remembered. He sighed, letting the breath out with a long sigh. He didn’t care that the man had grown up. He didn’t care that Dirk might have had bad experiences because of what he’d done. The male was an innocent, the same as the children that Yumil had spared. Yumil would never regret sparing him. Although for a moment, on the battlefield, he’d felt a sting of betrayal that Dirk would turn against him so.

He remembered the look of abject hatred that had lived in Dirk’s eyes, and realized that perhaps that wasn’t the case any longer. How could he feel betrayed when it was clear that Yumil hadn’t wanted to save HIM, but rather, had simply wanted something or someone to champion. He felt that realization become a heavy weight on his heart, and pushed it away as firmly as he pushed away memories and thoughts of anything but his future revenge.

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