Samantha was dead.
Seo-yun waited silently on the bed, in the spot where Levinson had placed her before leaving that morning. He hadn’t removed a single strap of the tight bondage encasing her entire body, and her limbs ached from being forced into the hogtie for so long. He’d left her with a new pain as well: he’d placed her face up against the wall, so close that her nose brushed the peeling wallpaper, and nailed her tongue to it. The only way to keep her tongue from being ripped out was to hold perfectly still, even moreso than the cords kept her… which was why he’d rubbed itching powder all over her before he left. And why he’d blindfolded her and put ear plugs in as a final act of sadism, heightening her discomfort by robbing her of other sensations. She could do nothing but wait there, blind and deaf, until he returned to hurt her some more.
The fox had spent all night being raped by him, sometimes in human form and sometimes in fox. She’d barely noticed the difference. He’d kept talking to her, alternating between threats and insults, but she’d only been half listening, her mind elsewhere. All of the pain and humiliation that he’d heaped on her had been like cascading rainwater. She was soaked in it, drenched from head to toe, but it couldn’t get further than skin deep, and when you weren’t focused on it, it became meaningless white noise.
Samantha was dead.
Her lack of reaction had eventually earned her a beating. She’d paid that no more mind than anything else. He’d taunted her about the Wilmingshires and Celeste, showed her the cage that Jessica now lived in and gloated about things he’d made the winter fae do to herself. When that failed to garner a reaction as well, Levinson had called her things like “empty headed cunt”, but he’d still been in a better mood than she’d ever seen him. He’d laughed at her for breaking so easily, for losing all her fire and determination in the wake of Sam’s death and trying to hide away inside her head.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Seo-yun felt more awake than she’d ever been, her head bursting with activity. She didn’t ignore Levinson’s torture because there was nothing left inside; she did it because she had more important things on her mind. Morris’s death last year had devastated her, but she wasn’t the same person she’d been back then. She wasn’t even the same person she’d been last week. There was still grief inside her, thick and heavy, but it wasn’t a weight that clouded her thoughts and pulled her down, it was fuel that ignited them and pushed her forward. For three centuries she’d lived with nothing more than a vague purpose even in the best of times, but now everything was razor sharp, focused like never before.
Samantha was dead. And Seo-yun was going to make her death mean something.
She was going to bring down the Paradisium. Brick by brick, if necessary. No more slaves, no more meat, no more sick games. She didn’t know how yet, didn’t even know how she’d escape from Levinson’s clutches, but that didn’t matter. The risks didn’t matter. The cost of failure didn’t matter. What mattered was bringing an end to the Paradisium’s mass produced suffering. What mattered was curing this festering blight that had afflicted so many for so long. What mattered was creating a legacy that Sam would be proud of.
The Paradisium was scared of her, that much was clear. It was why they’d attacked and restrained her the moment she’d entered the elevator, too exhausted and stunned to put up a fight. It was why they’d kept constant vigil over her for the day and a half she’d been in their custody, even though the bindings designed by Crikey – Tanya – and the man she called father, Ilya Petrov, had proven impossible to break out of. She was reasonably certain that it was also why the dragon Karakostas had easily accepted Petrov’s request to give her to Levinson: he wanted her far away from here.
He was right to fear her. The opportunity for escape would come someday, even if she had to live another three centuries to see it. She knew Levinson was going to try and break her down, had seen his methods and their effectiveness during the two weeks of hell in his camp. But he was a fool. He’d broken her in the past, and she’d been reforged even stronger than before. The same would happen again, and again, and again, as many times as it took. It was a battle of wills, and for all Levinson’s cruelty he was just a single self-centered, arrogant, violent man; Seo-yun had the strength of thousands behind her.
It was thoughts like these that consumed her while she waited in darkness and silence, their fire making all the aches and pains that Levinson had left her with seem meaningless. She could feel that Morris was in the same state, as worked up as she was. The two of them were in this together, and they were going to see it through. For Sam.
Seo-yun felt the tiny vibration of the door opening; Levinson had returned. She couldn’t see or hear him, but she felt his footsteps as he came into the room, felt the creak of the bed as he joined her on it. His fingers began to pry the nail out of the wall. He was going slowly, trying to prolong the pain of it, but for once he’d made a rare mistake in his sadism. The movements were so slow that they were practically gentle, and there was almost no pain at all as he removed the nail from her tongue.
Next he removed the blindfold and the earplugs. She stared placidly at the wall when they were gone, not bothering to move her head. He wanted a reaction from her. A plea for mercy, or even an oath of revenge. Something to prove that he’d gotten to her. But she wasn’t interested in doing what he wanted anymore, so she didn’t give him the satisfaction.
“You taking a nap, Yip Yip?” came a familiar voice as fingers starting undoing her bindings. “And here I thought you’d be happy to see me.” Seo-yun’s eyes widened. No… it couldn’t… she rolled over onto her back, finally looking at the person in the room with her. A redhead with a wiry athlete’s frame, her toned body lined with scars and burns, her face covered with piercings and tattooed insults. Years of abuse had prematurely aged her, left her face weathered, but there was a fire behind her eyes that could have outshone the sun.
Seo-yun had never seen someone more beautiful.
She’d failed. She was still alive.
That was the first thought that came to Fiona as she began to wake up. She’d been hoping that she never would. When Bolinar had lost his temper and struck her across the face, she’d very nearly smiled, thinking that she was finally about to escape the bald bastard. But she’d never been all that lucky, had she?
As her senses slowly returned, bringing with them a bonus pounding headache, she was surprised to realize that she was on a bed. An actual fucking bed, with sheets and everything. She’d occasionally been fucked on top of dirty mattresses on the floor, sure, but a bed? The cuffs on her wrists keeping them locked to the headboard felt way more familiar. She was in a small bedroom with yellowed walls and a single window where sunlight streamed in. Somewhere in the Paradisium, probably? Maybe? It didn’t really matter.
There was a dresser and a mirror next to the bed, and she could see her own reflection in it: a lanky woman, blue haired, with a horn on her forehead and a MEAT tattoo and… clothes? “What the fuck?” the unicorn whispered through cracked lips. This was bizarre. What the hell was going on?
She tried to remember exactly what she’d been doing before she’d been knocked out. Her memory was fuzzy and incomplete, but the more she focused, the more it began to resolve. She’d been getting used hard by three guys – two were fucking her, and the other was being an asshole with a hammer – and Bolinar had spotted a fresh face. Right, some Middle Eastern guy who looked like someone had just run over his dog. Bolinar always loved the fresh faces. They were the easiest to get to bite, and half of them were naive rich pricks who’d tip him a small fortune because they didn’t know any better.
