The dim and dank room that Noth was brought to smelled of blood and rot. The little desk and chair stationed in the middle of the room quickly caught his eye, especially when he noticed the dulled cutting implements sitting on top of it. The way the wood of the desk was thoroughly soaked with blood also explained one of the overwhelming smells that were competing for supremacy in the room. There were even small splotches of dried blood that had somehow rocketed over 8 feet away from the obviously overdrenched chopping block that was the desk. The boy’s eyes could discern tiny chunks of flesh and hair that had somehow escaped the central spot of carnage and were haphazardly strewn about the room, and at first, he believed that they must be the source of the other foul scent that was assaulting his nostrils.
However, there would always be something worse under the surface if you went looking for it.
Perhaps Noth wouldn’t have spotted the pile in the corner if his angel hadn’t quietly taken him by the hand and led him over to it, but unluckily for him, she did just that. The contrast between the heavenly spirit and the rotting pile of heads was so dizzyingly vast that it almost could have distracted Noth from the grotesqueness of the mound, but no. No, there was nothing that could have stolen the boy’s gaze from the horrific sight in front of him. The only thing that saved him from the repellant picture was the moment when his body forced him to fall to the floor and vomit, in a feeble attempt to deal with the sudden wave of nausea that hit him. Even then, his eyes still swam with the afterimage of what he’d seen. Men, women, and children of all ages, their heads in various stages of decay, laying amongst a pile of all types of discarded bones.
And then there was the freshest head of them all, laying near the edge of the pile, closest to Noth. A small girl’s head, frozen in a visage of pure terror and pain. The rats and bugs may have gotten to some of her face, but there was no way Noth wouldn’t be able to tell what that look was. She seemed so young. Too young. In fact, she appeared to be about the same age as the children Noth had come here to rescue. Because Noth didn’t know any better and had come here late, this innocent girl had been murdered and devoured, a fate which those children he’d wanted to save could also be subjected to at any moment.
Noth’s mind felt like it was snapping in half, along with his heart.
It took all of the strength that he had left just to get back up, and even then his head was still reeling.
Who could do such a disturbing thing?
The sheer revoltingness of what he’d just witnessed had erased all traces of his anger, and now had only left him with intense disgust and fear.
Noth’s mind was in chaos.
He had to escape, he couldn’t be in this room for even a second longer.
The boy’s vision tried to swim a bit when his running amped up the nausea he was feeling. He had to fight against the bile that was once more rising up his already stinging throat. Noth’s brain chanted again and again at him that if he could just get out of the room he’d be fine, just get out and close the door behind him, and then none of the terrible things he just saw could possibly get to him any more.
The air in the hallway outside of the room somehow felt refreshing once it hit Noth’s skin, almost as if it was somehow purer and cleaner than the air that he’d just been touching, even if it was still the dank air of a dungeon. The boy crouched down and clung to the bars of a nearby cell for balance, panting as if he couldn’t get enough air into his lungs. As his vision started to clear up, and as the pounding sound of his heavily pulsing heartbeat subsided, a thought ran circles through his mind.
This time, he’d really paid the price for getting too curious.
Curiosity killed the cat, as they say.
Perhaps he should have known better than to have thought he could dig so deep and come away from it completely unscathed.
It would be a lie to say he went there purely for the sake of finding out more about a future monster.
He already knew what kind of monster he was up against before he even set foot into that God-dess forsaken room.
He’d seen the girl in the cell.
He saw the contracts.
He heard what kind of ‘punishment’ the man had done to his own flesh and blood.
No one made him come to that room but himself.
Noth had let his own damned morbid curiosity do this.
He hadn’t needed to dig so deep about Jeck when he'd condemned him, so why go seeking for something that he knew would just hurt him this time?
As the boy slumped against the bars and lamented his own poor choices, he caught the silhouette of Therrus out of the corner of his eye. The man was doing his best to slowly and stealthily walk while hugging the bars of the opposite cell, most likely in an attempt to escape while Noth seemed distracted. It was only now that Noth remembered that he hadn’t given the man any more demands or wishes once they’d made it to that atrocious room. The boy sighed, the sight of Therrus reminding him of why he’d come to this stupid building in the first place. This was no time to be bemoaning his own self inflicted choices; There were monsters in need of removing. Work first. Take care of the evils, save the children, beat yourself up for your decisions later. Noth swallowed hard to regain control, and then his haggard sounding voice suddenly filled the hall.
