The darkness of The Greed’s cage followed Saboten even in death. Now, however, he could feel the breeze flowing through the chains. Below him, pushing against his back, a warmth counteracted the wind. Hell awaited. Beside the boy sat a stranger cross-legged, he could sense their presence: friendly yet malevolent. Saboten turned his head to catch a glimpse but the darkness was too thick.
Ahh, Saboten. So, this is what you look like? The man spoke through the black fog. I didn’t expect you to arrive for another day or two. I had a bet with myself, y’know. But here you are. Dead, stuck inside your own head.
With all his strength, the boy strained to stand. There was no movement, not even his lips could tremble, “dead?” he tried to remember the events prior, how he ended up in the shadows. Not even Ayame’s face came to him, everything was blurred as though seen through stained glass. “Who’s there?”
That’s when the breeze stopped like the stranger flipped the switch. The heat dissipated and the lights were turned on, revealing the world to Saboten. Time to wake up.
His eyes were open and feeling was returned to his body, Saboten was alive now, right? An empty, white room surrounded him, blinding eyes already used to darkness. Heaven then, right? That’s what he assumed. It was unending, the Holy Light shined on and on, it was warm and welcoming. “So,” he muttered to himself as any sane, dead human would, “is this the afterlife.”
Ha! called an obnoxious voice from behind. A mocking tone in the voice struck a nerve. Involuntarily, Saboten’s body turned to face the voice. Stood beside a small black switch was a tired-looking young man with thick, shaggy red hair forming a mane around his head. Dark circles underlined his eyes like warpaint. What afterlife? Of course. I should’ve seen it coming, that’d explain the white wouldn’t it? He looked the room up and down like he’d never seen it himself. The switch faded into nothingness as the stranger paced, his mouth didn’t move at all when he spoke. Stupid humans and their believe sys-.
He stopped narrating, interrupting his own monologue to cough violently and dislodge whatever disgusting fluid was stuck in his throat. Hacking it up and dispersing it into the ground behind him; when he spoke again, his lips moved fine. “Sorry about that, I’m not used to this form just yet. Haven’t been able to get the mouth working yet.”
He disappeared, only to reappear an inch behind Saboten, resting his head on the boy’s weakened shoulder. The stranger whispered, “cool trick, right?” and the boy jerked away, knocking the man with his head.
“Who are you?” He studied the lunatic who was wearing a white, sleeveless jacket with three horizontal lines of blood red fabric. A pair of loose fit, faded jeans hung just below his waist and ended just above bare feet.
The man didn’t understand. He resembled Saboten in many ways but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. “My apologies. Hello Saboten, I am Belphegor and I am the ruler of the Kara Sekai,” he announced so casually, as though Saboten should have a similar title. “I’m very important, nice to meet you.”
His introduction was so odd and well thought-out that Saboten could imagine him repeating it in a mirror. With his head bowed, Belphegor wandered towards Saboten like a zombie; “this is your inner world. A place to call yours, well, ours.” He paused, apparently to thumb through a mental dictionary for a word to describe the room. “We’re like roommates, you could say. This realm exists only in your mind so consider it your personal… utopia.”
“Utopia?” That word raced through Saboten’s skull, pinging back and forth against the sides of his head. “It’s like a dream then?”
“Bingo. It’s ‘no place’.”
“What are Shinigami?” Saboten asked bluntly, he had already put two and two together, now was the best time to ask all of the questions. Strangely, this question brought the biggest, most childish smile onto the face of Belphegor. He punched the air and jumped, exclaiming: “I’m going to fucking love living here.”
When he calmed down, Belphegor vanished and reappeared in front of Saboten with a stern look on his face. “I do love a game, Saboten. Shinigami are manifestations of human nightmares and their negative thoughts, poured into the Kara Sekai and morphed into shape by Beelzebub, the creator.”
“And you are?”
“Another excellent question but I already answered that one.”
“But what do you mean by ruler?” He spoke quickly, every second counted. “Like, the whole of the Kara Sekai was yours?”
“All of it.” He walked up to Saboten, prodding his closed eyeball. It was still shut but Saboten had stopped noticing it. “Thanks to this little thing, I had the power to rule of the Shinigami and, now, you share that power. This eye, Saboten, is special and I’m offering it to you.”
“I technically don’t have a choice,” he sighed, “I’m trapped here, until you free me.”
“And why would I do that?”
Another fearsome smile appeared across his face, “‘cause you’ll receive the full extent of my power and I won’t need to bother you. I’ll go back to my domain and you’ll be able to warp reality itself.”
Powerful enough to warp reality? Such power would allow him to destroy The Greed, save Ayame and remove the Shinigami from existence. He could turn everything back to normal. No deal comes without small print, however, Saboten knew that. Some undesirable chain of events beginning with Belphegor’s release. “So, if I take you back to the Kara Sekai, I can have enough power to destroy the Shinigami?”
“Well, there are a few limitations to the eye, especially when wielded by a human.” He sounded a little offended, “once I’ve activated it, I won’t need to explain. One of my many abilities is instant knowledge. That’s why you known the name Amaymon, because I’ve met him. Nice guy, when he wants to be.” He leant down to Saboten’s height, brushing scarlet bristles from his eyes and staring straight into Saboten’s soul. The sclera, which should’ve been snow white, were dyed a deep red. The pupil was triangular and encased in three rings. “These eyes have seen worlds turn to dust, Saboten. And you can have your own.”
He was considering it. After all, if he wasn’t dead already, he was going to be soon. He could protect his friends, The Greed would be no match for him. “What’s the catch then?”
“No catch,” he said, “you can tap into my powers whenever you wish for no cost at all.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Very wise, Saboten.” The demon cracked his fingers and dragged one of them across his left eye, scratching it and thrusting towards Saboten in one swift movement.
“I don’t trust you at all,” Saboten began, “but I accept you terms Belp-.”
“Please,” said the demon, moving fast than Saboten could follow. He pushed his finger through the boy’s left eyelid, deep into the soft, crushable eyeball of his host. The finger easily punched through the flesh, sending a searing pain through his body. As the burning moved and swelled through-out, his flesh enveloped Belphegor’s finger and everything went black. “You don’t need to say anything.”
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