Over the next 7 days, Boxxy steadily found out that exposing Keira as a Hero of Chaos was unexpectedly tasty, especially where its Doppelganger Job was concerned. Reggie had claimed that adult Doppelgangers progressed their racial Job many times slower than juveniles, and he wasn’t kidding. Boxxy’s own Job had basically gained nothing ever since its Rank Up, suggesting it would take years or even decades before it attained Level 50 and was allowed to Rank Up yet again.
That was until the Clash of Fate revealed Keira’s Hero status and massively increased her popularity, despite what the Mimic had expected. Those hand-picked by the Gods were treated with respect pretty much by default, but the catgirl’s religious alignment felt like it would cause people to be more suspicious of her. Surely a ‘Hero of Chaos’ sounded like someone that spread havoc and could switch sides at any given time, right? Boxxy surely wouldn’t trust a person whose entire existence hinged on unpredictability and luck. Well, it wouldn’t trust anyone regardless of who or what they were, but it had convinced itself the populace would feel the same way towards the chosen of King Dedede.
As it turned out, however, Boxxy had been sorely mistaken. It had not only overestimated the intelligence of the average person, but also underestimated how powerful the Hero of Chaos’s ‘introduction’ had turned out to be. Which meant that Keira wasn’t treated with something mild like respect nor suspicion - she was adored. People were already calling her things like ‘the Goddess of Victory’ and ‘the true Hero of Justice.’
This behavior was due in no small part to Fizzy’s hard work over the course of the war, as she had considerably softened people up to the existence of the Goddess of Dice Rolls. Thanks to her diligence in helping maintain and support Boxxy’s Facade, she had inadvertently made people believe that luck would be their ally so long as a follower of Florence was on their side. That was, of course, not how any of that worked, but neither the Mimic nor the golem were willing to correct their misunderstanding. Even that Underwood woman allowed them to believe what they wanted, as she was enjoying the bout of positive attention her religious faith was getting for once.
The one savoring the overall situation the most was unquestionably Boxxy. For starters, the suddenly stubborn Doppelganger Job had more or less exploded from all the XP it was raking in, reaching up to Level 28 in just a week. Not only that, but with Chaotic Disposition made more or less public, it no longer had to worry about hiding its side-effects. Some people were even cheering it on to ‘do another one,’ but those people could honestly go fuck themselves. What sort of idiot would purposefully be trying to trigger a random potentially harmful event? Not Keira, that much was for sure.
It wasn’t like she’d get much of an opportunity to trigger it anyway. It only flared up whenever she used her MP, and there wasn’t a particular need to perform Ranger or Blade Dancer Skills and Martial Arts. The Empire’s commanding officer, one General Hans Ferguson, along with 4 of his most senior officers had willingly surrendered themselves into Republic custody on two conditions. One - that the elves allow the remnants of the Imperial army to return to their homes unhindered, and two - that they be allowed to bring humanity’s deceased Hero with them.
And since Republic officials had agreed to their terms, it meant that neither Keira nor any of the other Legionnaires had a reason to fight. However, the war was still not officially over. As such, the remaining troops were ordered to garrison the part of the city that lay on the northern banks of the Skyfall River that ran through it. Being on the opposite end of the front lines and far-removed from the site of Liusolra and Nagnamor’s historic battle meant that this section of the city had survived the events of the aptly named Armageddon Day completely unscathed. As such, the soldiers and adventurers that made up the Republic’s armed forces in the area had intact roofs over their head, while the atmosphere was more or less that of a small town in the middle of a festival. After all, without any Empire on the horizon and with essentially zero monsters around, the only thing they could spend their time on was frivolity.
Which wasn’t to say the Republic was all laughs and smiles. Everyone that had survived Armageddon Day had also lost comrades, friends, even lovers. Once the initial rush of having obtained the bittersweet victory passed, everyone started feeling the weight of the lives lost. What followed were 3 solid days of mourning and burial field rites on both sides. Both the Imperial army and Republic Legions used this time to gather their fallen and give them a proper send-off. Those who died violently, especially during wartime, were prone to coming back as the vengeful undead and spread Blight throughout the area, which was something no living thing wanted to happen.
As such, even though there were a few incidents as the opposing sides bumped into each other while scouring the city for their fallen comrades, none of them turned violent. Angry glares, harsh words and rude gestures were exchanged, but that was the extent of it, as both sides had to honor the terms of the Empire’s surrender. Reckless morons who ignored official wartime agreements like that ran the risk of finding themselves on the God of War’s shit-list, which was not something any soldier in their right mind would want.
