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Prologue arc

They were some of the first invitees to arrive. Not even the hostess herself was present when they had entered the vast chamber. The only signs of life were not even among the living; they were corpses styled as marionettes. They paced back and forth when Chinghis and her master had arrived, and kept doing so even after they had been situated. None of these freakish ghouls as much as looks at them when they pace back and forth with various items in their hands.There is the maid, straightening the tablecloth and adding eating utensils next to the plates that already were present. She flits about in a costume absolutely not befitting someone of her social standing, but it seems like that amuses her master, with her advanced sense of ‘irony’ and the likes. There’s also the hulking monstrosity of a human, with a barrel-chest and arms almost the size of Chinghis’ own body. He doesn’t seem to be doing anything in this setting, aside from standing in the corner to look as menacing as he can muster.

When she turned her head earlier, the blonde girl could swear that she had even spotted a pair of chefs in the back, preparing what seemed to be the dish they were to be served today. Her stomach churns slightly. It would’ve been nice to get something else for a change, but there is not really much she could do on that front. The access to most kinds of food has been limited for quite some time now, which is most understandable, given their current living situation. So she knows that she should have been grateful for this meal, but she just cannot bring herself to revel in the forced gratitude.

Her slanted eyes trail to her left, to her master currently situated next to her. They scan and probe her gaunt face and the blazing red eyes which seem to be focusing on something out of this reality. “She’s really concentrated right now, she thinks as her gaze trails down, to the woman’s body. Coiled around her left arm is the upper half of master’s personal pet, Caligula. The white snake’s tongue slips in and out from inside, presumably trying to catch the scent of fresh food. “Master’s so dumb,” Chinghis thinks, furrowing her brows. “This ain’t no pet party – it’s a banquet for us!” The monstrosity, whose body rests near the purple-haired woman’s chair, usually follows the woman wherever she goes. It’s her ‘baby’, after all. The blonde sneers under her breath, abruptly turning around as she rubs her sleeved hands together for warmth. “That’s a baby if babies can grow and shrink, not to mention swallow people whole.” The train of disdainful thoughts meets a swift end. “Fucking shite, it’s cold in here.” The girl would have brought a jacket if she had known that they wouldn’t light a fire in that damned furnace.

“Cheap bastards,” she mutters under her breath with as much poison as she can muster. She allows her eyes to drift over to the right side of the table. These vacant chairs are soon to be occupied with people she doesn’t even care for. All because she had lost one battle in the past and let fear get the better of her. If she just had listened to her pride and blurted out a loud ‘no’ instead of a whimpering ‘yes’, she might have been someplace else now. But most likely, she would have been six feet under and her, the real her, the conscious mind, stuck into the pitch-black void. The thought still gives her chills sometimes.

“Caligula thinks that you are looking particularly cold this evening, Chinghis.” The blonde’s eyes flit back to the left, meeting the ruby moons occupying the self-proclaimed goddess’ sockets. They shine with the same intensity as usual. But they are the only signs of life on her arrogant bitch-face. With placid and shrunken cheeks, a mouth in the shape of a horizontal line and hanging brow lines, Wilma Vermillion, oh great goddess in flesh, looks very human. Not to mention surly. “Who would’ve thought that?” She shakes her head demonstratively to add to the childish appeal Chinghis knows the purple-haired woman sees in her. The right hand of the ‘goddess’ strays over the serpent’s head and pets the smooth skin. In response, the creature’s tongue flits out and shakes before retreating. “He can sense your body heat, and just conveyed that he does not appreciate your deceptions.” The hand trails down the back of the snake’s long body in a smooth motion, while the red eyes proceed to follow. “Neither do I, for that matter.” In retaliation, the blonde snorts as much air as possible out of her nostrils and tosses her head in protest. Her hat nearly falls off her head, so she has to catch it with her left hand, which causes her sleeve to slip down.

As if I care about the opinions of some dumb snake,” she thinks while trying to bring her legs as far up the chair as possible. The blonde girl ends up with her calves almost directly underneath her in a frog-like position. This is her silent protest against the oppression: sitting like a disobedient child. With a smirk overcoming her, she offers Wilma a quick glance. She is too busy whispering and caressing the snake to even care. “Or so she likes to think.” For Chinghis is perceptive, more so than Wilma knows. She heard that barely audible sigh and noticed how she muttered ‘I know’ near Caligula, as if he was a person. It serves her well for now, letting her ‘master’ think that she is still naught but a child. Detecting deceptions had never been one of Wilma’s strong suits, which was why she kept her pet around. Without it, she is virtually helpless.