It had been three years since Fiona was marked as meat. She was pretty sure that no one with the tattoo had ever survived as long as she had. Lucky sons of bitches. Her owner had tattooed her, but not because he wanted to throw her away and get someone new. No, Bolinar was a businessman. There was never enough meat to keep everyone happy, so he’d figured, why not offer some reusable ones? He’d rent Fiona out to people by the hour with just two rules: no touching her horn, and no killing her. Outside of that, they could do whatever the fuck they wanted to her, and they usually did. A lot of the veterans, they were just in it for the death, so they didn’t bother with her, but there were plenty of newbies out there. Guys who were sick enough to want to rape and torture someone, but also too pussy to actually go ahead with it.
Bolinar had gone in hard on his elevator pitch. He must have had some reason to think that Sad Sack was loaded, because he’d been practically giving him a sloppy blowjob by the end of it. Fiona had heard it all a million times. Aren’t you curious about what it’s like to really show a woman who’s in charge? No namby pamby slapping or whipping, but real, honest to God brutality? For just a few grand, you can finally see what it’s like for yourself. Don’t worry, this unicorn bitch can take it and then some. You wanna rip off her limbs? Roast her clit? Skullfuck her? There’s nothing she hasn’t seen before, and that horn of hers will fix her right up, lickety split. Just think of her as a practice run. You like what you see, maybe you go find some other meat tomorrow. And if it’s not for you, hey, at least now you’ll know, right? And you won’t have embarrassed yourself in front of anyone. No harm, no foul.
Her fucking ass no harm, no foul. Yeah, her horn could heal herself, but it didn’t do shit for the pain. And its powers were getting weaker every day. That was this fucking world for you: a unicorn’s natural abilities were based on purity and love and being a sweet innocent little flower who got the vapors just from seeing a bulge in some guy’s pants. Every single time they fucked her, every single goddamn time, she was permanently weakened just a little bit more. Bolinar had already started talking about lining up a final job once she didn’t have enough juice left to keep fixing herself. She’d picked up a few regulars over time, and some of them would pay out the nose to finally go all the way with their murder boner.
That’s why she’d jumped at her chance for an early exit. Fuck waiting around for the day he decided to torture her to death. And it had been fucking perfect too. She was pissed that it had failed. Hammer guy had cracked her skull in at least three different places along the way, along with smashing the shit out of everywhere else. It had been almost enough to kill her. She’d just needed a little bit more. So when Bolinar had brought Sad Sack over to inspect her, she’d done to the guy what she’d always wanted to do to every last fuckface who paid money to make her their punching bag: she’d spat in his face and did her best to drive his balls into his stomach with her knee. She’d figured if Bolinar was so interested in Sad Sack’s wallet, he was probably a big deal, and attacking him would humiliate her owner enough to lose control of himself.
And she’d been right. That was the worst fucking part. Bolinar had given her a look like she’d just shat in his supper, and started wailing on her. She’d been certain that was it, but then… the memory returned. Sad Sack had stopped the man from finishing the job. Yeah, now she remembered. She’d been half out of it, her brain scrambled, but the last thing she’d seen before passing out was the fucker asking Bolinar about purchasing her. He must have done it, right? Sold her to that guy, who had probably already creamed his pants twice over imagining how he was gonna torture her to death for attacking him. “Fuck me,” she breathed.
She looked around the room, hoping Sad Sack had been stupid enough to leave something nearby that she could kill herself with. Probably not if he’d been cautious enough to handcuff her, but she didn’t have a lot of other options by now. No luck. The clothes were a sick fucking touch, that was for certain. Pervert probably wanted to do a little roleplay before he had his fun. Would he talk to her like she was his ex-girlfriend, or his mother, or just some random bitch who’d refused to bring him home and spread her legs because he smiled at her? Or maybe she was gonna be Innocent Housewife or Sexy College Co-Ed, about to get mauled in her own bed by an intruder so he could feel like a big powerful predator.
Fiona had to wait nearly an hour before Sad Sack finally got around to showing up. He didn’t look quite as miserable as he had before; no surprise there. How could he be sad when he had his very own unicorn to fuck to death? He even smiled at he sight of her as he came in with a tray bearing a glass of water and some kind of stew she’d never seen before that smelled of garlic and onions. “My name is Muhtadi Basara,” he said, “and you are safe now.”
Yeah, that was real fucking likely. Every other guy who used her tried a line like that out. Sadistic bastards who got an extra little tingle in their nutsacks at the idea of making their victim think they were there to help. Sometimes they could barely stop themselves from laughing while they said it, and sometimes they tried to really draw that shit out. No less than four of her regulars had played the “I’ve fallen in love with you, and want to sweep you away to safety” card, and then wondered why she wasn’t shocked when their dashing rescue attempt ended in betrayal.
“Get fucked, shitbird,” she told him. She’d never been big on politeness, and she sure as fuck wasn’t going to make an effort for her soon-to-be killer.
She’d hoped her insult would piss him off, but it didn’t get a reaction from him. “I know it is difficult to believe,” he told her, “and that I have done nothing to earn your trust, but it is the truth. I will not harm you or keep you here.”
Fiona rolled her eyes and then rattled her handcuffs. “Yeah, you’re a real fucking angel. Even got me this nice shiny jewelry.” To her satisfaction, that did seem to get through to him, but instead of getting angry, he just winced.
“I was informed by your former owner that you might attempt to kill yourself,” Basara said. “I didn’t want you to do anything regrettable before you learned of your situation.”
“Yeah, sure, I’m free, you’re awesome, now you can uncuff me.”
He made no move to take off her handcuffs. What a fucking shock. “I will free you shortly,” he said instead. “First, I want to share some information with you. I am aware that once I take off those cuffs, you will likely bolt immediately. I cannot blame you for that reaction, or fault its wisdom, but there are things I’d like you to know before that happens. It would also be good if you replenished some nutrients. Even if your former owner fed you properly, which I would very much doubt, you have been asleep for the last four days.” He took a seat next to the bed and offered her a spoonful of the stew.
Did he think she was some kind of fucking idiot just because she was a slave? Sure, sure, she’d been asleep for days, and an hour after waking he just happened to show up with a hot meal ready for her? Yeah, made perfect sense. Asshole couldn’t even lie properly. He must have had a hidden camera set up in here that had told him when she woke up. Everyone knew all the really heroic motherfuckers secretly spied on the people they were rescuing. “Uh huh, I’ll pass on the piss soup,” she told him. “But go ahead, I’m sure you got loaaaaaads of important info to share, don’t you? What is it? Is it vitally important that I discover how your cock tastes? No, wait, I got it, you want to make sure that I know I’m a… stupid fucking twat who’s gonna die screaming? Is that the gist of it?’