Indeed, even though he presided over something as violent as armed conflict, Axel was an extremely virtuous deity. While it was true that anything went in a fight, the same could not be said regarding the aftermath. Axel expected both victors and losers to abide by the outcome of a confrontation on the field of honor, regardless of whether it was a one-on-one duel, a battle of epic proportions, or a drawn-out military campaign. Warfare was a hallowed, sacred art and, in some ways, the ultimate form of contest. As such, any who would dare dishonor the lives lost and blood shed with their rash actions would be met with misfortune the next time they engaged in battle. This condemnation would not be limited to individuals, either, and could envelop entire armies and nations.
Axel’s honorable approach to warfare was precisely the reason why he was displeased when Fiona showed him that the Empire had attacked the Republic with a manufactured casus belli. If humanity’s leaders had straight up declared war because they were greedy for conquest, then that would’ve been fine. But no, they had to go and hide their intentions and use a tragedy which had occurred more or less by accident to justify their actions to other nations.
This realization completely ruined his enjoyment of the ongoing large-scale conflict, which was a crying shame considering all those unorthodox strategies the elves were using. He was so mad that he ended up denouncing Teresa for allowing such a thing to happen in the first place, but was glad to hear her rehabilitation was progressing more or less smoothly. He never liked that weasel Morelag, but he had to admit seeing the Goddess of Misdirection taking the matter seriously was strangely reassuring.
As for Teresa’s followers, they had steadily begun to realize something odd was going on with their Goddess. They could still use their holy magic and divine gifts unhindered, but they had a different sort of feeling to them. Healing Spells that once filled people with a vague sense of warmth, security and confidence, now instead felt cold and distant. Prayers and offerings, on the other hand, gave off the distinct impression that they had fallen on deaf ears. It was as if none of Teresa’s followers could feel the presence of their Goddess.
This hardly came as a surprise, however. The link between a deity and their chosen Hero was one of the most sacred bonds known to man, so it wasn’t hard to imagine Teresa’s mourning over Bernard’s loss was affecting her followers. At least, that’s what the clergy told themselves and others to address the general sense of unease that had gripped Teresa’s faithful over the last week.
But, as the days went by, the Paladins, Priests and Monks only became more and more restless, even to the point of them questioning their own faith and wondering if the Goddess had turned her back on them. If this carried on for much longer, it would cause turmoil to easily spread throughout the Empire. Which, given the volatile political situation, could easily get out of hand and grow into full blown riots and in-fighting.
It wasn’t just them that were feeling it, either. The scant followers of Teresa amidst the Republic’s adventurer conscripts had also noticed their Goddess’s sudden silence, so their higher-ups were well aware of it as well. Since killing the Hero of the Hammer and potentially setting this whole thing into motion was something they claimed responsibility for, they were naturally worried about armed retaliation from Imperial deserters or other rogue elements. Revenge was a powerful motivator, and the Republic would not take this possibility lightly. Which was one of the main reasons why the forces stationed at New Whitehall were still present, even though the enemy forces had withdrawn days ago with no signs of suspicious movement.
There was also one other unresolved matter regarding the events of Armageddon Day. Specifically the involvement of the elusive Sandman. The testimony of Keira and her unit made it abundantly clear that the vigilante’s familiars were still bound by their contracts after the big-bada-boom, meaning their master had most definitely survived. And the Republic had some very damning accusations to throw at him concerning the unsanctioned summoning of a second Overlord.
However, with Silus Underwood’s unexpected demise and subsequent destruction of the Sandman’s Comm-crystal, the Republic had lost the ability to contact him directly. They had heard nothing of the man since, which did not exactly paint him in a positive light. At least, that was the situation until last night, when the succubus belonging to the Sandman had made an appearance at the Republic’s newly-established perimeter. Using her as a proxy, the shady Warlock had agreed to meet with them the following day at noon, although he insisted the meeting take place on neutral ground.
Which was why a detachment consisting of a grand total of 5 people had set out from base camp and were currently making their way through the ruined city.
