Part 106: Episode XCIX: SomniumEpisode XCIX: Somnium
"-survive these past five years!?"
"I'm not going to let this happen again. He dies today!"
"My sword feels lighter...!"
"It's not the blade, but the skill of the user! Strike him down!"
Gently... Weakly... Softly...
The Shade, sure that its tormentor was dead, turned and stomped off toward the horizon, stopping along the way to bellow one final roar.
S-so sorry, Grandma... Couldn't...couldn't avenge you...
Shamed beyond imagining, Kainé tried to turn her head to the side, but only succeeded in coughing up a huge gout of blood. It was getting difficult to see, and only after a moment of fierce concentration did she realize that her left eye was gone. Laughing to herself, she turned her remaining eye to the ruins of her home and noticed a ragged stump of arm resting a few feet away. Yeah, that's mine, she thought with a mad giggle. This is gonna make clapping a real bitch.
"Ha!" cried a sudden voice from the depths of her mind. "Finally gonna die, are ya? Well, you had it coming!"
Go to hell, Dimo, she thought at the unseen assailant. Go to hell before I pluck out your eyes and feed them to a dog.
The voice of her childhood terror evaporated into smoke, only to be replaced by another, more recent voice.
"Hold still," said the apothecary, materializing from the ruins like a ghost. "I want to draw you. That way you can live forever."
No. Stop. Don't want to live forever. Want to die right here.
"I see," he said quietly. "Well, if that's how you want it..."
The spectral shopkeeper fluttered in and out of existence for a moment, then produced a piece of paper and sketched quickly. After a few seconds, he turned the page to Kainé and smiled.
"Since you rejected my offer, I decided to draw someone else."
It was a picture of her grandmother, real as life. Kainé opened her mouth to thank the man, but stopped as the picture began to blacken in the middle. Before she could say anything, thousands of multi-legged insects began to swarm across the image, tearing at it with sharpened pincers.
Stop! No! Don't hurt that picture!
Kainé reached out with her remaining arm and waved futilely at the air. To her surprise, the insects fell off the picture and to the ground below, where they vanished into tiny black tendrils of smoke. Relieved, Kainé turned her good eye back to the picture, only to open her mouth in a silent scream. The sketch now showed her grandmother as she truly was; a smashed, unrecognizable lump of nothing. The apothecary smiled, then broke into a jolly dance.
"See that!?" he cried as he danced his jig. "It's perfect now! She looks just like you! Ha cha cha cha!"
I look like that? Oh god. Oh god, I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die.
Drowning in despair, Kainé laid her head back in the mud and smoke of her ruined house and waited for the end to come. But just before she let everything go, an unfamiliar voice began whispering in her ear.
Music: Shadowlord ~ Memory
"Ain't you got a wish, Sunshine?"
The voice was vulgar and fierce at the same time, as if insanity had somehow found a way to take form. Kainé wanted to scream as the voice crawled under her skin, but her lungs refused to work.
"Ya know, a wish? Like a prayer or something? Why don't ya get on your knees and start prayin' to heaven? 'Please, invisible man in the sky! Save me! Saaave me!' Kah hah hah hah!"
Kainé finally resorted to shouting at the voice with her mind.
I don't make wishes! They don't come true for me! I'm a curse. A freak. I should be left to die.
The other voice boomed in her ears.
"Bwaaah hah hah hah! Oh god, you are the best!"
Kainé glanced down and saw a black, shiny substance oozing from her legs. She tried to brush it away, but her remaining arm would no longer respond. The substance slowly crept around her feet, and then began moving up toward the rest of her body.
Is this death? Is this what it's like? Or is my mind just losing itself?
She could feel the slime oozing upward, feel the hot searing pain it left in its wake. Whatever else might be happening, she was still alive, and this was real.
"Come on," said the voice. "Let it go."
Kainé tried to ignore the voice and concentrate on the pain, but the newcomer would have none of it.
"Don't ignore me, Sunshine! You're ready to give up, ready to die. So why not let me have it?"
"Your body! Come on, give it to me. Give it to me! I wanna stand on the ground, feel the rain, taste the wind..."
The voice paused, as if licking its lips. When it resumed, it was filled with mad, unabated joy.
"And I wanna take your hands and use 'em to choke the goddamn life outta people! I wanna tear out their throats and bathe in the blood, just like before!"
In response, Kainé shifted her head and vomited. The warmth of it crept down her front and mingled with the pain of the encroaching black ooze.
Are you...are you a Shade?
"Kah hah hah! Yeah, maybe. What of it?"
The slime reached her face, crept up past her nose, and slowly oozed into the socket of her missing eye. The moment it touched her brain, Kainé was struck by the most powerful sensation she'd ever felt in her life. It was ecstasy. She wanted to scream with delight, but all she could manage was a small, whispered moan.
"Feels good, don't it?" asked the voice with a chuckle. "Yeah, what can I say? I know how to please the ladies. Now gimme that body. Come on, gimme the body and I'll give you more of this feeling. It's a fair trade."
A black lump began to protrude from Kainé's side. As she watched, it grew longer and thicker, eventually taking the form of her missing arm. I can see better, she thought. ]i]My eye must be growing back, too.[/i] The slime reached up to envelop the rest of her face, but she managed to brush it away.
"S-stop..." she whispered, marveling at how she had regained her voice. "Stop..."
The black ooze hesitated, as if considering this request, then quickly shimmered down her body before disappearing in a cloud of smoke.