“The stew is just normal tsuivan,” he told her. “I have added nothing poisonous or foul to it.” He brought the spoon to his own lips and downed the contents without hesitation. Then he added, looking slightly apologetic, “well, it is not entirely normal tsuivan. I did not know your preferences, so I requested the vegan version to be safe. If you would prefer one with meat, the restaurant is only a short distance away.”
Okay. This guy was weird. Usually, even the guys who were serious about tricking her gave up when she made it clear that she wasn’t going to play along. Either this guy was real into this fucking game he was playing, or he was being sincere. And since he’d been at the goddamn Paradisium, there was no fucking way it was the second option. The only decent people who visited that hellhole were the ones in chains. On the other hand, she was starving and that stew smelled really fucking good. Even if he had laced it with something, there were worse ways to go than with a warm meal in her stomach, and not the usual kind that had been squirted out of some motherfucker’s dick. So when Basara offered her another spoonful, she accepted it.
“Oh fuuuuuuuuck that’s good,” she breathed. She’d forgotten how good real food could taste. When Bolinar fed her anything other than cum or dog food, it was always something rotten, or moldy, or otherwise disgusting and inedible. But this stuff was warm, and fresh, and fucking delicious. “I think my tastebuds just came.”
“I have to admit, you are… not what I expected,” Basara said as he continued helping her eat. “I thought you would be more…”
“Meek? Cowering?” She snapped her fingers and nodded her head. “Grateful. That’s the one, right?” In a fawning voice, she said, “Oh thank you, Master Basara, for rescuing this pitiful, helpless wretch of a slave girl. You’ve been so good to her! She prays that you’ll be generous enough to feed her some of your thick, gooey baby batter for dessert.” Then, more normally, “That more like what you were hoping for, champ?”
“No, not at all. And ‘hope’ is the wrong word. So many of the marked women I saw there seemed like they had become the walking dead. It is a pleasant surprise to find that you still have so much life inside of you. Were you only recently made into a slave?”
So he liked them feisty. Okay, that made sense. He wasn’t looking for a lifeless puppet to jack off into, he wanted someone who’d squirm and fight and eventually beg for mercy before she died. That’s why he was trying to build her back up with all this rescue bullshit. Soon she’d be hearing about how he really, really wanted to let her go, but he just couldn’t pull it off quite yet. Probably claim he was still scared she was gonna hurt herself, like chaining her to a bed had made him her fucking protector. Fiona relaxed slightly. Now that she understood the game, she could play along properly. If this guy was as fresh faced as he looked, he might just fuck up and give her a genuine chance to escape before he got around to killing her.
“Got myself bagged by a professional eight years ago,” she told him. “Real fuckface by the name of Skinner. You wanna know why he got hired to hunt down a unicorn? Cause some motherfucker’s daughter asked her motherfucking father if she could have one for her motherfucking eighteenth birthday. I spent two months in that family’s basement with trained professionals beating the shit out of me, and by the time the girl’s birthday party rolled around, I trotted out as a docile little unicorn playmate. Even wore these fucking boots and gloves that looked like hooves, and spent half a goddamn day scrambling around on all fours while she rode me. Course, about four months later all her friends had decided that unicorns were stupid now, and she didn’t care about me anymore, so her dad decided to try a different kind of riding with me. I tried to fight back at first, but it only took a few hours with a crop before I was back on all fours.
“For the next five years, I was just another empty headed, unresponsive fucktoy. Never talked back, never tried to escape, never disobeyed an order. Just fucked and sucked with the best of ’em. I got so boring I was traded around a few times. Anyone else as fucked out as me probably would’ve been taken out back and shot, but there’s a whole lot of sickos out there like you who get rock hard at the thought of fucking and defiling a unicorn.”
Basara gave her a look of feigned sympathy. Like she wouldn’t have bet a million dollars he was nursing a stiffy from listening about how she’d gotten fucked around. Yeah, this asshole was definitely trying to charm her. Fucker probably thought all it took was a pretty face and pretending to give a shit to get her soaking wet. Would he try to fuck her tonight? Nah, he’d give it a day. Let her think he was such a perfect gentlemen for not raping the girl he had chained to a bed. “What changed after five years?” he asked.
“I got sold to this shit head named Bolinar. By then I was just a fleshlight on two legs, and even the unicorn fuckers had figured out it was more exciting to pound a bowl of mashed taters than one of my holes. But Bolinar just wanted another set of hands. He was already trying to figure out ways to turn a profit, and his first idea was that he’d pick up some cheap slaves, I’d do most of the grunt work involved in training them up, and then he’d flip ’em.”
“Did that work?”
“Hell no. I was so zoned out by that point that if he’d asked me to scoop one of my eyes out with a spoon, I’d just have asked him which one. But it turned out, even I still had standards: I don’t hurt people.”
“Don’t hurt most people,” Basara corrected. “My groin remembers very well that you are capable of making exceptions.” The fucker was actually smiling as he said it, like trying to smash his family jewels was a fond memory.
“Fine, I don’t hurt innocent people,” Fiona said, rolling her eyes. “Bolinar asked me to whip one of his slaves for him, and I said no. Then he threatened to whip me instead, and I said no. Then he actually whipped me, and I said no. Things kept escalating from there; he kept doing worse and worse shit, and I kept feeling better and better about telling him to fuck off. It meant that there was still a piece of me all those fuckers hadn’t destroyed. First time in years I felt like I was more than just a cum dump. So it gets to the point where he’s pissed enough to start really laying into me, ready to beat me to death because what the hell else is he gonna do with a slave that won’t do as she’s told. And he’s doing shit that would’ve killed one of his other slaves ten times over, but my horn keeps bringing me back. But then all of a sudden he stops, because it finally hits him that there were people out there who’d pay good money to get to do what he’s doing right now. So next time the Game comes around, I’m tattooed and working the floor.”
“I cannot pretend that I fully understand the horrors you’ve had to go through,” said Basara as he fed her the last of the stew. “But it seems to me that you are an amazing individual for coming through them as you have. I am sure Camiel would love to…” He stopped short, looking pained. “I… am sure Camiel would have loved to meet you,” he finished.
“Was that your last slave?” she asked snidely. “Aww, what went wrong? You accidentally choke her to death on your cock? Forget to feed her for a few days too many?”
