Cutscene: Three Days in Captivity

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Who: Naomi Suzuno, Kyo Enda, Duchess Sagittarius
Where: Sagittarius Shrine, Sumaru City
When: Soon after this log

DAY 1:

She has learned to dread the night - the change of the hour is only known to her by the consideration of her attentive jailor, who placed one on the bedstand, but for reasons the most logical person would not expect.

Kyo Enda was clever enough not to use any healing abilities on her body, were his Shadow-possessed form equipped to do so in the first place. The injuries he inflicted upon her before taking her to the manor have been bandaged, gauze and stitches applied with the utmost care of one who was as experienced with mending wounds as he was in giving them. But that came at a price; the only thing that blunted the pain were the pharmaceuticals that he gave her to take the edge off - not enough to kill her, not enough to ensure her addiction should she ever get out of this trap, but just enough to bathe everything with a faded spectrum of color, sufficient enough to make a mess out of her wits and render her unable to use her Persona.

Enough, she realizes fuzzily, to make her dependent on him for almost every need.

It is always night outside, the beautifully ornate yet ruined window cracked open to let enough of the air in - sickly sweet, vegetation on the edge of rot, the heady scent of flowers that are about to die filling the air. Naomi has managed to prop herself up on the ruined bed, another piece of antiquated furniture ruined by age and vine, scores of twisted green running along the foundations and taking the place of the moth-eaten canopy, weaving above her head in nonsensical patterns. But she can't go far, body riddled with heavy, dull aches, every stitch keeping herself from bleeding to death registering every time she tries to move. The heavy weight of the shackle locked around an ankle and keeping her attached to one of the four posts has bruised her - self inflicted from her constant struggling to be free of it. If she tugs just hard enough, maybe the damaged thing would give way...


In the end, the most dangerous weapon Kyo possesses may not be his claws or fangs, but rather his sheer intelligence.

Every action he takes is calculated to remind her of her utter dependence on him-- and his power to choose her condition. He cared for the injuries he himself inflicted, but only enough to prevent her death. He gave her painkillers, but only enough to keep her groggy and indistinct. He cares for her every need with the surgical dispassion of the doctor he might yet train to be, keeping sexuality deftly out of his ministrations to her... but his caretaking behavior just serves as a consistent reminder that here in this horrible place, he is really... all... she has.

He has been, on the whole, oddly kind. But still, everything he does has that undercurrent of careful, malevolent control.

Even that clock he placed by her bedside has an ulterior purpose. He makes certain to always arrive at her side at the same time, down to the minute, training her to dread each of his visits-- and to recognize in full the futility of trying to avoid or escape them. The cracked face of the ornate thing claims it's 10:58 (which 10:58 it's impossible to say), and eleven is one of his 'times.'

As if on cue, Naomi would start to hear his approach out in the ruined halls. He's singing lowly to himself, or maybe to her... a wordless humming in some minor key fit to their surroundings, that carries down the corridors and echoes back on itself.

Eleven hits, and the sound of his voice stops, and the rotted door eases open. "Again," he says, stepping in and releasing the door. It creaks closed behind him of its own volition. "Naomi. Have you come to appreciate me yet?"


She doesn't even turn her head when he opens the door. Hazy violet eyes are fixed on the cracked clockface, Naomi dully wondering what else was in store for her now this evening. Her bandages do not need dressing, and the stitches will eventually heal. But the drugs are keeping her docile, at least - enough to maintain some semblance of clarity in her thought processes but not enough for her to do anything about her situation. That isn't to say she hasn't been trying - she even tried to pick the lock on the shackle enclosed around her ankle with the fork that came with her dinner the other evening. Unfortunately, it was a skill that she has never learned properly....Tohya was the one who was learned and practiced in that regard, and she is frustrated enough to berate herself internally, after the metal had twisted in her fingers at her straining, ruined beyond repair, just why she hadn't asked her for lessons.

She turns her head slowly to the presence at the door, eyes heavily hooded.

"How...long do you intend to keep me here?" Her voice is low and hoarse, spoken as if a young woman roused unceremoniously from a deep slumber.


He doesn't at first answer the question.

Kyo crosses to her bedside in near silence. His touch ghosts her ankle, feeling its way up the bruised skin and finally leaving her skin to pass onto the metal of the shackle. "You're really just damaging yourself," he says lowly, as his free hand moves lazily to dip into a pocket. The key to the shackle is produced, dangled from a finger, the protracted action perhaps a pointed response to that bent fork he found from earlier. Here's that key she wanted... close, but out of reach.