In charge of this little procession was the 2nd Legion’s Legate - a blue-haired, clean-shaven elf with a distinct air of ‘no nonsense’ about him. His name was Sarberos Ethan, and he had already made it abundantly clear he did not appreciate the Sandman’s unpredictable behavior and unorthodox methods. Immediately behind him was Cecilia Underwood, his chief analyst and strategic advisor. Flanking either side of the pair were two VIPs - the Paladin Lichter and the freshly awoken Berserker Hilda - who were to serve as protection should the Sandman try anything funny.
And the last person of this delegation, skulking about way out in front of them, was none other than Keira Morgana. Her reputation as ‘the Sandman’s call-girl’ was not exactly a secret by that point, so her presence seemed like the most natural thing in the world. As for her role in all of this, it was two-fold. Firstly, as the clearly most capable scout in the Legion, she was to keep an eye out for any ambushes, traps or suspicious activity. And secondly, as pretty much the only person the Sandman had shown genuine trust to, she was there to serve as a mediating factor and keep the Warlock from making any rash actions.
The group steadily progressed through the ruins of the city, the scenery around them gradually becoming more and more depressing. Collapsed buildings steadily gave way to houses reduced to cinders, and then finally to a black desert filled with naught but ash. They did not stop there, but kept walking forward, towards the field of glass left behind at the epicenter of the Armageddon Spell.
That would be the ‘neutral ground’ that the Sandman had demanded they meet upon. Legate Ethan had to agree that this flattened, vaguely bowl-shaped piece of no-man’s land was as close to that definition as possible. It gave a clear, unobstructed view for hundreds of meters, making it virtually impossible for one party to ambush the other. Not even ground-based traps would be effective, as any disturbances in the solid glass floor would be easily noticeable, even without Keira’s sharp eyesight. The significance of this place was also quite important, considering the reason the elven leader was out here to begin with.
And as they approached the meeting point, they clearly began to make out the shape of the Sandman’s hulking figure. As expected, he was covered by a thick gray hooded cloak, and his face was wrapped with a dark blue cloth that concealed all of his features save for those signature yellow eyes. A pair of thick gloves covered his hands, while a set of heavy combat boots poked out from underneath his long cloak. He was waiting for them while leaning forward as he sat perfectly still, seemingly lost in thought with his elbows on his knees, his fists under his chin, his cloak fluttering slightly in the breeze, and his gaze firmly locked somewhere on the horizon to the party’s left. Overall, he gave off the melancholic impression of a lonely king sitting atop a throne of corpses.
However, while an apt metaphor, ‘a throne of corpses’ was very different from the mysterious Warlock’s actual seat. As the Legate and his escorts got closer, they were surprised to see that the large man was currently using his pet succubus as a chair. She was down on her hands and knees, her limbs trembling dangerously as they desperately held up the Sandman’s considerable body weight upon her back. What was even more surprising, however, was the fact that she was actually enjoying this rough treatment, if her indecently smiling face, light moans of pleasure and clear liquid streaming down her inner thighs were any indication. The image of the haughty and smug demoness that shamelessly made demands of the Legate just last night was instantly shattered. Well, the shameless part was still there, although it was showing itself in a much more perverted fashion than one expected.
Whether this performance was genuine or just part of some bizarre act didn’t matter. Either way, it only served to raise the Legate’s ire and make the rest of the delegation feel uncomfortable. Aside from Hilda, who was smiling under her helmet at the absurdity of it all. She had to hand it to this Sandman bloke - he definitely knew how to make a lasting impression.
Either way, the delegation slowly but surely closed the distance between them and the shrouded figure who stood perfectly still, aside from the ever-so-slight bobbing and weaving of his indecent chair. They approached silently until they were several meters from the Warlock, at which point he tore his gaze away from the horizon and slowly turned his face to regard the approaching party.
“Legate Sarberos Ethan, I presume?” he asked while staring intently at the blue-haired elf.
Taking his grainy voice as an indication that this was far enough, the Republic delegation stopped in their tracks.
“That is correct, mister Sandman,” responded the officer. “If that is indeed your real name.”
“No such luck I’m afraid.”
The Warlock rose to his feet while keeping his hands clearly visible, allowing his chair to collapse into a sweaty, panting heap. Something seemed a bit out of place, as every movement of his was not only unnaturally stiff, but also seemed to elicit a light rattling noise from his person.
“It is good to see you are unharmed, miss Morgana,” he said with a light bow of his head.
“Y-yes!” replied the flustered catgirl. “You, uhm, you too, Mr S!”