She’d said it to try and hurt him, but she hadn’t expected to be so successful. His face turned gray, and he reeled back like she’d punched him. His mouth opened, but nothing came out for a few seconds. Finally he managed “Camiel is… my wife. She was taken from me and… turned into a slave…”
Don’t you fucking dare do this, Fiona told herself. Don’t you fucking dare feel sorry for him. He’s a lying sack of shit. For all you know, this Camiel chick was in the fucking stew he just fed you. If she exists at all, and isn’t just some sob story he’s using to generate sympathy, she probably left him when she found out what a sick freak he was. Or maybe she really was turned into a slave, and it was all because her shitstain of a husband wanted some cash.
“I am sorry,” Basara said, wiping his eyes with the back of a hand. “I should not have brought her up. It is not a concern of yours.” He looked around. “And I am being selfish, talking to you like this instead of saying what I came here to say and then releasing you. You have my apologies.” He took a deep breath. “You’re in a town about three hundred miles west of the Paradisium. I wanted to be sure we were away from its influence, as much as anyone can ever escape it, that is. The place is small enough that few would think to look here if they tried to pursue you, and large enough that the locals take no notice of strangers. We’re on the second floor of a hotel that was willing to take cash and leave names off of the books.”
He pointed at the dresser. “I’ve left you some money, a gun for protection, and additional sets of clothing in there. I… did not know if it is your habit to conceal your horn or not, so I tried to accommodate that, though the options here were limited.” She rolled her eyes at that. He was trying way too hard to pretend to be helpful. She’d never been able to find anything that she could wear to keep her horn hidden. If she had, she wouldn’t have gotten herself captured in the first place. He sure as hell hadn’t found something after a couple hours of window shopping. “I have also provided the contact info for some organizations Camiel has worked with in the past to provide assistance to those in need. I can vouch that they are all trustworthy, and staffed by people who will have your best interests at heart. I have circled the two that are experienced with assisting refugees in obtaining identification papers; they should be able to get you a passport and any other IDs you require.”
Basara looked up at the ceiling. “I believe that was everything I had to say.” He took a key out of his pocket, and Fiona braced herself. Was this where he dropped the act and started hurting her? Or was he about to pull out some bullshit excuse like the key not fitting? All she knew was that there was no way he was really going to-
There was a click as he turned the key, and the cuffs sprang open. Basara gently extracted them from her wrists and placed them on the dresser before bowing. ” I will take my leave now. The room is paid up for the next week, so you are welcome to stay here after I have exited, but I will understand if you’d rather make haste.” He smiled sadly. “It was very nice to meet you. I am sorry it could not happen under happier circumstances.” He bowed once more, then turned and left the room.
Fiona held her breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He hadn’t really just left. He had to be standing right outside, trying not to laugh out loud. There was probably a whole crowd of guys on the other side of that door, waiting to swarm in and gangbang her all night long. She rose from the bed, wondering where the hidden cameras had to be, and opened the door he’d gone through. An empty hotel hallway greeted her. No Basara. No mob of rapists.
She closed the door and went to the window. She didn’t recognize her surroundings, but the mountains in the distance told her that it wasn’t anywhere near the Paradisium. Below her was a busy street full of people passing by in both directions. Normal people, not fantastical slaves or sneering rich assholes, just men and women going about their business. And there! She caught sight of Basara moving through the crowd. He was heading away from the hotel, and not looking back.
The top dresser drawer contained everything he had promised: several thousand dollars worth of currency, a small gun that she’d be able to conceal easily, and some scraps of newspaper with names and numbers written in the margins. The bottom two drawers contained a mix of underwear, shirts, pants, dresses, and… the largest fucking sun hat she’d ever seen. She put it on and had to laugh when she checked herself in the mirror. She looked like Carmen freaking Sandiego on holiday. It was ridiculous and adorable and it hid her horn perfectly. The bastard had told the truth. He really had fucking done it.
Fiona’s smile faded as she looked at her reflection. He’d been telling the truth. About everything. She mentally reviewed the conversation and… “oh fuck,” she said, sitting back down on the bed. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.” She tilted her hat down, ashamed to even look at herself right now. He hadn’t been acting like a twisted psycho, he’d just been the first guy to treat her like a real person in years, and in return, she’d… “fuuuuuck,” she groaned. “I can be such a fucking idiot sometimes.”
She had to talk to him again, if only to apologize for the way she’d acted. She looked out the window again. She could still see Basara, but he was much farther away by now. She started toward the door, then stopped. It would take several minutes to make her way downstairs and find the exit, and in far less time he’d be out of sight completely. No way in hell would she be able to track him after that. “Well, fuck stairs then,” she said to herself, and vaulted out the window.
Fiona hit the ground hard, sending bolts of pain up her legs, but she ate worse pain than that for breakfast. Ignoring her legs and the gawking pedestrians, she sprinted after Basara, shoving her way through the crowds. She wasn’t letting him get away that easily. “Hey!” she yelled as she ran after him. “Hey, wait the hell up!”
To her relief, he stopped and looked back at her. “Is something wrong?” he asked, concerned.
She ran the rest of the way to catch up to him, panting for breath once she’d made it. “Is something… I’ve been treating you like shit after you saved my freaking life, and the first thing you ask me is if something’s wrong? Who the fuck are you?”
He gave her a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “I am no one special, and you have done nothing wrong in your treatment of me. In your life, there are many people who have been unkind to you. It is their fault that for your own safety you must now assume the worst in others, not yours. I would be a fool if I expected you to trust me before that trust has been earned.”
Who the fuck even talked like that? “Why?” she asked, staring at him.
Basara seemed to know exactly what she was asking. “I rescued you because I could.” His eyes turned distant. “Because I wanted to know that at least some good had come from attending the Paradisium. You are not the only one I freed. I had hoped to purchase more of the women who were marked, but you were the only one I could manage, thanks to the help of a ‘friend’ who did me a favor. The others were all regular slaves, and in better physical condition than I had found you in. I was able to drop them off in groups of three or four in the six other towns we stopped at before this one. It was not nearly enough people, compared to the thousands I had to leave behind in that place, but…” He sighed. “Little bits of good,” he said, more to himself than to her.
“So it’s all true?” She could still hardly believe it. “I spend the last eight years getting beaten and raped and treated like scum, and then you show up and just like that, I’m free? A week ago, the most I could hope for was that some idiot would get careless with a knife and nick one too many arteries. Now I’m supposed to forget about all that and go back to being a normal person? It’s a lot to fucking take in.”