An absent smile touches his features as he flips the key more securely up into his grasp and unlocks the shackle from around her abused ankle. The key is slipped away again, and Kyo's smooth, cold touch sears against her skin again. Both hands come to grasp her ankle, and slowly Kyo starts to rub the tortured flesh.

"Here? I don't know. It is your Shadow's construct, after all. As long as it's here to be taken advantage of, I guess. How long do I intend to keep YOU?" His touch is incredibly soothing, cool and leisurely against the battered flesh of her ankle. "I was never given a time limit on that. But I won't keep you forever. Only until you no longer want to leave me."


She remains unmoving when he approaches the bed, closing her eyes in an effort to stem the wave of nausea that follows when the springs of the tired mattress creak and the young man joins her. Her leg tenses when the ghost touch of his callused fingers find her bruised and battered ankle. Violet eyes flicker, and then closed, to shutter out the image of him taking up her leg. To his credit, his touch is in no means lascivious, but ripples of revulsion make themselves known to her, tingling at the back of her brain.

She hears the chain, the rattling of the mechanism when unforgiving iron sets her free. Her cheek twitches faintly and she feels her eyes burning again at the tender way he works her ankle, rubbing the bruised flesh and doing his best to soothe.

With her eyes closed, it felt almost genuine.

"Only until I no longer want to leave you..." she repeats quietly.

The next movements that follow are quick but clumsy. A limp hand whips around, numb fingers forced to grab the timepiece and -hurl- it at Kyo when she has grasped it. It is miraculous that it doesn't slip her fingers, but it almost does - the angle is off and it might hit something else aside from his face. She forces her battered body off the mattress, bearing down on him heavily while he is grasping her leg. All an effort to grab at the key. In her addled, tired, drug-soaked mind, it has become a symbol of that painfully elusive chance to get away.


She repeats his words. Kyo's eyes half-shutter. "It's not impossible," he remarks, almost dreamily. "I have gotten people to love me before." But how many of them subsequently left him?

He's not so abstracted that he lets down his guard, however. He knows her and her endless propensity for fighting, and the first telegraphed movement she makes immediately catches his eye. He glances up, watching her pitch the clock at him with less than her usual strength and accuracy. It makes it maybe within a foot of his face--

--and ends its flight in his upraised right hand. Kyo tilts his head at Naomi chidingly. "You know, this is PROBABLY very expensive--"

She lunges at him a moment later. The clock bounces free, to land harmlessly on the bedspread. Laughing, Kyo lets her go, leaning backwards just enough so she misses him-- mostly-- and lands in his lap instead. One hand lowers to keep her there, moving to stroke forcefully through her hair before cinching her close against him.

"Really, Naomi," he says, pulling the key back out so she can see it. "Even if you get this thing away from me by force, do you really think you'll be able to escape me for longer than five seconds? Still, I suppose keeping it there wasn't a good strategy. I think I'll change tactics." And still ensuring she's watching, he slips the thing delicately into his mouth. "Maybe you should consider doing the same. Violence really isn't working out for you."


She misses.

Were Naomi in her right mind, she would think the effort doomed from the start, but the drugs in her system have instilled upon her a rawer edge to her desperation. In her haze vision, Kyo moves with superhuman speed, blurring when he moves no matter how slow she thinks his movements are. The clock bounces harmlessly on the bedspread, rolling face up to continue to mock her with the time. His torso leans backwards, to ensure that he isn't there when she lunges. But his grip ensnares her around the waist, dragging her up against his lap and his other hand fastening over her tangled hair.

A bandage on her side starts bleeding at where she has aggravated her stitches. It blossoms crimson through the fabric of her expensive dress - ruined now from the fight twenty-four hours ago.

"Let me go," she whispers. She doesn't just mean his grip. She means all of it. This prison. The psychological trap lying in wait for her.

She knows very well that every person has a breaking point. And the longer she stays here...

She can't. Her pride won't suffer it.

When the key slips into his mouth, her hand reaches out in an effort to yank it from him. The gesture is clumsy, but a quiet and frustrated cry releases from the back of her throat.


Let me go, she says. Kyo makes no reply. He just looks down at where the blood is seeping from her bandaged side. "I spent quite a good deal of time on those stitches," he mourns softly, and doesn't let her go. His hand presses her side warmly, bringing at first stinging pain-- but then, stanching the flow of blood. "Later, when you are calmer, I will fix them again."

He is patient enough to wait for that breaking point.

Her hand reaches towards him. It meets his halfway, his fingers entwining with hers. It could be a delicate gesture. It could be an affectionate gesture. On some level, it is both of those things. But it also ensnares her hand, and prevents her from ever coming close to touching his face.