The girl sways on her chair, and then applies pressure to bob up and down repeatedly. “Why did we have to go so early? The others won’t show up in like, half an hour.” Chinghis puts forth this complaint, valid as it is, mostly to strike a conversation with the woman who seems mildly uninterested at the moment, since there is nothing else to do, except bother the undead, which in itself is a fruitless task. “Because we needed to be on time, of course. Otherwise, someone else might have taken our seats,” Wilma says, as if it was the most logical assumption in the world. The girl snorts with as much bodily sarcasm as she can, a bad habit of hers, as a pseudo-reply, before following up. “But everyone just sit on the same places when we have a banquet,” she retorts, allowing her finger to run over to the opposite side of the table. “Here, the drunk hag is gonna sit, along with her boy-toys...”

It runs further to the right, on the same side as her now, next to the throne at the table’s end. “The gobbler is gonna sit here and eat everything and next to him, on either side, the spit-licking demon brats.” She looks to the left as she pauses, intending to point out the others’ seating. Her eyes fall on the figure of Wilma, who is still petting the snake and whispering to it. Chinghis’ finger falls down and she narrows her gaze to pierce the barricade the woman had put up. “You could pretend to be interested, at least.” She doesn’t even answer the accusation. The blonde place her chin in her hands and sighs with exasperation. “This is gonna be a long night.”

~*~

Helena Lamford is quite positive that this headache is not occurring just because she has had a sizable amount to drink. As a matter of fact, she is pretty sure that she managed to slam her head into something on the way to the hall. Which is also the reason why two pairs of firm hands are just about carrying her towards the bright light in the distance. They are supporting her body to the best of their ability while her feet are trying to carry her through this shaking passage. “Motherfucker, it’s really hard to walk in these,” she thinks as her left foot takes another misstep, causing her to wobble to the sides.  Luckily, there is this pillar of a person supporting the faltering side, helping her up again. “Milady,” a voice gently whispers, tugging her tighter. A moan escapes her lips, as she stops in her tracks. There is no pleasure in it, only ache. “My feet are fucking killing me,” Helena thinks, too distant to actually utter the words. “Milady,” the voice repeats, more insistent. “I think you have had too much to drink, milady.” She turns to face the white-haired individual next to her. She sees the deep-rooted concern lying in their eyes. Truth be told, she wants to avert her eyes and turn her head briskly, but cannot muster herself to do so.

Too much effort.” Instead, her head turns slowly. “I’m feelin’ fine, tha-ank you very much!” There’s a certain quality in her voice that hints at her own lacking sobriety, but she ignores it for now. She is accustomed to being intoxicated. “Goddammit, feet. Work with me here!” Helena tries to command them, but fails; their movement is just as sloppy as it started out.  “Milady,” a softer voice whispers from the right. “Maybe you should drink some water when we get to the hall. It’ll help your liver regenerate.” She takes another step and nearly keels over again. Once more, the arms proceed to restrain her free fall. “Yer talkin’ too much right now,” she slurs, not remembering what the person to the right had said. There is a loud sigh. She is not sure on which side it originated, as they proceed to march forwards, nearly lifting her along the way. They are rapidly approaching the light now. “Dammit, wasn’t that shit like ten miles away just a minute ago?

Her arm raises itself, nearly on its own, as she attempts to avert her eyes.  “Can you guys turn off the light?” Helena moans helplessly, flailing with her arms. “I’m afraid we can’t do that, milady,” the calm voice to the right claims, accompanied by fingers running through her long hair. “Hey,” she snorts, turning around to wave her hand at whoever is teasing it.  “You stop that!” The sneer that escapes her mouth doesn’t sound nearly as fierce as she wants it to. They persist from the back after she had turned around, running through the entire length. A seething sensation stirs inside her, alongside the ever-present warmth in her abdomen. “Fucker, stop that right now, I swear, I’m gonna-!” She twists again, with more irritation, and almost trips again. “Milady, I’m just combing your hair. Otherwise, you’ll look indecent.” The silky voice is back in the right ear now, with its lulling promises.