“You are right,” he agreed, nodding. “But no one is expecting you to run before you can walk. Take things at your own pace. Before you woke up, I was worried about leaving you here alone. I did not know what trauma you had been through, or what damage the experience had done to your psyche. If I had known you would wake so soon, I would have asked some of the other women to travel with me to this place so that they could remain and help you, but it was possible that you would be in that state for weeks, and I could not ask them to wait for so long. But just a few minutes of speaking with you showed me that I have nothing to fear. You seem to me to be a strong, capable woman. For all that your captors did to you, they could not take that away.”
The unicorn considered her possibilities. Staying here didn’t sound too bad, but she’d rather be three thousand miles from the Paradisium than three hundred. Should she try and return home, then? Sure, if she could manage it, but her family would’ve picked up everything and fled as soon as they found out she’d been captured. It was possible that they’d left her some kind of message or clue to find them, but she hoped that they weren’t that fucking stupid. She’d seen more than a few entire families of slaves pass through the Paradisium; capture one, break her down until she’ll do whatever you want, and then use her to sweep up everyone she knows. Something like that was way more likely than a slave actually managing to escape.
A lingering suspicion gnawed at the woman. “There’s one thing that still doesn’t make sense. You came in with that tsoo-whatever stew stuff after I woke up.”
“Yes,” he said, slightly confused at the subject.
“If I’d been asleep for the last four days, how did you know to bring me a hot, fresh meal like that?”
“Well…” Basara hesitated, decidedly uncomfortable, and Fiona fought back the spike of panic in her gut. Had this entire thing been an elaborate ruse after all? “The tsuivan was not actually for you,” he admitted. “Not specifically. I had hoped to find you awake when I returned, and intended to offer you the tsuivan if I did, but I had not expected it…” His stomach growled.
“So you gave me your own dinner,” Fiona finished for him. “Jesus fucking Christ, you really are a goddamn angel, aren’t you?”
“No,” he said, weirdly pained by the compliment. “I am not. I am only a man who could not protect what was most important to him.”
Fiona remembered what he’d told her about his wife, and felt even guiltier about the way she’d treated him. She didn’t know the circumstances behind it, but the poor guy deserved better than a knee to the sack and his food stolen. He looked… so empty. Like he’d been hollowed out by everything he’d gone through. She knew the feeling.
He was planning to kill himself. Not directly, probably. But he was going to keep working himself to the bone, doing shit for other people without thinking of himself, and one day there’d be nothing left of him. And that would be a damn fucking shame. “Okay, first thing we’re going to do is grab a bite to eat,” she told him, deciding it even as she said it. She patted her pants pocket. “Some random stranger left me some money, so my treat, yeah? I know I just ate, and that stew was fucking delicious, but brother, I can eat like a horse when I’m hungry, and I’ve been starving for the last eight years. I could probably go through another four or five bowls of that stuff without breaking a sweat.”
“I appreciate the gesture,” he told her stiffly, “but it’s unnecessary. You should really be-“
“You know the best part of being free?” The blue haired woman said, speaking right over him. “It’s the part where I get to do what I want. And right now, what I want is to chill with my new friend and figure out how I can repay him for saving me.” She held up her hands. “Look, if you want me gone, I get it. I’m an obnoxious loudmouth and proud of it. You say the word, I turn around and walk away. But, do that because it’s what you want, man. Not cause you’re supposed to be some self-sacrificing hero who rides off into the sunset while I cry and wave a kerchief.”
Basara opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “For… everything.”
She punched him in the shoulder. “That’s my line! Now come on.” She slung her arm around him “Let’s go get some more grub. Did they have any good booze there? No, wait, don’t tell me, I’d rather be surprised. Yesterday sucked, tomorrow might be worse, but tonight, my friend, tonight we eat and drink and be merry!” His body was rigid at first, but then he relaxed and sagged against her, the tension leaving his frame.
“And when we get there,” she promised him, “we’ll talk about how we’re gonna get your wife back.”
Yuki suffered in the darkness. Her punishment had ended abruptly after she had finished sucking off Tommas and Braum at once, and she could still vividly remember the scramble to get her tails and figure out which one was supposed to go where, weeping in frustrated pain despite herself. She had lost count of how many times they had played this game with her… but the punishment was over. It had to have been seventeen.
It didn’t feel like it had been seventeen.
Mordred had returned and abruptly insisted that they were leaving… now. Then her hard-won tails were used to all but cocoon her in place, wrapping her body before being tied off so thoroughly that she couldn’t see and couldn’t move before she had been tossed in a box and left. She had felt it when the car had stopped, when she had been loaded onto the plane, and her sensitive ears had popped painfully the whole way up before the other parts of her misery began to overwhelm the pain and humiliation of her inhumanly strict bondage. It was hot beneath her tails, making her sweat and feel disgusting as she soaked her own tails in perspiration. Then the two dildos that Master Mordred had crammed into her began to vibrate.
For the last few hours she could barely feel the two spiked dildos that the vampires had buried deep inside her but but her inner walls were raw and sore from their spiked intrusion, and even the slightest movement of her body caused those wickedly sharp spikes to jab at her ultra-sensitive membranes. Now they began to vibrate, tease at her… not violently but continuously, not stopping. She knew better than to think that she was going to enjoy this… Master Mordred was still punishing her for her lapse in judgment, after all. Still her body was teased and despite herself Yuki couldn’t stop from getting aroused by it as it played with her again and again and again.
How much time had passed so far? An hour? A day? How long had she been on this plane? How long had to the trip to the Paradisium been… six days ago? It felt like year ago… she couldn’t remember. It seemed like she’d been trapped in the dark for hours and hours but as far as she knew it might have only been minutes.
Yuki was… a skilled slave trainer. At this point, she was probably one of the best, though it brought her little pride to know it. She had helped groom all of Master Mordred’s pet whores, training them and tormenting them, and she understood the suffering better than even her abusers did. Very often, the selkies she worked to break and trained actually seemed to prefer being tortured to being left alone. Being left alone meant that there was no chance of mercy, no one to hope might have a change of heart and release you… being trapped with no hope of escape with only your own thoughts and pain for company.
The thing is, knowing what was being done to her and why didn’t hep her to resist it in the slightest.
Yuki tried to keep her body relaxed because she knew any movement at all would only hurt her more… those dildos inside of her would have been too large to fit without agony if there had only been one and there were instead two. Time, however, was not her ally… eventually her muscles cramped and she shuddered, and as it did she squirmed and moaned in pain. Yuki’s thoughts began to drift, and soon she was not thinking at all, only suffering…
She had floated through centuries like this, she realized. Moving in a haze. No purpose. Not thinking more than she had to. No more. She forced herself to experience it all, instead.