"That's not the right approach," he admonishes, his voice given a slight edge from the way he traps the key between his teeth. He leans down towards her, face coming near hers, his breathing touching the arc of her cheekbone. "But I suppose it's a little early to ask you to consider what IS. Naomi Suzuno, with her all-consuming, crippling pride. I told Taimiev her fears of her own nature held her back from her real potential. From the things that were necessary. Perhaps your corresponding stumbling block is your pride."

DAY 2:

Time passes slowly in this place, if it does at all. The turning hands on the clock by Naomi's bed-- replaced after her tempestuous throw of it the previous 'evening'-- would seem to suggest it does, but the sky outside her window never varies from its smothering night.

Lying awake, nothing to occupy her mind but the burn of the shackle re-secured about her ankle, Naomi might imagine she can -hear- the steady rotting of the small world around her.

It's nearly nine o'clock, by the clock's count... another of the times Kyo typically picks to visit his captive. And on cue, again, she would hear him approach. The door opens with the last tick of the minute hand, and the familiar form of her jailor appears.

"Let's see," he says, drawing near her bed with silent, prowling steps, "how those wounds are coming along."


She hasn't slept.

Some logical part of her knows that she is doing herself a disservice, and that terrible pride would never admit it either. Naomi had been too terrified to sleep, curled up on her side with the rampant lion charm clutched in her grip, the tangled ribbon and the bracelet on her wrist her only visible anchors amidst the drugged haze she has been perpetually kept in. The clock doesn't assist her, no matter how expediently he has replaced it. The fact of the matter is that it is always evening here, no sunlight to warm her and nothing to make the outside world completely visible. Framed by twisted ivy and rose-thorns, the window only presented a yawning abyss to her.

The door creaks open slowly and she knows he has come again. Groggily, she tries to shift and push herself in her seated position. The first day had her gagging and coughing at the effects the cocktail had left on her system...but today it's easier.

Today she may be able to fight a little harder.

"They're fine," she whispers hoarsely, turning her bloodshot gaze to his direction, her complexion paler than its usual wont and wan, dark circles etched underneath her sockets. "Perhaps you ought to leave me to try and sleep today."

She still leaves crimson streaks on the ruined linens, where her stitches are aggravated in her tossing and turning, but it is an improvement from the day before. More lucid and that comes with it a determination to try again as her body becomes accustomed to the drugs. She has always been an adaptable creature in the mind and perhaps her body too. Every hour spent here tests her strength.

If she could only hold on for just a bit longer...


"You should have slept," Kyo answers immediately, his voice moving with him as he paces circles around her bed, "when I was not here. I could have not kept a schedule. I could have interrupted you any hour or minute I felt like. But I've come at the same time, every time."

The bed moves when his circling finally stops and he sits beside her. "I kept a schedule to do you the courtesy of giving you uninterrupted moments to sleep. You could do me a return courtesy by staying awake for my visits."

His hand finds her ankle again, and within moments the clink of the shackle unfastening heralds her brief freedoms. He does this every time he visits. Almost like exercising a dog. But this time he doesn't immediately take hold of her. No, he just reclaims his hand and seems to wait to see what she'll do with this newfound freedom.

"I hope you have done some hard thinking about your position here," he remarks. "And about why, exactly, I would have agreed with your Shadow to be your keeper."


"I'm not as trusting as those who you've ensnared before," Naomi whispers, her voice barely a breath, whistling between her parched lips. "I know what you're trying to do." When she smiles, it's thin and humorless. "When have I ever made it easy for you, Kyo Enda?"

The shackle unlocks from around her leg, settling there. However, she doesn't move - perhaps she is too fatigued to do so. Her head rolls back, thudding quietly against the half-shattered headboard keeping half her body aloft. Her heavy-lidded eyes fix on the beautiful, yet soulless golden ones looking at her across the way.

"I'm vaguely familiar," she affirms, and for the most part it's true; snippets of their conversations, whatever she's said in anger, are blurred on their edges when she tries to recall them, as if a voice trying to speak through a shut door with nothing but dull sounds escaping into the other side. "But you're tenacious as ever. What do you intend to do now?"


"As I've told you before," he answers, his voice sympathetically gentled down until it's near as quiet, "I wouldn't like it nearly as much if you made it easy."

He finally touches her, once it seems evident she's too tired to move or struggle substantially. His hand rests warmly on a thigh, but this time makes no effort to climb higher. It simply sits there, a lone point of human contact in a cruel and hostile place. "What do I intend to /do/?" he repeats. "It's more a matter of what I am already doing. What I have already done. You know what Rumor Shadows are all about," he says. "You know that yours will only have one end in mind for you." His cold amber eyes half-lid. "And I have to say that if your Shadow succeeded in killing you, my life would be /orders/ of magnitude more boring."