“I am also familiar with Lady Hilda and Lord Lichter,” continued the Warlock, “but I do not recognize the dazzling-eyed creature behind you, Legate Ethan.”
“… Huh? Ack! Uhm! Errr!”
Being suddenly called out, Cecilia was broken out of her silent reverie and failed to produce any meaningful words.
“This ‘creature,’” butted in the Legate, “is Primus Underwood.”
“Really now? … I was not aware the Republic had access to gender-swapping technology.”
“We do not!” responded the female elf. “Silus- I mean, the other Primus Underwood was… killed in action.”
“Ah. I see. That is most… unfortunate. And are you supposed to be his replacement, little miss Knock-off?!”
“Now see here, you vagabond!” spoke up Lichter in a clearly hostile tone. “She’s one of the most gifted individuals I have ever met, and you will treat her with the respect she deserves!”
“Respect has to be earned!” he snapped back, causing both Hilda and Lichter to raise their guard.
“Easy there, big boy!” growled the Berserker. “No sudden moves, yeah?”
“Mr S!” shouted Keira in a panic. “Please calm down! There’s surely no need to antagonize anyone, yes? Besides, miss Underwood really is brilliant! Even if she is a bit of a cunt-waffle.”
“… Yes, of course,” consented Mr S. “I apologize for raising my tone. It was unbecoming. The news of Underwood’s death caught me a bit off guard. He was a very understanding individual.”
“Right. Well. Now that introductions are out of the way, shall we get to the matter at hand?”
“Indeed, Legate Ethan. Please, do tell me why you refuse to pay me what I am due.”
The Sandman had not yet received his compensation for the night when he snuck into the enemy camp and eliminated that Bard. Something Xera had mentioned on his behalf multiple times the night before.
“If you want the answer to that, you need only look around you. All this devastation, all this death - it rests squarely on your shoulders, does it not?”
“Ahhh… I see. So it was that after all. You’re looking for someone to blame. Someone to take the fall for the actions of a pair of unbound demons. Tell me - are you seriously this stupid?”
“Don’t act like you’re innocent! You knew full well something like this was going to happen once you unleashed that walking calamity onto my battlefield!”
“You are mistaken about something, Sir Legate. This ceased to be ‘your battlefield’ once Nagnamor made his appearance. At that point, it became his playpen. All I did was give him a playmate to focus on.”
“A playmate? Really?! That’s your excuse?!”
“Of course. The best way to defeat an Overlord is to tucker them out so they go nap-nap.”
“Do you think this a joke, you godless heathen?!” shouted Lichter, no longer able to contain his rage.
“Lichter,” said the Legate in a failed attempt to shut him up.
“How many have died because of the terrible forces you unleashed?!”
“If it wasn’t for your damnable spiders, then Milady Imiryl-!”
“Lichter! That’s enough!”
The elven Paladin clammed up, although the fire burning in his light gray eyes showed he was not nearly done.
“My associate spoke out of turn, but what he says is true. We’ve suffered horrible casualties as a result of the two Overlords’ catastrophic battle - a battle you helped bring about. In fact, according to the reports, he seemed determined on chasing down some unknown ‘Morningwood’ fellow! If your damnable ice queen wasn’t in the way, then he wouldn’t have caused all this devastation!”
The Legate paused his accusatory speech to gesture at the surrounding field of ash with both hands. However, the Sandman merely shook his head in response and spoke in a condescending, almost pitying tone.
“The words of a fragile intellect that cannot comprehend demonic intent. What do you think would’ve happened once Nagnamor reached his target? Peacefully return to the Beyond? Armageddon would’ve come regardless of whether Liusolra was there or not. All I did was try to contain the prelude, as it were.”
“Your words won’t fool me!” insisted Ethan. “You arranged it so that we’d suffer the maximum amount of casualties! That way you’d be able to not only increase demand, but also hike your goddamned price up! Just to bleed my coffers dry!”
“... So if I understand this correctly, you’re accusing me of purposefully riling up a demonic Overlord with the goal of profiteering from the resulting strife?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying!”
“Indeed? But are you sure you should be pointing the finger at me without looking to your own associates? Isn’t that right, holy man?”
“What are you implying, villain?!” snapped Lichter.
“Oh. ‘Villain’ am I? From where I was standing, it seemed like if you didn’t stand in Nagnamor’s way, then he wouldn’t have unleashed the Flaming Legion upon your own ‘Flammable’ Legions. If he was truly intent on pursuing a single target, then didn’t your interference cause just as much destruction as mine?”