Something was happening to her body, she knew. She guessed that perhaps a few hours had passed, and she had grown almost accustomed to the pain. She knew of this phenomenon, from her own torments. Even the worst possible torture grew useless after a certain amount of time… The victim simply became numb. Now, however, something else was happening to accompany it. She tensed her whole body as she realized that she was growing soaking wet around those spiked monsters. The twin cocks inside her were large, and when their unyielding spikes were considered they were even bigger. The two things had been firmly implanted in her, almost immobile, and kept there for a long time… and finally, her body began to respond to it the only way it knew how. Her pussy was getting wet, and her body was preparing itself for sexual pleasure.
More time passed, and the pleasure washing over her grew stronger. She couldn’t see it but she could feel herself growing wetting and wetter, the burning heat of her body wrapped in a cocoon of her tails growing worse and worse. Yuki found herself breathing heavier. The more she tried to think about anything else, the more she was getting turned on and her attention dragged back to her sex. This seemed like a horrendous betrayal of her body but she couldn’t stop it… Minute by minute, her excitement grew. When she felt a shockingly-hot droplet of her juices actually start to roll down her thighs, she twisted sharply in her bonds, despite herself.
The movement caused the spikes to dig sharply into her cunt. Yuki screamed in the darkness and the pain made her thrash more, which caused more pain and further screams and more pain and further screams and…
Furiously, the nogitsune forced herself to hold still… fighting against to pain not to flinch, not to move. It was quite a while before she could bring herself to stop screaming, or so it seemed to her, but when she finally calmed down she found herself a little less excited than before. The only way to fight her arousal was to cause herself intolerable pain… and Mordred would know if she came again.
Then, slowly, as she lay in the dark, her body began reacting to the vibrating dildos again. Those nightmare cocks unwilling driving her higher and higher. Soon, Yuki was groaning and gasping through her nose continuously. She tried to slow her breathing, but it was hopeless. Her pussy was soaking wet, and her juices practically flowed down her legs mixing with the sweat that covered her head to toe. Her face felt so hot she thought she would burst into flames, and the smell of fur threatened to make her gag.
She lay helpless like this, for hours, slowly beginning to wonder if being tortured actively by her cruel owner for cumming again was worth it, before she discovered the final brutal twist of Master Mordred’s design. She couldn’t. Yuki was so turned on now hat she was almost screaming. She wanted to thrash in her bonds, but she knew that would not get her what she wanted. Thrashing, and in fact any movement at all, would bring her nothing but pain. In order to cum, she needed to move, even just a tiny bit. The slightest breeze across her clit or movement inside her sex would do it… But there was nothing.
Her body, without consulting her, squeezed the cock inside her.
Yuki screamed in terrible agony as the spikes dug into her sensitive walls. She screamed and thrashed in her tails and despite herself she cried into her blinding fur. It felt like hours before she could calm down enough not to move, and her body had lapsed in it’s excitement and desire, but she could feel it building back up again, but she knew now there was no way that she could cum and no way to avoid pain… her frustrated body would just suffer over and over and over again. She would go insane, if left this way too long. Kept right on the edge, continuously, for who knows how long. As her body climbed back up the ladder toward orgasm, she thought furiously. She wanted to thrash, instinctively. She knew she couldn’t. Yet, every muscle in her body tensed anyway.
She hated him. She hated him she hated him she hated him she hated him she hated him she had to escape, somehow. She couldn’t stay here in this position any longer. Her mind would shatter into a million pieces, and then escape would no longer matter.
Yuki suffered for an subjective eternity… her body was a bundle of raw nerve ending, every one of which was on the verge of explosion. She had been moaning constantly now since the second hour of her torment though to her it felt more like the 10th. Every inch of her body was on fire with waves of tortuous pleasure, and yet, as hard as she tried, she could not cum. Every inch of her body was aflame with agony, and yet she could not flinch away from it. Every inch of her body was scorching hot and covered with sweat yet she could not cool herself. The only ‘relief’ possible was to cause herself a brief flash where there was nothing but the pain, and after three of four times thrashing against her bonds, she was too scared to bring herself to try moving again.
Not that it mattered. Her treacherous cunt always would do it by itself eventually.
It had been night when she had been loaded into the plane and Yuki was certain that time must have progressed well into the next day by now. She had drifted in and out of consciousness, in spite of the pain… Her body simply could not withstand the strain of it. Her journeys into sleep were brief and restless, and troubled by dreams of helplessness and pain, but they existed regardless of what lack of solace they brought. She wasn’t really a creature capable of any rational thought. Yuki felt more like an animal longing for the release of death. Her tears were dry and salty all over her face inside the leather hood, and her head was still so hot she thought she would spontaneously combust at any moment.
In a few rare instances when she was able to think above the level of raw instinct, however, her thoughts weren’t driven by desperation or submission… never once did she think about pleading for mercy. Her mind burned with a fury hotter than the pain or pleasure that ruled her. She was a nogitsune… she was not afraid of monsters. Monsters were afraid of her, and she would never ever forget that again. Deep down beyond her conscious mind, she knew she whether she lived or died, she would not give herself to… Master… Mordred.
Then someone kicked her.
Yuki spasmed violently, shrieking around the pain of the dildo inside her which only amplified as the vampire grabbed them and violently yanked them out. The nogitsune thrashed as Master Mordred began speaking to her. “We’re back,” he said, voice cold. “Now we’re back to business as usual… unless you want to give me further reason to see you suffer. Do you?”
She was glad she was gagged. She wasn’t sure she would have been able to tell him where he could stick his suffering.
To her surprise, however, he didn’t start untying her. “You’re staying,” he told her firmly. “Apparently, you have a pick up for me in Ireland… a new selkie. Good… you always are less useless when you have one of the bitches to train, and its been a while since we found a new one. Do well enough with the new slut, and maybe I won’t find an excuse to do this to you every night.” Master Mordred gave her another kick. “Understand?”
Yuki growled “Ay unneuhghann,” she forced out.
She couldn’t see anything but her dark fur, but she could still feel the smile in his voice as he spoke while he began to shove the twin spiked dildos into her ass this time. “Good! I’d hate to have to really hurt you, you furry little dumpster.”
Yuki had many regrets in her life. She regretted more things than she cared to linger on. Right now, however, the thing she regretted most of all was that the vampire loved nothing enough to hurt as badly as she had hurt when Yuki took it away from him… but she’d make it work. Someday, she would make it work.