His touch draws a small circle on her skin, reminding her it's there. "There is risk for me as well in being here. You could be appreciative." His hand slides away, leaving her isolated again. "But knowing your cold mind, you're probably just thinking that if everything works out right it'll be two birds with one stone for you. Your Shadow... and me." He allows himself a smile. "So calculating."

The key he used on her shackle is still in his other hand. It turns over and over as he speaks. "And they call /me/ cold."


She says nothing when the truth is reiterated to her again - and she would be doing the term as disservice if she doesn't acknowledge it - that she is alone here, that he is all she has. That he has gone through all the painstaking means to care for her and look out for her while she remains in such a hostile and unforgiving place, knowing it is only a matter of time before she's executed with the swift decisiveness she knows her other self is capable of.

The only question in her mind is why she hasn't done it yet.

His hand finds her thigh, and while her movements are sluggish, she shifts just enough to try and remove it from her skin, too numb by so many foreign toxins in her system that her mind barely registers the disgust she normally feels whenever his skin touches hers...whenever he breathes on her. Her fingers lift, should it not be enough, the attempt levied to push the touch off her leg. She has not given him permission. She will -never- give him permission.

But before she could touch him, he is already reading her mind, sliding it away before he senses the tangible feel of rejection, either to save his ego or to frustrate her; perhaps equal parts of both. She doesn't know anymore.

She is so tired...

"I do what I have to," she replies lowly, watching the key sling around his hand. "I trust you'd find those sentiments familiar."

With that, she lurches off the mattress again in an effort to get at the key. But the motivation behind it is different this time around - alone with her own mind for long hours, she has managed to find enough mental footing to realize that even if she did get it away from him, she wouldn't be able to go far.

She knows what it is: a taunt. A sudden flash burns within her dulled violet eyes, the surge of that familiar intensity present. Should she manage to close her fingers around it, she'll hurl it away, through the window, to be lost in the overgrowth waiting to swallow it whole.


Naomi lunges towards him. He half-turns towards her. He was expecting it. Of course.

Kyo's gentleness evaporates in an instant. His free hand snakes around to try to close around her throat, and by that grasp, he'll push her down onto her back on the mattress. His hand will stay there afterwards, too, pinning her in place. If she's watching his beautiful, removed eyes throughout the entire transaction, she'll notice that nothing about their cold, half-interested expression ever alters. Not throughout that rapid shift from soft touches to wild, savage strength. Not afterwards.

I do what I have to, she says. "Do you really?" he inquires, and his cold eyes finally start to spark with that familiar cruel capriciousness: that irresistible urge to play a game. His hand drifts away from her neck.

A swift flick spins the key into the air, and he catches it delicately in his mouth. "That -is- something I've been wanting to test," is all he says, before he leans down to try to kiss her full on the lips: his own parted just enough to make the suggestion quite obvious.


He grabs her by the throat, spun around as if she weighed nothing and pinned against the mattress by his Shadow-augmented strength - even moreso now that he was handling her drug-addled self. But deep within those heavy-lidded eyes, he'll find something familiar within them: anger, stitched with a hint of satisfaction.

The fact that he was dispensing some violence towards her brings some sense of relief to mingle with the pain. It is always easier for her to remember what she was dealing with when she is being abused. It stokes the fires of her pride, it gives her half-wasted mind the anchor it needs to remember where she is, to hang onto who she is. It is the only recourse available to her to prevent him from breaching her fortress' walls. The body can heal, especially with her abilities. Physical injuries are negotiable. They can go away.

But the mind...

The way he decides to test her statement dumps in that same fear, dripping ice into her bloodstream. She tries to twist her head around, her body following suit. Stitches are aggravated yet again as both sets of fingers reach up to claw into his scalp, to desperately, but weakly, try to shove his face away. His mouth sears over hers, hot and wet; a burning contrast to the cold bite of metal clutched within cutting her gums. The rust-copper tang of her blood stains her tongue.

She rips her mouth away, breathing raggedly, a trail of saliva and blood mingling on the corner of her mouth. A trembling hand rears back in an effort to deliver a slap.

"Get off me," she hisses between her teeth.


Kyo just can't resist playing his cruel games. It may be the last leverage Naomi has against him here.

But it's not a form of leverage that can be invoked without some sacrifice, and that comes in the form of his brute strength brought to bear against her. But Naomi has some little tics of her own that she just can't resist... some small slipups that she cannot help but betray. She lets her satisfaction show-- her renewed sense of where she is and who she deals with. He transparently notices that in the moment before his mouth closes on her.