With a quick headshake, Helena shakes loose the little hair resting over her shoulders, causing it to fall back. Now will be a nice occasion for her to shine. “Make it quick, then.” She wants to keep going, so she could get some sweet juice, just like what she keeps in her room. While standing still, everything becomes clearer to her. The hallway doesn’t spin nearly as much as it used to and there are sounds in the distance. Not just the throbbing in her head, but actual external sounds of people. “Damn, can’t this bitch just hurry up?” She stamps her feet with impatience, creating clacking sounds, which in turn cause echoes in the empty hall. “Almost done, milady,” the voice purrs as her scalp is dragged a bit back. “Ow, you fucker, that hurt!” She nearly screams, stomping again. “All done!” The voice now exclaims, with a sense of satisfaction in it. “Thank the fucking gods,” she murmurs and impatiently starts to shamble ahead. The hands are still clamped tightly around both of her arms, which is certainly a fact that upsets her; she’s not some flipping baby that needs to be carried around! Yet, she knows that if she protests, they’re just going to insist even stronger with their silly requests, like ‘please, milady’ and ‘it’s for your own good’.

Light drenches the hallway as two hands push the two doors open. The woman closes her eyes for a second, before opening them. Gods, her eyes are too accustomed to the murky depths of the corridor. It’s been a while since she has seen any artificial light, actually, since her room only contains natural lighting. “Oh, so bright,” she blurts out, trying to wave away the light with one hand. The room, which has previously contained a hum of noise, noticeable but not loud, acquires silence. It is deafening. “Why am I even friends with such boring people?” Helena ponders, before coughing. Some phlegm was obstructing her throat. “Hey, losers!” She shouts, waving sporadically with her hand. “The party’s just arrived!” Her voice dwells long on the r’s, while her body wobbles. She turns towards the pale-haired servant supporting her. “Get me to my seat, please, my legs fucking ache.” They proceed to wipe their face for reasons unknown, before smiling meekly at her. “At once, milady.” Under her breath, she mutters something about feet swelling, pregnancy and not knowing better.

They are moving towards the seat she always occupies, left side, middle row. Her eyes scan the present company and the empty chairs. She sees the gold-digger, seated on the opposite side of the table. As usual, he is accompanied by the redhead dressed in that ridiculous uniform. Next to him, sits the snake-charmer and her little attendant, whose smirk was poorly concealed by a sleeve. Her head bobs up and down when they approach, for some reason. To her left, an impatient blonde sits. He drums his fingers on the plate put before him, his eyes fluttering back and forth. “Fucker’s probably famished by now.” Across him sits the manchild with hair strutting everywhere. The twisted grin is as always, on display. The blobby image of his deceased sister occupies the seat next to him, swinging her feet back and forth. With a plop, the guiding hands place her in the chair next to the girl’s.

“Thanks, Conchita, Luiz. Yer dismissed, so go grabs some seats,” she commands, waving her hand idly to the right. The two servants bow and proceed towards their seating. Walking past the two seats to her right, as they are occupied, they then sit down. Aforementioned seats are taken by the gonkish frog, Narza, and the one right next to her, a middle-aged man with a dark eyepatch. “I see you made it, Helena,” he says, as to greet her. She blinks, staring at him. There is a sense of disapproval in his demeanor. “Same to you, Flynn,” she retorts with as much snark as she can muster, before grabbing the goblet placed before her. “Eager to just lose our minds completely today, aren’t we?” She doesn’t even bother answering his stupid rhetorical question. A fresh, quenching sensation pours down her throat.


Water,” Helena realizes, all too late. But she doesn’t really mind. It feels good. “I figured you would do that, so I ensured that your cup was going to be filled with water so you would sober up a bit,” he says with a closed eye. Fucking hell, he is so condescending. “Oh yeah now? People don’t get more sober with a glass of water,” she retorts with a sneer, eyes ablaze. “But you’re not ‘regular people’”, he replies, imitating her enunciation before opening his eye and meeting hers. “Your liver will regenerate swifter when exposed to water, which means you are going to become sober faster.” She knows she has lost at this point, so she continues to pour the liquid down her throat in protest. “Hoarder, Wilma,” she greets, nodding at both the purple-haired woman and the man next to her. Her eyes trail to the left.