“And where are you going?”
The small scared squeak that Therrus let out somehow helped to soothe Noth’s nerves just a little bit more. Yes, this was why he came here, to confront and destroy the monsters that had hidden away here. There was no time for a monster hunter to act weak when the very monsters he was hunting were around, even if this one was the lesser of his two quarries. The boy straightened up further, his determination refuelling his tenacity, and a note of dignity and control returned to his features. Slowly, he took step after menacing step towards his prey.
“What was it that you said? That you’re the lesser of two evils? What a cute line that was.”
Noth stopped right in front of the quivering man who was desperately trying to somehow melt through the cell bars behind him. A small sense of satisfaction filled the boy; This was how it should be. The only fear here should be from the hunted to the hunter.
“But don’t you know? No matter in what amounts, evil is evil is evil. Being lesser or greater means nothing to me.”
Noth turned away from Therrus, doing his best to calmly saunter back to the accursed room that he’d ran away from. Show no fear. Let nothing deter you. It’s just one disgusting room. It's not like this was the first room with corpses in it that he’d ever seen. The boy opened the door, reminding himself not to breathe in the acrid stench of death that it was caked in. He stood inside, holding the door open for Therrus like a gentleman, a menacing smile on his face as he beckoned to the horrified man.
Therrus had no choice.
His legs would listen to no other commands but Noth’s.
He had to go back into that terrifying hell-hole.
And when the door closed behind him, he knew that he’d never be leaving this room again.
Noth waved the man after him as he made his way to the center of the blood covered room, pulling out the chair to the chopping block/ table and motioning for Therrus to sit in it. And of course, the man's body obeyed. When he was finally seated in the chair, Noth firmly gripped both of the man’s shoulders from behind, letting his fingers slightly dig in.
“You know, I don’t like you at all. It’s hard to like anyone who would so ruthlessly beat children and help their father kidnap and sell others. But, as much as I hate to admit it, you are in fact right; Of all the monsters currently on my list, you are, in fact, at the very bottom. The true lesser of evils. But that doesn’t mean that I can just let you roam free because of it.”
The boy let go of Therrus’s now stinging shoulders, and slowly made his way around to the front of the table with a contemplative look on his face. He half sat on the edge, casually leaning back on one arm, almost as if they were friends in school, just having a chat. However, the face that looked down upon Therrus was certainly not friendly.
“After seeing this room, all the anger that I had for you went up in smoke. Truth be told, I don’t even really want to deal with you anymore; Your father is my real target now. So that leaves me with the problem of what to do with you. I saw you earlier, you know, checking all the bodies of the street thugs and thieves that I’d made fly away. I suppose it could be almost poetic to do the same to you, if we weren’t in such an enclosed space.”
Therrus had already been shivering in fear when he’d been made to enter this hellish room, but now that he knew that the very person he’d been seeking information on was considering killing and disfiguring him just like all those grotesque corpses that he’d studied, he was close to passing out in terror. His face was white as a sheet, and he was still as the grave; So still in fact, that his muscles just couldn’t work up the strength for him to move at all. Why had he ever wanted to know what kind of fiend was behind such brutal murders? Why had he thought that he wouldn’t catch such a person’s eye? However, the very fiend in question didn’t bat an eye at Therrus’s fear, carelessly continuing on his pondering with a bored tone.
“Should I turn you into sand? Or completely erase you? Both methods are quite effective means of removal, but I think I’d prefer something with more substance. I suppose you’re comparable to Jeck in a way, perhaps I should turn you into a statue like him? But you’re not important enough to me to want to keep. Maybe turning you into a tree would redeem you? At least then you might be somehow pleasant. Do you have a favourite kind of tree?”