He doesn't try to force her long, perhaps because of what he saw. He pulls back soon enough, and... incredibly... he just lets her slap him. It doesn't seem to do much, but he doesn't try to avoid it, either. "Naomi, you know me," he smirks ruefully, briefly rubbing the sting away. "You give me all these little /openings/, and I just can't help myself."

He turns and spits the key into a corner, licking her blood off his lips afterwards. And before he pulls off of her as she requests, he reaches to stroke the side of her face. "Let me apologize for it," he murmurs. "Your shackle need not go back on. You may throw away that key if it'd give you some catharsis." He finally sits up, his expression rearranging convincingly into sympathy.

"I don't really know how much longer I can keep her off you," he says... and the claim rings true. But then, Kyo's twisted convictions often play havoc with her ability to sense such things. "Perhaps you should have some small freedoms, in case they're your last." And with that, he simply gets up and leaves.


Retaliation. She wants it, anything to further peel back the mask he has placed over his intentions, knowing full well that some part of him means every gesture, but the desire behind them is -wrong-. His motivations for being genuine are wrong. Inhuman. Broken. Utterly incapable of being real. Naomi's eyes glitter at him from beyond the drug-induced haze, blood drying on her skin but without the mind to wipe it off. Instead, she lays where she is, breathing deeply, the razor-sharp edges of every inhalation fading.

But it doesn't come, and the raven-haired heiress nearly screams in frustration when he reverts back to that veneer of graceful consideration and tender care. She presses her lips tightly together, feeling the tips of her teeth clench, and yet too prideful to truly show just how frustrated she is that he refuses to keep hurting her, and even does her a favor. The shackle that has bound her to the bed remains unclasped from her, when its weight had been a terrible reminder of her captivity. The key left within her reach. He even lets her slap him, the faint tingle of the impact she had delivered on his person thrumming through her skin. He reaches out to touch her cheek and she attempts to turn her head away, closing her eyes. It's all she can do to prevent herself from shedding even more tears of frustration.

She keeps her face averted from him when he finally stands to leave the room, half of it covered by the tangled mass of her hair, free and unruly from its usual elegant bind and spilled over the scarlet-clotted linens. She remains there, at least, until he closes the door.

She moves then, every muscle feeling atrophied despite a mere two days of immobility. A pale hand grasps the edge of the bedside table to haul herself bodily upwards, stumbling towards the window. The sudden change of position causes the world to tumble and tilt before her eyes; nausea threatens to overwhelm her, bile rising at the back of her throat. Her free hand lifts to clap it hastily over her mouth.

She gropes for the windowsill, her fingers curling around the shards of broken glass remaining on the pane. They cut deep into her digits, but she doesn't feel the pain. She can taste the sickly-sweet air, her eyes training to the mossy ground below.

And with a breath, she pitches herself through it, her limp body falling.

DAY 3:

When Kyo checks on Naomi again, opening the door to the bedroom that had been alotted to her, he would find her missing.

There are traces as to where she could have gone. The linens are rumpled, but should he feel the pillow that kept her head aloft the last two days - and there is no reason to believe he would not, given his nature as a hunter - he would find it cool to the touch; a sign that she had not been there for the last few hours, and has not slept. He would also find the scatter of coagulated blood drops, flecked from bandages and aggravated stitches, the rusty scent of more of it staining the element that was not there before. Should he turn his eyes to the ground, at the cushion of moss underneath the sill from the outside, he would find traces of a dent, left there by the impact of a body, but she isn't there either.

Could she be lost in the Garden?

He would search, of course. It would take him to the outside world and its heady, sickly-sweet perfume, through the halls of the decrepit mansion that hides the Shrine's throne room - all the rooms here are swallowed in thick ivy and long, twining rose-thorns, all colors and species blooming scattered across the unkempt property, spilling from each of the millions of cracks that centuries have shattered into the walls.

He would hear voices the closer he gets to the ballroom and the hidden alcove within...

"Do you remember, now?"

The Duchess, dressed in her signature black gown, has her head tilted to her newest tapestry on the wall, Naomi's pale, battered body threaded and twined within a mass of thorny vines, each thorn biting deep into her flesh and sunk into her blood. They shift and move like living things, slowly and gradually feasting on the bounty their mistress has graciously given them. The Spencer heiress' head is bowed forward, strands of her raven hair tangled and drooping like the moss outside.

"...I remember..." Naomi's voice is barely audible. "I thought it had been a dream..."