Astaria knelt in the dark, her back held straight and her wings neatly tucked behind her. It was difficult not to fidget like this – she ached everywhere, and the stiff posture wasn’t helping – but she maintained her poise, hands clasped submissively in her lap. In front of her, her father slept in his bed, a lavish expanse of silks that could have fit the both of them easily. When he woke, he would expect to find her right where she was, and in this exact position. If he even suspected that she had broken it during the night, her morning would begin with her being beaten bloody and then raped to within an inch of her life. If he believed she’d behaved herself, she would “only” get the raped half to death part.
It was hard to believe she had only been her father’s slave for a few days. How many times had he raped her already? Fifty? One hundred? His appetite seemed insatiable, and every violation of her doubled as a test of loyalty. She was always just one step away from a gruesome death. A single failure or moment of rebellion was all it would take to end her life.
If he knew what she was about to do, he wouldn’t hesitate to finish marking her as meat.
The green haired woman took a deep breath and reached for her dragonfire. Her collar activated immediately, cutting off her breath and electrocuting her. Her body shook and shivered, caught in a punishing wave of agony. Quiet. She had to be quiet. One brief cry of pain, one thump of a limb against the floor, and Karakostas would wake and she would die. So Astaria held herself as still as possible, using every ounce of mental concentration she had to ride the wave soundlessly.
After far too long a time, the collar relented. The burning pain receded and the stoppage of her airway disappeared. Almost all of the dragonfire she’d called upon had dissipated the moment her breath had stopped, like water spilling from an overturned container.
What she’d managed to hold onto was so impossibly meager that she could barely sense it at all. If her dragonfire was normally a raging inferno large enough to fill her entire being, what she had kept was the merest hint of warmth the size of a fingernail. But it was there. It had taken her ten attempts to gather even this much, but gather it she had.
The first time had been down in the webs. When she’d seen that horde of spiders sweeping towards them, she’d tried harder than ever to summon her dragonfire, pitting her will against the merciless torture device. She’d failed to transform, but she’d felt it afterward, that first tiniest spark of fire. Hesitant, fearful experimentation had taught her that the only way it worked was to put everything she had into the task. Only by throwing herself into the proverbial meat grinder could she come out the other side clutching her prize.
That latest one was for Delilah, she’d decided. The next would be for Gossamer.
Another deep breath, another hell of choking, burning pain. Astaria clung to the image of the fae woman in her head. She was doing this for her. It was too painful to endure for herself, but she could keep still and quiet if it was for someone else. She had to manage it, she told herself. For Gossamer’s sake.
And then it was over, and her store of dragonfire had increased by so small a margin that she might have been imagining it. The ache of it lingered, her muscles cramped and her skin soaked in sweat from her exertion. Silent tears dropped down her cheeks. It hurt. Gods did it hurt. The collar seemed to grow more painful with each activation, and the last thing in the entire world she wanted to do right now was trigger it again, alone in the dark with death a hairs breadth away.
But Camiel needed her. So Astaria did it for her. And then for Du Jiao Shou. Then for Seo-yun. Then for Jenny. Then for Betty. Then for Tempest. Then for Sam. Then for White Hart. Then for Snowflake. When she ran out of people she knew, she did it for those she’d merely glimpsed. She did it for the Ulfethnar woman she’d seen nearly choke to death thanks to a callous owner, whose deadened expression had made it clear it wasn’t the first time. She did it for the weeping selkie who’d begged the men to use her more gently, and received only mocking laughter and fresh bruises. She did it for the woman pleading with passerbys to purchase her before she was sold as meat, swearing her soul to anyone willing to keep her as a slave.
By the time she allowed herself to stop, the dragon had run through every last name and face she could remember three times over. Part of her wanted to do a fourth, but it would be morning soon. She’d need at least a couple hours of sleep to function as her father’s humble slave tomorrow. The flickers of dragonfire were noticeably greater, enough to gently warm a thimble perhaps. It was less than a thousandth of what she needed to transform, but it was a start. Tomorrow night she would gather more, and the next night, and the next.
Astaria closed her eyes and let the exhaustion overwhelm her. Don’t give up, she silently whispered as she sank into soft darkness. Please, none of you give up.
I’m on my way.
Three days ago.
Samantha tried to evade Nadia’s tails, but they were too fast and she was too slow, her injuries dulling her movements. Two of the slimy, foul smelling things wrapped around her, and she was unceremoniously shoved legs first into the beast’s gaping maw.
All her struggling proved useless as she was swallowed up by the fox, and when she saw the creature’s jaw slamming shut and heard the sound of flesh and bone crunching, she couldn’t help but scream, certain she was being torn apart and expecting the terrible agony of it to wash over her at any moment.
But the pain didn’t appear. She was far from comfortable where she was, but she felt intact and unchewed. Sam realized the truth when she looked again at the beast’s jaw: her jagged, too large fangs were sinking into the roof of her own mouth. It was Nadia’s own flesh and bone being destroyed, and the way she flinched with every bite told Sam that it must be excruciating, but she kept doing it, mashing her teeth together furiously.
Everything lurched, and Samantha realized Nadia was taking to the air again. She wanted to call out to Seo-yun, tell the woman that she was unhurt, but she didn’t dare speak. If she was wrong about what was happening, she’d just be giving her false hope. And if she was right…
Nadia’s flight didn’t last long, and ended with a hard impact that loosened some of Sam’s teeth. The beast was still after that, lying on her side. Sam could faintly see that her mouth hung open. The redhead began slowly climbing out of her, a difficult and disgusting process that took several minutes. She kept expecting Nadia to stir at any moment and kill her once and for all, but she offered no reaction whatsoever. Her labored breathing was the only sign that she still lived at all.
Sam found herself at the edge of the arena, Nadia’s back against one of the walls. They’d crashed down to the very bottom. There was no sign of anything living around them, man or spider. She looked back at the fox, not yet daring to hope. The woman might just want to take her time killing her, or be insane and acting without purpose. But Nadia’s eyes held only pain and exhaustion as she met her gaze. Her body had deteriorated even further than before. Her flesh was sloughing off, and her shape continued to bubble and deform, unable to hold. Her tails laid flat and lifeless on the ground, some of them no longer attached. “Why?” Sam asked softly.