The teen’s ramblings seemed so casual and monotonous, as if he was just having an ordinary conversation about a topic that he was asking an opinion on. Therrus was mortified that the conversation about how he would be killed could happen in such a relaxed and easygoing tone. He hesitantly tried to open his mouth to respond, feeling pressured by the expectant look on Noth’s face, but he was quickly cut off. He should have never expected the boy who was planning to end him to care about his opinion in the first place.
“Oh well, I prefer apple trees, and at least then you’d actually benefit people somehow. Rest assured, Therrin, you’ll finally get to become something good.”
Noth reached out to pat the man’s head, even as Therrus opened his mouth out of habit, his brain so overloaded with fear that it couldn’t even be bothered to stop him from correcting the boy about his name. However, before he could even get out the first 3 words of his sentence, Therrus had already been wished into a small beautiful tree in the shape of a sitting man.
Noth’s eyes swam over his handiwork, taking in the swirling pattern of the little tree that he made, and gently running his hand over some of the smooth, green leaves. His head mechanically turned to where his angel had been watching in a dark corner of the room. The odd ability he had to always know exactly where she was had never failed him.
“Do you think this tree will grow? Or will it be too dark in here?”
Serris let a small grin grace her face, and she flew out of the darkness, getting a good look as she landed next to Noth.
<Well first off, you made it with divine power, so I highly doubt it would die so easily. Besides, nature is resilient, I bet if you gave it a few years this thing would bust right through the roof and find some sunlight of its own.>
“Yeah… I sure hope that’s the case.”
Noth stared at the leaves that shuddered the tiniest amount from the draft in the room, but then closed his eyes shut hard. After a while, he opened them back up and turned to the accursed pile that he’d been trying so hard not to look at. No amount of ignoring them was going to just make them go away. His hand sought out his angel’s, firmly holding on to it, as if he was desperately trying to gain some kind of strength from it. The boy’s voice was a little shaky, but the resolve inside of it was undeniable.
“I was never able to be there for my mom’s burial. I don’t even know if the church gave her proper funeral rites. These people’s ends may have been even more horrific than hers, but it’s not hard to draw a parallel since they both died the same way. Will you help me make sure that they get the burial they deserve? At least, as a roundabout way for me to say goodbye to my mother.”
The angel beamed at Noth, floating up to give his forehead a sweet kiss.
<Yes of course. Just a moment, my love. Let me set it all up for you.>
With a graceful gesture, a wave of golden particles swept over to the mound of heads, picking each of them up and cleaning them off. The decay reversed itself, leaving every head in a pristine condition with a peaceful look on their faces. They were all placed one at a time around the roots of the new tree, almost looking like a morbid art display. When the golden wave ended, Serris wrapped herself clingingly around Noth’s side. She looked as if she desperately wanted him to praise her, but instead the boy solemnly nodded and thanked her.
Noth’s prayer was brief, but heartfelt. He hadn’t known any of these people, but he genuinely wished the best for their souls. He fervently hoped that the God-dess would treat them well, and that they’d live the wonderful lives that they deserved in heaven, or be reincarnated into better situations. And at the end of his prayer, Noth opened his eyes to a beautiful sight; The heads had been raptured away on heavenly beams, and replaced with a patch of flowers that circled the small tree. Each flower radiated out pure heavenly white light. At their core, they seemed to be shaped like a puffy white dandelion, but as Noth reached out his hand to touch one, he felt an intense, pleasant warmth. Somehow even just being close to those flowers seemed to fill him with a feeling that everything would be ok.
Serris flew over, gently picking one of the flowers and offering it up for the boy to take.
<They’re called ‘God-dess’s Love’. They only blossom at the graves of the innocent. It’s the exact opposite of those demon bushes that you’ve repeatedly been getting.>
Noth gently ran his fingers over the small flower, scared that it might be just as fragile as the dandelions that it took after, but instead he was surprised at how fluffy and firm it felt. It reminded him of the soothing feeling of petting the kittens back at his house. Yes, a feeling that no matter what, everything precious to him would be protected. He knew who needed such a reassuring feeling right now. The boy plucked three more of the flowers, and then turned and marched out of the room with a purpose.