"It was and it wasn't," Her Grace remarks. "I told you that we would overcome these obstacles together, but I also asked you that you must promise me one thing: That you not forget yourself. And years later once you were off the hospital bed, here you are. You protect the family's interests with all of the tenacity required of you, but you leave yourself too vulnerable to those you call your own. Too available. No wonder they take advantage, and not even know it."

The Shadow walks away from Naomi, reaching out to pick a decanter of wine to pour into a crystal glass. "Are you really happy, being emotionally selfless?" She inclines her head over a bare shoulder at her. "You care for Miwa Saitou as if she were a younger sister when by all rights, as your senpai, she ought to be taking care of you...regardless of your growing jealousy. Regardless of her deepening connection with the man you love. You constantly try to bear up Tohya fact if I recall correctly, you were the one responsible for putting her parents in a place of protection when she defected from the New World Order. Mai Namikawa, who consistently doubts the strength of your friendship no matter how far you've extended your hand to her. And Thora Kobayashi. Her constant moaning over that worthless what's-his-name. After all of your counsel and ear and care, inviting her to your house, indulging her appetite, what has she ever done for you, truly? Has she even expressed an interest in your life?"

She takes a sip of her wine. "And your fondness for dangerous men. I'm not so crass as to go into detail about what his own Shadow is doing, but could you imagine, the things he does to me behind closed doors? And whenever he leaves my bed, he crawls into the lair of Miwa Saitou's Shadow to debase her as he pleases. And when that's not enough....well, I could only imagine, when he goes hunting. Between you and I, my dear, your beloved's inner self is more than just a little bit of a slut."

She leans against an ivy-covered table, swirling the vintage around her glass, watching her new wall decoration under hooded eyes. "Dangerous men are dangerous for a reason," she murmurs softly. "I admire your rebelliousness. You need it to survive. But you've tasted the bitter fruits of that before....being used the way you are. I know you. You'll love them, love him, no matter what. However, the question you should be asking yourself is whether that is enough to warrant being with them, with him, as wholly as you want to."

She drains her glass and sets it on the table with a quiet clack. "You and I are women of the world. We know that sometimes, love isn't enough to sustain a connection."


In the small window of silence that descends once the Duchess finishes speaking, the subdued sound of dry applause can be heard. Once, twice... a long sardonic pause. Thrice.

"A lesson," a familiar voice seeps in from the hallway, "we could all stand to learn early."

A glance at the doorway would reveal the blond leaning against the frame. All told, Kyo found this location very quickly. Fast enough to arrive, here on the threshold, while Naomi was still conscious and capable of being taunted. It is pure foolishness to think bleeding, wounded prey can be hidden from a predator long. Scent, blood trails, other little clues... they were left in Naomi's wake for Kyo to read, as clear as the print on a page.

"I certainly didn't learn it fast enough to avoid being hurt," he continues, refolding his arms across his chest. There's a vague smile on his features, but the true tension in him is betrayed by the cold and measuring focus of his golden eyes upon the Duchess. This is a dangerous moment, and it will be made more dangerous once--

"What is this?" he questions in a flat tone, his gaze traveling to Naomi's pierced form.


She is forced to endure the words that batter at her, pinned up as she was, feeling the vines snake between her thighs, coil around her limbs. Naomi feels every drop drained from her body, thorns dug into her acting like leeches to feed the Garden outside. Strangely enough, worrisomely enough, it doesn't hurt - it could be the pharmaceutical cocktail administered to her at certain hours of the day, it could be the plants themselves....she isn't all too experienced with horticulture, but she knows about deadly plants from her travels. Miles Spencer, in his youth, had been quite the adventurer in his own right...

' was Suou's...' Tohya's remembered voice whispers from the back of her foggy memories, remembering the night she had asked about the picture sent to her Phone by her best friend's own shadow. That image of her on the ground, helpless with that bruise on the side of her neck that could only be inflicted by one thing.

Naomi's jaw sets, no matter how weak she feels. With some effort, she lifts her head, her glassy eyes fixing on the blurred form of her other self in front of her. "If you know me so well..." she croaks. "You would know that...I don't define myself through the people I love."

The Duchess' expression doesn't change at the defiant reply. "I know," she remarks. "You're determined not to let anyone have such a complete stranglehold over you, you're too prideful for that. But I know that once you close your eyes to try and get some sleep, you will remember my words and you will think about them. You can't help -but- to think about them, to pick it apart, to see if you can find any holes in what you already -know-, but refuse to see. You and I are evenly matched in that regard. We are, after all, different facets of the same person. Nobody knows you better than I and our inestimable father, of course."