“That- That’s different! I was only trying to stop him from trampling over my comrades! I couldn’t have known he would unleash hell upon us!”
“And therein lies the difference between you and me. You had no idea what you were doing. I did.”
“So you admit it?!” barked Ethan. “You unleashed Liusolra on us on purpose!”
“Yes. Fine. I admit it. I take full responsibility for Liusolra’s actions on that day. Which naturally includes all the credit as well.”
“Of course. If it wasn’t for my interference, then the Empire wouldn’t have suffered as many casualties as they did. Not to mention that the stage for that Clash of Fate wouldn’t have happened. I’m sure this Hero of Chaos did their best, but I think we can all agree that the Empire would not have surrendered if not for me.”
“He has a point, sir,” spoke up Cecilia. “The whole reason the Hero of the Hammer attacked Decanus Morgana’s squad was because he had some sort of grudge against the Sandman’s familiars. If it wasn’t for that and the Empire’s reduced fighting strength, then-”
“Your input is appreciated, Primus!” snapped Ethan as if to cut her off, then turned his attention back to the Warlock. “As for you - who the hell do you think you are?! Whose men do you think fought and died out there?! Mine! If you hadn’t gotten in my way, then my tactics and strategies would’ve surely won the day!”
“Sir, with all due respect-”
“I said shut it, Underwood! This victory belongs to me! Not some demon-loving freak!”
There was a brief moment of silence as the Legate’s harsh words echoed slightly in the distance.
“Legate Ethan,” spoke the Sandman softly. “Could it be you feel threatened by me?”
“No such thing! You’re just a criminal! A conniving, two-timing mercenary who’ll get what’s coming to him!”
“Oh, so you’ll pay me after all? Marvelous!”
“Why you-! That’s it! Hilda! Lichter! Arrest this criminal!”
“No!” screamed Keira, interposing herself between the two VIPs and the Sandman.
“Out of the way, Decanus!” growled Lichter in a threatening tone.
“I refuse! Mr S hasn’t done anything bad! He’s done nothing but try to help us ever since the Empire attacked us! Does that account for nothing?!”
“I said move!” shouted the Paladin, more forcibly this time.
“Mister Lichter, please listen to reason!”
“I’ll listen to reason when he pays for what his carelessness did to Imiryl!”
“Is Lady Imiryl not feeling well, perchance?” chimed in the Warlock.
“Don’t ‘perchance’ me, you fiend!” roared Lichter. “She’s been bedridden ever since that accursed demon took control of her mind! We have a dozen healers attending to her day and night, but her vitals keep slipping! And it’s all your fault!”
“Is she sweating profusely while fading in and out of consciousness? Perhaps murmuring of a white, snowy field?”
“… She is.”
“Don’t listen to his drivel!”
“Do you know of her affliction?!” asked Lichter, completely ignoring the Legate’s protests.
“She has been poisoned by Liusolra,” declared the masked Warlock. “It is a stubborn, lethal affliction closer to a curse than a toxin, but it is not incurable.”
“How? How do I save her?! Tell me!”
“He’s just telling you what you want to hear!”
“But, sir-!” protested Lichter.
“Hilda, talk some sense into him!”
“Nuh-uh. Ye’re on yer own, mate,” replied the dwarf with a shake of her head. “None of what ye say sits right with me.”
“You insubordinate little-!”
“Miss Hilda! Did you really have to knock him out?!”
“Relax, kitten. He’ll be fine.”
“But you just assaulted a superior officer! With an uppercut!”
“Did I do thaaaat?”
“I believe the Legate tripped and fell over,” declared Cecilia with a crooked smile on her face.
“See?” said the dwarf with a light shrug. “Tripped and fell over.”
Keira’s mouth opened and closed several times, but no words came out.
“As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted,” continued the Sandman, “you only need to bind your comrade’s hands and feet with the mana-draining shackles typically reserved for prisoners. They will drain the harmful magical energy out of her and she should recover in several days.”
“… You’re certain of this?” asked Lichter, his anger slowly fading.
“Quite certain, yes.”
“How can I know I can trust you?” he questioned. “Nobody in the entire camp could figure out what’s wrong with her, so how come you have an answer ready?!”