Nadia’s lungs rattled as she took in a deep breath. “Must… es… cape,” she said finally, forcing the words out with effort. “Tanya… my sister… told me to kill you, so… had to help you… escape instead…” Her horrible face twisted into something that might have been a smile. “Never much… for doing… what I was told…”
Her limbs moved, and Sam saw then that they weren’t empty. She held the mangled corpse of a red haired slave who looked to have died in the fall, unlucky enough to miss the webbing and making impact with the hard cement at the bottom instead. “Took a while… to find… a good one…” Nadia brought it up to her mouth and slowly chewed on the thing before swallowing it. It was a gruesome sight, especially knowing that it had almost happened to her, and if Sam hadn’t already thrown up the contents of her stomach earlier, she would have done so now. “There…” Nadia said when she was finished, her mangled teeth now dripping with gore, “one dead… Ember…”
The fox was deteriorating more rapidly now. Her body had given up on holding any shape at all, and was slowly melting like candle wax. Everything except her wings, which remained perfect and whole down to the feather. They occasionally shivered and warped, as though they too were trying to dissolve, but a second later they would be restored to their proper form. “I’m sorry,” Samantha said. “Really, I’m… you didn’t deserve this.”
Nadia shook her head and tried to smile again. “I’m not… sorry… finally… not useless… not a failure…” Her eyes focused on Sam, her gaze becoming more intense. “I’m not… doing this… for free, either… Paragon and… the Paradisium… they need to be stopped…”
“Leave it to me,” Sam promised. She had no idea how to even begin doing something like that, but she’d never let that get her in her way before.
The dying girl made a sound that could have almost been a laugh. “My sister thought… you were dangerous… prove her right…” Her eyes were closed now, and her ragged breathing grew slower and calmer. “Wish I could have… helped more… maybe if I’d… been stronger…”
“Is there anything I can do?” Sam asked. “To… make this easier for you?”
“Don’t worry… doesn’t hurt anymore…” Nadia drew her wings around herself, what was left of her head sinking to rest on some of the soft feathers. “Dying’s… not so bad, actually… might even… get to… say hi… to Belle… one… more……” Her body continued to shift and dissolve for a long time after that, but her eyes didn’t open again, and her lungs drew no more breath.
“After that, I waited until my mask disappeared, just in case,” Samantha told Seo-yun as she finished removing the fox’s bindings, “and then snuck into one of those access tunnels we saw down there.”
“Poor Nadia…” Seo-yun said, stroking Sam’s side with one hand. She still had a hard time accepting that this was real. That Samantha was alive and well and right here with her. “I wish I could have talked to her, found out what she knew. Maybe I could have stopped her. I wish…” She sighed. “Poor Nadia.”
“Poor Tanya when I’m through with her,” growled Samantha. “I knew I should have killed that damn koala.”
Seo-yun wasn’t so certain that Samantha would have succeeded if she’d tried. The fox had seen the woman several times while she was in the Paradisium’s custody, and there was something fundamentally wrong about her. She’d never touched Seo-yun herself, but she’d smelled of madness, and there’d been a wild gleam in her eyes every time she looked at her. Seo-yun’s parents had taught her to stay well clear of rabid animals.
“We should get out of here,” she said. “Levinson could be back any minute, and neither of us could put up much of a fight against him right now.” Part of her, the part that had been itching to rip his throat out since the day he’d burned her skin, wanted to stay and find out if that was really true, but she couldn’t risk it. What she wanted now was bigger than him.
A bigger part wanted to try and rescue Celeste, but that would be suicide. Levinson hadn’t been forthcoming with the details, but she’d heard enough to know that the fae was in the middle of a small army right now. She would rescue the woman someday. She would rescue everyone.
“You’re not wrong,” Samantha said. “Come on, I know a good route. We’ll have to jump a few fences, but it should get us out of the Paradisium without anyone spotting us.” She opened a side window, glanced around, then nodded and began climbing out.
Seo-yun slowly got off of the bed to follow her, her limbs still adjusting to being free again, and a thought occurred to her. Her one woman vengeance campaign wasn’t so simple now that Samantha was here. The woman deserved to get far away from this place, and never have to think about it again. She didn’t want to drag her into a fight. “Sam, after we get out of here, we need to have a talk. About the Paradisium.”
“Don’t worry,” Samantha said. She’d already gone through the window and was standing outside now, looking in. “You don’t have to force yourself.”
Seo-yun paused. “Wait, what?”
“I’m saying you don’t have to help me take down the Paradisium,” Samantha told her. “I won’t think any less of you if you want to go back home and try to forget any of this ever happened. You deserve it, and it’s probably the smarter thing to do anyway. I’ve just never been very good with smart. These bastards stole five years of my life, and I’m going to make every damn one of them regret it.”
“No, you’re the one who deserves to walk away,” Seo-yun protested. “I have a… a responsibility to use my power to try and save people.”
Samantha snorted. “Don’t give me crap about responsibility. You don’t owe anyone anything, Yip Yip. Drop the martyr act and do what’s right for you for once. Me, I did a lot of things here to stay alive, and I’m not proud of most of them. Even if I hadn’t already promised Nadia, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try and make up for them.”
“Oh, are we comparing body counts now? If anyone needs to make up for what they did, it’s me!”
“Only because you’re three hundred years old!” Samantha snapped, glaring at her. “Give me a few centuries worth of screw ups, and then we’ll see who’s worse!”
“I…” Seo-yun couldn’t hold back her laughter. “You… you really will compete over just about anything, won’t you?!” she said, wheezing.
“Yeah, well, you started it! “said Samantha, her face red. She tried to keep glaring at Seo-yun, but the laughter proved infectious, and soon the two of them were laughing together.
“You’re going to try and take on the Paradisium no matter what I say, aren’t you?” Seo-yun said eventually.
“Me and you both,” confirmed Samantha. She grinned at her, and it was so much better to look at without the mask in the way. “Guess we’ve got no choice but to do it together, huh?”
“Together,” Seo-yun agreed.
“Now seriously, let’s get moving,” Samantha urged. “This place is a ghost town now, but it’s not completely empty.”
Seo-yun nodded and made her way over to the window. Her legs were still stiff, and she struggled to climb out. “How did you even find out where I was?” she asked as she worked. “And how did you get out of the underground without being caught?”
Samantha rolled her eyes. “Give me some credit, Yip Yip. I managed to survive four years of the Paradisium without an awesome magic fox at my side. I’m not completely helpless.”
“…..You set something on fire, didn’t you?” Seo-yun said.
Samantha grinned again. “I set multiple things on fire.” She held out a hand, and Seo-yun gratefully took it. “I’ll tell you all about it on the way.” With her help, she was able to climb through the window, and the two of them set off.
The End of Lone Fox 2
Seo-Yun’s story continues in Lone Fox 3
Yuki’s story continues in Finding Avalon