“Lil’ shit,” she smirks while raising her eyebrows at the kid seated next to the snake-charmer. The girl’s eyes flare instantly and the smirk becomes a gritted frown. “Stinkin’ hag,” Chinghis replies with a malicious giggle. Although it will amuse her greatly to keep bickering with the kid, the little lucidity in her mind wants to direct itself to Flynn instead. She turns to face him and puts down the empty goblet. “So they’re all here, or what?” The reply Helena receives is initially a sigh deep from the stems of his heart. Flynn then shakes his head. “Not everyone,” he starts, pointing at the vacant seat neat the end of the right row. “The hostess herself is absent, as is the master.” He then directs his finger to the opposite end, pointing at the large throne. “Really now?” Helena relies, mind racing. “Man, I’m getting sober already, I can feel it.” There are actual thoughts churning in her head now; theories and speculation as to where they could be. With an elbow placed soundly on the table, she leans in, curious now. “Have you heard anything about why?” He shakes his head again. It looked like things could potentially become exciting tonight. She smiles at the prospect of change in this dour climate. “Interesting,” she says, enunciating every vowel of the word.

~*~

“Are you sure this is necessary?” Sheema asks, tone as monotone as ever. She stands in a murky corner of the hallway, torch shining on her feet. Like always, her body moves involuntarily and twists and turns in accordance to the watchful eyes in front of her. A barely noticeable frown manifests on her rigid face to further amplify her discontentment. “Of course it is necessary,” a giddy voice replies, watchful eyes disappearing as white teeth shine in the darkness. “We need to liven up this party, or else everything is going to become quaint!” Fingers dredges through her unkempt hair, evening out some of the knots. “Hey, quit it!” Sheema sneers, baring her jagged teeth in a futile attempt of intimidation. The fairy flutters around her, front and back, while patting her upper lip with her right index. Various discontent sounds emanate from the blue woman’s throat in the form of “hmms” and “nnnnhs”. She is pondering, obviously. Maybe how to make her lackey more presentable. Or if she should just humiliate her in public.

Sheema knows that it’s never easy to know when it’s Sūmi Masēn she’s dealing with. But this time, it seems like her transparency is kept to a maximum. The tiny, levitating blue woman claps her hands and smiles again, with her eyes closed this time as well. “I suppose that will have to do.” With that, Sheema’s body starts moving on its own. Stiff limbs guide her to the side of the flying gremlin. “I suppose you have looked worse.” The bait has been placed, so now Sūmi is just waiting for her to swallow it, hook, line and sinker. But she doesn’t even touch it. Sheema walks obediently alongside her flying master. There had been way too many of these gadfly shenanigans lately for her to even bother. “I’m not even tempted to answer her,” she sighs mentally as she thinks, wondering if this apathy is what the others felt before their consciousness vanished. Deep inside, she knows that is not the case, however. She still thinks, ponders. And sometimes, when she’s feeling especially bold, hopes. For the most part, though, Sheema just talks. She has few reasons to hide her feelings and thoughts, as there is little the Wicked Hermit can do to punish her for insolence. To her, existence is a sufficient punishment.  Sūmi Masēn basks in it whenever she can, with as much torment as she can muster.

The lighting grows more intense in the distance. It, too, is artificial, but nothing akin to the torches in the passages of Withered Eden. Chattering and laughter emerge from within the doors, with one almost barred open. The undead servant catches glimpses of heads and hats, long flowing hair and the occasional shoulder. “It seems like just about everyone has arrived. Only we are fashionably late.” Her eyes trail over to her side, glancing at the levitating lady next to her. Sheema has been trailing her from the side like a dog on a leash, waiting for her to do something. A jink to the left or the right or a grinding halt. Yet, they progress steadily towards the hall instead. “Don’t you think the guests are hungry?” Sheema asks out of the blue, distancing herself from the riveting thoughts with the sheer mundanity of the situation. The lady giggles and turns to face her subordinate. “I think they will survive!” The high-pitched noise causes the heads inside to turn, facing the door the two are approaching. A hole manifests underneath the girl and she plummets into a narrow passage. It all happened so soon, she has trouble keeping up with what is going on around her. “This is one of the situations where it would have been nice to still be alive. Feel the adrenaline and the likes,” she thinks, before she notices the flapping blue dress in front of her.

