Ari stared down at the ground, her eyes burning with unshed tears.
Don't cry. She heard Ghirahim's voice in her head, disapproving. Your tears are useless to me.
It had been hard, but she had done as he asked. She had tried so hard to please him, but for some reason, he no longer spoke to her the way he used to. There were no more kind words, no praise to be had. She had blamed it on that vile goddess and her agents that Ghirahim ceaselessly raved about. It had torn her up to see him so agitated, and soon his hatred had started spilling to her. Every time she heard their names, rage would pour through her. She was convinced she hated them just as much as her poor Ghirahim, if not more. She had hoped once they were out of the way that perhaps he would start being kind to her again.
But she had failed. She had been humiliated by the sky brat, and now, inevitably, she would have to drag herself back to her lord with nothing to show for all the time he had poured into her training.
She pounded her fist into the ground.
I've relied too much on my memories, she thought.
Her stupidly elusive memories, always dancing just beyond her reach, taunting her with a past unbeknownst to her. Often certain names or situations would trigger an emotional reaction within her. It drove her half mad knowing that she might never understand why she had these emotions.
They don't even feel like they're my own.
And they would plague her at the most inopportune times.
It had happened that very day, when she had been locked in battle with the sky brat. He had challenged her, saying she was nothing more than a puppet to Demise. She had wanted to tell him he was wrong, that she served no one but Ghirahim. Yet the name had caught in her throat, and another one had skirted along the edge of her consciousness, so close, yet so far.
But this unknown name was not the only one that brought her pain.
Every time she spoke the goddess' name, she felt overwhelming sorrow and anger, but she couldn't even hope to guess what past relations she had shared with the divinity.
She clenched her hands into fists.
She needed to face Ghirahim. She couldn't just sit there and hide forever. She took a deep breath, then teleported to the sealed grounds where Demise was bound. She found Ghirahim staring perplexedly at the stone imprisoning his master, his brow furrowed, obviously lost in thought. Ari hesitated briefly, then cleared her throat softly. Ghirahim turned, breaking into a gorgeous smile.
"Ah, you've returned. I assume then that you were successful in your task? You must tell me all about it."
Ari nearly choked. She felt perfectly horrid.
I can't bear to disappoint him.
But the thought of lying to him was worse. Besides, he would find out eventually.
"No," she said.
Ghirahim stared at her blankly.
"No?" he repeated, "Whatever do you mean?"
"I-I failed. Forgive me, my lord."
The smile melted from Ghirahim's face.
"You failed," he echoed, the corners of his mouth turning down.
Ari swallowed hard, "Yes, my lord."
Ghirahim turned his back on her suddenly, his shoulders shaking with laughter. Ari felt a wave of relief.
He's not mad.
But she couldn't have been more wrong. Ghirahim spun around, aiming a vicious kick directly at her head. She hit the ground with a heavy thud, pain shooting through her body.
"You FAILED?!" he screamed, yanking her back to her feet by her collar, "And you expect me to FORGIVE YOU?!"
He slammed a fist into her gut, sending her flying back. Ari scrambled to get to her feet, trembling with horror. Ghirahim closed the space between them in a single bound, aiming another kick at her.
"You think failure is ACCEPTABLE?!" he demanded.
"NO!" Ari shrieked, sobs beginning to rack her frame.
Another blooter sent her tumbling away. This time Ghirahim yanked her up by her hair, holding her face mere inches from his own.
"Good," he hissed, "I'm glad to hear it, because the next time I hear the words 'I failed' out of your mouth, it won't be forgiveness that you'll get. It'll be a slow, painful death, do you understand?"
Ari nodded, tears running down her cheeks. Ghirahim threw her down roughly, turning and walking away. Ari lay in a heap, shaking uncontrollably.
I'm pathetic, she thought, I'm worthless to him.
But he'd given her a second chance. And this time, she couldn't afford to screw it up.