“Is anyone in your ‘entire camp’ in possession of a Level 9 Demonology Skill?”
“I… I don’t know… I don’t think so…”
The Paladin looked weakly to his comrades, as if silently asking for confirmation.
“Uhm, no, we don’t have anyone like that,” called out Cecilia. “We have 14 Warlocks with the Demonology Skill, but none of them have it up that high.”
The Sandman’s yellow eyes seemed to momentarily pierce through her, causing her to shrink back on reflex. The reason she knew that in the first place was because she had been looking for anyone within the ranks that might have been the Sandman’s real identity. Something the masked figure seemed to have caught up on, although he did not comment on it.
“Okay, but how do I know this ‘treatment’ won’t make her condition worse?!” continued the worried Paladin.
“Because, my good Lord Lichter-”
The Sandman lifted the hem of his cloak, showing that his large ankles had been bound by a pair of familiar-looking shackles. The heavy chain between them was undoubtedly the source of that odd rattling noise he makes whenever he moves about.
“-your fair lady is not the only one to still suffer from the Stalker Queen’s affections.”
He let go of his cloak, allowing it to fall over his feet and conceal his bindings from view once again.
“… Mr S?” spoke up Keira. “Is that why you’ve been quiet all this time?”
“But why did you agree to come here de-powered and empty handed? What if we’d listened to the Legate’s orders and tried to capture you here and now?!”
“Then I’d have no way of escape. Especially not with two big-shots gunning for me.”
“Then… Why…? Why put yourself at risk like that?!”
“Because, young Keira, sometimes profit demands a leap of faith.”
“Hah! Hahaha!” chuckled Hilda. “Ye got balls, big guy! I’ll give ye that!”
Lichter glared silently at the still-standing, much taller Warlock and took a few steps closer before speaking to him in a low voice.
“If I find out you lied to me-”
“Oh, I am quite sure I would not survive your wrath. Please rest assured, I wouldn’t dare risk the ire of someone strong enough to stop a Demonic Overlord in their tracks.”
The Paladin glared at him for a few short seconds before unfurling his wings and lifting off. He was likely headed back to camp to attend to Imiryl’s treatment.
“Weeell, I s’pose we’re all done here, aye?” said Hilda while picking up the unconscious Legate. “Don’t worry about ‘im. We’ll make sure everyone knows he’s talking out his arse about this whole Overlord thing. Kinda sucks I missed it though. I’m sure it was an amazing throw-down!”
“Yeah…” sighed Keira. “Thanks for standing up to him, miss Hilda.”
“Bah, ain’t no big deal! I kinda owe the big guy one or two anyways.”
“Before we leave, can I ask the Sandman one last question?”
“Of course, miss Underwood,” responded the hooded figure. “Asking is free.”
“How did you know the Overlords would focus on each other rather than on our troops?”
Unbound demons were widely known to be uncooperative and volatile by their nature. The Four Demonic Overlords in particular were infamous among the Spell-slinging community as being the worst of the worst. And yet the Sandman had not only called one of them out and lived to tell the tale, but somehow aimed her at his target. Cecilia did not believe this to be mere luck or coincidence either, as she trusted in Silus’s personal assessment of the Warlock’s character.
The late intelligence officer painted him as a careful and meticulous individual who never acted without considerable forethought. Indeed, after meeting with him in person, she was left with the distinct impression that his every action taken or word spoken - however small - served a purpose. Therefore, he definitely must have had a method to control the otherwise uncontrollable Overlord, or he wouldn’t have taken the risk of summoning her in the first place.
“Why, that’s elementary my dear Underwood,” he declared. “Demons have things they like and things they hate, much like people. And so long as they hold interest in something, they can be… encouraged to behave a certain way.”
At those words, he craned his neck towards the succubus behind him. This whole time, the demoness had been silently lying on her back with her hands under her head, almost as if she was sunbathing. Upon feeling her master’s gaze, however, she eagerly flipped over, lifted her torso up on all fours and crawled over to stand behind the Sandman, ready to resume her duties as his seat.
“People and demons alike have buttons and triggers. Small quirks that, when triggered in the right order and with the right timing, forces them to respond in a certain way. In other words, the easiest way to make anyone dance to your tune, from the vainest of Legates to the most selfish of monsters-”
The large man bent his knees and put his entire body weight on the masochist’s back, causing her to squeal and shiver in delight.
“-is to learn the correct sequence to set them off.”