She stops. Both young women turn their heads towards Kyo when he arrives. Tension, no matter how weak, re-enters Naomi's face.

"What do you mean what is this?" The Duchess remarks to the intruder, visibly annoyed at the sudden interruption. "We're having a long-overdue discussion. Or did you mean her present position? I recall saying I was going to give her to you. I didn't say anything to the effect of letting you -keep- her indefinitely."


The Shadow's irritation simply bounces off the face of Kyo's complete lack of affect. In these moments, when danger and tension string so taut through the air even an arrogant sociopath like Kyo can feel it, he has abandoned frills and frivolities to focus. The result is an expression of his nature in perhaps its most pure, laid-bare form: machinelike, merciless, and completely focused. There could be a seductive quality to such raw intensity, if it weren't so frigid and killingly impartial.

He doesn't say anything at first to the Duchess's snap. Then, as if opening a book in his memory, he starts to speak. "'As my own,'" his gentle, soft-spoken voice notes, "'for as much as I will.' I can will a great deal. I don't think I was quite done yet.

"And as I recall, there was another thing I promised--" His eyes stray back up to Naomi, calm and collected and emotionless and yet-- there's something about the way it lingers. So hard to tell, past the impassiveness, what is genuine or part of some greater design. "' watch out for her.'"

His gaze finally returns to the Shadow. "These were your exact words, weren't they?" He cants his head a fraction. "Sometime before you let me fuck you, anyway."


The last words are the ones that register the strongest - not out of revulsion; most of that is swallowed by the realization it generates. Naomi's violet eyes flick from Kyo to the Duchess, her lips parting but not a sound coming out. The last pieces fall into place, fitting them with the hints that the older Enda twin has already provided during the first few moments of her capture. " gave him a taste..." she whispers. "He wouldn't...have believed you if you hadn't whetted his appetite somehow..." She knew it. She did what she could to exploit it. She would really go that far.

When the Duchess smiles at Naomi's words, it is polite and detached - there is no satisfaction or even pleasure. It is, however, an acknowledgment that the heiress presumes correctly. Turning her body, she molds a palm over one hip, golden eyes lifting to lock into ones just as soulless across the way.

"Did you enjoy it?" she asks. "No, I suppose not. I didn't feel inclined to be more creative with you when you took me. I may be wrong, to presume that if you had enjoyed it, you'd be more inclined to keep calling on me as you will. But I needed to make you believe that it would be much better if you had the real thing. I needed a capable jailer, I would have done anything to get one, and you were always so capable in anything you set your mind to, Enda-san."

She nods to the heiress on the wall. "However, like her, I know what you're trying to do, and I'm not going to insult your intelligence by concluding that you had -no- idea what my aims had been when I first approached you. You already knew that you would not have been able to keep her for long. I am not so inefficient that I would keep her alive for longer than necessary and the only reason she is at -present- is because I was trying to honor my arrangement with you, with the understanding that I will end her eventually. But with things in a state of flux, the time you have already spent with her will have to suffice."

Her golden eyes narrow. "Which I know that you will not accept so easily."

A mass of thorns and thick brambles suddenly explode from the other side of the wall, rushing up at Kyo from his blind-side. They will attempt to tangle around his limbs, drag him down against the floor in an effort to bind him there. Another one, much thicker than the rest, emerges from the mess like a cobra waiting to strike; an ugly, needle-like protrusion thrusting towards the base of his an effort to introduce something unforgiving into his bloodstream.


Kyo makes no reply to the Duchess's comments, not immediately, though his mind visibly works behind those cold eyes. "Still using that mind of yours, even now," he remarks instead to Naomi. "Astute observation. But then, that's why I like you. As the lady remarks-- I am an individual of talent. I do not settle for an interest in anyone who does not share that quality."

His attention returns to the Duchess. "You know me well," Kyo remarks. His eyes turn to Naomi. "Which, I suppose, reflects on how well YOU know me. I am flattered the attention was paid.

That you would retain enough in the way of honor to keep her alive, at least a little while, for our contract," he continues, "was a crucial assumption under which I operated, and which I am pleased to see was correct." He trails a little, his eyes returning to Naomi's. He looks at her steadily, but never clarifies: is this pleasure merely a function of his desire to play with her as long as possible, or could he have some other reason?

Still watching Naomi, he says, "However, it appears that our contract is at an end."

The words seem a trigger as tangible as if the contract were physical paper, freshly torn in half. Kyo opens hostilities in exactly the same moment as the Duchess, twisting around and transforming instantly. His Shadow form rears back at the first touch of the vines, head brushing the ceiling of the alcove, but size and claws and strength mean little against the sudden sting of the needling thorn that injects into the back of his neck.