“Is now an appropriate time to use the Yamasuki, master?” She murmurs with discontent. Her arm is wrapped around the tinier woman’s ankle and she is gradually being hoisted. The only reply she receives is another giggle. “So she aimed to distract them while we travel around to surprise them. Of course something like this had to happen,” she muses with slight irritation. There is no sense of urgency in this, or dedication. This is just a spur-of-the-moment decision, invited by the woman’s rash nature. Light emerges as they leave the narrow tunnel and solid grand manifests underneath their feat. “Tah-tah!” The bubbly screech, accompanied by raised hands, as if this is some sort of accomplishment, fills the room. Surprised faces turn towards them with a multitude of facial expressions. The blonde kid with the hat’s eyes are wide, Wilma’s filled with concern. Neither Flynn nor Helena looks that surprised. Malik’s is filled with disgust, Carmen’s with surprise. There are so many reactions; Sheema is incapable of processing them all. “I apologize for being late, dear guests,” Sūmi says as sincerely as she can, following up with a curtsy. “I had some business to attend to, unfortunately!”


Silence falls as her smile widens. “It looks like nobody really cares”, Sheema notes while allowing her eyes to glide over the audience present. Her master hovers towards her designated seat, on the opposite side of the table, next to Nazaria’s empty seat. “Huh,” the undead girl’s brow furrows in thought. “Maricia and her lackeys haven’t arrived yet.” The period of silence persists, eyes falling on the now seated fairy. “What are we waiting for, exactly?” With brisk movements, Sūmi claps and giggles. Shuffling noises emanate from within the kitchen, which are then are followed by a tirade of undead servants with various dishes in their hands. In the back of the line, an undead dressed in ridiculous clothing while pushing a tray. “Blair, please make sure that everyone have napkins!” The fairy beams, touching her cheek. The woman with the soulless eyes pushing the tray proceeds to toss at least a dozen napkins at the table. They descend slowly towards the surface, some landing on the wood, others on the plates. “She never really did like napkins, I suppose,” Sheema heard her master mutter. “Anyway!” With a clear voice, the blue-haired woman resonates, as if to catch everyone’s attention. She clasps her fingers together, and her smile becomes more sickeningly sweet. “I hope you like steak! For those who don’t I have ensured that the chefs make some oyster soup and salad. Sheema’s eyes drift over the audience. The majority don’t look particularly excited at the prospect of food, sans perhaps the kid with the dumb hat and Albert. Oh, Albert’s mouths are positively foaming. He can’t wait to stuff his face with whatever she’s serving. She sees it in his one, desperate eye that is intently following the food; he doesn’t care what he’s gonna chow down, as long as it isn’t the napkins. Which are basically everywhere. “Dear god, someone should fix that zombie’s wiring, what is wrong with her?!” Sheema shifts her gaze to the ‘maid’ dressed in pompous clothing. Wrapping her brain around how even a dead person’s hatred for napkins could linger would take a longer time than she can afford.

After all, someone has just decided to interrupt whatever speech her master was holding by raising their hand. She recognizes the leather glove as Carmen’s, the redhead in the treasurer’s service. “Yo, I, uh, don’t mean to interrupt you or anything, but,” she initiates with her tomboyish, slightly raspy voice, and meets Sūmi’s face. The smile doesn’t even twitch in the façade, but there’s certain impatience to her façade; she’s being interrupted and she does not like it. “Yes?” she initiates, lilting all the while. “Speak up, please!” The redhead scratches the back of her head; insecure and obviously put off by this rash ploy. “Divide and conquer is her favorite strategy. Nothing makes an ant feel more worthless than just being lightly stomped on, after all,” Sheema deduces, while narrowing her eyes. “One would think you’ve noticed, but the master and her escorts aren’t here yet.” She regains some of the confidence upon finishing; the very same sass Sheema is accustomed to being treated with. “If not, you’re a moron!” The girl nearly spits the words in her superior’s face, blunt and scathing.

Sūmi hovers back to her seat and lands without even a squeak from the chair. A sigh follows, then a stifled giggle. Her smile’s still in place, now with a pearly row of teeth on display. “Has that ever stopped us before?” Once again, the woman claps, as to cause the frozen undead to move once more, placing the dishes on the table.

The feast will start, with or without Maricia.

End Chapter.

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