"Ah, what the hell, Sunshine!?" screamed the voice. "We had a deal! I thought you wanted to die!"
"G-Grandma said... I can't die yet."
A brief image of her grandmother, bloodied and broken, flashed before her eyes. She saw the Shade that had killed her and heard its mocking laughter, then closed her eyes and forced the image from her mind. Her whole body was quaking with rage. When she opened her eyes again, they burned bright red.
"That thing took my grandmother. I have to kill it before I die."
Kainé glanced down and saw a mysterious pattern-the pattern of the Shades-burn itself into her left arm.
"Well, I'll be damned," said the voice cheerfully. "Look at that, Sunshine! I think you and me are gonna be good friends now."
Kainé stared intently at her arm. The more emotional she felt, the more the letters seemed ready to puncture her skin and began infecting the rest of her body. The arm clearly had a will of its own now.
"S-stop. Gotta stop..."
Holding her left arm in her right, Kainé took a deep breath and tried to calm herself.
"Come on, don't fight it!" pleaded the voice. "Hate's my favorite dish, and I'm hungry! Let it go! Feel the anger! Burn with the fire of revenge! Thirst for blood, then go out there and-"
"Shut up! Shut up and get the hell out of my body!"
"Bwah hah hah hah! Your body? Oh, that's rich, Sunshine. Reeeeeeal rich. Look, why don't you just up and die so I can have this body all to myself? What do you say? I bet those buddies of yours in The Aerie would love to see ya dead!"
Kainé grabbed a nearby shard of glass and tried to saw off the Shade-infected portion of her side. Before she could, her darkened left arm grabbed her right wrist, crushing it. Kainé screamed and dropped the shard as the sound of bone crushing on bone filled the air.
"Kah hah hah! Stupid idiot girl! You're possessed now, Sunshine! And there ain't no going back!"
The voice laughed again, a loud, long wail that seemed to go on without end.
"P-possessed...?" whispered Kainé.
"Yeah. Possessed. You and me? We got what you might call a timeshare arrangement. Remember how folks used to think you were a freak? Well, wait till they get a load of you now!"
Kainé looked up, tears in her eyes. The sky seemed smaller somehow. Darker. Is this because of that...Shade? Is this how they see the world?
"So, uh, listen," purred the voice. "I know this whole possession thing seems a bit sudden, but it ain't all bad. There's plenty in it for you, too. I'm a very powerful creature, Sunshine. And now that power belongs to you. You got enemies? People you wanna kill? I can make it happen! That little fat kid who kept picking on you? That big ol' Shade that squashed your granny? We'll wrap 'em up in their own assholes! No more abuse for you, Sunshine! No more pain!"
"W-wait," said Kainé. "You're a Shade. Why would you help me kill another Shade?"
"What, ya think I'm some kind of racist? Some killing snob? I don't give a good goddamn who ya murder, honeypants. I just wanna drink from the well."
Kainé considered this as she struggled to her feet, the power of the Shade coursing through her. The smoke from her house was drifting away with the wind, and she enjoyed the way the cool evening breeze felt on her new left arm.
After a long pause, the voice spoke up again.
"So, uh, how 'bout it? You and me? We could have some good times together. Look, I'll even take care of the bloody part if you don't want-"
"Fuck off, asshole," muttered Kainé. "I'll handle the killing."
"Bwaaaah hah hah!" screamed the voice. "Look at you go! Oh, Sunshine, we're gonna have so much fun! So listen, my name's Tyrann. And if you ever need me, I'll just be hanging out in this piece of meat you call a heart. Now get to it! The more you kill, the more your heart turns rotten and sour...and I like rotten and sour!"
Kainé found herself nodding at the voice.
"Yeah," she said. "Yeah, I think this can work. I'm gonna find that Shade, and I'm gonna strangle it with its own guts. And when I'm done, I'm gonna do the same to you, Tyrann. Count on it."
"Hah!" laughed Tyrann. "I've shit bigger than you, so good luck with that. Oh, and hey. One more thing. Right now, you and me are sharing this body, but if you ever run out of hate, if you ever...you know? Go soft? Then I'm gonna take over everything. So keep on killin', Sunshine! And watch your back!"
The voice grew fainter and gradually faded away. Fading to somewhere deep inside Kainé' herself. Kainé waited until she was sure the voice was gone, then waved her new left arm around a few times. It feels perfectly normal, she thought It feels...like mine. Desperately, she began poking and prodding at the new limb, determined to find something wrong with it. She didn't want to feel normal. That would mean the creature inside her had already won.
I am not a Shade. I am Kainé.
Repeating this mantra in her mind, she slowly began digging through the rubble of her house, being careful to ignore a certain red-stained spot in the corner. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of heartbreaking work, she found what she was looking for.
It was the wreath of Lunar Tears.
Though it had been through hell and back, the garland's petals were as bright as ever. Kainé started to place it in her hair, then slowly lowered the wreath and stared at it.
I'm sorry, Grandma. I'm so sorry. But I don't deserve to wear this anymore. I'm possessed. Corrupted. A freak. And this time, I don't think there's any going back.
Holding the flowers to her heart, Kainé fell to the ground and sobbed. As night gradually lightened to dawn and the people of The Aerie arose to their daily lives, she remained in that position, as if tears could somehow wash away the horror that now infected her world.
"Alive... Stay alive... Stay alive!"
Music: Kainé ~ Salvation
"Kainé, you gotta live! You gotta come back to us!"
And thus we gain our fifty party member: Tyrann. One of many changes in New Game Plus to come...