The vines seize his forelegs and slam him back to the floor on his side. "Poison," he hisses out between his teeth, struggling against the binding brambles. "As I might have expected." As he DID expect, in fact. However...

His eyes turn towards Naomi. The rending thorns have found purchase, the poison loosening the integrity of his form enough that great shreds of his Shadow body strip away with each tightening twist of the vines. The agony in his gaze is probably not faked.


"Yes," Her Grace muses, she almost sounds contemplative. She doesn't even move away from the table, an elegant hand picking up the decanter to pour herself another glass of wine. "Poison. A woman's crime, just as strangulation is typically a man's."

His twisted reflection can be seen in each of her golden irises, the look of her dispassionate as she watches him transform into the two-headed lion, its dark form rearing up from the floor, the sheer size and breadth of him nearly enough to touch the ceiling. Some of the thorny vines and ivy breaks at his struggling, but the main barb finds purchase in the fleshy indent at the base of his skull, toxins flooding into him. She takes a quiet sip when he drops, when more of the deadly verdant tendrils threaten to engulf him and swallow him whole, the thicker, stronger ones stripping away at him piece by piece, abyssal flesh sloughed off forcefully by the vicious tugging and tearing of Her Grace's monstrous pets. Inky blood, as viscous as tar, splashes on the cracked marble tiles on the floor, outlining each hairline crack that mars the surface. Even now there is no satisfaction, no pleasure. She watches him as the poison corrupts the integrity of his innards, melting them from within.

The Spencer heiress' features twist visibly at the grisly display. She is not a coldblooded killer - her heart and conscience will always feel remorse for the bloodier things she has to do. While she has wished many times for Kyo to find his end in some way, she wanted it to be a quick death - painless, if not just out of a small degree of deference of what he had with Miwa.

But in the last three days, he had been her only ally, the only thing that stood between her and the formidable entity that -will- kill her without remorse. She has never entertained his attentions, but at the prospect of being alone to face the darkest parts of herself, one who she isn't certain she could triumph over in the drugged, addled, battered form that she is in, and in the process of being exsanguinated besides, this is one of the very rare moments in which she doubts her resilience. Her lips part. She almost cries out. For him, for herself, she doesn't know, but it never comes.

And then, she struggles.

Desperation fuels every tug. Flesh tears. Fingernails grip at the vines, what remains of her pristine manicure shredded and clotted green at the vines she opens. But more and more of them hold her fast. Her back arches in resistance, only to be pulled back tighter into the wall.

She ceases struggling, panting raggedly, feeling air burn painfully in her lungs. She lifts her head up, a single eye visible and glinting with fury.

"You're going to die here," she hisses quietly, the deadly promise threading the air between her and her double.

"I might," the Duchess states simply from behind her glass, cherry-red lipstick staining the crystal. "Your friends might decide another way yet, not with what I'm about to offer them. But you'll be there before me, in that event." Her stoic gaze falls on Kyo yet again. "But I am giving you a very appropriate parting gift. You've helped so many grow as people, Naomi. It's only fitting that you die encouraging other living things to do the same."

The thorns and vines binding Kyo tighten around him, before pulling him rapidly along the ground. Perhaps to hang him up in another place in the manor. Perhaps to discard him. Either way, he won't last long.

"Goodbye, Kyo Enda. It was a pleasure doing business with you."


Shadow ichor coats the marble. Kyo writhes, but the struggling only has the effect of lacerating his body even more. Yet bone never shows, even when those thorns rip wounds several feet deep. Blood never flows. When the razorlike tangles cut deep, only darker insides are laid bare, the unnatural constitution of the Shadow meaning that beneath the shadow-stuff, there is only... more shadow-stuff.

And yet, it certainly seems to hurt. The Shadow, which Naomi has now seen and heard so many times in so many monstrous and terrifying ways, starts to make another sound. One so foreign she might not at first recognize it. It's a steady, low moan, issuing from between those long fangs-- an animal in pain.

He hears the Duchess's voice, her final remark to him-- claws dig enraged grooves into the marble in savage response-- but there is no stronger reaction than that. None is forthcoming. Kyo just goes limp-- almost theatrically so-- when those vines tighten and start to drag him away. A long black smear is left in his wake, either blood or parts of him, or worse.

He's a moment away from being out of sight when he finally raises his voice. There is only one last thing he has left to cry out, and it's... remarkable-- unprecedented, really-- how much fear and pain and childlike entreaty can layer into the voice of such a cold, soulless creature as Kyo.


Nothing more.

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